6.29.2005

with a little bit of uh uh & a little bit of uh uh

dear friends,

I don't have much time so I'll refrain from the links if that is alright with y'all. that's right. I said y'all.

things I forgot to pack for my florida vacation: binoculars (for dolphin, manatee & shark viewing), aqua socks (for stingray avoidance), fins (for fast sylph-like swimming).

not bad, not bad.

the name of this list is: songs I heard this weekend & what was going on when I heard them (OR try the grouper)

1. 99 problems/jay-z

I put this on in the plane with the hopes it would keep me up. no offense meant to hova's considerable skills as a raconteur but somewhere around the time the cop shows up to give him a hard racial profilin' time, I had fallen asleep, mouth slackly open, drooling sweetly; the works. the airplane blanket had to be torn from my angry somnbulent (sp?) hands.

as the man says, "hit me".

2. all you need is love/the beatles

fast forward to the wedding we were attending (the monkey's best friend from high school). dark clouds overhead, rainbow in the distance, vows that went unheard by me 'cause I am deaf. general sweetness. guys in baby blue hawaiian shirts. girls in summer ensembles with much cleavage. people running to the bar as the sky started to rumble. free drinks. oh boy. as I watched people taking their place at the reception, I thought to myself, isn't it nice when a song fits an occasion & it isn't we are family?

3. hot in herre/nelly

after thoroughly attacking the buffet & watching in awe & wonder as new friend z* stole the disposable cameras on all the tables & took pictures of his scrotum under the table, I managed to work my way over to the dance floor. when this song's big line about discarding your outfit came, all the tropical shirted groomsmen did just that. all I can say was that it was one of those visual moments that you DREAM would happen at a wedding you are attending. I turned around to find z throwing himself on the ground. was he felled by some virulent strain of dance disease? no. he was down there in order to take better pictures of what was going on under the skirts of some of the guests. I'm fairly confident that the bride & groom will never be able to play "match that crotch", so me & my vagina feel relatively safe.

while all of this was happening there was some overheard conversation about how bizarre it is to get down on it while your once-acned friends' parents sit at their tables & watch you as they sip their gin & tonics. I wondered if it would be better if they were on the dance floor getting down themselves. tough to say.

then they played we are family. no escape. no escape.

4. ain't it fun - rocket from the tombs

following contributor phil's lead regarding the covers project & going into a non-vacation tangent, I want to get on my soapbox & announce that I would like to sing ain't it fun in contributor george's great cover band project. to all you participating, please consider voting for it. I will kiss your baby, shake your hand & promise to lower your taxes. ok, I won't actually do those things (well, most of you have no infants to kiss that I know of...RUMOR!) but I will promise to scream my fool head off in a way that justifies this song's poetic & repugnant tale of miserable fucked-up-ness as told by a guy that no less than saint lester bangs eulogized**. queasy & self-disgusted narrator? I can relate.

4. (most of) abbey road - the beatles

people sang beatles songs on the beach in the dark. two stars in the sky that were equidistant from each other looked out the party like a pair of benevolent god eyes. I lay on the sand, practically buried in it in fact, thinking many things. will I pass out here & have to sleep on the beach? will I throw up? do I have the skills to dig a hole with my left hand that is at least one foot deep, vomit into it quietly & cover up my offense with very few people noticing? will the party be disbanded by some aggro security guards speeding around on golf carts? will the medley at the end of abbey road be sung & will it sound sweet because it is the sound of friends having a good time celebrating a great big turning point in someone's life OR because it is the beatles & they can be magic? how many showers will it take to get all this sand out of my hair? what on earth is a grouper? why haven't I ever heard of it? & when this music finally ends will someone say "ok, which album do we sing next?"...

no, yes (of course. geez.), yes, no, yes & yes, 3, some sort of fish, because if you are me it's hard to remember what fish are called if they are not featured in sushi, yes, yes, of course yes. always yes.

love, d

* names have been omitted to protect the very, very guilty.

** go find the invaluable psychotic reactions & carburator dung & look up peter laughner in the index. or if you're feeling lazy, talk to contributor jared.

6.28.2005

Setting a Bad Example

I have two bits of shameless promotion to unload. The first item is an advertisement for the radio show that I will be guest-DJing (in place of DJ Ladies Please) on East Village Radio tomorrow from 4-6pm. You can tune in for a live webcast, or download the show anytime during the following week.

The second item is a vigorous defense of the songs I've suggested for the Great Cover Band Project, an insititution with which many of you will be familiar. I debated with myself whether SC was the appropriate venue for these exhortations, but ultimately decided...well, fuck it. Plus, it's an exercise that necissarily involves a discussion of a song's quality, so it falls withing the SC rubric. In other words, you can just take these as recommendations for songs you should take a(nother) listen to.

I only suggested three songs, and I picked all of them (at least partially) because they were not only great songs, but good canvases to work on top of...

The B-52's, "Dance This Mess Around": I can't claim to be an expert on the B-52's - espeically their earlier work - but take into consideration some of their best-known works: "Love Shack", "Roam", and "Rock Lobster". I think "Dance This Mess Around" has a quality that's missing from the rest of these pop gems - namely, it hinds at something sharp and seething under the bubbly exterior. Like a fist inside a clown glove. First of all, you've got these bouncy organ lines on top of a bass line that, if you sped it up and gave it some fuzz, would be seriously punk. The lyrics incorporate both a play on Diana Ross' "Stop In the Name of Love", and a list of "all 16 dances" which includes "the hypocrite." Covering this song allows for the possibility of drawing out these hostile undertones and turning them into the pivot point of the song. Compositionally, the song is sparse enough to allow for a lot of re-interpretation while remaining melodically recognizeable.

Bikini Kill, "Star Fish": I know that a lot of people will see Bikini Kill on that ballot and get immediately turned off. I ask you to just listen to this song a couple of times. My argument for "Star Fish" sort of runs opposite to what I said about the B-52's. "Star Fish" is far less sonically aggressive than most of Bikini Kill's catalogue, which is what makes it more approachable for a make-over. It's a bit of a weird comparison, I know, but it of reminds me of Portishead's "Sour Times" in terms of a spy movie sountrack kind of aesthetic. Plus, it has one of my favorite opening lyrics: "They want to buy/the look of my abuse/they want to use my blood/to color their perfume." Fucking sharp. Like much of BK's work, this song isn't complicated (and barely over a minute long), so there's a lot of room for re-working and expansion.

The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night": Supress your memories of that ubiquitous Jolly Rancher commercials; the opening 10 notes of this song constitute one of the most promising rocknroll intros ever composted. Promising in the sense that when you hear those two seconds of sound, you immediately become aware of the impending rock damage that you will have to (and yearn to) sustain. This song was on the Kinks first album (self-titled), which came out in 1964, but you can't listen to this song without hearing the sound of punk to come. The lyrics, taken on a surface level, are more or less vapid, but they're belted out almost viciously. Oh, and the guitar solo is totally bitchin'. I'd like to break this song down and stick it back together with wood glue, scribble on it with a sharpie, and stick it back in my earholes. I think the cover band could accomplish this.

I rest my case.

6.27.2005

And Then God Said Bend Over

Jesus.

Fuck.

Me.

I must rant, m'friends. I must rave. About what? About fate.

So as some of you know, ín a month I am being deported to Japan to teach English for a year in the JET program. My placement is called Niigata.

On July 29th through July 31st, the largest live rock music festival in Japan (Fuji Rock Festival) will be taking place in Niigata ken.

Where will I be?

In Tokyo.

Attending

Seminars

FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!

Why must fate assrape me???? If I were being placed ANYWHERE else! Shizuoka ken! Aomori! Gunma even, I would not be as pained as I am.

The lineup:

QURULI (AwjesusawSHIT), BRAHMAN (HOLYFUCK!!!), FOO FIGHTERS (meeeow), BEACH BOYS, MOBY, COLDPLAY, FATBOY SLIM, BECK (*droool*), NEW ORDER, IMAWANO KIYOSHIRO (can'tbreathe), TOKYO SKA PARADISE (*turningblue*) PRIMAL SCREAM, THE HIGH-LOWS, POGUES, EGO-WRAPPIN', CAKE, SHERBETS(KenichiAsaiKenichiAsaiKenichifuckmeAsai), SAMBO MASTER, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO (*weep*), CLAMMBON, LOSALIOS (Kenichi Asai AGAIN!) TOWA TEI, CRAZY KEN BAND, BOOM BOOM SATELLITES, DRESDEN DOLLS, ROVO, PE'Z, TAKKYU ISINO and so on...


If you want me I'll be in a corner smoking and cursing that fat black lesbian in the sky.

Labels: ,

6.25.2005

Here to help.

OK, I finally figured out how to post this.

So: I really liked the button that Contributor Whom I Don't Know posted, but I noticed some people expressing doubts as to how to post it to their page. So I uploaded it to my webspace (because direct linking is not always polite, so it's best to be safe) and inserted it into my blog template thusly:

<a href="http://softcommunication.blogspot.com"target=new>
<img src="http://tavie.com/softcomm.gif">
</a>

So go ahead and show the love by pasting that into your web page or blog template somewhere.

6.24.2005

I've got no new act to amuse you

dear friends,

1. I heard this song on internet radio & I was convinced I stumbled across a pure cheese lost 80's number sung by a blonde with smeared lipstick in a too-tight black & pink polka dot dress & ginormous heels. she abuses eyeliner & men with equal wastoid enthusiasm & she wants you to dance with her, right now on the slightly scuzzy dance floor. forget coke, she's a 'lude monster; slow & zonked. disco zombie.

most people would say eeew to such a lady & such a song. not me. the tune is called stay where you are by the delays* & it is totally CORN-AY! which to me & my varied & at times, cringe-inducing to all my indie rock friends taste, is a-ok. SO if you have dance keyboard ditty tolerance & an appreciation for the mascara-smeared, you will find yourself groovin'.

2. I found the little flames by swingin' link to link simian style through the british indie band website scene. they have a couple of downloads available on their website & since the last time I was there, seem to be doing pretty well indeed. I recommend goodbye little rose. contributors jeremiah & travis seemed to enjoy this short sharp post-punk tune at the serious business bbq. how could they not? it's about as step up to the line, stare you straight in the eye as bare-bones rock gets. singer eva petersen doesn't seem to be pushing a character or story through her vocal yet her clipped, stern, business-like delivery still sends a message. she's not messing around. it's over. eat your burger.

3. at dinner last night, conversation turned to elliott smith & the sad thought that there will never be another new album to look forward to unless his estate goes all makaveli on our collective asses. while I was never as rabidly enamored of him as some of my esteemed colleagues, I never felt like he was faking it so I never knocked his fans' cult-like devotion. I just wasn't completely grabbed.

when I first saw a photo of smith & found out that that soft, pressed powder voice came from this coiled guy with a craggy, 'I'm a'beat you' pirate face with sharp, wary eyes, suddenly all that sadness made sense. hard/soft, weak/strong, open/closed...pick a side, get fucked.

penny dreadful psychology aside, I listened to coast to coast this morning on my way to work. smith had always sounded plenty angry in other songs. this one feels different to me. it's cold & a little more distanced from his usual admissions of defeat. like walking into the pacific fully dressed for no other reason than to wake up & start talking straight; a flurry of words seemingly coming out from nowhere. everything's askew. guitars make high plaintive screeches & there's extraneous noise coming from all sides as the ground tilts away from your feet. yet...it's purposeful despite those vertiginous swirls. how is that? even smith's inability to NOT** have a beautiful vocal melody can dissipate this feeling of hardness. he's telling you something that you shouldn't forget even if he tells you something different tomorrow. so no matter what, try to remember. scary but gorgeous.

don't misunderstand, I don't hear this music as the sound of approaching suicide. this is no romantic interpretation. no matter what had happened to smith, I just feel this song is just terrifyingly real as an open admission of weakness. the repetition of "is there anything that I could do/that someone doesn't do for you" where his harmony shadow self (his frequent album companion) descends away from the lead vocal is a promise that this pledge, which is sincerely, even painfully, meant, cannot & WILL NOT hold. when the piano comes in at the coda, the tv in the room will be the only noise left & he'll have forgotten all about it.

4. moment of quiet to get over how incredibly rough thinking about/listening (specifically: on repeat) to coast to coast is.

I honk for hummingbirds. but I've never seen one in person, unfortunately. let's look at one here.

ah, that's nice.

however, from a basement on a hill is still playing. strung out again follows. a beautiful george harrison-esque slice of plaintiveness. I never pay attention to the lyrics on this one. I don't want to know. I just want to enjoy the sound of his voice sliding around in a way that belies junkie lamentation. I like that it's an almost cheeky vocal move. listen to it. do you hear what I'm hearing?

5. I heard first nine black alps when I was searching for black mountain (imagine you are my brain. it kinda makes sense) & I went nutty for their song cosmopolitan. I don't know anything about their personal lives or back story or what they had for breakfast & when did they know they made it & whether or not david bowie is their friend & that's beautiful to me. 'cause ultimately the formula is simple. does it give me pleasure? oh yeah.

cosmopolitan starts with brief, familiar guitar angularities which leads to a full rush of band with a singer accusingly using that insecure inner voice thing that can creep up on anyone any time you're at a club surrounded by folk with seriously coordinated outfits ("you're not pretty enough/you're not skinny enough/you're not healthy enough!" - I don't care how great you think you are or how hot, it happens to all of us) & the song just keeps hitting you with stridency & sneery cynicism at every fast turn. very punk rock. ah. but also very pop & that's what saves it. 'cause it's as clean as a brand new automobile with everything neatly sliding into where it should be. listen to the end where the chorus gives way to slight breakdown punctuated by drum attack before it comes back to the chorus again with renewed viciousness. it's so pristine that it would be easy to dismiss it as studied. but I SO buy it. I'd learn to drive just to get it around.

I will be away all of next week in floridarrgh. the monkey promises me beaches. I hear they have them there. I'm not sure what my internet access will be while I'm away so I implore you to mouse it up while the cat's away. write like mad, recommend, recommend, recommend.

also, anyone who wants to play the character of d in my absence, simply post twice a week & make yourself sound like an utter ass with an addiction to guitars & gettin' down on impromptu dancefloors. should be easy.

love, d

* the singer from the delays is not remotely like this description. that's why it's much more fun to hear this song first THEN go see what the band looks like.

** double negatives are warranted when talking about smith. that is the rule I have just made up.

songs to seek: stay where you are/the delays, goodbye little rose/the little flames, coast to coast/elliott smith, strung out again/elliott smith, cosmopolitan/nine black alps

6.23.2005

10th Avenue Freeze-Out: What Gives Me The Chills

The chills manifest themselves in many ways. Sometimes it's buzzing in the back of your skull. Or an upwelling of energy that makes you want to jump up and down. Sometimes it's just the chills. In compiling this list, I've discovered that I generally only get the chills from a) really sad songs or b) crazy guitar licks. Okay. Also, although I enjoy, and even love, LOVE, lots of new music, it doesn't seem to give me the chills. I'm sorry. Thusly,

  1. “Don’t Let Me Down” - The Beatles: A single snare crack ushers in John’s deepest lament, his greatest soul song. Save George Martin, here’s the finest non-Beatle musical contribution to a Beatles recording (sorry E.C.) — the heavily Afroed Billy Preston on electric keys. Ringo, in one song, makes a case for Greatest Rock Drummer of All Time: the key is sympathy.
  2. “Bring It On Home To Me” (live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963) - Sam Cooke: In my opinion, the greatest recording of the greatest rock n roll song. It gains even more power and drama when taken as the climax of an amazing, amazing live performance. The band, including King Curtis on sax, is locked in tight, the music surges and sways, Sam is preaching more than singing and the crowd, the crowd is ecstatic, on the verge of rapture and you can hear it. It’s when Sam lets out a soul shout and the crowd answers in a roar that the chills run up and down my spine.
  3. “Up To Me” - Bob Dylan: From a collection of songs recorded and scrapped just prior to Blood On The Tracks. Some were reworked and re-recorded for the album, but this gem only saw the official light of day in ‘85 on the odds-and-ends collection, Biograph. Lines like The only decent thing I did when I worked as a postal clerk / Was to haul your picture down off the wall near the cage where I used to work and There's a note left in the bottle, you can give it to Estelle / She's the one you been wond'rin' about, but there's really nothin' much to tell. To paraphrase a friend, once you hear this tune, you’ll realize that Blood On the Tracks is not nearly sad enough.
  4. “Blitzkrieg Bop” - The Ramones: I used to work at a summer camp, where I often drove a 15-passenger bus filled with elementary school kids. Irresponsibly, I’d throw on “Blitzkrieg Bop” while cruising down the New Mexico highways at 75 mph and let the kids go nuts, singing and bouncing off the walls. It was like having them freebase pixie sticks. That’s how I feel inside whenever I hear this tune.
  5. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: The piano is so sexy and Smokey sings like saint tempted by the flesh. Sidenote: I saw Elvis Costello at a small amphitheater a few years back; during a breakdown in "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" he went into this tune. Unbelievable.
  6. “Incident on 57th Street” - Bruce Springsteen: Growing up, this mini-epic of romantic adventure, built of Spectorish melodies, Dylanesque characters and (Van) Morrisonesque blue-eyed soul delivery, was simply the Gospel according to Bruce. Anytime I hear the sweeping opening chords, I get blown away.
  7. “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)” - Frank Sinatra: A voice aged in bourbon. From the first tinkling of the piano to the last heart-weary line, a perfect lament.
  8. "New Slang” - The Shins: Fans of The Shins may feel bitter about this tune being co-opted by the Garden State soundtrack, like their weird little friend was just crowned prom queen, but this song deserves mass consumption. The tremble of the open melody remains both sad and haunting. The lyrics are non-sensical enough to evoke all kinds of memories.
  9. “Search and Destroy” - The Stooges: Another guitar barrage that makes me misty-eyed. I’ve always wanted to see Bill Murray shoot pirates while this song played. Thank you Wes Anderson.
  10. “Moanin’ At Midnight” - Howlin’ Wolf: Not sure if it’s the chills, but this song makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
  11. “Goodbye” - Steve Earle: Another tearjerker. When Steve sings, “And I recall ….” and the pedal steel ascends with his voice, that’s when I get the chills.
  12. “Suzanne” - Nina Simone: Nina takes command of the song, and infuses a little soul strut just when you think you’re going to fall into the Canadian’s pit of despair.
  13. “Hey Jude” - Wilson Pickett: A pretty straight cover to start off, the heavy organ and of course Wilson’s man-and-a-half voice bring out the churchiness, but the chills hit about 2/3 of the way through. Wilson hits a “Yowww!!!” and the Muscle Schoals band kicks in like dynamite, led by a furious Duane Allman guitar fusillade. I’ve read that the album version was cut down from thirteen minutes. I’d love to hear it in full.
  14. “Folsom Prison Blues” (live at Folsom Prison, 1968) - Johnny Cash: Like the live “Bring It On Home To Me,” much of the energy of this song is generated by the audience. Instead of a good-time crowd cutting loose on a Saturday night, here we’re dealing with incarcerated felons who don’t get out much. You can hear the tension in the dead silence while Johnny sings and the desperate release in the cheers that erupt between verses.
  15. “Pale Blue Eyes” - The Velvet Underground: So sad.

Q RULES: Quruli

Quruli.

Eh?

Kururi?

Hm?

Kuh-rully?

Uh...?

K--Fuck me! Just listen I'm in love with them!!!

Ok.

Takashi (my bartender) hated World is Mine when I played it for him. Said it was boring. What did HE know anyway, the old fogey! All he ever listened to was Nico and Elephant Kashimashi. Admittedly my favorite track, Amadeus is so understated and slow-moving that it can strain to leave an impression. I love it for the strings (of course), the haunting ambience, and Shigeru's solemn delivery. When it begins, I expect Sondheim. Instead, I get Kishida Shigeru engaged in moody nonsensical conversation with a dead composer.

Amadeus kimi wa doushite sonna ni takaraka ni utaeru no?
Amadeus boku wa doushite konna ni mune ga kurushii no?

Amadeus why must you sing so loudly?
Amadeus why does my chest hurt like this?

Chills, yes. Plenty.

World is Mine is a dark album. It is also best experienced alone. This is not one for the speakers, m'friends. It neither shakes, rattles, nor rolls.

Even the album's crowd pleaser World's End Supernova sounds lifeless at first for a groovy dance track. Sure, you'll dance to it but you'll be dancing solo. If you're me, you'll ride the subway and stare at the tunnel lights.

The album does venture into familiar rock territory with Go Back to China. Cue gong. Boys and Girls gets plaintive and strummy in a ballad tailored for Shigeru's voice . Army layers on so many studio effects that the vocals almost get overwhelmed. Nevertheless, it's an hypnotic listen. Come to think of it, something about it is vaguely reminiscent of Playground Love. The weakest track, Mind the Gap, is a quirky instrumental with a bagpipe-laden intro. Eh, it'll give at least one other person on this blog heavy Main Street Electrical Parade vibes.

Remember when I said I hated the sound of Japanese men singing?

That is most of the time.

Quruli hails from Kyoto located in Western Japan (Kansai) and although many Japanese will tell you that people from Kansai have a coarse dialect, they'll take it all back if you mention Kyoto. Kyotoites speak with a distinctively softer refined edge. Like the comparison between American and British diction. Maybe that is why I will gravitate to any song Shigeru sings simply because he sings so gosh durn pretty. I've enjoyed Radiohead for similar reasons.

Quruli recently joined with Cocco to form a band with the stupidest name ever. Stupider, possibly, than Bump of Chicken.

Singer Songer.

Singer Songer's first single is still sitting in its plastic wrapping on my desk. I just can't bring myself to listen to it. There's too much expectation and I am a wuss. I love Cocco and Quruli too much to hear them bomb in a union. I know, I know. I bought it. I should just swallow the pill. It might even be good for me? At worst, it'll just give me hives.

If thou seekst Quruli online, use the katakana spelling "Kururi". Apparently, there's no such thing as the letter Q in Japan.

More songs to Seek:

Bara no Hana/Ai Naki Sekai/Tokyo/Wandervogel/Aoi Namida/Rumblefish

Labels: ,

6.22.2005

That's my shhhh

Dear friends,

1. I was watching the Hollaback Girl video on MTV. Gwen Stefani destroys supermarkets! Walks down the street with a gang! Is a majorette with long white blonde extensions in her hair! My first impression was this: girl can't dance for shit. I'm a'serious. She's got long, long legs and they're kicking all over the place like a lithe praying mantis doing a half robot/half rockette kinda routine which, I suppose, is interesting to look at in a nature film sort of way. At one point she dons a shiny red leotard with fringe on the sides and she shakes that fringe like it's the rapture and her name is Cher but something's just...off. A few beats off. Oh girl.

Hollaback Girl/Gwen Stefani (video)



But that's cool. I admire Gwen's spunk* and while previous single, If I Was a Rich Girl, made me never wanna see a pirate video concept again OR hear a stolen slice of Fiddler on the Roof OR even have EARS, Hollaback Girl (Which makes The Monkey run out of the room screeching like a predator's approaching) has that spectacular moment when Gwen shuts the hell up and lets the tuba do the talking. AND, of course, the cherry on top of it all: "This beat is bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s!". I laughed and laughed at that fabulous nonsense. I started immediately working out when I could use that phrase. At the YMCA! My crawl is bananas! My swim cap is bananas! Spelling lesson for the masses and catchphrase making don't usually come hand in hand.

Of course, if you don't care for videos and heard a passing s.u.v. preview and didn't feel it, do seek out her duet with Andre 3000 from Outkast, A Long Way To Go from the album named after her...uh...fashion label. Ahem. Wow. I can't believe I typed that. Must go listen to obscure 4-track ditties NOW! Unclean! Unclean!

2. Out there in da real west side, there's a fabulous place called The People's Dance Party where a bunch o' folks talk music. I like to lurk about in the mornings as I sip my coffee and contemplate work. Then if I'm really bad or am still in the contemplation stage, I surreptitiously try to fill out one of Contributor Liz's quizzes (sounds good actually, I smell a trademark!) without cheating (i.e. trolling the internet). Humbling, humbling stuff. I know nothing.

To hear some of Contributor Liz's dj magic, check out today's live netcast from L.A.'s KXLU. Live stream can be found HERE on the top of the page to the left. She goes on at 3PM PDT (west coast)/6:00 EDT (east coast).

3. Maria Taylor's Nature Song (off of her album 11:11**) made me think that the vocalist must be this beautiful girl straight out of one of those idyllic Maxfield Parrish paintings of muse-type folk basking in the sunlight. Watery, quavery and luminous; music that lives in a twilight blue light. I hear she's in a band called Azure Ray which is a fitting name. I'm not too familiar with them (though some of our contributors are...insinuating cough.) but I know that there's a Saddle Creek connection. That Oberst has his fingers in all the pies!

4. I remember hearing Spoon back in the day when Matador would send me free stuff (Come back! All is forgiven!) And gosh, I thought they were boring. Fast forward to last year when I hear this song called Don't Let It Get You Down (from Kill the Moonlight.) It starts with this fantastic Stones-y riff and segues what is otherwise a perfectly ordinary indie pop number. The guy singing sounds nerdy in a vaguely know-it-all fashion, urging you not to let it bring you down and right about when you're gonna smack him for being such a snot, the riff comes back and he starts these ooh - ooooh- ooh's over it and what can you do? Start ooh-ing back of course! Ah, damn that pavlovian rock! I intend to get the new album Gimme Fiction in the next couple of weeks. From my one internet radio listen, I'm feeling I Summon You which I like to imagine as witch rock disguised as pop crunch but is probably just another song about relationships or something. Gawd. Can't someone throw in a warlock into the mix now and again? Is that too much to freakin' ask?!?

5. Speakin' of witch rock and relationships, I bought Half Cousin's The Function Room in the Land of Eng because the promo sticker on it promised sorcery. (I bought a bunch of cds there on the blind or deaf, as it were, with surprisingly good results) There was none, but regardless, I enjoyed listening to it as I stared at the landscape on my way up to Liverpool. Half Cousin aka Kevin Cormack trades in a gauzy, dark-edged folk that's not meant to soothe and/or provide a soundtrack for brownie baking. It shimmers and crawls purposefully along like a crystal spider. Despite the occasional missteps into haunted house territory (the cover of The Beatles' Girl) sometimes he gets it just right. On the Way Down could be about two people who suddenly run into one another and have nothing to say. Were they friends? Were they lovers? They were certainly something but there's no way of knowing what. But the intimacy of the brief, almost whispered in your ear vocal, the endless loop of railroad track guitar underneath and the barely audible hum of keyboards makes you guess that whatever it was, it's gone but the ghost remains. And then all you wanna do is sit there and grimly stare at your cup of tea. Cheery, eh? Just how I like it!

I gotta go. 3 days until vacation. It will be bananas.

B-a-n-a-n-a-s!

(Backflip, fringe shake)

Love, D

* But not her weird Asian handmaiden thing. Mute Japanese cuties following me around and batting their eyelashes? Madonna hasn't even done that! Oh wait. I forgot the Latin dudes)

** I always wanted to name an album that! Note to self: acquire musical ability. I think I've been writing that note to myself since childhood. one day.

Songs to seek: Hollaback Girl (just for those bananas!)/Gwen Stefani, Long Way to Go/Gwen Stefani & Andre 3000, Nature Song/Maria Taylor, Don't Let it Get You Down/Spoon, I Summon You/Spoon, On the Way Down/Half Cousin

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6.20.2005

Picking and Choosing

These are few songs that have been stuck in my headphones recently:

Fugazi - "Floating Boy": This song, off of 1997's End Hits, is one of the finest examples of Fugazi's ability to straddle the line between hard and art. I first got to know the alternate version of this track that appears on the Instrument soundtrack, and have only recently begun to dig hardcore on the original. Here, Fugazi manages to completely undermine the notion that punk's urgency has to be directly proportional to its velocity. The first two minutes toddle along like a drunk on a tightrope (with a cowbell) before dipping briefly under the songs surface to give you just a little glimpse of the whole ferocious iceberg.

Jorge Ben - "Umbabarauma": I first heard this song during my first year at sleep-away summer camp. There was this assembly on the second day of camp where all of the instructors made little presentations about their activities, so that you could decide which "classes" you wanted to take for the month. Most of them just involved soembody in shorts getting up and saying something like, "Hey, my name's Rodney, and I'm gonna be teaching archery. This is a bow [holds up plastic bow]. Okay."

But then all of a sudden this music comes on over the loudspeakers and, what in the hell, there's ropes dropping down from the roof and dudes sliding down the ropes upside down and doing all sorts of ninja shit. These were the rock climbing instructors, also known as the Rock Dogs, and they were so cool that I totally forgot how unbelieveably afraid of heights I am and signed right the fuck up. As often happens with fat kids and rope-related physical activity, my time with the Rock Dogs ended in misery. Still, this song is totally awesome. You just have to play the first 10 seconds of it (long enough for the drums to kick in) for somebody, and you will have a pretty good chance of convincing them to let you hoist their ass up some rocks. The lyrics are in Portuguese, but from what I understand, the song is about soccer.

Guns N' Roses - "Civil War": Off of Use Your Illusion II, this isn't one of the big karaoke hits, but in the past few days, it has become my favorite Guns N' Roses song. The verses, bridges, and choruses are all totally different from eachother, and are all totally catchy with just the right amount of cock-rock melodrama. And it's totally an anti-war power ballad. For a band that spent so much time on "grass is green and the girls are pretty" and "ma-ma-my serpentine", it's kind of surprising to hear war=genocide. And as if that's not enough, it opens with a Cool Hand Luke soundbite and has about eight bodacious guitar solos. Extra points for super-dorky piano runs at the six and a half minute mark. What's so civil about war, anyway?

The Ex - "Frenzy": A song about Karl and Groucho Marx. This strike march from old school (like 1979) Dutch anarcho-punks The Ex was a mix CD favorite of mine for many a month. I'm not sure I have a whole to say in the way of insightful description, but these guys are well worth checking out for their own work, as well as for their numerous In the Fishtank collaborations with artists such as Sonic Youth and Tortoise.

6.19.2005

driving with thee

Back from the Jersey shore, shaking sand from my sandals and stuffing warm shirts in a bag for the trip up north, and I'm thinking that nothing provokes thought quite like travel, or transportation. Historically I've preferred to fly solo, but I have decided that sometimes it's nicer to get from here to there with someone else.

I'm also sorting CDs for the eight-hour car trip, and I just came across Clinic's Walking with Thee. I first read about Clinic in Interview some years back - 2000, maybe? 2001? At the time I wasn't savvy enough to think that a band wearing surgical masks might be, um, un peu de gimmique. I just thought it was peculiar, and intriguing. I liked that they were from England (hinting at a humor darker and foggier than the average American's), and that they seemed to be utterly intent on doing precisely what they were doing, however peculiar someone like me might find it. For this reason, and the fact that I found the cover art appealing, I picked up Walking with Thee, their second album (but the first that anyone seemed to notice).

The record quickly became my listen of choice on long bus, train, and plane rides - it's so damn full of sound, it overwhelms the other passengers' chatter, the groan of the tires, and the bats in your head. I wouldn't call it soothing, but I would call it enveloping, layered, fuzzy, and loud. Sort of like a really bold blanket. Epitonic describes singer Ade Blackburn's voice as "the delirious byproduct of a fever dream," and if you've ever spent twelve hours on a train or ridden a night bus through the midwest, you'll know that this would make an apt companion.

I once talked someone into buying this record, because I liked it so much, and he put it aside, saying it was "kinda creepy," and perhaps it is. The drums get hypnotic, the loops build up, the guitars are thick as fog, and why is he singing like he's being strangled? Don't run and hide, though. This could be unbearable if it weren't so restrained; Clinic don't linger any longer than they have to (no eight-minute wankfests here), and each song has a strong, healthy pulse. I don't think it sounds like a nightmare so much as a waking dream, one where weird things happen but no one gets killed, and in the end you open your eyes and you're somewhere far from where you started.

Favorite tracks: "Harmony," "Walking with Thee," "Pet Eunuch"

Some info and video links from MTV.com.

Clinic on Epitonic.

Official Domino Records page.

Additional historical note from a 2002 Rolling Stone interview with Karen O: "I was drinking margaritas with my girlfriends, and we were totally trashed. We destroyed Clinic's dressing room and stole all their masks. We got kicked out, and on our way out we shoved Courtney Love. Then we went back to our $5,000 suite that some record label was paying for and freaked out more. It was a big rock-star night."

6.17.2005

Support Soft Communication

In an effort to get other people to be aware of Soft Communication, I thought I'd help out by making a web button for others to put on their own sites.

You can get the image here:
http://www.syphen.org/home/webbuttons/softcomm.gif

Enjoy and help support Soft Communication!

say the words that I can't say

dear friends,

the monkey fixed my ipod, little monkey jr*, this past weekend. yay! this time I promise not to overheat it with 5 trillion songs. I will only keep the songs I want to hear while being driven around florida because when I go down to that sunny, southermost state, I would like to avoid all their country stations. ah, vacation. I need you. be my friend?

1. I've ranted about nouvelle vague before in this post. I was sad to miss them when they came to nyc. really, really sad actually 'cause I had the feeling they would lift my spirits from what was becoming a difficult period of crippledom**. now I'm feeling much better thanks to godknowswhat (acupuncture? swimming? summer? you?) & as if to congratulate me on that, KCRW just aired the band's recent, spirited live session. to watch or listen to it go here. their version of new order's bizarre love triangle (not on their record!) is so juicy with green mango goodness that boy, do I wish I had the mad internet skillz to record it & play it over & over & over & over again until I overdose. (WARNING: not so subtle attempt to solicit information from the soft communication readership. ahem.)

2. I first heard architecture in helsinki on bbc radio a while back. I dutifully wrote it down on my desk pad & promptly forgot to write 'em up. now I want to slap myself in the face 'cause I just missed their show at northsix 'cause I didn't even know they were playing & they're from new zealand or something & what the hell! & I'll never have that recipe again! AGAIN! WAAAAAH!

basically, I suck. but they don't. featuring a pussywillow-voiced girl, a boy who sounds like he's singing on his tippy-toes & charmingly eclectic arrangements (indie guitars, strings, gregorian monk sounds, happy keyboards, clapping, disco sitars!) these songs are just the right minty fresh accessories to a bright summer day. neverevereverdid starts like big ben, followed by a ghostly operatic woman singing over a theremin. enter tuba. yes. you read that right. towards the end after a few more changes, it starts to remind me of the clash's straight to hell, but being that it sounds NOTHING like it, in that it's not even remotely serious for one, you'll have to tell me why I feel this way. for the pretty la la girl vocals with glockenspiel seek out souvenirs. for twee that out-twees any skinny lad in a cardy & 50's specs, seek out the owls go. seriously, it makes belle & sebastian sound like gwar.

like my beloved bearsuit but with a shiny coat of cherry red varnish, this band is patiently waiting to be loved by you. so love them. & then smack me for not telling you about them sooner.

3. contributor phil once wrote about the coup here, I just found out that their upcoming album will feature a cameo by none other than billy bragg. this is the man that wisely left some indian takeout with his demo for john peel. peelie played it that night. humorous, political & romantic, bragg has written many a lovely ballad as well. I recommend the only one because I love the way he sings "kiss me or would you rather/live in a land where the soap don't lather/& oh..." & he holds that oh as a cello shadows it underneath like a gymnast's ribbon & it says everything the song's been trying to say prior.

4. oh pete doherty. you're so very wrecked. I followed your travails in the tabloids before I ever even HEARD your old band the libertines. breaking into your band member's flat & stealing his stuff? public crack smoking? flat, off beat singing? writing a vh1 piano ballad that doesn't stink with a junk crony named wolfman for quick cash? releasing a single called fuck forever with your new band baby shambles thus guaranteeing it will never play outside blightly? having read bits & pieces of your teenage fanzines, you're clearly no dummy. ever thought about going back to live with mum & gluing stuff on paper again? hmmm? just for the heck of it? I know. life is complicated.

5. I have an old dusty tape of the go-betweens' 16 lover's lane. I believe I overplayed it to the point of transparency. one of the songs on it, devil's eye, an acoustic number with plentiful guitar string squeak noise, which murmurs about love in the face of saying goodbye, everyday trouble & heck, just plain old love in all its cheese & splendor, was a particular favorite of mine. even though my notions of love back then were purely based on movies, what was being said there sounded like something tender & true.

I'm ashamed to say I've neglected to keep up with their current output but I'd love to start now, if someone can tell me what to hear...

love, d

PS for those who might be interested I will be posting the mystery artists behind the covers on my mix today over at soft communication mix exchange. I will be putting up jenny p's playlist tomorrow. please visit us & comment.

* the monkey gave me little monkey for my birthday last year. it died. it was then replaced with little monkey jr.

** I have a disease. it is this. I mention it so there's no confusion when I occasionally refer to my part-time gimpitude.

songs to seek: bizarre love triangle/nouvelle vague (kcrw live session), neverevereverdid/architecture in helsinki, souvenirs/architecture in helsinki, the owls go/architecture in helsinki, the only one/billy bragg, for lovers/pete doherty & wolfman, the devil's eye/the go-betweens

6.15.2005

And some don't even wear their skins...

D's list of songs that give her chills included a song that has always given me chills-- but not the good kind. Rather, the bad, scary, pleaseturnitoffpleaseturnitoffpleasepleaseplease kind of chills.

It's not a very long list, because I am a grownup now. But there are certain songs that I can't listen to because they actually frighten me in a little-kid-riding-the-Haunted-Mansion-for-the-first-time way.

They are:

1. A Day in the Life - As I've mentioned, I was listening to this home alone once, as a teenager, and the loudscarycacophany part came on, and I was frozen in terror. I had to hide under the covers with my hands over my ears because I was too scared to cross the room to turn it off.

2. Hotel California - I downloaded a very stupid text-based game back in the early-mid nineties. Some free piece of crap from AOL's download library. Anyway, it was based on this song, and there's a scene where you go into a room and a bunch of people are gathered around a dining table, stabbing and stabbing at a big, dead beast with their steely knives. But they just can't kill it.

The song freaks me out because each line calls up a different mental image of the creepiness of that game. And, remember, it was text-based; all of the images came from my own mind.

3. I Think I Love You - What is that chorus? That chorus is so haunted house. It's so Halloween. Bom-bom-bom-bom-bom? What is that? Is he TRYING to spook me? Honestly, I've never been able to make it through the song so I can't tell if it's SUPPOSED to sound that creepy. Or maybe it's just something about David Cassidy. I can't take it. It scares me.

4. What a Wonderful World - There's nothing inherently bad about this song. It's quite a good song, abstractly. But it's been used ironically in so many films and television shows, played over footage of horrific violence, mushroom clouds, devestation and destruction, that I get a Pavlovian sense of hopelessness and despair whenever I hear it. Which is pretty much whenever I walk into a restaurant at lunchtime.

Oddly enough, the theme from Disney's The Haunted Mansion (the ride, not the movie, which I have never seen) isn't remotely scary. It's great. So there's my recommendation: "Grimming Grinning Ghosts" from the real ride soundtrack of The Haunted Mansion, featuring the late, great Thurl "Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft.

Yappari Natsu Da: It's Summer Alright

As I type this, the sky looks pissed off. Like some people I know, huffingly pretty right before a fit. However, as it's summer, the fit isn't entirely unwelcome. I thought this post might be timely. Listen to this song anywhere. Anytime. Walk home to it. It'll take you elsewhere.

I saw Miho Hatori and Smokey Hormel at TONIC a couple years ago and they had the house in the palms of their hands. It was absurdly hot. It was absurdly crowded. The mojitos were absurdly strong. Everyone was dancing and it was perfectly right. I mean everyone. Those who could hear the rhythm. Those who couldn't. With eachother. With themselves. Strangers. Friends. That guy. Hell, you were too.

Fucking sublime.

This song is, as Dorothy Parker might say, "intimate as the rustle of sheets". The English lyrics in the song I'm not entirely sure about. They're phrased kind of awkwardly so maybe I'm not hearing them right.

Summer Rain

Ame tsuzuki no On rainy days
konna hi wa like this
odorimashou let's dance together

sekai kara And from the world
hanarete we'll detach
zutto for a while
sotto gently (softly, secretly)

Oh jikan ni Oh we'll take some time
okuremashou only five minutes
go fun dake we'll wrap the memory
tsutsumimashou gently (softly, secretly)
omoide wo for a while
sotto
zutto

Oh can you tell me why
You know the way you make me feel
So tell me your right
to have your time
my heart is beating to the
gentle samba of the summer

Ame tsuzuki no On rainy days like these
konna hi wa
odorimashou let's dance together

Futari dake Just the two of us
jikan ni We'll take some time
okuremashou
go fun dake Just five minutes
tsutsumimashou We'll wrap the memories
omoidewa
sotto softly (gently; secretly)
zutto for a while

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Cock Mobster

D was hanging out at our place last night, and as often happens, we ended up doing some audio tourism. At one point, I offered up an MC Paul Barman track, and was shocked to find that she hadn't been previously exposed to the MCPB. And let me tell you, "exposed" is the right word. It got me thinking that maybe Barman isn't as widely-known as he should be.

Though perhaps obvious, it's important to point out that we're talking about a Jewish rapper. For a point of reference, you might want to check out a photo. But while white rappers like Vanilla Ice (the perpetual wannabe) or Eminem (whose talent is pretty much overshadowed by his simple-mindedness) are constantly trying to prove that they deserve cred despite their race, Barman's entire catalogue plays on the fact that he doesn't belong. Of course, this schtick was attempted previously by 2 Live Jew, and more recently by 50 Shekl. The problem is that they SUCK.

Barman, on the other hand, manages to be both totally awful and totally awesome at exactly the same time. It's a trait that you might also attribute to somebody like Richard Cheese, though I'd argue Barman deserves more musical credit since he's writing his own songs rather than doing covers - not to mention the fact that I think Barman's rhyme skills, while utterly ridiculous, can on occassion be virtuosic. That's one of the reasons his satire is so brilliant - he's actually good at his art.

Barman flows like an Erector Set dropped down a stairwell. It doesn't matter if there isn't room for twelve words in the space of four beats - that's where they're going. And I dare you to name another MC who references "From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler". But this isn't just nerd-hop. What makes Barman amazing is the fact that he manages to seamlessly merge a continuous series of high brow refernces with stream of filthy-dirty sex lyrics that are on a level far beyond anything 2 Live Crew ever had to offer.

A good example is "MTV Get Off The Air Pt. 2", Barman's collaboration track with Princess Superstar* of of It's Very Stimulating, which features the line, "I'll be your boyfriend/smooch on your pooper-hole/all through the SuperBowl." Then there's the song whose title provides the header of this post, which is a basically a list of all of the famous women MCPB would like to get with - you know, Tyra Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Kim Gordon, Terri Garr, Cynthia Ozick. The usuals.

If was going to put forward my dime-store culture critique assessment of MCPB, I'd say that by taking the sensationalist, hyper-sexualized tropes of commercial hip-hop to their logical conclusion, he manages to expose the self-aggrandizing machismo of those artists for the sad joke that it is. You can argue that it's a questionable move to position some white dude as the principle hip-hop satirist, but Barman's work doesn't play out as a race joke. Instead, he's bemoaning the commercial co-optation process that has led to the production of so much vapid, postured, hip-pop.

SUGGESTED TRACKS: "MTV Get Off The Air", "Cock Mobster", "I'm Frickin' Awesome", "Housemate Troubles". And by Princess Superstar, "Bad Babysitter".

*She's also well worth a listen, and in some sense could be considered a female counterpart to Barman, except she's less dorky and more...well...hot.

STAMP ON MY HAND

I was thinking about some of the random shows I've gone to over the years and thought that might make fodder for a new post. Therefore, I now present to you...

SEVEN RANDOMLY AWESOME SHOWS I'VE GONE TO (in no particular order):

1. U2(9/22/87 at Sullivan Stadium, Foxboro, MA)- Where it all began. My first concert. Joshua Tree tour at the height of my U2 fandom. My 13 year old mind was blown by this show even though I was too short to see the stage. I remember them starting the set with "Stand By Me" and ending with "40" wherein the whole crowd continued to sing the refrain "how long..." for at least 10 minutes after the band walked off. My older brother and his friends brought me to the show, and afterwards we had to search for his drunk buddy Lance who got lost in the crowd.

2. REM (9/16/89 at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA)- Though I was never a huge REM fan, this was probabaly when I liked them the most. It was the Green tour and unfortunately the Indigo Girls opened. But that mattered little to my friends and I as we swigged some sort of mystery alcohol out of a Sprite bottle and paid them no mind. A song or two into their set it started pouring rain so we bought cheap plastic ponchos that did nothing. At some point one of us discovered that if you took a running slide down the lawn at Great Woods(this was a "summer shed" venue) the poncho acted as a sled of sorts. We had created our own little Slip N' Slide and had a blast getting completely drenched and drunk. Too bad the temperature dropped when REM took the stage. In the end we were forced to huddle together to keep warm over the distant strains of "Finest Worksong" and "Fall On Me".

3. MORRISSEY (7/3/91 at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA)- When I went to see one of the Morrissey comeback shows last year I knew it could never touch this one. My Morrissey-obsessed friend Nicole waited out all night to get 2nd row tickets and was kind enough to offer me one. Moz was amazing, the band rocked, and Nicole got to storm the stage and hug her idol. Afterwards in the parking lot she cried tears of joy.

4. THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES (1/25/92 at The Paradise in Boston, MA)- An all-ages matinee show at the best venue in Boston where I saw so many great shows. Now you can hate on the Bosstones all you like, but in Boston in 92 they were the best live band in town. Hell, this was the first show I stagedove at! Perhaps even better was when Dickie Barrett held out the mic for me to sing on a song I had to shrug and say I didn't know the words. He just smiled and said "That's cool" and started singing again. At one point 15-20 people including me and my friend Rich stood on the stage dancing. I'll always remember exiting the club into the frigid January night covered in sweat.

5. JAMES BROWN (1/17/97 at Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, MA)- This was at the height of my funk phase and I just had to make a visit to the altar of The Godfather. The sucky thing was that the crowd was predominantly lame white people in their 40's and 50's that didn't want to dance, unlike my friends and I. The best part was when my friend Scott, high on some pilfered Ritalin and beer, was told to "sit the fuck down" by some old fogey in a suit. Scott turned around and screamed, "Fuck that! All of you need to get up and dance! It's fuckin' James Brown!!!" That was sweet.

6. MORPHINE (3/11/97 at The Paradise in Boston, MA)- This was the last Morphine show I ever saw before Mark Sandman died. They played a killer set, but it may have been a bit too much for my friend Scott(yes, the same guy). He had a nasty fever and passed out in the middle of the show. We were right near the front of the stage and a couple girls helped him come to with a cup of ice water. We later found out that one of them was Mark Sandman's girlfriend.

7. PRINCE (7/12/2004 at Madison Square Garden in NYC, NY)- 6th row. Prince. Need I say more? Ok, one thing. He ended with "Purple Rain" and since it had been raining that day everyone took out their umbrellas like lighters and waved them back and forth. It was silly, yet absolutely beautiful.

So there it is. I put the list together by digging through a little box I keep of all the tickets I've colllected over the years. Yes, I am a dork. It's unfortunate that many of the shows I've been to never even gave me a ticket to remember it by. Or I was on some list for it. Some day I hope to be as hard core as Jenny and keep a list of every single show I've gone to. Until than my beer soaked memories will have to do....

6.14.2005

Because I Can + I Will = I Have

My most recent Audioscrobbler stats:

Weekly Artist Chart


Week prior to Jun 12, 2005, 11:00
1. The Sonics (39 listens)
2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre (35 listens)
3. The White Stripes (28 listens)
4. Spoon (24 listens)
5. Joy Division (18 listens)
5. Morningwood (18 listens)
7. Pavement (17 listens)
7. The Rolling Stones (17 listens)
9. The Walkmen (16 listens)
10. French Kicks (14 listens)

Weekly Track Chart


Week prior to Jun 12, 2005, 11:00
1. Pavement - "Kennel District" (4 listens)
1. The Sonics - "Boss Hoss" (4 listens)
1. The Walkmen - "What's In It For Me?" (4 listens)
4. TV On The Radio - "Wear You Out" (3 listens)
4. The White Stripes - "Take, Take, Take" (3 listens)
4. The White Stripes - "The Denial Twist" (3 listens)
4. Joy Division - "Digital" (3 listens)
4. The White Stripes - "White Moon" (3 listens)
4. Pavement - "Motion Suggests" (3 listens)
4. The Sea And Cake - "Afternoon Speaker" (3 listens)

Top Artists


Last generated: June 10, 2005
1. The Rolling Stones (301 listens)
2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre (297 listens)
3. Spoon (282 listens)
4. Elvis Costello (254 listens)
5. Beck (235 listens)
6. French Kicks (219 listens)
6. British Sea Power (219 listens)
8. The Raveonettes (213 listens)
9. Pavement (206 listens)
10. Yo La Tengo (204 listens)
11. The Sonics (198 listens)
12. LCD Soundsystem (197 listens)
13. The Shins (179 listens)
14. The Walkmen (178 listens)
15. Neil Young (160 listens)
15. The Clash (160 listens)
15. Radio 4 (160 listens)

Top Tracks


Last generated: June 10, 2005
1. LCD Soundsystem - "Tribulations" (27 listens)
2. TV On The Radio - "Staring At The Sun" (25 listens)
3. Frank Black - "Hang On To Your Ego" (23 listens)
3. The Raveonettes - "Remember" (23 listens)
3. The Walkmen - "That's The Punch Line" (23 listens)
6. The Kinks - "Lola" (22 listens)
6. Bruce Springsteen - "Johnny 99" (22 listens)
6. Björk - "Human Behavior" (22 listens)
6. Modest Mouse - "The World At Large" (22 listens)
10. Pixies - "Brick Is Red" (21 listens)
10. Iggy Pop - "Neighborhood Threat" (21 listens)
10. The Raveonettes - "That Great Love Sound" (21 listens)
10. The Sonics - "Boss Hoss" (21 listens)
14. My Bloody Valentine - "When You Sleep" (20 listens)
14. The Walkmen - "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch" (20 listens)
14. Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop" (20 listens)
14. Pavement - "Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era" (20 listens)
14. The (International) Noise Conspiracy - "Born Into A Mess" (20 listens)
14. Of Montreal - "Disconnect The Dots" (20 listens)
14. Interpol - "Evil" (20 listens)

hear the sound of the things you said today

dear friends,

the monkey posted his "songs that give you chills" playlist. as he explained below, it was a nice vacation idea & in a couple of weeks we're gonna have to do it again, so please write in any song recommendations for me to investigate...

DISCLAIMER #1: like everything that's suggested to me, I tend to start dreaming like I have stars in my eyes & before you know it, a little playlist project has become an unruly weeklong medley of tunes. so following j's example, I'll stick to 15.

yeah, my full list is too long to print here. my apologies. I am unduly enthusiastic which is why you'll often find me smiling to myself with an alarming shark-like grin.

DISCLAIMER #2: I told j that I'd put songs that were not remotely obscure. so again my apologies, most of you will be very overly familiar with a few o' these tunes. don't "duh" me.

1. good vibrations - the beach boys

I never tire of this song. ever. the way it begins. the way it builds. the way the cellos attack! the theremin solo! being one of those people who naturally anthropomorphize everything (which is perhaps why I'm so fond of furniture with feet. & tubs with feet.) I always liked to imagine the theremin as a very solemn operatically trained woman, stepping up to the mic & letting loose! that would be my rock fantasia segment anyway.

2. a day in the life - the beatles

I was a little kid when I first heard it & it certainly had that wind coming out of the speakers & blowing on my face effect. I can't ever tire of it. not even when I worked at a video store & we had a classic rock station playing all manners of crap 5 billion times a day. I love songs as collages & as neatly stitched together as this song may be, that's what it is to me. unfortunately, my favorite part, besides lennon's deliciously spacey vocal contribution, would be impossible & impractical to describe, all I'll say is that it's when I pretend I'm a conductor majestically bringing the orchestra down - BAH! BAH-BAH! BA' BOMMM! "I heard the news..." if you even know what I'm talking about, I love you.

3. interlude (ceremony of carols) - benjamin britten

this instrumental harp interlude sounds like a cold night when you're trying to get home & it starts to snow softly & for whatever reason, maybe it's the first snow of the year or you just had a decent day, the sight of it fills you with elation so you start to run through the white, laughing your way down the street.

4. let's take a trip together - morphine

foggy & slow, this tune creates a world around you, where you'll probably nod yes to anything that's asked of you.

5. you made me realize - my bloody valentine

an unusual chills choice in that the chills comes from a different place. in this song, when hard & fast gives way to noise & noise & more noise & then goes back, I feel a crazy headrush. to me this is the song I want played when I ride the siberian express at coney island. ok, we're going backwards! now scream! AAAAAH!

6. road - nick drake

I never knew what nick drake was singin on this one. I thought he was talking about country road short cuts. no matter, I picture the dark undersides of rustling roadside trees. I'm gonna have to engineer this snapshot for myself. I'll need a car (nothing fancy), a driver, an english country road. oh, contributor james?

7. he needs me - nina simone

as a rule, I'm not crazy about masochistic jazz standards but the first time I heard this I was hushed. simone's crazy wine dark vibrato (which tells you everything that she must be as a woman: strong, passionate maybe crazy) tells a short story of unquestioning love from someone who feels tiny & inconsequential next to the object of their devotion. but only just. they're not entirely unaware of their role in things.

8. grounded - pavement

while there are a few other songs of theirs that give me the chills (the hexx especially) this one makes me go into a dreamy state. I always get the same complex story, a sad one about accidents on icy roads, lost siblings & regret.

9. sorted for e's & wizz - pulp

this song is so close to how I felt when I was in & out of college & totally disconnected from the social scene I was in. I'm so uncool! everyone's so skinny & on drugs! I don't belong here! AAAH! so when jarvis sings "just keep on moving", I do & feel much better for the memories.

10. pyramid song - radiohead

see j's post.

11. marconi's radio - the secret machines

a long, long build-up leading to a mystery. a song that definitely rewards repeated listens even though I'm still not quite sure what the story is. I just think that this is the sound of lying in bed, trying to sleep, slowly realizing something important about yourself & your place in the world & trying to take that with you as you finally drift off.

12. the great valerio - richard & linda thompson

creepy, crawly allegory. stern vocal. gorgeous guitar.

13. sunday morning - the velvet underground

like a pink plastic ballerina in a music box, turning.

14. sunny afternoon - the kinks

I've always wanted to use this song in a genteel horror movie. it sounds like drunken lethargy about to go very bad indeed. I think it's all those "ooooohs".

an amazing number even if you think it sounds like a perfectly nice summer song.

15. fearless - pink floyd

many reasons. the way the guitars sound like water. the sense that it goes on & on. the you'll never walk alone chant at the end. a nod of recognition on the other side of a room. buying the cd after hearing a band covering it the night before. yeah.

love, d

6.11.2005

Chills (they're multiplying)

I had this idea before D and I went on vacation in February to make a mix
consisting of "songs that give you chills" (because they're so good, so sad, etc.)

Here's the playlist(Just e-mail me if you want a CD):

01. "Wish You Were Here" - Pink Floyd
02. "Svefn-g-englar" - Sigur Ros*
03. "Else" - Built To Spill
04. "Everything Means Nothing to Me" - Elliott Smith
05. "Tomorrow Never Knows" - The Beatles
06. "Pyramid Song" - Radiohead
07. "Let Forever Be" - The Chemical Brothers
08. "Hurdy Gurdy Man" - Donovan
09. "Fade Into You" - Mazzy Star
10. "Candy Says" - The Velvet UnderGround
11. "It's a Bad Wind That Don't Blow Somebody Some Good" - The Secret Machines
12. "Playground Love" - Air
13. "Drowse" - Queen
14. "Stairway to Heaven" - Led Zeppelin
15. "Trio" - King Crimson


*Notes: I fade the Sigur Ros song out at about 6 minutes, since after the 10th minute it can sound a bit luke-warm. And yes, I *did* include Stairway to Heaven... how could I not?? The flute sounds at the beginning still give me chills... maybe it's just my own nostalgia.

Warning: this mix is not full of good-time rockers. Each song on its own is great, but I admit it might be too heavy to listen to them all at once. It ends up sounding very sad & rainy(maybe I just inevitably gravitate towards that type of music) so don't go listening to it when you're already ready to slit your wrists. Although, listen to the bouncy Chemical Brothers song on your headphones as you walk down 8th Avenue and you'll feel like you're in an iPod commercial.

If I've ever made a mix for you before, you've probably already heard a good chunk of these songs already. I would be interested in seeing what you folks come up with if you make your own "songs that give you chills" playlist and post here! :-)

6.10.2005

going, going, GONE!

dear friends,

here are some quick cuts for da weekend:

1. from their name alone, giant drag sound like they should be a mid-90's slacker rock band that sucks. they're not. I put to you the following example: this isn't it (hmmm...the shante-ish riposte to the strokes' is this it?). short, sharp, with a catchy lyrical hook that's an example of how sometimes you can grab a hold of a cliched expression that when set against music, suddenly seems worthy, poetic even. annie hardy, their singer, has a slurry, tired, totally resigned delivery that makes you think, yeah, she's berating a cold hearted snake of a lover in her song but she ain't going anywhere. I wonder why that is... sex? lethargy? or plain ole rock 'n' roll masochism? I vote for the latter.

2. a) from the opening aaaaows to the guitar scrawl, you know 911 is a joke by public enemy will always remain on the best summer jams of all time list*. b) the video: "911 never come correct/you can ask my man right here with the broken neck" (cue shot of guy on sidewalk, convulsing) c) thom yorke labels this one of the sexiest songs ever written. & that's unbelievably weird. but also kinda hot. you go on with your bad self, my tiny singing friend, seducing the missus to the sound of flavor flav sounding reasonable & vincent price laughing his ass off.

3. ryan adams makes some people want to kill. I understand. he's a smarmy little grandma's boy who talks a mad load of shit, dates really hot women, writes more songs in a night (usually on a bar napkin) than just about anyone I can think of, dresses in the most studied I'm a rich sloppy hipster way imaginable & has his songs covered by the likes of the corrs featuring bono. eek! I like him though. for many reasons actually, but (this is really ridiculous) partly because he's such a smiths nut, that when at one of his shows he started crowing about a fan giving him a single with wonderful woman** on it, I was like, "damn, he's a dork & damn, I wish I wuz him." & of course there's the intro to his album heartbreaker where he argues with david rawlings about whether a song is on viva hate or bona drag (adams is right) & then promptly rips into an album full of americana goodness. you want to hate but you really can't. 'cause this motormouthed moron can write real purty. I'd like to dedicate she wants to play hearts from demolition to all you people out there who've ever had a relationship go the way of pffft! adams ransacks every metaphor he can into one sad sigh of a song. respect.

4. wolfmother is dirty but cute garage rock & roll a la white stripes circa screwdriver. so much so, in fact, they sound like a white stripes cover band but with less shame about the classic rock-ness of it all. oh, & a big ole bass gueeee-tar. is that a bad thing? (insert 50's tv comedian shrug) check out apple tree & marvel at the homage/theft.

5. I don't know jack about graham parker, 'cept that a) he always gets lumped with early elvis costello & joe jackson in that he's angry but in a clever, cutting way & b) he wore really giant sunglasses ALL THE TIME & dudes who do that are usually pretty odd looking (see: roy orbison, r. kelly). passion is no ordinary word is the real deal of bitter & cutting, but like the best of that genre you believe that the singer/protagonist's heart is cracking slowly & hot, angry tears are but a fade-out away.

love, d

* I'm not really sure this came out in summer & I don't care! I'm misleading you all! muhahahaha!

** whoever can name what single that came from can join the big dork club of which I am secretary.

songs to seek: this isn't it/giant drag, 911 is a joke/public enemy, she wants to play hearts/ryan adams, apple tree/wolfmother, passion is no ordinary word/graham parker

My first totally pointless post: A track-by-track guide to Frank Black's "Teenager of the Year"

For no other reason than I brought it to work with me today (work??) I will now give a track-by-track review of Frank Black's epic second solo CD, Teenager of the Year (release date: 1994). Ahem…

track 1 -- "Whatever happened to pong?" Indeed. I'm dating myself here (and since breaking up with my girlfriend I'm dating myself in another sense, but let's not dwell on that) but one of my earliest memories in sitting at home buried in the shag carpeting and listening to the boop-boop-boop noises as I played on my family's super-high-tech Pong system. Frank truly catches the essence of playing Pong when he sings in the chorus: "Paddle the paddle to the side to the side / To the side to the side to the paddle the paddle / Paddle the paddle the side to the side / Pong / Ball in the machine." This song is one minute and 33 seconds long and could probably be described as a "rave up" if I weren’t worried about sounding like a complete idiot. We're off to a rousing start!

track 2 -- "Thalassocracy." This song is also 1:33. Fuck yeah! This is one of the best and catchiest song on the album and rocks like all get out, even by Pixies standards. Frank teases us by *nearly* howling in Black Francis Banshee style. Damn great one-two punch to get things started off here. What the hell is a thalassocracy? OK I just looked it up, according to the very concise Merriam-Webster online dictionary it means "maritime supremacy." Still this doesn't really illuminate lyrics like "The Inuit man / had not so much a Caesar / He had provision / Say / You're spraying in the windy / And I'm just pissing off." God bless Frank Black.

track 3 -- "I want to live on an abstract plain." Frank slows the pace down to mid-tempo and expands past the 2-minute mark (just). I identify strongly with these lyrics: "I've had it with this town…I want to live on an abstract plain / I'm building a frame / A place to put my ten-yard stare." This is a brilliant pop song, catchy and melodic and it pretty much seems to sum up Frank's life philosophy. After you listen to this song it will burrow deep into your head and play on continuous repeat until you hear something equally hummable like Terry Jacks' "Season in the Sun" or "Get It Poppin'" by Fat Joe. Also there's an excellent one-chord piano solo where Eric Drew Feldman plays the same chord 34 times in row by my rough count. Abstract indeed.

track 4 -- "Calistan." This song breaks the 3-minute mark. Warning, warning! The tempo slows down a little more and Frank indulges his Southwestern and Navajo-alien fetishes. Mention made of karaoke. Rhymes "John Wayne" with "Mexican." Great rousing chorus, things still look pretty encouraging.

track 5 -- "The Vanishing Spies." Another slow 3-minute-pluser. Standout lyric: "Well that's just how some things just don't materialize." Second song in a row where somewhat dull verses alternate with swooning, majestic choruses. There a wonky, very non-Joey Santiago solo for about the last minute of the song.

track 6 -- "Speedy Marie." Not so speedy actually, still pretty mellow. Chorus not quite rousing enough this time around. Use of slide guitar. Song almost saved by cool coda section that breaks down to bass and vocal and builds with guitar and theremin-sounding keyboard.

track 7 -- "Headache." More sweetly melodic mid-tempoish whimsy from our rotund troubadour. "My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound." Good line. This is almost country rock though I wouldn't mistake it for Flying Burrito Brothers. Frank is almost crooning! Hey, great you took some singing lessons but I wanna hear some vocal chords ripping dammit.

track 8 -- "Sir Rockaby." Help, help!! Too slow, let's pick it up Frank. Nearly somnambulant, thus the title I guess. But this is no "Havalina" (the sublime track that closed Bossanova). You at least need Kim Deal’s otherworldly "oohs" and "aahs" to carry this sort of thing off.

track 9 -- "Freedom Rock." Great title if you remember those late night commercials for the classic/stoner rock compilations. Nice sarcasm: "My name is Chip / and I'm different / I don't conform I wear a different uniform." Finally some energy is injected! Unfortunately the song breaks down into a quasi-reggae section in the middle but then it rocks out at the end. Beautiful guitar countermelody in last verse.

track 10 -- "Two reelers." Now we're starting to mix and match elements from past songs on the album. Rave up verses alternate with big sweeping choruses. Pretty good but not as good as opening tracks. Wait, Frank actually lets rip with the manic howling around the 2:00 minute mark but sounds surprisingly kind of constipated. Nodules?

track 11 -- "Fiddle riddle." More quasi reggae. WTF? 3:30 running time feels like about 10 minutes.

track 12 -- "Ole Mulholland." At 4:41 this must be the longest song to date in the Pixies/Frank Black catalogue. There's a spoken bit about concrete aqueducts. Frank even sounds a little bored singing this song. I appreciate he's trying to escape his Pixies heritage here but maybe he could do it in more concise fashion.

track 13 -- "Fazer Eyes." More mid-tempo whimsy. I've listening to this album plenty of times but I barely remember this song at all except for the chorus vaguely. I guess by this point I'm usually washing the dishes or working on my bellybutton lint collection.

track 14 -- "I could stay here forever." And indeed he will, there's still nine more tracks to go. Still this man knows how to write a good hook, the falsetto repetition of the title is pretty sweet.

track 15 -- "The Hostess with the mostess." One minute and 56 seconds of just plain weirdness. And that's not a bad thing. Starts off with Angus Young-sounding riffage and then jumps straight into a rockabilly section, and then briefly into epic ballad territory and fades to a fake calliope creepy keyboard part. The man has lots of ideas.

track 16 -- "Superabound." Another ballad with slide guitar to boot. Uh, well, it's only a ballad for about the first 40 seconds and then into funky guitar and Farfisa sounding keyboard. Guitar solo has a nice surf rock tone. Sample lyric: "So I bought a ticket to the freaks / I saw a chicken with two heads / Saw something else that was headless / Then P.T. said see the egress." Call me when the aliens land, Frank.

track 17 -- "Big Red." Mid-tempo. Rambling lyrics about space travel and Martian landscapes. Verses settle into a gentle groove, alternate with catchy soaring choruses. Am I starting to repeat myself?

track 18 -- "Space is gonna do me good." See track 17.

track 19 -- "White noise maker." I swear I've never heard this before. Wow, this album is long. Lyric: "I'm headed for the stereo store / To get a white noise maker and turn it up to ten." But our white noise makers go to eleven! (gratuitous Spinal Tap reference earns one public flogging) There is actually a white noise maker solo at the end.

track 20 -- "Pure denizen of the citizens band." Wow, this album is long.

track 21 -- "Bad, wicked world." In typically perverse fashion, Frank put one of the mutherfrikkin best songs in the next to last slot after over an hour total running time. Less than two minutes long and it rocks fiercely. I desperately want to sing this song. It’s about "architect David Vincent" who (as revealed by a web search) was the lead character on a late-1960s series that ran for three seasons on ABC called The Invaders. Each week the show was introduced thusly: "The Invaders: Alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: The Earth. Their purpose: To make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a short cut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now, David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun." Just in case you wanted to know.

track 22 -- "Pie in the sky." There are 22 natural lakes in the Coastal Plain. There are 22 paired autosomes and 2 X chromosomes in a female body cell. There are 22 paths on the Tree of Life.

6.07.2005

We can make you feel like everything that's gone wrong happened for a reason

Dear friends,

I'm a'tired. I've woken up the past couple of days feeling like my eyes had just acquired their very own Birkins to carry. This heat is making me feel swarthier than ever. The sweat mustache has returned. Call me Zorba!

1. Last Friday was the first official Soft Communication Mix Exchange ("Covers" theme)/the Great Cover Band Project. I neglected to hit the office supply store early, so I had to use sad, little falling down blue post-its for name tags. People wrote their names on them but they could not be read. The bar did not accept my free drink marker 'cause I failed to cash it in on time. I got called a fascist or something like it by one contributor for not providing the name of the bands doing the covering on my mix (on purpose, I'm crafty.) I repeatedly got called a crazy by a snort-laughing would-be contributor (I say would-be because they have been unable to accept the invite to join yet) because my list of choices for covers for the band project was "like the bible" and "who can read that much?." I hit the bottle(s). The monkey provided vegetable fried rice. People at other tables looked at us funny. At some point Contributor George got a few brave souls to head out to see The Battle. We were late but we got to see some charmingly wrong-headed covers (musical theatre girl with outrageous cleavage trilling Ask) As well as some interestingly inventive ones (unnamed group doing a breath-heavy and foreboding Hanging Garden). Now, if those Loser Lounge folks would update their website and provide information as to who did what, that would be grand. The Smiths wuz robbed, natch. We left defeated but unbroken. Then the Monkey and I got a very nice cabdriver to take us back to the aerie in Brooklyn. Living large.

Despite all my kvetching, I had a fantastic time. Note to self: rent out the VFW Hall next time. Then things can get really rowdy. With opinions!

Since I don't know how to make an additional page to this, you can go here to see the play lists and/or comments for the cds offered by the pioneers of mixage. I will be posting the other playlists in the next couple o' days. Feel free to comment on your favorite covers. AND if you want a copy of anyone's, send me a blank cd and I'll mail one to ya.

2. I am listening to the new Gomez CD, a live offering called Out West. I like Gomez. I always have. Ever since seeing a video of theirs where they are being experimented on by scientists as they try to record a very silly song about getting yourself arrested. Heads are measured, coils are attached to guitars, door stoppers are placed under feet and so on.

For some reason or another, partly because some of their music makes white girls do that horrific waving arm boogie (you KNOW what I'm talking about), Gomez has been labeled a jam band. Jam music is not for me. I have no beef with jamming in general, it's just the whole "we play, therefore we JAM...endlessly" aesthetic makes me feel like I have no options. I can take a 10 minute version of a song, heck I can take 20, but a 40 minute version of a song? I start to panic. The voices in my head start going "I can't leave, can't get out, I'm TRAPPED!" and the musos improvise themselves into noodles AS I GET DIZZIER and DIZZIER. But enough about that...if any of you want to write about your love of the jam, please do, someone has to explain the why's of love in this world.

Back to the Gomi. It's true. They get crunchy at times. I blame one of their three(!) singers, Ben Ottewell, a guy who looks like Poindexter but sings like an unholy combination of Tom Waits and that guy in Canned Heat who wanted to go up the country. I do like his voice and still find it hard to believe that it comes from that body but it can be a bit much for an entire album, that's why I look forward to the interruptions by the other two singers, Ian ball and Tom Gray. Ian is the resident pin-up, scrawny and little boy lost looking. He also writes the "I'm a total screw-up" numbers guaranteed to keep attracting women for the rest of his rock 'n' roll existence. He's got a voice like a can of talcum powder trying to sound tough and this is an excellent weapon to use when fishing his tales of fuck-up disaster. Of late, he's started writing about a vague sort of redemption which makes me think 12 step but who cares really when it works and doesn't come across like an after school special. On the driving Nothing Is Wrong with its oh so satisfying opening scratch riff, he goes from repeatedly stating that "a little was too much" for him to confessing that too much was NEVER enough in a matter of minutes and manages to make this sudden inversion sound reasonable. He could be talking about any kind of vice, including the vice of needing constant support from well-meaning friends. Confusing ambivalent rock? Yeah. Tom or "The Hobbit" (seriously, with his pocket-sizedness and jovial appearance, you could easily slip him into the movie) as I like to call him, is nasally and conversational. His interest lie more in the personal arena. His tender, sad resignation of a song Sweet Virginia seems to be a long delayed reply, NOT to the Stones song of the same name, but to his own Sound of Sounds from the album In Our Gun. While the latter is a hymn-like realization of need for your partner, the former is a string-laden letting go, of themselves, their paramour, of anything that might matter too much. Sound a bit cringe-inducingly sensitive? It might be if the presentation were heavy-handed. The band, luckily, hold back. And so does Gray, it never gets too much like guys, as Contributor Mary likes to say, "having feelings".

Live, Gomez is a wonder. The Hobbit jumps around like a maniac and tries to get the crowd amped. He's like the band's Bez* but with tremendous musical ability and without the crack. One particularly cruel but funny moment occurs when he makes Blackie, the bass player, give up his bass for the drug comedown turned rave song In Our Gun (better than my description suggests.) The Hobbit proceeds to seriously rip it up on bass and when he's done and hot steam is rising from the instrument, he gingerly hands it back. It almost seems like a sexual humiliation in concert. Ouch! Ian is like a closed-eyed crooning Twiggy with a glittery guitar. His guitar work is clever; he always finds unexpected ways to go against the beat in a way that adds texture to what might otherwise be very plain progressions. Ottewell is a decent lead guitarist. Sometimes he gets a bit samey but then he turns on you by doing these little sneaky bits in songs (like in Shot Shot, which is like the child of Radiohead's National Anthem but faster, more straight-ahead rawk) that make you feel sure he cheated and got a guitar ghostwriter to fill in. Their drummer, the absurdly named Ollie Peacock, is powerful and stylistically versatile. If you see them live, nothing beats the incredibly goofy grin he gets on his face when the band kicks into the pseudo-Latinisms of These Three Sins. It's like he realizes he gets to be Hispanic for four minutes and he can't believe his freakin' suerte.

I'd recommend starting slow with the Gomez so as not to psych yourself into thinking you can smell patchouli coming from somewhere. In terms of albums, I think Split the Difference is a good place to start (though "atypical" and "difficult" In Our Gun is probably my favorite.) In terms of songs, a chronological list is provided below.

Love, D

* "Dancer" for The Happy Mondays. See Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People.

Songs to seek: 78 Stone Wobble, Get Myself Arrested (Bring It On), Rie's Wagon (live on kKCRW), Shot Shot, Detroit Swing 66, In Our Gun, Even Song, Ruff Stuff, Sound of Sounds, Army Dub (In Our Gun), These Three Sins, We Don't Know Where Were Going, Sweet Virginia, Chicken Out, Extra Special Guy (Split the Difference), Fill My Cup (Live), Nothing Is Wrong (Live) (Out West)

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6.06.2005

GET LOUD: URUSEI

When men moan, I like it.

When women growl, I love it.

Brits should have some sort of patent on the moan. In fact, everyone should get Lebon or Plant to sign off before they attempt similar vocal trends.
UNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

The majority of Japanese music I am exposed to doesn’t have a whole lot of growlers/moaners of either gender. When you listen to J-POP grasshoppers, you must first and foremost become one with the high-pitched nasal screech before attaining nirvana.

Maybe because most of what I listen to is so upbeat? So sugary? So goddam genki? When the Japanese are happy they aren’t half-assed about it. What’s there to moan about? What is there to growl, yell or scream about when you can just SQUEEEAAAAAK?

Okay, so what about when they’re depressed or pissed off?

Well, when they’re depressed as an aesthetic? I find that they tend to be unbearable.

While high-pitched shrieking and whining is simply par for the course to many Japanese bands, it just ain’t sexy. Sorry Glay, whining isn’t the same as gut-curdling, throat-scraping rage. Same goes for you Luna Sea, Siam Shade, and especially YOU Dir en Grey.

Maybe if the Japanese Goth scene (Vis Kei. Hisss!) stopped whispering and blubbering for .2 fucking seconds, they could devote a little pathos towards their music and less towards their eyeliner.

Until I learn to appreciate that, I will stick with the derivatives.

The following artists were all produced by Americans.

The most alluring masculine roar I can find belongs to Ken Lloyd, half Briton/half Nihonjin frontman for Oblivion Dust. When he gasps, I think predictably unclean thoughts. When he screams, I want to break something. Close your eyes and OD is just another late 90's Lollapalooza band. But hey, I don’t give a damn. I just want a little aggression...in Japanese please. Lloyd is equally effective in Japlish (as in Forever) but if all he did was sing the ABC’s, I’d still be in rapt attention.

Really a shame they weren’t more popular in Japan. They’d have made it big had they only been around a decade or two earlier.

Most admirable femme growl belongs to Youjeen, a Korean singer raised in Japan. Her rage is not Cocco’s caterwauling, Aya’s petulant meowing or Shiina’s ear-splitting modem scream. It is guttaral, unrestrained and at times borders on the androgynous. Youjeen is only a vocal piece, yeah, but she’s a ballsy little wench. Founded by J of Luna Sea (vis k band ICK!!!!) and Franz Stahl of the Foo Fighters, she is more than just talented by association. She rants hysterically in garbled English on the first track of her debut Apple for Your Thoughts, howls like she’s being tortured in Imitation You (J’s icky vis k influence most evident on this track as well as the 4th track Witch). She emotes like dark clouds unraveling in the 7-minute ballad Someday which I adore for the orchestra in the background. All the drammy November Rain vibes can kiss my ass.

I have one thing to say about her career, though.

Her debut album, The Doll, was all I ever wanted. A kick in the teeth. It’s still my favorite album of 2001 and that's when Shiina put out her live CD.

I am still trying to forget Youjeen's second album, Bewitched, ever existed.

Without her fancy collaborators, Youjeen's sound fell to packaged, plastic, Avril-ized pop.

I do not foresee Youjeen taking on another Japanese endeavor anytime soon. Last I heard she went back to her Korean band, Cherry Filter. Eh, they seem to need all the help they can get. Any band that has Youjeen begin a song with the words “Sweet little kitty” deserves my ire.

I guess sometimes it’s just a matter of who’s calling the shots.

So who else we got?

AYA has been known to rage becomingly though she’s nowhere near as bitchy as Youjeen. In fact, the fairest comparison I can draw for her is Macy Gray throwing a tantrum to some guitars. Or perhaps Liz Phair.

She ain’t half bad.

Once upon a time there was a girl from Hokkaido whose life changed forever after hearing Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Her 2002 debut, Senjou to Hana (produced by Adam Kasper) was backed by a myriad of American musicians whom I am shamelessly unfamiliar with. Yes, I suck with names but that doesn’t mean I can’t drop ‘em. ^^ Matt Cameron (ex Soundgarden, currently with Pearl Jam), Kim Thayil (ex Soundgarden), John McBain (ex Monster Magnet), and Glenn Slater (ex Walkabouts).

Most important to Aya however, was Krist Novoselic.

Good on ya girlie, not many get to collaborate with their idols.

But Senjou to Hana sent conflicting signals. It was like she wasn’t quite sure what to do with her sound. Should she begin a song fetching and kittenish and then erupt? Should she head bang it on the first track and then croon broken heartedly on the second? Although the album had one or two memorable tracks, overall I thought it pretty forgettable. And the lyrics? Even her hardest track sounded like petulance though the guitars were awesome. What happened, Aya? Someone spit in your peachwater?

Her second album, Kinjirareta Uta (Forbidden Song) in 2004 discarded her high-power Seattle backup and got a better grip on her niche. After all, who the hell was Aya without the Seattlites? I think she learned better what she could accomplish with her voice and flaunted it. She actually did better without them. Even her lyrics made more sense.

I once brought Kinjirareta Uta to an improv show at the UCB and the memory of watching the cast of Mother rocking out to SADISM still makes me smile.

Aya's the only one of the three still making music in Japan.

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