Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What a view!

That's Nicole and I at the "summit" of Flattop, right outside Anchorage in July, 2003. Seems longer ago than that. For some reason we were woefully unprepared - our footwear was NOT appropriate even for the simple climb. But I can guarantee you that we listened to these two songs at some point on that trip - yes, the Top 10 continues...

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

I know I know, I don't get to take the whole album with me to the island, but if I could, this would be a tempting one to take. But the title track is so great, and while I normally don't put a whole lot of weight on lyrics in music, for some reason I love the lyrics on this one: "When I ventured into the slipstream/ between the viaducts of your dreams..." It goes on from there of course. Three things about this song:

The man can sing. It is not easy to sing what he sings, and if you think it is, go try it sometime. He's an incredibly talented singer.

This was the first song that I ever listened too that made me think I could play violin and be a rock star. It was the first time I ever sat down with my violin and tried to play along - it's not that hard really, but the string part on this song shows exactly how I would like to try to sound when I play. It's color on top in this kind of setting, and it is very important to the music, but it sounds silly on it's own. Just imagine the violin playing its part in this song with none of the other instruments. BORING.
This song was introduced to me in high school by my friend Owen on yes, you guessed it, a mix tape. I asked him for music to listen to, and he always came up huge. I still have some of those origina. l tapes, and while I don't listen to them anymore, they are a very important piece of the music I love today.

You might start to notice a violin theme with these songs - it was unintentional, and I was as surprised as anyone when I realized how much violining there was on these songs.

Skyscraper - Bad Religion

If you haven't heard any Bad Religion and you like any kind of punk at all, you should come over to my house sometime and we'll waste an hour listenting to all of their songs. Yes, most of their stuff is very short (their album No Control has 15 tracks and does not last 28 minutes), but I like it because there is nothing extraneous in any of their music. Everything has a purpose, there are no extra notes, no extra choruses, no extra solos. They hit you hard, make their point, and are done.

This is my favorite of all their songs, although a lot of what they do sounds similar, and I could have come up with a different one and been just as happy. I have no idea how someone can play drums like that, but the real magic of Bad Religion really is lyrics and harmonies. Whoever figured out that harmonies sounds cool over lour guitars and pounding drums deserves some sort of award. The nice thing is you can always understand what he is saying, and sometimes it makes you think. Those two qualities are lacking in 97% (scientifically calculated!) of the music I hear coming out today. I'm not saying that the music has to have a message, and I am not saying that I have to understand what you are singing - but if you do have a message, I better be able to make the words out.

I actually saw these guys once, in 1991 while on a school trip to Germany. I don't remember much of the show, but you know those German kids love them some punk, and I do remember having a good time.

1 comment:

Jonathan Hamilton said...

mmm, Astral Weeks is in my top 5 or so albums ever but, like you alluded to, it's an album - not a collection of good songs. This is the only reason I'm not including 'Sweet Thing' on my list. Great list so far...I read the Mendelsohn one too and like what you said 'bout fresh ears (I kinda riffed off what you were saying for my Patti Smith entry on my list). What are you up to now? 5? btw, I like picturing the Astral Weeks session - I've always heard he didn't have much money for it and had to hire jazz session musicians 'cuz they were cheap and book the studio for midnight to dawn 'cuz it was cheaper than daytime hours. It seems to have done the job.