TMBG Countdown #7: James K. Polk

April 24, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 161

First release: Factory Showroom, 1996

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Have I mentioned that I tend to favor the nerdiest songs?

A muscial summation of the presidential career of our 11th Chief Executive, “James K. Polk” manages to work in a singing saw solo and surprising historical accuracy. Like”Mammal,” this is a song I suspect more than one fan has used to pass an exam at some point.

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TMBG Countdown #8: Subliminal

April 23, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 152

First release: John Henry, 1994

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

As the first track on the first They Might Be Giants album to feature a full band, “Subliminal” is a powerful proclamation of what the band has become: It starts with a simple accordion riff, playing solo for two measures as a nod to where they came from before the rest of the band joins, kicking off the new era.

It’s a simple song, not one they play live with particular frequency, but I think it’s unappreciated, and it’s the opener of my favorite TMBG album.

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TMBG Countdown #9: Fingertips

April 22, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 162

First release: Apollo 18, 1992

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

I was thirteen years old in 1992, a nerdy kid, and They Might Be Giants was one of the most fascinating things I’d ever encountered. Atop the list of weird and interesting things they did was “Fingertips,” 21 short songs, varying in length from 5 seconds to 20 seconds, piled up at the end of an album with a liner note that explained they were designed to scatter throughout the album when the CD was played on shuffle.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: “House of Black and White” (S5E2)

April 22, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 178

house_of_black_and_whiteWARNING: As usual I play fast and loose with spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up on the TV series AND books (including the Winds of Winter sample chapters) you may want to sit this one out.

After a generally underwhelming season premiere immediately delivered on the showrunners’ promise to deviate from the books, the second episode really hammered that point home with significant changes to almost every character’s arc. As Varys remarks to Tyrion that their kind will never be allowed to rule, and Jon Snow finds himself suddenly in charge, everybody who’s actually holding power spends their time struggling with it. Episodes like this explain why HBO went with the title of the first novel, rather than the book series; the “Game of Thrones” is not only about who sits it, but what that person does while their butt is in the seat.

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TMBG Countdown #10: The End of the Tour

April 21, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 199

First release: John Henry, 1994

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

There is a pattern, at least in my mind, in which the last song on many They Might Be Giants albums might be written as a farewell song, almost as if the band lived with the fear that each record might be their last. Lincoln closes with “Kiss Me, Son of God;” Flood with “Road Movie to Berlin;” and John Henry’s final song is this beauty.

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TMBG Countdown #11: Why Does the Sun Shine

April 20, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 144

First release: Why Does the Sun Shine (EP), 1993

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Another of the “science-songs” that made TMBG nerd icons long before the release of Here Comes Science (though it would appear on that record), “Why Does the Sun Shine” has been in the band’s repertoire so long that the science relayed in its lyrics changed.

Well, almost. The song was in fact written in the 1950s by Hy Zaret And Lou Singer, and a version by folks singer Tom Glazer was released on Space Songs, an album so influential it’s been cited not only by They Might Be Giants but by science fiction giant Isaac Asimov.

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TMBG Countdown #12: They’ll Need a Crane

April 19, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 150

First release: Lincoln, 1988

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

For some reason, most of my favorite “love song”s are about breakups, and this goes right up near the top along with “Don’t Think Twice” and “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

I think it’s also our first cut from Lincoln, but don’t fret. There will be more.

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TMBG Countdown #13: When Will You Die

April 18, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 183

First release: Join Us, 2011

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Join Us was a pure pleasure for most TMBG fans for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was this gem. Reminiscent of the band’s earlier sound, the song may sound a little thin at first listen–a result of speeding up all the instruments beneath real-time vocals. The bass line is particularly challenging, and yet bassist Danny Weinkauf plays it live without significant slowing or modification.

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TMBG Countdown #14: Mammal

April 17, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 164

First release: Apollo 18, 1992

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

It must be impossible to count the number of They Might Be Giants fans who have benefitted on science exams from memorizing the lyrics to this song. In my case it was a 9th grade question about whether mammals had nucleated red blood cells.

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TMBG Countdown #15: Spider

April 16, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 142

First Release: Apollo 18, 1992

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

The Johns claim this song originated as an afternoon playing with a sampler, which can end in disaster for a lot of bands (case in point), but instead they got an early fan favorite that becomes especially interesting when performed live.

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