Monday, July 31, 2006

Weird Music ...and other stuff I listen to

By Lezah Williamson

Inevitably, when I give someone a ride in my vehicle, said person will make some comment about the music I listen to. A couple of my favourites include, "This sounds like a cult!" and "What is this garbage?" (okay, so I don't actually like that one so much...). Most commonly, however, it'll be something a little more generic, like, "You listen to weird music." To which I usually want to give some snappy (and oh, so mature) comeback like, "Yeah, and you smell bad, but I'm not so rude to tell you that" - but somehow, I never do return the big insult.

Too polite? Too jaded? Too wimpy? Who knows.

The fact is, it's not really me who is responsible for the so-called weird music that is played in my car. That honour goes to Dave, who not only owns a huge collection of music spanning many different decades and genres, but who also enjoys spending all his spare time making mixed tapes or cds. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The one I am listening now is actually one of my favourites, so I'm going to share with you.

He's entitled it 'Superstars of the 1890s' and has even created a cover that's somewhat reminiscent of an old K-Tel album from the '70s. On it he has put 15 different artists - some I like, and some I could live without.

1. Stereolab's 'Kybernetcika Babicka Pt. 1' - I love Stereolab, having seen them live quite a few year ago now. This song is light on lyrics and is a great way to start the cd.

2. The Constantine's 'On to You' - very Bruce Springsteen-ish - but in a good way.

3. Judee Sills' 'I'm Over' - I've read in a few places where the late Ms. Sills has been compared as the female version of Nick Drake. This folk songstress has a strikingly beautiful voice, but the between you and me, the whole folk thing is really not my cup of tea...

4. Gene Clark's 'With Tomorrow' - co-founder of the Byrds, Gene Clark has the most wonderful, melodic voice: soft, smooth, soothing. And yet everything I hear of his leaves me tinged with sadness. I thought this song was just him on acoustic guitar, but not so - there's percussion as well, but it's just laid down with such a fine touch it complements Clark's voice wonderfully without distracting the listener.

5. Iron Maiden's 'Killers' - Iron Maiden was the first concert Dave ever went to. That's the only explanation I can think of for this being on the cd.

6. Joanna Newsom's 'Sprout and the Bean' - avant garde would be how I would have to describe this one, a harp tune accompanied by Newsom's arresting baby voice. Definitely the least accessible song as far as the general public would be concerned.

7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 5's 'Every Night I Die at Miyagi's' - this is one of my favourites. Kind of the Cure meets a salsa band. Mojo rated this one a 4/5.

8. The Beta Band's 'Inner Meet Me' - the first time I saw the Beta Band (my all time favourite live act), they started the show with this song. It just builds and builds and builds. And I love a song with so many layers. It slays me.

9. The Cure's 'The Lovecats' - I never listened to The Cure much, but this song is making me want to go back and dig out some old cds to see what else I missed.

10. The Shins' 'Turn a Square' - Elyse, from the first (and best) cycle of America's Top Model was seeing the keyboard player of this band during the show's taping. We almost went to see the band the first time they were in town, but missed them. And I am sad - very, very sad. The lyrics are so me - take a look at just a couple of examples from this song: "... Just a glimpse of ankle/and I/react like it's 1805", and "and I left my home/just to whine in this microphone." I'm all about the self-deprecation and introspection, so this band is one I'm all over.

11. Destroyer's 'School, and the Girls Who Go There' - this one hasn't caught my ear quite as much as some of the others, but I certainly, if I had a magic wand, wouldn't take it off the cd either. I'm a bit ashamed I don't like it more, as Dan Bejar is a friend of a friend and I feel that I should be loyal to the hometown boy. He's well-known for his complex lyrics and is currently getting a lot of positive reviews for his songs from all over. Yeah, Dan! Yeah, Vancouver!

12. Belle and Sebastian's 'Act of the Apostle' - not my most favourite Belle and Sebastian song, but I still like it. See The Shins above (#9) for my views on self deprecation and other assorted qualities.

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13. Terry Callier's 'Ordinary Joe' - here's a guy who managed to catch the train the second time around. A childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, this Chicago native had some regional hits during the '60s and '70s before giving up music to become a computer programmer at the University of Chicago. Then the '90s came around and some British djs got a hold of his stuff and the rest, as they say, is history. Gigs in Europe, winning the United Nation's Time for Peace Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement Contributing to World Peace - how could life get any better? He's really big on the UK soul scene, but when I first heard him, I thought it was Tom Jones! Sacrilege! But I love it. Love, love, love it.

14. Outkast's 'Hey Ya' - love this song, love the video. Don't think I've ever heard anything else by Outkast (or the Andre 1/2 of the band, anyway) - but this song is enough. It's so big. Big enough to live on.

15. Sufjan Stevens' 'The Transfiguration' - this one is Mary's current obsession, actually. Pitchfork gave Illinoise, the album this song is from, a 9.2. Stevens has stated that he as plans to write an album for all 50 states - he's got 48 to go. Busy, busy, busy is my prediction for this guy's next few years. His folk/indie pop/electronica sound might not be for everyone, but I love the celebration of spirit (both lower case and upper case 's' work). Even more than this song, I like another song of his called 'John Wayne Gacy, Jr.' - look it up if you haven't heard it already.

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