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Six Quick Picks – Vol. 2

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Here are six more (mostly) stream-of-consciousness song reviews (although a bit less stream-of-consciousness then last time, I?m more awake now, frankly) culled from the depths of my iTunes library. And to make it even better, most of these songs, with the exception of the “What the Soul Desires” and “Crazy Girl” are available on iTunes, so in case you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, go download ’em, why don’t you? Or you could just go steal them from somewhere. Whichever works best for you.

They Might Be Giants – “Boat of Car”
This song is particularly strange, even for a TMBG song. It opens with a silly Casio-sounding start-stop keyboard lick punctuated at the end of each phrase with a sample of Johnny Cash’s voice from “Daddy Sang Bass.” The sample drops out after a few repeats, however, and the song gets a little less weird, adding instead the vocals of a Ms. Margaret Seiler, which is slightly more melodic and less nasally than either of the Johns’, but not quite as quirky and likeable either. The melody is sorta pretty though, in an offbeat way, and the song ends up being a quite tidy little pop nugget, clocking in at only 1:15, and never really letting up in the weirdness. These guys are fucked-up, for sure, but they may just be the most brilliant songwriters of the eighties or (early) nineties (their later stuff tends to lean a bit more towards the suck end of the spectrum).

Moment of Truth: The repeated “on the boat of car” line at the end of the song with its pleasant little melody and pretty keyboard parts is the most overtly musical part of the song. (:56-1:10)

Donovan – “What the Soul Desires”
Okay, so this is not Donovan’s best song. It?s extremely folky, and while, yes, Donovan was a folk singer, his best songs were always the rockier and more rhythmic: “Sunshine Superman,” “Season of the Witch,” “Mellow Yellow,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Barabajagal,” “Riki Tiki Tavi,” and you see where this is going. But what I mean by it being so folky is that it wouldn’t sound too out of place in A Mighty Wind. The little part where it picks up for the chorus is so campfire sing-a-long-y it almost makes me want to vomit. But his voice is quite beautiful, and some of the playing really is nice. Pretty song, if a little vapid.

Moment of Truth: That little guitar (or is it a fucking lute or something?) in the background sounds pretty cool and it adds some pretty little flourishes to the song, despite it slightly escalating the song’s cheese factor (extremely escalating the song’s cheese factor if it is, in fact, a lute). (1:00-1:30)

Basement Jaxx – “Crazy Girl”
It?s dance music, so obviously the song is really stupid and the vocals suck and the lyrics are fucking awful. Now that we?ve got that out of the way, this song is totally great. Bear with me here, I know I just admitted it to being stupid and having sucky vocals and awful – no, fucking awful – lyrics, so “how could it possibly be ‘totally great?'” you must be asking. Well, first of all, it is dance music, and it accomplishes exactly what dance music is supposed to do: this shit makes you want to shake ya tailfeather. The beat is deep and bass-y and the rides along on a skewed, Mouse On Mars-esque vibe, never playing down to the repetitive dance floor nonsense that passes for electronic music these days. There is no simple four-on-the-floor beat; the rhythms are tight and complex and change up a bit throughout the song. This is very class, totally great – although not excellent – dance music. Even though it’s stupid and the vocals suck and the lyrics are fucking awful. Even though.

Moment of Truth: The hard-driving rhythm drops out for a second and then jackhammers back in with farting, squelching ultra-bassy sounds. I’ll bet that would sound really good in one of those stupid cars with giant subwoofers in the back. (:45-:49, and I think after every chorus thereafter, I think)

Pascal Roge – “Prelude En Tapissere”
Ah, what can I even say? Fate handed me this one. I promised myself I wouldn’t skip any more randomly selected tracks because if I keep doing that then, well, they aren’t so random anymore, now are they? But this? Come on. What bad could I possibly have to say about Pascal Roge, man? I’m not a real classical music aficionado or anything. Sure, there?s lots of it I enjoy and plenty I could live without. I don’t really know all too much about it. I’m a rock fan, a pop fan, and I don’t really know how to analyze a piece like this. I should just let it speak for itself. Listen to it, folks, and then come back here and read my feeble, pathetic attempt to encapsulate the majesty of this song in the following one-hundred or so words. This track is absolutely beautiful. Totally gorgeous. Roge rides Erik Satie’s composition like some sort of piano-playing surfer, hanging-ten on the gnarly waves of this gorgeous, if unconventional, piece. Unconventional, only in the classical sense, I would suppose. It’s a fairly standard bit of modern classical music, lacking much in the way of traditional form and structure. Rather, it seems to beautifully meander, repeating some motifs here and there, forming this short, but somehow magnificently sprawling, piece. This song is all the sadness and beauty and playfulness and happiness expressed in two minutes and fifty-nine seconds. It’s like the classical equivalent of the perfect pop song.

Moment of Truth: I can’t choose one moment, honestly. The whole song just deserves a nod here. (:00-2:59). There, the ultimate cop-out. And really, I apologize for my half-assed surfing metaphor earlier. It used to be better, I promise, but I rewrote part of the sentence, and it didn’t work so well anymore, but I couldn’t just ditch the whole damn thing. No no, far too much thought went into that crappy metaphor for me to just throw it away!

AFI – “Weathered Tome”
A scorching slab of AFI’s fairly unique brand of punk rock. The song starts right out of the gates with breakneck speed, charging violently ahead, before slowing down (just a bit) for an anthemic chorus. The song continues this pattern about as long as it can sustain itself (only two minutes and twelve seconds) and ends with a repeat of the song’s intro, basically a slow buildup of rapid fire bass notes and vocalist Davey Havok’s rising growl. This song pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. It just simply rocks. They are ridiculously tight for a punk band and sound incredibly professional here, and the production is great. Everything sounds so good, and the band plays their little hearts out. And Havok’s impassioned vocals work perfectly, functioning as an abrasive, but, and this is a big point here, melodic instrument.

Moment of Truth: The first verse bursts forth with an incredible urgency and power as Havok shouts and wails over the band’s breakneck riffs. (:07-:16)

Tom Waits – “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six”
Typically great Tom Waits. The band chugs along on a country/blues-ish groove while Waits growls and roars in his distinctive wail. This guy can sing though, don’t let his rough-hewn voice fool you. So maybe this isn?t the best example of the guy’s voice, but he still does sound pretty damn good. Like one of the great bluesmen, really. And the lyrics just conjure some really wonderful images here, don’t they? I guess the one big complaint here is that the song is a bit long given its rather repetitive nature. It’s four minutes and thirty-three seconds long, and there is little in the way of variation; even the chorus, as one would have it, rides along the same shuffling, scraping groove. But what a wonderful groove it is. And how can you not love a guy that sounds like this?

Moment of Truth: Every time he says “I’m gonna whittle you into kindlin'” I’m not going to point them out, he says it a bunch of times. Just the way he sneers and postures when he sings the line. It’s brilliant. Totally fucking brilliant. If only other singers could muster up one-tenth of the character and life Waits puts into each and every word he sings?

I can’t believe that I wrote even more than last time. If I continue this trend, in a few weeks I’ll be writing a thousand words per song. But no, this won’t happen. I won’t let it, I promise. Thanks for plodding through this bit of verbal diarrhea, folks. Until next time!

This review was cross-posted at X-Ray Style.

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