Sammy the Seal

Archive for the ‘vinyl’ Category

“I think this could turn out fine if I’d shut up and let things be okay”

In vinyl on Saturday, 31 August, 2013 at 13:47

Song: Stall
Artist: Sarge
Album: The Glass Intact

Truth, or what? Kicker is, the music then drops out to and our heroine is left to clearly confess, that, nonetheless, “I fought back while we laid in his bed.” Man, is Elizabeth Elmore awesome, or what? Way to make a first impression on the first cut of the album. And I haven’t even mentioned the hooks, or the mini-solo at the very end. I’ve loved this song for almost fourteen years now, and my love burns no less. Self-awareness without moping, I just get geeky about that. It’s not terribly sexy, nor does it sell, to be clear-minded and honest and admit how flawed and conflicted you are, but this is a perfect example of everything she and Sarge did right. People always say honesty is a virtue, but rarely care to cut through all the b.s.

I always think of the review of this band that I somehow stumbled across– I’ve never read that site otherwise– that got me interested, and articulated all this perfectly. There were two reviews, but only this one is still up. (The one for The Glass Intact is gone, boo.) The article opens, “…At a time when I had no use for anything that didn’t communicate directly, Charcoal [the band’s first album] sounded as if it were made by people who had no patience for anything else.” It’s not just that I agree, but between that opening, and the concluding paragraph, it’s well-structured and well-written. Better than I could say here.

I remember this song having lots of memorable lines, but forgot how front-to-back astute and no-nonsense it is. If anyone’s making bones about who and how they are, it ain’t Elizabeth. Good for her.

“6 months at bay and we wrecked the porch, then kissed at dark, we crossed the line
Where it was blurred, not sure it’s smart
‘Cause I’m not the angel that he wishes I could be
For all my storms, all words escape me every time he looks at me

And I hated the way we talked as if there was nothing really important to say
‘Til I noticed how he stuck around every time I wished he would stay
Anticipation killed me nightly
He slept soundly while I laid awake
‘Til it was more than I could take

6 spun the but I was too afraid to try, I’ve been with lots of boys
And they screwed me up so I learned to lie
But he plays me records, gets me home safe late at night
He kissed me one too many times, but still this boy
He couldn’t see the light

But I hated the way we talked as if there was nothing really important to say
‘Til I noticed how he stuck around every time I wished he would stay
I think this could turn out fine
If I’d shut up and let things be okay
But I fought back while we laid in his bed

And I worry about the line between his and mine and what the boys will say
When I finally gave him up and walked away, he started following
This is harder than I ever thought it’d be
So tell me will I pay
For the smack that left me safe

So let’s stay in bed all day and pray things will die okay”


“I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter”

In vinyl on Sunday, 5 May, 2013 at 13:01

Song: Hot Knife
Artist: Fiona Apple
Album: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Why is this song so awesome? Well, there’s:

– the sweet, goofy conceit of the lyrics; e.g. “I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter”,
– the straightforward minimalism that makes its point but allows the song to move and flow,
– the addictive rhythm, especially of the vocals (danceable, no doubt),
– the rounds and vocal interplay between Fiona and her sister Maude,
– her excited, feisty yelps,
– the weird fact that, for once,  she’s singing about the joys of love, and not its trappings and complications,
– the gift of four vocal parts to choose from when singing along,
– the way all four vocal parts merge at the end into a wonderful, semi-chaotic chorus,
– the unabashed, unmistakable joy, brightness, and confidence, not just of the tone and tempo, but of Fiona’s state of being. There’s her girlish admissions– “he makes my heart a CinemaScope screen showing a dancing bird of paradise”; her inhibition– “he excites me!…. I get feisty!”; her calm, smooth assurance– “you can relax around me”; and her playful and subtle sauciness– “maybe he could teach me something, maybe I could teach him too”, and
– the way the song (and album) ends succinctly on a single, unadorned syllable.

Surely one of the most favorite things I’ve heard in some time. So good.

“I went to the market to realize my soul”

In vinyl on Sunday, 24 March, 2013 at 15:09

Song: Rudie Can’t Fail
Artist: The Clash
Album: London Calling

Shoot, what to do when I don’t feel like wasting too much time writing? Oh yeah, choose a song so awesome, the words flow easily, and you don’t even have to say much to begin with. My goodness, could this song be any catchier and livelier? I love the spontaneous atmosphere of the song, with backing vocals, spoken asides, interjections, and scatting from anyone and everyone at any moment scattered all throughout the song– “sing, Michael, sing!”, “no, no”, “oh no”, “okay!”, “have!”, “hey boss man!”, “where you wanna go today?” (since I first heard this song, I imagined that this is where Microsoft took their old tagline from). It seems the rule was to leave the mic open, and if you get close to it, you have to say something or make a noise. Even if you’re not in the band. It sounds like recording was a great time, I’d be shocked to learn there were too many takes of this. The camaraderie is humbling and inspiring, and it kinda galvanizes the chorus, which has a sincere, slightly plaintive tone, especially on the first two lines. They took time out to be heartfelt, then moved on before dwelling on it too much.

I always think describing them using the word “punk” is kind of an insult– they’re musicians, plain and simple. No posing, no self-importance, no bombast, just a good time delivered with great musicianship and élan for widespread enjoyment. There are songs I listen to more often, but this song is a perfect example of the joy and love of music. If you’re not singing, dancing, moving, or even bobbing your head? Well, if you can’t say something nice….

Some pictures. I always think it’s neat to see stuff from before I was born, when musicians sort of mattered. Hell, the world’s changed so much in the just the last 15 years, 35-40 seems downright mythical.

“Can’t say why I kept this from you”

In music videos, vinyl on Sunday, 3 March, 2013 at 14:49

Song: Turn Into
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: Show Your Bones

Thank you to Easy Street for playing this song as I walked in the store, else I wouldn’t have been compulsively listening to this for the last six weeks. I guess it’s serendipity as much as anything, as it’s the final track on the album and  I happened to walk in on the solo halfway through the song. Regardless, hooray for record stores!

Every album is a progression for any performer, but this album and song feels less calculated than their debut. The brash, saucy vixen seemed all affectation to me. Despite a few good songs, that attitude rubbed me the wrong way when I wasn’t unimpressed by it. This one feels truer and more measured; it’s not all edge. As far as the more emotional songs go, this, just by comparison, blows “Maps” out of the water. The vocals are affecting and sincere, complementing the confessions and perspective of the lyrics. It’s pretty obviously (to me) about opening up/letting go, and I especially love the bridge, where the lyrics have gone from her not finishing her lines, to straight candor:

“Can’t say why I kept this from you
My, those quiet eyes become you
Leave it where it can’t remind us
Turn this all around behind us
Well I know
I’ll fall right in to keep you out,
I’d like to tell you all about it” (awesome crescendo in her voice on the very end of this line)

Between this and “Hysteric”, they certainly have a knack for mature reconciliation (call me an idealist, or at least optimist) love songs, which aren’t the sexiest or happiest, but feel more honest. The latter is more subdued and has less immediacy, but only by comparison. They both have a sense of acceptance and lessons learned that inform the song and give it some truth and realism. There’s a certain perspective that can only come with a fair amount of maturity and frankness with oneself, and these two are laced with it. It’s the process of moving from “I know what I know” and “keep that kind of window closed”, to “hope I do turn into you” and “I’d like to tell you all about it”, and maybe to “turn into the only thing you ever know”.

Of course, all that touchy-feely would be ultimately moot if the song weren’t danceable as hell. Which it is. It’s the first thing I noticed when I first heard the full song. This is a highly dynamic song. The fast, short strumming and steady, moderate gallop of the drums are rhythmically addictive and keep things moving. I can’t say it enough, but I really like when there’s some drive and muscle behind a song that elevates it from the level of mere prettiness and “aww!” It has that at heart, but it’s rockin’ too. What good is sentiment without conviction and a grounded attitude? That being said, the piano that starts just after 1:30 is too sweet, and how better to follow it up than with a squealing, spacey, awesome solo. The high notes that guitar hits from there until the end…. ah yeah. Lots of delicious noise at the end of the song. The drum fills at the end of the solo and at 3:19, where it kicks off the coda, are old as the hills, but who cares, I’m glad they put them there. They’re non-gratuitous, simple, and satisfying. I think this may well be their best song (pending the coming release).

I like the video– simple, hazy, colorful, and a little joyful, too. I’ve heard Karen O is as exuberant and expressive live as she is here, it’s a good look. The floating band near the end is some good goofy. Even Nick Zinner, sturm-und-drang-looking brooding with his foofy hairstyle and all, smiles at 3:23! I love that stuff. Count me for enjoying what you’re doing rather than posturing. I hate to reduce her to “cute”, but she looks cute here. Unabashed dancing always score points with me.

“Hey, hey lover, you’re still burning”

In delicious, vinyl on Saturday, 23 February, 2013 at 9:29

Song: When The Sun Hits
Artist: Slowdive
Album: Souvlaki

I wanted some noise. It’s got a classic quiet-loud-quiet, which is always good for air guitar and/or headbanging. The final crescendo is the best: it’s the heaviest and loudest. It hits instantly at 4:13, and it feels really good. It’s also a great way to start the coda/fadeout. The rhythm is decent too, no slow, plodding, aimless pace– it’s got some verve to it. Rhythm is so important. Without it, it’d  probably come off as merely a “pretty” piece. Plus, languorous, dreamy, obscured vocals, a divine, bittersweet melody, and a overall subtle melancholy– yeah, this is some good shoegaze.

This is a couple days old, my checkerboard cake. Inside it has alternating sections/rings/layers of chocolate and white cake (hence the name). This is the first cake I did start-to-finish on my own. The others required finishing with fine detailing that wasn’t going to be entrusted to me, as justified by my fondant faults here:

checkerboard faults 1

and here:

checkerboard faults 2

Also, only some borders came out okay. I got better halfway through, though unfortunately I didn’t get any shots of it, they’re on the other side. Dang pressure control, still have trouble. The rest looks presentable though:

checkerboard 2

Though I highlight the fondant trouble and ugly (in places) border, it doesn’t look too bad, when looking at the finish as a whole, even with the teeny, yet visible faults on top. I bordered a cake last week that I felt not too confident about as I was piping, but when seeing it as a finished border, it came together. So I still feel good about this one:

checkerboard 1

“Feign care and warm concern, the kiss you did not earn”

In music videos, vinyl on Sunday, 17 February, 2013 at 19:59

Song: Sad Eyes
Artist: Crystal Castles
Album: Crystal Castles (III)

First off, I believe most music within any given genre is interchangeable. It’s not judgment nor negativity so much as it is statistics. I admit bias when I say that I think it’s especially true of electronic, techno, house, rave, or any similar style or combination of those. There’s a facelessness, which I think is actually built into it– the nature/purpose of the music is not really about nuance.

Of course, there are always exceptions. The aesthetic and dynamic this duo fashions is singularly theirs, which I think is impressive, given that the sounds, templates, and style are things you’ve heard before: you know whom you’re listening to. And, they’ve grown way the hell up; their second and third albums leave their debut in the dust. (Bias again: I don’t think the genre is really given to growth, for the same reason it’s not much for nuance.)

Ah, the old days of VHS– horizontal lines, color bars, sigh… There’s something about old images, older film stock and video, etc., that’s so imperfect and rough and warm. I’m such a relic. They cut over a minute from the song though, it just ends after the second verse and chorus– boo!

On an album full of tension and despair, I coulda picked most any song to go here, but I stuck to my guns (take that, indecisiveness) and went with the one with the most urgency and heightened drama. Unfortunately, it’s over in 3.5 minutes. (The whole album is only forty minutes.) What a tease. I’m reminded of a song similar in its sense of concentrated, pumped up melodrama, that I know of only because of the film Lilja 4-ever, whose soundtrack is techno all the way.

Song: The Ride
Artist: Double N
Album: Lilja 4-ever Soundtrack

Without knowing the context, the tension and stakes sound high, perhaps artificially so. It gains a bit more heft when you’re aware the film is about human trafficking, and remember the scene it plays over. Can’t much stand the genre, but I genuinely like this song. The movie helps, but the song still has to earn its keep. If you’re in the mood for serious movie that has one of my favorite bittersweet endings, check it out. Just be prepared to be bummed out.

“No weak heart shall prosper”

In vinyl on Sunday, 27 January, 2013 at 23:23

Song: Hearts Of Oak
Artist: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Album: Hearts Of Oak

Aww, this song is so positive! It’s a little bit of a departure for them, in that it features disparate elements such as female vocals, maracas, cowbell, and other assorted percussion, but they all conspire to foster a welcoming,  almost (too) fuzzy atmosphere. (The lyrics are a little hokey as well, in my opinion.) Ted’s lively, life-affirming guitar goes without saying, of course. I like a number of his other songs better than this, but it’s just so warm and friendly, like a hug! Sure it has less edge and punch than his best stuff, but a relaxed, hanging-out vibe is nice now and then. (Uh oh, I sense the cloying approach….)

“(She said, she said!)” Bold, unabashed vocal interjections always welcome.

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t your first choice”

In vinyl on Sunday, 20 January, 2013 at 11:23

Song: The Weekenders
Artist: The Hold Steady
Album: Heaven Is Whenever

Way too many lines I could’ve used as the title, like every second or third, literally. It sure is hard to do these things with school and work. It’s easy to stay on top of music when you have no life. Things really are different when you have important things to do. But this rousing song, with its embarrassment of lyrical riches, called to me. I have to say, first off, that I’m a little underwhelmed by the solo, it doesn’t feel as cathartic. Part of me thinks I’m just jaded, that it’s somehow my fault. Not everything can be “Lord, I’m Discouraged”, or even “Joke About Jamaica”.

Now that the slightly negative is out of the way, there are the nice backing oh’s under the chorus. Always welcome, made for joining in. And, duh, the rhythm section, great, steady beat. That simple, solitary two-note guitar melody in the verses feels wonderfully lonely and melancholy, which is in the vocals, and probably because I find much of the lyrics a bit poignant and relevant. (Grammar note: I am using “the lyrics” as a collective noun, not plural.) Can’t help but think. Fortunately, it’s still melodic and doesn’t drag, and because of who we’re dealing with, the chorus is pumped up with energy, so there’s little self-pity or mope, and more honesty, reality, and acceptance.

“There was that whole weird thing with the horses
I think they know exactly what happened, I don’t think it needs any explaining
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t your first choice
I think I was the last one remaining
I wish we hadn’t gone and destroyed it, ’cause I was thinking we could pull another weeekender, if you still got a little bit of clairvoyance

I remember the metal bar
I remember the reservoir
You could say our paths had crossed before

So if it has to be a secret, then I guess that I can deal with it
You and I both know it’s a negative thing
In the end, only the girls know the whole truth

There were a couple pretty crass propositions
There were some bugs in the bars, there was a kid camped out by the coat check
She said “the theme of this party’s the industrial age”
And you came in dressed like a train wreck

I remember the O.T.B.
the five-second delivery
You could say our paths have crossed before

So if it has to be a secret, then I guess that I can deal with it
God only knows, it’s not always a positive thing
to see a few seconds into the future
And if you swear to keep it decent, then, yeah, I’ll come and see you,
but it’s not gonna be like in romantic comedies
In the end, I bet no one learns a lesson

So if it has to be a secret, then I guess that I can deal with it
You and I both know it’s a negative thing
In the end, only the girls know the whole truth
And if you swear to keep it decent, then, yeah, I’ll come and see you,
but it’s not gonna be like in romantic comedies
In the end, I bet no one learns a lesson

In the end, only the girls know the whole truth
In the end, I bet no one learns a lesson”

“It’s time we all reach out for something new….that means you too”

In vinyl on Monday, 7 January, 2013 at 21:06

Song: Purple Rain
Artist: Prince & The Revolution
Album: Purple Rain

Wailing, shredding, and more soul than puny you can handle. At  8+ minutes, it’s not really a fair fight, but like it matters: even just 3:40-6:34 will have you in thrall and in tears. He’s a pretty talented guy, you know.

Feel it.

“I want a new détente, it might be worth a try”

In vinyl on Monday, 19 November, 2012 at 0:59

Song: Spy Vs. Spy
Artist: The Mr. T Experience
Album: The Miracle Of Shame EP

I listened to this and “Fake Plastic Trees” back and forth today. I opted for lighter. With so many smarty-pants lines (naturally, it is Dr. Frank), what to use for the title? There’s nothing too special here, just a nicely crafted, hooky little nugget of slightly jangly guitar pop backing a cute, clever lyrical conceit. There’s a slight throwback tone I’m getting, the subtle, sparse harmonies might have a hand in that. All simply and deftly executed to light-as-a-breeze perfection.

“I know you’ve been going through my pockets whenever you can
At least I understand what you’ve been going through
But I wonder if it’s understanding we’re short of
Is it love or Mission Impossible?

Ooh baby, what are you looking for?
What do you do with all the evidence?

We’re in a state of stalemate
which no one can deny
It makes our love a matter of
Spy vs. spy

Sometimes bizarre promises are whispered in your ear
Does that interfere with your investigation?
Yeah I thought so, we are not so different, you and me
Insecurity leads to aggression

Ooh baby, what are we gonna do?
We’re on the brink of conflagration

I want a new détente
it might be worth a try
But you’re aiming for a colder war
Spy vs. spy
And we need some new ways to do
the calculations by
when me plus you goes into two
Spy vs. spy

Ooh baby, what are we headed for?
I have a feeling, but it’s classified”