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iPod Chicanery, Part Four

It’s been some time since the last update, but the first entry should explain why. I’m down to 261 remaining songs spanning 20 hours, which seems remarkably manageable considering the 900 I’ve been through.

Biggest Realization: About halfway through this endeavor I recognized that the excitement of hearing unfamiliar songs at unfamiliar times had slowly dissolved into a new familiarity. Yes, I still have unfamiliar songs waiting, but they’re all from albums whose aesthetic I’ve accepted as part of the fray. I’ve realized that if I do this again (and I’m really thinking about keeping this going for at least one more round), I have to bump the ratio of familiar records to unfamiliar records far more to the latter, particularly on genre inclusion (i.e. more rap, jazz, and classical) and not include entire records for some artists so I can mix up the flow even further. I already have some ideas of records I need to include and records I need to dump, but if any readers have suggestions of records that I tend not to mention and might do well to include, I will probably use those suggestions for round two.

Strangest Grouping: Sandwiching a classically oriented track from Eluvium’s Copia between two tracks of Pilot to Gunner’s DC-styled indie rock threw me for a loop. I can understand one of those PTG songs coming up, but hearing two of the eleven tracks from Games at High Speeds in that scenario was just baffling.

Flashback: I threw Arab Strap’s Philophobia on the iPod, but I hadn’t ran into too many of its tracks until this round. I typically mention how strong Arab Strap’s dynamic rockers are—the live version of “Girls of Summer,” “Pulled,” “We Know Where You Live”—but I have to admit that the skeletal aesthetic blueprint of Philophobia fits the subject matter better than the fleshed-out arrangements of later records. Most of the songs succeed with thoughtful guitar lines and drum machines, so when flourishes come up, whether in the horns of “The Night Before the Funeral” or the twinkling piano of “Islands,” they seem like respites from the din of sexual frustration, not defining aspects of the sound.

Best Album Track: “Monkey Man” helped the slow process of seeing the Rolling Stones more as an album band and less as a singles band. I grew up on Hot Rocks and always appreciated that side of the band, but including Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet (Aftermath hasn’t fared quite as well) in this round has helped bring some of those album tracks to the forefront. Next round I’ll include Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street.

Best Timing: I knew that Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “BBF3” would come up at some point, but not having listened to the group much since seeing them in 2000 and knowing the track’s eighteen minutes would take a significant chunk out of a commute made me a bit wary. Fortunately the song started playing during my ride home last night, a grey, dreary commute from Boston College to MIT in the midst of a light snow. It truly came into form when I had to navigate the narrow lanes of Memorial Drive, gazing over at the foggy abyss of Boston proper over the half-frozen Charles. Turning Boston into a post-apocalyptic wasteland was significantly easier than I imagine.

Worst Timing: Silkworm’s “Give Me Some Skin” is one of the group’s finest moments, defined by a cavernous drum sound and a particularly affecting Tim Midgett vocal performance. Yet hearing it on what appeared to be the first day of spring (spoiled a few days later by the above-mentioned snowfall) was completely antithetical to its strengths. “Do you think it took talent or vision / to be strung up on a pine tree in the snow?” just doesn’t sound right amidst the first blast of near 70 degree temperatures and a shining sun.

Most Memorable Double-Shot: I keep hearing about the Lungfish trance, but even though I feel like I “get” the band’s appeal, I hadn’t hit the trance until hearing “Cut to Fit the Mouth” and “Indivisible” back to back on a commute home. I ended up being honked at after zoning out at a traffic light on Cambridge Street, which bums me out since I measure my success as a Boston driver as having a good ratio between honking at other people and being honked at by other people. Those two songs don’t rock as hard as “Space Orgy,” “Mated,” or “Fill the Days,” but they have that mid-tempo Lungfish repetition that just sucks me in.

New Pick for Favorite Song: Cat Power’s “Metal Heart” from Moon Pix had long stuck out as one of the finer songs in her catalog, but I always leaned toward some of the singles as my favorite song. Hearing “Metal Heart” to start the long drive from Pleasant Valley to Somerville changed that, though, as I was completely absorbed by the subtly multi-tracked vocals as I passed by rural farmhouses and small towns on my way up the Salt Point Turnpike to reach the Taconic. “You’re losing the calling and you’ve been faking / and I’m not kidding” seems like the inverse to the firebrand dismissal of Juno’s “The French Letter,” that sentiment stripped of the threat of violence and given a slight hint of hope with “I was lost but now I’m found / was blind but now I see you.”