East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Top ten: RetroSex/SnugSounds

A better-than-usual ten, probably because I'm cherry-picking from the tops of 2006 singles lists from reliable sources.
  1. Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "Darling Nikki": Don't tell Tipper Gore, but they had casual sex in the Thirties, too. The band plays loose around Bernstein's tight arrangement, polyphony degenerating into dissonance, stopping, restarting and turning more raucous than ever, before bursting into clear horn lines at the end. A band on top of their game: you have to be to cut Prince.
  2. Yo La Tengo, "The Story of Yo La Tango": Long guitar freakouts bookend what sounds like Yo La's second-best album (after I Can Hear the Heart...). This is the suitably epic closer, which could be mistaken for a career summation if it weren't for the silly name. Of course, they're not a band so easily summarised.
  3. The Thermals, "A Pillar of Salt": After the jumpy lead line peters out, Hutch Harris sings "We were born to sin" over a guitar wall, only hinting at defiance and regret. Playing not Lot but just someone who knows the story, he's scared shitless of losing his baby and is pissed off that it's come to this. God: what a dick.
  4. Neko Case, "Margaret vs. Pauline": Not that Canadian women are indistinguishable, but this is so Alice Munro. Plotwise, that is -- Pauline thinks her life is terrible, which it is, and envies Margaret, who's in a coffin -- not language-wise, where like too many rock writers, Case relies too much on the obscure image (even though hers are cooler than most: "parking lot eyes"?) Hey, at least I didn't mention Joni.
  5. Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, "Vampire Girls": "You know those girls who seem like they're really cool, until you realize that everything that's cool about them is something they sucked out of their ex-boyfriends?" As a vampire boy myself, I contend that it's a plus that the girls in question want to be interesting. Having said that, at least I read a book or two every now and then.
  6. Escort, "Starlight": The song I can't get out of my head right now is Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" (All-Time Bass Line Ranking: 7th, between "I Can See for Miles" and, controversially, "Square Biz"). This disco revival (ATBLR: just outside the top 100, despite starting out like it's just gonna be one of those one-noters) is a fun enough Larry Levan imitation. Plus: scratchy guitar. Minus: no handclaps.
  7. Yo La Tengo, "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind": Meanwhile, this one ends the album. Douglas Wolk says this is their "Tomorrow Never Knows" and yet isn't implying its eleven minute length is excessive.
  8. The Knife, "Marble House": It's got the minor that's really a major thing going, which with the synths reminds me of Erasure's "Always". No soaring chorus, though; that would be too normal, something post-A-Ha Norwegian popsters avoid at all costs.
  9. Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra, "The Schnube": Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. OK, and Rollins: it is a calypso.
  10. Maria Muldaur, "Moonlight": If you still don't think nu-Dylan is up to snuff, listen to how this minor track on Love and Theft holds up against the more renowned throwaways on Muldaur's covers album. For her part, Muldaur shows sincerity can be useful, as long as you're witty with it.
Ten more: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "Cry Baby Cry"; Clipse, "Mr. Me Too"; Ghostface Killah, "Shakey Dog" (I'll get to More Fish next time, promise); Girls Aloud, "Somethin' Kinda Ooh"; Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, "Ellen's Bicoastal"; Kano, "Reload It"; Scritti Politti, "The Boom Boom Bap"; TV on the Radio, "I Was a Lover"; Tom Waits, "Bottom of the World"; Yo La Tengo, "Beanbag Chair".

Don't quit yer day job: Thom Yorke solo.

Coming soon: Rhyming couplets.



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