As I’ve done for the past three years on PHW, I’ve asked some of the artists I’ve written about this year to reminisce, musically, on 2010. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several more nationally recognizable acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me. This is the 4th in a series of 8 or 9 “guest” posts from some names you may recognize, if you were paying attention this year…
The Spend is the work of Chicago’s Matt Shaw. His album Mild Peril is a unique debut – totally DIY sounding, it mixes quiet, reflective folk songs, windswept electronic experiments, and the occasional blasts of unexpected electric guitar into a seamless whole. Shaw’s vocal resemblance to Damien Jurado was what originally caught my attention, but the quality of his songs has kept me coming back ever since. Check out “Gills (Dry)” to start - it was the first one I heard, and I think I wound up hitting repeat 3 or 4 times in a row before I went on to something else.
MP3 :: Gills (Dry)
MP3 :: Gills (Wet)
MP3 :: Mild Peril
(from Mild Peril. Buy here)
Matt was kind enough to throw together a bunch of the songs that inspired him this year (alphabetically!), and if he’s listening to Clem Snide, Constantines, Galaxie 500, and Richard Buckner then he’s certainly born after my own heart. Look for a bonus track from The Spend at the conclusion.
from Matt Shaw, The Spend:
I’ve been making a lot of mix tapes recently, and, therefore, spending a lot of time going through my music in kind of a scattered, impulsive way. So, just flipping through stuff, a (obviously, super-totally incomplete) list of just some (of my favorite) excellent songs:
Archers of Loaf: “White Trash Heroes” - I might have listened to this song more than any other song. If not yet, probably soon. If someone were holding a gun to my head (or if I were just feeling talky), I might say that this is my favorite song. For fun: listen to the way the looping chord progression (once the vocals come in) is the same in both “Fashion Bleeds” (album opener) and this song (album closer) and think about how great it is that they did that.
Art Brut: “18,000 Lira” - My brother and I still enjoy shouting “Sounds like a lot of money!” when we’re hanging out together. And it’s like The Italian Job and Bottle Rocket rewritten for a one-minute song. Micro fiction, eat your heart out.
Arthur Russell: “Arm Around You” - I would like to be able to sing like Arthur Russell.
Beat Happening: “The This Many Boyfriends Club” - The line “We tip over apple carts with the pounding of our hearts” is right up there with John Denver’s “I’m sorry for the way things are in China” in being so perfectly evocative and feeling so, I don’t know – offhand? glib? – at the same time. And I love any song where the instrumentation sounds like stuff just falling over.
Richard Buckner: “Count Me In On This One!” - Go see Richard Buckner play. Come back home. Contemplate, among other things, the bitchin-ness of this guy putting an exclamation point in a song title.
Centaur: “The Same Place” - Listening to this whole album (In Streams) is roughly equivalent to wrapping yourself in an electric blanket. Or floating in a slow ocean. Whichever you prefer.
The Clash: “The Call Up” - This is, for some reason, on a lot of juke boxes in Chicago, and I have lost a great deal of money to those juke boxes.
Clem Snide: “The Curse of Great Beauty” - This song makes me want to write love songs.
Clinic: “Walking With Thee” - Yes, I should just put “Distortions,” but this is groovier. I have not tried this, but I think you could just play Clinic on shuffle at a party and it would be a great party.
Cocteau Twins: “Wax and Wane” BBC Sessions version - It just sounds so evil. And they could be so pretty. And really it sounds a bit of both. See also: Coco Rosie.
Constantines: “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” - CONSTANTINES! (turn it up!) Also, do you play guitar? Play this guitar part. It does not get old.
Dead Meadow: “Everything’s Going On” (the slow, 7 minute version) - I think this is the song got me hooked on slow, doomy riffs, which is saying quite a bit (i.e. I am extremely hooked now).
Depeche Mode: “See You” - They recorded this in 1981. Everyone in the band was, like, 20. I know lots of people make lots of great music when they’re young, but just watch the video for this song and how they look like babies and it’s pretty sweet.
Earth: “Ouroboros Is Broken” - All of the released versions of this song are good. Basically, all of Earth’s stuff is good.
Fairport Convention: “The Lord Is In This Place…How Dreadful Is This Place” - More gorgeous humming in more songs, please.
Fleetwood Mac: “Brown Eyes” - More sha-la-las in more songs, please.
Friend/Enemy: “I once loved someone, Etc.” - I think I would basically be happy with a record of Tim Kinsella sing-shouting the classifieds (I would not, by the by, be surprised to see Mr. Kinsella put out such a record...) so this song is pretty solid in my book.
Fugazi: “Slo Crostic” - I officially request that this be played at my funeral.
Galaxie 500: “Another Day” - I really want to cover this, but I (along with everyone on the internet?) can’t make out the second line of the song, and I haven’t decided yet whether I’m willing to make something up to sub in. So I’ll just keep listening to it all the time. Also: Dean Wareham sounds so good singing back-ups.
Green Day: “I Want to Be Alone” - I love this song, but mostly I want everyone to hear Green Day sound like Iron Maiden in the intro. Check it out. It’s fun.
Guided By Voices: “Meddle” - There are too many excellent Guided By Voices songs for lists like this. So maybe at least you haven’t heard this one yet? On Suitcase (Disc 3).
Husker Du: “Eight Miles High” (Byrds cover) - The guitar comes in, and it’s like the angriest sounding thing ever. And then Bob Mould sounds even angrier. Peace and Love.
Kraftwerk: “Radioland” - This was released in 1975. That is nuts. I mean, listen to this between your Radiohead and Bjork records and tell me that isn’t nuts.
Ted Leo: “To Whom You Were Born” (Lungfish cover) - I especially like the way Mr. Leo switches the original’s grammatically correct ‘pair off and lie down’ to ‘pair off and lay down,’ which kind of just sounds better.
The Lively Ones: “Surf Rider” - Apologies to The Ventures, but I prefer this version so much. Another contender for favorite song.
Modest Mouse: “Cowboy Dan” - Obviously, also, lots and lots of other Modest Mouse songs. But I would be happy listening to the guitar line from this for the rest of eternity, especially with that weird death-march percussion behind it.
Mount Eerie: “Woolly Mammoth’s Mighty Absence” - I really really love Mr. Elv(e)rum’s loud stuff too, but this super spare (and non-full-length) song (esp. the guitar part) is one of his best.
Nada Surf: “Blizzard of ‘77” - See also: N. Surf’s covers of “Where Is My Mind” and “Love and Anger.”
Nirvana: “Verse Chorus Verse” - They wrote and recorded this. And then they hid it, unlisted, on a comp. Which is awesome.
Operation Ivy: all of Energy - This is cheating, and the same cheat can be applied to plenty of other albums, but, seriously, have you listened to this recently?
P.I.L.: “Swan Lake” - I think this is what ‘bedlam’ would sound like if ‘bedlam’ were a song.
Pixies: “Levitate Me” - I am not at all a drummer, but I love the drums on this song. Hit drums hard. See also: Isis’ “The Beginning And The End.”
Q And Not U: “We Heart Our Hive” - I wish I could have seen them recording this. They’re playing all these crazy intense parts so tightly (they were generally very good at that). The ping-pong-ing feedback beeps at the beginning are, you know, just the beginning.
R.E.M.: “Crazy” (Pylon cover) - This Peter Buck riff has “Come As You Are” levels of guitar-instruction potential. The rest of the song is also good.
Ramones: “I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement” - The massive riff. The awesomely circular lyrics. The way he says ‘bay’ or ‘base-m’ or ‘base-muh’ but never ‘basement,’ as if saying ‘wanna’ and putting ‘wanna’ in seemingly every third song title and lyric weren’t enough. Because they are the Ramones.
Red House Painters: “Red Carpet” - And, again, basically everything Mark Kozelek does, I love. But when the distortion comes in on this at the 1:10 mark and everything collapses in on itself it feels like the land your on is breaking away and drifting.
Seam: “Rafael” - I would imagine that, if you have a few bad-ass, simultaneously featherweight/black-hole-heavy riffs, it’s tempting to ride them for a while. Here is an excellent argument for breezing through them and quickly getting out of the way.
The Stooges: “Gimme Danger” - This song is, like, legit, kind of frightening, but without any big overbearing scary shit all over the place. I don’t know how they did that. An aside: play this back to back with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and tell me that’s not a little weird.
Swervedriver: “Last Train to Satansville” - If you are in a car and running late to anything, put this song on. I promise that you will drive faster.
Joy Division: “Twenty-four Hours” (out of alphabetical order for effect only…) - Also legit frightening. Also makes you drive fast (best at night – Lost Highway-style).
Spacemen 3: “Revolution” Live in Europe 1989 version - FUUUCCCCKKKKK!
Television: “Elevation” - Baseball, jazz, the Constitution, etc. are all really great, sure. Thank you, America. But the U.S. of A. thing I’m most grateful for this holiday season is the electric guitar. Put this song on your headphones in the city at night and walk around when it’s icy and still and you’re sufficiently bundled up and nothing feels that cold but everything looks so so cold. And somehow Marquee Moon is also the best drive-around-with-your-windows-down summer album. (And everybody knows that Marquee Moon is also just one of those perfect albums and it would be redundant to say so, right?)
The Walkmen: “Donde Esta La Playa” - Season-appropriate tip: Lisbon is so so so good, but You & Me by the Walkmen is, like, the best album to listen to during the holidays when people come over and say ‘Can you put something less depressing on, please?’ and you just don’t own any holiday music. This happens to other people too, right?
Wire: “The 15th” - Okay. Maybe this is my favorite song.
The Wrens: “13 Months in 6 Minutes” - I am often tempted to skip through to the gorgeous, fleeting, California-dreamy fade-out ending of this song, but those first 6 minutes are much too good to miss.
There’s the list. For now.
(Incidentally, if you take all of these songs, throw them in a bag with some dark water, shake thoroughly, and pour the contents out in the shape of a circle you can make your own The Spend record. If anything sounds off, just add reverb. Also, add reverb. For a fun, kid-friendly treat, try putting a b flat drone under everything!)
Bonus track: MP3 :: The Spend: “Ooh Do I Love You” (Cap’n Jazz cover)
This is from a set I played last month at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. It’s a good song for the cold.
Happy holidays, everybody!