Oh hello, I’m just going to drop this here for my obligatory Halloween post:
I made a mix of my favorite artists and their most Halloween-ish songs for your listening pleasure!
For the record, it was really difficult to not just make a list of 10 Tom Waits songs (WHAT’S HE BUILDING IN THERE??), but I had a fun time digging through my iTunes library trying to find relevant songs somewhere in between “Monster Mash” and “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” (I mean, I want to be able to enjoy listening to it myself).
The other person who I figured would dominate this mix is John Entwistle, featured above in his skin-tight skeleton suit. The man is obsessed with the macabre. I mean, just look at each album cover of his solo career:
(I left out Too Late the Hero and The Rock because those are actually pretty normal, but let’s not forget that he also did an album called Music from Van-Pires). However, while re-listening to these albums, I realized that John Entwistle has a way of making songs with really dark content in the style of, say, 50’s doo wop (which is essentially all of Rigor Mortis and Mad Dog). Since I wanted this mix to actually sound like it could be in a classic rock haunted house of sorts, I ended up using some of his Who-era songs instead. For the rest of the mix I got kind of lazy and just opted for spacey psychedelic 60s songs.
Anyway, all of this was way more explanation than necessary. Happy Halloween, I guess. Anyone else have any good spooky songs to share?
A few weeks ago, John Darnielle came to Green Apple Books in San Francisco for a Q&A and reading of his new novel, Wolf In White Van. The whole time I stood on my tiptoes behind a mass of superfans who had arrived earlier than me, and listened while JD and Robin Sloan discussed D&D, sci-fi, and cassette tapes. The sheer nerdiness of it made me so, so happy.
I’d bought Wolf In White Van earlier that day but had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that John Darnielle’s songs are stories in themselves, and he has an extraordinary ability to create powerful scenes in just a few verses. I thought if this book was anything like that, I’d love it.
It was, and I did.
JD’s novel-writing is just as lyrical as his lyrics are narrative. Somehow he can weave in these incredible images while keeping the writing conversational and real. At the Green Apple event, he talked about how it’s important to him that his sentences sound good when read aloud, and that’s why he would spend hours reading the manuscript to his toddler. I honestly never really thought about that, because besides audio books and readings like this, it’s not too often that you actually hear a book read aloud. But yeah, when he read an excerpt to the audience, it flowed just like a friend telling a (beautifully crafted) story.
“I stood in the kitchen by the window reading the summons; it was so boring. The facts that had brought it into being were the stuff of nightmares, vivid and awful and real, but the thing that came to speak of them was a lifeless sequence of instructions written in a language no one alive even spoke. Nobody talks like that. People only talk like that when they can’t stand to tell you what they mean. I lead a sane and quiet life: the sun shone on the grape-candy purple jacaranda in the breezeway outside, and the oleander and the bottlebrush were in bloom down the walkway, and I felt like I had been suddenly shot out into space, the world I’d left behind terrible and frightening, only now I couldn’t breathe at all. I felt my blood quickly becoming starved of oxygen and my cells beginning to swell, and the stars around me grew brighter and then faded, and then nothing happened at all, and I stood by the window a while longer with the summons in my hand…” – p87
For all its dark and somewhat depressing subject matter, Wolf In White Van somehow isn’t a depressing book. Actually, it’s strangely uplifting. I guess a lot of the Mountain Goats’ songs are like that too: they tell a morbid story with major chords and catchy choruses. Like the Tom Waits quote “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” That’s what I love about this book, and John Darnielle’s music. He recognizes the shitty things in life and turns them into art.
Just some miscellany for you on this fine Friday eve…
OK Go’s new album Hungry Ghosts officially comes out next week, but you can hear the whole thing now at Hype Machine! Thanks to pre-orders and two OK Go concerts this summer, a lot of these songs already feel like old favorites (“The One Moment,” “I Won’t Let You Down”), but hearing them as part of a full album somehow brings back the magic of experiencing them for the first time. After a few listens, my favorite new songs are “If I Had a Mountain” (SO Prince) and “Bright As Your Eyes.” Can’t wait to have my own copy, and for the new music video(s) to come out!
Last weekend I saw TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS in San Jose, and it was epic. A real American rock & roll show, as Tom put it. Poor Alex was suffering from the Bruce Springsteen Effect (throwback to 2009 when Lauren and I couldn’t stay awake during the Boss’s 2+ hour set at the end of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert). Nevertheless, I like to think he enjoyed at least the hits, and/or wasn’t too embarrassed with me trying to perfect my Petty impression during “Yer So Bad.” Unlike a lot of other classic rockers who have understandably gone hoarse (Roger Daltrey, I still love you), Tom Petty still sounds exactly like Tom Petty. And his hair is still so unbelievably groomed (is it fake now? I’m too scared to ask Google).
Anyway, the show was awesome and I quite enjoyed Tom’s stage quips: “Whaddaya say, San Jose?!” (such a dad phrase) and “Thank you SO MUCH” x1000. I also thought it was cool that they played “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and a rowdy version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” which I had no idea was originally recorded by Paul Revere & The Raiders. We had pretty good seats on the floor level and near the middle, but I would love to someday see a show like this from the first few rows. Maybe next time TP & the Heartbreakers play Outside Lands….
And of course, Happy Lenntwistle Day! I searched through Tumblr to find two pictures of these guys being their awesome selves:
Is J.L. on a skateboard? And I know he’s flipping the British equivalent of the bird, but he’s doing it so HAPPILY! I’ve never seen that pic before and I love it. Meanwhile, J.E. makes a fashion statement out of leather pants, a scarf, and a wacky bass guitar. How can you not love them?
Ok, so I know it’s already a few days into the month…and I only just discovered that Spocktober was an actual thing (me: “Ha! Spocktober! That’s clever, I wonder if anyone else has thought of that. *google search* …Yes. Yes, everyone has thought of that.”), but I thought in celebration I would do some more Top 5’s (are you sick of these yet?):
Top 5 Vulcans (and half-Vulcans) – from TOS
1. Surak – the Vulcan equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, apparently
2. T’Pau – pretty baller, I mean just look at her
3. Sarek – Vulcan ambassador and Spock’s dad
4. Saavik – she saved Spock’s life (in a very awkward way)
5. MR. SPOCK
Top 5 Spock Quotes 1. “What does it mean, exact change?” – mostly I like this quote because it’s referring to Muni
2. “Sir, there’s a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder.” *nerve pinch*
3. “I have been and always shall be….” – y’all know the rest
4. “I am preparing to toast…a marshmelon.”