Sunday, October 25, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – The Staff Weigh In

Jukebox2 Another week, another set of commutes scored by our mp3 players.  I say commutes, though I’m sure people (our writers included) occasionally listen to music when not in transit.  And I say mp3 players because I’m pretty sure Steph doesn’t have an iPod.

Don’t let last week fool you, the Jukebox isn’t a club exclusive to Rob, Andrew, and myself.  This time, I’ve asked Stephanie, Jordasch, and Pankin to chime in.  Again, it’s a great mix of tastes and styles – there’s even a dash of Kanye (just like I promised).

StephanieDMB Lives On

Last year my sister took me to the three-day Dave Matthews Band concert at the Gorge Amphitheater, and ever since I’ve been hooked – fifty days after the final show and I still can’t listen to much else. I finally got my hands on the newest album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, and it exemplifies the three things I love about this band: subtle social commentaries, the versatility of Matthews’ voice, and the poetry of their lyrics.

The album is simultaneously dark and upbeat, soaked in the band’s emotions over the unexpected death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore in 2008. The fast-pace, catchy melodies pay tribute to the joy Moore brought to the band while poetic lyrics struggle to express loss. Bleak themes of Hurricane Katrina contrast with the upbeat melody in “Alligator Pie” (the devil broke the levee and left us here to die) while bitter undertones of Global Warming slice into the sweetness of “Dive In.” Never are the lyrics more poignant than in Moore’s favorite, “Why I Am” (I grew from monkey into man/then I crushed 15 million with a wave of my hand/I grew drunk on water turned into wine/’till I was slave and master at the same damn time). I could write a book on the lyrics of DMB.

I respect Matthews for the strength and stamina of his voice, but what I truly love is the personality he imbues it with. Each song has a different tone, and sometimes, as in Seven, he changes it each line. Matthews brings subtly different intonations to each verse, and while the chorus is a series of line repetitions, each line gets a completely different inflection. The heavy electric guitar riffs (played skillfully by Tim Reynolds) build up to Matthews’ crooning falsetto (I just love hearing him get up there with Womaaaaaan, pleeaaaaaase!), and while my boyfriend feels let down by what he thought might be a “heavier” song, I revel in the brilliant juxtaposition.

I’m hoping to start listening to non-DMB music by January 2010.

JordanPitchfork Loves Big Boi

I can certainly tell you what I'm not digging right now: Pitchfork has been blowing their load about the new Big Boi single ("Shine Blockas" with the mostly-meh Gucci Mane).  And yeah, I reeeeeallly wanna hear Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Big Boi's super-delayed solo album which sounds like something Tracy Jordan would put out).  But, as much as Pfork wants this to happen, it just ain't.  Big Boi's asleep at the wheel, and the beat's just dull rather than subtle.  Boo.

The less-than-epic fail of Big Boi's newest single (check out "Royal Flush" for a better, older single) has brought me back to UGK's "Int'l Players Anthem," which Pitchfork compared Blockas to accurately (in sound if not in success).  The latter rightfully was near the top of their decade-end list.  You should not being doing whatever you're doing right now if it doesn't involve listening to this song. I still love the Drake-Kanye-Lil' Wayne-Eminem posse cut "Forever" off of the soundtrack for that Lebron James movie, even if nobody seems to have heard of it.  I especially love the siren before each verse: "NEW PERSON! DON'T STOP LISTENING!"

Other than that, a steady diet of Jay-Z, (not new) Jamey Johnson, the xx, and Kurt Elling (oh, if only jazz singers were still popular; he'd kill a Bond theme).  My conflicted love for Kid Cudi (so good, then, abruptly, so bad) continues.

Pankin – Do the Shuffle

I haven't been choosing which songs/artists/albums I listen to recently. Instead, I just put my library on Shuffle All and see what the fates decide. So I've decided to start a new shuffle and write about what comes up.

“Ace of Spades” by Motorhead off the Rock Band 2 soundtrack. This one is fun to play because you have to let your mind go and just let the frantic rhythm and Lemmy's angry shouting sweep you along. Motorhead will always hold a special place in my heart for their version of Triple H's entrance theme of the early 2000's, but this one is fun too.

“The Yellow Nimbus”, a Chick Corea solo piano original played live. I was on a Return to Forever kick for a while, which resulted in my branching out into Corea's other works. Not as flashy as his jazz fusion stuff, but he's one hell of a piano player.

“Hallelujah I Love Her So” by Ray Charles. Yeah, it's from a best of album, sue me. I don't know much about Ray Charles; I couldn't even sit thru "Ray," Jamie Foxx's Oscar winning performance aside. But, damn, he can groove!

And, wow, another Ray Charles track from the same album: “Let's Go Get Stoned.” I believe this one was written back when "stoned" was a term that could refer to "drunk" in addition to it's drug connotations, hence the reference in the lyrics to buying a bottle of gin. Seems like a more tame and acceptable vice considering Charles had just come out of rehab for a heroin addiction...

“Baby's In Black” off Beatles For Sale. As if four weeks writing a multi-part post about the Fab Four weren't enough. Geez!

Well, that's about it. I've always thought that free will is overrated anyway...