Friday, September 4, 2015
!!! – “There’s No Fucking Rules, Dude” from !!! (2001, Gold Standard Laboratories)


I’ll admit to having become somewhat burnt out on !!! and their particular brand of electro-clash or dance-punk or whatever I’m supposed to call it. Of course, the way you get burnt out on something is by overdoing it, so suffice it to say that there was a time that I was listening to a lot of !!!, and that’s not without reason.

Hold that thought. Because I don’t know what you know, I want to help you out with just a little bit of housekeeping first: !!! is pronounced, usually, chk chi chk, which is what you need to type if you’re doing any kind of googling for your music blog. Otherwise you’ll get this message from the computers:

Your search – !!! – did not match any documents.


  • Try different keywords.

You know me: helpful.

Wikipedia refers to the band’s music as “Dance-punkindie rockpost-punk revival.” And I don’t know, that seems kind of cumbersome to me. I would say that this song sounds like a Chicago indie rock band started playing disco music, but maybe kind of slowed down, but still with an emphasis on partying. Instructive, right? Or like if Lee Scratch Perry got his hands on the tape of that one show that Minor Threat played with Troublefunk in DC. Or maybe like what would happen if Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem accidentally put out each other’s records instead of their own.

And it’s a long song, you know? Eight and a half minutes, because it’s trying to take you on a journey, and it’s important that you shake your ass along the way. My thing is that I’m often more interested in listening to music as something in the foreground, and so party music sometimes gets tedious to me. But I’m also a terrible dancer, so maybe that’s why. Probably I need ass-shaking lessons. I wouldn’t be surprised if !!! is the soundtrack.



Thursday, September 3, 2015
Madlib – “Indian Hump” from Beat Konducta Vol 3-4: Beat Konducta in India (2007 Stones Throw)


I can probably get through this whole post without saying “East meets West,” right?

This track is one of 34 on the instrumental album Beat Konducta in India, a continuation of soundscapes he’d created with an eye towards cinema. About the first installment (Volumes 1 & 2, released in 2006), Wikipedia describes it as “a soundtrack to a nonexistent movie in Madlib’s imagination. That’s evident on this track (technically the second track on the first of the two LPs that made up the vinyl release of Volumes 3 & 4), which mashes up two vampy loops that shouldn’t go together – soul piano and Indian strings.

But Madlib is Madlib, and so it works. And when it stops to give voice to some Bollywood dialogue that I can’t for the life of me understand (I’m ashamed to say I don’t even know what language it is, but I think probably Hindi), it still kind of makes sense some how, punctuating the track with some urgency.

The beat that undergirds the whole thing is a sort of shuffling traipsy hip-hop beat that sounds exactly like the kind of thing a producer who likes to cut things up and put them back together would probably create.

I know I’ve said it before, but I think that Madlib is one of the most interesting producers in hip-hop. His creations aren’t always the most accessible (though this one isn’t all difficult), and that’s fine. There’s joy in his music — he’s creating the projects he wants to create — and that, to me, is the mark of high art.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Chance the Rapper – “Chain Smoker” (2013 self-released)


Chance the Rapper might well be one of the most refreshing things to happen to hip-hop in a long time, which is maybe why the free mixtape that features this song has been downloaded over a million times. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to call it a reimagining of what hip-hop could sound like, or to suggest that perhaps we can hear echoes of Chance’s influences on subsequent releases that shade towards the more conceptual (I’m thinking of Kendrick Lamar and Toki Wright for starters, but that could just be me). Given that Chance was twenty when the mixtrape dropped, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

Musically the landscape here is more Frank Ocean than Jay-Z (he references Ocean in a clever lyric about name-dropping). Still, even with that incredible R&B/neo soul influence, he’s Chance the Rapper, and it’s the blending of those two worlds that works so well here (incidentally, it’s heartening to hear a rapper who would become so mainstream as Chance claiming Ocean, who came out as gay the year before this mixtape dropped).

“Chain Smoker” begins with the smoothest atmospherics that an electric piano and some thoughtful production can provide (we can even hear Chance say “this sound like a Prince song”), crescendoing with each verse. The lyrics crescendo as well, into a requiem for Chicago’s fallen youth:

Rappin’ trappin’ trippin’ ‘cid
And sniffing glue and chewing Vicodin
Shoulda died — yelling YOLO was a lie
And you a liar wondering why you wanna die so young
You and I look just alike
And I’m afraid that this one right here
Might be [the] last time that I write a song

If it sounds like he’s passing judgement on the choices of his peers, it’s instructive to note that he refers to his own perspective as “an introspective drugged out standpoint.” In other words, to my white privileged eyes, he seems to be saying, look, all these drugs are scary and can bring a bad end, but on the other hand, can you even imagine what it’s like to live here and be young and black? 

And of course I can’t. I can think of what it’s like to go to a happy hour after a long and terrible day at work, though, and extrapolate from there, and I can be grateful for Chance and his truth-telling, and I can join him in feeling conflicted by everthing that I see around me: “The same shit that kills us / always tastes so right.” Indeed.

Oh, one more thing: I’m not sure what I really have to say about it one way or the other, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Chance squawks in each song on this mixtape.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Mocky – “Little Journey” from Saskamodie (2009 Crammed Discs)


I have the Hennepin County Library system to thank for this one. I brought it home solely on the merits of the cover art (pictured above). Until just a few minutes ago, I labored under the false impression that Mocky was comprised of a ragtag band of Japanese hipsters. Had the cover art been instead a picture of Mocky himself (also pictured above), I may have passed on it, which just goes to show, old adages persist for a reason, and also, aesthetics matter.

Then I started doing some internet research, and damn near everything I’ve come across seems like it’s a joke. For example, and maybe this is only funny to me, but Wikipedia has this detail:

He was also a member of the groups Puppetmastaz, The Shit, Son, The D.O.M, the Freeway Band, and The Roustabouts.

I have no idea who any of those groups are, and somehow it seems weird that the one with the weirdest and most terrible name is the only one with a link.

Further, and this one really got me:

Mocky is considered to be a member of the Canadian Crew, a loose collective of expat Canadian musicians mostly living in Europe that includes PeachesChilly GonzalesFeistTaylor Savvy, and others.

I don’t know, man. Could be I’m old and out of touch, have my head too much in my own blog, not out there in the streets. Maybe I’m missing out on what’s really going on, but The Canadian Crew???

On the other hand, after ten minutes of intense internet research including two (TWO!) screens of Google, all I could come up with was this, which is weird and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything:

So, that’s great, I was right. Except for now I feel even more like maybe somebody’s trying to trick me. Further evidence, again from Wikipedia;

In December 2008, Mocky announced the 2009 release of his new and mostly instrumental album Saskamodie on the Crammed Discs label. The album was released to wide critical acclaim, Pitchfork Media calling it an “exceptional musical album”.

Since when has Pitchfork had anything good to say about anything? Look, don’t get me wrong, I like Mocky. Hell, one of his songs was included on the first Shuffler mixtape, but this is getting weird.

So then I read the Pitchfork review, which began by mentioning a “Mockumentary.” Clever, right? But then the link just went to his record company, no mockumentary in sight, which seems like further foul play. With this many red flags piling up, I should probably post this on Reddit; with one season of Serial long done and the next not yet launched, those amateur detectives could probably cook up some wild theories for me.

Reading on they saySaskamodie ditches the quirky electro-funk of previous Mocky albums in favor of acoustic instrumentation and lilting songs in the spirit of 60s lounge jazz and easy-listening soul.” I WAS GOING TO USE THE WORD LILTING BUT WASN’T SURE IF IT WAS THE EXACT ADJECTIVE I WANTED. This whole thing is really starting to stress me out.

They continue with this, which I think is useful:

He paid for the sessions out of the winnings of a lawsuit against an Austrian supermarket chain that had used his music without permission, a detail that might seem extraneous if it weren’t so metaphorically fitting, Mocky weaving contemporary free-market capitalism’s dross into golden shapes evocative of a simpler, but also more ambitious, musical era.

Because really, the music on this album is basically French bossa-nova played by Japanese jazz cats (okay, a Canadian guy) in the elevator of an Austrian grocery store. Really, truly, it’s brilliant, and I’m oh so grateful that Mocky didn’t decide to put his portrait on the cover of the record, otherwise I might not have ever found out.

Oh, and speaking of things I found out, I went ahead and accidentally discovered this for you: I was listening to the track on repeat in iTunes when I opened up the video below, which then started playing over top of it. The result was mesmerizing, so I did it a few more times, and it was even cooler (until the tracks ended and the YouTube robots took over, that is). Maybe somebody out there has actual real deal equipment — if so, you should do a Mocky mash-up. I’d love to hear the results.


Monday, August 24, 2015
Tom Waits – “Lucky Day” from The Black Rider (1993 Island)


We’ve written about Waits a number of times over the past year, about what an eccentric enigma he is, etcetera. I was tempted, then, to move away from that assessment, to instead tell you about how my three-year-old son loves nothing more than to listsen to Closing Time on repeat while he sleeps, singing “Martha” and “Grapefruit Moon” with me at bedtime.

But then two things happened:

  1. My iPod Classic seems to have given up the ghost. It’s tragic, really, and if there is a rich benefactor who has been waiting in the wings, one of the five or so people who clicks on this thing from time to time, well, the time for heroism is now.
  2. I stumbled upon this mind-blowing tidbit about The Black Rider on Wikipedia:

The Black Rider is an album by Tom Waits, released in 1993 on Island Records, featuring studio versions of songs Waits wrote for the play The Black Rider, directed by Robert Wilson and co-written by William S. Burroughs. The play is based on the German folktale Der Freischütz, which had previously been made into an opera by Carl Maria von Weber. The play premiered on March 31, 1990, at the Thalia Theater in HamburgGermany. Its world English-language premiere occurred in 1998 at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

Yes, that William S. Burroughs. I’ve been running around making what I thought was the obvious Bukowski comparison at every opportunity, and meanwhile, homeboy wrote the score for a play that was co-written by the author of NAKED LUNCH. That’s kind of mind-blowing.

I heard someone remark recently about how a common career trajectory for recording artists looks something like this: debut album, shows some promise, sophomore album either flops or shows further promise, subsequent albums reveal the genius/deficiency that was there all along. By contrast, the remarker remarked, Tom Waits emerged on the scene in 1973 fully formed (and at 24!). Given that, it’s maybe no surprise that he took a turn towards the wildly less conventional (a contrast probably felt most dramatically on Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs).

Even so, along the way, there’s always been that vague but persistent backdrop of familiarity. Something in the structure that was vaguely, I don’t know, gypsy in nature. He’s maybe like a chef who understands Reuben sandwiches so well that he can deconstruct them down to foam and them serve them to you on your hand while your eyes are closed (that happened to me once). It’s super bizarre, but goddamn if it doesn’t taste just like a Reuben. That’s Waits with songs, and anybody who doesn’t believe me needs to go back and listen to that debut album on repeat while they sleep.

“Lucky Day” sounds like what might happen if a band of Rroma descended upon New Orleans and took over a second line, with a carnival barker at the fore, singing an Irish drinking song (see: “Sally Maclennane“) as a sweet, sweet dirge. In fact, the tune, situated near the album’s close, has its own overture kicking off the record, complete with Waits as an actual carnival barker yelling about human oddities.

The song itself, though, is something sweeter, the thrust of which is this:

So don’t cry for me
For I’m going away
And I’ll be back some lucky day

Songs like this have a rich tradition the world over, sung at the bar while extremely drunk by individuals who care not about the massive hangover that will undoubtedly accompany them on their voyage.

Sure, that stuff from the seventies is still my favorite, but because he is so goddamn good at so many things, I say it about “Lucky Day,” too: this is Waits at his best.


Friday, August 21, 2015
The Beatles – “What Goes On” from Rubber Soul (1965 Parolophone)


No no no no no. This is not how this is supposed to go. Today is the one year anniversary of the Shuffler, where, with 96 shuffles and two mixtapes, we’re two posts shy of one hundred. Close enough for jazz, as they say — today is supposed to be a day of celebration.

And what do I get?

The Beatles.

The motherfucking Beatles.

That doesn’t seem fair.

So, speaking of anniversaries and nice round numbers and such, I’ll be brief and say this: “What Goes On” came out fifty years ago on Rubber Soul. It was their sixth album. It’s a fine example of British lads playing Americana and doing it extremely well.

As for doing things well, in the half century since this record came out, countless people have written about it, most (if not all) of them doing a much better job than I could. You should read them. I’m going to pour a drink and enjoy the milestone.

It’s been a hell of a year.

My wife was kind enough to point out a couple of things. First, that I copped out, which I fully own, because WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO IT’S THE BEATLES?! But also, and more importantly, that it sounds like maybe I don’t even like the Beatles or this song, which is actually not true in either case. Many people talk about how this is the weakest track on Rubber Soul (see link #6 below), but maybe that’s just because this sort of mountain twang is a little more country than what people have/had come to expect from the fab four, but I’d posit that a) taken on its own, this song definitely stands up, and maybe this part is crazy but b) it wouldn’t be so super far-fetched to say that this song presaged alt-country by some decades. Listen, really listen to this song, because I defy anyone to tell me that if Tweedy and co. released this song tomorrow, those same goofhead bloggers from Beatles Bible (I mean
really) wouldn’t be all over it. Well, okay, maybe they wouldn’t, being sort of myopic in their scope and all, but you know what I mean. It’s a damn good song, none of that “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” bullshit (and honestly, even that track, bonkers though it may be, sounds pretty damn good. And anyway, it’s on a different album). That clear enough? I’m going back to my celebratory beers and reflecting on the silver linings of an otherwise difficult year.

(this last one has lots of strong opinions about this particular track)