Saturday, April 30, 2011
Hey girl, come on and take a whirl, in my ma-chine!
So Destroyer is the only band to get two albums into "The Old 89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time". And it just so happens that two-thirds of the Old 89ers (the Old 59.3'ers, I guess) recently saw Destroyer (live! in concert!). Did Dan Bejar do some bribing? Did he, as we say, *affect* the outcome? I don't have a view about this - I'm just raising some interesting, compelling, and *important* questions. For your consideration.
I don't know which one of the other Old 89ers first made me listen to Destroyer, but I have a hunch it was one of you two mugs that heard them first. There's still a big part of me that hears Fargo when I hear Destroyer. Especially when I hear this album. It was burned into my soul while we kicked around the back alleys of eastern North Dakota, chasing silvery rabbits with our headphones on.
This album is one of those where I think I could sing along with the entire album, but I actually barely know any of the lyrics. When I look them up, I'm surprised at what he's saying. It barely looks familiar. But when the album is spinning, I kind of know them all and can sing along fairly well (and I do!). In that respect, it reminds me Sunny Day Real Estate's "Diary".
I like all of the Destroyer music that I've heard, but to be honest, most of it outside of "Streethawk" blends together for me. I generally don't know which songs are from which album, except for those from this one, which I think has a sort of mystical glue that sticks all the songs together in a lump. I love that about an album. It's kind of a concept album, but who knows what the concept is? I don't, and I don't really care.
Like all these albums we love and listen to forever, my favorite song changes from time to time. Lately, it's been "Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)". It has some really classic Destroyer lyrics.. from the opening line, "It was back amongst the living.. your smile was giving.. me a thrill..", to the thickly intellectual middle lines:
It's true, I needed you more.. back when I was poor
the wealthy dowager (the patroness) -
she guessed it, and the answer wasn't yes, but..
her maxims were fine, the ethos that flew about her mind
like swallows in search
of a burned-down bell tower church!
I think that's exactly what it takes.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #4 (part 2 of 2 due to TIE!): Your Blues by Destroyer
Turning to Snow
This is the record made just for me.
The Self-Taught Man: This is my dream.
Where I Lost my Serve;
I Lost my Swing.
I thought I’d Heard of Everything.
(as I wrote the Emotional History of the Lower East Side)
And, Lord Knows I’ve Been Tryin’…
A Dragon: (needing room to run)
The Time of your Lives has been had.
And, after all,
Someone’s got to Fall before Someone goes Free.
The Self-Taught Man: (traveling)
From Oakland to Warsaw,
Berlin is for Lovers.
Do you think this is Love?
A Dragon: Well I guess so – at least something to make it from
The Self-Taught Man:
The Future’s yours –
Oh, wait - I lied.
They’re calling it “The New Decay,”
Hey! so am I.
In Pointe-Saint-Claire: (where people like to put things in the ground)
There are certain things you ought to know.
- Your 2004 Blues. With the word “Destroyer” embroidered on her jeans.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #4 (part 1 of 2 due to TIE!): Electric Warrior by T. Rex
Why do I love this album so stupidly much? Let me count the ways.
One. It reminds me of Ralph's. Other than their hit "Get it On", I hadn't heard T. Rex before the days when Jeff Esterby would play "Electric Warrior" in between bands in the back room at good ole' Ralph's. He played it enough that I associated it with that back room before I even realized I liked it. "Cosmic Dancer" was the song that hit me hard and made me go seeking out the album, which I found hiding on my dad's shelves in Williston.
Two. I remember one time I called up a girl and asked her out on a date, and she said yes, and I put on "Cosmic Dancer" and it seemed to fit the moment perfectly. It's not about girls or dates at all, but whatever. It worked.
Three. When I started listening to records a lot more (after Kelsi made me the record cabinet that I love), "Electric Warrior" begged to be played on it all the time. It was appropriate for every single occasion, and it felt like it was magnetically drawn to the turntable. It's been two years, and I still can't get enough of it. It's still the first album we put on when we have a gathering, and the only album we make sure to play again later in the evening in case people are around that weren't there at the beginning, since it makes everyone feel so good.
Four. This album works as a whole, start to finish. It's an amazing ride through Marc Bolan's fantasies, which is an amazing place to ride through.
Five. Some of my favorite moments of the album: the ease-in to the album with "Mambo Sun" with lyrics like "I got stars in my beard, and I feel real weird, for you!"; all of "Cosmic Dancer" - I have no idea why this song is so amazing, but it is; Girl I'm just a Jeepster for your love; the part in "Monolith" where his voice cracks out "girl now it's too late, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah!"; the mellowness of "Girl"; the feeling of "Life's a Gas" that I don't think has been captured by any other song, a very specific post-break-up feeling that she doesn't know what she's missing and I'm going to show her by loving this life; the epic nonsense in "Rip-Off".
Six. Probably the best album cover ever.
Enjoy this little ditty:
Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #5: If You're Feeling Sinister by Belle and Sebastian
If You’re Feeling Sinister Personal F.A.C.T. Sheet (Not to replace anybody else’s If You’re Feeling Sinister Personal F.A.C.T. Sheet)
- One of the greatest album titles of the 20th century
- Contains several of the cleverest song names around (The Stars of Track and Field, Like Dylan in the Movies, and for its stark and minimalistic imagery, I’m partial to The Fox in the Snow)
- Holds together as well as any other album for both a 1) unified listen-all-the-way-through to a 2) collection of songs that could have been successfully released as 10 individual top-selling 45 rpm singles in an alternate time and place and space and universe
- One of my last great Walkman albums (before I got my first mp3 player). Interestingly, I’m sure that of the 100 or so times I’ve listened to this record, at least 85 of them were when I was walking and/or outside.
- Incidentally, of the 100 or so times I’ve listened to this album, about 90 of them were listened to on a dubbed, grey, Maxell 90-minute tape that had Built to Spill’s Keep it Like a Secret on the other side (another amazing album)
- If You’re Feeling Sinister and Keep it Like a Secret will therefore always be linked in my mind. (I always played through the entirety of each side in order to get to the other side so as to prolong battery-life by not fast-forwarding or rewinding)
- Me and the Major makes me want to Bop
- MANY of my all-time favorite pop lyrics are on this album, but for a quick and witty punch, can (?!) you beat “if you’re feeling sinister / go off and see a minister / He’ll try in vain to take away to pain of being a hopeless unbeliever”
- This album made living in the worst apartment of my life a little bit more bearable
- Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying is so damned unintentionally (I think…) hopeful (and I love that)
- This record made me want to visit Glasgow twelve-or-so-years-ago (and still does)
- Isobell Campbell!
Friday, April 22, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #6: This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse’s This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (1996) Album Review as Peanuts Fan-Fiction
YDoAD: Hey Gang! For today’s lesson we will be discussing one of the Old89ers favorite all-time albums, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse. Why don’t we each pick our favorite song from the record and tell the rest of the class why it’s our favorite. I’ll start us off.
My favorite song is Talking S-word about a Pretty Sunset...
Class: [muffled giggles, especially Snoopy, lol]
YDoAD: OK class, calm down. I like that song the best because it reminds me of a sloppy band playing a gig at some small-town school senior prom dance. But although they are sloppy, on this particular night, they are playing in such a zone as a group that everything holds together just right – it’s their best live show ever. I imagine that amongst the prom-goers, this band on this night becomes legendary.
I also like that this song illustrates a kind of a cold-weather, autumnal feel that pervades the rest of the album as well.
OK, Linus, why don’t you go next…
Linus: Well, I got pretty worried in Custom Concern when he says, “Gotta go to Work, Gotta go to work, Gotta have a job…” Do you think when I get a job that I’ll be able to bring my blanket?
Lucy: You and that stupid blanket, Linus…
YDoAD: Calm down Lucy. I’m sure they’ll let you bring your blanket, Linus.
Peppermint Patty, why don’t you go next.
Peppermint Patty: I like Breakthrough cuz it makes we want to dance around my bedroom, “Let it Breakthrough Oh Let it Breakthrough…” and I like Tundra/Desert cuz it sounds like he doesn’t want to take no more guff from no one and I like that it gets fast in the middle and I can dance around at that part too.
YDoAD: Great job, Patty. What about you, Pigpen?
Pigpen: I like how in Ionizes and Atomizes the voice and guitar sound like the sunlight coming through the blinds in our kitchen in the morning when my mom is making me breakfast in the morning.
YDoAD: Would you call that an angular sound…?
Pigpen: Um… I don’t know. And it also smells like bacon in our kitchen in the morning too.
YDoAD: Good job…. Charile Brown, you’re next.
Charlie Brown: I can’t really decide. I like the way Dramamine kind of hypnotizes me and kind of makes me feel sleepy, but I also like the mouth-spitting-teeth questioning of his own sanity in the refrain of Exit Does not Exist. Allow me to recite a few lines, “Standing looking at a photograph that you do not remember being taken/You look out of breath, and me like I am faking/As a matter of fact, I don't recall this photo being taken/You don't even actually exist so I just started shaking…”
Peppermint Patty: (smiling and looking at Charlie Brown) I also like those songs, Chuck!
Lucy: (huffing sarcastically) Leave it to good ol’ Charlie Brown to bring down a room!
Charlie Brown: (head in hands) Good Grief!
Snoopy: (being distracting and walking around the back of the classroom, howling) “O-Hi-EEEEE-o, o-high-I-I-Oh-oh…”
YDoAD: Well Lucy, how about you then. What’s your favorite?
Lucy: I guess I just like the one the dog is singing…
Snoopy: (continuing to howl) “O-Hi-EEEEE-o, O-high-I-I-Oh-oh…”
[curtain closes] [fade to silvery-blue]
Thursday, April 21, 2011
For a time I lived in Duluth, MN. Besides my wife of 30 years and our 7 children I knew no one there. It could get a bit lonely there on the edge of Lake Superior. What with it's dark waters calling you to plunge into the black abyss and finally come to terms with the ever-present and gaping maw of an impersonal and ego-extinguishing universe. All the while taunting you with it's majestic and horrible beauty. Oh, the horrible, horrible beauty.
After long days of chopping wood at the local saw mill I would kick off my boots, light a pipe and spin this album. It spoke to me and my beard. We would listen and contemplate our loneliness and blow really cool smoke rings. We appreciated the sparse production. It felt intimate and lent itself to introspection. It reminded us of Leonard Cohen's earlier albums. Will Oldham was now like Kris Kristofferson to Leonard Cohen's Johnny Cash. And pink was the new black. These songs transformed my sawdusty, completely valid and workingman's tears into an alchemist's whiskey. And I, in turn, drank my own tears for power.
Some days, when I didn't have to work, I'd sneak into this unfinished house in the neighborhood and do a lot of sweeping. I'd put on these huge headphones and this really heavy duty air filter mask that had two straps and I'd listen to "Master and Everyone". I didn't have a dustpan so I just used this shovel. Once I tried sweeping with the shovel but it didn't work so good. Sometimes I'd just sit in that house and stare off like a creep. And then, suddenly, without any warning, I'd get up real fast and start sweeping again. I was totally into sweeping there. This place was like my own secret Zen rock garden. One time I filmed these two guys doing actual work at the house but they didn't see me. And then there was that time I was listening to "Wolf Among Wolves" and I was staring into this light and the light burned out at the exact moment the song ended. Weird.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #8 (part 2 of 2 due to TIE!): The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats
John Darnielle has made too many albums for me to keep track of. I started listening to him with "The Coroner's Gambit", and I loved that record. After that, I couldn't keep up with his releases. It wasn't until "The Sunset Tree" came out that I found another Mountain Goats album I wanted to listen to over and over, the whole thing. This album has a unified sound, tied together with the pain of abuse and the ecstasy of being done with the abuse. I think it's incredibly rare for an album to have a great unified sound in addition to having a whole bunch of amazing songs that sound great on their own. It has 13 tracks, and 5 or 6 of them could just about carry a Mountain Goats album on their own. These songs represent a mixture, too, of classic Mountain Goats anti-folk, like "You or Your Memory" or "Song For Dennis Brown", and a newer, more polished and steady pop songs like "This Year" and "Dance Music". This doesn't feel like a transitional album for Darnielle, though - this feels like he's found the mixture he wants and executed it perfectly. I think "Love Love Love" straddles that line just right, too, so I'll include that one here (also because it's my current favorite track from the album):
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The Old89ers Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time #8 (part 1 of 2 due to TIE!): And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out by Yo La Tengo
This album is so dreamy. Not like David Hasselhoff's abs are dreamy but like those dreams where nothing extraordinary is really happening. Just the daily routine where everything is normal yet somehow impossibly off in the most pleasant of ways. Does this make sense yet? No? Well, let's just lower your expectations right now. I may be many things (lover, fighter etc.) but, unlike my fellow Old 89ers, I'm not a writer and I'll be doing this all wrong. Just so you know.
This is one of my all time favorite albums ever because I can listen to it anywhere, anytime and it fits the mood. Summer nights and long drives, skinning raccoons or playing board games with the family. It's a red wine for cooking shellfish and a white wine that goes well with beef tartar. This doesn't make any sense. I am possessed by the ghost of Dave Barry.
It's a collection of lullabies for the middle-aged or middle-aged at heart. And a whole lot more. It embraces the mundane with a subtle sense of humor and grace.
The first song on the record pretty much sums it all up for me. So, here are the lyrics and a fan made video:
"I want summer's sad songs behind me
I want a laugh a minute without fail
Want to be Paul Le Mat in 1980
Looking to forget tomorrow, looking everyday
I want to see you put your hands together
I want to cross my heart, I want to hope to die
I hear Kate Moss talk, she talks to me
She's looking for a new beginning everyday
When Monday comes I want nothing
Come Tuesday morning I want the same
The days and nights fly by
Looking to embrace the nothing of the everyday"
Saturday, April 16, 2011
When I was 15, I saw my first real concert. I took the train from Williston to Minneapolis, I arrived around noon, and I was picked up by some relatives I didn't know very well. This cousin of mine took me to the Electric Fetus, where I bought the brand new Snoop Dogg album ("Doggystyle"). And then, in the evening, they dropped me off at First Ave to see the Violent Femmes. It was a pretty crazy experience, my first real concert, basically alone in the big city, with this band I loved. After the show, my relatives picked me up and put me back on the train that night, heading back to Williston.
In thinking back about that, one thing that strikes me is that I must have really loved the Violent Femmes back then. I mean, I like them now, and this album sticks with me, but I must have really been in love with them, not just to make an epic journey like that, but also to convince my parents to let me do it.
This album was my brother's and my introduction to the Femmes. He heard them first, probably at the International Music Camp we went to every year, and they trickled down to me as music that the older kids were listening to. The album came out in 1983 and I'm sure we didn't hear them until 1990 or so, but we were at just the right age then to feel the rebellious tone of this album. The Femmes were in their early 20's, responding to early punk with a kind of singer/songwriter folk punk rock. They were dirty, but they kind of sounded clean. Your parents would hear it and think it sounded nice and radio-friendly, but when you listened to it closely, you heard the message of sex, depression, and rebellion.
This album sounds like it's weaving us through Gordon Gano's psyche - the opener is the classic feel-good poppy "Blister in the Sun", moving right in to "Kiss Off", a defiant jaded rocking ballad. The mood shifts from song to song, but it feels like a natural range you can easily go with him on. My favorite track is probably "Good Feeling" - that's the one I used to listen to on repeat, especially after I'd been up all night when I was 16, imagining that I was five years older and world-weary. When I saw them in 1993, though, it was on the "Add it Up" tour, so I'll leave you with that track from their self-titled album that shaped my teenage taste in music.
Friday, April 15, 2011
It’s a funny thing; this business of picking one’s favorite albums. After all, justification for cracking one’s list of top records can be (and often is) as inelegant as declaring “I just like it… a lot,” but when one does occasionally attempt to quantify that which (at best) is probably only fractionally quantifiable, one is led down some strange and dark forest foot-paths.
By what criteria should be begin to whittle down the list of hundreds (thousands?) of favorite albums? We can start by choosing those that are created of whole cloth and seem to be “of a piece.” Most good albums fit this criterion, and this is also why nearly all Greatest Hits compilations of even the best acts don’t hold up as capital ‘A’ Albums, but rather as collections of songs. This framing device is still far too inclusive for our purposes. To tighten the frame a bit here sees us straying from the foot-paths in the forest and blazing some new trails.
For me, the new criterion would start with a discussion of Mood. Although describing the Mood of a song or an album is nothing new, I would use it as a starting point in trying to define what I mean by that word. First of all, an album’s Mood can be evocative of a particular prolonged emotional state (whether that state is, or can be, named is more complicated.) For example, I certainly hear something approaching a whole-cloth singularity of Mood on Exile on Main Street, but what is the “emotional state” reflected by that album? That’s difficult to say exactly – maybe “hot, summer-day anxiety”? Or is it possibly evocative of the “got-me-a-bottle-of-wine-on-the-stone veranda-et-in-Arcadia-ego-Blues” emotions of the Stone’s communal summer spent recording in France.
And where does the Mood come from – the songs themselves? And if it is the songs, is it due to the lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation, the arrangements? Maybe it comes from the production. Or does it come from somewhere deeper within the performers themselves? – or all of the above. Well. I want to get past Mood as a descriptor (or at least chisel away at it a little more.)
For me - I think I can say - albums that are my very favorite fit these criteria:
1) I like them. A lot
2) They exist as a whole, and are “of a piece” (not a collection of songs)
3) They have some consistency of Mood (whether the Mood evoked can be defined or not)
-And for me, probably the ultimate separator is;
4) They have some transcendent singularity which elevates them past a consistent
conscious-mind Mood and into a singular Mood-reflection of the unconscious-mind; an Orphic soundscape heard at only dusk and dawn; an aural Pleiades seen sharper in the periphery than head-on.
Example: One of my very top “desert island” albums (and one which incidentally does not appear on this community list) is Kind of Blue – the very paragon of a record which fits the above criteria.
Miles Davis’ (and player’s) masterpiece of unconscious sound-mood is undeniably “of a piece,” but like the universe itself, is unable to be seen in one glance or in a prolonged stare. There is nothing literal about Kind of Blue, (like there is with so much other Popular music) but there is also something elusive about this record that can never allow itself to be fully possessed – but in which one can become enveloped within (as long as you don’t listen too hard, too closely). There is something happening that goes much deeper than the surface; then that which is conscious.
But well, whatever. I’m not sure that I want to continue with this line of thinking. I’m here to review a record and I don’t think I’m all that much closer to understanding why I really love certain albums. But I do think there is something to that word elusive that I applied to Kind of Blue. That word might also be applied to the album up next…
B) Now that THAT nonsense is out of the way
Fever Ray by Fever Ray (2009)
About five years ago, I fundamentally changed the way I listened to music. Events conspired (I lived in an apartment with paper thin wall, my tape deck and receive both broke at about the same time, I gave away my speakers) to shift my listening vehicle from primarily analog equipment and big speakers to mp3 players and headphones – from the Public to the Private. It took a few years for me to realize the negative effect this was having – and there were some pros to the new method (I still remember how revolutionary Kid A sounded with all of its compressed majesty through a pair of ear buds.) But as time went on, the cons to this music delivery method began to mount. It wasn’t really until Fever Ray that I realized I had been missing something listening to music with these little speakers tethered to each ear. Some music – this music – needs to fill a room. And it wants to be loud. It needs to become the Environment within the room.
Fever Ray, the first solo album by Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Swedish group The Knife, loudly flowing through the speakers in a room in my new house, was alive in a way I hadn’t heard it before. It was breathing – although seemingly through a respirator – in an eerie and utterly compelling way. As the space around me was filled with this slow-burn theatrical electronica, it became more claustrophobic feeling; stifling in the way that a humid August day feels. This was an evening without air conditioning. An evening when the dehumidifier just can’t keep up – and in which you’re unsure if the beads of sweat running down your back are perspiration or some greedy insect that you’d better hurry up and swat. This is a night where the blankets have long since hit the floor and the sheet is soaked through and through.
In a similar way to certain scenes in David Lynch films being worlds scarier than anything in most movies marketed as a proper Horror movies, Fever Ray leaves you with the same unsettling uneasiness – as if something is looming on the horizon; maybe just a thunderstorm, but maybe your masked self waiting for you to confront it, nee yourself. And you may not like what you see.
The album’s Mood is unsettling and unknowable. It is a hallucinatory and visual sound. It can’t be easily observed head-on. It is cut from whole cloth. Headphones don’t do it justice. It is as elusive as Kind of Blue.
And I just like it… a lot.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
We will be starting our album countdown tomorrow with #10.
This is how we decided on the albums and order.
Deutero, Orphio and I started by sending each other a list of our fav records.
All told, there were 235 individual titles between the three of us.
Of those 235, 38 albums were on at least two of the three lists.
Of those 38, 2 were on all three of our lists.
We took those 38 albums and each ranked them in order of how much we liked them.
Then we totaled the ranks and the lowest 10 scores were the one's that made the list (actually 12 - there were a couple ties...)
I guess the list is like a Venn Diagram of our collective tastes.
I can't promise that a review will come out every day for the next 12 days, but we'll try to get them out as regularly as we can.
There are no rules for the reviews - we'll just try to write and express why we like these albums so durned very much.
I'll be back here tomorrow with the first review.
We hope you enjoy.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Shit. What'ya think.
Here's my idea. It's either the Old89ers top 10 albums or songs of all time.
We each submit like our top 25 or 50 albums or songs of all time and put them in a poll. Then we vote to see if there is any carry-over between 2 or 3 of us. Hopefully we get to 10 that way. If not, we take our next favs and throw them in a poll.
Once we have 10 ID'd, we divvy them up some how and write an essay about why we love them so stupidly much.
One comes out every day for 10 days.
What do you think, Orphio and Deutero? You game?
Any other readers - what do you think? I don't fucking know who reads this blog, but make yourself be heard!
Important business, etc ;)
(ps I'm listening to the Pet Shop Boys "It's a Sin" right now and it rules holy ass.)