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?

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Radiohead/"Myxomatosis" -- The fire is gone, and that's what's disturbing about Hail to the Thief. Oh, sure, there's flashes of it, like the vengeful "2+2=5" and that little wail Thom Yorke releases in "Punch Up at a Wedding." But mostly, it's resigned fury, sitting in a corner and bitching, muttering, no longer screaming at the darkness like OK Computer did.

It doesn't make your heart beat. It doesn't make you feel alone and scared. It really doesn't even make you feel. It's like one of those massive peace protests a few months back -- saying all the things you're supposed to say, but emptily, ultimately futile, because it just didn't matter. The guitar can no longer change anything or touch anything. The laptop is rendered useless.

"Myxomatosis" has that swooping guitar that made OK's "Airbag" great, but it's like it's in reverse, hurtling back toward earth and burying itself under ground. Yorke sounds like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. And then there's this long, lame, single-note keyboard sound that just peters out at the end. It doesn't even come crashing down. Whimper, not bang.

That's why Hail to the Thief disappoints on first listen, and second, and maybe even third. But there will be nights when it will be perfect, nights when you need a quiet little album to cower in the dark with you.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Hall and Oates/"You Make My Dreams" -- There's nothing like a road trip weekend. We returned from San Antonio yesterday hung over, smelly and more educated, thanks to a stack of Trivial Pursuit cards. I didn't know the skin of a mango contained the same active ingredient that's in poison ivy.

Driving into Dallas, we pulled out H&O's greatest hits and rocked the fuck out.

How much longer can I hold out before I put one of these on my credit card? Must. Be. Strong.

Ya can't stop the shining.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Lipps Inc./"Funkytown" -- When I was in fifth grade, right around the time the Pseudo Echo version of this song came out, there was a girl in my class named Debbie Towne. She was really tall and gangly, not much to look at. But I thought it was really funny to sing, "Won't you take me to Debbie Towne," so my friends started saying I liked her. Well, for the record, I did not like Debbie Towne. But she's probably hot now.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Tori Amos/"Sugar" -- If you haven't heard this epic in concert, check out the live disc from To Venus and Back. That soaring part at the end gives me shivers every time. And Tori sounded great last night at her stop near Dallas. I think she's been sick the last couple of times she played here, so it was nice to hear the full range and power of her voice.

My fellow concert attendees thought the 2 1/2-hour concert was too long, and they're probably right. It wasn't so attention-getting that a listener unfamiliar with her entire body of work wouldn't get a little restless. But for me, it was perfect -- lots of material from Under the Pink, which sounds great with a backing band. Most of the set was either slow-paced songs or formerly uptempo songs slowed down, so it sounded a little plodding at times. And I yearned for Tori to drop her precious voice and use her lungs a little more. She sounds great when she belts out some of those key lyrics, and it feels awkward when she then goes back to the baby voice.

But these are small complaints, really. She's a terrific songwriter, and her vocals have, in time, outshone even her skills as a pianist. My other personal highlight was "Virginia," a great track from Scarlet's Walk. The recorded version is accompanied by banjo, so Tori approximated that sound on her piano. It was down-homey but spiritual, like the gothic Southern characters that populate much of that album.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Pavement/"Here" -- "Your jokes are always bad/But they're not as bad as this." Everybody always talks about Pavement lyrics not making any sense. But I can't tell you how many songs -- including this one -- made me feel I knew exactly what Malkmus was talking about. I haven't gotten that Slanted and Enchanted reissue yet, but I probably should just out of respect. Plus I don't have that Westing Musket EP or whatever it is.

Speaking of respect, I'm trying to maintain some level of it for Radiohead after giving Hail to the Thief a couple of spins. Others in the land o' blogs have dissed it, so I was really hoping I'd have some huge contrarian view. Well, I didn't after first listen -- it sounded tedious and warbling and just not very exciting.

But if there's one thing I hate about the whole indie-rock attitude (actually, there is only one thing), it's the lack of brand loyalty. I mean, I'm as snobby as the next guy, but when a band builds a good track record over a number of albums, I'm not going to try to crucify it just because of its past success. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a few more listens, and hope something is revealed to me that I missed the first time. It's happened before. And it's failed to happen before.

But I gotta say that, already, Hail to the Thief has redeemed itself a little bit. The hand-clap and Thom Yorke's ghostly vocals give "We Suck Young Blood" a kind of cultish, eerie feel, and I'm probably going to be in the minority of people who like the staticky confusion of "The Gloaming." So we shall see.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Blur/"Coffee and TV" -- I haven't heard the new one yet, but I still get a kick out of 13. What a great, sad, thoughtful album. My favorite music is that which is so obviously rendered with loving care.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Postal Service/"Against All Odds" -- I've had a persistent handful of visitors to the site looking for this cover of the Phil Collins classic, which becomes greater with every listen. The cover's good, too, weird and interesting the way a live cover of a cheesy '80s hit should be. But don't just take my word for it. Click on the link above for your own copy.

The version we heard at the band's Dallas show included the full lyrics, which was better, in my estimation, because the lyrics are actually pretty good. but you can get the idea with this one. Not sure from whence it was recorded.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Bright Eyes/"You Will. You?Will. You? Will. You?Will." -- Yeah, it was mine too. My love for Conor grows and grows. He's a skinny little wine-drinking freaky boy who craves your adoration but can't accept it.

It was weird, though, when we saw him flirting with a girl when we were walking out of the club. He seemed almost normal. Maybe he just gets that way after the wine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Steam/"Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" -- How could I forget this in our discussion of sports anthems?

Actually, "Na Na Hey Hey" has been losing, er, steam in recent years. You don't hear it so much at the big pro games, though it's still omnipresent at the collegiate and even high school level. We should not let this ultimate fuck-you to the opposing team go forgotten.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Ibrahim Ferrer/"Bruca Manigua" -- The Girlfriend and I went to see the old guy last night. I hope I'm that spry and lively when I'm in my 70s. Ferrer shook his hips, stomped his feet and smiled so big you could see it in the cheap seats. By the end of the set, he had turned the stately Bass Hall into a dance party. And the best part: Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, Cuba's legendary bassist, played the whole time.

I was thinking about that line in High Fidelity when Rob criticizes Ray/Ian for listening to "whatever world music was trendy at the time." And I have to admit that I jumped on the Buena Vista Social Club bandwagon along with everybody else. But I gotta give Ry Cooder credit -- he discovered something that the rest of the world needed to hear. It makes me suspect that there's other musical styles hiding on the fringes, in slums and countrysides, just waiting to be discovered.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Radiohead/"My Iron Lung" -- It was recorded live, and then Thom redid the vocals. I love that little tidbit, because you can hear its there-in-front-of-you ferocity.

I haven't heard the new stuff yet. Gotta download it. I've been behind.

Go Suns.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Lita Ford/"Kiss Me Deadly" -- Specifically that classic first line: "I went to party last Saturday night/I didn't get laid/I got in a fight." The perfect late '80s death knell for hair metal. God bless the Runaways.

I think I'm ready to start listening to music again after a little break. All the choices out there sometimes overwhelm me, and I find myself wanting to just listen to nothing for a while. I think Jack White just wore me out, really. In the words of the magnificent Kate Sullivan, "he's one meanmouth jackrabbit. he's got the bitey little teeth."

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Mariah Carey/"Fantasy (Bad Boy Mix feat. ODB)" -- When Mariah jumped the shark. Oh, and ODB, too.

So in the past week or so, I've had Cameo, Bobby Brown and now Mariah Carey as waking ears. Am I going downhill?

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Postal Service/"Against All Odds" -- Sure, it was fun watching Ben and Jenny of the Postal Service do their Human League-ish love-hate song, dancing with the swaying shoulders of the '80s. But the encore, the Phil Collins cover, really brought it all back. Gibbard sang those poignant lyrics earnestly while Dntel warped and churned the rhythmic scat. Take a look at me now.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Taxiride/"Get Set" -- I'm a sucker for pretty harmony, so this 1999 gem makes me slobber. Unfortunately, Taxiride got labeled as a boy band, right at the time that would've been the worst label you could have. But, um, these guys play instruments, and they wrote at least one good song -- haven't heard the albums.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Cameo/"Word Up" -- Does anybody remember Arsenio Hall's character Chunky A? Just wondering.

Every once in a while, I become a music hermit and stop listening to anything for a few days. I drove to work today in complete silence. And NPR has filled in the gaps. Don't know why this happens -- just need to cleanse the palate.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Hem/"Half Acre" -- Some lovely country-folk this morning. I'm sitting in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, surfing on someone's Wi-Fi connection. It's a little chilly and misty out here, but I feel pretty great. Who doesn't love this city?

This morning I went to KEXP's live broadcast from the Museum of Television & Radio, where Hem performed. They're very talented musicians, very precise -- almost a little too much so. I like my country to have a little more sturm and twang in it. But the melodies are pretty, and the mandolin sounds perfect, so what the hell.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Bobby Brown/"Humpin' Around" -- I really can't explain it. Sometimes these things just appear out of nowhere.

When I started this blog, I thought I'd get some greater insight as to why songs jump into my head. I mean, why "Humpin' Around"? But I still have no clue. I've tried to think about it like a dream, in the Freudian sense. The song symbolizes or refers to something that I'm worried about or thinking about. But I'm not worried about anyone humping around on me or me humping around on anyone. Maybe I've just been thinking about humping. I guess I could confess to that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Kelly Willis/"Whatever Way the Wind Blows" -- Kelly's gut-wrenching What I Deserve got me through a long summer, but the preceding album contained this knock-out, one of the reasons I fell in love with country music. I've never heard a voice so effortlessly graceful.


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