Ten cuts that might expand your taste*:
"Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" by Porcupine Tree. A retro-rock epic that is to Pink Floydishness what The Red House Painters' "Make Like Paper" is to Neil Youngishness.
"Story of an Artist" by M. Ward. The perfect Daniel Johnston song by the perfect Daniel Johnston cover artist. How crazy is Daniel Johnston? During a trip back from a music festival with his father in a small plane, in the grip of a manic episode, he wrestled the controls of the plane from his father, turned off the ignition, and threw the keys out the window. His Dad—a former WWII fighter pilot—managed to crash-land the plane in a patch of woods. This song's a lament, childlike yet fathomless.
"Razor Sharp" by Collide. Goth techno! Whee. Maybe not as much fun as "Gothic Surf-a-rama" by the Vampire Beach Babes, but the album (Chasing the Ghost) has the same minor masterpiece feel as the lush 'n' groovy Like Stars in My Hands by Australia's Single Gun Theory a decade earlier.
"Associate" by Jack Logan. Homemade lo-fi that's so laid back it will have you wondering what combination of liquor and downers they were on when they recorded it. I love that "just shut up." (Photo of Jack from Orange Twin.)
"My Name Is Mud" by Primus, from Pork Soda. This is almost classical it's so spare and skeletal, structured, with each slap of reverb as distinct as a note hung from a staff. Of course it's darker than death, and just a tad silly. I think I'm reaching the end of my "My name is Mud" fixation, although it's still touch and go. Best listened to on a stereo that will reproduce deep bass, at a volume just short of the threshold of pain.
"Could Well Be In" by The Streets, from A Grand Don't Come for Free, a follow-on to Skinner's amazing breakout Original Pirate Material. Sounds repetitive at first blush but listen to it—it's a rich narrative that amounts to one of the most calculatingly sex-drenched romantic singles since Linton Kwesi Johnson's gorgeous dub ballad "Loraine."
"Launderette" by Vivien Goldman. An "old" New Wave song I found on a compilation called Anti NY, and love. (It's not available on iTunes, but it is on emusic.com.) Vivien Goldman, who's mainly a music critic, has been everywhere and done everything, but my absolute favorite thing about her is that she officially (!) holds the title of "Adjunct Professor of Punk and Reggae" (seriously—at New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at the Tisch School of the Arts). How cool is that? If I knew a thing like that was possible, I might have become an academic.
"Night Bird Song" by Thomas Chapin. You know those perfect experiences you have with music every now and then? I had one of those unfortunately all-too-rare listens with this brilliant record (Sky Piece) recently, late one night when it just fit my mood perfectly and every note and noise seemed perfectly etched, formed, balanced, vivid, pure. I've listened to the record straight through at least a dozen times. Great sweet, lyrical, beautiful contemporary jazz. Superbly recorded, too. A hat-tip to my e-friend Bob Burnett, who turned me on to it.
"Seaweed" by Fruit Bats. The banjo in this will break your heart. Listen to it with "Folk Jam" by Pavement, "A Chance Counsel" by Richard Buckner, and "Either Way" by Wilco, from the new Sky Blue Sky. (Okay, I'm cheating blatantly now, but who can actually make a list of ten songs with just ten songs on it?) So anyway, speaking of faux folkie pop tunes, I also like the current slow jangle sonic wallpaper on Beck's website, "Forget Marie," written by the late, lamented Lee Hazelwood.
"Move On" by Mike Doughty. The definitive anthem of the Dubya years, may they soon pass.
*Okay, they're actually just ten cuts I like. I think you can buy most of these as single songs from iTunes.
Copyright 2007 by Michael C. Johnston—All Rights Reserved
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