The second of two “listening diary” mixes for this year (see my previous entry for general bloviation thereon).
Ringtone Tycoon: Mormon Jigsaw?
1. Ezra Furman & the Harpoons “We Should Fight”: Begin with the rock, son. Begin with the rock.
2. The Eat “Communist Radio”: It’s short. It’s fast. It’s 1979.
3. Service Group “All I Wanted to Say”: I discovered this because the band’s main songwriter is my brother-in-law’s cousin (I think I have that right). He used to work on crew for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I include that info only so Buffy fanatics will check it out. Pure power-pop – no longer as favored a genre as it once was for me; still, done right it hits the spot, kind of like junk food is good once in a very rare while. Good junk food, anyway.
4. The Misbelieves “Come On Now Kids Yeah It’s Bonnington Truce!”: This is written by the same guy who wrote the instant classic “Touch You Natalie Jane” (billed to Popsicle Thieves) a few years ago, and which was on my best-of mixes for that year. I think he’s got the touch. Random songs educate the youth: here are a few words.
5. Neil Gaiman ft. Claudia Gonson “Bloody Sunrise”: Uh, let me see…this is song written in the style of Magnetic Fields, sung by Claudia Gonson, who actually does sing for Magnetic Fields, and which was written by noted fantasy author Neil Gaiman, after a bookshelf full of fake titles (along with a bunch of other songs written by other folks on those titles), and…wait, I’m lost. Here – follow Gaiman’s links instead. This would all be terribly postmodern (emphasis on “terribly”), except that this really does sound like a Magnetic Fields song, and a fairly good one at that, and Stephin Merritt’s often written about vampires anyway. (I think it’s a fairly accurate claim that Merritt has written and recorded the only concept country-western electronic album about vampires. Therefore he’s also written the best concept country-western electronic album about vampires – no slouch that Merritt fella.)
6. Gil Ray “X-Ray Beach”: Gil used to be the drummer, then a guitarist, for Game Theory, then was that band’s successor the Loud Family’s drummer in its last years. He put together this surf instrumental because surf instrumentals are fun. And in fact, one of the bands that put out one of my twenty favorite albums this year (see forthcoming post) regularly opens its sets with a cover of this track.
7. The Wrens “In Turkish Waters”: No, no, don’t have a heart attack: there’s no new Wrens studio album. This is one of Stereogum‘s ‘Gum Drop specials…and (I just found out now – though Stereogum probably mentioned it but I forgot) is another contribution to the same series as the Gaiman track. At least we know the band hasn’t all dropped dead, or run for New Jersey elective office, or murdered annoying music journalists.
8. Tris McCall “Girl with a Bicycle”: We continue with the New Jersey section of the mix: for the last few months Tris has been posting demoes at one of his websites. This, so far, is my favorite, a percolating little piece of semi-psychedelic whimsy about a classic subject (hint: it’s in the title). Rumors that the synth at the end was played by directly wiring Tris’s cortex to the inputs are, alas, unconfirmed at press time.
9. Son Lux “Weapons”: Blame Tris McCall – those squalling synths put me in a sort of electronic/prog mood, so here’s this track: moody, layered, all too contemporary in lyric subject.
10. Rudely Interrupted “Don’t Break My Heart”: Once I remember that this isn’t, in fact, Wire’s “One of Us,” its own charms become considerable. If you see me wandering around going “malfunction…malfunction…” you can blame this song.
11. The Hidden Messages “As If”: A British band that e-mailed me out of the blue late in 2006 ended up placing songs in that year’s list, its debut in last year’s list, and released a couple more songs this year…and here’s my favorite of that bunch. Anti-ironic, orchestrated, joyous pop with more hooks than, uh…a terrifying cloning disaster involving New Order’s bass player.
12. Sinkane “Autobahn”: Not the Kraftwerk marathon. The drums keep threatening to fall down the stairs, and somehow it’s the repetition of the song’s few vocal phrases that keeps them put. And someone’s remembering a flute they heard once, quite long ago, rather far away.
13. Rox “My Baby Left Me”: Only the sadly 21st century massive compression gives this one away as a contemporary recording. Shoulda been a massive hit in 1971.
14. The Joy Formidable “Austere”: After that high-pitched vocal opening, you don’t really expect that bass sound – and the band also has a good line in switching the rhythm around to make things interesting…alternating with straightened-out phrases both to avoid predictability and preciousness.
15. The Girls “Transfer Station”: Of course there’s no one female in this band. Duh. Otherwise, why would they call the band “The Girls”? (Ditto “Women” below, and just plain “Girls” – no article – one of whose songs almost made these mixes too…) What there is is a nice driving rhythm and more wailing synth (especially at the end).
16. The Mojomatics “Wait a While”: This is for those of you who think rock’n’roll should not have synths but should have buckets of reverb. And should be short.
17. The Homophones “Everyone’s Dead”: Such a cheery little number, with a jolly glockenspiel, homoerotic imagery, and dead cops in your head. No, really – it’s cheery.
18. Women “Black Rice”: One route: make things simple, but don’t make everything obvious. Make them into a little jigsaw puzzle, but make sure the resulting picture doesn’t just depict a jumble of disorganized jigsaw puzzle pieces.
19. Setting Sun “Not Waste”: This is one of those songs that works for me almost entirely due to one or two unexpected chords. Without those chords, it’d be a reasonably good, moody little song…but the presence of that particular chord sequence somehow elevates and transfigures the entire emotive world of the song, and enables the song to haunt my damned brain. Funny, that.
20. Planar “No Numbers”: There has to be a sort of floaty, goodnight track every year…
21. Tom Bolton “Little Star”: I would not have thought it was possible to wring anything decent from such a well-established, simple little melody…but Bolton manages it.
22. The Speakers “You’ll Remember”: What works for me here? Well, this song kept threatening to get booted off the list…it was all just kinda okay…and then I kept listening to the end, and something about its last few minutes kept insisting on its presence in these mixes. It was destined as a last song from the beginning, also.
Ici la playliste actuelle. Je ne parle pas français.
Later this evening: covers mix!