Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Musical Week

Some odd music-related stuff from this week...

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Last night I went to see Iron & Wine in Buffalo, NY at a place that is now a concert venue but was an old church, and is apparently owned by Ani DiFranco. It was a very cool venue, and we sat in the upper balcony area on the stage right side.

Iron & Wine's first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, might be my #1 favorite album of all time. It's one of the few albums I own where EVERY song is good or great. In fact it might be the only such album in my catalogue. What's striking about the album is its simplicity; it was recorded on an amateur basis on a 4-track for Sam Beam's own personal use, and it was given (without his knowledge) to a record company -- Sub Pop, which some of you hipsters might recognize -- and it became and underground sensation.

When people say about an album, "it changed my life," I know what that means because of this album. It's not that it made me a better person or that I suddenly could shoot webs from my wrists, but it opened me up to a musical world I never would have thought to explore. Sam Beam's lyrics are some of the greatest ever written, and he is one of the only songwriters in the world whose lyrics could be printed out and be considered a stand-alone poem. Well anyway, I introduced my buddy Bruce to I&W about four years ago, and we both just fell in love withe the guy, his style, his voice, his beard. Everything.

Last night's concert was really strange, though, because that first album grabbed me so much with its lo-fi, DIY approach that I had been lamenting his later albums which were much more highly produced and had lost some of the intimacy of the first album. So when Sam came on stage alone, I knew he was going to have a band, although he did the first couple songs all by himself -- including "Upward Over the Mountain," my favorite song from Sam and one of the few songs that almost makes me cry every time I listen to it.

Weird thing was, his concert, usually so low-key and subdued, turned into an all-out jam, with 6 total instrumentalists all rocking hard and doing extended versions of old hits. His overproduction, about which I had complained so many times, breathed new life into some of his all-too-familiar songs. Awesome guy.

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I played the game "Rock Band" this week, and to say that it's an obsession might be pushing it, but goddamn is it fun. I have been playing the bass mostly, but every once in a while I'll grab the mic and belt one out. (My favorites are "Nine in the Afternoon" by Panic! At the Disco and "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull. And though I'm not a fan of Bon Jovi, per se, "Wanted Dead or Alive" is a great goddamn song to belt out.)

My friend Christian and I were going through some of the songs available for download on the Xbox, and there were some really great ones on there. It was very cool to go down a list of songs and listen to 30 second clips and take a flyer on some crap you don't know if you'll even like in a four-minute version. It must have taken developers forever to create that game, not to mention all the royalties.

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I have long been a proponent of satellite radio, but now that XM and Sirius have merged, I am a little pissed. Yes, it's cool that I can now get Howard Stern (although Opie and Anthony are still funnier, if much dumber) and all the NFL games in the country. But one thing that has made me super pissed off is that they eliminated The Rhyme, the old-school rap channel. It was #65 on the XM dial, but now there is no #65. Sirius had Backspin, which basically served the same function, but instead of merging the two channels into one, they eliminated the format altogether. The rap that they play on the two remaining stations (Hip Hop Nation and Shade 45, a channel run by Eminem) are all playing shit like T-Pain, Paul Wall, etc. The Rhyme was never a great channel (it always played way too much "old school" stuff from Newcleus and Kurtis Blow, as well as too many "pop-rap" songs from Biggie and Salt-N-Pepa, as well as their strange Tupac obsession), but it was the best that was available, and they did have some great shows like Subsoniq Classix. I will really miss that channel, and if they don't bring it back, I'm going to write them once a week -- Andy Dufresne style -- until they bring it back.

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I made myself a mix-cd for my trip to Buffalo, and I really like it. The last one I had made wasn't all that great in my estimation. (I did give it another listen on the way home and it was actually pretty good after all. Amazing how distance can do that.)

Here is the track list:


On this disc is my current obsession on track #16 -- "Hail, Mary" by Shearwater.

I have a weird, obscure taste in music, some say, where I basically shun almost any songs that are played on the radio (in the playlist above, you will notice Boz Skaggs and AIC noticeably excepted). I actually threw one of my own creations and one of my buddy Bruce's songs on there too, just for the hell of it. But every six months or so, I will get obsessed with a song to the point where I will listen to it over and over again. I rarely listen to an album more than once in a given week, but some songs just grab me by the cojones and get inside my head so that I have to listen to them over and over. Some past examples of these songs include:
  • "Ghostwriter" by RJD2, which was my ringtone for about a year
  • "Fireman So Cold (A-Trak Blend)" by Li'l Wayne
  • "Jacksonville" by Sufjan Stevens
  • "Dirtywhirl" by TV on the Radio
  • "Big Bang" by Aesop Rock
  • "My Heart" by The Blow
  • "Can't Face Up" by Sloan
  • "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" by Steely Dan
  • "Way Down in the Hole" by Tom Waits (probably because it reminds me of The Wire)
  • "Avril 14" by Aphex Twin
I now have a feeling that this damn song is going to be added to the list. It's very folky and atmospheric, before building into a crescendo that comes crashing down. I'm not sure what it's about, but to say it is dark is a classic understatement. I don't mean to build it up, because it might not "wow" anybody else, but it just hit me the right way at the right time. If you want to see a video of it, click here.

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So yeah, I know it's not interesting, but it's weird how music kinda ruled my life this week. Hopefully next week my life will be ruled by something more cool. Doubtful.

4 comments:

Jaime said...

Hi, cupcake!

I've been meaning to ask you this for awhile, and it's semi-related to this post I guess!

Have you listened to any of Rogue Wave's albums other than Out of the Shadow? I think that's the one I borrowed from you, but I don't remember if you had any others. They've become one of my favorite bands, and quite honestly I haven't even listened to everything they've released. Descended Like Vultures is an AMAZING album. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say here is "thank you" for introducing me to them! Oh, have you heard their cover of "Everyday" by Buddy Holly? I love it. But I'm a Buddy Holly fan so that probably has something to do with it.

Sorry for rambling in your comments, lol. I just had to gush.

Hope you are well!

Jaime

Bill said...

Hey cupcake!

I actually think Rogue Wave's new album isn't all that great (my buddy Bruce and I constantly argue over it) but it's not horrible either. Out of the Shadow is insanely good and Descended Like Vultures is also really good. I think Shadow is song-for-song, one of the best albums I own. I haven't heard their Buddy Holly remake, but I've heard OF it. I'll have to check it out.

If you like Rogue Wave see if you can find a band called Arizona (not the late-80s British techno duo) and Apples In Stereo. Also, Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown (related bands) and Switches are all really good too.

'Don' Cialini said...

Man don't even get me going at the elimination of the old school rap station(s). I am flaming pissed.

Bill said...

Yeah me too dude. I sent them an email and just got back their boilerplate "we strive to serve our subscribers with the best choices blah blah blah." It's all bullshit. How many goddamn country stations do they have? Back to the iPod for me.