A treat, especially for those of you who have trouble downloading some of the songs in Track-fu -- thanks to the wonders of modern technology and SHOUTcast, we'll be streaming a mini radio show of sorts. The songs from this week's Track-fu will be playing on repeat for a couple of hours tonight (starting now) on Two Way Monologues radio (http://220.127.116.11:8000/).
Open the URL (File/Open URL) in Winamp or Windows Media Player, although you'll only see the song names in the former. You can also tune in at other times -- Dan will be streaming playlists regularly and we'll stream Track-fu weekly. We're also looking at other things we could do -- a Christmas playlist and a playlist for our end-of-the-year pics are a couple of ideas. Hope you enjoy it.
1. Mars -- Helen Forsdale
This is from a CD called No New York, a CD featuring NYC underground acts that was released in 1978 and has now been rereleased. I can't say that it's my thing -- it's arty noise rock -- but it's interesting to hear some of the influences and does sound current, so I think it's worth listening to for that.
2. Eminem -- When I'm Gone
I like Eminem more than I should, really. I'm entirely sick of his joke rap tracks. I'm not a big fan of the sexism. But every once in a while he brings out a really good track and I like him again.
This track isn't among Eminem's top five, but it has me on his good side -- I like the violins, and it's nice to hear rap that's not about loose women and big freakin' necklaces. It's a bit maudlin, and the end gets rather melodramatic, but I enjoy it anyway.
3. Fire Engines -- Candyskin
This is a really catchy song -- I like the off-beat drums a lot. The lead singer's voice reminds me a bit of Gord Downie's, for some reason. Apparently Fire Engines were an integral part of the Scottish post-punk scene in the 80s; I was not aware that such a scene existed, but considering that I enjoy this song and work by their scene compatriots, Orange Juice, I might look into them further.
4. Mike Ladd -- Barney's Girl
There's a fair bit of hip hop influence in this list. I like this song better than the Eminem track; it's got a good hook, and the instrumentals are pretty original. It's got an old school feel, but not in a conventional way, and it sounds almost ambient at times while also managing to remind me of funk/soul. It's got a very original sound.
5. Bright Eyes -- Mushaboom
This is a cover of the Feist song, which I'm really fond of. I like hearing it stipped down a bit with acoustic guitar, which lets the melody pop through really nicely. Bright Eyes' voice, while good, doesn't work as well here though. I like the pretty but strange, broken quality Feist's voice has (she actually did break it, in a way, which is part of why it sounds so different). But this is a nice interpretation of the song anyway.
6. DJ Muggs vs. GZA The Genius -- Smothered Mate (Brandon)
This is a more straight-up rap track than Mike Ladd's song (or Eminem's, but not as strikingly). It's got a good beat though; it's a forceful song. It's catchy and I like it, but it's a little harder than the rap I usually listen to (because, by my admission, I usually listen to sort-of lame rap).
7. Martha Wainwright -- I Will Internalize
Man, I can't find my Martha Wainwright CD. I need to look for it; it was pretty good. I didn't rave over it like many reviewers did, but it was definitely a worthwhile debut -- assured, pretty.
This song would fit it fine with that set of recordings -- for the most part it's Martha and her guitar, which works pretty well. It's got a lovely melody. (I do feel that occasionally Martha overuses her voice -- which is fantastic, but why the hollering? Every once in a while I just want her to sing the lyrics without bellowing out random syllables.)
8. Ninja High School -- Jam Band Death Cult (Dan)
This sounds a bit like the Beastie Boys mixed with the Go! Team. They're clearly having a lot of fun here -- lots of shouting, occasional shouts of spontaneous joy popping out of nowhere. I enjoy it; it's nice to hear something that sounds very uncalculated. I bet they're a lot of fun live.
9. Joaquin Phoenix -- Ring of Fire (Ronan)
I never really know if I should be impressed when actors sing their own songs for a movie, or if I should be a little horrified (especially when I hear that they had to learn to sing). It would be an unwise choice to do so, sometimes; Jamie Foxx actually can sing, but he was smart to lip-synch for Ray. He wouldn't have been able to approximate Charles' voice, and it would have taken away from the movie (which was middling anyway, outstanding performances aside).
Joaquin Phoenix does a better job of getting Johnny Cash; his voice is surprisingly strong and deep. He doesn't quite have the same force that Cash's voice did, even in his last years, but it's good work nonetheless. Aside from the vocals, the song is good, of course. Classic. I'll still listen to Cash's version over this given the choice, especially since the goal was to approximate Cash, not to reinterpret it differently. I'd be fine with listening to this version too, though. But I want to see Walk the Line, and I'm glad to know that I won't end up sitting there hating Phoenix for ruining Johnny's songs.
Winner: I'm going to go with Ring of Fire, actually, because it managed to leave me pleasantly surprised where I was apprehensive. It's a solid song under any circumstances. I also enjoyed Mike Ladd, Fire Engines, and Ninja High School.
Loser: Mars, because I just didn't like it, history aside.