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Arbitrary but fun

Via Jon Mandle at CT I made my way to this 200-comment deep perfect song thread over at Michael Bérubé’s place. I don’t agree with Michael’s “Cruel to be Kind” standard, but I’m sure in for the “arbitrary but fun value judgements” he advocates. (Clearly Brayden took it in another direction, taking the weight of the world on his aged shoulders for the sake of street cred.) So while these may not be perfect songs, they’re pretty good:

In the back-when, Ogden’s modern rock station stocked Material Issue’s “Valerie Loves Me” on heavy rotation for a while. I hadn’t thought or heard that song for years until a couple of weeks ago, when quite out of nowhere it became lodged in my mind. Thanks to the iTunes store and aggressive lenders, it only took a short while to find and download it and a dozen or so other tunes. It has a nice bit of lost-love sour grapes, catchy guitar, and just the right amount of 1991. I continued my nostalgia kick with some old Social Distortion: “Story of My Life,” “Bad Luck,” and “Ball and Chain” are good rock staples—or should be. For good measure, add in the band’s cover of “Ring of Fire.”

At the time of his debut, Ryan Adams was heralded as Rock’s Last Best Hope or something, and from what I can tell he has produced fifteen or twenty albums in the last couple of years. I missed all that—was listening to, shudder, a lot of jam bands at the time (more on how the Dave Matthews broke music later?), I think—so I never really checked him out until a few weeks ago. He’s good. “Let it Ride” (from iTMS) sounds like vintage alt-country but still manages to be fresh, I think because Adams makes the song flow so smoothly. Musically, it reminds me a lot of a Teddy Morgan, a local favorite.

Finally, I’ve mentioned John Vanderslice before. I became something of a fan-boy after seeing him live a few months ago. A couple of nights ago I was reading up on his upcoming album, and wandered again into his generous mp3 section, which led on to a set of tracks from a 2002 session at a Seattle radio station. Not only is the recording excellent, but the performance has exactly the kind of energy and vibrant sound that struck me when I saw the live show myself. All four tracks are a good introduction to Vanderslice. While waiting for Cellar Door to arrive, check out “Me and My 424” from his Life and Death of an American Fourtracker. It’s like a perfect slice of every good rock song, ever—Maybe Michael Bérubé should check it out, in fact.