Ray Verlaine?

I was making a mix a while back when I couldn’t remember whether a particular cover was a version of “Days” by the Kinks or “Days” by Television. This got me thinking…there are actually a number of similarities between the two songs: they’re close in tempo, they’re in related keys, and lines from one song could be imported into the other without doing drastic violence to the overall lyric…since both are retrospective, bittersweet, and so on.

So I worked up a mashup cover that incorporated elements of both songs in one. The Television version predominates…but I gradually incorporated a number of references to the Kinks song. To start with, the last 2 beats of every other bar during the verse have the melody of “I’m thinking of the days…” in the bass. I also quote a variation of the melody of “I’ll remember all my life” in the guitar tag at the end of each verse. Most obviously, the chorus uses the words and a similar melody from the bridge of the Kinks song. I also added some backing vocals that come from verses in the Kinks song…and an entire bridge borrowed from the Kinks.

Amusingly, because a section of that bridge oscillates between A and Dm, I was reminded of Tom Verlaine’s song “Without a Word.” While in the Kinks song those chords are V and i, in Verlaine they’re I and iv…but I quoted the guitar melody of “Without a Word” between lines of the bridge—only to realize that that melody is the same, except for some rhythmic differences, as “I’m thinking of the days…” from the Kinks song!

I think it turned out reasonably well. As usual, edited and comped like crazy…although since I’ve singing and playing guitar more recently, I’m playing a bit better than I was a few months ago.

Monkey Typing Pool “Days”

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All entries sequestered…

A while back, I received the thrilling news that a very rare and sought-after recording of the late-sixties American psych scene, UVWXYZ’s “Alchemic Neurotic” single, was due to be reissued by a small Dutch label, Alwin Lodenpijp’s Cinch Records. Lodenpijp was of course the founder of the famed sixties underground paper De Interstellaire Fiets (“The Interstellar Bicycle”) and later the Dutch website Karmozijnrood Maan which resuscitated the careers of several obscure prog-rock acts, including Queanswode-Manley Plough (of whom more later…).

The master tapes for this, the only known recording by the “Ultraviolet Witches” (as the band pronounced its moniker), were long presumed to have been lost ages ago—but in a stroke of fate, a Connecticut couple remodeling their old farmhouse discovered a steel chest full of UVWXYZ memorabilia…including, improbably, a production master of both sides of this single (its b-side is a swirlingly dark number called, mysteriously, “The Pelican Directory”).


Very little is known of UVWXYZ. It appears the band was formed when two of its members (bassist/vocalist Godfrey Monk and keyboard player James “Tighe” Poole) met in a commune in rural Michigan in late 1966. Sometime during 1967, both players relocated to a second commune in northern Indiana, where they met guitarist Colin Pope and drummer Lorne “Leddy” Epsom-Dollar. Through an unknown series of events, the band traveled to England and met up with the members of Queanswode-Manley Plough (the psychedelic act that would develop into the prog band responsible for the 1973 connoisseur’s classic Forever Endeavour a Man). This accounts for the fact that that band’s multi-instrumentalist, Clive Humber, produced the single (the rest of that band, its future publicist, and its bassist Arthur Strothclyde’s wife Fiona are thanked on its sleeve). The tracks were released on New England impresario Norb Kallen’s Kauldron Records…unfortunately, only weeks later, Kallen was killed in a tragic fire that also destroyed Kauldron’s entire inventory (at the time, 15 single releases and 5 LPs).

The band members themselves appear to have rapidly retreated into obscurity after this tragedy. There is, in fact, only one known photograph of the band, reproduced in murky half-tone on this single. The four men are seated or standing in front of what looks like a weathered barn or rural house. Godfrey Pope is at top left, surrounded by a wild halo of curls, staring off dreamily into space. Next to him, Tighe Poole presents a more grounded image, looking both earthier but with something in his carriage suggestive of a glinting wit. By contrast, Colin Pope (by all accounts, the most gregarious band member) is the only member to engage the photographer, grinning in a bowler hat, with his finger pointing amusedly at…something drummer Leddy is wearing or holding, but the picture is too distorted to tell what that might be. Leddy himself, a powerfully built man with a square jaw and floppy hair, broods into the same middle distance Pope stares beatifically into.


Arthur “Ping” Drecker was an artist and graphic designer who lived at the commune with the band. As the only close associate of the band still living, his recollections are our only guide to the band. “They were an interesting bunch of cats. Godfrey…well, I remember one time Nick [Colin’s nickname] referred to him as ‘Professor Moonbeam,’ which drew the sort of laughter from the rest of the band suggesting the joke was not new. It fit—he’d go on about shit, and half the time we had no idea what the hell he was saying! Usually, he was kind of wide-eyed, glowing…but there was a darkness underneath that that came out once in a while. One time Tighe was saying to Colin that he didn’t believe in that astrology bullshit—and Godfrey just got up, left the room, and didn’t come back for hours. A moody guy.”

Drecker notes the band’s curious chemistry. “It was easy to see why Godfrey, Colin, and Tighe got along—each kind of filled in the others’ blanks. Tighe was the most level-headed guy in the band—growing up black in Chicago in the fifties and sixties, he had to deal with more important shit than, well, moonbeams. Colin was a full-time jester—nonstop, puns, practical jokes, seemingly always in a good mood. The mystery, at first, was Leddy. Even though he clearly got along with everyone, he hardly said anything—a sort of bulky, looming presence. I was pretty obtuse—it took me quite a while to catch on that Leddy and Colin were a couple. People had to be a lot more subtle in the sixties. I mean, hippie communes had the reputation of being all open-minded and shit…but I know for a fact that people there were not always cool about things like that or even about race. I think the four of them were drawn together in that way, too—all of them were sensitive to—and really annoyed by—that kind of crap.”

Drecker put together the single’s unusual packaging—an outer sleeve that opened to double width, with an inner sleeve holding the actual single. “I don’t know how they got Norb [Kallen] to sign off on that,” Drecker says. “I mean, it was an expensive package…for a debut single from a band hardly anyone had heard of. But Norb believed in the band, he was kind of an eccentric, and he had a lot of money. Damned shame what happened to him. Plus he knew that labels were scrambling around trying to sign every ‘psychedelic’ band there was…even though the scene really had mostly evaporated by then. The guys’ living in a rural midwestern commune probably isolated them a bit—at the same time, they were kind of ahead of the curve in bringing in some of the darkness that would show up more in ’68 and ’69.”

The sleeve is all-too-typically dayglo, a garish sylvan scene giving way in places to a murky backdrop which, upon examination, proves to be a Ouija board. In the middle of this forest, someone has placed a standing mirror, in which we see an unclear image, probably an astronomical photograph, but also resembling a…wizard? “That’s Roos [Zeebloem], my assistant at the time,” says Drecker. “The band said something about ‘cosmic’—which was hardly a brief at all, in 1968: I mean, who the fuck didn’t want ‘cosmic’? Anyway—I asked Roos to find some good ‘cosmic’ imagery. She was looking in a book of star photographs and found something called the ‘Wizard Galaxy’ or ‘Wizard Nebula’—and when I sent a batch of photos to the band, I think it was Godfrey who phoned back, excitedly, babbling about ‘the wizard—it’s gotta be the wizard.’ As usual, he’d called and started talking without any context—at first I just figured he was tripping balls, but gradually I realized, he was talking about one of the images Roos had sent. So we comped the galaxy thing into the mirror…and there we were.” 

The inner sleeve’s backdrop is that queasy gray-green Ouija board backdrop that pops through the front cover image. The band’s name is highlighted on the board’s alphabet, and lyrics and credits are printed on that background.

We do get some idea of the band’s sound here: the darkness, the power, but also the weird refracted light shining in fits and starts as if from a new dimension struggling to be born. “Alchemic Neurotic” storms out of the gate, an aggressive bass guitar first wandering searchingly and then settling into a pumping part reminiscent of (okay: stolen from) the Red Krayola’s “Hurricane Fighter Plane.” An arching melody presents a Poe-like obsessive narrator—is he talking about an inamorata or a demon? The chorus turns gibbering: he might think the “neurotic…psychotic” in question is that woman or demon but…sounds a lot more like it’s him, doesn’t it? “The Pelican Directory” arrives on a baleful undercurrent, a harmonium drone and a keening, fanfare-like melody, drawing from “Venus in Furs” and “The Inner Light”—with an extremely distorted bass solo curiously reminiscent of some of John Cale’s bass work on Nico’s “Evening of Light” from her astonishing record The Marble Index…which was not recorded until several months after this single’s release. Coincidence, surely. A wave of sound effects (seashore, birds, bells, chanting monks) leads to a discordant, crashing climax.

It’s a shame this is the Witches’ only recording—there’s no evidence they even demo’d any other songs—as the band doesn’t quite sound like anyone else at the time, even with its clearly audible influences. But thanks to Cinch Records, at least we can hear these two songs.


Credits:

UVWXYZ: 

GODFREY MONK bass guitar, upright bass, fuzz bass, dulcimer, devices, vocals

JAMES ‘TIGHE’ POOLE pianos, organs, harpsichord, harmonium, Mellotron, electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals

COLIN POPE electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, slide guitar, tape loops, backing vocals

LORNE ‘LEDDY’ EPSOM-DOLLAR drums and percussion, African drum, crash cymbals, timpani, congas, finger cymbals, devices

Lyrics:

“Alchemic Neurotic”

Feel like a castle upside-down 
She is the icing on my crown 
Dark candles burning in my brain 
Black pooling wax, undying stain 

Wine is red, a serpent in a bed of twine 
Eats the egg, bound to make you beg and whine 

Alchemic  
Neurotic 
Alchemic 
Neurotic 
Sirenic 
Psychotic! 

At night she glistens like a sword 
I’m unpitched, drawn to her discord 
When every road runs into one 
No forking paths, nowhere to run 

Need’s north, a compass drawn forth and bound 
Casts magnetic bait, a line that’s drawn straight and crowned 

Alchemic 
Neurotic 
Alchemic 
Neurotic 
Sirenic 
Psychotic! 

“The Pelican Directory”

Sinister 
Administer the brooch beneath the rose 
Dark minister 
No sin to serve the coachman’s guide, the crows 

Each curse, each spell, each pleading 
Each prayer, each hope, each bleating 
All anxious dreams festering, sprung in skyward trajectory 
All entries sequestered in the Pelican Directory! 

Clandestine 
And dressed in shadow, half-light, and in gray 
Dim moon in crescent 
Expressed in codes and graphs that chart the way 

Each trace, each line, each plotting 
Each compass point and knotting 
All maps and plans gesture, legends murmur his treachery 
All entries sequestered in the Pelican Directory!

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Woodward & Apollo: Jeff’s Spring 2021 Songpile

It’s the (slightly delayed) usual: 25 carefully segued tracks (new and older) that came my way and impressed me in the first three months of 2021.

Part 1:

  1. Pardoner “Donna Said” 0.00
  2. Iggy Pop “Dirty Little Virus 2.47
  3. Buggy Jive “Ain’t Going Anywhere” 5.31
  4. The Kats “Lost My TV Guide” 10.02
  5. The Cool Greenhouse “End of the World” 13.25
  6. Redshift Headlights “Or an Extended Metaphor, Like, If You’re the Planet I’m Your Satellite” 16.22
  7. Sunshine Boys “Infinity Girl” 19.50
  8. Dent May “Sea Salt & Caramel” 22.55
  9. The Orange Peels “Give My Regards to Rufus” 25.58
  10. Field Music “Orion from the Street” 29.11
  11. Lisel “Specters” 33.11
  12. Doug Gillard “Stealth Control” 36.33
  13. Alex Jensen “Miss Cigarette” 40.28

Part 2:

  1. Nada Surf “Song for Congress” 0.00
  2. Stephen Malkmus “Juliefuckingette” 3.54
  3. Kiwi Jr. “Undecided Voters” 6.54
  4. Big Troubles “Phantom” 9.22
  5. Yves Tumor “Medicine Burn” 11.48
  6. Slow Pulp “Idaho” 15.47
  7. Tanukichan “Like the Sun” 19.50
  8. Slapp Happy “Scarred for Life ” 22.38
  9. Dolph Chaney “Now I Am a Man” 25.56
  10. Loma “Ocotillo” 29.11
  11. Beabadoobee “Care” 33.58
  12. Lucy Dacus “Thumbs” 37.15

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Apparently, I can do that…but should I have?

Monkey Typing Pool “One Hundred Years (You Can’t Do)” —mono mix“vintage” stereo mix

About a month ago, a friend idly posted on Facebook something to the effect of “I wonder what the Cure’s ‘One Hundred Years’ would sound like if it had been a Beatles song on A Hard Day’s Night.”

Hold my beer.

I’ve done this before…where someone makes an offhand remark about a song (a dream, a bizarre concept, a joke) and I somehow go on ahead and actually make the idea into an actual sound object. So this is the third or fourth in what turns out to be a series…

So, the first question was…which AHDN Beatles song? Since the Cure song drones on and on on two chords for most of its length (with a third chord at the end of the verses, and the fourth chord showing up only near the very end), it was a bit challenging: 1964 was a bit early for full-on drone explorations in Beatles world…but we came close, with the obsessive (mostly) blues sequence of “You Can’t Do That” (I was also attracted to the non-stop cowbell as rhythmic conceptual doppelgänger to the drone). So that song became my template. The Cure song is emphatically minor-key, whereas the Beatles song is built on a fab riff that throws in bluesy minor thirds while Lennon’s vocal mostly uses the major third. I “translated” the Beatles riff to a minor key, first off then.

So we had the “first” chord, in both cases being a minor chord. (The Cure track is in C minor, the Beatles in G…I didn’t think I could plausibly sing the whole thing in Smith’s register (although I maybe could if I did an extremely affected Robert Smith impersonation…but I steered away from such ideas). The second chord in the Cure song is kind of weird and complex: online chord sites invariably get it wrong. At first I think it’s just a simple B minor…but between a lead guitar line with a striking G natural in it, and a lot of other notes that ended up in the mix, it ends up feeling a lot more like a B diminished 7th–maybe even that chord atop a G (which is to say: a G7-flat9). Whatever it ends up being, it’s not a chord that would have been in the Beatles’ harmonic vocabulary in 1964…so I simplified and just made it a D7 but with the bass being always an F#.

The third chord in the Cure track at the ends of verses is a B-flat, a whole step down from the main chord. It’s also got a strong 6th flavor with the string synth hanging on to its G. The harmonic side-stepping, again, was not a thing the Beatles would have done in 1964—so the third chord became a C7 (in other words, so far the “Beatles” version is entirely standard blues chords).

The fourth chord in the Cure song (remember, coming in only near the very end) is out of left field: an F#, a tritone away from Cm. That’s harmonically pretty much as far away as you can get… Here, for no logical reason I could discern, I chose an E-flat-m7…which was sort of prepared for by my having turned one of the Cure’s many (many) verses into a bridge, with a sequence going E-flat, F, B-flat, D7. (That B-flat-to-D7 move is borrowed from Lennon’s bridge, which similarly goes from G to B7.)

The other striking thing about “You Can’t Do That” harmonically is the discords that come as the chords change but Lennon’s (and Paul and George’s backing vocals) stay put: in the chorus, the band hammers away at a D7 chord, while Lennon sings an F natural (same as E sharp if you wanna spell that D7-#9)…and then the band plays a C7 while Lennon remains vertiginously on that F. (“Drive My Car” features some similar outré chords derived from blues scales clashing with major-chord-based harmonic progressions.)

Anyway, so I indulged a bit here: the three (cheater!) backing vocal parts first just stick with the basic notes of the E-flatm7 chord, but then the top two voices move down a half step…so it’s actually an E-flatm6/9…and then, while that vocal part is going on and the guitar part is playing the top 3 notes of the E-flatm7 chord, I stuck an A-flat in the bass for four notes. So sue me, the resolution to the G-minor riff comes by way of an A-flat13. Maybe George Martin was in the studio having just listened to some jazz.

In terms of some of the parts: I of course faked George’s Rickenbacker electric 12-string (by octave shifting the guitar part I played except muting anything on the top two strings). G minor’s a weird guitar key: it’s E-minor-based chord voicings with a capo on the 3rd fret (except—CHEATER!—I removed it when playing the “chorus” bit—I’m calling it a “chorus” even though it occurs only once and at the very end because it’s where the title hook comes in. Therefore, initiate legal proceedings against me.)

I also was like, wait a minute: I can’t use all the different fake toms in Garageband: Ringo’s kit was pretty small in 1964. Indeed, I actually looked it up…and tried to choose the toms to sound about right. I also had fun with Ringo’s early habit of riding an open hi-hat—noisy! And of course: COWBELL. (I actually have more variety in the cowbell part than “You Can’t Do That” does…it’s just BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG…)

So that’s the silly experiment then. Basically wrote a new song that resembled a different old song to set the lyrics (ALL THE LYRICS GOOD GOD ROBERT SMITH HOW MANY VERSES) in an almost-new song that’s sort of typing monkey’s uncle to the original(s).

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What’s that you’re drinking?

New song.

It’s called “Bury the Bell,” and I wrote it last summer (the lyrics may or may not make that apparent). Some friends had organized a project within a Facebook group dedicated to a particular musician (Robyn Hitchcock) wherein a group of us would demo a song to be recorded by another person in the project. Participants ranged from people with half a dozen albums to their credit to rank amateurs (raises hand). I was assigned to write for a guy whose music I barely knew—which was actually freeing, in that although I obviously enjoy trying to write in particular styles, that works when I’m quite familiar with the style…and so instead of trying to write for the guy based solely on the one or two stray tracks I had (along with a CD which he graciously sent to me), I’d go for a lingua franca based on our mutual Hitchcock fandom. So of course, Hitchcock has worn his own influences like his trademark polka-dot shirts: everyone who knows his music knows that Dylan, Barrett, Bowie, and the Beatles are huge influences.

I went with the Beatles…as will be immediately obvious upon listening.

The demo has the bass and keyboards and much of the vocal arrangement (although different vocals). When I decided to flesh it out on my own through sheer impatience (as you’d imagine, the project—which is still live—is taking quite a lot of time!), I just went full-on late-’66/early-’67 Beatles: weird-noise coda, vocal harmonies, curious orchestral touches (how I got an orchestra in my Garageband I’ll never know).

One thing I’ve been spending more time on lately is working with EQ, levels, compression, and stereo placement to make my mixes sound more coherent and open. I think that’s starting to pay off: these and the last two recent new mixes of newish songs have sounded better and begun to solve the mysterious “this just doesn’t sound right” thing that sometimes plagued earlier recordings. (Aside from my usual complaints re my own technical and performance limitations, of course: blatant manipulation and fakery abound.)

The phrase popped into my head a while back (already used for one of my mixes), and then I had to figure out what it meant. I bypassed interpretations that would lead me to Zappaworld (ahem)—and landed where I landed. Plus which, quotes and allusions to Radiohead, Jonestown, Isaac Newton, Repo Man, Sparks, and…well, I wrote it last summer.

Bury the bell—
What if it's ringing?
No alarms, and no surprises…

Lead in the well—
What's that you're drinking?
Raise a toast to your half-lives.

Because…if I go further than others,
it's from kicking the balls of those giants,
so they fall by the side of the roadway.

They think
that their brains
run so much smoother
and then quote
some asshole named
"Dunning Kruger."

Bury the bell—
(sink sink sink sink sink sink…)
What if it's ringing?
(oh well)
No alarms, and no surprises…

Lead in the well—
(drink drink drink drink drink drink…)
What's that you're drinking?
(so kool)
Raise a toast to your half-lives.

My GPS says turn right here
Beautiful evening…
and drive off the cliff
you can almost see the stars

These pants ain't big enough for the both of us,
so I'm wearing them—cover your assets.
Forward! Full-speed, torpedoes and angels

scattering,
rushin' in
fear from those snowflakes
melting down.
Everyone knows news is fake.

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I know, she knows…but what does ‘e know?

Another new song. [UPDATE: that’s the original mix. The new one–with, I think, better balance from messing with the EQ and compression–is here.]

Here’s a blog post of mine from August 2007 (to give you an idea of how long some dumb things percolate in my brain):

For some reason, it recently occurred to me that there’s a bunch of mostly non-related, semi-famous guys named Eno. I am not entirely certain what to do with this information.

Our Five Guys Named Eno are: Brian (“non-musician,” “sound landscaper,” theorist, and known bald man), Roger (a/k/a “Brian’s younger brother” or “the Eno with hair” (??)), Jim (Spoon’s drummer and a record producer), Will (the playwright), and William Phelps Eno (a/k/a the dead one).

One possibility is to make up a quiz testing one’s knowledge of all things Eno. I figured it’d be more fun if two people competed, and then when one person gets an answer wrong, the other one can shout “it’s the wrong Eno!” really loud.

Another idea is to pitch a sitcom. I’m thinking something like…Brian’s in New York City giving a lecture on, I don’t know, the effects of tape-delayed bell tones on people’s perceptions of perfumes, for which Roger has agreed to provide the music. Jim’s in town because Spoon has a gig the same night, and Will’s attending opening night of a new play. As it happens, after all these events conclude, the various Enos coincidentally end up at the same bar when – the co-presence of so many mostly unrelated Enos calls up the ghost of William Phelps Eno himself. Wacky hijinks ensue, from which various Enos might learn something or other.

Took me long enough…but eventually, I made a song of it. Lyrics have (mostly) been around forever, as are most of the musical ideas. I did steal a few ideas from the most prominent Eno of the bunch…some are obvious if you listen, some less so…such as the fact that with the exception of a few vocal tracks, this is really two different versions of the same song, one in the left channel, one in the right channel. There’s a cut-and-paste sax solo counterpoised to sound effects, and I spent a fair amount of time massaging a sound into something that plausibly could have been a Well-Known Eno Guest of the era on the guitar solo…

The lyrics follow: they’re basically a variation on the sort of dance-craze song that describes a particular dance and encourages you to do that dance (Eno rang some changes on this in “Kurt’s Rejoinder”), only it’s about the rules of this trivia game (which, in keeping with the dark wit of early Eno, involve a rather severe penalty for losing, in the bridge there…). I therefore felt entirely justified in composing lyrics-by-Wikipedia: random facts about various Enos make up most the lines. That and cramming in as many internal rhymes and assonance as I possibly could. The busy countermelody in the bridge is me being dissatisfied with the textural/harmonic sameness of the song…so I decided I’d rig up some nonsense in a tricky rhythmic pattern built on words with short “e” and short “o” sounds. (Which are Eno’s vowels, shortened—which I just realized now.)

It’s rather goofy, really.

Perfumes and strategies, and systems of bells…
Plays based on nothing, magnets thrown down a well…
Sibling assembling random tones by the hour…
A hero to cabbies...engineered rhythm power.

But which
won’t switch at the transfer of fingers?
This name
the same evokes ghosts, a view lingers.
As spirits are raised, drained, and 
summoned in praise, strains
of puzzlement will quiz all
present and still, this is it:

The game of the curious surname that is Eno.
There’s Brian and Roger, and Will, and Jim, plus the ghost we know
as the father of traffic laws, the eminent William Phelps Eno:
Pray name them correctly...or prove you a naive bambino!
 
Semiconductors, mixing, Wurlitzer, too—
Unembarrassed to work with that harmonica dude…
Title and deed, indeed a season of flu…
Used to blow the euphonium...could not drive but still you 
 
Will play the game of the curious surname that is Eno.
There’s Brian and Roger, and Will, and Jim, plus the ghost we know
as the father of traffic laws, the eminent William Phelps Eno:
As spirits are drained, crazed, as tumbling strays pray,
as Enophile connoisseur voices pile on as your…
 
Bits flame if you name the Wrong Eno!
Did you get it? If not it’s exotic, but it’s not a set-up
Please reform your poor form before we know
thought, but a lot of what gets unknotted ought to be thought.
you’re a scam at your amateur plea, no…
Let it upset its setting, better bet it gets a guess then
You’re a poseur who chose the Wrong Eno!
vet it, or rot it: yes, it’s set, not stopped at bottom.
 
Play the game of the curious surname that is Eno.
There’s Brian and Roger, and Will, and Jim, plus the ghost we know
as the father of traffic laws the eminent William Phelps Eno:
Pray name them correctly...or prove you a naive bambino!
 
Random code set in bold Palatino…
Going vague in a Vegas casino…
Super placid in acid amino…
No remorse quick divorce in old Reno…
Beta decays: hooray, a neutrino…
All aboard Stan’s old Ford Gran Torino…
Fast asleep wearing cheap fake merino…
Sing some lines whose words rhyme, end in “Eno”…
 
 
 

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Crimsonessence

For no good reason, a few years back, the idea of setting the lyrics of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” to the music of the Beach Boys’ “Cabin Essence” (sometimes spelled as a single word) popped into my brain. I probably had some sort of fever.

In any event, over time, ideas on how to do that continued to occasionally occupy my brain–and with my recent re-interest in having a pool of monkeys type things, I finally realized this idea.

I used an instrumental track from the Smile sessions box. I added a few sample snippets from the King Crimson song (which is also available sans vocals—although as it turned out, the parts I used did not require that mix: amusingly, I did not need to change the pitch of the part I used—nor even do much with the tempo! It just fit…). I also added a few bits to glue the song together…you might notice a harp and glockenspiel, or a low piano, or a mellotronish flute (all fake) here and there…

Monkey Typing Pool “Crimsonessence”

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2020 songpiles…all the songs

WordPress makes it impossible to import tables…so I’ll just insert these screencaps.

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The Book of Elevations: selections from my 30 favorite albums of 2020

Yes, “albums.” I am Old, and therefore allowed to act as if “albums” are still a thing. (Yet, they are…they keep getting released, notice.)

I’ve followed a similar logic to the last few years in terms of selecting tracks from the albums: if the point is that the whole album is strong, it shouldn’t much matter which track I choose (and makes my job easier), and so…this year, I went with the 6th track on each record*, because I happened to run into an ancient e-mail from a non-online friend of mine (Crystal P.), who theorized that the sixth track is a good guide to whether an album’s really good or not. Anyone can start a record strong (well, NOT anyone), and similarly, finishing with a strong track is one…but it’s the deep cuts in the middle of the record whose strength speaks to how good the entire album is. (Of course, sometimes, track 6 is the opener of side 2 on vinyl…but since I don’t listen on vinyl, I have no idea.) These are in order for musical effect, not ranked. See below for more comments on 2020’s music.

* if for whatever reason I did not think track 6 fit, I used either 5 or 7—sue me.

First half:

  1. Gretchen’s Wheel “Infernal Machine” Such Open Sky (0.00)
  2. The Bye Bye Blackbirds “Watch Them Chime” Boxer at Rest (3.23)
  3. Rolling Blackouts C.F. “The Only One” Sideways to New Italy (5.55)
  4. Anton Barbeau “Chicken” Manbird (9.39)
  5. Andy Bell “Cherry Cola” The View from Halfway Down (12.48)
  6. Guided by Voices “Please Don’t Be Honest” Mirrored Aztec** (16.52)
  7. Bob Mould “When You Left” Blue Hearts (19.19)
  8. The Asteroid No. 4 “Juniper” Northern Songs (21.49)
  9. Throwing Muses “Upstairs Dan” Sun Racket (25.57)
  10. The Psychedelic Furs “Ash Wednesday” Made of Rain (29.40)
  11. Wire “Oklahoma” Mind Hive (35.00)
  12. The Black Watch “All I Know (Is That the Moon Is Beautiful)” Fromthing Somethat*** (37.59)
  13. Spygenius “Café Emery Hill” Man on the Sea (42.28)
  14. The Corner Laughers “Sisters of the Pollen” Temescal Telegraph (47.19)
  15. Bob Dylan “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” Rough and Rowdy Ways (49.56)

Second half:

  1. Stephen Malkmus “Shadowbanned” Traditional Techniques (0.00)
  2. Car Seat Headrest “Deadlines” Making a Door Less Open (3.17)
  3. John Foxx & the Maths “New York Times” Howl (8.16)
  4. The Mekons “Buried Treasure” Exquisite (11.49)
  5. Algiers “Chaka” There Is No Year (15.38)
  6. Torres “Good Grief” Silver Tongue (19.23)
  7. Destroyer “Cue Synthesizer” Have We Met (24.23)
  8. Luke Haines & Peter Buck “Andy Warhol Was Not Kind” Beat Poetry for Survivalists (28.16)
  9. This Is the Kit “Coming to Get You Nowhere” Off Off On (31.51)
  10. RVG “I Used to Love You” Feral (35.07)
  11. Phoebe Bridgers “Chinese Satellite” Punisher (38.36)
  12. The Strokes “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” The New Abnormal (42.10)
  13. Girl Friday “Earthquake” Androgynous Mary (46.37)
  14. Thurston Moore “Locomotives” By the Fire (50.05)
  15. Sparks “Stravinsky’s Only Hit” A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (1.06.47)

** GBV put out three (!) records this year: the third has not yet arrived at my house, the first was Surrender Your Poppy Field. They’re both really good, but I gave Mirrored Aztec a slight edge…these days, I’m preferring the more “produced” GBV, while Surrender has more of the lo-fi and more of the weird. Probably just depends on my mood from day to day, really…

*** The Black Watch also put out three records in 2020: Fromthing Somethat, Brilliant Failures, and an EP called The Nothing That Is. As usual, they were all excellent…but again, I’m giving the slight edge to the later of the two full-lengths.

Second tier of releases: Elvis Costello Hey Clockface, Tanya Donelly & the Parkington Sisters (s/t), Eyelids The Accidental Falls, Hum Inlet, Laura Marling Song for Our Daughter, Nada Surf Never Not Together, Of Montreal UR Fun, and Soccer Mommy Color Theory.

Third tier: Anton Barbeau (also with three albums…) Presente: Kenny vs. Thrust, The Beths Jump Rope Gazers, Dolph Chaney Rebuilding Permit, The Dream Syndicate The Universe Inside, Fleet Foxes Shore, Momus Vivid, Morrissey I Am Not a Dog on a Chain (the singer is politically repugnant but artistically strong: thankfully, you cannot derive his politics from his lyrics here), Muzz (s/t), Pretenders Hate for Sale, Protomartyr Ultimate Success Today, Tom Sanders (Pete & the Pirates vocalist) Only Magic, Maria Schneider Orchestra Data Lords, Taylor Swift Folklore (yes, it’s a good record—have not yet heard its companion release from later in the year), Mike Tittel Sleeping In, Waxahatchee Saint Cloud, Saul Williams Encrypted & Vulnerable, Vinyl Williams Azure.

Best titles of the year: Fireproof Sam & the Selfsame Four (KC Bowman) To Keep You Vultures Happy, in which every song title (and the album title) is drawn from a line in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Best EPs: Beauty Pill Please Advise, the aforementioned Black Watch EP, Flock of Dimes Like So Much Desire, Gold Connections Ammunition, Lake Ruth Crying Everyone Else’s Tears, Alex Lilly Love in Three Colors, Suuns Fiction, Swervedriver Winter Depths.

Some disappointments that never quite grabbed me: releases from Brian & Roger Eno (Mixing Colours), Joe Pernice (Richard), John Vanderslice (Dollar Hits…although it was billed as “experimental”), and Jonathan Wilson (Dixie Blur).

Also: yeah, it seems this year’s list is dominated by older artists…much more so, at least, than my quarterly “songpile” mixes. Still, there are enough newer artists here (note: as above, I am Old, so “newer” means “in the last ten years”) that no one should be giving up and expecting all good music to shuffle off this mortal coil…

Finally: some so-far-so-good records that are too new for me to rank: Fiona Apple Fetch the Bolt Cutters (so I’m slow…), Blesson Roy Think Like Spring, Samantha Crain A Small Death (for language mavens: contains a song in the Choctaw language), The Mountain Goats Getting Into Knives, Mike Viola Godmuffin…and some guy named Paul McCartney, who’s put out a record called McCartney III. Apparently, the guy’s kind of a big deal.

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Polite and Spotless: Jeff’s second covers songpile of 2020

Covers.

I like them.

Here’s a nice set of playlists, sequenced and segued, covering my favorite covers of the second half of 2020.

Part 1:

  1. Simon Raymonde “Days” (Tom Verlaine/Television cover) 0.00
  2. Mountain Man “Slow Burn” (Kacey Musgraves cover) 4.05
  3. Jonathan Segel “Here Comes Sunshine” (Grateful Dead cover) 7.34
  4. Omni “Art for Art’s Sake” (10cc cover) 13.49
  5. Lea Roberts “Alright Now” (Free cover) 18.43
  6. Ewan Stephens “Mindless Child of Motherhood” (Kinks/Dave Davies cover) 21.52
  7. Mathilde Santing “Ghosts” (Japan cover) 25.23
  8. Nada Surf “Sick Day” (Fountains of Wayne cover) 30.52
  9. Daniel Romano’s Outfit “Jokerman” (Bob Dylan cover) 35.09
  10. The New Piccadillys “Complete Control” (The Clash cover) 39.58
  11. The Score “Please Please Me” (The Beatles cover) 42.14
  12. The Besnard Lakes “You Make Loving Fun” (Fleetwood Mac cover) 44.52
  13. Queens of the Stone Age “Never Say Never” (Romeo Void cover) 49.33


Part 2:

  1. Taylor James “Pardon My Heart” (Neil Young cover) 0.00
  2. Robin Pecknold “Hammond Song” (The Roches cover) 4.53
  3. Lianne La Havas “Weird Fishes” (Radiohead cover) 10.33
  4. The Hot Rats “The Crystal Ship” (Doors cover) 16.25
  5. White Reaper “Only a Shadow” (Cleaners from Venus/Martin Newell cover) 18.56
  6. Richard Thompson “Black Crow” (Joni Mitchell cover) 22.31
  7. Geoffrey Oryema “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads cover) 26.34
  8. The Rock*a*Teens “The End of the World” (Skeeter Davis cover) 30.42
  9. Tanya Donelly with the Parkington Sisters “Different Drum” (Mike Nesmith/Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys cover) 33.53
  10. Aimee Mann “Avalanche” (Leonard Cohen cover) 36.41
  11. Molly Tuttle “She’s a Rainbow” (The Rolling Stones cover) 41.49
  12. Swervedriver “Days” (Tom Verlaine/Television cover) 45.31
  13. (bonus) 48.54

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