A few of my favorite things #14

Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)

Wispy if not vaporous on first and even third listening, with synthesized beats that don’t complement the vocal tracks. But I learned to love the whole thing, smitten with the tales of love on the run and narratives fractured in part by sampled harmonies substituting for guitar parts and Ezra Koenig’s quiet, unruffled way of dropping a key verse before he disappears into the mix. It peaks with “Diplomat’s Son,” resolute about not making a point about a half-remembered relationship whose importance waxes and wanes with the synth patch.

Warren Zevon – Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon (2002)

His albums are good, his compilations better. The staid early material isn’t helped by his Brand X voice, but hook him up with the Fleetwood Mac rhythm section, synthesized strings, excitable girl backup singers and the songs are borne aloft, high on what they’re getting away with. Buried in the second half is “Looking For the Next Best Thing,” defiant about making do.

John Prine – Sweet Revenge (1973)

As much as I like the debut, there’s a showman’s air to it: here are these great songs I’ve written with details to ponder. Produced by Arif Mardin, Sweet Revenge is closer to: my band and I are playing great songs. “Often is a Word I Seldom Use,” “Grandpa Was a Carpenter,” the title track, “Onomatopoeia” — if folk shares a lived experience, folk rock asks the audience to project its own.

Pulp – Different Class (1995)

While their boring Britpop contemporaries tripped over their influences, this Sheffield act found a marriage between material and arrangements as fertile as Leonard Cohen and his Casio presets on I’m Your Man. Shopping for an identity in a century’s worth of detritus, I found these disco-inflected tunes as camp and louche as I wanted myself to be. If you don’t believe me, listen to my karaoke version of “Disco 2000.”

Frank Sinatra – Where Are You (1957)

Torch songs on the edge of hysteria. Gordon Jenkins is not fond of restraint, although next to Nelson Riddle he’s Mantovani. I suspect that’s why these days I’ll stick Where Are You in my player over No One Cares and Only the Lonely: Sinatra’s coolness tempers the heat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: