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!)
Theme: The Sold Disc: Songs that Sold Skip on Particular Bands
Hard to Explain by The Strokes- I like The Strokes quite a bit and I dig the odd lyrics of this song but musically and vocally, it always sounds like it is underwater or coming through a thick piece of glass. Flattened out and suppressed.
Song that sold me: Last Nite (unsurprisingly. Yes, I know.)
Go With the Flow by Queens of the Stone Age- Oddly, this is a Queens song I don’t think I am familiar with. Even odder, it is now one of my favorite offerings of theirs.
Song that sold me (insofar as I am sold on them): No One Knows (again, I’m horribly mainstream. Apologies)
Sweetness by Jimmy Eat World- Great minds think alike. While “The Middle” was an ok enough song, it was kind of disposable radio music to me. I was glad to have it when it came on but it did not rise to “I want this song for times besides when it is on the radio.” “Sweetness,” however, just…got into my blood. I loved it from the first listen. I still love it. It still feels fresh and immediate to me, all these years later. I can’t help but get elevated by it.
Song that sold me: Sweetness
Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse- While, like so many, I came to Modest Mouse through “Float On,” “Ocean” was the first song that really made it clear to me who the band was. It introduced me to their circuitous lyrics, their somewhat radio adverse composition, their predilection towards contemplation of human mortality. I loved “Float On,” but this was the song that made me love Modest Mouse in total.
Song that sold me: Float On
When U Were Young by The Killers- What’s this song about, like really? I have no idea. It has the kind of lyrics that could launch a fleet of lyrical interpretation papers with its ambiguity. And that’s great.
I don’t really need to know what it’s about, not definitively. In fact, the oddness of the lyrics is a positive of it, in my opinion. The bittersweet longing for youth (which always struck me as metaphorical, not literal…the person being addressed by Flowers is young in age, just old in experience/pain), the casting of this next suitor as a sort of romantic Savior, thus bringing in the Jesus comparisons, the sense of a past littered with bad men who did wrong…it’s a powerful package.
And that opening guitar riff…so damn good.
Song that sold me: Somebody Told Me
I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)- The best song ever to use the phrase “gushi stuff” in reference to sex? Almost certainly. Plus it is apparently based on a true story, whatever the hell that means.
One of those rare hip hop songs where I absolutely love the music of it. The Neptunes are pretty darn good at production, I tell you what.
Song that sold me: Hard Knock Life (but not right upon its release…a bit of a time later)
Crooked Teeth by Death Cab for Cutie- It’s interesting that this is the song that sold Skip on Death Cab because, in many ways, it does not really sound like them to me. I mean, I quite like the song, but it just is not very indicative, in my opinion, of their catalog overall.
My favorite part of this tune is the couple of brief verses, merged with a simple piano melody. It is like the song was composed as a play and those moments are micro soliloquys, asides to the audience, if you will.
Song that sold me: The Sound of Settling
Downtown by Tegan and Sara- A great chorus that occasionally loses my interests during the verses.
Song that sold me: Walking with a Ghost (working backward from the White Stripes’ cover)
Strange Condition by Peter Yorn- This is the first time it ever occurred to me that this song could literally be about a guy in prison. I don’t think it is, mind you, I think it is a song about a guy who’s begging either for a manic pixie dream girl or is begging to his manic pixie dream girl. But, lyrically, it is constructed in a way that it could be literally about the thing it is about. I respect that. So many songs that are “well, I’m saying this but really it is about this” give it away at some point but Yorn has a closed circle of a song here.
A closed circle of a song that I quite like, by the by. Well written, musically sound, and his voice adds this sort of eerie hush to it, reining in lyrics that almost beg for belting and making the whole thing stronger as a result. I wouldn’t mind someone doing a cover where they just went to town on it though, just to see how it was without his cool, emotionally withdrawn take.
Song that sold me: Sleep Better
Star Witness by Neko Case- As an almost alt-country story song, I am predisposed to love this song. And I do. For some reason, the part that kills me every time with this song is the simple line “And the sidewalk skins my knee.” I don’t know why, but it just seems so perfect each time I hear it. The rest of the song does not really live up to the emotion that lyric induces in me, but that’s just because it sets the bar so high.
Song that sold me: Magpie to the Morning
When the Stars Go Blue by Ryan Adams- Such a beautiful song. So very beautiful.
Song that sold me: Answering Bell
Our Hearts are Wrong by Jessica Lea Mayfield- Disappointing. I found it uninvolving and bland, I’m sorry to say.
Song that sold me: Bible Days
Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith- Not one of my favorite Smith’s song but still excellent because, well, Elliott Smith was excellent on damn near every song.
Song that sold me: Between the Bars
Mushaboom by Feist- Fun! Love the music in particular with the (maybe) clog dancing sound as the bed. Never heard this one before and am glad it is now part of my life.
Song that sold me: Honey Honey
Sunrise by Norah Jones – Oh no! Feel myself…growing tired…eyelids heavy. SSSSSSSSNORE!
Still not sold on her but song that forces me to grudgingly admit she’s not just a maker of slumber music: Skip has made me eat crow several times on Ms. Jones, but Light as a Feather was the most glaring example. Damn that is a good song!
Who Shot Ya? by The Notorious B.I.G.- The opening is great. When Biggie start though…less so. Not his fault though, the music track is the culprit. Ugh. Without the “as we proceed” sample, the music just kills the momentum of the song.
Song that sold me (if I am): Juicy
Boy With a Coin by Iron & Wine- I’m not sure if you can call any Iron & Wine song energetic with a straight face, but this gets close. Nice rhythm and pacing here and the music, with the possible exception of the overly intrusive slide guitar, is very good.
Song that sold me: Such Great Heights, although I don’t think I realized it was I&W until later. Half Moon might be the first “sold” song that I knew was I&W.
Around the Block by Badly Drawn Boy- Bouncy. A bit of a throwback feel musically here.
I do wish the mix was just tweaked a bit. Badly Drawn never makes his voice big and expansive so turning up the vocals a bit might’ve helped them stand up to the music track a bit better. Not noticeable enough to make me dislike the song at all, but as a guy who really values the lyrical content and respect Badly Drawn’s writing, I would’ve liked to have seen them get a bit more prominent featuring.
Song that sold me: Silent Sigh
Talk Show Host by Radiohead- Wow. Deep cut here. Kind of reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins musically (I mean that as a compliment but I can understand if others would question me on that). A bit too slow and disconnected for my taste overall. Yorke doesn’t seem very invested into what he’s sing/saying.
Song that sold me: Creep (come on, could it be anything else?)