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Listening

Keep It or Delete It

Ah, spring. The season for cleaning is here again, and much like Kenneth Grahame’s Mole, I find myself taking inventory of everything down in my dusty hole in the ground. My clothes could use a good once-over, as there are several shirts I haven’t worn recently, even a flannel, kept largely for sentimental reasons, which I don’t think I’ve worn in this century. My bookcase could stand to shed a few leaves to make way for some new editions, and my desk…good lord, my desk.

Just after Christmas I made use of a rather thoughtful gift certificate, got myself a new hard drive, and have been borrowing generously from friends’ music collections. As a result, I now have a formidable amount of music that I haven’t found the time to play through. True, the hard drive space came cheap, but that’s no excuse to weigh it down with music I’m never going to listen to. What I propose, then, is a spring-cleaning of the drive. I’ll hit random on my iTunes a few times, give a listen, and then rate the song (and the band, by extension) with either a “Keep It!” or “Delete It!” verdict. Here goes.


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Chavez, “Relaxed Fit” (download)

Nice. This song is from their second CD, Gone Glimmering. I just learned about these guys a few months after moving to New York, when some friends brought me to a Chavez reunion show at the Warsaw in Greenpoint. (It was a reunion of sorts; the band never broke up, just kinda cooled it for a while.) I had a pierogi. Chavez rocked the house. Hard. James Lo has one of the most unexpectedly awesome approaches to drumming I’ve heard. I remember thinking how much like late-period Guided by Voices they sound, except that Matt Sweeney’s vocals are wussier. It turns out that the two bands are label-mates and used to tour together in the late ’90s. I would have probably noticed them earlier if I hadn’t been so busy sentimentalizing flannel shirts at the time.

Verdict: Keep It!

Jungle Brothers, “Jbeez Rock the Dancehall” (download)

The Jungle Brothers are another group that floated just off the periphery of my notice. I flirted with drum and bass music for a few months in 2000, probably around the same time this album, V.I.P., came out. When I say “flirted,” I mean I went to a few raves with friends, sipped a rum and coke, and watched other people dance while thinking, “Neat! Glow sticks!” What’s great about this song is that you can totally rage to it on a dance floor, and it has great emceeing. It’s not that overly repetitive “thwomp, thwomp, thwomp,” voiceless house music that made me lose interest in club music. This would be a good album to play while working out. Someone who actually works out would have to confirm this.

Verdict: Keep It!

Erik Satie, “Relâche—Act 2: Entrée de la Femme” (download)

Sometimes silly, sometimes serious composer and “gymnopédist” Erik Satie wrote the music for a Dadaist ballet in 1924 called Relâche (a word then used to notify patrons of a canceled performance. C’est charmant!). The music also served as a soundtrack for Rene Clair’s film Entr’Acte, which was initially shown as entr’acte for the ballet, so probably no surprises there. While I’m not as much of a fan of this piece as I am his earlier work, specifically the Gymnopédies, I could never delete a Satie piece, especially since so few Eriks know how to spell correctly.

Verdict: Keep It!

Muse, “Hyper Music” (download)

Wow! OK, only recently did I discover Muse’s second disc, Origin of Symmetry, and this song in particular hit me like a subway train while riding the train to work this morning. This sounds like the Beatles on crack! But then Muse always kinda sounds like a killing robot which was purposefully given rock music instead of something sharp to use. And it somehow learned to sing like Thom Yorke’s spiritual vocal twin, instead of the robot that Thom taught to sing years ago. It’s enough to make a man confuse his similes. God, I want to punch something sparkly right now.

Verdict: Keep It!

kidkanevil, “The Profound Truth” (download)

No one seems to know much about kidkanevil yet. If so inclined, feel free to write his Wikipedia page. My roommate, the guy that clued me into his awesomeness, was going to, but he doesn’t know much more about him, save that he’s a British producer, his real name is Gerard Roberts, and he rules. This track, off last year’s Problems & Solutions, starts off with a fierce drum-corps-type groove, the kind I used to hear marching down St. Charles during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Following the obligatory mid-track call to revolutionaryism (which I really beg the young people to consider), there’s a buzzy, untenable space that gradually becomes a very Deep South spiritual-styled chorus of wordless croons. If everyone puts kidkanevil on indefinite repeat, this is what the future will, and should, sound like.

Verdict: Keep It!

Shack, “Captain’s Table” (download)

The track starts off with some annoying echoed vocals. At the 00:17 mark, however, it becomes one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in years, and maintains in this fashion until the song ends. Why did no one tell me about Shack?! Their naval fetishes on 1999’s H.M.S. Fable precede those of contemporary artists the Decemberists and British Sea Power by a good few years, not that that’s a whole lot for them to be proud of. What they do have to be proud of, aside from writing elegantly sober hooks, is remaining in my music collection.

Verdict: Keep It!

Caetano Veloso, “Billie Jean/Eleanor Rigby” (download)

Politically active, philosophically robust, and bossa-nova firebrand (a category in which he may be the only example), Caetano Veloso helped revolutionize Brazilian music by combining the country’s traditional pop stylings with thoughtful lyrics and modern rock and roll influences. This song, which I think brings a well-needed breath of levity to the above adventures, is a good example of how the musical heritage of two American continents and their European forebear can be assimilated to create something fresh. Veloso’s mash-up of Michael Jackson and the Beatles, off one of numerous self-titled releases, is what spring-cleaning is all about. Find what’s working, dust it off, and put it right back in the mix.

Verdict: Keep It!

New Lost City Ramblers, “Shady Grove” (download)

Formed in 1958, the New Lost City Ramblers became central to the folk revival of the period. I found this song on a free Folkways CD sampler a few years ago, but, as I must blush to admit, never bothered to read the liner notes to find out who I was hearing. Like so much of our cultural heritage, the old-timey string sound produced by the N.L.C.R. has a distinctive warmth and charm. Though I didn’t hear a lot of music like this growing up, a lot of really old people did, and I take some comfort in that. That their nights weren’t spent in total silence. What a time it must have been!

Verdict: Keep It!


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Eight songs down. At this rate, I’ll have listened to every song on my hard drive in just 4,495 more spring-cleanings. Better get started now. Better wear that flannel tomorrow.

biopic

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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