Music: In Which Dad Embarks on an Epic Quest

To discover the best 3-song run on an album.

Hello! It’s Matt and I feel like writing again. I didn’t feel that way for about a week.

The first few posts I made on this site came easily enough. Some of it was stuff I had been waiting years to write down; I just needed an excuse. So I conjured one up: I’ll start a website. I hope some of you are enjoying it well enough.

I’m the type of person who, without a decent amount of vigilance on my part, can get pulled into distraction mode late at night. Instead of writing, or reading the book I said I would (I’m working on Something Wicked This Way Comes), I’ll watch Netflix or stupid videos. Lately, I’ve been watching the British television show Taskmaster , full episodes of which are available on YouTube. That’s easier to do than writing, and it’s a good distraction at the end of my day. Still, sometimes I’d prefer to write. I just need to prioritize it. So here I am, prioritizing it!

We’re going to talk about music again. If you’re open to a deep-dive into the minutiae I concern myself with, please read on. We can talk about cooking later.

Best 3-Song Run on an Album

I found an article on the AV Club a couple of years ago in which a few writers contribute their personal “Strongest 3-Song Run on an Album”. You can find that article by clicking here. The AV Club was originally the Audio/Visual (media) section of the Onion Newsletter, back when the Onion was available in print in most major U.S. cities. The AV Club then became its own standalone thing for a while, but has since merged, along with the Onion, into the G/O Media “Family”. Please take a look at the article, and do yourself a favor and check out the comments. The AV Club has long had a devoted/fanatical comment community. They are both very clever and very kind, so it’s a nice place to go if you’d like to avoid the general toxicity that exists on most sites these days.

Back to the task at hand. We’re going to be searching for the best 3-song run on various albums. I’ll be listening to albums both contemporary and classic and then reporting in on my findings. What is a 3-song run? Here are “the rules”:

  1. A 3-song run is 3 songs, in order, from a proper album. Songs must run sequentially, and instrumental interludes must be counted.
  2. Greatest Hits or other compilations are not albums.
  3. Some albums have had several versions, depending on geography (much of The Beatles’ catalog) or time (Rumours was re-released to include “Silver Springs”). One must specify which version of an album they are discussing.
  4. Each song must be great on its own merit. You get to decide what “great” is, and I get to agree or disagree, and vice versa. A good subjective metric for “great” is: would you skip the song if it popped up on the radio or shuffle, depending on your mood? Or would you listen to it pretty consistently? We’re looking for the latter.
  5. It’s not about “the flow”. It’s about the songs. We can talk about Dark Side of the Moon later.
  6. 3 songs is the max. I don’t want to hear about the Abbey Road suite, or “All of Kid A,” or “tracks 1-8 are really ONE song”. Sorry if that’s limiting, but you could always do your own list.
  7. Agreement and disagreement are equally appreciated here, and both are encouraged.

I originally intended this to be a single post, but I’ve decided to turn it into a series. This way you can keep pace with what I’m listening to and I’ll be able to look back someday and take stock for myself; see what I was up to.

If you’d like to comment with suggestions or opinions about your own personal 3-song runs or albums you think I should check out, please do. I have the site set up so that comments must be approved by me before they are seen publicly, which I know isn’t immediately gratifying, but I’ll monitor and approve them the same day. I promise to try to listen to any suggested music and to offer an opinion if you’d like.

Today’s Album

I’ve been listening to Shore by Fleet Foxes since its release, which coincided with the 2020 autumn equinox. For those interested in various music delivery systems: I’m listening to the album via digital format, primarily over our Sonos home speakers or in my car. I’ve pre-ordered the vinyl release, which is set to ship in February of 2021.

Fleet Foxes are an indie folk-rock band who formed in Seattle in 2005. They’ve garnered praise for their vocal harmonies and evocative lyrics, and have been compared to some of the greats, including The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They have released 4 LPs up to this point, with Shore being the latest. I’ll likely visit their self-titled debut sometime on this site, but for now, we have Shore. Here’s a sample:

Tree.

This is about as “poppy” as Fleet Foxes get. It’s a good sound for them, and in some ways reminiscent of their debut album. The past two Fleet Foxes releases, Helplessness Blues and Crack-Up, veered heavily toward long track times (upwards of 8 minutes on a couple of songs) and more experimental qualities in their songwriting. This often resulted in numerous “movements” within songs, and earned the band a characterization by Pitchfork Media as “Prog Folk”, a genre mixing elements of progressive music (think Yes, Jethro Tull, or Boston) with traditional folk.

By comparison, the songs on Shore are compact, accessible, and straightforward, leaving one to wonder if the band can just conjure up a pop hit whenever they want. I wouldn’t attempt to take away from what the band accomplished on their prior two releases, but I will admit that I’m a candy-addict sometimes when it comes to music. I want to bop around while I’m cleaning the house, or maybe have something to hit the accelerator to. Shore offers that, and in spades. The first 8 tracks or so are all really great, but, for your consideration, I offer tracks 2-4 for a strong 3-song run. It includes “Sunblind”, which I’ve posted above, followed by “Can I Believe You”, which you can listen to here:

I don’t think you get out that way.

And lastly, “Jara”, which is my new favorite Fleet Foxes song:

Daaaaaaad’s drivin’/ daaaaaaad’s drivin’.

“Jara” is a song which is great, in part, because of how it rebels against the format typified by the band’s two previous releases. I’ll direct you to the timestamp of 2:08 in the video above for a good example of this. The second the first chorus ends, the song just picks back up where it left off, and actually picks up steam. Whereas in the past two Fleet Foxes albums, this would be the part of the song that warranted a sudden tempo change, this song just stays the course and accelerates a bit. It’s a great choice, and the right one, too. This is a song which will stand the test of time, and I believe it will be a future classic.

Dad’s Rating for Fleet Foxes, Shore; “Sunblind”/ “Can I Believe You”/ “Jara”

Strongest Song: “Jara” – It’s basically made of folk-sugar. That’s a thing.

Most Likely to be Skipped: “Can I Believe You”. It gets a bit repetitive. Still, it’s a strong track on a strong album, and sits in between two greats.

Best Album Track Not Included in the 3-Song Run: That’s a really difficult choice that I’ve forced myself into here; the album is truly excellent and has a lot to offer to a various different moods. I have no problem turning this album on and finding a song I want to listen to, regardless of what I’m doing. Forcing myself to choose something, I’d recommend “Maestranza”, a good night-drive song which sees the band veer close to the old comparisons to My Morning Jacket they had received earlier in their career.

If Dad Had to Choose a Slow Song: You’ll notice that I gravitate toward upbeat music whenever possible. This album has some truly magnificent slow songs, however, and I recommend both “A Long Way Past the Past” and “For a Week or Two”. I’m sure there’s even justification in putting these two together, along with “Featherweight” or “Maestranza”, for a competing 3-song run.

If Dad Could Re-sequence It: I’d move “Can I Believe You” one track back and offer the following 3-song run.

  • “Wading in Waist-High Water”
  • “Sunblind”
  • “Jara”

Chances this 3-Song Run is the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT): For now, low. The album is only a month old! We’ll have to see how it fits into the pantheon of all-time greats a bit later in life. For my money, however, I’d rank the first half of this album as the greatest of Fleet Foxes’ career, which I consider to be high praise. They had already reached great heights, and this release solidifies their legacy as a capital-G Great Band.

Join us next time when we get into a bit of trouble tackling Rumours by the other Fleet-band. Bring your opinions, would love to hear them! And remember, suggestions in the comment section. Until then!

M

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