Reelin' in the Years, Pt. 3


27 juin 2008, 5h51m

One song for each year I've been alive, not necessarily the best or favorite, just whatever I feel like talking about when that year comes up.

Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

1994: In the mid-90s, Pravda released a series of cover/tribute albums focused on the kind of top 40 pop trash that used to be featured on K-Tel and Ronco collections. Like virtually all examples of this kind of collection, the results were mixed, but the high points of the series were among the best covers I've heard. When The Loud Family tackle America's soft-rock hit horse with no name, the results transcend the limp original. Moving from a distorted and phased guitar into an ethereal bed of keyboards, Scott Miller's band delivers a psychedelic re-vision of the original.

I used to own all of the Pravda series, but they all went away at some point. Have to re-download those.

1995: The Apples in Stereo were the first Elephant 6 band I heard, so they can be credited with leading me to Neutral Milk Hotel and The Olivia Tremor Control, among others. Glowworm is a glorious candy-pop song about the death of a friend. Fun!

1996: Big Ass Truck was basically a Southern boogie band, but with turntables. Theem From sounds as if DJ Food had been in the Allman Brothers. Around this time, a good friend of mine was in a surf band, and I told him they needed to do something like adding a turntablist to differentiate themselves from the thousand other surf bands. He was probably right to reject my suggestion, but I still think most surf guitar bands are pretty much interchangeable.

1997: Only Stephin Merritt could write a song as funny and as bleak as The TIny Goat. "The world's a leech / Crawling down one's throat. / One would rather be a tick than be a tiny goat."

1998: Most self-professed Christian rock bands come off as pale imitations of whatever subgenre they inhabit. Not so with the Danielson Famile, who create a universe all their own, where Neil Young's snotty little brother fronts a 60s girl group. The theology is mostly inscrutable, as in Southern Paws, but that inscrutability is probably liberating; Danielson doesn't feel obligated to explicitly spell out an evangelical message. The commercial appeal is already limited; this band is seriously weird, which of course I find appealing.

1999: Hardly anybody liked Terror Twilight, even a large part of Pavement's rabid fanbase (of which I am a member). Although the album is uneven, it has some of their best songs, including Cream of Gold. For me, it's a great comeback from what was a pretty boring penultimate album (Brighten the Corners).

2000: Did you hear that Calexico's Crystal Frontier (Widescreen) just got used as wake-up music in orbit? The musical taste of astronauts is getting better and better. They probably used to just wake up to HAL.

2001: Gillian Welch's Revelator is relentless. It quietly creeps up on you and destroys your will to live. And it does that without tricks, just Welch's gorgeous bone-tired croon and two acoustic guitars. That such stark simplicity can easily evoke what heavy psych bands sweat to even approach is remarkable.

2002: As long as I'm doing sad songs, let's follow that up with Beck's Lonesome Tears. Some resemblance to Massive Attack here.

Man, it is hard coming up with something to say about this many semi-randomly selected songs. Next time I do this (at track #21,965) I should work backwards, because I feel like I'm out of gas by the time the oughts roll around.

2003: In Bonanza, towards the end of the very brief track, there is the sound of a door opening. On headphones, the door sounds like it is opening right behind you, which is really creepy. And it took me four or five listens, even when I knew it was coming, to stop flinching.

2004: When Reigning Sound decided to call their album Too Much Guitar, they weren't kidding. Like a garage/soul version of Husker Du, all the guitars are overdriven to the point of red fuzz, but also like Husker Du, the fuzz conceals pretty melodies. After a few listens, songs like If You Can't Give Me Everything begin to reveal themselves and sound like 60s shoulda-been-hits.

2005: Blood On the Wall delivers pure punk adrenaline on Heat from the Day. It's nice that New York bands are still doing this kind of thing and not necessarily chasing after the Pitchfork seal of approval.

2006: Speaking of critical darlings, Baltimore's Beach House probably deserves those accolades. Listening to the baroqueAuburn and Ivory and reading about how Baltimore is blowing up with this type of chamber-psych sound makes me wonder about local scenes. I lived in Baltimore in the late 80s/early 90s, and the "Baltimore sound" then was funky hard rock/punk, like Monkeyspank and the All Mighty Senators. These new bands could hardly sound more opposed to that, and I wonder, how do changes like that occur? Gradually? All at once? And are some of these new bands the kids of the old funk-punkers? I'll be in Baltimore next week; maybe I'll ask around.

2007: When I met the guys in The High Strung five years ago, they were playing the same bar with us after having already being on the road pretty much nonstop for years. Genuinely nice guys, who lived in a van! And they're still going. Maybe You're Coming Down With It is a good example of their tight melodic pop songwriting. Their bass player is a melody machine all by himself.

2008: There are a lot of new bands I've started to love (easily a half dozen at least) this calendar year, but according to my strict format, from which I cannot deviate, I can only give love to one in this, the last spot on the tour. And that band is White Denim, a tight, rough n' tumble garage band with some psych and jazz tendencies. shakeshakeshake rocks the hop. So what do you say, dummies?

(If you've heard the song, that's a rhetorical question.)


  • moik

    thanks again - great series.

    18 jui. 2008, 14h25m
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