Monday, December 14, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – Late Night Edition

Sometimes this is the inside of a jukebox. For anyone who spent their Sunday waiting for the next crop of staff music picks, your patience is now rewarded.  It’s a little late, but here it is.  (However, if you were actually, literally sitting around waiting for this article, I’m sorry.  Maybe you should take up watching football or something just in case this ever happens again.)

Some scheduling difficulties mean I’m back in the rotation this week, trying to exorcise a board game jingle from my head.  Pankin’s back, doing his best to educate himself on music recommended by others.  And Boivin joins us only to prove that it really is possible to bring up Star Trek in any situation whatsoever.

Seriously, Boivin.  I’m impressed.

Craig – What the hell is a Funicular?

As Andrew will attest after a recent session of Borderlands, I simply cannot get “Funiculì, Funiculà” out of my head.  Luigi Denza’s commemoration of Mt. Vesuvius’ first funicular somehow found its way into the show I’m currently working on.  Then someone pointed out that it was used in “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and as the theme for Hasbro’s The Grape Escape Game.  I apologize if I’ve now infected you with this auditory virus, but I must give credit where credit’s due.  If I can still recall near-twenty-year-old board game jingles, somebody was really good at their job.

Philadelphia weather’s been pretty shitty this weekend.  So driving around while present-shopping has required something other than the Soft Rock Christmas Marathon that is mainstream radio.  I reached way back in the vault today and dug up the twelve-year-old Whatever and Ever Amen from Ben Folds Five.  Upon regular listening, I’m further convinced that “Brick” is perfect.  Folds’ lyrics artfully dodge the issue at hand, just as the characters in his story songs so often do.  By eschewing all of the overdriven fuzz that can be found elsewhere on this album, the group created a tight ballad that isn’t bound to the late-90s alternative zeitgeist. 

Also suited for rainy, it-should-probably-just-be-snowing weather is Ryan Adams’ Love is Hell.  Released originally as two EPs in 03/04, Love is Hell is the bridge between Rock and Roll and Cold Roses.  Being my first Adams album, it served as a gateway drug to his older, slightly twangier stuff.  This disc (ha!) is probably best known for its stripped down cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.”  Other favorites of mine include “The Shadowlands” and “Avalanche.”  The whole record is just moody, raw yearning.  Perfect for taking a clear-your-head stroll on a cloudy day or hurrying home to get out of the cold and warm yourself up.

Pankin – Under the Influence of Computers and Thom Yorke

Based on a comment on a previous Writer’s Jukebox post, I recently picked up Muse's Absolution. I really admire their musicianship, especially Dom Howard's lightning quick drumming. Careful listening to Matthew Bellamy's singing shows the impact that Radiohead's Thom Yorke on the vocal stylings of English rock music. While I feel like they take themselves somewhat too seriously in the tone of their music and lyrics, Muse has a great, compelling sound overall.

I've also been introducing myself to Tom Waits with Small Change and Mule Variations. It's truly inspiring how one guy's music can be so poignant and uplifting, yet so gruff and terrifying at the same time. Not to mention his hilarious and biting lyrics: "Come on off your cross, we can use the wood." Sound advice, be you savior or carpenter.

I've also been brushing up on my electronica with Amon Tobin's latest effort, Foley Room. He's using more and more eclectic sounds to craft his always-exciting beats, such as animal noises, human chatter, and the Kronos Quartet. I like Tobin's brand of electronic music because of its mathematical quality: with each new phrase, there's always a new element added into the mix. Sure, you sacrifice the freedom and spontaneity of actually playing real instruments, but every once in a while, it's nice to hear what musicians are doing with computers nowadays.

Boivin – Dammit, Jim!  I’m a Doctor not a Rock Musician!

With the onset of true winter here in the Gopher State and the falling of inches upon inches of snow, begging to be shoveled and blown, my musical interests turn more and more to winter activities. Besides the nigh omnipresent strains of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas cascading across my family's home, I myself have been obsessively listening to Warren Zevon's "Hit Somebody! (the Hockey Song)". Not normally a fan of the late Zevon's, I was alerted to the song's existence by the news that my high school self's favorite filmmaker Kevin Smith is going to be making a movie out of it in the coming years. Penned by Tuesdays With Morrie author Mitch Albom, "Hit Somebody" is a classic story song spinning the yarn of a "Canadian farm boy" named Buddy who wants nothing more in the world than to play hockey. The problem is that Buddy sucks at hockey and he's only able to get a spot in the NHL as a goon, i.e. the big dumb guy who beats people up. If the final verse wherein Buddy finally manages to score a goal doesn't make you want to stand up and cheer, you're not human.

The other thing that's on my iPod a lot is the music of Fall On Your Sword. FOYS's two best songs are about Captain James T. Kirk."Back to the Ship" is about Kirk taking two much LSD and being unable to breathe, no thanks to the Enterprise's lackadaisical crew."Shatner of the Mount" uses a sample of William Shatner detailing Kirk's passionate love affair with a mountain from Star Trek V: the Final Frontier. Also, "Tangerine" isn't a song per se but it is hilarious and disturbing.