Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oh, happy day!

Believe it or not, the Octopus Motor has now been cluttering up the Internet for a full year! For a number of reasons, I decided to avoid SXSW like the plague this year, so no long-winded recap of all the awesome bands I saw. Sorry. But worry not, I would not forget you on this, the most exciting of days. Instead, I have assembled the Octopus Motor Paper Anniversary mix-CD. Below you will find a track-by-track listing of the mix, complete with comments about each song, and, when available, videos for each track. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for exciting, year-two entries, like “the Southland Tales Experiment” where I watch Southland Tales and drink lots of whiskey. Fun!

The Octopus Motor Paper Anniversary Mix:

1. Toilet Boys – Another Day in the Life

I first heard this song my freshman year of college, and it has never ceased to kick ass. It’s one of the most simple-minded songs I have ever heard. That may be why it has stayed in my collection for so long. Really it all just boils down to fun, gritty rock. And I think we all could use a little more grit and a lot more fun in our lives.

2. Chris Connelly – Spoonfed Celeste

At the time that Chris Connelly was recording this song, he was doing vocal/keyboard duties in bands like Ministry, the Revolting Cocks, and the Killing Joke, amongst other industrial luminaries. Connelly has always fascinated me. I first noticed him after seeing him live as a member of Pigface, and I started to realize that this guy was wholly different from the rest of the industrial metal circus. Then I heard this country-tinged piano romp. Needless to say, Connelly and the industrial music scene eventually parted ways. Both parties were probably better off for it.

3. Brother Ali – Take Me Home

My brother played this song for me a few times over the holidays as he was assembling his annual holiday mix-CD. The first time I really listened to it, though, was the afternoon of December 31st. I was driving south on I-35, heading home from Round Rock, feeling particularly unpleased with life. I was in a foul mood following some particularly foul turns in life. As I was driving, listening to the aforementioned holiday mix-CD thinking about how life wasn’t “all rainbows und sunshine,” this song came on. I was blown away. I have never heard anything so self-affirming and uplifting. I played the song on repeat for the remainder of the drive, and ever since then I can’t not listen to this song and feel better about life, myself, and the world in general.

4. Faith No More – Surprise! You’re Dead!

Mike Patton may be the greatest man ever. Literally ever. Is there anything that this guy hasn’t done or can’t do? I seriously doubt it. I mean, listen to this thrashing, proto-rap/metal gem, then put on some old Mr. Bungle, and maybe finish off with some Fantómas or Peeping Tom. I wish I could say more, but really, I just want to take him behind the middle school and get him pregnant.

5. Liars – Plaster Casts of Everything

Liars are by far the greatest band around today. They never cease to surprise with their unbridled creativity, combined with their “fuck ‘em” attitude towards fans’ and critics’ expectations. (Though, we all know how I feel about them.) “Plaster Casts of Everything” is a driving, muscular rock song, unlike anything they’ve done before. Pulsing, repetitive, and catchy, it’s probably the closest they’ve ever come to a straight up, non-weird rocker. Which means, it’s still pretty weird.

6. Skeletons & the Girl-faced Boys – Git

I first gave this band a try based on their name alone. I mean, c’mon, “Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys” is bound to lead to something at least mildly excellent, right? Skeletons’ music is like old, funk-influenced Prince, but played by a bunch of white futurists. The digital sheen, electronic blips, and fuzzy keyboards combine with leader singer/songwriter Matt Mehlan’s falsetto voice to make catchy, strange, funky pop music. If you like your music fun, synthetic, and with a healthy dose of good-spirited experimentalism thrown in, I recommend checking these guys out. (Though, they tend to change their name a lot, so I’m not sure what they’re going by these days.)

7. Of Montreal – Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider

There are a lot of Of Montreal haters out there. Stuffy hipsters who have decided that the band has become too commercial and is no longer cool enough to acknowledge that they’re pretty fucking great. Fuck off, hipsters. They are great. The entire Hissing Fauna album is great; wrapping gloomy lyrics about divorce, bi-polar disorder, and nervous breakdowns in gleaming, upbeat, shiny pop songs. Not to mention that this song in particular is one of the rare instances where Kevin Barnes lets himself give a big “fuck you” to the source of his many problems.

8. Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancing

Despite about not wanting to dance, I can’t listen to this and not dance. I wonder if they planned that…

9. M.I.A. – Bamboo Banga

It took me a while to warm up to M.I.A., maybe it had something to do with the fact that every time I saw one of her videos or album covers I instantly got a migraine, quickly followed by a seizure. Her music is pretty good, though. The old school, Casio-style synths and her chanting staccato delivery make for a particularly engaging combination. This song more or less won me over with the lines “Now I’m sitting down, chilling on gunpowder/strike match light fire/who’s that girl called Maya.” Just don’t look directly at her.

10. Saul Williams – Black History Month

The production by Trent Reznor is fantastic. The lyrics, though maybe not the best, are delivered with such fiery conviction that it easily makes up for their shortcomings on paper. The particularly awkward spoken word portion is saved the moment Williams yells “Let these suckers know the cost of making Harriet run” just as the thundering drum line creeps back into the mix and takes over.

11. Powerman 5000 – Car Crash

Following the uber-earnestness of Saul Williams, I think it’s time for a little reprieve by way of the slums of goofy alt-metal. Maybe one of the dumbest songs I have ever heard, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s awesome. Well, maybe “awesome” is too strong a word, but how many songs include references to Mad Max? Not enough.

12. Alice Cooper – Desperado

A moody ballad by a Detroiter about an old-West style gunslinger, this song strikes a particular chord with me. Not that I’m a gunslinger or anything, but I am a native Michigander who made the unlikely journey down into the heart of Texas. Maybe it’s a stretch, or maybe it’s the understated guitar accompanying Alice’s brooding vocals that explode in tandem into a wicked double-barreled snarl. Alice lamenting “You’re a notch/and I’m a legend/You’re at peace/and I must hide” in a deep, gravelly voice over thick, powerful guitars.

13. Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down – Fear and Convience

I find this song to be extremely comforting. Sort of like crawling under a blanket after coming inside from the cold, or taking a hot shower after walking through the rain. The playful guitars and mid-tempo rollicking drums perfectly compliment Nguyen’s coy, woman-girl lyrics and vocals.

14. Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You

I wonder if the Black Kids will be able to survive the huge amount of hype surrounding them. Regardless, they will at least always have this song. Fast, kind of messy, and begging to be sung along to, this song always makes me want to shake it. Too bad your boyfriend’s just going to “bite my moves.”

15. Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism

This is the first Dresden Dolls song I ever heard. Which might have been an unfortunate thing for me, because no matter what else I hear by them, I always compare it back to this. The spastic pianos and frantic spouting of lyrics about self-mutilation and child birth make for an insanely enjoyable two and a half minutes. As much as I enjoy their other stuff, nothing compares to the piano stomp of “Girl Anachronism.”

16. High on Fire – Rumors of War

This band renewed my faith in modern, straight-up metal. The brief pause after the line “spit in the evil eyes” before the guitar, bass, and drums explode under Pike’s growling “Stand our ground with hate and fury/Fear that comes will die” gives me chills. And sort of makes me want to shake some people by their collars before punching them in the face. Of course, this really isn’t new news.

17. Blur – the Universal

I don’t really like Blur all that much. I mean, they’re OK, but I’m more or less indifferent to them. But “the Universal” is one of the greatest songs I have ever heard. The strings and lyrics lend a dark, surreal undercurrent to the song (e.g. “No one here is alone/satellites in every home/yes the universal’s here/here for everyone”), before it the music rises into the anthemic chorus of “It really, really, really could happen/yes, it really, really, really could happen/and the days they seem to fall through you/well just let them go.” For whatever reason, it always bring to mind a generic movie ending, where the main character walks down the street, back to the camera, as the camera slowly pans back, higher and higher into the sky, and we know that no matter what trials and tribulations our hero suffered through, he’s going to be alright.

18. Hefner – Hello Kitten

There’s always room on a mix for a folksy rock song about masturbation.

19. David Bowie – Golden Years

Along with jam bands and house music, I can’t stand blue-eyed soul and white funk music. And yet, it’s as if Bowie keeps creeping up on me and whispering in my ear, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” This is straight up white funk, but it’s also really good. I don’t know how he does it, but I love walking down the street, my giant, goofy, DJ-style headphones on, listening to that bass line and hearing Bowie tell me “Don’t let me hear you say, life’s taking you no-o-where.” It totally makes me strut like I have a moustache.

20. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Ballad of Broken Seas

I love Mark Lanegan’s voice, but I’ve always been a little frustrated by it. He seems to have a problem finding the right style of music to make full use of it’s deep, whiskey and cigarette soaked sound. Who’d of thought that an ex-Belle and Sebastian member would be the one to bring it out? “Ballad of Broken Seas” might not be the best song on their duet album, but its gentle pianos, plaintive cello, and tales of self-destruction seem like a fitting end.