Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rainy Days and Sunday

Nothing particularly profound to say today, readers. It's the second day of spring, and after an absolutely beautiful day yesterday, Mother Nature has delivered us a cold and rainy Sunday here in Memphis. So, I thought I'd share my favortie "rainy day" albums. If you click on the album covers, it will take you to the Rhapsody site where you can listen to the tracks.

Leonard Cohen's Ten New Songs Not many voices are so perfectly the aural equivalent of a rainy day than Cohen's. His scratchy, deadpan, slightly-behind-the-beat growl is part distant rolling thunder, part hungry grumbling stomach. Special high praise for the track "You Have Loved Enough," which has a building crescendo of backup vocals that will give you goosebumps if you have any kind of a heart at all.

Nina Simone's Quiet Now: Night Song Any Nina Simone will do on a rainy day. This album includes Simone's cover of the classic "Ne Me Quitte Pas," but my favorite here is "The Other Woman," an account of the true aporia of the title character. Sure, the other woman "is perfect where her rival fails," as the song says, but she "will spend her life alone." Ouch, baby. Note: Album should be accompanied with cigarettes and a short glass of something brown and strong. Clean, no ice.

Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger This is my favorite of Willie's, a "concept" album about a man on the lam after killing his wife. Full of regret, repentence, and sparse lyrical and musical poetry that speaks volumes of the human condition. Red Headed Stranger is like a musical version of a Georgia O'Keefe painting. Everyone knows "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" from this album, but the best track is "Hands on the Wheel." I looked to the stars, tried all of the bars, and I've nearly gone up in smoke. Sing it, Willie. I would aid and abet this outlaw anytime.

Rufus Wainwright's Poses Rufus is the son of famed folk-singer Louden Wainwright, brother of ingenue Martha Wainwright. Like the rest of his family, Rufus is eloquent, even witty, with his simple-and-true lyrics... but unlike the rest of the Wainwrights, he has a knack for the compositionally unexpected. It's easy to listen to this whole album through, because there's a kind of quiet uniformity to Poses that stops just short of seeming boring or repetitive. Instead, it's like a slow, misty rainstorm, in which one just realizes all of the sudden that one is soaking wet, without having noticed that cover was missing. Best tracks: "The Tower of Learning" and "One Man Guy" (Rufus' coming-out song), both of which would make anyone wish he or she had a boyfriend like Rufus.

Whiskeytown's Faithless Street Whiskeytown was one of Ryan Adams' early alt-country bands, better than his later group The Cardinals. I think alt-country and rainy days go together in the way that people (who are musically smarter than me) think that rainy days and jazz go together. And leave it to Ryan Adams, lyrical prodigy, to write a song called "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart" or "Desparate Ain't Lonely." All the songs on this album are excellent, especially the title track, which I used to play with my old band. Unexpected gem on the album is "Matrimony." Listen to the story of that song closely. It's hilarious.

No Depression's What It Sounds Like (Vol. 1) Speaking of alt-country, What It Sounds Like is an anthology compiled by editors of the now-defunct alt-country magazine No Depression. (I miss that magazine SO MUCH. Sigh. Anyone who wants my undying love and loyalty can buy me back issues of that magazine.) The album title is really accurate, as this little treasure features some of the best of the alt-country artists: Whiskeytown, Neko Case, Robbie Fulks, Alejandro Escovedo, Buddy Miller. I can't really pick a favorite track here, though recently I've put "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" on repeat a few times. If you like this album and find yourself assaulted by two rainy days in a row, I recommend the second volume as well. Best track on the second album is definitely Julie Miller's "I Can't Cry Hard Enough," which is so damn tragically heartbreaking that it should come with a warning label.

Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind There is a variety of Dylan Purist who doesn't listen to anything after Blood On the Tracks. They don't know what they're missing. Sure, some of Dylan's 80's albums left a little to be desired, but he came back with full force and, importantly, a lot of maturity in his later albums. I was absolutely floored by Time Out of Mind from the very first time I heard it. This is a GREAT "rainy day" album, equal parts chill and sad and lazy and reflective. Can't pick a best track for this one. They're all great.

So, there you go. Discuss amongst yourselves.


Jamey Findling said...

Right there with you on the Dylan rec. Funny, I just had an exchange with a friend who made the same "post-'Blood On The Tracks' Dylan fan" reference. I wasn't aware that that was an ontically distinct category, but now I know. Also, I will go ahead and say that, particularly for rainy days, "Highlands" is the best track on the album. It just glides. Every time I listen to it, I'm like, "Whoa...that was 16 minutes??"

LP said...

Ah, Leigh. You've nailed it. You know Red Headed Stranger has been my favorite since I was 7 (or 8, however old I was when that album came out). If I ever get married, I want to dance the first dance to "Hands on the Wheel." In my opinion, it's the perfect description of what love is/should be for anyone over the age of 25. As for that No Depression compilation, will you please, please, please burn me a copy? And do you have Buddy Miller's "Cruel Moon"? ("Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" is the first track.) It is one of my favs of all time. If you don't have it, I'll make you a copy.

DOCTOR J said...

@Jamey: Cracking up at "ontically distinct category"! And, I agree with you about "Highlands." As a matter of fact, I just went and checked to see if it was really 16 mins 'cause I couldn't believe it when you wrote it.

@LP: I will totally burn you a copy of the No Depression album(s). I don't have the Buddy Miller album, so yes, get me a copy post haste. And I've also thought about "Hands on the Wheel" for a wedding song... but I'm never getting married so hopefully I can have that experience by proxy when you do!

Ike said...

"I’m walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping"

...good rainy day song.