Posts Tagged ‘Death Cab for Cutie’

A List For The Ages

March 19, 2009

Rolling stone gathers no moss, but leaves a trail of busted stuff.

Dave Matthews Band

Busted Stuff

There has been a little game floating around Facebook for awhile.  It is in the same style as those many email forwards that once clogged up inboxes.  Essentially, you are supposed to create a list of 15 albums that had a profound effect on your life. Rather than join in the perpetuation of tagging on the social networking site, I decided to fulfill the challenge here on my blog.  The original post gives some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo explanation for how an album can deeply affect a person, but I’ve decided to base my decision on three criteria:

1) I must have listened to the album more than 20 times.

2) I must enjoy virtually every track on the album.

3) The album must have some kind of story attached to it.

I actually found these criteria very restrictive, which is good, considering I own over 300 albums. Now to the list:

1. Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence – This album followed me abroad on a wild 12 day adventure from Paris to Rome.  Whenever I listen to it now I flashback to the many plane and bus rides, the horrible pink eye, and a quiet sunset in Sorrento.  I suppose I should also mention the many hours I spent wearing a hamburger box on my head. Sounds of Silencecaptures a band on the rise, just about to explode into the consciousness of an era. It is a musical masterpiece.

2. Coldplay – Parachutes – I came to be a Coldplay fan just a little bit later than most of my friends.  I really got into them about a year after Yellow flew up the charts.  I think i was too distracted by Radiohead to really appreciate this emerging group.  It makes the list because of the many cover versions of Don’t Panic that Dave and I shared while at St. Jerome’s.

3. Genesis – We Can’t Dance – For me, this is the quintessential nostalgia piece.  Growing up my family would spend many of our weekends driving around the countryside, enjoying the scenery and ultimately grabbing a hot dog at some out of the way stand.  The tape deck would usually feature this album or one from of my mom’s Rod Stewart collection.  This is the one I still listen to.

4. Radiohead – Ok Computer – I have to admit I first got hold of this album through less than legal means.  My friend Darryl copied it on to tape for me when it first came out (I think I owned 1 CD at the time).  I instantly fell in love with the group and spent the next 5 years buying every piece of recorded Radiohead material that I could.  I still have some ridiculous singles that feature bizarre remixes from this era.  While I haven’t been as crazy about collecting their music since about 2002, I still love Radiohead.

5. Peter Gabriel – Passion – This is a bit of a surprise entry. I have always enjoyed a number of Peter Gabriel songs, but it is this soundtrack album that moves me the most.  It was recorded for a movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which I have never seen.  I used to listen to it while playing Age of Empires II and also while studying.  It was the soundtrack to significant parts of my first two years of university. The middle eastern flair, and desert feel make it a nice change from what usually fills the air around me.

6. Death Cab For Cutie – Plans – This album was given to me as a gift, in the hopes that I would embrace more indie music. It succeeded as I am now a full on convert.  I have a strong emotional connection to several of the songs, for reasons I’d rather not get into.  But I will say this, Plans is the only record that has ever made me cry.

7. The Who – Who’s Next – Another bit of nostalgia for me.  Like many people I know I had a huge classic rock phase in high school.  No band epitomized that period more than The Who.  Thanks to my mom’s already robust collection I was able to dive right into their music. Who’s Next contains most of my favourite Who songs, and doesn’t love the lovely cover art.

8. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Tails – I truly fell in love with Lisa Loeb upon hearing her beautiful voice.  Fortunately, I’m a little beyond teenage crushes now.  The music, however, stands the test of time.  I will admit to being disappointed when I read that, although she was starring in a show dedicated to finding a boyfriend, she only dated guys over the age of 30. My personal favourite on this album is Snow Day, not only because my name is in it, but because of the line it’s a bad day, but you’re my medicine

9. Counting Crows – Live Across a Wire – I had to think long and hard about which Counting Crows album to include. They are all amazing and meet the first two criteria. So the tie had to be broken by the story associated with them.  Live Across a Wire makes it for a couple of reasons. The first is a girl named Shanna, who I absolutely adored during my first year of university. Although I was far too awkward to do anything about my feelings, we did share a passion for music. She adored the version of Angel of the Silences found on the MTV Storytellers portion of this disc, and for some reason, I still remember that. I suppose the second reason I chose this album is that I have been to three Counting Crows concerts and I count each among the most memorable nights of my life, for various reasons. From a magical night under the stars with friends, to being stuck in downtown Kitchener at 2am, to flying down the QEW ready to burst in anguish, it’s been a wild ride.

10. Dave Matthews Band – Busted Stuff – Busted Stuff hit me at just the perfect time. The summer it came out I was working at a Seniors home doing a lot of outdoor maintenance.  My coworker and I alternated music choices from day to day. On her days we listened to Eminem and Our Lady Peace. On my days it was Counting Crows and Dave Matthews. This album became the soundtrack to that entire crazy summer. We worked for two men, Atilla from Hungary, and Tony from El Salvador.  Their seemingly endless feud and crazy stories made the absolutely dreadful work seem tolerable.

11. Wide Mouth Mason – Wide Mouth Mason – I have already written an entire entry on this album. I’ll direct you there for more information about it’s inclusion here.

12. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Sufjan Stevens  epic attempt to record albums about each state is impressive.  This particular effort blew me away the first time I heard it.  He has a way of creating a surreal landscape in his songs that feels very comfortable to be in. I particularly love the remix of Chicago on the version I bought, but for maximum creepiness check out John Wayne Gacy, Jr. 

13. u2 – War – Much like Dave, I would be remiss to leave U2 off of this list.  Although I was hard on their new album I still love the old stuff.  I find that War among all the others represents the pure unbridled passion of the band, and catches them right before they became the world’s biggest band with The Joshua Tree.  War particularly brings me back to my university days.  During Winter exams (April) the weather starts to turn.  The snow melts and the sun warms people and places alike. There is a special feeling in the air when that happens.  There is also the anticipation of the summertime and freedom from school work. I will always associate this album with those feelings.

14. David Gray – White Ladder – David Gray essentially changed my life at the beginning of second year.  Or perhaps I should say that my life changed and his music was there. I embarked on a bizarre and often painful 3 year journey at that point. It dominated the rest of my undergraduate career and helped make me the person I was, and some of what I am today.  In the space of two months I purchased all of his albums and essentially memorized every song in his catalogue. Now that is devotion. 

15. The Verve – Urban Hymns – Originally, I wasn’t going to include this album.  I had some other ideas of ones that fit better or had more ideal stories.  But I was drawn back by the story of a band who was robbed of royalties by an unscrupulous man, and the life of Richard Ashcroft who went from the highest of highs, to the humbling experience of being almost forgotten.  This album is itself a modern wonder.  I don’t think you’ll find another recording like it anywhere.  Although they are considered one hit wonders in North America, The Verve will always be stars in my heart.

This has been a lot of fun. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the albums above, or any that have really moved you.

Advertisements

Tom Get Your Plane Ride On Time

January 13, 2009

You came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go

Sufjan Stevens

Chicago

Sometimes I find the most intriguing things when I’m out and about in this city. For example, today I picked up U2’s The Joshua Tree and Peter Gabriel’s Us on tape for $1 at a thrift store. It was such an unusual find, but since  my 1995 Camaro only has a tape deck I’m pretty excited.  In some ways I feel sorry for the poor cassette tape. It has been surpassed in quality and utility by the CD, and doesn’t have the vintage cache of vinyl.  No one is clamouring to bring back the tape.  Who wants to struggle with rewinding and fast forwarding for mediocre sound quality, even if you do get the fun of having  “A” and “B” sides? Apparently, tapes have been around since the 1960’s (something I just discovered today). Too bad they are almost obsolete.

I was in my mid-late teens when the ability to burn CDs became available to the average person. So I can remember when making mix tapes was a regular activity among my friends.  Once I was in university we were passing around homemade CDs.  On the surface the two concepts are identical, it’s really just putting random songs on a recording medium so they can be shared. The tape, however, presents one problem that you don’t have with CDs, the aforementioned two side phenomenon. A tape requires that you pick two songs to run into the end of the tape, which may or may not be finished when the recording stops.  The standard length of mixtapes created by me was 90 minutes, or 45 per side.  You can fit roughly 8-10 songs on each side, depending on the length of song.

Some people are keeping the mixtape alive. For example, the S.C.E.N.E. music festival in St. Catherines, Ontario has a mixtape/CD exchange as one of their events. I think it’s a very neat idea, and one that could find its way into The Mid-Summer Festival of Peace and Tranquility.

The point of all this is to create an Alder Fork Mixtape for your listening pleasure. I can’t physically give all my readers a tape, but I can make a list here and encourage you to make one yourself. You can get cassettes for $1 or less at a lot of stores.  I am limiting myself to 8 songs per side for a grand total of 16. I think it should have a theme, so I can leave the door open to make more in the future on other themes.  I am going to call the first one The Where in the World is…Mix.  All of the songs will involve geography in the title or in the theme of the song.

El Salvador – Athlete -great song about material success and Latin American adventures
Stand – REM – I dare you not to dance around for this one
Pacific Theme – Broken Social Scene – just like being in Polynesia, but with more guitar
Washington Square (live iTunes exclusive) – Counting Crows – picking one CC song with geography in it is almost impossible but I did it
Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – obvious choice but I couldn’t say no
Grey Street – Dave Matthews Band – few songs speak to me like this one, almost like Grey Street is Bixby Cres.
405 – Death Cab for Cutie – North Americans spend a lot of time on the highway
Geographic Centre of Canada – The Wheat Pool – not only is it Canadian, it’s kind of about geography, perfect!
At the Hundredth Meridian – The Tragically Hip – arguably one of the best Canadian rock songs of all time
Africa – Toto – I’m allowed one wild, out-of-left-field pick
Chicago (To String Remix By Jongalloway) – Sufjan Stevens – a man who is trying to write albums about as many U.S. states as possible
Amsterdam – Coldplay – it’s not even about the things most people want from that city
The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel – lovely song from a group that wrote a few about traveling around
Buffalo – Kathleen Edwards – no mixtape is complete without a newer song that I listen to 5 times a day
Mercy Street – Peter Gabriel – he uses a boat when he plays this live, that seems appropriate
Babylon II – David Gray – I wouldn’t know about him without this song, so I’ve included the reprise version from the album, the ideal song to wrap things up

I Know That You’ll Find

January 5, 2009

You gotta spend some time love, you gotta spend some time with me.

Death Cab for Cutie

I Will Possess Your Art

My good friend Dave suggested this post to me, so it’s really his idea in motion. I recently introduced him to my favourite song of 2008, I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab For Cutie. Now you may be familiar with the single version that has been on the radio.  It is about 4 or so minutes long and lacks the very thing that makes the album version so noteworthy.  Clocking in at 8:26 this long song uses the often unappreciated concept of dynamics to make it’s point.  My high school band, Urban Moon, was often obsessed with the idea of dynamics in music, so I feel moderately qualified to talk about this.

This particular song begins simply enough with bass, and builds through drums, guitar, piano, and finally vocals. For the first half of the song (the bit you won’t hear on the radio) the song slowly climbs the mountain of volume. It tempts the listener to expect the song to “really” start many many times, but keeps him/her in suspense for minutes. When we reach the top of the mountain (the point where the vocals begin) the music inexplicably shuts down leaving just a single voice to explain what’s going through his mind.  The rest of the song follows the more pop conventions you hear on the radio, though bits and pieces constantly fade in and out of the mix.  All of this creates a sense of moving atmosphere, suspense, and urgency that propels this song.  It’s a shame an 8 minute song rarely makes it on the radio, because the entirety of I Will Possess Your Heart is a strong lesson in the use of dynamics to enhance a song.