Author Archives: Phil

These songs are really almost the same song


Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of PhiladelphiaMusic from “Philadelphia” [1994]

Primitive Radio Gods – “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My HandRocket [1996]

Let’s just be clear: lay down a keyboard track, throw some crappy electronic beats over that ish and put some mumbly vocals in the background and I will love that song forever.

It should also be noted: not only did Chris O’Connor of PRG rely heavily on B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get” (Live at the Regal [1964]), but the title is baldly stolen from Bruce Cockburn’s “Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand” (Further Adventures Of [1978]).  Still, I just love this song.  Maybe we’ll have some meta posts later about creativity and originality (or the lack thereof) in modern popular music.

Bruce Springsteen tried beats and it wasn’t too bad

Primitive Radio Gods “wrote” this song

Posted by Phil



Filed under 1990s, Pop, Rock

“Floating on the top is better”

Idaho – “To Be The One” from Hearts of Palm [2000]

Summer is drawing to a close here in Pittsburgh: I watched the sun set on my neighborhood’s bricks the other day and it felt just perfect.  Much like this song.

Jeff Martin makes perfect miniatures of sweet, slow, pop goodness.  Treasure these last few days of summer and look forward, desperately, to autumn.

Buy buy buy Idaho Idaho Idaho

Posted by Phil


Filed under 2000s, Pop

“Come to my house/I got whisky and chairs”

16 Horsepower – “Horse Head” from Hoarse [2001]

Whenever I speak with fellow aficionados of 16 Horsepower, we can all agree on the importance of the crazed, drunken preacher with hellfire in his eyes coming out of frontman David Eugene Edwards, just as we can agree that this band has rekindled the fear of the Lord in our souls. But I never hear about the importance and soul-crushing weight of Pascal Humbert’s low end: on Secret South‘s opener “Clogger,” the whole album starts with a massive, speaker-rattling bowed contrabass. It’s got some physical weight to it, which is a nice counterbalance to Edwards’ hysterical yelping.

This track is particularly ominous, primarily because the low end acts as the song’s pallbearer; jerky guitar interpositions, hair-raising fiddle, and gawky yells into an old ribbon microphone act as the clouds, rain, and crows flying over the funeral procession.

This is one of the scariest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a drunken man in a torn shirt, hurriedly staggering towards the instigator of a crop fire, pistol in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other.

Put the fear of the Lord in ya

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Country

Worst Song Ever: Part Four

(To be cross-filed under the possibly new Department of the Unforgivable.)

Red House Painters – “Trailways” from Songs for a Blue Guitar [1996]

Red House Painters – “I Feel The Rain Fall” from Songs for a Blue Guitar [1996]

To truly understand the abject horror of “I Feel The Rain Fall,” you should first listen to “Trailways,” the immediately preceding track on Songs For A Blue Guitar.

Let’s be honest. “I Feel The Rain Fall” is not a good song. In fact, I think it’s a terrible song. I think it’s one of the stupidest things Mark Kozelek has ever put on tape. I think it insults my intelligence, what with its campy back-and-forth guitars and little snare drum part, feigning a musical connection with old-time C&W and gospel music. Mark Kozelek, you are a sad bastard who writes great sad-bastard songs like “Trailways.” Please stick to your strengths.

The real problem is that “Trailways” is a highlight in the RHP catalog. A masterpiece of understatement, with elliptical personal lyrics that hint at specifics but never really give you the whole story. With dueling e-bows. A transcendent song, followed by a seventh-grade pastiche of a genre in which the student has never been remotely adept. Why, why, why would you follow up such a brilliant demonstration of loss with such a clunker?

Still, it’s a good record. Buy it, ok?

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 1990s, Rock, Uncategorized, Worst Songs Ever

Let them try and follow

Dirty Three – Sister Let Them Try and Follow from She Has No Strings, Apollo [2003]

I was on the speech team in High School, okay? People consider me articulate, and I can write in sentences that make sense. But my truest thoughts aren’t words at all. I think best in colored shapes that move together in space. Ribbons, or big giant squares. And they make sense to me, but I can’t really articulate it except by saying “it’s like a blue ribbon arced up, convex to the ground and then its parabola reversed and precisely at that moment, a red ribbon came up to it from the ground and wrapped around it, loosely, and they go on from there.” Which is a nice picture, I suppose, but what sense does it make to anybody else? People ask me what I’m thinking about and instead of giving long descriptions of esoteric colors, I just put on the Dirty Three and say “this it what it sounds like.”

Dirty Three were formed when God himself put weirdo zen guitars, time-signature-transcending drums, and insanity in a violin into an Australian crucible and crushed the living hell out of it, leaving only the best instrumental band on the face of the planet. I’m only slightly exaggerating. This particular song is a prime example of what makes Dirty Three work so well, namely that Mick Turner, Jim White, and Warren Ellis are doing such different things that shouldn’t work together but fit together so very well. Like holding hands with your girlfriend. But maybe she has ten hands.

I wrote out a list of the highlights in this song, but there were too many and they devolved into nothing but swears and “aaaaaaaaaaahh”s. I’ll spare you. But trust me, this song is better the louder you can get it. Listen to the violin scream and the drums fall in and out. I’ve never heard a guitar plunk and glimmer at the same time like this. Treat yourself to early hearing loss. There is not a better way.

You can buy this or other fine Dirty Three recordings here

Posted by Phil


Filed under 2000s, Instrumental, Post-rock

Hammocks, et al.

Tren Brothers – Gold Star Berlin from Ep [1997]

I just found out that the Tren Brothers are playing at Schuba’s in Chicago. Against my better judgment, I purchased two tickets and a round-trip plane ride in order to witness this event. Why, you ask?

Mick Turner and Jim White (two thirds of the Dirty Three) create loop-based, off-kilter sunset reveries (my friend says this should be called “the hammock song”) that demonstrate the perfect fact that they have insane chops and have transcended them. This band is good. Really good. Better than most everything in my music collection. So if you’re in Chicago, you should really make it out on Saturday. Their current tour is tonight in New York, two dates in Canada, Chicago on Friday and then a couple more dates in Canada. If you can call that a tour.

So go, already. Buy your tickets here.

Also, buy the music here

Posted by Phil


Filed under 1990s, Instrumental

“Now it’s Friday.”

Migala – Suburbian Empty Movie Theatre from Arde [2001]

I first heard Migala on a covers record of Low’s I Could Live In Hope and it was spooky. In researching their back catalog, I found that they used to be an experimental noise band.


Regardless, this song off their first US release for Sub Pop makes me feel really, really good whenever I listen to it, and since it’s raining and I’m still at work, well, I thought I’d give it a shot. Hopefully it works for you, too.

Disappear for half the night. Disappear

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Rock