05 August, 2008


Michael Cera is cute. This is a fact. Even when he's completely the opposite of cute (Superbad), he's still cute. He's also funny which kind of goes without saying. Did you know that he also has amazing taste in music?

Well, neither did I, until I started sifting through the iTunes Celebrity playlists. He starts with a track off the completely surreal and avant-garde album Dreams Again by Dion McGregor. This album isn't really comprised of music, but instead is filled with the wild and rambling sleep-talking of Mr. MacGregor. It's weird, but it's completely original. In the same playlist I found Beulah, a now defunct California band who took after the Beach Boys and the Beatles, with a nice swirl of Heatmiser. Their music never sounded Southern California, which is a blessing for anyone who was ever forced to watch the O.C. Ironically enough, one of Beulah's songs was actually used on a soundtrack to that ill-fated and poorly written poseur show. Yoko is my current favorite Beulah album, and is also - unfortunately - their final album.

The band Microphones is also defunct in the most basic sense of the word, and yet Phil Elvrum (who is the band) still records and tours as Mt. Eerie. I'm just letting you know so you don't start thinking that all great bands are now defunct. It just isn't true. The Microphones often remind me of the Moldy Peaches, and yet their albums often feel epic in proportions where the Moldy Peaches work was always understated and rather humble. "You Were In The Air" off of the album Don't Wake Me Up sounds like the progeny of a foghorn and a motorcycle with Elvrum's soft and sweet voice floating over the noise. "Between Your Ear and the Other Ear" from the album It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water sounds like the kind of music that Leslie Feist listened to while she was writing The Reminder. The song is written like a single, and yet it's dissonant and distorted in a way that is incredibly refreshing. "I'm Like You, Tree" from the gorgeous album The Glow Pt. 2 is a tone poem that flows in your mind, and is soft but naggingly persistent in its tree metaphors.

Jim Guthrie should be a star. The thing is that most music-lovers view circuit-bending and video game music's relationship to "real music" in the same way that bibliophiles often view comic books in relation to "literature". One is for adults, and the other is just for kids and adults who want to be kids (I often wonder why you wouldn't want to be a kid instead of an adult. I don't think there are many amazing benefits, but I guess other people see things differently.) This is unfortunate, but I don't really feel bad for all of the people who are missing out. Morning Noon Night by Jim Guthrie was partially created on a Playstation using the MTV Music Generator, but you would never guess that this was the case. Guthrie has strong rock 'n' roll ties, and a voice that often evokes Elliot Smith. I can't really recommend one song over another on Morning Noon Night, because the whole album is excellent.

Last but not least we have the wonderful band Built to Spill. Cera recommends the song "Strange" from the album Ancient Melodies of the Future, and I have to concur that this song is a great introduction to Built to Spill. This is rock for the introverted and thoughtful listener. The clever lyrics and muddy guitar playing remind me of the best grunge music, but then you come across a melody or a hook that's just mind-blowing in its catchiness. Listen to "Happiness" from the same album and you'll hear strains of country music and folk, but always an undertone of harsh and grinding '90s rock.

The rest of the playlist is populated by musical gems, but I just picked out some of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy some of this music, and maybe make discoveries for yourself as you explore the albums and artists that Cera so thoughtfully compiled. There's some great music on his playlist.

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