A while ago, I asked commenters to list five songs they thought I should listen to / that they would recommend to me, and that I would listen to them and write about my reactions. There were a huge lot of them, so we’re going to do this in stages.
二手玫瑰 － 官封弼马瘟—苏阳: Well, that was weird as hell. Started out as this neat bluesy Chinese song (or possibly Korean or Thai? I’m not sure, I think maybe Korean but non-Japanese kanji all sort of blur together for me, sorry) and then duck quacks start getting used as percussion and then it just gets weirder from there – yes, weirder than “a duck quack song.” Entertaining for a single listen anyway.
ABBA, “When All Is Said And Done“: I mean, it’s ABBA, what can you say? Either you love ABBA or you’re a bad person, basically. This song is actually one of my favorite ABBA songs just because it’s never been one of their top tier, it’s not what anybody thinks of first when they think of ABBA, never will be, but this was my mom’s favorite ABBA song when it was playing on the cassette deck in the car on our drives when we went on summer vacations and that translated down a generation, I guess. already own it
Abney Park, “Airship Pirate“: Recipe for Stereotypical Nerd Fandom Song: one (1) score owing more than a little to popular trends in videogame scoring, one (1) set of lyrics specifically about the fandom with no interest in broader meaning whatsoever, one (1) MGK not interested in it at all. Pass with prejudice.
Aesop Rock, “One of Four:” I never heard this particular track before because it was a hidden track and I barely ever buy albums, and it’s a good track and I like Aesop Rock as an MC, always have, so yeah, this is a must get.
Akira the Don, “Spaceman“: Sampling “Spaceman” by Babylon Zoo for a remix track is ballsy as all hell because it’s so distinctive a song (especially when it’s heliumed up) that putting your own stamp on it is hard. So this was ballsy. Unfortunately, it was also shit: derivative beats and spoken word samples that simply weren’t interesting. Just an incoherent mess. Pass with prejudice.
Alabama Shakes, “Always Alright“: I remember hearing this when I was watching Silver Linings Playbook and I thought it was great scoring music then, and I still sort of think that – it’s very evocative of a certain kind of reckless abandon that really is important in the movie (and is applicable elsewhere). But listening to the whole song, rather than 90 seconds of it, makes me realize that the song has one speed and it needed two to really be something. pass
Heather Alexander, “March of Cambreadth“: Here’s the thing about “creatively anachronistic” music: it’s anachronistic and anti-immersive. The Youtube video with all the screencaps from bad fantasy art makes the point: this song, with its lyrics about axes and broadswords, is a modern day attempt to re-create what people of hundreds of years ago might have sung if they had vocabularies of today, presumably because a lot of people look at a Robbie Burns poem and think “that is an awful lot of throat noises” and decide to sing something else. But it’s still fake, a musical version of the dramatic re-enactments on America’s Most Wanted, and only a powerful love for the subject matter can really overcome that fakeness, and it turns out I don’t like axes and broadswords and pretending I am a seventh-level rogue that much. pass
All Things Bright and Beautiful, “The Transfiguration: Kept waiting for this to go somewhere. It didn’t go somewhere. pass
Alkaline Trio, “Bloodied Up“: Sum 41 for people who feel guilty about listening to Sum 41, which is a lot of people really. Pass.
alt-J, “Fitzpleasure“: This is some seriously cool shit right here. That rhythm section, that was choice. So neat and awesome I am basically left without words. buying it
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, “Killing Type“: For all that Amanda Palmer is often insufferable in terrible ways (I mean she was insufferable just yesterday when she compared criticism of Macklemore to 12 Years a Slave for some reason and I don’t even know), it is worth remembering that she is really stupidly talented as well – certainly erratic when it comes to the quality meter (like, for example, this song is brilliant, but this video makes me want to stab out my eyes with a fork just to stop having to see Palmer do her Hey Look At My Rock N’ Roll Sneer sneer at the camera) but she can hit peaks not many people can. consider buying because if I listen to it I don’t have to see the stupid video
Anthony Stewart Head, Sweet Transvestite“: oh man Rocky Horror, I’m having bad flashbacks to high school, I can’t even appreciate the incongruity of Giles singing Frank-n-Furter. pass
Antlers, “Kettering“: Two distinct halves to this song: a slow, mournful high-pitched dirge, and then midway through it shifts to powerful, intense chords based on the aforementioned dirge. Both halves are good, I like the song. I’m just not sure how well the two meld together, but even if you take it as two songs they’re still both good. Consider buying
Arctic Monkeys, “When The Sun Goes Down“: Every fast Arctic Monkeys song that isn’t “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” sounds like they ran out of ideas after “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” to me. No thanks.
Arctic Monkeys, “I Wanna Be Yours“: And this would be a slow Arctic Monkeys song. It’s a decent enough song, but does anybody remember that six or seven years ago the Arctic Monkeys were going to be the Next Big Thing in Brit-rock, a Blur or a Pulp sort of a level of band? Man, that sure didn’t work out for them. Polite pass.
Atmosphere, Yesterday“: awwwwwww yissssss. Never heard of them before, which is a reminder that I am simply not plugged into indie hip-hop enough, especially considering I almost always find something to like from just about any indie MC. Will buy, try to remember to investigate further
Aya Hirano, “Lost My Music“: While I was listening to this song I started off skeptical, as one does with most anime theme music, and then over time I grew to enjoy it and by the end I was thinking “this is really catchy!” And then three songs later I realized that this song, that I swore up and down was a hooky brain-sticking monster – I had totally forgotten about. And that is, for me anyway, emblematic of so much anime theme music: so little of it has staying power. It’s ephemeral. Like bubbles blown into a storm. That’s actually probably an anime music title and if it isn’t I AM CLAIMING ROYALTIES. pass
Babymetal, “Iine!“: It’s not really a combination of J-pop with death metal as advertised: it’s J-pop with a section that’s essentially a death metal bridge (and also, for some reason, a distinctly West Coast rap break). And other than those genre digressions it’s just bog-standard J-pop, where you don’t understand any of it without a translation and you know in advance the translation isn’t going to be terribly interesting. Interesting enough given that it makes explicit the parallels between high-BPM dance pop and the intricate rhythms of metal, but good for one listen, not two.
Bad Books, “Pyotr“: so slow so whiny oh god just slit my wrists now no no no no no no.
Band of Skulls, “Blood“: Steady, controlled, stripped-down bluesy rock, reminds me a lot of early White Stripes in a lot of ways but replace Jack White’s vocals with someone who reminds me a lot of mid-career Chrissie Hynde, maybe with a bit more snarl. You will notice I am comparing this song to a lot of GOOD THINGS here. probably buy it
Sarah Bareilles, “Love Song”: It’s a perfectly good song, but like the first time I heard it, I don’t think the chorus matches the verses. Like, the verses are a bit downbeat and then you get this happy lift in the chorus, it’s like someone said “hey this is going to go on the radio, make it sell a lot of copies, you might want to do that.” Pass.
Barenaked Ladies, “Call And Answer“: Never been one of my favorite BNL singles (and they have some great ones, both light and poppy as well as heavy ballads). Just sort of plods. Kind of inessential in the greater BNL catalogue; listened to this again and thought “well, yep, about what I remember.” Which isn’t really very complimentary. Pass
Battles feat. Gary Numan, “My Machines“: Firstly, it’s always interesting to see what Gary Numan is up to at any given time because that is a dude who never stops trying to do new things, even if they don’t always work out. Secondly, this is… interesting? A good experience to listen to at least once, but given that it’s very much an instrumental, experimental sort of a thing (with some vocal assistance by Numan) it’s never going to hit my playlists. But not everything does. Definitely worth the click though.
Beausoleil, “Le Jig Français“: At first I was mildly entertained by this frenetic piece of bluegrass, but the longer I listened to it the more I liked it. Will probably buy it.
Beltaine, “Łódź by Night: Polish people doing an instrumental Celtic-rock sort of a thing is an interesting novelty, but instrumental rock of any type leaves me cold. The dancing in the video is fun, though. pass
Better Off Dead, “All I Got For Christmas Is Drunk“: This is a singalong song if ever there was one, but it’s an obscure singalong song (maybe because it’s so devoted to its minor key) and the problem with singalong songs is in order for them to work everybody has to know them so for a song like this you have to ask yourself: is it worth evangelizing this song to teach it to people so you can sing along to it with them when you are drunk and/or high, or would you rather just sing “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows instead? (The answer is almost always “Mr. Jones,” because “Mr. Jones” is one of the two songs all girls know how to sing when they are drunk. The other one is “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.) Pass, but with affection
Beware of Darkness, “Orthdox“: Feels like something I would have heard around 1999-2001 on indie rock radio, which is entirely complimentary in my view. And then, about two and a half minutes in, it shifts to a direction I wasn’t expecting and feels thoroughly modern. This impressed the hell out of me. Probably buying.
Beyond, “Boundless Ocean Endless Sky“: Definitely a great karaoke song, that’s obvious, and this Cantonese pop song is stupid catchy. I can see why it stuck around, as TMBF stated: it sweeps, that’s the only way to put it, just keeps ramping up through the gears until it’s in fifth and Ka Kui is just belting everything like a badass. That was fun. Not going to buy it but fun.
Big and Rich ft. Gretchen Wilson, “Fake ID“: It’s a stupid country song that on a musical level does exactly zero things that are new, but it’s a fun stupid country song that avoids all of the really boring and awful country music cliches that crappy country has in spades (pickup trucks, the old fishing hole, getting drunk, calling women “girl,” etc.). There is a place in this world for fun stupid country songs that avoid badness. Might buy it if it’s really cheap at some point. Like fifty cents, maybe, or if I have a giftcard for some reason.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, “Save My Soul“: I was kind of disappointed that this was not an uptempo swing cover of a Jewel song, because that would have been hilarious, but this was some pretty good slow N’Awlins big-band jazz right here. consider buying
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, “The Ghost of Smokey Joe”: On the other hand if I’m gonna have this song on my iPod it’s gonna be the Cab Calloway version. I mean seriously, come on now. pass
Billy Bragg, “From Red to Blue“: Pretty standard Billy Bragg for me: it’s very smart songwriting, and the sort of music I should listen to more often, but it’s also one of his slow ballads and those are always harder sells. Basically, I like Bragg’s faster, more upbeat songs, because they make his lyrics more subversive when they’re disguised in pop. Nice, but pass.
Black Belles, “What Can I Do?“: I am shocked that a band that sounds like a White Stripes cover band would be discovered by Jack White. This is the famous musician version of masturbating in public, and it’s about as interesting. pass.
Black Country Communion, “Beggarman“: olfactory_ninja asked why this supergroup isn’t getting more play, and the answer is because “they sound like every second-rate proto-metal group of the 70s ever.” Like, someone probably went through old props from Almost Famous to find one of the fictional band names that played alongside Stillwater, and said “what if that was a real band” and then tried to live the dream, you know? pass
BlackGryphon, “Proud to be a Brony“: Remus Shepherd called this progressive rock, but no, it’s a straight-up lift of Michael Jackson riffs to make a slightly experimental pop song about My Little Pony. Musically it reminds me a bit of Herbie Hancock, to be honest. Lyrically, well, it’s about My Little Pony, and fandom songs are like Christian songs: the more directly discussive they are of the object of their worship, the less I want to hear it. pass.
Blue Clocks Green, “Hemmingway“: Firstly, I distrust any band that can’t spell “Hemingway.” Second, the lyrics are funny, but the melody is so, so generic. The Youtube bio says that this was a minor hit on alternative radio back in the 80s but it sounds sort of like something maybe Dr. Demento would have given a spin, once, in between Weird Al tracks and all those musicians who were busy ripping off Firesign Theatre sketches for song inspiration. Pass.
Bomb The Music Industry, “Syke! Everything Is Awesome!“: Now that’s what I call good, stripped-down punk. Also: great title. Consider buying.
Pat Boone, “Holy Diver“: Yeah, this was from that Pat Boone album of metal covers that managed to please exactly nobody. An entire album of Boone trying to do what Tom Jones did when Jones covered “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” by Lenny Kravitz and Boone failed on every. single. song. didn’t need to be reminded of this
Jonathan Boulet, “You’re An Animal“: According to the Youtube comments, it looks like Mr. Boulet’s song here is featured on several sports vidyagames, which makes sense because it’s unabashedly triumphant and celebratory and sports vidyagames need that sort of thing. It also accelerates throughout and sports vidyagames need that too, that sense of urgency. I liked this quite a bit. Might buy it
David Bowie, “Untitled No. 1“: Bowie has always been one of those artists I’ve respected more than liked – undeniable artistry, skilled performer on so many levels, but other than “Space Oddity” (which is his masterpiece) I’ve never really connected to any of his songs particularly. Again, I get why people love him: there’s so many layers in this song, you can hear the thought going into it. Which may be the problem for me. I dunno. I think the best way to put this is that for me, Bowie is like Peter Gabriel except I can always see the wheels turning, and I don’t want to lose the illusion. Pass, but always a welcome experience.
Break the Bans, “Wham Bam“: In theory, I’m glad garage rock exists, much in the same way that buttoned-down responsible protesters are, in theory, thankful for the existence of hardcore anarchists, but I also don’t want it around (and that analogy continues on). pass
Bright Eyes, “First Day Of My Life“: I am no stranger to Bright Eyes but I totally managed to miss this when it came out, so I’m glad someone brought it to my attention because gawdamn this is a schmoopy sort of a song, and sometimes that is the best thing, and sometimes you get to be just a wee bit bitterly envious of all the happy couples in the video. even so, will buy.
Bright Eyes, “Shell Games“: I already own this on iTunes so – yeah, but it’s nice to be reminded of it, it hasn’t been on my playlists in a while and it’s good, you know? so yay for that
Brother Ali, “Forest Whitaker“: I’ve known of the existence of Brother Ali for years but never got around to listening to him, and I like his flow a lot. I wish this track had a second verse, but it makes me want to listen to more Brother Ali now, and that’s definitely a win here. Investigation past this single!
The Builders and the Butchers, “Golden and Green“: Oh man this starts out a bit slight and then it just starts mounting up and kicking you in the ass over and over again, it’s just that good and totally unafraid to wear its bloody Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom heart-clutching fist on its sleeve. Hot FUCK did this song kick my ass in the best possible way. Bought it already
Burial, Rival Dealers: Tehcnically this was an EP rather than a song (BAD Tim!) and… well, it’s trip-hop and 2-step, two genres I have never really glommed onto because they’re club genres (to the point where dancing at home alone to them feels off, you need that dark club for it to work, and preferably some lasers) and listening to them for the sake of the music is more an exercise than everything. This is an interesting exercise, to be sure, but pass.
Butcher the Bar, “Get Away“: One of the problems I have with songs like this is that when I hear a song like this, which feels like epic buildup to something to me, the first and second layers of an amazing three-layer cake but there’s no third layer, I can forget that not everybody wants that third layer and that not every song needs to be an epic build, and they can just be sweet little things like this, and that’s fine. It was good.
Jen Buxton, “Don’t Change Your Plans“: Just some good girl-with-an-acoustic ballad here, not screamingly noteworthy but competent, and that’s fine. Doesn’t ring my bells but just solidly professional and I think you have to appreciate that. pass, though