Bryan Schumann and I talk about composing music, improvising music, and whether the classical guitar pairs better with an upright bass or an electric trumpet.
A couple of quotes from Tim Quirk’s 10 year old interview the The Onion’s AVClub that came to mind earlier this week.
I was mis-remembering them, posting them here so that happens less.
This one really changed my view of the world. There’s such a significant difference in the sound between Green Eggs… and TMJ’s
follow-up Cereal Killers – that to declare that a similar polished intention existed between both made me think. To me, this is like George Lucas saying – the Start Wars prequels are what he was aiming for when he did the original trilogy. Makes you revisit what you liked and didn’t like about the work.
“If it’s so stupid that it becomes transcendent and beautiful, or if you write something and you’re like, ‘Okay, I know I’m gonna hate this the 100th time we play it, but it’s gonna be really good for 99,’ I lean that way.”
This is something that I enjoy about Quirk’s work – knowingly, purposefully, and deliberately, with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek exploring a cliched, trite, cheesy realm until you find the tiny bit of beautiful truth that made it a cliche in the first place.
For decades, I’ve been a fan of Tim Quirk’s lyrics. He has a way of expressing the melancholy of defeat with cutting brevity and a touch of wordplay.
‘Topless at the Arco Arena’ rolled through the iTunes this afternoon and I stopped to savor these three lines:
Some rise by sin,
Some by virtue fall,
We’re not getting anywhere at all.
– Wonderlicks’ ‘The CEO Considers His Holdings’
If you’d like to give it a listen, it’s the 12th song down in the little player. Along the way, I highly recommend ‘All Boys Want’, ‘Fear of Chicago’, ‘The King of Bad Decisions’, and ‘Everybody Loves Jenny’.
I’ve been a fan of Tim Quirk’s music for 20 years – easy. The playful melancholy in throughout his songwriting continually resonates with me. When he announced the new Wonderlick album was in the works and available for ‘name-your-price’ pre-order – I jumped on the opportunity.
When I started hearing about how successful the campaign was – I asked Tim if he’d talk about the album and the campaign for the podcast.
As he mentions in our conversation, the common theme through the 16 tracks is the exploration of an experience he first wrote about in 2002:
“I wondered what she said the next day when friends asked her how the concert was. I wondered whether the crowd had been applauding her breasts or her daring. I wondered if maybe she was a plant and had actually gotten paid for her performance. That last one was just a specific way of asking a more general question, I guess—mostly I was wondering exactly what she got out of it.” – Tim Quirk
In the 16 Topless at the Arco Arena tracks, Tim, with Jay Blumenfield, ask everyone involved what they got out of the experience.
My top 5 Wonderlick – Topless at the Arco Arena tracks:
- The Case Against Tattoos
- A Different Kind of Love
- We Run the World
- This Song is a Commerical
- Fear of Chicago
Download: Listen to Wonderlick’s Tim Quirk on Truth Through Music [36 minutes]
- Cable TV by Fol Chen
Poppy beats and seductive vocals about doing absolutely nothing. Except watching cable tv. An prime example of the oft overlooked SlackerRock genre.
- Nothing At All by Madi Diaz
Like chasing a butterflies through a field on a summer day.
- Winona by Totally Michael
A love song to Winona Ryder as sung to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.
- Up And Down by The Chesterfield Kings
A classic blues rock tune, recalls Lynyrd Skynard.
- Tall Green Grass by Cory Branan
Great for that picnic you have after you’re done chasing butterflies.
- 14 Arms by Crash Kings
An screamy, energizing track – perfect for getting the blood flowing on a dreary day.
- FLEX by Doomtree
It’s Doomtree. I like Doomtree.
- Crown of Age by The Ettes
I dig the sound of female-fronted punk groups, this one reminds me of Joan Jett.
- How We Exit by Gentleman Reg
Despite the horns and non-vocoder vocals, I get a poppy, electronica vibe from this.
- Strictly Game by Harlem Shakes
Made the list for the motivating, timely line: “This will be a better year”.
- Gettin’ High for Jesus by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs
- If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times by The Iguanas
- Dag by In Stereo (perCeptie & Kapabel)
Dorky Dutch hip hop, in the vein of Die Fantastischen Vier-esque
- Steel On Steel by J. Tillman
A big, heavy, melancholy blanket.
- Bank Song by The Johnstones
A celebration, though I get the sneaking suspicion it’s about something less than pleasant.
- My Derlirium by Ladyhawke
A highly danceable, electronica track, produced by Blondie.
- Zero Machine by Le Castle Vania
A Depeche Mode + Smashing Pumpkins mash-up, without the mash-up.
- Wake the Sun by The Matches
Play this the next time you’re walking home after singing karaoke “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” into the wee hours.
- Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song by Matt Hires
I’m guessing Matt Hires opens for Jack Johnson, or enjoys causing “mix-ups”.
- Cannibal Queen by Miniature Tigers
Dorky, bouncy, pop – like Tullycraft. “I’m coming for your heart like a cannibal” wins for best song lyric of SXSW 2009.
- Down in Electric by Operahouse
Another excellent example of oft-overlooked Spy rock genre.
- Little Brass Bear by Rachel Goodrich
This song will get you dancing, the kinda feeling badly toward the signer, and then…kazoos!
- Offbeat Feeling by The Resignators
Ska. Just the way I like it; big horns, mostly angry lead vocalist, well-dressed men jumping straight up and down – but only a few inches.
- You look at me by Rokhsan
A poppy, love song that consistently gives me a big, corny smile.
- Bad Choices by Shout Out Out Out Out
I’d like to nominate this song for 2008 Financial Crisis Theme Song. It even sounds like a storms rolling in.
- Behind Me Now by The Silos
Conversely, this one’s good for 2009.
- Hologram by Ten Out of Tenn
If there’s a remake of Lost in Translation as stop-motion animation, this is on the soundtrack.
- Bag Of Hammers by Thao With The Get Down Stay Down
An un-break-up song with a bag of hammers is being used as a threat. It’s a nervous, nervous smile.
- I’ll Play What You Want by Toy Horses
If Stiff Little Fingers were poppier and happier..but not as poppy and happy as Squeeze.
- Idunno by Ungdomskulen
You know I how much I dig electronically, distorted vocals.
- Trains I Missed by Walt Wilkins
The stereotypical country song version of, ‘when god closes a door he opens a window’.
- Birds of a Feather by We Were Lovers
Sugary Sweet Vocal is protected her older brother, Bass Guitar.
- Amateur by The 757s
Another un-break-up song. This time from the guys side.
- On My Kees by Aqualung
Don’t let him back, don’t let let him back. So, did you let him back?
- Caroline by The Belleville Outfit
An fun, fun track invoking the post-Swing vibe (a la Squirrel Nut Zippers)
- You Won’t Be Able To Be Sad by The Break And Repair Method
The opening song to the next John Hughes teen production.
- Imitation of the Sky by Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears
Sounds like all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club wrapped into a single song.
- Still Have My Heart by Caitlin Crosby
She’s either in love with an imaginary person or she’s a stalker.
- Hail Destroyer by Cancer Bats
After years of listening through SXSW Showcasing Artists, I finally found a
ScandanavianCanadian death metal track I enjoy.
- A little wiser now by Choo Choo
I generally dig songs that happily admit historical stupidity.
- 9999 (Ways To Hate Us) by The Clutters
It’s fantastic that a group of nasal-signers found each other and started a band.
- R.I.M.L. by Codebreaker
This song might be a joke. Like an SNL skit. I’m not hip enough to know.
- Will I Stay by Colin Munroe
Colin’s pretty whiny. Thankfully the band drops such big beats it can be over looked.
- Kamikaze rock’n’roll by Dead Sexy Inc
British Invasion rock + harmonicas.
- I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, are you? by Dear and the Headlights
A leisurely stroll through the woods…until you step in a beehive.
- Capture and Develop by The Details
Just under 3 minutes of longing guilt.
- That Sinking Feeling by Emma Lee
The chorus completely melts me.
- Boom! Boom! Boom! by The Everyday Visuals
Wins for best use of the title within the song.
- DARTS by FLiP
It’s in Japanese – except for the English chorus. And yes, that just confuses me more.
- Bugguts by Gavin Castleton
Reminds me of the teen car accident pop songs from the 1950’s.
- Goes Cube Song 57 by Goes Cube
A good, guitar-driven, grunge tune – like a Soundgarden or early Foo Fighters.
- C.Y.O.A. by HEARTSREVOLUTION
Female Japanese vocalist + distorting vocoder = delicious noise
- Walk Through Fire by Indian Jewelry
There might be instruments and vocals in there. Somewhere deep below the sea of distortion.
- Single Fins & Safety Pins by The Japanese Motors
A catchy, fun-lovin’ beach tune.
- Happy Birthday You by Jay Jay Pistolet
Remember Marilyn Monroe’s signing of ‘Happy Birthday’? This is opposite of that.
- Over You by Jay Nash
A sincerely sweet Country tune featuring Jim Croce’s guitar,
- Gloom Doom Buttercups by Kittens Ablaze
I’m not confident everyone in the band is playing the same song…and that’s why I dig it.
- Sushi by Kyle Andrews
A synth-pop tune reminding me of all my favorite Top 40 songs from the 1980s.
- Posidonia by La Habitacion Roja
This could be a stereotypical Latin pop tune. It still holds up to heavy rotation.
- No Generation by Lions
Like White Zombie or RAGTM without the annoying parts.
- Punch and Judy by Little Thief
Solid, simple drum, guitar, and vocal work.
- Lalita by The Love Language
Your favorite fleece jacket – as a song.
- days in universe by Maren Parusel
Maren Parusel could be singing directions from Google Maps and I’d be enthralled.
- Diseases Of Yore by MC Frontalot
If you can’t learn medical history from geekcore rap – what good is it? And I think Jonathan Coulton opens the track.
- Don’t Be On With Her by Miami Horror
Another delicious synth-pop 80s track.
- Bus Stop Lovers by My Federation
A great track for you run mix – especially if you use public transit signs as landmarks.
- Cuando, Cuando by Nina Dioz
Extra-tough Latin rap. I don’t know Spanish but I think she’s saying something about using my head as a pinata.
- Greyhound Bus by Oh Susanna
There’s a stereotypical Country song about a man with a broken down truck and a runaway dog. This might that stereotypical song for women.
- Call and Response by Or, the Whale
A couple years back there were a bunch of songs at SXSW about losing New Orleans. This one is about rebuilding the city.
- Broken Heart Land by Owen Temple
Made the list immediate after I hear the opening line: “How did your past get stuck in a pawn shop?”
- 123 Stop by The Postelles
The Monkees with dirty guitars.
- The Waves by Princeton
Maracas and disillusionment.
- I Couldn’t Make It by Randy Weeks
Lou Reed, post-Velvet Underground, and a little bit Country.
- Ornamental by Scissors for Lefty
British people get so excited sometimes.
- King Bolo by Scram C Baby
King Missile-esque storytelling with better instrument work.
- she creatures invade by The She Creatures
When GWAR finally makes that movie, the sequel will star The She Creatures.
- Slow Club by Slow Club
A great example of a SlackerRock duets.
- Hit the Wall by Song Island Revue
“I hit the wall… / I painted a road on it” is much more poetic than that tired phrase about lemons and lemonade.
- You say GOOD BYE by SpecialThanks
Japan does American female-led rock really well.
- Grass is Green by Sweet Water
I think in the 90s, this band was called, The Fall.
- Pacemaker by Teenage Bottlerocket
Can’t be the Ramones, the track is a full 2:30 minutes long,
- This Mission by This Is My Condition
A Discord Records-esque D.C. Hardcore-style track by way of Lawrence, KS.
- It’s Not Too Late by Triple Cobra
The soundtrack to “That Thing You Do” if it was about a Goth band.
- In The City by Tunnel Clones
Digable Planets-style hip hop.
- Get On With It by Val Emmich
You heard the man.
- Drown Them Out by Viva Voce
Sirens. Calling me into the rocks.
- This Is Our Perfect Crime by The Von Bondies
The 21st Century version of Skid Row’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’.
- I Go I Go I Go by Wave Machines
Comparisons can be made between this song and REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’. Parts of them would be right.
- Safety In Numbers by The Wax Museums
Punk kids discussing recruitment tactics.
- Let Me Drive by Winter Gloves
Last year I was big on clapping, I think that’s why I included this one.
- Death or Radio by Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer
“Let’s hold hands and listen to shitty bands…” – is exactly how I imagine SXSW.
- Soft The Hard Way by 18th Dye
The chorus keeps getting stuck in my head and caught by the spam filter.
For nearly decades, I’ve been a big fan of anything by Jay Blumenfield, Tim Quirk, Sandy Smallens, or any combination thereof.
So, yea, I’m pretty excited about the new Wonderlick album available for pre-order.
Here’s the interesting bit:
Wonderlick isn’t suggesting a donation, so the average won’t be known for awhile. Pretty neat. Yeah, I gave them 50% more than I otherwise would have.
Update, according to Mr. Quirk himself:
Not only are these picks really late (SXSW was months ago) but unlike other years, none of the 700+ tracks grabbed me immediately. The overall tone felt like the ‘college rock’ of 20 years ago. Good, sometimes interesting, artistic even, but every song sounds um, the same.
As in previous years, these are track that are both new to me, struck me, and will keep me in the zone while working. This time around, inspired by J Wynia approach last year, I set up a smart playlist in iTunes that automatically removed tracks after 5 skips. The theory is that this would bias more long term listening enjoyment, rather than short term first impressions – a reverse Pepsi Challenge. I blame this approach and how iTunes counts ‘skips’1 as part of the reason this list took forever to compile.
- Obvious by Watershed
I haven’t heard this mixture of poppy, light-hearted post-punk and “I’d rather be at the bar with you than on stage” since Too Much Joy’s “Gods Make Love” or Ben Folds’ “One Down”.
- Toes by Zac Brown Band
Yes, it’s a blatant rip off of Jimmy Buffet’s “Five O’Clock Somewhere” with the working class country vibe turned to 11. The last couple lines make the song.
- Come On, Claire by Aberfeldy
The kid in Fountains of Wayne’s Stacy’s Mom is now in college…
- Juliet by Army of Freshman
…but he’s still hanging out at the mall.
- Set the Table by Screaming Cyn Cyn and The Pons
Screaming atop a very catchy, if simplistic riff. Makes Madison a much cooler town. This will either annoy you or get you dancing. Continues to do both for me.
- Everybody Knows by The Gougers
Catchy little Country tune in the vein of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.
- The Mountain by Lucero
I’m a Lucero junky.
- So Long to the Red River Valley by The Quebe Sisters Band
Every now and again, I’m in the mood for the Western in Country & Western. This is such a great example of modernizing that sound. Reminds me of listening to The Lone Ranger and old radio dramas.
- Mean Son of a Gun by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
The theme song to a old time radio drama about Calamity Jane
- Everyone’s Got’em by White Ghost Shivers
The jazz tune playing in a secret speakeasy right before the cops busted in.
- Cooler than Me by Ari Shine
A much hipper version of Billy Joe’s ‘Uptown Girl’
- I Wanna Be Ignored by Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy.
- Electric Bird by Sia
This song is a picnic blanket in sun-filled valley.
- How Lucky We Are by Meiko
Such an optimistic song about the day after tomorrow and the person you’ve committed to join you there.
- Fascination by Correatown
The break up side of ‘How Lucky We Are’
- See and Be Seen by The Hard Lessons
This is Facebook and MySpace…put to a beat far less than annoying than either.
- All My Love for You by The Emeralds
Another great track from a typical American 3-piece garage rock band. But from a garage in Yokohama, Japan.
- Fireflies by Search/Rescue
This is the lead track from John Hughes’ next teen romantic comedy.
- Clandestine by Brooklyn
Early Beatles with a French attitude.
- Shut Up by Shellshag
This is closest I’ll get to hardcore punk these days, there’s no way I can take these guys seriously. I imagine this is what it was like to deal with me as an angst-ridden teen.
- Champagne Girls I have known by Johnny Foreigner
Yelpy, like Tullycraft with undertones of Oasis
- Only Fooling Myself by Kate Voegele
Inclusion of this song betrays that I still enjoy listening to Wilson Philips’ ‘Hold On’.
- You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie by The Submarines
This reminds me a lot of Redd Kross, if it was fronted by Aimee Mann
- 1906 by Songs for Moms
An all-woman, 3-piece, folk-punk. Had me at folk-punk.
- Balboa by Cruiserweight
I’m a sucker for Stella Maxwell’s voice.
- Oh Man! by Sybris
and for whomever’s voice this is.
- So Down by Jen Lane
Jen’s a Canadian signer-songwriter. That’s a magic combination.
- Half My Kingdon by Alina Simone
A Ukranian April March. Except she’s really Ukranian.
- Blinkandyou’llmissit! by Bo Pepper
Highly dance-able smack-down dropped by some distorted female vocals.
- Smoking Gun by The Tennessee Boltsmokers
A finger-picking discussion on the dangers of following fashion trends.
- 4th of July by Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers
A stereotypical Country song about loss, patriotism, and vans. Includes the great line, “Ever think maybe if you’re not happy it’s because of you.”
- Blue Canoe by Blue Mountain
I’ve never heard a song about going fishing in a canoe. You have? With a distorted guitar?
- Secretary’s Day by TAB the band
A great example of the blues-based, guitar-driven rock I remember as a kid.
- Stand Up by Thurogood Wordsmith
I’m very critical about hip hop rhymes. This one made the list with: “I came to clean house, kick ass, and take names / Like white Anglo-Saxons across the Great Plains.”
- Do It Again by You, Me, and Everyone We Know
If Ben Folds was backed by Blink182
- Tu Boca Lo Quita by Alex Cuba
A rocking mash-up of electric guitar, ska, steel drums, and an amazing voice.
- No Matter How Bad It Gets by The Barker Band
A poppy little tune for eating buckets of shellfish.
- Hello Friend by Cheveu
Guitars and distorted vocals. Over before reaching a climax. Like a cheap midway ride.
- Inmovil (Wrong ID) by Le Baron
A solid early-90s rock track from a typical 4-piece American indie rock band. But from Mexico.
- International Flight by Le Concorde
The theme song to a fantastic new sitcom about an American girl falling in love with a London record store owner.
- Nono by Ze Dos Frangos
I keep expecting this to be that sappy, overexposed Moldy Peaches track. It’s not. It’s Portuguese. Just that makes it better.
- Exodus Honey by Honeycut
A softer, mellower Strawberry Fields.
- Mina do condominio by Pierre Aderne
For those days when your life is a walk on the beach.
- Negative Thinking by TheDeathSet
Vocals of a cheap punk band and a crisp, jumpy, electronica beat.
- Namida Vacuum Sound by Ketchup Mania
Love song by a very, very angry Manga character.
- Morningside Heights by The Strugglers
Dirt roads, melancholy, and violins
- American Hearts by A. A. Bondy
As honest and patriotic as any Dylan, but intelligible.
- Nickels and Dimes by Scissors for Lefty
“Hey, hey, nickels and dimes are all we need to rock tonight.” Yeah!, that lines earns automatic inclusion.
- Let’s Get Crazy by Limbeck
Finally, a song with clapping. Just not enough songs with clapping in them this year.
- Dirty Blonde by Greta Gaines
One of those tracks that feels like college rock from the late ’80s.
- Julia, we don’t live in the 60s by The Indelicates
- EXTINCTION by The Muslims
Here’s a punky third.
1. Play duration longer than 2 seconds but shorter than 20 seconds. Personally, I found it can take a solid minute to find a song distracting.
Thomas Bohmbach and I discuss DJ Edna, his open source project empowering musicians, and other artists, to take control of the sales and distribution of their creative work online.
In Jonathan Coulton’s Portal post, I find 6 things very interesting. He:
- was commissioned (I’m assuming) to write a song for a video game ($$$)
- likes the video game (is this an ad or a recommendation to his fans?)
- includes the lyrics in the post
- includes the chords in the post
- thanks the video game dev team
- recommends another game with a great theme song that
3.75 of them are for JC’s fans. He didn’t need to include any of them. Others haven’t and wouldn’t. This to me makes Coulton a far more interesting and fan-oriented musician than Radiohead simply removing the middleman.
Tonight, my iPod randomly pulled an almost-exactly-one-year-old Coulton/Hodgeman/Sound of Young America interview from my Unlistened Podast playlist. Quite good. Hodgeman even discusses Minnesota State Fair food.