Hello, and welcome to the very first edition of Shuffle Roulette, a new gameshow series that I’m starting on this blog, whether or not anyone thinks that it’s a good idea or even gives a shit!
Shuffle Roulette is a mixture of what we mostly do all the time on this blog and… The Newlywed Game? The rules are simple. Player One has to pull up the music library application of their choice and hit shuffle on whatever that app’s equivalent of an “all songs” or “faves” list is. They must then present Player Two with the first six songs that shuffle throws at them. No cheating. No mulligans. No re-rolls. I don’t care how embarrassed you might be. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. First six songs. That’s the set.
Player Two will then give a gut reaction to each of the six songs. Player One will have a chance to respond and rebut.
Once all six songs have been covered, Player Two must then decide which song is…
The BULLET is whatever song Player One feels is the most killer song out of the set of six songs. Player One will then confirm or deny whether or not Player Two has correctly guessed The BULLET. If Player Two has not correctly guessed The BULLET, Player One will reveal the identity of The BULLET.
Best two out of three. Winner gets five bucks.
PINBACK – SOME VOICES
Mike: I’ve heard about Pinback a lot (first, from you, Mark) and know they are much beloved. This is not what I was expecting. I like that bass line that anchors the song. Light touch on the guitar. Little piano. And it all plays out very loopy. I really like those backup vocals. The distorted lead vocal for one line around 1:08 is a fridge too far for me, but that’s a minor quibble on an otherwise solid song. The approach and the production take me right back to the early ’00s. Like something that would end up on a mix tape trade with a quasi-stranger on the internet.
Mark: This is not the Pinback song that I would choose to show someone as an introduction to the band. I like “Some Voices” just fine, and it was released as a part of an EP that I consider to be basically flawless. But it’s in a certain Pinback mode that I’m not sure is their most accessible/successful. I am glad that you like it!
Pinback is a band that I’ve been able to return to over the years with virtually undiminished interest and enjoyment. There are only a handful of acts I can say that about.
GRLwood – I’m Yer Dad
Mike: Very conflicting first impressions to this. On one hand my gut reaction is “I don’t have time for this.” But on the other, it’s making me laugh. The vocalist is the highlight here, though the delivery and lyrics feel like they’re from a bygone era. I guess punk can have throwback acts and phases, too.
Mark: Sometimes I will “like” a song because I find it more amusing than “good”. This is one of those songs. I find it amusing. I would probably be amused to see a short set from this band in a bar/club. But I would probably never go out of my way to a place just to see this band play. You know?
HUM – STEP INTO YOU
Mike: First off, I want to say I admire how big that guitar sound is, while also being totally dulled at the edges. Probably the only way you could get away with that deadpan vocal over this butt-rock guitar and drums. The guitar solo sounds like it could be written by an algorithm–oh, but I kind of like how it continues into the next verse. This isn’t really for me, but I see why it would be for you.
Mark: Hum is a band that released a few albums in the mid-to-late 90s that I love deeply. Their sound influenced a pile of bands that I would go on to enjoy, and I still like to throw on the old records from time to time. When they released a new album in recent years, I just automatically went and faved a few songs to hear as a reminder to myself, and that’s how this wound up on my list of fave tracks. I am not sure that I’ve heard this more than once. It’s really not so hot. You are right about that guitar tone, though. Wow!
SARAH HARMER – LODESTAR
Mike: Singer/Songwriter is one of my sweet spots. I don’t know much Sarah Harmer, but it does get played around my household. The chorus is really beautiful. When the band picks up, all of a sudden I recognize the song. Was it a single? Maybe I just heard it around the house? It’s a fine song in the first half, that is pushed into a really good song in the back half. I’m gonna fave this one. It’ll make my wife happy when it comes on in the car.
Mark: This Sarah Harmer album came out around the time that I was working at Sam The Record Man in Belleville Ontario, in my very late teens. It sold pretty well for an indie-ish singer songwriter thing, and we played it in the store pretty regularly (if I recall). Anyway, I have always loved “Lodestar” and I still think that this song is pretty tremendous. It’s a good mood song. It’s got a great dynamic build that still feels kinda… chilled out.
BABYMETAL – SIS. ANGER
Mike: Of course I’ve heard of, and heard, BABYMETAL. My question is: is it an exercise in cynical meme branding, or an organically formed band? I don’t think it makes a huge difference to the end result, I just don’t know anything about them beyond virality. The band is tight as shit. I really love the parts with what sounds like choral harmonies, but may be a synth or even just overtones?? I’m gonna surprise you and say I pretty much like this. This will still be the last time I listen to it, though.
Mark: You didn’t surprise me. Because this song smokes. I’ve written about Babymetal before and I have fallen off on them since. Their most recent release did nothing for me, and I think that maybe I have just gone beyond my maximum level of interest for whatever their kawaii-core shtick is. That being said, I keep a handful of their best songs around because I still find them pretty amusing to listen to from time to time. “Sis. Anger” is possibly their heaviest song, and doesn’t feature any of the bubblegum trappings of songs like “Gimme Chocolate”. The band goes apeshit in this song and the vocals are apocalyptic and kind of terrifying. This song is: Good.
R.E.M. – WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH?
Mike: Looking back, this is a pretty great single. They’ve added fuzz to the guitar but you can still hear that jangly 80s college-rock style in the playing. The vocal melody is catchy as hell. It’s got that little not-phasing-but-whatever-you-call-that guitar bit to accent the whole thing. And Mike Mills is really holding it down with that bass line.
I was never a huge R.E.M. fan, but I did go see them on this tour because I could go with a girl I liked. Shortly after, when she asked me if I liked her I said no. I gotta remember to tell that story to my therapist this week.
Mark: See, what I would often think when I would think about REM was “Bnooooooring”, but then I watched an episode of Song Exploder on Netflix last year about “Losing My Religion” and was so interested the whole time, I decided to listen to a bunch of REM singles. Turns out I love WTFK. A handful of other songs, too.
This song lowkey rocks.
Mike: There is no question in my mind that you would choose Pinback as The Bullet here. I expected that I would be picking Sarah Harmer, but am surprising myself with how much I’m enjoying What’s the Frequency Kenneth?
Mark: It gives me no pleasure to tell you that you have narrowly MISSED.
A different Pinback song could definitely have been THE BULLET in this particular group of songs, but I think that I’m actually going to have to give the edge to “Lodestar”. Sounds crazy, but out of all of these songs, I would probably be happiest to have that tune around if there were no other tunes available.
END OF ROUND ONE
Mark: Mike, you have failed to draw first blood. For our next installment, it will be my turn to try to select THE BULLET from six shuffled songs from your library. I say with absolute sincerity: I can’t fucking wait.
Mike: I tried to get inside your head, and I failed. Lesson learned. Next time I just bite the bullet and pick the best song. I also can’t fucking wait.