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Top Five Fridays: Comfy

December 27, 2014

Hey Folks,

Well Merry Christmas all you good people.  It is the time for the giving of gifts, and I can think of nothing better to give to all of you for this special Christmas edition of Top Five Fridays then to present to you five of the favorite records of Connor Benincasa, the songwriting/driving force behind COMFY, a garage punk outfit with twee connotations from Utica, New York.

Pillowhugger by Comfy

Pillowhugger by Comfy

Now that people are inundating us all with their lists of favorite records of the year and all that, I feel like it is my solemn duty to inform you all flat out that Comfy’s debut album “Pillowhugger” is easily in my top ten favorite releases of the year.  It is certainly my favorite cassette purchase.  Although the glorious DIY production certainly lends itself to my love of this album, the appeal for me is mainly based on the fact that Connor Benincasa knows how to write a fracking song.  “Pillowhugger” is a stocked pond of lyrics that are both clever and reflective coupled with hooks galore.  It’s also a pink cassette and Connor decorated the shipping box with original crayon artwork.  There was really no way Comfy could lose.  It’s really an honor to have him onboard the fantastic, flying All The Day Sounds Machine today, so without further ado folks, give it up for COMFY!

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“Top Five Fridays”… That’s a lot of pressure. I’ve never been the type of person who could accurately pin down my favorite anything—food, color, movie, flavor of freeze pop, etc. But I like talking and writing about music that I love, no matter how difficult a subject it is to express. There are things we feel in the moment of hearing a song or album that elude description, and for all that people have written about music, I think no words can hold a candle to what happens when you just listen to an album. In short, I’m gonna write about a few albums I love, in the order of when I got into them, and try to briefly express what they mean to me. But if you really wanna know why they’re great, just listen through them. Okay. Let’s give this a shot.

 

Person Pitch by Panda Bear

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            In 2007, right around the time when all the kids in my town were getting into Animal Collective, my friend Andy, who I rode the school bus with, asked me if I had heard Panda Bear. I said no, and the next day he brought a burned CD onto the bus and gave it to me. I put it into my computer after school and listened to it while I probably chatted with friends on AIM, or whatever 13-year-olds did on the internet then. My first impression while listening to track one, “Comfy in Nautica,” was “this sounds kinda like Peter Gabriel.” I’m not really sure what made me think that, but I think Noah Lennox would be pleased with the comparison. A track or two later, however, I realized that this album was something exceptional. I hadn’t listened to Animal Collective before, so this album was my introduction to what would become one of my favorite bands throughout junior high and high school. I remember plugging a shitty microphone into my Behringer digital delay pedal (my first guitar pedal) and trying to emulate the vocal effects achieved by Lennox on this album. The double LP was one of my first ever vinyl purchases. I’m listening to the leak of the new Panda Bear album as I write this, and I’m confident in saying that Panda Bear has remained one of my favorite artists.

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More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads

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            This album was on heavy rotation during my one semester at college in Boston. Talking Heads were pretty much my favorite band throughout my senior year of high school; at the time I was obsessed with Stop Making Sense. I used to say that Buildings and Food wasn’t their most accessible album (I’d say those are Speaking in Tongues and Remain in Light), but once you get into it, it’s great in a way unlike anything else. You need to get into the groove of the album, get used to its tone, and then you start to really hear it. I was infatuated with the funk-style rhythm guitar (featured prominently on “Found a Job”) and Tina Weymouth’s unique style of approaching bass guitar. She is still one of my all-time favorite bass players. David Byrne’s simple and playful lyrics gave me comfort in feeling isolated at an awkward time in my life (freshman year always is). I would listen to Buildings and Food on my headphones while walking to class, to the dining hall, or just walking around Boston when I had nothing else to do.

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Pig Lib by Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

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            I was a fan of Pavement for years before my friend turned me on to The Jicks. I think “Senator” was the first song I heard by them (from “Mirror Traffic”), and it left me hungry for more. My buddy Bobby had two CD copies of Pig Lib, and gave me one. At the time, my brother was on vacation in Europe, and let me borrow his car for a month while he was away. The disc remained in the CD player of his Saturn for weeks, playing on a loop. I couldn’t get enough of it. “It’s like Pavement, except proggier and dad-rockier,” I remember saying in an early attempt to describe the band’s sound. I love Malkmus’ progression as a songwriter, which is to say that I love both his early and late works (and pretty much everything in between). On Pig Lib, he retains much of the free-spiritedness he displays in Pavement, but it’s more matured, held back until the right moment when he lets loose. His songwriting chops are still strong, perhaps more so than in Pavement, but he allows himself and the band to meander a little more—to jam, if you will. The guitar solo on Witch Mountain Bridge is one of my favorite things to happen in any song ever.

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The Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom

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My taste in music, while reasonably inclusive, typically gravitates toward the louder, the fuzzier, the plugged-in. However, this is a guideline rather than a rule, and means only that I especially enjoy my favorite quieter, more acoustic albums. I think The Milk-Eyed Mender is a perfect album. Joanna Newsom is a rare musician who is an exceptional writer, lyricist, and player. All of the songs on this album are pretty much Joanna and one instrument, be it a harp, piano, harpsichord, or Wurlitzer electric piano. The poetry in her lyricism is matched only by her songwriting, incorporating melodies that are original, though reminiscent of traditional folk songs (“This is not my tune, but it’s mine to use,” she croons on “Sadie”). I went through a period of time one August when I would go for long walks through my town at night when I didn’t want to sleep. This album was one of the few things I would listen to on my headphones on those walks. It went perfectly with the cool late summer night air and the dark, whispering streets.

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John Henry by They Might Be Giants

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I first got into They Might Be Giants when I was a kid—I was a huge fan of Homestar Runner cartoons, and The Brothers Chaps animated a music video for TMBG’s “Experimental Film” from “The Spine.” As a ten-year-old, I couldn’t stop listening to the song. I replayed the flash video dozens of times. As I grew older, I became insecure about liking the Giants so much, because they were a “weird” band, but over the past couple of years, I’ve unashamedly returned to my fandom. John Henry is the fifth studio album by They Might Be Giants, and the first album to feature a studio band rather than backing tracks arranged by the Johns. It’s their longest album, clocking in at just under an hour, and it’s incredible. I think it’s got some of the best songs by both John Flansburgh and John Linnell. The band’s sound really opens up with the live instrumentation, and there are crazy distorted guitar solos and horn arrangements and everything. You know how sometimes you love an album, but you end up wanting to skip a song or two? This album is great from start to finish. There were a few weeks where I couldn’t stop listening to John Henry, and I had to force myself to listen to something else so I wouldn’t overplay it. I ordered the double LP from the band’s website right as I was moving to a new house with my dad, and couldn’t listen to it because it took a while before we set up a turntable. I subsequently picked up a used copy of the CD from f.y.e. so I could listen to it in the car. In an age when sales of physical media are at an all time low, I own two copies of this album. I think that automatically makes it one of my all-time favorites.

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Thanks Connor!  Great writing good sir.  It’s been a pleasure.

Be sure to check out COMFY on Facebook people.  There is a new EP on the way and you don’t want to miss it. These are people that make things of quality.  Also if this is your first time checking out a Top Five Fridays, be sure to check out the archives to check out the other great artists that have stopped by.

well peace out good people of the world,

Peter Winter.

Peter Winter can’t get through Muppets Christmas with out crying.  He is also on the twittersphere.

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