The Serpico Mixes: The X(3) Disc

 In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)

 Triple the fun!

Triple the fun!

Mix #6

Theme: X(3)

 

 NUMBER!  (image from rachelberryblog.com)

NUMBER!  (image from rachelberryblog.com)

Three is a Magic Number by Schoolhouse Rock- "Figure Eight" is a better offering in the "Number Songs from Schoolhouse Rock" subgenre if for no other reason than it somehow achieves an almost existential level of sadness from fairly innocuous lyrics.

However, that's not a slight on "Three" here, just an acknowledgement of the shadow it lives under. This one's mystical reverence for three feels very of the time to me, although I'm sure that is based on a mountain of misconceptions about the U.S. in the Seventies. But in a decade that gave us "Age of Aquarius" a song about the magical qualities of the number 3 seems pretty in line with that kind of attitude. It also happens to be a lot less annoying and a lot more fun than a lot of the "mystical/spiritual" songs of that era, at least in my estimation.

Bang Bang Bang by Mark Ronson and Business Intl- This is a great "it's on but I'm not really listening song." It has energy, the alternating voices (at least 2, although the female voice, if it is just one, modulating up and down to present two distinctive sounds) occasionally pull your attention, the electronic music is fun and suitable repetitive without being boring. It's not great for a club, but at a house party or part of a mix listened to at the gym or while working, I like it. Listening to it closely does not enhance it though.

Please Please Please by Fiona Apple- I appreciate how Apple can alter the texture of her voice ever so slightly to give a different effect. On the "please, please, please"'s she is so light and vulnerable. Then, when she moves to the "harder" "give us something familiar" section, she gets a bit more edge in her voice and the song becomes angrier and, almost, sinister (for like 6 words). It hints at a reservoir of anger under the plaintive request it initially seems.

Die, Die, Die by The Avett Brothers- Ok, I'll admit it. It took me looking up the title of this one to realize that the d-intoned chorus was not just a nonsense noise, ala "lalala", but rather "die, die, die," which singlehandedly made me love this song all the more.

I have a weird thing for apocalyptic (be it worldwide or personal) music that it pretty upfront with the whole "end of your (or all existence)" message but wraps it in a great dance track (see, Prince's "1999," "Seven," and probably several others), a Christmas carole (Weird Al's "Christmas at Ground Zero"), German lyrics that sound light and airy, not harsh (Nena's "99 Luftballoons"), or simply a relentless cheerful singing presentation (Nick Lowe's "Marie Provost"), This is one such offering. At it lands with me very easily.

I dare you to listen and avoid singing, "You can try to swim the sea but say goodbye to you and me," or "you can try to hold the breeze, you can try to hold the sun, but say goodbye to everyone" to yourself. But maybe don't sing it too loud or around people.

Amy, Amy, Amy by Amy Winehouse- What a damn tragedy...

Anyway.

So few songs are, in my opinion, worthy of the moniker "sexy." For instance, I know tons of people who insist "Raspberry Beret," is a sexy tune, if not the sexiest tune. For me though-- I confess this knowing only head shakes await me--it's just not.

This one here though, this is a sexy song.

Done in her usual throwback style with a nice brass section and a percussion that line that keeps the beat while tactically drops out here and there as a sort of moment of emphasis.

Favorite lines, "I think he'd wear me well," and "Where's my moral parallel?" but it is all good. A perfect bit of "God, I want him but this might not be the best idea" songwriting.

Hot Hot Hot by The Cure- Reminder: The Cure does not just do mope music. In my head, I actually had this as a Talking Heads tune-- I think it's the orchestration that made me think that-- and it was good to be reminded that The Cure are not just one note (if you can forgive that sort of pun).

In addition to the Talking Heads thing, I also found myself wondering if Robert Smith had been listening to Stones' records before recording this one. I detect a definite Jagger sound to his voice.

Dance, Dance, Dance by Lykke Li- I played this song 4 or 5 times in a row and each time ended up focusing on something else like 30 seconds in. Embarassing to confess, but true. So I guess I didn't like it all that much.

Sick, Sick, Sick by Queens of the Stone Age- This song starts with split second of "metal scream," which was disconcerting. I have no issues with metal scream but, in my experience, songs that open with it usually are not my thing. However, it was over so quickly, I can hardly count it. The rest of the song certainly does not play "metal" to me.

It gets points for an Oingo Boingo-esque horn part that recurs through the song in increasingly distorted/sublimated ways until returning to its original form in the last verse. In fact, the musical portion is by far my favorite aspect of this song. Lyrically, things were just too murky for me to pick much out. I can't say I disliked the song since I did like the music of it, but without some kind of lyrics to hook into, it's an incomplete experience for me.

Monday, Monday, Monday by Tegan and Sara- Shouldn't Tegan and Sara be Tegan & Sara? I'm just saying.

So here's what I wonder about this song. How much of this is directed towards the ex and how much is this self-addressed. In other words are T&S damning the ex's mood swings or their own? Are they demanding "what is wrong" with her or with themselves?

Recently there was an interview with the duo where they spoke about making music that they like, that they are not really looking to fit in any genre or purposelessly choosing any direction. Now, I have some doubts about how accurate this strictly is, if they really are just flying by their pants, going wherever the winds take them without calculation. Regardless though, they are versatile and this is demonstrates that versatility well. Different than other songs of theirs I have heard and liked yet still strong on its own merits and very much them.

Take, Take, Take by The White Stripes- Jack White slowly but steadily raises the level of all that he needs until the celebrity recipient walks away without fulfilling them, leaving him angry and still utterly un-self-aware. A far less dramatic offering of fan ignoring and pushing the boundaries of their heroes without understanding their objects of desire are people too than say Eminem’s “Stan.” However, it is not beyond the pale to imagine this POV character not giving up so easily after the brush off and tragedy occurring.

Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me by Blossom Dearie- A nice, if thin, offering from the year that my father turned three. This is not one I would ever choose for myself, but it did not bother me at all to listen to it either.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps by Cake- I know this song as the theme song to the “FRIENDS of England” show COUPLING where it was performed by Mari Wilson. It actually dates back to 1947 and was originally a Spanish language track. It has been released as a cover by other artists over 40 times since.

Cake’s version is…just ok with me. A fairly quirky song from a fairly quirky band sounds like it should work, but it somehow does not. It is not bad, but it is not really good either.

Ring, Ring, Ring by De La Soul- Odes to talking on the phone is one of the odder subgenres in music but they are definitely a thing. And within this subgenre, I’d recommend this one over most.

Lord Lord Lord by Kayne West- This is a seven and a half minute hip hop track. Almost every genre of music that connects to pop (so, your rock, hiphop, alternative, R&B, and so on) has a hard time reaching that length without feeling bloated. “Lord” does not manage the feat either. It feels like a few different songs connected by the “Lord, Lord, Lord” repetitive chorus that also eats almost two minutes at the end of the song. There is good verses and turns of phrase here but boy is being crushed under its own weight.

Girls, Girls, Girls by Jay-Z- The most fun song about having women in multiple ports? Probably. Is it troubling from feminist standpoint? Certainly.

Long, Long, Long by The Beatles- It’s surprising to me how “current” the Beatles can still sound. For the first few notes of this, if you had told me it was anyone from Nick Drake to Elliot Smith to Ray LaMontagne and I would have believed it without question.

That said, the last 30 seconds certainly reminds one that this is no one but a Beatles’ song with the crescending music that more or less ditches the sound of the song up to that point and…is that someone moaning?

No No No by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs- First, the title is funny, no?

Second, the song should’ve ended at 3:04 with the “shh” rather than add another two minutes on it.

Yo Yo Yo by the Beatnuts- You have to admire a song that reminds “shit” with itself as much as this one does. It is a feat.

As you might expect from that, this is not exactly the most deep, smartest hip hop song. It is energetic though with a group that clearly is just having fun singing it and that’s pretty infectious.

Joy! Joy! Joy! by Sufjan Stevens- When Sufjan has a conversation with, I assume himself, at around a minute and a half into this song, I kind of lost it. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here. Between that moment, the 8-bit solos, and the almost soaring the song does, it is a tune of several pieces none of which seem to fit.

Yuki! Yuki! Yuki! by Anathallo- A pleasant palate cleanser at the end of the disc. It makes me think of stop motion for some reason.