Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jarring Transitions

by Tom Bozzo

Julie at No Fancy Name has a swell musical meme that's more appropriate for a week in which I feel like I've been hit by a bus three days after a 12-day weekend than ten random tracks. Look at your digital music library, arranged by artist, and pick out the most jarring artist-to-artist transitions therein.

My iTunes database is relatively homogeneous, in contrast to Scrivener's which looks like it's almost all rollicking transitions. That's in part because of the late-80s/early-90s peak of my CD collecting days, and partly because there's a lot of stuff not imported or digitized sitting around here and there throughout the house and back in Delaware. So there are long stretches that actually would work fairly well played straight through, for instance:
Wire, The Wolfgang Press, The Wolfhounds, The Wonder Stuff, The Woodentops, The Wygals
There's a long distance from Wire's punk and post-punk to the Wygals' Hoboken indie rock, but the four bands in between make for a decent enough transition.

That doesn't mean there aren't some less smooth segues to be found. (I've excluded a bunch that owe to incoherent use of the artist field for a L'Elisir d'Amore CD set.)

1. Air Miami, Aphex Twin, Apple Boutique: Guitar indiepop bookending electronica electronica.

2. Handel (Alcina), The B-52's, Band Of Susans: In an oddity of the GraceNote CDDB (the supplier of track data for iTunes music importers), one disc of the excellent Alcina recording by Les Arts Florissants with Renée Fleming has been coded with "Aria" and "Recitative" in the Artist field. I spent 99 cents of an iTunes gift card on "Love Shack," which is followed by Band Of Susans' three-guitar sonic assault.

3. Bronski Beat, Bruno Ganz, The Bulgarian State Radio & TV Chorus, The Buzzcocks, Carole King, Catherine Wheel: The gay-disco-friendly "Why" (another 99-cent digital pickup) segues into spoken word material from the "Wings of Desire" soundtrack, takes a southeast jaunt for the "Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares" discs, a little classic punk rock, "Really Rosie" via Suzanne, and a little shoegazing.

4. Death In Vegas, Deee-Lite, Died Pretty, Dif Juz: Death in Vegas is from the "Lost in Translation" soundtrack, and would be a good companion to the likes of My Bloody Valentine. Instead, it bumps up against with Deee-Lite's dancey "World Clique," which gives way to Australian power-pop and then Cocteau Twins-ish instrumentals.

5. The Flatmates, The Folksmen, For Against: The Flatmates cross the Ramones with the Shangri-Las. The Folksmen are Spinal Tap meets The Kingston Trio, from the "A Mighty Wind" soundtrack. For Against is a little bit like Modern English, but from Nebraska.

6. Seefeel, Serge Gainsbourg, Sex Pistols: Techno ambient instrumentals, smutty French crooning, snotty English punk rock.

But the kicker in my view is:

7. Minimal Compact, Minor Threat, The Misfits, Mitch & Mickey, Modern English, Momus, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Morrissey: Minimal Compact is arty alternative stuff, also on the "Wings of Desire" album. Minor Threat is classic D.C. straight-edge (no drinking, drugs, sex [!], or smoking) hardcore punk rock, great stuff to blast out the window driving past one of Madison's non-smoking taverns; the follow-on band Fugazi is better known. The Misfits started out as Elvis meets the Ramones meet the Monster Mash ("I Turned Into A Martian" "Ghouls Night Out"). Mitch & Mickey sweeten things up with more from "A Mighty Wind," though I can't take "The Ballad of Bobby and June" under normal circumstances. You might have melted with Modern English once upon a time. Momus's "The Hairstyle of the Devil" leads into the Marines Hymn and "God Bless America" from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (obtained for a special purpose mix CD assembled for a friend), and the former Smiths frontman takes it away.
wire and bronski beat, hooray!

I just realized that I'd have more jarring transitions if I didn't rename the artist of all soundtracks to "name of soundtrack". I have very, very few one-off artists in my iTunes.
I don't have many one-offs in iTunes either, yet, mainly because it's been easier to import CD albums than to digitize vinyl singles. In part because of the lower buyer's remorse risk from straying into other genres, the singles are a more eclectic lot than the albums.
See I read your post and realize mine would have been much better with a little more narrative to it. Some of my jarring transitions are from singles, but I guess I have pretty eclectic tasts. Some of them show up because my wife loaded some of her CDs on my iTunes a while back when we were sharing (I should say "sharing") the iPod, and I haven't deleted them.
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