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Category: random five (page 1 of 3)

Friday Random Five, taking the high road

This week I’m really enjoying The Ghost That Carried Us Away by Seabear. It has a child-like quality that sounds very fresh and welcoming. It’s like the Lilac Time did an album with Sigur Rós, with zombie Elliott Smith whisper-singing along.

Song for Children by Brian Wilson
Album: Smile
Speaking of childlike. I don’t know how to take this album. It has some real touches of genius (I think I can hear — no kidding — Monteverdi in the album’s opening), but what to make of the calliope and whirligigs? Is this a retreat into childhood, but maybe (for Wilson) happier this time? A relic of nostalgia-tinged 60’s California? A strange experiment by a troubled genius? I’m willing to give this album some time because this is clearly made with loads of skill and control, but it is odd.

Pay No Mind (Snoozer) by Beck
Album: Mellow Gold
Speaking of odd. Beck was a strange lad in the early years. This one’s a lazy strummer with free-association lyrics everywhere. Try ‘There’s shopping malls coming out of the walls’. No? How about ‘Give the finger to the rock-n-roll singer’.

Waiting for the Sun by The Doors
Album: The Best of the Doors
A dark carpeted room with candlesticks.

Me and My Arrow by Harry Nilsson
Album: The Point (Soundtrack)
I have a very vivid memory of this song on AM radio in the 70’s. I must have been 5 or 6, and my sister was singing this song to me. We were in the kitchen, me sitting on the counter, and we were laughing and singing and being silly.

Eventually she grew up and became less fun, more adult, and that was hard for me to understand at the time. And I know she doesn’t quite understand ways that I’ve changed now. It’s hard to get back to those times.

Reise, Reise by Rammstein
Album: Reise, Reise
I think I like the idea of Rammstein better than I like Rammstein itself. Over the top grinding metal with heavy German vocals. How can you not love the concept? I like the album, but I never seek it out.

Random Five, in six words.

I try not to play one album too much because the other ones get jealous. But that hasn’t stopped me from playing quite a lot of Beck’s latest release, “Modern Guilt”.

  • This time the sound is sunshine pop mixed with surf rock and deep paranoia. Maybe Beck didn’t get it all from Caribou, but if I were Dan Snaith, I’d be feeling pretty vindicated.
  • Every song cuts off abruptly, so you don’t get too comfortable.
  • Best lyric: ‘Sic a dog on all you know/Cut it loose before you go.’
  • I think this album contains the best song in Beck’s long catalogue, and that’s ‘Volcano’. If you can ignore the Dianetics implications, you’ll find a worn-out beat glued to a beautiful choral setting. I can’t get it out of my mind.

If you don’t want to stray too far from Beckland, you could try my other album of the week, ‘The Sophtware Slump’ by Grandaddy. Man, this is a depressing album, but sometimes it rocks out, and at times it’s quite touching. “Underneath the Weeping Willow” is a simple piano piece about the need to stop and sleep once in a while. Even though there’s sadness, we may yet wake and feel happy again. It was a song that found me sitting in the car at the grocery store parking lot while the song finished. I watched everyone going by, and the world got quiet.

This time I’m describing the random songs using only six words.

Born Slippy by Underworld
Album: Triple J Hottest 100, Volume 4
Never got this. Too much pummeling.
Snot by Isan
Album: Salamander
Early stuff here. They’ve gotten better.
Bowl of Oranges by Bright Eyes
Album: Cold Front: The Winter Chill Collective
Clever lyrics. I like hopeful music.
Offend in Every Way by The White Stripes
Album: White Blood Cells
They have a simple earthy appeal.
Speed Dial No. 2 by Zero 7
Album: When It Falls
Not my favourite. But nice chill.

Talking about the Random Five is more than I can bear

Presenting this week’s Random Five without comment.

Bringing Home the Ashes by The Wild Swans
Album: Bringing Home the Ashes

If There’s a Heaven Above (Canada Mix) by Love and Rockets
Album: Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven

Atom Man Loves Radium Girl by Bill Nelson
Album: The Two-Fold Aspect of Everything

Theme from ‘Hatari’ by Henry Mancini
Album: The Collection

Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale by A-ha
Album: Hunting High and Low

Bonus sixth:
Satie: Piéces froides – Danses de travers – I by Reinbert de Leeuw
Album: The Best of Erik Satie

The comments are yours. Recoil in horror, or wax laudatory. Or, better still, reveal your own Random Five. No cheating.

Friday Random Five won’t sacrifice anything at all to love.

I’ve had enough of sorting through identical sounding ambient glitch bands. Fortunately, I’ve found something really great to rescue me from Click Madness.

If you’ve been around for awhile, you may remember a project by Harold Budd and the Cocteau Twins called “The Moon and the Melodies”. Some great songs there, except that some songs sounded like the Twins and some like Budd, and it never really gelled into the Cocteau Budds. Good stuff anyway.

Now in our post-Cocteau world, Robin Guthrie (of the Twins) and Harold Budd have teamed up again with two albums (released on the same day) called “After the Night Falls” and “Before the Day Breaks”. The two albums are of a piece; even the song titles flow on from each other. Within are exquisitely woven sounds; Budd’s sepia-tinged piano and Guthrie’s flowing guitar, fusing into something airy and watery, light and shade and beautiful. But for the missing vocals of Elisabeth Fraser, it’d be like the Cocteaus never left.

And now this week’s offering of five random songs from the collection.

Suede by Ken Nordine
Album: Wink
You’ve heard Ken’s voice, even if you don’t know the name. He’s done voiceover work for films and commercials for decades now. But he’s also a very hip sort of beat poet guy in his warm cool way. I love his “Now, Nordine” shows, and “Word Jazz“.

This album finds him contemplating (in his schizophrenic way, Ken talking to Ken) windscreen wipers in love, the morality of licking lampshades, and here, the dangers of sneezing on suede.

It might be worth mentioning that the album was originally called “Twink”, before they changed it for obvious reasons. Ken doing Robert Shure’s “Twink” just sounds wrong. Semantic shift and all that.

All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star) by R.E.M.
Album: Reveal
Even though everyone knows R.E.M., and I like a lot of their albums, I still find something hidden in R.E.M. that I can’t get to. Maybe I didn’t listen to them early enough; they weren’t one of ‘my bands’. (U2 was never one of my bands either, but now I no longer care.) Maybe the incomprehensible mystique that they cultivated in the 80s still clings to them for me. And after Berry’s departure, trying to ‘get’ R.E.M. became impossible because the band I never really knew was gone.

That said, I still like Time magazine’s description of this album: a ride through the rain forest in a hovercraft. This song feels like driving somewhere out West, or maybe the beginning of Mulholland Drive.

Stories of Old by Depeche Mode
Album: Some Great Reward
Depeche was hitting their stride here, carving a template that they’d use for their next 20 albums: sexual dissolution encoded in religious metaphor, all wrapped up in the sharpest sound samples anyone had ever heard. When I first heard this song in the autumn of 1984 (driving down to Utah), I decided that Depeche Mode were the kings of neat noise.

Hong by Kiln
Album: Sunbox
Kiln is the best of the ambient glitch bands for my money. The mix of smooth chill and clicky percussion is perfect. It won’t bore you or put you to sleep, unless you’re happy to go there. Simple, but intelligent.

War Pigs by Faith No More
Album: The Real Thing
I never had a Sabbath phase because as a young Mormon boy I was askeert, but I do really enjoy this cover. If there had been any doubt about FNM’s metal credentials, let them be dispelled. And the lyrics: relevant for Iraq just as for Viet Nam.

You better not mess with the Friday Random Five.

The quest for the perfect IDM/downtempo/ambient album has yielded some new candidates. Let’s take it from the top.

Drøn‘s 2001 album Xenologic requires a bit of patience, and tends toward the random glitch a bit much for my taste. Take it track by track. Start with the otherworldly ‘Spool’, and then try ‘Plateau’.

For something a bit more active, try the Push EP from Lusine. Sophisticated and listenable.

I’m really enjoying everything by Kiln, especially their 2004 EP Sunbox and the new Dusker. Both albums are more musical than I’d expected, which is a plus, and the effects are interesting instead of wearing, as is sometimes the case with IDM. Very worthwhile and sort of relaxing.

And now on to the random.

Flame (Demo 1) by Alphaville
Album: Dreamscapes
There’s a lot more to Alphaville than ‘Forever Young’. They’re an extremely creative band with a gift for fantasy-laden electronic pop, which is better than it sounds. Dreamscapes is an 8-disc set (yes, eight) of demos, rarities, live versions, and remixes. Fans will be interested to hear these sketches of early songs from a great period in their career.

Adios Mi Chaparrita by Pérez Prado
Album: Our Man in Havana: The Very Best of Pérez Prado
I keep a lot of Pérez Prado in the collection, not only because it’s great Latin music, but also because when it comes on randomly at 3 am, it conveys such a sense of strangeness. You’re in a different place and time, and there’s someone going “Uugh!” at odd intervals. Who needs drugs? Or even maté?

Cantara by Dead Can Dance
Album: Toward the Within
Even though I’m only a casual listener of CDC, I think this might be the best live album ever. Lisa Gerard, Brendan Perry, and a team of instrumentalists tackle an amazing range of eastern-influenced music. I’m impressed by two things: the astounding musicianship of a band that got it right on the first take, and the way the audience is clearly entranced.

Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie
Album: ChangesBowie
When was the last time you watched this video? That’s too long. But we can fix that.

The image that stays with me is that of the grandmother. She’s a bit of normal in this very strange world, where the heaving sea is black, and odd people make obsequies despite the oncoming and ominously silent steamroller.

Crystal (Digweed & Muir Bedrock Mix) by New Order
Album: Ministry of Sound: The 2002 Annual
A pretty good mix of the new-classic New Order track. I was so pleased to see New Order doing something new and sharp again. On a slightly related note, the producer of Get Ready, Steve Osbourne, has most recently been enlisted to produce the new B-52’s album Funplex, and how could you not be curious about the first B’s album in 16 years? Less than two weeks away, folks. There’ll be fun. Have a listen.

Friday Random Five was sleeping on your shoulder

Before I hit the Random button and talk about the first five songs that come up (no cheating), a word on recent explorations into ambient IDM/downtempo/glitch.

Carbon Based Lifeforms (no ‘the’, please) are a duo from Sweden that makes music like glaciers — cool and verrry slow-moving. I’ve been checking out two of their albums: Hydroponic Garden and (the slightly better) World of Sleepers. Both guaranteed to transport you to BubbleWorld, and not to antagonise you or raise your blood pressure more than a few ticks. I’ve found that there’s a place for the Carbs, and if you try listening in the wrong place, it’s desperately boring. Get it right, and there’s nothing else quite like it. Hint: driving, bad; working or sleeping, good.

If you like CBL, there are lots of other things you might get excited about. You might try Pushing Air by Deru, still ambient but with beats and more of an edge. Somehow it feels more substantive and engaging. Nice to see that the Boards of Canada tradition of putting weird little experimental numbers between the songs is holding up.

And in other news, did you know Devo had a new song? We didn’t get the Dell ad over here, so you Americans please excuse us while we watch them work it.

Good to know they’re still out there.

And now on to the Random.

The Robots (Cha-Cha-Cha) by Señor Coconut
Album: El Baile Alemán
I’ve blogged about Señor Coconut’s work before. This track comes from his first album — Latin reworkings of Kraftwerk songs. It’s more than just concept; the songs really stand up to repeated listenings. Even newcomers to Kraftwerk would probably enjoy these. My only qualm is that El Señor doesn’t follow the chord progressions for the song exactly. I’m a purist that way. His second attempt, Yellow Fever (consisting of YMO covers), is even better. Part homage, part humour, and all Latin.

Love Street by The Doors
Album: The Best of the Doors
The Doors remind me of being a kid in Jeffrey’s house. Maybe his older brothers listened to them. For some reason, the music of the Doors is in a different place in my mind from other 60’s music, but I can’t say why. It seemed deeper somehow.

I never got the chance to hear this song until I saw the movie, which is why I associate it with Val Kilmer as Jim, slinking up to Meg Ryan’s house. Run, Meg!

Love is a Stranger (Stranger Days Mix) by Eurythmics
Album: Art of Compilation CD7
More Eurythmics this week. This time, a dance mix of this classic track.
Liberation by Pet Shop Boys
Album: Very
‘Liberation’ is a powerful choice of word — it’s tied up with struggle and emancipation. As a straight guy, our society constantly affirms my sexuality, including when my beloved and I are in public. It’s difficult for me to imagine what that situation would be like for two men in love. I’m guessing that this is the situation described in the song, which uses the word to describe the feeling of freedom and self-acceptance from being with a lover. I’ve always thought this a lovely song.

Dark Star (David Andrew Sitek Remix) by Beck
Album: The Information
I have a confession to make. I’m a bit obsessive about documenting my music-listening habits. It’s pretty easy, because iTunes keeps track of playcounts etc. for you. But if I hear a song on the radio and I have it on the computer, I have been known to notch up the playcount for it. Because it should count, dammit. So it means something if I say that the album version of “Dark Star” is currently number 15 on my list of most listened-to songs (out of 13,000).

This mix is faithful to the original, with slightly more tambourine. I thought the instrumental interlude a bit unnecessary.

Bonus sixth.

Circus Ring by Vitamin Z
Album: Rites of Passage
I always thought this album was a cut above the usual late-eighties good-looking synthpop. Probably Anne Dudley’s influence. Searching for copies of this album was always futile, and I came to hate the sight of Sharp Stone Rain in the bins under ‘V’. It never did see a US release; even fails to list the CD. Nowhere else but Japan, from which this recording comes.

This track has a majestic quality, but its intensity stays in control. One of their best songs.

Friday Random Five is playing with my heart

Blue Mood by Swing Out Sister
Album: It’s Better to Travel
I always loved this first album for its jazz sensibility and sophistication. If the members of the post-ZTT Art of Noise had decided to drop the quirkiness and go for musicality, it might have sounded like this, and that would have been good. Not to slight Anne Dudley at all.

There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart) by Eurythmics
Album: Greatest Hits [Europe]
Youngest Boy frequently asks to hear Eurythmics, and who could blame him? No one ever went from arid synthesised cool to beautiful electronic pop with such ease and joy. This song is one of the latter — lashes of gospel choir and soul, complete with Stevie Wonder’s harmonica. How do they make it sound so easy?

This Is a Lie (Palmer Remix) by The Cure
Album: Join the Dots
By a coincidence, this song came up randomly in the car this very morning, and now here it is again. While I don’t have much enthusiasm for the Cure’s later work (anything past Head on the Door actually), I have to applaud this as a solid piece of songwriting. The first half is all orchestral, then joined by Robert Smith on solo guitar.

Here on the blog, you see a lot of the kinds of thoughts I’m dealing in at the time. So you will understand if these lyrics seemed pertinent:

how each of us believes
I’ve never really known
in heaven unseen and hell unknown
how each of us dreams to understand anything at all
why each of us decides
I’ve never been sure
the part we take
the way we are
why each of us denies every other way in the world

It’s not just about religion; the simple act of choosing — a way of life, a life partner, anything — excludes an infinite number of other possibilities. And how do we know we’ve chosen the right one? Or the wrong one? What makes us say ‘This is a lie”?

I haven’t thought about a Cure lyric this much since “How Beautiful You Are”. I feel like an undergrad.

Fields – Fields (Reprise) by The Lilac Time
Album: And Love for All (2006 Remaster)
Stephen Duffy takes us out for a stroll in the country with his guitar. He’s been sleeping in the hedgerow. He knows how you feel, and he knows what you feel is real. The summer wind is making long fingers in the wheat and the undulating fields are cool and inviting. Go with him on this album and you’ll find beautiful bucolic XTC-influenced folk-pop. Other Lilac fans say start with ‘Paradise Circus’, but this is one of my favourite albums ever. Highly highly recommended.

Neon Lights (Ton Up Mix) by Kraftwerk
Album: Toccata Electronica
An interesting remix that overlays “Boing Boom Tchak” lyrics onto “Neon Lights”. Very trancy, and not too annoying.

A bonus sixth.
Alison by Future 3
Album: Blue Skied an’ Clear
There’s an interesting tendency for glitch IDM artists to gravitate toward shoegaze. So this album is a slew of Slowdive covers redone in shimmering electronic tones. Listen to it while you glide silently through smooth rooms. Or when you’re hunched over the laptop working. It won’t jangle you too much.

Friday Random Five is always… wrong ong ong

Can I revive the Five one… last… time…?

Hello, This One Is for You by Herrmann + Kleine
Album: Putting the Morr Back in Morrissey
This album has nothing to do with Morrissey — it’s just a bit of ambient glitch. It’s twinkly like stars, it has some beats, and some computer effects. I like this stuff now, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it in six months. Undemanding. Good for work.

Other Voices by The Cure
Album: Faith (Deluxe Edition)
Yes, I did buy Faith yet again, with the bonus album of extra bits. I love everything about it, from Robert Smith’s yelps to the insurgent bass to the echo-ey vocals. And they’re all here on this song.

Carry That Weight by The Beatles
Album: Abbey Road
A bit before my time. I didn’t know this song by name, but there’s no mistaking that sing-along chorus. Funny how Beatles songs are in our collective cultural memory.

Mr T. by Regurgitator
Album: Unit
A slow grind from the Gurge. Can’t explain the name.

Silhouettes by Prefab Sprout
Album: Faron Young (7″ Single)
An unusual b-side with a funk groove to it. I think the Sprout were playing with a lot of styles at this point.

Random Five is a rare one.

L-Y by Tom Lehrer
Album: Revisited [Live]
Which would you choose: reclusive-but-brilliant ex-math-professor, piano savant, and keen political satirist Tom Lehrer? Or the Electric Company, that 70s kids’ show that saw Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader and Rita Moreno as the first Latina to ever capture my nascent erotic interest?


Well, fortunately, you don’t have to choose; they’re both here in this song. A bright vaudeville number designed to teach kids to recognise adverbs. How would you listen to this song? Enthusiastically. Enthusiastically. Enthusiastic… L-Y.

Antistar by Massive Attack
Album: 100th Window
Mezzanine was a cold album. If this album was any warmer, it was because of the female vocalists like SInead O’Connor. This also upped the annoyingness factor, but never mind. This is the final track, a jangly edgy number that ends with ten minutes of trancy pulses. It’s not very fun, but it’s not meant to be. Suffer well.

Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo by The Bloodhound Gang
Album: Triple J Hottest 100, Volume 13
This track is my reward for listening to all of the last track. Three minutes of inventive sexual euphemisms. If you ever had to sit down and make up female anatomical synonyms, would ‘ham wallet’ ever occur to you? What about the male ‘pork steeple’? Yet here they are and more. Rarely does a song fulfill the promise of its concept so thoroughly. Well done, lads.

It’s a Boy by Wire
Album: A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck
I listened to this album pretty heavily during a bad breakup, so for me it became associated with an unhappy time when food had no taste and life no meaning. It didn’t help that it’s such an austere and surreal album. I’ve come around to it now. My advice, only listen to music you hate during sad times. You’ve been meaning to cultivate a distaste for Arcade Fire for a while now. Save it for when you have chemotherapy.

Stranded by Nick Duffy
Album: Hotel Angst
I really like Nick Duffy, multi-instrumental folk musician. Or I think they’re calling it ‘roots’ now. Myself, I can’t decide whether to call this music ‘bucolic’ or ‘pastoral’. Either way, it’s good, but I think if I could somehow remove the female vocal, I’d do it. His albums are available on iTunes and Wippit, by the way. Go to the Duffypedia and have a listen.

Friday Random Five was happy for a day in 1975.

Kidney Bingos by Wire
Album: A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck
Absolutely my favourite Wire song, though I haven’t heard anything from Pink Flag yet. It’s just a great pop song, even if the words don’t make any sense. To wit: “Money spines, paper lung/Kidney bingos, organ fun” Is it about organ donation, or is it just free association? Who cares — the guitars are bright and spangly, and the outro is the stuff of legend.

Watch it now, with eyes closed if you’re a sensitive vegetarian.

Smile on You by Yello
Album: You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess
This album is full of Latin-tinged jungle beats, and has the classic hit “I Love You”. Way way ahead of its time. Perfect listening for late at night.

I have a very clear memory of my high school friend Chad Smith lip-synching a lyric from this song: “Snoopy Splendour, Random Toxy think I don’t know where to go./My reaction if I see them is just ‘o ho ho’.”

Where are you, Chad?

The State I Am In by Belle and Sebastian
Album: Tigermilk
Before they ransacked the soul catalogue, Belle and Sebastian were writing engaging songs with lyrics as clever as an entire album from the Smiths. How to select just one brilliant example from this early tune? Can’t be done, so here are two:

“My brother had confessed he was gay / It took the heat off me for a while. / He stood up with a sailor friend / And made it known upon my sister’s wedding day”

“And so I gave myself to God. / There was a pregnant pause before he said ‘Okay’.”

Can’t Find My Way Home by Electronic
Album: Twisted Tenderness
Electronic had all the ingredients to become my favourite band, but never quite was. My main problem was that there was too much Bernard and not enough Johnny. Seems the equation didn’t change for this album. This song has a good sound, but we already have a New Order, and they’re good at that. What we need is a new Smiths. Certainly not this soul groove. Take this electronic heart and give it twelve strings.

Tears from the Compound Eye by Boards of Canada
Album: The Campfire Headphase
Love the Boards, and this album has some really beautiful moments. Sad to say, I don’t find myself returning to it. I’d hoped it would be a grower, but it was alas not to be. Take this track, for example. It has all the elements I love about BoC, but here the tempo is soporific. Is it a IDM/Chill hybrid?

Perhaps I’m a victim of inflated expectations. I got a hold of the Boards just after Geogaddi, bought everything they’d ever done, and listened to it all at once. If the last album hadn’t been as good as the first, I wouldn’t have known it because to me it was all just music from a great new band I’d discovered. Then with The Campfire Headphase, I could sit back and compare it to the other albums because it was new. I was surprised to find that fans had said the same thing about Geogaddi that I was saying about TCH. ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’ is a cliché, and maybe it’s more me than the album.

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