Shuffleathon 2008/9 Update
OK, it's been a couple of weeks since we last had one of these, and I might be a little bit out of the loop.... so if I've missed anybody's review or update, then please give me a nudge and point me in the right direction. The biggest news, for me anyway, is that I have now received my CD from Mandy - a soundtrack to a novel, no less - and I will be reviewing that just as soon as I've had a chance to give it a fair listen (and read the accompanying excerpts from the novel, of course, to put everything into its proper context). Erika has also sent me her review of the CD she received from Wombat..... which she's asked me to put up here.
Now, do pay attention [and I'm looking at YOU Rol] - what follows is Erika's review in full. These are the words and opinions of my favourite Canadian. Got that? OK. Let's go.
Many many years ago, I walked into a record store to buy the latest album by some artist or another and heard Chet Baker singing (yes, singing) sultrily over the sound system. I bought the disk shortly thereafter, and got with it a free jazz sampler, which introduced me to Sarah Vaughan, who led me to Nina Simone, who brought me to Etta James, who brought me to a passionate and unshakeable love for the blues.
I’m going to fess up.
When I got this disk in the mail (within weeks of the Shuffleathon starting, such an efficient Wombat!), I popped it into the player and thought, “Oh. Shit. Country.”
I’m pretty open minded about music but I’ve never been a fan of country, and especially not that kind of Garth Brooks-esque country-rock that is so incredibly popular in the United States. Raised on Janis Joplin on one side and rye whiskey Country on the other, I think I’m missing the gene that appreciates guitar bands of any genre. But, having learned my lesson by being open to one whispery little trumpet player attempting to sing, I decided to set the disk aside to avoid writing off Wombat’s thoughtful compilation in one fell swoop.
And it did take me much MUCH longer to get back to it than I anticipated, mainly because I kept looking at the purple jewelcase and thinking “Shit. Country.”
I’ve now listened to it several times over and, wow, Wombat, I owe you an apology. Yes, it’s country but it’s not Country. There are no dogs running away and no wives leaving and the howling twang that my father used to blast is all but absent. There is, perhaps, a bit more of that guitar rock tone that my untutored ears find a bit generic – and that, my friends, includes my response to a lot of Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin, so I’m perfectly happy to accept that the problem is almost certainly me – but there’s also a whole lotta style and a whole lotta funk and a whole lotta stuff to really enjoy on this disk.
I’m curious, though, what she meant by calling the album “No Hit Wonders.” Are all these groups and artists unknown? Are they Wombat’s favourites? Are they all from a certain region? Wombat! I need a debriefing!
So, with a plea for tolerance for my intolerance of guitar chords, onwards…
Never Aim to Please – Bash & Pop
This song is exactly what I think of when I think “country-rock” (if that’s even the name of the music genre): tight high-hat tsch tsch tsch tsch making your toes tap, reasonably forgettable guitar riffs paired with interesting lyrics. Not a huge fan of this fellow’s voice – it’s a bit thin – but my colleague just snickered at my unconscious chair dancing so I’m having fun with it. It’s those drums, tsch tsch tsch tsch. Totally addictive.
Hurricane Season – Billy Pilgrim
Slow beginning, love the rippling guitar. What an interesting voice this man has – gravelly and raw, yet high, and beautifully mixed with however is doing the backup vocals in the chorus. The lyrics are incredible: “Beyond this place lie monsters.” I also – is this a throwback to my own prairie rates? – love the twang that creeps into this otherwise fairly neutrally-accented voice on the last syllable of the chorus: “It’s hur-ri-cane sea-suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn!”
Toy Soldier – Riverdogs
Not the Martika song, I was oddly surprised to discover on my first listening. This song makes me laugh because it’s SO country music: “There’s a hole in my pocket where my dreams of hope are falling through.” There’s something about it – can’t put my finger on it – that reminds me of early 90s hair metal, done with a slight twang. It’s like The Darkness decided to do a country album next, complete with extended and highly dramatic guitar solo.
But Not Tonight – New Cars
Funky country, great lyrics (although I’m marginally hung up on the first line – doesn’t the fact that he likes the “cologne” mean this song is for another man, or do women also wear cologne?). This song would be great live, with the audience chiming in on the title line all the time. The bridge of the song is amazing, with an almost 80s-pop vibe. This one will end up on my iPod for sure.
By the Way (Not Even Then) – Uncle Green
This song is totally made by its backup vocals and its lyrics. It’s not nearly as typically country as the previous four songs: the drumbeat and the call-and-answer singing makes me think of The Barenaked Ladies, actually, except a bit less artsy and more… what?... radio friendly, except without the negative connotations that term implies. I can see this one being a hit (although it’s a “No Hit Wonder” so I guess it wasn’t). I dig it. Whee!
The Harder They Come – Stevie Salas
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this disc is a collection of Wombat’s favourite unknown songs, because there is a definite style in this collection. This song is driven by this heavy pounding almost metallic base drum, similar gravelly voice, funky chorus, 90s heavy metal vibe despite it being arguably country music. If I had to compare this with anyone, I’d say Primus gone country, though replacing Les’ bass with that boom boom boom drum line.
Remembered Sun – Adam Schmitt
I’m trying to keep this really positive because I remember someone not liking one of the songs I put on a past Shuffleathon mix and I was totally gutted when I read that in his review. This song… is doing nothing for me. I like his voice and it’s toe-tapping enough but I’m just not feeling it. I’m sorry, Wombat!
Last Plane Out – Toy Matinee
A theatrical beginning, sliding from a briefly terrifying “waaa-ooooo” to funky guitar to this great underbeat and light, playful lyrics. The “waaa-oooo” returns in the chorus but it mixes nicely with the plucky little melody. I prefer the verses to the chorus, tune-wise, but it’s a fun song and that light guitar plucking sliding into the heavier drumbeat guitar ROCKS. I am far more persuaded by a good drum than I realized…
Very Best Years – The Grays
Texan garage band – nice! Super melody in the chorus, with the guitar plucking the rapidfire notes up along with the singer. That chord.chord.chord. guitar style of the verses is a bit Emo/Powder Punk but the combination of the chord.chord.chord. with the really melodic chorus is reminiscent of the way Queen used to cobble together disparate styles in a unified whole. I like this song a lot, actually.
The Father, The Son and the Harlot’s Ghost – Matt Duke
This song is a beautiful poem set to music, sung with that earnest tone that made Jack Johnson a star. His voice makes my hair stand on end (in a good way) when he taps into the falsetto – I’d like to hear more of his music, especially if there’s more of this. I kind of wish the music wasn’t so overproduced, because his voice with simpler background composition would be really hauntingly beautiful. The more I listen to this song, the more I dig it. Really, this wasn’t a hit?
The Last Sleep – Marvellous3
This would be the kind of country-rock that doesn’t do much for me, though I can easily understand why it would appeal to millions and millions of fans. I think my issue with this kind of music is the same issue I have with a lot of classic rock: it lacks overt drama… no howling lyrics, thumping guitar, funky little musical lilts.
Lonely Me Lonely You – Naked Soul
Another guitar rock song. Not bad, it’s just… they all kind of sound the same to me, I suppose. That sounds so terrible. I’d love to know why Wombat likes this song (assuming she does) so that I can hear it through her ears and appreciate it more. I feel like I’m missing out on something I should be catching. It’s a very perplexing feeling.
Shoutin Ground - Terrell
This song would be best played in a good car stereo, loudly, sung at full volume by you and four of your closest friends while on a roadtrip somewhere awesome. Singing of the guitar solo a must. Improvised call-backs encouraged: “Can’t say damn! Can’t say damn!” This song is fun fun fun. A great end to the album. Whow, whow whow whow. Head nodding. Brilliant.
And there we go! I’m not going to rate it because I still think it’s wicked cool that some lovely stranger in Texas took the time to make little ole’ me a cd, regardless of whether it contains my 12 new favourite artists or not, and such effort and generosity is an automatic 10/10 as far as I’m concerned.
But seriously, Wombat, I need a debriefing! What was your thought process behind these 12 songs? How did you choose them?
And, more than anything, THANKS. Really.
An enormous thanks also, of course, to Tim for arranging this incredible swap every year. It’s a lot of work and organizing for cds that you will never hear (I think we should all thank him by sending him a copy of the one we made for our person – who’s in?) and it’s so appreciated.
Oh heck, just reading about another happy customer is all the thanks I need. Thanks to Wombat for her CD (is that the same Stevie Salas as was once in the Colorcode, incidentally? I used to love that album), and thanks to Erika for her lovely, thoughtful and fulsome write up. Both welcome to come and claim a beer from me any time we happen to be in roughly the same geographical location.
Right, still lots of reviews to come (and one CD still to be sent out, by my reckoning - any news on that monogodo?) Please do let me know how you're getting on and if you've got around to publishing your thoughts on the disk that you have most likely received by now (sorry Paul - it'll get there eventually, I'm sure). The reviews are the best bit - I know they can be hard to write, but there's nothing as satisfying as a well thought out response to a mixtape sent by a total stranger, eh?
As always, any updates on progress should be sent to the email address in my profile.
|1. Me ||yes||yes |
|4. Planet Me||yes||yes|
|12. Cody Bones||yes||review|
|17. Joe the Troll||yes||yes|
|28. The Great Grape Ape||yes||review|
|29. Paul W||yes|
Oh, and as always, I must add that the shuffleathon is based upon an original concept by the lovely YokoSpungeon.... thanks Yoko.