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5 Great Lost Songs

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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).

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Written by Sarah K

July 30, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Steve Albini tells a your mom joke, is awesome

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I was looking for June of ’44 videos to put up here so that I could write an entry about them, but, alas, there was nothing that really leaped out at me of theirs on Youtube.

In the related videos section, though, came a Shellac video. I haven’t listened to Shellac in a long time, but just the other day, I had Squirrel Song stuck in my head (“This isn’t some kind of metaphor! God damn! This is real!”).

Anyway, here’s a video of Shellac doing My Black Ass. At the very beginning, there is a heckler who provokes a your mom joke out of Mr. Albini. How cool, right?

I love Youtube comments, this is a fact! One of my favorite categories of Youtube commenter is (aside from the guy who goes to every video he can find and says, “What the fuck? That’s so gay! FAGS!!!”) the kind that comment on noise rock videos. Take this one, for example, “This is not music. It’s talentless noise. It’s people like U who buy rap CDs HAHA.” The “this is not music” crowd seems to find its way to these videos, I don’t know how, and completely miss the entire point of the music. Inevitably, it’s some jock rock Metallica fan, though, so I guess the joke’s sort of on them, in its own subtle way. I think a pretty good rule of thumb for life is, in addition to “Don’t talk to strangers,” is “Never trust anyone who says rap isn’t music.”

And between these two is about 17 minutes of really high quality concert recordings (especially for a noise rock-y sort of sound!):

Part 2:

Anyway, for those who don’t know who he is, Steve Albini is definitely up there as one of the great DIY music producers. He was/is in Shellac, Big Black, and Rapeman. You can see a fairly complete list (I say “fairly complete” because Wikipedia says it is incomplete and Wikipedia is always right) of his efforts here. For those of you Pixies fans, he worked on Surfer Rosa. He’s also done stuff for Jesus Lizard, the Breeders, Helmet, PJ Harvey (ick!), Nirvana, Melt-Banana, Screaching Weasel (there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time), Veruca Salt, Braniac (whoa, didn’t know he did that), Pansy Division, Bedhead (!!!), Low, Jawbreaker, mclusky (<3), and… wait, why am I typing out this list if it’s basically what’s in that link? Anyway! Shellac is a band worth listening to and Steve Albini is a really awesome dude. He’s also living proof that you can come from Missoula, Montana and still do something with your life. I’ve, uh, been to Missoula, and there’s not of “doing things with your life” going on around there.

Written by M

July 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

Hefner: The Fidelity Wars

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So a number of weird things have been keeping me from posting on MZ like I ought (sorry guys), and those same things will ensure the brevity of this post (cos Lord, am I tired), but I did want to mention something cool I stumbled across.

Of those weird things (others of which include but are not limited to getting into a rubber-band fight in a crowded office, spending over an hour actually in a [half-full] dumpster in 95 degree weather, doing blow with someone who once got gardening assistance from Beck, being robbed of over $1100 worth of stuff and visiting an actual honest-to-god hippie commune… it’s been a weird couple weeks), the most significant is that I moved into a house with two roommates that I could actually stand to live in a house with.

That’s actually a great compliment, since I’m kind of notoriously anti-social. But this is an awesome situation (except for a distinct lack of air conditioning–I cannot WAIT until fall), and part of the reason it’s awesome is because of the musical climate in this house. I’ve come across a number of cool new (to me) things already, but the most significant for me right now is the 1999 album The Fidelity Wars by a band called Hefner, which I first heard in a car last week and have been listening to faithfully (har har) since.

The opening track (“The Hymn for the Cigarettes”) sets the flavor for the rest of the record pretty nicely. The best way I can think of to describe it is a mix between Suede (or Blur, if that means more to you, though Suede fits better) and The Violent Femmes. If you can picture that, you’ve pretty much got this exactly, but that makes it work, especially on the first four songs (the other three being “May God Protect Your Home,” “The Hymn for the Alcohol” and “I Took Her Love for Granted”). The second half of the album starts slowing down a bit musically, which makes it lag, but there are still some very fine moments (“I Love Only You,” for example).

As you may have gathered from the titles, these are basically songs about getting fucked-up and getting laid–not in a frat-boy sense, but in the sense of a dedicated self-destructionist. That, I suppose, can either be a big turn-off or used to great effect, depending on your taste. On the one hand, the “home” in “May God Protect Your Home” refers to a vagina, but on the other hand, the chorus that makes that particular reference actually comes of with a sincere-if-demented sweetness when framed by its amazingly catchy descending melody. The significance of drinking whiskey (rather than wine) is the kind of smart detail that makes a song (in this case “The Hymn for the Alcohol”) rise above wannabe-edgy status or purely masturbatory navel-gazing. And Darren Hayman does know how to turn phrase with a Raggedy Andy swagger and thick accent.

Normally this is where I would embed a video, however because the only video I could find–“I Took Her Love for Granted”–qualifies as pretty damn NSFW (body suits, but even so… yeah), I’m opting for a link instead.

Check out the hook on this thing. Seriously. The chorus is amazing.

Ok. My neighbor is playing the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. So that’s kind of hte last straw for tonight. I’m taking a temazepam and going to sleep.

Written by Sarah K

July 12, 2008 at 4:27 am

Chuggo

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Wonder where all the good redneck white hick rap has been hiding all this time?

Look no further:

Edit:

Chuggo’s Last.FM page. I love the tags and artist description.

Chuggo’s Myspace

Chuggo is living proof that Canada is not as great as white people make it seem.

Written by M

June 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Plugs

Tagged with

Calla – Scavengers

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This would be the 2001 sophomore album/masterpiece by the NYC-based trio, though the band’s roots in Denton, TX might go further to explaining the sound of this thing. The best word I can think of for it is “hot,” but that requires some clarification. This is the soundtrack to a humid summer night, a record full of dark textures that lumber and creep forward, dripping with woozy sweat.

This tone is clear right from the beginning with “Fear of Fireflies.” A low bass anchors the track while acoustic and electric guitars, organs, subtle synths and various percussion snake around it, winding in with Aurelio Valle’s strained-yet-disaffected voice and slightly spooky lyrics (“A sea of fireflies hover at the dark, following tracers, scattering apart, following me”).

“Traffic Sound” is harsher, driven by a kick drum and hollow guitar tone that emphasizes the empty space in the song. “Slum Creeper” sounds like what a song with that title should sound like–it shakes forward in a sinister, dirty lurch. “Mayzelle” and “A Fondness for Crawling” are instrumental numbers that both slowly build tension while unleashing atonal, ghost-in-the-machine noises.

“Hover Over Nowhere” is the record at its “prettiest,” a hazy, lazy ballad that takes its time, unfolding slowly over seven and a half minutes. “Tijerina” follows a similar formula, but builds to a more fevered climax before coming back down. What’s really interesting is the final track, a cover of the relatively spare “Promenade” by U2 (from 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, if you care), that doubles the original song’s length. Even if it is relatively up, compared to the prior 9 tracks, it comes off as a surprisingly perfect addition/end note.

If you’re half-awake, trying to fall asleep sans-AC on a warm night (as I was when I decided to write this), this would be a fitting soundtrack to that state. As illustration, an audio youtube of “Fear of Fireflies” for ya:

If you dig this, they also have 4 other pretty good albums: Calla (1999), Televise (2003), Collisions (2005) and Strength in Numbers (2007).

Written by Sarah K

June 30, 2008 at 3:54 am

Posted in Plugs, Reviews

Tagged with , ,

Latest Song Obsession

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This (best version I could find on youtube)–

Also, this is kinda cool:

Written by Sarah K

June 29, 2008 at 5:03 am

Memory and Music: Tori Amos

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This woman’s music confounds me. There are times I hate it profoundly–when it’s nonsensical and self-parodic, when her annunciation is infuriating, etc. Then there are times when I’ll put a record on and feel it, the way you feel the best music you’ve ever heard–when she’s obviously brilliant and her idiosyncratic tendencies are what make her endearing. I’ve been listening on shuffle this afternoon (always an adventure) and the title track from Little Earthquakes came up. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it, but it called me back to a lot of thoughts…

Even though I was a late comer, I got her records pretty much in order, starting with that one. It’s intricately tied to a lot of memories I have from that period (roughly 13-14). It’s such a perfect album for being that age–“Precious Things” is perfectly angsty, “Leather” is awkwardly figuring out sexuality, “Happy Phantom” has that fuck-it-and-you cheeriness that makes you want to dance in supermarket aisles to confuse the work-a-day staff. Then there’s “Me and a Gun,” which I still can’t listen to–one of very few songs I can say that about–and I have a certain admiration for that; putting an experience like that in a form that communicates it so well takes a lot. The album’s two best songs, though are the title track and “Mother,” each a towering seven minutes long. “Little Earthquakes” is this big, heavy rumination about getting around difficult moments (“Oh, these little earthquakes, doesn’t take much to rip us into pieces”)–I love the way it lumbers forward slowly and the chorus melody is wonderful. “Mother” distills a complex feeling very elegantly, a feeling of transition from one thing to another, excitement mixed with trepidation, the fear of losing one’s self, and the hesitant piano compliments some of her strongest lyrics. This has always been one of my favorite songs.

The best live version I could find of “Mother” (with a great intro)–

Then, around the same period, I got Under the Pink. I remember loving it at the time. I still think it has some very fine songs on it, this being one of them:

I’m still not sure what the hell she’s talking about for a lot of that, but it has that melancholic feel to it that some of her best work does. But listening to the rest of the album now, I don’t get a lot of it. There are some cool aspects to it–the broken down piano on “Bells for Her” is extremely effective, “Cornflake Girl” is catchy enough and “Yes, Anastasia” hits on some amazing moments, even if it does wander a bit (one of her longest songs at 9:33), but not much else really impacts me. I think this too may relate to memory. The time this was in heavy rotation was also the time I had my first “boyfriend.” It meant the world when it was happening, but with the benefit of a decade of hindsight, I have no idea what I saw in him–it’s not that I dislike him, it’s just sort of… eh. Which is how I feel about this record. It’s nice to remember, there were some good times, but… I dunno, it’s just not quite there.

Boys for Pele, which I got for my 15th birthday, is another matter. This is a willfully difficult album–70 minutes, 18.5 songs (the first track is two songs), an actual bull on backing vocals (“Professional Widow”), etc–which means I tend to feel rather strongly either way about it. Take “Mr Zebra,” (performed here on Jools Holland)

There’s a certain preciousness to that, which sometimes you want to step into because you’re feeling smart and silly, but sometimes you want to bitchslap across the face for exactly those qualities. The best tracks on this album come as it gets close to its end. “Doughnut Song” is the most quietly spiteful thing I’ve ever heard and I can think of a couple people I’d like to play that for. Then, two tracks later, “Putting the Damage On” is the flipside to that–it’s shaking and vulnerable in a way that’s difficult to capture without overdoing it (not to mention the great horn part). Naturally, that one got a lot of rotation after that first relationship ended, which makes listening to it now somewhat awkward–I see me saying “Boy, you still look pretty…” and it feels weird. A lot of things get stirred up by this record, which is both a wonderful thing and really annoying.

Also, I can’t not mention this (since it’s off that album and tied to that time). The previously mentioned young man was a big Tool fan, so this was a weird marriage of our worlds. It’s odd to have that represented so clearly.

From the Choirgirl Hotel I also got for my 15th birthday, but I didn’t get into it until after I explored Pele, which makes sense–it’s less indulgent, but much darker:

That’s actually one of my favorite videos from a purely video standpoint–all these little clues to a mystery that never gets solved, beautiful and hellish all at once. That’s sort of what trying to remember this is like. There are great memories like dancing to “Raspberry Swirl” in my bedroom with a …friend, but then there’s “Playboy Mommy” and the rather difficult personal associations I have with that (that I don’t want to get into in a forum like this). This is a record that’s gotten older with me–“Jackie’s Strength” I understand way more now than I did then, for example (it’s about the perspective of age, among other things), which is interesting. But it’s frustrating because I don’t know where it’s going and I don’t always have the patience for it–“iieee” just came up and it’s like “oh, shut up.” I don’t feel as strongly about this as I do Pele, but that’s what makes it more dangerous–it’s like that subtle drug that you don’t notice until well after it’s kicked in. Part of me wants to say it’s my second favorite behind Scarlet, but I don’t know if I can do that, for that reason. I’m not really sure how to feel about it.

I got To Venus & Back a bit after it came out (thinking about it, I don’t actually remember when…) and I still think it’s generally underrated in her canon. The live disc is this or that… “Cornflake Girl” and “Little Earthquakes” have great versions, but “Waitress” doesn’t need to go on for nearly 11 minutes on a disc. The album itself has some throwaways (“Datura”) that I’m fairly indifferent to. But this song, on the other hand (particularly this version) IS sex:

That restrained yell at the end (3:30 or so)… oh god. So there’s that. “Glory of the ’80s” is my sophomore year of high school summed up in a soundtrack–it’s got that weird confidence/insecurity thing (“then when it all seemed clear, just then you go and disappear”) when all the weird things in my life started to happen all at once. “Riot Proof” has that kind of confident swagger I tried (and failed) to adopt around this point, “Concertina” is quite pretty, etc. Yet all that said, the album feels like a high schooler in that it’s overproduced–you can tell there’s something good in there, but it’s trying to figure out what it is. When it’s over, you feel like a lot happened, but you don’t really remember most of it, things that are significant at the time don’t necessarily have a lasting impact (thank God).

Strange Little Girls is… well, strange. Speaking of not knowing what you want to be, it’s really weird hearing somebody as distinctive as Tori is playing the material of others and, in many cases, completely turning it inside out. It’s the only album of hers that has a song on it I really, consistently hate. You can’t do that to “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” I get what she’s going for, but you can’t do that. No. “Time,” “Enjoy the Silence,” and “I’m Not in Love” aren’t terrible, but they lose the character of the originals. “Raining Blood” and “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” are interesting interpretations (and the latter is extremely unsettling) but I can’t actually say I really like them, etc. The one really sublime moment on this album is “Rattlesnakes.” This doesn’t quite capture it, but it’s close:

The original (Lloyd Cole, in case you were unaware) is a great song, but she does something to it–pulls it back and makes it a more complex character by making it first person, despite the language. It’s getting difficult to articulate (partially because I’m getting tired), but that stuck with me. Again a lot of the lyrics hit close to home, but there’s a sense of understanding that Lloyd couldn’t quite communicate even if he had it.

Scarlet’s Walk came at an interesting time for me. It’s an album that is, in part, about traveling across America, which came out a couple months (5) before I *did* travel across America. It has songs about being friends with those in the adult industry (“Amber Waves”), and I *was* friends with some of those ladies. That sort of thing. Maybe that’s why I find this as interesting as I do, but it’s her most fascinating album narratively. There’s also the sense, for the first time really, that she’s stepping outside herself on this and I like that–it’s exploring the world beyond. That’s what I was doing too. “Another Girl’s Paradise” is an amazing track (listen to that chorus melody), “Wednesday” has a kind of blustery business to it, and so on. Characters have names like “Carbon” and “Crazy” (with a song dedicated to each), events don’t mean any one thing, but work on levels. This is my favorite of her albums. The music flirts dangerously with being flat, but it never is–it’s subtle, but actually quite varied.

Incidentally, the lead single for this also produced a video that should’ve been in my “WTF Videos” post:

The Beekeeper, however, is flat. Maybe I’ll figure it out someday, but it’s been 3 years and it’s still fairly impenetrable and overlong (just shy of 80 minutes). I don’t have a lot to say about it. This came out as my taste was branching outwards and was the moment I felt I’d outgrown her, where endless self-examination (which is what this album feels like) was kid stuff. I wanted to erase that past. I didn’t listen to her for some time. I wrote her off.

And then she came out with a perfect pop single.

So I bought American Doll Posse. It’s also somewhat overlong, but definitely more interesting–I’m still sorting through most of it. I don’t know if I’ve listened to the whole record in one sitting beyond the first time. In that sense it’s a nice distillation of how I feel about her now. There are some moments of incredible impact (“Girl Disappearing” on this album), but she requires a lot of patience to deal with, which I don’t always have. She can be overly obvious (“Yo George”), annoyingly inscrutable (“Programmable Soda”), pleasantly sassy (“You Can Bring Your Dog”), etc.

I think what’s most interesting, and the closest thing this long-ass post has to a point, is the realization that, ten or even five years ago, I would’ve sat down with this record and plucked every word apart until I was woven all through it and each song had something attached to it. And now I don’t do that. There was a time when she was my #1 artist, now she’d probably make the top 20, but not the top 10, necessarily. It’s a similar feeling to what I was talking about in the “Ten Years Gone” post, but even more crystallized with one particular artist–to watch her change as I’ve changed (even though the time was a little skewed at the start there). And because her music is so inherently personal, that comparison gets accentuated even more. Tori refers to her songs as though they were living people and I can understand why–people have a strange dialog with music, you share memories and feelings, you come together with it and grow apart from it like you would a friend. That’s not a novel observation, but it’s a strange thing to actually think about, especially with someone as distinctive as she is, because that distinction makes perspective all the more important (scroll down to the bottom), where more general music is exactly that.

Thinking about it, I know I’ll keep buying her records as long as she keeps making them, in the same way I keep in touch with a few old friends from high school. Even if she’s never going to mean to me what she once did and I get pissy with her a lot, there’s enough history there to appreciate growing up together.