Thursday, September 02, 2010

Song of the Week: Introducing the "SOW Shuffle"

We're coming to you live from Otherlands in sunny Memphis, Tennessee! 

Don't believe me?  Check out this picture, here, on the right, taken just now with my camera.  I moved into Milam's Midtown HQ this past weekend and am still getting settled, which is to say: my one chair is in place, there are Fruit Roll-Ups in the kitchen, and the Internet Guy hasn't come yet.  Which means I've moved into Otherlands for the foreseeable future.  No, seriously, if you need to find me, just come here at any given time.  Or Java Cabana.  Or the Starbucks on Union.  Or the Blue Monkey or the Hi Tone or Neil's.  There are six places I'm pretty much always at when not sitting in Chair and eating Fruit Roll-Ups.  Come and find me.

I've had a little caffeine today, and I've got limited interweb access, so we're going to try something new with this week's Song of the Week!  I'm tentatively calling it, "Chris Incontinently Gushes About the First Song that Pops Up On His iTunes."  Sound good?  Great.  A few ground rules:

1) In two minutes, I'm hitting shuffle on iTunes and writing about whatever comes up.

2) I'm trusting that whatever comes up on my iTunes is something I'll want to incontinently gush about.

3) If it's Christmas music, I'll try again.

4) Otherwise, I trust the Tunes.  I trust, and I believe.

4A) Did I mention that, due to limited interwebs, this will be wholly unedited?  I'll put the number of typos over/under at 7.5.  Who wants the under?

5) I like to take Song of the Week in a lot of different directions.  Sometimes I break it down from a songwriting perspective.  Sometimes I talk about that song historically or what its popularity might mean for pop music at large, etc.  Sometimes I just talk about the way I'm hearing it and ask how you're hearing it.  But I thought it'd be fun to experience it spontaneously, as a listener, in that moment, because that's how 90% of the people I know experience 90% of their music.  They put on headphones and hit shuffle and let their mind/heart/soul go wherever that song takes them.

Ready?  Ready!  Here....we....GO!


Frank Sinatra, "The Christmas Waltz." 

Sonofa.  Of course.  Okay, we got the Christmas mulligan out of the way.  Here we go.


The Thrills, "Til the Tide Creeps In"

YES!  This is the last track on their album So Much For the City, which has a hidden song at the end.  In other words, we just got two Songs of the Week for the price of one. 

1) First, "Til the Tide Creeps In."  My initial thought is football-related, as I'm counting the hours until Alabama's season opener this Saturday against San Jose State/Houston High School.  The Tide creeps in all too slowly, I'm afraid.  Meanwhile...

2) This song immediately takes me back to Christmastime 2006, and the spring of 2007.  My good buddy (and producer wunderkind) Steve Martin gifted me this album then, saying "it's a bunch of Irish guys singing songs about California."  Sold!  The key-heavy production and percussive hustle-and-bustle of the record matched the holiday season.  But it really ramped up rotation for me once the warm weather came, coinciding with my trip to Southern California that spring.  It's one of those albums I find myself playing a lot, because I have only good memories attached to it.  What are some of those for y'all?

3) The song's loungy, closing-time opening and "in summation..." lyrics put a great cap on the album as a whole.  It continually builds up to an instrumental section that first appears at 1:26 (again at 3:20, et al), a gorgeously-layered riff with a melodic harmonica leading the way.  Every time I hear that riff, I want it louder.

4) Which reminds me just how loud that harmonica already is.  Combined with the already-dominant organ, it's (intentionally) a challenging sound.  I say this as someone with a very soft spot for the harmonica: it's almost too much.  It joins Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately" on the God-that's-great-but-a-little-harsh pantheon of harmonica features. 

5) I've always had strong affection for LA, and a mild compulsion to move my career there at different points.  I always opted out, figuring it's a great place to visit but (for me, anyway) not a place conducive to work.  I had a vision of an afternoon by the pool with friends wherein I wake up years later with a great tan and no job, prospects, or aspirations.  As such, the "I was surfing this tidal wave of faded glories/a San Diego pad, and five, six years walked straight by me" opening line always jumped out at me.  Because of this song--it's emotional weight and its aesthetic success--I totally related to an experience I never even had.

Now, the Secret Song!

1) Beginning at 6:07 of the original track, it's not quite an afterthought, not quite an epilogue.  Ever see a movie that starts with one scene, follows the characters throughout the movie, then ends with a new set of characters in the same opening scene?  The implication being, "the cycle continues..."  This secret song kind of does that.  We have a bittersweet goodbye to a SoCal time and a place with "Til the Tide Creeps In," only to see someone new arriving on the scene with big dreams and time to kill.  Just as our narrator's packing his bags, his girlfriend's unloading hers off the bus. 

2) After the weight of "Til the Tide Creeps In," the secret song is really nice and thoughtful, but feels anti-climactic.  If you like the album as a whole, you'll definitely like it.  As for me...

3) I made a habit of ending the CD with "Til the Tide Creeps In" and not sticking around for the secret song.  So much so, in fact, that I forgot it existed until just now.  And now (of course) I couldn't be happier to hear the same song I was always quick to skip in the past.  I love it when that happens.  I love being wrong.

What do you think?  I challenge all of you to drink way too much caffeine, play the shuffle game, and see where your mind/ears/blog-typing fingers take you.  Hit up the comments and tell me what happens!

My agent says writer's block,

P.S. Look out for a new Fan of the Month on Monday!  Plus, get your questions in for the next Mailbag--you ask, I answer.

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