Sunday, December 27, 2015

The between time

The lull between Christmas and New Year’s is a special time.  A time for relaxing, enjoying cheesy holiday shows with your family, playing video games with your kids, and just chillin’ out.  Not a time for writing blog posts.  Nor reading them, really.  Put that keyboard down and go do some of that other stuff I just said.  Or follow your own bliss.  Whatever makes you happy.

And, speaking of happy: have a wonderful 2016.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ruminations of the Season

As we slip into the holiday season, it’s time to reflect on the year past, and look forward to the year approaching.  I could do that.  But my vision doesn’t quite extend that far, I’m afraid ... I’m looking forward to surviving the holidays, and that’s plenty forward enough, thank you very much.  Here’s some of the things (both good and bad) that I can look forward to as the holiday season begins to swallow us whole:

Multiplication of cardboard.  I love to recycle—really I do.  But recycling cardboard boxes is my least favorite part.  Because you have to break them down.  I mean, you don’t have to, in order to recycle them, but you have to, because otherwise they’ll never fit in the recycle bin.  And nobody in my house, other than me, breaks down the cardboard boxes.1  Also, we do all of our Christmas shopping at Amazon.  So this time of year there are a lot of cardboard boxes.  In particular, I can count on a solid hour or two of nothing but breaking down cardboard boxes on Christmas day, or maybe the day after, if I’m lucky.  The kids get to come rushing into the room and tear everything apart and fling around the bits all willy-nilly, but who do you think has to clean that up?  Well, The Mother will do a lot of it, really.  But all the cardboard is headed my way.  Bah.  Humbug.

Tiresome repitition of the “war on Christmas” meme.  The holiday season is sure to bring out the crazy in the CCFs.2  In fact, it has already—one thing you can count on is that, if the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year, then so must the mythical “war.”  I refuse to link you to the idiot whining about the fact that Starbucks cups are red and green (’cause apparently that’s not “Christmasy” enough for this douchebag), but I’m sure you’ve seen it already.  I really can’t improve on my 2011 holiday rant, so just go read that.  Plus it contains my excellent Christmas music mix, Yuletidal Pools.  Bonus.

The cruelty of the advent calendar.  To a kid, an advent calendar is an excrutiatingly slow countdown to the most exciting day of the year.  Since I now have three such smaller humans—well, really two, because my eldest is now taller than I am—I’m currently being treated on a regular basis to pronouncements such as “There’s no way I can possibly wait another NINE WHOLE DAYS for Christmas!”  Yeah, well: welcome to reality.  Suck it up kid.

Eggnog.  There’s lots of things you can pretty much only buy at Christmas, but the only one I really love is eggnog.  I suppose I could make it myself, but there are some perfectly good ‘nogs out there—almost certainly better than I could ever produce—and it’s nice to be able to just bring it home and pour it in a glass and kick back and relax.  Eggnog is somehow keyed to the spirit of the season for me.  The smell alone is enough to put me in a Christmas mood.  (Also, if you’re putting out milk and cookies for Santa, you’re gipping the fat man.  Eggnog and cookies is the classy way to go.)

The inescapable madding crowds.  Even though we make every endeavor not to do any actual Christmas shopping at physical locations, you can’t really get out of all shopping.  There’s grocery shopping, for instance.  And even though you may just be there for ordinary weekly supplies, try telling that to the rest of the crazed holiday crowd.  No point in bothering, really.  It’s a bit like being at the amusement park: you square your shoulders, tuck your head down, and push on through.

Watching my diet go down the toilet.  As you may recall from my Saladosity series (specifically in part 3, my take on Whole30), I am not “on a diet”; rather, I’ve changed my diet.  As a general rule, I do pretty well at avoiding added sugars of all stripes, grains, and legumes, plus miscellaenous other bits and bobs (like fries and chips).  But the one-two punch of Thanksgiving followed by Christmas is pretty much guaranteed to crush my newly improved eating habits all to hell and back.3  Partially that’s because of seasonally available food like candy cane faux oreo’s and chocolate oranges; partially it’s because of family recipes that come sneaking out of the woodwork, like my grandmother’s pound cake, or her ginger snaps; partially it’s because Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinners are, by tradition, celebrations of abundance.  But the exact reason isn’t important.  The point is, there’s a few extra pounds coming my way.

Quiet family moments.  One of the advantages of moving nearly three thousand miles away from one’s parents is that you get to have quiet little holiday gatherings with just the immediate family: The Mother, myself, and the children: 3 humans, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 1 guinea pig, and various assorted fish, shrimp, and snails.  Intimate family meals, lazing around on the couch watching movies (or watching the kids play video games), sharing the excitement of gift discovery, snuggling with a child (human or feline), enjoying the warmth and glow.

Inevitable holiday sicknesses.  I think this must be the 4th or 5th year in a row that some or most of us have been sick for the holidays.  Perhaps it’s the change in the weather, which comes fairly late in the year to southern California.  Perhaps the universe just hates us.  But, whatever it is, some of us will be sniffling, and/or hacking, and/or barfing, this entire coming week.  We’ve already started, actually.

Lack of sleep.  It’s tough to get enough sleep any time, but this time of the year complicates matters even further.  There’s so much stuff to do, and Christmas Eve is full of preparation—try to get the kids to bed, frenzied preparation for Santa, requisite picture-taking, plus it seems like there’s always at least one massive thing to assemble—and Christmas Day has a tendency to start very early, typically with small children jumping on your head.  Is it any wonder that parents tend to drift off on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon for the next few days?4

Flashes of simple joy.  Kids love Christmas, no doubt.  But parents love it just as much, if they’re honest.  Because Christmas is one of those times when you get to see straight into your kids’ hearts, via their smiles and looks of wonder.  Every person has a face they wear—even young ones.  Kids are just not as likely to be so adamant about it ... they let their masks slip quite often, at first, and only learn to be more cautious as life throws more and more crap at them.  And of course, a lot of times even when the façade cracks, you don’t happen to be around.  But there are certain times when you can count on your children’s social camouflage to drop away and allow you see straight into their sense of awe at the world around them.  We have a tendency to call this “child-like,” as if it’s only something fit for children, something that you leave behind you when you become an adult.  Bullshit.  You lose it.  You have it stripped away from you, because life sucks, and it’s hard to be a grown-up, and having people depend on you and having to pay your rent and keep food in your belly and having to show up for work every day is arduous and exhausting and we just don’t have the time or the energy to be child-like any more.  But you always want to go back there.  You always want to—no, need to—be reminded of that time when you could delight in simple things, when your standards for being amazed were delightfully low, and you could be happy for hours or even days just because you got a lick from your puppy, or a hug from someone who loved you ... or the perfect gift on Christmas.  That’s why parents give their kids way too much crap on Christmas (or whatever holiday is appropriate for their culture): because you’re hoping against hope that one of those silly pieces of plastic and yarn and circuit boards and wood and metal and wires—just one!—will trigger that ephemeral reaction that transports you back to your own childhood and reminds you that life doesn’t have to be complicated.  It’s quite simple, really.  There’s family and play and being with the people you love, and then there’s the other shit.  And all that other shit doesn’t really matter, no matter how much it seems like it does.  It’s just a distraction from what’s actually important in life.  Christmas is particularly good at reminding us of that.  And that’s why we need it.

And, you know what?  If one of my kids ends up throwing out the toy and just spending all day playing with the box, I’ll take that.  As long as they’re happy.


1 Well, usually.  To be fair, The Mother just broke down a few this weekend.  Which was much appreciated, to be sure.

2 “CCFs” means “crazy Christian fucks.”  These are the tiny minority that give the rest of the Christians a bad name by putting extremely tortured interpretations on Jesus’s message of peace and love.  (Personally, I blame Paul.  Honestly, he’s a bit of a prick.)

3 Helen Back ... heheh.  My surname is Mucus.

4 In retrospect, the lack of sleep probably has a lot to do with the inevitable holiday sicknesses ...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Perl blog post #46

If you’re one of my technoreaders, rejoice!  Another post in my ongoing Perl series on the date module I’m developing is now up on my Other Blog.

Contrariwise, if you’re not one of my technoreaders, then ... I dunno, anti-rejoice?  Not sure what the opposite of rejoice is.  But feel free to do that.  Next week you’ll likely get something useful.  Probably.  If you’re lucky.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Numeric Driftwood I

"Sail on a Silver Mist"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

When my eldest was little, he would hear music—perhaps on the radio, or television, or just music that The Mother or I were playing—and let us know in no uncertain terms that he liked it.  I made him his first mix when he was just turning four.  Soon he would hear a song and say “put this on my mix!”  He accumulated 3 such mixes, with another 2 in the works, before the tradition sort of trailed off.1

My middle child was never much into music.  I toyed with one idea for a mix for him for quite a while, though it too remains unfinished.2  Then along came LittleBigPlanet, and consequently the Paradoxically Sized World mix, and that became his music of choice.

When my youngest was about to be born, I started on her first mix while she was still in the womb.  I wanted to put together a succession of my favorite songs to soothe oneself to sleep to.  Such a mix could serve a dual purpose: it would help her sleep and have wonderful dreams, and at the same time it would instill in her excellent taste in music.  This has worked, as she’s the child who most appreciates my tunes, and will happily dance to most anything I choose to throw at her.

Now, I’ve never considered mixes made for my children part of my “regular” œuvre.  However, Numeric Driftwood is different.  Although it was designed for my baby girl, I still listen to it quite a lot.  I enjoy putting it on when I’m drifting off to a nap, or when I just need to quiet my mind.  The title comes from my habit of naming mixes for my kids: the first word always contains their actual name.3  And, since the tracks are designed to help you drift away, “driftwood” seemed like a pretty spot-on choice.

This is some of the mellowest stuff I own, although not at all depressing.  As I said above: soothing is the emotion we’re going for here.  So naturally most of my limited new age collection appears here.  I’m not a huge fan of new age, in general, but those bands I like, I tend to like a lot.  So on this volume (and the next), we’ll see quite a few names repeated.

Probably first and foremost of those is Kitaro, whose album India was one of the first examples of the genre that really spoke to me.  I picked up another Kitaro album at the same time as India, and several more since then, but that one has remained my absolute favorite throughout the years.  The other new age artist that I’ve always loved since I first heard her is Enya.  I’m sure “Orinoco Flow” was the first tune of hers I ever laid ears on, but it was my snagging of her insanely good album Shepherd Moons in a used CD store that really turned me into an Enya fan.  I wore that album out, especially around bedtime.  There’s one track from each album here.

Of course, predating even my discovery of Kitaro, I used to use Victorialand for putting myself to sleep.  Now, feel free to refer back to my full discussion of how I discovered this life-changing album, but for now I’ll just remind you of my go-to description for what it sounds like: angels singing in a pink fog.  For many years, the opening strains of “Lazy Calm” (which is the Victorialand opener) could steal away any number of troubles and worries that had accumulated throughout the day and knock me right out before I ever got to “Fluffy Tufts.”  There was just no way I could start this volume with anything else.  For good measure, I threw in “Feet-like Fins” as the closer.

Going back to new age, another artist I’m fond of is Angels of Venice, from Venice Beach (right down the road from where I now work).  I first heard Carol Tatum’s harp on Hearts of Space, which I’ve talked about many times throughout this series.4  AoV is Tatum on harp, plus a flautist and cellist (the exact musicians have changed a few times over the years).  The music is so perfect for this mix that I’ve thrown in three different tracks, off three different albums.

In the category of true ambient—that is, natural sounds blended with soothing music—I’ve long been a fan of this CD I picked up from God knows where: Tropical Rain Forest, from the “Nature’s Relaxing Sounds” series.  It’s mostly rain forest, with just a touch of new age in the background.  While it’s not really well-suited for this mix, it did lead me to appreciate an artist I do feature heavily on this mix: Ukrainian-born Anjey Satori, who I discovered via Magnatune.5  Many of his tunes are long (including one of the two I use on this volume: “River Surround” clocks in at a whopping 12:22), which I usually consider a drawback.  While a track that goes on for ten-plus minutes can work in the context of an artist’s album,6 I generally believe that that’s too long to go without some variety in the context of a mix.  But Satori really has a deft touch when it comes to driving out tension, and most every track from his excellent For Relaxation will probably eventually appear in this mix somewhere.

And, speaking of Magnatune artists, Hans Christian is another one I discovered there.  I wouldn’t really call him new age,7 but “Atlantis” really works here.  This album of his (Phantoms) is sort of like a worldmusic version of smooth jazz, in a weird way.  Unusual, but very fitting.

Also unusual and very fitting is the utterly delightful version of “Trust in Me” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.  One of the biggest reasons I fell in love with Siouxsie’s cover album Through the Looking Glass, this one is a cover of the Disney song from The Jungle Book.  You know: the one where Kaa the snake8 attempts to put Mowgli to sleep.  Siouxsie’s reimagining of this classic song from my childhood includes a lot of new-age-y touches, such as harp and cello.9  But it’s still a Siouxsie song at heart, not as dark as many of her tracks, but still with the ethereal, dream-like touches that let you know you’re listening to the godmother of goth.  The very first mix tape I ever put together for helping myself drift off to sleep was probably nothing but 3 or 4 tracks off Victorialand, 3 or 4 tracks off India, and “Trust in Me.”  Being one of only two songs with any decipherable lyrics in it on this volume,10 it also handily provides our subtitle.

Lastly among the more-or-less expected artists we have Skyedance.  I’ve always sort of loved bagpipes—in my experience, you either love them or hate them.  Of course, even when you love them, you can’t take them for long stretches at a time.  The biggest problem with bagpipies, in my opinion, is that they’re usually heard in the company of other bagpipes, and little else.  The bagpipe combines a lilting woodwind tone with a buzzing that’s almost harsh to the ear.  Multiply that by several bagpipes playing simultaneously and it can easily overwhelm the listener.  Too bad there’s no cool music which features a bagpipe but also has other instrumentation, which is also cool.  I happened to mention this to my programming friend from ThinkGeek11 and he handed me his Skyedance CD.  Formed by Scottish fiddler Alisdair Fraser, Skyedance features a Canadian flautist specializing in wooden flute, a jazz/worldmusic bassist, and a percussionist specializing in medieval/renaissance music.  And also Eric Rigler, often considered to be one of the most prolific pipers in the world.  He played bagpipes in Braveheart, Titanic, Battleship ... it’s sometimes said that, if you hear bagpipes in a movie or on television, you’re listening to Eric Rigler.  On top of that, he plays Scottish smallpipes, uilleann pipes (the Irish version of bagpipes), and tin whistle (a recorder-like instrument featured often in Celtic music, as well as in pop songs by the Cranberries, the Pogues, and the Dave Matthews Band).  The net effect for Skyedance is quite intoxicating: their fast songs make you want to move, and their slow songs are gentle and soothing.  I chose “The Lupine” for this volume, which has a pretty, almost lullaby-like quality.12

Numeric Driftwood I
    [Sail on a Silver Mist]

        “Lazy Calm” by Cocteau Twins, off Victorialand
        “Atlantis” by Hans Christian, off Phantoms
        “River Surround” by Anjey Satori, off For Relaxation
        “Caravansaray” by Kitaro, off India
        “18” by Moby, off 18
        “The Enchanted Forest” by Angels of Venice, off Music for Harp, Flute and Cello
        “Forest Surround” by Anjey Satori, off For Relaxation
        “Trust in Me” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, off Through the Looking Glass [Covers]
        “The World Beyond the Woods” by Angels of Venice, off Awake Inside a Dream
        “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star, off So Tonight That I Might See
        “No Holly for Miss Quinn” by Enya, off Shepherd Moons
        “The Lupine” by Skyedance, off Way Out to Hope Street
        “Starshine Lullabye” by Angels of Venice, off Forever After
        “Feet-Like Fins” by Cocteau Twins, off Victorialand
Total:  14 tracks,  73:25

And that just leaves us with the more unlikely candidates.  Electronica artist Moby is often known for his more pop-leaning compositions such as “South Side,” “We Are All Made of Stars,” or “Porcelain.”  But he can do EDM with the best of them, and also downtempo too.  “18,” from the album of the same name, is a particularly relaxing track.

As for Mazzy Star, their songs are never fast-paced, but they usually still have a bit of harshness to them, a buzzing to the guitar work that often seems more fitting to a thrash or punk band.  Even their more languorous tracks have a tendency to skew more towards “creepy,” which is obviously not good for this mix.  But I’ve always found “Into Dust” somewhat soothing.  Maybe just don’t listen to the lyrics too closely.

Next time, we’ll take a trip to the beach.


1 Although I still have all the details on all those mixes.  So they’re easily resurrectible at any point.

2 Since this writing, I resurrected and finished this mix.

3 For my eldest, that’s trivial: his name is a word.  For the other two, one has to get a bit creative.

4 First way back in the intro, but probably most extensively in relation to Shadowfall Equinox.

5 For more details of what Magnatune is and how I discovered it, see the discussion in Rose-Coloured Brainpan.

6 Although probably not as often as the artist believes, unfortunately.

7 Although apparently Magnatune does.  Perhaps some of his newer stuff better fits that label.

8 Voiced by Sterling Holloway, probably most famous as the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh.

9 The latter provided by the ever-excellent Martin McCarrick.  You know, when discussing Shadowfall Equinox, I mentioned that McCarrick was my second favorite cello player.  We’ll be hearing from my first favorite—Jami Sieber—on volume II.

10 The Cocteau Twins are known for many things, but decipherable lyrics ain’t one of ’em.

11 The same fellow I mentioned back in Smokelit Flashback, who also introduced me to Lemon Jelly, Naomi, etc.

12 And no actual bagpipes.  While bagpipes feature prominently—and excellently—in Skyedance’s faster songs, they’re not really designed for helping you drift off to sleep.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving thanks

No proper post for you this week, I’m afraid.  I’m coming down off a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, still stuffed with pie and potatoes and ... well, stuffing.  We had a lovely, quiet meal here at home.  A part of our family’s tradition is for each (human) person to come up with three things they’re thankful for.  This was the first year that our youngest was really old enough to participate in that tradition.  It was quite entertaining.

I, of course, am thankful for many things ... more than three, even.  For instance, it occurred to me that I am thankful for you, dear reader.  I’m thankful that you keep on reading, week after week, despite my rather firm admonishments to just cut it out.  You’re quite stubborn in that way, you know.  And I wanted to let you know how much I admire that in you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Perl blog post #45

This week I’m returning again to my ongoing Perl series on my Other Blog.  You may want to check that out if you’re technically inclined.  If you’re not, you’ll have to wait until next week for some more exciting bits here.  Well, as exciting as it gets around here anyway.  Try and control your anticipation.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Darkling Embrace I

"Welcome Your Nightfall"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

“Dark and vaguely creepy” is a territory my mixes mine quite often.  In fact, when I hear such a song, there are easily four or five possible destinations where it could wind up.  But sometimes none of them is an exact fit and you just have to start a whole new mix.  Such was the case when I stumbled upon Bat for Lashes.

Half Pakistani and half British (and born in the former country and raised in the latter), I most likely found her while exploring “similar to” type links of the anti-folk singers such as Regina Spektor and Feist.  And, while she does display some of that sensibility,1 she also has great range.2  Her track “What’s a Girl to Do?” has a vaguely creepy vibe at the beginning, then transitions into a very pretty (if still somewhat dark) love song—or, more accurately, a song about the death of love.  I tentatively slotted it for Smokelit Flashback, but added a note to myself that it had sort of a Dark Shadows vibe.3

I add notes such as this to songs in a mix all the time.  Sometimes all the note says is “group with the above?” and I stick the song underneath a song which has a similar vibe.  When enough of those accumulate in a row, I start thinking it might be time to break those tracks out into their own mix.  And so it happened with that Bat for Lashes song.

For one thing, it gave me a place to put a couple of bands that I learned about from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Now, I’ve talked about my fascination with this excellent example of early Whedon before on this blog, but I failed to mention the music.  Whedon has a gift for choosing music, much as he has a gift for many other creative inputs to a show, and there are several artists whose existence I am only aware of because they were playing at the Bronze, or just in the background of a crucial scene, and I said, “whoa, what’s that music?” and then I looked it up and then I went out and bought the album.  Two such bands, Devics and Trespassers William, both from my current hometown of LA, are represented here—Devics is so much in this vein that they contribute two tracks, in fact.  Both are described as dream pop,4 but both have a dark edge that made them perfect for the show, and perfect to accompany the Bat for Lashes mix starter.

Then there’s “Carousel” by Melanie Martinez.  You may recognize it as the original song from which the theme for American Horror Story: Freakshow5 is derived.  Martinez rewrote the original lyrics to make them fit the show even more closely, but the music is the same.  Even before its association with what may be the best anthology horror series of our time, it had a pretty creepy vibe to it.  But it’s still, at its heart, a song about love ... the more bitter, more frustrating side of love, perhaps, but love nonetheless.

And that’s what these songs have in common: they can be dark, and disturbing, but in the end they’re all songs of the heart.  Whether it’s Martinez pointing out that “it’s all fun and games till somebody falls in love,” or Bat for Lashes talking about “when you’ve loved so long that the thrill is gone, and your kisses at night are replaced with tears,” or Devics complaining that “I still wait like a fool” (or their dark take on the Billie Holiday standard “The Man I Love”),  or Trespassers William proclaiming simply that “Love Is Blindess,” all these songs touch the heart in some way ... and they’re also all kinda creepy.  Thus: Darkling Embrace.

Of course, the dream pop bands are going to be naturals for this.  “Throughout the Dark Months of April and May,” for instance, is completely unintelligible in terms of lyrics—as are pretty much all songs by the Cocteau Twins—but you still know it’s creepy and yet touching at the same time.  “The Carnival Is Over” by Dead Can Dance is a bit more obvious.  And the combination of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti that produced the great Twin Peaks vocal tracks is a no-brainer as well: “Falling” works perfectly here.  And then we have our volume opener, “Melodies and Desires.”

You know, Lykke Li is a big deal in Sweden.  She’s won two Swedish Grammys and something called an EBBA.  On the other hand, if you’re American, there’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of her at all.  Shame.  Her style is primarily electro-pop, with touches of trip-hop, neo-soul, and electro-jazz.6  But “Melodies and Desires,” the opening track of her amazing album Youth Novels, is breathy, and metaphorical (“I’ll be the rhythm, and you’ll be the beat, and love, the shoreline, where you and I meet”), and still just a little bit dark and overcast.  It’s the perfect opener for this mix.

In the less obvious camp, in some ways the “oldest” song on this mix is “Winter Kills” by Yazoo:7 I don’t mean “oldest” in the sense of “first released” (although it happens to be that as well), or even in the sense of “first written” (which would have to be “The Man I Love,” which was written in 1927 by the Gershwins, for a Broadway show it was never used in).  Rather I mean the song which has been in my collection the longest.  Upstairs at Eric’s is one of the earliest albums I ever bought, and still one of my absolute favorites.  While most of that album is “traditional” synthpop (although pioneer Vince Clarke can be credited with inventing much of that tradition) made unique by the bluesy vocals of Alison Moyet, it has several moments of divergence, including the ultra-bizarre “I Before E Except After C” and the chilling “Winter Kills.”  This latter song has always fascinated me: I wrote an early poem based on it,8 and I always knew it would end up on one of my mixes.  For many years I had it slotted for Wisty Mysteria,9 but as soon as this mix emerged, I knew it had to land here.  It’s the perfect closer for the volume, and also provides the volume title.

Likewise, Donna Lewis, whose “Beauty & Wonder” leads into “Winter Kills,” is primarily considered a pop star.  Her albums were among those belonging to The Mother that I burned digitally for her to make sure we’d always have a copy.10  I’d never heard her before, and, honestly, generally speaking I remain unimpressed.  But, like many purveyors of pop, every once in a while she manages to produce something beyond simple, interchangeable radio fodder.  This is one those few that Lewis achieved.11  It’s not quite as dark as many of the tunes on this mix, but it fits in pretty well, and provides a contrapuntal transition from Devics to Yazoo.

Then we have Fever Ray, who I discovered via her amazing song “If I Had a Heart” which was used as the theme song for the History Channel’s Vikings.12  We’ll see “If I Had a Heart” on a future mix,13 but for this mix I decided to use “Concrete Walls.”  It’s difficult to describe Fever Ray, but it’s vaguely akin to anti-folk meets dark electronica.  “Concrete Walls” is perhaps the strongest example of this: it’s dark, overprocessed to the point where you can barely recognize that it’s a female vocal, and has enough electronic feedback that it almost sounds industrial.  It’s slightly faster (though I wouldn’t say more upbeat) than the other tracks on this mix, and I almost removed it several times.  But in the end I decided it was the perfect lead-in to the more measured and ethereal Cocteau Twins offering.

Darkling Embrace I
    [Welcome Your Nightfall]

        “Melodies & Desires” by Lykke Li, off Youth Novels
        “Falling” by Julee Cruise, off Floating into the Night
        “Past the Beginning of the End” by Trentemøller, off Into the Great Wide Yonder
        “Never Tear Us Apart” by Tashaki Miyaki, off Under Cover [Covers]
        “Missing Persons” by Go West, off Go West
        “Living Behind the Sun” by Devics, off My Beautiful Sinking Ship
        “Horse Tears” by Goldfrapp, off Felt Mountain
        “What's a Girl to Do?” by Bat for Lashes, off Fur and Gold
        “Carousel” by Melanie Martinez, off Dollhouse [EP]
        “Concrete Walls” by Fever Ray, off Fever Ray
        “Throughout the Dark Months of April and May” by Cocteau Twins, off Victorialand
        “Love Is Blindness” by Trespassers William, off Different Stars
        “The Carnival Is Over” by Dead Can Dance, off Into the Labyrinth
        “Cerises pour un dîner à deux” by Angelo Badalamenti, off The City of Lost Children [Soundtrack]
        “The Man I Love” by Devics, off My Beautiful Sinking Ship
        “Beauty & Wonder” by Donna Lewis, off Blue Planet
        “Winter Kills” by Yazoo, off Upstairs at Eric's
Total:  17 tracks,  76:31

For the rest, we have a track from Goldfrapp,14 the nearly gothic “Horse Tears.”  Also Tashaki Miyaki, who I discovered via a video game,15 doing a cover of “Never Tear Us Apart.”  The original by INXS was definitely not a candidate for this mix, but Tashaki Miyaki’s take on it adds the darkness to the pretty that Farriss and Hutchence instilled in the original.  And while Go West is primarily thought of as a new wave/synthpop 80’s band, they do have a bit of range, and “Missing Persons” is an uncharacteristically darkly pretty tune from their debut album.

Which just leaves us with the two instrumentals.  Trentemøller is another band discovered via my favorite video game, a Danish electronica artist who (like fellow Scandinavian Ugress) is equally comfortable with instrumentals or guest vocalists.16  “Past the Beginning of the End” is dark and somewhat trippy, but with an inherent prettiness that’s hard to miss.  It’s tougher for an instrumental to embody what Darkling Embrace is all about, but this one does so.  And of course Angelo Badalamenti, the composer of those great Julee Cruise tunes from Twin Peaks (one of which we have here, even) is a natural fit as well.  In this case I’m using a track from the soundtrack for The City of Lost Children as a quick bridge between the sudden stop of “The Carnival Is Over” and our second Devics contribution.  This is one of my favorite movies, and the soundtrack makes some great incidental music.  All of it is vaguely creepy, although most of it skews even darker than this mix.

Next time, we’ll explore the path to dreamland.


1 As we’ll discover in the fullness of time.

2 I currently have 6 of her songs slotted for 6 different mixes, which might be some sort of record.

3 Meaning more the music than the show itself, and not referring at all to the Tim Burton remake.

4 In fact, Trespassers William’s album Different Stars, which is the one containing the track used here, was issued on the UK label owned by Simon Raymonde, of dream pop giants the Cocteau Twins—who are also featured here.

5 A.k.a. season 4.

6 Meaning she has great range as well: currently slotted for 7 songs in 6 different mixes.

7 Known as “Yaz” in the US, for some reason.

8 Not a very good poem.  But I plead youth.

9 Which we shall come to in, you guessed it: the fullness of time.

10 CDs in The Mother’s truck live a hard life.

11 Just two across two albums, in fact.  We’ll see the other one on a future volume of Smooth as Whispercats.

12 The show itself is not as good as the song, in my opinion.  But it isn’t terrible either.

13 Which we’ll come to ... yeah, you know the drill by now.

14 Who, you may recall, we first heard on Smokelit Flashback III.

15 See Paradoxically Sized World III for full details.

16 Like many darkwave bands, several of the newer electronica artists do about half instrumentals and half vocals using an ever-rotating cast of guest singers.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

birthday time again

Another birthday weekend for our family: mine this time, as it happens.  I didn’t really want to do much, so it’s been mostly sitting around just avoiding any responsibility for a few days.  And, as it also happens, part of the responsibility I’m avoiding is writing this blog post.  So, you know, I didn’t write one.  What you’re reading is just a figment of your imagination.  What a vivid imagination you have!  Keep it up.  Perhaps you can imagine yourself a post you might actually want to read.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Paradoxically Sized World II

"Burning Holes Right Through the Dark"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

By now you probably realize that, by the time I start really organizing the first volume of a mix, I usually have enough music for two volumes.  Thus, a volume II is often just “volume I continued.”  This second collection of songs from, as well as inspired by, LittleBigPlanet is mostly that, although you’ll notice a few extensions to that overall concept.  First of all, I managed to expand beyond just the original game (and the first handheld version) by including one song each from LBP 2 and the PSV game.1  Secondly, while last time I mostly observed a strict alternation between songs from the game(s) and tracks that just felt to me like they ought to be in the game, this time I feel free to go on longer sprees, with a stretch of 4 songs from the games, and two stretches of 3 and 4 tracks (respectively) from outside sources.

You may also recall from last time that I noted that there were only two tracks on this mix2 that were originally compoosed for the game (as opposed to music that first appeared on an artist’s album and was only then used in the game).  As it happens, they’re both on this volume: opening track “Orb of Dreamers” is the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s take on the main theme of the game,3 from their second volume of video game music.4  The theme was composed by Daniel Pemberton, who also does movie scores as well.  He composes a lot of the incidental music in LBP, including the second in-game original track I use here, “The Appliance of Science,” from his album Little BIG Music.

Finding a volume title was once again difficult: of the five tracks containing any vocals, two are not in English, one is nominally in English but you only know that if you look up the lyrics on the Internet (that would be “Atlas,” by the quite odd Battles),5 and one contains a single line repeated over and over (“My Patch” by Jim Noir, the simplistic but quintissentially catchy tune found in the Meerkat Kingdom level of LBP 1).  Which only really leaves one choice: “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit, which is the lone representative of LBP 2.  Happily, it’s a great choice: unlike the mostly instrumental version used in the game itself, the original version has some great lines, including the one we use for our title here.  This is easily my favorite Passion Pit song ever.6

Other than hearing the words to “Sleepyhead” for the first time, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises here for you if you actually play the LBP games.  If you haven’t played the PSV version, you might be pleasantly surprised by the lazy downtempo strains of “Eyen” by Plaid.  Or perhaps you’ll be surprised (as I was) as just how catchy “Volver a Comenzar” by Café Tacvba7 is, once you’re no longer trying to figure out how to gauge the momentum on those stupid springs in the Wedding Reception level and you can just listen to the song.  I’m not the most fluent speaker of Spanish, but I get by; my rough translation of the chorus:

Si volver a comenzar,
no tendría tiempo de reparar

is something along the lines of:

If you go back to the beginning,
there’s no time to fix what’s broken.

But really you don’t even need to understand what they’re talking about.  It’s an infectious little pop gem in any language.

Among the tunes from outside the games, many will still be familiar: the DJ Krush track near the beginning of this volume is off the same album as the in-game track of his towards the end.  There’s another from Ananda Shankar,8 which sounds so LBP-ish you’d swear it was direct from the game (but it’s not).  KOAN Sound is an LBP band as well; although “Lost in Thought” is not from the game, they do have a song in LBP 3.9  We also see another track from Bonobo, who isn’t featured in the game (though he really ought to be), but we did see him on our last volume.

The real find here though is Ugress.  A purveyor of electronica from Norway, Ugress fits my definition of “moderately obscure”—AllMusic has a discography but no biography, and Wikipedia has a skeleton article, full of “citation needed” notations.  But this guy is brilliant.  Like many modern indie artists, his music is easy to find online, much of it for free, but you won’t mind paying for it.  It’s that good.  I primarily recommend Resound (which contains the track we see here), but other good choices are Reminiscience, Cinematronics, and Unicorn.  One of his songs10 was chosen for LBP PSV, which is how I found him,11 and now I fancy we’ll see him on every volume of this mix from here on out.  But Ugress has range as well: so far I’ve put songs of his on four different mixes, which says something about his versatility.  Obscure he may be, but it’s far less than what he deserves.  I’m glad LittleBigPlanet introduced me to him.

Much like last time, there’s a strong influence from my satellite provider’s “Zen” music channel.  The biggest one in this case is Reef Project, whose “Ocean Trigger” is actually the mix starter.  Reef Project is even more obscure than Ugress, with a sparse discography on AllMusic and nothing at all on Wikipedia.  Judging from the voiceovers on some of their tracks, many of these tunes were used as incidental music for a marine biology documentary or somesuch.  But the tracks without the extra educational content are pretty nifty, and “Ocean Trigger” is easily the best of these.  I heard it on the music channel one day and went, wow, that really sounds like a LittleBigPlanet song.  Paired here with “Song 2,” the DJ Krush track from the Islands levels in LBP 1, they form a vaguely creepy block which dovetails nicely into the laid back wanderings of KOAN Sound and thence to our quirky closer, “The Appliance of Science.”

As I did last time, I’ve added a note for each track used in a LittleBigPlanet game: either 1, 2, 3, PSP, PSV, or Kart.  If a track doesn’t have a note, it isn’t from an LBP game (that I know of).

Paradoxically Sized World II
    [Burning Holes Right Through the Dark]

        “Orb Of Dreamers (The Cosmic Imagisphere)” by London Philharmonic Orchestra, off The Greatest Video Game Music, Vol. 2 

        “The Beginning” by DJ Krush, off Jaku
        “Eyen” by Plaid, off Double Figure 

        “My Patch” by Jim Noir, off Tower of Love 

        “Atlas” by Battles, off Mirrored 

        “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit, off Chunk of Change [EP]

        “E-Pipe” by Ugress, off Resound
        “Kota” by Bonobo, off Animal Magic
        “Sarasa” by Susheela Raman, off Love Trap
        “Volver a Comenzar” by Café Tacvba, off Sino 

        “Jungle Symphony” by Ananda Shankar, off A Life in Music: Best of the EMI Years [Compilation]
        “Yay Balma” by Taffetas, off Putumayo: Music from the Chocolate Lands [Compilation]
        “Main Title” by Jon Brion, off Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [Soundtrack]
        “Ocean Trigger” by Reef Project, off Hydro Dynamic
        “Song 2” by DJ Krush, off Jaku 

        “Lost in Thought” by KOAN Sound, off Dynasty [EP]
        “The Appliance of Science [Little Big Planet Dub]” by The Daniel Pemberton TV Orchestra, off Little BIG Music [Videogame Soundtrack]

Total:  17 tracks,  77:57

And that just leaves us with the block of world music that kicks off the second half of this volume.  We start with Susheela Raman, British-born of Indian parentage, singing in Telugu.12  Exotic, but still poppy.  Then into the tune from Café Tacvba, who hail from Mexico.  Then back to the Indian subcontinent for Ananda Shankar, then a song from Taffetas, who combine a kora player from Guinea-Bissau with a guitarist and bassist from Switzerland.13  There are vocals here, but I don’t think there’s any actual words—just a formles, ethereal voice.  Bridging this block and the next is the main theme from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion, which is strangely reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s score for Beetlejuice.  So it’s a perfect way to introduce the echoey, underwatery “Ocean Trigger.”

Next time, I think we’ll explore the intersection of creepy and romantic.


1 “PSV” means the PS Vita, i.e. the second handheld version.

2 At least so far.

3 I.e. the music that plays over the opening credits and spoken word intro by quite excellent voice talent Stephen Fry.

4 We’ll hear another track off this album on a different mix, in the fullness of time.

5 True story: for the longest time, everyone in our house was convinced that the chorus of this song was: “Fecal worker, fecal worker, going down.”  Apparently the Internet thinks it should be: “People won’t be people when they hear this sound.”  We like our version better.

6 Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.  I’ve really tried to like them, primarily for the sake of this song.  But so far I’ve found nothing to compare to the big bag of awesome that is “Sleepyhead.”

7 Or Café Tacuba, as it’s sometimes written.  I gather either is correct.

8 I told you we’d see him again.

9 Which we’ll see in volume IV.

10 Which we’ll also see on volume IV.

11 Recall that even though I’ve never personally played LBP PSP, PSV, or Kart, I know what songs they use.  Yay Internet.

12 I’m pretty sure it’s Telugu.  Either that or Sanskrit.

13 If you speak French, you could find out more about them from this page.  There’s an English bit at the bottom, but it’s not nearly so detailed.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Perl blog post #44

Time for another Perl post in my ongoing series about my planned new date module.  Feel free to pop over to my Other Blog for full details.  Or, you know ... not.  Don’t let me pressure you.

It’s just that all the cool kids are doing it.  But, you know: whatever you want, man.  I’m just sayin’.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

National Heroscape Day 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again: National Heroscape Day was yesterday, and we played our annual tournament for the SoCal league.  This year we managed 8 participants, but I brought 6 of them, so it’s not as impressive as it sounds.  (And, honestly, it doesn’t even sound that impressive.)  In case you don’t know what I’m on about:

And a reference that may only make sense if you actually play the game:

This year the Smaller Animal reluctantly agreed to play solo, since otherwise we would have had only 7.  He really wanted to play with me as a team though.  I hope next year he feels comfortable enough to go solo as well.  My eldest brought his 3 inseperable pals (now officially referred to as the Skype Squad, for the thing that they stay up all night doing), so that made 6 out of the 8 total participants, which is my personal record for highest percentage of tournament entrants provided.  So my feeling last year that I was “almost single-handedly keeping the game alive in our area” has only intensified this year.  But I’m going to keep drumming up more people, not fewer.  So if it one day ends up being just me and my friends and relations, I’m okay with that.  Plus we can just have it at my house and I won’t have to drive anywhere.

For the second year in a row, the younger brother beat the older, and consequently finished ahead of him in the tourney.  We brought one complete newbie, and she managed to come in 3rd, due to an unusual set of circumstances.  As per my usual showing, I came in right around dead center (in this case, 5th of 8).  But we don’t go for the tourney placement.  We go to have a good time, and I think we achieved that.

After the tourney, there was an aftergame of ‘Scape very similar to the one last year: my eldest once again took the elf wizard pod, and his friend once again played her backup army, which she hadn’t gotten a chance to try out.  Then we sat around bullshitting for a while, ate some pizza, then launched directly into a marathon game of Zombie Munchkin.  We only played to 6 levels (a normal game is to 10, but we learned a long time ago to scale back from that).  Still, we went back and forth for quite a while, with nearly everyone hovering at 5th level for at least a brief period, until finally the demonspawn’s other friend pulled out a victory which no one could stop.

As always, we must thank our gracious host, and his apartment complex’s community rec room, which is the perfect space for us to spread out, play games, eat two meals, and just have cool chats.  I hope we can achieve a better turn out next year, because our number can’t go down much more than this before there just isn’t much point in carrying on.  But we also talked quite seriously about getting together again before next year’s NHSD.  Of course, we did that last year as well, and see how far that got us.  But somehow I feel like this year will be different.  Hope springs eternal and all that.  But the kids at least are excited enough to make it happen.  So hopefully it does.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bleeding Salvador I

"The Night the Creature Came Ashore"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

I explained way back in the introduction that my mixes generally have one of 3 types of themes: emotional, musical, or lyrical.  Oh, sure, there’s a bit of crossover sometimes—Salsatic Vibrato, for instance, is primarily a musical theme, since it demands a certain type of instrumentation, but it also has a bit of an emotional component, in that all the tunes must be upbeat.  But for the most part mixes are one of those three.  Up until now, nearly every mix I’ve introduced you to has been either emotional or musical ... pretty much the only one that we can call lyrical is my Christmas mix.  Well, it’s time to change that right now.

When I first picked up Welcome to the Beautiful South, I was surprised at how much I liked it.  Oh, sure, I’d liked the Housemartins, Paul Heaton’s previous band, and London 0 Hull 4 is a nifty little album.  But Welcome to the Beautiful South is a marvel, a gem of unexpected beauty.  After listening to it once, I put it on repeat and listened to it over and over for hours.  Many of the songs on that album stick with me even now, a decade and a half later, but the one that wormed its way under my skin more than any other was “Woman in the Wall.”  With its poppy air and casual demeanor belying its gruesome lyrics, it was an odd combination of creepy, poignant, and disturbing.  And above all unforgettable.  When I started pondering the modern mixes, I knew that one mix surely had to be centered around bizarrerie: songs with surreal lyrics and strange imagery, and that “Woman in the Wall” would be one of its centerpieces.

And here we have Bleeding Salvador.  By “Salvador” I mean Salvador Dali.  Picture any of his famous paintings—say, The Persistence of Memory, or Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosionbut picture all those melting clocks dripping blood instead.  We’re talking Dali at his most disturbing;1 more like Burning Giraffes and Telephones or The Bleeding Roses.  Not all the songs here are that disturbing.  But they’re all at least a little ... odd.  Lyrically.

Once the mood had been established, a lot of songs immediately started suggesting themselves.  “Reptile” by the Church and “Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen have been the first two songs on this mix practically forever.  Likewise, “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, with its line “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had,” seemed an obvious choice.2  And the ultra-classic “Goo Goo Muck,” which is probably my all-time favorite Cramps song, was never in question.

And of course there are artists who are a no-brainer for this mix.  When it comes to Globe of Frogs by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, you’d be hard-pressed to find a track that doesn’t belong here.  But eventually I settled on “Tropical Flesh Mandala,” which handily also provides our volume title.  In the same vein, Hooverphonic, whose tunes normally find their way to Smokelit Flashback, and the Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC’s alter ego), specialize in the strange and surreal.  Here we have “Have You Seen Jackie?” and “Frosted Flake Wood,” which butt up against each other so perfectly it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins.

When it came time to work on finalizing this volume, I thought to look around for any other artists who would be perfect for it but that somehow I’d overlooked.  And two blazingly obvious candidates lept out at me: King Missile and They Might Be Giants.  Both of these groups can be so lyrically bizarre that it almost starts to sound normal while you’re listening to entire albums from them.  Once I started really looking for candidates from these two bands, I rapidly ended up with so many I didn’t know what to do with them all.  I finally settled on one from King Missile (“The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump Over a Church”) and two from TMBG: “Cage & Aquarium” as a bridge from the first half to the second, and “Everything Right Is Wrong Again” to help us wind down.  I especially love how “Cage & Aquarium” is much funnier if you’ve ever heard “Aquarius.”

Then there are the bands who aren’t necessarily a shoe-in, but shouldn’t be that surprising either.  Although you may remember Naomi from Smokelit Flashback, a lot of their tunes I used for that mix were instrumental.  The ones that weren’t perhaps didn’t strike you as particularly surrealistic.  On the other hand, their track that I used for Rose-Coloured Brainpan3 gave a hint of their proclivities in that direction.  Here we have “King Kong Is Not Dead,” which is perhaps the pinnacle of “hunh?” for them.4  Suzanne Vega is another one, as equally well-known for her sweet ballads as her strange trips.  But “Fat Man and Dancing Girl” has always been one of my favorites of hers, and it fits beautifully here.

And of course we need a few representatives from the completely unexpected.  Pearl Jam, for instance, is generally a pretty straight-ahead grunge band, but, when they diverge from that, they diverge pretty hard.  “Bugs,” from their somewhat difficult album Vitalogy, is an excellent example.  It’s not just lyrically strange, but also musically odd, with an accordian providing nearly its complete accompaniment.  I was also surprised to run across “Heaven, Hell or Houston” fairly recently when I finally decided to explore ZZ Top’s back catalog.  It’s wonderfully bizarre and I knew immediately it had to wind up on this mix.

Now, just as Salsatic Vibrato has an emotional component as well as a musical one, so Bleeding Salvador is not just any old song with weird lyrics.  These tracks are pretty much all solidly mid-tempo, not music that makes you want to get up and dance, but not melodies that fade into the background either.  So there are genres, such as gothic or darkwave, that give us lots of great, surreal lyrics, but emotionally they’re going to end up more in Smokelit Flashback or other mixes.5  But “Gun,” Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover of a John Cale tune from 1974, actually works wonderfully here.  Not as sonically difficult as Cale’s original, Siouxsie stays on-tempo, and her rich vocals are clearer than the muddy, echoey work from the Velvet Underground co-founder.  But the words retain all the disturbing imagery that Cale imbued them with, and the song has always fascinated me.  It’s one of my favorites off Siouxsie’s Through the Looking Glass.6  A sample view into Cale’s mindscape:

Blood on the windows and blood on the walls
Blood on the ceiling and down in the halls
And the papers keep downing on everything I burned
And the people getting restless but they’ll never learn

Although I’m not afraid to pick up the tempo as well.  Another cover, PJ Harvey doing Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” from way back in 1965, demonstrates that very well.  Like pretty much all of Rid of Me, it’s got a seething, not-quite-thrashy edge to it.  I decided to preface that with the Presidents of the United States of America, certainly no strangers to surrealism, and definitely not afraid to kick it up a notch.  “Lump” is my number one choice for best PotUSA song ever, and the lyrics certainly qualify it for this mix.

In the category of wacky recreation of bizarre childhood memories, there are two cinematic musical sequences from my own childhood which I clearly remember as being creepy and crazy and bizarre.  I didn’t understand the feeling at the time, but I would later recognize it as the mental disconnection that makes one feel as if they were on drugs even when they’re not.7  The first is “Wondrous Boat Ride” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  The second is “Pink Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo.  If anyone’s done a modern take on the former, I haven’t heard about it.8  But imagine how weirded out (and yet pleased) I was to find a version of “Pink Elephants” on El Bando en Fuego! by Lee Press-On and the Nails.  You may recall LPN from Salsatic Vibrato, and it’s true that this tune is brassy and upbeat.  But it’s just as weird as I remember, even without the trippy visuals. 

Bleeding Salvador I
    [The Night the Creature Came Ashore]

        “Reptile” by The Church, off Starfish
        “The Killing Moon” by Echo & The Bunnymen, off Ocean Rain
        “Tropical Flesh Mandala” by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, off Globe of Frogs
        “Woman in the Wall” by The Beautiful South, off Welcome to the Beautiful South
        “King Kong Is Not Dead” by Naomi, off Pappelallee
        “Have You Seen Jackie?” by The Dukes of Stratosphear, off Chips from the Chocolate Fireball [Compilation]
        “Frosted Flake Wood” by Hooverphonic, off The Magnificent Tree
        “Pink Elephants on Parade” by Lee Press-On and the Nails, off El Bando en Fuego!
        “Heaven, Hell or Houston” by ZZ Top, off El Loco
        “The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump Over a Church” by King Missile, off The Way to Salvation
        “Gun” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, off Through the Looking Glass [Covers]
        “Bugs” by Pearl Jam, off Vitalogy
        “Cage & Aquarium” by They Might Be Giants, off Lincoln
        “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, off The Hurting
        “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America, off The Presidents of the United States of America
        “Highway '61 Revisited” by PJ Harvey, off Rid of Me
        “Fat Man & Dancing Girl” by Suzanne Vega, off 99.9 F°
        “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps, off Bad Music for Bad People [Compilation]
        “Blood and Roses” by The Smithereens, off Especially for You
        “Mad Hatter” by The Stranglers, off Aural Sculpture
        “Everything Right Is Wrong Again” by They Might Be Giants, off They Might Be Giants
        “Beautiful Freak” by EELS, off Beautiful Freak
        “Earth to Doris” by Was (Not Was), off What Up, Dog?
Total:  23 tracks,  76:47

For the remainder, there’s nothing too surprising or too predictable.  The Smithereens’ “Blood and Roses” just barely qualifies for this mix, but it has some nice imagery and it’s just a great song.  “Mad Hatter” is uncharacteristcally a bit wacky for the Stranglers, while “Beautiful Freak” is fairly typical for the Eels.  Finally, to close out this volume, we have a very strange bit of sonic poetry: “Earth to Doris” by Was (Not Was).  You may recall that when last we encountered WNW9 I noted that they were “hard to pin down.”  This track is one which exemplifies that perfectly.  The music is strange, the spoken-word vocals are even stranger, and overall it paints a picture that you can’t help but try to visualize even while your brain is telling you that you really don’t want to.  A fitting way to tie this up.

Next time, we’ll circle back around to another round of gaming inspiration.


1 And possibly NSFW.

2 Lately the version by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules from Donnie Darko gets more attention.  But I still prefer the original.

3 Which was “October.”

4 Although there’s also much to be said for “Butter Worker.”

5 Which we shall come to in the fullness of time.

6 Which is itself probably my favorite Siouxsie album, for all that it’s a cover album.

7 Simplest way to experience this for yourself: go watch David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.

8 Actually, while researching this post, I discovered that Marilyn Manson did a version called “The Family Trip” for his first album.

9 Back on Moonside by Riverlight.