October 05, 2002

I had the scare of my life when my computer speakers suddenly stopped working the other day. After some futzing about, I finally got them working again this afternoon -- must have been a software problem, because there was nothing wrong with the adapter when I tested it elsewhere, and when I rolled back my computer to an earlier setting, the speakers worked again. Huh.

Now I can go back to enjoying the songs I've had in rotation this week:

Game Theory - "Seattle"
If I define myself by what I've done and what I've liked, I also define myself by where I've lived and traveled. I'm very much a New Yorker -- I've got the black clothes and the cynicism and the romanticism and the worldliness down pat, and everything about this wretched old place is in my blood. But there were times when I just had to get the hell out for a while and clear my head, and in late 1999, I headed to the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) to stake out some new territory. I spent much of my free time traveling around by bus, up and down the coast and through the mountains, and into the cities. I ended up in Seattle quite a few times. Nice town -- and (this seems like an obvious thing to say given the city's reputation over the past decade and change) very sorta self-aware and grounded in its bigness and oldness. Down in PDX, the locals would look at their northerly neighbor with a bit of jealousy and awe (and sometimes disdain); it was the huge, mythic-proportioned shadow that loomed over our humble, underdog, hippie-punk-writer-stripper-queer town. Game Theory's "Seattle" (from 1986) is a corny-yet-100%-heartbreaking Sister Lovers-style acoustic love letter (can "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle" rightfully exist in anything other than the most earnest municipal anthem?) to something, somewhere, at some point in the past... and when I hear the song I'm not totally sure what it means on a literal level, but it's like looking through a box of postcards you've bought and having the postcards themselves -- just the very thereness of the postcards, not the stupid photographs that accompany them -- trigger dozens of different emotions, memories, names, faces, songs.

Dead Moon - "Rescue"
Speaking of that part of the world, "Rescue" comes to us from Dead Moon, Clackamas, Oregon's very own garage-rock legends. They played NYC recently and I was on my way to see 'em when I realized I didn't have my ID with me -- and for some reason getting home that night took much longer than usual, so by the time I got home I didn't feel like going back out again. But that's okay. I got to see Dead Moon at some shithole in PDX, and I still remember the drunken riotous energy quite well; plastic beer cups and cheap beer on the floor, people dancing and shaking the sweat out of their saturated hair, fists in the air, a nobody's-looking-so-let's-rock vibe, with the horrible humidity outside strangely working to the night's advantage. Picture that and you've got "Rescue" -- one of the most distinctly Northwestern songs ever.

Cardigans - "Hanging Around"
American music fans remember the Cardigans as the airy, slightly exotic Swedish pop band responsible for the massive 1997 hit "Lovefool" -- and some of them also remember that the group's follow-up album, 1998's Gran Turismo, was a critical and commercial bomb. I like Gran Turismo; it's not a lost classic or anything, but it's not a dismal failure either. Maybe it's just that I'm completely hopeless when it comes to pop vocals sung by sexy Continental women, but Nina Persson's voice suckered me in from the beginning. On "Hanging Around," she's sad but she's not aloof; she sounds like she's beautiful (and she is) but a lot smarter than beautiful girls usually are; she's angry but not mean or off-putting or even remotely bitchy; she's in love and familiar with the pain and used to the abuse. The music is somewhat Butch Vig-ish (he didn't produce it, a guy named Tore Johansson did -- TOR JOHNSON??), lots of simple alt-hooks jazzed up by keyboards, fuzz bass, and fidgety studio tricks. And that seems like it would be pedestrian, but it fits the song perfectly. "Hanging Around" could have been a huge hit, and it wasn't, and I'm glad I have it all to myself.

Life Without Buildings - "PS Exclusive"
Oh dear God, this is so much better than anything on that horrendous new Sleater-Kinney album (sorry... they've done good things, but One Beat tries too hard too many times). This, my friends, is what an S-K record would be if Corin let Carrie sing all the songs. Cute, boundlessly feisty, very clever, very clean and direct.