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Monday, November 24, 2008

I'll Have What She's Having - Eargasmic Recordings

Here is my contribution to the latest installment of the excellent Green Monkey Music Project courtesy of I, Splotchy. The theme this time is "eargasmic" music, as suggested by Barbara the Bad Tempered Zombie. Her premise basically “those blissful recordings that work wonder on your eardrums and create an overwhelming sense of aural euphoria”.

That in mind, the following was the promise I recently made on Barbara’s blog after she invited me to provide six song titles for her aural mélange.
Here are my six official choices for the GMMP Eargasm Mix. All of these songs are capable of whisking me off to that special sublime place that only music can seem to do.

Bob Dylan – “Simple Twist of Fate”
Paul Westerberg – “It’s a Wonderful Lie”
Neko Case – “Deep Red Bells”
Loose Fur – “Elegant Transaction”
Sonic Youth – “I Love You Golden Blue”
Roberta Flack – “Angelitos Negros”

I look forward to writing a more detailed synopsis of each, explaining the ‘secret of the song’.

Thanks for this opportunity. It was great, slightly torturous fun!


In order to understand my song selections a brief preamble is necessary. This will help to put these songs into some form of context. First though, full disclosure is also necessary- Soooo... For the record, I am a bit of a walking ‘music lover’ cliché. I love to make top five music lists, to compile soundtracks for non-existent movies and to generally annoy my friends with all forms of musical minutiae. I have in fact considered a variant of Barbara’s theme in the past and the short compendium is part of that larger song cycle.*


All of these songs have their birth in a singular image. The flipside cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1969 album Songs From a Room. It’s always been one of my favourite pictures because of the incredible back story it elicits. It has very real sense of pure intimacy that has always resonated with me. The equally evocative songs on the record are all emotionally honest statements that lay bare, the soul of the artist. And therein lays the key to understanding my small compendium. Musically speaking, these are all balanced and simple songs that use the voice and music of the performer to convey honesty and varied emotional states in their song craft. But these are the ones that do it so very, very well.

At least to this listener they do.


Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate”

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care, pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate

There has been a lot said of Dylan’s voice over the years. I like to think it has aged very well and has always suited his ever evolving musical intent. There is a lot of frustration in his voice in this particular piece. From deep growl to a soaring chorus the dual reality of every relationship is encapsulated in this song. (Key eargasmic moment - 2:30 the final stanza above.)

Paul Westerberg’s
“It’s a Wonderful Lie”

No, the common theme is not Minnesota singer songwriters, although it could be. (Mr. Zimmerman and Paulie do share a home state.) No, once again it’s about the feeling. This song is like a cigarette in bed. (Paul Westerberg has always allowed me to live a slightly illicit lifestyle without the annoying smokers cough and cirrhosis of the liver.) A reassuring number that tells us even the beautiful loser is as much capable of love as being loved. This song makes no pretense and has such a real honesty, its simple reassurances perhaps a little hope for all of us. It saves me every time. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:45 torn and tattered soul)

Neko Case’s “Deep Red Bells” has always been a revelation to me. Capable of taking me places without even leaving my chair. It is a song that is equal parts strength and vulnerability. It is representative of the singer herself. On this song, her vocal style moves away from outright honky-tonk but retains her heavenly twang. Patsy Cline meets Johnny Cash I think. “Deep Red Bells” is a confident song that soars to lofty emotional heights and literally stops me in my tracks whenever I hear it. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:49 “popsicles in summer”. Mmmmm, near perfect.)

Loose Fur’s “Elegant Transaction”

And don’t strike a conversation with a cigarette
Like an old flame, burned up, and out of breath

For those who don’t know, this is another of Jeff Tweedy’s (Wilco) solo projects. The cleverly named (Lu- ci- fer) comprised of Tweedy, Wilco drummer Glen Koetche and musician extraordinaire, Jim O’Rourke have made two wonderful albums to date. It is this songs spidery cool that evokes decidedly warm moonlit nights and slow dancing with someone you love. The songs call and response chorus builds throughout to give it a real daydream like feel. Like a countrified version of Steely Dan. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:20 oh those harmonies.)

Sonic Youth’s “I Love You Golden Blue”

This song has always been a breath of fresh air to me and has always suggested a certain reawakening of the senses. It feels like one of those warm breezes that feel so completely out of place on an April day. Kim Gordon’s breathy vocals on this one sends shivers down my neck and reminds me of one of those bright and yellowy spring days. (Key eargasmic moment – 2:45 Just like that palpable moment of joy when you feel the sun under that bluer than blue sky.)

Roberta Flack’s “Angelitos Negros”

I always seem to confound the guy at the record store when I purchase a Roberta Flack CD. But losing my cool “indie cred” is well worth it for this amazing artist. It is her voice though that touches every emotion I have ever known. Chan Marshall (Cat Power) recently covered the same song on the deluxe edition of her latest covers cd Jukebox. In all honesty it’s Flack’s vocal take in Spanish that truly affects me. I do not speak Spanish and yet the complex emotions of the song are conveyed in her melodious and full voice that transcends entirely the barrier of translation. (Key Eargasmic Moment - THE WHOLE SONG)


Now it’s up to you. Head over to I, Splotchy and check out some of the entries from the other participants and immerse your ears and soul in something new you may not have heard before. It's well worth your time!

Thank you to Barbara and Michael for allowing me to participate in this. It's been great fun.

* The absent songs that buffer this collection are just as telling but not included as to meet the stringent regulations of the Green Monkey Project: Leonard Cohen’s “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” at the start, Iggy and the Stooges “Loose” at the end. “Loose” without a doubt the best closer to this set. Not part of my list but representative of the full circle this song cycle represents. The sum of all the parts if you will. Iggy’s catlike, high strung personae on full tilt mode here, and ready to pounce with claws ready.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Your "Barry Whitiness"? Oh I think you have just coined a new favourite phrase for me. Once I stop snorting my water out through my nose, that is!

Wat a splendid and varied list you have! Personally I am very happy to see Neko Case on here, as she is utterly sublime, in all ways. I can only imagine the myriad of worthy notables that you have had to cull to keep this list down to size.

I'm having an issue with listening to your playlist on Splotchy's site, but have notified the Master so that I can give all of your choices the proper attention they deserve.

Thanks so much for playing along!

Splotchy said...

Very nice selections, and very nice descriptions!

Thanks a lot for being part of the mix.