Category Archives: Playlist

Playlist: One hour of Susumu Hirasawa

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A few months back I was asked to put together an hour-long Susumu Hirasawa mix for a radio show.  Of course I can’t say no to that, as helping others discover Hirasawa’s music is kind of a life goal of mine.  But it’s incredibly difficult to condense the man’s work into just an hour – he’s been active for four decades, he still releases new albums on a yearly basis, and worst of all they’re pretty much all great.  Naturally I drifted towards some kind of “career retrospective” that would track the important points in Hirasawa’s evolution, but that is way too complex a story to tell in only an hour.  Besides, it’s kind of a boring idea.  I guess I could try to put together the best hour or so of music I could, but there is just no way to do that either – hell, I once tried to put together a fake Hirasawa four-disc anthology and still couldn’t get everything I wanted to in.  So instead I framed it this way – if I only had an hour to convince someone to become a fan of this guy, what songs would I play?  Obviously I’d have to showcase his diversity, playing enough different styles in the hopes that a few of them would land.  I wound up sticking to a one-song-per-album rule too, just to help prune it down a bit.  I’m proud of this playlist, but it’s merely a sampler; not necessarily his best work or most famous, but I think it’s a list that represents what Hirasawa is all about.

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Playlist: They Might Be Giants – The Rare Ones

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Inspired by my inexplicable decision to relisten to every single TMBG song I have in my music collection.  Who would’ve thought it would take so long, considering that they rarely write a song over three minutes.  But look past the band’s 16 albums (and counting) and you’ll find a ton of other stuff; EPs, compilations of rejected tunes, digital-only fanclub collections, answering machine messages, strange one-off projects, and a lot more, much of which I would assume doesn’t get a thorough listen from anyone who’s not a total fanatic.  They Might be Giants, like most bands on this planet, have a reputation for not always putting the best songs on their studio albums, which is why I took it upon myself to see if I could create a killer collection (at least, something as good as any studio album they’ve done) entirely out of material that more casual fans may not know about.

Here are the rules:

  1. Nothing that appeared on any of the band’s studio albums in any form, so no demos, live tracks, remixes, etc.  This includes Long Tall Weekend.  I decided to exclude the studio tracks from the sort-of-live Severe Tire Damage album because let’s face it, nobody thinks “Doctor Worm” is a rarity, given that they play it at practically every show they’ve after done.  Likewise, “Boss of Me” is also out.
  2. Linnell’s solo album and Flansburgh’s Mono Puff are fair game.  Technically not TMBG but hey, close enough.
  3. Maximum length: 60 minutes, or slightly longer than John Henry.
  4. Linnell songs in Red, Flansburgh in Green.  If the song’s a cover or I can’t tell who wrote it then it’s in black.

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Playlist: At the Dentist’s Office

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What is it about the dentist that scares us so much?  Even when it’s just a cleaning, I always dread it in a totally irrational way.  It’s no big deal, they do it to 5-year olds, and even when it sucks I never feel like my fear of it was justified in the end.  Maybe it’s the fact that they always seem to find random nerves that send shockwaves through your arms, maybe it’s the fact that it’s all so permanent – teeth don’t heal themselves, y’know – most likely it’s all the needles and drills and little scrapers and the fact that you can’t really see what they’re doing in there.  You don’t really know if you have a cavity, or at least I never did, the dude just comes in for a few minutes and you have to sweat whether or not you’re coming back later that week.  I got bad news this time around, two cavities (my first since college) and an entire day to think about why I don’t floss more.  The advice I got – wear headphones, it’ll take your mind off the procedure, it’s 2015 and it doesn’t have to hurt much.  They play music at the office here but it’s that 60’s/70’s soft rock XM station, and I figured I could do a lot better.  So I set out to make a playlist of dentistry-themed songs to distract myself:

Modest Mouse – Novocaine Stain
I thought this would make a good opener since the first part of the procedure is those damn shots.  This is actually the part that scares me the most, even though it’s really not bad, outside of the fact that they leave that needle in for what seems like half a minute.  I don’t think the Modest Mouse tune has anything to do with the numbing agent, but then again I don’t know what any Mouse songs are about, really.  This one’s off their debut album, and it’s a good summation of what they were about.  Not so much a song as a jam, with a drummer that occasionally lays on a disco beat and a guitarist who randomly flanges the hell out of the thing making that patented MM “reee-ohhh-reee-ohhh” noise.  But at the same time they manage to sound so loose and casual, as though they’re playing these songs while sitting on a lawn chair.

Frank Zappa – Dental Hygiene Dilemma
From the oft-derided soundtrack to 200 Motels, which I’ve listened to twice and been real bored by.  One of my issues with Zappa’s work is the sheer about of words that he uses – there are funny bits scattered throughout a lot of his stuff, but it’s hard to laugh at anything when his hit ratio is so low and all his characters talk in really, really long sentences.  Even We’re Only in it For the Money had this problem, and that’s like, his satirical peak.  Anyway, I wish I could talk about the music, but on this one there isn’t any – just (another) long diatribe about how this FRANK ZAPPA COMEDY MUSIC doesn’t get you rich or laid, har har har!  By this point my mouth and brain were becoming numb and I started to think, what was that song about becoming a dental floss tycoon again?  I wish I’d used that one instead.

Sifl and Olly – Tooth Decay
I don’t remember this one from the show.  Very topical right now.

Weird Al Yankovic – Cavity Search
Also topical, and a little unnerving.  I did not remember that there were dentist drill noises in this song, to compete with the drills going off in my mouth.   At this point I’m beginning to realize that I can still feel the drill against my nerves, and that make the novocaine isn’t working after all.  I want to say “hey, I can feel this!” but it comes out “arhrhgghrhghgh”.  This I think should be people’s #1 fear about the dentist.

Deathray Davies – Pulling Teeth
Another thing that sucks about getting drilled – as little bits of tooth inevitably miss the vacuum and lodge themselves in your throat, you get the overwhelming need to swallow, but with a running drill in your mouth your priority is to stay as still as you possibly can.

Dental Plan [Sparta Madhouse Remix]
I used to share a house with three people who were heavily into MMOs like World or Warcraft.  As a result my iTunes is full of weird MP3s like this which would get blasted on loop ’til 4 AM daily (gotta wake up on Aussie time if you’re rollin’ with an Aussie clan!)  Anyway, I just found that out if you type “Dental Plan” into Google, the first autocomplete result is “Lisa Needs Braces”.  What it is about that bit that has caused it to endure like this?  Was anyone else attempting this kind of humor in the mid-90’s?

The Presidents of the United States of America – Candy
By now the dentist was putting in the resin, clamping it down with something that looked like it was straight out of the toolbox in my garage.  “Candy”, of course, is all about the pain I was now kinda-but-not-really feeling, the bad that comes with the good.  Was I eating too much of the sweet stuff?  Was it the Starburst, the jellybeans, the little Frooties that you get at the bank?  That kind of stuff was always the best even though I know it’s murder on your teeth.  Alas, that’s the first rule of health – if it feels good, don’t do it.

Kurtis Blow – Taking Care of Business
The last time I got a cavity filled I remember hearing this song while it was being done.  For whatever reason the absurdity of the situation nearly made me laugh in a way that could’ve really made things difficult.  To the patient, dentistry almost feels like a sadistic act, but to the dentist, it’s just what you do for a living, spending 30-minute chunks of time with people who would rather be anywhere else.  Not having the original BTO version I decided to put on the Kurtis Blow cover instead, which is a lot funnier, though I guess I just wasn’t in the mood this time.

Pretty Raheem & Flynt Flossy – Cavities
I figured I’d leave this one for last, since I thought it would be funny to listen to this in the context of actual cavities, instead of the sort of real obvious innuendo that the Turquoise Jeep crew regularly go for.  Kind of a way to celebrate that it was over, though in this case he really took his time finishing up.  After 30 minutes in the dentists chair with your mouth open you start getting really antsy to leave, not that it’s painful anymore, just the uncomfortableness piling up.  “Cavities” did make me smile though (on the inside, at least), because I hadn’t heard it in a while and I was hit by the contrast of how smooth and pleasant the music is with how hamfisted and crude the lyrics are.  They rhyme “Candy man” with “Candied yams” and “I’ll be your handyman” with “I’ll come in handy, man”.  Another line I liked – “I’m not a family man/this is just a one-night stand” – finally, someone comes out and says it.  There are so many songs on the radio about falling in love or looking for that real woman who understands, someone that you may just want to settle down with, but we all know what these singers’ private lives are like.  How do we reconcile hearing Justin Bieber singing “I could be your boyfriend” while he’s simultaneously trying to screw his way through half of South America?  Do we care – isn’t pop music just fantasy, after all?  Turquoise Jeep don’t screw around like that, and I for one am glad.