BenFolds

“For those of you in the front row, sorry… my pants shrunk.” Ben Folds is explaining to the audience that he never liked his “head nerd” status; he fears that the length of his pants will do more damage than good in trying to shake the title. “Interviewers used to ask me, ‘so how do you like being king of the nerds?’… Anyway, sorry you guys have to look at my shitty socks.”

There were a number of similar jaunts and stories during the evening, which is common place at a typical Ben Folds show… though, this wasn’t a typical Ben Folds show. It was at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. And Ben was backed by the 100 plus piece National Symphony Orchestra.

Ben was completely comfortable carrying on in his usual way, telling stories and spending half of his time standing up at the piano rocking out in a pose that most fans would recognize (probably shaking the conductor’s stand that was just behind him too). The juxtaposition of tuxedo wearing orchestra and t-shirted Ben worked incredibly well though. The result was a incredible sound that didn’t betray the original songs, it wasn’t stuffy… it was still Ben Folds up there, but there was a reciprocal relationship between him and the orchestra. In other words: they made a fantastic team. If you have ever been in the concert hall at The Kennedy Center you know what that room is capable of sounding like; gorgeous, full acoustics that surround you and place you firmly inside what is happening.

One of the highlights of the evening was an unexpected demand from Ben for audience participation. He took full advantage of having many hundreds of voices in that room at once. Before they played Not the Same, he explained the parts that he wanted the audience to sing, telling people with lower voices to take a certain part, which he demonstrated, people with mids to take another, and people with higher voices to take the third and last part of this grand harmony. Then Ben conducted his makeshift choir… sometimes at chaotic speeds, and much to his apparent amusement. Not your typical night at the Kennedy Center.

Another nice thing about last night was the inclusion of two new songs that he played solo. Even more exciting was the news that the songs were from an upcoming collaborative album between him and Nick Hornby. Hornby has been writing the lyrics and Ben has been writing the music and doing. Judging by the two songs from last night (Picture Window and Levi Johnston’s Blues) it should be pretty great.

I wanted to pas son the set list from last night… though I didn’t have a pen to keep track of what they were playing. So here is a list; while I am positive that these are all of the songs that they played, I am a little shaky on the definite order of the songs. I think it’s really, really, close though.

– Zak and Sara
– Smoke
– All You Can Eat
– The Ascent of Stan
– Lullaby
– Gracie
– Landed
– Evaporated
– Effington
– Cologne
– Jesusland
– Not the Same
– Picture Window (New and unreleased)
– Levi Johnston’s Blues (yes, that Levi Johnston, also new and unreleased)
– Stevens Last Night In Town

After the show we headed over to Tonic to do something that I have spent a large part of my life trying to avoid: watch college football. It was a big game for Carolina, and I could sense that Mike Paolone, who was with us, might have a breakdown/freak out if we didn’t watch it, so Chandi and I conceded. Oddly, I enjoyed it more than I ever would have expected, though I can say that this is most certainly not starting a trend. Oh, and Carolina won… that was cool.

As you can see there is no new cover today, I am proud enough that I got four up in the past four days. Of course, in accordance with my previous promise, there will be at least two new ones up next week.

Good day.

Weezer_Pinkerton

#97 – The Good Life by Weezer (from Pinkerton, Geffen 1996)

mp3 – The Good Life

I am really excited about this one. I kind of feel like this is the first on the list that is especially outside of my comfort range as far as playing a straightforward cover of it. So, the logical (and fun) solution was to do a little tweaking. There will be much more of this in the future.

With that said (and despite their more recent offenses), I think that Pinkerton is one of the most agreed upon favorites of the nineties among most of the people I know. Its appeal is undeniable and amazing… it was simple, poppy nerd rock, borderline twee even, years before the radio was ready. It’s a wonder that this record ever made it out on Geffen; when Pinkerton came out the radio was still dominated largely by grunge and due to this fact the record was a commercial failure. I have to wonder if that’s not a large part of the reason that this album became such an adored obsession in indie rock… there was a desire to defend it and offer it a home. Whatever the reason, I am still hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t know just about every word on this record. It was exceedingly hard to pick a song from this record for the list, but after careful consideration The Good Life won out by a hair. Enjoy!

brighten-the-corners

#98 – Embassy Row by Pavement (from Brighten the Corners, Matador Records 1997)

mp3 – Embassy Row

In honor of today’s post I would like to be the thousandth blog to announce that Pavement is reuniting next year. And, yes, it’s going to be awesome.

I_see_a_darkness_Album_Cover

#99 – I See A Darkness by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (from I See A Darkness, Palace Records 1999)

mp3 – I See a Darkness

My love for Will Oldham is extraordinary, and this song is a great reminder of why. I was a little surprised that it took a spot this far down on the list… though this may not be the last we have heard from Will. That’s what we call a spoiler.

Speaking of the list, there was something that I meant to mention in the previous post, and that is that the list is completely and definitively finished. That means that there are no changes to be made during the recordings. To help ensure that this happens I have given Chandi a copy of it so that she can check it against the posts and keep me honest.

And Now I Proudly Present…

September 21, 2009

… “songs perverse and songs of lament. A couple hymns of confession, and songs that recognize my sick obsessions”

I couldn’t resist using a line from a band on the list to start the list. Did that just blow you mind? Likely not, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Disclaimer #1 – These are my top 100 favorite songs. Try to remember this before you write and say “why isn’t so and so on here”… if you think so and so should be on here, then perhaps you will make your own list and we can compare.

Disclaimer #2 – I tried to be objective and not just include songs that are my favorites right now. With that in mind, understand that there are things on here that I don’t necessarily listen to now but at some point in my life they were very important songs to me and have a justified spot on the list.

With that said, I am very happy with how the list turned out. It took a lot longer to put together than I had expected and there was a lot of heartache involved with deciding which songs weren’t going to make the cut.

Another point of interest: The original plan behind this list (and accompanying covers) has been changing since I proposed (perhaps prematurely) the idea back in June. So no one should be too surprised that there is yet another change to the method with which these postings will progress. The idea was to post a song a day for one hundred days, counting from 100 back to one. My fear is that I will end up in a situation wherein I am trying to record a song everyday to get them posted on time. If I had nothing else to do this would be within reason, however, as it stands I have a job and other obligations that surely would not benefit from me being locked in my apartment recording music all day. SO… where does that leave us? That leaves me at least prepared to make an obligation to you to post no more than one song a day, and no less than two songs a week. I do this partly because, as I said, I don’t want to become overwhelmed and rushed, and partly because the time it would take to give myself a head start big enough to ensure that this won’t happen would set this project back a few more months at least… and I am already considerably behind by my own standards.

OK, enough of the excuses (though I do hope that this is agreeable to everyone that is reading this?).

Let’s begin:

DCFC

#100 – Blacking Out the Friction by Death Cab for Cutie (from The Photo Album, Barsuk 2001)

mp3 – Blacking Out the Friction

I am glad to be getting this out of the way… not because of the song but rather because of its placement. Something had to be on the bottom of the list, right? See, this is my issue (and a key to understanding why this list took so damn long to put together): I end up feeling “bad” for the songs that are ranked lower on the list. Ridiculous, I know. Though, considering that there were several hundred songs to start with I suppose that Blacking out the Friction would be on the higher side of that much bigger list. Yeah, that makes me feel better!

Stay tuned for #99, which will be arriving shortly.

I have had very little time to write anything here lately, but there are a few albums that have been getting exclusive play in my apartment/on my iPod lately. I thought that I should take a few moments to share them:

Our Temperance Movement by Cats on Fire

catsonfirecover

So this band is one that came to my attention a while ago, and while I knew that I liked them a lot, it took me some time to get around to really listening to the record. What I found in Our Temperance Movement was a handful of beautifully catchy songs that in a sense define the oft misused indiepop label… and twenty years later than some of the bands that they might have been comfortable calling their contemporaries. I in no way mean this to be a slight; they successfully resurrect a sound that makes me smile. I have come across a lot of reviews of Cats on Fire that are quick to slap a Smiths influence on them, but I think that their sound operates outside of that blanket statement (I, for one, hear a bit more Felt than Smiths anyway). I think that they have learned a lot of valuable lessons from a lot of fantastic bands that have come before them, and I also think that they have done a tremendous job of bringing that sound into 2009 without sounding insincere or trying to overdo the update. A lot of bands that would site the same influences can’t say that. This seems to be an early shoo-in for my top ten records of 2009.

Catspic

Fabric by Cats on Fire

Order Our Temperance Movement on LP from Cargo

Order Our Temperance Movement on CD from Parasol

Cats on Fire Official Website

Cats on Fire Myspace

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The Worries by Mimas

mimascover

This is a relatively new find for me, even though this record came out in March (in the US anyway…) The Worries is a record that I immediately felt comfortable with. I think that I was so comfortable with it because it reminded me of a genre and a time that is especially dear to me. I mean that… well, I mean that when I heard the first song on the record for the first time I half expected Chris Simpson to start singing (mind you, that expectation was quickly put out of my head by the incredible voice of Mimas’ singer/guitarist Snævar Albertsson). And I don’t think that Mimas would have been at all out of place releasing records on Crank! about twelve years ago. When the monotone horns came in over the noodling guitars I almost wept. OK, that may be a bit much, but you see where this is going. However, like Cats on Fire, Mimas does their apparent influences a great honor by carrying on and updating a sound that is often mimicked though rarely as well done as The Worries delivers (also, these allusions to the dreaded “e” word represent my perhaps inflated initial impressions… I have come to realize that Mimas is a wonderfully dynamic band that is well on their way to carving out a sound that is uniquely their own). This has quickly become my favorite summer record, and I really can’t wait to see what they do next (they are reportedly working on a follow-up at the moment).

Mimas_press_hi_res4

Treehouse by Mimas

Order The Worries on CD from Distile (There doesn’t seem to be an LP out…)

Mimas Official Website

Mimas Myspace

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Shallow Grave by The Tallest Man on Earth

tallestmancover

This is another one that has been around for a while. I have been listening to it somewhat casually for several months, though for some reason it really grabbed me a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Maybe it’s the summer, this certainly fits in well with lounging on warm days. Whatever the reason, this is a fantastic record, and I really believe that Swedish born Kristian Matsson can give most American songwriters a real run for their money playing, what most would consider, American folk music. I say that because there is an obvious nod to the likes of Dylan and Guthrie in his sound, but like the other two bands in this post, he honors his influences well. There is a distinctness to The Tallest Man on Earth that is at once comfortingly familiar and utterly genuine. It’s a hard thing to accomplish, though he seems to be doing an outstanding job of it. This is a wholehearted recommendation to all (along with his self-titled ep).

tallestmanlive

Into the Stream by The Tallest Man on Earth

Order Shallow Grave on CD from Gravitation

Order Shallow Grave on CD/mp3 from CDBaby (US)
(It seems that the LP is sold out everywhere; I expect that there will be a repress soon enough)

Tallest Man on Earth Myspace

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So, I will leave it to you to decide what the underlying connections here imply: All three bands are non-American, and all three are playing really creative music that is derivative of styles that are a bit outdated (and not generally associated with the countries from which these musicians hail). Hmmm…