September 18th, 2010

I submit that any of my friends could have heard these two tracks, and without knowing whether I’d heard them, predict that I would like them. They are like a catalog of my guilty and not so guilt pleasures compressed into easily accessible four minute tours of “Production Techniques that Ian is a Sucker For.” That’s not to say that they cover every single one of them, but the number of bases covered is nevertheless impressive.

Azure Ray – Don’t Leave My Mind
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Nothing But Our Love
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I feel like these tracks are lineal decedents of The Notwist’s “Pick Up the Phone.”

Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl makes an excellent wink and nod appearance near the end of Scott Pilgrim. They use the original album version, which is sung, if I recall correctly, by Emily Haines, also of Metric. Now, barring some special appearances, she hasn’t toured with BSS since 2002. A rotating cast of women have taken up the song. If you see it in concert who is best? Well, it turns out that’s an interesting question.

Broken Social Scene has had numerous touring lineups. I’ve found four versions. If Feist has done this song live, I didn’t find it on youtube. [oops, I was wrong, but she isn’t the sole vocalist in that performance]

The current female lead vocalist: Lisa Lobsinger
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The long time lead: Amy Millan
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The irregular fill in: Elizabeth Powell (regularly in the touring lineup, but I don’t know that she does this song often)
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Best I could find on that, lots of semi-hilarious crowd “banter.”

The originator: Emily Haines
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Impressive if only for the ear splitting screams from just inches from the camera. Also, I could do without the girl sort of sing chanting from the audience, but them’s the breaks on youtube.

And because I was wrong: Amy Millan, Leslie Feist, and Emily Haines all in one performance. (with bonus air guitar from Feist)
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It seems that Amy Millan (who did not record the original) manages to get closest to the album version’s distortion of Haines’ vocals. Haines, understandably does an amazing version of it herself. I think hers edges out the others, just barely, for its strong clear vocals on what can otherwise be a mumbly song. Elizabeth Powell gets a couple of the lyrics wrong, but really seems to get the daydreaming nature of the song. Plus it’s fun to watch her get more confident and have more fun with the song as it goes on. Lisa Lobsinger’s version of the song is interestingly vulnerable at times, but I’m not a fan of the almost clipped crisp enunciation she uses for the “park that car” chant at the end. The song loses some of its dreamlike quality as a result. It may be better singing from a technical standpoint, but it doesn’t suit the song as well. She gets my sympathy though, as some of the commenters on for the clip complain that she isn’t as pretty or as good a singer as Emily Haines. Commenters, come on, the real answer is that all five of these women kick ass.

It’s been a while, and I’m going to start things off slow, though there are several things I hope to get to.

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Starting off slow means this video, which is of Lissie recording Little Lovin. The song pulls off the neat trick of sounding like something I’ve heard before, even on the first listen. I’m still not sure it isn’t a cover, but my cursory search revealed nothing. Cover or not, it’s good.

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I’ll never be on KEXP, so who am I to talk, but “Mind Idea” has to be about the dumbest song title/opening lyric I’ve ever heard in the entirety of my life. I mean, I’ve listened to, and liked, some crap over the years. But I was unable to keep from laughing when The Current Song of the Day served up this track. He’s a little more mellow in the youtube video. If you hear the studio version it sounds like he’s thinking “I am the Sartre of indie rock” as he belts out “Mind IDEA!” The rest of his stuff stuff seems, you know, okay. But that opening lyric is like starting a first date by opening the door and earnestly telling a girl: “I’m a very deep guy. I don’t mean that ironically. I’m just really like, deep and existential n’shit.” Once you’ve gone there, it’s just not going to happen.

When I hear the studio version of this I hear echos of Bowie, when Pitchfork listens, they hear Motown.

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I can’t say that I’m with them on that.

For a day now I’ve been singing bits of this song everywhere I go.

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I’m not even sure I like it. There isn’t much of a payoff for me. I’ve always had a weird feeling with Animal Collective. I like bits of their songs, but sometimes they drag a little too much for me. Also sometimes they carry nonsense lyrics to a point I had not even considered possible. I can’t decide if I like that or not either. This song actually makes sense all the way through, but when he sings “I just want: four walls and adobe slabs, for my girls,” I crack up.

Edit: Also, I cannot help thinking of H.P. Lovecraft while watching this video.

Delightfully Campy

June 9th, 2009

A while back this song came up on The Current and I couldn’t help nodding along. I’m a sucker for a certain kind of guitar lick, it’s true.

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The future, now with violent centaurs.

Expectations Set Too High

March 6th, 2009

I should have known that I had set the expectations too high for Middle Cyclone, the new album by Neko Case. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s very good. It’s just not as good as Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. That’s okay though, as Fox Confessor was one of my favorite albums in I don’t know how long. I lost count long ago how many times I’ve listened to it. It was the only CD in my car for months. So, in light of that, Middle Cyclone is doing very well indeed simply by not frustrating me. Still, I did have this foolish hope that she would rise to the level of ‘almost perfect album’ again. Alas, it was not to be, and very good was all I got. I feel spoiled.

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A while back, Minnesota Public Radio created The Current, for which I have found no local replacement in Portland, and which I listen to by streaming audio fairly often. They also have a song of the day podcast, which I subscribe to. The other day I had the excitement of seeing my brother’s band as the song of the day, for the 23rd. It was a nice feeling.

Today’s song of the day got me thinking about one of the tiny sins of songwriting. I had thought of it as an 80s sin until I heard this song. The song is Evident Utensil by Chairlift, and it’s a generally solid song. I’d link a youtube video, but the studio version has been removed for terms of use violation, and that’s the version that I heard. It has background vocals in that weird half singing/half chanting way. Like Right Said Fred is doing the background vocals for this entire class of 80s songs, and Chairlift just said, “Hey, I’ve always liked Right Said Fred, let’s throw some business his way.” In this song, as in many others, its used to echo the lyrics directly.

Does anyone else notice this type of background? Does it drive everyone else nuts? I don’t know that I’d run out to buy Chairlift’s album, but the little background vocal didn’t do it for me, and kinda spoiled the whole song.

Raincoats of a Famous Nature

December 29th, 2008

Portland has finally managed to live up to my preconceptions of it, with a couple of icky rain days washing away the snow that I missed (replaced by the snow in Iowa and Michigan, which was more significant anyway) when I was away.

I found myself listening to Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen:
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This in turn got me thinking of the Tori Amos cover of same. I hadn’t listened to Amos in a while, and so I checked it out on Youtube, and was surprised by how much she seemed to be mugging to the crowd as she played. I don’t recall interpreting it this way when I last saw her, which was years ago, and the video I was watching was from last year. Have I just grown up since last I saw her in concert? Quite possibly. I’ve never been sure just how much of the “shock” factor of her songs was a part of my fandom. I still like many of the songs, but I seem to have over listened to many of them, requiring my to step away for periods of time or risk having them get annoying. I was shocked when this happened to Jeff Buckley, who I had thought could never get stale. All of this and Rain Dogs never seems to suffer the same fate.

Also, a brief note bringing it back to Cohen. Looking at the Wikipedia entry on FBR, it appears to be getting more popular to cover it. I can’t say that’s what I would have expected. Roughly half of the covers appear to be post 2000.

One of things that I most wish about our culture was that we had a greater range of shared verbal reference. No, check that, let’s be more honest, I wish people shared my verbal references more. That’s about it. I remember studying the Tale of Genji in college and loving the way the characters could all refer to known poetry in order to express the similarities of situations.

As I was thinking about how the name of a song by Why? “these few presidents” would be a great one to be able to reference at certain times. That in turn got me thinking about the content of the song. I tend to pick up on different parts of his songs at different times, but this time I found myself thinking about the whole song, and how it was very similar in content to a Robert Browning poem, maybe most like “Porphyria’s Lover,” but Browning was hardly short of poems about murdering your significant other.

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The Real Tuesday Weld

September 20th, 2008

This is a band that I’ve sort of flirted on the edge of knowing for a while. I’d hear there music in various places and nod along for a bit and then move on. So, as usual, I’m late to the party. But they were on Morning Becomes Eclectic a little over a month ago and I was listening to the podcast, when this song grabbed me.

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“Dorothy Parker Blue” by The Real Tuesday Weld

I may have to scrape a little grad school cash together on this one.

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