Archive for the 'Mope-a-dope' Category

Smith Westerns-Varsity

I am going to begin a series here that was inspired by Seitz’s link to Parquet Court’s “Stoned and Starving” in his post on their songs “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”. The theme is great songs that have more than a whiff of indie rock Master’s Thesis about them. Songs whose sound is more than a little derivative and possibly extremely derivative or otherwise a very obvious Frankenstein of influences. This song is the most subtle about its influences in the series, and I think that this song most transcends the amalgamation of sounds. This is a laconic, loping track that I would easily put in the ear noodle category. It is hard to say where the hook is and the first few times you listen, the song is elusive in that it goes about its way without being obvious about its twists and turns. It is a romantic, wistful tune that has a sort of opaque delivery. Something about the pace says OMD to me, but not nearly as overtly emotional as that, and instead almost a barbiturate-laced Elephant 6 vocal, some Cure guitar at points, but it flits and flutters away. Seitz has posted about Smith Westerns previously, and I think this song is phenomenal, so it is unanimous around here about these guys.

Veronica Falls-If You Still Want Me

Indie of an older school charm in many ways, a girl/guy pairing (think Delgados, earlier Camera Obscura, but give it a more insistent tempo) to tug on your teenage or otherwise thoughts tangling with words that make you wonder if you should feel bad. For some the question might be a luxury “if you could have me, would you still want me” but for others they might accept such a bad bargain. “If You Still Want Me” is from Veronica Falls second full length Waiting for Something to Happen. This is a very Slumberland Records sound, and I am not pigeonholing this sound or this label, but the quality and feel remind me of a number of bands on this label, but the feeling most of all is for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart self-titled album, in that I like almost all the songs, it has a driving, ringing, melodic feel, and is directly emotional in a wistful, youthful way, but that is also musically nostalgic. Definitely recommend the entire album.

Make a Deal with the City-East River Pipe

I have entered a productive relationship with Pandora internet radio wherein songs I’ve never heard are played, and then I look on Emusic (not Emu-sic) and find they have the song. This is unpaid product placement at its finest. This is hazy bedroom psych at a very wonderful level. It just hits you with a very standard chord progression, the standard chord progression of almost uniformly awesome songs. This is the song of a lost mixtape presented to you by a friend of exceptional taste, the friends we all wish we are to other people the friends we strive to be. Therefore, I pass this to you.

Come Into My Sleep – Nick Cave and Bad Seeds

I’m not gonna lie. I’m not much of a Nick Cave fan. I’ve got nothing against him personally. He actually seems like a pretty cool guy, but for whatever reason, I’ve just never found most of his stuff very appealing (I should note that I do like Grant Lee Phillips’ cover of City of Refuge that appeared on his Nineteeneighties album, which sounds much different than Nick Cave’s original). I don’t believe I own anything by him.

But about 10-12 years ago, a friend of mine made a mix tape for a bunch of people. It actually had some really good stuff on it (Soul Coughing, the Seahorses, Eric Matthews, Texas…), but this song stood out as probably my favorite song on the tape. Someone apparently made a video for it and stuck it on Youtube. I really like the Xyolophone line and the little groove it supplies.

Singer Songwriter-Okkervil River

The second track from Okkervil River’s recent and excellent The Stand Ins is currently dominating my psyche. A good cover has been invited by the band as part of a series of covers from the album, and that is the video on display below (David Vandervelde). The more electric nature of the original, and the fact the lyrics expressed by Will Sheff, lead singer of Okkervil River, almost seem effervescent and effortless, even though they are rife with memorable phrasing and wit, really does it for me. You need to obtain this record.

Liar-Built to Spill

I just heard this tonight for the first time. The title makes it seem more sinister than it is. For example, it isn’t a song excoriating someone for their lies, their pathology, their abuse, their anything, such as the standard tropes about liars go. The other “Liar” that this song isn’t, is the Rollins Band “Liar” wherein Henry Rollins ably plays the part of a pathological Romeo whose sole goal is a game of sport and destruction. This isn’t that. This is the opposite of that. This is the “I’m not a liar” (because I’m telling you a truth, perhaps a difficult and painful truth, a truth that is bad enough to deny, to accuse one of lying). A good tune. From the possibly underrated You In Reverse (I still need to hear the whole thing).

DeVotchKa – How it ends

Apologies to any of you that know this song well from Little Miss Sunshine, but I totally forgot about it until I heard the song on WOXY today. Without making the connection, I was captured by the soaring and emotional vocals, reminiscent of a good Radiohead song, and beautiful keyboard, strings, and accordion arrangements, reminiscent of a great Arcade Fire song. This is an absolutely stunning and breathtaking song. DeVotchKa’s music has influences from Europe, especially gypsy music, and in this particular song, it adds just the right amount of flavour – a veritable musical condiment methinks. Even better, somebody has made a fan video using clips from one of the greatest TV shows these days, Lost. In fact, just thinking about the Lost season finale from last year with this music got me super teary.

Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe-Okkervil River

I really hate certain labels of musical styles, like the ones P-fork ostentatiously claim do or do not apply to various bands, some of them (labels) that you’ve never heard, and most likely are mostly used around the P-fork offices. Just the other day they dropped “tampon rock”- and the best I can probably describe this in their terms would be “emo for chicks” where emo itself means “whiny sung by dudes that either hate or love/hate chicks” Raw, illiterate emotion used to be called plain old punk, well for certain emotions. Where literacy was supposed to be for punk nerds like Elvis Costello, and the main flavors were cynical and poison. I just don’t give a sh*t about these labels. Here’s the latest from “emo” Okkervil River. I’d say they are awesome because they are literate, and emotional, and they probably get a pass because they are a) awesome and b) smart enough where they don’t sound trite or narcissistic. From their latest, The Stage Names. I challenge UC to deny this song.

All Mixed Up (Cars cover)-Red House Painters

I caught the last two or so minutes of the original Cars song on the radio the other night. I’d never heard the original, and I can say I don’t think the versions are coming from the same place. The Red House Painters’ version made a splash on a Gap ad a bunch of years ago. Video is here. Mark Kozalek of the House Painters has a way of making a cover of any song sound like a Red House Painters original, thus awesomely mope-a-dope.

Here’s the orginal Cars, which is not sucky, but is perhaps a weird mix of Tom Petty, Styx and what the Cars would be. Oh, it’s a Dragonball Z amine fanvid, which is incongruous, to say the least.

Kanga-Roo – This Mortal Coil

Cinematic 80’s androgynous Goth wonderland. From the aptly named It’ll End in Tears. The 4AD record label house collective playing around with your heart in the studio. Your broken heart would have spread the mope-tastic contagion via mixtape to all of your friends (sadly, without privileges). Substitute “you” for “me” and “would have” for “would have, if I had known the song.” Get your mope on folks, this is our one life, live it to the mopest! This song is ultra awesome.

UPDATE– even more awesome, this is a Big Star cover from the third Big Star album, which I do not yet own.

No Joy In Mudville-Death Cab For Cutie

I originally posted this song way back. I came across an oddly affecting homemade You Tube video and thought I would share it. You can compare what I wrote about the song previously with your current own ears.

A great, great song.

When I Go Deaf (Live)-Low

Slow. Sad. Pretty. Quiet. I CRUNCHA YA FACE GUITAR!!!!!! Low are generally amazing. They seemed to break a little with Things We Lost in the Fire, an excellent album from some years ago. Their follow-up was meh, but this followed up that and it is wonderful. I would like to hear this live, because you kind of expect to feel the sound. One of my fave guitar solos ever. They are usually described as “slow-core”- mellow, dirge-like, generally beautiful and intense songs in some time that is impossible to determine because it is glacier-like in its slowness and its core-ness. Reference point would be Galaxie 500 (they shared a producer).

Digital-Joy Division

This might not make anyone want to hug a puppy. It is spare, dark and jagged. Somewhat relentless for Joy Division, and it is always tough to watch someone before they killed themselves. A Joy Division/Ian Curtis bio-pic just debuted at Cannes. I certainly expect this song to feature, it is one of their many high points.

Eyes Are at the Billions-Cortney Tidwell

Your mind has just been blown by the Uncanny Canadian. Pitchfork gets their death sentence commuted for infinity for allowing this awesomeness to permeate your eardrum. This song will change your life. No it won’t, but it should, with it’s almost Sundays-ish intro, followed by a hazy fuzzy concussion bomb. You will become instantaneously and inexplicably sad when you hear it.

The song is supposed to be right here:

If not, go here.

We Drink on the Job – Earlimart

Selected more because it’s the only Earlimart video on Youtube than because it’s their best song, this comes from Earlimart’s third album, and the first full length on Palm Everyone Down Here, released in 2003. They’ve since released Treble and Tremble (you can stream it here), which I think is a better album, but whatever. This was the first album with Aaron Espinoza on vocals, and while he doesn’t posess the most powerful voice, he grows on you after a while. There’s a vulnerability in his delivery that really works.

This is one of those bands that’s really a treat to see live (see previous live reviews here and here), mostly because they’re MUCH louder, and in this case, that’s a good thing. Espinoza has a real knack for finding just the right ambient noise to pipe in at just the right time. This is especially evident on ‘All They Ever Do is Talk’ and ‘Heaven Adores You’. But be forewarned, Treble and Tremble sounds like a full on homage to their friend Eliot Smith (so those of you with Smith sensitivities may want to keep some Kleenex nearby). They’re also great live because they’ve got Arriana Murray, who’s really attractive in that “not hot, but has something that make me not want to look away” sort of way.

Treble and Tremble
also features “Broke the Furniture”, which has a distinct country feel to it. Ever notice how bands that aren’t country acts seem to be able to write better country songs than actual country acts? I’m thinking of “Gone for Good” by the Shins here, too. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, enjoy “We Drink on the Job”.

Primitive Painters-FELT

So what’shername (Liz Fraser, it just came to me) from Cocteau Twins sings on this classic from Felt, who are kind of sitting smack dab in a nexus of Chameleons, Television, The Smiths and other like-minded alt-chimery guitar studwagons. And this song is awesome. BUT what AOR staple does it recall in the deep down recesses of your brains? I won’t give you any hints. Save the year: 1987. Trust me, Felt oughta sue.

Primitive Painters-Felt

See My Friends-Gravenhurst (Kinks cover)

I will admit that i know this song via its deliciously emotionally manipulative use in a TV show Tuesday night. I have not heard the Kinks original and this seemingly pleasant mope-a-dope English band has their moments, but none of their songs sound quite like this. This is one of those songs that works better for a scene in a movie or a show if you haven’t heard it previously than say some ubiquitous instaflavor track that out of touch directors turn to, such as Peter Gabriel almost anything, although some Security tracks and other old stuff will always be good. “See My Friends” fits in a certain meloncholic niche filled with slowly burning, constrained meditative indie rock “jams”. Not content to do the soft-loud-soft histrionics, instead it opts for atmosphere and a build into a tightly wound extended instrumetal outro. I can’t call it a jam, in fact the end sounds like a very organic Stereolab (non-cocktail) layered with the vaguest of noodling. I hear little bits of Television and maybe more than a little “The End” by The Doors (mostly in the cymbals and the space around the song). All that and it is a Kinks song. I have to say I am obsessed with this song. Recently I had been obsessed with “The Funeral” by Band of Horses. I never know where these obsessions come from, and I am always wondering when the song will cease to haunt me, or when I will stop wanting to listen to it a couple of times in a row. In this case, Band of Horses was put to bed by the new song. I think it could easily be adapted to the inevitable scene of the serial killer with the news clippings or the crackling of a phonograph.

Jed’s other poem (beautiful ground)-Grandaddy

So i am sitting here eating my burnt popcorn as usual thinking to myself, ” hmmm.. i need a great comeback song for these snobs”, and honestly, I think I have one. I know for a fact it is one of Pinko Punko’s faves, and mine as well. So as the site tells you (and i tried looking on youtube for it–but it was not to be found–just click on the link you lazy bastards) Jed is a robot made out of spare parts. And really any song themed around robots is already better than most, but one about an alcoholic robot that writes poetry is just genius (try if you want, I will not be dissauded from the point genius). It is actually a quite beautiful song, especially the part after Jed writes “I try to sing it funny like Beck, but it’s bringing me down.. lower than ground.. beautiful ground…”. This song is just an example of Grandaddy’s wonderful creativity.. they make music fun again!, well they did.. until they broke up.

Losing Haringey-The Clientele

The Clientele’s latest opus, Strange Geometry, is possibly the best CD of 2005, or at least amongst the top 5. PP and I have already gushed endlessly over its crowning jewel, Since K Got Over Me, but there are plenty of other gems in this album.

Losing Haringey grabs you instantly as you realize that this is hardly a song, but a story. The narrative is told in speaking voice over a beautiful Clientele soundscape, punctuated periodically with a wordless la-la chorus. The background music alone is phenomenal, but the star of this song is the story. I can’t think of many other bands that have done the combination of speaking and music quite so well, and when I do think of them, they’re usually terrific tracks. The Clientele might be onto a great trend – I would love to listen to more songs arranged like this. The freedom from a lyrical chorus and the greater volume of words makes this a very appealing forum for new prose.

The full lyric is included below. It tells of a poor young man wandering the streets until he find himself sitting on a bench where he realizes that he is sitting in a family photograph from 1982. The details recalled and the feelings that are evoked are quite powerful. The way the narrative is told and the background music synergize to create a very thick feeling of sadness and nostalgia – typical of stories of innocence lost. It’s impossible not to remember that same feeling of 1982-ness along with the song and the same sadness of those days being gone. [ED- lyrics more accurate now]

Those days there was a kind of feeling of pushing out of the front door, into the pale exhaust fume park by broad water pond where the grubby road eventually leads to ENfield. Turkish supermarkets after chicken restaurants after spare part shop, everything in my life felt like it was coming to a mysterious close.
I could hardly walk to the end of the street without feeling there was no way to go except back. The dates I had that summer HAD COME to nothing, my job was a dead end and the rENT check was killing me a little more each month. It seemed unlikely that anything could hold much longer. The only question left to ask was what would happen after everything familiar collapsed, but for now the sun was stretched between me and that moment. It was ferociously hot and the equality air quality became so bad that by the evening the noise of nearby trains stuttered in and fix and storksin fits and starts, distorted through the shifting end. As I lay in my room I can hear my neighbors discussing the World kempCup and opening beers in their gardens on the other side someone was singing an Arabic prayer through the thin wall I had no money for the pub so I decided to go for a walk. I found myself wandering aimlessly to the west past the terrace of chicken and bombkebab shops and long dreadslaundrettes near the tube station. I crossed the street and headed into virgin territory, I had never been this way before grabble Dutch houses alternative with square 60s offices and the white pavements UNDulated with cracks and litter. I walked in wall because there was nothing else for me to do and by the breeze the light began to fade. The mouth of an avenue led me to the verge of a long greasy A road that rose up in the far distance with symmetrical terraces falling steeply down and up again from a distant railway station. There were 4 benches to my right intersperced with those strange bushes that grow in the area. These blossoms are so pale yellow they seem translucent almost spectral and suddenly tired, I sat down. I held my head in my hands, feeling like shit but a sudden breeze escaped from the terraces and for a moment I lost my thoughts and its unexpected glooms. I looked up and I realized I was sitting in a photograph. I remember clearly this photograph was taken by my mother in 1982 outside our front garden in Hampshire, it was slightly underexposed I was still sitting in the bench but the colors and the plains of the road and the horizon had become the photo but I looked hard and I could see the lines of the window ledge in the original photograph were now composed by a tree branch and the silhouetted edge of a grass birge??, the sheens the flash on the window was replicated by gunfire smoke drifting infinitessimally slowly from behind the fence my sisters face had been dimly visible behind the window and yes there were pale stars far off to the west that traced out the lines of a toddlers eyes and mouth. When I look back at this there’s nothing to grasp, no starting point, I was inside an underexposed photo from 1982 but I was also sitting on a bench in Haringey, strangest of all was the feeling of 1982, dizzy illogical as if none of the intervening disasters and wrong turns had happened yet. I felt guilty and inconsolably sad. I felt the instinctive tug back, to school; the memory of shopping malls, cooking, driving in my mothers car, all gone, gone forever. I just sat there for awhile, I was so tired that I didn’t bother trying to work out what was going on. I was happy just to sit in the photo while it was lasted which wasn’t long anyway. The light faded, the wind caught the smoke, the stars dimmed under the glare of the streetlamps. I got up and walked away from the squat little benches and an oncoming gang of kids. A bus was rumbling to my rescue down that hill with a great big fire Alexandra palace on its front and I realized I did want a drink after all

Since K Got Over Me-The Clientele

Picture two giants of the internet world, mirror images, yet distinct, both reflecting upon the same woman, a woman having broken each of their hearts in turn. How are the two men different? One, I imagine uncomfortably reclining in a mohair so-called easy chair, dressed in an unflappable blue with orange-trim dessing gown, something mistakenly called Pajamas in certain circles, absent-mindely stroking his probably evil yet similarly inscrutable pussy. His surroundings include a large, hardwood bookshelf filled with Lovecraft volumes and several purported real yet most certainly fabricated Necromomicons, and one possibly real yet poor translation. A half-filled brandy snifter reflects the embers of an untended fire, and a portrait. A velvety, feline portrait of K…

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The other nurses a different poison, self-doubt. Doubt whether he did enough to nurture the caged tiger, K. Did he? Sadly, no. The doubt suffuses the unpredictable ways of a struggling heroic Saab parked in the driveway and the smoking, blank computer screen, a screen that only recently reflected K. The very same velvety, feline K. as above, only in a different guise, a red, white and blue and…orange one.

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Various Germs records litter the cigarette-stained shag, a half-finished 1:64 scale model of some obscure never-successfully-flown test-pilot-bane Messerschmidt idly sits on a lonely, cluttered desk. Reverb-soaked, urbane images of K…K…indelibly etched in the brains of two men. Are they different? Perhaps not as they are both completed by her….spoken of only in hushed, whispered, broken tones as…K.

This song is dedicated to G. M. and t. Es, you know who you are, and of course, who K. is.