Friday, January 14, 2011

Turning Points, Pointing Turns

There comes a moment after you've been working out for an extended period of time. On some uncertain day you realize that YOU are happening to the machines in the gym, not the other way around. What starts out as submission and acquiescence slowly and subtly transforms into power and execution.

A similar process occurs when you attack the aspects of your psyche that plague you. For what seems like eons you chip away at this formless barrier that traps you in unsatisfying poses. Then one day a tiny piece of marble drops off of the sculpture and a brand new pose is struck, an intended one, one that accurately expresses something instead of being the result of suppression.

So here I am with both physical and mental moments like I've just described happening. The best part about it is that these things only increase my motivation to keep my nose to the grindstone, to keep holding myself to these new standards that are rewarding me in so many ways.

387. Sunken Treasure - Wilco from 'Being There (Disc 2)'

Wilco stretch it out here and even though I keep having these knee-jerk "someone send Jeff Tweedy a psychic alarm clock and tell him to wake the hell up and get excited" responses, I also cannot deny that Wilco are in many ways without equal. I go through these phases where I reject work from artists I love and then have to double back and reassess my positions. Lately when I hear Wilco I am finding myself feeling like I have to write Mr. Tweedy and apologize to him for continuing to ask him to wake up. Maybe sleepy is where his genius lies.

388. Two-Headed Boy Part 2 - Neutral Milk Hotel from 'In The Aeroplane Over The Sea'

Speaking of genius, this album is a stunner. I keep forgetting that I have to buy everything that Neutral Milk Hotel has ever put out. Also to research them and find out who the hell they are because I came late to the party and only know the sound of these songs. They could be from Tunisia for all I know. Maybe it should stay that way.

389. The Nang, The Front, The Bush And The Shit - El-P from 'Fantastic Damage'

El-P is one of those pioneers who blazes a trail so unique to himself that it seems to grow over right behind him as he makes his way through the jungle. Hip-hop, yes. But El-P is to hip-hop as Chuck Pahlaniuk is to nursery rhymes or something. I don't know, this music is so relentlessly abrasive and gnarly that El-P to me has more in common with absurdist punk rock than he does with hip-hop. Let's put it this way. No one's really dancing to this stuff.

390. Here I Am (Come And Take Me) - Al Green from 'Al Green - Greatest Hits'

Al is just about to give all this up for the Lord. At least for a little while.

391. Turn Me Loose - Jaymz Bee's Royal Jelly Orchestra from 'Cocktail: Shakin' And Stirred'

This is my favorite track on this silly album. This colossally stupid song is given fantastic new life by the overblown lounge singer aesthetic and crack 10-piece band. You can hear the old rich white people eating filet mignon and bobbing their steak knives along with that beat, thinking that they are really cuttin' loose, can you dig? This is a supper club I never want to attend but I am so grateful to Jaymz Bee's for giving me a secret glimpse into this plastic little universe.

392. Broken Chairs - Built To Spill from 'Keep It Like A Secret'

Are secrets secrets if they are boring? Like, I'm going to keep a secret that I have an old Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf receipt in my wallet. Don't tell anyone! WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU TELL ANYONE??? These guys are flat out boring.

393. Just A Few Words - Patty Larkin from 'Regrooving The Dream'

Patty Larkin reminds me of a movie that is on the cusp of greatness but some small element holds it back JUST short of that line. Still very very good but somehow I find myself comparing her songs against some imaginary track she has cut that is better, that is truly great.

394. Chemical Cosh - The Fatima Mansions from 'Viva Dead Ponies (US Version)'

Have I mentioned that this obscure album is one of the greatest of all time? Does that freak you out the way it freaks me out? That something so transcendent and perfect could simply be lost in the shuffle, relegated to used CD bins and yard sales. I will spend the rest of my life championing this work. If you can, track it down and buy it.

395. Efil's God - Ells from 'Electro-Shock Blues'


396. Bluer Pastures - Dolly Parton from 'Little Sparrow'

Masterful. Simply perfect. I know there are people out there who have no idea that Dolly Parton is an all-time great. They need to get with the program.

397. Peaceful World - John Mellencamp from 'The Concert For New York (Disc 2)'

I get very uncomfortable listening to this album. I simply cannot help feeling vaguely disturbed at the collective energy going on. I do not mean to imply that there was anything untoward or misguided going on at this concert which gave a very injured city a giant emotional boost. But that very power is difficult to assimilate. It's like trying to feel good about lightning.

398. Last Year's Man - Leonard Cohen from 'The Best Of'

I do not know how he squeezes so much interest and drama out of three chords and a croak. But man, he pulls it off.

399. Built This Road - The Bennett Cale Project from 'Goodbye Kirkwood Drive'

This is a sweet love song from a friend of mine. Gorgeous acoustic guitar, a gently building melody...really pretty music.

400. Damn U - Prince & The New Power Generation from 'O(+>'

This is a fantastic song from a fantastic album. Prince has had so many eras in which he achieved distinct moments of pop culture domination. Who could forget the ass-less pants?

401. Georgia Lee - Tom Waits from 'Mule Variations'

Much like Wilco, I am finding myself continually having to re-evaluate my stated aversion to Mr. Waits. This is a heartbreak of a song with understated production and straightforward singing. Clearly a personal song, not clouded up by Waits layering in circus references or three-pack a day growling. Beautiful and haunting.

402. I Love Lucy (I'm The Piltdown Man) - Jesse Grieves from 'Colonial Box'

I can't remember the day Justin first played me this song but I'm pretty sure it was out on the turf farm that lay adjacent to his back yard. No one but Justin writes songs like this. Hilarious and disturbing at the same time.

403. Gassed & Stoked - Lou Reed from 'Magic & Loss'

I am neither, Lou. I am neither 'gassed' nor 'stoked' about you or your songs. There might be some 'loss' going on here but there is very little 'magic'. I wish I'd never bought this stupid album. I can barely tolerate you in Velvet Underground who I love so I have no idea why I took a flier on this collection. GET OVER YOURSELF. You and Eels can both GET OVER YOURSELVES.

404. Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of) - The Mars Volta from 'De-Loused In The Comatorium'

Holy shit these guys are on another plane. Listening to them is like being in some kind of maaster class...more like studying than rocking out. But then they go on these runs that are so magnificent that you let yourself get swept up in it. They defy classification, they strive for a kind of epic inexplicable dread. And they reach it.

405. The Mission - Jaylib from 'DJ Jazzy Jeff And Peanut Butter Wolf...'

I'm sorry, were you playing music? I zoned out there.

406. Good Bye, New York - Brendan O'Malley from 'Post Nuclear Live At Genghis Cohen'

I am embarrassed by this collection of recordings from a show I gave at Genghis Cohen. I still needed to have the epiphanies I described in opening this post and my performance is an odd mix of over-emoting and underplaying. Sorry, world. I'm much better now.

407. Philosophy - Ben Folds from 'Ben Folds Five'

Just great. Jean and I spent some time driving around the last time I was in Rhode Island listening to his collaboration with various vocal groups who recorded a cappella versions of his songs. Fantastic. I still remember hearing this album and being so glad that someone was finally playing the damn piano again.

408. I've Just Seen A Face - The Beatles from 'Help!'

Wow. It's amazing how you can forget these guys.

409. You Can't Kill Michael Molloy - Primus from 'Frizzle Fry'

Um, I think you can. Let me check. Yes, you CAN kill Michael Molloy. You do it with the "skip" button.

410. Shutup - The Replacements from 'Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash'

Breathtaking. I have major regret that I did not get to see the original lineup of this band in action. I was simply too young. Even if I'd heard of them on their first few tours I wouldn't have been able to get into the clubs to see them. I have to content myself with old youtube videos. They are a ROCKET.

411. I Keep Coming Back - The Afghan Whigs from 'Gentlemen'

This whole album feels like listening to a primly drunk egotist brag about the women he fucked and left. It is an honest exploration of that side of male sexuality and it is unrelentingly brutal. A perfect work of art that is very hard to swallow.

412. Sunny - Stevie Wonder from 'For Once In My Life/Uptight'

The polar opposite of The Afghan Whigs! Beautiful open expressive music.

413. Ms. Jackson - Outkast from 'Big Boi & Dre Present...Outkast'

I wonder whether Ms. Jackson ever forgave Andre. I mean, Erykah Badu is a loon. Does her mother know how difficult that woman is to deal with? She's talented and gorgeous, yes, but bitch is crazy.

414. Brain Stew - Green Day from 'Insomniac'

A hot mess.

415. E-Mac (Interlude) - Big Boi from 'Speakerboxxx'

Even Big Boi's spoken word is produced well.

416. Nudes - Rites Of Spring from 'End On End'

This band perfected a kind of naked expression, ably described in the song title. Somehow the sum is vastly greater than the parts and this simple rock format is transformed into something fragile and strange, hovering in that space between tears and begging that we have all been reduced to by heartbreak. I don't know how they do it. I usually can spot the gears in rock bands, can identify the levers they are pulling to make the effect they are after. But with Rites Of Spring it is magic. It's just magic.

417. She - Green Day from 'Dookie'

Monster hit. Great song. It's like eating just the right size dessert. It doesn't last long, when it's over you are sure you could eat some more, but you are completely satisfied.

418. An Exquisite Corpse - John Cameron Mitchell from 'Hedwig And The Angry Inch OST'

Every moment on this soundtrack is great. I just don't understand how John Cameron Mitchell expects me to take Nicole Kidman seriously in 'Rabbit Hole' as nothing on her face cries except her eyes.

419. Save Me - Queen from 'Greatest Hits'

Oh, Freddie, I wish I could. To have you out there still making music? What a gift that would be. Let me look into it because if I can figure out a way to save you, I'm going to do it. I know the band would be psyched. They've had to be out on tour with Paul Rodgers, who is fine, don't get me wrong, but there is only one Freddie. You know that. So, yeah, I will try and save you.

420. Do You Feel Loved - U2 from 'Pop'

Actually, yes, I do! And I hope you do too U2 because I am the only one who likes this album. It is also the moment that I realized I didn't have to pay attention to you guys anymore. I'm done with you but that shouldn't make you feel bad. I know you are still making great music, I just don't care about it.

421. Jam Of The Year - The Artist Formerly Known As Prince from 'Emancipation (Disc 1)'

Everybody's here! This is the jam of the year!

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