Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 2/10/08

First off, a side note: Kanye West just lost Album of the Year again. I'm starting to think it's personal. Die in a fire, Grammy voters. Anyway.

1. "Don't Cry [Original Version]," Guns N' Roses
As opposed to the "Alternate Lyrics" version, which appears on Use Your Illusion II. Neither version boasts particularly deep lyrics, and no one is really quite sure why we needed two of them. Of course, we're talking about the Use Your Illusion records, and no one is really quite sure why we needed two of them, either. This track features the late Shannon Hoon on backing vocals. You may remember him as the front man for Blind Melon; prior to that band hitting it big, he hung out with Axl in the studio and ended up both on this song and in the video. A writer with less integrity would draw a straight line between working with Guns N' Roses and dying of a heroin overdose four years later. I am not that writer. (****)

2. "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)," Randy Newman
You may know Randy Newman from his various soundtrack work -- Toy Story, Toy Story 2, etc. If that's the only place you know him from, you'll be in for quite a shock if you listen to his other material. Behind "You've Got a Friend in Me" is a razor-sharp wit and a fearless lyrical mind, and his songs are as brilliant as they are hilarious. In this one, he rails against religious devotees, casting God as an acerbic malefactor smirking at the prayers he receives from his creations even as he torments them. Shocking this hasn't wound up in a Disney film, huh? (*****)

3. "The Tain," The Decemberists
Are you sick of me talking about the Decemberists yet? Hope not. This eighteen-and-a-half minute opus plays like Jethro Tull covering Black Sabbath, and is one of the band's best achievements. It's based on a tale from Irish mythology, which isn't surprising considering what band we're talking about. For my money, it rarely gets much better than Colin Meloy groaning "Your hands and face are smeared with bloo-oooh-ooooood...." Seriously, I'm not going to stop until all of you love this band. So get cracking. (*****)

4. "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine," Spoon
It's never been mentioned in-text (on-stage?) in Revolver, but Michael's last name is Valentine. This has nothing at all to do with this phenomenal song, nope, no sir, no way. It is mentioned in the episode I just finished writing, however, that Rebecca's novel-in-progress is called The Stranger Dance -- that does have to do with this song, and she says as much. It'd be nice for me if everyone liked Spoon, too. (*****)

5. "Half the World Away," Oasis
Hmm. This song also features in the upcoming Revolver episode, and my computer is starting to scare the shit out of me. It's Oasis's best song, incidentally. Apparently, it was also the theme to a British sitcom I've never heard of called The Royle Family. According to Wikipedia, the show took place almost entirely in a single room -- the living room of the family's house. The episodes rarely featured a plot, instead focusing on the conversations of the inhabitants. The jokes stem from "awkwardness" and "badly told jokes." And "crassness," most of which apparently comes from a single character. [looks at Revolver script] Hmm. (*****)

6. "I Know," Fiona Apple
Thankfully, this song has nothing to do with Revolver. At least, not yet. It is one of my favorite Fiona tracks, and one of her most sad. It's a love song, but not a happy one; Fiona's lover is so wrapped up in himself and his own problems and that he can't even acknowledge his feelings for her. So she gives up -- not on him, but on winning, and instead vows to simply wait for him to resolve his issues and wake the fuck up. The tempo is only slightly above "dirge," and Fiona's voice is in rare form. "So for the time being, I'm being patient... / And when the crowd becomes your burden / And you've early closed your curtain / I will wait by the backstage door / While you try to find the lines to speak to your mind / And pry it open, hoping for an encore / And if it gets too late for me to wait / For you to find you love me, and tell me so / It's okay: don't need to say it...." The end of that sentiment -- "I know" -- goes unspoken, which makes the whole thing even more heartbreaking: she sounds so defeated. Actually, maybe it does have something to do with Revolver, now that I think of it. Just not this particular episode. (*****)

7. "Stuck in the Middle with You," Stealer's Wheel
I'm not the only one who can't hear this song without thinking about Reservoir Dogs, right? Didn't think so. (****)

8. "Big Pimpin'," Jay-Z
Am I only one delighted to see Jay-Z not win Record of the Year for that awful "Umbrella" song he did with, uh, whatever her names is? Didn't think so. (*****)

9. "Excuse Me," Peter Gabriel
Pete thought it would be a good idea to cram this barbershop quartet-esque piece into the middle of his debut solo album. It is, because the song is great, but to say it sounds out of place would be an understatement. Have I mentioned before that Peter Gabriel is crazy? 'Cause he is. Really. (*****)

10. "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore," The Mars Volta
This track opens with two minutes of frogs chirping, followed by two more minutes of ambient noise. Which says everything you need to know about the Mars Volta. (***)

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