Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four on the Floor: 3/17

1. Peter Gabriel - "Here Comes the Flood" (1990 Re-recording)

All the rain this week caused flooding in my grandparents' town. Fortunately, everyone is alright, although from what I've seen there is obviously property damage. This, combined with Genesis' HOF induction, calls to mind this haunting ballad from his first solo album. He re-recorded it for his 1990 Greatest Hits album Shaking the Tree, and I much prefer this simpler, sparer version. Just a piano, a gorgeous melody, elegiac lyrics and a pained vocal.

2. Tom Waits - "Train Song"

While we're in the elegiac mood, this weeper of a ballad has been on my mind as well lately. I love Tom Waits both as a songwriter and as a singer, although for different reasons. As a songwriter, he is a master at evoking setting and extracting emotion from the least likely places. "Train Song" shouldn't be as devastating as it is. As a singer, he sounds atrocious, but to me that's the point. His broken voice can't be beautiful, but it still sings the beauty it sees anyway. He's turned himself into a one-man crusade for the hidden beauty within, and "Train Song" is a gorgeous example of it.

3. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - "Sugarfoot"

Turning away from the gloom and doom, let's pick things up a bit. SXSW is this week and I always wish I could be there (one year, I'm gonna go. I promise myself.) For those who don't already know, SXSW is a multi-disciplinary arts festival and the music end is a three-day party that starts tonight. Thousands of musicians are in Austin, Texas this week and music will be coming out of every window of every building all night long. This band is one of the bands I discovered after the coverage of last year's festival, and I love their retro-soul/funk groove. They performed this on Letterman last year for anyone interested enough to find it on YouTube.

4. Steve Reich - "Music for 18 Musicians: Section IX"

Lastly, Steve Reich has been back in my rotation after I heard a lovely piece on NPR examining minimalism. I think Music for 18 Musicians is one of the most blissfully transportive and meditative compositions I've ever heard. It's 45 minutes of unending, pulsating music that, true to the minimalist form, evolves slowly like a glacier moving through icy waters. It washes over me every time I listen and soothes my soul. Picking just one Section was an absurd task, but I chose IX because it starts with a great bouncing string rhythm that gives it a little bit of individuality. From the amazing Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble recording from 2007.


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