Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Twenty Twelve Tunes.

 I know.

You've been wondering since the first of the year why your humble pubkeep hasn't changed or updated the jukebox to reflect the new month and year as he usually does.

Or maybe you haven't been wondering.

Maybe you couldn't possibly be less interested.

No matter. I have finally found a little time to remedy the matter.

I must say, though, that as I go back into the jukeboxian archives of this old pub, I find some things done well enough that I cannot do them better, or at least wish to do them again... so half of the 'new' tunes for January '12 are the same as they were in January '11.

Why mess with success?

Oh, for any newcomers (I'm lookin' at you, r l anger jr!), I will explain that here at the Skull & Pumpkin, our little audio player over there to the upper right has two songs that will always be in rotation -- Vince Guaraldi's The Great Pumpkin Waltz, which is the official theme song of the S&P, and The Anger-Higbie Quintet's Pumpkintime, the S&P's official incidental music. These two always open and close the playlist.

But each month the other songs change up here and there; some remain for another month, but most are replaced by more seasonally/monthally apropos tunes.

Feel free to us the term 'monthally' all you wish.

And feel free to listen to some songs I find just about right for the first month in the heart of Winter.

First, a song that was featured last January -- if you don't mind the repeat, I liked my liner note too:

"... in a North Wind kinda mood, I thought I would add Nick Drake's beautiful Northern Sky, from his 1970 album Bryter Layter. If you don't know who Nick Drake was, try here and then head to all the external links. To my mind (and ear), Northern Sky is one of his most perfect creations, a song that feels like all seasons of the year, sung to every lover you ever had, all at once. "Would you love me through the Winter?" Yep."

After Nick Drake, I feel a natural snow slide to a bit of gloomy longing -- and what Hallowe'en-loving, Poe-reading romantic doesn't love a good song featuring gloomy longing through the frozen winter? 

From the minds and hearts of the inimitable kd lang and her longtime collaborator Ben Mink comes Barefoot, the theme from the 1991 indie film Salmonberries and one of the most haunting melodies I've ever heard. It's not entirely bleak or despairing, and at its core is the promise of the warmth of a new love, but in its searching, shivering journey it is a distant wolf howl of nights when love is lean and scarce.

Still, there is something about a cold, lustrous winter night that causes one to somehow think of warmth, and plenty, and restful recovery from a Fall filled with harvesting the fruits of long labor. A sleep of the soul, just as the land sleeps, rests, prepares for new life to come.

Softly She Sleeps (1959) is a beautiful bit of 'Light Classical' from one of that genre's most commercially and creatively prolific masters, the influential British composer Cedric King Palmer (1913-1999).

 Palmer with his dog Nimrod circa 1963. 
He named all his dogs Nimrod. I like this guy.

King Palmer composed hundreds of motifs and melodies that we've all heard in commercials, cartoons, films and television shows (and educational slide shows and hygiene films and...) for generations. Search for 'Hackney Carriage', or 'Spindlelegs', and you'll know exactly what I mean, and why it's so... subconsciously soothing.

Another repeat player from last January, if only because it just doesn't get any better than Joni:

"... and as the years change, as the inevitable circularity of life enrobes us all, the time is perfect for Joni Mitchell's heartfelt The Circle Game. This particular recording is from her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon, but she had written the song in the mid-'60s as a response to friend Neil Young's song Sugar Mountain, as a more positive take on growing up. That isn't to say it's not bittersweet -- the seasons do go 'round and 'round, and we are all captive on the carousel. But there is beauty, and truth, and there are dreams aplenty, before we're all done."

 And the final repeat tune of last year, because it's so grand:

"January means new, and pubs mean traditional. I think I've found a fine mix of both: Malcolm Dalglish's incredible hammer dulcimer piece New Waltz, from his 1990 album Jogging the Memory. It really is something you haven't heard -- it is new to you -- but it feels so very comfortable, so very old. 
So perfectly pub."

And finally, a song that reminds us that this is a Hallowe'en pub, damnit, and all this wintry musical musing is silly!

Remember when I brought my Panasonic 3DO game system to the pub so we could play Escape From Monster Manor? Well, I 'shoot ghosts' in the winter, it's just something I've done since I got that game, and every sound, note, flicker of the game means Winter to me. 

This is the theme song from that game, composed in 1993 by Robert Vieira for Electronic Arts. It's six minutes of goofy, spooky fun. Tread carefully now!

Ah, January.

First of the year, holding the most promise, but cold and searching just the same. These are the songs we'll enjoy chatting at the bar, perusing the library, or lounging by the fire at the S&P, until Runtmonth.

And speaking of searching -- is that the radio crackling and humming over there...?


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