Meta: On “Best Music of the Year,” Focus, and More

Now that I’m regularly posting again, I’d like to go over a few future developments for the coming weeks and months:

  • My “Best Music of 2014″ is coming late, possibly at the start of the new year. Music blogs everywhere are probably pissed about the late release of this new D’Angelo album, which is one of my top 10 albums of the year. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you should listen to it here (right now):
  • I care a lot about other things aside from music. I have tons more to write about other than “you should listen to this song” and “these are the 10 best Christmas songs” (coming this week). In the next few months, I’ll transition from a music only blog to a well-rounded assortment of topics including (but not limited to) New York, professional wrestling, and writing itself. I’ll continue with the Never-Ending Mixtape series and other music-related items, but branching out will afford me the chance to write about new things, and also to write more. It’ll be more coherent when you see it, but you’ll know when you see it. Which leads me to…
  • I’m going to redesign the blog pretty soon. By “redesign,” I mean “find a WordPress theme I really like and screw around with the code, colors, and CSS until it looks unrecognizable.”
  • I’m trying to figure out my whole social marketing approach. I feel like a goddamn board of directors for a failing multinational corporation by saying that. How do I still have an Ello account but forget that I have a Tumblr for months?
  • As a side note, you should really listen to Tom Scharpling’s The Best ShowIt really is the best show.
  • Life is good.

That’s about it. I’m in New York for the holidays, and plan on running around Manhattan on the 25th like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky. It’s that empty.

The Never-Ending Mixtape: Return the Gift

The FeeliesHas it really been close to four months since I updated the Never-Ending Mixtape?

Over the months, I found trying to come up with hour+ long playlists to be a bit of a chore. I have about 17 unfinished playlist segments in the queue, but they’re just that: unfinished. After creating this week’s segment, I discovered that compiling a pretty awesome list of 10 songs not only makes sense for a listener’s (or my) attention span, but doesn’t have me dwelling on sequencing and minutae. From now on, each playlist segment will be 10 songs long. I will also start back on the whole “releasing a playlist segment once a week” thing. Hooray!(?)

This week’s playlist includes 10 alt. rock and post-punk songs from the ’80s. I spent quite a lot of time with each of these songs over the past 12 months, and each song holds a certain significance from either this year or years past. I’ve enjoyed and discovered these bands as a kid, as a college student, or as an adult. I hope you enjoy them as well.

(Starting from Track 67)

67) Talking Heads – “Love -> Building On Fire”
This is an outtake from Talking Heads: 77. I listened to the band’s debut album for years before I heard this first in August of 2009 thanks to a noisy neighbor living above me.

68) The Bats – “Block Of Wood”
I heard about the band before the American band of the same name, which never went anywhere except for launching Jon Brion’s career. This is the best known song, and for good reason.

69) The Replacements – “Alex Chilton”
It’s not the best Replacements song; that honor belongs to…all of Let It Be, perhaps. Regardless, it’s still a great song, and reading A Man Called Destruction earlier this year put the lyrics into perspective.

70) The dB’s – “Black And White”
Another band I discovered while digging deep into Yo La Tengo’s history. I still need to listen to their recently-released reunion album, but their back catalog is great.

71) Gang Of Four – “Armalite Rifle”
I spent all of 2005 listening to Entertainment because it was unlike anything I heard before. I was lucky to discover it shortly after its reissue, which included the Yellow EP (featuring this fantastic song). At the same time, I was unlucky to hear rerecordings of these songs on the band’s 2005 album, Return the Gift.

72) Let’s Active – “Every Word Means No”
I heard this song years ago and never listened to them again until when I first moved back to NYC. I believe the reunited recently for a one-off show.

73) XTC – “That’s Really Super, Supergirl”
XTC doesn’t have an “off” album until you get into the ’90s. Skylarking is one of the greatest albums of the ’80s, and probably the greatest thing Todd Rundgren ever did besides Something/Anything?.

74) R.E.M. – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”
I spent 2014 listening to IRS-era R.E.M. I’m starting to slightly favor it over major label R.E.M., especially given the last several albums released in their career. (Do you really ever want to listen to “Daysleeper” again?) This isn’t their best song from the era, but it’s pretty great and iconic at the same time.

75The Soft Boys – “Underwater Moonlight”
The title track from an album with no bad tracks on it. I first got into Robyn Hitchcock before I got into The Soft Boys ages ago. I still have to hear Robyn’s latest album. I also always confuse Robyn Hitchcock with Nick Lowe for some crazy reason.

76) The Feelies – “Crazy Rhythms”
Like the selection above, there’s not a bad song on this album. I discovered them in college when I was listening to a lot of Yo La Tengo. Crazy Rhythms is by far the best Feelies record, but the other records aren’t bad at all (even the 2011 reunion record, Here Before). Since this song is also the title song of the album, I thought it would be appropriate to share this clip from Comedy Central’s Upright Citizen Brigade, which also has a small connection to Yo La Tengo.

Something Came Up

…but I’m still working on a few things for the blog. I’m not actually procrastinating. It would be nicer to have a few more hours in a day, though.

In the meantime, hear this awesome Ty Segall song from one of the best albums of the year.

No Longer On Hiatus

…And I’m back. Let’s try this again.

I found employment well over a month ago as Copy Editor at ViralNova. I could say I’ve had no time to write on here, but I’d be lying. Here’s what I did instead:

  • Listened to a lot of His Name Is Alive
  • Played a lot of Destiny on the PS4. This is me:
    2014-10-29 08.49.57 pm
  • Read a few books, including Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle. I hated it, but it’s not a bad book because everyone else likes it, so I’m probably crazy.
  • Got a cat. I never had a cat before. I’ll show you pictures eventually. Maybe.
  • Worked a lot. Work is fun because all I do is fix grammatical errors and listen to John Coltrane all day. I couldn’t ask for much more.
  • Joined Ello, and subsequently lost interest in Ello.
  • “Left” my band and started a new recording project.
  • I’m probably forgetting something, so this will serve as a placeholder for when I remember it.
  • Saw Slowdive and Low. That was pretty cool.
  • Lots of dicking around and such.
  • I resumed work on my novel.

These are all pretty half-assed excuses as to why I haven’t posted in a while. But I’ll get back into the habit of things this weekend, when I have time after watching the marathon pass my house. Writing that makes me feel so old.

Here’s what to expect on the blog in the (near) future:

  • The continuation of the Never-Ending Playlist.
  • Good Music Reviews, a new series focusing on awesome albums set for current or future release.
  • Documentation of my own music creating process.
  • A Surprise.

I’m really excited to get back into posting again. I hope you are, too,  but Google Analytics says otherwise. Whatever. It’s my website and I’ll do what I want with it.

A Short Break

Hey, Friends.

I took a short break due to the fact that I recently found employment. I know, right?

Anyway, I’ll be back to my playlist-making shenanigans and all sorts of fun stuff within the week.

Hope all is well.

-Scott

P.S. – Time for me to end that AdSense campaign I created to get myself hired.

The Never-Ending Mixtape: Tune Out

 

 

“If you want to be continuously bummed out, you should read the news.”

My dad told me this once after I tried to get him into RSS feeds.((Something I’m still pretty much addicted to)) It’s a true statement, but seems to hold more weight in the last few weeks than in recent memory. With the continuation of attacks in Gaza, police militarization in Ferguson, escalation of offenses in the Ukraine, and the suicide of one of my favorite comedians, I opted to take this edition of The Never-Ending Playlist and make something positive out of it.

My parents loved listening to compilations when I was a kid. In fact, Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation is the earliest album I remember owning on cassette.((Aside from anti-consumer advocate/children’s singer Raffi)) Every so often, my mom or dad would dub songs from tapes to blank tapes, making their own compilation mixtapes to listen during long car trips or in the kitchen.

Like last month’s playlist segment,((Pardon the lack of updates. There will be another one next week.)) I focus on ’60s/early ’70s baroque pop, rock, and psychedelic groups.  However, instead of trying to highlight the psychedelic movement, I’m simply creating a compilation of my own to temporarily drown out bad news for a few minutes.

(Starting from Track 54)

54) Bee Gees – I Started A Joke
My girlfriend and I think this would make for an excellent montage in a film. For all I know, it was already used in that way. The scene in The Fighter where the mother sings a rendition of this song is pretty beautiful, too.

55) The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
I chose this for two reasons: it’s a beautiful pop song, and I was at a wedding wedding this past weekend for friends who got engaged on Waterloo Bridge at sunset (yes, because of the song). It’s not my favorite Kinks song, but it’s a great song, nonetheless.

56) The Troggs – With A Girl Like You
It’s a great original Troggs song. Also, the bride and groom at the wedding danced to it during their first dance.

57) The Who – Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
Did I pick a random song from The Who Sell Out? Sort of, but not really. This is one of my favorite Who songs.

58) The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man
A better rendition of the song than Dylan’s own version. Fun Fact #4: I’m not a huge Dylan fan (and while we’re on the subject, I hate, hate, hate Nashville Skyline).

59) Small Faces – Lazy Sunday
My second favorite song off Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, one of the best albums of the ’60s.

60) The Ronettes – Be My Baby
The first Ronettes song I ever heard. I got into the Ronettes around the same time I got into the Beatles, but forgot about them for the better part of a decade.

61) Herman’s Hermits – No Milk Today
Nuggets classic, and probably the only minor key-driven song on this playlist.

62) The Monkees – Daydream Believer
These days, I’m using every chance I can to get people to The Monkees. This is one of the best songs of all time,((Of all time!)) and possibly the best Monkees song that’s not “Porpoise Song”.

63) The Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream
I fondly remember hearing this in a car at the age of three. The dynamic of the song make the song, more or less, but it’s also well written and fairly intricate, despite being a quasi-goofy pop song.

64) The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
One of my favorite Beach Boys songs, one of my favorite songs off Pet Sounds (though I really do like them all), and one of the first pop/rock songs to mention “God” in the lyrics.

65) Love – Old Man
It’s sort of a sad song, but it’s pretty upbeat in the way it’s written/played. Arthur Lee’s vocals are slightly subdued for a large part of the song’s duration, and it shows his strengths as one of the best pop vocalists ever.

66) The Zombies – This Will Be Our Year
This will probably be my wedding song, unless I read too much into the lyrics and deem it inappropriate. It’s one of the best Zombies songs, and I like it a lot better without the horns (though the horns don’t detract from the song in that particular version).

Listening To: Merchandise

Tampa, Florida-based band Merchandise announced their signing to label 4AD earlier this year. I’ve listened to 4AD for over two decades, chasing the label’s perfectly curated bleak-yet-beautiful sound, including albums from Cocteau Twins, His Name Is Alive, and pretty much everything I grew up listening to as a teenager.

This particularly post-punk band flew under my radar for their first few years until the release of 2013’s Total Nite, a fine five-song EP (album? mini-album?) and the band’s third release. The above track, “Anxiety’s Door,” serves as the album’s standout piece and a prime example of how the band blends ’80s 4AD elements with their own punk leanings. Also, when was the last time a buzzworthy guitar-oriented band made excellent use of a drum machine? (OK, don’t answer that.)

After picking up Total Nite, I sought after the band’s other releases. That release, as well as Children of DesireAngels In The Station, Gone Are The Silk Gardens Of Youth, and (Strange Songs) In The Dark all show an interesting progression of a young band trying to find a distinct sound.

The band’s upcoming release, After The End, recently started streaming on The Guardian and NPR Music. After listening to the new title for approximately 10 times in a row (it’s only 44 minutes long), I’m thoroughly convinced that the album is this generation’s Ocean Rain. It sounds strikingly similar to the Echo & The Bunnymen album, but with a 2014 polish and a number of studio tricks I only dreamed of using when listening to 4AD albums as a kid. Standout tracks “Little Killer” and “Enemy” prove the band are talented enough to write ’80s post-punk pop hits for a modern audience, all while retaining the essence of a still-young group with a punk background.

I’ll have more on After The End after its release next week. In the meantime, you should definitely check out what you can of Merchandise on Spotify and iTunes.

Bad Cover Songs

I listened to a few cover songs while putting together the upcoming segment for the Never-Ending Playlist (which, I assure you, is never-ending as a project). I’m not a big cover song guy by any means, though there are a select few covers that sound significantly better than the original versions. However, I sometimes stumble upon a cover song so awful that it’s worth mentioning to other music nuts like myself.

Below are a few awful cover songs worth avoiding:

Frank Black – Hang On Your Ego


The solo debut of Frank Black is a pretty good album. It contains some sweet singles (“Los Angeles“) and interesting deep cuts (“Every Time I Go Round Here“). I understand what he was trying to accomplish with this Beach Boys cover (done in a similar manner as “Head On” off Trompe Le Monde), but it doesn’t work. It turns a decent b-side (best known as the much-loved “I Know There’s An Answer“) and makes it into a campy sci-fi track. There are theremins on it and it’s not even “Good Vibrations.” It’s a weird song for the sake of being weird and doesn’t translate well.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Porpoise Song


See also: Anyone who ever covered Porpoise Song (except for Bongwater). I love …Trail of Dead, and they’ve done some OK covers in the past. This isn’t one of them. It turns a prime example psychedelia into a pretty generic modern prog song.

Luna – Straight Up


I pick on Luna a lot, but this song is just plain awful. Taking the once-popular Paula Abdul song and making it into a jazzy number could work. However, Wareham’s vocals don’t. It’s pretty off-putting, but it was only released for a (charity?) covers compilation without much hype or exposure, so it’s not hurting anyone.

Patti Smith – Hey Joe


95% of all “Hey Joe” covers are bogus. Also, 1 out of ever 15 rock bands have probably covered it at one time or another. I’m singling Smith’s version out because it’s a rambling, convoluted mess. Sure, it launched her career and saw her release two great albums, but it’s a pretty awful version and should not be added to every ’70s punk compilation album. Maybe add “Gloria” instead?

Vacation Music: South Florida and Montreal

Since I have an abundance of free time these days, I agreed to the following:

  • Visiting my family in South Florida;
  • Attending a bachelor party/excursion to Montreal;
  • Frequent morning phone calls from my grandparents asking if I have a job yet.

I also can’t (/won’t) go a full day without listening to music. In my newfound free time, I recently started taking notes about my listening habits, beyond the data provided by Spotify and Last.FM. If I’m going to listen to music every day of my life, I should probably keep some sort of log to track my listening patterns over the years.

I took the following notes throughout my trips. They vary in levels of coherence, but I embedded relevant songs to further give an idea of my vacation music:

Florida

I spent a much needed ten days away from the blogosphere, driving around Palm Beach and Dade counties in my grandmother’s 2001 Corolla. I gained the ability to bring digital music to the “antique” car stereo after purchasing a $15 cassette-to-iPhone adapter from Radio Shack. It wasn’t long before I relived the best part of my youth: driving aimlessly around town and listening to the Cocteau Twins.

 

I saw my friend Liz several times during my trip. Liz and I have a terribly amoral inside joke related to Brand New, a band she introduced me to around the release of their third album. I never paid much attention to the band before their major label debut, but I always make a habit of listening to their discography when I’m in Florida (and not so much back home, though I should).

 

My sister also came down for some time and shared her newfound love of Queen. I tried to get her to listen to A Night At The Opera, but she opted for their “Greatest Hits” playlist.

Canada

I then found myself in Canada for a non-debacherous pre-wedding trip to Montreal and back. During the trip, the bachelors and groom-to-be held many debates on various musical milestones, including:

  • Bands who peaked at the first song on their first album;
  • Bands who should have broken up and what year their proper demise should have occurred;
  • The pros and cons of Merzbow.

I also tried and failed to get everyone into Teenage Fanclub.

Now I’m home and trying to get myself into FKA Twigs.