A Season of Songs: Recap

So for the last 93 days I have done a blog entry a day, writing about a song randomly selected by my iPod’s shuffle feature. I currently have a collection of 9075 songs on the iPod, so that equates to just over 1% of the songs on there.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what, if anything, I have learned from doing this project.  Honestly, I don’t think there have been any great revelations but there are a handful of things worth noting:

1) I DID IT!  I’ve never really been a particularly regular writer.  Over the years I’ve written zines and essays for random projects, as well as a couple blogs, but ever since leaving college, writing has rarely been a regular part of my life.  Over the years I have tried forcing myself into developing a daily writing habit multiple times. Every time I have failed.  Usually after two or three days.  To have made it through 93 days is a pretty big accomplishment.  I’m not really sure about the quality of the writing, but I consistently forced myself to write, which was a big win for me.

2) Speaking to that issue of quality, I know in this particular case this didn’t produce my best quality.  Finding out your assignment in the morning and having to finish it that day is something that probably rarely gives off best results, but these were the parameters that I set myself.  Many days I felt like if I just had a little bit more time to listen to the song, the album or the entire catalog of a particular artist, if I could have sat down with their lyrics a bit more, I would have written a bit more of a thoughtful piece.  But factor in all the other stuff that goes into my regular day – working full-time, cooking meals, band practice, playing and promoting shows, going on bike trips, etc and I realize that most days I was probably willing to only dedicate about an hour to each write-up.

3) Certainly I knew this before I went into this, but I am not a music writer.  My ability to write about music is not very good.  Contrasting, comparing and discussing the components of different songs and musicians is not a strong point.  This was the most difficult part for me.  While many days I focused my writings on how I became familiar with a musician/song or a personal story that related to the day’s song, I often found myself wanting to talk about the mechanics of the song itself but I feel like I have a very limited vocabulary there.  Hopefully you found my baby-talk attempts to explain different musical elements endearing.

4) I was both surprised and not surprised at how many of the artists I covered I had experienced through Emma.  Music was a big part of what brought us together and a big part of what fills our lives to this day, so to that end, it shouldn’t have been surprising.  However, many days I would get my song and then the first thing that would pop into my head was “Oh! I know this song because of Emma.” I guess I really don’t think of the last decade or so as a period of a lot of musical discovery (see point #5 below), but the amount of songs/musicians brought into my life by Emma proves otherwise.  This can probably be attributed to our 7-year age difference and slightly different musical upbringings, which means that we are both constantly able to bring new parts of our musical past and present into our relationship.  9 times out of 10 this is a good thing as we have generally pretty similar tastes but occasionally there are those things that we have to tell the other “You’ll need to listen to this on your own time.”

5) There was this study that says that people stop listening to new music after they turn 33.  I have to admit that so much of what I have on my ipod is music that I was exposed to probably by the time I was in my mid 30’s.  I still seek out some new music but the rate of new music consumption has surely slowed down.  Most of the new music I purchase these days is by bands that I have already been listening to for quite awhile.  That being said, I fucking hate people who say that there is no good music being made anymore or that the stuff being made by younger kids is shit.  There’s plenty of good, new stuff out there, just my interest in hunting it down has been diminished over the years.

So, now what?  I’m not sure.  I want to try to continue writing.  I’m not sure what form that would take.  I’m not sure to what extent the world needs to hear the voice of another primarily hetero, roughly middle-class, white, cis-male, right?  But I like to think that I have some interesting stuff to say.  If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I wonder what Q thinks about [insert topic here]?”, please let me know.  I’d be glad to talk about it.  Otherwise I’ll probably get back to talking about biking adventures and homeowning adventures and i’m gonna try to get back to doing some of the “Communitea Bike Share” video interviews I did last summer (see the ones with Karen Brooks and Steevo).

Thanks to the few of you who consistently read the “Season of Songs” posts.  It was nice to see that somebody was checking these things out on a regular basis.  Without that, I’m not sure I would have made it all the way through.

– Q

PS – I made a playlist of the 93 songs from this project.  It is just seconds shy of 5 hours worth of music.  I tried uploading it to a shareable place online but the upload kept failing on our shitty internet here at Torley Manor but if anyone would really like that playlist, get in touch and i’ll get it to you.

A Season of Songs, Day 93: Liberation Frequency

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Liberation Frequency” by The Refused from their 1998 album “The Shape of Punk to Come”.

Control, my flower.
Business and news all ready to devour.
Who’s really in charge, and what does he say?
Is he playing the alternative, or does it sound the same old way?

I would’ve swore this record came out while I was still in college but turns out it came out 2 years after.  I’ve never actually owned this album and have no idea where I would have heard it at the time it came out.  But I definitely remember hearing it at that time and thinking that it was an interesting record.  Mixing their more traditional hardcore sounds with the jazzy bits and dance-y electronica bits and the revolutionary rhetoric made for a record that certainly demanded a few listens.  I remember at the time feeling like they were trying to make an updated version of Nation of Ulysses.  When this album came out, lots of people lost their shit over it. People loved it, and still do based on the amount of online chatter in recent years after Refused announced their various reunion shows and new album.

I guess it was a few years back around 2012-2013 when Refused were announcing their reunions and there was all this hubbub surrounding them again that I decided to download this album.  There are some really great songs on this record. I think “New Noise” is one that I return too, but overall I think I still find this album a bit wearing.  I can listen to one song here and there or even a few songs in a row, but still the album as a whole doesn’t do it for me.

Today is the last day of this ‘Season of Songs’ project.  It seems a bit of a shame to end this project on a song/record that I don’t have much to say about.  But I guess that’s the gamble when you are picking at random from thousands of songs by hundreds of artists.  I’ll be writing up a little bit of my thoughts on this project in the coming days, but after 93 days of this, it’s time to take a nap.

In the meantime, listen to this cover of an earlier Refused song “Fusible Front” by DS-13 from their “Vad Vet Vi Om Kriget” LP, which isn’t on the ipod, but damn well should be.  Send me those mp3’s if ya got ’em.

A Season of Songs, Day 92: They Want EFX

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “They Want EFX” by Das EFX from their 1992 album “Dead Serious”.

Yahoo, hidee-ho yup I’m coming around the stretch
So here Fido boy, fetch, boy, fetch
I got the rope-a-dope a slippery choker, look at me get raw
And I’m the hickory-dickory top of morning boogoloo big jaw
With the yippedy zippedy Winnie the Pooh bad boy blue
Yo crazy got the gusto, what up, I swing that too
So nincompoop give a hoot and stomp a troop without a strain
Like Roscoe P. Coltrane
I spiggedy-spark a spiff and give a twist like Chubby Checker
I take my Fruit Loops with two scoops, make it double decker

Another early 90’s hip-hop act that i’m pretty sure I first experienced by watching late night episodes of “Pump It Up”.  Das EFX brought a unique style of rap and then their videos were great, specifically for today’s song “They Want EFX”.  The images of urban guerillas running around in the underground sewers with torches, pickaxes, gas masks, etc. contrasted wonderfully with the lyrical content which was largely references to children’s books and pop culture.  See the above lyrics where they reference Winnie the Pooh, Dukes of Hazards, Chubby Checker and breakfast cereal slogans in just a handful of lines.  Add in their style of adding “-iggity” onto all types of words in their songs and they were really unlike any other rappers that I had been familiar with.

“Dead Serious” as an album is a fairly middle-of-the-road record overall, but has several top-notch songs.  “They Want EFX”, their first single, is at the top of the pile, with their other singles “Straight From The Sewer” and “MIc Checka” being the other standout tracks on the record.  The rest of the record is fair with some standout lyrics throughout, but I don’t feel like the rest of the songs stand well on their own.  I very rarely actually listen to this full album, just pick and choose a couple tracks and that’s it.

I like that on the Das EFX Wikipedia page there is a whole section dedicated to references to Das EFX on “The Chappelle Show”.  Teenage Dave Chappelle: “I riggity-realize that I liggity-love you.”

These guys would put out four more albums over the coming decade.  I don’t think I’ve heard any of them.  Just now checking out the video from “Baknaffek” from their 2nd album and its a pretty decent song. The funny thing about the video is that they are now out of the sewer (all 3 singles from the first album had videos that revolved around the sewer) but they are still bundled up in layers of jackets, hats, etc.  Hop ahead a couple more albums and check out “Rap Scholar” from their 4th album and they are back in the sewer but still bundled up.  Were these guys only capable of making videos in the dead of winter?  Strange.

So, yeah, watch the “They Want EFX” video.  Great song, great video.  It’ll be a fine addition to your Friday afternoon.

Only one more day of “A Season of Songs” left. Check out the last song tomorrow!

A Season of Songs, Day 91: Flavor of the Month

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Flavor of the Month” by Black Sheep, taken from their 1991 album “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”.

Now I catch a number when before I caught a glare
Now I give a pound when before I gave a stare
Now I guess I kinda got it going on
I get a wake-up call on the norm
I used to try and push a demo now I have a Coupe
That’s a bit more than a little, but then not quite a few
Funny how they find you when they told you get lost
Tell me why you’re gritting when you have no dental floss

Black Sheep are best known for their second single from this album “The Choice Is Yours”, a hip-hop classic that now has the indignity of having been used in JC Penney commercials; nonetheless still a great song.  Black Sheep were members of the Native Tongue family (De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers) and on the opening track of the record they described themselves as “the black sheep…the lowlifes of the family tree…the doo-doo eating, vomit tasting, pee drinking, jelly doughnut making, hoe slapping, kitty cat licking, cesspool swimming, pre-marital sex having, you know the whole nine….”

They aren’t all that bad but they certainly tended to put forth a bit more of an irreverent and kinda dirtball persona.  The album as a whole has a more misogynistic feel than your other Native Tongue records with a bit more “hoes” and “bitches” dropped throughout.  Members Dres and Mr. Lawnge go about this in a very self-aware and tongue in cheek way and do give space to playfully acknowledge it with the track “L.A.S.M.” — a skit track of a fake talk show, “Ladies Against Sexist Motherfuckers” where the hosts call out the members of Black Sheep:  “Look I’ve had enough of your egotistical, chauvinistic, pimp daddy, immature, couldn’t get a real woman even if you want to attitude.”  It would be tough to say this makes up for the rest of the album’s (or even this track’s) transgressions, but I always thought it was interesting that they included it.

“Flavor of the Month” was the first single of the album and highlights another one of the dominant themes of the album, which is how they used to get disrespected and/or ignored before they had this record deal.  But now they have a record deal and now everyone wants a piece of them and life is fine.  Once again there is a sense of self-awareness that this attention is potentially fleeting – hence the title of the song – the Sheep are this month’s Flavor of the Month.

If you are able to hold the casual sexism of Black Sheep at arm’s length, this is a really fun album.  Like we talked about with Dr Dre, many parts of this album could fall under the category of “creatively offensive”.  Musically, at its finest moments (“U Mean I’m Not”, “The Choice Is Yours”, “Gimme The Finga”, “Pass The 40”), the Black Sheep are as good as Tribe and De La Soul.  Of course they didn’t have the staying power that those other groups had.  Instead of multiple excellent albums, they put out one really good one.  Not one of my top 10 hip-hop records, but worth having a copy laying around.

The choice is yours…

A Season of Songs, Day 90: Haloed Eye

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Haloed Eyes” by Navio Forge from their 1993 album “As We Quietly Burn A Hole Into”.

And in the end
I can’t see your eyes
and I can never justify
the way my eyes
never moved to meet yours
I can never justify
why I couldn’t see you
why I’ve never been able to see you
I’ve never been able to see
why can’t I see?
why can’t my eyes move?

In recent posts I might have had some “death to false emo” moments.  As I said a few days ago, there was in the late 90’s a clear progression where “emo” went from “emo-core aka emo hardcore” to “emo-pop”.  There’s lots of clean-up, polished stuff that ends up on lists called “Top 20 Emo Albums In History: Complete List” like Jimmy Eat World and Cursive while stuff like Moss Icon, Still Life and Navio Forge are nowhere near the list.  Navio Forge are for me the epitome of what early to mid-90’s emo was all about.  They were a short lived band – only playing two shows and recording an album, but oh what an album they made.

I’m not really sure when I would have first heard this album.  It was something we had searched out, having heard about it, as it featured Sean Linwood on vocals who had been vocalist for the PA band Admiral.  It also featured Sara Kirsch (then Mike Kirsch) from Fuel/Sawhorse/Skinflutes on guitar.  I remember when we got a copy we were all floored by it.  It’s clearly an album where the members of the band put their whole into it.  One of the hallmarks of this album are the mesmerizing basslines and the pained (and often layered) vocals.  The guitar and drums help push things along but its really the bass and vocals that carry this record.  The several live photos that accompany the album make it clear that Navio Forge weren’t only a force on record but their live shows must have been explosions of energy as well.

It’s really easy to look back on many of the records from that era and feel that the young men (mostly) and women who were in these bands were experimenting with a persona. They were playing the part of a young, tortured soul when most of us were fairly privileged kids who really didn’t have much to complain about.  Navio Forge on the other hand, based on this record, really seem like they were a group of people who had some things to get off their chest.  They had some things they were working through.  Luckily for us, they put it on vinyl.

“Haloed Eyes” is the last song on the album and is probably the pinnacle of the record.  It starts with that bass…that hypnotizing bass that slowly builds until the anguished “NO NO” and the full band comes crashing in.   Then settling down into the first verse with the slow, staccato cadence of the vocals building back into the “Cripple me” chant.  The second verse becomes more emotive, building and building until that final “AAAAAAHHH”.  Then the full band just rocks out until eventually settling back to that bass and Sean’s final cries of “Never move”.  And of course trying to describe this song makes it sound cheesy, but it really is an honestly intense and emotional song.

If you like any of that mid-90’s emo sound, definitely hunt down the mp3s of this record.  Good luck finding an actual copy of the LP as there weren’t many pressed.  A fuckin’ great record and one that truly belongs in the list of best emo records in history (if we really need to make such a list).

A Season of Songs, Day 89: Psalm

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Psalm” by The Hated from their double seven-inch EP “Like The Days”.

The Hated are one of those bands that i’ve heard about ever since I first got into punk in the early/mid 90’s.  They were from Annapolis, MD.  They existed on the fringes of the DC scene and were of the scene that would birth Moss Icon, one of my favorite bands, so you’d think I’d probably like them.  Their stuff has been relatively hard to find until the internet made it more accessible, so for years I would occasionally get to hear a song here or there, but never really got to really sit with their songs and get into them.  Lots of people are really into The Hated and talked them up a great deal.

But once I finally got to spend some time with a full collection of The Hated’s recordings I felt a bit meh on them. I think I might have been thrown off because one of the first songs I heard by them when I downloaded these tracks was a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock”, which made me say “What the shit?”  I appreciate what they are doing – folky rock that, like Moss Icon, was really expanding the realm of what was punk rock.  Proto-emo, right?  But I think mostly I just don’t care for the guy’s vocal approach.

So chalk this up to one of the bummers of the internet age – finally really getting to hear that band that people talked up for the last couple decades only to realize that you really don’t like it.

A Season of Songs, Day 88: Ornamental

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Ornamental” by Braid off their 1995 “Frankie Welfare Boy Age Five” LP.

in a mother’s arms
she cradled me
she’s a match
and here’s a reason
to fear ignition:
ten to seven
left him waiting
this is control
my little ornament
spinning webs together
ripping them apart

Sometime in 1994-1995 I would first hear Braid.  I think it was my roommate Steve Yuletide who got some copies of the “Rainsnowmatch” 7″ for his distro at the time.  It was the song “Perfect Pitch” that would really grab me.  I don’t think I was completely sold on the band yet but they made a good first impression.  Over the course of that school year I would hear another song or two that appeared on some compilations and my interest was further piqued.

It would be the summer of 1995 when I would get to see Braid for the first time in a former slaughterhouse in Pennsburg, a short drive away from my parent’s home where I was back home living between semesters.  I was interested in checking out Braid, but I’m pretty sure my real interest was in seeing Kisses & Hugs and Fisticuffs Bluff.  If the complete list of Braid shows on their Facebook page is correct, Nuzzle and Milkwede also played that show.  I don’t recall Milkwede playing, who were friends from Lancaster, but perhaps they did.  Anyway, the winner that day for me was Braid.  They put on a really great show.  Their drummer was awesome (tho’ he would later leave the band and be replaced with another solid, though perhaps less interesting to watch, drummer).  I don’t think the “Frankie Welfare Boy Age Five” album was out yet, or they didn’t have it with them or whatever, but it would be awhile before I got to hear it.

“Frankie…” is an ambitious first record for a band.  26 tracks – one song for each letter of the alphabet.  As can be expected from a first album with 26 songs, the quality is up and down but overall it’s a nice listen.  My favorite song is “Hugs From Boys”.  “Ornamental” is pretty indicative of the general state of songs from this album – poppy with kinda precious lyrics.  This album gives a good foundation of what Braid would become over the coming years.

1996 would be the year that Braid would rule my life – they put out both the “I’m Afraid of Everything” 7″ and the “Age of Octeen” CD.  The 7″ would show off a slowed down, moody version of Braid.  The CD on the other hand would show off the full spectrum of Braid’s charms.  It has plenty of slower moody parts but also lots of upbeat parts and screaming.  I love(d) this album so much.  Over the years it has lost some of its appeal but it is still a great listen. In many ways, I think this record is sorta like that first Rage Against The Machine record in that it is a great record that portends an avalanche of less talented imitators.  Mid-90’s emo-core turned into late 90’s emo-pop.  It wasn’t a transition that I particularly enjoyed.

In the following year I would get to see Braid a couple times after this album came out – once at the Michigan Hardcore Fest and then in Pittsburgh at the Tompkins Square Riot Fest.  Both sets were amazing stacks of sweaty people singing along.  Some of those wonderfully transcendent moments that music used to give me.  Those are a bit few and far between these days.

In 1998 Braid would put out “Frame and Canvas” which I think took a little time to grow on me but has remained the Braid album that still sticks with me the most all these years later.  In recent years they’ve reunited for shows and put out another new album.  I don’t think I need any 2000’s Braid, but i’m really glad that 1990’s Braid existed.