I live in Austin, which means I spend most of my life in my car. My Ipod makes the commute pass more easily. I particularly like the shuffle feature, for whatever reason. I'm not the only one, either: the Onion AV Club has a regular feature called Random Rules, where they get famous and semi-famous people to put their Ipod on shuffle and explain the results. And The Stranger, the Seattle alterna-weekly, has a new podcast called Justify Your Pod, where hipsters hand over their Ipods and get grilled on the most incriminating songs that reside therein.
So, in the spirit of ripping off other people's ideas, I issue this challenge to my fellow pointy-headed music-bloggers: post a randomly-generated Ipod playlist on your blog, with relevant commentary. Soho the Dog? Musical Perceptions? Ionarts? Terminal? The Rambler? The Texas Tech music theory department? Anyone?
Mr. Ipod is off his game sometimes, like when he develops an odd fondness for Stan Kenton or Prince Paul's Psychoanalysis: What Is It?, neither of which is listenable on a commute, or at any other time. But this morning Mr.l Ipod scored:
1. The Flaming Lips, "Moth in the Incubator," from Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. To tell you the truth, quirky alterna-rock doesn't usually do it for me. But the Flaming Lips are awesome and I've been listening to them for a long time.* When we lived in the Bay my son went to this pre-school in Palo Alto where all the other parents were hippy tech millionaires, and once one of the other Moms told my wife that the Flaming Lips had played for a party at the tech corporation where she worked. My son, then four, piped up, "hey, I know the Flaming Lips!" and began to sing one of their songs. My son was briefly the coolest guy in Kindergarten.
2. Van Dyke Parks, "Palm Desert," from Song Cycle. Song Cycle is almost like Psychoanalysis: What Is It? -- an album that scatters little bombs in your random playlists, each song a detonation of sonic annoyance. At the very least, a little goes a long way; but the album's spooky sonorities and deft manipulation of faded pop-music clichés pay off, at least now and then.
3. The Free Design, remixed by Hush Puppy and Chris Geddes of Belle and Sebastian, "2002 -- A Hit Song," from The Now Sound Remixed. Such a cool album. The Free Design was a late-1960s family singing group that created a series of lushly hamonized albums that no-one paid any attention to. Latter-day crate-diggers like Madlib rediscovered them and started using samples of their work. The original albums have latterly been reissued, but this album is all remixes of their stuff by various artists. This particular song is the Free Design's rather cynical take on their own lack of success, with the cynicism presented in an incongruously peppy musical arrangement, minimally altered by the remixers.
4. Chico Hamilton Quintet, "My Funny Valentine." I love Chico Hamilton's fifties stuff with Fred Katz, jazz cellist and composer for the Ken Nordine Word Jazz albums. So cool, in that fifties, third-stream, midcentury-modern way. Check out their music, and that whole cold-war gilded-cage loungin' vibe, in great film noir The Sweet Smell of Success. That's the Chico Hamilton Quintet, with Martin Milner standing in for Jim Hall.
5. Henry Cowell, "Aeolian Harp/Sinister Resonance." I taught this in my 20th-century music class last fall. In truth I probably wouldn't have a whole lot of Cowell on my Ipod if I didn't have to teach it, but it was strangely apt after "My Funny Valentine." The melodies are kind of similar, actually.
6. Black Star, "Intro," from Black Star. A short track with a great sinister beat but no rapping.
7. Angelo Badalamenti, "Best Friends," from the OST to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The transition from "Black Star" also seems strangely apt. It worked, anyway. Well, you know how I feel about David Lynch. Interestingly, the new Lynch Film, Inland Empire, doesn't have any music by Badalamenti. It does, however, have a lot of Penderecki.
8. D'Anlego, Femi Kuti, and Macy Gray, "Water Get No Enemy," from Red Hot + Riot. So hip. Nice afro-pop groove as I cruise in under the shadow of the gigantic football stadium at UT, which is right now being made even bigger. Time to blog!
*New slang synonym for "awesome" to be unveiled tomorrow! Or some time!