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wonders never cease Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30th, 2009 play list of the week: gutenberg's 555th

[caption id="attachment_1021" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="click to listen"]Arcade_Fire_-_Neon_Bible[/caption]Happy Gutenberg Bible Day! Although we admit that, until recently, we were unaware that September 30th, 2009, was the 555th anniversary of the printing of the first Gutenberg Bible (and not all experts agree that it is), we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to a technological advancement that changed the world. It was the first significant book printed on a movable metal type press. It revolutionized the art of bookmaking and heralded departure from the Middle Ages into the modern world.

It’s unlikely that Gutenberg in 1454 could have imagined what his invention would lead to: single-day sales of 15 million copies of a tale about the adventures of a teenage wizard, for instance. If you haven’t been, go visit DC’s own amazing copy of this landmark tome featured in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. The new interactive bible exhibit is amazing, allowing you to flip through a 550 year old book like you were house-sitting for Bill Gates. The rest of the LOC is pretty cool too. 1. “Maroon Bible” – Beulah Discovered by Apples in Stereo genius Robert Schneider and signed to the Elephant Six label, this was the opening track on the debut album for these indie darlings. Alas, they proved the title of their documentary, A Good Band Is Easy to Kill, to be spot-on when they disbanded in 2005. 2. “Everyday I Write the Book” – Elvis Costello Costello’s first hit single in the US, this is not one of his own favorites despite its success. He once referred to it as “a bad Smokey Robinson song.” We think Smokey would’ve been proud to pen “Chapter One, we didn't really get along, Chapter Two, I think I fell in love with you. You said you'd stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three, but you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six.” 3. “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books” – The Low Anthem Beautiful song from a great debut album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, named after another landmark book creator. It’s fair to say that Darwin might be thought of by some as the anti-Gutenberg. 4. “Books Of Moses” – Tom Waits Tom Waits covers Skip Spence? A throaty blues number more than does justice to the original, written by Spence, the ultimate Rock and Roll cautionary tale. He was instrumental in forming three legendary rock bands, introducing the founding members of The Doobie Brothers and sitting in on early sessions, helping to found Jefferson Airplane (along with DC natives Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady), and founding Moby Grape - before succumbing to mental illness which, according to those who knew him, was brought on by his hedonistic lifestyle). 5. “Open Book” – CAKE A fun song from Sacramento’s quirky quintet, known for clever lyrics and addictive bass lines. “She's writing, she's weaving, conceiving a plot. It quickens, it thickens. You can't put it down now… You think she’s an open book but you don’t know which page to turn to, do you?” 6. “I Could Write a Book” – Dinah Washington Truly a classic American standard, from Rogers and Hart’s Pal Joey, introduced by Gene Kelly and recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and countless others. Washington gives a trademark clean, fresh, straightforward rendition that really features her range and highlights the lyrics. 7. “Ulysses” - Mason Jennings A sweet song from a master songwriter that begins with a trek to procure a copy of the modernist classic by James Joyce, among other things. Is there anything better than a well written song about a well written book? 8. “Book of Dreams” - Suzanne Vega Upbeat and poppy, a nice change of pace from the poet who brought us pop tunes about the domestic abuse upstairs and the sound of our blood. When asked about the change, Vega replied “I thought to myself ‘Why for Chrissake can't you write a nice song about happy things?’" 9. “The Book of Love” – The Magnetic Fields Magnetic Fields creator Stephin Merritt once praised a songwriter by saying she “writes heartbreaking melodies with words that make fun of heartbreaking melodies.” He hits the mark with this great song, which opens with the line “The book of love is long and boring. No one can lift the damn thing” and goes on to claim “The book of love has music in it, in fact that’s where music comes from. Some of it is just transcendental, some of it is just really dumb.” 10. “I Write the Book” - Patty Griffin This song first appeared on the six song “indie” cassette that the unsigned Griffin sold at her early concerts. The early version, with its soft acoustic guitar, really highlights the beauty and strength of what may be the most amazing voice in modern music. 11. “Book of Poems” - Old 97s Rhett Miller and pals rue lost opportunity and lack of conviction in one of the many great tracks from 2001’s Satellite Rides. 12. “Neon Bible” – Arcade Fire We’ll close with a song to please fans of this year’s top selling book, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, set right here in our own Washington, DC. Recorded in a former Masonic temple, the haunting lyrics, gentle strings, and steady bass drum give this the feel of a ritualistic chant that could jump right onto the soundtrack to the inevitable movie. Imagine Tom Hanks in a blindfold, being led into a stone crypt…(The album cover is the image accompanying this list.)

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