Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rock VORP - Sports Guys Making Music Lists

VORP stands for Value Over Replacement Player, and there's an interesting and entertaining essay about computing a VORP (or VORM) for each member of a band at espn.com's grantland.  It's much, much, much more subjective than the similar metric that exists in sports, but that's largely why it's entertaining to ponder.

I thought the most debatable part of the algorithm was part 3 in which the author states:

In order to calculate someone's "Real" Rock VORM (RRV), we need to multiply his or her personal ARV by the "established value" of the group itself. A group's established value encompasses all aspects of its existence (musical and otherwise).

What follows is a list of influential bands with a rating of 1 for the Beatles and something less than that for everyone else, sort of like the BCS standings.  Scroll down to part III to see the band ranking part of the equation.  Unlike some other lists, he nails the top 3 in proper order (see my earlier post for further commentary on the top 3 classic rock bands), but then things get a little nutty.

Pizacatto Five is tied for fourth with Hendrix, The Beach Boys, and VU?  Husker Du is in a mid tier spot tied with Wings and REO Speedwagon.  I just like it that he tried to make an algorithm that could rate all 3 of those bands.  He acknowledges that it's an incomplete list, so The Who, among others, didn't get ranked at all.  Neither did The Jam.  The VORP/VORM equation must not work for mod or mod revival.

The Pixies come in every so slightly behind ZZ Top, and The Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments come in ahead of Journey and The Fall, who are apparently equals.  Aerosmith comes in behind Dokken, ahead of Grizzly Bear, and equal to Black Oak Arkansas.  I guess that's what happens to American Idol judges.  It's just a fun list.  I don't even feel much need to argue with any of it (except Pizacatto Five) because it has such high entertainment value.

If you like The Carpenters or Thin Lizzy, you'll love the list.  They're both way up there.  I assume that's a function of getting regularly name checked by the hippest of the hipsters.  Anyway, check it out yourself.  It's a good read.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NPR's best of the year so far

For a limited time only, you can vote for NPR's All Songs Considered best of the year so far.  Unfortunately, even though it's All Songs Considered, you have to vote for an album.  Also, you have to choose from what they've listed.  Among the artists that were listed, I voted for Akron/Family, Dodos, Peter Bjorn & John, Smith Westerns, and Yellow Ostrich.  I complained (in the comments section) that Sloan, Title Tracks, Generationals, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Fresh & Onlys were missing.

I was a little surprised that Fujiya & Miyagi were missing.  Their record Ventriloquizzing is solid all the way through and I would have thought it would have strong appeal to the NPR audience with song topics including unsavory marketing practices.  It's also got just the right amount of edge (i.e. not too noisy or dissonant) for the NPR crowd.  I thought Title Tracks might get some buzz too since they've got a good DC following.  Is NPR trying to get their ears too far outside the beltway?  The Generationals also feel like a band that's perfect for the current critics-darling zeitgeist, but I can't recall if I've actually read a review of Actor-Caster.

The list includes Dengue Fever.  Dengue Fever has a new album?!?!  How have I missed this?  Can't Amazon or eMusic or Facebook or Youtube or somebody get it together to recommend that I check that out amidst all the other garbage that I have recommended every day?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Microgenres - Niche Compilations

I've written about my own mix CDs, but I haven't yet delved into compilation records and CDs here.  I think the first compilation I bought was Columbia Records' "Exposed: A Cheap Peak at Today's Provocative New Rock".  It's a double-album and I think it was $3.98 or maybe even cheaper.  In 1981 I don't think I had heard of most of the artists on the record (Judas Priest, The Romantics, and Steve Forbert were probably the exceptions), but it featured Loverboy, Adam and the Ants, Ian Gomm, and the Boomtown Rats among others.  I discovered the Psychedelic Furs later in the year from the quickly released followup, aptly titled "Exposed II: A Cheap Peak at Today's Provocative New Rock".  These records were legitimately a cheap peak at what was then an unkown genre for me, but it was a very broadly and sloppily defined genre.

I still love compilations, but I've gotten a lot more finicky about microgenres and niches.  As promised, I'm providing more commentary on the track list of my most recent mix CD, Nothing But Good Things #46.  Following The Mountain Goats, I featured two songs from compilation CDs I recently bought at Amoeba.  The compilations Rock-a-Billy Choo Choo from Buffalo Bop and Roots of Chica from Barbes Records explored 1950s train songs and psychedelic cumbias from Peru ('68-'78) respectively.  The two compilations feature a total of 47 songs combined.  I don't actually have any desire to listen to either of them start to finish, but once loaded onto my iPod, I am very pleased to have them each showing up regularly on random play.

Beyond the two tracks I put on my mix CD, my second favorites from each record were Juaneco Y Su Combo's "Me Robaron Mi Runa Mula" and Stan Johnson's "Big Black Train".  I may need to quibble about the fact that Rock-a-Billy Choo Choo does not feature one of my all-time favorite 50s train songs, Jimmy Dale's "Tennessee Ghost Train".  I think that's from 1953 and may qualify more as hillbilly music rather than Rock-a-Billy music, which might explain it's exclusions.  Then again, it might just be a copyright issue, and they already found 30 songs in this tiny microgenre for goodness sakes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mountain Goats - A Muse for Listmakers

As I noted in my last post, my last mix CD, Nothing But Good Things #46, starts with a Mountain Goats song.  The Mountain Goats have great lyrics and very evocative music.  They also have a style that is at once very simple and very modern and all of this combines to make them a fantastically useful band for free-form-radio-style segueues.

Over the years, five of their songs have appeared on my mix CDs:  Family Happiness (NBGT #16), Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton (NBGT #19), Oceanographer's Choice (NBGT #21), Dance Music (NBGT #28), and most recently The Autopsy Garland (NBGT #46).

If I made a top 100 personal favorite recordings (which I promise to do sometime), "Golden Boy Peanuts" from a 1990s compilation of songs about products would definitely make the list.  "Golden Boy Peanuts" was #71 on my top 300 songs of the 90s, a list I'll post here sometime in the next few months once I work my up to the best-of-the-decade lists.  It should have been higher.  Who's responsible for these crazy rankings anyway?

The Mountain Goats had 5 songs on my best of the 2000s list:  "Pigs That Ran Straightway Into the Water, Triumph of" at #256, "San Bernardino" at #211, "Oceanographer's Choice" at #114, "Woke Up New" at #42, and "Dance Music" at #18.  I need to make a list of the bands that have the most songs on my best-of-the-decades list.  Consider that added to my to-do list (which I won't post here).

For the reasons noted earlier, The Mountain Goats would chart high on a list of best Free Form bands, a list of bands with the best lyrics, a list of bands with the most consecutive records with at least one really good song, and certainly a list of best indie-pop bands.  I've called them a muse for listmakers because I wasn't even planning to make some of those lists until I realized I had to make them to see how high the Mountain Goats would rank.

I think I screwed up not including "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton" on my not-yet-posted best of the 00s list.  I guess that gives me time to correct that.  It would certainly make a list of best metamusic (songs about music).  The Gazetteers latest album got me to thinking about metamusic, because their new songs "Monkees '67" and "K.I.S.S." would also be strong contenders for that list.

I made two mix CDs more than 10 years ago called "My Life as a Punk" and "My Life as a Poseur" (more on that later probably), and next I made a CD called "My Life as an Indie-pop Obscurophile".  The Mountain Goats were on the latter CD, but I think they may be too popular now to fully qualify.  According to allmusic.com, two of their albums have actually made the Billboard top 200.

The Mountain Goats would also be contenders on a list of bands that are mostly vehicles for one guy, John Darnielle in this case, and a list of bands that made a great record after showing up on an unexpected record label (4AD in 2002).  In my commentary on the best classic rock bands, I noted the impressive proportion of West Coast bands.  It's interesting to ponder where The Mountain Goats might land on an all-time list of bands formed on the West Coast.  That's one more thing for the to-do list.  I've apparently fallen badly behind today.  Is that what muses are for?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The New Mix - Nothing But Good Things #46

I wrote about my first mix CD recently, but what have I done for me lately?  Here's the track list for Nothing But Good Things #46 with a lot more links than I was able to find for Nothing But Good Things #1.

1) The Mountain Goats - The Autopsy Garland (Merge 2011)
2) The Chuck A Lucks - The Devil's Train (Lin 1958)
3) Los Mirlos - Muchachita del Oriente (Barbes 1974)
4) Generationals - I Promise (Park the Van 2011)
5) The Primary 5 - I'll Lay You Down (CD Baby 2004)
6) Fang Island - Daisy (Sargent House 2010)
7) Brendan Benson - A Whole Lot Better (ATO 2009)
8) Evelyn Freeman - Didn't It Rain (Bel Canto 1958)
9) Yellow Ostrich - Whale (Afternoon 2011)
10) Fujiya & Miyagi - Pills (Yep Roc 2011)
11) Curved Air - Phantasmagoria I (Warner Bros. 1972)
12) Secret Cities - Always Friends (Western Vinyl 2011)
13) Peter Bjorn And John - Breaker Breaker (Columbia 2011)
14) Allo Darlin' - The Polaroid Song (Fortuna Pop 2010)

15) Pete And The Pirates - Come On Feet (Stolen 2008)
16) Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers - Heaven In Stereo (Knitting Factory 2011)
17) Smith Westerns - Weekend (Fat Possom 2011)
18) The Feelies - Later On (Bar/None 2011)
19) Title Tracks - Turn Your Face (Ernest Jennings 2011)
20) Streetlight Manifesto - Everything WentNumb (Victory  2003)
21) Chain And The Gang - Why Not? (K 2011)
22) Clayton, Rich & The Rumbles - Wail It (Dawn Cory 1964)
23) Dave Howard - Serves 'Em Fine (Old Hat 1931)
24) Otha Turner & The Afrossippi Allstars with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band - Shimmy She Wobble II (Birdman 1999)

More comments may follow, but suffice it to say this is partly a "best of" list of recent purchases, a portion of which might qualify as being a "best of 2011 so far" list, mixed with a healthy dose of free-form-radio style connections from one track to the next.