Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shuffle 'n' Write for 5/28/09

All right, you guys, here is the deal: It is just after 2 a.m. and I have just finished a viewing of The Shining (Kubrick, not Garris) and as a result I am not quite feeling up to going to bed right away. So we’re gonna have ourselves a Shuffle ‘n’ Write.

Full explanation here, short explanation thus: I hit the shuffle on my iPod and write about the first ten songs that pop up in real time, no matter if it repeats artists or albums, no matter if it’s the lamest thing I own.

Brr, let’s get some music going.

1.) Weezer – “Don’t Let Go”: I talked about the Green Album last time, actually. Again, I’m struck by a sense that this is basically a stab at an early 2000s version of pre-Help! Beatles tunes. Very simple, very direct, the kind of thing a high school-age boy listens to and can take to heart (and that is exactly what I did). Best bit of the song is the harmony vocals on “turn your heart away”; magical.

2.) Moby – “Bodyrock”: Ah, Moby. Everybody has a copy of Play knocking around somewhere, right? My dad saw him perform with Blue Man Group on TV and then bought his copy. A messy album that kinda goes all over the place. Doesn’t really hold up all that well, I don’t think. I’m not familiar with the original track the sample is taken from (this is contemporary-ish hip hop, not the old traditional spirituals and/or field recordings that fill up much of the album, and we will talk about that if and when one of those pops up), but it’s just kind of there. Take a sample, add electric guitar to mix up the arrangement, add strings to take the track out a bit, make it a bit more sweeping. I don’t know how clever it is. Catchy enough for me to have slapped it on my iPod, though, I suppose.

3.) Wendy Carlos – “La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie, Abridged)”: I am a synthesizer geek, so I am totally into the Moog interpretations of classical music from A Clockwork Orange. What I like about this one in particular is that the sounds switch back and forth from pretty straightforward simulations of actual instruments to the more purely electronic-sounding tones the Moog can generate. It’s much more satisfying and interesting than if it had stuck to one or the other; one would sound like it's trying too hard to be real, the other might be too alien and distracting, maybe. I got this in high school in a used CD shop, along with an absolutely terrible album of Moog versions of Beatles songs. It seemed like a good idea at the time!

4.) The Beatles – “All You Need Is Love”: This is the Love version as well. Hearing it remixed a bit and cleaned up whets my appetite for the Beatles remasters that are (finally!) coming out later this year. The harpsichord and Lennon vocal sound like they were recorded yesterday. Really is a whole different experience, but I hope I'm not setting myself for disappointment if they end up sounding “wrong”. Hey, something I have always wondered … does George Harrison screw up the guitar solo? The first two lines are real strong, but then they kind of peter out, and like, it kind of sounds like he’s flubbing it and the other instruments go up in the mix to hide it. Or am I imagining that?

5.) Moby – “South Side (feat. Gwen Stefani)”: Okay, so the version of Play my dad bought, lost interest in and gave to me doesn’t have Gwen Stefani on it. The one with Stefani is the single version, but frankly, I always like the old one better. It’s supposed to be a science fiction story, isn’t it? Kids cruising around after the apocalypse? I always thought that was a neat concept; you never see a lot of how culture endures the ol’ nuclear holocaust in those sort of stories usually. A duet works for the concept, but maybe Gwen Stefani is too overpowering (though to be fair it does not take much to overpower Moby’s vocal).

6.) Soul Asylum – “Can’t Even Tell”: Off the Clerks soundtrack (the end credits theme if you recall). As a teenager, Kevin Smith movies were a new and exciting thing, especially if you were a comics fan. Hey, someone’s talking about the X-Men in a movie! But now that there’s a movie about the X-Men, and one that even has Deadpool in it, of all characters, it kind of loses the charm. I like 90s alternative music; I grew up with it, so I am going to be something of an apologist for it. I’ve always liked the cadence in the chorus -- “I know you know I want to know”. Ah, it takes me back to where it was a real treat just to be watching R-rated movies.

7.) Blur – "Mr. Robinson’s Quango": Blur is rad, and Oasis is bad. I am the only American left who still feels it is important to have chosen a side. I think it’s a shame Oasis caught on here when Blur didn’t outside of, like, “Song 2.” Because Oasis songs always sound so dirge-y to me, whereas Blur is upbeat and bouncy and exuberant. I guess it’s all about what you think is the cooler thing to be: moody guitar players or exuberant lads surrounded by swirling Hammond organ and horn arrangements. Still, I can see why Blur was less accessible for Americans, because it’s all about being British, but I was a bit of an Anglophile in high school. I still had to look up what a “quango” was when I first got this album. I assumed some sort of truck, but I may have been thinking of the Dodge Durango.

8.) Electric Light Orchestra – “Don’t Bring Me Down”: Holy crap, is this the first ELO song that’s played? I always feel a little bad for Jeff Lynne about this song. That like, from 1970 to 1979, I am pretty sure every publicly released ELO song had some kind of string arrangement because that was the conceptual point of the whole thing. And then Lynne goes in the studio and knocks off this song real quick and doesn’t add any strings, and this becomes such a big hit. What do you think, was this the most-remembered ELO song until “Mr. Blue Sky” made its comeback a few years ago? Does he think, “Hm, maybe I oughtn’t have bothered with strings on the last seven albums?” Not like Out of the Blue sold poorly or anything, though, I guess. My favorite musical detail of this song is the sounds before the first chorus; that psssshew, pshew pshew, psssshew, pshew. Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

9.) Regina Spektor – “Edit”: This is such an interesting song in its production and arrangement, but is it good as a song? I go back and forth. I am totally not interested in hearing about cocaine, but I am interested in the piano and the weird synth tones (is … is that MIDI?) Okay, I have decided that I like this song today. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to make. I like studio music, what can I say?

10.) Of Montreal – “Natalie and Effie in the Park”: 2002’s Aldhils Arboretum is one of the few albums I got during my ill-fated attempt at being a college music critic, so if I got nothing else out of that experience, I started listening to of Montreal. I don’t care for the new of Montreal sound because the older sort of goofy, sad, piano and guitar music is like candy for my brain. And the drums. If you have cause to listen to this song, listen to the drums. Absolutely beautiful and clean.

I think I could sleep now.

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