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!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stepping Up My Game

I have been on a slow long road of transformation, one so long and so slow that at times it doesn't feel as if anything is different. But it is very different. Very very different. When I try and put myself back where I was even a year ago it seems as if I'm watching a tense claustrophobic independent thriller, one where every step the protagonist takes is a choice between bad options, one where you simply wish that the character would just up and renounce everything at stake in the plot because the only hope is for them to pull a caterpillar to butterfly transformation.

Well, I don't have wings yet but I have certainly woven the cocoon.

367. Readin', Rightin', Rt. 23 - Dwight Yoakam from ''

Some day I'm going to meet this guy and tell him (as if he doesn't already know) that he is one of the all-time greats in any genre. He is very interesting to me because he is a GIANT star and yet totally under the radar at the same time. Damn, I love this dude.

368. You're Gonna Hear Brendan - Pimp Fu from 'Who Knows'

Crazy sound collage from Cousin Timothy in which he calls me from a family reunion and records his end of the conversation, passing me off to his sister Marianne. They are all lit and want me to yell so I can be heard on the recording but I think Cashel was asleep so I had to be quiet! Hilarious.

369. Romeo And Juliet - Dire Straits from 'Money For Nothing'

I think someone should do a documentary about Dire Straits and MTV. Because something weird happened back there in which a writer PERFECTLY captured a moment with a song and a period in time. And then he exploded. He then seemed totally uninterested in keeping up that level of exposure. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it. He courted anonymity and a smallness of career instead of continually trying to polish and expand the brass ring he'd already grasped. And man, what a guitar player. Understated but one of the guitar gods.

370. What's The Difference - Dr. Dre from '2001 (Instrumental)'

I simply cannot overstate how much I love this album. But I am itching to hear the rapping because it is equally good. Dr. Dre is one of those giants that is easy to forget about because he sort of hangs back, even on his own albums. But make no mistake, this guy is his generation's version of Quincy Jones. A brilliant MUSICIAN.

371. Shitloads Of Money - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

I laughed to myself on the elliptical machine sweating like a mad man because she is so right. "It's nice to be liked/But it's better by far to get paid". Leave it to Liz Phair to cut through the indie rock low-budget-money-isn't-important-to-us-pose.

372. Bobby Peru - Luna from 'Pup Tent'

This is a chilling little ditty in which a guy sings about his recently deceased girlfriend and you mildly suspect that he might have killed her and claimed it was a suicide. Even if the suicide is real it is chilling because he is only concerned with how it has affected him. Phenomenally creepy little tune.

373. Avant Nous - Edith Piaf from 'The Very Best Of Edith Piaf'

Oh, bonjour, Edith, vous etes une chanteuse extraordinaire. De temps en temps, c'est possible d'oublier vos talents. Bravo!

374. Free Fallin' - Tom Petty from 'Full Moon Fever'

I was a huge Tom Petty fan when this album came out and I didn't like the production on it. Jeff Lynne of ELO produced it and it is slicker than slick, drums are round and deep, the bass is like a black marble floor, and the chiming acoustic guitars took away all the rough swamp grit of Petty's earlier works.

Now? It blows me away. Lynne saw something in Petty, some pop sheen that could be taken to the hilt. Surrounding that idiosyncratic voice with such lushness only further delineates the personality. Great work.

375. Slow Like Honey - Fiona Apple from 'Tidal'

Fiona Apple was a star from the moment she appeared. That is such a rare thing. When you consider all of her imitators who have come and gone in flashes (Natalie Imbruglia??? Vanessa Carlton???), the solidity of her presence out of the gate is rather astonishing. There was no long period like Tori Amos went through before finding her way (and Apple has Amos to thank for a lot more than that...). Nope. Fiona dropped this album and was instantly in the pantheon. Amazing.

376. Big Tall Man - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

By contrast, Liz Phair has never had that kind of cultural stability to rest upon. In fact, most folks don't even know who she is even though she is one of the most important singer/songwriters of the past thirty years. Weird. She and Paul Westerberg should do a tour together.

377. You Should Be High - Low Light Supercharger from 'Umpg Presents Res Freq Recordings'

This is just fine, this punk drag race of a song. There is a breakdown where a wah-wah pedaled guitar kicks in, though, and the solo is so basic and boring that I actually felt like I could have done a better job. And that means it is a BAD SOLO.

378. Intro - Jazzy Jeff's BBE Mix from 'DJ Jazzy Jeff and Peanut Butter Wolf...'

Less than a minute of noise.

379. Dolores - The Miles Davis Quintet from 'Miles Smiles'

What can you say about Miles Davis? I was basically an anti-jazz activist until I heard 'Sketches Of Spain' and then a whole universe opened up to me. I felt like an old racist who has had to come to terms with his bigotry and now cries with joy at being able to accept a whole beautiful aspect of humanity that I'd previously derided. Thank you, Miles, for showing me the light.

380. Run For Your Life - Jarvis Church from 'The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems'

Melody and I went to St. John's and spent a few days lounging on a tropical beach. We wandered the streets of the island town, watched an amateur baseball game that had to be canceled because the lights went out, shot pool in a hut and listened to ragga on the jukebox. So when I came across this compilation of ragga anthems I was totally transported back to that magical trip.

381. Don't Wanna Know - The Refreshments from 'Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy'

One of my favorite albums of all time. I know it by heart. I LOVE THIS ALBUM.

382. Napoleon - Ani DiFranco from 'Dilate'

I am now in a phase where I respond to Ani DiFranco in the way I imagine beleaguered fathers of goth thirteen year old girls respond to the over-dramatic response that they have to their lives. "Yep, your teacher does deserve to be burned in a pit of oil, dear, but you still have to do your homework." "Yes, dear, I know your friends are all minions of Satan and the world is a sad and sorry spectacle but we still have to go to your Grandmother's house for dinner."

383. Ex-Spectator - Fugazi from 'The Argument'

Integrity all the way down the line. These guys spent fifteen years honing and expanding their sound, dropped a perfect album, and called it quits. The Jim Brown of punk rock.

384. Portable Men's Society - Guided By Voices from 'Mag Earwhig!'

Most GBV fans dismiss this album almost out of hand. They might tolerate it but they certainly don't love it. Somehow it hit me at just the right time and went about as deep for me as you can go. I always wanted to be part of the Portable Men's Society, whatever it was. I think I'll join...

385. Pembroke - Soul Side from 'Soon - Come - Happy'

Mediocre. These guys were waiting to break up so that Fugazi could be born. They had some interesting things happening sonically but the songs themselves are forgettable.

386. My Wife - The Who from 'Who's Next'

Whenever Townsend and Daltrey give Entwhistle the keys he comes up with some bit of weirdness that doesn't really fit or work. Clearly a musical genius but it just goes to show you that proficiency does not equal inspiration or songwriting chops.

Still weaving that cocoon. It'll be fun to fly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tight Rope Straight Dope

354. The Supermen - David Bowie from 'Bowie At The Beeb (Disc 2)'

Hallo, me name is David Bawie and Oi've jus' come from the fairy fields of Dova, running ova dell and dale to tell me tale of woe and stroife...

Good lord he was insufferable before he was great.

355. Satan Is Real - The Louvin Brothers from 'Satan Is Real'

I've written about this album here. What is amazing to me about this song in particular is that it is so simple. A man stands up in a church and reminds the preacher to stress that Satan is real. And that in a nutshell is the impetus behind the album itself. Yo, world, don't forget about Ol' Scratch.

356. Girls Room - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

I make Melody re-enact a scene from her adolescence over and over again. She is at a sleepover and the girls all begin a "game" whereby they would go around the room and say one thing they like about a person and one thing they DON'T like. The hair pulling that results is high comedy in the hands of Ms. Garren.

This song is the non comic version of that demonstration and it makes me happy I am male. If I'd had to deal with this kind of emotional subterfuge I would have been jailed for murder before I was eight.

357. Baroque - Apples In Stereo from 'Velocity Of Sound'

I have no memory of listening to this song. But that isn't surprising because I never know that it is an Apples In Stereo song until I look at the iPod.

358. Perforation Problems - Iggy Pop from 'American Caesar'

I wish I COULD forget this song. This whole album is immaculately played and produced and utterly devoid of personality. Iggy tries to superimpose his twisted sense of self-drama over the top of it but it ultimately winds up being like someone taking karaoke too seriously.

359. Walking After You - Foo Fighters from 'The Colour And The Shape'

And Brendan gets kicked in the gut by Dave Grohl. This album is like a permanent wound in my psyche that will never heal. I forget it is there and then the music starts and I am completely transported. I have not kept up with Foo Fighters output at ALL because this album is so satisfying to me. Usually when I love an album it draws me in as a fan to the rest of the oeuvre. But here? This one's all I need.

360. Tomorrow Night - Elvis Presley from 'The Sun Sessions CD'

I love picturing this scrawny kid angled in front of a microphone before anyone knew who he was. Strumming a guitar and singing along with a band. Just a guy who could sing and play. And boy could he sing and play. He could have been intimidated by the prowess of these sessions guys who showed up at Sun Records to record with him. Who the hell was he? But boom. It is so real.

If your image of Elvis has anything to do with a white suit, flower necklaces, or karate yourself a favor and check out 'The Sun Sessions CD'. You will not believe your ears.

361. The Christian Life - The Louvin Brothers from 'Satan Is Real'

It is a testament to their singing and playing that this song is not downright offensive. Because they are basically telling me (an avid listener) that I am going to Hell and that they pity me my black blasphemous heart.

Fuck you too, you two. But great song.

362. Out Of Your Life - Bob Mould from 'Black Sheets Of Rain'

Bob Mould's first solo album was a breakthrough and still one of my favorite albums of all time. Epic acoustic strumming, obtuse lyrics, think XTC 'Skylarking' meets Richard Thompson. I felt as if he was on the verge of becoming the next important recording artist/guitar hero. He'd honed the punk bombast into something gorgeous and heartbreaking.

This album? It's got great songs, great production...this song in particular is a killer pop/punk rager. But Mould only cut this electric style because he felt as if people didn't respond with enough enthusiasm for the new sound he'd pioneered on the first solo album. There is a "Whatever, I'll Give You Losers What You Want" vibe going on here and since I was NOT one of those people, I felt like the kid sitting at his desk being yelled at because someone was absent. Like, why are you pissed off at me? I'm HERE.

363. What Doesn't Belong To Me - Sinead O'Connor from 'Faith And Courage'

Rather forgettable. Which for Sinead is rare. Usually I resist her because she's gone so far off the deep end it is hard to even think of her as an artist. And then she just bowls you over with something. But not this.

364. Fiddle-Tune Medley - Doc Watson & David Grisman from 'Doc & Dawg'

Hillbilly guitar heroes.

365. Say What You Say - Eminem from 'The Eminem Show'

Such exciting music. I have to get his latest because whenever I hear that 'Recovery' song I am very moved.

366. I Get A Kick Out Of You - Frank Sinatra from 'Sings The Select Cole Porter'

Sheer perfection.

I do not feel too loquacious today. Waiting to hear about a couple of crucial details.