Hear me wax poetic (or pathetic) about music, etc.

Saturday, January 6, 2007


So I have two things to post about today. First, I've been promising to post the tracklist from the first IMP mix I received.

My first mix came to me from Lauren in NYC. Thanks, Lauren. I have mixed feelings about this mix for a number of reasons. One, I felt that my mixer could have been a bit more creative in packaging the CD. I know that cover art, etc. is not an IMP requirement, but I just think it adds so much to the end product. I recently encouraged a new acquaintance to join, and she is a damn fine artist, who I am sure will be putting quite a bit of effort into both the musical and design aspects of her mixes. Whoever receives a mix from Claire can count themselves lucky.

My mix, on the other hand, came to me in the original CD-R case, with all packaging intact. It is one of those nifty vinyl CD-R's, though. She did include a hand written track list, as well as a personal note explaining her method for selecting the songs on the mix, offering some insight into the way she incorporates music into her life, and the way her musical choices are informed
by her invironment. That was interesting, at least. Essentially, her deal is musical cyclicality; that is, she listens to different types of music depending on the season. This, a fall\winter mix, did effectively bring to mind breezy autumns with the leaves changing colors, giving way to blustery winters.

The songs fit her description, if it is a little bit hit-me-in-the-head to include two songs by The Decemberists. Oh, well. I appreciate getting a mix, as I've heard stories of some members going months without actually receiving a mix at all. Well, before I say any more, here is the track list:

I Want to Hold Your Hand/Al Green

Three More Days/Ray LaMontagne

Extraordinary Machine/Fiona Apple

The Crane Wife 3/The Decemberists

Star Bodies/The New Pornographers

The Commander Thinks Aloud/The Long Winters

She Really Wants You/Aimee Mann

Streets of Fire/The New Pornographers

Yankee Bayonet/The Decemberists

Where Did I Go Wrong/Martin Sexton

Work it Out/Jurassic 5

To me, the most exciting possibility of the IMP is being introduced to new music on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately for me, I'v heard most of these songs/artists many times before. That problem is compounded by the fact that, at least after the first 4-5 listens, I don't really like the stuff with which I was previously unfamiliar. Oh well. Here are my thoughts.

Al Green: How can you NOT dig that voice? Unfortunately, the arrangement sounds like it was done for the mediocre High School marching band brass section that apparently accompanies Mr. Green. Definitely not awe inspiring

The Band: I love Music From Big Pink. Toe tapping, head nodding r&b. Consummate song writing and musicianship. I absolutely love the quasi ragtime piano fills that run throughout the song, most notably before the last two verses. So much soul from a bunch of white Canadian guys! This song easily provides the culminating moment of this mixtape. I have since dragged out my copy of Big Pink, and listened to it several dozen times over the past month. Thanks, Lauren, for reminding me of the brilliance that happens when a bunch of great musicians get together and make completely unpretentious, hipster aspiration-less, completely straitforward songs of superb crafsmanship. Readers, if you haven't heard this record - shame on you. This song is the only one I felt worthy of an MP3 post. Do listen.

Ray LaMontagne: Competent, if unispired, soul-ish music from a man who draws inspiration from Stephen Stills, and has been compared to Van Morrison and Nick Drake, both of whom are favorites of mine. He lacks the vocal charm and warmth of Morrison, to say the least, and his arrangement here is a rather wrote affair, not at all like the subtle and soothingly melancholy tones Nick Drake crafted. I'd listen to it again, but it won't become a mainstay.

Fiona Apple: This one actually took me by surprise. It may sound small minded, but I basically wrote her off when she pulled that "When the pawn. . ." bullshit album title out of her ass. I didn't expect this. For some reason, I had her pegged as an Alanis Morissette twin. More like an Erin Mckeown or a 1920's chanteuse. Not bad, really.

Decemberists: The Jury is still out on these guys. I can't decide whether I enjoy their penchant for antiquated subject matter and diction, or if I find it annoyingly pretentious. I like some of their arrangements, though I do wonder what's up with all the military motifs. I did come to a conclusion about what it is I do like about them. I like the unabashed romanticism.

The New Pornographers: They are always a favorite. Currently, the NP and The Shins are the two bands crafting what are, to me, perfect pop songs. I'm a sucker for a good pop song. I love the harmonies that work out between the idiosyncratic voices of A.C. Newman and Neko Case. These two songs disappoint on only one level: I am used to better use of time signatures and interesting rhythms from Newman and friends. These are more standard than most of their songs that I really like. I do, however, love the opening line from "Streets." I have no idea what it means, I just love the feel of the words - like the poetry of Galway Kinnell. I also love the subtle sensuality of the first part of the chorus - "lick my lips, twist my hips." I don't know why, but that line, from A.C. Newman, comes across as one of the sexiest male-sung vocals for me.

The Long Winters: I keep trying to figure out who this song is a poor rip off of. If you know who I'm thinking of, please let me know. Mostly a forgettable mid-tempo piano riff.

Aimee Mann: I just can't do it. Although I do picture Chrissie Hynde when I hear Mann, so that's good. I could see this song done by Court and Spark era Joni Mitchell to great effect.

Martin Sexton: It sounds like he's off key the whole time. The live vocals are too heavy on the echo. I just felt like he was trying too hard to have soul that he didn't really have.

Electric 6: All I hear is Dave Matthews sitting in with Sublime. I don't like D.M. If I wanted to hear Sublime, I'd pop that in.

So, that's my take on the IMP experience, thus far. Let me know if you think I'm way off base on any of these, and I'll consider giving them another listen. Maybe I'll have better luck next time.

O.K. Part Two

For those of you who don't know me, I work for a major energy company. I basically control power plant operations for 10 power plants across the country, and electrical load into 5 cities in the South East by playing a video game for 12 hours. The best analogy I've come up with is that I am an air traffic controller for electricity. I don't actually run the plants, but I direct their operations, and get them out of trouble when they're having issues. It's a strange world. I work twelve hour shifts, 5:30 - 5:30, switching from night to day shifts every other week. It's given me a much greater appreciation for the power that makes our modern lives possible. Most people don't give it a second thought, and I can't say that I blame them. Next time you wake up to pee at two in the morning, and the light switch does what it's suppossed to, take a moment to think of me.

In order to be allowed to control over 10,000 mw of electricity at any given time, certain governmental and regulatory entities require me to acquire certifications, in an attempt to guarantee that I won't drag down the entire North American Bulk Electric System. One of these entities is the PJM Regional Transmission Organization. This is the entity responsible for ensuring smooth power operation for much of the North Eastern U.S. Back in October, I attended a seminar in Pittsburgh, P.A.
Lovely city. When I returned home, I sat for an intensive certification examination. This certification is required for me to do my job.

Now, I don't exactly have a background in this stuff. Before I started this job 18 months ago, I had worked at the Alabama Theater Bookstop in Houston for about six years. Before that, I worked as an assistant at a custom picture framing gallery. Needless to say, I was a little bit nervous about this exam. After three months, and countless inquiries to the PJM training administrator, I finally received my results on January fifth.


In honor of this occasion, I offer you a selection of songs celebrating that most unrecognized of modern forces - electricity. Without it, well, think about it.

Electricity/Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band


Electramummy said...


You know I sent some comp cds out recently to Carlos and Kilian, and I had ZERO time to do anything remotely creative with the actual mix or art... except I did include a mix of some Aleutian Delusion stuff we did here, and that alone is ... hard to swallow.

But I just remembered that I forgot to put the "secret to surviving life" on the back of your icon... Will have to figure out how to reconcile that.

I see what you mean about the IMP. You have expectations, and when someone doesn't seem to get creative with their mix, you wonder what they are doing it for... But I would venture to say that your mixmaster doesn't care about music the way you do. I'm struggling to make my mix because I have a crazy ass selection of music on my computer and on disc. Shit NO ONE wants to hear probably.

John Cramer said...

Congrats young lad on your exam pass-ifying. You're all grows up.

Your IMP acquisition was a wee on the Wonderbread, but not bad overall (well, except for the fucking Decemberists, they blow chunder).

Carry on. And come back to work for me at the Stop, we are in dire need of an overqualified minion.

herzoggity said...

i think you have to revise your expectations w/ something like this imp thing. you know more about music than most people; the chance of coming across a bunch of new stuff is small unless you happen to get someone who's really into zydeco or alsatian throat-singing or something. i'll make you a cd w/ winter shit you haven't heard of (mostly, probably) if you give me your address.

herzoggity said...

Also, dude, it's "copyright," not "copywrite." Because it's a right.

Son of Ravyn said...

EM, don't stress out so much over the "Shit NO ONE wants to hear" thing. If your IMP mark is anything like I hope most of them are, she is HOPING to get stuff she never knew she wanted to hear. That's my biggest hope for this thing. I find it frustratingly difficult to expose myself to new music. The sheer volume of stuff out there is daunting in that, following "ordinary" channels of discovery; i.e. reading magazines and visiting record stores, will only uncover a miniscule portion of the music universe, past and present. I imagine that everyone out there, whose tastes align in any way with my own, knows and loves at least one or two artists I've never heard of, and might not ever find without their help. The out of left field selections are the ones to which I most look forward. I say bring on the crazy ass selection and let your recipients bless - or curse - you, whichever the case may be. At the very least, you'll be giving them exposure, growing their scope, giving them something to think about.

John, Wonderbread indeed. I've had a sneaking suspician that the Decemberists are chunder blowers. The only thing that has kept me on the fence is that I am automatically intrigued by the aforementioned romanticism. Like I said, the mix was worth it, if for no other reason, because it got Big Pink back in my rotation, and that record just blows my fucking mind.

I will see what I can do about diving back into the shit with you. It's been a while since I've been blessed with laughing so hard I piss blood for three days.

Z, thanks for stopping in. I don't know that I would say I know more about music than most people. Certainly, it is likely that I know more about music prior to 2003 than the average person my age and under, but I am definitely lacking in current knowledge. I just can't keep up. I don't have the time to wade through it all, what with work and the fam. That is one of the things I think IMP might be good for. I get the impression (don't ask me why) that the kids dominate the mixing. They tend to be far more in the know than me. I would love a mix of anything you think I'd like to hear:
1837 Kipling
Apt. A
Houston, TX 77098

Sorry about the typo, legal eagle. I was a little bit preoccupied while posting. Nothing important, you know, just safeguarding the North American Electric Grid. Thanks for pointing out my brain fart.