Thursday, May 10, 2007

iPod rundown - 05/10/07

1. Animal Collective - "Tell it to the Mountain": From the reissued live Hollindagain. Animal Collective are great live, but this track barely captures their chaotic glory. An electronic tone throughout much of it, alongside a sustained more or less wordless vocal is overtaken by some ecstatic, messy, sort of tribal drumming. That's about it.

2. Billy Holiday - "You Turned the Tables on Me": I listen to very little jazz vocal. I tend to prefer Holiday to a singer like Ella Fitzgerald, though many of her songs seem to end on the same note, as she dramatically delivers the final words, which I do find a little off-putting. This lovely song is on Solitude. At our wedding, our first dance was to Holiday's version of "Love is Here to Stay".

3. Arthur Russell - "Let's Go Swimming (Walter Gibbons mix): Like a lot of people, I suspect, I only heard of Russell in the last few years; curious (and unduly obsessed with filling in the gaps of post-punk), I bought the Soul Jazz comp The World of Arthur Russell, which focuses on his disco-related music. I do like his take on disco, but that has not translated into great reverence. Russell's thin and distant vocal was initially off-putting for me, but not too much so. The percussion is great.

4. Feist - "Lonely Lonely": People are raving about Feist's new album, The Reminder (though I have seen rumblings that it represents the adult-contemporification of indie rock). I haven't heard it. This is off her last album, Let it Die, which I bought because we love her cover of the Bee Gees song, "Inside and Out", that appears on it. The album itself is pleasant enough, though I haven't listened to it closely. "Lonely Lonely" is a good one, sounds like a fresh take on a singer-singwriter sound.

5. Wire - "Marooned": Chairs Missing is great of course.

6. Bardo Pond - "Ganges": I often forget about Bardo Pond, but I always enjoy when one of their songs comes on. This 11-minute instrumental begins with alternating channels of psychedelic electric guitar, which fades after less than a minute. The track settles into a slow, mellow fuzz groove; about seven minutes in, drums and guitar get progressively busier above it, before settling down toward the end of the track. Great music to work to. Dilate is the album.

7. Smog - "Cold Blooded Old Times": One of the best songs on Knock Knock. An insistent rock guitar and nice piano, which ends in a great squall of guitar and piano noise. Some lyrics: "the type of memories that turn your bones to glass" and "in this way they gave you clarity, a cold-blooded clarity". I still haven't been able to pick up the new Bill Callahan record.

8. The Jayhawks - "I'd Run Away": For a while, I thought I was interested in keeping up with various stripes of alt-country bands (this didn't last very long; most of them are pretty boring--cf. The Old 97s). One of my favorite such records is Tomorrow the Green Grass, which includes this song. A lot of what I loved about the record was Mark Olson's vocals, and he left the band after this album. So I lost interest, though I know people who swear by the follow-up, Sound of Lies.

9. Outkast - "Liberation": Damn this is a beautiful song. Why do I feel like I've never heard it before? I've had Aquemini for years (since it came out in 1998, I'm sure). At more than 8 minutes, this is one of the longer rap songs I'm aware of. Just drums, piano, bass. I should probably listen to this cd more often.

10. The Vandermark 5 - "Cruz Campo (For Gerhard Richter)": Airports for Light was produced by Bob Weston of Shellac and, of late, Mission of Burma, and it sounds great. This is solid, workmanlike modern jazz, in the traditions of free bop and free jazz. I saw the group play in Chicago at the Empty Bottle (also in the audience: Peter Brotzmann! Joe McPhee!).

11. The Notorious B.I.G. - "Respect": There's a reason Ready to Die is considered a classic. I still don't have much intelligent to say about rap.
12. Miles Davis Quintet - "You're My Everything": The first great quintet, with Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Jo Jones. This stuff is pretty much the dictionary definition of jazz for me, so it's hard to imagine that there were those who reacted negatively to it at the time. This comes from Relaxin' with Miles.

13. Pixies - "Planet of Sound": I've been sort of bored by the Pixies lately. Or, bored by the idea of them, bored by their position as indie rock gods. But a song like "Planet of Sound" comes on, and well. I've tended to favor the raw, bare-bones, Albini-recorded Surfer Rosa and not given enough attention to the last Pixies album, Trompe le Monde, which gives us this song. It's hard to say why; I'm always surprised by how great it is. There's a lot going on in these songs.

14. Mia Doi Todd - "88 Ways": I'd never heard of Mia Doi Todd before John Darnielle raved about her most recent cd, Manzanita, when it was released a couple of years ago. I bought that album and the earlier, major-label album The Golden State, which includes "88 Ways". I love Todd's voice. Manzanita is beautiful, and its spare production is much more to my liking than is Mitchell Froom's overly busy production on The Golden State. Still, the latter is a good album nonetheless.

15. Belly - "Super-Connected": This is a pretty basic, engaging rock song from the second Belly cd, King. Tanya Donelly's Belly had some good songs, but they were nothing like as good as her previous band, the great Throwing Muses.


Tim said...

Funny you should say that about the Pixies as I was thinking something similar just last week while reading some terribly pretentious and fawning reviews of their recent Australian tour. One reviewer claimed that Doolittle is a better album than anything that has come out since. Not just better than anything by the Pixies or members of the Pixies - no, anything by anyone, anywhere!

It reminded me of Piero Scaruffi's criticism of the Beatles. Scaruffi is pretty damning about most of the Beatles' output, and he claims that they're only feted because of 1) their commercial popularity, and 2) the historical ignorance of most rock music writers. Jazz or classical critics tend to have a more rounded appreciation of their field whereas rock journalists are typically more limited in their historical perspective. Whether that's true I couldn't say, but it's an intriguing argument and one I often reflect on when I read nostalgic hyperbole in the guise of rock criticism.

On the other hand, the Pixies were/are(?) capable of making some pretty great music.

Btw, these iPod run-downs are quite interesting. I've been trying to figure out a way of writing more about music on my blog so I might have to steal the idea.

Scraps said...

I don't have a problem with anyone disliking the Beatles -- of course -- but when people start trying to explain the bad bad reasons why other people like the Beatles, they are just being pissy, no matter how articulately. I don't like Dylan for a lot of good -- of course -- reasons, but I'd be an idiot to maintain that Dylan's popularity and importance were primarily due to popular ignorance. That's not criticism, it's solipsism.

I may have said this before -- of course -- but Mia Doi Todd had albums before The Golden State, and if you prefer Manzanita, you'd probably like the earlier ones, too: they are spare, spooky, and often beautiful. In particular, ZeroOne is amazing, one of those albums that I'm not in the mood for often -- it demands complete attention -- but always blows me away when I put it on.

Scraps said...

(Anyway, if the Beatles were only feted because of their popularity, where's the critical love for the BeeGees, Neil Diamond, Cliff Richard, Madonna?)

Richard said...

Tim, thanks. I like doing these because it gives me a chance to touch on a wide variety of music I like, without having to spend a tone of space doing so.

Scraps - I am aware that Mia Doi Tood has previous recordings, but I haven't looked for any of them. Thanks for the tip on ZeroOne.

As for the Beatles/Pixies "feted because they're popular thing"... It's hard sometimes to distinguish unthinking fawning from deserved adulation. To say that the Beatles are/were only feted because they were popular is extremely silly, not to mention condescending. However, I think it's fair to say that rock critics have too often had a too limiting awareness of the music.

Funny that you mention Dylan, Scraps. I, of course, love him. But the praise heaped on his last album made little sense to me. For years it was assumed Dylan was washed up, and everyone seemed to reflexively dump on his new records, but since he started making music that he seemed more committed to, it's like he can do no wrong. And he's going to get reviewed absolutely everywhere, including newspapers that review little popular music, but have older readerships. Anyway, I thought Modern Times was way overrated and that people were fawning over it because it was by Dylan. And yet, some younger critics wrote about that album in ways that forced me to accept that they really liked it that much.

(Side note: I would say that there has been plenty of critical love for Madonna, if not so much for the others, though Neil Diamond has his adherents.)

Anonymous said...

Hey - I made that adult contemporification remark about Fiest! I simultaneously stand by it and am in love with everything I've heard by her. I've heard half of the new record via downloads, and just bought the actual thing yesterday; once I've finished processing it I'll probably go on about it.

I don't like the album version of "Inside and Out," but have you seen her do it live? It is so, so, so gorgeous. She completely reinterprets it. You gotta go see her if she comes to town.

Finally, I feel the exact same way as you about the Pixies--Surfer Rosa is my favorite. But the one song that always gets me the way you've described with "Planet" is "Monkey Gone to Heaven," from Doolittle. When he gets to "And if the devil is six then GOD is seven"... well, I have to stand up and chant along with that whole section of the song.

Richard said...

I'd seen more than one person say something similar about Feist, but I did see the "adult contemporification" line at your blog--but I didn't remember where I'd seen it until sometime today, or I would have linked to your post!

You don't like the album version? I know I've already said it, but I love it... a lot. Though I am interested in hearing the live version now...

Anonymous said...

The album version, in fact, is one of those "adult contemporary" moments I think Fiest is capable of. It's not the worst offender but there are many other songs on Let it Die that I like more.

Here's a live version:

Actually I was at that show! But I also saw her again a few months later and the whole band sang on the chorus in four-part harmony. Even better.

brandon said...

Arthur Russell! Like probably almost everybody, I've discovered him through all of the re-releases. Perhaps try his 'Springfield' EP and/or 'Calling Out of Context', it has the disco-like stuff but a little more popish and more emotional connected...'World of Arthur' I've found to be his most underwhelming.

Also, you have smart stuff to say about everything else, why not rap? I'm not trying to be aggressive, I just curious

Richard said...

Good question, Brandon. I see what Tom Breihan has to put up with, and I have little interest in getting into debates about what is and isn't "real hip hop" (I can see both "sides" of it, and I don't really care). So I guess it's sort of a cop-out. I find, anyway, with a lot of music I struggle to describe it, and with rap I feel it even more so. It's not clear why I feel that that feeling should therefore prevent me from saying something else about it (telling personal anecdotes, etc, like I do with the other tracks).

So, yeah. Next time maybe.

Scraps said...

I agree that Hersh is a great songwriter, and Donelly merely a good one. But the first Belly album is IMO as strong as the best Muses albums. It isn't as strikingly original, but it's good almost all the way through, has many different moods, and has several peaks ("Slow Dog", "Low Red Moon", "Feed the Tree", "Untogether"). The strongest songs are in the middle, which is unusual and may cause the album to be underrated (R.E.M.'s Up is another one like that). Anyway, it was interesting to hear a bunch of Donelly's stuff by itself for the first time, instead of as sort of asides on Muses albums where, good as the songs were, they always felt a little out of place.