Steinbeck on Random – 3.5.09

It feels like it’s been years since I’ve thrown Steinbeck on random and seen what tender little gems I could round up from the depths of my musical library. It hasn’t been, though – simply months, if you look at it technically. After all, I used to work out, which gave birth to the adapted Steinbeck on Steroids.

Of course, if you look at it literally, it’s true. I haven’t thrown Steinbeck on Random for this blog since September 2007.


So, with that in mind, let’s do this.

1. The White Stripes – “Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap”
Conquest EP

I don’t know this song.

But, I do know that, without a doubt, The White Stripes show up on random more than any artist I listen to. Despite the fact that several artists have a ton more songs available, The White Stripes always seems to bully its way into the lineup.

Which would be fine, except, you know, they have so many songs that are just, well, whatever. I mean, they’re unremarkable. They have some brilliant songs. And they have some just plain ordinary songs.

This seems like one of them.

2. Johnny Cash – “A Boy Named Sue (live)”
Johnny Cash at San Quentin

Listening to the songs on their own, not as part of an album, I can’t tell the difference between those on Live at Folsom Prison and those on this album. I guess that answers the question, “Despite how good both albums are, is it really necessary to have two live albums from the same artist during the same era?” (The answer, for those not paying attention, is, “No.”)

3. Beck – “Gettochip Malfunction (Hell Yess) (8Bit Remix)”

Guero is by far my favorite Beck album. And that makes my love of these remixes so much more surprising to me.

As a purist in most cases, I prefer the original – the goldy oldies, the book version of the movie, the “before it was cool” aspect of nearly everything. I probably do it to be hip – the elitism of originality. It’s one of my more noble traits, if you’re into a healthy dollop of ego mixed in with every stray comment.

But I’ll repeat it. I love these remixes. This one is pretty sweet. Do I lose punk points for revealing that? Will my subscription to Paste suddenly dry up?

4. Thirty Ought Six – “Tourmaline”
Hag Seed

Travel with me, if you will, back to 1995.

I was an aspiring punk rocker who still had a soft side for the soft-loud-soft of the post-punk landscape – the genre that eventually became known as “emo” before “emo” meant wearing black and cutting yourself. It was melodic punk. Math rock. Whatever. It’s what all of the old hardcore bands turned to when they got too old to shave their heads.

I wasn’t able to latch onto the genre as it was beginning, so I enjoyed some of the larger label versions that sprouted up in the years following. Sunny Day Real Estate was one of them and, through the power of complicated music and lyrics, they quickly became one of my favorite bands.

Which means any time singer Jeremy Enigk showed up on someone else’s album, I had to have it.

He showed up on this album, by Thirty Ought Six, a band that no one has ever heard of. I knew this thanks to a one-year subscription to CMJ magazine, which came with a sampler CD that, surprise, included this exact song.

I had to have it. My friend Eric got a hold of a promo copy for my birthday. I still have it. And I still love this song.

5. Bob Dylan – “Blood in my Eyes”

Hey, did you hear that Bob Dylan is surprising everyone with a follow up to Modern Times? Pretty sweet.

6. Brother Ali (w/ Slug) – “Blah Blah Blah”
Shadows on the Sun

As I’ve grown older, I’ve stopped going to shows.

Not just shows in Minneapolis or Omaha – places I’d happily drive to several years ago in order to see bands I only borderline liked – but here in Sioux Falls. As in, band I truly like, in my own backyard. As in, I could walk there. As in, I have no excuse.

The list of bands I’ve missed, either due to prior engagements or apathy, includes Against Me, Atmosphere and Brother Ali. I like all three a lot. But I didn’t go to the show because, well, whatever.

I guess that’s the long way of saying its cool to hear Slug and Brother Ali together on this song. It pairs a fantastic hook with two of my favorite indie rappers, and the chorus is as irrelevant as can be created by today’s advanced technology. And, it has this short breakdown that sends the track into a mini-version of “Guns and Cigarettes.” Sweet little trick there, boys.

7. The Decemberists – “The Infanta”

Huh. How about that. A Decemberists song that sounds like a mix between sea shanty and military march. Who’d have thunk it?

8. Jurassic 5 – “Sum of Us”
Power in Numbers

Like most album cuts from Jurassic 5, I can honestly say I don’t think I even know this song. And I can also say it sounds strangely like every other album cut from every other Jurassic 5 album.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these guys. But the difference between the awesome singles-worthy songs and the rest of the stuff is pretty wide. They could have gotten away with releasing 5-song EPs every time around and they’d have just as many great songs without the filler.

And, people would probably remember them more fondly. They’d have been scrambling for more, raising their value by a low number of releases. See – that’s supply and demand. That’s economics, as illustrated by Jurassic 5! I’m like Malcolm Gladwell in my ability to explain complex concepts using trite examples!

9. Office – “Company Calls”
A Night at the Ritz

If you don’t listen to Office yet, stop what you’re doing and start listening to them. That’s all. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

10. Seven Storey Mountain – “Incomplete”
The Emo Diaries, Chapter Two – A Million Miles Away

I’ve always had a short list of phenomenal bands that consistently go unrecognized by me: Jets to Brazil, Mason Jennings, Frank Black, Seven Story Mountain. These are bands that I absolutely love. They can do little wrong in my eyes. They put forth smart, rocking music that, upon hearing, sends me into a weeklong obsession.

Yet, if you were to ask me what my 10 favorite artists were, I’d probably forget all of them. I’d go through the obvious favorites and, upon consulting my iPod to find the rest, I’d slap my head in amazement, wondering how I ever forgot to add them.

It happens every time.

Seven Storey Mountain, like Texas is the Reason before them, are one of the bands from my emo days that still sound fresh. Some of the bands I followed grew old, their sound became dated and silly, too angsty or too complicated or simply too boring. Seven Storey Mountain just rocked. That’s all they did, every song, and they still rock today. They’d be just as cool now as they were in the mid 90s.

Another note – this Emo Diaries album was the last to actually include great music from bands anyone had heard of. What started as a who’s who of the genre on album one and two quickly turned into a series of “the best of people you’ve never heard of.”

By album five and six, I had stopped buying these albums. I realized there was a reason no one had heard of the bands they were featuring.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 5th, 2009