Kiddos, folks, citizens: it is the listening time now. You must listen to me and my interests. You must. You feel compelled by my words, because you are the weak-minded sheep and I am the corgi at your heels. Okay, song time. Here are the songs. You like the songs. Dance to the songs! Read about the songs! Are you having fun? Are you having fun yet? Are you?
STATIC | Minimall Talking about this song at this time of year is definitely cheating— it’s, like, totally muddling the vibe. Fall is just around the corner, as is the anniversary of when one of my best friends introduced me to Minimall. This song was on repeat for weeks afterwards— enough to brand it into my memories of walking to school from my first apartment, of driving to pick up my girlfriend with the seat heat on because the nights were finally chilly again. I’d begun to curate a situation where, if someone hummed this in the nursing home sixty years from now, it would blast my unresponsive, geriatric brain back to Mammalogy class in fall of 2021, but “Static” is too catchy not to come crawling back to— enough that I’ll probably associate it with this year, too, and many more. While I can’t say I’ve resonated with the rest of Minimall’s catalogue quite as much as this single song, “Static” is such a summery, colorful pop piece that it never fails to make me smile. Its ringing rotary phones and bubbly trumpet solos give “Static” a feeling like craft paper, crayola, and elmer’s glue, with New Pornographers harmonies and a healthy dose of Superorganism indie camaraderie. And though it’s not as sonically creative as either of those contemporaries, it undeniably has an inimitable Minimall signature in its vocals and in its delivery— one that can only really come from a group of friends having a genuine, unscripted blast making music together (if this performance live from the living room doesn’t make you smile, you’re not invited to my birthday party). Speaking of which, bonus points for the wonderfully goofy cover of the EP Huh!— out of all of the album covers out there, the game of telephone pictured here has to be one of my favorites.
THE RHYTHM OF THE HEAT | Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel? Carl Jung? Crying? Who honestly could’ve guessed this was coming? Much as it pains me to do so, I’ll cut past the usual Peter Gabriel worship to bring you “The Rhythm of the Heat,” the retelling of a story taken from Jung’s travels in Africa. Bearing witness to a tribal ritual of drums and dance, Jung describes a sort of possession, becoming overcome by the spiritual power being summoned forth by the performance. It’s this sort of writing that empirical skeptics deride, as though it’s some confession of supernatural beliefs that invalidate all associated “scientific” observations. I know I haven’t put any of my own science communication efforts on this website, but at the risk of jeopardizing my credibility in any and all future educational projects, all I see in these critiques is snide and fearful bullshit. Perhaps a brush with the mythical may read as dogmatic and irrational to the intellectual, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think it could be possible to unlock the very way we work without first unearthing spiritual awe. But that’s just my two cents on one of the universe’s greatest mysteries, and I’ll get off my soapbox. In the meantime, I find that living the way empiricists tell me to only leads to a tangled wad of existential frustration— if you want to know how to live, why to live, let the music tell you instead. With “The Rhythm of the Heat,” Peter Gabriel brings us back to the very real moment of Jung’s possession— not by some halloween deity draped with a white sheet, but by the reverence of a people; raw, harmonized, spoken musically. I know I’m an album-original purist, but I’m once again going to break my rule and link the New Blood live performance of this song, accompanied by an orchestra, and recommend you listen to this version first— while the original is perfectly ethereal and haunting, I cannot overstate the sheer power of the orchestral version. Without a hint of exaggeration, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a religious experience, at least for me. In the end, we’re all wired differently, but I hope some of you can connect with this song like I do, or at the very least, find another song to connect to like I do with Peter Gabriel’s music, like Jung did with that tribe’s music.
GET READY | The Temptations Okay, umm, uhh, okay, anyways! Totally just jumped from summery pop to scary sermon there, but we’re back! Music! Umm uhh pretty cool, right? Okay, but seriously, I think this song being next is sort of ironic, because it’s here from an analytical perspective. I love everything I’ve heard from The Temptations, even their overproduced, slick soul like this— if anyone’s gonna pull it off, they are. I find it interesting, though, that the riff carried by the brass section is just a hair away from Cream’s classic “Sunshine of Your Love” (which “Get Ready” predates by just a year). It’s sort of weird because by the time “Get Ready” came out in 1966, the reign of Rock (the sound some might say ousted this style) was well underway, so the similarity isn’t some sort of callback to an old classic. And while “Get Ready” carries rock’s signature backbeat, it lacks the crunchier, sludgier sound that makes Cream’s psychedelic twist on the riff sufficiently different (that, and the fact that they play it on guitar). Again, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but I just thought this comparison was really interesting connection. It’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder about the limits of music— how, even if there were an infinite number of note combinations, there really are very few that appeal to the majority of people. Okay, we’re getting existential again, let’s move it along…
MAIN TITLES | Theodore Shapiro I told you I’d talk about Severance again. How could I forget? Even when I’m not thinking about Severance, I am certainly thinking about the lost ritual of theme songs longer than three seconds. Maybe this is the topic of yet another project for yet another time, but I honestly think one of TV’s greatest mistakes was the “skip intro” button, and the subsequent culling of main titles. One of the many, many things Severance did right was bring us back to animated intros with one of my favorite main themes in years. I hate to sound like a stimulus-response lab monkey here, but it was truly a pleasure to watch this sequence eight times over— it reminded me how main titles are a mantra, accumulating excitement with each coming episode. Theodore Shapiro’s Severance main titles is one of many theme songs that I didn’t find all that interesting at first, but was pavlolv’d into loving as my love for the show grew. Then again, that seems a bit reductive— it may all be chemical associations, but I do like to think that this song gets better with each subsequent listen, carrying all of the nuances of the narrative within it. This song, for example, lightly carries the stifling calm of encroaching corporate dread— okay, that’s a college mouthful of a description, but think of listening to elevator muzak while you’re trying not to think about late rent payments or getting fired. It’s such a quietly ominous song peeking from beneath a breezy veneer. Things even musically slide out of control as the percussion kicks in, revealing the piano has been playing on the offbeat and shifting the song into this off-kilter rhythm… it’s just so good. And if you like that, I’ve got nine episodes just for you.
DON’T. TRUST. HORSES. | Randy Goffe So, I guess we’re just gonna end the post detailing my spirituality smackdown with… this? Which, like, genuinely is a total delight. I think most people who know this song listen to it in the same absurd spirit in which it was created, and I hate to be the guy who explains the meme and makes it unfunny, but I really unironically enjoy this. After obviously laughing at what an oddball “Don’t. Trust. Horses.” is, I couldn’t stop rewinding to the strange, almost bovine sounds at the beginning, and that’s when I realized I was listening to the song seriously. I don’t exactly know how to describe it, but it’s got that toy synth sound that reminds me of so much of early Jim Noir (à la “Kitty Cat“) and other underground music from the early internet. This one’s seriously worth two listens: one for the laugh, and one for the realization that this joke is better than it has any right to be.
For this week’s art, we have a work I’ve never seen before from an artist who’s one of my favorites. This is surrealist Remedios Varo’s 1951 painting “Garden of Love,” depicting a courtship scene with mythological bravado and discordantly loud color. Aside from the raw, unabashed imagination she always portrays, one of my favorite things about Varo’s style is her almost stretchy surrealism— while still displaying her traditional artistic talent, it all carries the same unreality of a medieval tapestry. It sags, it flattens, it warps just below what we perceive as three-dimensional, and that doesn’t even consider her subject matter. Here, there is some suggestion of a forest encounter. From the woman’s perspective, this almost reads as a Rapunzel scenario, complete with a lone knight flaunting bold plumage here to investigate some lone, derelict structure amidst the trees. From the bird-man’s perspective, something seems distinctly more intangible— as he forages, he finds a translucent woman reaching for him, though she may dissipate like a cloud before she ever makes contact. Either way, there is a sense that something is uneasy about this encounter, or that something is being lost, as the brightest reds of the painting fly away as three birds, scattering as the disturbance commences. Or, at least, that’s my take— I’ve never been good at interpreting abstract poems and paintings, only latching onto the feelings they give me. I think that’s worth something, too, but it also means I’ll gladly hear what anyone else thinks. What’s up with these guys? Do I need to take a break from Peter Gabriel simping? Let me know. I’ll be back next week.