ELEVEN SONGS . . . NINE ARTISTS (WHOA)
1. Sleater-Kinney -- "O2" (One Beat):
Their sound really started to change on this album, with very mixed results. I think this song is a great example. I like the shift when they go into the "chorus" here, it seems more Sleater Kinney-ish to me: intertwined vocal lines, minor chord guitar-slinging, an odd rhythm change. But while I like the chiming guitar sound they get in the rest of the song, something seems a bit too bubblegummy for my ears.
2. Ceumar -- "Girias do Norte" (Brasil Acoustico):
Some really good stuff on this compilation album. Lots of excellent samba and other Brazilian music.
Unfortunately, this ain't one of them. Sounds like Carmen Miranda singing "Mambo Italiano."
3. Lee Morgan Quintet -- "The Sidewinder" (Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz . . .):
Sweet. I mentioned last week that I wanted to hear a cut from one of my Lee Morgan albums. Well, this isn't a Lee Morgan album, per se, but it is Lee's most famous song. Morgan's solo music had a real swing that wasn't always present in 60's jazz. His chops were legit, and to my non-expert ears he seemed to do most of the "complicated" things that marked that decade's jazz: jaunty melodies, odd-time meters, some dischordance. But . . . it swings. Really gets your toes tappin'. Makes you smile.
And as with so much art, you'd never expect this, since Morgan seems to have lived a pretty miserable life: a drug addict, a pimp, and shot to death by his girlfriend at the age of 33.
4. Liz Phair -- "Never Said" (Exile in Guyville):
I won't even complain that this is Guyville's second appearence in three weeks. Because it's a great album, and this song rocks. As I mentioned in the comments to George a couple weeks ago, I love the lyrics in this one: "So don't look at me sideways/don't even look me straight on/and don't look at my hands in my pockets, baby/I ain't done anything wrong." She delivers that line.
Of course, one could make the argument that this song's heavy production, layered tracks, and reverb-drenched background vocals foresaw the disaster that would befall Liz' fans in the next decade. One could definitely make that argument.
But I won't make it. I like the song too much.
5. Sonic Youth -- "Mildred Pierce" (Goo):
Goo. Hmmm. I'm sure most Sonic Youth fans have a similar sense of this album. Following the earth-shattering influence of Daydream Nation, the Youth finally got a major-label contract, and Goo was the first effort of that phase of their career. And it was a pretty lame effort, I think. Plus, it began their long, consistent decline from important artists to downtown scenesters, with Kim Gordon progressively more concerned about fashion than music.
But you know what? The album that followed this one, Dirty, was excellent. One of my favorites. Up there with Daydream Nation in my opinion. So what can I really say? Plus, this little musical number ain't bad. And, since it's named after a Joan Crawford movie, it gets extra points for potential camp value.
(Now if only they'd called it "Johnnie Guitar.")
6. Gustav Mahler -- "Movement 4: Tempo 1, Molto adagio (Symphony #9):
Bernstein conducted this one. He loved Mahler's 9th more than anything else if I'm not mistaken. It's a monumental-sounding piece of music, but I'd be lying if I told you I've ever listened to the whole thing.
And since I've been offered no jobs in the Bush administration, assume I don't lie often.
7. REM -- "Little America" (Reckoning):
Not from the tour-de-force early part of this album, this one's nevertheless a good song. Most of the ingredients of early REM: hyper rhythms, chiming 12-string guitar set against muscular-but-understated chords. But it doesn't feature the soaring background harmonies that most of this album's cuts have, and believe it or not you can pretty much understand all of Michael Stipe's vocals.
Which is nice, because they're good ones. Jefferson, I think we're lost, indeed.
8. Velvet Underground -- "Femme Fatale" (Velvet Underground & Nico):
Yes! An injection of magic into my ears. The three Nico songs off this album (Femme Fatale, All Tomorrow's Parties, and I'll Be Your Mirror) sound like no other music ever made. Her voice isn't pretty, Lou Reed's background singing isn't pretty, the instrumentation is strikingly minimalistic, and the lyrical story isn't very nice.
Yet all three songs are unspeakably beautiful. I could listen to this all day.
9. Sonic Youth -- "Eric's Trip" (Daydream Nation):
As requested. Damn, that's pretty cool. This is how Sonic Youth is supposed to sound. And it's also a very appropriate follow-up to the Velvet Underground. It's hard to think of an album that found beauty-in-ugliness more than Daydream Nation. "Eric's Trip" has all the qualities: jarring sounds, oddly-tuned instruments, rough rhythms, yet the package-in-full is pleasant. Daydream Nation was definitely one of those albums where "something special" descended upon them as they recorded it. The muse was in the studio. "Teenage Riot" demonstrates that more than anything else, but this song, and many others, have it too.
10. Sonic Youth -- "100%" (Dirty):
Oh my god!!! Is this possible??? I have four Sonic Youth albums in the I-Pod, a little more than 1% of the total. And this is the the third to appear in a six song stretch (after explicitly talking about two of them).
Anyhow, this isn't a great song -- which is amazing, because Dirty is loaded -- so I guess the I-Pod Gods are still keeping things in balance.
11. Outkast -- "Slum Beautiful" (Stankonia):
I'll admit I rarely listen to this album (read: never listen). I bought it about 4 or 5 years ago because it was so well-regarded. I hadn't even heard "Mrs. Jackson" when I got it. There's nothing wrong with this song, but I can't say I'd listen to it if it didn't come onto a shuffle.
So there you have it, another Random Eleven in the books. As with every week so far, there were plenty of "Holy shit, that's random" moments. But that Sonic Youth thing is freaky. I don't know what to say.
But you can: your thoughts, comments, criticisms, your own random tunes. Bring it on.