Thoughts on Five Songs While I Quietly Freak Out and Try to Work

lee_hand.jpg"Young Americans"
David Bowie
Singles
You already have an opinion of this song. Hell, most hipsters have probably held at least three opinions of this tune over the course of their lives, and may be formulating a new one even as they read this. You probably ignored it as a kid when it was everywhere, hated it when you were trying to be part of some “cool” scene in high school and love it now as an ‘80s dance-night staple. Me, I still think Bowie himself nailed this one perfectly when he called it plastic soul, the phoniest thing he’d ever heard. Or maybe I dreamt that.

"Maple Leaves"
Jens Lekman
When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog
Continuing the “one song – many opinions” theme of this shuffle, this song by Swedish troubadour dude Lekman reminds me that I’ve never been able to settle on an opinion about the guy. Is he an up-and-coming genius in the mold of Morrissey, by way of Magnetic Fields? Or just a marginally talented guy with a decent voice, the occasional clever line and the luck of being in the right place (Pitchfork’s crosshairs) at the right time (as Pitchfork is becoming a de facto standard for the indie scene)? I guess it doesn’t matter at the moment, because this isn’t one of his better songs, and now it’s over.

"Here, There, Everywhere"
The Beatles
Revolver
Last week I was having a discussion with my daughter about the Beatles. She claimed they were overrated, which I ceded because really, can you be as universally acclaimed as the Beatles and not be overrated? They aren’t gods, after all. But then I hear a tune like this, a relatively minor song from their catalog that’s never really stood out for me, and I notice how good it is and how it would probably stand out as another band’s crowning moment, and I wonder if I gave up too easily on my side of the argument.

"Ungudi Wele Wele"
Konono #1
Congotronics
I love Konono #1. They make world music for people who worship chaos, Congolese traditional music as interpreted and refracted through the modern world. What’s it sound like? An amphetamine-and-mescaline-fueled dance party on the fucking moon, that’s what. Layers of crazy-ass, distorted percussion joust with each other, call and response chants in an alien tongue join the party and the whole thing explodes with a dense, polyrhythmic passion that sounds as smart as any academic experimental music project while still making you want to shake your ass.

"This"
Brian Eno
Brian Eno is one of my favorite artists of all time, especially his four pop/rock albums from the ‘70s. “This” is the first single off of the 2005 album Another Day on Earth, his belated return to pop song forms. It’s a great fucking song in many ways, combining the bizarre free association wordplay of “Third Uncle” with a much gentler musical pulse informed by his ambient work. If everything else had been as good as this, or even if this hadn't been one of the most high-energy tracks off the album, Another Day would have been a triumphant return to form instead of a reminder that the superfreaky Eno of the decadent ‘70s is now a part of history. Oh well, we’ll always have Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy).
-- Cory Casciato


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