December 13, 2010

Audio Infinitum (Or, Five Songs Forever)

By Daniel

Music lovers know exactly what someone means when they say “I love the song, but I can’t listen to it all that often,” or something to that effect. Then there are comfort songs, songs to listen to when you’re happy, pissed off, maybe even drunk. (I’m not here to judge.) But what about a song to listen to forever?

It’s funny, this is actually a project I do inadvertently when I make compilation CDs to put in the car, or playlists to listen to on repeat. There will inevitably be weaker songs that I’ll grow tired of well before others. So I’ll tweak the selections, and try to come up with that perfect playlist to represent a genre. I know myself well enough to say I could listen to these five songs, on repeat, more or less perpetually, in this order.

BT – Dark Heart Dawning

Dark Heart Dawning is a relative sleeper track of BT’s, it never appeared on a single or EP after being released on the album Emotional Technology in 2003. While I have other favorites off the album (P A R I S and The Last Moment Of Clarity in particular) none of them exhibit the understated beauty of Dark Heart Dawning. Downtempo pedal steel guitar and a simple story segue into a powerful second half with a heavy gospel overtone. That’s off-putting to some, but I love the emotion you find in a song like this. Deep down I hope BT likes this one as much as I do.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Riviera Paradise

I became a fan of SRV not long after I started playing the guitar, probably around age 14. I had a copy of Couldn’t Stand The Weather that I still think is one of the most complete displays of skill by a bluesman, from the slow, somber tale of “Tin Pan Alley” to upbeat rock riffs like “Scuttle Buttin'”, and a cover of Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile” that rivals the original. But it’s his instrumental work that surprises me the most. A guitarist listening to “Tin Pan Alley” or “Cold Shot” might come away thinking Stevie has a “bag of tricks” that he doesn’t want to deviate from. But listen to something like Riviera Paradise and you’ll find he’s talented enough to work his way through a beautiful, slow nine-minute instrumental without repeating himself, and displaying some chops that you rarely see out of him. I’ve spent plenty of time with Riviera Paradise on repeat by itself, this one would make it for sure if I had to narrow it down to three or two songs.

Joe Satriani – Why

Trying to narrow down my Satch discography to one song was tough, but I’ve listened to Why more than any other song of his, it’s timeless, it has a ton of memories attached to it, it’s just a work of pure talent by a guy that has no lack thereof. His more recent work has moved away from the shredding, pitch-axis dominant stuff he helped pioneer and into more thoughtful stuff, but listening to him play this one live in 2003 was nothing short of an honor.

Guns ‘N Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

Having worked tech retail while Guitar Hero II was on demo, I got to listen to Sweet Child O’ Mine no less than 20 times a shift. And I can’t think of a time where I thought to myself, “That’s about enough of that.” I don’t know what it is about it, a beautiful memorable melody, great energy and emotion, and a great guitar solo with tons of soul, Slash at his best. It puts a smile on my face pretty much every time I hear it.

Onoken – Vijore

Readers that had heard of every artist up to this one, don’t take it personally. Onoken is a Japanese electronica artist known primarily to folks in the Bemani scene. Most of his work has never made it out of Japan, but his album “Swell Strings” did, and out of a great album I find this as his best work, maybe ever (don’t hate on me, K8107 fans). The song has an underlying complexity that is beautiful as it is challenging to decipher, there’s something new to listen for every time. And there’s emotion, and tons of it! If you don’t feel anything from the dynamics and pitches used, you’re being really stubborn. In an age of dubstep and hardcore I point to this and say, “This is original and beautiful. And simple. And accessible.”

Food for thought, I hope. Feel free to think it over, and try commenting back with five songs to listen to forever.