Let the Beat Build #12: November 2013
Diversions: LTBB #12 Diversions
1. “Chick Singers” - Dan Bern. KW: The other day my wife was remarking how most of the music we listen to at home lately has female singers. This contrasts greatly with last month’s almost entirely male-dominated playlist. I’d like to explore the other side this month, and what better way to kick it off than Dan Bern’s slightly insulting ode to chick singers. Dan Bern can be heartbreakingly great and incredibly funny. There’s something of all that in this song.
2. “Portland Oregon” - Loretta Lynn & Jack White. JW: This is like an ode to a boyhood crush, realized way past the time when hormones can do anything about it. Kind of like when I met Erin Gray in 2010. See also: (Johnny Cash + Rick Rubin) - (boyhood crush). This album is pretty sweet. My favorite song is Little Red Shoes, which I’ll put into the Diversions Playlist.
3. “Sugar Buzz” - k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang. KW: I was driving out here in the sticks when this came on the radio. I first thought it was a new Wilco track, but I couldn’t tell until she started singing. I fucking love this song. Up to that point I’d basically written her off as a near mainstream country singer. I remember “Constant Craving,” and I don’t recall it all that fondly. Now I’m like, you know, maybe that wasn’t that bad, couldn’t be that bad if this song is that good. I’m getting all Jerry Jeff Walker over here. Let the Beat Build is collapsing into itself because of all the self reference.
4. “Cross Bones Style” - Cat Power. JW: Sorry if I hijacked Moon Pix. Say the word and you can have it back. If I could have, I’d have put her song from the I’m Not There soundtrack but”As I Went Out One Morning” - Mira Billotte. JW: So Cat Power becomes the invisible bridge. I was surprised and pleased to see the I’m Not There soundtrack on Spotify which I think is a new development. Upon listening to it again, I realized I liked this version of this song even better than Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again. So Mira Billotte. Do you know her? I admit, I did not. But she’s smooth. And you know how much I like Calexico. And I know how much you like Drag City. KW: This is a challenge to hack into Spotify and make the whole Drag City catalog available on Spotify as a move to spread Royal Trux throughout the land. Am I right? “Junkie Nurse” here.
5. “Bull in the Heather” - Sonic Youth. KW: That real straight beat and the darkness of the track screamed “party” at me, which obviously means “Washing Machine” by Sonic Youth. But “Bull in the Heather” has that straight beat, and that darkness, and the exact weird dreamlike quality necessary to follow that track.
6. “Blinking Pigs” - Little Dragon. JW: This one goes out to my lady. She’s a big fan. That’s how I got into them, and they’re pretty dope. There’s a lot of “new sounds”, Sleigh Bells, Ting Tings, Florence. Little Dragon has that new sound PLUS that old sound. Aimee Mann, Sheila E., Susanna Hoffs. There’s a power here that I really like.
7. “Easy Peasy” - Ponytail. KW: Surya recently told me that “Honey Touches” by Ponytail was like a weird goo that you can’t stop playing with. That’s a high compliment when it comes to art and music. Here’s “Easy Peasy,” which is a perfect album opener, up there with “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” but with a totally different kind of insanity. Ponytail is what “new” sounds like, to me, even though they called it quits. They are still far out there in the future if you ask me.
8. “Hidden Place” - Bjork. First of all, let me just say that “Shine on…” is one of my all time favorite songs. AND, one of the THE best slow burn payoff songs. What other songs draw out that slowly and deliberately, that aren’t jam band songs? Okay. Ponytail is ahead of their time, legit. Bjork is like Bootsy… from Mars. Or some other place. I kind of lost her shortly after this song. Following her woven tales and orchestral-tronic soundtracks is like reading the Haggadah transliteration while singing in Hebrew while stoned while drinking coffee while eating the Hillel sandwich. KW: The Sugarcubes sit next to Ponytail on the bus. They both have IRON MAIDEN written on their hands (IRON on the left, MAIDEN on the right--seriously, what’s up with that?). Nobody knows why.
9. “Tom Courtenay” - Yo La Tengo. KW: I was going to be all clever and drop “Sugarcube” by YLT, but it doesn’t feature Georgia Hubley’s singing front and center like it should. Here’s “Tom Courtenay,” the Camp Yo La Tengo version. If it came down to it, these two Yo La Tengo songs might be my favorites. You realize that after this, we’re on a crash course to Broadcast, right?
10. “Today” - Jefferson Airplane. JW: That was a tough one to follow. I was going to make a hard right into something like Concrete Blonde, but then, didn’t. Hopefully they’ll find their way back into the rotation. This song feels to me like a cross between “Sugarcube” and Yo La Tengo’s “The Sounds of the Sounds of Science” album, which I once got to see them perform live at Lincoln Center, in front of the screenings of Jean Painlevé’s films. And of course, “Today” always reminds me of this scene from the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man.”
11. “The Noise of Carpet” - Stereolab. KW: Hard left, but not really. Krautrock is one part Velvet Underground, one part Jefferson Airplane, and one part something I don’t know nothin’ about. I got to see Stereolab live one beautiful sunny day at Battery Park. It was probably my first exposure to anything in that genre. It took me a few years to come back to Stereolab, I think because Yo La Tengo occupied that part of my mind for several years.
12. “Hag” - The Breeders. JW: So I’d been trying to think of a way to incorporate female musicians who weren’t the lead singers. It’s tricky. I considered Melissa Auf der Maur, but then, well. I don’t know. Incidentally, the Patty Schemel documentary, Hit So Hard, has the two of them in it, and is actually really good. Watch it. There should have been more better Breeders songs. Albums. But the good ones are good. This is a good one. Also, I listened to 20 Pixies songs halfway through before deciding it wasn’t Kim Deal singing. That’s another conversation. KW: I saw “Broken Face” in the list and I was like “does he think that’s Kim Deal singing?” As a sissy with a high voice myself, I’ve been asked multiple times “who’s the chick singing harmony on your recordings?”
13. “Echo’s Answer” - Broadcast. KW: I mean, with different instrumentation, this could be a Breeders song, right? Something about the way “Hag” ends made me think of “drug party” (which could easily be a Madlib Medicine Show track), but the melody of “Echo’s Answer” is just such a better fit next to Kim Deal’s melodies. JW: I agree completely.
14. “Uku” - Dengue Fever. JW: I just got introduced to Dengue Fever recently, and I think their story is really interesting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengue_Fever_%28band%29
If this sound is unfamiliar to you, listen to it a few times through. It’s mesmerizing.
15. “Birthday” - The Sugarcubes. KW: I first heard the Sugarcubes in my freshman year of college. It was extremely dense, at least it seemed that way at the time. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Looking back at it now, maybe I’m a better listener, but I can see the ton of genius in it, even when it makes no/little sense. There’s something nice about listening to music that has lyrics that are out of your reach, whether because they’re in a different language or (in the case of the Sugarcubes) because they are abstract expressionist. Yesterday I watched a few Bjork interviews and Sugarcubes videos. She’s amazing. She deserves to be all over this playlist. Her words in those interviews are so great I want to keep them to myself.
16. “Mandinka” - Sinead O’Connor. JW: Not only did I not know what the lyrics were, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the song was called “Mandinka”. But that guttural banshee wail felt mysteriously empowering.
I don't know no shame
I feel no pain
KW: Wow, I really like this song, and I’ve never heard it. I really should spend some time listening to Sinead, I got pretty tired of hearing “Nothing Compares” back in the day.
17. “The Moon” - Cat Power. KW: Boom. It was bound to happen. I’m glad. I haven’t listened to The Greatest in a long time, for no good reason. I was way deep listening to Astral Weeks today on the train ride home and this song brings me back to that moment, looking at the Hackensack river under the nearly full moon, low and bright on the horizon. Also, it’s a switch up from the late 80s zone we’ve been in. I mean, I was going to drop something mad different, something dirty, but damn if this song isn’t the right one.
18. “Everybody Daylight” - Brightblack Morning Light. JW. You know this is good, when I’ve entered in the band before the song. I’d been poking around looking for this band. Poking yesterday. I couldn’t recall their name off hand, and put some work into Black Mountain, Wild Birds and Peace Drums. Then it hit me. This is like trippy Cat Power where the animus/anima (Nabob/Rabob) are coming out of the same mushroom.
19. “Le Goudron” - Brigitte Fontaine. KW: I got into this because Yacht covered it. Man, the French are strange and awesome. I have no idea what Paris in 1969 was like. It must have been crazy.
20. “Love Language” - Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek, Les Nubians. JW: Talib Kweli is one of the best lyricists of all time. I believe that. If you listen to “Joy” you’ll hear one of the most sincere expressions of love for his children and love and respect for his partner in rap history. So that being said, that Talib is a thinker and a poet, righteous and hard but balanced, it makes sense that he would team up with Les Nubians to help him sell the idea of choosing to spread love over trifling shit. His flow and cadence is the animus, and Hi-Tek’s hooks and Les Nubians’ harmonies are the anima. You find yourself head-nodding through the ideas, waiting in anticipation to get back to the chorus. It’s infectious. This is not unlike how James Brown leveraged the amazing talents of Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney, Myra Barnes. Although James Brown is James Brown, and he doesn’t share the spotlight in the same way. A chicken ain’t nuthin but a bird... For an idea of Paris in 1969, watch The Dreamers.
21. “Beef Jerky” - Cibo Matto. KW: Something about Les Nubians reminds me of the first Cibo Matto record. Now, hypothetically, if one were not terribly familiar with Cibo Matto, then this might be where one should start. My introduction was “Sugar Water,” which is fantastic. Other people got “Know Your Chicken” first. But Miho and Yuka get raw on this track. It’s the track that brought the house down the first time I saw them live. I once opened the door for Yuka Honda at Tonic. It was a big moment for me.
22. “Matangi” - M.I.A. JW: Something about Cibo Matto reminds me of standing barefoot on a car battery with my head in a bucket of Lick’em Sticks after beer-bonging Four Loko. Basically, Enter the Void. But that’s just me. Gondry sees something different. He’s probably right. There’s something ferocious about M.I.A. that I can’t ignore. Sometimes the cadence is sing-songy to me, but other times has the power of Dancehall, Diplo and Saul Williams.
23. “Psychic City (Classixx Remix)” - Yacht. KW: I dig M.I.A. But I’ve listened to her music a lot less lately, mostly due to a nagging feeling that she and her music feign seriousness, on top of a pride-in-shallowness that I just can’t get into. Now, shallowness can be good--can be very good, in fact, like it is on this Yacht track. It’s a perfect combination of brilliant and vapid. A+. With a bag of candies. And a copy of UHF on VHS. Let’s all drink from the firehose.
24. “Nasty” - Janet Jackson. JW: Brilliant and vapid. Brilliant and vapid? Hmm… Brilliant and vapid! I have a limited threshold for pop. I can’t explain it. It’s neither all nor nothing. There IS something alchemical about pop, when it works. I, unfortunately am not on the same page with the majority of the pop-loving world. But I’m not a Grinch! I nearly played Kelly Clarkson, after remembering a serious rock “head” telling me how perfectly it rocks. It is catchy as fuck, and if you’re in the car when it comes on, I challenge you not to belt out that chorus. But I didn’t think I’d nail the dismount on November with that one. Janet Jackson is pop royalty. Maybe like a duchess or something. “Sit-tin in the movie show, thinkin’ nasty thoughts…” What? Whatever. She wants nasty boys, but she “don’t like nasty food”. But if you want to be nasty with her, you have to be both nasty and supplicating? But then she turns it around. She just wants respect. Her last name, as it turns out, is Control. But her first name? It’s not “baby” you jerk. It’s Janet. If you’re nasty, then you should call her “Ms. Jackson.” *As I was writing this, I got this text.