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The Month in Music – April* 2013 (“Missed the Boat”)

May 1, 2013

So here we are four months into 2013 and nothing has moved in this blog since New Year’s Eve. I meant every word of wanting to write more often, but I think without some kind of deadline or schedule or other type of mechanism to make me sit down in front of the computer (at least until I get back into the habit), it’s hard to get over the excuse of being too busy to write.

To accomplish all of these goals – not just writing more often, but also collecting the things that catch my attention but don’t move me to spill a thousand words  – I’m starting The Month in Music series on here. First, here’s how it works: I’m going to publish a playlist of songs on the first day of the month that reflects the past month. The songs represent anything from my favorite jams to things I enjoyed reading to loosely connected associations that let me go off on a tangent. On here, I’ll publish a link to the playlist on Spotify and share my notes (which 1) as anyone who has received a mix from me in the past can tell you, I sometimes go long and 2) gives me an excuse to write mix notes, which I haven’t done in ages).

The first one is a little different. This represents a proverbial “clearing of the desk” for the entire year so far. That’s not to say this mix or its notes represent everything about 2013’s first third, but it hits a lot of the points (that said, I can’t imagine every month’s mix being this long – after cutting six songs, this mix runs two dozen). Also, I’m tackling this month’s mix in segments just so I can get through it quicker, so if the mix doesn’t “flow” because it’s thematically organized, then go make your own damn mix and put it on your own damn blog. In fact, do that anyway.

So here’s the mix, which I’m hoping shows up with the Spotify player the WordPress FAQ promises will be there. Feel free to let me know what you think here in the comments or on Twitter (and follow the playlist or me on Spotify too I guess?). Shout out for tangential inspiration to the Music Diary Project and Scott Tennet (who is essentially doing this every day, which is heroic if you ask me) and please give me any suggestions for a better name. If nothing else, I’ll see you next month.

I. CATCHING UP ON 2012

  1. “I Love It” – Icona Pop f/ Charli XCX
  2. “Everything is Embarrassing” – SkyFerreira
  3. “Do You…” – Miguel
  4. “The Full Retard” – El-P

Right around Christmas, I joined Spotify so that I could play music on my iPad while visiting my family. I loaded up Maura Johnston’s “2012 Awesomeness” playlist and started starring songs to play later. This led to me starring some of my favorite songs from 2012 in a natural “best of the past year” fashion. When I was wandering around running my errands or otherwise didn’t want to play anything specific, I shuffled through my starred songs. These songs are some of my enduring favorite singles from last year. “I Love It” and “Everything is Embarrassing” were songs I heard earlier in the year but didn’t come around to until this past winter, while “Do You…” and “The Full Retard” (ugh to the R-word) were ones I liked earlier in the year. They might be the four most played songs of the year so far for me just because they got a running start.

II. THE TOPICAL PORTION (MISSED THE BOAT)

  1.  “Missed the Boat” – Modest Mouse
  2. “Driving Song” – Shellshag
  3. “Second Hand News” – Fleetwood Mac
  4. “Kool Thing” – Sonic Youth
  5. “Ecce Homo” – Titus Andronicus

(Despite the fact that I have things to say about each song, I’m sticking with tiers for this list. Individual song comments start with the bolded title).

“Missed the Boat” Despite adding Spotify last December, the service opened up to me when I finally upgraded from my antequated 200 MB / month data plan last month. Where I used to hoard my data (and even turn it off near the end of some months when I came close to that limit), I could now stream and add songs to playlists when I was away from home. I heard this while watching the NBA playoffs in the front lounge before seeing Robyn Hitchcock last week at the Paradise (he was excellent, and would have made the playlist were it not already too long) and starred it before forgetting about the song again. “Driving Song” might best fit later in my “current favorites” bracket, but it felt right next to “Missed the Boat” if for no other reason that I’ve been hearing so many sing Shellshag’s praises and finally heard them a few weeks ago. “Driving Song” stood out to me as something that would have been on every mix tape I made in the late ’90s. “Second Hand News” gets here as well because I missed the boat on seeing Fleetwood Mac’s recent tour (sensing a theme?) but also because my phone refused to play this song until I manually resynced all of Rumors with iTunes. I still don’t know why, but I surmise it might have to do with Lindsey Buckingham’s creepily-phrased request to “let me do my stuff.” “Kool Thing” became my jam last week after reading that excellent Kim Gordon profile in ElleAs much as it made me like Thurston Moore a little less, I focused more on how it confirmed all of the things I already appreciated about Kim Gordon, particularly her artistic philosophy and resolve. “Ecce Homo” is included because I missed out on the Titus Andronicus / So So Glos show at the Middle East the other night. It’s also on the “Manifesto Mix” for The Media, a new (web)zine rising (appropriately) from the ashes of the departed Boston Phoenix. It published its first issue today and it looks extremely promising. (Also, Patrick Stickles was part of maybe my favorite thing of the entire month)

III. CURRENT (JANUARY-APRIL) FAVORITES

  1. “It’s a Beautiful Day” – Michael Buble
  2. “You (Ha Ha Ha)” – Charli XCX
  3. “Dance All Night” – Free Energy
  4. “Closer” – Tegan and Sara
  5. “Year of the Glad” – Marnie Stern
  6. “Swan Dive” – Waxahatchee

In future months, each of these would get its own paragraph. Since this is a “catch up,” I’ll leave this as this is a short sampling of some of the songs and albums I’ve been enjoying recently. I’ll try to come back to these later on (although for the Buble song, I’ll share this relevant and 100% accurate tweet).

IV. NEPTUNE NEWS

  1. “Get Lucky (radio edit)” – Daft Punk f/ Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers
  2. “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke f/ T.I. and Pharrell Williams

My personal progression with the marketing for the new Daft Punk record (largely carried out during Saturday Night Live commercials) has moved from curiosity to annoyance to submission. I was curious about Daft Punk running short commercials during SNL, played this video in its entirety after waking up at 5 AM on a snow day, got annoyed at all the breathless press-release-as-news-article coverage, and then fell hard for the minute teaser (I’m still not paying $40 for the LP, but that’s for another post). I played that minute clip over and over for days to the point where the full song was a slight letdown only because I knew all the best parts so well. It’s still a pretty great song, and it helps that the spring weather in Boston has let me hear it from passing cars twice in the past few days.

Being fully aware of the circumstances for my disappointment with the full “Get Lucky” and a distaste for the women as wild animals metaphor in this song, I think that today, May 1, I prefer “Blurred Lines” to “Get Lucky” (and definitely prefer it to almost all of the new Timberlake album, save for “Pusher Love Girl,” but again, another post). I may regret this very soon.

V. RECLAMATION

  1.  “Whip Smart” – Liz Phair
  2. “Why Can’t I” – Liz Phair
  3. “Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show

Hearing Julie Klausner sing “Divorce Song” on a recent episode of her podcast How Was Your Week led me down a brief Liz Phair rabbit hole. I forgot how much I adored “Whip Smart” (“Supernova” always comes to mind from that album), and I hope we’ve all gotten over our pretensions and “disappointments” to recognize “Why Can’t I” as one of the past decade’s best pop songs. As for “Wagon Wheel,” discovering that Darius Rucker has a cover version charting reminded me about this song.

VI. DISCOVERIES

  1. “Ladies and Gentlemen… (A Cappella w/ Lead Vocal)” – Spritualized 
  2. “Say My Name (Timbaland Remix)” – Destiny’s Child
  3. “Just a Friend” – Booker T. Jones f/ Biz Markie, Matt Berninger, and Sharon Jones

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about Spotify is the random discovery of things I probably never would have come across otherwise. The vocal loop of “Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space” with the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” round is stunning in its gorgeousness (second only to the live execution when I saw Spiritualized perform roughly a year ago). I was mesmerized by the “Say My Name” remix when I stumbled on it and I’m pretty sure I played it three times in a row. How I made it until this winter without hearing that version of “Just a Friend” with its random collection of guests seems impossible.

VII. OUTRO

  1.  “With Arms Outstretched” – Rilo Kiley

A startling majority of mixes I made over the last decade had this song somewhere on it. I spent a solid week listening to The Execution of All Things and Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix back and forth at one point this winter. I also (pre-data upgrade) sat in a Starbucks while I synced The Execution of All Things to my phone so I could listen to it while I walked home on the first nice day of the spring. Finally, when I played it this afternoon, the lyrics still stood out, even if it means something (very?) different to me at 30 than it did at 20.

VIII. EPILOGUE

  1.  “Dirty Water” – The Standells

Shout out to my city, my neighbors, and my friends.

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