Monday, June 06, 2005

5 CDs

I was listening to a couple CDs I haven't heard in a while, and had forgotten how brilliant some of them were. This leads me to list five or so CDs that are among the best in my collection. It does get annoying, by the way, when you pare a list down to five, and are accused of being some shallow Nick Hornby ripoff. Those who are offended by this: lighten up, five is an easy prime number, not some universal truth.

5. Should I put down Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco? Every person who's heard it holds it aloft (and, for some reason assumes a ten point increase in IQ). The cagey Pot Kettle Black is the track that strikes me the most now, a few years after I heard the CD for the first time, probably because every other track struck me before. Poor Places, lonely and beaten as it sounds, remains one of my favorite songs ever. For some reason, another great album, The Bends by Radiohead doesn't affect me as much as it used to, and I think it probably has something to do with claiming it's brilliance for so long without listening to it for extended periods of time. Maybe it has something to with not being as impressed with Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief as the Pitchfork crowd was (and here's a side-thought - was Pitchforkmedia named as an ironic hipster statement about the mob-induced hysteria surrounding mediocre pop bands? And if so, what of the over-wrought, fifty thousand ways of describing the same drumbeat fervor of the Pitchfork reviewers?)

4. A recent CD - Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs. I recently heard that he used to be a member of the 90s swing band, the Squirrel Nut Zippers. His music now sounds nothing like them. He's a whistler, a fiddler, and a guitarist, and he writes great lyrics: "You're what happens when two substances collide/ and by all accounts, you really should have died."
I saw him in concert (for four songs, before the 90 degree, ass-crowded Off-Broadway atmosphere became too much to bare) last week, and it just didn't capture the orchestral grandeur of his album. Or maybe I was just too swayed by the demure dancing of one Beatle Bob, who has apparently pissed off people in every contiguous state (and that's saying something, with the non-temperament of Wisconsinites - but then, this tidbit is purely anecdotal). But anyway, Bird's CD is gorgeous, lush, blah blah blah, and seriously underhyped (but I guess this type of music does not lend itself well to hype). Eggs is not so nearly touted as one Silent Alarm, by Bloc Party. I just don't get it. I bought the CD based on the hype (a terrible mistake), and I just can't bear to listen to it. The music is OK, I guess, but I can't see how it much distinguishes itself from Franz Ferdinand as the best of danceable British poprock, especially as their lead singer is not as bearable as Alex Kapranos from Ferdinand. In fact, I'd say Bloc Party's lead singer's voice is grating, and you need a voice that is at least melodic enough to match the music for this kind of scene. Someone, please tell me what distinguishes this band from the Streets or Franz Ferdinand if they're so great.

3. Rings Around the World by Super Furry Animals. Gruff Rhys has a strange voice, almost like he has a frog stuck in his throat sometimes, but it can soar when he wants it to ("Shoot Doris Day", for example). There is such great joy in this CD, and this is especially evident with Receptacle for the Respecable and Presidential Suite, and so it is perfect for the summertime. I can see how some would be annoyed by the vocals, but I think they augment the music, and help it with it's distinct SFA personality. Rolling Stone actually had a blurb about them a few years back, and it made mention of how super talented they are as musicians. Sadly, Rolling Stone is no longer with us. I saw an interview with Frank Black, or Black Francis I guess. Anyway, one of the questions was something like "So do you have any stories about writing songs when you were fucked up on acid or etc, etc..." Please. This is right after they wrote a road interview in which Tommy Lee is lionized for how much pussy he gets and Rivers Cuomo is praised for being so God damned weird. Oh well, the magazine has become obsessed with making things properly legendary for the rock and roll annals, but doesn't seem aware of how cliche this is. Really, it's not that cool that Jimi Hendrix choked to death on vomit, or that Led Zeppelin penetrated some groupie with a tire iron or some shit. Just talk about the fuckin music.

2. Thickfreakness by the Black Keys. I've heard of some aficianados call this CD, a heavy blues album by two gaunt white kids from Akron, incredibly derivative. This is entirely possible. It's just that Blues music is not exactly widely discussed unless you're Eric Clapton and you're sucking BB King's dick. So, I have been downloading R.L. Burnside and am looking over the archives of Fat Possum records, but until I find some real Blues albums, I'll keep listening to the Keys. The album does rock, especially with songs like "Midnight In Her Eyes" and "Set You Free." Power chords and drums, and that's about it. I wonder how musically educated we'd all be if we'd actually been taught music in grade school, things like the sound Johnny Cash cultivated, or the late 60s early 70s art-rock scene in New York, instead of listening to awful children-sung renditions of Beach Boys and Billy Joel songs. If you didn't live through this, it was really quite something. And my teacher had a glass eye.

1. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. There's just something about Pavement's sound that lends itself to the summertime. Just listen to the first track, Silence Kit. The build-up to the epic guitar riff in the very beginning is enough to sustain an album, but it just keeps going. Also notable, the diss on Billy Corgan in "Range Life": "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/ Nature's kids, aw they don't have no function/ I don't understand what they mean/ and I could really give a fuck"

This wasn't a countdown list, just a list of things that occurred to me whilst writing, and I just wanted a finite number of things to write about, so I'm not saying Thickfreakness is better than Yankee Hotel. And hey, even if this sucked, at least it wasn't another half-figured political rant.

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