Tag Archives: Wednesday

“Unmade Bed”

nurse
Sonic Youth
Sonic Nurse, 2004

Never was a huge Sonic Youth fan, at least not in the way many are. I was too young to hear the band in their critical prime, and when I finally decided to care, records like Daydream Nation and Goo felt dated to me. Perhaps enough time had elapsed for the group’s influence to be fully absorbed by guitar culture (and me). But I hold a soft spot in my heart for the Jim O’Rourke era, 1999-2005, when SY opened up its sound to incorporate cleaner, leaner, classic rock tropes. “Unmade Bed” would be a relatively tame showing for this band in any era, but that restraint works in the song’s favor; these are guitars that know exactly when to stand and when to stay seated. Daydream is in the Library of Congress, but Sonic Nurse is the album I’ll always remember.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/02%20Unmade%20Bed.mp3]

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“About You”

teenage fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Grand Prix, 2005

Epic, shiny, big-gesture power pop. There’s an art to this kind of thing, and as many have noted, Teenage Fanclub does it as well as anyone. The Scottish Big Star devotees continued to hone their craft after 1991’s Bandwagonesque, settling into a slower, more polished, more textured guitar sound. The intent remained, as ever, a pursuit of perfect pop song craft. “About You” opens Grand Prix with a simple, swinging hook and lush harmonies. The words might mean something or nothing at all, but they’re delivered with such conviction that you can’t help but agree. I love that fifty years after The Beatles, bands are still making music that feels this way.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/01%20About%20You.mp3]

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“Teenage Spaceship”

smog
Smog
Knock Knock, 2005

The Best Song You’ll Hear All Week? Smog’s “Teenage Spaceship” has my vote, but then again I’m not you. Bill Callahan sets aside the detachment for a few short minutes to deliver this simple, nostalgic tribute to adolescence, remembering neighborhood nights spent as, well … as a teenage spaceship. “Landing at night/I was beautiful with all my lights.” If you’re an adult now and you’re reading this, perhaps you once felt invincible too. The kicker comes near the end, with “And I swore I’d never…,” because of course that means he had to. Every adult knows loss. If you can remember the beauty in youthful optimism — if you’re able to celebrate it like Callahan does here, even if you no longer feel the same way in a world that has bent over backwards to change your mind — I count that as no small gift.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/05%20Teenage%20Spaceship.mp3]

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“I Must Be in a Good Place Now”

bobby charles
Bobby Charles
Bobby Charles, 1972

“I saw a butterfly and I named it after you/Your name has such a pleasant sound.” That’s the sweetest line from a very, very sweet song by Bobby Charles (birth name Robert Charles Guidry), the Cajun swamp-pop pioneer mostly known for writing songs other singers made famous. “See You Later, Alligator,” “Walking to New Orleans,” and “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” are all his. In the early seventies, Charles spent some time with The Band (yes, that one) and ended up with a low-key record packed with charmers like this one. Dripping with quiet soul, “I Must Be in a Good Place Now” conjures up memories of Southern days gone by that feel clear and true even if they were never yours to begin with. Best heard on vinyl, on a humid day.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20I%20Must%20Be%20In%20a%20Good%20Place%20Now.m4a]

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“AUDITORIUM”

mos-def-the-ecstatic
Mos Def w/ Slick Rick
The Ecstatic, 2009

My favorite track off 2009’s criminally overlooked The Ecstatic; a return to form for The Mighty Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) after years in the wilderness. Fans weren’t expecting much from the rapper/actor after the disappointing decade following ‘99’s classic Black on Both Sides, but the album – and this track in particular – proved worth the wait. “Auditorium” follows the Stones Throw template of its surrounding songs, engaging a classic Madlib loop off the Beat Konducta in India compilation with a sample that only gets better the more you hear it. I’m not exactly sure what Slick Rick is talking about here – something about ending conflict in the Middle East with a hot verse? – but he’s a good fit for the track. In 10 years we’ll remember this as a classic.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20Auditorium%20(feat.%20The%20Ruler).mp3 ]

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“XTAL”

Aphex Twin
Selected Ambient Works 85-92, 1992

This one hit like lightning the first time I heard it, and that was from streaming a 30-second sample on CDNow back in summer ’99. Careful readers will note I was already several years late to the party at that point, but “Xtal” is nothing if not timeless. I’m willing to bet on the same magic in 2014. In his prime, Richard D. James laid the foundation for much of what was to become popular in late-90’s electronic music and still is today. If there’s a prettier piece of ambient techno/electronic/IDM/whatever floating around out there in the ether, I’ve yet to hear it.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/01%20Xtal.mp3 ]

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