Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jam of the day: "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"

Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Album: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Song: "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"
Released: May 14, 1969
Label: Reprise

Man, Neil Young is somethin' else. This is hard-driving folk rock at its finest, all the way back from 1969. I found a used copy of this LP at Jerry's a few months ago and picked it up, thinking at the time, "Hey, I haven't really listened to a lot of Neil in my life, maybe I should check this out." I'm really glad I made that decision. There are a few skips on this scratchy copy I have, but who cares, I've played this like every other day since then. It jumps right in with the handclaps and epic riff of "Cinnamon Girl", and when the beautiful "Round & Round" winds to an end and the first quiet guitar strum of "Down By The River" kicks in and I know that this awesome jam is about to run its course, building a 9+ minute folk rock freakout … yeah, definite eargasm.

But the song I want to mention is the title track, another wonderful gem of a folk rock song. The "la la la" falsetto sticks in your head, and I've found myself singing it out loud while walking/riding around town lately. The bass is bouncy and playful, the guitar is as catchy as anything else ever, and the overall mood of the song is perfect for those times when I've just put the album on and stretched out on my couch and stared out the window at the rain clouds, trying to forget about everything else. By chance, the song was also mentioned on an episode of NPR's All Songs Considered that I listened to just the other day, whence the impetus for the post. They were looking for songs that represented "summer" for listeners, and one lady sent in a perfect description of why this song always signals, for her, the return to her small town life in the summer, going back home and seeing the same people that all know each other. Listen to the podcast; this story starts at the 11:15 mark. It is really a perfect story. This is why we like music. Seriously, listen to her story.

"Everybody seems to wonder what it's like down here / I gotta get away from this day-to-day runnin' around / Everybody knows this is nowhere"

Buy Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere: Insound / Amazon / iTunes / eMusic

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jam of the day: "Antenna"

Artist: Sonic Youth
Album: The Eternal
Song: "Antenna"
Released: June 9, 2009
Label: Matador Records

Consider this my first entry in an attempt to get back to an actual "jam of the day", as in a daily sharing of a jam. I played The Eternal on my mini-speakers in my bathroom while showering earlier this evening. Usually, I play something upbeat and poppy that I can sing along to (or at least try to, before realizing I can't sing at all) but this time I felt like something more ... I don't know, sprawling, less "sing-songy". I picked Sonic Youth's latest studio LP because I can kinda sing along to some of it, like "Sacred Trixster", but also because it would be fun to blare in a tiny, tiled room. I definitely belted out the verses of the pop-punk speed-ride of "Sacred Trixster" and did my best to mirror Kim Gordon's husky "uh uh uh uh" during "Anti-Orgasm", then struggled with the lyrics to "Leaky Lifeboat" (I haven't quite picked those up yet) but then "Antenna" came on and I pretty much blissed out while rinsing out the conditioner from my lengthy locks. It's not often that a song comes along and stops you in your tracks. In particular, I thought back to watching Sonic Youth play some of these songs for a session a couple years ago when the album came out. I remembered the way that Thurston Moore alternates some foot pedals during the "uh huh -- uh huh" part of "Sacred Trixster" and mimicked that part with my feet. I remembered the overhead view of Steve Shelley's drum parts during "What We Know" and the way Lee Ranaldo leans back during the rising guitar riffs and then leans back into the mic to sing. (Yeah, I really like that song. A lot.) And then I thought of "Antenna" when it came on my iPod. The album version of the song is 6+ minutes, stretching out some noisy guitar effects over a lovely melody, with slow crescendos and plaintive singing all about ... the effect of technology on society? The inevitable singularity? The disconnect between human contact and intercontinental communication? Hard to say. What I can say, though, is that this song is a true jam. It has the ability to steal my thoughts away and wedge my mind into the spaces between the notes and carry me along the undulating sound waves to wherever they're going. And then I'm back where I started, sitting here at my kitchen table with headphones on. And then the journey starts all over again.

Buy The Eternal: Matador Records / SYR Store / Insound / Amazon / iTunes