A few weeks ago, I presented Jay with a playlist and challenged him to review the tunes that I packed onto it. I didn’t really intend for him to write a blog post about it, but he did and it was very entertaining to read his take on some of the songs that have been keeping my commute bumping these days.
After finishing his post, Jay returned the favour. He’s given me a 12 song playlist to work through and I am filled with apprehension. Jay, as you may or may not know, was a guitar guy when I met him. Now? He’s more machine than man. Guy has synthesizers coming out of his dillyhole. This list? It’s probably just going to be all bleeps and bloops!
Worrying about it isn’t going to get this taken care of. So let’s dive in…
The KLF – 3AM Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)
Bleeps and bloops already, huh? While I’m not totally surprised that we’re taking a tumble down a staircase to the sample dungeon, I was hoping that we were going to ease into it. This tune feels very old school to me, but I have no idea what’s popular in this genre. The bleeps and bloops are the funniest part, but it’s all kind of funny to me. When was this released? Actually, it’s probably better if I don’t know. There is an undeniable fun to this, but it’s fun that wears a neon fanny pack. Those are probably cool again now, though. Right?
Verdict: This is definitely not for me and I will not listen to it again.
Ivar Tryti – Great Combo
I enjoy this style of chopped and filtered instrumental music whenever I encounter it, but I always forget that I enjoy it (and the result is that I never listen to it). Great piano lines and interesting sonics all over the place on this. The way that the track progresses through warbling shimmers and underwater muffled warmth is really something special. Everything sounds smashed and dirty, but pretty as hell.
Verdict: I like this, and I’m going to add it to my Liked Songs list on Spotify with the other 4000 songs that I might want to eventually hear again.
Bent Knee – Hold Me In
Digging the aggressively vampy vibes of the verse and the hilarious “guitar solo” section. The track is like a drugged out spy movie soundtrack nightmare. Production is totally gonzo and fun. Half-time chorus is great and the vocal performance is huge. The energy kind of droops for me in the bridge/outro, but there are some nice chord progressions that almost make up for it. I have no idea what genre this is.
Verdict: This is an interesting tune! I will probably not look into more of this band’s work or listen to this again.
Jason Molina – Whisper Away
Doesn’t Jason Molina play the titular role of Aquaman in the film Aquaman? Anyway, this is one sad fish! This song just sounds like somebody brooding on a cliff overlooking a bunch of violently crashing waves, even without the nature sounds that bookend the song part of the track. An interesting enough listen. Nice sounding string drone with heavily reverbed guitar dancing around it. A real bummer, though.
Verdict: I hope this guy is okay. Don’t jump, Aquaman!
(EDIT: Jay has now made me aware of the particularly tragic life and death of Jason Molina and my irreverence above feels a little awkward in retrospect… Editing it out seems unnecessary, but I thought that I would acknowledge the fact that Jason Molina was definitely not okay, and that I mean no disrespect to him or to people who have similarly suffered.)
Emma Ruth Rundle – Darkhorse
The fact that this song is on an album titled “On Dark Horses” is very funny to me. I’m glad I’m listening to the song about the dark horse! It’s probably the album’s best song! This song has a pleasantly dark churn that props up the vocals pretty well. I detect some sections in 7/8 time which I guess is why Jay listened to it in the first place. He received a substantial government grant to do neuroscience work but wound up siphoning off the money to pay an engineer to build him an AI that just sniffs out songs online that contain sections in 7/8 time. He’s slowly working his way through the list, but I doubt that he’ll actually hear all of the songs before the authorities catch up with him and demand their money back.
What was I talking about? Oh, right. This song. It is okay. I will admit that I started to have more fun writing about Jay than I was having listening to the song. And there’s already a perfect song called Dark Horse, so I don’t know why we need a whole album on dark horses when some folks already knocked that one out of the park. I dunno.
Verdict: This is fine by me, but not so fine that I’m going to go out of my way to hear more.
9th Wonder – BlueFroSoul!!!!!
I’m enjoying this in terms of vibe, sonics, and song length. Great bass and drum groove. I could work to this. It’s also very short and has a title that seems like it was whatever they typed first when the “Save as” dialogue box came up. Very little to complain about here.
Verdict: Very good stuff. I could listen to an album of this if I had a bunch of work to do! But how often does that happen?
Jehnny Beth – A Place Above/I’m The Man
First Aquaman and now the freakin’ Scarecrow??? Okay, Jay. I like Cillian Murphy’s spoken word performance in “A Place Above” and the freaky swelling synths that build up as it goes on. Sounds great. Super creepy. Leads into a herky-jerky track called “I’m The Man” that I wasn’t really expecting, but I really like it. This song really goes for it and then turns into a piano ballad and I stop liking it so much. Give me the whirring noise explosion and start/stop drum queues. Still pretty great overall, though. Oh, it got good again. Very creative!
Verdict: I will probably listen to the rest of this record.
Cesar Carmargo Mariano – Imigrantes
Holy shit, this is just terrific. Amazing acoustic guitar plucking out genius chord progressions while some kind of discordant slide instrument (is that a guitar?) slides a chilly boney finger up my spine? Yes please! Oh. Halfway through, the track entirely morphs into a full-band slinky jazz tune that is somehow just as creepy. Wow, this was really sometime!
Verdict: Smashing the favourite button on this one. I hope this comes on when I’m driving in a rainy forest some day.
r beny – Alone in the Pavilion
I feel as though Jay has tried to get me to listen to this before. It seems awfully familiar. A very pretty piece of ambient music. I think that the artist name r beny reminds me of Roy Batty, so I’m just listening to this thinking about Rutger Hauer sitting around in the rain, spouting off a bunch of nonsense, and it fits the music really well. Like a warbling tape recording of a piano left out in the rain.
Verdict: This is nice, but I won’t listen to it again. It is lost in time, like tears in rain.
Talk Talk – The Rainbow
Oh no, this horseshit is 9 minutes long. I gave Jay a very long song to listen to as well, but at least that song fucking smokes ass. Three minutes into this one and we’re just barely getting going. This is gets more interesting to me as it goes. I like the production a lot, but not the tune. If that makes sense. I think I like the “chorus” of this song best of all, when stringed instruments swell around the vocals in a bit of shrill and scraping way. This is the kind of band that probably plays in front of lots of projections of stock video. Is this a harmonica solo? Hahah. Fuck this.
Verdict: The band so nice, they named them twice! Which is one more time than I will listen to them.
Thom Yorke – Not the News
I used to be a very big Radiohead fan, but have a hard time listening to them these days. I haven’t really been seeking out the music that they’ve been making (collectively or apart) in recent times. Kind of curious about this track. So far, this is all bleeps and bloops and a squeaky fart noise. It’s funny because I used to love Thom Yorke’s voice so much and now it seems like so much more of a liability to me. Like, I can still get a little on board with things he’s singing on if the songwriting feels strong, but on something like this where we’re dealing with more of a formless sonic experience, I can barely stand to listen to him. There’s a great moment here where a bunch of string pads (I’m assuming they are pads, anyway) come in and give the track a bit of an undercarriage that it had been lacking. But this really isn’t for me at all.
Verdict: Shoulda stuck with guitars, bud. Now ya just a froggy voice in a sea of blips and squiggles. Kermit the slog.
Jogging House – Stay
Haha. Jay, this song is twenty-three minutes long. You fuck.
Honestly, I just feel like I’m playing Fez now. Remember Fez? That game was alright. The nice thing about this is that I can get some work done while I review this. I’ll brb.
Update: My wireless earbuds have enough range that I can actually go to the bathroom while wearing them and not lose connection to my computer. So yeah, this song is long enough that I took a bathroom break. A very relaxing bathroom break.
It’s quite beautiful, though. The track, I mean. Good background music for working or thinking or sharpening knives or whatever. It also sounds like the part in every modern festival-bound independent drama film where somebody returns to a place that they used to live after being away for a long time.
Verdict: This is great for what it is, and I could see myself listening to this or something like it if I ever needed to do some work that required nearly undivided attention.
I found some things surprising about Jay’s list and other things to be about what I expected. A tremendous amount of bleeping and blooping going on here, some of it well-deployed and some of it less so. The tracks that surprised me often did so because they contained guitars, instead of just being entirely generated using chunks of plastic and silicon.
Some of these songs are really great, and all of these songs seem to be reaching for something – I’m going to call it depth. None of these tunes are frivolous tunes. Some of them are so far from being frivolous tunes that they actually become less enjoyable because of it (*coughThomyorkecoughcough*). But they all are chock full of the intention to create something with substance and weight. I appreciate this and I appreciate the thought that Jay put into this and everything that he does.
Thank you, old friend. Keep on bleeping in the free world.