Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Annotated Beukemix, 2013

Liner notes!

1. While You Wait for the Others - Grizzly Bear ft. Michael McDonald
Already put the original version on my 2009 mix, but one morning the Current's morning show played this one as an example of something the band should do more of to garner Grammy voter goodwill. It took me most of the song to believe it wasn't a prank. It's not. It is, however, amazing.

2. Nobody Can - Deltron 3030 ft. Aaron Bruno
I feel lucky in a dumb way that I got into Deltron so late; I only had to wait 8 years for another album, instead of 13. The songs on the new album are great (unlike on the debut, the skits are terrible), and this is a great example. I want to dive into the extensive making-of material on YouTube to see if it's got some info about Del's particular sci-fi background. Thanks to Lacey, I got to see them live in October, which was a lot of fun. Dan the Automator definitely strikes me as the extrovert of the collaboration.

3. Pelican - The Maccabees
The video seems pretty dumb. Recommend listening in a background browser tab.

4. I Got You (At the End of the Century) - Wilco
This is a new re-recording (seemingly unavailable for linking) of the song for the "This is Forty" soundtrack. I will tolerate bluegrass in my rock if it's Wilco.

5. Little Numbers - BOY
There's something quaint about a song that uses knowledge of a telephone number to symbolize the excitement of a new relationship. I mean, the last time I was in one, I memorized Melissa's number pronto, even though I did already have a cell phone and it was somewhat unnecessary. Who knows what the kids are doing today with their hula hoops and fax machines. Get off my lawn. Anyway, it's a nice song that I thought was Feist the first time I heard it.

6. Animals - Muse
I really haven't made the effort with Muse, though I love Knights of Cydonia. This track suggests I really should. It's got a 5/4 time signature, a guitar in David Gilmour mode, and even shares its name with Pink Floyd's underrated masterpiece album. Pure Fredbait.

7. Thrift Shop - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz Look, the hook is terrific and the song is a lot of fun. Based on their SNL performance, I'm pretty convinced that Ryan Lewis is actually Ryan Howard from The Office. [I don't buy the argument that Macklemore is somehow making fun of dressing in thrift store clothes. Based on the rest of the album, if there's one thing he's not lacking, it's sincerity; I think he's genuinely celebrating thrifty cultivation of a unique personal style. The idea that the song is somehow at the expense of those who cannot afford not to shop at thift shops suggests that thrift shops are only intended to be for poor people.]

8. She Cries Your Name - Beth Orton
Missed this one back in its day, and when I heard it this summer the song's half-decade of origin was apparent: only the mid-90s produced alt-rock singer songwriters with acoustic guitar, upright bass, a hip-hoppish drumbeat and electronic piano flourishes. If she were male and ended every sentence with a superfluous "-ah," I'd think it was a lost Soul Coughing cut.

9. Spectrum - Florence + The Machine
Downloaded this song back to back with the Beth Orton, and when I listened to them on a drive one evening, the transition between sort of faded into nothingness, like they were two adjacent movements of a larger work. Apart, I like both songs. Together, I love them. Also: I like to think Orton was referring to Florence crying your name, and now Florence is suggesting you return the favor.

10. Shuggie - Foxygen
A somewhat silly little suite of a pop song, with an odd keyboard break in the middle that somehow reminds me of Toe Jam and Earl.

11. The Bear and the Maiden Fair - The Hold Steady
Watching Game of Thrones, it feels like there are only two songs in all of Westeros. The show introduced "The Rains of Castamere" in the second season, and explained it in detail midway through the third, so that once it became important to the plot, you'd know to be alarmed that you were hearing it. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" carries less baggage; it's the "Piano Man" or "Sweet Caroline" of the fictional world, the song everybody sings together when they get drunk. The Hold Steady were a great choice to flesh it out, and they make it sound like a Hold Steady song, especially with the talking bit in the bridge. On the show this recording is introduced at one of the more hilariously brutal cut-to-blacks I've seen on TV.

12. Oh! You Pretty Things - David Bowie
Max got super into Bowie's "Changes" this year (other song obsessions: "C is for Cookie," Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us," "Folsom Prison Blues"), so I spent a lot of time listening to Hunky Dory. Always liked this song, but it hooked me anew under increased scrutiny. The video link is a nice live version from the BBC in '72 that I'm pretty sure is Bowie doing karaoke to the instrumental track from the album.

13. Singers and the Endless Song - Iron & Wine
If I'd known Iron & Wine sometimes got beyond the folky songwriter business and messed around with obscure metaphor, deep bass lines, organ, and horn sections, I'd have been paying attention way sooner.

14. Prisoner - Har Mar Superstar ft. Fabrizio Moretti
Damn. I want the Robinson Caruso Organization to still exist so we can play this song. First time I heard it, I wondered if James Rone had secretly taken the project to the big time without the rest of us. Incidentally, apparently Fabrizio Moretti is the drummer from The Strokes.

15. Crazy - Petula Clark
This one comes from my brother, who I thank for bringing it to my attention. Yes, this is 80-year-old Petula Clark, of "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep in the Subway" fame, kicking ass on Gnarls Barkley's 2006 summer jam. Between that version, the Spaghetti Western score it samples, and this cover, the song has now been on my mix three times.

16. Black - Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi ft. Norah Jones
I liked the song when it closed out the 4th season of Breaking Bad, and finally got the album it came from for my birthday. As much as the orchestration is part of my appreciation of the song and the Spaghetti Western style, this simple version with just Luppi, Jones and Danger Mouse in a room is very cool as well.

17. Royals - Lorde
Seems like more and more the tastes of the Top 40 are overlapping with those of The Current's programmers. I jotted this song down during a morning commute a couple months before it was suddenly ubiquitous on the web and hit #1 (bookended by Miley Cyrus, a strong counterexample to the trend). Having now seen some live recordings of Lorde, I find her mannerisms while she sings really distracting. But that doesn't detract from how catchy and atmospheric this song is.

18. Givin' 'Em What They Love - Janelle Monáe ft. Prince
Had "Q.U.E.E.N." in the mix until I finally got "Electric Lady" this fall, and this song kicked my butt. I love Monáe's sci-fi world building, and the new album made me want to dig more into The Archandroid, which I liked well enough, and her first EP, which I haven't heard. Here are a couple of good pieces about her: one two. That second, from Alyssa Rosenberg, highlights one of my favorite things about Monáe - her sci-fi world building. I really, really want an RPG from Todd Howard's Bethesda team (Fallout 3, Skyrim) set in Janelle Monáe's Metropolis.

19. Bus Passes and Happy Meals - Lizzo
Lizzo is based in Minneapolis though she hails from Detroit via Houston. She cites Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot as major inspirations, and this track (no link available) shows that latter influence plainly. This sounds in some ways like a lost Elliot track, with Cliff Rhymes doing his best Timbaland impression early on (though adding more vocally than I think Timbaland ever did). Anyway, it's great, and I look forward to hearing more.

20. Holding On for Life - Broken Bells
My favorite song of the year. Between Deltron, Janelle Monáe and this video, it's a great year for sci-fi in music. But even before I saw this video, I was imagining the establishing shots of 2019 Los Angeles from Blade Runner when I heard the smooth instrumental bridge. The chorus sounds like a Bee Gees song -- I mean that here as a compliment. [For those keeping score at home, this makes three songs with Danger Mouse writing credits this year.]

21. Shelter Song - Temples
Sounds like a good late period British Invasion song, until the last two notes of the guitar hook. Those last two notes! This song is all about those last two notes.

I had an unusual number of songs that just missed the cut this year. They include:
Mama Told Me - Kelly Rowland ft. Big Boi;
Pay the Price - Deltron 3030;
1x1x1 - Cloud Cult; Congratulation - MGMT;
Clint Eastwood - Trey Anastasio;
(You Will) Set the World on Fire - David Bowie;
Tusk - Fleetwood Mac;
Sacrilege - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs;
Sad Nile - The Whitefield Brothers;
Skeletons - Stevie Wonder;
The Rains of Castamere - The National;
Q.U.E.E.N. - Janelle Monáe ft. Erykah Badu (one of my favorite videos of the year);
Genius - Inara George;
Sleeping Ute - Grizzly Bear;
Line of Fire - Junip;
That's It! - The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (thanks, Joe Bozic, for this one); and
Antiphon - Midlake, which was bumped off by Temples at the last minute.

This was the tenth Beukemix I've done in this year-retrospective format, and I always enjoy sharing songs that caught my ear. If you have any songs you think I might like based on all these self-indulgent posts, I'd love to hear them.

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