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1) Dexter Gordon – Easy Living (from Bouncin’ With Dex)
This album is fairly obscure in Dexter Gordon’s catalog, and it is currently out of print and only available as an import. It’s a record mostly of Dex playing ballads: it might not be his artistic masterpiece, but Dex has a very smooth tone which is perfect for playing ballads, and this song is an example.
2) Modest Mouse – The Good Times Are Killing Me (from Good News For People Who Love Bad News)
This is the last cut on the album, and it’s got a fairly loose/casual atmosphere, as evidenced by the inclusion of studio banter at the beginning of the song. An upbeat song about shitty times.
3) Radiohead – All I Need (from In Rainbows, disc 1)
I haven’t listened to Radiohead for a while, so I busted out the album today and gave it a spin, and re-discovered the reasons why I love them, especially on this track. The last section of the song, when the fireworks go off with the crazy strings, glockenspiel, and Thom Yorke’s voice soaring above all the chaos, is in my opinion the most sublime fragment in all of Radiohead’s catalog. The song might not be the best song, but that specific section transcends pretty much everything the band has done musically.
4) Penderecki – Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (from EMI’s 2-disc collection of the composer’s orchestral works)
This piece is absolutely terrifying: the screaming strings will startle you and make you jump, as it is entirely appropriate, because it’s expressing the screams of a thousand people as a nuclear bomb is dropped on them. I chose this song to follow “All I Need” because they use strings similarly, but Penderecki’s use is more brutal and direct. This song never lets up because it puts you in a constant state of dread, even in its moments of lull, because you never know when the next wave of dissonance will come.
5) Explosions in the Sky – The Moon is Down (from Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever)
Apart from the unfortunately and unnecessarily long title, this is probably EITS’ best album in my opinion. There is a quite a mythology that has grown up around this album, seeing how it is released a week before 9/11, from a band called explosions in the sky, featuring a liner note that says “this plane will crash tomorrow.” Although it would be ridiculous to call this the “soundtrack” to 9/11, the album is undoubtedly bleak, lacking the triumphant vibes of its follow-up album, which I wrote about last week. “The Moon is Down” is a pretty good example of this atmosphere and mood.
6) MONO – Yearning (from You Are There)
This song has a similar mood to “The Moon is Down,” but it is much heavier. About seven minutes in, you will get pounded and blown away. I recommend listening to this song when no one is at home, and then turning it up to 11 on your stereo, and sit back and be prepared to have your world rocked and your face melted.
7) Gong – Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell (from The Flying Teapot)
This is some weird, spacey, drug-addled prog music from the 70s, and Gong is definitely on some kind of LSD trip. In other words, if you hate all the so-called “excesses” of 70s prog-rock with its spaced-out mythologies involving elfs and demons, then you probably won’t like Gong. I, on the other hand, like prog for precisely those same reasons: not because I think they are artistically significant, but it’s a good laugh. Plus, Gong really knows how to play their instruments.
8) Beth Orton – Pass in Time (from Central Reservation)
Beth Orton has a really nice singing voice: if that is not a huge understatement, I don’t know what is. I was immediately grabbed by her voice, and it tends to put me in a trance-like state. I think this is a gorgeous, but ultimately melancholy song.
9) Anton Dvorak – Piano Trio No. 4, “Dumky Trio,” First movement (from Harmonia Mundi’s recording of the Cello Concerto and the Piano Trio)
The melancholy theme continues, since “Dumky” is plural for “dumka”, which means melancholy in Czech. This trio features piano, violin, and the cello. This is the first movement of the trio.
10) Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye (from the album of the same title)
This is fairly chill, down-tempo electronica, good for relaxation listening. I think if you like Air, you will probably like the Junior Boys.