WARMER MIXTAPES #1545 | by Brian Charles Grainger [Brian Grainger/Milieu/Coppice Halifax/Pink Space/Bike/TMA3/AQV/Phe_/Troth/Vhom/Teenager/Parallax/Dorian Albatross/Black Skies/A Night On Mars] of VCV, Viking Destroyer, SEAS, Free Festival, Gauss, Flax Harmonade, Waterstrider, Royal Opium, Silver Honey, Sunbeam Rail, Scant Orbit, Facebiscuit and The Blue Spaces
1. Jimi Hendrix Experience | The Wind Cries Mary
Starting with this, I should point out that I'm not a massive Hendrix fan, and although I love some of his work, I've only ever owned Are You Experienced. This song is one of those totally perfect and untouchable pieces of Guitar Music that takes me places. Right from the first three lightly strummed chords and the verbed cymbals, I'm immediately transported to a Bradburian street at sunset, sitting on a porch swing with a pretty girl in a flowery dress, sipping a lemonade and looking at the fading orange light playing off the green lawn as The Sun dips behind the trees. By the time the solo hits, my heart skips a beat on nearly every note, and somehow, for a few sacred seconds, everything feels good and right.
2. Aphex Twin | Untitled (Stone In Focus) (from Selected Ambient Works Volume II)
This is quite possibly my favorite piece of Music, of all Time and Space. It sounds simultaneously alien and yet close to home every time I play it, which is a lot. I probably sleep with SAW II on repeat at least once a week, and it never ages. There really isn't a lot to tell, that the song itself doesn't already say. It stands alone like a beautiful crumbling lost wonder of The World, eroded by centuries of exposure to the elements, hidden from the eyes of men. And every time it plays, I discover it all over again. Kirk from Kiln shares my affinity for Stone In Focus (or E4 on WARPLP21 for the Afecks nerds - don't worry, I'm one too) and once told me he went about his day job with the track on endless repeat on a cassette Walkman.
3. The Smashing Pumpkins | Here Is No Why
If I am permitted to pick a really honest track that sums up many of my feelings from struggling through my teenage years, it would be this. Like the Hendrix cut, everything about this is perfect. The stop-start weirdness of the rhythm guitar, the wistfully bummed out lead fills, the way it launches into all-out fuzz Planet Rawk in the chorus and delivers one of the most aching solos full of Longing and Grace (God given) ever to be coaxed from an axe. The lyrics are the quintessential sad-boy anthem that I needed to hold nearly and dearly in those awful years, and even now as an adult, when Billy tells us If you're giving in, then you're giving up, some distant part of me feels like the fight still isn't over yet. May The King of Gloom be forever doomed.
4. Frank Sinatra | Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)
Though Frank recorded this song numerous times throughout his career, I'm going with the version he recorded for Capitol on the This Is Sinatra Volume Two LP. I could easily populate this list with only Sinatra songs, but in the interest of picking one, I'll go with Frank at possibly his most sincere, and tender. So much did he relate to this song that he made it his radio show's theme song, routinely closed his performances with it (usually opened with a tasteful intro from Angel Eyes) and had it played at his funeral. Listening, it's easy for me to see why. It's a succinct piece of gentle longing for a loved one, delivered as only Frank could do it, and as with many Sinatra songs, I find it fascinating how relatable and easy it is to put myself into Frank's shoes as he sings.
5. The B-52's | Follow Your Bliss
The B-52's are in my musical holy trinity, along with Jandek and Fela Kuti. As such, it's very hard for me to pick just one song, but Follow Your Bliss is a song that has soundtracked much of my life, and continues by my side even now. Topically, it sounds like a cleanly produced Eighties Post-New Wave cut, but beneath the veneer is a truly bittersweet composition filled with the tugging memories of someone you miss. For them, it was Ricky Wilson, the guitarist who was cruelly taken from us by AIDS right after the band produced Bouncing Off The Satellites. Ricky's trademark Surf guitar sound weaves through the track, played beautifully by Keith Strickland, who amazingly took over the role of guitar after being the band's drummer since the start. It's a breezy missive for you to gaze off to, and maybe try not to focus on the negatives. When I saw the band perform on their Cosmic Thing tour as a boy, the show changed my life, and I'll never forget the feeling of slowly walking out of the auditorium, covered in sweat from dancing all night, while this track played through the PA for the post-show come down.
6. Bowie | Sweet Thing
+Candidate... +Sweet Thing (Reprise)... I started this list in 2014, forgot about it at this point, and resumed it in January 2016. Somehow appropriately - or not? - Bowie has just been taken from us and this song means more to me now than ever. It is an epic in three (really, more than that) parts that is simultaneously sad, happy, angry, lustful, longing and resigned to Fate. I first heard Diamond Dogs when I was maybe 14 or 15, and it had a powerful effect on me. To some degree, Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory both got me through High School. Just knowing that I could channel any and all of my restless, impatient energy into these records made them worth playing over and over. And the biggest surprise? Their continued relevance when I grew up.
7. The Beatles | I Need You (Help! Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Picking a single Beatles cut is almost impossible, really. There are literally so many moments connected to so many songs that this entire list could be Beatles songs. I'm sure that's a broadly applied statement as well, for many of your readers and contributors. I Need You is not only a relatively early Beatles song, but it's a Harrison cut, and those always stand out on LPs just because of their scarcity. It's as if Harrison knew he had to make every second count, because, while his peers were able to fill out LPs however they liked, he was the underling still trying to prove himself. So for me, I Need You is a perfect piece of sad Pop Music History. It's excruciatingly simple, with the only real flair in the song coming from a volume pedal effect on the accenting electric guitar chords, almost as if the other Beatles had all exhausted themselves on their own cuts and George was left to back his track with The Tired Beatles... And it works. Just enough pep to make the album, but otherwise it totally nails the feeling of missing someone, knowing you fucked up and you'd do anything to get them to accept you again.
8. Basil Poledouris | The Kitchen/The Orgy (Conan The Barbarian Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Like many young boys in the 1980s, I was into Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, and really the only one he ever made that I think truly stands on its own as a solid film, and not temporary Summer blockbuster action fodder, is Conan The Barbarian. This is helped in part by other factors - James Earl Jones' flawless villain Thulsa Doom, a beautiful visual connectedness to Robert E. Howard's original Hyborea and, last but not least, Basil Poledouris' beautiful and epic score. As far as I can tell, this single soundtrack set the benchmark for Fantasy scores in films and video games for years to come, and this two-part piece sums it up well. The Kitchen is a churning, primal engine of horns, percussion and Latin guttural vocals about Darkness and Evil, and appropriately plays over the film's depictions of brutal cannibalism. At its apex, just when you expect it to end, it surprisingly turns an 180 and flourishes into the beautiful piece The Orgy, which is all swirling curvatures of strings and heartbeat-like accents on drum and tambourine, all cascading melodically over and under itself like a sweat-covered feast of flesh, as both the title and film scenes imply. Something lurks beneath the melodies' movements though, something sinister, a reminder of the cannibals just behind the wall maybe, and this in turn pronounces itself majestically with huge cymbal crashes and heavier drums, as the root chords subtly change in color and pacing to underscore what the screen shows us: Thulsa Doom physically metamorphosing into a giant snake. As a kid, this scene and The Music always stuck in my mind as the absolute perfect marriage of Visual and Sound, and as an adult it continues to inspire me in my own scoring work, and on many of my albums, where I attempt to be as synaesthetic as possible.
9. Beck | Guess I'm Doing Fine
Beck is perhaps the closest we'll get to another David Bowie, and I'm aware that this is possibly too controversial of a statement to make on the heels of Bowie's passing. Honestly though, I cannot imagine any other artists who can be backed by anyone, and really pull off playing and singing just about anything from any time or genre. Beck is free of boundaries and he continues today to venture further out, both within and without the confines of Mainstream Pop Music. I'd already been in love with the man's work before Sea Change came out, and like many friends of mine, the day that LP landed, we were all in awe, for weeks. It was somewhat marketed at the time as his Blood On The Tracks, a legendary breakup album itself, and I can somewhat firmly say that Sea Change takes the mantle for my favorite breakup album of all time. Guess I'm Doing Fine is straining with beautiful longing, and genuine Loneliness. These are the words of a man who has literally been left out in the cold by the one he loves, and by the time he sings the line in the title, you feel the underlying Anger and Resentment, buried beneath so much pure Exhaustion. He is simply too tired to even bother fighting anymore, and is willing to give up any sense of Self in order to go back to the way things were before. An incredible piece of Lyricism and Composition that could have been sung by anyone, any time, without losing its stilling effects.
10. Boards Of Canada | Kid For Today
When I was almost 18, I unceremoniously dropped out of High School by staying in bed and reading Stephen King's The Stand all day in a chilly winter in the country. I had given up on trying to succeed in that avenue of my life, and was simply ready to get a job and pursue Music Making full time. The year that followed saw me entering what I consider my Artistic Renaissance, a time when all I did was work shitty wage-earning jobs, get stoned and absorb as many albums and books as I could, somehow priming myself for where I was attempting to go artistically. Boards Of Canada were one of my discoveries at that time, and they really went a long way in accenting those late nights, getting high, passing out in my top bunk with Cat's Cradle and my window open to hear the crickets while this EP spun on repeat. Even now, since moving on from BOC (I never really took their work with me after 2005), Kid For Today remains one of the greatest pieces of Melodic Electronic Music ever written. The way the sound of a projector changing slides is treated as if it's a lead instrument, and how the same amount of care and attention is placed on those whispery fuzzy textures as the main components of the track, it's just pure Magic. The kind of Magic that takes me back to that stoned top bunk whenever I hear it.
+11. Cylob | Foid
Another major influence I discovered during that time was Cylobian Sunset, and this track in particular sticks with me in the same way Kid For Today does. It is the perfect set of elements... Springy reverb, low-passed sinewave melodies, distant muted drums that serve more as a warm anchor than a real beat. Something sad, but also something a bit alien, and the hypercolorful sunset on the album cover helped that sonic image a lot. This album was on repeat both in my bedroom and on a tape in my car, and will never be separated from those teenage stoner memories it's been imprinted on.
+12. Deftones | Teenager
Before I'd totally had it with High School, I was in a very self destructive phase where I was taking any drugs I could get, from and with anyone, on the weekends, and spending almost all the rest of my time in my headphones. The summer White Pony was released, my idiot behavior was in full swing, and it was one of the main soundtracks to several weeks of partying with strangers, taking pills and smoking everything with reckless abandon, and also to a short and absurdly failed relationship with a girl who was only in my town for her family's summer vacation. Like any teenage boy who finds a pretty partner in his crimes, Fixation and Obsession came into the picture pretty quick, so when she left, there was a lot of being sad and missing her way more than I should have, and I even knew it then. The truth is, I've always held on to the sad moments a little too hard, and having this wistful and emotionally drained piece about missing someone because they've changed and moved on was way too close to home. So, stupid teenage Brian latched right onto it, and I'm still not able to shake it. I saw Deftones on the WP tour that year too, even met Chino and Chi Cheng, got them to sign my WP CD. It was a suitably positive moment I could use to replace all the bullshit associations the record came to have for me previously, but Teenager still lingers there, reminding me about crying my pointless naive tears over the letters from the girl who moved away.
+13. Jandek | Down In A Mirror
Let's get the fuck away from teenage years, shall we? It's a bit frustrating when you have lists like this and you realize how much of the stuff you still define yourself with is utterly old and somewhat outdated. A friend of mine in New Zealand, sometime in 2006, started telling me about Jandek, and I was immediately intrigued. I listened to some records, pretty much hated them right off the bat, and yet the idea of something important lurking beneath the prickly surface of the Music nagged at me. I kept finding myself going back and trying again, until one night, this song just clicked, and I've been absolutely engaged by Jandek's work ever since. This song sounds literally as if the singer is reaching out from beyond the grave. His wispy speech crawls over the guitar chord languorously, while somewhere behind him a clock ticks underneath a watery noise reduction setting on a budget tape recorder. The guitar is tonally absent, it's as if Jandek found all the notes nobody wanted and exclusively used those. My NZ friend used to say that Jandek's work was like the weeds growing between the fences in a neighborhood. It existed, and people were aware of it, but it was this sort of unspoken no-man's-land artistically. If all Music has to be played with either the black keys or the white keys, Jandek's is played with the grey keys. It's enough to make you want to sit still in fear of what might happen next, every time. I was lucky enough to see the man perform in a renovated fire station, in 2007, and it was a life changing event. My band with David Tagg, VCV, recorded an entire album of Jandek covers, instrumentals focusing on the atmosphere of his output - and it was even officially approved by Corwood via written correspondence, which made it worth doing for us. Jandek continues to be a lonely beacon in a musical sea that no one can quite reach or contact in any way. When that light goes out, I will miss it terribly. The World likely does not yet know what it owes Jandek.
+14. Queens Of The Stone Age | Avon
QOTSA are one of the finest distilled representations of everything I like about Rock Music. Equal parts high volume, precise playing, vacant minded surreal lyrics and some of the most ear-tingling changes ever. Avon is from their debut album, which is really just Josh Homme with a drummer, but it's such an undeniably tight, Funky and heavy performance that it rolls over me every time like a train. It goes from the Rock-smashing caveman-esque Stoner Rock chugging of the intro to something like Punky Surf-Rock Metal with falsetto harmonies, until a flawless and succinct drum part gives way to the song's liftoff moment. Nowhere left to go but up, the solo burns through the din and pronounces Avon dead as it crumbles back down to the ground, slamming those caveman bones in defiance. QOTSA are one of the only bands I've seen live multiple times (the other being GWAR) and each time it's been the best kind of ear-bleeding, head-thrashing, horns in the air party. Long may Josh Homme continue.
+15. Signaldrift | Sweet Freedom
I found Signaldrift's work sometime in 2003, when I also discovered Freescha, Casino Versus Japan and the rest of the (quite brilliant) Wobblyhead catalog. It didn't quite stick with me then, the way other things did, but I ended up getting the Compass LP from my father for Xmas (not sure how exactly that happened?) and it opened itself up to me. I realized the missing ingredient with Signaldrift's work was Patience. You couldn't skip around, you couldn't get impatient waiting on the track to move through its motions... And that was what worked about it. It was in no hurry at all, allowing you to really savor the melodic changes and the sounds he was using to get from A to B. Sweet Freedom came out on his latest record, itself several years old now (so if you're reading this, Franz, fix that!) and it's a really perfect summation of what I love about his work. Simple back and forth guitar lines, accented by a slightly different ride cymbal playing, with spacious atmospheric things happening in the background. It just goes along, peddling its midtempo sadness at a walking speed, making me think about someone walking back home through a few city blocks at night, passing all the landmarks, thinking absently about it because it happens so often, but somehow being able to appreciate a beauty in the repetition.
+16. Iggy And The Stooges | Shake Appeal
I grew up hearing a few songs here and there from Iggy Pop, but largely spent my upbringing unaware of what he was REALLY about (my father's only Iggy Pop record was 1988's Instinct), so by the time I was discovering Glam Rock at 14, I found Raw Power at a used CD store and bought it for the cover alone. When I got home and played it, I was shocked into an endorphin-spiked submission and really no other album comes close to how Raw Power makes me feel. I have to play it excruciatingly loud, always. It is the only Music that comes close to making me want to do violent things. It gets into my head like a primal switch has been flicked and I'm charging with Electricity. If it does this for me, I can only imagine what it did for Iggy Pop. Unparalleled in every possible way. Raw Power negates and invalidates pretty much any other need for Punk Music in my life. There is no turning back! Also, the claps on Shake Appeal are what I consider to be the best recorded handclaps in all of Rock Music.
+17. Sepultura | Dusted (Demo)
Continuing on the topic of Heavy and Loud, Sepultura belong in this list because they were one of my favorite Metal bands all through School, and their records still get a lot of play here now. While I do like the studio version of Dusted on the Roots album, this demo version from Blood Rooted trumps it somehow. It's easy to imagine the band packed into a small bedroom or garage, sweat covered and high as kites, forcing a poor 8-track recorder to accept their mass and volume. Aside from some Soilent Green songs, or certain tracks on Metallica's ...And Justice For All, Dusted basically has the best possible combination of heavy changes to heft its weight around. It never lets up and, as tight as the band are, it sounds as if they are barely able to contain the track's weight. I don't think I will ever stop being a metalhead, so this track's importance is not to be overlooked.
+18. IrvTeibel | Tintinnabulation (Contemplative Sound) (Environments - New Concepts In Stereo Sound - Disc 2)
I found out about Irv Teibel's Environments series from a guy in a band I opened for a few years ago. He mentioned a set of Field Recordings on vinyl from the 1970s and I was immediately interested. So I tracked them down, all 11 volumes, almost immediately, and I'm still deeply indebted to these LPs today. At the time, they must have been very innovating, though I'm not sure most people saw them as anything more than novelty, given the cartoonish quotes about the effects of listening to the albums on their sleeves, like something from a cheeky self-hypnosis record. However, on Environments 2, this sidelong piece stands out as commanding your full attention in ways none of the more organic (and equally beautiful) sides had. It is a series of bell tones, sounding somewhat like chimes, that were arranged and processed via a computer of some kind, according to the LP's notes. It is so immediate, so comforting and so alien that I cannot get past it. I play it on repeat while I sleep on a near-weekly basis. There's something very sepia about it, like you can really see the bronze chimes being softly struck in a smoky dimly lit room. It is also well worth tracking down the CD version of Environments 2, which features this piece pitched downward to go on for an hour (all of the original LPs were designed to play at multiple speeds for different uses, down to the rarely used 16 RPM), bringing out entirely different overtones and sustained foggy sounds. A real desert island pick, I could not live without this one.
+19. Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra | Easy Living (feat. Billie Holiday) (Easy Living Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Billie Holiday had a hard life, from start to finish. Look it up sometime, you'll be surprised it isn't a pulpy paperback you're reading. Fortunately, she was able to, from an early age, assert herself as a voice to be heard during the early days of Swing, though not much of her Music is really Swing or even fully Jazz. Rather, Billie always sings The Blues. Even if she's singing a standard or a perky song from Broadway, it's inflected with an inimitable sadness that only she could coax out of herself and the players behind her. Easy Living is from her time with Columbia, my personal favorite era of her works, as she is often backed by very complimentary smoky sounds like clarinet, piano, brushed drums and in this case acoustic guitar. It's a song about how much in Love she is with someone, so much so that she is hopelessly devoted to them, blinded completely by it, unable or unwilling to care about the rest of The World. This sweet ignorance-is-bliss doesn't come off as happy though, rather like someone who is going down with the ship, knowing they are going to ultimately lose everything if they stay with this person, yet they cannot pull themselves from the feeling of being in Love. The living is easy because there isn't anything else, at all. It's affecting in ways few other ballads can be.
+20. Blind Slime | Panhandle Moon
Blind Slime is the most recent iteration of the brilliant mind of Jason Adams, previously Wordsalad, Falx and Heptangular. I'm lucky enough to say I've been friends with the man for many years, and his brilliance has never quite gotten the respect or notoriety I feel it deserves. His work has gone through so many phases, from mutant bedroom electronics to starry eyed guitar droning and Noise, to this... An unsung masterpiece of hazy and sad Bedroom Pop Music. Panhandle Moon opens the album True Country, which is back to front one of my favorite records, and writing this now I still cannot fully quantify just why I love it so much. Perhaps it's the deceptively simple chord changes, or the weeping leads that bring to mind a baying wolf in the foresty hills of his West Virginian home, or the absence of lyrics that commands the listener to hear what the guitars have to say for a change. It's a warm and comforting track that is laced with the perfect degree of Sadness, and it tugs at me every time I play it, wishing I could've unearthed this gem myself. Jason has been deep within his own mines for a long time now though, and True Country belongs to him in every way. We're just lucky to be able to hear it.
+21. Igor Stravinsky | The Rite Of Spring (Performed by Los Angeles Philharmonic, Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen)
I was introduced to Stravinsky as many were with Disney's Fantasia, an incredible work of Synasthesia all by itself, but Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring stayed with me in ways many other pieces of Orchestral Music never did. I didn't know why at the time, but it's possibly because it was one of my first exposures to truly dissonant and multifaceted Music. It took me places, and still does now. The way it uses instruments outside of their natural ranges in an almost primitive and textural way is brilliant, opting for Color and Atmosphere over Musicality or Convention. It is so willfully disobedient at almost every turn that is impossible to listen without discovering new things each time.
+22. Eliane Radigue | Kyema
The same friend who recommended Jandek to me opened my eyes and ears (and mind) to Eliane Radigue. I started with the epic and timeless Trilogie De La Mort album - three extended Minimal synthesizer pieces revolving around a narrative about Death. Operating less as Musique Concrète and more as purely microtonal shifting and high-frequency wobble, Radigue turns her synthesizer into a vessel with which to melt you down, reducing your consciousness to a thin film of Color floating along a solitary stream, eventually losing awareness of itself and careening down a waterfall, one subtractive drop at a time. This is Music that can induce altered states of Perception for me, without using any drugs. Total Physical Response to Frequency. Whenever I want to think, clean the slate, and can't make it to an isolation tank, Eliane Radigue's beautiful work never fails. Transcendent, Universe-Filtering Music. Another album I'd run into a burning house to save.
+23. Fẹla & Africa 70 | Coffin For Head Of State
I was introduced to Fela's work by a bandmate in my Psychedelic group A Night On Mars, sometime in 2001-2002. That record was Beasts Of No Nation, which didn't really click with me fully at that time, but I continued to investigate Fela's massive catalog and got fully addicted when I found his Live! album with Ginger Baker, which led me to this poignant and searing piece. Fela was a radical political force for most of his life, leading his own Kalakuta commune in Nigeria, attempting to subvert the political corruption that still plagues Nigeria today with Music, a self-regulated religious outlook and a way of Life that embraced his African lineage, complete with multiple wives (who sang and danced in his band). Coffin For Head Of State seems to be about Fela's problems having no acceptance among the major religious groups dominating his homeland at that time, and trying to forge his own way through the Oppression and Poverty. You can feel strains of his longing and frustration, but never NEVER Resignation, in his plaintive horn solos as the band ebbs and flows behind him. This is Music meant to convey a purpose, and to fully embody the weight of its purpose, it gets long, it gets deep. Fela doesn't even take the mic until halfway through the 22 minute piece, at which point you're invested in what's happening and you're listening with your full attention. His wives chant off mocking amen after amen as Fela walks us through all the supposedly open-minded religions that he feels are preying on the weak among his people. Whether you agree with him or not doesn't matter, all you need to know is that this is the work of a man passionate for Change and Individual Expression in a time and place when both were impossible to come by unless one lived on the fringes. There will never be another Fela, and his work stands defiantly relevant even today.
+24. Gas | Oktav
Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project has enough recognition and accolades that I shouldn't have to introduce it here, but it bears repeating just how immersive and influential the entirety of his Gas catalog has been for me. I picked Oktav, a non-album track from a compilation, out of necessity, as I don't feel you can single out any of the tracks on the albums - they are all cogent bodies of Self-Awareness, worlds inside worlds, and to cherrypick them would be to lose their combined strength. Oktav represents the wider world of Gas quite well, though - the distant horns, stately beneath filter fog, displaced from some nameless orchestral album, set against a simple but insistent Techno rhythm, which has been weathered down until only the pulse remains. It is an exercise in Music as pure Atmosphere, and it has the power to transport you to those black German forests that Voigt has so much mental and emotional connection with. If ever there was the literal sound of being lost in the woods, Gas is it.
+25. Jeremy Soule | Secunda (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Original Soundtrack)
I was impressed with Jeremy Soule's orchestral prowess when I first played Oblivion, the fourth game in the Elder Scrolls Fantasy video game series. When the fifth game in that series was released, Skyrim, it came on the shoulders of so much nostalgia from the time spent in that beautiful virtual world. There is a comforting Isolation to be felt in these open-world games, with such a high level of Immersion that one really truly feels the cold wind blowing across snow-capped mountains, or the warm orange embers inside a rustic wood cabin. Soule has a way with embedding tangible emotional weight in his scores for places that do not even exist, which itself is impressive, and I think Secunda, from the epic four-disc Skyrim soundtrack, is emblematic of both the world and the feeling of being a part of it. It's short, just over two minutes, but in those two minutes you're instantaneously displaced. Slowly trudging through the snow toward a far off tower with a light at the top, noticing the simple silent beauty of the trees all coated in white, glistening like gems under a starry sky. Undeniable and timeless.
+26. Pearl Jam | Off He Goes
I got No Code on cassette for Xmas right after it came out, when I was in Middle School. A horrible time of my life, my parents about to divorce, living in a place I was forced to move to with no friends and no support. Back then, Pearl Jam were just another band I liked, but some of their songs always stuck with me, felt like more than what they were. Off He Goes remains my favorite song Vedder ever sang, with its relatable Sadness and Disconnection only fully making sense to me as I get older and have to acknowledge the fact that my work has put my face in front of other people, just as it is now for those of you reading this list. To become aware of the fact that people's perception of you is so drastically different than what you think you are, is jarring and depressing, because you know how powerless you are to change it. Is it the most important concern in The World? No, definitely not... But you have to go to sleep every night reconciling yourself against the contradiction of it all. Do you forsake all privacy in your life so everyone will really know who you are? Do you contaminate your artistic voice and output by swearing to the letter that every moment of it is The Truth? A wall is necessary, even for people who are not in the public eye, but it is seldom acknowledged as aptly as it is here, on Off He Goes. The inherent Duality that exists within all of us is dissonant, but to address it feels better, even if you can't cheer up too much about it. Ignorance might be Bliss, but Acceptance might also be Resignation. And if you're giving in, then you're giving up.
+27. They Might Be Giants | Dead
My wife is a longtime fan of They Might Be Giants and, while it took a while for me to fully appreciate what makes John & John so great, this song is a perfect example of their work that I find quite accessible. Musically, like many TMBG songs, it feels a bit obtuse, but in the end nothing else would work as effectively for the brilliant lyrical commentary about the state of being dead. It hits a nerve on a deeper philosophical level than most other Pop Music ever gets close to, so much so that I could (and have) written College papers disseminating TMBG song lyrics. Is Death only an expiration date, something that is predetermined? If so, is it impossible to avoid? Is Predestination real? What about Reincarnation? Is it futile to want more from Life than Life seems willing to give us? Even talking about it seems absurd, but it's something every single person has to face. Sung with the abandoned joy of accepting Death as if it is just another day on a factory line, Dead sums up the Indifference and simultaneous contradicting (unsatisfied) curiosities we all have about the end of Life.
+28. Pink Floyd | Time
Much like the previous two songs, Time is another perfect example of a philosopher's view of the mundane aspects of our lives, and how we're at the mercy of Time moving forward, whether we want it to or not, whether we even realize it or not. If I wasn't concerned about picking two tracks from the same band, I'd have used They Might Be Giants' Older. Pink Floyd are welcome here though, as they also represent a massive part of my musical influence, in a probably not-totally-needing-to-be-mentioned kind of obvious way. Time is the only piece I feel like can be singled out from the genius work that is ...Dark Side.... Everything about it is spotless and so cutting right to the point, and it only continues to make more and more sense the older I get (pun intended). From my teens onward, Pink Floyd managed to, with a single album, boil down all of the good and bad things about Life and lay them out on a sheet with the grace of men many years their elder. If there was ever a handbook for getting through Adolescence, ...Dark Side... is it.
+29. Radiohead | In Limbo
In Limbo is taken from another record that is so cohesive and self-aware that it's really impossible to break it up - Kid A. I was already a big Radiohead fan when Kid A came out, and much like Beck's Sea Change, Kid A had a profound effect on everything. I remember vividly now, riding stoned in the open Jeep with my old High School band through the windy country at sundown, right before a big storm, when you can almost smell it in the air, listening to How To Disappear Completely and almost being moved to tears. Kid A subsequently became my soundtrack that winter, when I quit School. I'd lay in my warm bed all day, with a tape player that would flip sides automatically, and it would go back and forth between Kid A and Moby's Play: The B Sides over and over. In Limbo is a perfect representation of my feelings about my life at that time, feeling lost in a sea storm, unable and frankly unwilling to relate to anyone else, bowled over by the noisy chaos of real life that was hanging over my head like a cloud. Limbo felt good, and although we all move on from that feeling we all have, you never forget it, and when I get really upset or disenchanted about things, Kid A is still there for me.
+30. Sloan | Autobiography
The last track here is appropriate to close with, as it has always perfectly encapsulated how I've felt about growing up and wanting to be an artist of some kind. It's even prescient, as it's brought me here to you, and you really should be rewarded somehow for reading through all of this rambling. Sloan were always very good at writing about the ironies of relationships and growing up, and this song cautions the listener to be wary of easy outs and people who will take advantage of you, given the chance. It's a very accurate observation about life as an artist as well, getting into what's left of the Record Industry, and trying to make it for one reason or another. It's important to me, because it eloquently (and with a very Ray Davies level of Wit) depicts the tightrope walk between being self-aware and self-assured and just totally failing with the best of intentions, and the futility of having that kind of self-worth when you're basically alone anyway. In short, everyone wants to feel important to someone, but no one ever knows the right way to actually do it. Sloan tell us that with age, the answers don't get any clearer, and having taken Autobiography with me through about half of my life now, I can tell you they're correct. Be yourself, try to be happy, be considerate of others and be careful.