Lou Reed and John Cale
Songs for Drella
Last week, annoyed by recently released audio clips of Lou Reed’s dreadful, across-the-board embarrassing collaboration with Metallica, I set out on a journey through the considerable Lou Reed portion of my iTunes library in hopes of finding something to get the taste out of my mouth. I wound up spending some time with Songs for Drella, a 1990 album by Reed and John Cale based on the life of Andy Warhol. Even in spite of a handful of predictably clunky lyrics, I can’t shake the feeling that, if it’s not the single best, most insightful account of Warhol’s life (which I think it probably is), then it’s at the very least an inspiring portrait of an artist who constantly questioned his art but never his commitment to it. At its best, it comes off like an instruction manual for creative living, with lines like, "I hate being odd in a small town/ If they stare, let ‘em stare in New York" from "Small Town," and the simple, devastating, "I really care a lot, although I look like I do not," from "Nobody But You."
The Second Song on Every Ryan Adams Record
I have a feeling a lot of people are going to ignore Ashes and Fire, the first full-length of new, non-metal material from Ryan Adams since 2008, and his first since drifting out of the spotlight and settling down with Mandy Moore. It’s a shame, too, because it’s an exceedingly pretty record that boasts some great production work courtesy of Glyn Johns and a handful of classic, heartwarming melodies. But to be fair, it’s also sort of a sleepy record, with the exception of the second song, the infectious and relatively rousing title-track. It’s placement on the album got me thinking: I could make a playlist featuring exclusively the second song on each Ryan Adams record and listen to it happily, over and over again, pretty much forever. "To Be Young" from Heartbreaker (or better yet, "Winding Wheel," if you want to count the Morrissey argument, which is actually the first track), "Firecracker" from Gold, "Hallelujah," from Demolition, "Sweet Illusions" from Cold Roses (or "Let It Ride," the second track on disc-two) "The End" from Jacksonville City Nights, "Two" from Cardinology, and so on—all great.
(And, here you go, a Spotify playlist of all his second songs, plus a few from Whiskeytown, for good measure.)
"Don’t Let Go"
When news spread recently that former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh had died, I went back and listened to the one record he appears on, 2001’s Green Album, and man, while it still can’t hold a candle to the first two albums, it’s also nowhere near as bad as the bullshit that followed. "Don’t Let Go" in particular is a massively refreshing piece of straightforward power-pop that will have you slapping your forehead even more when you think about the most recent stuff.
I sort of want to kick my own ass for only deigning to write about Boris now that they’ve temporarily shelved the drone-, sludge-, psych- or whatever other brands of metal they’ve become known for, in favor of relatively sunshiny, shoe-gazing indie-pop with super cute female vocals. "Spoon" appears on a 10-track collection coming out on 11/25 called New Album, which features, in addition to a few new songs, re-workings of material from their last two albums, Attention Please and Heavy Rocks, in this same style. It’s still tougher than most everything else I listen to, though, if only because of those drums. So good.
That Weird, Metal Subaru Commercial on WFAN
So, you guys listen to WFAN a lot while you’re driving your daughter back and forth to her babysitter/grandmother’s house right? Right. So I imagine you’ve heard this hilarious Subaru commercial a million times, the one where the dealer apparently forgets that people who drive Subarus are faux-outdoorsy Park Slope types who listen to, like, The National and St. Vincent and instead bases their whole campaign on this totally hilarious metal-inspired jingle? There’s even, like, a death growl. I love it.
I apologize, but for the life of me, I cannot find audio of this beautiful, beautiful thing. But I promise, I will not stop searching until I do. (Also, your help would be greatly appreciated.)
"Did I Say"
One of three new songs recorded specifically for their 2003 greatest hits album, Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds, "Did I Say" is a delicately driving, beautifully orchestrated Norman Blake composition that’s as good as anything he’s ever written.
Staring at The X
I suppose it’s a pretty standard "difficult second album," really, in that it marks a sizable departure from the mostly quaint, if also very good, psych-folk of their debut, but still, it seems as if Brooklyn’s Forest Fire have hit their stride. Staring at The X is a slightly trickier affair that demands closer listening, with added layers of noise and effects obscuring what is still some fairly traditional songwriting. It’s a headphone album, yes, but there’s so much joy here that you’ll want to experience it with others, too. (The album will be released on 10/18)
Townes Van Zandt
"To Live Is to Fly"
There are many versions of this song floating around on the internet, by the likes of the Cowboy Junkies and Steve Earle. But you’ll want to avoid those and go straight for the ones by Townes Van Zandt. Acoustic or electric, it’s up to you—the line, "Goodbye to all my friends, it’s time to go again," will fill you with the same sense of sorrow, exhilaration and regret regardless.
Dum Dum Girls
On an album that has been accused (in these pages even) if being repetitive and formulaic, right there in the middle of it sits one of the year’s best songs. "Coming Down" is the band’s crowning achievement thus far, gently building and then suddenly exploding, with Dee-Dee bearing a striking resemblance to Neko Case. More of this please. (I’m talking to you too, Best Coast.)
My Brightest Diamond
All Things Unwind
It doesn’t seem right to reduce this album to a little blurby thing like this, given that it’s such an ambitious project, but alas: All Things Unwind features accompaniment by the renowned yMusic chamber music ensemble, and it is some of Shara Worden’s most intricate and impressive work yet. It occasionally feels just a little too cute, but that’s ok—you can tell people you listen to Boris now, remember? (The album will be released on 10/18)