Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 2/17/08

The feedback on Revolver so far is "good, but not the best," which was my feeling as well. For those who share in my obsession with enumeration and list-making, I just finished putting the finishing touches on my list of the 25 best songs of 2007; I'm working on Oscar thoughts and predictions. And also a new short story, "Stealing Signs," which will be done before the end of the month.

Anyway -- on with the shuffle.

1. "Jungleland," Bruce Springsteen
Stephen King quotes from this song extensively at the beginning of his masterwork, The Stand. This is the closing track from Born to Run, Bruce's own masterwork. There is some meaning there, but I don't know what is. (*****)

2. "Between the Bars," Elliott Smith
Probably my favorite Elliott Smith song. I cannot for the life of me understand his voice -- I try singing along to this song (or any of his songs), and I end up singing way, way too loud. It's barely a whisper, really. And yet it carries so well. (*****)

3. "Silver Street," Ben Folds
A track from Ben Folds Live. It's a fantastic song, so I'm unsure why it's never wound up on an album (or even one of his iTunes EPs). But then, it's so perfectly realized here that a studio version would be superfluous. It features some of Ben's best piano. (*****)

4. "A Day in the Life," The Beatles
The finale, of course, to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is often declared the best album of all time. It's not -- in my opinion, it's only the fourth best Beatles album, forget the best of all time -- but "A Day in the Life" is good enough that I'm willing to concede the hype. And obviously you know that the line "He blew his mind out in a car" is a reference to the death of the real Paul, who was replaced with a lookalike during the recording of this record, right? (*****)

5. "Montreal," The Tragically Hip
This is actually a live bootleg -- another fantastic song that the creators have chosen not to include on any of their records. It's about a real incident in the late eighties, when a crazed gunman stormed into a college in Montreal, separated the men from the women, and began shooting the girls. 14 were killed, and thirteen others wounded before the maniac killed himself. Gord -- who introduces the song by calling it "a song about the identification process" -- eulogizes one of these victims: "She used to like lavender pantsuits, long black velvet gloves/Smiles across crowded rooms to the only boy she ever loved." The chorus then follows with one of the most devastating images I've ever heard in song: "Don't you worry/Her mother's gonna make her look good/Don't you worry/Her father's gonna make her look good." Try as he might, the killer can't take away her beauty. And Gord laments the tragedy, and all those dead "Because a coward won't die alone." The Hip have performed this song exactly once in the last seventeen years; I don't blame them, frankly. (*****)

6. "Best Week Never," Patton Oswalt
A piece of stand-up from his superb album, Werewolves and Lollipops. He describes his firing from the staff VH1's Best Week Ever, thanks to his viciousness toward Paris Hilton: "If she could get cancer of the AIDS of the leukemia of the eyes, that would make me happy." (*****)

7. "Carouselambra," Led Zeppelin
From Zep's much-maligned "Hey, let's sound exactly like Genesis!" phase, which lasted all of one album. Unfortunately, it was their last, as John Bonham died (choking on his own vomit after imbibing a small lake's worth of vodka, naturally) and band called it quits. The song is great, actually, but then -- I like Genesis. (*****)

8. "Cleanin' out My Closet," Eminem
I think one could make a strong case that this was the last great burst of creativity we'd get from Em before his flameout. It's certainly up there with his best work, and the best of hip hop anywhere -- very few rappers can work up the emotion that vibrates through every beat here. I remember listening to this song on the radio with my mother once; she said, "So, he hates his mom?" I confirmed her interpretation, and explained Em's extensive mom-hating discography. "And by 'cleanin' out my closet,' he means he's leaving her behind and moving on without her?" I concurred, and my mom -- who had her own problems with her mother -- just scoffed. "If it was only that easy." (*****)

9. "Where the Wild Things Are," Metallica
Steve and I had the entire Reload album memorized. I don't mean the words -- I mean everything. Together, the two of us could've hummed and air-drummed the entire record without accompaniment. And the centerpiece of our front-seat concert performances was always "Where the Wild Things Are," which features killer harmonies and a slick two-part vocal bridge. Singing alone in my car, the song just doesn't sound right. (*****)

10. "Angel, Won't You Call Me?" The Decemberists
Uh-oh! Look who it is! Eh -- I'll spare you the commercial. I'm in a good mood. (*****)

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