Occasionally while I’m listening to KCRW‘s Morning Becomes Eclectic or other public radio music show, a song will come up that brings back the feelings and memories of my life growing up as a kid in Pittsburgh. The songs don’t necessarily evoke memories of the city itself; it’s just a sort of nostalgic feeling. There are so many of these that I decided I’ll make this into a series. Not every consecutive post will be about personally nostalgic music, but you’ll see it come up every now and again. I’m really glad now that I didn’t get rid of that old shoe box of cassette tapes that’s sitting in our closet at our apartment. It’ll be a good resource for me to remember what I used to listen to. Also a note on soundtracks: I loved buying and listening to soundtrack albums when I was younger. I notice that there tended to be a theme with these– soundtracks from movies starring actors I had admiration for, or crushes on.
Today I’d like to cover Björk (Debut Album), Toad the Wet Sprocket (In Light Syrup and Dulcinea), and the original Dumb and Dumber soundtrack (I had a comedy crush on Jim Carrey. Oo…comedy crushes… good topic for another time). Read on…
Björk: Debut Album
I had never heard a voice quite like Björk’s before. There was something at once childlike and raw about it. I liked the little growls, trills and odd breaths that she made as she sang, and her accent was just so cute. She took all of this and punched a lot of power behind it. She could belt it out and really wail (like in the song, “Crying” or “Aeroplane”) or she could be soft and romantic (“Like Someone in Love”). The beats in this album were primarily dance-y with an early trip-hop feel. What makes it unique are the odd little hooks and features sprinkled throughout, like the babbling baby in “One Day”, or the use of bongos. One of my favorites as far as dance goes is “There’s More to Life Than This”. Through a lot of the song, aside from the chorus, she sounds like she’s right beside you in the midst of a busy club or party, singing right to your face. I like how that one fades down at the end as if she’s left the club with you and walked out onto the street to play you a love ballad on her portable harp (“Like Someone in Love” again). That’s one of the things that really makes her debut album seem special. It’s like we’re going on a little adventure with a wild magical Icelandic dance club fairy. Need a high? Just listen to the song “Big Time Sensuality” and try not to dance. I could listen to Björk all day. I’m so excited that she’s come out with a new album.
Toad the Wet Sprocket: In Light Syrup and Dulcinea
I actually didn’t know until I looked it up just now that In Light Syrup was an album of B-Sides and rare tracks. It’s the first Toad the Wet Sprocket album I owned so it was my introduction to their music. Their debut album Bread & Circus was actually in 1989! It appears I have some more listening to do. I think Toad the Wet Sprocket is a perfect example of my musical taste in the mid-90s. While my peers were listening to The Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and other boy bands, I was grooving like an emo 90’s-kid to the emotionally complicated lyrics of Toad the Wet Sprocket (although I can’t really remember how I first discovered them). I like that In Light Syrup has a song called “Hobbit on the Rocks”… but the lyrics are pretty nonsensical and the only part that’s actually about a Hobbit is one line in the chorus. Dulcinea was no less emotional of a 90s alternative album. It made me think a lot about life and death, change and artistic effort. It was good to listen to on a rainy day in Pittsburgh, of which there were many. The flowers coming out of the double-sided vase on the album cover look like a yin-yang, which I think might be connected to a reincarnation theme. Fun fact: the band took their name from a Monty Python sketch.
Dumb and Dumber Soundtrack
I’ve got to give credit to one reviewer’s description of this album: “[The] Dumb and Dumber [Soundtrack] is a surprisingly entertaining hodgepodge of alternative rock (Echobelly, Primatives), mainstream pop, and novelties (Deadeye Dick’s “New Age Girl”) that is considerably smarter than the movie it supports.” (Stephen Thomas Erlewine on allmusic.com.) I originally bought this album because of my silly comedy crush on Jim Carrey and I wanted to buy everything that had to do with the movie. But I ended up really liking the album and listening to it over and over. It’s a really fun album and the songs are pretty indelibly burned into my brain at this point. With the exception of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” I haven’t heard these songs too many other places than these soundtracks, so it’s definitely an eclectic mix to get ahold of, and a good blend of 90’s fun and oddities.
For the future: Live, Crash Test Dummies, Flipper soundtrack, Tori Amos, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet soundtrack, Toys soundtrack, The War soundtrack, Enya, Alanis Morrissette (Jagged Little Pill), Run Lola Run soundtrack, Barenaked Ladies, etc…