GREGOR SAMSA'S TOP 2 X 5 = 10
Like its Kafka-created namesake, Gregor Samsa has experienced no shortage of metamorphoses since its inception. What started out as a project by Champ Bennett and Nikki King soon evolved into a full-fledged band that played its first show in 2000 and then witnessed a revolving door of membership with over thirty people wearing the GS badge at one time or another. Through it all, the now-married Bennett and King persisted and, aided by new recruits (some members live in in Brooklyn, others on the east coast and in Chicago), have just issued the masterful Rest, an assured suite of chamber-styled compositions whose lyrical beauty proves hard to resist. Five of Gregor Samsa's seven members each selected two favourite pieces for this eclectic and wide-ranging Top 10.
Champ Bennett (Piano, Voice, Guitar, Drums, Bass, Vibraphone, Mellotron, Celesta, Synth, Rhodes, String Arrangements):
1. Arve Henriksen: “Opening Image” (Chiaroscuro, Rune Grammofon)
2. Olivier Messiaen: “Oraison” (Early Gurus Of Electronics, Ellipsis Arts)
I discovered both of these pieces last year through the delicate tastes of two close friends, the first in the passenger seat of a fairly new Saturn automobile, and the second sitting around the office after a long day of work. I chose them because they both had the ability to render me near-speechless mid-conversation, forcing a long break in dialogue followed by a “What was that?” This only seems to happen to me once a year or so, but I'll welcome two in one anytime.
Cory Bise (Bass, Baritone):
3. The Beach Boys: “Vegetables” (Smiley Smile, Capitol)
Like many other people, I grew up listening to The Beach Boys, singing all of the hits in the back of the family van on the way to the pool. A good friend has been playing this song a lot on guitar recently and subsequently I've been delving into the more lesser-known works. I still prefer the more stripped-down version by the band over Brian Wilson's on SMiLE.
4. The Magnetic Fields: “Absolutely Cuckoo” (69 Love Songs, Merge)
I just love a really great pop song. Especially when it is only a minute and a half long. Especially when there is no chorus. Especially when the person who wrote it can sing about prostitutes and also write the soundtrack to a children's movie.
Jeremiah Klinger (Baritone Guitar, Guitar, Clarinet, Piano):
5. Fleetwood Mac: “Closing My Eyes” (Then Play On, Reprise)
There is a pretty strong appreciation for Fleetwood Mac in my family—my sister's name is Rhiannon if that tells you anything. I'll take Fleetwood Mac, early or late, but ”Closing My Eyes” is definitely one of my favourite early Fleetwood Mac songs. Intense and restrained at the same time—brilliant.
6. John Frusciante: “The Will to Death” (The Will to Death, Record Collection)
The eternal “rest.” I won't go too deep on this one. To me, this is a beautifully raw and honest song.
Billy Bennett (Drums, Percussion, Guitar, Bass, Vibraphone, Piano, Synth):
7. Philip Glass: “Rubric” (GlassWorks, CBS)
This is one of my all-time favourite songs—so complex and all over the place, but perfect. Listen to it on headphones. When I listen to it, I try to pick one instrument and follow it. It's really fun. I'm trying to do it as I write this and I'm getting serious anxiety problems.
8. Neurosis: “Under The Surface” (Times of Grace, Relapse)
I love this song right now. It's super repetitive, and right when you sort of tune it out it comes in so fucking heavy that you stop whatever it is you're doing and say “Holy shit, this is so good.”
Nikki King (Voice, Piano, Rhodes, Vibraphone):
9. Beirut : “Nantes” (The Flying Club Cup, 4AD)
This is my favourite song of the moment. It sets the mood for a playful, balmy summer. I was first introduced to this band when I learned that we share a common rehearsal space. I went home to check them out and I've been hooked on this song ever since.
10. A Silver Mt. Zion: “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round The Side Of Your Bed”
(He Has Left Us Alone, But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms..., Constellation)
I heard this song on our first European tour six years ago. Even now, it's still as beautiful as when I first heard it. The voices, violins, and guitar meld into a beautiful melody that makes you feel like you're dreaming. I can listen to it at anytime and it puts me in a state of calm. Amazing.