Over And Over
Songs that I keep close, because they’re attached to the memories I’ll always carry near (arranged in chronological order of memories).
Songs that I keep close, because they’re attached to the memories I’ll always carry near (arranged in chronological order of memories).
1. The Call | Walls Came Down
And also Elvis Costello - Senior Service + Men Without Hats - Antarctica... My dad had a crazy vinyl collection. I’ve been digging through it in recent years and found a 45 of Taco’s Puttin' On The Ritz, plus a ton of great Prog Rock. But, my favorite (and I think his favorite, too) have to be these three New Wavey/Punk gems. As a young kid, I’d turn these on and go crazy in the living room. I can still remember feeling weird when I figured out that Elvis Costello was saying I wanna chop off your head and watch it roll into a basket... What the hell does that even mean? And the transition from Safety Dance to Antarctica on the US version of Rhythm Of Youth has to be one of my favorite song transitions ever. You won’t stop dancing.
2. The Smashing Pumpkins | Zero
Before I went to high school, I got totally obsessed with the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I remember I’d stay awake all night listening to the album and looking at the random text files I’d find on the beat-up old Windows 3.1 PC that my cousins gave me. The computer took probably about 10 minutes to boot and it would freeze if you had more than two windows open at a time. Once, while looking through the file folders, I found a report on suicide that my cousin had obviously written for a class project when she was in high school. I remember that this song came on at the same moment. I was entering my Kurt Cobain phase at the time, and I just remember that all of those things created this perfect storm of self-hate. A totally histrionic, 7th-grader type of self-hate. I felt pretty bad-ass.
3. Misfits | 20 Eyes
The first band I was in would practice in my family’s basement. It was just me, another dude, and his computer that we’d loaded with some MIDI files to accompany us with bass and electronic drums. We’d play a rendition of 20 Eyes at every practice, though. And, really, I carried this song throughout my life: I’d play it in the car, driving around with the members of one of my later bands; I think it was one of the first songs I heard at one of the first Punk shows I went to at the BRYCC House in Louisville, Kentucky, where I grew up (this local band called Oslo played it, and everybody in the small room went crazy).
4. Polvo | Feather Of Forgiveness
Growing up in Louisville, I was raised on the mythos of Slint, Rodan, Sunspring, Crain, and the other Math Rock/Post Rock/beautiful sweetness that had propped up the scene in the early - to mid-nineties. Coming along a bit after that time, I always loved their music but had heard it (and heard of it) so many times, I got a bit bored with it. So, when I found Polvo - a band from North Carolina, working in a similar vein, who none of my friends had heard before - it was like finding a gem. This song in particular nails down some of the feel I still want to hit in my music: noisy, raw abandon, mixed with confounding, touching pop sentiment. Yeah... I’ll never hit it like Polvo did, here.
5. Explosions In The Sky | Yasmin The Light
Actually the entire album Those Who Tell The Truth... During the summer of my last year of high school, I started hanging out with a new group of friends when I joined a Punk band. Suddenly, everything in my life clicked. The band took off (like high school bands do in small-ish cities) and by fall we were playing in front of 300 mall-punks in the upstairs of the American Legion. But, this song will always remind me of that fall, because my group of ten or so friends would all snuggle together in The Black Room at K’s house, listening to the vinyl of this album. The Black Room was a room on the second floor of K’s mom’s house. The room was in the middle section of the floor, and so it didn’t have any outside windows. The roof slanted down on two sides of the room, and all of the wood was exposed. We painted the walls black and hung some of those glow-in-the dark stars. Even during the middle of the day, the room would be completely black when you closed its doors. I distinctly remember only two times that we did the Explosions-snuggle routine: once on one of those summer-autumn transitional days after we’d walked the entire length of Louisville’ Bardstown Road, using only the alleys and cutting through people’s backyards; the other time was after driving out to a farm, stealing some apples, and returning back to K’s house to cook something (I don’t quite remember what). Those moments were some of the most intimate of my life.
6. The Weakerthans | None Of The Above
Later that same year, with the same group of kids, we went sledding when Louisville got an unexpectedly large snow. Afterwards, we all crammed onto a futon, under a blanket, in the freezing cold upstairs of D’s house. We played the Weakerthans’ Fallow on repeat, and this was my favorite song. In the same place, a few weeks later, listening to the same music, we stenciled our band’s logo onto a bunch of cardboard AOL-promo-CD sleeves that we had stolen/taken from a Kinko's. We put our first demo inside and sold them for $2-$5, on a sliding scale basis (pay-what-you-want!). It probably wasn't worth it: because it was too cold outside, we had to spraypaint the sleeves in D’s upstairs bathroom. We turned on a fan and pointed it outside, but forgot to open the window. We burned out the fan's motor and also killed way more brain cells than we possibly should have.
7. The Black Heart Procession + Solbakken | A Taste Of You And Me
And The Notwist - One With The Freaks... Spring is probably the best time of year in Louisville. It starts in March and lasts through May, and - while there’s always a few cold days, a few rainy days, and a few hot days - you get some of the most perfect weather I’ve ever experienced: sunny, 60s–70s, with the plants blooming. Add in some Derby Festival, and the time is always magic. In spring of my senior year of high school, I met J. We’d bike everywhere in Louisville, especially around Old Louisville, and go camping every other weekend. These two songs were practically on back-to-back repeat. The BHP+S song has a simply gorgeous piano figure that carries throughout, plus some awesome gurgly-tom sounds. And, while there’s not a bum track on the entire Neon Golden album, One With The Freaks is easily my favorite. Two smooth tracks that fit our smooth rides together.
8. The Microphones | The Moon
This song has two places for me. It first appeared in my life in the depths of winter, driving around town with C. The song was playing while we drove down Broadway towards the neon L&N sign, that kept filling its letters up and flickering. A year later, when I was a freshman in college, I went to ear X-tacy, and bought The Glow, Pt. 2 for myself. (Since then, I’ve run through 2 original copies and probably 4 burned ones. I always end up loaning them to people or scratching them from playing them too much). I remember buying the CD on a rainy day in October, then driving down Oak St. with J, for no other reason than to listen to the album while we drove around Old Louisville and imagined moving into one of the apartments down there.
9. Serge Gainsbourg | Le Claquer De Doigts
And Beirut - Scenic World... Later in college, I started working for a vintage clothing store. The owner, N, who became one of my closest friends, would let us play any music that we wanted in the store, provided that he liked it. Whenever he didn’t like what I had on the stereo, he’d always turn on his Gainsbourg boxed set. It fit perfectly with the fall weather outside, and it was just so goddamn chic-sounding that sales always went up when it was on. The one thing N would always let me play, though, was Beirut’s debut album, which had just come out. I still think I can sing that entire album, front to back. We’d burn Nag Champa in the store constantly, and now whenever I smell that stuff, the lyrics to the album bubble back to the surface. I was playing in some bands at the time, and this album re-introduced me to the ukulele, which I’d sort of learned to play at the same time I learned guitar. I started incorporating the uke whenever I could, and ended up with some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written - much more delicate and mournful than some of the other stuff I’ve done.
10. Devendra Banhart | At The Hop
That same fall, one of my closest friends, D, died very suddenly. We'd played in two bands together, and it was a total shock. Even though we'd played in mostly Noise and Punk bands together, D had started getting into all sorts of music before he died. His mom, R, in particular liked all of Devendra's stuff when it was coming out, and D picked it up from her. I just remember sitting around R's house with all of D's friends. This song has some of the most depressing lyrics: I won't stop all of my pretending that you'll come home. And, yeah, that really drove home a point for me: D was never coming back. But, for some reason, the way this depressing song was couched in a beautiful song that's almost Poppy made me feel a bit better. And that's how I'll always remember D: a mixture of contradictions - he could simultaneously be a total ass to you while also caring deeply about how you were feeling. He could hardly play bass, and definitely didn't have an ear for being in tune, but because he made all this crazy noise, when he would hit the right notes it would be way more powerful.
+11. J&L (band without a name) | Brown Eyes
I think I might be the only person in the World - seriously - who has a copy of this song. JM and L were two of my friends that started playing music together. They had an amazing artistic chemistry and made the simplest, most beautiful, most delicate songs I’ve ever heard. Two voices (a boy and a girl) singing over a guitar and a ukulele. I recorded them in my basement apartment, using the internal microphone on my computer. It sounds shitty and amazing. I still turn this on when I’m feeling homesick for Louisville and the folks there. If anybody wants a copy, feel free to email me, and I’ll try to get one to you...
+12. Dosh | O Mexico
I'd say that this song kicked off the party phase of my life (which, unfortunately, in some ways is still going on). I’d turned 21 and J was turning 21 - on Derby Day, while we still lived in Louisville. So we went crazy. I put on a dirty, old size16 boys’ suit; J put on a dress. And we pretended like we were the asshole out-of-towners who come into Louisville for Derby. We got really drunk on expensive cocktails and whiskey. Then we went to L’s house and watched Being John Malkovich in her backyard on a projector screen. Then we went to a college party. Then we went to 21c's amazing hotel bar downtown, to close the night, where we ran into a wedding reception. It was everything you could want in a party night: friends, alcohol, a bit of random exuberance, and a Charlie Kaufman movie. And Dosh’s album The Lost Take was playing from J’s 1991 Honda Accord speakers all night.
+13. Michael Jackson | Rock With You
And Pointer Sisters - Jump (For My Love)... These songs are from a night that I never expected to be great. It was in the middle of December, and was way colder than Louisville normally is that time of year... My friend, KP, came into town for somewhat sad circumstances. But, after he and I had talked out his problems during a walk downtown, we decided to go to Seidenfaden’s: one of my favorite places in Louisville. It’s a tiny neighborhood bar, where sometimes they’ll still let you smoke despite the ban. It reminds me a lot of the bars here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (where I live now). But, in Louisville, it’s this singular place. We showed up expecting to just grab a few beers at the bar. But, everybody I know was there. People were in from out of town, people who were fighting had made up, and everybody was dancing. The DJ that night, S, was spinning only the most Classic classics from the 80s and 90s. I can still remember both of these songs being played and everybody going insane. They had to open the doors of the bar, because we were fogging everything in the building up from breathing too hard. One of the greatest nights of my life.
+14. Animal Collective | Banshee Beat
And Joanna Newsom - Sadie + Rachel’s - Kentucky Nocturne... Before I moved away from Louisville, I spent the entire summer doing nothing but biking and working at the vintage store. I would play three albums on repeat: Animal Collective’s Feels, Joanna Newsom’s The Milk-Eyed Mender, and Rachel’s Selenography. That summer was extremely hot, so I’d normally wait until the evening to go for my bike rides. I’d put in my headphones and bike until it got dark, stopping in Rainbow Blossom to buy some overpriced fruit (grapes and strawberries are my favorites) or biking in circles in the parking lot of Barrett Middle School, by my apartment. I’m sure that the excessive amounts of grass I smoked that summer only made these songs stickier, yet clearer to my brain (and it sure made those strawberries taste sweet - I once ate seven dollars of strawberries in a single sitting). Listening to those albums, I pinpointed my three favorite songs by three of my favorite artists. (These three may be my favorite songs ever). Banshee Beat somehow takes a simple heart-expanding drone and turns it into an extended Pop jam. I don’t know how any song could be better than the 1-2-3-4 punch of Did You See The Words?, Grass, Flesh Canoe, and The Purple Bottle - but over probably 200 listens, I realized that Banshee Beat is the unfolding centerpiece of one of my favorite albums ever. Sadie is pretty much the same: a complex gem in the middle of an album that doesn’t have a bad song. And, oh man, Kentucky Nocturne moves through several serpentine twists before it goes silent. Then it clicks into Post-Pop-orchestral gear. If you’ve never heard it, you have to. If you have, listen to it again.
+15. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy | A Minor Place
I grew up right off of Frankfort Avenue, in Louisville. And Will Oldham lived a few blocks away from me. So, I’d see him sometimes while I was eating a hummus sandwich at Nancy’s Bagels. He also dated one of the people who worked at the vintage store with me. And, my friend R’s boyfriend has painted several rooms in his house. So, while I’ve only met him once or twice, his presence was sort of a fixture in my life. When I moved to Milwaukee, I felt so distant from my home, my friends, and anything I knew. But then Bonnie 'Prince' Billy played a show at Turner Hall. I went to it, and just being around the music of someone who’d been a regular (if roundabout) part of my life for a long time comforted me. Add the nostalgia to the enveloping warmth of the sound at Turner Hall, and it was a pretty magical experience.
+16. Avey Tare | Heather In The Hospital
Oh, the WQXR 2, Q2 Radio... Bing Crosby - O Holy Night... Since moving to Milwaukee, I’ve been working a lot. But, I still have some great experiences while I’m working. I particularly love to sit near a window during the fall and early winter (early-October through mid-December), drink coffee, listen to music, get work done, and watch the leaves change. When Avey Tare’s Down There came out last year, I bought it immediately and played it over and over. The album works as a whole and seems to cycle in on itself. I’ve literally listened to it over and over again for an entire day before. I think my favorite track is Heather... I love the way he holds out the tension in that song right until the end, when he goes into a pretty linear hooky pattern for only a few measure, before hitting the album's finale in Lucky 1. I started listening to that album in October, but when the leaves were almost gone in November, the album felt too warm. So I turned to NYC’s Post-Classical station Q2 to give me a bit of icy, intellectual fire. Though I sort of hate having to listen to the announcers between songs, I’ll take the personality, occasional randomness, but always-well-curated tunes of real radio over Pandora any day. Then, when the leaves were all gone and the snow was starting, I got into some of my parents’ old X-mas music. The Bing Crosby X-mas canon is a strong one - on par with the best - but Oh Holy Night is a fucking tearjerker. It’s recorded extremely well, with HUGE bells and some bass that hits you right between your throat and your stomach.
+17. Mariah Carey | Always Be My Baby
Like I said, I’ve been working a lot. And, while I’m not actually old, sometimes I feel old. So, when J and I went out with our friends JP and RB one night, and ended up singing this song in the car super-loud on the way home, it was nice to feel like I was back in high school. (Maybe even grade school).
+18. La Big Vic | Mr. Broken Bird
Being away from home, I don’t get to see my sisters very much. It’s always a big deal to me when I do get to see them, though. So, this summer, I went down to Kentucky to visit them and played La Big Vic's album the whole way down there. Damn, it’s good. Mr. Broken Bird in particular just zings, with Pop hooks and great atmosphere. It sounds like Broken Social Scene but more earthy (and for that reason, way better for me).
10 For Now
What I'm listening to right now.
I’m gearing up for a DJ set at Cactus Club, here in Milwaukee.
Some of the songs I’m planning to unleash are below.
Some of the songs I’m planning to unleash are below.
+19. Blood Diamonds | Heart
Blood Diamonds has managed to perfect the art of chopping and screwing the human voice into pure ecstasy. I never thought I’d hear the chipmunk effect be put to such simultaneously plaintive yet ecstatic uses as in this song.
+20. Gobble Gobble | Lawn Knives
Not necessarily a Dance track, but it hits you in the gut. This song is the perfect distillation of what I wish I could do: huge electronic drums, shredded noisy instruments, and a rusty bucket full of Pop.
+21. Time | Can’t You Feel It
Is it Disco? Early Rap? Synth Pop? Who gives a shit... This song makes you want to shake your ass. It also has a supremely uplifting chorus: Hey, kid, you’re the tops!
+22. Joe Smooth | Promised Land
This Chicago House classic totally predated and predicted the sounds that would become Jock Jams-style staples in the ‘90s: a repeating drum beat bouncing insistently, piano stabs, some sweet string hooks, and some sweet ride bell action in the breakdown make this one of my favorites.
+23. Black Box | Everybody Everybody
One of those ‘90s songs that took after Joe Smooth. A HUGE-voiced singer, a nice polyrhythmic drum beat, and some of my favorite synth strings. But, the best part is the everybody everybody hook that underlies the choruses. You can’t not move to this song.
+24. Carol | So Low
This is a slower track that takes a while to get moving. But, I speed it up to about 125 bpm, and the chipmunk effect makes this ethereal coldwaver sound even more ethereal with some reverb added. And, when the bass comes in, it anchors the song perfectly.
+25. Grauzone | Eisbär
From the frigid-poles-effect intro to the noise-spewing chorus, this song incorporates a bit of everything good. There's some repetitive ambient synth, driving bass, and harsh guitars. What’s not to like?
+26. Basement Jaxx | Romeo
How could anybody dislike this song? A super-complex arrangement keeps this Dance number interesting throughout pretty much its entire length. Plus, whenever I play this song, people will be singing it the rest of the night - even if I bury it in between better-know cuts from other artists... The hook is that good. (May I also suggest that you pair this song with an aerobics video?)...
+27. Teams vs. Star Slinger | Close To Me
This whole collaboration blows my mind. In fact, EVERYTHING Teams and Star Slinger do - separately or together - is absolutely amazing. This song is a bit shorter, but it provides the perfect hazy, stuttering transition between a few cuts.
+28. Purity Ring | Ungirthed
One of my favorite songs from the last year. A bit harder to dance to than some of the straight-up 4-on-the-floor numbers, due to a more complex beat, but the bass is thumping and the vocal samples are pitch perfect.