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iPod Chicanery Round Two, Part Two

I’m taking a much deserved and needed break from secondary readings on torture to recap the highlights of tracks 104 through 294. Yes, it didn’t take me long to break my aim of reporting after every hundred tracks, but I ended up making a mix CD of the highlights from the first 200 tracks (I’ll try to compile the MP3s at a later date) instead of recapping them as I probably should have. Still remarkably light on long songs, so I’m moving along at a quick clip. I don’t anticipate this pace lasting.

Blast from the Past: It’s been some time since the last vestiges of my Hum ultra-fandom wore away; I’m now down to the occasional run-through of the finest moments of You’d Prefer an Astronaut (“Little Dipper,” “Why I Prefer the Robins,” “I Hate It Too”) on muggy summer nights. Dropping Electra 2000 in the playlist revived some of those old feelings, however, and it’s particularly appropriate that “Winder,” a song from which I derived my first e-mail address and AIM screenname, clicked the hardest. For all of the slightly wince-inducing vocal performances strewn about E2K, it’s easy to forget the genuinely heavy, shifting guitar riffs and Matt Talbot’s great moments of detached insight. In giving such structural priority to its charging riffs, “Winder” stands out as an energized album-closing jam, at least until the excellent bonus track “Diffuse” made it on album’s the third pressing.

Overdue Notice: The ex-Pitchblende made a notable opening appearance at the Dismemberment Plan’s semi-infamous dance party at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago—Justin Chearno’s head was clipped by the head stock of the bass, but the math-rock continued, dripping blood and all. Despite tracking down those Pitchblende CDs, I never got around to picking up Turing Machine’s debut (A New Machine for Living) or the follow-up, Zwei, but hearing “Rock. Paper. Rock.” during a commute convinced me of my errors. I might’ve been happy if the insistent guitar line chimed along for the full seven minutes, but instead Turing Machine keeps shifting the elements, letting each of the instruments have the spotlight.

Most Bizarre Transition: The first two songs of this round were Ween’s “I’m Dancing in the Show Tonight” and Ghostface Killah’s “Clyde Smith” skit. The former sounds like a slightly demented children’s song, complete with pitch-shifted vocals and recital-oriented piano backing, while the latter is also pitchshifted, dropping Ghostface’s voice down to comically deep levels for two and a half rambling minutes. The break between the piano and the unadorned announcement that “My name is Knuckles, nigga” nearly knocked me out of the driver’s seat.

Best Transition: GZA’s Liquid Swords has met any expectations I had for the album, particularly because of the extended samples of dialogue. The gasping death that concludes “I Gotcha Back” segued almost perfectly into the quiet drops of rain beginning Juno’s “The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow.” While the tone is a bit softer in the Juno song, it doesn’t belie the oncoming shudders of guitar at the end of the track or the overall content of the song, which looks at death from an entirely different perspective. This conversation between the songs even surpassed my initial awe of the smooth transition.

Best Laugh: I tend to underestimate Steve Albini’s cruel sense of humor in favor of the sonic incision of his bands, but Big Black’s “Bad Penny” combining the industrial grind of that band’s finest moments with an overwhelmingly memorable break. “I think I fucked your girlfriend once... maybe twice, I don't remember / Then I fucked all your friends’ girlfriends—now they hate you” is delivered with blend of malice and wit particular to Albini, lacking only a fuller entry in the band’s tour diary.

Biggest Breakthrough: I’d heard a few Cocteau Twins songs before this round and a few more during the course of it, but it wasn’t until “Lorelei” came on that the band’s proto-shoegaze dream pop finally hit me. The processed guitar line floats along, propelled by an unmistakably ’80s drum machine, but Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals give the song its vague approximation of shape, whether it’s her indiscernible lilt, her breathy pulse, or her multi-tracked peaks. It’s hard to think of this song without thinking of it as a prototype for the pop songs on Loveless, but I hardly mean to demote it to a footnote in My Bloody Valentine’s history.

Pleasant Surprise: When Stars of the Lid’s “Tippy’s Demise” came on during the tail end of my commute to BC today, I was a little concerned about the typically minimal nature of their work being difficult to hear over the din of traffic. But “Tippy’s Demise” seems far less ambient than the other tracks I’ve heard from And Their Refinement of the Decline, swelling with instrumentation halfway through the song before receding away. Unlike a few songs from the new Eluvium record featuring fuller, more classically oriented arrangements, “Tippy’s Demise” doesn’t edge toward awkward sentimentality, only emotional directness. I’m beginning to worry about the purchasing pile I’ll have to deal with in the coming months.

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