Eyes That Can See in the Dark

a music journal

August 29, 2006 (link)

12:56 AM

To me, Pitchfork is a mixed bag. On the one hand I think it's been really good for independent music culture and there are a lot of really deserving bands out there who might not have reached wide audiences as quickly as they did if it weren't for Pitchfork. On the other hand, I think, there's a dismissive tone to them if they don't like a band -- there's a flippancy that I think is really destructive to the culture and the way that people think about music. I have a tendency to do that too -- I think everyone does -- to say, "Oh, that is totally worthless. That song or that book has no value."

I read an interview with Dave Eggers in one of the weeklies and the guy interviewing him sort of snuck in a little jab at one of Ethan Hawke's books in one of his questions and Eggers kind of snapped at him and said something along the lines of, "If you've ever written a book or made a record or created a painting, you'd know just how almost impossible it is to complete something like that." At the very least you can't dismiss a piece of art the way that we've become accustomed to. That interview made me think about the way that I do that and having seen that tendency so often in print, I don't really think it's right. I think a lot of places like Pitchfork are guilty of being dismissive for the sake of entertainment and popularity or to make themselves feel big.

(From here. You'll want to read down a bit, too, around the part with the blue picture of the album.)

Current music: Isley Brothers - "For the Love of You"

(Comments for August 29, 2006)

August 26, 2006 (link)

1:43 PM

Very cool:

The scene at the end which pans from the flower to the city below was shot on the roof of 21 Clark St. Brooklyn with the Manhattan Bridge in the background. The traffic of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is visible.

12:11 PM

Someone got here on the search string "sesame street" dripping flower Vivaldi.

I hope they found their way here, or ultimately to this.

(So many young psyches infected -- "infected" -- with this image! The people who made this, back in nineteen-seventy-whatever, did they have any idea how far-reaching it would be? "Ha, we'll end it on the dominant chord, and they'll have a lifetime of yearning for enigmatic unfulfillednesses!")

(Two weeks later: "Oh, a letter from A. Keodt!" "Is it a thank-you note or a restraining order?" "Er, both, actually.")

Current music: Greg, Tom, P., and Jeremy (aka the Led Zeppelin Cover Band) - "Whole Lotta Love" and "Kashmir"

(Comments for August 26, 2006)

August 21, 2006 (link)

7:57 PM

How many people can make a great song in 23 seconds? Duf Davis can:

I'm ninety years old and I've never been kissed

In a sweet, hushed, and slightly strained voice. Just a hint of old man to it, like a shirt you bought at the thrift shop. A nostalgic E major in the piano, the sound of old sheet music. And once more:

I'm ninety years old and I've never been kissed

Listen to the chords in the right hand of the piano, the hint of fourths. It's really just [I - ii - V], it's a throwaway song, he could be lazy, he doesn't have to come up with nice voicings -- but he does.

I ask you this favor
Please don't resist

Spoken now, not sung -- genial, resonant, like a good voice-over. The piano is, if not quite staccato, much more clipped, and the chords take an intriguing and slightly ominous turn: [iii - IV], then the surprising [v of vi - vi].

Still, "Is this a sweet, ingenuous Duf Davis song?" we ask ourselves.

Will you kiss me...

So sweet, so sincere, who could be so callous as to refuse? But:

...on the lips?

Gotcha! And with a final flourish on the piano, the song ends.

(Is it an accident that we notice a little more mouth and lip noise on that last phrase? Are we meant to imagine the dentures, the odor, the sudden sweep from sweet to creepy? Few can pack so much, and pull off such a turnaround, in so few words -- and if you're competing with the likes of "You can count me out...in...", you know you're doing something right.)

Current music: Of Montreal - "Wraith Pinned to the Mist"

(Comments for August 21, 2006) (2 comments so far)

August 12, 2006 (link)

9:39 PM

A whole new motherlode of Sesame Street stuff has shown up on Youtube, including some skits I've been wanting to see for years:

  • The orange singing Carmen. Much synthier than I remembered! And I'm on the fence about Carlos Kleiber.

  • "I wonder what would happen if I popped this balloon..." Can't find the word to describe what emotion this filled me with, as a child -- I want to call it "protean compassion", but that's probably vychurnyi.

    ("It's vychurnyi to say 'vychurnyi'." "No, it's just pretentious.")

  • "Oh, how could I be so dumb? Plants need water, man!" I quote this one all the time, but no one ever gets it. (Well, almost no one.) The trombone is genius.

  • I have no memory at all of the visuals in this live-action segment -- no recollection that it was about monkeys, even. But listening to the bassoon solo after all these years I had the uncanny experience of already knowing what each note was going to be, from someplace deep in my subconscious. (That bassoonist had some serious breath control, by the way -- I count 33 seconds without a break!)

  • This would never fly today. Chomp!

  • The letter I gets some attention, first from this clip set inside a steel mill (apparently "filmed at the former United Steel Corporation in Chicago around 1977"), which has that wonderful enigmatic-creepy quality that permeated the psyches of so many kids of my generation -- and check out that Stravinskyian music! Polytonal ostinati and everything. Then we have screaming I, where again I imagined the sound of the returning dot (in reverse) before it happened, even though I haven't seen this one in ages. This capital I song should bring back some memories too -- the song is great, and feels like it should remind me intensely of some Bay Area-band from the late '60s (but if so, I have no idea who).

  • The yo-yo guy! The plastic house! "Behind your face/There is a place"! It's all here, and once again I find myself realizing how deeply these sounds, attitudes, rhythms have permeated my consciousness. (Not to be confused with the almost-as-cool "A Loaf of Bread").

  • Other bits and pieces, ranging from the trippy (paging Didier Malherbe!) to the clever and charming -- I still quote this one all the time, too. And there's "Two G Sounds", which is wonderfully sweet and gentle, but also really well-crafted: music nerds, notice the time signature? And notice how much it contributes to the song, keeping things from getting sappy and foursquare? My hat's off to 'em, it really is.

  • And finally...we're lucky enough to live in a world in which there are two beautiful and deeply moving songs with "Little Things" in the title. One of them is by Ida; the other one is this. There are other Sesame Street versions of this song, but the original is by far the best...what a great songwriter Joe Raposo was, and what a skilled interpreter of his own work. Really meant a lot to me to get to hear this one again.

So what's left? The kayak, the bassoon, "women can be soda jerkers" too...but other than that, not much!

Current music: my ol' Led Zeppelin cover band - "No Quarter"

(Comments for August 12, 2006)

August 11, 2006 (link)

11:19 PM

Flipping through the radio on the way home today, I dialed up the local oldies/classic rock station, and was intrigued by what I heard: "Hmmm," I said to myself, "this sounds far too recent to be an oldies song...kind of a nice groove, actually, vaguely like the Postal Service but better..." And then the lyrics came in:

Let's go out back tonight
Life will still be there tomorrow

Or something like that. And I thought to myself, "Sure, I can get behind that: some of the best times I've ever had have been on nights that I had a lot to do but decided to go have fun instead, just for the night. That works. It's also got a little bit of a suggestive, Frankie Goes to Hollywood edge to it, too -- nice."

And then an Australian voice came in...and started talking about steak...

And I realized, the lyric wasn't "out back", it was "Outback"! Outback Steakhouse! I'd been bamboozled by a commercial!

I can't say I felt foolish, but if nothing else, it seemed a pity -- a bit like that song I heard a while back on a Saab commercial that sounded like a great New Order-ish instrumental, and turned out (from what I could find) to be otherwise unavailable. Or the Kodak (?) ad that had a female vocalist, backed by acoustic guitar, singing about how she keeps your picture on her wall because it helps her remember. Or the Country Time Lemonade commercial that sounded a little like "Stardust", with the trombone and the chords descending stepwise.

But the plot thickens!

...I was intrigued when I heard the familiar strains of Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned To The Mist". I was surprised that such an indie band was being played on a big rock station. My surprise quickly turned to horror as I began to pay attention to the lyrics. At first I thought maybe it was a song parody. No, it was worse. IT WAS A COMMERCIAL! For Outback Steakhouse no less!

And their Myspace page confirms the story, it seems. I hope they at least got some money for it...though on the other hand, if it was done with permission, they're probably about to lose a ton of vegetarian/vegan fans.

So we come full circle, and a guilty pleasure becomes an honest one (if you subscribe to that way of looking at things) -- since, you know, I like Of Montreal fairly well!

("But what about the lyrics you liked?" cries Tiny Tim.)

Current music: Oscar Pettiford - "Stardust (live)"

(Comments for August 11, 2006)

August 8, 2006 (link)

10:47 PM

I made a list of a hundred songs I like. The rules were:

(a) they had to have vocals, even wordless or spoken ones;
(b) no classical, jazz, or world music allowed;
(c) they have to be songs I can really get behind, not ones that I'm just including because I think I should; and
(d) no more than one track per band, with as little duplication of personnel as possible.

So here are the results:

  1. AC/DC - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
  2. A-Ha - "Take On Me"
  3. Allman Brothers - "Try It One More Time"
  4. American Analog Set - "Gone to Earth"
  5. Mick Audsley - "Dark and Devil Waters"
  6. Kevin Ayers - "Singing a Song in the Morning"
  7. Syd Barrett - "Opel"
  8. Beach Boys - "Our Prayer"
  9. The Beatles - "Hey Bulldog"
  10. Bedhead - "Parade"
  11. Archie Bell and the Drells - "Tighten Up"
  12. Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"
  13. Blind Melon - "No Rain"
  14. David Bowie - "Let's Dance"
  15. Jessica Butler - "Faer Edhellen"
  16. Can - "Halleluhwah"
  17. Cerberus Shoal - "Myrrh"
  18. The Clientele - "We Could Walk Together"
  19. Cream - "I Feel Free"
  20. The Cure - "Pictures of You"
  21. Digable Planets - "Jettin'"
  22. Deformo - "Mr. Saturday Night"
  23. Donovan - "Isle of Islay"
  24. The Doors - "Indian Summer"
  25. Duf Davis + the Book Club - "Cum [On] Feel the Noize"
  26. Nick Drake - "River Man"
  27. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - "From the Beginning"
  28. The Fixx - "One Thing Leads to Another"
  29. Füxa - "Witness to Natural Invention"
  30. Marvin Gaye - "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You"
  31. Vincent Gallo - "Laura"
  32. Gong - "Isle of Everywhere"
  33. Grateful Dead - "Dark Star" (Live/Dead version)
  34. Group 1850 - "Purple Sky"
  35. Guess Who - "Undun"
  36. Jimi Hendrix - "Voodoo Chile"
  37. Harmonium - "Harmonium"
  38. Hatfield and the North - "Son of 'There's No Place Like Homerton'"
  39. The Hang-Ups - "Sweet Tooth"
  40. Herman's Hermits - "Museum"
  41. Ida - "Little Things"
  42. Michael Jackson - "Human Nature"
  43. Jandek - "Green and Yellow"
  44. Jefferson Airplane - "Comin' Back to Me"
  45. Jethro Tull - "Wond'ring Aloud"
  46. Billy Joel - "My Life"
  47. Daniel Johnston - "Desperate Man Blues"
  48. Junior Senior - "Move Your Feet"
  49. Korean Children's Choir - "Up, Up, and Away"
  50. Mark Kozelek - "Duk Koo Kim" (10-inch version)
  51. Kraftwerk - "Tanzmusik"
  52. Labradford - "El Lago"
  53. Legendary Jim Ruiz Group - "She's Gone Away"
  54. Led Zeppelin - "The Song Remains the Same"
  55. LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out"
  56. Low - "Caroline"
  57. Magic Sam - "I Need You So Bad"
  58. Bob Marley and the Wailers - "Stir It Up"
  59. Mission of Burma - "Max Ernst"
  60. Movietone - "Porthcurno"
  61. Harry Nilsson - "Everybody's Talkin'"
  62. Shuggie Otis - "Island Letter"
  63. Percy Hill - "Thin Air"
  64. Piano Magic - "Halloween Boat"
  65. Phish - "You Enjoy Myself"
  66. Pinback - "Tripoli"
  67. Pink Floyd - "Summer '68"
  68. Pizzicato Five - "Fortune Cookie"
  69. The Pointer Sisters - "Slowhand"
  70. Police - "Spirits in the Material World"
  71. Primus - "Groundhog Day"
  72. Queen - "Don't Stop Me Now"
  73. Radiohead - "Morning Bell" (Kid A version)
  74. Joe Raposo - "Little Things"
  75. Rolling Stones - "Miss You"
  76. Seefeel - "Plainsong"
  77. Seely - "Soft City"
  78. William Shatner - "You'll Have Time"
  79. Slowdive - "Rutti"
  80. Silver Apples - "You and I"
  81. Skee-Lo - "I Wish"
  82. Sonic Youth - "Dripping Dream"
  83. The Spinners - "Games People Play"
  84. Squeeze - "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"
  85. Staple Singers - "Why Am I Treated So Bad?"
  86. Stereolab - "Miss Modular"
  87. The Study Group - "In Winter"
  88. Shooby Taylor - "Stout-Hearted Men"
  89. Taste of Honey - "Boogie Oogie Oogie"
  90. Thompson Twins - "Hold Me Now"
  91. Talk Talk - "Myrrhman"
  92. Transona Five - "A Radar Screen"
  93. Tribe Called Quest - "Jazz (We've Got...)"
  94. Versus - "Double Suicide (Mercy Killing)"
  95. Jim White - "Burn the River Dry"
  96. The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again"
  97. Wesley Willis - "Rick Sims"
  98. Y. Bhekhirst - "Rain in Summer"
  99. Yes - "Then"
  100. Frank Zappa - "Inca Roads"

Things got left out, but then again, they always do.

Current music: good ol' Tunisian radio.

(Comments for August 8, 2006)


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Johannes Brahms: A Biography, Jan Swafford


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