Tag Archives: Thursday

“Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
Clear Spot, 1972

To call the Captain Beefheart catalog “intimidating” would be an understatement. I can’t think of a more imposing 20th-century popular artist; even those who adore Trout Mask Replica surely need a little time off between listens. It’s not them, it’s him – dude was brilliant, insane and avant to the end. Except for the handful of times he pretended not to be. On Clear Spot, he brought in the guy who produced The Doobie Brothers – those Doobie Brothers – to hammer his songs into a more commercial shape. It mostly worked, except for the fact that the album only reached #191 on the Billboard Top 200 (back when that mattered). Time has a way of sorting these things out though. “Her Eyes…” would prove to be one of the more durable, commercial songs in the Beefheart songbook, showing up on The Big Lebowski soundtrack and eventually landing the dubious honor of a Black Keys cover. You’ll be surprised how much you like it.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/10%20Her%20Eyes%20Are%20a%20Blue%20Million%20Miles.m4a]


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The Red Demos, 2001
The Reminder, 2007

Something a little different today: a look at Leslie Feist’s “Intuition,” from demo to completion. The original, pulled from 2001’s unreleased The Red Demos, is my favorite of all her recordings: a smoky, back-room lament whose plodding pace and spare instrumentation fit the defeated mood perfectly. Ironically, the final version — released on 2007’s breakout The Reminder — is even more sparse, stripped of everything but hometape-quality acoustic guitar and some light studio touches on the middle bridge and outro. The sad, subtle integrity of the song holds up no matter which version you’re listening to, a nice reminder of the artist’s skill as a balladeer.




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“Bongo Man Dub”

king tubby
King Tubby
The Late Great King Tubby, 2011

I once read an interview with House of Pain’s Everlast (of all people) where he used the phrase “music as pure energy” to describe a Pink Floyd record. Though in 2014 I can’t remember a single line from “What It’s Like,” that expression pops into my head every time I hear a King Tubby dub. Arguably the forefather of modern remix culture, Tubby’s real-time reggae inversions also singlehandedly stirred a genre into existence. Dub normally dwells in the low end, but I picked “Bongo Man Dub” because it does the exact opposite – the bassline is watery, submerged, nearly hidden beneath a lyrical sax melody that comes on like captured sunlight. It wasn’t often that Tubby favored brass over bass like this, but when he did he made it count.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/Bongo%20Man%20Dub.m4a]


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“Crime Scene Part One”

black love
The Afghan Whigs
Black Love, 1996

If your favorite singers are the ones who can actually sing, you may as well just check out now and come back another day. With his knack for overshooting the key and staying there, Greg Dulli will not be found to your satisfaction. If, however, you’ve come to the realization that genuine soul favors feeling over execution, sit your ass back down – The Afghan Whigs are your new favorite band. This late-era album opener doubles as a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, capturing the sweat and grit of the Whigs’ funk-soul worship without disavowing the driving rock band they always really were. And when Dulli launches into his trademark yowl at the halfway mark, the enlightened listener will know his liberation.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/01%20Crime%20Scene%20Part%20One.mp3 ]


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“One Too Many Mornings”

Bob Dylan_The times they are a changin
Bob Dylan
The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964

There’s so much damn talk surrounding Dylan’s every gesture that it’s easy to lose sight of why anyone cared in the first place. That in the early days, when he wasn’t trying to convince the media he’d run away from the circus or been raised by wolves or whatever, what made him special was his ability to conjur a moment and keep you there. This is one of the most immediate examples. It’s evening, he’s home, and if he isn’t alone yet he’d rather be. There’s been an argument, both sides are exhausted, and the outcome is inevitable. Who hasn’t known this frustration before, this restlessness? Who hasn’t been in a relationship like this, romantic or otherwise? And who, for that matter, has written a better song?

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/04%20One%20Too%20Many%20Mornings.mp3 ]


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built to spill

Built To Spill
Single, 2006

An underline holdover from the heyday of ‘90s indie-rock, Built to Spill was never gonna be anyone’s first choice to pull off an original reggae jam. “They Got Away” succeeds in large part because the elements that make a up good BTS song also happen to accommodate the genre. The signposts are all here: the easily repeatable vocal melody, a simple but undeniable bassline, that floaty/echo/reverb/overdub thing Doug Martsch was into back in 2006. From previous experience, Martsch knows enough to cut the vocal well before time’s up, leaving room for an extended jam that pays tribute to tradition without wrecking his bona fides. If more reggae sounded like this, I’d listen to more reggae.

[audio http://www.sonicitchmusic.com/mp3s/01%20They%20Got%20Away.mp3 ]


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