Some Songs Considered Avatar

26 Notes


"Jungleland" (live, February 5, 1975 at the Main Point, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; unreleased)

by Brian Wall

The Main Point recording captured a unique version of the E-Street Band. In particular, it was one of the little more than forty shows in 1974 through March 1975 featuring violinist Suki Lahav, who played on Born to Run. The recording, renowned for its high quality and ubiquity, offered the opportunity to see many of Born to Run’s songs approaching their completion.

“Jungleland,” as performed that evening, serves as a snapshot of a work in progress. As elsewhere on the Main Point recording, Lahav’s violin adds another dimension to the E-Street’s sound – a literal one-woman string section to Springsteen’s cinematic songs that evening. Her introduction to “Jungleland” on this recording closely matches the performance on the album, particularly in the opening twenty seconds.

Compared with the earliest version circulating (July 13, 1974 at The Bottom Line in New York), the version performed at the Main Point showcased the arrangement that would remain in the Jon Landau sessions beginning the following month. Most notably, since the previous summer, the two final verses flipped, with the “beneath the city” verse now coming first after the solo section. The Main Point version also lacked the jazzy organ solo section from the Bottom Line recording. What remained that night in Pennsylvania was the complete outline of the song; the characters, major plot, chord changes, and melody all existed as they would appear on Born to Run, and with Lahav present, the major players were all on stage. The most significant differences between this version and the album version came about in the studio that spring when Springsteen tightened up the lyrics and turned over the solo to Clarence Clemons.

In the Wings for Wheels documentary, Springsteen spoke of the meticulous way he wrote and re-wrote lyrics. By winter 1975, Springsteen tightened up many of his details by eliminating redundant phrases, turning “those boy prophets” into “prophets,” and the shadows “in vacant doorways always silent” became simply “always silent” and later “always quiet.” The most drastic differences lyrically between February 1975 and the album’s release in August deal with the increased presence of the “midnight gang” and their illicit acts, especially in the third and fifth verses. The gang replaces the line about the “crazy kind of light” (and its reference to “The E-Street Shuffle”) and details about secret debts, vanishing contracts, and backstreet girls from the final version were yet to appear. Most likely, Springsteen went back and rewrote these parts of “Jungleland” after writing “Meeting Across the River” in May 1975. Originally known as “The Heist,” “Meeting Across the River” described the narrator desperately seeks an opportunity to find money. These details added after the Main Point performance link “Jungleland” back to “Meeting Across the River,” suggesting that the narrator’s last chance to prove himself ends wounded in the street at the end of the album.

Springsteen also tweaks a couple blade related details. The “boys flash guitars like bayonets” become “kids flash guitars like switchblades,” staying consistent with the gang introduced at the beginning of the verse. Later, in the final verse, “the quick of the knife” becomes “the quick of the night,” leaving the wounds’ origins less explicit. Furthermore, Springsteen heavily revises the second to last verse, in particular adding the line about the ambulance pulling away unwatched, emphasizing the end to the Rat’s dreams in the album version over the girl’s loneliness.

Most notably at the Main Point, Springsteen takes the solo himself, later joined by Lahav toward the end, playing the solo very similar to the Bottom Line performance. In the Wings for Wheels documentary, Springsteen and Landau play the 12th studio take of the solo played largely as it was that night, with Clemons doubling the end of the guitar solo the way Lahav doubled Springsteen’s lead that night. “I can tell you what that was,” Springsteen remarked in the documentary with a bit of a laugh. “That’s probably the way we were playing it live at the time.” A few minutes later in the film, Springsteen and Clemons describe the process by which they wrote and re-wrote the saxophone solo over a sixteen-hour session. Aside from the title track’s myriad overdubs and rewrites, the solo section in “Jungleland” best typifies Springsteen’s tunnel vision and commitment to his sonic vision.

Ultimately, this tedious recording process worked. Clemons’s solo became one of his signature moments, enough so that when he passed away a few years ago, a friend sent me to a Facebook fan page for the solo. Springsteen even put the song into semi-retirement after Clemons’s passing, with Clarence’s nephew Jake playing the solo on a half dozen occasions on the recent Wrecking Ball tour in tribute to his uncle.  On the Wings for Wheels documentary, Clemons and others describe it with religious terminology, but Clemons describes it best as “pure emotion.” Compared with Springsteen’s guitar solo, Clemons’ saxophone reaches a greater range, and its vibrato, especially on the high notes, comes the closest to the spiritually redemptive way the narrator describes music in both the song and the album as a whole. Beyond the notes Springsteen obsessed over in the studio that late spring, the timbre provided by Clemons’s tenor saxophone filled in the finer details still in flux that night at the Main Point. If the version performed that winter had all of the colors picked out and arranged, the switch to Clemons solo and the slight revision of some of the details in the lyrics adjusted the tint and shading until it was just right.

From last Friday, the second of two posts I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s February 1975 show at the Main Point for One Week / One Band. This one is more or less on the way “Jungleland” evolved on its way to the version that appeared on Born to Run, with the version that evening as a sort of midpoint. 

20 Notes


"The E Street Shuffle" (live, February 5, 1975 at the Main Point, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; unreleased)

The Main Point

by Brian Wall

The version of the E-Street Band that toured during the winter of 1975 existed for a brief moment. Drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan had recently joined, violinist Suki Lahav had neared the end of her brief tenure as a touring (and with the ensuing Born to Run session, recording) member of the band, and now iconic sideman Steven Van Zandt was still several months away from joining. On February 5, the band played a benefit for the Main Point, a small venue in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to be broadcast on the radio on local station WMMR. Springsteen, in between sessions for his forthcoming Born to Run album, wanted to play new material, only to be talked out of an exclusively unreleased setlist that night. The performance still circulates among traders for a number of reasons. First, the quality of the soundboard recording (and also, its dissemination on FM radio) made it one of the highest quality live recordings for many years. More importantly, Springsteen and his band played for roughly 160 minutes, his longest set to date, combining a mix of previously released materials, cover songs, and unreleased works-in-progress. It was the latest (and perhaps most significant) step toward greatness for Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

The setlist that night at the Main Point alternated between new and old, ballads and barnburners, and short bursts and extended jams. The show opens with a gorgeous, near ten-minute version of “Incident on 57th Street,” accompanied primarily by Bittan’s nimble piano and Lahav’s legato violin. Then, the rest of the band joins for a cover of Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love,” introduced by Springsteen as a “noisy” song. “Born to Run” follows in its completed arrangement, followed with a drastically reworked “E-Street Shuffle.” Afterward, the band debuted a song known then as “Wings for Wheels,” the working version of Born to Run’s opener “Thunder Road.” That’s just the first five songs, too.

Several of the Born to Run tracks appeared on the setlist that night, and while the arrangement of the title track will sound familiar to those who have turned on a radio in the last four decades, many of the Born to Run songs appeared with slightly different lyrics. “She’s the Onefeatured its Bo Diddley riff and the same melody as the recorded version, but with extra verses (including a few lines that would later appear in “Backstreets”). In a couple cases, particularly “Jungleland” and “Wings for Wheels / Thunder Road,” the arrangements performed that night changed considerably in the recording sessions with Jon Landau that began a month later.

Some of Springsteen’s older songs changed as well. In particular, “The E-Street Shuffle” in 1975 wasn’t the same jangly rave-up appearing on Springsteen’s second album. Instead, the band laid down an extended, slower groove relying heavily on rim knocks and organ. Over this extended intro, Springsteen told the story of a late night encounter with a shadowy figure on the streets of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Springsteen described his efforts to avoid this stranger only to meet him face to face trapped in a doorway. At the climax of the story, Springsteen snaps into “The E-Street Shuffle’s” first line, rendering the previous story as an extended introduction to the song’s lyrics. This theatrical approach foreshadowed the overtures and melodrama that made Born to Run Springsteen’s most ambitious work to date. In retrospect, Springsteen’s new arrangement of “The E-Street Shuffle,” coupled with the showstopping arrangement of “Incident on 57th Street,” previewed just as much of the tone of his next release as the new songs played that night.

With the benefit of nearly four decades of hindsight, it’s easy to see why some cite the Main Point show as the night where the E-Street Band became legendary. It coupled frenetic songs with the quiet, emotionally loaded performances, drew on the band’s encyclopedic knowledge of rock history (and the spontaneity available to a band with that kind of shared knowledge), and gave a glimpse into the marathon sets that would later become the band’s signature. If the songs for Born to Run weren’t up to Springsteen’s standards quite yet, his band was ready for the spotlight the album’s acclaim would bring them.

This is the first of two posts I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s show in February 1975 at the Main Point. I thought you might want to read it.

There have been some incredible things written this week (most recently the post on “Wings for Wheels” that follows this post chronologically) that I encourage you to check out the whole week. I’ll share my “Jungleland” post tomorrow. 

28 Notes


The Replacements at Riot Fest: Photos, video, setlist from first ’Mats show in 22 years | LINK Zoom


The Replacements at Riot Fest: Photos, video, setlist from first ’Mats show in 22 years | LINK

3 Notes

Aquarium Drunkard » Television :: Live @ The Whisky A Go-Go, Los Angeles 1977

Download of an entire set from Television in 1977, via the excellent Aquarium Drunkard blog.

5 Notes

"National Talk Like a Pirate Day" - Lambchop 
(Words/music: Kurt Wagner / Lambchop, available on OH (Ohio), Merge Records 2008) 

So today is (Inter)National Talk Like a Pirate Day, which means very little to me but might mean more to the more youthful / youthful at heart readers. The kind folks at Merge shared up the Lambchop song by this name on their SoundCloud page (and put a whole bunch of Lambchop’s back catalog on sale, an opportunity I encourage you to pursue), so I thought I’d pass it on to all of you. It’s one of my favorite Lambchop songs, particularly for the way the jangly guitar and piano mix toward the end. The live version from the Merge 20th anniversary concerts two summers ago accentuates the things I really like about this track - Wagner’s gentle treatment of the melody and the playfulness of the guitar and piano lines. It also began the final five song run of their set at XX Merge, turning a relatively quiet beginning into one of the most spontaneously wonderful performances I’ve ever seen. (Even on record, which Merge has on sale as well, Lambchop’s set still floors me). 

So, happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, or at least happy Appreciate Lambchop Day, which I hope for you happens far, far more often than once a year. 

More on Lambchop: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic |

15 Notes

“Biomusicology (1999 Basement Demo)” – Ted Leo
(Words/music: Ted Leo, final version on The Tyranny of Distance, Lookout! 2001. MP3 via Ted Leo’s SoundCloud page)

Apologies for letting my One Week / One Band updates tail off. Here’s a link to the entire run of posts in case you missed it. I ended up immersing myself completely in the last five Ted Leo and the Pharmacists albums that week, writing thirty six(!) posts, which was a lot of fun and completely exhausting. I was so tired that even culling links seemed too laborious, so it slacked off. I also, during this blog silence, should have wrote about the gorgeous night in July when I saw the Pharmacists play all of The Tyranny of Distance at New York’s South Street Seaport, but that fell into the silence as well. Consider this post the proverbial tying up of loose ends for those things.

In the week before the Seaport “Tyranny 10” show, Ted Leo posted a ton of things from the Tyranny era on his blog, culminating with his basement demo of the album’s first song “Biomusicology.” Recorded on a four track in his basement and heavy on synthesizer, the song’s arrangement (save for an extended solo in the outro and a slight variation on the melody in the first line) matches up with the eventual album version. It’s sound, to borrow Ted’s adjective, feels “dreamier” than the full band’s version.

The other interesting tidbit (aside from the “original” tracklist for the album, which I’ll save for another time), is that Leo wrote candidly about “Biomusicology.” From his blog post:

That is, after all the fun and the drama, and the feints and stabs of the previous decade of music making, I woke up alone one day, without a band, but with the unimpeachable knowledge that “this is who I am, and this is what I want to do, and this is what I DO” regardless of whether it was inside the system or outside, in fame or obscurity, on the back burner or right there in my hands – this is me, and this is us, and it is every bit as important as we think it is – it’s woven into our bones, an essential part of our complete breakfast, every day; and I guess that’s what “Biomusicology” was an attempt at expressing.

Which, setting intentional fallacy aside for a minute, fits what I wrote about the song for OW/OB, describing the “two strategies for confronting the void” in the song – an existential commitment to continue despite the impending bleakness, and the way we cling to our favorite songs in our times of need. Leo continues in his post to discuss the shift from the song’s composition (and placement at the end of the LP), to its shift and subsequent leadoff slot (emphasis is mine):

And though it can be read as hopeful, there was more of a resignedness to it when I originally wrote it. In some ways, I felt like my life as a musician was already OVER, and it was a “the king is dead, long live the king” kind of thing. It wound up as a mission statement at the top of the record, but at first, I meant it to be a summing up of a life already lived. The whole album’s like an Irish wake to me, and what happened afterward surprised me more than anybody!

Having read the blog post before hearing the song, I had a hard time hearing the resignation. I always heard the end of the song as a boat with waves furiously crashing against it as the lyrics proclaim that “we cannot stop singing / we cannot start sinking.” It ends on such a powerful and focused note (coupled with its placement at the beginning of the album) that it’s always felt like a bold mission statement. Hearing this demo, particularly with the extended solo at the end, the resignation becomes clearer. Here, the sea continues to rage after Leo goes silent, perhaps the way that music will continue after Leo (and everyone else) goes silent. I just hope that he has plenty more songs in him.

More on Ted Leo: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic |

25 Notes

319 plays

Up In The Dark

The New Pornographers

“Up in the Dark” – The New Pornographers 
(Words/music: Carl Newman, available on Together, Matador 2010) 

I’ve wanted to write about this song for a while, and usually if I don’t get to write about a song within a week or two of thinking of the idea, I let it disappear in the ether. This idea, like a lot of the New Pornographers’ songs, stuck in the back of my head and kept coming back. It didn’t help that I’ve heard this song dozens of times, as Together grew on me in the past four or five months unexpectedly. 

Anyway, I wanted to write about “Up in the Dark” because this ranks among Carl Newman’s best songs. Melody bursts from this song, but Newman frequently turns out earworms. His melodies depend on his sense of rhythm, and here it’s the percussive nature of the vocals (particularly in the repeated “what’s love” phrase in the pre-chorus) that makes these melodies snap. The song’s stomping pulse makes me think of a folk singer loudly accompanying the guitar and vocals with the heel of a shoe, and it breaks only when it shifts slightly in the chorus, making the chorus feel like it floats along. Additionally, Newman never gets enough credit as an arranger, particularly in his pairing of songs with the right vocalists. Here, it’s Neko Case weaved in with his own, letting one or the other lead at times while singing together at others. 

Rarely, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else, do Newman’s lyrics earn praise. This is what makes “Up in the Dark” stand out for me. Even though it’s a simple song, I found myself thinking about the phrase in the chorus – “what’s love but what turns up in the dark?” It made me think of all sorts of things. It could be the people and things that help one through a “dark” phase. It could be the trust implied in the simple action of turning off the lights and going to bed with a loved one. It could just be the people we spend nights with, whether a quiet one on the couch or a gathering of friends out together. It even leaves the door open for the typical love associations – the “light” in one’s life, for example – that turns up and ends the darkness. I’ll spare you the rest, but in short it made me look at the way love and darkness relate in a way I never considered. That, plus a killer melody, is enough to hook me. 

More on The New Pornographers: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic |

4 Notes

Day 1 on One Week / One Band - Ted Leo / Rx's The Brutalist Bricks

If you were busy on Memorial Day (and if the weather was like it was around here, I don’t blame you), you may have missed the first day of posts I wrote for One Week / One Band on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (my intro at that site is here, as well as an explanation of the site here). Clicking on the link at the top of this post will bring you through all of yesterday’s posts on the band’s most recent LP (but honestly, you should follow this site now and in the weeks going forward). If you’d rather skim through them, here’s a list of what ran yesterday:

Today’s posts on 2007’s Living with the Living have already begun, so go over to One Week / One Band and get caught up! 

8 Notes

SSC on One Week / One Band This Week!

I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to contribute to One Week / One Band, one of the best music sites around. I’m just as excited that I get the week to focus on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, one of my favorite bands. A million thanks to Hendrik for the opportunity! 

The introductory post is already up here, so go check it out and please follow OW/OB on Tumblr and on Twitter (@OneWeekOneBand), not just because I’m writing there, but because some of the best music writing this year was hosted here. If you’re new to that site, I strongly recommend browsing the Past Entries page, and if you’re looking for more specific recommendations, Jonathan Bogart’s entries on the Faces, Tom Ewing’s on the KLF, Lisa Ann Cassidy’s on the early R.E.M. albums, and Isabel Cole’s posts on Liz Phair from last week are all incredible. 

As for this blog, each night I will have a rundown of links to things I wrote in case you need to catch up, but all of the music and videos will be on the OW/OB site, so be sure to keep in touch this week.

Finally, if you are a Ted Leo fan and/or have any exceptional Ted Leo stories (meeting him, personal attachments to his records, or even just memorable shows), please pass them on to me. I am planning on ending the week with a collection of these fan stories as a way of portraying the fan reaction to TL and his music. Contact me on Twitter, via email (somesongsconsidered-at-gmail-dot-com), or in the comments of one of these posts. 

54 Notes

659 plays

You Are Invited

The Dismemberment Plan

“You Are Invited” – The Dismemberment Plan 
(Words/music: The Dismemberment Plan, available on Emergency & I, DeSoto 1999 / Barsuk 2011) 

Part 2 of 2: “No date, no place, no time, no RSVP” 

I usually think about the contrasting sections in this song. Specifically, I think of the way the live band ambushes the programmed beat during the second chorus, only to recede back to the sequencer for the next verse. Recently, I started paying closer attention to the strange sounds that creep in during the end of the second verse. They happen right around the point the narrator goes to the party held by his “ex-thing,” and they’re mixed beneath the fast clicking that runs throughout the entire second beat. Maybe it’s from knowing that the full band waits ready to bust through the chorus, or maybe it’s from the type of tension I’d feel if I went to a party at my ex’s house, but these sounds made the rest of the verse feel nervous. This leads into the cathartic blast of guitar and drums in the verse, but also the relief in the narrative when Ex-Thing repeats the welcoming advice inscribed in the invitation. 

It’s this combination of social awkwardness followed by an immediate, almost superhuman transformation that made me think of Scott Pilgrim, the comics (and movie) about a twenty-something slacker who simultaneously fights video game-style villains and the inner conflicts that plague people in their teens and early twenties. It started with this image of a party combined with an anime-like “power up” triggered by this music, but then the message of optimism and proactivity in the song’s invitation struck me as the kind of thing Scott Pilgrim needed to hear. If nothing else, it was the kind of thing I needed to hear, whether from another human being or even just a random piece of mail, when I went through the mix of heartbreak and uncertainty and parylyzing indecision that Scott Pilgrim encountered in the comics. It’s still nice to hear and even better, as the song’s narrator learns in the final verse, to pass on to those who need it more than you do. 

More on The Dismemberment Plan: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic |

19 Notes

219 plays

Back And Forth

The Dismemberment Plan

“Back and Forth” – The Dismemberment Plan 
(Words/music: The Dismemberment Plan, available on Emergency & I, DeSoto 1999 / Barsuk 2011) 

PART 1 OF 2: “You’ll always be my hero / even if I never see you again.” 

I saw the Dismemberment Plan for the first time in 2002. I ended up with their final LP Change somewhat serendipitously when it came out and obsessed over it for a good stretch of time (so much that when I listened to it earlier this year in its entirety for the first time in ages, my hands instinctively drummed along to every little nuance out of muscle memory).  I never forgot that show – from the opening local band playing the Replacements’ “Left of the Dial,” to John Vanderslice’s tight supporting set and theatrical drummer – and the kind of spastic glee the Plan induced both on stage and in the crowd in the tiny Providence rock club.  It broke my heart when the band called it quits, and not being able to catch the band’s farewell tour only bummed me out further. 

So when the band came back together for a series of shows supporting the vinyl reissue of Emergency & I, I seized the second chance. I bought tickets months in advance and dug out my Dismemberment Plan records well in advance. The first step, of course, was falling back in love with these songs.  I expected the superhuman rhythm section and hairpin shifts to still catch my ear, but rather than just rely on my old favorites, I felt pulled toward songs that never grasped me the first time around.  In particular, “Back and Forth” bridged the things I knew I loved about this band with the things that I appreciated even more now. I probably fixated on the drumming when I first got the record, but a few months ago I found my attention centered on Travis Morrison’s vocals.  He runs through the lyrics of this song quickly, so rather than decode the entire song at one, I kept grasping onto specific parts.  Each time I listened, a new phrase caught my ear, and I marveled at the way Morrison could play with the sound of words and internal rhymes without sacrificing his storytelling and imagery.  Both the sound of the words and the words themselves worked together to paint this scene if joy and nervous excitement tempered by the reminder that the night would eventually end. This duality of sound and signifiers fits the song’s duality as well – one of the awareness of memory while it’s being created while still enjoying the moment. 

It was appropriate for seeing the band this past January as well.  Like the song’s narrator, I went into the night knowing that no matter how much fun I had (and I had a blast), I didn’t know if I’d ever have another chance to see the band again. Appropriately, they closed their nearly two hour set with this song, and a few days later it sunk in – it didn’t matter if this was the last time (and from the handful of gigs and festival appearances this summer, I’m holding out hope for periodic mini-tours every so often) because I had a hell of a time. Rather than fixate on the band’s absence like last time, I’m treasuring the memory (even months later) of an exceptional gig.

Tomorrow (or the next day or so): Hearing the right thing at the right times. 

More on The Dismemberment Plan: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic |

21 Notes

689 plays

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side

The Magnetic Fields

“The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” – The Magnetic Fields 
(Words/music: Stephin Meritt, available on 69 Love Songs, Merge Records 1999) 

Music Diary Project – Wednesday 4/6 and Thursday 4/7 (Context Here) 

I haven’t had a chance to update this since Tuesday night (and probably won’t again until Sunday). Here’s what I best remember.

“Perfect Way” – Scritti Politti, “Secret” – O.M.D., and “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” – Magnetic Fields

I have XM in my car, and I find that while I really enjoy the service, I seem to listen in shifts. I’ll listen to a couple stations for a while and then will go weeks without listening to them. Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of the talk shows on the MLB baseball channel. Combined with a short commute to work and not a lot of errands to run this week, I haven’t listened to a lot of music in the car. Most notably, I heard the Scritti Politti and O.M.D. songs on their “First Wave” channel (one of my favorite things to flip to during a commercial break on the talk stations). I heard the Magnetic Fields song on their “college radio” station (“Sirius XMU”) on Wednesday afternoon just before their “old school” show. For two hours on Wednesday afternoons, they play what they dub “vintage indie rock,” and when I can I make a point to listen, if for no other reason than it reminds me of a lot of the stuff I used to play on my college radio show. 

“The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” is indicative of my relationship with 69 Love Songs as a whole. I’ve largely approached Meritt’s three disc work in pieces, and each time I listen to a different chunk, I appreciate a new song. It had been a while since I heard “The Luckiest Guy…” and I forgot that Stephin Merritt didn’t sing it (Dudley Klute sings it, as with about half a dozen others of the sixty nine). So Klute’s smoother voice kind of took me for a loop, particularly the way he glides toward some of the higher notes (like the way he sings “astronomer”). It’s especially strange because I seem to be comparing it to a version of the song that doesn’t exist (I don’t think I’ve ever heard Meritt sing it live), and I can’t think of another time I’ve done this (maybe with a version I wish  it sounded like, but not one I errantly remembered hearing). Anyway, this might be an interesting idea to explore another time. (Related: my favorite song on 69 Love Songs)

Smoke Ring for My Halo – Kurt Vile, Side A of Wide Awake in America EP – U2, Record 1, Sides A and B of The Blueprint – Jay-Z 

The other afternoon, I treated myself to a couple games of NBA2k11 while listening to records. I stared with Kurt Vile’s new album after picking it up a couple weeks ago and never getting around to it. I grew to like it more as the album went along, and what began as being unimpressed grew into a respect for some of the understated qualities of his songs. I’m going to want to listen to this record a few more times, particularly the stretch in the middle that bridged the album’s two sides. 

At the end of Vile’s album, I dug into one of my crates of records I hadn’t explored in a while. I have a bunch of bins of records in my living room (my roommate graciously puts up with what amounts to a disproportionate number of records taking up space) and found this EP from U2’s The Unforgettable Fire era. Side B is two outtakes from the record (which I wasn’t in the mood to hear), but side A features two excellent live performances of “Bad” and “A Sort of Homecoming.” The former is one of my favorite U2 songs (particularly for this version, which is excellently recorded) and the latter I always end up enjoying a lot more than I remembered.

I honestly forgot that I bought The Blueprint on LP, and that was the driving force behind listening to it. I got through the first half of the album (split over four sides) before I had to stop listening. 

The last thing I remember listening to was this cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle” by Sarah Records band Even As We Speak. It was yet another reminder that I should probably look into more of these late ‘80s/ early ‘90s indie pop bands. Any specific bands/records as starting points?

That’s it for now. I’ll try to keep track of the next couple days for a Sunday afternoon/night update.

What have you been listening to?

15 Notes

299 plays

Suicide Demo For Kara Walker


"Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" - Destroyer 
(Words: Kara Walker, Music: Dan Bejar, available on Kaputt, Merge Records 2011) 

Music Diary Project Day 2 (Context here

Overall, this was a pretty “quiet” day. First, an omission from yesterday though:

"Break (All of the Lights)" - Childish Gambino

I heard this Monday afternoon while going through Google Reader. Childish Gambino is actor Donald Glover’s (best known as Troy from Community) MC name. Glover put out a bunch of self-released mixtapes and albums (with his “official” debut due later this spring), and this track (which splices together parts of Kanye West’s “All of the Light” and its gorgeous instrumental interlude) shows his strengths as both a producer and lyricist. I’m finding myself liking his tracks more and more each time, meaning either I’m getting used to his style or he’s honing his craft. Either way, I’m game for hearing more. 

Kaputt album - Destroyer 

Tonight when I got home, I played Kaputt on my computer speakers and sprawled out. Kaputt, both by nature of liking it and from getting it early in January, is the new album I’ve listened to the most times so far this year (iTunes says 15 times, plus a couple spins of the CD in my car), and several times I’ve played it in a similar way to today. It’s a little unnatural for me to listen to a Destroyer album this way (and perhaps it’s this quality that turned off some people to it), as Bejar’s songs demand some unpacking. There’s certainly a quality to this album that rewards deep though, but it also seems to get lost in while listening. Now that I’ve heard it so many times, the melodies are familiar and comforting.

"Suicide Demo for Kara Walker," which appears at the top of this post, might be my favorite song so far this year. I like the combination of different sounds, in particular the light touch of the flute near the beginning and the subtle disco groove in the middle. Over its eight minutes, it goes in a couple interesting directions without making any drastic shifts (and in a way, that’s one of the things I find appealing about Kaputt specifically and Destroyer in general - the subtle movements within a larger aesthetic style). Most notably, the lyrics feel different because Bejar didn’t write them; artist Kara Walker gave Bejar a series of notecards with phrases on them, and Bejar wrote music around her words. It makes the storytelling more fractured than Bejar’s circuitous style. It still tells the story in an oblique way, but rather than doubling back and elaborating on itself, it gives shards of the story individually, eventually piling up the way one’s notecards might pile up. Then again, maybe I’m just projecting more of the process upon the final product.

(I enjoyed reading your suggestions last night and this afternoon, even if I didn’t get a chance today to follow up on any of the interesting things you folks are listening to this week. I’ll see what I can do tomorrow). 

How about you - what did you listen to today?

28 Notes

939 plays

You Wanted A Hit

LCD Soundsystem

"You Wanted a Hit" - LCD Soundsystem
(Words: James Murphy, Music: LCD Soundsystem, available on This is Happening, DFA/Capital 2010)  

Music Diary Project Day One (Context here)

Off-Key Teenager - Two lines of “Pretty Girl Rock” (Keri Hilson) 

The first song I heard came at work, overhearing a kid walking in the hallway singing two lines from this song - “It’s not my fault so please don’t trip / Don’t hate my ‘cause I’m beautiful.” It’s noteworthy because after hearing the remix with JennyMack (who is also doing the Music Diary Project) I told her that specific line alone (plus a solid beat and catchy melody) would make that song a hit. 

"You Wanted a Hit" & "Home" - LCD Soundsystem

These two were the first songs I listened to by choice today in the car on the way home. I’ve had bits of both of these songs stuck in my head since seeing LCD Soundsystem this weekend (and I promise this post will be the last I have to say about them for a while!). 

"You Wanted a Hit" specifically reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Pitchfork’s annotated discography. In it, James Murphy says, “instead of writing an op-ed piece, I have a band that’s an op-ed piece.” It’s a pretty terrific line to summarize that certain type of the band’s songs (Matthew Perpetua comes to a similar conclusion today on Fluxblog regarding “Yeah”), and “You Wanted a Hit” fits that well. If only more op-eds came with similarly icy synth melodies. 

"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" - Marvin Gaye and "Graveyard Girl" - M83 

Listened to both with headphones while grocery shopping. They were from an old mix I had on shuffle, and I’m sure that I had good reason for having both of them in the same mix. Regardless, I hadn’t heard either in a while and it was good to hear them both. 

Hey Hey What Can I Do" - Tim Palmeri (Led Zeppelin cover)

My friend Pete posted a link to an show from Tim Palmeri, who fronts a jam band by day and occasionally plays random cover filled shows at a local bar in between. Most notably, Palmeri performs with a loop pedal, which lets him solo while “accompanying” himself. (Also, this is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs).

"One Shining Moment" - Luther Vandross 

This is the song CBS uses for their NCAA tournament montage. I only caught the end of the game, but it looks like it was ugly, ugly basketball. 

Conclusions: None really. I was kind of busy today and didn’t have any “appointment listening” or extended car trips or long periods at my desk (when I wasn’t writing in silence), so there wasn’t a whole lot to catalog. I imagine more in the forthcoming days. 

What did you listen to today?

25 Notes

The Music Diary Project

You may have seen others post about this already (and if not, follow the link above and feel free to join in yourself), and it’s a terrific idea. I thought I’d do this as well! 

So each day for the next week, I’ll put a list of the things I listened to as I can best record/remember them. I’m going to make a particular effort to record the circumstances - If I chose the music, the specific medium and if I didn’t (I’m more interested in this), where am I hearing music throughout the day. Maybe I’ll learn something about myself as a result!

Feel free to join in (and let me know in the comments where you’re doing it so I can check it out if I have time) and to comment. This should be fun!