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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Alright, so let's do a little experiment. I download MP3s into a "New" folder that I then clean out periodically. I'm gonna dump all the files currently in there into a playlist, put it on random, and note anything that really strikes me one way or the other. This'll be about 300 songs dating back to mid-April. (I didn't say I cleaned it out very frequently, you'll note.)
So, without further ado, here we go. I'll update this throughout the day as more things come up.
My My - Klatta
This is a recent acquisiton, I think from MFR, and it's really good. Electro that starts off with a great drum clatter and adds a bassline that goes woozy as the drums go smoother, and then brings a few more blips into to create something that sounds like Basement Jaxx playing in a room that's so humid, their equipment starts misfiring in really interesting ways. Most things are detuned or mistuned in some way, and for the first half of the track it feels like one of the drum samples has been muted, so it's still dancable, just a little off. It comes together more and more and gets really fiery by the end, although it's still pleasingly detuned and disconnected.
The Chap - Baby I'm Hurtin'
Why do I remember this song as being good? I apparently haven't heard it before, because it sounds completely unfamiliar, and it really sounds like crap. Too much clanking and unwound bass strings and uninspired shouting. Sort of the bad, indie version of "Klatta."
Spoon - The Two Sides of Monseiur Valentine
I was actually listening to Kill the Moonlight this morning on the train and really enjoying it, and especially enjoying observing the production, which is, as Matthew's pointed out, pretty incredible. And I do like that album, but I still have to sort of force myself to listen to it, even if I'm usually happy I did. Why is that? Who knows? But I don't really like this song too much, either. I mean, it's fine, but it's the one I've listened to most from Gimme Fiction and it's really not doing much for me. Maybe since I like "I Turn My Camera On" more I should give the whole album a look. But again, the Spoon-induced apathy sets in.
Queens of Noize - Indie Boys (Don't Deserve It)
OK, despite some apprehension at the start, I do really like this song. It shares a lot of production touches with presumably more radio-centric British pop, as the guitar riff really strongly recalls Girls Aloud's "Love Machine" but having given it some more attention, I'm really enjoying the way the strongly melodic backing in the verses descends to more or less distorted noise in the chorus as the vocalist(s?) shout over it, all without actually losing the sense of melodicism.
Ethan Lipton - Whitney Houston
Bit of a Fluxblog run here, eh? Well, I do really like this song, although I can't quite pin down why. I guess it's the combination of a strong melody and lyrics that just really go with the concept. Is Bobby Brown really shaking hands in Palestine by the end? Huh. I'd like to hear this with a fuller production.
Britney Spears - Breathe on Me (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)
I can't remember if I've ever actually listened to this all the way through, but I don't really need to, do I? I really wish someone would play this when I was out dancing, although a) I haven't gone out dancing in some time, damn you NYC summers, and b) one of the great things about the production on this is how it already sounds like you're hearing it in a club. Yay filtering vocals. This is a good example of the kind of thing I wish more people in my social circle enjoyed so I could play it for them, but alas, I cannot.
Oxford Collapse - The Boys Go Home
Only caught my attention because I was like "what boring band is this?" Everyone seems to like them, but I'm not really seeing it somehow. I like the first 10 seconds of "1991 Kids" (and the title, too), but it doesn't really go anywhere. Meh. If you're going to do something like this, why not Bishop Allen or someone? Call me out if anything interesting happens in the last two minutes of this song, because I can't make myself listen to 'em.
Schnappi - Das kleine Krokodil
Oh my god, I have no idea where I got this song from, but it's exactly what I need right now when people are coming up to me and asking when they can get their checks and I have to say, "Uh, not yet. Sometime!" It's in German, sung by a small child, and is very bouncy and happy in an actually effective way. (You know those kids' songs that try and be happy and just end up being kind of painful? Those are ineffectively trying to be happy.) There's a sort of beerhall bass, shaker, xylophone, bright and shiny synths, and a clarinet. It's really perfect. I should keep this cued up to play every time someone comes to ask me for money. I should also make up a song to sing to it to communicate the information that they are not getting any money. "Weeee are broooke. Nooooo it's not a joke. It might seem gay but I have no money for you today. Schnappi schappi schnappi!" Oh, also at the end the kid starts vocalizing like Mick Jagger, or at least that's what it sounds like in my mind.
Black Dice - Smiling Off (Luomo Remix)
Pretty much a disappointment, despite Mr. Raff's cheeky review which told us to "settle down" about the track before anyone'd actually had a chance to hear it. Blame it on the source material or on the fact that I've never cared much about Luomo, but there's just not much going on here of interest. The bassline doesn't grab you, the drums kind of plod, and to me the whole thing sounds like a Wasteland b-side.
Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me
Always liked this one, but something about the line "wear all the things you always wanted me to" really catches me today, either because of the sentiment or because of the great phrasing, fitting all those syllables into a tighter space than they seem meant for.
Lady Sovereign - 9 to 5
Uh, suddenly not something I have any interest in listening to, even though I listened to it before. I think the turning point was realizing that she was talking about her career as a musician rather than simply someone working a job, which was much more charming. Dude, you're making it as a musician. Suck it up. The line about Kate Moss is kinda funny now though.
Tiger Tunes - Kristen is a Fuckmachine
The male counterpoint to Queens of Noize, but this one's sounding much worse for some reason. Maybe because it's less dense, or because there aren't any guitars. Who can say.
Menomena - Strongest Man in the World
Generally shitty because it sounds like Red Snapper doing an album for Def Jux or something, but the little breaks where the piano shines through sound like Tori Amos. More of that, kids!
Vanessinha & Alessandra - Gira
Sounds like Baile Funk and makes me wish I could understand what they're saying, because the cadence is similar to a lot of baile funk I've heard, but the backing's really, really interesting. I bet if I could speak Portugeuse, there'd be something else to grab my interest and I'd really like this, but as it is, especially with the voices mixed so high, it's hard to envision myself listening to it intentionally again. But I love the 50s guitar in the background and the "mee-neep mee-neep me" break around 1:10. Who knew I cared about lyrics so much?
Scissor Sisters - Ooh the Blues (Demo)
Didn't hit me much at first, and indeed has not until now, but now, hey! Good stuff.
Tom Vek - A Little Word in Your Ear
Good beginning; pity about the sucking. By which I mean "singing," really.
New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno
I'm fading here; right now this song sounds like a sort of mathematically determined summation of every New Pornographers song ever, and thus kind of formless and vague, although when he says the title that's kind of nice. If anything, that's the problem with getting into this album for me, and I don't even have the full thing yet--they sound like New Pornographer songs rather than songs, if that makes any sense. Or, rather, they sound like what it'd sound like if someone who wasn't the New Pornographers tried to write a New Pornographer song, then got Carl to sing on it. I know I'll come to love them, but right now it's wandering the tundra, alone. I think I need some coffee. Lemme put this on pause.
Ninja High School - It's All Right to Fight
I want to say it's a Luke Haines ripoff, but let's be honest, when they yell "You're going home in a fucking ambulance!" it's a Supergrass thing. This distracts me too much to pay much attention to the rest of the song. Damnit! (Although apparently it's just a sports thing, so perhaps it is me who is gauche.)
DFA1979 - Blood on our Hands (Justice Remix)
Hits in this weird place where I really like it but not enough to force it on other people, who might well like it, but it seems more likely that they won't. So mainly it makes me think of different ways of using my tracker. I really love the arrangement here, the way the different parts come in, especially that little sparkly part, and the tempo change that isn't really. Spoon-worthy.
Spitfires & Mayflowers - Pirates
Holy crap! This is fantastic! Find of the day, no question, although I don't know where I got it. I can't even quite tell what's going on, it's just one of those great burst-of-sound rock songs. There's a guy with a high voice singing very loudly, and background singers, and good noisy drums, and a slightly distorted bass, and mainly clean guitars successfully avoiding chords. It's also nice that it's called "Pirates" and does appear to be pirate-themed, but it doesn't feel the need to sound "nautical" like certain other bands I could name. And then it slows down and there are horns, and then it stops, and then it goes some more slowly with horns, and then again, and then again, and there's an organ, and it sounds like Tom Waits kind of, and then it gets noisy and fast and the organ is droning, and then he yells "I went to Rome!" and they stop and there's crowd noise even though it didn't seem live, and then he does a band intro. No, really. And it appears to be from a live recording. Everyone has solos. The trumpeter is called "Baron von" something. And then he says "And I play guitar!" and it stops. Wow! Gotta listen to that one again. And google. ADDENDUM: Aha! Thank you Dan/Sean!
Caribou - Medium Sized Working Dog (Steady Steady)
Didn't think Caribou would be able to sound at all good after that great little blast of fun, but after an unpromising drone to start, this really picks up in a nice way. Tempo's good and fast, with a shuffling hi-hat pattern accompanying a warm vamp that varies nicely for a while, bringing in other parts until this great bit hits when the snare finally kicks in and a buzzing synth drone overlays the whole track, rocking out for a while until the drums and bass cut out, leaving that buzz to zip across the channels and really fuck with your head. When the song first started I thought, "Ah, it's a good example of a problem I face: you come up with a nice warm part or two but feel like it should, for lack of a better term, 'rock out' at some point, yet can't seem to make that happen." But nope, this track overcomes that. Kudos, although the drums stay cut out for entirely too long. Plus, it doesn't need to be 7 minutes, really, especially not with 2-3 drumless mintues in the middle.
Sufjan Stevens - Come on Feel the Illinoise!
Again, a very good song, but not really the j-word. There's hardly a tonic to be found in the whole song. I mean, he's got horns and there's not a blast to be found! (Plus: "I cried myself to sleep last night," c'mon now.) Comes closest in the transition, as I demonstrated once upon a time, but that's about it. This is not a complaint, just an observation. I love what the boy does. He should do an album about the state of confusion, because that's the state I'm in, maaaaan! Or he should cover "The State That I Am In."
Ying Yang Twins - The Whisper Song (Instrumental)
Still can't get over how boring it is as an instrumental. That is some good production, to be able to put your trust in something such as this. Yay minimalism, I guess. Maybe it's just that if you had a track as boring like this, you'd have to say something like "Wait'll you see my dick" to make it interesting.
So what did we learn today? Well, seems like two of the things I semi-decy in the posts below would actually be pretty helpful, because as it turns out I do really like a lot of recent stuff, I just haven't listened to it enough or heard people talk about it enough for it to really leave an imprint. (I also have a really bad memory for these sorts of things.) This is especially the case with MP3s, because as individual songs, I don't have packaging or a series of tracks to help me remember what band I'm dealing with, I just have 2-7 minutes of music among a few thousand minutes on my playlist. (Just the 300-song playlist I was working with today encompasses about 24 hours, although it should be noted that it includes two Certified Bananas mixes of about 35 minutes each and some radio excerpts of similar length.) I might want to revisit a listening technique I used a lot before getting my mini MP3 player: burning actual <80 minute CDs of MP3s I either like already or think I might like. That's why I have such strong feelings toward songs from that era ("Naked, Drunk and Horny" "Heartbeats" "I Am Oozing Emotion" etc. etc.) but not so much with more recent songs. As a matter of fact, it was only once I burned the actually quite wonderful "World War IV" to a CD and listened to it in a car that I really got into it.
The other thing is that timing matters. After a strong start, I gradually started writing, and liking, less and less, and believe me, the number of words is roughly proportional to my enthusiasm for the track. Partially this is due to the natural energy cycle where you get really tired out in the late afternoon, but it's also worth noting that things really picked up around 5:30. What this demonstrates, I think, is that more than me myself being tired, my ears were tired. There was a big officewide meeting I didn't attend from 11-1, and during that time I was really enjoying stuff, but then once people came out of that and started playing their own music, my appreciation really lessened. Then once people started going home for the day and turning off their music, I began enjoying things again. This backs up the solitariness thing, but it also gives a more rational explanation for why that's such an important thing for me: the better I can hear the music (and the louder I can turn it up), the more I'll be able to enjoy it. So this, too, is something to keep in mind.
Well, that was oddly productive. Tomorrow, though, less navel-gazing, I promise, even though this is a blog and all. Maybe you'll get a book review. Try and contain your enthusiasm.