Rainy Day Songs
by Michele Christopher
It's been a busy, rainy week. I'm here in the Northwest and over nine inches of rain has fallen since the beginning of November. Much of it came in the first couple days of last week. It's the sort of weather that invites a person to stay inside with a warm mug of hot chocolate or tea, perhaps a book, and some comforting music playing. Not a new album that you have yet to really get into, but the tried and true songs you know and love, that you can listen to again and again and which satisfy you on an immediate, emotional level.
With that thought in mind, I'm going to do something simple and common this week. I'm taking my iPod, putting it on random, tuning to my Five Stars playlist and hitting play. Then I'm going to listen to ten songs and write about them as they play, imparting to you whatever comes into my mind. Here we go.
"Autumn Leaves Revisited" by Thursday - A City By The Light Divided — How appropriate, as there are dead and rotting leaves everywhere. The leaves can be annoying and somewhat disgusting as they decompose, mounds of them on the side of the road and clogging drains and gutters. This is especially problematic when rain is pouring down every day for hours on end. There's nothing more fun than driving through lakes. On the other hand, those rotting leaves were, just a day or two ago, quite colorful and nice, blowing about and being crucial to the image of Autumn. Since autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, I'll deal with the dead leaves.
As for the actual song, it's off Thursday's newest album, which is a solid effort. If you read my emo column last week, you know I have much love for the band's second album, Full Collapse. It's by far their best effort and this album doesn't live up to it. Neither of the band's follow up albums, for that matter, come close to matching the brilliance of Full Collapse, but they've both been worth my time. This song, in particular, lasts almost seven minutes and builds to a crescendo about four and a half minutes in. The music is downright soaring at times, with vocals that teeter on the verge of haunting.
There must be somewhere that cigarettes burn through the night
And the leaves don't abandon their trees to the light
The sky's always clear
And the summer never ends
"A Million Ways" by OK Go - Oh No — This is inconsequential pop, but damn if it isn't fun music. They're best known for two videos—one of them for this song—that have became huge on YouTube. Both videos are popular and notable because of their wacky and well-choreographed dance routines, including one routine that makes fantastic use of treadmills. These guys have two albums and both are fun, easy listens that work great as upbeat background music. "A Million Ways" has a good beat and slightly distorted vocals. It's catchy, as is most of their music. It won't change your world, but it could definitely pass the time.
"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." by Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise — Stevens is a big indie rock guy at the moment. He's a hell of a talent, whether or not you like his music. I happen to like it, for the most part. This song is one of my favorites, period. It falls very much into the category of slow, quiet, often stripped down songs that I like to listen to when I'm in more of a contemplative mood. In fact, it works perfectly for a quiet and rainy day. There's definitely a haunting quality to the song—a term that I will probably use far too much throughout this column. Stevens does a great job of building the song as it goes on, reaching an emotional pitch with about a minute to go and then bringing the song back down for the finish.
If you haven't heard, this album is the second of a planned fifty—one for each state. I think it's an awesome idea and a project that will almost certainly never be finished. I would love to be proven wrong, though, not to mention live long enough to hear all fifty albums.
In my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
"Landlocked Blues" by Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning — This is another major song in my "Quiet, Contemplative Mood" playlist. It's one of my top played songs and my favorite off an album that I like quite a lot. It's subdued musically, with the emphasis without question on the lyrics of both Conor Oberst, the lead singer and main component of Bright Eyes, and Emmy Lou Harris, who provides an assist on the song and whose voice melds very nicely with Oberst's. It's a song about war and most definitely applies to the situation in Iraq. Whether or not it's specifically about that war, I wouldn't want to say. I'm never the best at figuring out lyrics perfectly. I think mostly, though, it's a song that works on a personal level. War is a backdrop, but it's not the only theme.
The lyrics really are fantastic. Oberst is the sort of writer who makes you realize that half the songs you think have great lyrics are really just coasting on the emotion of the music. Here, the emotion of the music lifts what is some fantastic writing.
We made love on the living room floor
With the noise in the background from a televised war
And in that deafening pleasure
I thought I heard someone say
If we walk away, they'll walk away
"What I Got" by Sublime - Sublime — Oh Brad Nowell, why did you have to go and kill yourself with heroin? While the last two songs have been perfect compliments to the rainy and cold night in which I'm writing this column, this song is completely incongrous with the weather. This is summer music and anyone who says differently is a liar. This is the music that you blast from your car as you're driving down the road a little too fast, all your windows open, the day hot and the sun shining far too bright—you're hungover, of course—your stereo turned as loud as it will go because otherwise you just can't hear the music over the wind. This is carefree music. This is fun and engrossing and, seriously, if you're not hot and sweaty when you're listening to it, it's just not right. Sure, you can listen to this song, this album, any time of year, but it's never going to feel quite right outside of summer.
"Rock the Casbah" by The Clash - Combat Rock — Oh Joe Strummer, why did your heart have to go and explode? You were still making great music with the Mescaleros. I know it was fated to happen, what with your less-than-healthy lifestyle, but fuck it all. Other people have lived as bad or worse and survived longer than you. It's not fair. It's not fair at all.
Here's my dirty secret, though. I resisted The Clash for a long time, if only because I resisted pretty much all 80s music. I thought the decade sucked for music, but it was for the same reason that people today say that the music of today sucks: they just don't look deep enough. This was particularly inexcusable considering you don't really have to look deep to find The Clash. The stupidity of youth, of which I still have much to experience.
I love them now, though. But goddamn it, Joe, why did you have to go and die?
December 22nd is the anniversary of Joe's death. Observe appropriately. (I recommend booze of some kind.)
"Lopsided" by At The Drive-In - In-Casino-Out — I don't know exactly how you would classify At The Drive-In, other than classifying it as fucking fantastic. I guess it's hardcore, or something like that. It's great music. That's really what it comes down to. Granted, many people are not going to be able to get behind this band, but those who can are people I have to respect. This is great stuff, filled with melodic screaming, but not really able to be classified as emo, which is often what you call melodic screaming. These guys fucking rock, period, and this song is a great song off a great album. Their last album was The Relationship of Command, which was a fantastic album that started to gain them some real popularity, including a single that garnered radio play. Then they broke up. Fuck!
Two members did, however, go on to form The Mars Volta. The other two formed Sparta. Mars Volta is by far the better offshoot from ATDI, and has made a couple of great albums, though the most recent is so bogged down in rambling prog rock territory that while it's still good and technically accomplished, I just haven't been able to truly get into it. Either way, while I love Mars Volta, I would rather have new albums from At The Drive-In.
Oh well. At least no one OD'd or had their heart explode.
"This Fffire" by Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand — This band falls into the same category as OK Go does above. They make fun, upbeat, catchy pop that, personally, I'm not ashamed to listen to, but that I recognize as largely inconsequential, at least if you're looking at music from an artistic angle. But who cares? Entertaining music is nothing to sneeze at, especially since so much pop is ridiculous nonsense that thinks it's entertaining but is really just formulaic and redundant, to the point of crushing boredom. This is a remix of one of thier big hits, "This Fire," and is on the bonus disc for their self-titled, first album. Oddly enough, I can barely tell the difference between this version and the original version. Hello, pointlessness.
"Brain Stew" by Green Day - Insomniac — I still can't decide what I think of American Idiot, which every teenage girl in the nation seems to own. The title song is solid, "Holiday" is good, but overall I'm not the biggest fan of their pop makeover. I'm hoping their next album returns to the enjoyable pop-punk that is so damn entertaining on their earlier albums. These guys do modern day pop-punk how it should be do, putting to shame the bullshit of Sum 41 and Blink-182 and every other fucking numbered band that was so goddamn big a few years back. Good Charlotte? Fuck off. I mean, I can deal with the music if necessary, but just give me Green Day instead, or a completely different genre. I don't need more mediocrity.
"Lost In The Supermarket" by The Clash - London Calling — Joe and Mick make one last appearance before the close of this column. How ridiculously great is London Calling? There is not a bad song on this album, which is a clichéd statement that's very true in this case. You listen to it, and it's great, and it continues to be great, and it's still great and then it ends and you think to yourself, "Where were the dead spots?" And I think to myself, "Why the hell did I resist these guys for so long?" Next time, I will not doubt my roommate or my friend Scott, both of whom are much wiser than me.
Fucking exploding hearts. How great would it be to see The Clash live? Those of you who have, please comment and tell me about it so I can live vicariously through you. I'd appreciate it.
Joel likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain