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“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
Oh
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.

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“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.

“Go to the grocery store, buy some new friends”

In music videos, vinyl on Thursday, 19 July, 2012 at 14:25


Song: Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine
Artist: Modest Mouse
Album: The Lonesome Crowded West

A crowd-pleaser this ain’t (unless you’re a fan). But is that abrasive, pissed-off opening guitar line awesome. It’s certainly not the most accessible, which of course was my reaction first hearing it however many years ago. To say nothing of the 6:53 run time, which is another thing that turned me off initially. I don’t know if it’s purely an age thing, where you have enough experience to appreciate different things more, a sense of “comprehension” (though that sounds kinda indie elitist snob, which is not what I mean). Or else it’s being in a certain state of life or even just frame of mind where one is more receptive to the energy (whatever that is) that’s being purveyed, or things just make sense. Anyway, it’s nice to be at the party, even if you’re incredibly late.

The song is a bit pent-up and angry, but intelligent. If you’ve ever heard or read their lyrics, much of them have a decidedly philosophical bent. Sure there’s some confusion and self-loathing, but it’s not stale, it has a nervous, frantic energy. I used to merely tolerate its presence as “track 1”, but now I actually enjoy it. Being more “mature” and all. You know a song is good when it’s almost seven minutes long and it’s still over too quickly. So maybe song length is a matter of age and experience as well, as I’ve been a bit more receptive towards longer songs recently. However, patience  obviously still has mostly to do with whether it’s a good song or not. It goes places, rather than wandering, noodling, or wanking about to stretch out the time. I appreciate the different movements, or segments. For example, the guitar line that supports the opening verses goes away after 1:30, sort of like the ragged but melodic and perky first two minutes of “Lounge (Closing Time)” before the tempo slows and shifts. Sad to see it go, but fortunately the rest of the song is good. It’s good headbanging music for brainy, thoughtful people. t’s smart, it’s “deep” (“do you need a lot of what you got to survive?”), and it rocks. Not that I’d throw this (or the album, for that matter) on looking to have a good time, as it’s a bit dark and “serious”. But as far as purging and expressing the inexpressible, music like this always valuable. And yet, it still is a little fun. The loud parts with all their heavy-osity are nice and charged– those conclusive 95 seconds? Yeah, man, yeah.

I can never resist really old clips of live performances, this one from 2000. The sound isn’t the best, however this one gets the nod because of the Mr. Show reference before the song (“King Shit….”), and because the show starts off (this was the opening song, allegedly) with Isaac Brock taking the piss out of a heckler (or hecklers). Also, it is said that before this show, some jackass (possibly the same verbal heckler) was throwing water at him while he was setting up. He asked the person to stop so he wouldn’t get shocked, they didn’t, so he jumped off stage and started swinging. The frustrated, pissed off thing isn’t just a songwriting tone, he brings that in real life too. I hope that story’s true. If only that were captured on tape somewhere….

“A cheap holiday in other people’s misery”

In music videos, vinyl on Tuesday, 10 July, 2012 at 10:35


Song: Holidays In The Sun
Artist: Sex Pistols
Album: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols

First song in four weeks. Then, I haven’t been listening to music much at all lately. I’m not sure if I should be scared about that. And now, the Sex Pistols? Hey, that’s a great opening line, no doubt about that. It was written about Berlin (when The Wall was still a reality, kids), but I think it can apply to any “disadvantaged” place that civilized, privileged people happen upon. Bless the couple in the last panel.

holidaysinthesun

holidayinthesun2

It feels like, for the most part, they were there for show, to agitate, subversion for its own sake. But, in 1976-7, I’m sure it worked like a charm. And it’s still a hook-y, terribly exhilarating song. Johnny Rotten’s hyper-snottiness genuinely amuses me, strongly affected as it may be. Like the spoken mish-mash at the end, and the way it tumbles out so loosely and messily:
“I don’t understand this thing at all, this third-rate B-movie show/cheap dialogue, cheap essential scenery”

It’s easy now to take it as aimless rebellion, amateurish and short-sighted, but it still seems like a lot of fun.

“Twin high-maintenance machines”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 15 June, 2012 at 18:56


Song: This Year
Artist: The Mountain Goats
Album: The Sunset Tree

Ah, two of my favorite things: good storytelling, and upbeat music over more dramatic, “heavy” sentiments (e.g., the refrain). I guess I could say three things, if you include a simple, but effective hook, but that goes without saying. It’s a shame I haven’t taken to much of John Darnielle’s output as a whole, because he has a quite unique voice. I’ve heard him sound a bit spirited from time to time, but the music never quite matched it. The vast majority of his songs are played solely on acoustic guitar, rarely being matched with fuller arrangements. I’m sure it’d stand out fine acoustically, but with the simple addition of adding piano and stomping percussion, this song is an undeniable rush, despite being essentially an “unplugged” performance. I think it’s safe to say this is by far the most, if not only, jaunty, toe-tapping tune in the Goats’ repertoire. Not that the subject matter is too hefty, but the refrain is pretty universal, even if it sounds melodramatic, so it always helps when music helps the pill go down. Not that I can relate specifically to the story, but at the very least I have to give it up for the lyricism and detail. I give propers to his work with his pen on this one. And yet, there’s nothing really hidden, it’s a pretty literal song. And, even if one can’t relate directly or personally to the themes, the overall message or sentiment can apply anywhere: nervous, unsure hope and resolve, but hope and resolve nonetheless.

Thanks to Craig Finn to alluding to this song out on The Hold Steady’s song “Girls Like Status”, when he sang, “it was song #3 on John’s last cd– ‘gonna make it through this year if it kills me.'” (“This Year” is, yes, the third track on the album.) Of course, of all the 500+ songs I borrowed from someone else’s collection, I’m sure I would’ve latched on to this song anyway. I’d guess that among the devotees, this is one of his most well-known songs. Not just because it’s good, but because of its spirit and pop feel. Energy like this is hard to miss, and to deny.

“Forget your past, this is your last chance”

In music videos, vinyl on Wednesday, 6 June, 2012 at 14:24

Hey, I had no idea there was a video for this! (I must be, ahem, “Losing My Edge”.) Actually, it’s more a short film than a video, due mainly to the fact the song is almost eight minutes long. So by default, actually, though not really: contrary to common practice with this kind of song length, the song is unedited for the video (as opposed to “All My Friends”, which is nearly as long a song). A very wonderful and pleasant surprise, no radio or single edit. I feel temporarily reassured and hopeful.

Aside from the Pinocchio reference which I just picked up on, in light of the adventures the robot gets into, it’s pretty clear that robot = James Murphy. Even with the robot conceit, the concept is pretty simple concept, not too kooky, and very effectively executed. The pace and tone of the video fits the song perfectly. Most notable and poignant for me is the robot leaving the party on the “forget your past…” line. I admit I get a teeny bit choked up at that fusion of image and song. Running a close second, though is the utterly charming and likely accidental wall collision at 6:50. If there were ever an obvious decision in the history of film and video editing, it would be leaving that in the final cut. And the very end, while slightly hokey and cute, is still sweet and uplifting.

Anyway, I’ve been taking some solace in This Is Happening (front-to-back solid album, their only in my opinion) very recently, and out of sheer curiosity and hopefulness, I find there is indeed a video. Yay.

I’ve done the lyrics before. Always a good, inspiring read. “…This is what you waited for, but under lights we’re all unsure, and so tell me: what would make you feel better?” Man, I love that bit.

“Tell where you’ve been, my life”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 4 June, 2012 at 14:02


Song: Spring And By Summer Fall
Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: 23

As this song has only been with me a week, I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. On the surface it sounds a bit slick and dramatic and overwrought, I’ll admit that. But a couple of days ago I was feeling moody, and I heard this song and its melancholy melody, and then I felt better. (My understated response is not unlike Louis Tully’s courtroom defense of the titular Ghostbusters in the sequel: “one time I turned into a dog and they helped me, thank you.”) Never bag on or disrespect something that helps you out, no matter how trivial it may seem.

Something else that helps me feel better:

i can't move

“Our nature’s working against us and shooting down our plans”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 25 May, 2012 at 15:36


Song: Transparence
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Hush


Song: Transparence
Album: Transparence 10″

Such bittersweet, dreamy and immaculate beauty. Normally a song will grab me, but it seldom reflects on my current state. If it matches it, it’s usually a coincidence. I don’t post “message” songs, it’s kinda hokey, and, to be frank, a little self-involved. Mostly, I just like a song. Well, this is one of those exceptions, sort of. I’ve loved this band and this song, so it’s as much them as anything, if not more. It probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love them, actually. It’s pretty much a things-gone-amiss-between-two-people thing, but it’s also so sparkling and lovely with a perky rhythm to prevent excessive mope. The guitar line in between the two verses (the “if we get to sleep tonight” part) is just too sweet, and those lyrics somehow make it sound better, along with the bounce of the drum. And then, it gives way to that even prettier one-note riff that floats over the second verse. Hush rubbed some small-minded people the wrong way with its cleaned-up, cooler, polished sound, and in fact, I believe James Hanna said something about wanting to strip away all the noise and build the songs back up from scratch. Certainly a daring approach/change of direction, coming off the thing that got you noticed in the first place. I personally prefer their bigger sonics, but for what they set out to try, it acquits itself pretty well. If it was said out loud, but surely it was intentional to push Yuki’s vocals to the center, where they can’t hide. We can focus on how much more her soprano has progressed. Once again, her vocal performance is just wonderful all around, but my favorite part is on the refrain, especially her delivery of “mirrors”– oh yeah. Plus the second part of each verse– “talking over one another” and “these are the story”, pretty sweet too. Hmm, did I just cover the whole song? Yeah, throw it all in there.

It may seem pointless to include two copies of the song, especially since the only difference between the two versions is the respective intros. However, the second one has a weightier, slightly moodier tone, which affects the way I listen to the song. The album version is still bittersweet, but feels a little lighter. The 10″ version sounds more ponderous and resigned and forlorn. But, it’s all in how you finish, and both of them find themselves carried away in the rush of that rousing, dramatic conclusion. Yuki ain’t no delicate Japanese flower. She can wail.

The version of the song used in the video is from the 10″, which I think I like better. It’s a slightly more enjoyable listen just because of that. Interesting what starting off on a different foot can do. Nice, low-key video, too. No plot, no grand concept, just a day at the lake. I really like how the surface-of-the-water shots fit into the song structure. There’s just something about the view at/below the surface with Yuki floating on the water… Good uncomplicated imagery. Then again, AS videos tend to include a lot of Yuki fawning.

I’m not saying I have them perfect, but man are the lyrics available online wrong as hell. Remember not to believe everything you read on the internet. People just lazy, cut and paste, don’t find things out for themselves. Of particular great use was this live version for a session they did at SXSW in 2009:

Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s not saying “chewing down the plants”– moron sheep.

“We can figure out ways to complain there’s nothing new
afternoons spent on a park bench where everyone acts like you
talking over one another
this time was better, that way was better
don’t really know you, I think you hate me
you gave me nothing, and I offered less than you

pull out the doorstops and reach for the lights
someday is coming, so we’ll hold ourselves tight
cover our mirrors, nothing feels right
someday is coming, but we’ll stay asleep tonight

if we get to sleep tonight

we can laugh our heads off when no one understands
our nature’s working against us and shooting down the plans
these are the story, I’m such a criminal
if anyone saw me, I’d be so embarrassed
what’s up about you, what’s up about me
you sounded ______, and I offered less than you

pull out the doorstops and reach for the lights
someday is coming, so we’ll hold ourselves tight
cover our mirrors, nothing feels right
someday is coming, but we’ll stay asleep tonight

spelling our daydreams
I’m catching myself in time
spelling out our daydreams
I caught myself in time”

(Anyone know what goes in the blank? Or any other error?)

“I Can’t Love You Anymore”, live from Cambridge!

In music videos, vinyl on Thursday, 24 May, 2012 at 14:28

I never did watched any videos of the Marit show, seeing as I was there. The guy who took my photo with her recorded and posted on his youtube channel all the songs she played, with little bits of monologue here and there. But it’s mostly music. I felt like listening to a bit of Spark yesterday and decided to go back for a peek at “I Can’t Love You Anymore”, one of my absolute favorites from the new album, which, of course, I was thrilled to hear. Usually at a show, there a songs that one hopes the artist plays, and most of the time one comes away disappointed, but at least one wish got filled. Ai, quelle douceur. At 2:21 she reaches up on “holding on” (on the album version, she doesn’t)…. ah, I’m swooning again….

I’m trying to hear myself hooting, but the video cuts off any further crowd reaction. Still, I should be the loudest one there. It was only two months ago, and I forgot what a great time I had. I’m giddy again. Tack så, så, så mycket, ängeln.

“Another lonely night…stare at the t.v. screen…I don’t know what to do…I need a rendezvous”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 18 May, 2012 at 15:42


Song: Computer Love
Artist: Kraftwerk
Album: Computer World

So the party line goes that these guys were ahead of their time, pioneers of the digital revolution, and this album was a display of their prescience of the ubiquitousness of computers, and their application to every aspect of human life. This song specifically was singled out as predicting the phenomenon of online dating (“data date”), years before the fact. While I acknowledge and marvel at those things, to me this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, the one with the spare, lonely, and utterly sublime melody. Thirty-one years out, its digitized heart still beats strong. If anyone ever says electronic music is cold and heartless (and, depending on the day, I may be one of those people), present this to them. If they aren’t moved in some way, they are at best narrow-minded, at worst, a demon (demons being soulless). The warmth they wring out of their machines is amazing. Regardless of the themes (“another lonely night….”), there is something decidedly human about this song, don’t let Die Roboter fool you.

Not surprisingly, Coldplay sampled this for a song, “Talk”, though they got permission, allegedly. I can understand samples in hip-hop and electronic music, and sure, there are no rules, but it’s kinda sad if you’re a rock band that multiple times cops melodies and riffs. For people who say they merely sampled it, well, I’ve heard it, and the entire song is structured around that melody. It’s not that far from a cover, it’s just sprinkled with a few new notes and chords. And the song is nothing special, a bland arena rock song, pumped up with their customary yawning chasms of self-indulgent and pomp.

I’ll throw my hat in with subtlety on this one. Without all the extra noise and bombast, you can focus on the crystalline main melody and its smooth descent, and the dated, but almost lush synths. Till exempel, whatever that tone is that sounds at 5:22, I love it. Terribly minimalistic, not to mention deep and indelible. An underrated element not to be overlooked is that fact that it’s over seven minutes long. I am pleased and grateful.

Here is a pretty cool video (in still photos) depicting the evolution of computers, set to the German-language version. To see the progress and imagination, most notably from the pioneers who were doing it more than twenty years ago when computing was still pretty much a cottage industry, is nothing short of inspiring and humbling:

Once again, the awesome album cover. You can’t miss with old green screen. I think it should be their official logo:

computer world