Thursday, October 11, 2007

iPod rundown - 10/11/07

1. Van Dyke Parks - "All Golden": It was inevitable that I would have Van Dyke Parks represented somewhere in my collection, given my musical interests (gushing praise from Davids Thomas and Grubbs being my specific point of entry, not so much the Brian Wilson connection). I have Song Cycle, which I believe is the best known record. Dunno. I probably have yet to give it the time it deserves, but it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. Strikes me as carnivalesque, corny.

2. (Smog) - "Natural Decline": A good, slow one from the underrated Rain on Lens. The lines that I caught from the end:

The mind is always working
Out ways to see
The things I shouldn't see
And have the things I shouldn't have
I see the night sky as a jewelry store window
And my mind is half a brick

3. Blaine L. Reininger - "Crash": Instrumental, from an album called Night Air. I must've downloaded it, though I have no idea where from. . . it's not bad, sounding perfectly ok in the middle of everything else. Don't know anything about the artist.

4. Pere Ubu - "Rhapsody in Pink": From Art of Walking. Possibly the least good Pere Ubu album, but still not without interest (actually, the later Worlds In Collision and Story of My Life are probably more likely candidates for least good Ubu albums--I honestly routinely forget that those two even exist, which is not a good sign for such a consistently compelling band). This track is a little demented: David Thomas warbling about being "a big pink ball at the bottom of the sea" where "all the fish came and looked at me" over repeated piano figure, slowly strummed guitar (Mayo Thompson) buried in the mix, gurgling and swirling sound effects. . .

5. Kristin Hersh - "San Francisco": Sky Motel, 1999, right in the middle of my full-blown obsession with all things Hersh. But have I gone off Hersh? I don't know. Probably not, but I haven't wanted to listen to her solo music in a while; haven't even bought the new one yet. The album seemed to fade from my memory pretty quickly. Hersh's voice is processed on this song, which you don't usually hear. The song is pleasant, short, drifts by…. Difficult to nail down.

6. Lou Reed - "The Blue Mask": I love the Velvet Underground, but oddly, I haven't paid much attention to Reed's solo albums. I think I bought The Blue Mask a few years ago, primarily because I'd been reading about guitarist Robert Quine. The song is harder-edged than most of the solo Reed I've heard, which again is surprisingly little (and I've not ever listened to Metal Machine Music).

7. Les Savy Fav - "Obsessed with the Excess": This is one of the singles from the Inches collection. I'm always reading that Les Savy Fav are one of those bands that you simply must catch live, that their live show is so amazing, so energetic, so insane, that their records don't do them any justice. Maybe. As it is, some of their albums have seemed sort of stiff (such as Go Forth), but then the songs collected here never did. Even so, I'm not likely to see them live at this point (are they even still around?). This song is representive enough of their raucous post-Fugazi sound (which is really the best you're going to get from me, sorry).

8. The Beta Band - "Inner Meet Me": The Three EPs was one of the first cds that Pitchfork clued me onto, back when the site was more attitude and enthusiasm than actual good music writing (with exceptions), but took itself less seriously. It's a good cd, though it's faded in my estimation over the years. Sort of Beatley classic rock stuff mixed with electronica and dance. This song achieves that incantation-like effect that a lot of their best songs do, where midway through it feels as if the song has been going on for hours and could continue for hours more, but you don't mind.

9. Basehead - "Shouldna Dunnit": Another mellow, loping, and extremely short track from Not In Kansas Anymore, but this one at least has rapping on it.

10. Califone - "Bottles and Bones (Shades and Sympathy)": I rather like Califone. Steeped in the blues (pleasing the classic rock fan in me), and with an experimental bent that gets them labeled "post-rock". Sort of a kitchen-sink, Captain Beefheart aesthetic (without the good Captain's Howlin' Wolf kind of voice). This track is fairly typical and appears on Roomsound.

11. Charalambides - "Magnolia": Unknown Spin. Damn, the shuffle loves this band. . . their early stuff (heard by me on the Our Bed Is Green reissue) was more compressed--bluesy stabs of guitar and organ. Here the guitar lines are longer, more angular, as they wind around each other (it sounds like two guitars). Just shy of the four minute mark, Christina Carter's (Wikipedia tells me she is now known as Christina Madonia) wordless vocals come in, snaking along, in and around the guitars, for the rest of the track's 9+ minutes. . . Quite nice.

12. McLusky - "She Will Only Bring You Happiness": Mclusky was a somewhat short-lived, deeply silly, kick-ass no-frills rock band from Cardiff. The song is from The Difference Between You and Me Is That I'm Not on Fire, is very catchy, features lyrics like "Note to invading aliens, avoid this town, like this town avoided us", and is notable for its closing "Our old singer is a sex criminal" round. Classy.

13. Latin Playboys - "New Zandu": I like Los Lobos just fine, but I don't think I enjoy any one of their albums as much as I do the first Latin Playboys cd. A side project with producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. I recently read a complaint that the album sounds more like song fragments than fully fleshed-out songs. I don't mind.

14. David Thomas & the Pedestrians - "Confuse Did": The Sound of Sand and Other Songs of the Pedestrians. Wow. I know I have a lot of David Thomas on this thing, but this is ridiculous. Richard Thompson played guitar on this album.

15. Paul Bley - "Seven": Homage to Carla. I've talked about Bley before and his amazing ability to create spontaneous melodies on the fly. Of course, here he's interpreting a Carla Bley song, so it's not quite on evidence; I am otherwise unfamiliar with it. All I can say is that Bley's performance is beautiful.

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Blogger Scraps said...

Is it possible you downloaded "Crash" when I wrote about it last month?

October 12, 2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger Scraps said...

I can understand getting tired of Kristin Hersh, because the timbre and moods of her songs are so alike to each other. I love her sound, and I doubt I'll ever get tired of it, but her career is a long exploration of the same kind of thing, it seems to me.

I think Worlds in Collision is one of the best of the reformed Pere Ubu albums, and "Goodnight Irene" is one of my ten favorite Ubu songs. Story of My Life isn't as consistenly excellent, but it has the great "Kathleen". To me, it's been a steady decline since, with St Arkansas being the point at which I gave up.

October 12, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes! Thank you!

I have all of the songs I've downloaded from you in a separate playlist so I can find them easily, but I must not have taken the time to listen to this one yet. I've been listening primarily on shuffle of late, with some exceptions.

So this was my first listen to this. My "not bad" assessment was sort of non-commital. I was more focused on the fact that I didn't know what it was, before realizing that I was enjoying the track.

October 12, 2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

re: Hersh. I don't think I'm actually tired of her, but the similarity of a lot of her music does tend to mean that I'm often not in the mood for it. And I have so much of it!

re: Ubu. I really need to spend more time with Worlds In Collision; my remark was admittedly a tad ill-considered. But I am quite fond of both Ray Gun Suitcase and Pennsylvania. St Arkansas gets off to an iffy start, I think, but there are some gems in there ("Dark" comes to mind), which I've been able to appreciate as they've popped up on the shuffle. Also, I've been meaning to write about Why I Hate Women. I really wish the album didn't have that title, but I think the music on it is very good, overall. Thomas says, on the one hand, that the title "is not ironic", Ubu doesn't "do irony". But then he says that the album is like a novel "Jim Thompson never wrote" but would have, or something. I don't know about all that, but I think the music is worth a listen.

October 12, 2007 11:29 AM  
Blogger Scraps said...

I should give St Arkansas another try. I doubt I listened to it more than three times, and probably not with full attention.

I know that saying the title isn't ironic doesn't necessarily mean that Thomas means he believes the title, but if he doesn't mean it literally, it would be nice if he'd come out and say it. It can be fun to play the Randy Newman just-try-to-nail-down-what-I-really-think-game, but if he's going to be that broadly offensive, it's tiresome.

October 12, 2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Yeah, it would be nice if Thomas'd just come out and say it. After listening to the album and reading about it and the Jim Thompson inspiration, it's easier to see that he doesn't believe the title. But it's not at all clear why it is that he felt the title was necessary. And it's clear (for example, see this) that he indeed thought it was unavoidable and that he knew he would catch shit for it.

October 12, 2007 12:45 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

I hadn't seen that, and I take back what I said before. Now I'm much more interested in hearing the album.

October 12, 2007 2:56 PM  

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