Music Zen!

Your argument is sound, nothing but sound

Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

5 Great Lost Songs

leave a comment »

Well, maybe not lost, exactly, but out of the way at least. Links, incidentally, will stream the track via Last.fm.

Can I Stay With You?
Nick Garrie
The Nightmare of JB Stanislas, 1969
Although a minor success in Europe, this fellow was, as I understand it, virtually ignored in Britain and America, despite releasing this album, which is really quite excellent, and this happens to be my favorite track off of it. The weather’s too hot for this right now, though; it’s a wonderful early fall track–just a bit wistful but still bright.

Electric to Me Turn
Bruce Haack
The Electric Lucifer, 1970
An early electronic music pioneer, this brief little number is the opening track on a quirky, weird little album about the war between Heaven and Hell… or something, I dunno, that’s not really the point. What’s far more interesting is the sound itself–drenched in early synthesizers and odd noises, yet clearly with a pop sensibility in a way that was pretty unique for its time.

Savoir Faire
Family Fodder
Monkey Banana Kitchen, 1980
When I first heard this, I thought “Wow, this band is totally ripping off Stereolab.” Then I learned this song came out 12 years before Peng! (Stereolab’s first record, for the uninitiated). So there you go. I guess this qualifies as new wave, but the album is kind of out there and trippy, even by the standards of the already kinda oddball genre. What’s remarkable is the variety–not all their songs sound even remotely like this.

I Hate You
The Monks
Black Monk Time, 1966
This pretty much epitomizes the phrase “proto-punk.” A group of American army men in Germany got together to record an album that, while rooted in the garage rock traditions of the mid ’60s (see 13th Floor Elevators, ? and the Mysterians, etc), also introduced a simplicity and aggression that, 8-10 years later, would come to characterize the often diverse work lumped into the amorphous “punk” category.

Fisherman’s Blues
The Waterboys
Fisherman’s Blues, 1988
I would expect to hear this band namedropped more than I do, but… This is one of their best tracks, epitomizing what the band does best–it draws from Irish and English folk music, beefs it up with a rock-and-roll swagger gives it some literate, intelligent lyrics and inserts one of the best choruses I can presently think of (“Light in my hair / You in my arms / Ooh-hoo-hoo!”).

So there you go. There are definitely more I can think of, but I can’t seem to find full tracks of any of them, so the 5 will have to do for now (it was 4 originally, but I had to add that Waterboys song).

Written by Sarah K

July 30, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Shuffle Post.

with 2 comments

I want to write more for this blog, I really do. Like right now, I have a number of good articles in mind (“What makes a good lyricist?,” a write-up on the new Okkervil River record leak, baroque pop profiles, etc) but I’m just so very tired. But I do want to write something, so for tonight, I’m taking the lazy way out and doing a “Shuffle Post.” Herein shall we enter the weird and wild world of my iTunes library for ten songs, yet unknown to you or I. And for each, I shall mention something about it worth noting. Okay? Okay.

1. “Who Says?” by Richard Hell & The Voidoids ( from Blank Generation, 1977 )
I love Richard Hell. This isn’t my favorite track on this album (that would be the epic “Another World”) but it IS a fine example of the fact that one didn’t have to play loud/simple to make it in the “punk” scene (in quotes because of the vague definition of such). There’s a thoughtful, shaky tension to this song (and album)–as much (or more) in common with Television (which Hell was briefly in) as The Ramones or any of that ilk.

2. “4U” by KoRn ( from Issues, 1999 )
In my defense, I went to high school from 1998-2002. Actually though, this isn’t that bad. It’s not great or anything, but it has a kind of interesting atmospheric thing going on, and it’s short so it’s over before it gets too old. I remember when this album came out… I still want to learn to play the bagpipes.

3. “Creeper” by Islands ( from Arm’s Way, 2008 )
I dunno, this album didn’t quite get to me as much as their first (or The Unicorns album) did. But there is a certain pleasant groove going on here, even if it is a little… conventional, for lack of a better word, in that it hits exactly the notes a dancy “indie-pop” song should hit . Hm. It is catchy, though–well executed if not as daring as one might hope.

4. “I Fell in Love Today” by Ween ( from Shinola, Vol 1, 2005 )
This collection was pretty lackluster compared to the group’s regular studio albums, but this song is great. You never know what you’re going to get with Ween, but this one’s anchored by a low, head-nodding groove an it never builds too far beyond that because it never needs to. It’s the kind of song you listen to and it sort of automatically makes you strut, which fits well with the theme (“You people can’t touch me / I fell in love today”). The guitar tone on the chilled-out solo is great, too.

5. “Triangle” by Tripping Daisy ( from Bill, 1993 )
I just got this today, actually, so I don’t have much to say about it. It IS hard to believe this is the same guy who fronts The Polyphonic Spree–he’s singing about a preacher jacking off on TV over a very consciously “slightly-post-grunge” guitar riff. As I understand it, this album was largely dismissed because of exactly that sort of self-consciousness, which I guess I can see. There’s nothing bad about this so far, but it’s not especially grabbing either. Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb is a pretty fine album, though.

6. “Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens ( from Come On Feel the Illinoise!, 2005 )
I have a sort of a love/hate thing with Sufjan. On the one hand, he can be a little… much at times–overly precious, I guess would be a way of putting it. And this album did not need to be 22 damn songs long. However, for all his coyness, when he gets it right, he gets it right and this (along with “Romulus”) is one of his two finest moments. One could write a novel from these lyrics–there’s enough pathos and detail to back it up without being overly wordy or coming off as melodramatic as the subject matter (falling in love with a dying girl) could easily have been. It’s beautiful and the banjo/horn thing he tends to work has the perfect air of slight melancholy without being histrionic.

7. “Ice” by The Microphones ( from It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, 2000 )
Phil writes such weird pop songs. Because this is a pop song, despite the fuzzed-out atonality, the rapidly shifting structure (no verse/chorus/verse here), the odd tinkly bells or static sounds or whatever else. It’s catchy despite itself. That’s why this was such a great band. I think his new band (Mount Eerie) is finally going to put out another one this year. I hope.

8. “Straight Freak Show” by Love Battery ( from Straight Freak Ticket, 1995 )
Sigh. My ex bought me this album so it reminds me of some weird things. But it’s still good–definitely an unrecognized grunge/alternative/whatever band with a little bit of a psychedelic edge to them. It’s definitely of its era, but there’s a charm here–summer, soda, skateboards, that sort of thing.

9. “Snagglepuss” by John Zorn ( from Naked City, 1989 )
Somewhere in the ether, jazz had a hot, steamy threesome with metal and new wave. This album (all 26 demented tracks of it) was born from that perverse union. This song bounces around between “normal” lite-jazz passages and the sound of Zorn herniating himself on his sax over other freakishly tortured instruments–like a really freaky musical game of “Red Light, Green Light.” It’s awesome.

10. “Simple Song” by Lyle Lovett ( from Pontiac, 1987 )
It’s easy for me to focus on Lyle songs like “If I Had a Boat” or “Penguins,” which are so… charmingly odd, I forget he can be this damn pretty. Incidentally, Pontiac is a milestone of alt-country music and something everybody needs to hear at least once.

Actually, on that note:

Written by Sarah K

July 29, 2008 at 3:20 am

Black Metal’s top 5 of the shittiest production value

leave a comment »

When Black Metal started emerging in the the Metal scene in the early 90’s (of course not counting the first wave Black Metal), Black Metal had a very very poor music production quality, or kvlt or gr1m as they call it. This was a social outcry to the world of Pop Music and Metal music and all its glory multi-million dollar production quality music. Thus emerging the cry of the shitty production value.  Bands at the time where recording music on the basement and making it sound as bad as possible. Recording it on answering machines. The more worse the production is, the better points you get in the circle.

I present to you the top 5 of all the shittiest production value of any Black Metal. By all means, I find this whole thing as a joke, but that doesn’t mean I hate the genre as a whole. So all you Black Metal purist out there reading this, fuck you and your shitty kvlt production. Stop recording music on your moms basement while you think your a Dark Elf or a Nazgul you nerd.

Number 5. Carpathian Forest- Journey Through The Cold Moors of Svarttjern

Number 4. Mayhem- Pure Fucking Armageddon

Number 3. Mutilation- My travels through sadness ,hate & depression

Number 2. Vlad Tepes- From The Celtic Moonfrost (The shittiest of all the LLN bands)

Number 1. Burzum- Lost Wisdom (What the fuck is going on here)

Of course, I like some of these bands, but I also laugh at this stuff from time to time.

Written by rippingcorpse

July 18, 2008 at 5:46 pm

5 Albums Everyone Should Own (or at least check out)

with 3 comments

I don’t think my music collection is holy. In fact, I know there are some major holes in it. But I also know that I have some winners, and whatever you’re into, here are five albums out of my collection that everyone should check out:

The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me-Brand New:

Of their three albums, the latest is definitely Brand New’s masterpiece. I would go as far to say that they’ve hit their peak with this one. The album is full of self-exploration on things like religion and love and sex and all that other stuff you can expect from Jesse Lacey. The sound of the album is almost…ghostly throughout. The best track on the album goes to “Jesus Christ.”

The Ugly Organ-Cursive

A lot of people prefer domestica to this one, but it’s just so dang hard for me to argue with how loud and full of discord The Ugly Organ is. The lyrics are very emotional and personal, as they always are with Tim Kasher, and that adds a completely new dimension to the album, as the listener gets to feel and hear and know what each song’s characters are facing.

Little by Little…-Harvey Danger

This is probably the catchiest album I own. Sean Nelson’s voice is so very smart on Little by Little… and the lyrics are clever and poppy, yet are deep and real at the same time–a balance that’s hard to strike in modern music.

The Moon and Antarctica-Modest Mouse

No one ever really knows what Issac Brock is talking about on Modest Mouse album’s. And it seems that the earlier into their work you go, the more and more twisted and unorganized the music becomes. As the release between The Lonesome Crowded West and Good News for People Who Love Bad News, this album hits every genius that is the mesmerizing, yet confusing Modest Mouse while not missing out on the more commercial side, which, without, makes Modest Mouse sound almost unapproachable.

OK Computer-Radiohead

This one was almost to obvious. No one can have a good pretentious list without having thisalbum on it. But I truly do love this album, and right now it’s my favorite Radiohead album. I think this is the reason: on almost every album I have, the music is set up as such: music /and/ vocals; but on Radiohead albums, especially this one, Thom Yorke’s voice becomes less of a seperate entity from the music and more of just another instrument that blends seemlessly.

A Rock Revolution!

with 3 comments

Today is the day when many Americans step outside their homes to check out the grill, tell jokes about how we thrashed the limeys, and wave flammable flags around while setting off fireworks. While actually setting the flag on fire is probably more of an expression of freedom and appreciating this country than simply waving it around, that’s neither here nor there! No, when this time comes around, music critics and historians mention amazing songs that altered music somehow or that sang the praises of this fine country; its revolution and history.

So in that tradition, I am going to list six songs that I think have helped revolutionize music. I don’t necessarily like all of these songs, but I do think that they were sort of mini-Declarations of Independence. Songs that pushed boundaries and blazed trails.

Starting off, where would we be without the classic ’60s protest song? There was once a time when you were more likely to hear a freshly written protest song than you were to take a shower! Amazing, huh? The correlation between showering and protest music is pretty odd, but it seems that the more protest music you listen to, the less you shower.

Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth seems to epitomize the classic ’60s protest song. It seems to be used in many movies whose names I can’t think of whenever said movies mention the ’60s or douchebags who don’t bathe. All that said, the song is actually pretty catchy!

The Sex Pistols were a lot of things. Mainly, they were tools. But with the song Bodies they really started exploring a lot of uncharted territory. Singing about abortion? Especially during the time when the song was recorded, graphic songs about abortion were not the norm — and they still aren’t. One of the few other songs about abortion I can think of off the top of my head is something like Ben Folds Five’s Brick. It’s a touchy issue, and the Pistols really tread new territory with it. So check one off in the revolutionary box.

Coming off of the generation of excess (ie, some of our parents and some of our grandparents) known as the baby boomers, musicians found themselves annoyed and somewhat provoked by the pressure to drink, do drugs, and engage in other forms of self-destruction. Songs like Straight Edge sparked, MacKaye claims unintentionally, a whole movement bent on refraining from conquest sex, drugs, and alcohol. The song itself isn’t even a minute long, but it managed to spark an entire movement and counter-movement in punk scenes across the country. I would say it’s pretty revolutionary.

Kill Yr Idols. Wow. This song is intense. It sort of stems from the No Wave movement in the northeast during the late ’70s and early ’80s because of guys like Glenn Branca, DNA, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Whether or not the song is true No Wave — I’m not sure that really matters — it pushed Sonic Youth’s limits further than they would ever go. Without Sonic Youth, much of the ’80s underground alternative scene would not exist, so I would credit their early work, like Kill Yr Idols, with inspiring a large generation of kids to go out and make music. The song is nothing like anything offDaydream Nation (which I constantly hear called their magnum opus, though I’m not sure I agree), but it sort of lays everything down and shoves SY’s avant-garde styling in your face. They’ve mellowed over the years, clearly, but I don’t think they would have gone in the direction if they did if not for Confusion is Sex / Kill Yr Idols.

I couldn’t find any Hüsker Dü songs off of their famous LP Zen Arcade (a bold statement in hardcore and a large indicator of what was to come with emo), but I think that pretty much all of their material was revolutionary within the hardcore scene and punk in general. I even found a Green Day cover of a Hüsker Dü song on Youtube, but, alas, it was on MTV and we all know how I feel about Viacom now!

Finally, what sort of Kevin Shields fanboy would I be without including some My Bloody Valentine here? Instead of picking a track off of Loveless, though, I’m going to go with You Made Me Realise. Realise is the song they seem to be closing their shows with now. Performing a 20 minute live version of the song that, even on a live recording, totally blows my mind. How incredibly epic! My Bloody Valentine is an absolutely brilliant studio band. I can think of few other bands that rival the production quality and inventiveness of the band when it comes to studio tweaking and development of their tunes. You Made Me Realise is a fucking loud song that is perfect for destroying ears. At their shows in England, they had taken to handing out free ear plugs for anyone who attended the show — if only Warped Tour would do the same thing, but with condoms.

So there we are. Six songs that I think define generations, movements, scenes, and music. What do you guys think? What songs are revolutionary to you? What do you think is revolutionary music in general — personal feelings aside?

I’m going to close with Boris. They’re not ultra revolutionary, but I think the video I’m about to post possesses more rock than the human mind can handle:

WTF Videos

with 6 comments

Music video is a strange art from. While most videos are generally kind of bland, the ones on either end tend to push the extreme. They can be epic and beautiful (don’t even act like you didn’t cry the first time you saw November Rain, we both know you did), they can be edgy and terrifying (Come to Daddy scares the crap out of me), or they can make a statement (Bastards of Young does it by doing almost nothing at all). But then there are the videos that get their own special category–the kind that just sort of make you blink and say “Wait, what?” This post is dedicated to a few of those marvelous gems.

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
I admit, I have kind of a soft spot for it, but this is still one of the schmaltziest songs ever written. Nothing about it suggests ninjas, bikers, football players or flying alien choirboys, but there they are. And what’s up with that ending, exactly?

Rock DJ by Robbie Williams
Is Robbie a prisoner in a futuristic roller derby? Is he a stripper? Is he a Vincent Price creation? Things are weird enough when the dancing deviant decides to remove his meager briefs, but it goes to a whole other level when (at around 3 minutes in), he decides to remove his skin, and then begins to toss his gory muscle tissue on the disaffected skater girls. Yeah.

Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches
I was with this one until the dude with the turtle body appeared. By the time the bird and monkey were dancing and the mariachi band showed up, my brain had pretty much exploded.

Gay Bar by Electric Six
I only have one question. Why Abe Lincoln?

And finally,

Golimar by Chiranjeevi
I would not normally put a parody video here, since that would kinda defeat the point, but this dude is apparently an award-winning actor. I really can’t tell if he’s taking the piss here or if this is a tribute, but either way it’s pretty damn crazy.

Written by Sarah K

June 25, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Albums of the (Half) Year

with 10 comments

So I’m a big fan of lists (being a girl and all *chuckle*), and since we’re roughly at the halfway point of the year and I was thinking about this today anyway, I thought it prudent to make a list of my 10 favorite albums from 2008 thus far.

These are not necessarily in order, but close.

1. Stay Positive by The Hold Steady
Technically, this has not been released on CD yet (July 15), but it IS out on iTunes, so I’m counting it. This thing is a heartland-rock masterpiece that rivals or surpasses 2005’s Separation Sunday. The album doesn’t stray much from the band’s trademark formula of churning, anthemic guitars and rockin’ piano/organ riffs, and as usual Craig Finn’s lyrics are razor sharp, but the devil is in the details here. This is the sound of a band maturing–examining the aftermath and consequences of the youthful exuberance of their last record, Boys & Girls in America.

2. Heretic Pride by The Mountain Goats
After the relatively dour Get Lonely, John Darnielle and Peter Hughes spice things up a bit. This album finds the hardest rocker they’ve yet done (“Lovecraft in Brooklyn”), warmer and arguably more beautiful territory than Darnielle has ever written (“San Bernadino”), and even choral backing vocals (“Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident”), all while playing to the strengths the band has built up during their time in studio 4AD–more arranged guitars, gentle strings, raw drums–and the amazing lyrical detail and emotional impact they’ve had all along.

3. Rook by Shearwater
A band that seems to get better with each successive release, Shearwater have released a masterpiece in Rook, albeit a subtle masterpiece. A gentle, mysterious, headphone album, this is almost the epitome of rainy day music–Jonathan Meiburg (one of the best male vocalists in modern rock) floats ethereally in and out of arrangements that build from whispers to shouts amidst a cloud of guitars, pianos, strings and percussion that clatters and crashes like a summer storm. It’s a grower, definitely, but like any great mystery, the more one peels back, the more there is to find.

4. Parallel Play by Sloan
Although largely passed over in the US, these Canadian power pop rockers have put out another in a long series of gems with this one. Like a time-capsule from 1968 given a brasher 2008 sheen, there are garage-rock solos, multi-part harmonies, psychedelic guitar tones, punchy drum hooks, et al. Coming off their last (30 song, 77 minute) album, Never Hear the End of It, this is the sound of a band paring away their excesses and focusing on what they do best with absolutely great results.

5. Third by Portishead
Not like it hasn’t been said six zillion times at this point, but it’s amazing hearing a band that, coming off an 11-year break, manages to reinvent themselves just enough to sound fresh but still distinctive. Third is harsher than either the band’s genre-defining debut Dummy or their cryptic self-titled follow up–Beth Gibbons still emits an aching and earnest croon, but behind her the sounds are more international spy film than noir detective story. Take the overwhelming percussion of “Machine Gun” or the eastern sounds that permeate “Magic Doors.” Time has prevented the band from falling into a rut or becoming irrelevant and makes Third‘s sudden arrival all the more startling.

6. New Amerykah, Part 1: Third World War by Erykah Badu
Socially relevant soul music for a new generation, Badu has grown well beyond her Nina Simone/Billie Holiday roots at this point. Where older tracks like “On & On” and “Bag Lady” sounded like cool updates of old styles, this is what Worldwide Underground hinted an Erykah Badu record could be–an album that transcends time and place, creating a dreamy space somewhere between classicist Motown tradition and the samples, loops and rhythms of modern hip-hop. It’s not something that can be digested in a single listen–it wanders and coils in on itself–but it’s a work of astounding sophistication.

7. Shallow Graves by The Tallest Man on Earth
An album that works for its pure simplicity. Kristian Matsson, rather than relying on trying to put a spin on old sounds or coming up with crazy mixes and arrangements, instead has focused on pure strong songwriting to create ten folk songs that recall the heyday of the genre. The centerpiece of the album is Matsson’s endearingly nasal vocal, framed only by an acoustic guitar, banjo and–on only one track–an extremely subtle cello (or viola, I’m not sure). In an era where music is often overwhelming to pick apart, this album stands out for its starkness and is better for it.

8. @#%&*! Smilers by Aimee Mann
As much as I love Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm, both those albums felt a little bit weighed down at times, where this album shares the buoyancy of her masterwork, Bachelor No. 2. As usual, her amazing, strong, slightly melancholy voice is her greatest instrument, but it’s backed up by gentle grooves (“The Great Beyond,” “Freeway”), balladeer arrangements (“31 Today”), and lazy, Saturday afternoon rhythms, (“True Believer,” “Looking for Nothing”). The words “adult contemporary” can conjure up some scary images (see: Phil Collins), but this album is a great example of why that doesn’t have to be the case.

9. Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins
A collaboration between Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) and Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers), there’s basically no way this could not be awesome. It manages to incorporate the best aspects of both artists, existing as an entity both spooky and sensual, both spaced out and melodic, and full of an intriguing, dirty darkness. Cloaked in oozing synths and strings, bombastic drumming, and the alternately smooth and gravelly vocals of the pair (often harmonizing in an amazing contrast), this is a night album that could be a soundtrack to getting laid or stalking someone in an alley, and that’s a weirdly interesting mix.

10. Earth to the Dandy Warhols by The Dandy Warhols
The Dandys have never been a band one could take especially seriously and this album isn’t going to change that. Likewise, any record by the band could easily and accurately be called indulgent, and again, this is no exception. This is why it’s at the bottom of this list, but I have to include it, just cos it’s so damn fun. Check out that seriously grooving riff on “Wasp in the Lotus,” or the shiny-happiness of “Love Song,” or the pseudo-honky-tonk beat of “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty,” or the rock-n-roll stomp on “Valerie Yum.” It’s self-conscious party music, with all the ridiculous posturing that comes with (see: “Welcome to the Third World”), but they’ve combined the strengths of their best albums–the hazy psychedelia of Come Down, the stylistically varied poppiness of Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia and the new-wave influence that fit them like a glove on Welcome to the Monkey House and put them all together.

So I showed you mine, now you show me yours.