A Patagonian Playlist

I am on the bus from El Calafate driving around Lake Viedma on my way to Chalten.  I’m staring out the window looking at the lake and stunning mountains rising dramatically out of the barren sierra, it is an inspiring sight.  Coupled with the isolation here, it has a funny way of making you at peace.  Even the clouds here a uniquely dreamy quality, making different shapes with a slow grace “Oh look there’s a dog”, and after glancing away for a few minutes “now it’s a duck”. When you draw your eyes away from the scenery and the clouds and close them for a moment you can almost feel the galaxy spinning around you. A brief unity.

And what do you listen to while you enjoy this moment?  Although, admittedly limited to what is on my aging 4 gig iPod nano, I though I’d share with you my patagonian play list.  One of my more gadget orientated friends has commented, somewhat harshly in my view, that I should be thinking about upgrading. Mine still works and the battery life is about 8 hours more than his new nano in comparison.  No question of upgrade then. So let me begin…

The news that Pavement is reforming and touring has got me very excited so I am listening to some of their albums for the first time for many years, so let’s start with Newark WiIder off Crooked Rain.  What about the chord progressions in this?  Genius.  Perfect for a lazy hot afternoon.  And let’s follow that with another track off Crooked Rain, Gold Soundz.  This is the indie song template, perhaps not the first but certainly one of the best.

One thing you will always find on my iPod is Suede’s Dog Man Star. I never tire of it, and have spent many hours listening to it while contemplating my past and future.  And the track in the playlist today is We are the Pigs.

“Oh let the nuclear wind blow away my sins.”

Yes, I do know all the words.  Much to the amusement of some people I was once I card carrying member of the Suede fan club.  And I do very good interpretation of this song on air guitar, for those lucky few who have had the dubious privilege of hearing/seeing it.

I have been revisiting lots of things in my collection over the last few months and enjoying rediscovering and remembering the times that went with them.  After all you need to understand the sum of your past for your future whole to be greater than the sum of those past parts.

Next is Elliot Smith, an artist that I have felt, somewhat vainly, was a fellow traveller of mine.  Two tracks off Either/Or are on the list today Rose Parade and Say Yes.  Sweet Songs with inteligent lyrics, and yes I do think I am an exception:

“And I could be another fool or an exception to the rule.”

After watching a documentary that Steve Dangerfield gave me on parallel universes (E’s father was the physicist that came up with this theory), I have been listening to a lot of Eels of late.  And I can thoroughly recommend this popular science doco too, about the science behind quantum mechanics combined with E’s personal journey learning about his father.  I can be such a geek at times.  The song?  Last Stop: This town.

“What if I was your only friend in this world.  Can you take me where I’m going if your never coming back.”

I was surprised the other day to discover that the most played songs on my iPod were all off Beirut’s Album, The Flying Cup.  I don’t know if it is the effect of the tango canciones slowly seeping into my head and their use of the piano accordion, but I am clearly lovin’ this album.  Or perhaps it’s the french influences on the album clicking inside my head with all the french films I have been watching of late (Thanks, Antoine!).  On that note you should check out MR 73, Daniel Auteuil makes Rebus look like a shandy-drinking pussy.  Getting back to the music, this album is full of soaring songs with a gypsy feel, beautifully arranged, and clever improvised percussion.  And the 5 most played tracks: Nantes, A Sunday Smile, The Penalty, Cherbourg, St. Apollonia.

After chatting to Kathy Angelone (Looking forward to seeing you babe at Meredith!) recently about her ongoing obsession with Tim Rogers, I recently pulled out my favourite You Am I album, Hourly Daily.  Three tracks off this album for me today:  Hourly DailyTuesday, and Who Takes Who Home? The last track is on my favourite last album tracks playlist, and coincidentally one which I will be playing by this time next year as one of my new year’s resolution will be to move on from the bass onto guitar.  And I will be playing it, no question.  Every time I listen to this album, I remember Sunday night games of 500 at Meike and Matt’s: Meike cooking dinner, Matt, Phil, and I chatting about the weekend over some red wine,  Meike and Matt being super competitive with each other over the card game, while Phil and I furtively look at each other to see if the other saw the joker being clumsily dealt into the pot.  Good days.

And with the Meredith Music Festival firmly on my mind, the next track is Akron / Family’s Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead.  Why?

Because love is simple.”

I read some speculation the other day in NME about the headliners for Glastonbury next year, it being the 40th one and all.  U2 are headlining Friday night and the gist of the speculation was the Stones for Saturday night and Bowie or Dylan for Sunday.  A greatest hits set from David Bowie, one last time?  I think I will have to get past my vow of never setting foot in that muddy hellhole again.  I’m so excited at the thought of seeing my number one music hero that I’m going to have to pause here while I see if I can still register for a ticket just in case.  Right, that’s done.  The track?  Life on Mars.  Bowie has been a constant travelling companion for me, with Ziggy keeping me company in even the most obscure places.

What next?  Radiohead of course.  What better band to be lost in your thoughts to?  And the track?  High and DryThe Bends and OK Computer are back on rotation in my iPod, after a long absence.  In fact I think in Jacqui Pinge’s 2008 interview of me reflecting on the year gone by I nominated Reckoner as my favourite track from last year which might explain why In Rainbows has held it’s place for so long on my iPod.

And finally, R.E.M. Not because they are on my iPod but because I have been quietly singing Pretty Persuasion to myself for the last few days after listening to their live CD set Live at the Olympia, 39 songs recorded over 5 nights in Dublin in 2007.  The Olympia is a cool ye olde theatre and a great venue to see a band.  As well as trying out tracks for their new album, they also played a track of each of their albums and played 5 tracks off both Reckoning and Life’s Rich Pageant.  And they played with a raw energy that reminded me of how much I loved them.  For the record, I think their last album Accelerate is far away their best album for well over a decade.  Who says your best work is behind you?

So there you have it: Muscia es una metafora.  Perfecto.  Muy bien.

Footnote: When I started writing this post it was going to be about me revisiting my view that the Swiss are dull after a swiss girl flashed me in my dorm last night.  That and another anecdote about getting into the VIP bar at Prodigy in Santiago, with another swiss girl.

I think the music is where it is at.  Good call.

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