Midnight Prayers

Dollar Store Novels for Free

Month: August, 2013

Day 154: S.f.M. – Frightened Rabbit Covers Jessie Ware

Rounding out three straight days of covers is Frightened Rabbit taking on Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments”.   Scott Hutchison isn’t known for the kind of fist-pumping uplift the original traffics in, so he tackles the song by tearing down the shiny, sky-scraping metropolis Ware haunted and making snow angels in the rubble.  It sounds like something someone at Pitchfork might call “pop-morose”.  Listen below:


Day 153: S.f.M. – Andrew Cedermark’s “On Me”

A Titus Andronicus vet, Andrew Cedermark has a knack for punchy songwriting but seems completely disinterested in letting his brand of scuzz indulge in the same kind of bulky narratives ex-collaborator Patrick Stickles is so fond of.  His solo debut, Home Life, feels brilliantly trapped on a couch, the work of someone trying to explore the world by sitting in one spot.  It has the aired out feel of some early Kurt Vile, but Cedermark is more present, more generous a narrator.  He doesn’t throw you into his amplifier as much as make sure you know it’s there.  When the album picks up, he slows down, pulling everything back down to his level.  If nothing else, Home Life proves Cedermark is a master of aesthetic.

The album opens with a cover of a song that, up until I heard Home Life for the first time, I assumed to be retired, possibly dead.  On it, Cedermark, against logic and, arguably, if it had failed, good taste, digs up the bones of Bill Withers’s “Lean on Me”, hollows them out, then plugs his guitar directly in.  The result isn’t beautiful, but with his guitar filling in for the choir, Cedermark finds a new way to sing about loneliness.

Listen below:

Day 152: Emergency S.f.M. – The Music Snob Tunegasm or: Kurt Vile Covers Nine Inch Nails

The AV Club has blessed us with this cover, one which, since being posted, has pitched a thousand Pitchfork pants-tents.  Click the link, turn up the volume, and take cover:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheAVClub/status/372508872126517248]


Day 151: S.f.M. – Eminem’s Punk Statement “Berzerk”

Don’t get this confused.  Rick Rubin isn’t saving rap music.  He isn’t hoarding some type of tattooed conch under his beard that’s capable of making Big Sean spell “ass” correctly or of raising Tupac from the dead.  He isn’t rap’s John the Baptist, but he’s definitely responsible for a whole lot of moving violations.

For those who don’t know, Rick Rubin is the producer behind Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and the sludgy desert landscape of Kanye’s Yeezus.  He’s the reason rappers are now being referred to as rock stars.  He’s also the guy from that Magna Carta… Holy Grail video who looks like he stumbled out of a Rob Zombie movie.  He’s the kind of mad scientist a good album needs to become great.

His next big project is executive producing Eminem’s sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP (alongside Dr. Dre and Eminem himself).  After the album was officially announced Sunday during a very special episode of To Catch a Predator on MTV, Eminem released the first single off The Marshall Mathers LP 2 on Vevo, a Beastie Boys sampling assault called “Berzerk”.  The song itself isn’t great, but it comes across like more of a statement than a radio aspiration, a complete reversal on his approach to both Relapse and Recovery, where he released the radio-ready “Crack a Bottle” and “Not Afraid” respectively.  By releasing “Berzerk” first, Em is making it sufficiently clear that he’s gone all in, as Kanye and Jay before him, on Rick Rubin’s vision of rap as urban destruction.

With that being said, “Berzerk” isn’t “99 Problems” (or, for that matter, even close to anything on Yeezus).  Where “99 Problems” puffed itself up to look as big as a Led Zeppelin track, “Berzerk” is content slumming it at a dive bar with the punks and the grunge kids.  Eminem doesn’t want us to confuse him with Mick Jagger.  He’d much rather we think he’s Johnny Rotten.

Day 150: S.f.M. – Cold Satellite’s “Elegy (In A Distant Room)”

Cold Satellite’s sophomore album, Cavalcade, is a bluesy walkabout set against the wreckage of its opener, the hurtling escape vehicle called “Elegy (In A Distant Room)” that’s more concerned with the buildings fading in its rearview than the infinite desert ahead.  It’s a full-bodied anthem that left just enough room for a soul.  Listen to the album below:

Day 149: S.f.M – Violent Soho’s “Neighbour Neighbour”

Ignore the Malick-y camerawork during that intro.  This is what Oasis would sound like if the Noel Gallagher never heard of the Beatles, snark glued onto power chords.

Day 148: S.f.M. – The Dangerous Summer’s “Catholic Girls”

There’s been a lot of debate this summer, more than of any summer in recent memory, about which song is the chip-leading “Song of the Summer”, and most of this debating has been utterly boring in the worst possible way.  It’s not that there aren’t any good candidates, everyone seems to love both “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” in equal measure (except for the people who have pitchforks with Robin Thicke’s name painted on the prongs), it’s that the debate itself is about an arbitrary title that will never actually be handed over to an artist.  Another way of saying this is that “Song of the Summer” is a title that was made up specifically to cause debate that can’t be resolved (and to spike iTunes sales, but that’s a different argument), one that causes us to be both Socrates and Thrasymachus.

The problem stems from our emotional attachment to music, which ends up being the reason why “Song of the Summer” has nothing to do with record sales, festival appearances, or number of Spotify plays.  Instead, it becomes a debate about who’s emotions are more important.  Each of us has our own “Song of the Summer”, even if they’re technically the same song.  My version of “Get Lucky” is probably vastly different from yours because it helped me through a few 20 hour work days while it might’ve helped you during a break-up (don’t overlook Pharrell’s lyrics on this one), so the argument becomes whether my exhaustion was more in need of saving than your broken heart.  Basically, we end up arguing over emotions instead of things like composition, artistic intent, or even danceability, and we’re all too close to the situation to make a rational ruling.

All this being said, there is a chance for consensus this year, not on “Song of the Summer” but on “Song of the End of the Summer”.  While still a difficult and possibly (definitely) emotion-driven category, “Song of the End of the Summer” is much less fun than it’s more famous brother, and seems like something a band could legitimately get right.  With that in mind, let me introduce you, if you haven’t already met, to The Dangerous Summer, the anti-Thickes who have shown up to take the humidity out of our air.  The Maryland natives’ first single from their upcoming “Golden Record” is big on heart in a way that might just outsize your own emotions, but will most definitely kick, punch, and head butt you right in the nostalgia bone.  This isn’t a song to drink to; it’s a song to get drunk to.

Listen below:

Day 147: S.f.M. – An Obituary for Big Sean

Age unknown, a brief resident of The Life, Big Sean died on August 27, 2013 with only real n-words by his side.  He was born some time in 2007 outside the WHTD studio in Detroit, Michigan to Kanye West and a cloud of hash smoke wearing Jean Paul Gaultier sunglasses.  Devoted Family Guy fan, cherished ya-girl bandit, and beloved Chris Brown employer, Mr. Sean spent his final days planning an ultimately doomed threesome with Nicki Minaj and Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa.  Other hobbies included: looking at his own penis, pun mad-libs, and becoming invisible when surrounded by his friends.  He was survived by brother and Cinemax subscriber 2 Chainz as well as close friend Pusha T, who was last seen Walter White-ing his ceiling.

A$$es to a$$es, dust to dust, Mr. Sean’s family is at ease knowing their loved one’s dick will finally get a rest.

Day 146: S.f.M. – Dinosaur Pile-Up’s “Start Again”

Sometimes you just need a good riff, some bottled-lightning energy, and a capable singer.  Sometimes you don’t need a high concept band that’s trying to re-define music.  Sometimes you just need a good song to play really, really fucking loud.  Play this one with the windows down, otherwise, they might shatter.

Day 145: On Traveling, Memories, and Constructing Towns

San Francisco is a long way away from Philadelphia.  Even by plane you can feel the mileage, the air, the history you’re skipping over, the plains down in Kansas, stretching on like a quilt blindly stitched together, that you’ll never set foot on.  We sat up front on our first flight, not in first class.  We flew Southwest, so just up front.  We got there first, my parents and I, so we chose the seats with the most legroom.  The flight attendants liked how light our shoulders looked, us on vacation, and went out of their way to refill our drinks more than once.  Apple juice and ice; I had to cut them off.

We got to the airport in Philadelphian earlier this morning around 5:55 AM but had obviously missed a news alert because it was already packed with dozens of people lugging around suitcases and duffels, giving off the illusion of plans, of control.  I had mine too, and let it hang slack and needy from my shoulder.

Approaching security, an NSA worker smirked in our direction, “Happy Friday,” she laughed at us, knowing full well our minds had jumped from baggage check directly to cloud-piercing escape.  We were suddenly a punch line, and I slowly realized that was kind of the point.  All this traveling we planned out, switching flights in Denver, aiming clear-eyed towards San Francisco, was taking a little part of us, something we would never fully realize we’d lost.  That’s what traveling on world-shriveling machinery does to us; it snatches up the psychological landmarks we’d normally affix to a physical map.  When we skip completely over states and time zones, we don’t just lose hours; we lose stories.

Sitting in the Denver airport, a building that looks exactly like the one I left behind in Philly, and close to the one I’d seen a few times before in Newark, I begin to wonder which version of the world is better, ours or the one that existed before these convenience machines.  My thoughts definitely weren’t alarmist.  I love being able to ship myself off to San Francisco or England or somewhere those wagon dwellers never could’ve imagined.  I guess it’s just difficult to come to terms with your own willful avoidance of humanizing experiences.  We’ve been promised the ability to know the whole world but end up fast-forwarding through most of it in the process.

And how do we choose which parts to skip over, to merely glance at?  We use tour books, reviews, advice from strangers.  In the end, it feels like we’re all just seeing the same world, the best vacation spots, those faces in a mountain, a handful of castles.  Shouldn’t all of our worlds be different?  Mean different things?  Maybe this is what the punch line means, that we’re not shrinking the world; we’re simplifying it, making jarring immensity into a cheat sheet.  But what test are we trying to pass?

Don Dilillo wrote about this trend brilliantly in White Noise, lamenting the death of a red barn’s identity after it had been deemed a tourist attraction.  Without the book in front of me, and lacking the virtue of a Wi-Fi connection, I am paraphrasing from memory here, but Dilillo has one of his typically analytical characters prescribe the problem, the reason the barn isn’t alive anymore, as its visitors’ inability to actually see the barn. The character makes note that those who visit the barn are only seeing what everyone who came before had said about it, had seen in it, and had written about it.  The barn was incapable of accepting a new story because there was only one narrative to its flawless red paint job.  When we go to places like this, we’re looking into someone else’s memory instead of expanding our own.

Think about your hometown.  Think about its infrastructure, its roads, its buildings, its rocks.  Think about that map you’re using, the one in your head.  Think about how it was drawn, how you built it up from scratch.  Think about the separation between the physical and the psychological on it, how that separation is gulfing.

When we’re given these places without context, we’re left free to tear them down and rebuild them as our own.  We give them new coordinates, new directions, new sizes.  Your grade school may seem infinitely larger than where you went to high school even if they were roughly the same size.  Your house shrinks as you get older.  Everything, over time, starts to feel like it belongs to you.  You give these places an original definition, the park where you broke your wrist, the 7-11 where you found an Allen Iverson card hiding quietly among a slumbering stack of Topps packages, that shower where you lost your virginity.  After a while, the town starts to look more like a story than a collection of buildings, and you could never hope to explain that story to anyone.  It’s just there, not exactly hidden, more blending in, painted onto the houses, reposing on park benches.

I’m not saying we need to have a connection like this with all the places we travel, I’m fairly convinced that’s not possible, but I am starting to look for a rewind button.  It just seems like a waste of time to visit other people’s memories, but it also feels downright lazy.  There’s a reason the phrase, “That journey changed them”, sat comfortably next to the notion of Manifest Destiny, and it’s the same reason I find myself looking around this airport for a wagon and a dirt trail.  I’m ready to build a few new towns.