I decided to start a New Year’s resolution to listen to a new song every day and practice a little bit of musical writing every day. Or at least post about it here… I’ll try and bring in artists new to me (and hopefully new to all of you) but no promises as schedules get busy. Follow along with my random journey here and maybe listen along!
I’ll mostly be taking things from my music discover playlists to start and we’ll go from there. As summer concert season rolls in, I’ll probably start to incorporate who I plan on seeing. 365 days is a long time, so I’m sure we’ll make some changes to the format and the song selection process. All I can promise is that it will be all over the place: just like my music tastes.
Crumb - Plants
Crumb has popped up in my recommended feeds plenty and I’ve listened before. Oddly, this is my first time listening to this song, one of the more popular songs off their 2nd EP.
I listen to music to give me/burn off energy, so quiter music like this isnt necessarily my jam but it was the perfect early morning wake up tune to set a peaceful tone for the New Year. The singer reminds me alot of “every female indie singer ever” but the dreamy vocals really help the song float along. Definetely adding to my quieter playlist: this one is girlfriend approved.
This sounds cool as hell! Here’s a playlist of every song I liked on Spotify in 2022 + 2023. Over 250 tunes there, so it might be a good source.
Jan. 2nd: Meatbodies - Tremmors
Defientely heard of these guys but never intentionally listened. First day back at work for the New Year, no time for band research lol
This has a stoner rock back bone that I’ve come to LOVE out of many songs from other artists. Also seems to have light and airy vocals at time, alot like Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. But whats missing for me is that absolute frenzy of PPC tempo or the absolute sludge of a true stoner rock band like All Them Witches or loosely Queens of the Stone Age. This is missing “it” for me and fails to really make a strong statement.
I could see myself liking Meatbodies but I’m not sure it will be because of this song.
Jan 3rd: That1guy - Guava
While looking up some acts to check out in the coming months, I found… this one guy. Instant attachment. What an interestingly composed song and an even more interesting artist to boot. That1guy is a solo act and builds his own instruments to accomplish such a complex sound while only playing by himself live. Obviously the studio solo is a little easier but the unique sounds produced by his custom instruments bring a synthesizer type range with what I understand are mostly mechanical instruments (strings, percussion, etc).
As for Guava specifically, this appears to be one of the least played songs off of 2007’s “The Moon is Disgusting”. I dont know why. The backing tempo and beat (which seems almost industrial) stays mostly static but the undulations in That1guy’s voice clashing with the disinterested vocals in the chorus of “Guava… Guava…” seemingly vary the pace in a fascinating way. I dont have time to categorize the lyrics into “Chili Peppers or not” but the lyrics work well with the style and tempo of song. Evoking fruit-like descriptors like “pompous and plump” as well as “squeeze it”, the lyrics have an almost creepy feel that invokes innuendo, which has to be intentional.
Fan fic writers of a Zappa sit in with the Blueman group will love this act. Also he has a song called Buttmachine and that’s hilarious.
Jan 4th: Ween - Hey There Fancypants
Before you crucify me, no, I havent listened to Quebec all the way through. Some of my favorite Ween songs are off Quebec but nothing will beat the live Poopship Destroyer I got in '22. And I ain’t doing a band synopsis on Ween.
Anyway, this is a short but sweet song. In Ween’s typical fashion, mostly tongue and cheek as well. Or so it appears. The song is simple but it plays well into the parody of what appears to be some sort of vaudeville musical production. The backing instruments are bright and light, with lyrics that simply dont follow along with the tone.
Theres a darker side to the lyrics as you sit down and really read/listen. As this isn’t an exercise in albums, I wont go into how this might fit into the grander plan of Quebec but this seems thematic in an intentional way. And its pretty damn catchy to boot.
Jan 5th: The Mystery Lights - Goin’ Down
This band truly is a mystery to me, they must have come from one of my discover playlists. In an atypical move, the group of two brothers moved from California to NYC to find some friends and their fame as a band. What is it about pysch-garage rock groups doing well in Brooklyn in the '10’s?
This song serves up light garage rock with an evener gentler pysch edge. Goin’ Down started to play and my first thought was “instrumental Murlocs without the harmonica”. But as soon as the vocals ignite halfway through the song, its immediately The Kinks territory. Stylistically close to The Kinks, but not derivative, this song provides a fuzzy, dreamlike feel with some of the more odd and ambient background noises that I’ve come to like from the distorted side of pysch.
The distortion on just about everything from lead vocals to guitar and the classic Kinks style vocals feel safe but theres enough interesting innovation here. This music certainly doesnt “get me going” but its a perfect love letter for fans of the lighter side of garage-pysch. Listening to a few more songs from their output, I’d be ready to explore them furtherer.
Jan 6th: Frank Zappa - Valley Girl
To my complete surprise, my father texted me asking if I listen to Frank Zappa. To my further surprise, he named a song that I hadn’t heard from him or his Mothers of Invention
This is probably going to start “Zappa Week”, as actually giving him a true listen has been long overdue.
Knowing how weird Zappa generally is, this song doesnt surprise me. Long time readers of this post (lol) will know I value the weird and the experimental. But this song is basically what amounts to a 5 minute monologue from, you guessed it, a valley girl (who just so happens to be Zappa’s daughter Moon).
And while Zappa leans into the absurd with every song, this for me is an example of a bit of “grating” experimentation. Nothing against perhaps the most stereotypical and on point voice acting of a valley girl but it seems Zappa was going for intentionally annoying with this recording. I’m reminded of the song Attention Whore by Melleefresh and Deadmau5, with a female vocal composition overwhelming the song at times.
But clearly that’s the point of Zappa’s lyricism and presentation here, right? This feels like a clear statement of sterotype or parody. And in that vein, this song nails it. Even if I’m not the biggest fan personally.
I’m no Zappa expert but this isn’t particularly grating or experimental for him is it? The 80s sound is interesting, I’ve only ever really listened to his earlier material.
I was getting these vibes:
Zappa is a universe for itself, no doubt about that. Lot of good stuff to discover there.
I meant the grating vocals specifically in the “valley girl” sterotype trope. Doing some more quick research, Zappa specifically had his daughter go over the top as possible with this, seemingly launching the sterotype or at least popularizing it with this song. Looking back, l could have been more clear here. But this is why we write everyday, to get feedback and see where I can remove ambiguity in my statements
Also, I remembered this video just now:
Jan 7th: Frank Zappa - Get Whitey
So, this selection wasnt totally random today. I started the second day of Zappa Week by picking an album that Zappa released in my birth year, 1994. Little did I know, the man didn’t make it to '94, although a posthumous album of his was released that year.
Instead of starting posthumously, I decided to work my way backwards. Starting with The Yellow Shark released the month before his death, he called it “one of [his] most fulfilling projects”.
I cant really say I’m surprised that he released at least one orchestral album (no spoilers please) but I certainly didnt think this was how I was going to start. Get Whitey is an ambient leaning, almost “before its time” post punk experiment that keeps the deep history and soul of classical orchestral music.
To me, classical music is bombastic, grandiose, and opulent; this song toes toward minimalism. There are toots of brass insturments that seem to peek out of the veil only to retreat back into silence all too quickly. Woodwinds carry sections of the middle of the song, only to give way to light yet discordant piano sections.
And all I can compare it to with my knowledge is some of the various noise jams in post punk bands (Squid being my first thought). The orchestral backbone is deep here but doesnt give me some of the complexity and rich layering that one might normally hear in a more sweeping orchestral piece. Instead, the discordant and seemingly random assortment of orchestral “solos” does alot to keep the listener guessing, developing a sense of suspense that doesnt pay off by the end of the song (always having to ignore how this might fit in the larger performance on the album).
But it certainly is a good song and I would rather listen to experimental classical music than traditional. Unless of course, there’s a live cannon like the 1812 Overture.
Jan 8th: Frank Zappa - Sleeping in a Jar
Blasting quickly into the start of this song, Zappa and his Mother’s of invention do a good impression of a minstril band at a Ren Fair hosted in Zappa’s own mind. Seeminginly matching the cover art, I can imagine this music playing at some imaginary medieval jazz club.
Shortly after, the tone shifts completely, to complete silence interspaced with… well several of the band members yelling “yee” intermittently and whooping almost manically.
Then its directly back into a repeat of the starting section before fading out to horn and piano improvization.
This song is short but sweet. I truly do like the beginning and end but (as I’m sure I’ll be saying alot during Zappa Week) what an odd experimentation in the middle. It doesnt really do anything for me, especially as it cuts so harshly from something I truly enjoy.
I let the next songs on the album Let’s Make The Water Turn Black and Harry, You’re a Beast autoplay. These hold a much more consistent composition while still experimenting in a similar fashion sonically. Knowing that, I think I’ll definitely return to this album in the future but it wont be because of Sleeping in a Jar.
I love Zappa, but I fucking hate this song with a passion. In general, the 80s are super hit and miss for him, but this was his nadir imo.
Frank Zappa - Wonderful Wino
We finally did it: a song with no odd breaks in the middle. The first song I tried to listen to off this album called checks notes Learning “Penis Dimension”, was just two minutes of Zappa and his mothers spouting nonsense in the studio. Playground Psychotics is a double live album full of little gems like this. The music content of this album seems sparse but I’m definitely returning to listen to the 30 minute Billy the Mountain, the most popular song on the album by far.
Wonderful Wino is hard to place for me. It skirts between so many themes and tangentially related but unique sounding riffs. In one moment I get the Beatles I Want to Hold Your Hand , another the beautiful funk rock breakdowns of someone like CCR.
And I think the song suffers from the lack of cohesiveness. Some great guitar playing punctuates the middle but it ends all too soon for another exploration. Experimentation is certainly the name of Zappa’s game but I sometimes feel a similar way with Gizz. If you’re a jack of all trades but master of none, you don’t necessarily give yourself room for all the complexity you might be capable of.
Still this is a solid song and it segues seamlessly into Sharleena, giving a beautiful live composition that mirrors many jam bands. This is an album to return to for me personally.
Hey Rowdy, as someone who has listened to the FZ catalog many times over, I recommend checking out the “originals,” not this archival stuff. Playground Psychotics, for all its charms, is a pretty tough album to get through honestly. I wonder what you think of this track, recorded a few years later with a different group of musicians:
I went to link this song from YouTube and wondered why that was the top result and not the version I listened to…
And thats all fair but hey, part of discovering new music right? Its about the journey, blemishes and all?
(I’ll listen to your advice when I do another Zappa Week later in the year lol)
Cool! Roxy and Elsewhere and One Size Fits All are both near perfect Zappa albums in my opinion, not that you really asked.
Jan 10th: Frank Zappa - My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama
I ended up taking @RattleRattleRattle 's advice sooner than I thought I would. This is after I realized exactly what Rattle meant and what I was really getting myself into working backwards from '93…
Luckily I only had to go back to You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 5 to find a studio recording. And honestly, its been a hell of a day, so I picked the shorter of the two on the album.
This is a solid rock song with some abundantly satirical lyrics (although fairly tame for Zappa). The distortion and wah in this is EXCELLENT. This sound had me thinking of Cream’s Disraeli Gears right away. Big nod to the late sixities and early 70’s rock scene while still keeping that uniquely Zappa sound.
Vol.5 is sick. All that previously unreleased stuff with Lowell just slays.
Check out the a capella cover by The Persuasions!