My iPod #560: Wilco – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

The story goes that Wilco were going through some inner turmoil during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, particularly between lead singer and guitarist Jeff Tweedy and fellow guitarist and composer Jay Bennett. Their original record label weren’t so impressed with the final result of their work, rejected it and told the band to get out of their faces, leaving them with an album to provide but no label to release it. Eventually things all fell into place. Wilco got signed again. The album, originally slated for September 2001, was physically released to the masses months later in May 2002. Critics ate it up, fans loved it. Still do to this day. It has gone down as one of the best albums of the opening decade of this century.

‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’ is the album’s opener. It’s seven minutes long. It takes about a minute of that time for the song’s main chord progression to make itself known after a sort of instrumental prelude of pianos, percussion and organs. Tweedy’s mellow voice comes in with the album’s first (and possibly most quoted) lines “I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue/I’m hiding out in the big city blinking/What was I thinking when I let go of you?”, and it all goes on from there really. You have to listen to it for that full experience.

Tweedy doesn’t have the greatest singing voice. Not soulful, or belting from the stomach or whatever. But it’s just perfect for the whole mood of the track. And the album in general. The vocal melody is the most simple thing. But it’s great. It will get in your head. And accompanied by the very full mix provided by Jim O’Rourke, it’s an enrapturing listen. It’s hard to not find yourself in a bit of a trance when hearing this. You probably won’t feel it on your first listen. It’ll sink in.

Above is the supposed demo of the tune, as recorded by Jay Bennett before it went through remixing for the album. Some prominent smooth Rhodes(?) piano in there, but not quite the same.

My iPod #503: be your own PET – Heart Throb

“Heart Throb” is from be your own PET’s second album Get Awkward, released two years after the band had been on the radar for a while and unveiled their debut album to the masses. The second album exhibited a slicker production and precise style to the band’s music, but the change did not take away from their ecstatic performances and juvenile subject matter.

The third track “Heart Throb” is a fast-paced, in your face slammer about a girl who, despite having a boyfriend already, can’t help but get weak in the knees when she catches another boy – possibly the ‘heart throb’ the song is titled after – looking back at her when she tries to catch his glance. She has major feels for the guy, but realises that it’s probably for the best that nothing could happen between them, because she already has someone who will take of her.

It is an exciting listen. Over just after two minutes, but a balls-to-the-wall performance nevertheless.

My iPod #502: The Strokes – Heart in a Cage

“Heart in a Cage” was the second single released from First Impressions of Earth, the third album by rock band The Strokes released on New Year’s Eve 2005, or New Year’s Day 2006 depending on where you lived.

It’s good to be able to recall the memories of a certain time when an album was about to be released and there was a certain hype around it. First Impressions was the comeback of the band who symbolised the return of indie rock in the 21st century, and whilst “Juicebox” was somewhat the wild ride – to put it lightly – with its action-flick sounding bassline and controversial music video, “Heart in a Cage” was the straight comedown with its black and white video and depressing subject matter.

Before being released officially, I had already heard the song when The Strokes performed it at an exclusive live show in London which was aired on MTV2 during December. Just a side note. Check it out if you want.

But the official video came out a few months later, and features the band members performing the track around various locations in New York City. Most notably, Julian Casablancas mimes to the track whilst lying on the ground and avoiding being trampled on at the same time. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy as he sings about feeling abandoned, unmotivated, and restricted. He’s not allowed to feel free. His heart beats in its cage.

My iPod #501: Sum 41 – Heart Attack

“Heart Attack” is the penultimate track on the album All Killer No Filler, Sum 41’s debut album from the Spring of 2001. The opening string plucks fade in as the ending of “All She’s Got” is in the process of fading out, but it isn’t long before the bass and some light strikes of the ride cymbal are brought to the forefront of the mix and essentially mark the start of the track.

The song is an ode to laziness and sleeping in; if there is nothing new to experience upon getting out of bed in the morning then what is the point of getting up at all? That is the point Deryck Whibley makes throughout, softly singing in the quiet verses before the gearing up and letting loose in the loud and defiant choruses, disregarding the importance of his alarm or any communication with the outside world.

Musically, it’s typical pop-punk stuff. Power chords everywhere. But it does play with the time signature at one point, and the track contains a notable performance on the bass by Jason ‘Cone’ McCaslin. Always hum along to it.

It really has nothing to do with a heart attack for first time listeners, that’s the joke. Somehow though the title still manages to fit.