January 29, 2012
A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.
JACK: "Gazzillion Ear" by MF Doom
I've been listening to a lot of rap, specifically MF Doom, these days. I like this song because it has two kickass beats back-to-back. Doom's never been big on hooks or choruses, so there's nothing really that hooks the two beats together — the first beat disappears then comes back to bookend the second one. But in reality, they could very well be two separate tracks. Instead the listener gets a treat: Two songs for the price of one, all essentially one long verse about why Doom is the most villainous villain (naturally).
TONY: "Hell of a Season" by The Black Keys
Amid the rave reviews for the new Black Keys record, critics have liked to write about how it's a badass rock record. I'd argue it's more than that (as well as arguing it's their best effort since "Rubber Factory"). I chose "Hell of a Season" to illustrate the more-than-rock part: It's got the bells and whistles on the production side — as well as Dan's vocals — to give it a richer and more urgent feel. I think they aimed for this on "Attack & Release" but overshot it as they made their first efforts with, er, flutes ... and eery production noises and voices. So I think they've dialed it in correctly this time around, and I've been obsessively spinning this disc since it came out.
CHASE: "Cameras" by Matt and Kim
I was wavering between Matt and Kim and Crystal Fighters this week, but wound up going with the former because I've been listening to them non-stop at work for the past several days. A lot of people have pointed out the optimistic, live-your-life lyrics of this song: No time for cameras / We'll use our eyes instead / No time for cameras / We'll be gone when we're dead. Even as someone who basically photographs his own life at every turn, I like the sentiment.
ECON: "Lightworks" by Jay Dee (J. Dilla)
It's hard to pluck a single song apart from the whole of Donuts, because the tracks just fit together so perfectly. But "Lightworks" is a flashy number that stands well on its own, even if it's not necessarily representative of the album, which is all over the place (in a good way). In an interview not long after J Dilla's death, his mother put it this way: "'Lightworks', oh yes, that was something! That's one of the special ones. It was so different. It blended classical music (way out there classical), commercial and underground at the same time."
EVAN: "Caravan" by Van Morrison
MARK: "Bizness" by Tune-Yards
After Jack pointed out to the lead singer's guest list on Pitchfork, I decided I wasn't going to put effort into tracking down the new tune-yards album.
Fortunately I didn't have to, as my brother shared it with me and convinced me to give it a go. Glad I did. They've got a pretty sweet Dirty-Projectors-by-way-of-Yeasayer thing going on, and that drum-beat reminds me of the Dodos' second album in all the best ways.
SPECIAL GUEST: Jake Davis, who chose "This Sporting Life" by The Decemberists.
EXPLANATION: Not only have I recently listened to nothing else but this band in the past month, but this incredibly catchy song leaves me grinning like an idiot. It's upbeat tune, and overall poppy feel is belied by rather depressing and apathetic lyrics. It also describes all forays of mine into any sort of athletic activity. Long story short, I shouldn't do it. With Super Bowl Weekend coming up and all, I can't see a better song for this upcoming American obsession. And the crushing defeat a team will have to swallow. Enjoy the ads.
QUICK HIT: Jake is one of several bloggers that contribute to Nevermind the Posers, an online spot for music and book reviews. Much of the content there explores music in the Northeast.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE
My good friend Jane has a few thoughts of her own to contribute, specifically regarding pop music. It is worth noting here that I 90 percent endorse this list. I too am a sucker for this stuff. (You'll find a playlist at the bottom).
I'm not sure when it started, but it seems these days 'pop music' is synonymous with 'shitty music'. My experience has been that if you tell someone (especially a music snob) you like pop music, they're like, "Oh! That's.....cool," and make a mental note that you are vapid and have no taste. When Chase asked me to write a guest post, I tried to think of anyone "cool" I've been listening to recently, until I realized I'm totally not cool and I've only been listening to radio hits lately. I'm a grad student, which means I spend a lot of time thinking, writing, or thinking about how I should be thinking or writing. Sometimes I simply don't have the cognitive resources to listen to something that requires attention and thought, and pop music is like brain candy.
Here are some songs I really love, but that I would still totally judge other people for liking:
01. Katy Perry - "Teenage Dream"
NO REGRETS, JUST LOVE. What makes a great pop song is its relate-ability. As lame as it is, my dream date in high school would have been something like getting drunk on the beach in California and making a fort out of sheets. Katy and I have the same vocal range so this is the perfect song to belt out in my car while people stare at me. (2nd favorite: War Pigs by Black Sabbath, because people are always really confused by an Asian girl listening to Black Sabbath.)
02. Mariah Carey - "Always Be My Baby"
Listen to the first 30 seconds of this song. If you don't get into it when the drum machine comes in, you are not human. In fact, this song is so catchy that I'm able to ignore how creepy Mariah is in telling her baby "you can't escape me" and "no way, you're never gonna shake me". People in the 90s were totally blinded by Mariah's adorableness to realize that she is the textbook crazy girlfriend. I also really like how the word "inevitably" sounds out of place with the rest of the lyrics.
03. Ke$ha - "Dinosaur"
Unpopular opinion time: I think Ke$ha is a more transparent version of Lady Gaga. Gaga fans like to think that Gaga is in on the joke, that she knows she's just playing into the "fame monster," she's just trolling the system. But so is Ke$ha. Word on the street is that she got a 1500 on her SATs, and started out wanting to be a country singer, not a pop star. She did some ad-lib rapping on a tape she sent to a music exec, which that exec described as "god-awful," but it caught his attention and she ended up getting signed to be a white-girl rapper who sings shit like, "Don't be a little bitch with your chit chat / I just wanna know where your dick's at." If someone gave me a record deal to do what Ke$ha does, I would not still be in grad school.
04. R. Kelly - "Ignition [Remix]"
The remix part is really important, because the original Ignition really sucks. This song has a really simple, steady, slow grind-y beat that always has me dancing in my seat. R. Kelly is a bizarre man, from Trapped In the Closet (people don't talk about that enough anymore) to this song, where he compares his sex skills to Murder, She Wrote. Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.
05. Taylor Swift - "Forever and Always"
I already have mad respect for any girl who writes her own songs, but I am even more impressed by people who put their vulnerabilities out there. I would be hesitant to write a blog post about any of my ex-boyfriends, let alone songs that become massively popular. "Forever and Always" is about Joe Jonas, who broke up with Taylor in a phone call that was immediately posted like everywhere on the internet. "Dear John" is about her relationship with John Mayer, and I just love imagining that maybe Jennifer Aniston or Jessica Simpson have heard that song and have thought, "Right on, Taylor! That dude is a total dick." I know this makes me sound like Kelly Kapoor but I am so excited for Taylor's next album, which is apparently about her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Honorable Mentions: anything by Nelly (esp. "Grillz"), Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA"
So fess up. What are your guilty pleasure songs?