Almost all that’s on my mind lately is the book. With that in mind, here’s the first random 10 songs from my iPod when I hit shuffle.
- The Mountain Goats – “Pale Green Things” (The Sunset Tree)
This is the kiss-off final track from The Sunset Tree, a downer of a song cycle (so says the author of the forthcoming 33 1/3 book Shoot Out The Lights) about, presumably, John Darnielle’s abusive step-father. The elegaic feel of this song, both a curse and promise, is unbelievably poignant, a way of making a semi-fond farewell to someone hated more than loved. The lyrics talk of a trip to the racetrack, and end with these lines: “My sister called at 3 a.m./Just last december/She told me how you’d died at last, at last/And that morning at the race track was one thing I remembered/I turned it over in my mind/like a living chinese finger trap/seaweed and Indiana sawgrass.” My poetry professor used to say that most song lyrics are doggerel made more meaningful by the way they are sung, and I think he was mostly correct about this. This is the exception.
- The Embarrassment – “Song For Val” (Blister Pop)
Just over a minute of a poorly recorded little punk anthem. “I don’t care for old people,” goes the lyric.
- Dinosaur Jr – “Start Choppin'” (Where You Been)
Man, this is a surprising collection of songs! This is a post-Lou power-pop song layered with a couple of dozen J. Mascis guitars. I’m not a huge fan of later Dinosaur Jr, but this is one of the keepers.
- The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New” (From a free eMusic Pitchfork Festival sampler)
This song also appears on Get Lonely, which I also have, so hey, it’s a duplicate and I can delete it to make room for new music. Yay! I must have my random factor set to be more likely to repeat artists, because I can’t believe I’d have enough Mountain Goats out of the 4,178 songs currently stored on my iPod to bring them up twice in the first five songs otherwise. Get Lonely is an ok album, but the lyrics never rise to the poetic heights of the previous few albums and the artiface of the songs actually seems to distance me from Darnielle’s characters, rather than drawing me towards them, also unlike the 2-3 immediately preceeding albums.
- Isis – “Backlit” (Panopticon)
I think Darnielle, a metal fiend currently working on a 33 1/3 book on Master of Reality, would dig this transition. Isis plays trippy, expansive metal. I understand many of their longtime fans dislike this album, but I like it a lot, almost as much as the classic Oceanic. See, I love long post-rock tracks (meaning that the music relies on jazz-like textures and moves through suites rather than verse-chorus-verse structure), and this sounds like the metal version of that. As much as I like Isis, I wish they’d join Mastodon in dropping the cookie monster vocals, although I think that may be the primary way that metal fans identify Isis as a metal band these days. Did I mention that this song is nearly 8 minutes long and features as great stripped-back bridge part? Like it.
- Tom Ze – “Dulcineia Popular Brasileira” (Tom Ze)
From the master of mindbending tropicalia, this is a somewhat unsuccessful early fusion of 60s-era radio pop with Ze’s distinctly odd sensibilities. There’s better examples of what Ze can do when he’s cooking with grease.
- Devendra Banhart – “Anchor” (Cripple Crow)
A short burst of sweetness that may also be called “Canela”. I put this on a bedtime mix I made for my 2-yr-old.
- Bill Evans Trio – “Peace Piece” (Everybody Digs Bill Evans)
I’m taking this as proof that my iPod would rather be laying in a shady hammock in a cool breeze. This track, a slow sort of ur-New Age ivory tinkling, but with, y’know, tons of heart (unlike George Winston, f’rinstance), always sounds like it should score the inevitable final compromise between the protagonists and antagonists in a Miyazaki flick.
- The Mekons – “Cocaine Lil” (Mekons Rock ‘N Roll)
A spacey, sing-song tale of a coke addict. The lyrics read like a Victorian morality tale.
- Prince – “New Position” (Parade)
Wow, I had no idea I had any songs from Parade in my iTunes at all. I’m completely unfamiliar with this song. It ain’t Prince at his maximum brilliance, though.