September 26, 2013

1) Neko Case: “Still Night Comes” (The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You)
2) Wilco: “Either Way” (Sky Blue Sky)
3) Beth Orton: “That Summer Feeling” (Sugaring Season)
4) Led Zeppelin: “The Crunge” (Houses of the Holy)
5) Radiohead: “Bodysnatchers” (In Rainbows)
6) A Tribe Called Quest: “The Chase, Pt. II” (Midnight Marauders)
7) Bob Dylan: “She Belongs to Me” (Bringing it all Back Home)
8) Rolling Stones: “Moonlight Mile” (Sticky Fingers)
9) Dr. Dog: “Over Here, Over There” (Be the Void)
10) Isotope 217: “Beneath the Undertow” (The Radioactive Element)

(Spotify doesn’t have any of Isotope 217‘s music.  Find it.  It’s great Avant-Garde stuff.

At first blush this seemed like a very random set of songs, but 3 of the 10 songs are by “classic” rock artists, or at least Mega Artists (Led Zep, the Stones, and Dylan), and it could be argued that Wilco is fast approaching that status.  (This make-up of songs probably says a lot about my musical tastes, and I picture Jack Black going off on me in my record store for my musical pussy-hood: )

Anyway, happy that Neko’s new album came up in this track list, because I have been anticipating her record more than any new release in the last 4 or 5 years, and she has not disappointed.  It might be that the content of The Worse things Get… is hitting me at a certain time in my life (no doubt that it is), but I also agree with what NPRmusic wrote when it was previewing the album: “it’s clear that Case remains essentially peerless: No one sounds like her, so every little revelation feels altogether new.”  And yet, each revelation also feels like you’ve known it before.  With Neko, there’s a sense of musical deja vu that I can’t quite elucidate, but her songs seem to have been with me long before I heard them.  In this song, for example: “I’m gonna go where my urge leads no more/swallowed waist deep in the gore of the forest/a boreal feast, let it swallow me please.”  I’ve never heard depression described in quite this way, but I still feel like I’ve known it be that way.  Am I gushing too much if I call Neko Case the musical poet of the new millennium?  Probably overkill, but who else out there is writing lyrics like these put to the melodies she creates with a voice as unique as hers?

Two of these deserve a brief mention, one because it’s so confounding, the other because it’s so hilarious.  The former first:  can we just say that “The Crunge” was the moment that Led Zeppelin jumped the shark?  How was my seventh-grade mind supposed to digest that song – I wasn’t savvy enough then to see it as a pastiche of Soul/Funk, and now that I’m old enough to recognize it, I still wonder why the Boys went there.  Certainly after “The Crunge” Led Zep made great music (Physical Graffiti is a phenomenal album), but this almost seems beneath them.  If, like “Going to California,” a love song of sorts to Joni Mitchell, “The Crunge” is a mash note to James Brown, I don’t think James Brown should feel very flattered hearing this.  Back in seventh-grade, the only thing I remembered was Robert Plant saying “Where’s the Condfounded Bridge?” and it’s still all I hear.

“The Chase, Part II” closes out Midnight Marauders and I can just picture the smile on Q-Tip’s face as he’s closing out the song.  The fantastic staccato of his final verse (“Here we go, let’s begin/making people jump out their goddamn skin/lyrically we bit like we Rin-Tin-Tin”) is followed by his shout-outs, a staple of mid-1990s hip-hop.  (Are artists still doing the shout-outs like then?  I don’t listen to enough contemporary rap and hip-hop to know.)  His “Everybody ___________, rock- rock on” – who ends a hip-hop album giving a shout-out to everyone stuck at McDonald’s?  It’s brilliantly ironic, as a send-up of hip-hop shout-outs.  Whereas “The Crunge” falls flat as comedy, “The Chase, Pt II” is comic gold.

This concludes the Random Music Project program – Day 1.  Press any key to return to the main menu.  And take the poll to pick your favorite song from the list.

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