Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Some Days are Diamonds, feelings of superiority, old baseball videogames

 Things I love:

(1) When the DJs on the invaluable local community radio station play things I love but get little details wrong and I feel like a supergenius talking back to my speakers. No, actually, the Chills were from New Zealand, not Australia! And no, Jerry Reed didn't write "Eastbound and Down," the legendary Dick Feller did! Right, Wikipedia?

(2) Of course I was right! But I was not aware that the writer of "Eastbound and Down" had transitioned and is now Deena Kaye Rose, and that she has written a memoir! Of course I bought it, being a big fan of her songs and overall attitude (c.f. the essay on the back of this record). It's a fun read, a little scruffy around the edges and probably in need of an editor, but chock full of heart, and she lays out the double meanings behind "Some Days are Diamonds" and "Any Old Wind that Blows." Both songs already really rich but made much richer for their hidden context, and even better that these coded messages went out to the world as hit singles through the voices of John Denver and Johnny Cash respectively.

(3) The whole "retrogaming" thing feels totally wrung out and stupid to me at this point, and I find baseball pretty boring in general, but every so often I still feel the need to play HardBall for the Commodore 64 (on an emulator, please). Now that my videogaming pretty much takes place in 30-60 minute chunks while riding an exercise bike, my needs are pretty specific. 

HardBall scratches a lot of itches. It is sports-y without requiring much sports knowledge or hand-eye coordination. It is nostalgic (I played it a lot on my Apple IIc back in the day) but also second-order nostalgic (I've been playing it on emulators way longer than I played it on floppy disc). And because the single-player game is really not that difficult, I usually win, which is important. No one wants to get off the bike after getting trounced.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Stacks of CDRs and _Marimba Themes_

There is something great about a spindle of CDRs separated from their cases, possibly forever. Grab one at random and put faith in an earlier version of yourself. Try listening. It's probably good. Maybe it's what you want to listen to right now.

This one has good artwork. Who was spraypainting CDRs like this? Put it in the player, 20 tracks, 66:48. Hmm, there are marimbas and some pleasing electronic manipulation thereof? I'm guessing this has to be something that Ryan did, maybe with Alyssa? Go to the Eet bwandqwamp page - no albums have 20 tracks. Maybe it was Ryan solo under the Ifsh name? Aha, "Marimba Themes"!

Now I am listening to it. Everything plays just fine despite being on a spindle for years and years. And it is perfect music for right now - just at the back of my attention, occasional plinks and blurps and glitches, delicate and very pleasing. Maybe you need it?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

_The Muppet Movie_ Soundtrack

 My boy had been listening to "The Rainbow Connection" at daycare today, so I mentioned that I had the Muppet Movie soundtrack. After searching through my horrifying piles of hoarder vinyl, I found it - a really beat-up powder blue thing with my name written on it in elementary-school cursive and the call letters of KNIA, Knoxville, IA written all over it. I guess my uncle must have grabbed it from the station where he worked? Pretty sweet gift for young me.


Anyhow, this record has some miles on it. Scratches, skips, warps, you name it, but somehow it sounded pretty good on my boy's little record-destroyer turntable. We played "The Rainbow Connection" and that was sweet, but then he decided to play "Movin' Right Along" about twenty times in a row. It holds up fine. He'll probably wear a hole in this record. 

There's one spot toward the end where the bass player walks up to the 1 and it's the hokiest thing*, but it is played with absolute conviction. The sort of conviction that says, yes, I am recording this song that is a duet between a frog and a bear getting lost in improbable ways across multiple countries while driving a Studebaker, and, oh, receiving union pay for doing so. What do you want to make of it?

*(Same bass trick used to excellent effect twice in Prince's "Controversy". I am going to steal it for everything I do now.)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Naughty Bunny


Among my favorite opening lines ever:

The little bunny didn't mean to be naughty.
But he didn't try very hard to be good.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

No es tan fácil

I've always liked jangly indie-pop, and I have often tried to create it, but I've always been too much of a monster to make nice, straightforward songs that people would actually, you know, like. I always have to find some way to ruin things.

The song linked above is by Spanish band Vacaciones. They make fine, fun, breezy indie-pop, and yup, we've got four chords strummed in sequence, head-bopping 4/4 time, but then they just randomly throw in one measure in 6! Wait, what just happened? Are things going to get weird? No, we head back to 4/4. OK, bopping head again.

Second verse, same as the first - wait, there's that measure in 6 again! And then back to 4/4 like nothing ever happened. The song jangles its effervescent and totally normal way to the end (less than two minutes long - I approve).

That weird little glitchy moment makes this unassuming song so so much better. That wait-did-I-just-hear-that moment. The reason why I find myself singing the rest of it.

I try to write a song like that and I end up with the following: an intro in 4. 4. 2. 7. 3. 3. 3. 4. 3. Because I am a monster.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


I realized that I was mostly listening to music from 1969 during today's workday.

I've been reading a bunch of Trouser Press magazines from their delightful and invaluable archive, and that sent me down a rabbit hole that eventually ended up in me listening to my dad's old copy of the Who's Tommy. Things I noted:

  • I have strong memories of being terrified of the album cover as a youth
  • There is some schmutz in the grooves that I strongly suspect is related to some sort of decades-hardened childhood spit-up of mine 
  • I have fond memories of my dad singing "It's a Boy"
  • I have fond memories of Eric Matchett being inspired by the bass line in "Go to the mirror!" and turning it into "Elevator Mirror" - maximum Activity Universal A E S T H A E T I C K as the kids say, recorded live on old eMac built-in microphone in my garage
  • That said, the album itself is kind of an overwrought mess. Basically unlistenable in spots, plus depictions of child abuse are a big turn-off if not done with maximum restraint and delicacy. I guess I'll hang onto it and listen to it again in another thirty years.

Great album from 1969: Gilberto Gil's self-titled album from 1969, the one with "Cérebro Eletrônico" on it. I could listen to this one over and over again. So many crazy sounds, and some tape squeaks that I wholeheartedly approve of on the last song. I need to check out more of his stuff.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


Some people are early adopters of technology. Not me. But I have always enjoyed being an early scavenger. Do you remember how you were listening to music in the mid-aughts? I recently uncovered a stash of mini-CDRs with mp3s on them:

I owned a weird little Philips CD player that only played mini-CDs (talk about dead ends!). You could burn 4 or 5 albums on a little disc, then take the weird little CD player into your mid-90s Geo Metro, plug one appendage into the power/cigreet lighter, plug another appendage into the tape deck, and presto! You could be listening to your favorite Amon Düül II albums that you acquired... somewhere.

You'll note the names of several mid-aughts Portland bands in which I played. All culs-de-sac as well (in several cases, due to my own financial/emotional inability to go on tour/commit to the R&R lifestyle). All great though.

Ever since that weird little Philips CD player disappeared, these CDRs have basically been useless, so they've just been floating around boxes in my garage, naked, getting more and more scratched up. A wiser person would have just tossed them a decade ago, but somehow I never got rid of them. So yesterday I put them in my weird CD player that I bought on OfffrrUpp - whose main virtues are (a) being cheap, and (b) not being afraid to play any CDR, no matter how cheap or damaged - and they played. Just like that. So I've been having a weird third-wave pirated-media nostalgia experience, listening to old MP3s of, say, Ege Bamyasi, which I _had_ originally taped from my college radio station back in the 90s, but which sounded totally futuristic even then, and then I reacquired that music through the wonders of sketchy late-90s early-aughts internet, and now I'm in the future feeling nostalgia for multiple backwards vestigial technologies. What a world.