Bitching Brew

Friday, February 29, 2008

21 Vignettes.

  1. Air - Sexy Boy
    Travelling on a Skytrain to Burnaby in the late morning, rolling above hills and houses; gazing at the snow-dusted mountains, stark against the bright blue sky. I was looking for Halloween costumes at the Value Village thrift store. Maybe I was hoping to look like a sexy boy in a $15 patchwork. Maybe it was my Southern tan, good hair and cheerful, confident air. This song just worked. The opening bars were perfect as the train tilted modestly. Oh Vancouver.
  2. Devendra Banhart - Canela
    Ever sit on a low stone wall and forget everything? Two robins kiss and the afternoon crowds pass by. Love or lust - what does it matter? Deaf to disapproval and blind to children's covered eyes, hours to the world are timeless for two. The song is perfectly short - what else needs to be said? Looking blankly at a bus window, it briefly stirs wistful thoughts.
  3. Nine Inch Nails - Closer
    Jen and I played this at full boom for the next door neighbours going at it against the wall of our sun-room. The illicit couple provided endless aural pleasure; their arguments were irresistible.
  4. Monifah - Touch It
    Yeah. You know it. Do I hear a teehee in the back?
  5. Bruce Springsteen - Downbound Train
    Some things in life are beyond your control. She leaves or you have to move. One word gnaws at soul: 'if'. It's not the if of the coward, that lingering regret about inaction. No, this 'if' steals more than happiness and confidence; robbed, cheated, I feel helpless and mortal. The theft of passion haunts more than the avoidance of it. This song is about if and its corrosion of my soil.
  6. Pulp - Disco 2000
    I remember dancing to this long before 2000; it seemed so far away then. Now it's 2008. Hmm. Let's all meet up in 2015? Some of you will be pushing 40 by then... yikes.
  7. David Bowie - Everyone Says 'Hi'
    This superficially innocent song strikes me deeply. Double meaning to me: an emigrant across the ocean, severed from everyone he knew and loved; and trying to explain death to a child. It's a song of loss - when you realise truly that someone you care about can no longer be reached.
  8. Erasure - A Little Respect
    One of the great pop singles. Beware: if your special someone is listening to this song a lot, you're doing something very wrong. If you wonder why I'm cynical and cautious, there's a hint here.
  9. Goo Goo Dolls - Black Balloon
    Be careful who you fall for. Be careful who you get involved with. A gutted childhood or youth need not be a deadweight or anchor; it can be a black balloon, a spur to action. But using such a balloon to carry oneself isn't the conquest it seems - it isn't letting go. "I almost fell into that hole in your life." I even "went on as you got colder". I'd like to think I meant more to you than ice from the spoon... but I'm not sure.
  10. Journey - Don't Stop Believing
    I'll always remember playing this on a jukebox in a roadside diner, off I-75, an hour north of Atlanta. It was an empty Waffle House, with the sun gone down, the staff apathetic and the coffee rank. I chose this strangely apposite track to go with a slice of pecan pie. Don't stop believing - you're living the American dream..........
  11. The Knife - Heartbeats
    Something to ponder on a late-night bus. It works equally well on the quiet Montreal metro; the succession of stations, sliding doors, and walking faces made a fine video for this stranger's choice of song.
  12. Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger
    My karaoke song of choice on foreign shores. (My accent buys me a lot of leeway.) Good memories of mediocre but homely Toronto bars.
  13. The New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno
    Here's a travel song for you! I often need to get away, take time out, find some distance, and revel in novelty and adventure. I often did "crash here right now". Take the whole chorus from "travelling at godspeed" on - that's my story. It got me pumped en route to obscure towns I knew nothing about.
  14. New Radicals - You Get What You Give
    How can this not inspire you? Gloomy morning in work - click it on. Best song of the 90s?
  15. The Arcade Fire - Ocean of Noise
    I see a couple slow-dancing underwater. It must be a shallow shore, because the water is dimly lit by a bluish-green afterglow. He's wearing an old morning suit, she's dressed in a passed-down ball gown. Is it a last dance? I think so. Stretch, swing, pivot, then tight again. It's beautiful and unbearably sad.
  16. Weezer - Buddy Holly
    On the open road in northwestern Ohio, wind whipping through my hair and T-shirt on a hot August afternoon. It's a great driving song, but I'll always associate it with my first glimpse of a nuclear power plant, which we passed at a safe distance of... 100 metres. The thing was sinister, especially at night, with its little rim of blinking reds poking through a cloud of steam, spoiling an open sky of black velvet and glitter.
  17. Timbaland - The Way I Are
    I remember it fondly: the first place I heard it was a cramped backseat, racing down Broadway on a raucous Friday night. The lights, rhythms and vibrant fire life of half Vancouver lined the street for us. Or so it seemed. Timbaland raised the roof, but we pushed it higher.
  18. The Waifs - London Still
    Ever been homesick? The kind that can't be cured with a last-minute Ryanair flight? Oh, life mightn't be a cesspit, but the people you need at that moment are impossibly far away.
  19. The Twilight Singers - The Lure Would Prove Too Much
    One of a dozen reasons why they're my favourite band. I lack the genius to describe this wonderful song. I don't know why it's so good. Just close your eyes and play it.
  20. Wolf Parade - Shine a Light
    This song sticks from my first bus into Toronto. Early evening, a pewter-Irish sky, only higher and wider. At first all was grey - the vast concrete flyovers and spaghetti junctions of Pearson Airport gave way to the 16-lane monster that is the 401. Eventually, punching through the cocoon of dull suburbia, my dead gaze gave way to shivers. As we turned onto Lakeshore West, the CN Tower reached to the rising moon, watching over bands of shimmering skyscrapers that lined the inland sea. Half an hour later, I was alone at King and Simcoe, pulling a broken suitcase beneath the watchful street lamps of an alien city. Now those were shivers.
  21. James Carr - The Dark End of the Street
    I was awoken to New Orleans soul in... Knoxville, Tennessee. Thanks are due to a pair of English installation artists, an obscure used vinyl store, and two funky local girls. To my ears, this is the greatest soul song and performance of them all. You can't help but tremble at the pain and guilt of this torn cheater, knowing he and she will never stop.

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