Music Heard in the Men’s Bathroom of the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City, February 27, 2014

I heard some really great music today in the men’s bathroom of the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City conference room, which I utilized several times as I attended an all-day Microsoft Innovative Educators training being hosted there.  The music was so stellar I was tempted to cut class just to stay there and absorb those golden tones.

The first time I went in, in the morning, I heard the dramatic close of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America.”  But that was just a taste of the vintage AM Gold to come. It was followed by the incredibly emotional country pop ballad, “Please Come to Boston” by Dave Loggins:

I was very pleased to come across this song; It is probably the best of its kind I’ve heard since Michael Martin Murphy’s “Wildfire,” which I have little doubt in my mind must have endowed that men’s bathroom with its haunting and mysterious tale of snowstorms paranormal horses at some other point during the day, though I did have the opportunity to hear it myself. Here is video for that song with lots of pictures of horses:

On my second visit to the restroom, I was pleasantly surprised to find the the Hyatt Place DJ (they no doubt have one on staff, an automated service could never have curated such a powerful playlist) not only embraces 1970s Country Pop crossover, but they soft and easy disco pop of Bee Gees younger brother Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything:”

But it was my final visit to the men’s room, at the close of the day, that brought the true musical revelation, a track so incredible and incredulous that I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t heard it myself echoing from the tiles and the stalls.  It began innocuously enough, an instrumental track with extensive saxophone soloing in a rather conventional smooth jazz style. However, the track had two distinctive elements that stood apart from typical smooth jazz: a stuttering bass drum beat and a unique but incessant flute refrain. A unique and incessant flute refrain that sounded uncannily like the flute refrain in Jay-Z’s 2000 Timbaland-produced single, “Big Pimpin.'” Could it be possible that muzak versions of Jay Z songs have actually been synthesized and recorded? Could it be possible that such muzak could be viably played alongside classic 70s pop, and in such an institution as the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City?

Yes. It is real, and it is happening. If the YouTube video isn’t enough for you, please refer to the album Smooth Jazz Tribute to Jay-Z by the Smooth Jazz All Stars on Spotify. Thank you to the Internet, thank you to the Smooth Jazz All Stars for this incredible tribute, and thank you most of all to the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City for pumping such wonderful music into your conference room restrooms. I can’t wait to hear what is playing there tomorrow.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: Before Today

Record Review

In the late eighties, a succession of lemon vehicles and financial problems led my family to procure from my uncle a run-down, rust orange 1975 Chevrolet Impala out of desperation.  Un-affectionately referred to as Big Red, the “boat” was somewhat of an ugly embarrassment, and its exhaust production was so profuse that I don’t doubt that it could have single-handedly instigated our growing global warming crisis.  Still, it got us around just fine, and I now remember it with more fondness than any other car my family had during my childhood.

Seemingly exclusive to the period of the Impala, my dad tuned in to a 70s/80s soft rock station on a constant basis. This incessant radio listening and genre choice is one that I have never witnessed my dad repeat in any other car or at any other time in his life; it is as if the Impala itself demanded its own soundtrack, reliving its faded glory days back in the summer of ’75 with songs like “Jackie Blue” and “Summer Breeze” still blowing through its speakers.  Big Red has now long since met the junkyard, but my secret fondness for large American sedans, the color of rust, and, most of all, the music of Seals & Crofts, Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, and many other fine artists still remains.  Judging from his band’s first full-length effort for label 4AD, Ariel Pink must have a similar fossil fuel-consuming dinosaur in his past.  Fully inhaling the carcinogenic particulate cloud of bygone pop eras, Pink has constructed a masterpiece of yacht rock, synth pop, TV show theme songs, and much, much more.

I wish I had that ‘75 Impala today, so that I could pop in a cassette of Before Today and drive around town listening to these would-have-been-on-the-Time-Life-compilation classics.  Big Red would have let these tracks breeze through its speakers with nary a backfire.  “Round And Round” is more than a great sing-along; it pulls out all the compositional stops with pre-choruses, bridges, and breakdowns all over the place.  Meanwhile, “Can’t Hear My Eyes” is the soft grooving #1 hit that Hall & Oates forgot to write. The impeccable vintage production work is lovingly crafted just for my Impala’s speakers, while the at times cartoonish vocal parts that burst out at random times imply that Pink shares with many of us that same complex love-hate relationship with this pop detritus to which he pays homage.  Some sort of ironic wink exists with every song on the album.  One example is “Fright Night (Nevermore),” in which Pink sings his own line “Knock knock on the door three times! Baby, knock knock on the door!” like it’s an irritating jingle he can’t get out of his head.  Most undercutting is the final track, which, while sounding like a murky, authentic reproduction of early British post-punk, proclaims somewhat cynically the anti-punk, anti-idealist declaration that “Revolution’s a lie.”  Pink’s songs do bring back that pleasant summer breeze of years past, but they bring with it the embarrassing exhaust, the rust, the broken door handles, and the guilt of a pop culture environmental catastrophe.

Before Today
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Released: June 8, 2010