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  • Song of the Month, June 2007 = So Begins Our Alabee

    9 jul 2007, 20:29

    This months's song of the month is So Begins Our Alabee by of Montreal. I got both Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and The Sunlandic Twins at the same time so I can't really tell them apart, but this is a Sunlandic tune.

    Back in college I listened to Of Montreal a little bit and played them on WRCT but mainly as a kind of methadone treatment while we waited for other mainline artists like Neutral Milk Hotel (never came) and Apples in Stereo (maybe not a monotonic plummet but certainly Cauchy) and The Olivia Tremor Control (likewise implosion) releases or even stuff like Belle and Sebastian that I always associate with Elephant 6 even though they are like not even distant cousins.

    And sometimes I have this sad thought that some band that I own one of their CDs and they are moderately interesting that I once saw unenthusiastically open for some other mildly successful indie band, that this band is so low on my radar it is almost undetectably low, like when top guns fly their jets below the radar to avoid detection, but here's it's because their wings are too small or something like that, not because they are deliberately dodging the radio waves. That this band is borne out of the absence of music, the raw embarrassment that mostly empty record store shelves would feel if they only had the discs from the bands. And the sad thought is not that B-movies and B-bands and B-sides exist but that probably some of the people in these bands think that their bands are not weekend side projects bur actually really super, that they have written some really standout original pop tunes and are just working their way to the top and wondering if maybe they should only have started their band's name with A or 0-9 or Zyzzyvas for the minor abecedarian advantage bestowed for such early or late placement in otherwise arbitrary orderings. Like that they take themselves far seriouslier than their CMJ ranking justifies. This is sad to me, sadder even than when a formerly great band starts Cauchying to 0.

    So Of Montreal was a shoe-in for this month's song of the month artist since I used to kind of think that this band maybe should have changed its name to Zyzzyvas but have they made a turn for the A-list. (Thanks to jaked1 for making me listen. I responded to his e-mail: "dude these are some fucked up motherfuckers") Both of these albums are filled with great songs, and as I write this "Alabee" is my current favorite, but other highlights include Forecast Fascist Future, The Party's Crashing Us, Requiem for O.M.M.2, Suffer For Fashion, Cato As A Pun, etc. The width of their sound is mind blowing. It's clear Kevin Barnes (that's the pilot of this jet craft) is kind of a messed up insane genius, but in the recording asylum is the perfect place for such people. Don't stop!
  • Song of the Month, May 2007 = The Saddest Story Ever Told

    4 jun 2007, 23:00

    Ehh... umm... I'm a bit worried that after doing a rudimentary histogram on my song of the month blogothing you will find an alarming distribution with this month's addition. Only 5 different artists in 8 months? And two are Andrew Bird and The Shins? What is wrong with this supposedly worldly fellow? Is he like not caught up on The OC reruns or something? But even though this month's song is another one by the Magnetic Fields there were a lot of contenders so let me tell you about that first which will at least get me an asterisk on that embarrassingly heavy-tailed histogram.

    They Might Be Giants put out a new album after a pretty long break called, the album not the break, The Else. Even though as I mentioned in a previous post I haven't been paying much attention to these guys since college, I think this album is pretty good and I have listened to it many times. Favorites include Upside Down Frown and I'm Impressed, and even Careful What You Pack which is especially noteworthy since it has been an even longer time since I've liked a Flansburgh song. But anyway, one of those could have been song of the month for May but they're not.

    My pal mat64 put out a new internet album called Noise Feeder which I think is pretty good. I really like the songs Noise Pulse and Pfreeze, either of which could be a song of the month but they're not.

    Also right at the end of the month I tried Belle and Sebastian's The Life Pursuit and was quite surprised by its creativeness. But, a little late to find a song of the month, so maybe for June.

    I checked out The Curtains, the band that Chris Cohen betrayed Deerhoof to go phoenixize, right before by my coolometer Deerhoof really exploded in popularity but I don't think these events are related and we still do miss him. Curtains is very good and much more subdued so it might have had something to do with a desire to be generally less . The best song is Fell On A Rock & Broke It. But it is not song of the month.

    No, again The Magnetic Fields have sneak-attacked me with an oldie that I probably first heard ten years ago but somehow didn't realize the rulezness of until listening through their entire catalogue recently in search of such gemstones. The song is The Saddest Story Ever Told. Wow, nice! I learned this on piano just to verify that again the music is extremely simple, and am still puzzling over why I love it so hard. I think it basically comes down to three aspects: the melisma when Anway sings "those summer nights" and "diving for a girl you'll never find" the surprising shortness of some chorus phrases compared to their analogues in other parts of the song, and I just find the lyric "do do do do do, come on!" so funny especially in the context. No doubt there are other oldies waiting to sneak attack me in the MF back-catalogue. But let me pose a question that is two questions: Everyone knows that 69 Love Songs is pure gold, and if the Anway-era stuff is so underrated (I argue it is), why is i (the album's title is so narrow you can hardly click it!) so disappointing? And when is their new album coming out?
  • Song of the Month, April 2007 = Side to Side

    25 maj 2007, 16:41

    Carnegie Mellon University, where I go to school, has a gymnasium which is nice for basketball and everything and is called Weigand Gymnasium but it might as well be called Why Have Musical Acts Play In Here At All Because It Always Sounds Like Absolute Assgand Gymnasium. The high ceilings and polished hardwood make the whole thing an echo-y, muddled and sweaty mess. This venue can make you actually start hating your favorite band, I think. (Case in point: I went to see They Might Be Giants there about five years ago, who were once my favorite band, although at the time they were not, but I actually just left the show because it sucked so bad. And then I didn't listen to them for five years, but actually I think the new album The Else is pretty good.) I'm pretty sure the artists would just like feign equipment failure and go home if it weren't for the $30,000 or whatever that CMU pays for a concert and the well-meaning crowd who, because they live in Pittsburgh, have probably not ever been to a proper show where you can, you know, hear the music.

    Anyway ... like any white boy I like hip hop crossovers like Outkast but have never explored it in depth. I think Blackalicious is a real stupid band name. I actually happened to be walking by the WhyHave...AssGand Gymnasium when Blackalicious was playing in there last year and stayed for a few minutes, even though I am fully aware of the perils, and indeed the show was absolutely horrid. CMU cops started giving me scheiss because I had my camera with me at the time and this is apparently verboten so I left and filed Blackalicious in the mental DO NOT LISTEN pile (why do I always get so excited about these missteps?) until this year when my music sharing buddy nolacoaster hooked me up with his music collection at work. It does have stuff like Less Than Jake and Third Eye Blind (I won't even link those) so it's not exactly indietopia but I have an open mind policy now so I've been listening through almost everything that is not Ska or 90s alternata. You know what? Blackalicious is really great. It is less all over the map than OutKast but the production is really top notch; the songs complex and interesting and not all about cliche subjects; and Daddy Gabby really does have impressively fast lips. This album is worth listening to in its entirety and it has several very good songs (oh this is The Craft), such as Powers, World Of Vibrations, etc. Each of those others had some tiny thing that annoyed me, so my pick is Side to Side even though it does has like carnival trumpets in it (but so does +81, right?). Cleverly arranged and hilarious lyrics.
  • Song of the Month, March 2007 = Split Needles

    25 maj 2007, 16:11

    It was a close call between Phantom Limb and Split Needles, both from The Shins's new (at least it was in March when I picked these) album Wincing the Night Away. (Don't you hate how when you link up a track or album in this thing you have to put the artist there? I am just going to pretend that it doesn't keep saying The Shins except when I write it myself.) I got this album on my way to Germany for a conference and it was pretty much the only thing I had with me, so I listened to it a crapload of times. IMO these pups have been straight downhill since their first album Oh, Inverted World, but it has been a nice gentle decline, like a relaxing 0.5° downslope, and I think they've got a couple more good albums in them still.

    I like these songs pretty much the same but I decided to go with Split Needles because of the slightly weirder production and Official Ironmen Rally Song fingerpicking ethic.

    Also I believe I more-or-less directly ripped off the melisma in this song on my song recorded shortly after, Caltrops. (Don't listen to that one, most of the other songs on that album are better.)
  • Song of the Month, Feburary 2007 = Plasticities

    2 mar 2007, 22:52

    This month was a toss-up between Split Needles and Plasticities, but the latter has a better story so I'm going to go with that one. When Andrew Bird was here in Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Arts festival last summer I went to see him; it was more or less the first time I had heard his music. I thought he was pretty good as far as go, but I was especially into this song Plasticities that he then unfortunately informed me would not be available for me to internet-pirate until the beginning of 2007. So I stuck that thingy in my "music to listen to" text file and then sat around waiting for it to come out and forgetting what it sounded like. And then, lo, in the beginning of 2007 I saw the song pop up in my last.fm friends list, alerting me to its pre-release pirate availability status, and I soulsought it forthwith. I think that it is a great song, with only two defects. First is that the chorus of the song goes like this: We'll fight, we'll fight, we'll fight for your music halls and dying cities / They'll fight, they'll fight, they'll fight for your neural walls and plasticities. The problem is with the word plasticities. Either Birdman is meaning for it to be a pun/portmanteau of "plastic" and "cities" or he is using it literally to mean the qualit[ies] of being plastic (or metaphorically malleable). But if it is a pun, he is rhyming "cities" with "cities" which is totally lame. If Birdmeister means it more literally, then plasticities is not pronounced that way. The second problem comes right after those lines, when the guitar is like bong bong bongity-bong / bong bong bongity bong (last.fm does not have a "musical scale" markup button so that's the best I can do here) which to me sounds so harmonically puerile that I might as well be listening to that song that kids play on the piano that involves only rolling your knuckles over exclusively black keys. What the f is that doing in this otherwise really nicely subtle song, Oberoende Rock AB? But for real those are pretty much the only problems. I think mainly what I like about it is the guitar sound during the chorus, which is this great blaring sloppy thing, and specifically the pause between the first and second big bongs. If I remember correctly it was even more sloppy and blaring at the original concert, but that's sort of the way it these things go. Oh, one other thing, regarding not this song but the album cover for Armchair Apocrypha: why drop Jay Ryan's illustrations in favor of a picture of a bird's head? That guy is pure gold! (It's also like totally obvious, since your name is Bird!) Still, all of these complaints aside, jolly good show; I too will fight for your Andrew Carnegie Halls and Birdisticities.
  • Song of the Month, January 2007 = 100,000 Fireflies

    5 feb 2007, 19:35

    This month's song is an oldie, from 1991's Distant Plastic Trees. I think I first came to know this song in high school, from the cover that appears on Incidental Music 1991-95. When we were in college a few years later and someone mentioned The Magnetic Fields and how great they were, we listened to this album and I remember chuckling at how much it did not rock; specifically the version of the song I knew, 100,000 Fireflies, which in the MF version has like MIDI bells as its main instrument and a certain whimsical airiness. We shrugged them off and didn't pay attention again until 69 Love Songs came out. But recently I've been spending a lot of time away from my music collection and listening on my laptop, which only has a few albums on it, including all of the old Magnetic Fields stuff, and I have totally rediscovered this song. What's great about it? The lyrics are hilariously desperate. I love how TMF never sacrifice the proper flow of English sentences in order to make a syllable fall in the right place; a great example is when Susan Anway sings "Someone else's might have not made me so sad, but this is the worst night I ever had." The song seems to shift and invert itself for the purpose of getting that lyric out, rather than some contortion or filibuster "yeah" or "oh" thrown in there to make the meter match up correctly. Musically I find it very clever, particularly that part and the part that begins "You won't be happy with me...", despite the MIDI bells. What's most remarkable to me is that I went back and listened to the Superchunk cover (100,000 Fireflies) and found it utterly without merit (pun intended). I think Superchunk wrote and performed some great rock songs in their day, but this cover removes almost everything that is great about the original. In a way I think it might be responsible for me not understanding the Magnetic Fields for another 5–10 years! Anyway, hats off to you, Magnetic Fields, for enriching January 2007 with 100,000 Fireflies.
  • Song of the Month, December 2006 = Matchbook Seeks Maniac

    1 jan 2007, 20:17

    Wow, how outrageously shallow of me to pick the same artist two months in a row for song of the month, but after downloading a prerelease of Deerhoof's forthcoming album Friend Opportunity (I couldn't resist!) it just has to be them again. This album is loaded with great stuff. It's a close call with The Perfect Me, the world rocking opening track, but the oddly poppy Matchbook Seeks Maniac is the only song this month that I woke up singing to myself and had to get out of bed to listen to, so it is the winner. Viva le hoof!
  • Song of the Month, November 2006 = Spirit Ditties of No Tone

    1 dec 2006, 18:06

    Song of the month for November 2006 is Spirit Ditties Of No Tone by Deerhoof. jaked1 and I saw these folks play at the Andy Warhol museum earlier this month and it was completely rad, especially since . I had listened to occasional Deerhoof before that, but the concert inspired me to get some albums. I like a lot of songs from their album The Runners Four but Spirit Ditties of No Tone is my favorite. Only a Japanese accent could rhyme "tone" with "inspiration."
  • Song of the Month, October 2006 = Walking my Gargoyle

    2 nov 2006, 04:33

    I decided to start listing my "song of the month" picks (when I make them) to this journal since, hey, it has like auto artist links or whatever.

    The Song of the Month for October 2006 is "Walking My Gargoyle!" Hilarious! The Gothic Archies is the best Stephin Merritt since 69 Love Songs, and this is my favorite track off the record.

    The song is on both the new album, called something like "The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events", and the 3-song sampler that comes with The Beatrice Letters books.
  • This is not my journal

    9 aug 2005, 20:10

    My actual journal is kept elsewhere: see Tom 7 Radar.