Friday, February 05, 2010

"And the Stars Fell Over Michigan: A Parallel History, Courtesy of Mango Mush: The Top 7 Songs of the Past Decade That Did Not Appear on the BpB Top 100, Part 1 of 1: #7 to #1

Given that it took nearly three months to compile my top 100 songs of the '00s, you'd think that no song would elude my radar. I put so much thought into that list (there are Excel spreadsheets!) and you have to admit it's the best list I've ever written (emphasis on 'written' as opposed to 'list.") But I did forget a few songs here and there. In other cases, I underrated or overrated certain songs. And then there are the songs I had never heard until 2010.

Actually, forgetting songs isn't that bad - there were about 30 trillion songs written/performed/recorded during the decade. No one is perfect. Not even me. Well I was perfect once. It was the mid-nineties. I took the GRE test before applying for grad school. My score on the since-discontinued Analytical portion? A perfect 800. God, I loved that standardized test with limited predictive validity.

But I didn't want to edit my existing list. I will let it stand on it own, its all-over-the-place but not-that-many-places quirkiness a monument to that part of my being that feels the music. There is only one Blueprint Blue song list.

But, back in the early days of this blog when my first and last name appeared in the URL (not a good move, professionally), it wasn't always called BpB. It was known by various names and one of my favorite incarnations was when it was briefly (very briefly) called Mango Mush, after a period when it was The Mango (which was supposed to sound like The Onion but tastier and fruitier... but people assumed that it was some kind of reference to the Saturday Night Live character Mango played by Chris Kattan. No!)

So, how about if I call this untimely fake list the Mango Mush Best Songs of the Decade. Becuase I am finishing this up in one entry (this is what's known in the industry as "filler"), we're only going through a limited number of songs. A top 10 list would be customary. But Mango Mush was an outsider blog. Mango Mush broke the rules. Mango Mush says "Rules??? What does that word even mean? Me want to write only about 7 songs as a way to pay tribute to that period of time back in the day when it always seemed that track 7 was always the best song on any CD... back when we had CDs." Which leads us to 

Mango Mush Presents:
The Top 7 Songs of the Past Decade That Did Not Appear on BpB Top 100

7. Good Fortune - PJ Harvey (2000)
Last week I stopped by the face recognition / family tree website They have a feature where you can upload your photo and they return a list of celebrities who supposedly look like you. First on the list for me? PJ Harvey. 

Now, the obvious response is "Ali, you're a guy; she's a girl." But look at her. Look closely. Holy crap, it's my doppelganger. No need to wonder what I'd look like with long messy dark hair and an inability to hold the weight of my own head. 

If I had a sister who was a brunette, she'd look like PJ Harvey. But I do not have a ... wait, yes I do indeed have a brunette sister and she looks nothing like PJ Harvey. Rather, she resembles Sandra Bullock mixed with Rico's wife from Six Feet Under.

Anyway, great album. And Good Fortune is a great song. Okay, time to post a link and move on to the next song. But wait. STOP.

(talking to myself... Ali, didn't you once write a poem about your dislike of PJ Harvey? You titled it My PJ Harvey Problem. You recently posted it on your under-read poetry site.)

Yes. I did. But that was the 90s. The 90s were over when the album with the #7 song was released.

6. Little Bird - Jazzanova featuring Jose James (2008)
It took guts for me to type the word "Jazzanova" on this list. Because that's a truly wretched band name. One of the worst ever, right up there with Infected Mushroom and Cowboy Junkies. But Jazzanova, though talented and resourceful, earnest and skillful, are not the story here. No, it's Jose James' awesome soaring vocal performance that I would say stands alone among that of all jazz singers of the decade if I listened to enough jazz to make such a statement. I did not listen to enough jazz to make such a statement. Besides, jazz? Who has the time? The new Jose James album comes out Tuesday. This is my (your) last chance to say you (I) heard of him before most everyone else did.

Little Bird is an example of a song I never heard until the decade was over. Number 5 is another one.

5. PS Exclusive - Life Without Buildings (2001)
World, I think we've found our female Craig Finn. Wait a second... you mean Life Without Buildings lead vocalist Sue Tompkins has retired from music after one album, that she wants to paint? Damn. Well, she had a good run as the best female talk-singer of her generation, an honor I bestow on her based on just this one song. Here it is. Enjoy PS Exclusive from 2001. Which I did not hear until 2010 (an acronym for 2001). I want to court and coddle her down solely for the way she says "exclusively." Not "exclusive" but "exclusively."

4. Singing Joy to the World - Fruit Bats (2009)
Don't manipulate me, Fruit Bats! Don't toy with my pop culture-focused suburban-upbringing-informed emotional reservoir. Eric Johnson, you cannot write a song like this and not expect me to almost practically nearly cry when you sing "She didn't love him back. It wasn't even close." But I smile (as does the guy in the song) when I picture her dancing to I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man at the Michigan bar. Which brings up a question: In this song, there are separate references to a cantina, a Mexican restaurant, and a bar. A Mexican restaurant is  sometimes called a "cantina" especially when it's marketed by non-Mexicans. And cantinas pretty much all have bars. So: are the cantina, restaurant, and bar three separate places? One place? Two places?

We can rule out three places with a careful reread of the opening lines:
He got lonely every time the cantina lights came up on the Indian Casino Queen
'Cause he'd loved her from the time she'd been the waitress at the Mexican place where he'd left his keys
(Note to me: Try the "losing my keys" trick some time.) So then she's dancing at "the bar" where they play the Prince song... the bar might be connected to the cantina but probably not the Mexican place, it nearly being on the wrong side of town (my theory). No those are three different places and then there's the fairgrounds and the parking lot at 3AM. But what is the parking lot for? The bar? The cantina? Perhaps a hacienda-style bistro? And if you can't follow me, it's okay. Just keep reading, keep listening. We're not going anywhere.

If you have 40 minutes to spare, listen to their amazing live performance on KCRW last week. Unlike all other bands save pre-Chicago Poi Dog Pondering, they sound even better than on the album. Video and audio of their radio thing here. Or just enjoy the track here

3. Space Humping $19.99 - Lifter Puller (2000)
Yeah how do I leave this off the list? I mean, these guys put out 15 songs on the 2000s and another 60 or so in the 1990s. I could have put all 15 songs on the top 100 list, along with 13 by The Hold Steady.  Those songs are that good. But I only placed 9 songs on the 100 (4 by LP, 5 by THS).  

And get this - I think Fiestas + Fiascos, their legendary 2000 album could have been BETTER. It's too short... some of the song ideas aren't as fully realized as on The Entertainment and Arts EP or the masterful singles from 2000 and 2001 (see number ONE on my top 100). But Space Humping? Awesome. 
What do you think his girl wants? 

"I love some funky drums and I hate some chunky drummers." Hey! One of my best friends is a chunky drummer!

I can't find a link to a video or a streaming track but this link will give you the song. Yeah it's free but be a sport and buy one one these LFTR PLLR hoodies. (I wear an XL hoodie but an L T-shirt btw.)  

2. Table For One - Liz Phair (2005)
Because she's Liz and she needs to be positively coaxed and and consistently encouraged to PUT OUT NEW SONGS. That's why I chose this song. Please, Elizabeth. Please.

But this isn't a charity pick. Damn this song makes me shiver from sadness. Damn this song makes me want to never feel what the narrator feels (felt): "I want to die alone with my sympathy beside me." Holy crap. That's not what we use sympathy for. Until we can't get it anywhere else. You nailed it Liz. You still got it. If you've got writer's block, I can help. I write poems too. You can make those poems sing! I heard you live in Manhattan Beach. I'll meet you at that one bar on that one corner. Oh and - let's never forget the greatest letter to the editor of this decade. Bitter? Yeah. Defensive? A little. Awesome and timeless? Yes. Oh, yeah: a song:

1. Myopic Books - American Music Club (2004)
I discussed my reasons for putting Mark Eitzel and AMC at #3 for Long, Long Walk, even after weeks of speculation that it would be #1. Well, I inexcusably forgot to include Myopic Books off their 2004 comeback Love Songs For Patriots. Let's run down the awesomeness:
  -Named after the actual Myopic Books in Chicago, yet I didn't know this after deciding I        loved this song. I had been to Myopic Books years earlier. I just didn't know its name then.
  -It's a song about a bookstore.
  -This verse
I'll find a bookstore and buy Saul Bellow
and one about old ruins
for my mother you never met her 
she liked Manhattan
they taste like mouthwash
she understood how to be alone
all alone
all alone
Look closely. She liked (past tense) Manhattans - meaning she's dead or she doesn't drink anymore (which to Mark might mean she's dead). They taste (present tense) like Manhattans. Hey just because she's dead doesn't mean her son hasn't tried them... doesn't mean they taste somehow different now. Nope, they still taste like mouthwash. She understood (past tense) how to be alone. Uh oh, she's not coming back. That's an understanding you never lose if you're lucky enough to get it. If it's past tense, she's no longer with us. Oh and Mark - if you're reading this - your best vocal ever.

And here's a great video of Mark Eitzel singing the song solo in the KCRW studios and KCRW, ikely marking the only moment in KCRW history when they bothered playing Eitzel or AMC, creators of some of the greatest songs ever and here I could give you a list of all the artists they do play who don't deserve the airplay but that would be petty and different people have different tastes and why would I use this forum - an opportunity to praise one band and singer - to complain about Damien Rice and the Gainsbourgs and Kinky and William Orbit and.... come one, influential radio station just play them once Play THIS song:

1 comment:

Jason said...

I literally do not know any of the bands that you mention. Surely this means I am a lame-o. But it 'splains by absence from the comments section during the songs list.