Five Songs, 4/14/2017

Let's get started! I assume everybody has read the intro, because I posted it right below, but briefly: I'm going to listen to the five random songs from my collection, link them as best I can, and write about whatever comes to mind while I'm listening. You can listen to a playlist of the songs on YouTube.

Kid Koala, "Page 165: The Date"

Aaaand we're off to an inauspicious start. This is a little atmospheric piece, which is an accompaniment to a graphic novel, Nufonia Must Die. He's a turntablist and electronic artist, mostly, and towards the playful end of the spectrum. There's not much to talk about with this song withouth the graphics, so instead, I'll just talk about how Kid Koala is one of these infuriating people who is a talented artist in multiple media. In lieu of linking to this song, which doesn't make any sense, I'll instead just bring your attention to another of his songs, "Nerdball", from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Hopefully, we'll get something I can discuss in a more interesting fashion next!

Pavement, "Unfair"

MUCH BETTER. Pavement, of course, was very much a staple of my college existence. I first heard of Pavement after reading a review of Perfect Sound Forever in Spin. I was in the habit of walking up to Paul's Records in Pittsburgh every Tuesday to check out the new releases, and when I saw Slanted and Enchanted was released, I bought it along with Superchunk's No Pocky for Kitty upon a recommendation from one of the employees. This might have been the best single day music purchase I've ever made. Up until this day, I was still mostly listening to industrial and punk, and those two records really opened my eyes to the rest of the tremendous rock underground at the time. Both are still favorites to this day.

"Unfair" is from the tremendous followup to that album, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, released in February of 1994. It went into immediate heavy rotation with me and my friends, and is one of the albums that helped convince Megan that I was a guy worth knowing for his musical taste.

I don't have any idea how much the people reading these will know about music, so I'll try and recap everybody at least a little. Pavement were one of the leaders of the rock underground in the 90s, standard bearers for low-fi, off-kilter rock. After Pavement, there were tons of bands that tried to sound like Pavement, although the particular alchemy that they had proved hard to capture. Writing inscruitable lyrics, singing off-tune, and putting noise in your arrangements turns out to be insufficient on its own, mainly because other bands didn't have the same great songs. And now, my fearless ranking of Pavement albums!

  • Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
  • Brighten the Corners (yeah, better than Slanted, fight me!)
  • Slanted and Enchanted (all three of these records are fantastic)
  • Terror Twilight
  • Wowee Zowee
  • Westing, along with all the other miscellaneous crap they released.

Beware of all the extra tracks on the various reissues and whatnot. There are some great songs from various singles and EPs, but there's also a lot of terrible material. I mean, listen to a few of the songs they deemed WORTHY of including on albums ("Hit The Plane Down", I'm looking at you). The bonus tracks are an awfully mixed bag overall, and probably only for completists.

Built to Spill, "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss"

Geez, shuffle is really pulling up some of the pillars of my 90s music experience. If I write everything I want to say about Built to Spill, this first entry will be too long. So, Built to Spill is another titan of the 90s rock underground, known for drawn out, often noisy songs that still have tremendous hooks. The three album run of There's Nothing Wrong With Love, Perfect From Now On, and Keep It Like a Secret has been matched by very vew bands, with the middle album being one of my all-time favorite records.

This song is not from one of those peak albums, and is instead from the post-peak Ancient Melodies of the Future, an album that always sounded a bit like a degraded photocopy of the previous Keep It Like a Secret. There are still some very good tunes on it, but it's by no means an essential record. I certainly have more to say about Built to Spill, but we'll save it for if they come up again.

Squarepusher, "Vacuum Garden"

Squarepusher, the nom de la musique of Tom Jenkinson, is a wide-ranging electronic project that started out as frantic drum 'n' bass and wandered its way through experimental albums, jazz fusion, and all kinds of crazy stuff. Jenkinson is a one man band, with his frenetic bass playing often the centerpiece. Unfortunately, "Vacuum Garden" isn't really an interesting showcase for his talents, being a spooky little insterstitial piece on the otherwise excellent Hello Everything.

KMFDM, "Spiritual House"

KMFDM made largely indistinguishable industrial house, cranking out tunes with metronome-like precision and predictability. You could pretty much count on them for pounding electronic drums, lots of synths, repeated guitar loops, and lots of shouting through bullhorns. A friend once called them the "AC/DC of industrial", which is about right. When I was in high school, I thought they were great. I grew out of it pretty quickly as I started to discover bands like...well, like Pavement.

This track has not aged well, either.

That's our five for today, and I hope people stick around for this experiment.