Guitars that adhere and abrade, but in a pleasurable way. Songs that are knotty, complex. Music with personality. Viet Cong contains two members (Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace) of the long departed and much-loved Women, so it's no surprise about those guitars, that sound. "Oxygen Feed" in particular is like a slight continuation of the ideas in Women's "Black Rice," but turned and twisted, perhaps a little more more cheerful in a weird way. Viet Cong's debut release, the mini-album "Cassette," is challenging and strange and utterly enjoyable. Dig in.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is a special band. They are capable of much. They persevere. In a lot of ways this band reminds me of the Impossibles--another personal listening fixation--in that they have released album after album of great songs (I feel like this is a band that engenders strong feelings of loyalty in its listeners), a compilation of b-sides, demos, rarities--they've done a lot for band that's not exactly 'celebrated.' "Harrison Ford" is another perfect example of what they do so well: quiet vocals, clever lyrics, weird and wonderful melodic turns. Let's agree to cherish bands like this, you know, that make simple and beautiful songs for decades on end.
This is a quick autumn mix. All these songs have been here before, but not together. Elegiac electronic music probably does not spring immediately to mind when people think of examples of 'songs for fall,' but by chance the other day I listened to these four songs in a row, and they seem to share certain qualities--or at least a certain shape--that qualify them for a kind of Octoberness. This is the last month that you can delude yourself into thinking that the summer's still lingering somewhere in the air, and these four songs, to my mind, speak to that desire, because there's resignation, there's disappointment, a weird fluttering hope, and still an acknowledgment that twilight is always encroaching upon the days. (These four songs are also unsurprisingly pretty heartbreaking--"A New Error" and "Trahison" in particular).
I'm going to adopt the hyperbolic tone of mid-90s Sports Center anchors here for a second: The Proper Ornaments are a band that only knows how to write short, perfect songs. "Who Thought" is, much like the other two songs I've posted by this band ("Waiting for the Summer" and "You Still") incredibly fun to listen to, brisk, intricate, and supremely lovable. Sometimes you need music that is crafted to astound you, to confuse you, to confront you, and other times you need music that you can summon up from memory to provide a moment of sweet solace when no other music is available. "Catchiness" as a property is somewhat underrated, I think for this reason specifically--if I were left to my own devices in, say, Lençóis Maranhenses (pictured above), at least I would have "Who Thought" knocking around in my head to keep me sane(-ish), whereas, as much as I love someone like Kevin Drumm, I'm not going to be humming the entirety of "Sheer Hellish Miasma" while falling down dunes and trying to recall the protocols of urine-drinking from the desert episodes of Man vs. Wild.
Not to be overly didactic, but if you have never heard this song, you are missing out on a profound pleasure. There are times when I think this is the Fiery Furnaces' best song. It is simple, so pretty, and the lyrics fit together so finely ("EP" has some of their best phonetically locked-in lyrics, everything snaps just so). This is a soft sweet mantra: "Needle prick my spruce root/dear little hemlock shoot/make me stay sharp and keen/evergreen." When they were on, they were so on.
There are things that you will always love. Javier Marias wrote something about the possibilities you carry within yourself from your birth--to your detriment or benefit--and I often think it must be the same situation with whatever it is that you find yourself drawn to, whether it's people, places, or art. I will always love people who are quick to laugh, and I will always love places that remind me, in one way or another, of my first hometown in Pennsylvania, and I will always love Gabe Hascall's voice. Since the Impossibles, since Slowreader, he's known how to handle a melody, and he never lost that skill, which is on full display here in "Absolutely." This song first appeared on his myspace page following a long and frightening absence, and it was the most welcome sign: he was back, he was okay, he was writing again. Haunted, restless, a weird memory that springs forth without provocation.
Reposting this old song and entry because I recently found a used copy of Pig Lib with the Dark Wave EP inside it--at Amoeba Records in Berkeley--and, well, one thing led to another and now I have this song stuck in my head once again.
I don't think I loved Stephen Malkmus as a songwriter until I heard this song while driving around Richmond, VA, in 2005. Incredibly enough, I had heard only a few Pavement songs in my entire life at that point, and even that was due entirely to the efforts of one or two girlfriends or almost-girlfriends. Basically, I was lazy, and there was too much going on in the present for me to track back and investigate Pavement or Silver Jews or anything, really: there was a glut of new and exciting music to download, listen to, absorb. I remember '05 feeling like a wild time, where it seemed as if all music was available all the time--all you had to do was think of it, and it existed, somewhere, and in only a matter of five or ten minutes of searching, you could find what you wanted. So Malkmus and his history were not a priority for me, I'm saying, until I heard this song, which startled the shit out of me, partly because it rises from silence, and partly because the music reminds me of songs I heard on the radio around the ages of 5-7. "Dynamic Calories" is different, too, from the other songs on both Pig Lib and the Dark Wave EP--a little more vibrant, a little less ponderous, and it has that wonderful moment when Malkmus changes the course of the music with his lyrics, as if by fiat, when he says, "and those wet, wet drums." Who knew you could even do that?
The Dodos are about to release a new album, called "Carrier," on Tuesday. It is remarkable. In ways that are difficult to articulate. But that might be besides the point. I had no idea, for instance, that Chris Reimer, formerly of Women, who passed away in 2012, was a touring member of the Dodos for a short while. And that he had inspired Meric Long, singer and guitarist for the Dodos, to think about putting a stop to the band in order to work on new projects. There's more about this in the moving interview with Meric Long on the CBC Music site. Listen to the album. And especially the last track, "The Ocean," which is one of the best things the Dodos have ever done.
Oakland is Oakburg, really. It contains many towns, villages, shires, hamlets. Oakburg is alienated from its constituent parts. One day you might find yourself in Oakburg, or in Temescalton, or O.co Coliseumville, who knows, the city is always changing names to suit what's fashionable. A stranger walking past you on the street might feign as though he's about to punch you in your genitals; don't fret, that's a standard greeting. This highway adopted by OAKBURG'S HARDEST ARTISANS--that is a real sign, somewhere here. This place seethes with some unclassifiable emotion, diffuse anxiety.
(Execution Song Interlude) by Porter, whose previous post can be read here.
1. The Myth of Freedom
If Mellencamp does one thing well here, he succeeds in conveying the complacency of small town life. The song sounds how misplaced pride in an unambitious life feels.
The Cougar’s thesis: Small town = Good enough for me. The most contestable claim being that he’s seen it all in this small town. The second, that he can be himself and people let him be just what he wants to be.
Ask those who chose and choose daily to leave the small town. You are guaranteed to receive reports of inadequacy and intolerance; a stifling air will resonate through responses.
But what of those who stay and suffer? How would their song sound?
2. The Mayor Heraclitus
Enter sonic destroyer. The guitar introduction itself an assault, followed in short time by the rumble of Roland and bass, a prelude to an outright crankdown. Then, the critical lethargy – carried by the rhythm – of the over-enunciated lyrics, deadpanning the Cougar’s own stifled enthusiasm: live here my whole life.
Find something to do. Things get nasty. Kerosene and self-immolation combined as sport fuck: in nothingness stirs a restlessness. This is real American complacency. Set me on fire.
As with Cougar, there is no mention of/room for ambition, while difference lies in the response to the lack of opportunities. Where Cougar is sedated by his small town, Albini is bored unto rapture.
Perhaps from nothing comes nothing and over again, conflagration as apple pie.
3. Again, for good measure
17 seconds of Small Town and 18 of Kerosene: listen.
Who’s honest? Who’s telling the truth? Is there honor in denial? In self-immolation?
No one said that you must move to a city. But must you pretend? Between staying or going, which will kill you more?