Saturday, October 3, 2009

Decade: 2002 - Waiting for the Ashes to Land


To most people, comfort music is what you already know and love, and you use it to make yourself feel better. For me, ideally, it’s something new, but easy to get into - a new, safe place to be.

And why not? If it isn’t the world going to hell, it’s stuff immediately around you. It was a year for either finding peace or going numb. Some people use drugs, I use music. So, what what's my poison, you ask?

Not the Strokes “Is This It?”, as good as it is. It’s just a little too…professional for me. Too much calculation and not enough joy. It’s good party music, but I only party every once in a while.
Now playing: The Strokes - Soma via FoxyTunes

And not quite the White Stripes “White Blood Cells”, either, though it’s a better record. Like the Strokes, the Stripes play loud rock and roll, but it’s in a more raw and crazed way. Maybe a bit too much so for me at that time.
Now playing: The White Stripes - Now Mary via FoxyTunes

Neither record could help me through my post 9/11 winter blues.


So I tried the dbs twofer “Stands for Decibels” and “Percussion”, which was very tuneful, but a little too light and cute.
Now playing: The dB's - Neverland via FoxyTunes

Better was Sebadoh’s “Bake Sale”. Loud, lofi and rough – everything you should avoid during the summer. And yet, it was exactly what I needed. Pained, angry and finally resigned. Perfect.
Now playing: Sebadoh - Together or Alone via FoxyTunes

Meanwhile, my wife tried out the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, which I find hilarious since she runs out of the house screaming whenever I play stuff like this. But, hey, it’s a good record. I like putting it on when she’s not looking, so when she gives me that “please take this sh-t off” look, I tell her it’s her record. It’s a wonder I haven’t been killed in my sleep by now. If you don’t hear from me, you know what happened.

I also got her Morrisey’s “Bona Drag” – a collection of his singles - since who can keep up with him since he left the Smiths anyway? And it’s good, too, but in that limited, Morrisey kind of way. I recommend 1991’s “Your Arsenal”.


I decide to hedge my bets this year, so instead of the typical birthday splurge, I pick up a couple of more or less known quantities from BMG. First, there’s Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” which I don’t love quite as much as “Time Out of Mind”. Only now do I actively enjoy it.

Now playing: Bob Dylan - Mississippi via FoxyTunes

Luckily I hit paydirt with Old ‘97s “Satellite Rides”. This one restored my faith in music’s ability to bring post-9/11 joy. Granted, it was recorded before that blot on our memories, but it’s smart and tough enough to keep you from feeling guilty about loving it.
Now playing: Old 97's - King of All the World via FoxyTunes

I also took the plunge into hip-hop with Run DMC’s “Raisin’ Hell”. This 1985 Rick Rubin produced record is Chuck D’s all time favorite, and is definitely old school. The following year, Rubin would produce the Beastie Boy’s very similar “Licensed to Ill”, which I prefer because of its many rock and roll samples. But Hell’s got “Walk This Way”.

And let’s not forget Lisa Simpson’s all time favorite: Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool”. Mine is an extended version, with additional live versions of several songs. Miles is taking it a little slower here - Charlie Parker damn near wore him out – but it still challenging to ears like mine. I find it preferable to some of his later records where he trots out the same four or five riffs every few minutes.

So off to the record store I go, and I get Black Supermarket Clash, which is a CD expanded version of their generous-enough-as-it-was EP ”Black Market Clash” from late 1980. You know, between double album “London Calling” and triple album “Sandinista!” that same year. I guess they had some extra time on their hands. BSMC now runs almost a full 80 minutes, and contains great early stuff like “Capital Radio Two”, “Jail Guitar Doors” “Gates of the West” and “Groovy Times”. It kind of drags a bit towards the end with the Sandanista out-takes, but it’s clear from this that they were titans.
Now playing: The Clash - Groovy Times via FoxyTunes

I also finally broke down and got Nick Drake’s “Five Leaves Left”. When you get an early 70s folk record, you’re really taking your chances. You never know if the guy is going to be too whimsical, or too sensitive-in-order-to-get-laid. And this guy had all the usual buzz that I’d normally associate with lame actual music. Well it turns out that he’s every bit as good as I’d hoped.

Now playing: Nick Drake - Time Has Told Me via FoxyTunes

Badly Drawn Boy’s “Hour of Bewilderbeast” is the next great record of the decade. Nuff said.
Now playing: Badly Drawn Boy - Pissing in the Wind
via FoxyTunes

And of course, I can’t seem to leave the record store anymore without picking up jazz. This time it was Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Collosus”, the title of which might imply the muscular, almost physical playing of a John Coltrane. Not so. Sonny’s touch here is lighter - too light for me to even hear for a few years. For easy listening fans who want, for once, to be cool.


Another trip to the used CD store, and this time I found Elliot Smith’s “XO” and Old 97s “Fight Songs”.

You remember Elliot from the Oscars, don’t you? He was up for Best Song for “Miss Misery” from Good Will Hunting. It was a real kick seeing him sharing the stage, and looking like a homeless person, with Celine Dion. I’m surprised they didn’t call security on him. A cursory listen to “XO” reveals some very pretty music, but you might want to take a look at those lyrics. Pretty poison, but with all those Beatle references, very pretty.

Now playing: Elliott Smith - Tomorrow Tomorrow
via FoxyTunes

“Fight Songs” came out before “Satellite Rides”, and it’s almost as good. It’s may even be more tuneful. It’s just not as consistent or energetic. It’s pretty rare these days when I double dip on a band so quickly, but that’s how much I like “Satellite Rides”.
Now playing: Old 97's - Busted Afternoon
via FoxyTunes

Not bad accompaniment for the holidays.


It was time for more exploration, and again the past seemed the best place to be.

The first disc of "The Essential Johnny Cash" set is easily the best – minimal instrumentation, deep voice. “I Still Miss Someone” is one of the most beautiful songs of lost love we’ll ever hear. “Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?” had me checking my Blackberry to make sure I wasn’t. Disc two is quite good, but more standard commercial country music. The third disc has some covers, like the Stones’ “No Expectations” and Springsteen’s “State Trooper”. All in all, a great compilation.

Now playing: Johnny Cash - I Still Miss Someone
via FoxyTunes

Elvis Costello recommended the complete works of Duke Ellingtion because it’s a good thing to have around, just like the complete works of that Shakespeare guy. But who has the time or the money? Not me, so I settled for the "Highlights from the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition", which is only three discs. Like most great jazz artists, the Duke is a bit beyond me. And also like those greats, he keeps growing on me. And he’s great to drop into your random playlist, too.
Now playing: Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - Mood Indigo
via FoxyTunes

The Best:

  • Satellite Rides – Old ‘97s
  • Hour of Bewilderbeast

The Almost Best:

  • Five Leaves Left
  • XO
  • Sebadoh

Thank god, I’ve finally gotten a couple of great ones from this decade. Things were finally looking up (musically and otherwise). At the beginning of the year – and a few times during it - I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to hear anything again.

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