Description: Continuing the obsessive, and I mean to a frighteningly adolescent degree, examination of 50 songs
Publication Date: 14 January 2004
I feel like a lint-miner, taking the pre-dawn elevator down to the depths of my navel. I'm still not sure what I will find there, but let's go to the specimens first.
45. "Far Away," Sleater-Kinney (2002). The last of a string of "new" (to the list) songs, this is probably the most recently recorded song on the list, though it's about 2 years old. I commented briefly on this song on the album its on here.
44. "Pissed off 2 a.m.," Alejandro Escovedo (1996): Plaint about the spiritual death of an aging rocker; said death happens every time the world around him goes to sleep, every night when the bars close. Alternate: "Here Comes a Regular" by the Replacements.
43. "Sugar Baby," Dock Boggs (1927) The Question of Authenticity crops up here and there on the list. Is it a legitimate quality to use in assessing music, or a nostalgic trap? Is the Authentic even real? The "old-time" music we have from the twenties, like that collective on the superlative Smithsonian Anthology of Folk Music was recorded by companies advertising for "old time musicians." Anyway, this is a chilling, beautiful song. Here's a long article placing Boggs for a contemporary audience. Alternate: "Peg and Awl" by the Carolina Tar Heels
42. "Kool Thing," Sonic Youth (1990). From an album that once looked a little like a sellout, but this is actually a call to revolution based on the union of grrl power (Kim Gordon) and black power (repped by a stentorian Chuck D adlib). Thing is, Chuck doesn't even seem to hear Kim. Altenate: "Sister," SY
41. "Flyby," Ice T (1991). In the grand "pass the mic" tradition of old school rap, like Ice's "Syndicate" from 1988's Power. The earlier song also featured Donald D's rough and tumble style, but this one has a snappy sample from JB's "Superbad." I reckon we call that intertextuality. Alternate: Um, "Superbad"
40. "CCKMP," Steve Earle (1996). This is an anecdote originating from Steve Earle, but about Townes VanZandt. So I should have used it last week. Said Earle (broadly paraphrased): "I'll stand on anybody's coffee table in my cowboy boots and tell them Townes was a better songwriter than Bob Dylan." Or maybe it was Dylan's coffee table he was going to stand on. Anyway, the reconstructed rebel's no slouch himself: "Cocaine cannot kill my pain/Heroin, that's the thing." (Note: Earle allegedly uses the Smithsonian Anthology as a text for his songwriting class)Alternate: "Copperhead Road"
39. "Gin & Juice," The Gourds (1998). The Gourd's stopped playing this great cross-over uniting rap and trad county when frat-boys, who ruin everything, started showing up at their shows. Is this a Novelty Song opposed to the Authentic (Boggs, above), or is an Authorizing Gesture upon which we might predicate the Authentic? Discuss. Alternate: Oh, why not admit it: "Big Pimpin'"
38. "Losing Your Affection," Future Bible Heroes (2002). Stephin Merrit has been called the post-punk Cole Porter for witty verbal facility like this: "I'd rather be a frog speaking Tagalog/As they start the vivisection" Alternate: many choices on 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields. How about: "I Don't Believe in the Sun"?
37. "Blue," Jayhawks (1995). I woke up to some NPR commentator going on about how the 3-minute pop song doesn't reward sustained attention like a Chopin Polinaise, (pronounced to rhyme not with mayonaise, but mayo-NEZ). Maybe not, but I commented on the pure pop pleasures of this song in this entry. Alternate: "Wouldn't It Be Nice."
36. "Death Letter," Son House (1965). Recorded late in life by one of the great Delta bluesmen. The Mississippi Delta has ten feet of topsoil. This song is from where the topsoil approaches the bedrock. (oh fuck, it's as I feared-- I've started to sound like Greil Marcus). Alternate: "61 Highway" by Fred McDowell, my other favorite bluesman.
read: Paradise Lost (finally), The Erasers (Robbe-Grillet)
heard: Speakerboxxx/Love Below by Outkast, Fever to Tell by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
saw: One From the Heart, In America, Bad Santa, Stuck on You, Intolerable Cruelty, House of Sand and Fog, Winged Migration
"The Rock" 7
"Rhythm and Blues" 2
"Blues/Country Blues of Days of Yore" 2