Archive for August, 2011

The List, Part 3

August 10, 2011 1 comment

1. Part the Last

Okay, so here we are. If you haven’t done so already, you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Part one also has a bit of discussion about why the hell I’m even regurgitating a months (years?) old meme from Facebook.

2. The List, Part 3

8tracks link-style! (No, I still haven’t fixed embedding. Right-click and open in a new tab or window.)

21. “Fat-Bottomed Girls” – Queen – A Song You Listen to when You’re Happy
I make the claim that this is the best rock song of all time. Sure, there might be Beatles songs that are more popular, and AC/DC songs with more drive, but for me this song is all about the attitude, performance, and production. First, this song sounds (pardon the pun) huge. The drums are thick, the guitar is expansive, and holy shit Freddie Mercury. Let’s face it, a better frontman has never lived. I don’t think it’s possible that Queen could have ever played in a club. And of course this was from their seventh album, so I doubt it was ever played in front of less than eight-hundred-thousand people.

And that drum fill before the last chorus? HUGE. I think Roger Taylor was using a 17-piece kit for that. (I may have exaggerated a bit on this particular inclusion.)

22. “Blake Says” – Amanda Palmer – A Song You Listen to when You’re Sad
I really can’t say too much about this one. “He takes his pills but never takes his medicine” is probably one of the best lyrics of all time, though. Amanda Palmer’s lyrics are so good it actually makes me angry. And this is coming from someone who rarely, if ever, listens to music for its lyrical content.

23. “In Your Eyes” – Peter Gabriel – A Song You Want Played at Your Wedding
You know that part in Say Anything when John Cusack holds up his boombox and plays this while standing out in the driveway? I don’t, because I’ve never seen it. Despite being a huge fan of both Peter Gabriel and John Cusack (and Cameron Crowe, for that matter). But! Somehow my wife and I came together over how goddamn awesome Peter Gabriel is, and decided we wanted it performed at our wedding. That fell through (thanks to the guy who was going to do it having to go to an in-law’s wedding or something), so we ended up having it for our first dance. Incidentally it was only time we ever danced, as we both avoided ever learning how. (I can pick ’em, I say.) Also, despite being in 4/4, it’s practically impossible to dance to in any “traditional” way. So was a weird album like that.

24. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – A Song You Want Played at Your Funeral
The whole thing. With a full orchestra and choir.

I’m not kidding.

(This isn’t on the mix because it’s an hour long. Also it was going to be Mozart’s Requiem, but that’s just maudlin and cliche.)

25. “ZTO” – Devin Townsend – A Song that Makes You Laugh
That Wilhelm Scream at the beginning makes me cackle every damn time. The entire Ziltoid album is fantastic (“I am so omniscient, if there was to be two Omnisciences, I would be both!”), and the insanity starts right off the bat. I constantly reference the “Make it perfect!” at the end of the track. Devin has a sense of humor unparallelled. He’s definitely the second coming of Frank Zappa.

26. “Something Vague” – Bright Eyes – A Song You Can Play on an Instrument
It’s not a terribly difficult song on guitar, but I really like playing it. I could have probably put any number of other songs, but this was the first one that came to mind. It’s also, oddly, the only Bright Eyes song I know how to play.

27. “99 Ways to Die” – Megadeth – A Song You Wish You Could Play
This is, and probably always will be, my favorite Megadeth song. I just can’t seem to play it. I think it’s because it only sounds right if two guitars are playing it. Or because I’m trying to learn it off shitty internet tabs. In any case, if I ever learn how to play it, I will never play another song again, because I’ll just play this non-stop.

28. “Delilah” – The Dresden Dolls – A Song that Makes You Feel Guilty
This is the last Amanda Palmer-penned song on the list (my god, there’s a lot of them). I say it makes me feel guilty because it wavers between blaming the victim and frustration and exasperation. It’s almost painful to listen to because I think everyone knows one of those people that is stuck in a what appears to be an obviously toxic relationship but won’t get out of it. And that’s the part that I identify with. The problem I have is that it really seems to blame the person in the relationship, and that just doesn’t fly with me. It ultimately ends unresolved and the whole thing makes me feel downright bad. But it’s such a good song otherwise.

I’ve also discovered that, in trying to cover it, it sounds entirely different coming from a male singer. It sounds so completely asshole-ish that it’s really making me doubt the decision to cover it. It goes from being a song about frustration and friendship to a song about what a stupid bitch Delilah is and I just can’t do that. So this message is for the guys out there: Don’t cover this song, you’ll sound like a dick.

29. “Batdance” – Prince – A Song from Your Childhood
I actually had to think about this for a while. And once I settle on “Batdance”, I had to find a copy of it, which took some doing, considering how fucking popular the movie and the song were when I was nine. My favorite part is how it’s just a bunch of samples from the movie Batman with a couple of the theme from the 1960s show (mainly the “Batmaaaaan!” bits) over a fairly generic Prince instrumental bed.

But holy shit look at this video:

It’s like everything that was awesome and horrible about the 80s rolled into one. Which is, really, the same thing you could say about Prince.

30. “The Noose” – A Perfect Circle – Your Favorite Song at This Time Last Year
Like I said the first time around, this song has been my favorite since I first heard it. Probably won’t change.

So What Have We Learned?

Well, there are some amusing things, like going from Skynryd to Meshuggah, or from Slayer to Queen. Part of the reason I liked the original meme was that it gave me a chance to actually mention some things I don’t talk about much, or don’t typically acknowledge, like Peter Gabriel. I am, however, a little annoyed that I can’t honestly mention more underground stuff that I like, because so much of it doesn’t really fall into any of the above categories. It’s hard to fit something like chiptunes into anything listed, you know? It’s hard to cite Prong or Goatwhore as something that makes you fall asleep.

Also, uh, I don’t really go digging for random underground shit just because. I have no problem with reaching for populist garbage. Half the songs on this list probably could have qualified under “guilty pleasure” from some people, but I don’t really like to shy away from music I love.

If we want to do any sort of horrible statistical analysis by genre, it breaks down like this:

Rock: 11
Electronic/Dance: 4
Country: 1
Metal: 7
Other stuff: 7

You can debate what criteria I segregated those out by, but that’s how I see it. It’s not really as varied as I was hoping, but considering I don’t have any rap/hip-hop on there, only one country song, no jazz, and so on, I can’t really complain that much.

Now, having reached the end of all of this, I’m not even sure how much this list adds to the wider world of criticism. That really goes for any sort of list, though. I suppose it can add to the overall conversation of cultural minutiae, but it ultimately feels like it was an exercise in extracting meaning out of a bunch of arbitrary decisions. So many of them just came flying out of my ass (e.g., “Something Vague” just being the first song I can play that I though of) that it seems like the whole thing is devoid of meaning. And this doesn’t even touch on the people that answer every prompt with things like Justin Beiber. So it makes me wonder just how doomed our world is.

Though the fact that it came from Facebook should have been a warning.

In the end, though, I had fun compiling the original list, so I guess I’ll have to mark it in the win category. It’s just sad that, for being someone who puts so much emphasis on “WHY DO YOU LIKE WHAT YOU DO”, I really couldn’t dissect some of these further. Oh well. Come back next time for a much better episode!

Categories: Uncategorized

30 Days, Part 2

August 4, 2011 3 comments

1. The Continuing Adventures

Still with me? Cool. This is part two of a three-part “Why On God’s Green Earth are You Blogging a Facebook Meme?” post. Part three will probably be early next week. (I’m shooting for Monday.) You can read part one here. I still haven’t figured out how to embed 8tracks mixes into WordPress, so you’ll have to right-click the link for it and open it in either a new tab or window. I know that it’s possible to do, I’m just lazy. I’ll get to it eventually, I know. Just, uh, not now.

Anyway. Let’s get into it, eh?

2. The List, Part 2

8tracks link-style!

11. “All Nightmare Long” – Metallica – A Song by Your Favorite Band
I’d be silly to not include Metallica, as they still probably default to the band I listen to when I’m not sure what I want to listen to. When I originally posted this to Facebook, one of my friends questioned why I included this over, say, “Master of Puppets” or “One”, and this was my reply:

It has all the elements of all the best Metallica songs. It has catchy bits, some nice speedy bits, a decent vocal performance (which there aren’t too many of, post-Bob Rock), some pretty neat soloing, double-kick that doesn’t sound like shoes in a dryer, and lyrics that aren’t terrible.

Pretty much every “classic” Metallica song is awesome, sure, but this is probably the song that amalgamates their entire career. Don’t get me wrong, all those songs are awesome, but this is a pretty good example of who they are now, not who they were when they were 24. (As a side note, I realized the other day that I’m now the same age they were when they were touring on the Black Album. Fuck you, Metallica. Fuck you.)

That really sums it up, I think.

12. “Beth” – KISS – A Song from a Band You Hate
I realize that 90% of the music I listen to is directly derived from KISS, and without them, I probably would be listening to Dierks Bentley now. (More on that in a minute.) However, I absolutely cannot stand KISS in any way. They’re money-grubbing assholes, they’re egocentric douchebags, and they make terrible, terrible music. Their lyrics are drizzly shit, and they’re probably the most shallow human beings in the United States, and that’s against some stiff competition. In fact, about the only pass I can give them is that they managed to influence a lot of good musicians. So I picked what has to be the worst song by them. (This is another song I simply skipped over while listening back to the mix.)

13. “Greedy Fly” – Bush – A Song that is a Guilty Pleasure
I’ve often said that the phrase “guilty pleasure” is something I really dislike. I’m not actually going to jump down people’s throats for their musical taste, even if they like what I think is garbage. It’s music, y’know? Different people like different stuff, and that’s no big deal. It also helps to rationalize six years of being made fun of for liking metal while living in a backwoods Upper Midwest school district. (Oh shit, I do want to be Chuck Klosterman. God damn it.)

In any case, I really liked Bush’s first two albums. A lot of people panned Razorblade Suitcase (from which this song is taken) for wanting to be too Nirvana-like, but that’s mostly a symptom of having the Steve Albini Sound. Every record he makes sounds that way. Anyway, it’s fashionable to hate Bush, so this is probably the most guilty-pleasure-esque thing I could think of.

14. “A Good Run of Bad Luck” – Clint Black – A Song No One Would Expect You to Love
The first CD I ever bought was Joe Diffie’s Third Rock from the Sun. I was huge into country until about 1996 or so (right around the time Shania Twain was converting country into pop-with-fiddles). I think the reason I like Clint Black so much is the fact that he’s actually a pretty badass guitar player as well as a good songwriter and singer. And I’ll probably never be able to play it, because my brain just doesn’t play country. (I think this song didn’t upload correctly to 8tracks and may be shortened in the mix, but you’re probably not missing much. Maybe the solo, which is pretty good.)

15. “Echoplex” – Nine Inch Nails – A Song that Describes You
Well, the song is about Trent Reznor building his studio, and then locking himself away in it while the music community talks about how irrelevent he has become. I can’t really say much beyond that. I sort of identify with the whole “My voice just echos off these walls” part.

16. “It’s Been Awhile” – Staind – A Song You Used to Love but Now Hate
I loved Staind. I really did. And when Break the Cycle came out, I started to change my mind on them. “Outside” was a pretty good song, a nice little one-off, despite the Fred Durst-isms on the live version from the Family Values album. Break, though, still had some heavy songs that I really liked, but they were obviously moving away from their old sound. Critics kept railing on them for their angry-middle-class-kid whining, only to find out that when Staind grew up, they wrote really terrible music. On the albums after Break the Cycle, I can count the number of Staind songs I would consider tolerable on one hand.

Not too long ago their founding drummer quit, and got replaced by Will Hunt from fucking Evanesance, so I guess we’ll see how they’re chugging along now. I read that their new album is full of songs “at least as heavy as the heaviest stuff on the last album.” If that’s true, my hopes for Staind returning to form are still unresolved. (That’s a sneaky way of saying that the last album didn’t really have anything heavy on it, either.) In any case, I think Staind is still a musically talented band, they just produce absolute shit. That’s pretty much my opinion on Dave Matthews Band, too.

17. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd – A Song You Often Hear on the Radio
I have seen Lynyrd Skynyrd live three times in the span of four years. Fargo loves its Skynyrd. My dad was, and probably still is, a freakish Skynyrd devotee. I’ve heard more Skynyrd than most people would consider a lifetime’s worth.

And then I moved to Indiana.

Fort Wayne has two classic rock stations and loves its hick almost-but-not-quite southern roots. Despite the band rarely coming through here (from what I can tell), I’ve heard so much more of the band since I moved here that it’s… it’s depressing. I can’t even listen to the band anymore, and this is after having liked them so much I paid money to see them three times.

I will, however, still give them credit for the end of “Free Bird”. That shit is ridiculous.

18. “Bleed” – Meshuggah – A Song You Wish You Heard on the Radio
This could really be any Meshuggah song, but I picked this one solely because of the timing. I have this vision in my head of driving down the street and people simply running of the road because they can’t wrap their heads around the polyrhythm. And then there’s me, cruising along, headbanging very slowly to the loping guitar riff.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m smarter than both rock radio and its listeners. (Nickelback? Seriously?)

19. “Lateralus” – Tool – A Song from Your Favorite Album
My favorite song, artist, and album are all not the same, and I find that amusing. Sure there’s some overlap in the singer of my favorite song and favorite album (that would be Tool/A Perfect Circle vocalist Maynard James Keenan), but I think it’s sort of funny. I don’t know why.

“Lateralus” and “The Noose” are, incidentally, pretty much neck-and-neck for Favorite Song status. The end of Lateralus (right around the 7:10 mark) just starts expanding. It’s also my favorite part in the live shows, because drummer Danny Carey actually uses the gong behind him and doesn’t miss a beat. It’s fucking amazing. (The part in question is here. One of the bonuses of writing posts like this is that I can spend 45 minutes watching videos of people playing drums and not feel like I’m not entirely ignoring the work I’m doing. It’s research.)

20. “New Faith” – Slayer – A Song You Listen to When You’re Angry
I honestly can’t really say much besides “Slayer”. A lot of people (mostly drunken Slayer fans) say that God Hates Us All is a terrible Slayer album. But they’re wrong. You see, GHUA is probably the single best Tom Araya performance they put down. This song, especially, is just off-the-rails insane. And I’ll never forget playing this album before a local “Christian metal” band played a set that I was running sound for. The look on the guitarist’s face when the line “I KEEP MY BIBLE IN A POOL OF BLOOD SO THAT NONE OF ITS LIES CAN AFFECT ME” came up was pretty hilarious.

I’m an antagonistic dick like that.

3. Outro

So anyway, that’s all for today. Not terribly impressive, but fuck it. You didn’t pay for it, didja?

Categories: Uncategorized

30 Days, Part 1

August 1, 2011 3 comments

1. Why Even Do This?

You’ve probably seen this little meme floating around Facebook as the 30 Day Song Challenge. It’s essentially a chance for music nerds (and anyone else, for that matter) to show off how awesome their taste in music is, and to argue how stupid their friends’ choices are. Obviously this isn’t something someone like me can avoid, so I took part in it as well. However, two things were very apparent. First, Facebook’s nature doesn’t really allow for cool stuff like more than 240 characters in a comment. It wouldn’t be a very good venue to actually discuss thoughts on the music I chose. Second, it’s easy to lose the scope of the list over 30 days. Look how many people sit and watch full seasons of television shows at a time; works are generally meant to be viewed as a whole. I’m not saying that my responses to a Facebook meme are LOST. I’m saying that a stream of single songs with seemingly unconnected themes strung out over a month don’t necessarily have the same feel as a nice, consise playlist.

Also, I’m not really a mix-tape sort of person. I’ve made a few here and there (“You’ve never heard Radiohead?!” and the like), but by and large I personally prefer to listen to music in full albums, and to songs in the context of those albums. Maybe I’m a holdover from back in the day when music was placed on a physical object, but I like the idea of having one flowing piece of work. So, I guess this lets me do that, while still cherry-picking the contents of the list in question.

A couple notes before we get into the meat of this: First, I’l be dividing it up into three posts. Thirty songs in one shot is kind of a lot, and I don’t want to write it, and you probably don’t want to read it or listen to it in one go. I’ll provide links when the other two posts go up (later this week and early next week, likely), so if you want to subject yourself to it, you can. But I’m not really advocating it now. Second, these songs are, for the most part, straight rips from the CD. Some of the tracks begin and end abrubptly (like the end of #10). I could have crossfaded stuff nicely, but frankly that’s a lot of work for a very minor issue. Just deal with it.


2. The List, Part 1
(embedding 8tracks mixes into WordPress-hosted blogs still isn’t working. i’m trying to get a workaround going, and when i do, i’ll fix it. til then, just right-click and select ‘open in new tab’ or ‘open in new window’ depending on what you want to do.)

1. “The Noose” – A Perfect Circle – Your Favorite Song
This is really a no-brainer for me. It’s been my favorite song since Thirteenth Step came out in 2003, and unless I’m presented with some pretty impressive evidence to the contrary, my opinion probably won’t change much. I even remember the first time I heard it, when I bought it at Target on the day it was released. It immediately went into my CD player, and I listened to the first track, skipped the second (“Weak and Powerless”, which I had heard dozens of times by this point), and listened to the third, which was “The Noose”. Everything about this song, from the lyric to the melody to the amazing coda was everything I wanted out of music at the time, and it’s still what I compare every other song to. The rest of the album is good, but this song is just… so much better.

2. “Brown-Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison – Your Least Favorite Song
To say that I hate this song is selling it short. I actually get physically ill when I hear this song. My stomach turns, my head starts to throb, my heart pumps viciously. I realize that Van Morrison is respected in jazz and blues circles, and I really like “Moondance”. But, well, let me put it this way:

Have you ever seen Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey? After Bill and Ted are killed by the Evil Robot Us-es (agents of the film’s main villian), they’re sent to Hell, where they are forced to choose a single event in their life to live over and over as their own personal hell. Every uncomfortable situation I have ever been in pales in comparison to the possibility of spending eternity listening to “Brown-Eyed Girl”. I would rather explain to my father that I was in a car accident forever than listen to “Brown-Eyed Girl”. I would rather sit curled up in a closet after the worst breakup of my entire life for time unending than listen to “Brown-Eyed Girl”. I suppose there are probably things that I wouldn’t rather deal with for eternity than listen to this song (being a Darfur war-orphan, for example), but if every wedding, junior high dance, prom, block party, oldies station, and family get-together I’ve ever attended or listened to are any indication, “Brown-Eyed Girl” is the least enjoyable three minutes of my life in pretty much any situation. And “Brown-Eyed Girl” will always make a bad situation worse.

I hate the song so much I skipped over it when listening back to this very mix.

3. “Leeds United” – Amanda Palmer – A Song that Makes You Happy
This song never fails to get me motivated and make me smile. It was the first Amanda Palmer song I ever heard, and I fell for the whole aesthetic instantly. I bought the album days after hearing the song, and I’ve gone on to get both Dresden Dolls albums plus the In Paradise DVD. This won’t be the last instance of Ms. Palmer’s work on the list, either.

4. “World Coming Down” – Type O Negative – A Song that Makes You Sad
Peter Steele’s lyrics—at least on the personal songs—have always tended toward the dreary side, but this is arguably the most sad song on a whole album of songs like “Everyone I Love is Dead” and “Everything Dies”. If I could put words to what depression feels like, this song would probably would be it. Feeling powerless and apathetic toward one’s own life might seem overly dramatic (Type O were nothing if not melodramatic), but knowing how Pete struggled through personal relationships, drug addiction, a difficult life in the music industry despite initial success makes the song so much more powerful. It may fail on New Criticism points (though it’s a valuable work on its own), “World Coming Down” is a song of a man dying before his literal death… which came too soon. (Another Type O song is coming soon in the list.)

5. “Wonderwall” – Oasis – A Song that Reminds You of Someone
The someone in question is one of my younger brother’s best friends, who would sing this song even more nasally and off-key during Rock Band sessions. He’s the same person that would sing Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the same overblown Gallahger voice. I probably could have chosen a few other songs, but they’re typical tripe like the Smashing Pumpkins’ “By Starlight” makes me think of a girl I dated in high school. So here it is: a song that will only ever make me think of one person and the fact that his is the only version I hear in my head when I think of it.

6. “One Note Song” – Tenacious D – A Song that Reminds You of Somewhere
That somewhere is “In the car on the way to the Twin Cities”. Every trip my friends and I would take from Fargo to Minneapolis started with the first Tenacious D album, and was followed by The Bloodhound Gang’s Hooray for Boobies. It didn’t matter who was driving, it didn’t matter whose car we were in. The first Tenacious D track meant we were in the car and going somewhere. (Usually to ogle guitars at the nearest major guitar retailer.) To this day, most of my longer car rides start with this song. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.

7. “Anesthesia” – Type O Negative – A Song that Reminds You of a Certain Event
The second time I saw the band, at First Avenue in Minneapolis. The show was pretty good, energetic. But this song was easily the best performance of the night. Pete sang all his parts from the album (usually during tours guitarist Kenny Hickey took the duties on some of the screaming bits), and the whole band really rallied around Peter on this one. By the end Pete and Kenny were leaning on each other for support and the whole place just felt somewhere else entirely. I will probably never forget that song, even if the rest of the show has sort of faded from my memory in the intervening years.

8. “Satan” – Orbital & Kirk Hammett – A Song You Know All the Words To
This is sort of cheating, because it only has the one word. But honestly I could have put any of a few dozen songs here, I just picked the easiest. This comes from the soundtrack to the Spawn movie. The album is actually an interesting little experiment that pairs standard hard rock/metal bands with electronic artists. Several of them turn out pretty well (Filter and the Crystal Method with “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”, for example), but some are utter garbage (like the complete misfire of Metallica’s mashup with DJ Spooky). All in all, though, it’s pretty enjoyable for fans of either late-90s metal or mid-90s electronic (or both). Oh, and also the riff in this song specifically is pretty killer. Remember, Kirk Hammett was the one responsible for the “Enter Sandman” riff.

9. “Scheiße” – Lady Gaga – A Song You Can Dance To
Okay, maybe not me specifically, but the General You certainly qualifies. It’s probably the most clear “dance” track on Born This Way, and it’s much better than most of the songs on the album because it’s just silly. Gaga is best when she’s singing about absolute bullshit, not trying to make statements.

10. “Us and Them: – Pink Floyd – A Song that Makes You Fall Asleep
When I was in high school, I was just starting to get into Pink Floyd, and it rubbed off on some of my friends, most notably the original singer in my first band. He would put Dark Side of the Moon into his CD player and leave it on repeat to fall asleep, so when I would come over at 11am and he was still in bed, it would still be playing. “Why would you do that on such an awesome album!” I would say. “Dude, it always makes me fall asleep,” he would reply. I thought he was crazy. Now, a decade later, I realize he was right. It’s very snore-inducing. It’s not bad, it’s just… very calm.

Here endeth part the first.

Come back later this week for part two!

Holy shit part two is done!

Categories: Uncategorized