Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
This post was brought to you by the never-ending Dark brainrot (it consumes), my disappointment in Kindred’s TV show adaptation, and the continued Palehound Panic™️. But this is all merely the calm before the storm, because now we’ve got the news that Blur is coming out with a new album in July…BRACE YOURSELVES
Enjoy this week’s songs!
SUNDAY SONGS: 5/21/23
“What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong cover) – Soap&Skin
Somehow, it was this song, and not the original, that made me realize that the line was actually “the dark, sacred night” and not “the dark, say goodnight.” Whilst I was crying my eyes out at the Dark finale. Whatever it takes.
It’s been about two weeks now since I finished Dark and got through that gut-wrencher of a finale, and I can say with absolute certainty that I doubt I’ll ever emotionally recover from…well, anything about that show. I’ll spare you any spoilers, other than the fact that this song is present. But hopefully that part shouldn’t be a surprise, at least, with how the show-runners have now triple–dipped with the Soap&Skin needle drops, including the theme song itself. I may be an atheist, but the atmospheric covers of Soap&Skin and the eerie, dew-covered-forest, small-town-murder-mystery-that-turns-into-something-way-worse aesthetic of Dark together is a match made in heaven. There’s something that she brings to this near-untouchable song (except for a third grade singing program that I did? I think), that no one else could have—it’s got all of the makings for the same haunting instrumentals of her cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil,” but it’s impossible to take any of the love or hope out of this song. The synths make it sound like something that would’ve been in the running for a Golden Record candidate (or at least the backing track to a shot of a satellite in space), and Anja Plaschg’s rich, cavernous voice create a shadowy atmosphere, but one illuminated by an undeniable light at the end of the tunnel. It’s impossible to make this song sound anything but hopeful, but there’s different ways that hope can sing—and this was a perfect fit for the tearful, bittersweet ending to a series that’s taken up a welcome amount of space in this brain.
But while I’m here, I will offer the following…this was a great song to send off Dark with, but consider: “Blood of Eden?” Again, no spoilers, but…it’s all right there.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles cover) – Junior Parker
Except this time, one show is a time-travel masterpiece, and the other is FX’s adaptation of Kindred. Octavia Butler deserves better than THAT. (@ the showrunners: Kevin being a somewhat static character in the book was NOT a sign to make him into a total dudebro. The X-Ray Spex shirt isn’t fooling anyone.)
However, as generally peeved as I was with that show, if there was one great thing I got out of it, I’d point to this deliciously eerie Beatles cover. I’ve since given up the whole “don’t cover the Beatles” mindset, even if we are living in an uncharted sea of awful “Here Comes the Sun” covers, because with how influential they were on…well, almost every aspect of rock music that you can think of, there’s infinitely many things that can be done with these songs, classics as they are. Take picking this song to cover—the original song is nothing short of experimental, psychedelic insanity, deliriously noisy and filled with rubber duck noises at random intervals, as one does. It’s glorious. It’s a childhood staple of mine. But Junior Parker’s taken all of the trimmings off of it, slimming it down like a tree stripped of its bark. When the dust settles, all we’re left with is bass, soft drums, scattered keyboard chords, and Parker’s sonorous, bluesy voice. The bare-bones construction of this cover makes “Turn off your mind/Relax, and float downstream” feel like a chilling whisper of coercion, not a famous allusion to psychedelics. I never thought that this song could get quite this ominous—and, despite my general beef with the Kindred show, it was a perfect fit for the show’s atmosphere—definitely the best needle drop of the show, right at the end of episode 2. It wasn’t all bad, I guess.
“Night Time is the Right Time” – Ray Charles
Listen. I only know the basics of studio recording technology, but somehow, it’s “Night Time is the Right Time” that makes me appreciate what they were trying to do in the 50’s—not necessarily what it could do, but what it caught. The version I have on my iTunes library is plenty scratchy, cloaking almost everything in that signature fuzz you get from most recorded music up to the 60’s or the 70’s. It’s charming—it’s the sound of the era. But here’s the thing—the key word is almost. In almost every recording that I’ve listened to, no matter when it was mixed, Ray Charles’ voice sounds as clear as day. You could probably chalk that up to the main goal of said recording technologies being to record his voice first and foremost, but I can’t help but romanticize that in my head, Charles’ resonant voice soaring through any technology and defying any attempts at being aged. But no matter how fuzzy or remastered any recordings get, it’s always a beacon, the foggy gleam of a lighthouse across the sea.
And on the other side of the coin, there’s Margie Hendrix’s iconic voice—not spared the fuzz, but with what I’d argue is an almost equal amount of power. She put everything into that first call of “BABY!” and never slowed down. Her voice did fall victim to the scratchy fuzz, but her declarative growl of a voice almost fits with it; there’s a rough edge to Hendrix’s voice, the kind that makes my throat raw just thinking about belting out those notes. Knowing she was in her early twenties when she sang that makes it all the more impressive. It’s a voice that instantly conjures an image—screwed-up eyes, mouth open wide, putting every ounce of lung power into the verse that you have. The song is a testament to both of their talents, what little that I know about either of them—but either way, there’s a reason that they called Charles “The Genius,” and just as much of a reason for the influx of YouTube comments declaring their love for that iconic shout of “BABY!”
Another find on my quest to absorb as much of Palehound as I can before Eye on the Bat comes out, here’s a single that El Kempner released about a month before it all went wrong. February 27, 2020, to be exact. Yeesh. Simpler times.
I noticed a pattern after listening to both Dry Food and A Place I’ll Always Go—indie-rock lightness and guitar fun are the main priorities, but Kempner always has a few melancholy, slower tracks to balance everything out, nudged just past the middle (“Dixie”) or nestled at the end (“Feeling Fruit”) of any given album. “See a Light” allows this breed of Palehound to stand on its own. It’s the perfect vessel for Kempner’s whispery voice to flourish, drifting along like fog amidst the homegrown, shoegaze-y, bedroom production. It gently crawls along to a slow drum machine and glossy guitar notes, settling in your lap like a kitten. Distortion creeps in at perfectly calculated moments, fuzzing up the edges of the instrumentals and Kempner’s voice. Beyond all of that, it’s one of the best instances of album covers (or single covers, in this case) perfectly matching the feel of the song(s) itself—the combination of the handwritten typeface and the basketball hoop taken over by bright green vibes, set against a cloudy, gray sky, matches all of the bits that make me go back and listen to this song.
“Cubist Castle – Part 1” – Alan Peter Roberts (a.k.a Jim Noir) and Steve Wareing
📢YOUR REMINDER TO SUPPORT JIM NOIR ON PATREON (link above) IF YOU CAN HE’S AMAZING📢
Ever since Jim Noir has started said Patreon, we’ve gotten a handful of his older catalogue in between the new EPs. One such offering is this—a collaboration from 2000, between himself and a longtime friend, now remastered from the original ten tracks and expanded to 30 (!). (For reference, the tracks are grouped into four chunks on the Patreon link.) It’s not the first time that Jim Noir, under whichever name, has offered up his experience with making ambient music (see Omission Sound, also available on Patreon). I’m not as well versed in ambient music in general, but I’ve gotten tastes of it from him over the years; usually, I’m ambivalent about it—for me, his ambient music functions mostly as background music, plus the odd sample with a nice layer of distortion thrown in. But “Cubist Castle – Part 1” feels different than Omission Sound’s Solutions—there’s something cheerier about it that sets it apart. Including an early version of “Everytime” (a bright soundtrack to many a painful hour studying during the pandemic), “Cubist Castle – Part 1” has calm woven into it. Although some of the later parts get plenty ominous, there’s something so gentle about this first chunk—the tinny, bubbly synths, samples of birdsong and beach sounds…it’s just nice, simply. Nice. Nice is often such an inadequate word, but given the background-music nature of this album, it fits. It’s like the auditory version of a baby sensory video. I’m just glad that all of the essay writing that I did to the tune of “Cubist Castle” didn’t ruin it.
Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.
That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
3 thoughts on “Sunday Songs: 5/21/23”
Really well said and written about Ray Charles
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