Waking Ear

We have a pact, you and I. I write down what song I had in my head when I woke up in the morning. And, maybe, why. You click on "What's in your waking ear?" and tell me what's in your head right now. We discover new music and maybe learn something about how our minds work. Yeah?

Monday, September 30, 2002

Elliott Smith/"Independence Day" -- Mr. Smith's most perfect song. Sometimes that sticky, somewhat sinister guitar hook just wafts into my head and lingers there. Actually, that happens about once a month. And the climax of the song -- "I'll meet you here tomorrow/Independence Day" -- is brilliant. That same hook gets turned on its head. Smith doesn't raise his voice, but you can still hear the anger in there.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Nazareth/"Love Hurts" -- Just got back from the Austin City Limits Festival. Only went to the first day, but heard some great music -- Gillian Welch's voice is dreamy, David Garza is like a cheesy Jeff Buckley (in a good way) and, of course, Wilco. I'm not really into the whole jam band thing, but Soulive do have chops, and there were these two hippie girls noodle-dancing next to us, which was entertaining as hell. The best part was when they tried to do some amateur acrobatics -- one lay on her back with her feet in the air and tried to balance the other girl in midair with her feet on the other girl's stomach. I think the longest they were able to balance was about 10 seconds, and then they would flop over and giggle.

Oh, Nazareth, yeah. So I went to this festival, and the only damn song in my head a day later is the one I heard on the radio this morning. But it's not too bad, as far as metal ballads go. Oh, and also on the radio, I heard this stoopid Euro-trance song with a really familiar chorus. Took some googling, but I finally figured it out -- it was a cover of Bryan Adams' "Heaven," ("Baby you're all that I want/When you're lying here in my arms," etc.) recorded by two Spanish DJs, DJ Sammy and Yanou, and featuring a vocalist named Do. Has anybody else heard this?

Friday, September 27, 2002

Wilco/"California Stars" -- Saw 'em for the first time last night, and they played this, the first Wilco song I ever truly loved and held in my heart. The Mermaid Avenue stuff was my introduction to the band, aside from an occasional listen to a friend's CD in a car or something. But Wilco's one of those bands that take time to love. The music, especially the earlier, rootsier songs, sound nice enough, but it takes the repeated listens and the pondering and the falling asleep to the record and the waking up with the record to really love the band, to think of it as family. I can only think of a few bands that matter that way. That's why they'll deserve their place in the canon.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Johnny Cash/"Field of Diamonds" -- It's the one from Solitary Man with Sheryl Crow singing background vocals. Not a particular favorite from that disc (that honor would probably go to the Will Oldham cover), but it's here in my head now, so I might as well get used to it. It's kind of plodding and breezy, with June Carter and Ms. Crow lilting over JC's deep baritone. It's nice enough, but with Cash I expect greatness every single time he's up to bat.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Bjork/"Headphones" -- Awash in a bath of electronic bleeps and rustles, Bjork says, "Thanks for making this tape for me." It's a song about people talking to each other through music, and anyone who's ever made a mixtape for someone or received a mixtape for someone will understand it. "My headphones/They saved my life/Your tape/It lulls me to sleep." And then she starts babbling in a weird, little-girl voice in a language that's either Icelandic, Hopelandic or nothing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Interpol/"NYC" -- Busy day. No time to talk. Just this: go see them live and stand up really close to the stage.

Monday, September 23, 2002

RJD2/"The Horror" -- I'm a fan of all things Def Jux, and though I found RJD2's debut the weakest release so far from the label, it's still worth owning. This song, the first track, is the Bond theme that never was, full of sirens and nutty vocal samples and horns and intrigue. Most of the rest of the album dips into Moby territory (are we forever doomed to believe Moby pioneered samples from gospel-blues records? I guess so), but it's harder and grittier than the Bald One's ethereal work. This is indeed, hip-hop for people who like Moby, and that's not such a bad place to start.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Funkadelic/"One Nation Under a Groove" -- I've been meaning to learn a little more about P-Funk, buy some records, that kind of thing. It's the foundation of so much, from the late '90s gangsta rap to, well, the Polyphonic Spree (see yesterday's entry). The All Music Guide believes this song is one of the weaker tracks on the album of the same name, mainly because it's too disco-influenced. Maybe they're right -- I haven't heard the album. But I think they're being a little snobby.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Polyphonic Spree/"Ride Captain Ride" -- It's actually a cover of the 1970 psychedelic hit by The Blues Image. I've seen the Spree perform it twice and thought it was their best song. Then I found out it wasn't theirs. Too bad. Basically, the Spree turn it into a kind of psychedelia manifesto, pumping their fists and chanting, "Ride, captain, ride upon your mystery ship/Be amazed at the friends that you bring on your trip." Or something like that. Unfortunately, I don't think the cover has been recorded.

The Spree, a 24-person Dallas band with a full choir, are apparently getting pretty big in England. They wear matching white robes and act insanely happy. It's kind of cult-ish and a little unnerving. Still, I'd recommend seeing the spectacle -- they'll be in LA and then back in the UK in the next month or so. Just don't say I didn't warn you -- half an hour is probably enough.

By the way, thanks to Josh Blog for a very nice mention that has sent his loyal readers to this humble site. To those paying their first visit: Welcome, and feel free to let me know what song's in your head right now via the link below. I'll add Josh Blog to my recommended links -- he's very willing to talk about his personal relationship with music, which I like.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Doves/"Words" -- Does this band remind anyone else of Ride? Is that just me? I like this song. It sounds triumphant and bright, like the Britpop answer to "I Will Survive." That's a big stretch, I know, but it evokes the same feelings in me. And they're playing here in Dallas next week, so I'm interested to see how they do.

I'm going to see the Polyphonic Spree tonight. They're big in England. Really.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Frank Black and the Catholics/"California Bound" -- A nice little country-rock song. Not exactly sure what it's about, but there's a traveling theme in a lot of the new album, Black Letter Days. Apparently, Frank & Co. wrote and recorded the songs while doing shows up and down the West Coast, and you can tell. The recordings sound very open and wide, like the desert stretching out before you. Frank Black was born in California, and even in the sound of his Boston-based Pixies, you could tell he yearned for home. I don't know what it is about people from California (my girlfriend would be one of those people). Nothing else ever compares to California for them, and they don't really feel comfortable until they get back.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Paula Abdul/"Cold Hearted Snake" -- I'm back with a vengeance. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus, Waking Ear readers. I just needed to take a few days off. But this song is running incessantly in my head and I must talk about it. It's the best of the Paula Abdul oeuvre -- it's slinky and it makes you feel dirty for enjoying it. She can't sing at all. And yet, when she launches into the part where she talks really fast, the part that ends with "only a reptile," I am enthralled. Thank you, Paula. Thank you.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Sleater-Kinney/"One More Hour" -- Everybody likes The Hot Rock, and I do too, but for my money, Dig Me Out is the high watermark of Sleater-Kinney's career. It marks the transition from the punk roots to the fully realized, expanded sound we know them for today. This song still gives me chills, marking that fleeting moment where you look at yourself in the mirror and realize that your life's about to change, and feeling scared as hell. The guitars sound nervous and ominous, and Corin Tucker sounds like she's about to break down. I'm going to see Sleater-Kinney tonight, so I'm just kinda in the mood.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Queensryche/"Silent Lucidity" -- There was a time when every eighth-grade kid with guitar-god aspirations knew how to play the beginning of this song. But me, I liked the guitar solo, a kind of anti-solo, really, mournful like a cello. I can't decide, looking back, whether this really was a valuable song or just one of those songs that sounded really great when I was entering my teenage years but feel silly now, like, say, Alice in Chains' "Rooster" or Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush." It's pretty maudlin. And the lyrics aren't exactly good poetry. But it did work, in the end, a song about twilight and longing with a sweet little melody.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

the Beatles/"Revolution" -- Because it's that kind of day. And to top it all off, whenever I hear it, I think of Nike. (No, I don't want to get into the whole "should legitimate artists be in commercials?" debate. It's really up to the artist or the artist's family if they're gone. But it really shouldn't be up to Michael Jackson, no matter how legal his ownership of the song is.)

Anyway, I woke up from a horrible nightmare that terrorists had attacked Seattle and killed scores of people, way more than in New York. In the dream, I was in Seattle. I got on the Web and went to Yahoo, and the terrorists had taken it over, filling it with scores of diatribes about how god was going to smite the Americans and stuff. I must have some latent emotion tied this whole Sept. 11 event that I hadn't realized.

"But when you talk about destruction/Don't you know you can count me out" (or "count me in," depending on which version you prefer).

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Spoon/"Everything Hits at Once" -- This is the first time I've re-posted a song, and I don't intend to do it often. But this might just be the best song I've heard this year. I know it came out last year, but I didn't hear it till this year, so there. I'm hoping to see them tonight, but I have to get tickets at the door. Wish me luck. I love that sense of excitement before a show, when you can't get the band out of your head and you know the only way to relieve the pressure is to hear the song live. I picture myself on the floor of a dirty, smelly, sweaty rock club, wing-tipped T-shirts surrounding me, a Shiner in my hand. Ahhhh.

By the way, HaloScan, my comments service, appears to still be having problems. We'll give it another week and see how it goes. Please post away, keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Monday, September 09, 2002

the White Stripes/"You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)" -- I'm so glad I bought this record. A lot bluesier and more lo-fi, even, than the big hit album from last year. But this song, which sounds more like it could've been on White Blood Cells, is the one that really calls to me. Enough pop sensibility to make you sing along mindlessly, but enough chops and sense of rock history to make you respect them when it's over. Meg White is one helluva drummer. She makes polished skills seem amateur. That's really hard to do.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Sam Cooke/"You Send Me" -- The rain is washing away the hot, sticky malaise of August here in Dallas, where I live. Everything feels new and sharp. When a breeze hits my face, it feels like a breeze, not like a hairdryer. The thirsty grass looks almost instantaneously greener for having drunk up this water from the heavens. Sam Cooke picked this day to pay my head a visit, for no reason. I didn't listen to a Sam Cooke record. It just came. And his effortless voice, the kind that can't be trained or developed or taught, just fits perfectly, like bells ringing on a quiet Sunday in a quiet town when life and love seem new again.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

New Bomb Turks/"Inform" -- I've been listening to the Vines in my roommate Schmubb's car. They don't do anything for me. They remind me somewhat of the Turks, a derivative band in their own right, to be sure. On this one, the Anthony Kiedis-ish vocals and the throbbing drumbeat do a good job of making things come alive, kind of the same way the vocals and riff in the Vines' "Outtatheway" seem to get it going. Ultimately, though, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of life beyond the lead singers of these bands.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Soul Asylum/"Easy Street" -- I was always kind of iffy on Soul Asylum. Never outright hated them the way some people did, but didn't love 'em either. That "Somebody to Shove" song was lame as hell, with Dave Pirner's drama seeming a little too, well, acted. It never felt genuine. I think this one works better. The band sounds calmer, more sure of itself, not trying so hard, almost... having fun. Which is why I'm offering it to you in MPEG, audio layer 3. I'm thinking about doing this more often so people can hear what I'm talking about. Tell me if it works OK for you and if you'd like me to keep doing it.

Sorry for no post yesterday, by the way. Got a little busy.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Madonna/"American Pie" -- I don't know what God of Hellfire I angered to bring this curse upon myself. I didn't listen to the song. I haven't heard it in months, I guess. And yet there it is, twisting its way through my head like an insidious snake. I'm not that big a fan of the original anyway, except for that line, "I know that you're in love with him/cause I saw you dancing in the gym." That one still kinda gets me. But anyway, then Madonna, whom I actually respect most of the time, comes along and does a crappy cover with a crappy video for a crappy movie. And then it goes and crawls into my head. Damn.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

So Haloscan had a DNS attack. Everything seems to be OK now. Comment away. Oh, and by the way, this is the first time I've ever had a problem with them. I'd recommend them to anybody doing a site like this.

Rufus Wainwright/"California" -- This charming man is blessed with the prettiest voice this side of Jeff Buckley. Unlike Buckley, Wainwright sounds effortless, like he's rattling off a song in the shower. And he has a knack for writing pop tunes, this one being my favorite, a rollicking ode to the virtues of just staying in bed.

Haloscan, which provides my comments feature on this site, appears to be down. Hopefully they'll have things fixed soon, so please check back if you have something to add.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Basement Jaxx/"Where's Your Head At" -- Played on a jukebox at a bar last night. Apparently the video has scary monkeys romping around in it. There's nothing like a catchy chorus and bass line to jam a song into your head for hours, even days. I was disappointed with Rooty the first time I heard it, but since then it's caught on in a big way. It's rare to hear a house record that actually makes you want to listen more than once.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Kool & the Gang/"Open Sesame, Pt. 2" -- An old and dear friend of mine, nicknamed Hiney, goes through musical phases. He'll pick up a CD and fall in love with it, listen to it intensely for weeks on end, and then move on to the next. It's the most sharp and pronounced of such behavior that I've ever seen. I would usually follow him on his musical flings, swoop in as he abandoned them, and have a much longer and more fulfilling relationship with them. Kool & the Gang was one, right after Madness and right before D'Angelo, if I'm remembering correctly. I remember riding in the car with him in our high school days, going someplace we weren't supposed to go, with him pointing wildly at the CD player, in a frenzy over the funky horns and sophisticated brashness of this song, shouting, "Do you hear this? This is GENIUS!"


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