Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bins Project, Volume 50: A False Flag, The 2017 Top 100 Playlist & Coming in 2018

Honestly, not a bad stand-in for how I experience the world...
This post only comes under the Bins Project banner because I yanked it there and slapped the label on it. Aim for the stars, hit the ceiling, etc.

It started with a bad premise - listening to albums related to a CD I picked up at a wedding over a decade ago - and listening to albums by four different artists (wound up being three artists; Maria McKee fell by the wayside) served only to blur the focus. Because I learned about those three new artists, the week wasn’t a total loss…then again, I only really liked one of them, Centro-matic. Then again, again, that band gave my curiosity a pretty serious tickle, so…bonus!

Brief thoughts on Centro-matic and Unit 4 + 2 went up earlier this week, so that leaves only Bishop Allen, the band featured without fanfare (or even acknowledgement) this past Thursday. All in all, Bishop Allen presents as an either/or proposition - i.e., you’ll either like them or you won’t, and without much in between. I only spent time on Charm School, their debut, and EP Collection Vol 1. The latter, along with its Volume 2, has a cool back-story, or one I thoroughly relate to at least (if I could play an instrument, that is totally something I’d do), but I found Bishop Allen too cute, muted and mousy for my tastes, Quirk Factor Plus, etc. “Busted Heart,” from Charm School, made a good impression (also, Modest Mouse, right?), and I found myself getting sucked into “The Bullet & Big D,” from the EP Collection Vol. 1 - but I’m also a sucker for conspiracy-kitsch, so natural fit. Oh, and looking into these guys got me wondering about their specific genre. As I was grasping at names, I landed on Tweecore, which is sort of a thing, but there’s also “Twee Pop,” which is totally a thing (a very specific thing, as it happens). Now you know…

At any rate, I can see dipping back into those EP Collections, but that’s it with Bishop Allen. I don’t count time spent on music wasted, even when the connection misses, because music is awesome and learning is the best. Speaking of, after 50 Bins Project posts, 25 New to Me Posts, a bunch of Pop Backstory, and at least one other aborted project, what have I learned since starting A Project of Self-Indulgence? A few things. In no particular order:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Songs Y'All! 12 28 2017: Centered on Centro-Matic & New(-ish) Stuff

"Dance-Friendly" is broad.
The day went weird about halfway through. An promo email from Mississippi Studios invited me to a New Year’s Eve Party that would include/boast/feature (look, I skimmed it for vitals) Explode Into Colors, aka, Portland, OR’s own “dance-friendly post-punk icons.” Surprisingly (at least I was surprised by it), I already knew their song “Paper.” My favorite of the rest from their Quilt EP was “Sharpen Into Knives.” I’m not sold on the “dance-friendly” thing, at least not beyond acknowledging that, yes, one could dance to that. Still, nicely de-constructed stuff.

I spent the rest of the day on another Olde Tyme band that the Wedded Bliss CD turned me onto, Centro-matic. Well, I spent some time on this week’s Discover Weekly - which, for the record, was better than lately, but mostly because they fed me easy stuff. Dammit. Really trying to crack this nut…still, moving on.

Another Dot Connected
I have this semi-paranoid conceptualization of a songwriter named Jason Molina. I only know him from the Magnolia Electric Company, and even then only by a couple songs, but he feels at the center of this particular universe that I approach like someone dabbling in heroin - i.e., I feel like if I start digging too hard into Molina’s stuff, I may never come out. Incredibly, and stupidly, that’s foreshadowing for the main guy behind Centro-matic. His name is Will Johnson (#PTFC), and he only worked with Molina once. I have a problem.

All this started with the marvelously ragged anthem “Ballad of Private Rifle Sound” (I am, literally, the 16th view of that video; did I...cause its creation?). It comes off 2001’s Navigational, an album that by and large plays at the same rough speed throughout . As I learned today (whilst sounding for a little context), Johnson, et. al. recorded 60 songs at one studio in an "epic" session that eventually split slow songs onto Navigational, and the heavier, faster tracks onto Vol.1-Static Vs. Strings Vol. 1. By way of sound experiment (and with thoroughly feeble methodology), I pitted the most up-tempo song on Navigational, “Hazzlit Takes to Shore” ( video...yet), against the rough middle of Static Vs. Strings.

Yeah, it’s not even close. Static Vs. Strings peels away early with “Who’s Telling You Now,” and calls the game completely with “Repellent Feed.” I didn’t fully expect the “poppy” notes of “Who’s Telling You Now,” but it shows up a couple more times on the album with “D. Boon Free (a ninth grade crime)” and “Turning Your Decisions.” Or “pop” as a band like this’ll get. When you’re in the mood for slower speeds, Navigational holds up some beauties of its own - e.g., “Ordinary Days” (nice melody) and, personal favorite, “Numbers One and Three.” (OK number 23 on that video; swear to God, I created the demand for this.)

Now that this week/project has given me one band I like (Centro-matic) and one band that, after one song, I couldn’t give less of a shit about (Unit 4 + 2), I don’t know what I’ll do with Bins Project Volume 50 (does it matter?). Back to Centro-matic, though, if any of the above songs get you, and you’ve never heard them before, that’s a great band for that sound. I’ll take a nose-dive at some point…only hope I’ll come up.

And, now, for the rest, Some More Songs I Heard Today:

King Tuff - “Sun Medallion
I can hear people revitalize this sound again and again and again. Keeps it alive.

Fuzz - “What’s in My Head
Dig the peaks ‘n’ valleys approach and/or the heavy guitar...and, aw, crap, this is a Ty Segall project? Small damn wonder I like it. I mostly want Spotify to pick up on the “heavy” signal real, real bad.

Blackroc ft. Mos Def - “On the Vista
A nice, cool groove, but with enough going around it to keep things fresh.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - “Bobby Malone Moves Home
Because this was the only song I knew by this…act, I didn’t know they could do this. Now I need to know what Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is all about. #advertising Good theme too. Tres millennial.

EL VY - “I’m the Man to Be
Because the music is the thing I fiend on when it comes to Menomena, I couldn’t help but like this project. And I never objected to Matt Berninger’s vocals. Damn good song.

Gang of Four - “To Hell With Poverty
Because I really need to give a good long listen to Gang of Four, srsly, it’s been a couple decades.

Electelane - “I’m on Fire
A cover of Bruce Springsteen’s classic, and by no means a better one. But what if you like the sound better? Also, I am fascinated by covers.

Tracey Ullman - “They Don’t Know
A touching ode to misunderstood love, and a video that celebrates boring, boring longevity…and, wow, Spotify blocks out this song very specifically. Wonder why?

Kirsty MacColl - “They Don’t Know
I do take requests. And this is a good version.

And that’s all for today. Good morning.

Songs, Y'All! 12 27 2017: Adding up Unit 4 + 2 & More Sad Purges

Liking taking a hit for a teammate (and blood doping).

This week’s plan actually feels attainable for once, like I can actually get in all the things I want to. Oh, hello, hope! Have you met delusion? You two are going to get along great.

As noted in yesterday’s Songs Y’All Post, I’m checking into some albums by bands that came to me, by way of a playlist I picked up at a wedding that happened over a decade ago. Got it? Good!

Unit 4 + 2: That Equals 6 And 6 Means Nothing
Hopes for a richer…thicker connection, like I experienced with “Concrete and Clay” fell by the wayside some hours/miles ago with this band. While I didn’t spend a lifetime with them (spent a late morning/early afternoon, in fact, and even that was chopped badly), Unit 4 + 2 slotted solidly into the One-Hit Wonder file they undoubtedly hoped to avoid. Because who wouldn’t?

I expected to hear only one album to back (the still great) “Concrete and Clay” (lemme believe!), but wound up finding a two-volume, 20-song greatest hits collection, and who am I to say no to that?

Put it this way: Volume 1 left me simultaneously flat and confused (but…how?), and there I’m absolutely talking about songs like “500 Miles” and “Cotton Fields,” both of which, near as I can tell, tried to find a throwback audience (to the 1930s? Further?). In a time (the mid-1960s) when, based on my understanding, the cultural tide surged forward, Unit 4 + 2 made what can only be called a perverse choice. I feel like they redeemed themselves with the 60s-wimp-ballad “Sorrow and Pain.” Which I like/appreciate on exactly that level. Sincerely.

Per the “Aliens Clause” (i.e., rare situation where the sequel is better), Volume 2 felt stronger. OK, yes, push past the weird (weird, weird) choice to start with a “jazzed-up” “Swing Down Chariot” - and, turns out people had the sense to not preserve it in video format - and you land on songs like “Stop Wasting Your Time,” a solid theft/precursor to The Zombies, depending on both bands’ timing, but also “Baby Never Say Goodbye,” which, obviously, strains to catch the same lightning in a bottle from “Concrete and Clay” a second time. That song that wound up fascinating me most was their version of “Cruel to Be Kind,” which is very different (and worse) than the version I know.

In the end, and no offense to these lads for Hertfordshire, and I mean them no ill will, I’ve done all the exploring with them that I need to do. I mean, I just glimpsed at unexplored catalogs for MF DOOM, Open Mike Eagle, Mitski, and I know I have to give Kanye’s entire fucking catalog another shot, and here I am spinning my wheels on a mid-60s one-hit wonder, dang it!

Hold on, one last thing there. If you read the Band Member Details section of Wikipedia’s page on Unit 4 + 2, you get gems like this: “but died whilst playing tennis in 2001.” Funny, but not funny, y’know? And that’s the only good one, really. S’pose that’s why they lead with it…

On Piling Up and Knocking Down
The paragraph before the last one was meant to segue cleanly to this section - i.e., the one that features all the songs that didn’t so much click with me as hold my hand for as long we shared some kind of moment or two during this 2017. And, because I can’t drop notes for each and every song into my Top 100 (which could become a Top 50; I rule out nothing), I will shamelessly over-explain each song below.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 26 2017: A Wedding Playlist from Long Ago, Projects, and the Rest of 2017

Once more into the breach! Now, rinse 'n' repeat!
We all have just one week to go till the end of what has been (let’s face it) a mind-bending year (that I will speak of no further here). With a couple projects to wrap up by year’s end, I decided to keep this week’s work-load pretty simple…

…and the smart money should go down on me blowing it, but just lump this in with some of history’s dumber charges (e.g., Pickett, of the Light Brigade) and embrace its inevitability.

Some years ago, can’t tell you when precisely, but that’s not important right now, a couple friends of mine got married. In order to give all the family, friends and wedding-crashers a little something to remember the day, they burned a 20+ song celebrating love and companionship onto a CD they titled “Wedded Bliss.” The mix turned out as idiosyncratic as any playlist that you’d make on your own, but that’s also part of its charm (also, c’mon, we are all worse DJs than we’d like to believe). The groom from that wedding I still see sometimes, but I haven’t seen the bride in…oh, gotta be going on a half dozen years now. And that doesn’t matter: I still get some part of each of them every time I listen to the CD. Any one song from Wedded Bliss makes me think of a least a couple of the others on it. It was, in other words, or just one word, effective.

Because this compilation counts as one of the more powerful touchstones to my personal history (here's the other one), I thought it’d make a good Volume 50 in One Last Pick through the Bins, aka, the Bins Project. I’ll be suspending/replacing the Bins Project after the New Year, or at least until I can get my head around how well I manage the thing I’m lining up to replace it. As for this particular volume, I’m going to pick four artists/albums from the playlist below to go deeper on them and those I’ll lump them into…some kind of Volume 50 at some point this Saturday. And that’s the part I’ll probably fuck up…

The other potential calamities include my 2017 Top 100 Playlist, a frankly, rushed final chapter for the Pop Backstory series, one that will take it to…going with 1910…and…yeah, that’s it. That’s a stupid amount of stuff to do, but I do stupid all the time. With that, it’s time to introduce all y’all to Wedded Bliss.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 49: Aesop Rock, Intensely In Like

An ear heart. You're welcome and I'm sorry.
The song I most associate with Aesop Rock (born, Ian Matthias Bavitz) would be “Bring Back Pluto.” A lot of things make that song memorable for me, starting with the surface absurdity of campaigning to get the world, scientific or otherwise, to again bless the planetoid Pluto with planet status. The more time I spend with it, the more it comes across as sticking up for oddities and/or underdogs generally (don't think I'm far wrong). And that makes sense for Aesop Rock. Or Bavitz. Shit…what do I go with on that? Screw it, he’s just a dude. Bavitz. Going with that for a naming convention.

That song makes a decently reliable introduction to Aesop Rock musically, too. It packs in the lyrical density, the music leans into digitized jazz that sometimes does, and sometimes does not do more than loop a sequence (“Bring Back Pluto,” for its part, shifts gears - yay!), and makes ample use of imagery, pop references and general abstraction. And, as he notes, he doesn’t just spit nonsense…but he piles up thoughts and comments for the listener to work through; all the word-play he stuffs into his tracks push a bit past the fire code.

To stick with stuff that comes out of his mouth, that feels like the biggest barrier to someone liking Aesop Rock. Call that a working theory. I’m guessing it’s less what he says than his delivery. “Non-traditional,” certainly, maybe even a bit dorky, Bavitz doesn’t sound quite right - and that’s even for allowing that he doesn’t always sound the same. For instance, even with the music swallowing his voice on “Bazooka Tooth,” that's a different delivery than he gives on the quick and dirty “Lotta Years.” The latter strikes me as more typical; Bavitz sort of drags and slurs over his tracks, generally, while still achieving near-perfect articulacy. Think a sober poet before his first cup o’ Joe. And that’s a sound most people don’t expect - maybe even to the point of disqualification…

…I don’t know. Maybe I’m grasping at straws. I can see all kinds of people not liking Aesop Rock, but I can’t really understand why anyone would hate him.

I under-sold his musical ear a bit in the above, and that’s part of it. While I wouldn’t call it his longest suit - that’d be his lyrics and the content thereof for me - Bavitz still bats several levels above average as both arranger and a selector of sounds (it should be noted, though, that he's worked with many). To pick him at his “worst,” I’d go with “Kirby.” That’s not a pure loop by any means (I can hear a couple sounds pull backwards against the rhythm…hold that thought), but that’s at least 80% rhythm section, a sound/spine for the vocals. To check back to “Bring Back Pluto,” that song kicks out a couple more auditory looks (wait…what?) - e.g., rescuing the vocals from digitized fuzz at 0:30, the plucked treble that comes in exactly 10 seconds opens up a slinky, brighter tone; the…clarinet at 1:15 keeps the brightness, but blows some air into it, and that sound only kicks in after Bavitz hangs the vocals after, “if I’m not….hmmm.” His vocals break the other way around 1:50, but the point should be obvious by now: everything about “Bring Back Pluto” shifts between accompaniment and tempo, and that keeps the brain engaged. Or just my brain. More, please.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Songs Y'All! 12 22 2017: 2017, The Year in B-Sides, Chapter 1

There's at least one good thing in there.
Whether I call it my favorite song of the moment, or just accept its strange power over me, I think about Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “Pa’lante” all the damn time. It’s dramatic as all Hell, a song that sounds like a pivot into an uplifting third act where all the right people fall in love and the hero saves the family business. Or at least that’s what the little boy who loves musical theater and lives inside my mouth tells me.

That’s not snark, either. Well, if it is snark, it’s snark stuffed inside two other really positive things. Like a turducken. Regardless, “Pa’lante” will be making the Top 100 (and, to allay your fears, I have no intention of explaining my love/appreciation for each of the 100 songs). It also has the (virtually singular) distinction of actually being released in 2017. That is an exception. The rest I just heard this past year. Or that's just when I got excited about it again.

I kicked off the work of finding my Top 100 last night, which started with circling back through 2017’s first Bins Project post to search for stuff that didn’t find their way onto the handful of playlists I keep/curate. And, as it happens, I’m pretty reliable about getting songs that really hit me onto those quarter playlists. On the plus side, last night let me reconnect to a lot the really damn good songs that didn’t make the cut…and last night featured a lot of listening/caterwauling in me wee home office.

As hinted at in the title (e.g., “Chapter 1”), A lot of what I plan to do for the rest of the year will involve me kicking those songs out for the consumption of a teeny-tiny public. Here’s today’s sampling:

The Coup – “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO
If there’s a better song for today, I can’t think of it.

Kyle Craft – “Before the Wall
Didn’t even listen to this one last night, but, while I’m on protest songs. Craft has a good ear for lyrics and a great bar-band rasp.

Silversun Pickups – “Dream at Tempo 113
I’d forgotten how harsh my review of this band was, but the several songs I like, I REALLY like. It’s just the stuff around it…really ought to give it another chance, but…yeah. Good rock tune.

A Tribe Called Quest – “Check the Rhime
Yeah, OK, kicking it even-older school, but I count Tribe as one of my favorite reconnects of 2017. A great sample of the good stuff they did for years.

Talib Kweli – “Back Up Offa Me
Another artist with a handful of great songs, and a lot of stuff around it that falls flat for me. Still, passing on this one, because I’m convinced Kanye mixed the music, and I’m probably wrong.

Pretenders – “Chord Lord
I didn’t know they put out an album in 2016 until early 2017. The old-timers dropped a couple good songs onto it, and I think they had decent freedom to record ‘em rough.

A Tribe Called Quest – “We Can Get Down
They pay more attention the musical side more than a lot of hip hop artists – for example.

MGMT – “Weekend Wars
Only included to make the point that I like earlier iterations of alternative rock more than a lot of the new stuff. And I expect I’ll like later iterations more as well. Shit changes, basically.

The Coup – “My Murder, My Love
As fine a pop chorus as you'll ever hear. They did that.

A playlist of that weird pile-up will go up shortly...and that will be the only time in human history that they all share a playlist.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Songs Y'All! 12 21 2017: The Worst And the Best of the Worst & More (Songs/Notes/Plans)

Low-impact and fun!
A post in three parts, and with more than five songs. Part of me wants these posts to be a “list-ticles,” but my discipline problems have discipline problems…anyway, I’ll start with the little bit of fun that fell in my lap this morning.

Worst of the Worst, Best of the Worst
Esquire graciously dropped nine steaming turds into twitter’s lap yesterday morning, aka, the Nine Worst Songs of 2017 (had the sense to not use that for the image). Because their writers swim in poppier waters (I’m strictly lap pool material), I can’t measure their choices that well. I can, however, confidently state that Jake Paul’s “Everyday Bro” is the worst song I heard this year. Aggressively stupid, shamelessly generic, straining to hold its meter, it really is something. If that’s a step above Rebecca Black’s famous “Friday,” it ain’t a lot of them.

I took on the bigger challenge of redeeming one song from the list. I’ve hated Imagine Dragons and The Chainsmokers for as long as they’ve been around, so they’re out (and don’t like Coldplay enough to defend them either), and Charlie Puth hardly made a good impression (and, no, he’s something I’m never gonna like). Esquire clearly has it in for Ed Sheeran – he’s all over this thing – but pity  With all factors taken into account, I’m going with the Katy Perry/Migos collab, “Bon appetit.” It’s not great or anything, I just understand its commercial motivations better than the others’ (e.g., cross-pollination of fan bases). So, uh, congratulations?

More Orphans
Anytime I’m forced to choose between things I like, I experience something like guilt (separation anxiety, only without the separation? maybe I think word will get back to the artists?). Telling two songs I’ve liked for over year that they didn’t make the cut – e.g., The Symposium’s “Tony Stark” and Night School’s “Casanova” – hit me with that same pained misunderstanding hormone-soaked teens endure when they bawl through those peer-pressure resistance exercises some high school “helping groups” teach (I know, I know; songs don’t have feelings). More than anything else, though, with 2016 fading into the past, I thought I might forget to mention those songs. So I did.

Headway on My Researches
I plan on doing fairly different things in this space next year – something I’ll get to later (January 1, I expect) – but burrowing into Aesop Rock this week reminds me of what makes those Bins Project posts so damn draining. A song like “Battery,” for instance (from 2001’s Labor Days) is fine on its own (just fine), but after four hours of Aesop in one day, it induces an eye-glazing oppression that somehow starts in the ears. Just the words “slow down” sounds like sweet, swee relief, but I’ve got two of those (goddamn) before year’s end, so…full steam, people! I’ll flop back to Bazooka Tooth later to confirm its real and imagined novelty (noted here). Labor Days wasn’t all drudgery either. Something I read yesterday notes Aesop Rock’s work way of finding inspiration in working class life, and shows up in “9-5ers Anthem” – and in a way that captures the Aesop aesthetic (e.g., the refrainofesto - “Now, we the American working population hate the fact that eight hours a day is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn’t us/and we may not hate our jobs, but we hate jobs in general that don’t have to do with fighting our own causes”; I didn’t say it’s water slipping over smooth stones). “No rEgrets” is another charmer, a sweet slice o’ life tune that recalled on old Schoolhouse Rock song (thinking, “Mr. Morton” (original; Skee-Lo cover…yep, that happened)).

Oh, and I stumbled on Aesop Rock's first release as well. "Daylight." That's raw. As in needs a lotta polish. OK, that's all for this particular morning. And hello.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 19 2017: (Dry Run) The 2016 Top 20 Playlist

My good intentions are that bus.
I spent yesterday wallowing in Aesop Rock, honestly. Trying to pick the wisest path through his oeuvre hasn’t come easy. I might have stumbled on the skeleton key late this afternoon - 2003’s Bazooka Tooth. Maybe that’s a false signal, maybe I heard just one song that felt like it stretched against his usual medium, but that album sounded more interesting than the rest the first time through.

To close out the subject, it turns out I only ever owned/heard 2007’s None Shall Pass. I spent some time catching up with that album today - especially old faves like “Bring Back Pluto” and “Dark Heart News.” Yeah, the whole “planetoid” thing irked me a little too. (And is “a little” automatically redundant once the word “irked” comes into the play?)

At any rate, that’ll go up…Saturday…probably.

To get to the actual point, this morning (tonight?) I wanted to do a small-sample dry-run for the 2017 Top 100 Playlist. Don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned this, but I picked up my back-pocket record store (aka, Spotify) in the fall of 2016. (Before I say one more word, swear to god we were happier then.) More to the point, back when all this started, I had basically two-tracked the Bins Project posts alongside all the new stuff I was getting from Spotify; they existed in two separate, but parallel spaces in my head that only came together when I realized that I could go all the way beyond the stuff I’d collected over the years for any given artist. That fateful day transform'd the Bins Project into the kind of Kudzu Project that makes me the wretched soul I am today. At all times, really.

Anyway, all I’m saying is, I built the revised, final 30-song 2016 playlist before I really started diving into the Bins Project bands. As such, it’s mostly made up of the stuff Spotify fed me in the final quarter of 2016 - when they, again, emphatically did better. The mix for the 2017 will almost certainly draw in more Bins Projects stuff. (That changed. And my Discover Weekly playlists…chang…when I started put…my own music into the…oh, shit. I’m the glitch in the Matrix!) Anyway, back to this playlist, there’s some good shit down below, refined shit, if you ask me. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Songs, Y'All! 12 19 2017: How Does One Hit an App?

Holy shit. They made a movie?
To pick up from the title, if I hit Spotify hard enough do you think it’d get back on track? People say this never worked for TVs, but I can testify to at least one TV in early-80s southwestern Ohio that responded sharply to a sound whack on its side. Corporal punishment…it’s the only thing these cowards will understand…

When I started this site, I worried that Spotify’s algorithm would one day land on a grand theory of “me” - that is, a sense of Jeffness, on a musical level. This week I’m…reporting that Spotify has codified my musical identity - but only on its own terms. Spotify has committed to nothing less than boring me into obedience for over a month now. When they’re not feeding me songs they’ve already tried - e.g., Le Tigre, “Get Off the Internet,” Jens Lekman, “A Postcard to Nina,” Gap Dream, “College Music,” and The Mountain Goats, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” - they’re feeding me stuff I know already - e.g., Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, “Biomusicology” and Husker Du’s cover of The Byrds’ “8 Miles High” (bit rougher). Again, I’m here for new stuff, guys. Where’s the button that directs your algorithm to push back against my assumptions, but from within those assumptions?

The more distressing crime comes when Discover Weekly feeds me songs that I find dull as shit (no offense intended to fan or artist, taste is personal). More to the point, a steady diet of dreary informs how I interact with Spotify - for instance, I get funny about pulling a song like French Kicks’, “Sex Tourist,” onto a playlist from fear that Discover Weekly will read that as a signal to slow down even more next. That’s also why I got inordinately cranked-up when My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep” came on after the accidentally exhausting pairing of “Peace on the Rise,” by Chad VanGaalen and Atlas Sound’s “Shelia” (which picks up, just not enough). When you’re dying that hard for up-tempo, it’s just a desert in an oasis, more reprieve than solution.

Where’s the button that tells the algorithm that I like the sound, combination of instruments, and tone of a song, but heavier and faster, please?

I could unpack the clutter in my head till it’s gone, but our Robot Overlords will give us what they give us. [All Hail, Spotify!] This week’s Discover playlist eventually…sort of, evened out. (Still, the slow starts have been deadly.) Here are the five most intriguing song I heard on this week’s list:

1) The Rapture, “It Takes Time To Be A Man
Sold on the bright, spare sound, instrumentation and arrangement. Feels like a solid foundation…

2) Okkervil River, “John Allyn Smith Sails
Even it’ll take a dozen more listens to catch its drift, the poetry/storytelling got my attention.

3) John Cale, “Big White Cloud

 Spotify has fed me this song at least three times. I like it a little more each time.

4) Mr. Gnome, “Melted Rainbow

I’m not sure if this just came as a relief after all the dreary shit before it, but something hauled it in front of my attention. I dunno. Is it good?

5) Merchandise, “Become What You Are

This fucker went over 10 minutes, and I never lost interest. First time, too. Even when I saw the how long the song went on, I didn’t check the clock again.

And…yep, all done. Bueno.

Songs, Y’All! 12 18 2017: The Christmas Song Edition + Pulling Together a Top 100

Waiting for DMX to show...
Going seasons this morning. And easy. I’ll try to keep it relatively painless…especially given the subject.

Every year, my wife enacts a handful of rituals designed to induce the Christmas Spirit into the world around her. It’s barely working this year (she called this Christmas “terrible” just last night), but I’ve still been listening to Christmas songs on the radio since the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” at least once a day, often more. Wham’s “Last Christmas” gets almost as much air-play, along with a suffocating ton of some old over-familiar numbers (e.g., “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas” is beginning to look like the song that will break my actual spirit).

The radio station she’s stuck on throws in the odd curveball. For instance, did not know that The Waitresses (these guys) put out a Christmas song. They did, though, and it’s titled “Christmas Wrapping.” I’m still not clear as to what moves a band or a performer to record a Christmas song – that goes double when it’s a cover like Hall & Oates’ take on “Jingle Bell Rock.” They do it because they can, I suppose, and probably for the money, to keep their name out there, etc. That’s fine…I guess. I mean, who rates anyone’s Christmas song as the best thing they’ve ever done?

We wandered off the radio and played some Christmas songs over a cribbage game. Found some more…points of interest. For instance, DMX pulled together a cover of “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” something that, while I’m not quite against it, I can’t say I’m for it. On a happier note, Wycleaf Jean recorded, “The Christmas Song,” the only Christmas song that makes me feel like I should take off my clothes while it’s playing. (No video for that one, tragically. I concocted a pretty thorough scenario for this song while it played – i.e., it’s late, the kids are asleep, a young couple just tucked the last present under the tree, they’re both wearing silky pajamas that hang off their bodies just so…and Christmas comes early. I’ll post it after this goes up. So sultry.)

I’ve once heard it argued that that Mariah Carey song up above was the last truly popular Christmas song to come out – one that really caught on in the culture. (Related/unrelated: “Last Christmas,” a song about stealing Andrew Ridgely’s girlfriend, surely has to be one of the weirdest.) I heard at least one song on that Christmas song playlist, Kelly Clarkson’s “Christmas Eve.” that I wouldn’t mind slipping onto a radio line-up that really, really could stand to draw from a much, much longer list. There's a lot more out there, obviously. I mean, The Waitresses recorded a Christmas song, fer crissakes.

And that’s it for today. As noted in earlier posts, I’m shelving New to Me posts until the beginning of next year. I’ve got two more Bins Project posts for between now and the end of 2017. The first will feature Aesop Rock, an artist who always brings one person I know to mind. And, holy crap, does that guy have more work than I knew. I’ll have to figure out how to handle; Saturday’s the deadline. The other one I’m still mapping out, but I think it’ll make for a good 50th post. And that’s something I need for a couple reasons.

Finally, the last thing I hope to do this year – won’t be easy, but I’m gonna try – is to compile a Top 100 Songs for 2017 playlist. The only criteria is that I heard the song this year – as in, doesn’t matter when it was recorded, only that I heard it since last January. I’ll be drawing from Bins Projects and New to Me posts for that stuff, along with the quarterly playlists (4th quarter pending, btw). And, jesus, no, I won’t be putting those 100 songs in any kind of order.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bins Project Volume 48: Archers of Loaf, An Echo of a Bigger Bang

They can't all be winners. They...just can't.
I remember my path on Archers of Loaf better than most. I’d heard them when friends and the younger part of family played them, but interest never ran deeper than that. When I started listening to them last week, I could mumble along to handful of songs - “Nostalgia,” “Underachievers Fight and March Song,” and “Wrong.” And…that’s it actually; less than a handful, but definitely a few. In other words, don’t expect a love affair from this one…

Regardless of all that, they became one of those names I recognized while looking for music and picking between what to pick out and take home. Friends liked it and played it, and it didn’t sound awful, so, when I saw a few Archers of Loaf albums at…an indeterminate place, where indeterminate people live and I…acquired them by totally legal means. Totally legal. That list includes Vee Vee, Icky Metal (remastered), and The Speed of Cattle. Just so you know. And, for what it's worth, I think that was a mistake. Apparently, the band took pretty big forks with All the Nations Airports and White Trash Heroes. So, again, I put all my time/thought to the wrong place. Maybe. Either way, goddamn it.

To address the copyright violations alluded to above, I’d rather give Archers of Loaf money for that directly. I think I want to create a platform that pays producers/promoters a flat fee, but that lets whomever actually wrote the music/lyrics get all the cash past a certain point. If I set up that service, I'd apply the same flat-fee to myself too. I mean, if you create the stuff people buy, don’t you deserve the most of the money?  I’m sorry, I digress. I was talking about Archers of Loaf.

And I’m still talking about them, even when I’m not talking about them. Every time I try to think about them, my mind just sort of drifts elsewhere.

Just about everything I type for a while will probably sound like me shitting on Archers of Loaf. There will be some truth to that - here and there - but their career arc and thoughts thereon open things up to one of the best, rare ideas in popular culture - knowing when to hang up on your dreams. They’re not a bad band, either, but they are also less good than a lot of better bands, and that’s why the Archers of Loaf will not get the coveted rose when time for the Rose Ceremony comes.