iPod roulette April edition

Hi guys,

Well, I had big bright plans for a lengthy feature about Bruce Springsteen this week, involving such disparate threads as covers of his songs, the layers of irony in both himself and his songs, and my musical coming of age and how Bruce fits into it repeatedly.

But then I had a misadventure of colossal proportions today that involved a hike that went horribly awry and me getting home several hours later than planned. (Memo to self: read hike descriptions before going on them. Go on hikes with people with more common sense than you, not alone. Tell people what hike you’re going on. Figure out beforehand whether or not the hike will end before or after dark. And if the beginning of the hike seems horribly steep and slippery, don’t assume it’s magically going to get better.)

So that will have to wait. Instead I’ll be incredibly lazy and introduce another feature, which is iPod roulette. Basically, hit shuffle and write about what comes up until you’re sick of it. (The music group that I did it on would do ten, but after my hot bath I don’t think I’ll make it past five.)

1. At The Drive-In, “Ursa Minor” (from VAYA) – I like IN/CASINO/OUT a shitload, and a couple bits of RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND, but I’ve never quite dug the rest of their discography. As far as I know, I’ve never heard this song before, which over-relies on its stereo mixing of the guitars and under-relies on making its verse rocking. There is a rocking chorus, but it’s brief. In conclusion, it’s no “Invalid Litter Dept.” or “Pickpocket”.

2. Robyn Hitchcock, “Maria Lyn” (from LUXOR) – not sure how I wound up with this album (probably Conor’s doing) or what it represents in Hitchcock’s discography (I think it’s somewhere in the early 2000’s) or what it has to do with the rather astonishing Luxor casino (if anything). Anyway, this song, which again I think I’m hearing for the first time, is sort of Hitchcock beige, which is to say that it has a pleasant Hitchcock vibe but doesn’t particularly distinguish itself out of the rest of his song catalog. I do like the guitar/harmonica instrumentation.

3. Rilo Kiley, “Variations on a Theme (Science and Romance)” (from TAKE OFFS AND LANDINGS) – what the fuck is this? This is terrible. 37 seconds of a synth demo. I assume I have this whole album on here and this is the bonus track or some shit, but I don’t trust any band that would put this anywhere near their album. Suck. Pass.

4. Immortal Technique, “Battle vs. Flow” (from PORTABLE IMMORTAL) – 28 seconds of live dissing from this hip-hoppity guy that my friend Alastair hipped me to. Too insubstantial to stand on its own. Although there is a funny bit about how the only projects the recipient of the dissing had seen were in high school science class.

5. The Rapture, “Heaven” (from ECHOES) – definitely the standout from this album and their discography thus far as far as I’m concerned. If all dance punk was this unfussy sounding (not talking about the vocal breaks here, which are admittedly quite polished, but the instrumental chunks, which are sloppy noisy fun and jagged) it would be my favorite genre ever, instead of having worn out its welcome in my life.

6. Billie Holiday, “Summertime” – I LOVE the trumpet playing in the intro to this, down and dirty and messy. What can you say otherwise, really? There’s a reason her music has endured when so little from her era has. I am noticing her scansion is a bit aggressively on the beat near the end of the song, which is slightly offputting. Like anybody cares.

7. Dirty Three, “Flutter” (from CINDER) – The Dirty Three put out so many good records, it’s easy to overlook one here or there, and I never spent the quality time with CINDER when I got it that I should have. (A recurring problem I have, apparently, but I digress.) Anyway, this is a particularly fantastic track, there must be some effects pedal looping the shimmering strings sound at the start which combined with the percussion assault is evocative in a distinct way from a lot of their other tracks.

Okay, that’s me.

7 comments to iPod roulette April edition

  • Carlos Anaconda

    What a great idea I may have to borrow it one of these days soon…

    Seems like one of the problems with the super accesibility of music in our times that we end up getting more than we can chew. Like you DD, i’m sure i have songs on my computer i havent heard or have heard maybe once or twice and probably without paying much attention. When I had to save my lunch money all week so i could have $10 to walk to the record store to buy an LP with 40 minutes of music, I played each one of those tracks til i knew them inside out, and also read the liner notes, memorized the names of all the people involved in making it, and spent countless hours staring at the artwork, and then i’d have to walk barfoot in the snow to school, uphill. music is so cheap these days.

  • Kilian

    Wow you were going to do a Full Springsteen Immersion piece, should we be thankful that you got lost in the woods instead? Sounds scary actually. It reminds me of a hike I did in New Mexico but with a lot of company and when it got dark we were guided by the light of Hale-Bopp. Glad you’re okay.

    I wasn’t familiar with the word scansion before thanks for that.

    Dig iPod roulette too, might steal that idea as well.

    p.s. I’m gonna check out the Rapture now.

  • ms. rosa

    so glad you aren’t dead, doug. whoa scary.

    ok so rilo kiley is such a great pop band DO NOT PASS THEM UP! go back and listen to two perfect songs by them: “portions for foxes” and “i never” (both on “more adventurous”). i want to say “i never” is a cover but not sure – i can’t find the songwriting credits online.

    speaking of covers, i put “pueblo nuevo” by buena vista social club on a spanish language mixtape i made for a friend recently. if you’re patient enough to listen to this instrumental piece without hitting “next” then you are treated to the most wonderful cover of “stormy weather” about 3/4 of the way through the song. man i wished i brought a copy of that mixtape with me today…

  • Clay

    Carlos, I know what you mean about the devaluation of music in the mp3 era. It’s especially true when the “switching cost” of getting to the next song is just hitting a button on your iPod or keyboard instead of getting up, going over to the turntable, carefully putting the record back in the sleeve, thinking of another record you want to hear, finding it, carefully putting the record on the turntable, wiping the dust off, etc. The latter process tends to encourage listening to a whole album side at a time. Of course it was always fun when you were DJing an impromptu party and you ended up with a huge pile of LP’s on the floor.

    If you are geeky and use iTunes like me, you can set up smart playlists to filter your music using lots of different criteria. For example, I use a smart playlist to stock my iPod with a certain amount of songs that I’ve never played before, some old favorites, songs that I’ve added to iTunes in the last couple months, music that I haven’t listened to the past year, etc. It’s a good way to make sure music does not get lost in your collection.

  • dd


    Feel free to borrow the idea anytime.

    I agree with you fully about getting more than we can chew. In a way, the ubiquity of music really decreases the value of it. I’ve thought about taking a break from new music and just exploring what I have for, like, a year or two. But then I’ll hear something new and great in passing and the “must … buy … now” part of my brain catches fire, or go see a live show with an opening band that knocks my socks off, or one of my thirty favorite bands puts out a new album, or people send me things, or what have you. These are wonderful problems to have, but there is a depth to pleasure that is lost in excess.

    (This sort of reminds me of watching the castaways on the show I’m working on, and how much pleasure that they can get from, say, 4 pieces of chocolate.)

  • Kilian

    I don’t think you guys have the right word. Music isn’t devalued by its abundance. It’s just abundant. Perhaps more difficult to absorb but that’s also true just from getting older. But I think it is good to sit back every once in a while and focus on one piece or one album or whatever. But sometimes it’s good to hit scramble too. Whatever, we’re mainly just talking about pop here. But what would it matter what it is. You’ll never read every book either.

  • Jonathan

    I’m with Kilian on this one. The music isn’t devalued; rather, we’re not very good at keeping ourselves from being desensitized. At the same time, the intangibility problem means that unless you use some sort of digital reminder system (like the iTunes smart playlist plan), you simply won’t think to listen to what you have.

    I can’t usually stand listening to shuffle-play music. Radio stations are usually the same, though it’s sometimes better where there’s no outside interference with the Selector. If I’m going to listen to a mix, I need to enjoy the mix itself as a work of art. If the mix is lousy art, chances are I won’t listen to the music that it’s made of. Sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

    dd: [cheese] One philosophy on the good life is “put yourself in situations where a piece of chocolate is heaven.” If it’s the little things that count, find ways to appreciate more little things. [/cheese]