1. Paul Robeson - "Blue Prelude": I downloaded a bunch of Robeson at Aimée's request last year. I'd not listened to him previously. Of course, that voice is amazing. I admit, though, that my first reaction to his versions of those old folk songs and spirituals is to think that the voice is too much for the songs. That they sound better with a rawer, untrained singer. The authenticity trope again.
2. Built to Spill - "Stop the Show": This is on Perfect From Now On, probably Built to Spill's finest album. One day I'll write a long-winded post about how it was a major-label Built to Spill cd (Keep It Like a Secret) that led me to the rock underground and ultimately farther afield, into noise music, free jazz, and all around Wire-covered stuff. The first two-plus minutes of this track are slow and lovely, with one of the finest cello appearances in rock history. From about 2:45 till 3:15 there is a phenomenal, noisy build-up, then it rocks generically for a little, before getting interesting again, with some molten feedback. Six minutes of guitar bliss.
3. Fleetwood Mac - "Gold Dust Woman": Again with Fleetwood Mac. I have two good friends who are unaccountably huge Stevie Nicks fans (one routinely flies out to Denver to see her perform, the other thinks nothing of catching her in Philly, Baltimore, and Virginia, in the same week). Anyway, this song is great. Compare with her stiff post-coke 80s and 90s schlock. When asked why she didn't have more songs as well-developed as those on the first couple of Mac albums she appeared on, she frankly said something to the effect (watch me not look it up) that that was when Lindsey Buckingham was talking to her. Yeah.
4. African Brothers - "Self Reliance": I've only very recently started listening to Fela Kuti and other African funk workouts. What I've heard so far, I've liked. This song clocks in at 8:34, is very enjoyable, and comes from the Ghana Soundz compilation.
5. Randy Newman - "Underneath the Harlem Moon": another good song from 12 Songs, the only Newman album I have.
6. Tarnation - "You'll Understand": One of my favorite albums from 1997 was Cornershop's When I Was Born For the 7th Time. I don't like it quite as much anymore, but I still love the song "It's Good to Be on the Way Back Home Again", which is a duet with Paula Frazer. I fell in love with her voice. I was excited to learn that she was in a group of her own called Tarnation, so I snapped up their album called Mirador. As happens so often, I listened to it once, and promptly filed it away to gather dust. I only recently loaded it onto the iPod, and this is the first song to come up from it. It's very nice, country-ish. I should have been listening to it all this time.
7. Vashti Bunyan - "Timothy Grub": Much has been written about Bunyan's return to music and affiliation with the annoyingly labeled "freak-folk" groups, more than 30 years after the release of her only album, Just Another Diamond Day. Whatever, this is very pleasant English folk. Most of the songs sound like lullabies to me. Incidentally, better that she hang out with Animal Collective than Devenda Banhart.
8. Luna - "Hey Sister": Someone left the Lunapark cd at my house years ago. I kept meaning to listen to it. One of the many borderline albums to make the cut when I culled the collection recently. Perfectly decent VU-inspired rock.
9. The Ex & Tom Cora - "Batium": An instrumental from 1991's Scrabbling at the Lock, which, as coincidence would have it, I've been listening to constantly over the last month (Aimée is thrilled, rest assured). The Ex are completely great in every way, and this album, one of two they did with the late avant garde cellist Tom Cora, is fantastic. Another great instance of the cello in rock.
10. Charlie Feathers - "Someday You Will Pay": I've talked about Feathers some before. This track is a lot of fun (of the "you broke my heart, and one day you'll pay" genre). Jaunty female vocals provided by the Miller Sisters. Feathers himself doesn't sing, but he does play the spoons, which is pretty awesome. Wouldn't be complete with out the fiddle.
11. Belle & Sebastian - "My Wandering Days are Over": typically pleasant Belle & Sebastian song off of Tigermilk.
12. Evan Parker - "Line 3": This is a circular breathing solo from David Toop's excellent Haunted Weather compilation. I haven't spent a lot of time with Parker, but I like what I've heard. This sort of solo can easily descend into a show-offy display of technique, but with Parker it doesn't. As the track started, I noted the repeating screeching quality of it--easy to imagine that as a turn-off. But as the track continued, and my mind drifted elsewhere, I felt a sense of calm emanating from the music. Hard to explain. I'd become aware that he was still playing, and the sounds were similar as at the beginning, but what had been mildly irritating was now not at all. There is a certain purity to this music. The word that flashed across my mind as it played was "monastic". Beautiful.
13. Double Leopards - "Stutter": Ah, glorious noise. I guess it's the Brian Eno aesthetic: this music works great as white noise droning in my head as I'm trying to work, but if I zero in at any given moment there's something interesting going on. My favorite noise artist.
14. Lotion - "She Is Weird City": I've had a promotional copy of the Full Isaac cd since 1994, when it came out (I was working at a record store). I had literally never listened to it until a couple of months ago. I'm not sure why I took home it in the first place, or how it's made so many culling cuts in the past. Catchy, guitar rock. Yeah, more or less a dime a dozen, these bands. But: They're good! I do not have the album--the follow up to this, I think--for which Thomas Pynchon famously provided the liner notes.
15. Flamin' Groovies - "32-20": Not bad, raucous cover of a Robert Johnson song, from Teenage Head.