18 September, 2007

Goofballs Music Reviews #2

Here is the playlist and text of the "liner-notes" I am sending to my Aunt and Uncle in upstate New York. Briefly, on background, I used to send them tapes when I was much younger. My Aunt, who was then a school teacher for troubled children, would play my mixes and discuss them with her students. My Aunt, my Father's Sister, has always demonstrated a greater appreciation for music I deemed "cool" or "relevant" than my actual parents, probably as a result of dealing with a large number of individuals in my age group.



01) The District Sleeps Alone Tonight / The Postal Service / "GIVE UP" 04:44
02) Easy On Yourself / The Drive-by Truckers / "A BLESSING AND A CURSE" 03:28
03) Don't Leave the Light on Baby / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"
04) Between The Bars / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 02:21
05) Just Like Anyone / Aimee Mann / "BACHELOR NO. 2" 01:21
06) Arabian Knights / Siouxsie & the Banshees / "JUJU" 03:07
07) Misery is a Butterfly / Blonde Redhead, "MISERY IS A BUTTERFLY" 05:08
08) Family Tree / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"


09) Feb 14 / The Drive-by Truckers / "A BLESSING AND A CURSE" 03:41
10) Crooked Teeth / Death Cab for Cutie / "PLANS" 03:25
11) Spellbound / Siouxsie & the Banshees / "JUJU" 03:17
12) Angeles / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 02:57
13) Faded From Winter / Iron and Wine / "THE CREEK DRANK THE CRADLE" 03:18
14) Two of Us / Aimee Mann / "I AM SAM SOUNDTRACK" 03:32
15) Waiting for the Moon to Rise / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"
16) Each Coming Night / Iron and Wine / "OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS" 03:28
17) Rose Parade / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 03:28

It seems like 20 years since I have done a mix tape for you guys, and I'm pretty sure that's not too far of an
exaggeration. So it is approriate, then, that this compilation comprise of three decades of music from the 1980s
to today, to quote just about every generic Clear Channel owned "Lite Rock / Less Talk" venue in a city near you.

The mix begins with the opening track to 2003's "GIVE UP" by The Postal Service, a side-project of Death Cab for
Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello. "GIVE UP" features tightly crafted pop melodies over
obsessively tweaked pops and beeps of modern electronica. The LP features the ubiquituous single "Such Great Heights"
which is featured in a number of television advertisements, including the introductory "thrive" campaign of
Kaiser-Permanente, and has been covered far and wide, most noteably by Iron and Wine, whose acoustic version is
featured on the "Garden State Soundtrack".

We move on to Athens, Georgia rockers "The Drive-by Truckers" with their song "Easy on Yourself" from 2006's
"A BLESSING AND A CURSE". The band is lead by Patterson Hood, son of a Muscle Schoals studio player, and was
founded in 1996. The band has been cranking out one superb record after another of pitch-perfect Southern-
rock and country influenced music ever since. Their "SOUTHERN ROCK OPERA" 2-CD set is an essential for any
serious Y'allternative (alt country) fan.

"FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT" marks the return-to-form of "chamber pop" mavens
Belle and Sebastian, and "Don't Leave the Light on Baby" is probably as close to personal band
leader Stuart Murdoch tends to get in terms of songwriting, following his breakup with former bandmate,
cellist and vocalist Isobel Campbell (who has since enjoyed a successful solo career).

The next song is the cellphone ringtone for someone very special to me. Honest. Isn't technology great?

Aimee Mann is an indie heroine, former leader of 80s pop group "Till Tuesday", who saved up enough money to buy
back her back-catalog from Geffen later in her career and maintains sole rights on all of her music to this
day. She is married to composer and pop artist Michael Penn, brother to Sean and the late Chris Penn. Mann
gained a recent bump in popularity with the 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson film "Magnolia" by scoring the entire
soundtrack. Anderson and Penn had previously worked together on "Boogie Nights," and Mann had worked with
Anderson's then-girlfriend Fiona Apple.

Siouxsie and the Banshees was a post-Punk art-rock band popular in the 1980s lead by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux,
and was formed in 1976 as a last-minute fill-in for a UK punk rock festival. The band has (some say unjustifiably)
been given the post-hoc genre designation of "goth" (although old coots like me still refer to that genre as
"death rock"), along with other post-punk icons such as The Cure and Bauhaus. The "goth" designation emphasised
style often over substance, two qualities that are not at all lacking in the music and stage presence of
Siouxsie and the Banshees.

A more modern version of the highly stylized music of Siouxsie and the Banshees might be the art-rock trio
Blonde Redhead comprised of members Simone and Amedeo Pace and Kazu Makino. Their first album was produced by
Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. Sonic Youth is the famed New York City punk, post-punk outfit comprised
also of bassist and vocalist Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. As in the 1960s with the Velevet Underground,
Sonic Youth is both a cool-barometer and a cool-magnet.

Death Cab for Cutie lead by frontman Ben Gibbard has been recording for a decade and shot to "post-indie"
superstardom with the inclusion of several of their songs on the popular television drama (dramedy? trageo-comi-
drama? soap opera for teenagers?) "The O. C.", a show about a bunch of dumb, rich white kids getting into
fistfights and car crashes with sexy results. Regardless, the pop stylings of Gibbard and company are
unassailable, and they deserve all that fame and fortune.

Iron and Wine is singer/songwriter Sam Beam. A native of South Carolina, Beam plays guitar, banjo, slide
guitar, piano, mouth-harp, and an attick full of other strange and magical instruments, and tours with a
full band of sometimes more than half a dozen players including family members and friends. Beam is a
graduate Florida State University Film school (go Gators!) and writes introspective and folk-inspired
songs. Ironically, he rose to prominence after covering a Postal Service song for "The Garden State
Soundtrack" as previously mentioned.

The mix ends with "Rose Parade" off "EITHER/OR" by Elliott Smith. Born Steven Paul Smith on August 6th, 1969,
Elliott thought his name made him sound too much like a "jock". He showed signs of musical talent early on,
composing songs in Sunday school, and putting on talent shows. His mother, a caberet singer, divorced Elliott's
father when Elliott was young and moved the family to Texas, where Elliott stayed briefly before moving in
with his father instead. His mother had remarried, and there was a great deal of tension between Elliott and his
step-father, who he considered to be abusive. Elliott's estrangement from his mother is a common theme in
many of his songs. His solo career began in 1996 after leaving the Portland, Oregon band Heatmiser. Elliott
shot into the public eye after being nominated for a "Best Song" Oscar for "Miss Misery", a song from the
"Good Will Hunting Soundtrack", a film directed by friend and fellow Portlander Gus Van Sant. Elliott battled
drug addiction throughout his career and tragically ended his life on October 21st, 2003. It's too bad, because
he really was probably the best songwriter of my generation.