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30 Days of Songs: Day 10

June 1, 2011

day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep: The Dandy Warhols: “Sleep”

There’s a playlist on my iPod labeled “Insomnia.” It’s not a typical playlist for me. Mostly I tend to carefully order my songs for maximum flow, aligning keys and tempos in a way that makes sense to my ear, carving out internal sections by the way I group tunes. And I make sure that the end of a mix loops back to the beginning, because I tend to listen that way. But the insomnia list is more of a dumping ground for tunes that help me relax. And as such, it’s kind of a strange mix of genres.

I’ve got Jim White’s “Static on the Radio” with Aimee Mann, which I wrote about here. I’ve got a song by one of my former students. I’ve got several Iron & Wine tunes, some yoga music, and a couple of R.E.M. songs (“Nightswimming,” which may or may not come up later in this meme, and “Endgame”). I’ve got “Cantelowes” by the virtuosic Malian kora player, Toumani Diabate. The song is inspired by the opening of the theme from “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,” which you can hear clearly at the beginning of the song (sorry about the video, which I find borders on offensive in its essentialism):

I’ve got Satie’s Gymonpèdie No. 1:

And its companion piece, the Sentimental Walk by Philip Aaberg from the soundtrack of the French New Wave classic, Diva, a film that may have changed my intellectual life (but that’s a story for another day):

And then there’s “Sleep” by the Dandy Warhols.

I liked a number of Dandy Warhols songs when they first came out. They’re a little on the lightweight side, but their sound is extremely eclectic (a quality that has landed them on a lot of soundtracks) and some of their songs are hilarious. I’m particularly fond of this one, which makes me laugh every time [warning: nudity of the full frontal variety, both sexes]

It is also AJ’s favorite song, but needless to say, he will not be seeing the video any time soon.

I had kind of forgotten about the Dandy Warhols – they seemed very much a product of their time (the mid ’90s) until I went on a binge of Veronica Mars last fall. One of their songs, “We Used to be Friends,” was used for the theme song:

I was surprised to find that the songs have worn fairly well. Sometime in the last week I read a post on some music site or other with a list of the top ten bands you used to love but don’t like anymore and The Dandy Warhols was one of those bands. I can’t seem to find it now, unfortunately. But I disagree.

The lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor amuses me. His name is amusing enough. But his cameo on Veronica Mars singing “Love Hurts” (recorded by a lot of people, but his über-earnest performance seems most inspired by the Nazareth version; video is unembeddable) cracks me up every time I see it.

I don’t remember where I came across The Dandy Warhols’ song “Sleep.” It’s not one I remember hearing when it came out. I suspect I saw it mentioned in some online forum or other. I hear it is in the Twilight soundtrack, so maybe someone was referencing that, but I won’t be verifying that any time soon. I have a limited tolerance for emotionally overwrought vampires. But it in any case, the song kind of got under my skin. It became the first finger-picked song I learned on guitar (it requires retuning the instrument up about a quarter tone, though). It was perfect for that because it’s slow and repetitive and long. Practicing was built into the song itself. By the end of my first time through it playing with the recording, I knew the riff – there’s only one. I soon moved on to other things guitar-wise. After I got the hang of it, there wasn’t enough there to hold me. But I still pull it out every now and then to warm up my fingers.

I think it’s probably obvious how this ended up on my Insomnia list. It’s that not-enough-there quality that makes it a perfect song for insomniacs. It’s paced slowly and is mostly instrumental. Voices sometimes distract me when I’m trying to sleep. And what singing there is, is largely untexted. Moreover, the minimal lyrics are all sleep related: “Well, I could sleep forever. But it’s of her I dream. If I could sleep forever, I could forget about everything.” The guitar part is a single short riff that repeats over and over again with some gentle melodic fragments interpolated over it. The voices pick up the melodic fragments later on. These days I mostly listen to it when I’m falling asleep, headphones in. I put it on autorepeat and only turn it off when I realize I’m dozing off.

I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it.

What puts you to sleep? (Please don’t answer that with “All these damn posts about songs.”)

One Comment leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    June 1, 2011 9:26 am

    I hadn’t heard of the Dandy Warhols until you sent those cds to me. I like them. I missed about a decade and a half of “new” music because I was in grad school, living with someone for whom only jazz and the Beatles existed, and then starting my first job, getting married, etc. and stopped listening to much. I lost the thread and radio stations didn’t play stuff I could stand so I stopped that, too.

    I don’t listen to music to fall asleep, I find it distracting. I need white noise. When I was younger, a kid, I listened to the radio and needed it to fall asleep. Don’t know how I stood it, actually. Sounds now just keep me awake.

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