Category Archives: Wednesday Earworm

Wednesday Morning Earworm – “Optimistic”, by Radiohead

In keeping with the A to Z Challenge this month, today’s earworm is “Optimistic” by Radiohead.  Again, I did not want to change my regular Wednesday theme of posting the song that pops into my head the moment that I woke up, but I put a little forethought into this earworm for the sake of the challenge.

After 1997s OK Computer, I never would have believed that Radiohead could have topped themselves.  However, they did.  2000s Kid A, and 2001s Amnesiac (which I still consider 1 album that got split in two), broke new ground both musically and sonically.  I could write a lengthy post about it, but it has already been done several thousands of times.  Let’s just enjoy the song.

“Optimistic” is one of the few guitar-driven songs from Kid A, and has a jungle rhythm and a haunting melody that borders on discordance.  The lyrics are cynical (my favorite) and sort of explain that however hard you try in the world, the world will continue to evolve without you anyway, so guess what: it’s all kind of pointless.

       The big fish eat the little ones, the big fish eat the little ones

       Not my problem, give me some.

Oh, and hey!  remember when dinosaurs were the biggest, baddest creatures in the world?  Well, where are they now?  The same place that humans will be in a million years or so.

        If you try the best you can, the best you can is good enough

       If you try the best you can, dinosaurs roaming the Earth

Love it!

Anyway, here you go.  Happy Wednesday!

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – “Independence Day”, by Elliott Smith

In keeping with the A to Z Challenge this month, today’s earworm is “Independence Day” by Elliott Smith. Again, I did not want to change my regular Wednesday theme of posting the song that pops into my head the moment that I woke up, but I put a little forethought into this earworm for the sake of the challenge.

I have posted a lot of Elliott’s music on my blog–I mean a lot–like here, and here, and I have already used him as aWednesday Morning Earworm, so it should come as no surprise that I am posting more Elliott. It’s an Elliottpalooza around here!

He is one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, and his songs have always been the envy of mine. He writes such beautiful melodies that hearken back to The Beatles (especially George Harrison), Big Star, Tim Buckley, and Nick Drake. My songs go on too long like wannabe Grateful Dead, Neil Young, or Led Zeppelin songs, but Elliott had a natural knack for writing both simple and complex pop songs that rarely exceeded four minutes in length. I always wished that I could write like that.

Anyway, since today is brought to you by the letter “I”, the first song to pop into my head was “Independence Day”, from his brilliant fourth solo album, “XO.” I could list about 30 of Elliott’s songs as my “favorite”, but this is the indisputable champion of them all.

It’s an odd song, with no real hook, and a bizarre chord pattern written for an open “C” tuning on the guitar, and it warms my soul like no other. The lyrics make me think of someone recovering from some sort of loss, and knowing that they will come out of the crisis a new, beautiful, person.

Anyway, why blather on, when you can just listen to its beauty?

Here it is. I hope you enjoy. Happy Wednesday!

Oh, and to reinforce my creepy obsession with this song, I’ve decided to post both the original studio version and my favorite live version of him playing it solo. Pick one, or watch them both!

On this live video, the careful listener will catch Elliott responding to a heckler shouting out “Freebird!” with an almost inaudible, “fucking Freebird!”

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – “Computer Age”, by Sonic Youth

In keeping with the A to Z Challenge, today’s earworm is a cover of Neil Young’s “Computer Age” by Sonic Youth.  I did not want to change my regular Wednesday theme of posting the song that pops into my head the moment that I woke up, but I put a little forethought into this earworm for the sake of the challenge.

“Computer Age” originally comes from Neil Young’s “Trans” album, released in 1982.  “Trans” is a weird album that even the most die-hard of Neil Young fans tend to bash.  The album is Neil’s first experiment with electronic music; an experiment that continues on 1986’s “Landing on Water” and 1987’s “Life.”

Sonic Youth’s cover sounds like what Neil Young might have done with this song if he had Crazy Horse backing him instead of the Trans Band.  It is wild and loud, and everything one expects when Neil Young straps on an electric guitar.  In other words, Sonic Youth did this song correctly!

I love Neil, so don’t get me wrong, but the 80s were a weird time for him, and Trans was a reflection of his need for change.  Still, when I hear Sonic Youth play this song, I long for what might have been if Neil had chosen to make a more conventional Neil album.

This version from Sonic Youth can be found on the remastered version of their classic “Daydream Nation”, which also contains a brilliant cover of George Harrison’s, “Within You, Without You.”

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this.

Happy Wednesday!

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – Magnolia Electric Co.

On March 16, one of my old favorite Indie artists passed away from complications due to alcoholism.  Jason Molina, aka Songs: Ohia, aka Magnolia Electric Co., aka whatever else he might have called himself, was only 39 years old.  He may not have reached the age of 40, but he released roughly 40 albums under his various names, and another 10 or so collaborations.  I am sad that he is gone, but he left a HUGE body of work behind to remember him by.

A great, prolific, singer-songwriter right here.

A great, prolific, singer-songwriter right here.

I had the privilege to see him live with the Magnolia Electric Co. band back in 2009.  He played a tiny hole-in-the-wall dive bar literally down the street from my home in Citrus Heights, Ca.  I could have walked there if it weren’t 108 degrees that evening.

My girlfriend-at-the-time and I met my sister and her family at the “Fire Escape”, (I think that’s what it was called.  It’s called “The Couch” now), and ate some crappy bar food and drank a few beers.  There was an acoustic singer-songwriter from San Francisco that I have completely forgotten about, but I remember liking a lot, who opened for Jason Molina.  Molina walked in and out of the bar during the set with no apparent self-consciousness or shyness; just hanging out with everyone else.

Jason is the tiny one.  The guy to his left is the bass player, and he looks like Tumnus from "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe."

Jason is the tiny one. The guy to his left is the bass player, and he looks like Tumnus from “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

It was a typical Sacramento summer evening, in that it never really cooled-off, and poor Jason, being from Canada, melted in our inhospitable heat.  The band came on at about 8:30, or so, and played a truncated set due to the heat.  Poor Jason couldn’t hang.  He walked off after about 5 or 6 songs, but came back to play a 2 song encore.  I got the sense that he really appreciated the crowd and wanted to give us more, even though he was not feeling well.  He was talkative during the set, and thanked us between each song for coming out to see him.  At one point I said, “Hey!  Thanks for stopping in Sacramento!”  It was a small bar, and we stood less than 5 feet away from him.  He shyly acknowledged our love for his music.

We had no way of knowing this at the time, but this was the same time that he started having problems with his alcoholism.  He stopped touring shortly after the show I saw, and went into various treatment centers.  We always thought that he was sick from the Sacramento heat, but perhaps his health issues were already starting.  His health deteriorated rapidly in this past year.

Today’s Earworm is my favorite of Jason Molina’s songs.  “Farewell Transmission” is typical of his more upbeat songs, and hearkens back to Neil Young of the early 1970s.  I begged him to play this when I saw him, but I think he just wanted to focus on his newer material.  You can find this song on the Songs: Ohia album, “Magnolia Electric Co.”, which ironically is not the Magnolia Elecrtic Co. band.

I hope you all enjoy.  Happy Wednesday, and I miss you already, Jason!

Mama, here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws

Must be the big star about to fall…

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – Phish, “Stash”

In keeping with the theme of Liam’s Birthday week, today’s earworm will be his favorite song, “Stash.”

This particular version comes from the live album, “A Live One”, which is a particularly stellar version of the song.  The song was recorded at the July 8, 1994 show at the old Great Woods Amphitheatre in Mansfield, MA.

Stash is one of Tray Anastasio’s more complex compositions to begin with, but the jam they add into this version gets out there.  They make great use of the “tension and release” technique of jazz improvisation; building the jam to dissonant heights, and then falling peacefully back into the main themes.  It is fantastic, and it is no wonder why they put it on their first live album.

The song itself is a jazzy composition that hearkens back to Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, with a Frank Zappa twist.  It’s funny; back in the old, old, old, days, I remember that Phish used to sound so weird to me.  But now that I have listened to them for a couple decades, it all sounds so normal now.

So, with no further delay, please enjoy The Phish, from Vermont!

I couldn’t find the whole song on one video, so pardon the split.

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – The Strokes, and The Flaming Lips

Today is “Twofer Wednesday!”  Okay, I know that doesn’t make much sense, but so what?  My son and I are all a’buzz about the new album by The Strokes, “Comedown Machine”, due on March 26th, and the new album by The Flaming Lips, “The Terror”, due on April 1st.

Our first treat today comes from The Strokes’ third album, “First Impressions of Earth”, and the song is Juicebox.  Released in 2006, this song is a typically upbeat Strokes song, driven by heavy bass guitar, and Julian Casablancas’ distorted vocals.  It is one of my son Liam’s favorite songs to play on bass.

Our second treat today comes from The Flaming Lips’ tenth full-length album, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, and the song is my all-time favorite Flaming Lips song, Fight Test. Released in 2001, the entire album is a masterpiece, and probably my favorite from their vast catalog.   If you are not familiar with The Flaming Lips, please stop what you are doing and hear this song.  Then, go get this album, and the preceding album, “Soft Bulletin.”  You will thank me later!

Happy Wednesday!

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Wednesday Morning Earworm – “Happiness” by Elliott Smith

All I used to be will pass away, and then you’ll see

That all I want now is happiness for you and me

One of my personal favorites of about 30 Elliott Smith songs that I could call favorite.  This is such a beautiful song, and it gets stuck in my head quite often.

The lyrics are typically vague, but I always felt that this song is a straightforward narrative about one lover telling their former lover that whatever the reasons for their failings, he just wants peace and happiness.

This song was released about a year before my former-wife and I split up, and I used to listen to it a lot after the fact.  I still always think of her when I hear it.  Not out of nostalgia, or anything, but just because we had changed, and we had to deal with it.  I think that is what the song is about.  The lines…

Oh my, nothing else could have been done

He/she made his/her life a lie so

He/she might never have to know anyone

He/she made his/her life a lie, you know…

…perfectly describes the way our marriage fell apart, and the way we tried to hide from it before finally facing it.

Even though we are more than a decade beyond it all, I still just want to tell her that I just want us to be happy–wherever that leads us.  Probably just the song pulling on the old heartstrings, but you get it.  We share a son that we both adore, so we will never be too far from the other.

By-the-way, it’s been like 13 years since I first heard this song, and I still cannot do that impossible finger-picking that Elliott does.

Anyway, I know that I have posted a lot of music stuff lately, but I will get back to some serious writing very soon.  Life has gotten very busy for me lately, and Sundays through Tuesdays are my busiest days.

Happy Wednesday, Everybody!

joel

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