This is for the week of February 11th, 2008: click here for the zip containing the songs.
1) Air – Brakes On
The last track from Premier Symptomes. This song has no special significance, other than the fact that it’s fun to listen to, what with the Beatlemania samples and the beatlesque vocals in the song.
2) The Beach Boys – Sloop John B
This is from Pet Sounds, arguably one of the greatest albums of all time. This song just sounds gorgeous. Brian Wilson once again proves himself to be a fucking genius.
3) Beck – Bottle of Blues
This is a song from Mutations, which I happen to think is underrated in Beck’s catalogue. It has quitely become my favorite Beck album, the one that I listen to the most. I get a Dylan-esque vibe from the song, from its wacky surrealist imagery (holding hands with an impotent dream?), and it’s folky/psychedelic sound.
4) Charles Mingus – Better Git It In Your Soul
The first cut from Mingus Ah Um. This has a really vigorous feel to it, and it just sounds very energetic and joyful. Plus I love the fact that Mingus, when he’s not plucking his bass, is just off on the side yelling and humming like crazy. It makes the whole song like a totally rocking jam session.
5) Elliott Smith – Miss Misery (early version)
This is from New Moon, a two-disc album containing previously unreleased stuff from his catalogue. I include this song because one night last week I was drinking Johnnie Walker, and I remembered that the first line of this song is “I can fake it through the day with a bottle of Johnnie Walker red.” You can tell that this track is a demo because of the lo-fi production, but the spirit of the song nonetheless comes through.
6) Lightnin’ Hopkins, Brownie McGhee, and Sonny Terry – Walk On
This is just a very good blues number, check out the harmonica playing by Sonny Terry.
7) Nat King Cole – Orange Colored Sky
This is from a greatest hits collection that is mastered by Steve Hoffman, probably the best audio engineer who’s really dedicated to sound quality. That dedication can be heard on this track, as the dynamic is off the charts. Crank up the song and be prepared to be startled when the brass section comes in.
8) Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
This track shares the title of Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus, which came out ten years ago on February 10th, 1998. I cannot overstate how influential this record has become, not to mention the fact that it has become one of my proverbial desert-island discs. And this song demonstrates why I like it so much: infectiously catchy melodies dressed up in layers and layers of distortion, weird instrumentation (check out the musical saw, trombones), Jeff Magnum’s off-key but sincere singing, the surrealist imagery that nonetheless express some very intense emotions, and just a sheer sense of wonder. This song contains one of my favorite lyrics of all time: “How strange it is to be anything at all.” That says it all man, that says it all.
9) The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize?
The lead single from Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Like “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” this song also expresses a Nietzschean sentiment: that despite all the tragedy in the world, life goes on: it’s the eternal recurrence. That’s why Wayne sings that the sun doesn’t go down, just an illusion caused by the world’s spinning around.
10) The Beastie Boys – 3 Minute Rule
From Paul’s Boutique, which to me is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Although this album has received a lot of critical praise, I don’t think an average mainstream Beastie Boys fan would know this album that well, which is a shame really. An album like this can’t be made today, simply because of the draconian interpretation of copyright laws. It’s really a lucky coincidence that they were able to make this album before copyright law really tightened.
I love this track because of the production: there are just so many layers to dissect. And second, this song contains some of the most hiliarious/brash lines I’ve heard in a rap song. For example, “Your boyfriend doesn’t know about me and your mother”, or “ I’ve been making records since you were sucking on your mother’s dick”, and finally, a Jack Kerouac reference: “ While I’m reading on the road by my man Jack Kerouac”. This is what I love about this album–so many references to unexpected things in a rap context. How many other rappers do you know that can make references to Jack Kerouac, Jimi Hendrix, AND Dragnet in the same song? Not very many.