I'll often leave shuffle running for a little while after doing one of these things, and sometimes I get these fantastic runs of songs and artists that would make for some great writeups. I have a lot to say about Operation Ivy! But, alas, that would be cheating. The way I'm doing things is that I decide I'm going to write about songs, and then start up the shuffle machine to see what I get from that moment forward. No retroactive choosing of shuffle runs for me! Luckily, there's almost always something worth talking about. Listen along with me, won't you?
Johnny Cash, "Wreck of the Old '97"
Like all hopeless hipster dorks, I own both of the famous live albums from Cash, Live at Folsom Prison and Live at San Quentin, and not a lot else. Except, of course, two of the American Records revival things. They're exactly the records you'd expect a country music dabbler to own, and I acknowledge that they're a sad testiment to predictability and consensus. But, in my defense, those are some good-ass records! As will come up a lot here, I'm not really qualified to write about country, so I'll just leave my confession of busterdom here for the whole world to read and exhort you to pick up those live records. That is, if you don't already have them like me. Because I'm sad and predictable.
Wilco, "Let Me Come Home"
Oh, sure, now shuffle is going to mock me with alt-country heroes Wilco, highlighting how much more Wilco I own. As if I weren't looking like enough of a bozo! But yes: I own three times as many Wilco records as I do Cash records. This is from Alpha Mike Foxtrot, the rarities compilation they issued a few years back that has a fair bit of good stuff and some dodgy stuff, as you'd expect from any rarities thing. After all, if this stuff were all top shelf, it probably would have been on a proper record. This is a little tinkly piano thing, with strings, and Tweedy doing his best sad emotive voice, along with a weirdly bad falsetto chorus. Nobody is going to be forgetting Summerteeth on the basis of this track.
I was just talking yesterday about Wilco, and how I think Star Wars is bad, the worst record they've done since A Ghost is Born. Should I rank their records here? LET'S DO IT:
- Being There
- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
- Wilco (The Album)
- Sky Blue Sky
- The Whole Love
- A Ghost Is Born
- Star Wars
The first three flip around a fair bit, but the rest of it is pretty solid in my brain at this point. It's now 15 years since their last truly great album. Hell, Wilco (The Album) was 8 years ago!
The National, "England"
I bought Boxer based on it showing up on a whole lot of best-of lists, and didn't really like it very much. It's fine for what it is, I suppose, but I wasn't really in the mood for something that morose basically ever. And if I do want something morose, I'll pick something I know well already and really get in there and wallow in it. Just straight up put Slint's Spiderland on in a dark room and sob silently to myself. That's the good stuff.
Anyway, since I didn't really care for Boxer, OF COURSE I ended up getting the follow up record when it also showed up on a lot of best-of lists. And, equally predictably, didn't really care for it either. So, um, here's a track from a band that has made at least two records that I didn't really like. ENJOY.
Touché Amoré, "Art Official"
I never really stopped loving hardcore, even as I basically lost touch with the scene. So, periodically, I go out trolling for whoever people consider to be the best hardcore acts at any given moment. Somehow, that led me to Touché Amoré, a band that's often more emo than hardcore. The internet tells me they're "post-hardcore", and nope, not going to call them that. What, exactly, connects this band to Future of the Left? That label is post-smart.
Anyway, I don't always love the very screamy vocals, but usually like everything else about the band, so I'm usually happy when they come up. This is from their first record, which is good, but I actually think the albums have been getting stronger as they go along, which is a good sign. So, consider this a suggestion to start at Stage Four and work backwards.
Alcest is a band that used to make black metal (kinda) on the fluffier end of things, and then decided to go full atmospheric and make a shoegaze record, or at least a record like whatever the hell Godspeed You Black Emperor are. There are, after all, some similarities between the tremelo picked fury of a black metal album and the wall of sound of, say, My Bloody Valentine. But, in seeking to make a shoegaze record, mostly what they made is really boring. It's all just floaty and pointless, like a Mogwai record but without any climax. Going back and listening to old Alcest records, they were always heading this way, I guess. Well, anyway, it's not terrible to have as background music, I guess. How's that for an endorsement? "This music will totally fail to grab your attention in any way!"