Sammy the Seal

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

“Promise me this’ll be the last time”

In vinyl on Wednesday, 27 April, 2011 at 22:54

Song: Another Gear Uncaught
Artist: Sarge
Album: Charcoal

The deceptively angelic coo of Elizabeth Elmore: bittersweet goodness. The way she walked the line between tough and vulnerable was often quite affecting. Was this recorded in someone’s bedroom? Quite possibly. But, I’m sure lo-fi would agree, that sometimes a girl and a guitar is plenty sufficient.

Sorry, Elizabeth, that I didn’t come see you solo in 2002 when I had the chance. Dumb-arse boy.

“I cursed the spring that stole my breath
and just a year ago, I nearly burned to death
I try to clear my mind
I try to ignore all the ways this reminds me of the last time

a handful of pills or so
is all that it takes, I know
if you pour me a glass of rum,
I’ll crush this cigarette out before I’m done
bright lights choke me
and who are you to make me bleed?

I’m fragmenting apart, I hate the way that you stare through me

I came to and caught my breath
charcoal on my lips the only memory left
I’m falling down inside from screams raging through my mind
just promise me this’ll be the last time”


“777 times lovelier than anything I’ve ever seen”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 26 April, 2011 at 10:18

Song: With Whom to Dance?
Artist: The Magnetic Fields
Album: Get Lost

An old favorite. Thank goodness Stephin Merritt has roughly the same vocal register as I do. Magnetic Fields great for sing-along or vocal practice. I bet this is an easy song to learn and play. Good for serenading, I bet. He’s known for smart-alecky wordplay, but check out this less common display of sincere, longing, melodramatic romanticism. Pretty.

“Moons in June
I’ve given up on that stuff
Arms have charms
But I’ve no hope of falling in love

The rest of life pales in significance
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance
With whom to dance?
With whom to dance?
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance

Rings and strings
What use have I for these things?
Bells and carousels
I’d just be fooling myself

The rest of life pales in significance
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance
With whom to dance
With whom to dance
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance

And you, you look like heaven
An angel who stepped from a dream
777 times lovelier than anything I’ve ever seen

The rest of life pales in significance
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance
With whom to dance
With whom to dance
I’m looking for somebody with whom to dance”

Sugar needles

In delicious, funny ha ha on Sunday, 24 April, 2011 at 3:39

It’s late and I’m recovering from tipsy but I better put this up before I forget. Yup, Cibo Matto face time on “House of Style” in 1996. Seeing as their debut album references food constantly, they go around sampling food in NYC. That being said, what’s up with Miho’s hair? : )  If you don’t know, she’s the shorter one, she spells out Cibo Matto and appears to kung fu her dessert later on. Both of them the pinnacle of cuteness. The way Yuka says “in Switzerland” just slays me– darling. They certainly were a special pair.

(For anyone who cares, the songs that play in the background are “Apple”, “Know Your Chicken”, “Theme”, “Birthday Cake”, “Theme” again, “Le Pain Perdu”, “The Candy Man”, and “Le Pain Perdu” again.)

“But my hands are tied”

In vinyl on Sunday, 24 April, 2011 at 3:01

Song: Counterglow
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Fluorescence

Great, more Asobi. I’ve just been feeling this one lately. And, there’s only two or three more songs, then I’ll just stream the whole album, since there’s already five tracks up. Hey, it’s still a new album, it’s only two months old. (But it feels like an old, trusty companion already.)

No disrespect at ALL to guitarist James Hanna, but I feel I’m in the majority of AS fans who don’t like it so much when he has lead vocals. I think they work much better as backing vocals, which is supposed to be a compliment, by the way. (And, conversely, Yuki works just as well backing– dig those ooh’s.) Save for their self-titled debut, this is not much of a problem, as Yuki took over almost all vocal duties from Citrus on. But, from those who like album, this is a consensus stand-out. It might because his vocals are more reverbed and processed, compared to previous albums. The groove reminds me of 90s trip-hop for some reason, correct me if I’m way off. When the snap and beat alternate during the song, I like to alternately snap and clap along. Fun. That brief synth organ (or whatever) stab at 1:51 that appears and never repeats is just perfect.

Good chill-out song. This one was definitely a grower– not earth-shattering, but I love the vibe.

“I only mean to deceive”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 22 April, 2011 at 21:55

Song: Never Listen to Me
Artist: The Thermals
Album: Personal Life

Nice solo dancing, but I wish the video had done more. Hmm… I guess it sort of fits the song, which is rather austere for a rock song, and never overwhelms. Not much pizzazz, save for the short solos and brief moments of crunch and heavy-osity. (Don’t miss the wonderful li’l “ow!” at 0:51.) But, it’s still danceable, as bassist Kathy, et al. demonstrate, due to the simple, but insistent beat, which I personally think is what holds the song together. I think it’d be lost without it. It would be too plaintive.

I have my own idea of what he means in the verse that repeats near the end, but I just wanted to mention it briefly, as I enjoy a good mixed message now and then:

“I’ll give you all that I have
I’ll tell you everything
love me all of my life
never listen to me”

If this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, I apologize. But the song itself is not flashy, the tone is certainly muted. And that’s actually what I like. Hutch Harris’ vocals are subdued and more personal, he doesn’t yelp or wail like he’s been known to. It’s stripped down, but not too far, and it never tries to knock your socks off or do too much. As is the case with the dance party and air instrumentals near the end of the video, I arrive at the end of song on a subtly positive note. Air drumming and guitaring your own song is a nice touch, plus, you can never go wrong with a dance party.

“I can’t be still now”

In vinyl on Wednesday, 20 April, 2011 at 2:10

Song: Strings
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Citrus

I held off as well I could– I blame song shuffle. I sincerely dislike hyperbole. But this, to me, is a perfect song. Perfectly played, perfectly sung, perfectly arranged, perfectly produced, perfectly dynamic. Contrary to usual practice, there will be no further explication– deconstruction is the antithesis (and enemy) of poetry. I love every single second of this song, all 327 of them. 5:27 is the perfect length. For best effect, keep the volume high. No blast, just high. Lost in splendor every time.

(That bass line at 3:01…. thievery of The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” perhaps?

Well, seeing as how the band has admitted an affinity for 60s girl-groups, and recorded a cover of this as a b-side somewhere, I’m pretty sure it’s an homage.)

“For my folks in the drop top”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 19 April, 2011 at 4:23

Song: Wheelz of Steel
Artist: Outkast
Album: ATLiens

Mid-90s, wow. High school and stuff. Nonetheless, Outkast take no shit like, um, stopped-up commodes. “As I sit in my b-boy stance, with flip-flops and socks and sweatpants”– kinda inauspicious description for a classic. What, no “Elevators?” Well, I heard “Wheelz” today and not “Elevators”. I like how these songs simmer, they’re not in-your-face, all swagger, no bite front-a-thons. It’s said the sign of a good actor is you can’t even tell they’re acting. I think the same can be said of MC-ing. I liked their interplay and contrast, they struck a great balance of styles.

Thanks to some swell person, the instrumental track is here for you to enjoy, please. Mmm, good old-fashioned scratching. Good-natured condescension alert: take away the rhymes and leave the beat and instrumentals with most anything out today, and I, uh, guarantee it doesn’t sound remotely as good as this.

“My head was feeling scared, but my heart was feeling free”

In vinyl on Sunday, 17 April, 2011 at 19:46

Song: The Happening
Artist: Pixies
Album: Bossanova

What a sweet, gentle line about…. aliens landing on the Vegas Strip. Pixies could be weird, but damned if they weren’t melodic too. If you single out each separate element, they’re all rather simple (e.g. the percussion– nothing to write home about, but I just love it for some reason), but given space to breathe, and arrangement, they create something ethereal and glowing. And, by the last minute or so, when Frank Black’s lilting vocals and the airy ahh’s join forces, the infinte feels warm and strangely comforting. Now that I think about it (duh), the story is in on it too. The way alien arrival plays out here is quite idyllic: first, everyone on the highway u-turns to go meet the visitors, who are guesting a radio show. It’s almost too cute:

“I heard the voices on a broadcast from up on the bird
they were getting interviewed by some Goodman whose name was Bill
I’m almost there to Vegas where they’re puttin’ on a show
they’ve come so far, I’ve lived this long, at least, I must just go and say hello”

Marvelous atmosphere, lovely, lovely melody. The last 1:12 is magical.

“Let’s get the hell outta here!”

In celluloid, funny ha ha on Sunday, 17 April, 2011 at 17:01

Ah, stream of consciousness, the source of so much random joy. While searching for a different Mr. Show that popped into my head out of nowhere a couple days ago, I find these instead. Anyone alive during the 90s should remember the source of this series of sketches, Smuckers’ Goober Grape product, the product that put peanut butter and jelly in the same jar. Not the most daring target for social satire, but astute and scathing nonetheless.

The “how are the sandwiches, kids?” mini-scene at the end is one of my favorite in the show’s run, plus special mention to the contrast of the “before” and “after” scores, e.g. the whistling.

Jay Johnston, Jay Johnston, Jay Johnston. SUCH an asset to the show, he’s probably my favorite second-stringer. There’s just something about him as a person and an actor. On the audio commentary for the episode, Jay explains the arm pumps: “Troy, the director, said, when we were shooting this, that it would be in slow-motion, and so I thought it would be funny to pump my arms really fast so that they would move faster when it was slow. And, uh…. ridiculous.” I’m thinking it was a happy accident, that they were indeed going for the standard action movie cliché, so the actor made a logical choice, but then, it looked so goofy that they changed course and went with the scene exactly as filmed. And they got a classic moment out of it.

(For the record, the poster left out a ‘d’, it’s Mustmayostardayonnaise.) “Sometimes I think I spread my life too thin.” What a fantastic song. It reminds me of the Bob Lamonta sketch (to be seen later), in that, despite its sheer absurdity, there’s actually something a little moving, intended or not. Anyone who knows comedy knows it’s all about subtlety and details, and this show had as sharp an eye as any.

“See just how far you can get”

In vinyl on Saturday, 16 April, 2011 at 8:23

Songs: Say Aha; I’m a Lady
Artist: Santogold (not anymore though)
Album: Santogold

I’d say “dust off your records” but the album’s only three years old. All but two or three songs are rock solid, with most being incredibly catchy, but why not the super-spunky one with hooks hangin’ out the anus (cf. Puff Daddy)– they’re everywhere (see: the take-no-prisoners chorus that’s already bent you to its will). As far as vocal style, you got your fire and sass, your understated, assured cool, and your angelic coo that assure, “empowering lyrical package, we got your back.” To say nothing of the danceable-as-hell aspect, awesome and beneficent 25-second outro with guitar solo, impressive production value, and brutally efficient economics– the song clocks a perfect 3.5 minutes. No teasing nor ingratiating.

To contrast nicely, the less heralded, tucked-away-at-the-end-of-the-album “I’m a Lady”. A loping, relaxed groove with calm, slightly detached vocals to match, and a chorus that sneaks up on you in letting you know how catchy it really is. I may not be gushing like above, but I really like this song. It’s unassuming but strong. Where “Aha” is defiant and perky, this song cool as a cucumber.

Credit inspiration to a fellow admirer who informed me that a new album would arrive this year. Further research yielded the fact that a month ago, almost to the day, she signed with Roc-a-Fella. Good for you, Santi.