Subj: My “Perfect Playlist,” or so *I* say!
From: Christopher Snyder
Hi, my name is Chris Snyder, and I’ve been living here in Portland for going-on 4 years now. I’m a transplant from upstate N.Y. (by way of Chicago and back again), I’m a writer (short fiction, mostly, so far), and everybody ’round these parts seems fond of calling me “Chris Snyder” rather than just “Chris” or (heaven forbid) “Christopher.” So be it.
I moved here because of Miranda July — not to meet her per se (she had already been gone two years or so by the time I first happened upon these environs), but because, along with the writer Pagan Kennedy and the filmmaker Richard Linklater, she inspired me so much by the way she lived and created as an artist in the midst of a community of like-minded people that I figured Portland would prove condusive to providing the sort of interpersonal community and cultural “placement” necessary to lead the sort of life I thought I wanted to live. And indeed it has.
Chuck Palahniuk quotes the Geek Love author Katherine Dunn in the introduction to his ode-slash-guide to Portland, Fugitives and Refugees, as saying that everyone in Portland seems to have the equivalent of three lives going on at the same time, be it D.J./bike messenger/chef, photographer/screenwriter/bongo drum player, or what have you. Personally, my take on that is that it’s probably potentially true for every human being in some variant form or another, but it’s just that Portland as a city — for some (and/or many reasons) — actually gives people the opportunity to live that way.
So, now you know why I’m here. On with the music I’m planning on shoving down your and 94.7 listeners’ throats:
1.) Descendents – “Suburban Home” (from Milo Goes to College)
Totally hilarious — and quite true, from my P.O.V.
Descendents are a band I first heard in Allan Moyle’s 1990 film, Pump up the Volume, where they earned the dubious distinction of being what I imagine is the only band in the history of cinema to have a song of theirs featured not just once in a film, or even twice overall, but twice in a row (cf, the scene where Christian Slater as Hard Harry, right after he plays the 10-sec. Descendents song “Wiener Schnitzel,” says: “That was awesome! Let’s hear it again!” And then he plays it again!).
I, myself, would never want to live in the suburbs. I was raised there (and, yes, one suburb in America is much like any other — that’s the idea!). Good riddance.
2.) The New Pornographers – “Sing Me Spanish Techno” (from Twin Cinema)
This is probably the most perfectly constructed song ever written, in the specific sense that you only need to hear it once, all the way through, and you’ll remember the chorus until the day you die.
Also, the video — which is apparently part of a new sort of genre of silent films set to popular tunes (such as the video for Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage”) — is also quite excellent and very entertaining, although with the drawback that you tend not to notice the song itself quite so much whilst watching it.
(And: this song kicks butt, dude!)
3.) Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)” (from Funeral)
If it’s worth reviving the concept of the “album band” (as opposed to, I guess, the “singles band”), it may be useful to help “explain” Arcade Fire for any of those foolish as-yet non-worshippers who may still be out there.
Admittedly, I myself initially wasn’t very taken with “Neighborhood #4 (Power Out)”, the lead-in single to their first album, but when some D.J. in L.A. on whatever popular alterna-station it is that people listen to down there [I chanced across it streaming on the internet some time ago, and I totally don’t remember what it was at this point; but probably anyone who’s ever been there would know] decided on his own (I’m guessing) to play this particular track, I was snagged hook, line, and sinker. And then, after buying the album, “Neighborhood #4” (much like “Keep the Car Running”) comes at you a lot more “fully” (like: it reaches you more) when heard in the context of the album overall.
And, while we’re on the subject, I personally think “Windowsill” off Neon Bible would make a good single, though I have no idea why. (Although, I will say, “Black Mirror” is also thrilling!)
4.) Magnetic Fields- “I Don’t Really Love You Anymore” (from i)
Stephin Merritt is a true throwback; and while I can’t imagine he consciously thinks of himself that way, I think he’d have to agree that that’s at least a palatable enough sort of description to explain his artistic “agenga” to whatever baffled non-initiates may be out there.
Basically, you could say he’s either “modeled himself” or “fancied himself” a songwriter-type in the tradition of people like the Gershwin brothers or Holler-Dozier-Holland [though, again, those may not be his particular referents] — ‘cept that nowadays, there’s no demand from your Frank Sinatras, Billie Hollidays, Patsy Clines (or what have you) looking for people to write songs just for them to sing, so he has to record the songs he writes himself, with people he gets together to help him out.
His knowledge and enthusiasm for what would appear to be any and all of 20th Century recorded music is immense; we’re talking here about someone who is as willing to listen to choir-like chants of Russian immigrants from the turn of the century as he is to the jingle for “Bumble Bee Tuna,” Half Japanese, and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” (to cite some specific references he’s made in interviews) — which means he is as unusually qualified to make incredibly well-conceived and “catchy” songs as he is to commit various abuses in the known rhyme schemes of the English language, and then force the listener to put up with it (“luau” with “like, wow!”, anyone? and don’t even get me started on “Reno Dakota”!), undoubtedly smirking to himself all the while.
But: this song’s a good introduction for the alterna-public-at-large who may have never had the oppotunity to have heard of him and his flagship “band,” the Magnetic Fields. This one’s from the album titled i, so all the songs on it start with the letter “i” (of course!).
5.) Neko Case – “Hold On, Hold On” (from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood)
I don’t think there’s been such an outpouring of compassion for the rest of humanity as this song since the days when Lao-Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching (which I’m thinking must be out of date, by now — good thing we’ve apparently got a replacement!).
I love Neko Case. I really adore her, I truly do.
ALTERNATES (JUST IN CASE):
Again, to go with the Miranda July/Portland theme, here’s some of her friends (Cadallaca, of course, being a side project consisting of Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney, Sarah Dougher, and the some-times Sarah Dougher collaborator and otherwise Portland music-scene-contributor known as “sts” on drums):
Unfortunately, Gustav, I fear I shall be unable to make it to the station to mouth off about my musical selections in person, due to an erratic schedule and an ongoing punctuality problem I seem to have (you can ask my boss from my last wage-earning job, Trent, for verification about that last, if you need to . . . uh, yeah: I’m in counseling for that!).
(or, “Chris Snyder,” said like it’s one name)