Van Halen ranked, atypically

Best songs that David Lee Roth talks over:

  • “Hot for Teacher”
  • “Panama”
  • “Everybody Wants Some”

Coincidentally, best use of Van Halen songs in film:

  • “Hot for Teacher” in the strip club scene of Varsity Blues
  • “Panama” in the joyriding/donuts scene of Superbad
  • “Everybody Wants Some” in the Hummer scene of Zombieland

Bon Iver discovers the Option key on his Mac

Someone just discovered all the weird glyphs you can make if you hold the option key and type random stuff!
Someone just discovered all the weird glyphs you can make if you hold the option key and type random stuff!

22, A Million, quick thoughts:

  • first track has a very Tune-Yards drums thing going
  • second track has a very 808s & Heartbreak thing
  • a few tracks in: each track is like Bon Iver doing someone else’s track from the past ten years, but with emo autotune
  • I like the background piano/horn tracks on “29 #Strafford APTS”
  • feels like the track sequencing demonstrates thinking through emotional/tempo pacing 👍
  • I really like the use of pseudo-sax harmony e.g. “____45_____”; slightly Ornette Coleman-esque
  • I like how a lot of the individual parts don’t fit together exactly right, but it still works

So what genre is this album? Neo-electro-ambient-folk-jam? Either way, it works!

On the albums of The Clash

Passing thoughts on the discography of The Clash that is not London Calling:

  • Brian and I had a conversation that randomly veered onto the Clash which prompted to me to listen to all of their studio albums
  • I have listened to London Calling a few times before, and recall some story about its producer encouraging them to go broader with the album so as to reach a wider audience; basically that it’s not much like their other albums
  • I enjoy London Calling, but I’m not sure what to expect from a categorical English punk band
  • I like the punk ethos of don’t wait for permission and build it yourself
  • I strongly dislike when punk music is simplistic shouting
  • Enough about me, let’s talk about the music
  • I was pleasantly surprised!
  • Their early albums don’t sound like the learned to play their instruments an hour before they started recording
  • They probably listened to music outside of their genre even before London Calling 👍
  • The albums after London Calling sound like they were trying to walk a line between keeping to their punk/ish origins and exploring integrating other genres into their sound
  • I should mention that their “Guns On the Roof” is exactly the same riff as The Who’s “Can’t Explain”
  • Would listen again!

This has been 🔥 takes.

I love when snares don’t keep time

In the majority of music you’ll hear after 1960, the drummer does most of the time keeping with their snare. On 100% of Bruce Springsteen songs, time is kept entirely with the snare. I listen to a lot of The Boss; it’s a little surprising when I don’t here a consistent 1/3 or 2/4 snare keeping time.

That makes the drumming on most jazz albums pretty delightful. For example, Cannonball Adderley, “Games” (Roy McCurdy on drums):

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, too much of its time

I really dislike “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears because it’s a perfectly written song that sounds exactly like the year it was recorded, 1985. Five years earlier, it would have sounded mildly seventies-ish and been great. Five years later and it would have had a little more grit and sound very late eighties.

What I’m saying is, if I could un-invent certain musical sounds, the bass on that track would appear on the list.

I look forward to the day when machine learning can differentiate between “don’t play this song because it is awful” from “ don’t play this song because I’ve heard this it a thousand times” (e.g. “Superfreak”, “Rapper’s Delight”, “Come as you are”). Related, I’d love a way to tell the machine learning “if you are ever stumped about what to play next, it’s always OK to slip this song in” (e.g. “Wouldn’t it be nice”, “Summertime Blues”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A)”, “Overture to Samson and Delilah”).

Happy Birthday, Mr. The Boss!

How to celebrate the 64th birthday of Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss”, if you’re new to this curious American phenomenon:

You want to listen to at least one of these albums because there is no one who better combines the story of America with its music than Bruce Springsteen. If all you know of his work is “Born in the USA”, you got some educatin’ to do!

My Rite of Spring overfloweth

Today’s the hundredth anniversary of premier of hometown favorite Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The National Public Radios are all over this. NPR Music and WQXR are collecting a bunch of articles they’ve done in the run-up to the anniversary. My favorites: a visualization of the score and a list of essential recordings. The latter features this amazing image of Stravinsky, which I’ve already posted twice today and will continue posting it until it just doesn’t feel right anymore.

Igor Stravinsky in a giant coat, a hat, and sunglasses
Indeed, Igor Stravinsky will be on that suit and tie.

If you’re playing along today, WQXR is streaming twenty-four hours of nothing but the Rite. Highly recommended, if you have the means.

What makes longevity?

A joke for a late-night variety show monologue may only be funny for one day (e.g. a joke about a celebrity). A newspaper article may lose relevance in days or weeks. A TV show might feel dated a couple years after its run ends (e.g. most problems on Seinfeld could be solved with a smartphone). Computer programs don’t fare well over time either (though there are exceptions).

The best songs demonstrate better longevity. Beethoven and Bob Dylan still work today. There will always be something amazing about “Good Vibrations”, at least to the trained ear.

Even the rap trope of yelling the year the song was recorded has a timeless quality to it; it serves as a marker for the state of affairs. “Nineteen eighty nine!” is the first thing shouted in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, marking the historical context for what Chuck D is about to tell us.

Why is this? I suspect it underlies the act of making music. Besides hit factory music, i.e. ear worms you hear on the radio, a musician’s goal is to make something expressive. Expressiveness often leads to qualities that give a piece endurance; timelessness, nostalgia, high quality. Expressiveness is less often an objective for jokes, headline journalism, or television.

That enduring quality, it’s tricky. It happens in film, television, and books too. But, for me, there’s something about music that has a more direct emotional connection. They vibrate my ear drum and work their way directly to a part of my brain containing “the feels”. I hear a good song and I’m immediately thinking about why I enjoy it so much, what makes it so good, or when I heard that song and connected it to an experience.

Maybe that’s why music is such a big deal in our culture. Really, really good music connects in a way beyond “haha that’s funny” jokes or “huh, that’s interesting” writing.

Is it possible to write expressive non-fiction or an enduring computer program? It seems like the answer is yes, but the answers are outliers. Hofstader’s Godel, Escher, Bach and Knuth’s TeX come to mind. For every GEB or TeX, there are thousands of less interesting works.

Further, the qualities of an enduring, expressive, and yet functional work seem somewhat at odds with the pragmatics of the daily act of writing or programming. A lot more perfectionism, experimentation, and principle goes into these works than the typical news article or application.

And yet, for every “Good Vibrations”, there’s probably a thousand commercial jingles composed, elevator tunes licensed, ringtones purchased, and bar bands playing “Brickhouse” yet again. Perhaps music is just as prone to longevity as writing, film, or programming but has a far longer timeline on which its easier to see what really worked. In fifty years perhaps, if we’re lucky, we’ll start to learn what is really amazing in film and software.