Listen to the music: It’s an inconvenient time

15 09 2014

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

I’ve dabbled in summersongs (fallsongs—or autumnsongs?—coming up!) and kicked around a song or two here and there, but after the disquisition on GY!BE and Miss Holly, the lacunae is noticeable.

I have been listening. This fistful of cds was, like the last, dominated by two names (albeit three performers): David  and Macy Gray, and Nanci Griffith (and rather a lot of Nanci Griffith). Unlike the last time, I zipped right through my listening of them, and ended with some lovely Charlie Haden.

The music wasn’t the problem: I just couldn’t be arsed to write about them.

Both of the Grays have the kinds of voices I like: a bit low, and skritchy. I mean, I’m not a Dave Matthews fan, but when he sings with, say, Emmylou, I dig that rasp.

Mr. Gray is another bloke I was introduced to while (whilst?) in Canada. He’s a bit of a mope, but what saves him, most of the time, from emo-overload are the bites he’ll snap out of the woe. There aren’t really any laughs in his songs, but there’s a sardonic sensibility which, again, cut against the despair.

I do wish for alternate production on some of his songs—he’s a sucker for the big whoomp—but when I’m havin’ one of those days, Life in Slow Motion goes down well with a beer or whisky and a slouch in the couch.*

And Nanci? Yeah, man, lotta cds. Her voice has a bit of the kewpie to it, but she’s a hell of a songwriter and I appreciate the hell out of the bottom-line humanness of her tunes.

And her cd, Flyer, helped get me through my dissertation. All hail Flyer!

~~~

234. David Gray, Life in Slow Motion
235. David Gray, a new day at midnight
236. Macy Gray, On How Life Is
237. Macy Gray, Id
238. Nanci Griffith, Storms
239. Nanci Griffith, Blue Roses from the Moon
240. Nanci Griffith, clock without hands
241. Nanci Griffith, Heart in Mind
242. Nanci Griffith, The Dust Bowl Symphony
243. Nanci Griffith, Flyer
244. Nanci Griffith, Other Voices, Too
245. Charlie Haden, The Montreal Tapes
246. Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny, beyond the Missouri Sky

*I don’t currently own a couch, but the line doesn’t work as well with “my one upholstered chair”.





Listen to the music: God don’t like it

14 07 2014

That’s just a great title for a cd: direct, not quite right—God doesn’t like it—but somehow exactly right.

Yeah. God don’t like it. Even an apostate like me can say that.

Speaking of: Holy freakin’ hell, I gotalotta Holly Golightly cds.

This is an almost*-all-Canada post, by the way: I heard about Holly Golightly in Montréal, I think from my St Denis (or was it St Laurent? Damn!) Music Man, and her jangly post-punk appealed to me.

I just hadn’t realized, until I pulled the mid-G’s to listen to them, exactly how much she sucked me in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 cds! Seven cds! And that doesn’t even count the Thee Headcoatees disc!

I mean, she’s good, but seven? Really? I must have been deep in obsession to have collected so many in such a short time—I’m guessin’ a year or two. (I have a lot of Emmylou, for example, but that’s over decades.) It took me a while to get through ‘am all.

Anyway, Holly Golightly, performs one of my favorite covers, of a Bill Withers (also a short-time obsession of mine) tune. Now, Withers is a peerless singer, so it really shouldn’t work, but it’s one of his lesser  tunes—“Use Me”—and Miz Golightly just strips that baby down to its skittering and frayed wire, then coos and flirts her way across and around the beat:

If God don’t like that, God don’t like nothin’.

The other band is Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band which, unlike our Miss Holly, is actually Canadian. Music Man might have shoved them in my hand, too, but I think I found them on my own.

Not that I can go all hipster-early-adopter on you: I only started listening after the exclamation point had migrated westward.

Only three GY!BE cds proper, but I also have three The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra La La Band (tho’ they apparently now go by Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra), which contains a number of Godspeed members.

Anyway, GY!BE is loud, very loud. Very very loud. In concert. My friend J. and I saw them at some Mile End (I think) theatre and even in the balcony (which I, unwilling to be blasted off the ground floor, dragged J. to) we were crushed under the cascade of gorgeous, heartbreaking, menacing sounds. They played two hours proper, then offered up another hour of encore.

I don’t know that I could have stood up had they decided we were worthy of a second encore.

The music, by the way, is strange and familiar and fills the space from the ground to the sky. Highly recommended.

~~~

223. Godspeed You Black Emperor!, “lift yr skinny fists like antennas to heaven!”
224. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, xxx f#a#~xxx
225. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Yanqui U.x.o.
226. Holly Golightly, The Good Things
227. Holly Golightly, God don’t like it
228. Holly Golightly, The Main Attraction
229. Holly Golightly, “Up the Empire”
230. Holly Golightly, truly she is none other
231. Holly Golightly, Singles Round-Up
232. Holly Golightly & Dan Melchior, Desperate Little Town
233. Jose Gonzalez, Veneer

*I forgot about Jose Gonzalez. He’s nice, too.





Listen to the music: The beat goes on

19 03 2014

I bought a lot of albums, and then a lot of cds, from the Electric Fetus on Fourth Avenue, in Minneapolis.

It was right across the bridge over 34W separating Phillips from Whittier, although it didn’t really seem like Whittier until you crossed Nicollet. I lived in and around Stevens Square for a few years, and the feel in that neighborhood was different from—gritter than—Whittier.

Anyway, 4th Ave near Franklin Avenue was kind of shitty, what with cars screaming by on the interstate below. Above Franklin there was a huge brown wall to try to block out the noise, but it wasn’t clear that the wall was much of an improvement.

The Fetus was on the other side of Franklin, on the southwest corner. It was, initially, right on that corner, crammed into this tiny space next to an Ace Hardware. When the hardware store moved (into a space in a mini-mall on Nicollet & 18th), the Fetus stretched itself into that new space. It was a bit discombobulating, at first, but they made good use of all that room, expanding both the head-shop portion at the front of the store and the music in the rest. The classical section was the most spare, but the jazz and blues kicked ass, and the international selections were a revelation.

In addition to African and Brazilian music, I got into Nordic and Scandinavian tunes when I lived there (it didn’t hurt that NorthSide Records mainlined that stuff into the city): Hedningarna. Hoven Droven. Väsen. Garmana—have you listened to “Gamen”? Jesus. Go listen to it!—and my beloved, and still missing, Finnish Ambient Techno Chant.

I bought both new and used cds, and a lot of them. The Fetus had a policy that if you bought 3 or more cds, you’d get 10 percent off; three or four times a year everything in the store would be 20 percent off. It wasn’t my only record store, but they did get a lot of my money.

The folks who worked there were the Minneapolis version of the stereotypical sullen music snob, which is to say, not that sullen, and not that snobbish. And every once in a while they’d throw a free promo cd into your bag, sometimes because it was there, and sometimes because there was something you bought that made them think you’d like this new music, too.

They tossed in an Esthero ep, which worked: I bought the full-length cd. A Beth Orton ep led me to multiple cds, and if you asked what they were playing on the store’s sound system, they’d toss you the jewel case and let you inspect if for yourself.

They didn’t do the hard sell; the music was enough.

I found that same attitude in the guy who ran the used cd shop on lower St Denis in Montréal. I bought a lot at a shop on Mont Royal, but had almost no interaction with that shop’s staff; at this store—and I cannot remember it’s, or his, name—the owner loved to talk early punk and new wave. I was the right age (if a bit young) to have caught that music when it first hit, but, boxed in by AOR stations out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t exposed to most of it until I left Sheboygan Falls.

(I’ve told you the story about my first extended exposure to Patti Smith, right? Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?!)

He’s almost certainly closed up shop by now; he was thinking even back in 2003 that he wouldn’t last long, so I’d guess the collapse of the cd market has since wiped him out.

I can get any cd (or cd’s worth of music) I want  online, now, so as a music consumer I don’t really need the music store any longer.

But as a music lover, I miss the curators.

~~~

188. esthero, breath from another
189. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
190. Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
191. Eurythmics, Revenge
192. Eurythmics, Savage
193. Everything But The Girl, Walking Wounded
194. The Falcon and the Snowman
195. Marianne Faithfull, Kissin’ Time
196. feelies, Time for a Witness
197. Feist, The Reminder
198. Christine Fellows, the last one standing
199. Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark
200. Aretha Franklin, The First Twelve Sides
201. frente! marvin the album
202. Peter Gabriel, So
203. Peter Gabriel, Us
204. Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree
205. electronica gainsbourg
206. Gang of Four, A Brief History of the Twentieth Century
207. garbage, G
208. Garmana, Vengeance
209. Garmana, Hildegard von Bingen
210. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
211. Gear Daddies, Billy’s Live Bait
212. Gentle Waves, The Green Fields of Foreverland
213. Lisa Gerrard, Duality
214. Stan Getz and Joao, Gilberto, Getz Gilberto
215. Giant Sand, Chore of Enchantment
216. Giant Sand, cover magazine
217. Giant Sand, Swerve
218. Giant Sand, Is All Over the Map
219. Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, out of season
220. Astrud Gilberto, eponymous
221. Bebel Gilberto, tanto tempo
222. Estair Godinez Band, Live from the Dakota





Listen to the music: If songs were lines In a conversation

10 02 2014

I don’t know how I got so many Steve Earles.

I like his music, sure, but 1,2,3,4,5 cds by him? I didn’t know I liked him that much.

That happens sometimes. You find an artist you like well enough, come across his or her cds in a used bin, and if feeling sufficiently expansive, think Why not? I like the music. This is different from completism; more like what-the-hellism.

Others you hunt down because goddammit that song twanged something in your brain and if you don’t find every last note and lyric by that artist you will suffocate or burst or both. (Again this is different from completism, which is more bureaucratic: this is full-on obsession).

Nick Drake was one of those for me. As with most of my obsessions, it faded after time, but I still stop when I hear him, still think Oh!

“Pink Moon”, the erstwhile Volkswagon commercial was my introduction to him, and it is a marvelous song, but I think I’ll have to go with “Hazey Jane I” for the win.

I’m fighting the urge to reprint all of the lyrics, so will restrain myself and leave you with, not the loveliest of the lines, but the ones that sliced through me:

Do you hope to find new ways
Of doing better than your worst.

I’m tryin’, Nick, I’m trying.

~~~

167. Tanya Donnelly, beautysleep
168. Dave Douglas, a thousand evenings
169. Nick Drake, bryter layter
170. Nick Drake, Pink Moon
171. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left
172. Drugstore, White Magic for Lovers
173. Drugstore, Songs for the Jetset [missing disk]
174. Bob Dylan, Greatest Hits
175. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
176. Steve Earle, El Corazon
177. Steve Earle, guitar town
178. Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues
179. Steve Earle, Sidetracks
180. Steve Earle, Jerusalem
181. Earth Wind & Fire, The Best of
182. Mark Eitzel, West
183. Duke Ellington, Caravan (The Jazz Giants Play Duke Ellington)
184. Missy Elliot, This Is Not A Test!
185. En Vogue, Funky Divas
186. Enya, Watermark
187. Eschellon, A Sample





Listen to the music: the sound of silence

2 01 2014

The weekend after the burgarly, still trying to get over the fact I’d been burglarized, I heard Chet Baker on CBC Radio.

My Funny Valentine—that slow narcotic tenor, simple, soft. A November day in Montréal  and I was bereft.

I don’t think I cried about what was taken—I was too pissed—but I was very sad about the Chet Baker.

Of course, the cd could be replaced, and was. I got to know the Plateau and Mont Royal neighborhoods very well in hitting all of the cd shops, and became friendly with one proprietor on St Denis—got some great stuff on his recommendation.

In that sense, the burglary wasn’t all bad: it got me prowling about some near-east side neighborhoods, made me comfortable with the Métro, and I ended up picking up a fair number of Canadian artists. I’d still rather never have been burgled, but there were pleasures in the recovery.

I do miss some cds which, it turned out, were irreplaceable. Some were local discs I’d picked up in Minneapolis, but one loss in particular pains me: Chris Lowe.

No, not that Chris Lowe, which is the problem.

My Chris Lowe was (is?) a singer/songwriter from New York who played and sang at my friend M.’s wedding. He gave out copies of his cd at the wedding (the artwork for which won some kind of marketing award), and I listened to the shit l out of that cd.

It was a bit uneven—it sounded as if the songlist stretched back a ways—but he had a nice way with a lyric, and I’m a sucker for sandpaper voice. It was lovely and lilting and sad.

I did make a tape of it, and I do still have a boombox that plays tapes, but I want that damned cd—which I can’t find, because my Chris Lowe shares a name with another musical Chris Lowe,  super-famous Chris Lowe.

Well, maybe some night I’ll sit down with a bottle of something and dig my way through the cyberverse until I bump into that eponymous cd and take it home with me, where it belongs.

~~~

Again, this list is a bit out of sorts since I started it before the great cd mash-up, but as I’d only posted once previously on lost cds, it’s only a little disordered.

7. Afro Blue Band, Impressions
8. Chet Baker, in a soulful mood
9. Tony Bennett, Perfectly Frank
10. Bettie Serveet, Palomine
11. Andy Bey, Ballads Blues & Bey
12. Mary J. Blige, Mary
13. Blue Up? Cake and Eat It
14. BoDeans, home
15. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. . .
16. Billy Bragg, Back to Basics
17. billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
18. T Bone Burnett, The Criminal Under My Own Hat
19. Cannonball Adderly Sextet, In New York
20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Good Son
21. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Henry’s Dream
22. Exene Cervenka, Running Sacred
23. Bill Charlap, All through the night
24. Barbara Cohen & Little Lizard, Black Lake
25. Leonard Cohen, The Future
26. John Coltrane, The Art of John Coltrane
27. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard
28. Elvis Costello, Brutal Youth
29. Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters
30. Mary Coughlan, Live in Galway
31. Cranberries, No Need to Argue
32. Celia Cruz, Queen of the Rumba
33. D’Angelo, Brown Sugar
34. Miles Davis, Birth of Cool
35. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
36. Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth
37. digable planets, reachin’ (a new refutation of time and space)
38. Dire Straits, Making Movies
39. John Doe, Meet John Doe





Listen to the music: Oo, sha sha

9 12 2013

Back in the day, when you had to flip your disk over to hear all of the music, I was a big fan of making compilation tapes.

I’d have the tape set, my finger on pause, as I set the needle on the album, then let go of pause and let the music move.

I was pretty good at this, too, getting the timing just right: You don’t want the songs on top of one another, but neither do you want so much space that you think “dead air.”

CDs made things easier, although sometimes the fade-outs were instead cut-off (esp. with early cds), and once everything went bit, all I had to do was line up the song list on CakePro and let ‘er rip.

(Of course, I first had to transfer my music on to my hard drive, which was a huge pain in the ass and which I am nowhere close to being finished doing—because, of course, I can’t do it the easy let-‘er-rip way. That’s a story too boring to tell.)

Anyway, I identified with that guy from High Infidelity (and I only saw the movie, didn’t read the book) on the care required to craft a decent compilation tape. You had to mix up the mood, let the speeds and sounds rise and fall, and the first and last tracks had to be perfect.

It’s no surprise, then, that I looked kindly upon compilation cds. Okay, yes, it seemed like cheating to buy a disk loaded up by someone else, but at their best they could introduce me to sounds and musicians I didn’t know.

Or, in a soundtrack like Crooklyn, they play like a best-of music candy dish: almost every song a Snickers or Butterfinger or BabyRuth, with the worst mere candy corn.

Soundtracks can be hit or miss. While I think Crooklyn (at least the vol. 1 that I have) is deliciously chewy, others can be merely thrown together, too slick, or compiled with an eye toward sales rather than an ear toward the movie.

Sometimes that’s good: a lousy movie might still produce a decent soundtrack. I never saw or wanted to see Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, but I picked up the cd somewhere along the way, and while it ain’t great, it’s not as bad as I’d guess the movie is.

Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World soundtrack is great—and it introduced me to Nick Cave!—but I’d heard the movie was only so-so. Wings of Desire is a beautiful, beautiful movie, but I wasn’t impressed with the soundtrack when I first listened to it, twenty or so years ago.

In any case, the grandaddy soundtrack for me is The Big Chill. I no longer have a copy (probably got rid of it in a fit of “uncool” purification of my collection), but in college my dorm-mates and I bonded over Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson.

Buncha white kids groovin’ to the sounds of Motown. A cliché, I know, but ya gotta start somewhere.

~~~

141. John Coltrane, Blue Train
142. John Coltrane, Soul Trane
143. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
144. Crooklyn
145. Cuba Eterno
146. Sheryl Crow, (eponymous)
147. D’Angelo, Voodoo
148. Terence Trent D’Arby, Introducing the Hardline According to
149. The Damned, Best of
150. Bobby Darin, The Ultimate Bobby Darin
151. Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain
152. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
153. Miles Davis, In A Silent Way
154. Dead Can Dance, Toward the Within
155. Dead Can Dance, spiritchaser
156. Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
157. Dead Man Walking
158. Death in Vegas, dead elvis
159. Des’ree, I Ain’t Movin’
160. Ani DiFranco, Not a Pretty Girl
161. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
162. Dixie Chicks, Home
163. DJ Micro, Out Through the Input
164. DJ Spooky, Optometry
165. DJ Spooky, Songs of a Dead Dreamer
166. DJ Spooky vs Twilight Circus, riddim clash





Listen to the music: It’s as easy to learn as your ABC

9 09 2013

Oy, what a mess.

I have arranged and re-arranged and re-arranged yet again (and again and again. . .) how I organize my cds. When they were still all in their jewel cases they were kept on a homemade cd rack; to find a cd meant scanning the shelves.

I’d always kept the pop and classical & opera cds apart, but went back and forth on where to put the blues and jazz cds, as well as the soundtracks. Sometimes I’d mix them all together, sometimes I’d keep the blues and jazz separate, sometimes the blues stayed with the pop while the jazz occupied its own space.

This was a manageable problem when I had a couple of hundred cds, but as that doubled (and then trebled), I kept messing with the order. I’d create categories (pop-blues-jazz-world music-soundtracks-electronica-compilations) then wonder what to do with a jazz soundtrack (e.g., Kansas City) or electronic world music (Finnish Ambient Techno Chant). At one point I separated out all of the women—which did not work. At all.

Once I got rid of the jewel cases and moved the cds into boxes—I never wanted to do the sleeves thing, both because I wanted to keep the cd “covers” & inserts and because I didn’t want to keep shifting everything every time I added a cd or decided to reorganize—I kept at the rearranging and sorting and segregating, even though it made less sense to do so once I realized it was easier to print out a list of all of my cds than flip through them looking for a particular artist or band.

Still, I kept to a basic schema of pop/blues-soundtracks-jazz and classical (which, of course, did not jibe with the organization of the printouts). The problem with this organization, however, was that I almost never listened to anything that wasn’t pop-blues: it was the bulk of my collection, I knew it best, so when I’d flip through the cds, I’d start with the pop and never go beyond that.

Thus the mess: This past summer I simplified the non-classical side, tossing everything all together. This has been great, actually, as I make my way more-or-less alphabetically through my collection—I hear more in the mix-up—but has temporarily wrecked my record-keeping of this “listen-to-the-music” venture.

It should be (mostly) smoothed out in the next round, but this one? Oy.

100. Patsy Cline, The Patsy Cline Story
101. Eddie Cochran, The Original Eddie Cochrane
102. Bruce Cockburn, Stealing Fire
103. Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas
104. Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man
105. Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate
106. Leonard Cohen, Songs From A Room
107. Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs
108. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head
109. Holly Cole, Temptation
110. Holly Cole Trio, Don’t Smoke in Bed
111. Colleen, the golden morning breaks
112. Shawn Colvin, Steady On
113. Shawn Colvin, a few small repairs
114. Paulo Conte, Best of Paulo Conte
115. Continental Drifters, Vermillion
116. The Coral, The invisible invasion
117. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, My Aim Is True
118. Elvis Costello, All This Useless Beauty
119. Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel
120. Susie Arioli Swing Band, It’s Wonderful
121. Susie Arioli Swing Band, Pennies From Heaven
122. Louis Armstrong, Pure Louis
123. Chet Baker, my funny valentine
124. Big Chill
125. Big Easy
126. Blue Note Festival, Touring Artist Sampler
127. A Chorus Line
128. Mary Coughlan, After the Fall
129. Mary Coughlan, love me or leave me
130. Mary Coughlan, Uncertain Pleasures
131. Cranberries, Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?
132. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chronicle
133. Baku Beyond, The Meeting Pool
134. Stephen Barry, Original
135. Jane Birkin, Arabesque
136. Ketil Bjornstad and David Darling, The River
137. Ray Bonneville, Gust of Wind
138. Jeanie Bryson, Some Cats Know
139. Bill Charlap, Stardust
140. John Coltrane, Impressions








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