Friday, March 02, 2007

Poisoning the Well

We haven't had an honest-to-goodness ShuffleLog since last year, I've been preoccupied by hockey, and I may have irreparably compromised this little experiment.

More trips to the record store and raiding of the corporate coffers led me to be listening to a lot of new music over the last few months. Some of it was also stuff I discovered that I had on my old 20GB iPod and hadn't really listened to that much (Rocket From The Crypt, for example). In all, several records worth of stuff was vying for my attention.

The problem was this: my old 20GB iPod sucks. The battery literally lasts for about a day, whether I use it or not. The battery drains while it's sitting there on my desk at work, and sometimes it just cold freezes up. So it's not very good as a portable device, as much as I dig the fact that it holds a ton of stuff.

(Side Note: I'll eventually kick down and get a new, larger-capacity iPod with video capabilities, especially when/if my bonus ship comes in. But with Apple's announcement of the iPhone, I'm sorta deer-in-the-headlights, and thinking of holding out for that, even though it's only really an 8GB device.)

One of the side effect constraints of the original ShuffleLog premise was that my iPod nano only holds 600 or so songs. In a closed environment, we'd get a pretty clean look at shuffle patterns. But, life would be boring without new music. And new music would be boring if I couldn't listen to it on the subway. Hence the dilemma: I need to swap stuff out of my nano in order to listen, say, to Bloc Party's new record, and in doing so, I screw up the delicate balance of the ShuffleLog. I'd already started poisoning the well, so I sort of went all out recently.

Not sure if I can catalog all of the stuff that got knocked off, but here's what came over:
  • Rocket From The Crypt, RTFC -- No nonsense rock'n'roll from a band that is in the same company as Afghan Whigs, Archers Of Loaf, Drive Like Jehu, Girls Against Boys, Rancid, Reverend Horton Heat, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Superchunk, The Supersuckers, and Urge Overkill. That's pretty good company.
  • Broadcast, The Noise Made By People -- A former co-worker walked into my office one day last year while I was listening to Stereolab, one of my favorites. She wrinkled her nose at it, claiming that Stereolab was just a knock-off of Broadcast. To prove it, she made me rip The Noise Made By People. And now, almost a year later, I found it hidden in iTunes, and decided to give it a shot. It's not bad, evokes Stereolab's organ-laced atmospherics -- after all, it was Stereolab who released Broadcast's singles in the late 1990s -- and the 1960s art-rock outfit The United States of America.
  • Bloc Party, A Weekend In The City -- OK, I've been waiting for Bloc Party's sophomore record ever since their single "Two More Years" came out last year. I absolutely love that single, and I'm a big fan of the first record Silent Alarm. Sure, they get a bad rap like the Arcade Fire do for often being the hipster flavor-of-the-month, but I don't give a shit. The second record took some listening to. It definitely grows on me, and is more nuanced than the first. Not sure there are tracks that are as addictive as "Two More Years" or "Eating Glass", but "Hunting For Witches" comes close. And there are certainly "prettier" songs on this record, like "I Still Remember" and "On". Can't wait to see them on March 30th.
  • Elliott Smith, Figure 8 -- My brother turned me onto the Portland-based singer-songwriter, and his 60s-influenced "Baroque pop" is rich and expansive. I really dig his stuff, and was disappointed to learn that he committed suicide in 2003.
  • The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Behind The Music -- Another brother recommendation, these guys immediately remind me of The Dandy Warhols. Except these guys are from Sweden.
  • Silversun Pickups, Carnavas -- I came across these guys browsing Live 105's best of 2006. What a find. Carnavas is an amazing record, top-to-bottom, evoking at times The Breeders and at other times the Smashing Pumpkins. "Waste It On", "Lazy Eye" and "Common Reactor" blow me away, and I've been listening to this record over and over for months. This is one of those records that you look back on and say, yep, that was my record of the year. Like Handsome Boy Modeling School's So, How's Your Girl? Except a totally different genre.
  • TV On The Radio, Return To Cookie Mountain -- Couldn't ingest a bunch of new music without including a New York band in the mix, so Brooklyn's TV On The Radio gets the nod. Good stuff, experimental and noisy.
With all of this new good stuff to listen to, I've been remiss in my ShuffleLog duties. The above alone represents 92 tracks. That's 13.14% of the even 700 tracks that now occupy my iPod (up significantly from the ~620 we started with). Statistically speaking -- and from a position of no authority at all -- we may have irreparably altered the experiment. But we'll see.

And with the release of a new AIR record, Pocket Symphony, and the new Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, I'm sure I'll have plenty of amateurish music review ramblings in store.


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