The Offspring and Wool

The official start date for the tunequest was feb. 11.

I actually started formulating the idea on the 10th, but it took until the next day to fully formulate my methodology. even though the date passed last saturday, i think it’s worth noting that, if i had managed to stay awake and do nothing but listen to my iTunes library, i would have finished on march 25. as it stands, i’ve managed to accomplish 16% of that and my latest projections show me to be on track for my end-of-year completion goal.

tunequest:

  • yann tiersen [amelie]
  • thievery corporation [abductions & reconstructions]
  • tortoise live in san francisco oct 20, 2005
  • the offspring [conspiracy of one]
  • isao tomita [picture at an exhibition]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: darkness ascending]
  • the pizzarellis [bucky and john: contrasts]
  • nobukazu takemura [child’s view remixes]
  • soul coughing [contest 7"]
  • basement jaxx [atlantic jaxx]
  • wool [box set]

every time i think i’ve outgrown the offspring, the group’s trademark power-punk-pop always manages to pull me back in. i was a big fan in high school, even saw them in concert. since then however, my passion for the group has waned to the point where i’ve repeatedly considered ditching my collection. in fact, i hadn’t listened to conspiracy of one since iTunes gained the ability to track playcounts. it’s been so long that that this was like getting a whole new cd, and like the sucker that i am, i fell for it. that’s not something to be ashamed of, is it? •

speaking of music that’s survived since high school, let’s take a quick look at wool. i picked this up, used, at hawsey’s book index, the book store i frequented in my teenage years for cheap books and music. i was tipped off, if i remember correctly, by a plug by friend-of-the-band dave grohl on an episode of mtv’s alternative nation (or maybe it was 120 minutes) and subsequent airing of the video for ‘kill the crow’ some time in 1995.

box setbox set is respectable enough, a heavy mix of punk, metal and enough pop-formula songwriting to merit attention. unfortunately for the group, the music industry was turning its attention toward crap-rock in the wake cobain’s suicide and this album barely made a splash at all. the fact that i found a copy at the book index is quite astonishing in retrospect. a couple years later though, wool’s guitarist joined foo fighters when pat smear left, so i guess it worked out for him. •

two other quick notes: amelie soundtrack will take you away to the streets of paris. And the pizzarellis brand of laid back classical guitar will make you feel like you’re on the deck of a beach house, sipping a cool drink and enjoying the ocean breeze.

March 28-29 – 120 songs played. 81 removed

i’ve done a fair amount of weeding over the past couple days and probably reduced the tunequest by a day as a result. some early pizzicato five (i like P5, but by her majesty’s request is unlistenable) and some aphrodite (my love affair with drum and bass has largely run its course) didn’t make the cut and were, well, cut. i also made the single largest removal to date: the emerson string quartet’s collection of shostakovich’s string quartets. nothing against the emersons or shostakovich, mind you, but string quartets, as a form of music, have always been a struggle for me to appreciate. i don’t doubt their musical worth, but i can’t get into string quartets. i’ve tried, but i guess i just prefer the power of the orchestra.

as it stands, i would not want to offend the spirit of shotsakovich, so i did especially listen to and enjoy his "waltz #2 from jazz suite" this evening. beautiful beautiful music that is.

forth tunequest:

  • peggy lee & george shearing [beauty and the beat!]
  • beth orton [central reservation]
  • london symphony performing elgar’s enigma variations
  • bjork [bachelorette]single
  • elbow [cast of thousands]
  • silver apples [contact]
  • the evil genius orchestra [cocktails in the cantina]
  • yoko kanno [cowboy bebop 2: no disc]
  • fila brazillia [brazillification]
  • delarosa and asora [agony part 1]

today’s tunequest is quite varied, from the glitch harmonics of scott herron’s delarosa project to peggy lee’s soothing siren song. the evil genius orchestra puts a humorous and swinging spin on everyone’s favorite star wars themes on cocktails in the cantina. personally, i think the the e.g.o.’s version of "princess leia’s theme" rivals the original. in fact, when putting together a list of mellow movie themes to be played as "mingle music" at my wedding reception i choose this version over john williams’. •

fila brazillia’s brazilification is an endurance test of downtempo remixing. it is a mix album, however it is more of a ‘best of’ collection of previously-released mixes, rather than a dj album, so i don’t think my earlier criticism applies. the record is a two disc set that starts off very strong, with excellent remixes of songs by radiohead, moloko, phosphorous, and u.n.k.l.e. but after the first half of the first album, the set begins to fatigue and the beats begin to muddle together.

that’s less a problem with the duo and more a factor of the downtempo genre. while individual tracks can be quite outstanding, over time the inherent form of downtempo puts it at disadvantage for long term active listening. it really is better suited to background music, turned on and tuned out while you work on other projects, only occasionally taking interest in choice musical passages. in that regard, the length of brazilification is its one drawback. still, fila brazillia are excellent at what they do and i can’t recommend this one enough. •

speaking of front-loading, let’s talk beth orton. i was familiar with beth before i got central reservation in 1999 through her collaberations with the chemical brothers. her voice always added an element of humanity to the brothers’ explosive beats. her own music brings her flavor to the forefront, unburied beneath layers of synthesized sound. simple arraingments and addictive melodies highlight her sophmore release. it’s too bad it’s all crammed in the first few songs. the record begins to sound monotonous throughout its second half, tempting me to just get rid of those songs. if it weren’t the strength of the rest of the album (‘sweetest decline’ in particular) i probably would, but i never know when one of those songs will suddenly click with me. •

and silver apples’ contact is quite interesting. i was prepared to dismiss it as yet another indulgence from my experimental youth, but it continues to pique my interest. •

March 27 – 66 songs played. 25 removed.

exclusively composed music today it seems, mostly from film and television, though the most excellent slavonic dances were mixed in as well.

  • bavarian radio orchestra performing dvorak’s slavonic dances op.46
  • joseph loduca [army of darkness]
  • alan silvestri [back to the future]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: in the beginning]
  • the boston pops performing select john williams compositions
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: the long night]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: sleeping in light]

sleeping in light is the last episode of babylon 5 and is also probably christopher franke’s best score for the series. it is contemplative yet sweeping in its composition, a fitting accompaniment to the episode that wraps up the character’s loose threads.

the babylon 5 scores, like the show itself, dramatically improve as the show progresses. the first season in particular is hard to enjoy. don’t get me wrong; i admire what jms was attempting at the time and ultimately what he achieved with the series, but the production value of those early episodes left a lot to be desired. and franke’s new-age inspired music for the first season didn’t help matters. however, as the action, suspense and intrigue mount of the course of the show, franke really steps up and produces some contemplative and engaging music.

if i had to recommend just one soundtrack, it would probably be sleeping in light. or maybe coming of shadows, just for the scene where the centari emperor has his heart attack. •

the army of darkness score is rousing and fun, just like the movie. it also contains the march of the dead by danny elfman, which hey, is good. •

March 22-25 – propellerheads, tosca, bonobo, the plan and bran van

i spent the past few days in boston and have some sore legs and about 330 photos to show for it. i had fun; boston has earned a place on my ‘favorite cities’ list, which includes pittsburgh, paris, and the strip in vegas. the side effect, of course, is that outside of my normal daily routine, i had far less opportunity to tunequest. so now, i’m officially behind schedule. whereas before this trip, i had to listen to 45 songs per day to be done by 1/1/07, i now must listen to 46. hopefully, i can make up the lost time in the coming week.

what did i listen to in beantown?

  • propellerheads [decksanddrumsandrockandroll]
  • bjork [all is full of love]single
  • bonobo [animal magic]
  • tosca [dehli 9 disc 1]
  • the dismemberment plan [change]
  • mouse on mars [actionist]single
  • bran van 3000 [discosis]
  • blur [13]

propellerheads: excellent big beat electronic music that channels the above-mentioned james bond sound and seemingly anonymously took the world be storm in 1998-99.

tosca: dehli 9 is perhaps the finest example of downtempo electronica in my collection. this side project of dorfmeister’s (of kruder & dorfmeister) is about as upbeat and groovy as downtempo gets. this disc is energic and jazzy.

bonobo: more downtempo electronic, but slower and with a flair of india.

dismemberment plan: this was the first plan album i heard and it is also the group’s last. having heard the previous records, i must say that the band’s trajectory was ever upward. musically more complex and lyrically engaging than anything to date, this album rocks.

the prognosis is discosisand finally, bran van 3000. discosis is an inventive album that features some very slick song-writing and an impressive array of guest stars. unfortunately, the record was slated for american release about a month after the beastie boys grand royal record label collapsed. thus, this expression of musical genius remains hard to find in the states. don’t ask, if you find it, buy it.

John Barry and Monty Norman and the James Bond theme (Dr. No)

DR NO

On a recent flight home from Boston, I found myself listening to the soundtrack to Dr. No, the original James Bond film, composed by Monty Norman.

B’jebus! It is terrible.

I’m no fan of calypso and Carribean music in general, so the record starts at a deficit. And from there, it doesn’t make any headway. How many versions of that mango tree song do we really need to hear? Honestly, this soundtrack is about as far from “James Bond” as you can get without it being performed by a midget barbershop quartet (though, unlike this soundtrack, I might actually pay to hear that).

This album has so little to do with the musical legacy of the franchise, that it’s a freakin’ tragedy that Norman gets sole writer’s credit (and the ensuing royalties) for that iconic theme.

In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, John Barry deserves at least a co-writers credit on the theme. The fact that Norman’s Dr. No soundtrack has a separate track called The James Bond Theme which sounds nothing like the famous one should be a testament to Barry’s contribution to the theme. Norman claims that it was the record company’s fault for mislabeling the tracks on the records. Even IF that were the case, the contrast in style is so vast that one can’t help but call into question the events that led to the theme’s creation.

Even though the British courts sided with Norman, anyone who gives this record even a passing listen should be able to clearly hear the difference between Norman’s style and that of Barry, the architect of the James Bond sound.

::

Update Feb 25, 2007: Despite legal setbacks, Barry is still defending himself as the author of “the song.” In a candid radio interview on BBC Radio 2 in September 2006, Barry explains how he came to be involved with the James Bond franchise as Dr. No was finishing production, after Norman had been signed to it. Thus, the controversy begins anew. Go on, read the whole thing.

March 20 – 41 songs played. 8 removed.

contrary to what one may think, given conventional wisdom, weekends are not the boom time of music listening that one would expect them to be. lots of free time should equal lots of play time. but of course there are commitments and chores and errands and all kinds of other activities that get in the way. i’m certain it would not be good for my marriage if i spent all our time together wearing ipod ear buds. it turns out so, this past weekend, i didn’t listen to a single song. but i did get re-acquainted with an old friend called deep space nine, and that counts for something i guess.

onward to today. well, unlike friday, today’s tunequest felt like a chore. i’ve got nothing against any of the music here; i just wasn’t in the mood for most of it. looking over the list though, i must say such feelings were mostly unwarranted.

  • guns n roses [appetite for destruction]
  • geinoh yamashirogumi [akira symphonic suite]
  • 10cents [buggin’ out]
  • christopher franke [babylon 5: whatever happened to mr. garabaldi]
  • berlin philharmonic performing r. strauss’ ‘also sprach zarathustra’
  • smashing pumpkins [bullet with butterfly wings]
  • mouse on mars [bib]single

ah appetite for destruction. a classic. and to this day, i have no idea why my parents let me listen to it. i was only ten years old or so when it came out. my only conclusion is that they must have thought i was too young to really understand what the songs meant. and it’s true. it wasn’t until i rediscovered the album in college that i gave the lyrics some serious consideration and there is some seriously mature themes. i guess ignorance was bliss in this case. but thinking back, i can’t help remember the times i listened to it in the van with my mom, just be-boppin along and she didn’t say a thing.

also in today’s play count, i must put in a good word about the smashing pumpkins. while the band were pretty decent musicians in their own right, they were also particularly good at covering other peoples songs. pisces iscariot has a cover of the animals ‘girl named sandoz’ and fleetwood mac‘s ‘landslide’ both of which i think sound better on that record than they do on the originals. similar story with the bullet with butterfly wings single (expanded version from the aeroplane flies high box set) which is a collection of five cover tracks by the cars, alice cooper, blondie, missing persons, and the cure. once again, i think the pumpkins exceed the cars on ‘you’re all i’ve got tonight’ and rock the house with alice cooper’s ‘clones (we’re all).’

also sprach zarathustra, better known as the theme from 2001: a space odyssey. there’s actually a lot more music after that first movement and the berlin philharmonic put out a great performance of it all.

Wherein I ponder all the music I could listen to in my lifetime

I did some thinking today about my library and listening to music in general. I’m 27; given the average American life expectancy, I’ve got another 50 years in me. If the size of my iTunes library remains constant (big if), I could expect to listen to every song in it a maximum of 429 times, if i were to listen to each song an equal number of times. However, that would require listening for 24 hours a day for the next 18,000+ days, so that is really not a practical measurement.

Given that on days when I’m really trying hard to listen to as much music as possible, I only clock about 3 hours of listening, it brings the number of listens down to 53 per song, roughly enough time to play each song only once per year, That’s all the more reason to clear out the less-than-stellar songs and albums from my collection, because I know I’ve got music i want to hear more than once per year.

meanwhile, here’s today’s tracks.

  • broken social scene [bee hives]
  • uakti [aguas de amazonia]
  • nautilis [are you an axolotl]
  • mouse on mars [cache coeur naif]
  • counting crows [august and everything after]
  • underworld [beaucoup fish]

No laughing at the Counting Crows. I’ve only got a handful of tracks from their first album (from before they tanked) and I don’t care what anyone says, Omaha is a damn impressive song; it’s their best. •

Honestly, today was a great day for music. Underworld’s Beaucoup Fish is a masterpiece of progressive house music that relies more on songcraft than thumping beats–though their are plenty–to create some compellingly danceable music that’s not just for dancing. It’s enjoyable as music in its own right. I’ve had the album for more than six years and it has consistently been among my favorites. It’s surprising to me that the group’s others albums haven’t broken through the clutter in my library. •

Mouse on Mars teams up with Stereolab on the Cache Coeur Naif ep. Two powerhouses of the upper echelon of indie-dom combine to create… a rather run-of-the-mill couple of tracks. It’s good; don’t get me wrong, just not very compelling. I think it suffers from “too much expectation” syndrome. •

Lastly, I was totally prepared to weed the Uakti album. Despite the fact that it’s a collaboration with Philip Glass (or perhaps because of), I was ready to write it off as a superfluous acquisition from a more experimental time in my listening habits. But it appears my perceptions of it had become corrupted over time (it had been quite a while since i last heard it). Aguas de Amazonia’s unique percussive style really makes this album a fascinating listen. Then again, I’ve always been a sucker for percussion, which is funny, ’cause Ican’t dance. at all.

March 16 – 50 songs played. 10 added.

a solid 3 hours and 40 minutes in today, which doesn’t seem long enough to have covered all the items below. but a lot of them are singles, just 2-4 songs each, plus i don’t actually list an album here until i’ve played all its songs. i had 6 songs left in the soul coughing show and only the last 2 of sigur ros’ (). so those didn’t make the list until today, despite the fact that most of the songs had been played earlier.

also, i know adding more music to my library doesn’t make this task any easier. but i’m always running into new stuff and i don’t want to become musically stagnant. thus, more music. today it was a tortoise show in san francisco 2005.

  • aarhus symphony performing vagn holmboe’s no.8
  • weezer [buddy holly]single
  • soul couging live in boston 1996
  • london symphony performing stravinsky’s "card game"
  • the breeders [cannonball] single
  • foo fighters [big me] single
  • helmut [biscuits for smut] single
  • lithops [blasmusik / intendo 7"]
  • hooverphonic [blue wonder power milk]
  • sigur ros [()]
  • lalo schifrin [bullit]

there are a few albums in a persons life that are emotive of a particular time or place, albums that, when heard, take you back to the feelings you felt when the music was fresh and new. smashing pumpkins’ mellon collie is one such album, taking me back to the winter and spring of my 11th grade year, when nearly-daily bomb threats meant being sent to hang out at the football stadium or skipping school altogether. those were fun times for over-achievers.

likewise for hooverphonic’s blue wonder power milk, and particularly the song "renaissance affair." every time i hear that song, i travel back in time to the summer after i graduated college, when i was high on my academic achievements in ad school with big dreams of landing a job a hot agency. that summer was amazing; i had few obligations, plenty of friends (old and new) and plenty of fun. i spent a good deal of time learning capoeira and exercising my creativity. it felt like a non-stop party.

while things haven’t turned out as expected (i never did get that ad job) and life has been generally good to me, when i hear that album, i can’t help but think what might have been.

Gomez – Bring It On: Brits with the blues

beware the ides of march indeed. today’s showing is a rather pitiful 16 songs. That’s just one complete album and a handful of live Soul Coughing tracks.

  • gomez [bring it on]

So it was a short day, but a quality one. One that answers the question "what do brits do when they get the blues?" the answer is "Bring It On." Sporting a trio of soulful vocalists and a basket full of catchy hooks, Gomez puts out some tight music, particularly for a debut album. This is what southern rock might sound like if it were more laid-back and british. Hat tip to Dan for the hook up on this one