24 May 2007

Another Musical Interlude

This ten-song playlist is unique in that every song is actually the opening song of its respective album. Explanations for each pick, and iTunes lnks when possible, appear below. As always, if you have these tunes, or decide to download them, try listening in this order and see what you find.

1) Where the Streets Have No Name— U2, The Joshua Tree: I don't normally care for superlatives, but I would back any presidential candidate who said that this is the best opening song on any album, ever. Listen on vinyl for the best experience; if you can't manage that, always listen to it LOUD.

2) Black Dog— Led Zeppelin, IV: Every time I hear this song start up, I know I'll be listening to the rest of the album. I have to schedule it so I'm not missing work. It maintains a blues form, but the riff rocks like nothing else. As for something you may not have noticed at first, try to dance to the song. Truth is, you can't.

3) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band— The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: Certainly one of the best albums I can think of, in part because of the cohesivesness brought by opening and closing it with this tune. Honestly, if you don't know why this song is great, you might not pass a standard IQ test.

4) Everything In Its Right Place— Radiohead, Kid A: When listening to this tune, I can hardly believe that everything is, in fact, in its right place. It's also the perfect opener— however ironic— for an album in which nothing seems right. So eerie and unsettling, and bordering on psycologically disturbing, the lyrics— in the context of the album— allow for a number of very interesting layers of meaning.

5) Waiting on the World to Change— John Mayer, Continuum: Yet another song that makes me want the rest of the album, I actually have a bit of on odd relationship with the tune. I like to sing along thoughtlessly to it. I love the George Harrison-esque guitar, the organ, the incidental bass fills. I hate that the lyrics reek of being this generation's "We Didn't Start the Fire," in their sentiment of non-responsibility. But, despite the emasculated idealism of the lyrics, it still made the list.

6) Black Mirror— The Arcade Fire Neon Bible: One of the most recently released albums on the list, I mention it not because I'm particularly blown away by it. Rather, I appreciate The Arcade Fire for releasing an album that works as a whole, for allowing vinyl buyers to download the album digitally, and for being at least a little risky in the direction they're headed musically. It really is a great opener, though, and at a decent volume, you can hear a lot of interesting stuff happening.

7) Blue Rondo a la Turk— Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out: I include this song because I feel it's a better introduction to quirky time signatures than Brubeck's more famous "Take Five." The song is in 9/8, which is not odd at all, except for the subdivision. Also, the solo section switches between the main feel and 12/8, which gives the song a nice variety of textures.

8) London Calling— The Clash, London Calling: As soon as I think of this song, I'm tempted to think it's one of the best songs on the album, until I recall what other songs are present. In fact, "London Calling" does exactly what it should. It introduces the listener to the remainder of the album without overshadowing it, but while avoiding feeling like a cobbled together introduction for the mere sake of having an introduction.

9) So What—Miles Davis, Kind of Blue: This is one or the more influential songs for me as a musician. I'm fascinated by the modality and, honestly, by the fact that the bass carries the main theme. But, especially compared to much of the bebop being played at the time, with it's complex and intricate chord changes, opening a "cool" album with a song whose tonality rests on a single mode is amazingly innovative.

10) Political Scientist—Ryan Adams, Love is Hell: I'm a little more confident with this Ryan Adams suggestion than my last one. It's a good tune, sets the stage well for a good album, and is a great paradigm for what Ryan Adams does best: writing depressing, but strangely alluring pseudo-pop tunes with great hooks.

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