DO YOU LIKE WORMS
pop thoughts by
sean doyle
The Intangible Smile

The ‘lost album’ is among the greatest subjects of obsession for music fans. Every major artist and band seems to have at least one, and some (like Prince) have several. The lost album is the last great destination for any fan. After you’ve wrung every last drop of good music from an artist’s discography, there still may be one more masterpiece sitting in a vault somewhere. But these albums often end up disappointing listeners when they finally see the light of day, unable to live up to years of hype. The Beach Boys’ SMiLE is easily the most legendary of all lost albums, and one of the few whose material is just as dazzling as its reputation would lead you to believe. Writing about SMiLE and Smiley Smile a couple years ago on my other blog, I thought I had said all I could say about the period, but it continues to enamor me. Like so many others I’ve always wanted to know what the real SMiLE would have sounded like, but has the real SMiLE ever really existed?

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Though officially scuppered in the summer of 1967, the project continued to haunt both Brian Wilson and the rest of the Beach Boys for years. After the druggy, bizarre reinterpretations presented on Smiley Smile, reconstructed original recordings kept popping up on later records: “Cabinessence” and “Our Prayer” on 20/20, “Cool, Cool Water” on Sunflower, the Carl Wilson led version of “Surf’s Up” on the album of the same name. Members of the band and label insiders teased the release of a finished SMiLE after Surf’s Up, and then again later in the 70s, and again in the 80s. But nothing materialized.

In lieu of an official SMiLE, fans created their own. Bootlegs circulated for years, obscure session material was traded and sifted through, analyzed, compared against bits of information from 1966 and ‘67. Bootlegs of SMiLE were pressed to vinyl, recorded to cassettes, burnt to CDs. Just before the dawn of our modern music culture of remixing and sampling, the passionate and dedicated were doing at home what Brian Wilson couldn’t in the 60s, constructing and finishing SMiLE. In 1993, Capitol released a five disc box set of old and new Beach Boys material which also contained a revelatory half hour’s worth of officially sanctioned SMiLE material. The release gave obsessives a clearer picture than ever of what the album might have sounded like and how close it was to being completed. How hard could it really be to compile it officially?

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By the 21st Century, the Beach Boys were broken up and SMiLE was still something of a mystery, but Brian Wilson had come a very long way, artistically and mentally. In 2004, he announced that he would be revisiting SMiLE alongside original lyricist Van Dyke Parks and a new band. Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE was the first ‘completed’ version of the album to ever see release. Seven years later came The Smile Sessions, a massive box set collecting hours of sessions material and finally, an officially sanctioned construction of the album. Personally, I took these releases as gospel for a long time. The decisions came directly from Brian himself, didn’t they? But both releases have become divisive among fans, and the more I read, the more I understood why.

Many found the track listing and it’s medley-like structure to be ahistorical and impractical. The modern SMiLE, at around 50 minutes, would have been a tight fit for a single LP. Wasn’t it only supposed to be 12 tracks, as the original back cover mock-up suggested? And wasn’t “Surf’s Up” always said to be the closing song? Would “Good Vibrations” ever have even made the final track listing? Once you really start digging, there are so many unresolved questions about SMiLE: Were the songs really written as thematic medleys? Or was that just an accident of a freewheeling creative process? How long was “Heroes and Villains” originally supposed to be? The sessions for it imply that it could have been a monstrous epic. And what’s with all those stoned comedy skits that dot the sessions? Brian at one point considered turning SMiLE into a comedy album, what might that have been like?

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The answer to all these questions is that nobody really knows for sure. SMiLE is an unfinished album and it will never truly be finished, no matter what anyone says. It’s a labyrinth of conflicting tales, spurious rumors and odd recordings. Beyond The Smile Sessions one could download up to ten hours worth of bootlegged raw recordings. The original sessions reveal the sonic innovations that Brian Wilson began developing in ‘66, with “Good Vibrations,” the discrete pockets of sound and melody that would eventually, theoretically, be stitched into songs. But when songs can be built piece by piece like this, with a constant stream of new ideas pouring out of Brian’s head every day, the scope and the range of options becomes overwhelming. Perhaps this is what truly crippled Wilson in 1967 and prevented him from turning hours of beautiful music into a coherent album.

What was left by the summer of ‘67 might not have looked very much like an album, but in some ways it has become the ultimate album. SMiLE is unfinished and unfinishable in any traditional sense, but now it’s become something more fascinating than even Brian himself could have imagined, an enormous box of musical Lego bricks that can be taken apart and constructed into something beautiful by anyone with a sessions collection and some audio editing software. I’ve listened to The Smile Sessions, I’ve listened to Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, I’ve listened to plenty of bootlegs and recordings. What I’m most struck by every time is that no matter what form the music takes, it remains as sweepingly beautiful as the first time I heard it.

Last week, after a lot of thought, I made my own mix. It’s only a start, just a minor reconfiguration of the Sessions stuff, some small additions and edits. I spent a couple of bored days throwing it together. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or definitive or historical and I don’t really plan on sharing it with anyone but myself. It’s my SMiLE, and I think it sounds great.

best of 2013

Albums:

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75 Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (Domino)
Blood Orange: “Chamakay”
74 William Tyler: Impossible Truth (Merge)
William Tyler: “A Portrait of Sarah”
73 Mikal Cronin: MCII (Merge)
Mikal Cronin: “Peace of Mind”
72 Doldrums: Lesser Evil (Souterrain Transmissions)
Doldrums: “She is the Wave”
71 CHVRCHES: The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote)
CHVRCHES: “Gun”

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70 Miley Cyrus: Bangerz (RCA)
Miley Cyrus: #GETITRIGHT
69 Perfume: LEVEL3 (Universal)
Perfume: “Spending All My Time”
68 Omar Souleyman: Wenu Wenu (Ribbon Music)
Omar Souleyman: “Warni Warni”
67 Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Columbia)
Daft Punk: “Giorgio by Moroder”
66 Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (Palace Records)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: “Triumph of Will”
65 Lady: Lady (Truth & Soul)
Lady: “Get Ready”
64 Elliphant: A Good Idea (Universal)
Elliphant: “Down On Life”
63 HAIM: Days Are Gone (Columbia)
HAIM: “The Wire”
62 These New Puritans: Field of Reeds (Infectious Music)
These New Puritans: “Fragment Two”
61 Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus (ATP Recordings)
Fuck Buttons: “The Red Wing”

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60 The Pastels: Slow Summits (Domino)
The Pastels: “Check My Heart”
59 Lonnie Holley: Keeping a Record of It (Dust-to-Digital)
Lonnie Holley: “Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants”
58 Arcade Fire: Reflektor (Merge)
Arcade Fire: “Afterlife”
57 Cass McCombs: Big Wheel and Others (Domino)
Cass McCombs: “Brighter!”
56 Classixx: Hanging Gardens (Innovative Leisure)
Classixx: “All You’re Waiting For” (feat. Nancy Whang)
55 DJ Rashad: Double Cup (Hyperdub)
DJ Rashad: “I Don’t Give a Fuck”
54 Huerco S.: Colonial Patterns (Software)
Huerco S.: “Prinzif”
53 Atom™: HD (Raster-Noton)
Atom™: “I Love U (Like I Love My Drum Machine)”
52 Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady (Bad Boy)
Janelle Monáe: “Dance Apocalyptic”
51 Kurt Vile: Wakin On a Pretty Daze (Matador)
Kurt Vile: “Wakin On a Pretty Day”

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50 Iceage: You’re Nothing (Matador)
Iceage: “Ecstasy”
49 Mount Eerie: Pre-Human Ideas (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Mount Eerie: “Lone Bell”
48 Thee Oh Sees: Floating Coffin (Castle Face)
Thee Oh Sees: “Minotaur”
47 The Haxan Cloak: Excavation (Tri Angle)
The Haxan Cloak: “The Drop”
46 My Bloody Valentine: m b v (MBV Records)
My Bloody Valentine: “Only Tomorrow”
45 RP Boo: Legacy (Planet Mu)
RP Boo: “Speakers R-4 (Sounds)”
44 Ariana Grande: Yours Truly (Republic)
Ariana Grande: “Honeymoon Avenue”
43 Sean McCann: Music for Private Ensemble (Recital)
Sean McCann: “Character Change”
42 of Montreal: Lousy with Sylvianbriar (Polyvinyl)
of Montreal: “Fugitive Air”
41 M.I.A.: Matangi (Interscope)
M.I.A.: “Bad Girls”

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40 Katie Gately: Katie Gately (Public Information)
Katie Gately: “Last Day”
39 Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti-)
Neko Case: “Man”
38 Dawn Richard: Goldenheart (Cheartbreaker)
Dawn Richard: “‘86”
37 Crystal Stilts: Nature Noir (Sacred Bones)
Crystal Stilts: “Star Crawl”
36 Deerhunter: Monomania (4AD)
Deerhunter: “Monomania”
35 Zs: Grain (Northern Spy)
Zs: “Grain” (excerpt)
34 The Field: Cupid’s Head (Kompakt)
The Field: “Cupid’s Head”
33 Yo La Tengo: Fade (Matador)
Yo La Tengo: “Ohm”
32 Deafheaven: Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.)
Deafheaven: “Dream House”
31 Julia Holter: Loud City Song (Domino)
Julia Holter: “Maxim’s I”

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30 Autre Ne Veut: Anxiety (Software)
Autre Ne Veut: “Play by Play”
29 Ikonika: Aerotropolis (Hyperdub)
Ikonika: “Mr Cake”
28 inc.: no world (4AD)
inc.: “The Place”
27 Natasha Kmeto: Crisis (Dropping Gems)
Natasha Kmeto: “Idiot Proof”
26 Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park (Mercury)
Kacey Musgraves: “Follow Your Arrow”
25 Lapalux: Nostalchic (Brainfeeder)
Lapalux: “Flower”
24 Bill Callahan: Dream River (Drag City)
Bill Callahan: “The Sing”
23 Logos: Cold Mission (Keysound)
Logos: “Menace”
22 Arca: &&&&& (Hippos In Tanks)
Arca: &&&&&
21 Drake: Nothing Was the Same (Cash Money)
Drake: “Worst Behavior”

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20 Various: After Dark 2 (Italians Do It Better)
Chromatics: “Cherry”
19 Jon Hopkins: Immunity (Domino)
Jon Hopkins: “Open Eye Signal”
18 Cosby: Hands Together (100% Silk)
Cosby: “Swap”
17 Kelela: Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mind)
Kelela: “Bank Head”
16 The Knife: Shaking the Habitual (Mute/Brille/Rabid)
The Knife: “A Tooth for an Eye”
15 Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time (Capitol)
Sky Ferreira: “You’re Not the One”
14 Tim Hecker: Virgins (Kranky)
Tim Hecker: “Virginal II”
13 Maxmillion Dunbar: House of Woo (RVNG Intl.)
Maxmillion Dunbar: “Woo”
12 Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels (Fool’s Gold)
Run the Jewels: “36” Chain”
10 Laurel Halo: Chance of Rain (Hyperdub)
Laurel Halo: “Chance of Rain”

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10 Jai Paul: Jai Paul (unofficial)
Jai Paul: “Str8 Outta Mumbai”

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09 Danny Brown: Old (Fool’s Gold)
Danny Brown: “Kush Coma” (feat. A$AP Rocky & Zelooperz)

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08 Charli XCX: True Romance (IAmSound)
Charli XCX: “You’re the One”

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07 Beyoncé: Beyoncé (Parkwood/Columbia)
Beyoncé: “XO

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06 David Bowie: The Next Day (ISO)
David Bowie: “Valentine’s Day”

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05 Quadron: Avalanche (Epic)
Quadron: “Hey Love”

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04 Dean Blunt: The Redeemer (Hippos In Tanks)
Dean Blunt: “Imperial Gold” (feat. Joanne Robertson)

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03 Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven (Warp)
Oneohtrix Point Never: “Problem Areas”

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02 Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City (XL)
Vampire Weekend: “Step”

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01 Kanye West: Yeezus (Def Jam)
Kanye West: “Bound 2”

EPs:

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10 Mykki Blanco: Betty Rubble: The Initiation (UNO)
Mykki Blanco: “Feeling Special”

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09 Wild Nothing: Empty Estate (Captured Tracks)
Wild Nothing: “A Dancing Shell”

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08 DJ Rashad: Rollin’ (Hyperdub)
DJ Rashad: “Rollin’”

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07 FKA twigs: EP2 (Young Turks)
FKA twigs: “Papi Pacify”

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06 Recycle Culture: In Transit (self-released)
Recycle Culture: “Pt. 1”

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05 Alex Calder: Time (Captured Tracks)
Alex Calder: “Fatal Delay”

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04 Viet Cong: Cassette (self-released)
Viet Cong: “Unconscious Melody”

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03 Pete Swanson: Punk Authority (Software Records)
Pete Swanson: “Life Ends at 30” (excerpt)

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02 Annie: The A&R EP (Pleasure Masters)
Annie: “Back Together”

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01 Burial: Rival Dealer (Hyperdub)
Burial: “Hiders”

Songs:

10 Kacey Musgraves: “Merry Go ‘Round”

09 David Bowie: “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”

08 Oneohtrix Point Never: “Still Life”

07 Tove Lo: “Habits”

06 Burial: “Come Down to Us”

05 Sky Ferreira: “I Blame Myself”

04 The Knife: “Full of Fire”

03 Janelle Monáe: “Q.U.E.E.N.” (feat. Erykah Badu)

02 Kanye West: “Blood on the Leaves”

01 Charli XCX: “SuperLove”

GONNA DIEapril anxiety
01 Iggy Pop: “Sister Midnight” [00:28]02 The Knife: “Crake” [04:38]03 Tove Lo: “Habits” [05:10]04 James Blake: “Every Day I Ran” [08:33]04 Autre Ne Veut: “Gonna Die” [11:38]05 Kavinsky: “Odd Look” [14:26]06 Yellow Magic Orchestra: “Castalia” [19:08]07 Solange: “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work” [22:28]09 The Ronettes / The Beach Boys: “So Young” [27:25]10 Britney Spears: “Everytime” [30:12]11 Fripp & Eno: “Wind On Wind” [33:56]12 Justin Timberlake: “Blue Ocean Floor” [36:18]
LISTENDOWNLOAD
Every Sunday, as an especially weird and friendless child, I spent at least a couple hours reading the Sun-Times once my parents were done with it. The news was always boring and the comics were always pointless but I would pore over every line of the entertainment section, particularly anything written by Roger Ebert. The Sunday edition always featured one of his essays on the “Great Movies”, those films from the past and present which he held in the highest regard. At 12 years old, I’d seen barely any of them, and I had little idea who Kubrick, Herzog or Tarkovsky were. It never mattered. The writing was so perfect, the sense of appreciation and love for good art was communicated so effectively, an essay could leave my mind reeling over a film I’d never even heard of.
Whether in print or on television, I was inspired by the passion and the ease with which he wrote and spoke, how clearly he could translate his love or his hatred for a work of art into words. Every time I find myself agonizing over the structure of a sentence or struggling to find the right words to describe a sound or an image, I think of how effortless and assured his writing was. Even when I disagreed (and that happened more and more often as time passed), I could always see exactly where he was coming from. Whether he was railing against something or lauding it, he stated his opinions so eloquently and so confidently that he could never be dismissed. And that’s what it’s all about, really. I still hear from so many who think criticism is essentially pointless, that it’s just elitists telling other people what to think. Ebert certainly heard that a lot. What they don’t seem to understand is that criticism isn’t a competition of opinions, but a conversation, without winners or losers. It’s the ancient dialogue that all art—the great and the terrible—can inspire, moderated lovingly by people who’ve dedicated their lives to studying it.
Roger Ebert taught me the importance of that dialogue, and how to engage art beyond simple opinion. I owe him that, and so much more. Without Roger Ebert I might never have realized how fulfilling it is to write and think about art at all. I might never have started submitting to my school’s newspaper, I might never have gone to college to study writing, and I might never have realized that it was truly what I wanted to do with my life. I will miss him greatly. It breaks my heart that I’ll never get the chance to thank him, but I hope he died knowing how many people he inspired as a writer, a critic, and a human being.
STATE OF GRACEmarch malaise
01 Taylor Swift: “State of Grace” (Recycle Culture remix)02 Rhye: “3 Days” [4:20]03 David Bowie: “Golden Years” [08:06]04 Lukid: “Laroche” [11:48]05 Kendrick Lamar: “Poetic Justice” [14:19]06 Curtis Mayfield: “Get Down” [18:38]07 Dadub: “Vibration” [24:00]08 Miguel: “Pussy Is Mine” [27:44]09 Lauryn Hill: “Ex-Factor” [30:22]10 inc.: “Black Wings” [35:42]11 Recycle Culture: “Pt. 1” [39:42]12 Rihanna: “Stay” [43:16]
LISTENDOWNLOAD

oolongs:

The Beach Boys / Brian Wilson: “Caroline, No” (Original Speed)

After Brian Wilson’s double-tracked vocals were overdubbed, the entire recording was sped up by a half step. This was done at the suggestion of Brian Wilson’s father Murry. Although Murry was no longer managing the Beach Boys, it is often speculated that Brian Wilson was pressured into this decision. Brian, however, maintains that he preferred the “sweeter” sound of the sped-up version.

Brian later stated, “‘Caroline, No’ was my favorite on the album, the prettiest ballad I’ve ever sung. Awfully pretty song.” [x]

(via memorialcorridor-deactivated201)

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