Friday, December 15, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 15 2017: Past Loves & Mining Other Sources

Feed me, Bob.
So…missed a day. Killin' my hot brand…

I’ve got some ideas in the works that I’m pretty excited about, most of them a parting gift of the anxiety induced during my quick spin through Bauhaus (what is post-punk?! Fuck, fuck, fuck!). Those gears will shift after the New Year, however, so I’m just gonna keep marching through to the bitter end of a bitter 2017. Elsewhere, thanks to Holiday Hell, posts on Archers of Loaf and BRONCHO will have to go up over the weekend. One of those posts is fully-realized and half-finished while the other is a half-blind, fitful muddle that will require a full day’s obsession tomorrow to figure out. Goddamn, I love my job. (Hobby, dude. It’s a hobby.)

One thing to note before posting this morning’s songs - wait, two actually. First, a lovely person who posts a @fatanarchy on twitter forwarded a playlist titled “Bhangra.” That references a musical tradition, by the way, and I only got four songs in before research and real life hung up that listening process. The songs I did hear were both good and, when you get down to it, not so unfamiliar. I come at that thought comment as someone who’s always figured getting into “world music” means flinging oneself over a bigger threshold, but it’s always the same question, in the end: say, am I enjoying this? (Or, to put a little freight on that question, how much does it bother me that I’ll never know the lyrics?)

And, to yank the wheel violently in the another direction, one of the first rock songs I loved on my own was Rainbow’s “Can’t Happen Here.” They crawled back to the surface due to that spazzing fit where I thought I’d learn everything (or just enough) about heavy metal in two days. At any rate, that post (links inside the link above) talked about Deep Purple, a band I thought had some crossover with Rainbow (smaller than I thought, by the way), which got me thinking about the Deep Purple songs I know. I won’t go over that short, short list again, but I will say this: whether it’s nostalgia or a yen for blues-metal rock...I still dig this song. I don’t know from the Ronnie James Dio iteration, but, from what I understand, that Ritchie Blackmore kid ran the band. Anyway, just another clue as to where I’m coming from on all this stuff.

Today’s 5 Songs
After this week’s Discover Weekly let me down - no, it betrayed me - it was inevitable that I’d start poking around NPR’s All Songs Considered (“ASC”), even to the point of hitting up the archives*, plus last week’s Music That Matters by KEXP. (* Swear to god, ASC kicks out one frame for posting after another; gotta sharpen the hell outta my game.) Generally, I get better songs more reliably from NPR - and that’s not judging - but I still can’t envision a day when I’ll lean on them more the Discover Weekly, and that’s no matter how dirty Spotify does me some weeks. Even if I can’t map its algorithm, I can at least keep feeding Spotify until it goes where I want it to…otherwise, I’m nothing more than one more musical mouth to feed to Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton.

Wow…I just preambled…in the middle…never mind. Just five songs for your consideration. And good morning.

Mux Mool, “Oh Yeah
This one rolls just one lane over from my personal alley, but it just has some kind of cool about it. Also, au courant. Very au courant. I hear that background, “cold” digital buzz that plays under this track more and more.

Cherry, “Buttoned Up
I resent this song for hitting all my soft spots, but still like it. Look, I’ve spent a week listening to one band that plays at a permanent, emotional medium, so having someone do dramatic, tempo/sound-shifting anything will catch my attention. These guys do. Also, I think it’s just a good song.

Shitkid, “Alright
This one, I’m basically entering into evidence. Shitkid handed me one of highlights of a couple weeks ago with garage-pop buzz of “Sugar Town.” KEXP’s thing played “Alright” and…bluntly, I wish they leaned more into the “pop” then the “garage buzz.” On the plus side, I learned they’re Swedish. And I like their style.

La Dame Blanche, “Yo Quiero Trabajar

Like the basic rhythm, then the flutes make me feel funny inside; it hits a long stretch after that, then the whole thing comes to life once the main vocals kick in. Sort of a journey, and I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Also, it’s a basic song for getting up and moving. You can dance to this into your 60s, maybe even beyond.

Siobhan Wilson, “Whatever Helps

This song threatens to explode for as long as it plays, but never does. The tension never ends and…wow.  Just, wow. ASC played snippets from 3-4 other songs and, based on that, this woman has the aura of incredible about her.

And, with that, good morning! Or good morning again! (Depends on the order all these damn things go up.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Songs, Y’All! 12 13 2017: Seriously, What About Your Friend?

So, that's Double Vanity? Damn....
Just to note something, I heard “Hey Mr. Spaceman” by The Byrds while picking up a sandwich yesterday. My head is full of songs like that, just like everybody else’s (except those poor anhedonic bastards), songs I can only remember if someone brings them up or plays them.

What’s the point of that? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just curious as to the grand total number of songs I know (e.g., that I could identify by at least the chorus) at this point in my life.

Also, is that number shrinking?

Also, the joys of recognition: I still get a kick out of hearing any song I like whenever it happens. “Hey Mr. Spaceman” is kind of a dumb song, though, so, less so there. The same place plays “Wooly Bully” every so often, and that makes me happier.

This morning’s post takes a slightly different tack than past days’. As noted at the start of the week, I’m listening to BRONCHO’s Just Hip Enough to Be Women for this week’s New to Me feature (and, dammit! Botched the album’s name in that original post). And it’s going…OK. I guess it starts with parting company from some stray notes in the two reviews of the album I read – most notably, this isn’t stuff that I “might find myself humming for no reason” (from this review), and nothing about the opening “doot-doot-doots” of “Class Historian” comes off as “one of the most contagious melodies of the year” (this review). (Then again, the album came out in 2014, and maybe that was a shit year for melodies.) To hit the argument directly, I’m actually incapable of humming “Class Historian,” like, right now. Put a gun to my head and I’m one squeezed trigger away from The Great Beyond. (Well, yes, now I can, after finding the video.)

I don’t bring that up just to crap on those reviews, or even BRONCHO. Writing something that makes no damn sense to a reader just comes with writing about something personally subjective as music. Just Hip Enough, etc. does its thing and it’s a good enough album. (For the record, I’m hoping to post that New to Me (late) tonight.) There is, however, enough “sameness” in the music to make me wonder what else BRONCHO can do, say, on another album, so I took a quick dip into their 2016 release Double Vanity.

Double Vanity is a different album. It’s not anything so nutty as a radical departure, or something with “feats” all over it, but it’s definitely slower and heavier. And, for me, it’s a better album. A couple songs sounded like they could go on Just Hip Enough to Be Women – see, “Senora Borealis” or (less so) “New Karma” – but that later album plays closer to songs like “All Time,” “Highly Unintentional” and “Soak Up the Sun.” (That last one's live, btw, so you get to see the guy (um...thought it was a band), but you miss the (considerable) studio production.)

My first-time favorite track from Double Vanity, “Speed Demon,” arguably splits the difference between the albums, but it’s also possible that the real draw there comes with how perfectly it plays in the garage/low-fi tradition.

All for this morning. (And, after 24-hours’ consideration, I decided that it just makes more sense to post these things in the morning. Still working out the kinks on this, and life.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 12 2017: A Steady Diet of Quirk

There's something "quirky" about this...
“By marrying Dylan-style song craft to studio-rat sonic exploration, Philly’s the War on Drugs have somehow become poster children for what remains of guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll.”
That came out of some promo language the Portland Mercury dropped in my inbox yesterday afternoon. Don’t know much about War on Drugs, but that line about “what remains” has a sad ring of truth about it.

Speaking of guitar-driven rock (and I call it just “rock,” because I read somewhere that it’s only rock ‘n’ roll when they bring in a piano), research into Archers of Loaf continues, and it’s nice to let guitar drive for a bit. Feels like a change. Also, just to put this out there, if you listen to the rhythm section that plays under their song “Wrong,” that’s something like my “rock normal” – i.e., the sound I expect and love in a rock song.

Also, Archers of Loaf covered Treepeople’s “Funnelhead” (original/cover), and that just messes with my (probably misguided) sense of how those bands exist in this universe. (In case you’re not familiar, I wrote up Treepeople for the Bins Projects. Fine, talented Americans, right there.)

To return to an obsession, this is a week where Spotify’s Discover Weekly keyed to the “quirky” side of my tastes. Weeks like this that lend support to my deepening belief that their algorithm doesn’t listen so good (more beats, guys, and more fast/upbeat/heavy stuff, plz.), or that it clocks signals that I don’t send it directly (e.g., my age and/or connections between bands that don’t always add up). Whatever, that shit’s probably unknowable, so I’ll just use that as angle for today’s five songs.

Seeing Stereolab’s “Diagonals” gave me a little hope that Discover would get more songs right than wrong. It fits the “quirky” theme of the playlist, anyway, but…mmm…not quite. Discover fed me Robert Wyatt’s “Heaps of Sheeps” on the bad end (strong pass), and a bunch of stuff that didn’t click besides. It also fed me the five songs below, and that’s as good as it gets this week (and it still leaves stuff to talk about). Today’s five songs (well, on top of the ones above):

Black Lips, “Veni Vidi Vici
Has enough garage/low-fi elements to keep me listening. The loping bass-line doesn’t hurt, either.

Mr. Magician, "There Is No God
Interesting because it sounds like The Beach Boys and it’s blasphemous, and it opens angry.

Helvetia, “Old, New Bicycle
OK song, nice atmospherics, nice hints of jazz, good guitar work in the middle passages, but songs like this go straight to my paranoia about how Spotify reads me. I feel like every time I say “yes” to a song like this, it somehow counts double.

This is one of those acts Discover keeps trying to feed me, and I’m confused enough about why that is to look him up. For what it’s worth, he looks like an interesting dude…anyone else getting something of M. Ward in his vocals?

Kaada, “Care
Somewhere between throwback and borrowing, this was probably the easiest pick-up of the bunch. Dig the late 50s sound (see, guitar riff/doo-wop), plus the Ronnettes-esque vocals.

All for tonight. Hope this timing (e.g., posting in the evenings) works better for the right people. Still working out how to keep all the things I post from tripping over one another.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 11 2017: Five Songs & The Week Ahead

I’m getting serious about this shit. No, seriously.

So, again, I want to get this whole “Songs Y’All” concept focused on a handful of songs, something digestible. In practical terms, this will be what I can think to post and when I think to post it. I do, however, have goals. Bright, shining goals that lead into a future of untold wealth and smooth skin. But I digress…

With the 2017 1st Quarter Playlist now pared to Natural Standards (30 songs), I put some time in on the 2017 2nd Quarter Proto-Playlist over the weekend. At the time that one came together, I’d started pulling in songs from Bins Projects bands/acts, and 1) squeezed out the new stuff a bit, because 2) that pitted those newer bands against Kanye West, Liz Phair, Menomena, even Grand Puba for my attention. That said, a few of those new songs are some that I most look forward to as I listen to that 2nd Quarter playlist. Those are below.

Oh, I’ll be doing Archers of Loaf for this week’s Bins Project and BRONCHO’s Just Hip Enough to Be Women [ed. - corrrected!] will be the 25th and final New to Me album for 2017. Also, I’ve got big plans for next year, most of which bounce between delusional and impossible, but I’ll get to that.  If I can get to that 50th Bins Project post before December 31, I’ll call this a good year.

Low-Cut Connie, “Big Thighs, NJ
Has the slice-of-life story-telling of some old Lou Reed songs (think “Hangin’ Round’s” gossipy spirit), but it’s my inability to nail down the music beyond “rock” that really hooks me.

Cat Power, “He War
Spotify dropped this one sometime during my month of obsessing over Menomena – and the twinkling piano makes me think of them – but, love this song, and it reminds me I’ve got to really get to Cat Power. (Honestly, I didn’t know whether to go with “her” or “their” as a pronoun.

FREEMAN,Covert Discretion
I use “The 70s” as something close to an outlook on the world. I’ll eat up just about anything that comes from this sensibility, but this one grabs a fistful of it. It’s also pretty clear the song has a backstory (clear enough I had to look it up, which actually explained a couple things).

Cody Chesnutt, “Boylife in America
This fucker is saucy, but plays it with a quiet (probably tongue-in-cheek) cool, and love the stripped-down sound.

Sufjan Stevens, “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!
It’s a literal pile-on of happy sounds, and I just sort of wallow in that, so I don’t even have a sense of what the thing’s about (but think it’s something to do with Chicago). It also goes on a long enough (6:46) to pass through a couple moods. He does this thing with the guitar that sounds like waves. Pretty cool.

Right, that’s it. Good morning!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 47: Bauhaus, Art v. Audience

OK, maybe this guy gets it right.
Bauhaus’ “Hollow Hills” is the kind of song high school kids play while hanging out in a cemetery. That’s less knock than descriptive analogy. “Hollow Hills” isn’t terrible music or badly-executed or anything, either, and putting something that sideways into the world takes some guts. Some things are just irretrievably dorky - e.g., hanging out in cemeteries, something I absolutely did in high school. Always felt like a dork doing it, though, and that probably relates to why I took a long pass on Bauhaus.

I first consciously listened to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” somewhere in my mid-30s (then again, it showed up in a movie I know I watched). I also liked it due to its difference. That suggests one of two things: 1) I’ve mellowed the fuck out about what “rocks” since high school or 2) Bauhaus was always a good band. I picked up Crackle a few years later - a greatest hits album released in 1998 - and, not so long ago, dropped it onto the ol’ Sansa Clip, along with 12-15 other albums for a couple weeks at a time. Bauhaus showed well every time I heard them, but never won or even placed. It tracked as good music, in other words, but nothing to proselytize about. Then this damn project came along…

My iron-clad rule against listening to more than three albums by one artist picked up a little rust just a week after its birth, but Bauhaus’ short, dense career meant I can get a taste of everything that mattered (sorry, Go Away White; indefinite rain check?) by stuffing only one more album through the earphones and often as I can this week. Several days with In the Flat Field, Mask, The Sky’s Gone Out and Burning From The Inside confirms that Bauhaus made the odd foray into camp-art, and besides “Hollow Hills” (see, “Spirit” and “King Volcano”). It also edited the tortured stereotype I’d developed on “goth music” and what it sounds like. Bauhaus plays a lot heavier than I remembered, and with “rock” inflections more in the forefront - as in, this shit leans into the guitar. So, until further notice, take anything I have to say about goth rock as thoughts unmoored from context.

Bauhaus probably goes down as “proto-goth,” and that’s a fresh obsession for another day. Bauhaus gets filed under “post-punk” in the few things I’ve read, whatever the hell that means precisely. Another word/concept that keeps coming up with them are variations on “original” - here, for instance, when the band’s front-man, Peter Murphy closes a comment on Bauhaus’ reggae influences with this:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Songs Y'All! 12 08 2017: Trainning One's Ear, Planning & Purging

[Very calmly.] Everything went wrong.
And, to wrap up this week, here…we…are!

While I do have scheduled plans/pipe dreams - most of them related to cutting into the kudzu - my course is mapped for this week. We sail Weast, dammit! And, in that tradition, I’ll start with a grab-bag.

Ear Training
Regular readers (or people who just clink the link to make me think more people read this) should know by now that I get a big enough kick out of hearing borrowings and/or similarities to stretch the bounds of credulity, and to the insult of a good musical ear. Here are today’s candidates:

Conor Oberst, “Nikorette” v. Monsters of Folk, “A Man Called Truth
(It’s the same vocal structure…right?)

Bauhaus, “Small Talk Stinks” v. Naked Raygun, “Mr. Gridlock
(The bass thuds bigger under the Naked Raygun track, but those guys put a little swing into some tracks)

My Next Fascination
I am now three songs deep into Xenia Rubinos’ oeuvre of unknown size. What most strikes me with her is the tonal range she manages, even when she’s using a lot of the same sound/instrumentation. (That, by the way, could be just two of the songs I’ve heard coming off the same album; see below.)

At any rate, and wherever I fit her in, Xenia Rubinos will probably by my first project of 2018. For me, it just takes listening to “Mexican Chef” (from Black Terry Cat), “Cherry Tree” and “Hair Receding” (both from Magic Trix). “Mexican Chef” doesn’t push pop music boundaries nearly as much as the other two, but it’s pretty damn saucy. Between them, all three songs make me wonder about what I don’t know.

Announcement/Possible Disappointment
Just for the record, I do want to get these “Songs Y’All” posts to focus more on, say, 5-10 songs in each post, and talking about them a little more, as opposed to me mucking around interstitials (see above). Some variation on that will probably be the main feature in these posts going forward. Now, because old habits die hard…

Thursday, December 7, 2017

New to Me, No. 24: Drugdealer, The End of Comedy

Yeah...I see who has the cards.
When you hear one song and know you have to hear the rest of the album.

Drugdealer, The End of Comedy

The Gateway Drug
Sea of Nothing,” the sonic equivalent of not being able to get out of bed.

The Backstory
Everything about this song - vocals, guitar, rhythm, even the…horn-thing - sounds like all these drug dealers will nod off before the reach the end. Every voice and instrument drawls and feels like it’ll fall behind the tempo on the next note, or maybe the next one after. A guitar peel comes in and out like an alarm clock (first time, around 1:30), and maybe that rallies the band for the next verse like a sip of Red Bull at mid-stupor.

Lyrically, though, “Sea of Nothing” reads a somnolent riot act. If anything keeps the band and singer awake, it’s a visceral need to tell someone off. Minimal as they are, the words cut to the bone, as if everything has been sharpened ahead of time and enough to make it all so very simple. It’s, “you know you’re full of shit, right?” larded with a couple of examples.

As noted earlier in the week, I can’t imagine this song as anything but an acquired taste. I don’t even try to play it for my wife (or my kids), because I don’t think she (or they) has (have) the patience to work it out. Put the two paragraphs above together, though, and this plays as a sneaky kind of song. The practical description that just came to me is finding a turtle on its back that mocks you as you try to help it for being dumb enough to think he's got problems.

The Album(-Space)
I did pull up the lyrics (probably? close enough?) and “Sea of Nothing,” and it’s probably not as vicious as my initial read. The songwriter, a guy named Michael Collins, talks about it more in terms of artistic collaboration, or even just artistic co-existence (see the notes in the sidebar). And that can be vicious, sure, but it can also involve helping someone shut up long enough to see things clearly.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 06 2017: Old Acquaintances And Fresh Purges

I’m paring these back to three times a week, and for a number of reasons that most of anyone who reads this would find as uninteresting as what I had for breakfast. (Answer: nothing.)

I want to start by passing on a song - “The Queen Is Dead,” by The Smiths. It’s a tribute, both to a person and what music can mean. I’ll leave it there.

And, whoops! Looks like Morrissey does a pretty good job of protecting his copyrighted work. You'll have to find that one on your own. Moving on, think I’ll start positive.

Progress Report
I like Bauhaus more than I remember - or maybe I just appreciate them more. The one album I had by them was a “best of” (Crackle), which gave me a pretty good idea of what I was getting into this week. Regardless, it was nice to welcome back songs like “Telegram Sam” and “Third Uncle” as old acquaintances. I never loved these guys, but I never really tried to either.

The same goes for Drugdealer, the subject of this week’s New to Me. 70s-inflected as they are, I’m not surprised that Spotify fed them to me. I still think “Sea of Nothing” might be their most thematically-whole song, but it’s got competition. More Thursday.

New Acquisitions/Old Hook-Ups
As noted in Monday’s entry, this week’s Discover Weekly kicked off the week strong with songs noted in Monday's post. There’s more where that came from, and I’ll pull all that together for Friday. For now, though, “Sugar Town” (by Shitkid) and “Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone" (by The Go! Team…but that could come from enthusiasm from that song’s title).

As for the rest, I’ll have to track how this fits into the whole universe of “glitch/pattern,” but Spotify re-introduced me to a lot of artists this past week. For instance, it’s on either the second or third try with “Kenosha” by Swearin’. (Memo to Self: Still have to build that damn sidebar for the repeats.) The more common theme involves artists they keep trying to sell me - e.g. Big Thief’s “Shark Smile” (it’ll grow on me), Dent May’s “Meet Me in the Garden” (he’s got a high bar to clear) and, the pick of the bunch, Xenia Rubinos’ “Cherry Tree.” That woman, the last one, makes challenging sounds…

Another band, BRONCHO (no typo; they use all caps, so I do too), also showed this week, with a track called “It’s On.” And now it’s time to turn to bad news.

More Purges
As noted on Monday, I’m in the process of hacking 15 songs of my 1st Quarter 2017 Playlist. BRONCHO happens to have a song on that playlist titled, “What?” Good one, but that one’s on the block. As for the rest, I pulled one song early (see here), and several have fallen off this week, and without too much effort - e.g. “manhattan,” by small dad and the Bee Gees “To Love Somebody.” The latter feels like it needs some explanation…look, just weigh that against every popular Bee Gees song; that's your answer. Q-Tip’s “Life Is Better” comes off, and mostly because I think I can find better songs by both him and A Tribe Called Quest without too much effort.

It gets harder after that, especially when it comes to The Coup. I fucking love that group, so much that I played actually great songs like “Wear Clean Draws” and “Nowalaters” a couple feet into the ground. Meanwhile, and for the record, “Ghetto Manifesto” is currently untouchable and might remain that way to the end of time. Still, “Nowalaters,” especially, gets me emotional every time...if only people really looked out for one another like that...

When I get really caught up in a Bins Project band, I usually transfer over a bunch of songs and let them duke it out for my love on the monthly playlists. The Coup feels like one of those bands I need more time with; the same could go for A Tribe Called Quest, too. But replacing those two songs by The Coup would involve sitting through 4-5 of their albums, and that pushes back a deadline. A deadline I made up, true, still…what about production?

Anyway, good morning. Hope anyone who finds this can find a song they love in the above.