Monday, October 31, 2005:

Marisa Monte

Marisa Monte -- Cérebro Eletrônico
Marisa Monte -- Segue O Seco
Marisa Monte -- Para Ver As Meninas
Marisa Monte is a Brazilian singer who tends to combine traditional Brazilian rhythms and instrumentation with modern pop tendencies: keyboards, electric guitar, light friendly melodies.

Barulhinho Bom is a two-disc set, the first disc studio recordings with a pop bent; the second disc is live recordings with a more traditional sound. Both of them have some great tracks. I'm hard pressed to say which I like more, though I think the pop disc might be more immediately accessible to people unfamiliar with Brazilian music. Memórias, Crônicas & Declarações De Amor continues Monte's experiments in combining traditional and pop instrumentation; it's also an interesting and accessible CD with some great tracks.

"Para Ver As Meninas" is a samba off Memórias, Crônicas & Declarações De Amor; it's not so typical of the album it's on, except maybe in the cello and the addition of bits of distortion, but it's compelling work and well worth sharing.

"Cérebro Eletrônico" has a funky guitar and bassline, bouncing thumping drums, and the occasional vocals through a megaphone. Plus it's fun, which is always a plus.

"Segue O Seco" is more traditional and subdued but no less impressive; it's an Afro-Brazilian tune, which would have been my guess based just on the harmonizing background vocals. Lovely work.

Monte has a number of other CDs that are well-regarded but that I haven't yet heard; I first heard her on a mix CD a friend made for me and immediately added her to my (already too-long) list of musicians to look into. It's an ongoing process. biography
[]: Memórias, Crônicas & Declarações De Amor (allmusic review)
[]: Barulhinho Bom (allmusic review)

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Friday, October 28, 2005:

Seu Jorge -- Don't / Rebel Rebel

Seu Jorge -- Don't
Seu Jorge -- Rebel Rebel
If you've seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, maybe you had the same reaction to the guitarist that I did--"Wow, that's awesome, who is that?" He's Seu Jorge, who also was in Cidade de Deus as Knockout Ned, and spent much of his time on the Life Aquatic filming answering questions from the other actors like "Are the slums really as bad as in City of God?" (Worse.)

"Don't" is from Cru Seu Jorge's solo album; I think it is by far the best thing on it, though the rest has been growing on me. Just a wonderful sound to it: quiet, tender, and subdued, somehow it conveys loneliness and pleading even without considering the lyrics. (update: I should mention that this is a Leiber/Stoller cover.)

"Rebel Rebel" is from The Life Aquatic: a David Bowie cover in Portugese. Interesting, unexpected, delightful.
[]: Cru
[]: Life Aquatic soundtrack
(Looks like they'll be releasing Seu Jorge's studio sessions from the film on a separate disc--rock!)

In other news, Girish has begun mp3blogging. He's been blogging about movies for a year or so; so this is a new direction, and one I'm glad to see him take. I think I first found his site from following the link in a comment he'd posted, and the site has been a constant joy since. He writes clearly and passionately and he's got insightful, thought-provoking things to say.

(Girish points to a N.Y.Times article on Seu Jorge. [Register or bugmenot required])

And now some housekeeping:
The mix CD I proposed should be going out next month, or Dec. 7 at the absolute latest. More about this once it's ready.

I've nixed the Haloscan comments in favor of Blogger comments. Haloscan eats the comments after awhile, which is craptacular, and I've lost some good comments as a result. Also, the Haloscan links can't be accessed in text-only browsers or in browsers with Javascript turned off, which by some accounts is about 11% of the internet. So. Lacuna no more. (update: I goofed here somehow. It puts comments on the front page, beneath the post. Working on it. Ok, I think that's done. If you find anything about the site's layout that seems wrong, please let me know in the comments or at the email address at left.)

... has just today moved its search box from the top of the screen to the bottom which is, in a word, stupid. (And yes, sometimes I goof around with peoples' site logs.) (update: Holy smokes, moved the search box back up top. Awesome. ... time to work on my own site's accessibility a bit.)


Tuesday, October 25, 2005:

Tom Zé -- Fliperama

Tom Zé -- Fliperama
Thumpin' 1-3 1-3 beat going KICK (hi hat) KICK (hi hat), a trilled R interpolated with "ay-oh-ay-oh," with lyrics something like "Flip. Flip. Flip. Filip flip, filip filip flip. Flipeh peh-peh peh-peh peh-peh. La la-la-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la-la-la la-la la-mam ma-ma ma-ma ma-ma fliperama" and--hey--this is aural amphetamines.

Tom Zé mentioned not wanting to be just somebody you dance to, and I'm all for political speech in general, but really, now: can you listen to this and sit still? Do you not break into a grin, nod your head, tap your foot?

More to the point, Luaka Bop has the lyrics in translation, but they leave me puzzled. Maybe, like another Luaka Bopper once said, about his own lyrics, I will understand it better if I dance to it. It's worth a try, right?
[]: Tom Zé -- Brazil Classics 5 (The Hips of Tradition)

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Monday, October 24, 2005:

Walkin' Back to Georgia

Jim Croce -- Walkin' Back to Georgia
Jim Croce is a big figure in American pop history, or at least in the singer/songwriter niche. He's probably well-enough known that he doesn't need an introduction, or a mention of the helicopter crash (and, honestly, except for the occasional evil person, doesn't everyone die too soon?) "Rapid Roy," "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," and "Roller Derby Queen" all are broadly humorous songs, and entertaining in their own right, but I think what I'm most interested in in his work is his ballads. His ballads seem almost to have been written by a different person; they tend to have a real warmth and kindness to the lyrics that I find wonderfully embracing, like a trip home to a family you love.

"Walking Back to Georgia" is not one of his best-known songs, but that's probably just because it's not on that shortest greatest-hits comp he has. It's still a solid track: guitar, melody, lyrics are all on point weaving together a short poppy distillation of goodwill and longing. This one is digitized from the Don't Mess Around with Jim LP; it's available on CD as well.
[]: Jim Croce -- The Definitive Collection

The Del Vikings -- When I Come Home
The Del Vikings had some splits and some lineup changes that make tracking their catalog a bit of a challenge, especially since they split into the "Del Vikings" and the "Dell-Vikings." The Vikings' best known tracks are probably "Come Go With Me" and "Whispering Bells" (both, if I remember right, on the Stand by Me soundtrack), but their less-famous tracks are solid too. This one has all the typical doo-wop charms: mid-range lead, soaring backup, low accents. It would be easy to take it as simple, nostalgic music, sweet and harmless, but there is some real anxiety at play in the lyrics. I think the track is fitting enough thematically, as I've cut the walking short.
[]: Come Go With Me: The Best of the Del-Vikings Dot/ABC Recordings

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005:

Son House

Son House -- Walking Blues
Son House -- Empire State Express
Son House -- Grinnin' in Your Face
Son House is one of those artists I was surprised to find I hadn't posted yet. He was a bluesman active from the 1930s to the early 1970s, and was very influential on the course of Delta Blues. He was raised Southern Baptist and spent his early life as a preacher (making the rancorous "Preachin' Blues," from his 1960s recordings, all the more interesting), then began playing blues when he realized he could make some money at it. claims he killed a man and spent some time in prison for it (two years, with his family insisting it was in self-defense and he should be shown lenience); the Biograph notes gloss over that without stating outright whether it was true ("such stories--although often untrue--are so commonly woven into blues biographies that they have almost come to be regarded as career requirements.")

After he got out of prison/never was in prison, House travelled a bit with Charley Patton, then cut some sides for Paramount. The liner notes to this Biograph disc have it that Robert Johnson was originally a bad guitarist whose playing improved dramatically after he travelled with Son House, studying his guitar playing. It's hard to tell on some of the old blues stories what's true, what's exaggerated, and what's simply false, but House's influence on both Johnson and Muddy Waters is generally acknowledged.

House didn't hit it big from the Paramount recordings and disappeared awhile, working menial jobs until Alan Lomax showed up in August 1941 to record some of his music for the Library of Congress (the version of "Walking Blues" posted here is from those Lomax recordings). Lomax recorded him again shortly after and House continued at his menial jobs for the next twenty years; the story goes that when he was rediscovered in the blues revival in the 1960s he hadn't played guitar in so long that Alan Wilson had to teach him how to play again in his own former style.

"Walking Blues" is on Delta Blues (the compilation of Lomax recordings) twice, the first one with Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and Leroy Williams, and the second one recorded a year later with only House and his guitar. "Empire State Express" is a solo number--just House and his guitar--and "Grinnin' in Your Face" is a cappella--just House's vocals and handclaps. These two are from Son House's 1960s recording Original Delta Blues. I like his later recordings a lot; they tend to be fiery and energetic. has it that House died of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's; the Biograph liner notes say he died of cancer of the larynx. They agree that he died on October 19, 1988.
[]: Delta Blues
[]: The Original Delta Blues


Monday, October 17, 2005:

The Avalanches: Run DNA / Frontier Psychiatrist / Thank You Caroline

My Neighbor Totoro
The Avalanches -- Run DNA
The Avalanches -- Thank You Caroline [Andy Votel remix]
The Avalanches -- Frontier Psychiatrist
The Avalanches are an Australian turntablism group that everyone seems to want to call quirky. For lack of a better word, I'll call them quirky too. It's not a bad thing, though; I consider them deliciously off-kilter, in much the same way as many of the Miyazaki films: quirky/endearing/intriguing, not quirky/creepy/alarming. Their work varies a bit depending on the outing (I guess it's to be expected with anywhere between two and ten people in the group); some of it is simple, repetitive dance music, good for background noise while you're working on some task; other tracks are more aggressive and catchy, forcing you to pay attention. What's on offer today is a range.

"Run DNA" is dance/hip hop/turntablism with a rocking electronic organ riff; it's a bit of lightweight fun with some silly lyrics. "Stylus in my jeans? It's in my backpack."

"Thank You Caroline" is more in the background/chillout grouping; it's a fine track to listen to while organizing LPs or, I don't know, writing an overdue post for an mp3blog. This is the Andy Votel Remix, and I don't think I've heard the original so I have no grounds for comparison. What I like about this one, though, is the chimes with distorted synth, the bassline, the stringed instrument (is that a cello? I can't place it, but I like it), the way the song seems to sprawl out in impossible positions like a sonic cat.

"Frontier Psychiatrist" is pretty far afield in their work, perhaps the wildest and best thing they've recorded. Great things about this song:
The Dexter's Lab Polyester samples ("it is the opinion of the entire staff that Dexter is criminally insane" / "He was white as a sheet / And he also made false teeth");*
the drumbeat (grooved like a cart-road from the 16th century);
the oohs and ahhs (ghostly oohs and ahhs, I learn from watching the video);
the scratching;
the horse;
the horns;
"I promised my girlfriend I'd pick up the violin";
the violin;
the cuckoo;
"sometimes a parrot talks";
and then the parrot talks.

I'm curious, though, why it's just a random scream in it and not a Wilhelm scream (see also: this radio program). This scream is pitched too low for it, and with their love of kitsch, pop culture, and whimsy, I find it hard to believe The Avalanches didn't know about Wilhelm and consider dropping him in.

9x: Does anybody in the band ski or has anyone been in an avalanche?
RC: No.
Other pressing questions answered here.
"Frontier Psychiatrist" video
Avalanches' official site
[]: At Last Alone [IMPORT]
[]: Since I Left You
[] El Producto seems to have gone out of print.


Yes, I'm still with this running mix that started with Big Bill Broonzy, a jog I was ill-prepared for, and dreams of trains. I'm about to start walking, though, and we'll soon be home. And then I'll post these other things I've found lately.

* Thanks to the anonymous poster for setting me straight on the source for the "criminally insane" quotations.


Monday, October 10, 2005:

Road Runner: The Modern Lovers and Jr. Walker

Marathon Man screenshot (The White Angel)
The Modern Lovers -- Road Runner
Jr. Walker and the All-Stars -- (I'm a) Road Runner
Jr. Walker and the All-Stars -- Clinging to the Thought That She's Coming Back
Don't mind The White Angel up there; these tracks won't make your jaw hurt.

The Modern Lovers are a party I came to late: I just discovered them a couple of years ago and have yet to look through most of their catalogue. They've done several versions of "Road Runner"; there are two just on their debut re-release (one is a bonus track of the demo) and there's a different version as a bonus track on the Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers rerelease). The Jonathan Richman CD is a bit more complex and contrary than The Modern Lovers' debut; it goes from children's songs to gospel to rock. But this version (and this debut) strikes me as more immediately accessible: punkish rock, occasionally confrontational, leavened with an appreciation for the absurd. All in all it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Jr. Walker and the All-Stars were a Motown group probably best known for their track "Shotgun," a bit of funky white-hot R&B that's just crackling with energy. "(I'm a) Road Runner" is another fairly well-known track from them; this one tells a story in the vein of traditional "walking" blues--a man who shies away from close ties and drifts from one place to the other. This one puts on a strong face about it: he's got his toothbrush and his freedom; what more could he need? The song clips along briskly--no time for sorrows, no time not to swagger.

"Clinging to the Thought That She's Coming Back" is off the flipside to the 45 with "Gotta Hold on to This Feeling." I'm including it here though it's a bit crackly, as I think the charms of the song show through anyway: bassline, organ, sax, swinging delivery with good vibes to spare. The lyrics are about a man burning a candle for his ex, not giving up hope. You can decide for yourself if he should. The track's originally from Jr. Walker's 1969 LP Gotta Hold on to This Feeling/What Does It Take to Win Your Love, which had a re-release on CD some time back that I missed.
[]: The Modern Lovers
[]: Jr. Walker and the All-Stars: Shotgun & Soul
[]: Jr. Walker and the All-Stars: Gotta Hold on to This Feeling/What Does It Take to Win Your Love used, for $70. That purchase should be more fun than an amateur tooth extraction.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005:

Paul Simon -- Run That Body Down

running across a bridge from a train
Paul Simon -- Run That Body Down
I have a long-standing affection for Simon's work: it strikes me as instantly accessible, often cheerful, sometimes wry, sometimes hiding (or not hiding) a deeper melancholy. It's almost always got a solid melody with some warm harmonies, a sense that the song wasn't written so much as discovered: a buried statue dug, prised, and dusted free. The work is often timeless, but it's not a fly trapped in amber: it stays vibrant, no worse for wear, tending to a need you didn't know you had.

This track is from Simon's solo debut, which is 11 tracks of pop bliss (14 if you get the re-release with demoes of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and "Duncan" and an alternate version of "Paranoia Blues").


Wednesday, October 05, 2005:

Banco de Gaia -- Last Train to Lhasa

horsemen leaping from a train.
Banco de Gaia -- Last Train to Lhasa (11 MB)
Today's track is the title track to Last Train to Lhasa, a two-disc set about Tibet that tends towards the quietly political, calm and assured rather than fiery and shrill. This one is--like most of the rest of the set--very sedate: train whistles, gentle chug, vocals low in the mix.

Banco de Gaia's music is mostly ambient dub, full of slow developments, careful overlaps, often a low persistent beat that on a good day matches your heart and makes you feel unborn and perfectly content: unbothered by quickness and flash and pressing demands. I love to listen to it late at night after a long day; it's perfect to drift off to sleep to. It's soothing, comforting, a modern-day lullaby.

I wrote about Banco de Gaia a year ago, shortly after nailing the last plank in place on the shanty, and mentioned this song then also (if nothing else I seem to have consistent likes and dislikes). If I remember right I didn't post this song then because it struck me as a bit too long, but I was bumping up against the self-imposed ten-minute limit already with "Sinhala" (and with Alejandro Escovedo). Then I broke it months ago with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. So here it is. All aboard....

And thus ends the train mix. Up next: a short run and a shorter walk.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005:

D Train: Tryin' to Get Over

criss cross?  you mean put our clothes on backwards?
D Train -- Tryin' to Get Over
D Train was a 80s R&B act probably best known for their song "You're the One for Me," though they also did a post-worthy version of "Walk on By" (both on their 1982 debut You're the One for Me).

"Tryin' to Get Over" was a modest dancefloor hit. I think I like this song mostly for its locked-in groove coupled with the vocals. The dated synth, for some reason, is also striking me as a plus: a technical limitation that gives it some ineffable charm. Don't get me wrong, dated synths can be irritating at times (case in point: I love some of Billy Preston's work but hate his squealing square-wave synth solos), but in this case the keyboards are in moderation enough that I think they're somehow endearing--a bit like watching a claymation film.


I think I'll forego the obvious Coltrane post, which means the 'train' part of the mix is over next post. After that, a short jog and some walking. What do you think so far?

Would anyone like to get a mix CD sometime in the future, maybe write up a few comments (you know, how Forksclovetofu did a few times for The Tofu Hut)? It wouldn't happen for months, but I've got an idea for it on the back burner.

I got my first spam comment on the site today. Hoorah, I've arrived enough to be a target.


Plans afoot for a Strangers on a Train remake. While they're at it, someone should remake Psycho and The Manchurian Candidate; I can't help thinking they could be classics if a skillful filmmaker with a strong vision had the right actors, musicians, and cinematographers for it.
[]: D-Train. (CD rerelease--without the pops, I'm sure).