Monday, July 27, 2009

Do the iPod Shuffle

Hey, I'm back. New look as well, yeah? A few other minor changes are coming in the next few days, most likely. Let me know what you think of the new layout. In the meantime, we'll ease back into blogging with a good ol' shuffle.

1. "If I Had," Eminem
I hate his new album, Relapse, so goddamn much I can't even begin to tell you. It's poorly written, poorly performed, sounds bad and has absolutely zero new ideas. Listening to it actually makes me angry at times. This song, however, was from back when Em didn't incite me to violence. And it's a pretty decent effort, though not one of his best. (Rating: ****)

2. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards allegedly wrote this song's famous guitar riff in his sleep. At this point, I think all of us could play that riff in our sleep, thanks to its ubiquity. But hey, good stuff. (*****)

3. "Eleanor Rigby," Ray Charles
Yes, Ray Charles. He brings an entirely different feel to the Beatles' masterpiece, as you'd expect, and it doesn't totally gel. The original's pessimism was helped along by the insistent, driving strings, churning the drama along with every scrape of the bows. Here, the song takes a more relaxed vibe, and the atmosphere just doesn't work. Still, it's "Eleanor Rigby" and Ray Charles, so it remains quite listenable. (***)

4. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," Elton John
The only misstep in this one is rhyming "sugar bear" with "didn't you, dear?" which, as you'll notice, doesn't rhyme at all. (Also: "sugar bear"?) It's apparently a true story, though, pulled as it is from the largely autobiographical Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Elton had a bad marriage that ended in disaster, and he was in the depths of despair when Bernie Taupin came to his rescue. Aww. Super happy fun time trivia: Kanye West sampled this track for "Good Morning," the lead track on Graduation. (*****)

5. "L'Via l'Viaquez," The Mars Volta
This epic chunk of lunacy actually appears in Guitar Hero: World Tour. So if you've ever held a deep desire to hear me singing in Spanish, well, thank Activision. Has anyone ever come close to understanding what the hell they're talking about in this song? In any language? (*****)

6. "Beat It," Fall Out Boy
Of course, a cover of the timeless Michael Jackson classic. It's actually pretty good -- Jacko's remains supreme, naturally, because he had more talent in his socks than all of Fall Out Boy put together, but as far as covers go, this is top-notch. The only flaw, really, is when John Mayer (of all fucking people) steps in for the guitar solo and butchers it completely. (****)

7. "This Will Be Our Year," The Zombies
One of the most cheerful, beautiful songs ever recorded. Funny: when I first found Odessey and Oracle, I used to skip over this one. These days, not so much. Go figure. (*****)

8. "The Wretched," Nine Inch Nails
So, you've heard NIN is hanging it up? Just as well -- Trent's not getting any younger, and, frankly, his music has been that great in the last decade. "The Wretched" is one of the best songs from his last truly great release, The Fragile, which is a work of epic beauty he's never come close to equaling since. Please, Trent, just quit, before you release another record that sounds like With Teeth. Blech. (*****)

9. "Jungleland," Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band
I caught a live performance of this the other night on our HD music channel, and holy god was it awesome. It's a brilliant song anyway, one of the Boss's very best, but that performance was just transcendent. Bruce fed on all the emotion from the crowd, channeled it into his voice, and the arena became like a cathedral. I've never felt as envious of a concert audience as I did at that moment. (*****)

10. "Cypress Avenue," Van Morrison
From Astral Weeks, of course, Van's hauntingly beautiful album that the word "masterpiece" still seems too tame to describe. As gorgeous as this is -- and it is gorgeous, trust me -- I actually prefer the more raucous live version, which climaxes with three or four false endings, Van walking off and back on stage a few times, and then finally bellowing "It's too late to stop now!" as his band blares back in for one final coda. Whatever planet Van Morrison is from, I hope he's sent for others to follow him here. (*****)

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