Medicinal Music

If it wasn’t evident already, I’m not a huge fan of mainstream music. In a couple of my earlier posts, such as “If It’s Not On The Radio” and “The Mass Market Music Blues”, I discussed my general negativity towards cookie-cutter pop music, and why the artists the mass media doesn’t promote are probably better than the ones it does. All very interesting, right?

In any case, it didn’t allow much room for me to gush about what I like. And though I could talk about Zakk Wylde prancing around stage until I’m blue in the face, I think a little variety in post-types could add another dimension to the Chaos Collage. With that, I give you my first list!

Five instrumentals to un-funk your day!

Note: Links to all songs included – plus some extras!

5. Pink Floyd – Any Colour You Like

Believe it or not, I got into Pink Floyd by listening to Dream Theater. After ‘discovering’ progressive rock, I got my hands on all kinds of albums, some of them including bootlegs of Dream Theater concerts. One of those albums was a cover of “Dark Side of The Moon” in its entirety. They really managed to stay true to the original, even with the added embellishments on the synthesizer and guitar. Both versions have their charm, but what remains the same is the spacey, floating first half that transitions into a lilted guitar solo. By the end I always feel like my head has popped out from underwater and I’m taking in a fresh breath. Not too many songs can claim that.

Dream Theater’s Cover

4. Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – The Sinister Minister

There is little chance I’d know of or appreciate this tune if it weren’t for my beardless bass-playing ex-roommate. He just wouldn’t shut up about bassists like Jaco Pastorius and Victor Wooten, and eventually I found myself bobbing my head along to their smooth lines without even realizing it. “The Sinister Minister” is an odd, but endearing blend of instruments that sets an equally odd scene in my mind. The beginning of this reminds me of boredom – kicking around a can on a perfectly sunny afternoon. As the song picks up, that can is kicked into the wrong person’s yard – a person with no love of idle passers-by, and an affinity for shotguns. It gets my mind (and my legs) moving.

3. Bear McCreary – Black Market

Have I mentioned that I love the new Battlestar Galactica? Well, now that I have, I’ll also say that the show’s original score is probably the best I’ve ever heard on television. Composer Bear McCreary takes elements from various forms of ethnic music – Asian, Middle Eastern, Celtic, and so on, blending them into extremely exciting, dynamic pieces that add more to the show than I thought possible. “Black Market” is his take on what a rock song might sound like in the Battlestar universe. It certainly fits that bill, but the use of ethnic instruments allows the song to feel much farther away than it is. The haunting melody builds up into a distorted explosion of guitars, taking you for a journey before leaving you right back where it began. All this has happened before, and all this will happen again, indeed.

Black Market, Live Version

2. Paco De Lucia – Rio Ancho

If a type of music was capable of physically moving a person from a humdrum life to an idyllic spot somewhere along the ocean, flamenco would be it. This tune has a way of making me forget the cold weather and the endless concrete canyons outside my window. I think the music calls attention to itself, if only because it places complexity and accessibility side by side. Playing flamenco requires a lot of practice and even more natural talent, but I don’t think anyone needs a musical ear or an understanding of the culture around flamenco music to enjoy it. Also, where the first three songs all shift lower moods to higher ones, Rio Ancho stays consistent, reflecting its intent as a dance piece. Besides, what better way to escape a lousy mood than by going somewhere foreign?

1. Paul Gilbert – Radiator

Ah, Mr. Gilbert. For anyone that knows me, it’s probably no surprise that he found his way to the number one slot. “Radiator” is off of Paul’s first instrumental album Get Out Of My Yard, which catapulted him onto the stage with other great guitarists of our time, like Steve Vai and John Petrucci. I suppose I’m biased since I saw him play this in the flesh, but I’ve always loved the song for having true rock n’ roll attitude with an underscoring of hopeful sadness. There is a constant struggle between hoping and doing that sets this song apart from the others I’ve listed – the playing is raw and conflicted. Where the first four were escapist, this is more personal. Paul’s playing shifts these emotions around, not letting either one gain the upper hand until the solo section when the attitude takes over for good. The urge one gets at the end is simple – Wake up. Go. Do.

There you have it. Readers, feel free to list and/or suggest your own rainy day music!

-Alex

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4 Comments

Filed under Lists, Music, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Medicinal Music

  1. I can’t help but smile any time I listen to “Second Place Victory” by This Day & Age. The lyrics kind of changed my life.

    …and would you hate me if I listed MMMBop by Hanson? Probably. I’ll do it anyway.

    AND. “Steer” by Missy Higgins is the reason why I had a good day yesterday.

    …but these are all because of their lyrics or upbeatness. No thrashing guitar riffs to have sex with.

  2. La Señorita Miranda

    Let’s see… a few instrumental pieces

    5. Pink Floyd – Great Gig in the Sky
    Sorry for listing another Dark Side of the Moon track, but this one reminds me that the human voice can be a beautiful instrument, not just an amplification system for seemingly endless bitching.

    4. Pelican – City of Echoes
    One of the better songs off their latest album, it’s probably more upbeat than a lot of their other stuff. Great band to listen to when being pensive on long walks or random drives.

    3. Elliot Goldenthal – La Cavalera
    This ones off the Frida soundtrack.It’s the background music for a nightmare sequence. If there’s any song that makes me feel like I’m inside a Mexican surrealist’s head, this is it.

    Some non-instrumental stuff that brightens up my day…
    2. Matisyahu – King Without a Crown
    That’s right. I like Jewish reggae. And what?

    1. The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
    Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void…

    Don’t mind if I do.

  3. I think your thoughts are true about Flamenco.You do not need to be aware of the culture.It is some sort of universal language conveyed by the music.A bit like the blues indeed as it appeals to your soul straight away.I like myself a bit of variety in music and I always treat myself to some flamenco and it is always an uplifting experience!

  4. Instrumentals you say:

    5. All Blues – Miles Davis
    I wanted to say the entire “Kind of Blue” album, but, this is my favorite.

    4. A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

    3. Big Country – Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
    This song always takes me back to my senior year of high school, and an unfortunate event that is tied into it. Amazing song nonetheless.

    2. YYZ – Rush
    Amazing song. Lost to The Police’s “Behind my Camel.” I don’t know how, that is the worst song ever. However, this song Live from Rio the best version out there.

    1. Reza – Jaco Pastorius
    Yep, wouldn’t be a list without Jaco. This is 10 minutes of pure bliss.

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