Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Songs, Y'All! 01 17 2018: Death By Mid-Tempo Indie Rock (+ Plans)

My Tuesday. Only I was at work. And in better health.
First, a little housekeeping, I'm going to stop posting daily playlists. It mostly lead to repetition, and added time to an already-consuming process. I’ll post one playlist a week, every week (everything that crosses on my body is now crossed even my eyes…how’d I do typing? Not too shabby (or auto-correct)), and leave it up for just as long. Just the good stuff going forward…

…and welcome to the website/service that updates more than your iPhone’s fucking OS.

To expand on what’s going on the rest of this week (from an earlier tweet…and who the fuck knows who’s reading those?), inspired by the song “Called You Queen,” I chose Haley Bonar for this week’s New to Me - great song, btw. That's said, Bonar very much plays in the vein I bitch about below, right ahead of listing today’s songs, but this ship's currently headed south southwest, y'know? I listened to the album it came from (Impossible Dream) and her full debut, Big Star, and liked a couple songs the first time ‘round (no love yet). I’ll dig into that when the post goes up.

The Bins Project item featuring The Animals is a little more complicated. I bought their 1983 album, Ark, probably around the time it came out, but without knowing enough to understand it as an old band’s attempt to reboot to glory. If they tried more than trading reputation for a decent advance, it didn’t have a chance in hell. This is a terrible album. I can still make it through “Being There” without certain questions (e.g., “Jesus Christ, what are they doing?”) hijacking the experience. After that - see, “Loose Change,” “The Night,” and “Crystal Nights” - it’s an auditory terror, over-produced, synthesized 80s bilge. Hold on…yeah, a little twinge at the back of my neck reminded that I liked “Crystal Nights” back when…what the hell, man? It’s pretty much a 60s act mugged by 80s studio production. No one wins, and cocaine.

I, like you, have a handful of songs by The Animals I carry around - your “We Gotta Get Outta This Places,” your “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstoods,” your “House(s?) of the Rising Sun(s).” (think it’s proper after “house,” but mostly still love it when sports people pluralize the singular). Eric Burdon’s (ft. War’s) “Spill the Wine” rattle a little closer to the surface, and that’s my basic frame for the whole thing: basically harmless, and a little cheesy. I picked up their “original stuff” (disco remix of “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” undercuts that claim a little) before leaving high school, and would probably have told you I liked them until around five years later. But, when they drifted into the past, I didn’t stop ‘em.

Anyway, I finally decided to send out the search party, see what’s in the life rafts, etc. That’s search party. We’ll see about rescue…

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pop Backstory, 1880-1899: Music for Children, Tear-Jerkers for Adults

Tin Pan Alley, Ground Zero.
I think we all know how these posts work by now. As such, I’ll lead with a link to the original source material/inspiration, and add another one - the list of songs published by the hit factory known as Tin Pan Alley. If all goes according to plan (please work!), I’ll drop all these most popular songs of [insert decade] posts as links in a post on the history of Tin Pan Alley, and call that the next installment in the Pop Backstory series. As it happens, that neighborhood/phenomenon took off at the exact middle of this post’s timeline. Speaking of history…

America has suffered and celebrated more eventful times than the last two decades of the 19th century, to be sure. It’s a bunch of presidents you don’t remember (James Garfield, who fell to an assassin’s bullet, might ring a bell), the peak of labor unrest (the Haymarket bombing), and a couple of our better-known monuments (the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty) opening for gawking and/or use. Something else that opened: Oklahoma, aka, “Indian Territory,” for white settlement, which makes it fitting, in the saddest sense possible, that the same decade saw both Geronimo and Sitting Bull turn themselves in to the Feds. In the same vein, manifest destiny humped imperialism, and all that resulted in the land-grabs that history books call The Spanish-American War. And, to close out the depressing crap, Plessy v. Ferguson declared “separate but equal” a sensible resolution, though only the “separate” applied.

To capture the brighter side of American dynamism (in defense of the paragraph above, both monuments are pretty cool), a lot of popular technology got beta-tested, including the gramophone, the motion picture camera, and radio; Thomas Edison hatched some, stole some others. Coca Cola came into the world (your call on where good and bad breaks on that one), as did vaudeville, basketball, and the Boston marathon (if with just 15 runners the first time ‘round; 1897).

To get back to the music side, Carnegie Hall opened in 1891 with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky at the podium, and Patrick Gilmore’s Twenty-Second Regimental Band became “the first fully professional ensemble of any kind in the country to be engaged in performances full-time, year-round” (1880). Ragtime legend Scott Joplin landed his first gig in 1885, but the musical style he (arguably) popularized would have to wait on William Henry Krell’s “Mississippi Rag” for its name and formal launch (maybe; more below). Here’s a wild one: a guy named Buddy Bolden might have formed America’s first jazz band in 1897.

There’s the context, now here are some of the most popular songs in America from 1880 to 1889.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

New to Me No. 28: The Intelligence, Everybody's Got It Easy But Me (and Others!)

Sure, it's good. But what is it?
One from the “found items” I picked up during the middle passage of the Internet’s attempt at selling/explaining music. Notes on another band most people neither know nor care about…

The Intelligence, Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me

Gateway Drug
(They Found Me on the Back of) The Galaxy,” which I’m sure is about something...

The Backstory
This probably came to me as a free download from Pitchfork’s site - notably around the same time I realized people still played lo-fi garage in the 2010s. The lyrics might be gibberish, but the references and allusions in it - stuff about aliens, the Vatican and secret police - lets it present as high-brow gibberish.

Musically, though, it’s a rhythm party. The simple, strong bass/snare line that opens it carries through, and the bass, though muted, lays a surprisingly busy groove over it. A lot of the guitar plays to the rhythm - especially in the chorus (the “they got me tryin’” passages) and over the bridge - but it clashes against it in the verses. I was tempted to dub that punctuation, but it’s a comma at most. Call it a content-lite, danceable garage jam, perfect for the right kind of party.

Oh, and the studio version plays crisper than the one I downloaded. That one had more fuzz and slurred a bit more. That cleaner recording just gave this song a new lease on life with me, if only on a month-to-month basis.

The Album
Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me, which came out in 2012, lands just about dead-center in The Intelligence’s career - at least as measured by when their albums dropped. They played for several years before releasing anything tangible, but their first studio release, Boredom and Terror, came out in 2004 (and…skipped that one). Maybe they’re still plugging away today, maybe they’re not, but one (long, from 2012) interview I read hinted at slowing down from “prolific,” and the existence of an April 2016 performance on KEXP keeps things plausibly open, as does the “1999-present” on the band’s Wikipedia page. So…

Friday, January 12, 2018

Songs, Y'All! 01 12 2018: Partyin' Like It's 2013, Pt. 2 of [___]

Searched the word "incomplete." Just like that image.
To start on a high, I heard a long-time favorite for the first time in a couple years yesterday, the John Prine/Iris DeMent duet, “In Spite of Ourselves.” That one’s magical on the odd chemistry of spousal bliss, and love in general. As for the rest, the songs below come from that massive SXSW data-dump from 2013 (explained here and, more thoroughly, here), songs that I’m using to make a Top 100 Songs of 2013 Playlist…which could wind up being a Top 50, depending on how things break. I made some weird choices back then…going through a phase, I imagine.

I do actually have one diversion to follow before listing today’s songs. I left one song off an earlier post, Chuck Ragan’s “Field Hollar,” but have found a way to squeeze it in here. That’s nothing like a bad song, but something about it feels…incomplete. Whether it’s a missing instrument to fill in whatever dead air I’m hearing, or a choice in production, I can’t get closer than “like” to this song. I came across a couple songs today that fit the same profile - e.g., Bobby Dare (Sr)’s ‘I Was Drunk” (maybe? is that it? also, sad enough) and even Autosalvage’s “land of their dreams,” a song I liked enough to nominate for the Top 100, but that I can’t find on Spotify.

Is that fair? Hell if I know. It’s part of the mystery and wonder of why any of us like what we do. My broad thought is that, at its best, SXSW functions as a(n, face it, elitist) crucible for new bands. Outside established artists with fully-formed artistic visions that The People have either spurned or accepted, there’s an air of audition to some of it. Just sayin’.

And…wow. That’s a short preamble for me. Very short. Time to share some songs.

Beware of Darkness - Howl
I’m calling this “roots metal.” It is good. (Also, I like them more every time I hear it.)

As noted in earlier posts, the cumbias got to me 5 years too late, but they got to me. (And if this isn’t a cumbia…look, I’m early on that learning curve.)

Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Racks - Love Letter
Fun, fun, fun song (or I was in a really good mood at time of writing). Australian person too. Probably came out of the same moment as Duffy’s “Mercy.”

Bonaparte - MANANA FOREVER (why all caps?)
It drags a bit by the end, honestly, but that’s a sound I’ll always dig. May as well mention this now: I was so deep into garage at this point, that I chucked god knows how many great hip hop songs.

Ty Segall Band - I Bought My Eyes
Great fucking song. And, dear god! I’ve got to revisit this site’s archives. So, SO many edits…

Crowns - Four Walls
An Irish-esque tune, and therefore an oddity. Good stuff, glad they served it.

Alpine - Gasoline
2012 was my personal year of electronica. I got comfortable with songs like this, and in the best possible way. So bright! (I hear sparkles, yay!)

Child Actor - If You Loved Me
A very simple pop song…maybe too simple, maybe stagnant, but defies pop too with all that layering…I mean, where do you file this one?

Sufjan Stevens - Futile Devices
Just when you think you’ve never heard an artist, you realize you unwittingly put it on at least two CDs. I don’t know much about this guy, except that I’ve never yet heard a crap song from him.

Billy Bragg - Handyman Blues (clever video, btw)
An early infatuation, very likely the next Bins Project post…whenever I get back to that…but, being a near-perfect mix of stubbornness and disorganization, I feel all of this song.

ASG - Dream Song
For whatever reason, I’m most proud of the metal-esque songs I kept from the SXSW download. That’s not my normal - I mean, at all - but it’s…just one of those genres I want to know. Sort of what happened with hip hop.

That’s it for this morning. And good morning!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New to Me No. 27: Charlie Hilton, Palana (and Her Blouse)

This guy!
To answer a question left half-hanging in an earlier post, this artist is from Portland, Oregon. Portland, Maine should still be insulted by Pitchfork’s unaddressed presumptions.

Charlie Hilton, Palana

Gateway Drug
100 Million,” a lovely tune that hovers between post- and pre-coitus.

The Backstory
It opens with a trebled guitar riff that, best way I can phrase it, somersaults; it’s too languid for a tumble. Hilton’s drowsy voice, which has a warm, smoky quality to it, comes in after a few bars and the whole thing combines into something you can wrap yourself inside and surrender - the good kind, obviously (see above). “100 Million’s” lyrics carry that idea of surrender forward, losing yourself so thoroughly in another to the point where you’re barely distinct from them. It’s a song of worship, really, in that she opens herself completely (e.g., “I’m a fountain, you can throw yourself in me” but there’s more - see “carving”). It’s as pure a love song as I’ve ever heard, arrested in that consuming, thrilling moment when you’re absolutely sure. I mean, this sucker glows. Hence, coitus (of course I’m terrified that I’m totally misreading everything, and it’s really about a lover’s suicide or something. But I digress…into insecurity.)

I’ve had this song since…probably October of 2016 (aka, our Age of Innocence). I had no idea who Charlie Hilton was, but I had some truly stupid theories…yeah, screw it, I’ll give you one. Maybe this was Paris Hilton’s mom? The closest musical match I could find was Julie London (thinking “Come on-a My House” or “I’m Coming Back to You”), but a little more spiritual, a little less bossanova lounge. “100 Million” doesn’t exist out of time or anything, but it has a throw-back sensibility. I didn’t know where Palana, the album it comes off of, would go.

The Album(s)
I started this one with research, for once (who’s a good boy?!), so the “Paris Hilton’s mom” thing fell out of the equation mercifully and early. Pitchfork’s review of Palana located Hilton in toutes moderne Portland, Oregon, but it also linked her to her first band, Blouse. Because I’ve been meaning to fill out these New to Me posts with more context, I was happy to have a little more to listen to than Palana, the only solo album she’s released.

Back to Palana, that same Pitchfork review also tips you off that Hilton named the album after herself, or rather “the Sanskrit birth name Hilton left behind after high school.” I haven’t been able to absorb her lyrics as well as most other artists - more on that later - but the review shared a couple autobiography-tinged snippets. Hints at separating from that self aside (oof, that’s heavy), I’m not big on “Palana,” the song (what? dammit....just here's the whole album, for where I can't find links for all of what's below), but it makes a reliable introduction to the album, spectral (Pitchfork’s lead adjective), synth-heavy, and…going with personal meets veiled.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Songs Y'All! 01 10 2018: Partyin' Like It's 2013, Pt. [___]

More than this, even.
Most, but not all, of this post comes out of that 2013 South by Southwest (“SXSW”) data-drop I mentioned a post or two ago (i.e., event organizers put 1,300 or so songs on the Web for free download, so I did). My first impulse was to present all that as a Bins Project post, but that first impulse was silly, even after I pared the total numbers of songs down to something closer to 600 (which would oblige me to talk about 600 different artists). So, yeah, I’ll just put together a 2013 Top 100 Playlist and call it a day. Lots of work ahead, but I'll get to it.

As for the actual music, I held onto a decent variety of artists ‘n’ genres: there’s Celso Pina’s “Cumbia Sobre el Rio (Suena)” (big year for cumbias, btw), and also “Cloud Aura” by Charlie XCX, and also Attomica’s “Blood Bath” (can’t dig up a video for that one, sadly). I even kept something that sounds like knock-off Coldplay: Blackchords’ “Dance, Dance, Dance” (wait…can one water down Coldplay? And was 2012 a big year for Coldplay?).

To flap at another wrinkle, when I pulled all those songs onto my wee Sansa Clip, I also dragged about 50 songs that I randomly downloaded from…just the Internet, and that put those songs into data-set, even as some of those came from neither SXSW nor 2013 - e.g., “Bad Skin” by Chicken Lips.

Last but not least, the research for this week’s feature posts continues under this surface. For instance, I learned that one of the artists, Charlie Hilton, hails from Portland (Oregon? Maine? the article doesn’t clarify and, yes, Maine should feel insulted), but that she also came from another Portland, [?] outfit, called Blouse. After putting in a little time on them yesterday, I ended with the feeling that Blouse’s stuff has a slight different quality to it (e.g., “In a Feeling Like This”) than Hilton’s solo stuff (e.g., "Something for Us All”). And, finally, who knew, one of those random downloads from half a decade ago pulled down a track from this week’s other feature band, The Intelligence (e.g., “Techno Tuesday”).

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Songs, Y'All! 01 09 2018: Wave Theory

See? There's one. And there's one. And there's one.
At some random point last week (might have been Thursday), I turned stupid fucking Monday into New Music Monday - e.g., the day I’ll spend listening to nothing but the new stuff fed to me by various sources of information (always looking, btw, even if I don’t always follow advice).

In other news, I finally started the tracker for all the bum-steers that Spotify sends my way over and over and over. That tops the left hand column of this site (which, yes, I know; a shambles). All those songs started as polite passes, but, the more the service pushes them, they harder I search for the “fuck, no” button in the settings. (Just…think about setting that one up, Spotify; can’t see how that wouldn’t improve the algorithm. Anyway, I got three in this week’s Discover Weekly playlist, and I’ll put them on today’s playlist, because what if some random visitors loves them?

Camper Van Beethoven - Take the Skinheads Bowling (think I’ve always quietly hated them)
William Onyeabor - Atomic Bomb (oddly hypnotic, yet hard to sit through)
Suicide - Dream Baby Dream (not a bad guess, but I’ll hate it like herpes by the 5th attempt)

For all my grousing, Spotify did finally break me down on Swearin’(s?), “Kenosha.” While tha made it, I can guarantee that, no, hell, no, not in the coldest Hell ever, will Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer” make any list, but “Songs That I Hate With 9/10 of My Heart” playlist.

Back to New Music Monday, I did spend yesterday on the new stuff. Most of what’s below came from Discover Weekly, which did all right this week. As for this week’s other source, Pigeons and Planes, well…

My youngest daughter knows Pigeons and Planes (“P&P,” sorry, I work in a law firm), which gives you some sense of their target audience (not me). I finished working through their Top 100 of 2017 playlist and…y’know, I just didn’t get a lot out of it. And, of course, I wonder about the “old thing,” that is my age, because I do find myself thinking, “wow, these guys talk about fucking and designer fashion, a lot, like ALL the time.” I think it has more to do with this particular phase in pop music history – i.e., the kids like that sound right now, and I don’t. That’ll change, though, because it always does. Music changes over time, but it also echoes, repeats, borrows, and steals constantly. I’ll just keep an eye out for the next wave, and it’s not like I can’t move up or down the beach, because there are different waves surging toward shore right now, and all over the place.