We don’t need no stinkin’ words

15 Aug

Sorry for being truant this week. I’ve been trying to kick some ass at work so that I can have a three-day weekend to enjoy my trip to Louisville to see My Morning Jacket. Mission accomplished. Back to blogging.

Earlier this week, the Onion AV Club posted a great list of instrumental songs. Here’s the link. In case you don’t feel like reading their explanation, staffers selected the top 29 songs by artists who typically don’t produce tracks without lyrics (yet somehow Pink Floyd made it on the list).

I really enjoyed their rundown, so much so that it inspired me to compile my own list of instrumentals. I didn’t stick to their criteria – this is simply a list of my favorite wordless tunes, regardless of artist. However, I did make a point not to include any songs from the AV Club list. You know, just to keep things fresh.

10. “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” – R.E.M.

9. “Speed of Life” – David Bowie

8. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2” – The Flaming Lips

7. “Flying” – The Beatles

6. “Pow” – Beastie Boys

5. “Fuckin’ in the Bushes” – Oasis

4. “Meeting in the Aisle” – Radiohead

3. “One of These Days” – Pink Floyd

2. “Ocean” – John Butler Trio

1. “Maggot Brain” – Funkadelic

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Top five songs named after desserts

9 Aug

I think the list of songs named after deserts would be much shorter. And less delicious. Fork and spoon drumroll please…

5. “Savoy Truffle” – The Beatles

Been on a White Album kick lately. This is a goofy Harrison song (a la Piggies), but it’s worth a listen occasionally.

4. “Sex and Candy” – Marcy Playground

Is it OK to like this song? Disco lemonade is so refreshing.

3. “Peaches and Cream” – John Butler Trio

Although this song doesn’t necessarily showcase it, John Butler is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen. This is a poignant song, made slightly less poignant by the revelation that Butler named his daugher Banjo.

2. “Custard Pie” – Led Zeppelin

As this rocking tune makes abundantly clear, Robert Plant loved pastries. Especially underage pastries.

1. “Magic Pie” – Oasis

Only on trivial lists like this should you find Oasis ranked ahead of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. But I gotta admit, Be Here Now is incredibly underrated, and “Magic Pie” is one of the best songs on the disc.

Words won’t save your life…Ten insightful lines from The Hold Steady

9 Aug

In case you were wondering, I really, really enjoy The Hold Steady. And the biggest reason why is Craig Finn’s lyrics. Critics love to dub him a poet, but I prefer to think of him as a novelist with excellent pacing. 

Because Finn is a hell of a storyteller, I found it rather difficult to quantify his best lines. Often times, the words lose their impact without the context of the entire song. I did my best here to pick out lyrics that stand alone as profound statements or insightful observations.  

Here’s my top 10:

10. “Half the crowd is calling our for ‘Born to Run’ and the other half is calling out for ‘Born To Lose’ / Baby we were born to choose / We got the last-call-bar-band-really-big-decision blues” – Barfly Blues

Yes, The Hold Steady sound like a bar band. No objections here. Here’s an analogy for you – Hootie and the Blowfish is to high school dropouts as The Hold Steady is to private college graduates.

9. “She’s sick of the questions, sick of the concept of justice and fairness / Who the hell cares who gets caught in the middle? / She smokes as she ponders this riddle: When one townie falls in the forest, can anyone hear it?” – One For The Cutters

Best lyric from the new album Stay Positive. It’s much more powerful as the conclusion of the story than an individual lyric. But I think it still belongs on the list.

8. “She crashed into the Easter mass with her hair done up in broken glass / She was limping left on broken heels when she said “Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?”” – How A Resurrection Really Feels

I just can’t get over the “hair done up in broken glass” part. What a visual.

7. “Silly rabbit, tripping is for teenagers / Murder is for murderers / And hard drugs are for bartenders” – Cattle and Creeping Things

Trix references are fine by me. So is calling out bartenders for getting blasted. 

6. “Lost in fog and love and faith was fear / I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere” – Citrus

Finn definitely has a Catholic fetish that he sometimes beats into the ground. But I can relate to the sentiment. Been there, done that. That’s why The Hold Steady speaks to me. 

5. “I really like the crowds at the really big shows / People touching people that they don’t even know” – Hornets! Hornets!

Seriously, this is why I go to so many concerts (besides the music). It’s such a trip. You’ll sing and dance with total strangers, then the lights come on and everyone parts ways. Most of the time you never see the people from concerts again, but they stick around in the memories. It’s so beautiful and bizarre. 

4. “Holly wore a string around her finger / There are strings attached to every single lover / But still they can’t even tether us together” – Banging Camp

Here he combines a common practice with a common expression to create something entirely new. The world would be a better place if other songwriters approached the level of Finn’s talent.

3. “You came into the ER drinking gin from a jam jar / And the nurse is making jokes about the ER being like an after bar” – Stevie Nix

I don’t know if this actually happened to Finn or not, but this is an amazing anecdote. 

2. “Don’t even speak to all those sequin-surfed beach boys / When they kiss they spit white noise” – First Night

I don’t really think I need to quantify why this is a great line. However, I feel the need to give Finn props for putting Hollister d-bags in their place.

1. “Your don’t have to go to the right kind of schools / Let your boyfriend come from the right kind of school / You can wear his old sweatshirt / You can cover yourself like a bruise” – You Can Make Him Like You

What a devastating lyric. It’s so real and honest. Cuts through the bullshit like a Ginsu.

Top five songs named after geometric shapes

7 Aug

Amidst all the concerts, there is still time for lists…

5. “Pink Triangle” – Weezer

4. “Turn A Square” – The Shins

3. “Spin The Black Circle” – Pearl Jam

2. “Perfect Circle” – R.E.M.

1. “Pyramid Song” – Radiohead

I Was There: Wilco @ The Lawn – 8/4/08

5 Aug

What a get for Indy. Radiohead and Wilco on back-to-back nights. Our proud city was the unofficial site of Lollapalooza Jr. this year.

While I waited in line for a beer during the one song during Wilco’s set that didn’t really do anything for me (“Remember The Mountain Bed”), the guy in front of me pitched his Coors Light can into a trash receptacle positioned a few feet away, eschewing the recycling bin sitting adjacent. Normally, I wouldn’t have even noticed since I’m no Greezo or anything. But this guy (a hipster to the core) was wearing a vintage shirt with a cartoon bear and the edict “RECYCLE” printed on it. Of course, the person in front of him called him out for the hypocritical act, and the trendy bastard reached into the trash and righted his wrong.

Why am I sharing this anecdote? Well, first of all, it was hilarious to watch it unfold. But more importantly, it made me think about Wilco. Unlike the fashionable fool in line, Wilco never tries to be something they’re not. Critics (including yours truly) complained about Sky Blue Sky reversing the direction and momentum built up by Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. But it’s important to remember that the boys from Wilco are as much an alt-country outfit as they are an indie rock band.

This was particularly evident during Monday night’s show, as the setlist was heavy on songs from Being There and even included “Casino Queen” from A.M. Wilco does whatever they want, and they do it quite well.

I’m reminded of the beautifully tacky Nudie suits that the band wore for their Lollapalooza performance. I don’t know many bands that could pull off that look. But it fits Wilco. They’re one of the most fun and eccentric groups I’ve ever seen.

My friends and I had a lengthy conversation trying to figure out what the song “Impossible Germany” is about. Does it matter? Not really, the lyrics are memorable and it just rocks live.

So did all of the other songs they played from Sky Blue Sky, which was quite a relief. I saw Wilco during the A Ghost Is Born tour and they melted my face with renditions of “At Least That’s What You Said” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”. But quite honestly, this show was even better. “Via Chicago” was probably the best opener I’ve heard from any band at any show this year. “Pot Kettle Black” and “Forget The Flowers” were sweet mid-set surprises. “Hoodoo Voodoo” was equal parts insane and awe-inspiring. And the all-Being There second encore featuring a horn section served as a giant exclamation point. As in, I will never miss another Wilco concert ever again!*

* Keep in mind, I hate exclamation points. But the show was that tremendous.  

SETLIST

Via Chicago
Side With The Seeds
You Are My Face
One Wing
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Remember The Mountain Bed
Company In My Back
Handshake Drugs
Pot Kettle Black
Impossible Germany
Forget The Flowers
Jesus, Etc.
New Song (Kids Are Still Cool?)
Walken
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Hate It Here
Heavy Metal Drummer
Shot In The Arm
Casino Queen
Hoodoo Voodoo

Monday
Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Here’s the only video I could find of the show. Not a bad song to have A/V for. Credit to Amy Schramm.

“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”

I Was There: Radiohead @ Deer Creek – 8/3/08

4 Aug

Absolutely unreal.

I’m going to go ahead and throw out a flawed analogy here. Seeing Radiohead for the first time reminded me of the first time I watched my friend’s HDTV. Up to that point, I’d seen plenty of standard definition televisions that I thought were awesome (you know, ones that were massive or had cool speakers). But it took about three seconds to realize that everything I’d seen up to that point fell short of the new standard.

I’ve been to great concerts before. I’ve been to terrific ones this year that I thought wouldn’t be topped (see: Spoon, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket). But those shows seem lacking now after witnessing the world’s best band at their creative peak.

Radiohead utilized the slickest lighting and video screens I’ve ever seen. Hands down. Between the stalactite orbs behind the stage and the gritty security cam-looking screens, I experienced many moments of sensory overload. Of course, the intricate visuals would’ve failed gloriously if the music wasn’t crafted with similar precision.

My friend pointed this out the other day, and he’s 100 percent right. We’ve probably seen 30-40 shows at Deer Creek (Verizon Wireless Music Center) and no concert has been as audibly pleasing as Radiohead. Although I love the venue, the acoustics are far from perfect. Minor imperfections are commonplace, whether the bass starts to hiss or the vocal overwhelm the mix. But every song sounded flawless during Radiohead. I always figured it was the facility, but perhaps other bands lack the complexity of calibration to overcome most shortcomings.

So everything looked and sounded gorgeous and the setlist was full of left turns. “Pyramid Song”, “Exit Music (For A Film)” and “How To Disappear Completely” served as haunting testaments to the band’s power. Other songs, like “15 Step” and “Just”, were four-minute blasts of forget-all-your-problems fun. Not only was there not a single clunker all night, but there was nary a performance that lacked at least one “Oh shit” moment (Oh shit…Thom’s playing the drums on “Bangers ‘n’ Mash”. Oh shit…What a creepy introduction to “Climbing Up the Walls”).

It was all astounding. The best concert I’ve ever attended. Not quite life-changing, but certainly perspective-altering.  

15 Step
Bodysnatchers
There There
All I Need
Pyramid Song
Nude
Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
The Gloaming
Climbing Up The Walls
Faust Arp
Videotape
Morning Bell
Idioteque
Reckoner
Everything In Its Right Place
Just
How To Disappear Completely

You and Whose Army
Bangers and Mash
Exit Music (For a Film)
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Karma Police
— 
House of Cards
The National Anthem
Street Spirit

Here are several superb videos from the show. If you click the embedded player, you can watch in HQ from the YouTube site. Bottomless props to skabadelic, who I’d like to meet some day so that I can give him/her a high five.

“Climbing Up The Walls”

“Just”

“How To Disappear Completely”

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)”

 

 

I Was There: Dr. Dog @ Radio Radio – 7/31/08

1 Aug

Saw Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg last night. Only without Dre and Snoop. And that superfluous “g” that all the kids love. It seems like I only pay compliments on this site – but I gotta say, Dr. Dog owned during their 90 minute set.

Are they original? Not particularly. I swear I heard the riff from the end of Abbey Road‘s “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / You Never Give Me Your Money Reprise” medley during one of Dr. Dog’s jams. Pitchfork said it feels like a cop-out to call them “Beatle-esque,” but there’s simply no way around it. Why be afraid to call a spade a spade?

For me, their familiarity is not a shortcoming. It’s their allure. I can’t go back to the sixties to hear the Fab Four do it better. Dr. Dog is as good as it gets when it comes to retro retreads. It’s practically a misnomer to call Fate a “new” album because it sounds like it was made in 1968. They don’t write tunes about current events or modern things because they know their niche.

Not everyone can be Radiohead. Five guys wearing fedoras and sunglasses while singing harmonies that slide in and out of key aren’t going to revolutionize music. But that doesn’t prohibit them from putting on an excellent show.

For lack of a better word, Dr. Dog is spunky on stage. They jumped around a lot and strummed with mucho gusto. “Oh No” was my favorite from last night, switching from mid-tempo stomp to fuzzed-out blitzkrieg to audience-supported singalong.

Other highlights included “The Breeze”, “Ain’t It Strange”, “The Way The Lazy Do”, “The World May Never Know”, “Easy Beat” and meeting the band afterwards.

Yeah, that’s right. Rock Out With Your Blog Out managed to score an interview with Taxi (lead guitarist and vocalist Scott McMiken) and Text (keyboardist Zach Miller) following the show. Only it wasn’t really an interview. It was more of a conversation shared while waiting in line for drinks at the bar.

Through the discussion, I learned a few things about the band: 1) They are extremely approachable and grounded – just good dudes. 2) They had nothing but nice things to say about my new favorite band My Morning Jacket, who they’ve toured with in the past. 3) They are somewhat bummed that they won’t be able to catch Radiohead during their tour of duty at Lollapalooza this weekend. 4) There is no Dr. Dog dress code that mandates that all members wear fedoras on stage. They just all really enjoy hats.