Category: Certain Songs

Certain Songs #995: Low – “California”

Album: The Great Destroyer
Year: 2005

I’m going to be honest: if Low has made a great song between 1994’s I Could Live in Hope and 2005’s The Great Destroyer, I haven’t heard it.

And I’m not being snarky: outside of Long Division, which I’ve just added to my current mix and haven’t remotely processed, I just haven’t heard any of their records in that period. That said, The Great Destroyer was the first Low album I ever heard, and I haven’t missed one since.

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Certain Songs #994: Low – “Words”

Album: I Could Live in Hope
Year: 1994

Often credited with helping to invent the sub-genre known as “slowcore,” a reaction to the noisy noisiness of grunge, Low had their sound dialed in from the very start of their debut album, I Could Live in Hope.

With Alan Sparhawk’s guitar tuned way down, John Nicols’ bass dominating the mix and Mimi Parker’s drums approximating someone walking down the street lost in thought, “Words” was a perfect way to introduce them to the world.

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Certain Songs #993: The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Do You Believe in Magic?”

Album: Do You Believe in Magic?
Year: 1965

Ah, folk rock. It was once such a thing that MTV dedicated the debut episode of a show called Rock Influences in 1984 to the genre, then thought to be undergoing a resurgence due to a little band from Athens, GA called R.E.M.

Whether or not R.E.M. were really folk rock is a thing we’ll get to when we get to R.E.M., of course, but for now, one of the highlights of that episode was an excerpt from a R.E.M. concert where they brought Lovin’ Spoonful singer-songwriter John Sebastian to do an incredibly awkward version of “Do You Believe in Magic?” Side note: he seemed so old compared to R.E.M. at the time, but of course he was 15 years younger than I am now.

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Certain Songs #992: Love – “You Set The Scene”

Album: Forever Changes
Year: 1967

The sessions for Forever Changes were famously difficult.

Well, maybe not “famously,” given the fact that Forever Changes is a forever cult album, but you know what I mean. Written under the watchful eye of Bela Lugosi’s ghost, who no doubt watched with a combination of jealousy and head-shaking as the band dabbled in acid and smack and fought enough to hemorrhaged members.

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Certain Songs #991: Love – “A House is Not a Motel”

Album: Forever Changes
Year: 1967

One of the things that made Forever Changes such a marvel was the interplay between Michael Stuart’s drumming and Bryan MacLean’s acoustic guitar.

Like, check the opening of “A House is Not a Motel:” MacLean starts with a rolling roiling half-strum half-pick, and instead of finding the beat in the middle of it, Stuart focuses on duplicating it with his drum kit. What this does is give the song an almost unsettling lightness, like it could just float away at any time.

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