Heavy Rotation: Vol 5

While I have been sporadically searching for new ear worms, I’ve spent a fair amount of time the past couple of months listening to music from my collection. I’ve dusted off a few artists I haven’t listened to in awhile, revisiting them with refreshed ears and reigniting the embers of love still lingering in my musical heart. Only in the past few days have I come across a handful of previously unheard of bands that have caught my attention. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to thoroughly listen to them and to discover whether they will enter the musical flow of my life. Fodder for next time I suppose.

Below you’ll find some selections of what I’ve been listening to going back to August.

PJ Harvey

I was in high school the first time I heard the album “Rid of Me”, at a time when I was thoroughly enmeshed in Death Metal. Yet one listen of “Rid of Me” and I was hooked. This was one bad ass woman. The music has a raw punch, rough around the edges, leavened with soft, whispering vocals that suddenly break out in shouted declarations backed by crunchy guitars and seas of crashing symbols. I love the guitar sound on this album. I was still hanging with PJ on her subsequent release “To Bring You My Love”, a weirdly different album, but still cool nonetheless.

Then came a slew of releases that, at the time, left me cold. It would be a time before I ventured back to her music, though I think it speaks more to the maturity of my tastes than the quality of her music. Though, without a doubt, “UH HUH Her” and “White Chalk” still leave me underwhelmed. Over the years I picked up and plugged the holes I had in her discography, not realizing that a jewel like “Dry” had come before “Rid of Me”, and finding much to like in “Is This Desire?” and “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”.

It had been awhile since I listened to PJ Harvey, and then the singles released from her “B-Sides, Demos & Rarities” caught my attention, particularly the Dry demo. Just listening to that got me moving through her discography. An added plus was putting her on my step-daughters radar and hearing her say, “This is cool,. Who is this?” while driving her to school.

The Black Angels

Yes, I wrote about The Black Angels last time. But since then their latest album arrived and I picked it up. “Wilderness of Mirrors” is a solid album. I wouldn’t say it is breaking any new ground, but it doesn’t need to: it’s a jam from start to finish and was, and is, just what I needed.

Soundtrack: Circe (Music Composed for the Show of Shows)

I’ve been going through some of the most punishing months at my job and this soundtrack has helped me get through a number of those days. When I need music, but I need to concentrate on difficult problems, I reach for music without lyrics. I’ve played the hell out of the Interstellar soundtrack to the point of temporary boredom, so a quick dig through the archives brought this one into the light again.

I’ve never seen the film, but love the music. A project featuring composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, and Sigur Ros members Georg Holm, and Orri Páll Dýrason, and their touring guitarist, Kjartan Holm.

Tunde Adebimpe and TV on the Radio

I don’t know if TV on the Radio will ever release another album. The last release was Seeds in 2014. While I don’t care for everything they have released, I think they’re an enormously talented band that have created incredible music. I periodically search for news relating to the band, hoping to see that they’re working on new material. A recent search came up with two items I purchased.

The first is Tunde Adebimpe’s cover of “Off Me” by The Breeders. It is one of my favorite Breeder tracks; a beautiful, soft song, that Tunde has slightly re-imagined here. It’s a good tribute.

The second was this three track release on Bandcamp, “New Health Rock” from 2004. The first track feels like it could easily slot itself into the Return to Cookie Mountain lineup. A nice trio of tracks I hadn’t heard previously.

Tom Waits

It’s hard to know where to even start when it comes to Tom. Do I start with his age and how I’ve found myself thinking about when he’s no longer around and making music? It’s one of those stupid mental conversations where I’m asking myself if I’d ever cry over the death of a celebrity, of which I tell myself, absolutely not, and then I think of Tom and I wonder.

He’s an old man now (72). It’s hard to imagine a world without Tom making music in it. There isn’t anyone quite like Tom Waits, that makes music the way Tom Waits makes music. Sure, over the years I’ve been given the, “So and so is like Tom Waits”, yet they’re never even close. He created and honed a musical world singularly his own. Who is going to sing the waltz’s about the geeks and freaks, the clang and bang numbers about the oddballs, the lowlifes, the low-rent ne’er-do-well’s from all those looked over spaces and places when he’s gone? Tom has carved out such a special and charmed musical space, replete with upbeat bangers, slow and low in-your-drunken-cups numbers, to overly sentimental pieces, and weepy-eyed ballads.

He is still making music isn’t he? I read something in the beginning of the year about another album, maybe even a last album, but haven’t seen anything since. It’s been some years since Bad as Me was released (2011). I hope for another album. And then another. And another. I guess I’m kind of greedy, wanting that old man to keep producing to salve my musical wishes.

I was 21 or 22 when I first heard Tom Waits. An invitation to visit a friend that I hadn’t seen since high school brought me down to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Soon after arriving they had to leave to fulfill a shift at their job, but they left me with a twelve pack of beer and the album “Rain Dogs”. They told me they thought I would like it, and they couldn’t have been more on the mark. I spent the next four hours sipping on some of those beers and listening to that album over and over and over again. I was hooked.

The weeks and months ahead found me slowly purchasing his albums, one by one, listening to them over and over, driving my friends and significant others to irritation. I was the sole Tom Waits fan in our crew, my other friends most often responding to his music with pained expressions and, “Can someone turn this shit off?”. Over the years I turned a few of them, but he has mostly been an artist I’ve enjoyed by myself. It was during those years that I found myself living in Champaing-Urbana, and venturing with that same friend to the Chicago Theater to see Tom play in support of the “Mule Variations” release. It was the only time I’ve seen him play live and remains one of the top three concerts I’ve seen. It was an impressive, almost three hour set, that covered the whole of his musical output up till that point.

Tom has been a musical artist I’ve logged a substantial number of hours with. I’ve been a dedicated listener of his music for over twenty years now. And it hasn’t been casual, run of the mill listening. I was obsessed for a good number of those years. It has only been in the last five or six that my regular listening of his music has tapered a bit. It was during the past two months, after at least a year hiatus (and a birthday Karaoke session singing “A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”), that I started cycling through his discography again.

My tastes have remained mostly the same: I still cannot stand the album “Foreign Affairs”. The album “The Heart of Saturday Night” is still a pleasure to listen to and tops most of the tracks of “Closing Time”, but I still love the song “Ole Fifty-Five”. There are the quintessential albums: the mighty “Franks Wild Years”, “Rain Dogs”, “Bone Machine”, “Small Change”, “Blue Valentine”, and “The Black Rider”, a six album stretch that captures the best of Tom Waits, and the albums that truly put a hook into my heart. That’s not to throw shade at “Swordfish Trombones”, “Heart Attack and Vine”, or even the album comeback “Mule Variations”, all highly respectable albums, but those six are true works of high musical art. The later albums, “Alice”, “Real Gone”, “Orphans”, and “Bad as Me” are all solid albums, each unique in their own way.

It’s hard to distill a relatively small number of tracks that capture my love of Tom, as well as capture the breadth of his musical styles, but here are a handful that attempt to do just that.

Author: Jason Jacobs

Jason Jacobs is an artist, project manager, and frontend web designer living and working in Boise, Idaho. Beyond work he spends his time with family, as well as reading, writing articles for Uhmm, and working on his art. All words and opinions, etc., are his and do not reflect the positions or beliefs of anyone other than himself.