Sounds of Music

Songbook: Seven Curses

Back to Dylan Time! Which should be all the time, basically.

“Seven Curses” by Bob Dylan

Album: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1

Year: 1963

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
It’s such a simple song, a true illustration of Dylan’s folk roots (I’d argue it’s truer than his protest songs even): with no ornamentation and a very simple, very stark story it raises Dylan’s vision of the Wild West to a mythical realm. And my personal favorite thing about Dylan’s songwriting is how he can tell a story: an actual story with characters, a plot and a resolution. Also, thank heavens they published it on the Bootleg Series because it’s such a loss it was never released on an album.

Favorite lyrics:
I like the simplicity as in a real folk ballad and the vengeful numbers game at the end. I’m not sure if I have a favorite line though, it’s such a consistent text.

Favorite moment:
I like the moment when the narrative changes once the judge has lied.

Best for: It’s a decent sing-along and it could make a decent movie.

Listen here.

Advertisements
Standard
Sounds of Music

Songbook: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Miley Cyrus is such a wasted potential of our times. If you know her regular music and if you heard her “Backyard Sessions,” you know what I mean. She’s incredible with those folk covers and I’m not ashamed to admit I love her (in them). This one is another of those folk songs for charity, her cover of a Dylan.

“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” by Miley Cyrus

Album: Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International

Year: 2012

Category: Recent-years favorite

Why it rocks:
It’s a sweet song and I like the original fine. But Miley’s version is just so much more relaxed and the guitar doesn’t seem to run against the tone of the song. She’s so lyrical and effortless here.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“I’ve only known careless love / It’s always hit me from below. /This time around it’s more correct, / Right on target, so direct.”

Favorite moment:
The prolonged “realize the time” in “I could stay with you forever and never realize the time.” And the whole part with crickets.

Best for: St. Valentine’s Day.

Listen here.

Standard
Sounds of Music

Songbook: Like Janis

Once upon a time I was talking to a person about Searching for Sugarman, which everybody seemed to be watching then (I haven’t so far) and she said that Rodriguez was so great, “better than some Bob Dylan.” Hah. Say to me someone is better than Bob Dylan and see what happens. (Nothing will happen because I’m a polite and restrained person but I will think things about you.) But when some time later Spotify played to me a Rodriguez song I was quite curious and while Dylan he ain’t I still like some of his songs, particularly this one.

“Like Janis” by Rodriguez

Album: Cold Fact

Year: 1970

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
We all try to be positive and enlightened (I hope) but sometimes there is pleasure to be found in listening to such well-put disdain, especially accompanied by such pleasant melody. Some people inspire one to think of this song more than others, I guess.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“And you try to conceal your ordinary ways / With a smile or a shrug or some stolen cliché” and “And don’t try to enchant me with your manner of dress / ‘Cause a monkey in silk is a monkey no less” (so really the meanest of them).

Favorite moment:
When he lacks a syllable in “and your selfishness.” I like when a rhythm is broken but still works.

Best for: Feeling mean.

Sidenote: I always think instinctively that any “Janis” must be Janis Joplin but this doesn’t really sound like her, does it.

Listen here. (I just realized I can do this.)

Standard
Sounds of Music

Christmas Songbook: Silver Bells

So in 2009 Dylan recorded a Christmas album and everyone’s (who cared) jaws dropped open. But it was really such a Dylan thing to do. Me, I was always happy he did that because what’s better than two things you like separately? Two of them combined. (Somebody needs to come up with chocolate flavored comic books.)

“Silver Bells” by Bob Dylan

Album: Christmas in the Heart

Year: 2009

Category: Christmas playlist

Why it rocks:
I love getting ready for Christmas: shopping, cleaning, worrying about who to invite, you name it, I don’t mind. And this is a song which captures so well the feeling of Christmas in the city, rather than in some imaginary idyllic cottage in snow-covered woods. It’s an idyllic city though: it makes this time sound restful rather than full of berserk last-minute shoppers who curse one another in the mall parking lot.
And Dylan’s rendition makes the song sillier and more fun in the “anyone can sing” spirit. As someone who’s always the worst caroller, no matter what group I’m in, I really appreciate that.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“Strings of street lights, even stop lights / Blinkin’ bright red and green / As the shoppers rush home with their treasures.” So visual.

Favorite moment:
Just the carelessness of his voice throughout.

Best for: A restful cup of cocoa after a whole day of frantic pre-Christmas pushing through a crowd of shoppers with their treasures.

Sidenote: I can only talk about a small selection of my Christmas favorites but “Must Be Santa” is totally on the playlist too.

Standard
Sounds of Music

Songbook: To Ramona

It’s Dylan Time. I promised you we’ll be revisiting him regularly and here we go again, also continuing the unnecessarily personal Songbook posts. This is one of my favorites, not a funny little thing to admire the dry humor of his observations but one of those songs that are there for you when you need them.

“To Ramona” by Bob Dylan

Album: Another Side of Bob Dylan

Year: 1964

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
Maybe it’s the triple meter but this song rocks me like a lullaby in its simplicity and numbs existential anxiety (while also making me a little sad). This is not the most profound of Dylan’s songs but maybe the (relative) directness makes so many lines come to me so often and it has a certain spirituality to it. His voice has that intimate quality I love.

Favorite lyrics:
“And there’s no use in tryin’ / To deal with the dyin’ / Though I cannot explain that in lines” I find the strongest, of course, but it’s “Everything passes / Everything changes / Just do what you think you should do” that I usually remember.

Favorite moment:
I love the swaying rhythm introduced in the first line.

Best for: This time more seriously, this song helped me a few times in moments of pain so I say it’s best for when you need a bit of existential wisdom.

Sidenote: If R didn’t hate the name and if had a daughter, I think I’d call her Ramona because of this song.

Standard
Sounds of Music

Songbook: Man of Constant Sorrow

Let’s get serious guys: we will be talking lots of Bob Dylan here. Lots. Here’s one less conventional song for a good start.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” by Bob Dylan

Album: No Direction Home: Bootleg Vol. 7

Year: 1962

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
Dylan’s bests are rarely covers but this one he completely makes his own (up to and including serious lyrics changes). It’s such a young Dylan, when he was flaunting the bad boy persona like nobody’s business and it’s fun to see him shifting the focus of this story into a more juvenile place where it’s all about a mysterious heartbreak. Also, I’ve always liked Dylan’s early harmonica (I mean since I taught myself to like it but it was so long ago it’s like in a different lifetime).

Favorite lyrics:
“I’ll say goodbye to Colorado / Where I was born and partly raised.” The “partly” is such a fun Dylan-like little shift. And people say he didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Heh. Basically, the best part of this lyrics is all the differences he makes to the classic version.

Favorite moment:
The last verse. But also, points for the long notes.

Best for: Arguments with people who think that version from that movie is better.

Standard
Personalness

The Best of 2014

So, the uneven 2014 is coming to an end, which is as good an occasion as any (or, actually, better) to talk about the things that impressed me in the last twelve months.

Book of the year: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Somehow I managed to never have read Campbell before and I can’t say I expected overmuch from this transcript of a TV program that this book is but it really blew my mind, dude. Part philosophical and religious treatise, part loose ramblings about life, it has a strange, strange power to make you question things and maybe see them a little more optimistically (or, at least, bravely), even though it doesn’t seem to try to do that.

TV show of the year: The Americans have returned with another impressive, impressive season and Orphan Black was so much fun again but they will have to share the spot with a baby show Mozart in the Jungle. Now that everyone and your aunt is making scripted TV, Amazon has joined the race and it produces a couple of pilots that it later kills or develops, depending on unclear criteria. Ever since I saw Mozart‘s pilot I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed (and that’s a long time to do that) so they would pick it up and they did, and made a whole season – so yay.

Musician of the year: I discovered Langhorne Slim and Zaz and they both climbed fast up through my listening charts, dominating them completely, but the title – both for statistical and honorary reasons – has to go to Bob Dylan (as it could almost every year, I guess?). This year I’ve (re)listened to all his albums in reverse chronological order, even the 80s, which I had always skipped almost entirely before, and I discovered some gems I didn’t even know (I also discovered some things which prove 80s might not have been music’s best decade, Dylan’s music included).

Board game of the year: This would be Legendary, a cooperative game (always my favorite kind of game) in which you fight as Marvel superheroes (my favorite kind of superheroes, no question) against one threat or another. It’s dynamic, fun and so, so geeky!

Comic of the year: If we’re talking geeky, I guess of all this year’s offerings I enjoyed most All New X-men, continuing the great tradition of Morrison and Whedon and probably some other X-men writers I don’t know. (I might know too much about X-men for the comfort of an average person but I’m far from an expert, you see.) It has young Jean Grey and this is surely a fun idea.

Video game of the year: Marvel Puzzle Quest (this ends Marvel’s domination in this list, I swear). It’s basically a match-three puzzle game, which is a pretty boring kind of game to be honest, but it’s combined with gaining and leveling superheroes (of course) and it’s so unnaturally addictive that I think it might be a part of Marvel’s plan to dominate the world. Hmph.

I’m sure there are a few exciting categories missing (food of the year? pastime of the year? eh, maybe not that exciting) but I actually have plans for the night so have a great 2015 everyone, myself included!

Standard