Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More Kids

Further to our previous post, check out one of the first photos of Jowita Jane here.

We also came home to the excellent news that on the 22nd, Jesse and Danielle had their own baby, Zachary Samulon, who you can say hi to here.

We'll be back next year with more tunes, but until then, enjoy your holidays!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRAINS

Listen to MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRAINS by Merle Haggard.

Happy Holidays!

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LET'S MAKE THIS CHRISTMAS MEAN SOMETHING THIS YEAR


LET'S MAKE THIS CHRISTMAS MEAN SOMETHING THIS YEAR by James Brown.

Merry Christmas from Oklahoma! We hope you are with your loved ones this morning, and that you spare a thought for all those you couldn't be with today.

Also, please join us in congratulating John and Jowita on the Christmas Eve arrival of their daughter, Jowita Jane!

While we're here, here's a zip of the Holiday Mix we promised last week. This has all of the songs from the mix, plus the album cover and CD art. Again, if you'd like a hard copy of the mix, you can also let me know here or by email.

And as the late, great, dearly departed James Brown said, let's make Christmas mean something this year!

LISTEN.

Photo: Avenue of the Americas, 2002.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

TRACK 18: REPRISE FROM THE 400 BLOWS

Listen to REPRISE FROM THE 400 BLOWS by Jean Constantin.

AND THAT'S THAT! Thanks so much all of you who commented, on and off the blog, and everyone who checked in. We had a lot of fun putting these together and writing about them.

As promised before, we'll have a zip file of all of the tracks and of the album art by Christmas or so, depending on the computing power available in Oklahoma. If any of you would like a hard copy of the CD mix, jsut drop us a line.

I can't make any promises (yet) about maintaining the blog, but I haven't been completely scared off of it yet, so we may be doing more with this on an ongoing basis.

If and until then, thanks again, and Happy Holidays from Amy & me!!!

Photo: York Beach, 2006.

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TRACK 17: 'TIL I DIE


'TIL I DIE by The Beach Boys.

In 1970, Brian Wilson had been told that his best years had passed him. Brian's best years were, in fact, passed him. But whereas a song like Tomorrow and Me, another song written amidst the wreckage of '60s stardom, is the product of a fundamentally well-adjusted soul, 'Til I Die is patently the work of a man in a losing struggle to cope with his mental illness.

In the end, I can't help quoting liberally from Brian Wilson's autobiography (via Wikipedia), describing one night on a deserted beach that summer of 1970:

Lately I'd been depressed, preoccupied with death. I'd ordered the gardener to dig a grave in the backyard and threatened to drive my Rolls off the Santa Monica pier. Looking out toward the ocean, my mind, as it did almost every hour of every day, worked to explain the inconsistencies that dominated my life: the pain, torment, and confusion and the beautiful music I was able to make. Was there an answer? Did I have no control? Had I ever?

…I was feeling shipwrecked on an existential island, I lost myself in the blanket of darkness that stretched beyond the breaking waves to the other side of the Earth. The ocean was so incredibly vast, the universe so large, and suddenly I saw myself in proportion to that, a little pebble of sand, a jellyfish floating on top of the water, traveling with the current. I felt dwarfed, temporary…

The next day I began writing 'Til I Die, perhaps the most personal song I ever wrote for the Beach Boys. In doing so I wanted to re-create the swell of emotions I'd felt at the beach the previous night. For several weeks, I struggled at the piano, experimenting with rhythms and chord changes, trying to emulate in sound the ocean's shifting tides and moods as well as its sheer enormity. I wanted the music to reflect the loneliness of floating a raft in the middle of the Pacific. I wanted each note to sound as if it was disappearing into the hugeness of the universe.
The reaction of his fellow Beach Boys was sadly predictable. After the song had finished playing, Mike Love "laughed out of disgust," claiming how much of a "downer" it was. Also predictable was that eventually the song would find its way on a Beach Boys album, "mostly because they needed material."

That version of the song appeared on "Surf's Up," which is arguably the last great Beach Boys album, just as 'Til I Die is arguably Brian's last great song. But the version here isn't that version. Here we've given you a mix done by the Beach Boys' sound engineer, Stephen Desper. Desper had made it strictly for his own personal enjoyment, which explains why the mix is rough in spots, especially once the vocals come in. (Also typical Beach Boys is that when this version was finally released, on Endless Harmony, Desper "received no compensation from Brother Records although they made money on my version.")

The opening minute of this mix, dominated by the bass and the vibes, is without question one of my favorite minutes of music in the world. The rest of the song is nearly as gorgeous, even more remarkable for its almost ridiculously pathetic genesis.

Just yesterday, I heard Ave Maria at a coffee shop, and I remembered how at Christmastime I used to rewind that tape over and over to listen to the opening notes and then the main melody and the whole thing and then rewind it back again. 'Til I Die is that kind of song.

LISTEN.

Photo: Plaza de Mayo, 2006.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

TRACK 16: NIGHT MUST FALL


NIGHT MUST FALL by Xavier Cugat.

This song is easy to explain. If have seen Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild, or more recently, 2046, you'll be quite familiar with the music of Xavier Cugat.

Night Must Fall has that same pretty, displaced, charming, sad, otherwordly sound that Wong uses to such hypnotic effect in his movies.

LISTEN.

Photo: Outside Marrakech, 2005.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Valgeir Podcast

Hit the "Read More..." button to go to another podcast from Iceland Airwaves. Stu did this one with Valgeir Sigurðsson, who's done a lot of work with Björk in the past, and who gives an interesting, bouncy interview.


Three more songs to go on the mix, and we'll post the entire thing in a zip file around Christmas Day.

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TRACK 15: TOMORROW AND ME


TOMORROW AND ME by Michael Nesmith.

What happened to Michael Nesmith? Most people know that he made it big with The Monkees. What happened then? The Monkees broke up, none of his solo albums sold at all, and even his backing band left him. When he went to record his last album for RCA (he wouldn't be getting a new deal), he only had his steel guitar player, Red Rhodes, to record it with. It wasn't an audaspicious circumstance.

The album was called "And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'" in ironic tribute to Nesmith's complete commercial failure. What happened? Faced with declining prospects, waning artistic influence, and few potential listeners, Nesmith recorded the album on the principle that

One of the great advantages of being an artist is that I am able to utilize my craft periodically to write messages to myself.
That's Tomorrow and Me, a message to himself, a crystalline Ooh La La. It's not a success story, there's no grand redemption, but it's better for it. Stripped out of necessity, Nesmith makes the music pure and wise.

Tomorrow and Me is a song about overcoming, and maturity, and acceptance, but it never yields to self-delusion or to bitterness or to complacency.

We love the affectionate gestures it makes to the typical sad-sack ballad. We love that Nesmith composed a verse of depth and insight, but sings it without fuss or affect or melodrama. And then he goes ahead and just sings the very same verse again. We love the pedal steel solo duet of Red Rhodes that lifts the song to a different level of invention and empathy. We love that no matter where we sequenced this song to share with you, it always sounded perfect and like it belonged.

LISTEN.

Photo: Through the wall, 2002.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TRACK 14: CAROL


CAROL by The Reigning Sound.

Carol appears on "Home For Orphans", an album that was a big hit here this year. "Home For Orphans" consists of outtakes and rarities (hence the name) from the group The Reigning Sound, who've already made a brief appearance as the backing group for the forthcoming (Shangri-La) Mary Weiss's debut solo album. When "Home For Orphans" came out, Greg Cartwright, the bandleader, said,

The thing that kind of pulls them all together is the fact that most of them are ballads, and most of them are slower songs, moodier songs, lilting country-type things.
That's certainly true of Carol. To be honest, it sounds to us almost like a demo of a louder, more urgent track, but first the band wanted to get a feel for the song. The arrangement is minimal, the playing is relaxed and unambitious. The singer wants Carol but he's not sure he wants anyone to know about it. It feels 2 a.m.

On a local note, Carol marks a minor but still sad milestone. Home for Orphans was recommended (I think secondhand through Corbett) by the guys at Rocks In Your Head, and it is actually the last CD I bought there before it closed up for good (well, to Williamsburg). The space has been taken over by a realtor, who's selling apartments for $2,600 a month.

LISTEN.

Photo: Downtown, 2003.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

TRACK 13: TRIPOLI


TRIPOLI by Pinback.

This is another 2006 story. You take your friend's hard drive and dl 10,000 songs onto your iPod. And then you actually listen to those songs and find stuff you like... like this.

We don't know the first thing about Pinback, and Tripoli doesn't much sound like a 2006 song. It's not. It a 1998 song--as in, hey check out what I just got off Napster! sort of song. It's all there, the name (Pinback?), the indie boy pose, the incredible kitten scratching solo.

But Tripoli showed up on our iPod and we've played it more than almost anything else we've gotten. It's got that trick where the vocals come in pretending to be the lead but they're not, the mumbly guy is singing some lovely stuff, plus the kids are playing with so much enthusiasm like it's a 1963 song.

LISTEN.

Photo: Coney Island, 2004.

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TRACK 12: POSTCARDS FROM ITALY


POSTCARDS FROM ITALY by Beirut.

We're going to do two posts today to have this all wrapped up in time for Christmas.

There's very little we can say about Postcards From Italy that hasn't already been said on the 1,435 blogs (and counting) that have posted on this song in the last nine months. It's a real 2006 story: a heretofore unknown 19 year old Zach Condon (who records under the name Beirut) posted this song on his myspace site, people started picking up on it, and next thing you know, Condon is an internet celebrity, Beirut is selling out and then cancelling shows due to "nervous exhaustion." What a year.

We didn't create the hype, but we think Postcards From Italy is a wonderful song.

LISTEN.

Photo: Rome, 1996.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

TRACK 11: TRACES


TRACES by Classics IV.

Apologies for the late post, but I'd like to tell you the story about Traces. The picture right above here is of my maternal grandfather, Marion Broughton. Grandpa Monty. This is a long story, so I'll put the whole thing below the fold.

Way back in May 1996, I had just gotten back from my first trip to Europe. I was 20. I hadn't been home more than a day, when out of the blue, I was asked to fly down to Houston to see my Grandpa. He needed some help. I hadn't known, but his long, long marriage to my step-grandmother had fallen apart, and he was in the middle of the divorce. On top of that, he had decided to move out of his house and come up to Oklahoma City, to be closer to his family. My job was to help him move out and drive him and his things up north.

So I showed up in Texas prepared for long days of packing boxes and such. I had been misinformed. The house was all packed up, the car was all packed up, everything was taken care of! No, what he needed was a comrade and a chaperone while he said goodbye to his friends. And all his friends were at the Club Witte.

Club Witte (pronounced witty) was a real dive. Not even a very romantic dive. It was tucked into a little residential strip mall that was more or less emptied out and had been since big box stores were invented.

Inside, things were a bit more cinematic. There was the ratty carpet. The big blond brassy lady would flirt with old guys and try to pass me drinks. There were the old drunks hunched over at the end of the bar. That was Grandpa and his buddies.

Actually, "drunks" isn't really fair. Grandpa certainly was an alcoholic but he was never obviously impaired. They were pretty animated though. These guys, who had been friends since the place opened in the 70s, were drinking to their last goodbyes. And they really were last goodbyes, too. One friend had terminal cancer, and Grandpa only went back to Houston a few more times before he died himself. The Club Witte was about to fold.

The one thing I'll always remember about Club Witte (and here's where we get to the point of the story) is that they had an old-style jukebox with 100 songs on it. And every hour or two, Grandpa would ask me to put some music on. And at least five times over the two days, he'd hand me a dollar and say,

Make sure you play some Patsy Cline! And Traces!
Traces, especially, Grandpa loved. It almost fit the scene too well, how sentimental and over the top it is. Grandpa didn't hear the campiness of it, it really affected him. He'd belt it out at the bar and get teary.

So, goodbyes finished, we got in the car and I drove my Grandpa from Houston up to Oklahoma City in May 1996.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE WHOLE STORY. A few years later, in early 2000, I was sitting in a different bar with Mayur and this woman I'd just recently met, Amy. Towards the end of that night, I told Amy and Mayur the same story I've just told you. Except that version ended something like this:
And ever since then, I've been looking for this song Traces on CD and I've never been able to find it.
Which was true. At the Club Witte, Traces was listed as performed by "Dennis Yost" (who happens to be the lead singer of Classics IV). I'd looked around for Dennis Yost, didn't find anything, and basically left it at that.

Amy was more intrepid. A few weeks later I got word through Mayur that, if I didn't mind, Amy had ordered a copy of the Classics IV Greatest Hits for me, and also a copy for my Grandpa(!)

That sealed it for me. We went on our first "date" a couple of weeks later, and at the end of that year, I took Amy home, where she met my Grandpa, and presented him a copy of Traces, and Grandpa cried.

So at long last, dear readers, that's why Traces is one of our favorite songs, and why we've shared it with you.

LISTEN.

Photo: Oklahoma City, 2002 (photo by Aímee).

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jens Lekman Podcast

Below the fold, check out Iceland Airwave's latest podcast with Jens Lekman. Some of you may recognize our man Stuart doing the honors.


More here. Back tomorrow with more tunes!

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TRACK 10: WHERE DOES YER GO NOW?

WHERE DOES YER GO NOW? by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.

Most people enjoy living in the past from time to time. In myself, though, I've noticed an apparent paradox. Many times I've experienced feelings of nostalgia that seem to be magnified, not diminished, when paired with a sense that I am being emotionally manipulated.

I don't know why this is, how to explain it, or even if it's a true observation. Perhaps because nostalgia can be so potent, one needs a subconscious parallel assurance that nothing is really at stake. Whatever. I will only say that it makes sense to me that someone who loves amusement parks—with their artificial spaces for childhood fantasy and simulated danger—should love this song.

The manipulations in Where Does Yer Go Now? are so expert. From the creepy banjo, to the swooping electro-theremin (or is that a musical saw? it's actually a pedal steel played with an E-bow) to the brilliantly-arranged vocal harmonies to the way the strings double up the climax, this song demands to wallowed in.

Where Does Yer Go Now? is the first track off 2001's excellent How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart, Gorky's penultimate album before breaking up this year.

LISTEN.

Photo: Long trip home.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TRACK 9: COLORADO

COLORADO by Grizzly Bear.

Colorado is a stereoscopic little masterpiece. The first half of the song is little more than a sketch, intelligently arranged to showcase the mournful overtones and warm ambience intrinsic to the sound of Yellow House.

The second half (joined to the first with Protools and an oboe solo) is the same sketch played over again, but at a slightly different emotional intensity. Now the arrangement favors the ensemble playing, and the band no longer broods but transcends.

Grizzly Bear (to whom we referred last week) has been one of our favorite bands this year. We saw them earlier this year at Bowery Ballroom and would happily see them again. Colorado is the closing track on Yellow House (naturally one of our favorite albums of the year), and really sums up what they're all about. Enjoy.

LISTEN.

Photo: Killington, 2002.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TRACK 8: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE


PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE by The Shangri-Las.

Before you listen to Past, Present and Future by the Shangri-Las, please take a moment to prepare yourself. This song has been described as "absolutely frightening"; "shattering, beautiful and dreadful"; "one of the strangest songs ever." But these are all things that have been written by people who love the song. I can tell you that the most common reaction to this song is laughter. From mild chuckles to uncontrolled hysterics. What explains the range of reactions? Listen to the song and see what you think.

Giggling during Past, Present and Future is perfectly understandable, even (or especially) to devoted fans of the song. The narrator's delivery is so committed, so deadpan, that it's easy to assume that she is playing for laughs. Listen again. It's a 2 minute 42 second dare to live with it. A writer describes what's going on:

But Past, Present and Future was almost a self-parody. All the familiar elements came back dressed as gimmicks: dolorous narration, a waltz-time interlude, the solipsistic romance of doom. It was only the singing of Mary Weiss that kept kitsch from taking over. Her voice was cracked at the edges, and her hopelessness sounded too thick and unglamorous to register as a pop diva's fatuous showboating. In an act of some bravery, Weiss took an embarrassing lyric, stood dead-center of a musical setting that begged for parody, and made the whole thing mean something -- by, I imagine, never once assuming that either she or her audience was superior to the emotions the record sought to exploit.
Read the whole article. It captures so well the fine line that the Shangri-Las walk in this song, and how hard it is and would be to replicate it.

One lyric in particular has gained Past, Present and Future a reputation for horrific understatement:
"Don't try to touch me / Don't try to touch me / Cos that will never. happen. again"
Over the years, it's become conventional to think that the narrator is a rape victim. For what it's worth, Mary Weiss, the singer, disagrees.
I always thought Past, Present And Future was a unique sounding record. And everybody that's written about it said it was about rape. That was news to me! At the time, you need to remember, people are forgetting about the teenage angst. When somebody breaks your heart, you don't want anyone near you. ... When you're a kid, who hasn't felt like that? When somebody blows you off or hurts you, it's very traumatic.
Weiss's interview is also worth reading in full. After the Shangri-Las broke up (helped along by the complete failure of Past, Present and Future as a single), Weiss and the other women in the band more or less completely retired from music. But just last year Weiss signed a deal with Norton Records to record an album with The Reigning Sound, and this promotional interview is by far the most comprehensive we have of her career in the Shangri-Las. It's fascinating. She should have a single out soon and an album out next year.

And finally, a couple years ago (iTunes tells me it was September 18, 2004), I was in a record store looking for a Professor Longhair album, and Amy came up, handed me a CD, and asked if I would buy it for her. I shrugged yes, and it's now one of my--our--favorite albums in the whole world. And a couple months ago, I played Amy what I had thought was the final version of the holiday CD, and her first reaction was: "Where's the Shangri-Las?" So here they are.

LISTEN.

Photo: Waltham, 1974.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Before continuing, we would like to mark Pinochet's death with Víctor Jara's "Caminando Caminando."

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TRACK 7: CABIN FEVER


CABIN FEVER by Super Furry Animals.

Unlike some, perhaps most, people out there, we greet the appearance of a six-and-a-half minute song by the Super Furry Animals without hostility or indifference. No, not us: we may be the biggest SFA fans on our block.

What puzzles us a bit is just why we picked this song, from 2005's Love Kraft, to share with you. There's no easy answer. With its big overly-compressed drums and looped piano, Cabin Fever is a 70s AM radio ballad as programmed by the Chemical Brothers. (It's actually produced by Mario Caldato). But what some (read: lesser fans) might see as weaknesses, we see as strengths.

For example, Cian Ciaran, the band's keyboard player who wrote and sang the song, isn't a professional vocalist. Instead of holding the song back, though, Cian's vocals contrast the overall lushness of the arrangement, and evoke (quite deliberately, we think) Dennis Wilson's "lost classic" Pacific Ocean Blue. We also think the admittedly regimented rhythm lends the song a stately quality. In the end, we find "Cabin Fever" to be restrained, hypnotic, and compelling.

We can't wait to hear what you think.

LISTEN.

Photo: Antumalal, Chile, 2004.

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Friday, December 8, 2006

TRACK 6: BALMY NIGHT


BALMY NIGHT by Department of Eagles.

Good songs come in all shapes and sizes. Some songs have sixteen parts and thirteen sections (think Sowing the Seeds of Love, Welcome To The Terrordome, uh, Tom Sawyer… whatever suits your taste). Balmy Night by Department of Eagles is a different animal.

I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to call it simple—I'm sure there are lots of things going on behind the scenes—but it sure seems like the only thing "Balmy Night" wants is a single moment of beauty.

Listen to the song, and in particular the spine-tingling climax beginning around the 1:20 mark. Here in one place the group has a good melody, a good sound, and a singer (Daniel Rossen, who's also a member of Grizzly Bear) with a lovely voice. What more do we want from a song than one gorgeous moment?

If you like this one, check out the group's website (and listen to Deadly Disclosure, which is a companion to this track).

LISTEN.

Photo: Batchelor Street, 2002.

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Thursday, December 7, 2006

TRACK 5: OUT ON THE SIDE


OUT ON THE SIDE by Dillard & Clark.

We auditioned a lot of songs for this mix. The first real serious draft was a playlist of 69 songs, but as we moved songs in and out of the final running order, this one wasn't ever touched. It's fair to say that this song (with a select few others) shaped the whole project.

"Out On The Side" is the opening track from The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark. Gene Clark, who wrote the song (and, not coincidentally, is an all-time genius and musical superhero), sings the lead.

Well before Clark's vocals come in, in fact from the opening seconds, the song is working. The playing is just masterful. It takes all of two seconds to absorb the listener into the world of the song. Doesn't that organ sound like it's been there all this time and you've just now noticed it? Likewise, Clark's entrance is all slyness and ellipses.

As the track gets going, Clark's heavily-metered vocal is pushed forward in the mix, which is echoed in the pulsating background vocals. The extended coda lets the band stretch out and appreciate the excellent material they have to work with.

The lyrics are cryptic and mysterious—but they sound direct and plainspoken. It's as if the singer is singing in a foreign language that the listener never realized she understood.

If you're hearing it for the first time, we really do hope you go for this song.

LISTEN.
Photo: Blue (and Happy Belated Birthday, Zack!), 1993 (Photo by Jennifer Shook).

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Before continuing with the holiday mix, we'd like to take a moment to congratulate Emily and Milos on the arrival of their new son, Luke Byrd Naumovic! Luke was born on Sunday, December 3, at 1:21 p.m.

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TRACK 4: THE DOLPHINS


THE DOLPHINS by Fred Neil.

Amy takes the credit for the appearance of "The Dolphins" in this year's mix. Beginning a year or so ago, Amy began a total immersion course in all things The Sopranos. She got the first three seasons on DVD for Christmas last year, and on top of that, HBO started showing all the previous seasons on demand. Amy's m.o. is to play the episodes in the background, over and over, while she works, so that eventually she's absorbed the entire episode.

Amy's watching habit carried over into season six. One night I heard "The Dolphins" wafting into the living room, and then a little bit later heard it again. So I went to check it out. The Sopranos people had put the song in "The Ride" episode. And that, in turn, gave me the idea to include it on this mix.

This version is Fred Neil's original. I had actually been more familiar with Tim Buckley's version(s) of this song. But as great as those renditions are, there's something irreducible about the original. Neil's voice—deep, magisterial—rides the descending melody with ease. Cutting against the vocal is an unsettling guitar line (it sounds a little ahead of the beat) that is anchored in shimmery reverb. You can hear that it's supposed to evoke the sea, but it actually succeeds as elegy.

We would be remiss in not adding that the mandolin-like solo (actually a bouzouki) was played by Cyrus Faryar, late of the Modern Folk Quartet.

LISTEN.

Photo: Far Rockaway, 2002.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

TRACK 3: THEME FROM THE 400 BLOWS

Listen to THEME FROM THE 400 BLOWS by Jean Constantin.

January 28, 2002, was a red-letter day for me. It was a Monday, and I rolled out of bed pretty late (this was before dog, before job, so I didn't have anywhere to be).

For a couple of weeks I had been looking forward to going to the Film Forum and watching a couple of François Truffaut movies—The 400 Blows, and Stolen Kisses. These two movies are part of the Antoine Doinel series, in which Truffaut followed the character of Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud) from a precocious boy to a hapless middle-aged man.

Most of you know this, but at the time I had no idea. In fact, since I slept late, I didn't even realize I had missed the first film and was now watching the two movies out of order—first Stolen Kisses, then The 400 Blows. Naturally, then, it took me awhile, all the way into the second movie, to settle that I was now watching a character at age 13 I had just seen making a (lovely, charming) mess of his life at age 20.

If that knocked me off stride, I certainly wasn't ready for one the most famous shots in cinema history.

Spoiler alert: Below the fold, you can watch the famous ending yourself.


The scene is very long, shot in one take, and silent for a long part of that. Then the music comes in. The viewer is left with a long time to contemplate where Antoine Doinel is heading, and with no little pathos, because just like the characters in the Up Series, one thinks one knows more about Antoine's future than he does. The music continues, swells, and then drifts way, just in time for the last shot. I was so moved I teared up. Watching it just now, I teared up again! What an ending, and what a pair of movies.

Unlike many of the songs on this years mix, this tune is actually hard to come by, so I'm glad to be able to offer it to you. Here's the ending, and below that is the track.


LISTEN.

Photo: Jodhpur, India, 2000 (photo by Mayur Subbarao).

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Monday, December 4, 2006

TRACK 2: THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT


THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT by The Modern Folk Quartet.

"This Could Be The Night" is a song that sounds like it should be the happy couple's first dance at the wedding reception... doesn't it? This sort of thing has been on my mind.

In my world, the following is a high compliment: This Could be The Night sounds like something Harry Nilsson would write and something Brian Wilson would love. Which is exactly what it is! A quick history: The Modern Folk Quartet were four guys from Honolulu who moved to L.A. and tried to make it on the scene. It didn't go very well, but right before the group broke up, they hooked up with Phil Spector, who (in addition to having them sing backup on Ebb Tide by the Righteous Brothers) gave them this song to record in 1965. Henry Diltz (the banjo player), picks up the story:

We were recording a single for Phil Spector and we thought finally we were going to make it. Brian Wilson came down and sat in the control room listening to it over and over and over… it was a Harry Nilsson song called "This Could Be The Night." But then we waited that summer for Phil to put it out and he never put it out because he was going through his paranoid stage where he was afraid to put something out for fear it wouldn't be 'number one' and his reputation would fall.

The song never did get put out in time for the Modern Folk Quartet to make it big, but the boys in the band made it pretty well in the music business anyway. Jerry Yester (the keyboard player) played on "Do You Believe in Magic" by the Lovin Spoonful and became a producer (including for a couple of Tim Buckley albums). Chip Douglas (the bassist) played bass with the Turtles and for Gene Clark, and also became a producer (including a bunch of the Monkees' biggest hits). Cyrus Faryar (the guitarist) also played sessions on a lot of great records (one of which we'll hear in a couple of days).

So here is "This Could Be The Night," a Spectorized folk-rock shoulda-been-number-one oldie but goodie.

LISTEN.

Photo: Hershey Park swings, 1999.

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Friday, December 1, 2006

TRACK 1: SUNSTROKE

SUNSTROKE by Joy Zipper.

This is the first track of the 2006 mix.

I know very little about Joy Zipper. I've only heard one album, which I got from my sister a little over a year ago. I like it. It sounds like it was recorded by big Souvlaki or Loveless fans. But you'll have to look elsewhere for in depth comparative analysis.

Just like the blog itself, this first track finds the holiday mix just warming up. To my ears it sounds a little like an orchestra getting in tune. That's the intended effect anyway. Also, it leads really well into Track 2, but on that you'll just have to take my word for a couple days.

And even though it doesn't really stand alone as a song, you'll find it fits the mood of the rest of the mix very well. What is that mood? We'll be ruminating on that over the next couple of weeks (it is a blog after all), but I think there are two particular facts that dominate this year's sound. First, I've accumulated a big big stack of beautiful and wonderful tunes that I haven't had a chance to share with you, dear Christmas CD recipients, because generally those mixes stay poppy and upbeat. These songs, on the other hand, tend to be quieter and more contemplative.

Second, blessed though I am (did I mention Amy and I got engaged?), it's been a long exhausting year. Particularly having had to give up sports, I've been getting older a lot this year! I think this will come through soon enough in the songs, if not immediately.

So here's the first track, and don't forget to check back Monday for more!

LISTEN.

(If you have any trouble downloading, shoot me an email!)

Photo: Late afternoon at the office, 2004.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

WELCOME!

And welcome to our very first blog post!

Before we get started with the tunes, here's a little background as to what we're up to.

As many of you know, every year Amy and I have sent out music mixes to our friends around Christmastime. The first one, in 2000, was more or less thrown together in an hour or two, and I think the only extant copy remains with our friends Gretchen and Jeremy. Since then, ever more thought and effort has gone into the annual ritual, to the point that it's fair to say making the holiday CD is our main musical hobby throughout the year. The number of recipients (and hopefully listeners) has increased every year too. Last year we passed out nearly forty copies, using up several toner cartidges and just about destroying Amy's laptop.

Which brings us to this year's edition. In an effort to simplify matters in our iPod-dominant age, reduce trips to the post office, and maybe even reach more friends, we're trying out distributing the mix via our very own music blog!

The idea is to operate it just like an ordinary music blog, except that the 18 forthcoming posts will all be thematically linked and ideally should be listened to in sequence. Once you have downloaded all 18 tracks from the website, you'll be in possession of this year's "holiday CD." If that doesn't interest you, hard copies of the holiday mix are also being prepared and will be sent on request.

We hope this works out and that it's fun for everyone. Happy holidays!

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