Oct 182008

Friday Five

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Inspired by a conversation at the bar last night, it’s…

Five Songs I Wish I’d Written:

Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

J. S. Bash, Mass in B Minor (Yes this counts.  We argued about it at the bar and the coversation devolved onto topics of presidential dismemberment, but we agreed that, for the purposes of this list, I get to count it as one song.)

Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven”

Gosling, “Mr. Skeleton Wings”

Jul 082008

Intro: Well hey, looks like I’ll be on time two weeks in a row. That, depressingly enough, nears my record for the weekly reviews, which I THINK I was able to do on-time a grand total of three times consecutively.

Point of Order – I’m pretty sure that “Tuesday Playlist” is a sucky name for a weekly music column, but I have no clue what to call it. Suggestions? Something Tuesday-related, I hope. I’m okay with campy, but “Tuesday Playlist” is just way too boring. I’ll be thinking on it, you all should as well. Any suggestions, please post them in the comments.

And with that, on to the rest of it.

Listening: So the past couple of weeks have definitely been an “listen to classic stuff” sort of period. This week especially I’ve been listening to a lot of Joy Division. I really think that, hard as this is may be to believe, Joy Division are a uniquely underrated band. Yes they’re cult idols and the darling of many a music reviewer, but I think that they were much more influential than most people give them credit for. I really think that their transition from the punk music of the 70s to the “post-Punk” era really pointed the way for most of the music made in the next decade. (Side note: as genre labels go “Post Punk” annoys me more than most. First of all “Punk”, as such, isn’t dead. And even if one means the end of the first wave of punk, then anything recorded after 1980 is “Post Punk”. I mean, all genre labels, for the most part, suck, but as they go “Post Punk” sucks extra hard.)

If you listen to “New Dawn Fades”, I really think you can hear the direction that Punk was headed in the 80s. In “Love Will Tear Us Apart” one can hear the setup for New Wave. Those two tunes, plus “Atrocity Exhibition” and “She’s Lost Control” paint a pretty good picture of where British music was going over the next ten years. I mean, conceded, Joy Division were Punk-influenced and appealed to a lot of the same musical sensibilities that Punk did. But I think they also were riffing on a lot of musical themes that were prevalent throughout the 80s. Of course correlation doesn’t equal causation. (I doubt that Boy George ever gathered Culture Club around a copy of Unknown Pleasures and said “let’s sound like that, but with more synthesizer and less talent”.) So maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but seriously: if you want to hear where music in Britain in the 80s was going to go, queue up the Joy Division discography.

I’ve also been listening to some Wilco and those Grooveballs tunes I posted awhile back. I think Wilco really matured as they went on. Or at least they started playing stuff that sounds a lot more crafted and well put-together. Though Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s still my favorite album.

Upcoming: Lately the only upcoming releases I can really get excited about are the new Beck album (which I just grabbed from Amazon earlier today), and the upcoming Oasis disk. Maybe it’s just me, but at the moment, the summer seems to be a bit of a wash for new albums. Unfortunate, that.

I’ll let you all know what I think of the new Beck album. Whether you want me to or not. MWAHAHAHA.

News: Okay, so at the risk of turning this into the “Joy Division fanboy” edition of the column: someone stole Ian Curtis’ tombstone. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? I was pissed about this when I first heard about it, and, after careful consideration, I’m even more pissed. Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but disrespect for the dead ranks pretty high on my list for “reasons to bring back flogging and/or general justice-oriented beatings.” I mean, I’m not by nature a violent man, but steal someone’s tombstone, and I suddenly have a lot fewer qualms about beating your ghoulish ass.

And really, Ian Curtis? Why? Why would anyone do so? The thief or thieves can’t hawk it. And if they did it because they’re fans, well, congrats, they’ve just clinched the “Douchiest Fan of the Year Award” for 2008.

Thoughts: Honestly I’ve been too busy to do much thinking about anything other than work and school. (Yes, I, uh, still have a thesis to finish.) I HAVE been thinking, however, about how it’s interesting what songs people choose to cover and, more to the point, which wind up being covered over and over again. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has been covered literally hundreds of times. “Famous Blue Raincoat”? Nary a once, as far as I can tell. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” is a strong contender for the most covered song of all time, and yet most people would be hard-pressed to think of a single band that’s done “Hey Jude”. “Girl From Ipanema” is covered with stunning frequency, “Eu E Voce” almost never.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: the songs that wind up being recorded by tons of different bands are usually fantastic. But often there are tons of great songs from the same artist that don’t get covered at all. The phenomenon’s just sort of curious to me. I mean, I’m sure singles get covered more than non-single album tracks which are probably covered more than b-sides. But can that alone really account for the fact that I can’t find a good cover of “Raincheck” and can barely turn on the radio without hearing a bad cover of “Brown-Eyed Girl”?

Song of the Week: I’m tempted to post a Joy Division track just to keep with the theme, but instead I’ll go with a tune I’ve had on obsessive repeat several times in the past week. It’s my favorite John Vanderslice tune. It’s called “Me and My 424”, off of Life and Death of an American Fourtracker:

Mar 262008

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of my favorite songs of all time. And I realized today that, of all the powerful lines in it, the one that gets me the most is “you don’t really care for music, do you?”

And, after a brief discussion with one of my housemates last night (and to occupy you all until I get this site switch done and get on top of things enough to resume regular posting), I think it’s musical meme time.

So, in the comments, list:

1.) Your favorite version of “Hallelujah”. If you’re not familiar with many versions, there are good ones by Leonard Cohen (the original artist), Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, John Cale, and others. A YouTube search should turn up plenty of versions.

2.) Your favorite lyrical line (or lines).

3.) One artist you’d like to hear covering it that hasn’t.

My answers:

1.) John Cale. More expressive vocals than Cohen’s original, better piano playing than Wainwright’s, and Buckley’s has always sounded mopey to me.

2.) “All I ever learned from love is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.”

3.) Regina Spektor. She has the perfect voice for it, and definitely has the piano chops to do a very cool piano-accompanied version of the song.

Update: The brilliant, wonderful and all-around fantabulous Heather has informed me that Regina Spektor has, indeed, done a cover of Hallelujah. She also points me to this blog post, which links to a number of other covers, many of which I never knew existed.

In short, Heather is made of pure, uncut win.

Dec 062007

"Love is not a victory march"

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Rufus Wainwright playing “Hallelujah”, by Leonard Cohen.