Steinbeck on Random — 5.19.06

Officially, this is the first Steinbeck on Random Friday that I’ve been able to experience with my new Steinbeck – Steinbeck II, in all actuality – and I’m pretty excited to see what My Little Robot spits out at me.

See, I had roughly 4,800 songs on Steinbeck O.G. Now, it’s filled with 6,008 pieces of music (that’s a 25% increase in tracks!), including my first two iTunes-purchased selections: The Postal Service’s “Against All Odds,” and The Arcade Fire’s “Cold Wind.”

“Against All Odds” is exactly what it sounds like – a cover of Phil Collins’ hit song. It’s strangely addictive, capable of being listened too hundreds of times without growing old and tired. “Cold Wind” is from the soundtrack of Six Feet Under and is one of my favorite The Arcade Fire songs.

Both were pretty heavy on Left Of Center (Sirius 26) rotation last summer, but they’ve disappeared since then. And since I couldn’t find either song anywhere, I was forced to actually pay $1.05 (post tax) each for them. I’m not complaining – they’re great songs. Now I just need to buy Ben Folds’ cover of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” and I’ll be set.

So with that, let’s shuffle the songs.

1. Bad Religion – “We’re Only Gonna Die”

The oldest Bad Religion song I still remember. I remember purchasing this album for purely archival purposes when I was a big Bad Religion fan – how could I be a big fan if I didn’t have al of the albums? “We’re Only Gonna Die” was one of the well-known songs from that era, and was one of two 80-85 songs featured on their greatest hits album All Ages. That’s how I ended up with it on my iPod again. And it’s still pretty good.

2. The Soundtrack of our Lives – “Ten Years Ahead”
Behind the Music

This is one of the new songs – not on Steinbeck I, but showing up in all of its glory on V.2. It’s short, and it’s kind of wanky, and it’s not one of The Soundtrack of our Lives’ best. But it still sounds like them, and I love Soundtrack’s sound – they sound a thousand times more polished and smart than many other bands in their genre – that nearly Brit-pop style of American rock.

3. A Tribe Called Quest – “Award Tour”
The Anthology

From their greatest hits album, this is my favorite A Tribe Called Quest song. Originally, it was from Midnight Marauders, and it was one of the Top-100 songs. From that review: “The first hip-hop song I embraced after the gangster rap phenomenon. Tribe sounds very dated, especially next to the more modern indie-rap sounds of Jurassic Five, but it’s a classic sound that is always welcome.” Thanks, Misha – this is one of the things I still hold from our friendship.

4. Pearl Jam – “Nothingman”

This is really funny – I’ve kind of been on a Pearl Jam revival, remembering how much I liked them and discovering how welcome they are whenever they show up on the ‘Pod. I mean, this is pure nostalgia for me, and (maybe I’m getting old, but) I like them. A lot.

What’s even funnier is that I asked everyone at work to submit the most influential album in his or her life along with the reasons why that album was still relevant. One person mentioned this song specifically. Neat. It all comes full circle.

Of course, this is one of the woeful, depressing sounding songs – not to be confused with “Better Man,” from the same album.

5. The Postal Service – “Sleeping In”
Give Up

This is, unfortunately, not the song I purchased. (How cool would that have been?) A song about a dream – though, a weird dream about knowing who shot John F. Kennedy.

Hearing this song reminds me of how Death Cab For Cutie (Ben Giddard of The Postal Service fronts that band as well) has become so wussy – even more than before. They used to be a cool, unique sounding indie-rock band that was just close enough to breaking into the mainstream to make them edgy. They weren’t overproduced and they had that Northwest U.S. indie feel that Built to Spill, 764-Hero and Modest Mouse have taken to the airwaves.

Now, though, they’re quickly taking the Jimmy Eat World path – a great band that is slowly reverting to a more “so what?” style of music; a little boring, a little trite. And it’s too bad, because I really really liked We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes – the first Death Cab CD I’d ever bought. That new one, Plans? Feh. Or maybe I mean yawn.

6. Coldplay – “Bigger Stronger”
The Blue Room EP

And Steinbeck responds to my criticism of Death Cab going mainstream and losing their original sound by reminding me that I own every single Coldplay album that’s been released to the mass market. Thanks for bringing me back down to earth, you little jerk.

This song is one of my favorites, from an older EP.

7. R.E.M. – “Hope”

R.E.M. minus Bill Berry equals lots of drum machine. At least, on this album, which I believe was the first they recorded after Berry left. Some of the songs on this album are great – “Walk Unafraid,” “At My Most Beautiful” – and I’m not saying this song isn’t good, but it’s always sounded like something from a soundtrack or a B-side. It’s like a The Postal Service (third mention, friends) version of a Death Cab song – lots of computers, but the same voice and structure.

I do like the lyrics to the song a lot, though – much more than a lot of R.E.M.’s stuff. “But you’re questioning the sciences and your questioning religion. You’re looking like an idiot and you don’t even care.”

8. Ben Folds Five – “Philosophy”
Ben Folds Five

Another Top-100 selection: “But it’s really not that you can’t see the forest for the trees/You never been out in the woods alone.”

Yeah, I still like Ben Folds Five. They’re great.

9. The Who – “I Can See For Miles”
Who’s Better, Who’s Best

Do you want to know the truth?

I stole this CD from the KSSU music library.

It’s true. Many years ago, when I would buy and sell CDs without any rhyme or reason, I possessed The Who’s 30 Years of Maximum R&B – a box set that spanned their entire career. It was a very good box set, especially for a kid like myself who hadn’t really been exposed to The Who any more than the local classic rock radio station allowed me.

But, of course, I sold it for a high price, since it was hard to come by. In fact, since I had purchased it with my Best Buy discount, I may have only lost $5 on the entire deal. I then longed for The Who, and I didn’t have any of their music anymore. So I stole this – a disk without a case, without cover art and with a layer of dust – from the “radio station” I worked at. A radio station that didn’t get new music and wasn’t even broadcast over the radio waves.

Boy, what a joke KSSU was.

10. Atmosphere – “Cuando Limpia el Humo”

I don’t know this song very well. But I like it. Sorry, I’ve got nothing more to say about it.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 19th, 2006