Pilgrim’s Playlist: Paul Simon, The Tragically Hip, Manfred Mann

New and Noteworthy

Paul Simon – Wristband

For one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever, Paul Simon has always seemed to have an unusual predilection for complex rhythms. From songs like “Cecilia” way back with Simon and Garfunkel, through his epochal Graceland album and beyond, Simon has often made his distinctive words and music dance with a variety of international and American rhythmic accompaniment.

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For his 13th solo album Stranger To Stranger, due out June 3, old Rhymin’ Simon goes deeper into rhythmic explorations than perhaps ever before. Inspired by the crazy genius of Harry Partch, and working in collaboration with Italian electronica artist Clap! Clap!, he delivers an album full of da beatz in his own inimitable style, as opposed to the appropriated cultural styles he borrowed on the Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints albums.

The first single “Wristband” is out, and it reveals the artist essentially creating a rhythmic language all his own. The song is classic Simon, beginning with a slice of life outside a club entrance, and then wading into the lack of equality of opportunity among Americans. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it is interesting and fun. I’m looking forward to the album.


The Tragically Hip – In A World Possessed By The Human Mind

What’s the difference between Canadians and Americans? Canadians call sodas “soft drinks”. A Canadian will say sorry if somebody bumps into them on a crowded sidewalk. And Canadians “get” The Tragically Hip, while most Americans sadly do not. The Hip will sell out 20,000 seat arenas in Canada, but barely draw enough to fill larger clubs in the States.

So why is this? Well Canadians simply identify deeply with this band, their lack of artifice and flash, their humility and sincerity, and their embodiment of Canadian nature-driven and global-observer mythologies. When lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie sings “the sky was bruisin’”, every Canadian feels the deep sense of foreboding. He is Canada’s de facto poet laureate.

The band has just released this single from their upcoming album, their 14th, to be called Man Machine Poem and slated for release on June 17. Their evolution from heartland shit-kicking-angry Rockers into a more reflective yet still powerful unit with more emotional range continues apace here. Downie is nothing if not reflective, on the big scale as well as the small. More Canadiana on this track too: “We’re in awe of no one/ We’ve got none of their fear/ Fighting’s going nowhere and we stay right here.”

Anyone wanna go for some back bacon and poutine?


Blast From The Past

Manfred Mann – Pretty Flamingo (1966)

Every spring when the weather warms up and I go walking downtown, this song comes floating through my easily-distracted mind. In 1966, girl watching was a perfectly legitimate and harmless activity, unencumbered by today’s pervy connotations. This is just a sweet celebration of beauty: “Because her hair glows like the sun/ And her eyes can light the skies.” Pure pop goodness in three simple chords. Plus, another entry in our ever-popular Rock Flute Solos compendium.

By Matthew Straubmuller (imatty35) (http://flickr.com/photos/imatty35/5766935439/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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