Not Kept In Jars
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Jon Brion - "Theme" (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Do you remember Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet and Frodo Baggins, it's a movie about love and memory. It's also about the relationship between what we know and how happy we are, and the intrinsic value of knowledge and truth. It raises the question of whether it is better to bask in the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, come by dishonestly, or to suffer the part cloudiness of the mind spotted by sometimes unpleasant memory. Like the cave analogy of Plato's Republic or Robert Nozick's "The Experience Machine", Eternal Sunshine rejects comforting unreality and opts instead for tricky truth. And that's the way we at STG like it.

I assume that Jon Brion lives his life based on Socrates' great maxim that the unexamined life is not worth living. He also wrote the theme for I Heart Huckabees, a movie that references Plato's cave explicitly. If more evidence is needed, look no further than this theme, in which he demonstrates great self-understanding through his uncanny evocation of memory and its yellow-tinged, hyperbolic cousin; nostalgia. Pay particular attention to the delicate backward keyboard coils, which sound like a feedback loop of memories of memories, etc.

You can erase Jon Brion from the new Fiona Apple record, but you can't erase him from our memory, or, at least, we'd prefer that you didn't. [Buy]


Michael Hurley - "Blue Driver"

Michael Hurley is "looking out the rear-view mirror for the highway patrol." It seems that he's in trouble with the law. Not surprising, since what makes his singing sublime is its oddness, its small surprises, its off-kilter rises, falls and quivers. Listen to the last thirty seconds of this song and tell me that he's not criminally insane and I will tell you that you are criminally insane and then have you arrested. "Woooooooo oooooo ooooooooo." [Hi Fi Snock Uptown, the album on which "Blue Driver" was originally released, has not been released on CD. Long Journey has been, however, and I strongly recommend that you buy it.]

Posted by Jordan at August 30, 2005 7:18 AM

I looked up Brion's name on Wikipedia, having heard it many times before and never known precisely who he was.

I had no idea that he did the soundtracks to not only Eternal Sunshine and Huckabees, but also Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia. Those are four of the best soundtracks that I know of, beyond Mark Mothersbaugh's Wes Anderson films which I also like very much.

What a guy! And an Aimee Mann collaborator too! Wow!

Posted by Sam at August 30, 2005 12:02 PM

(Sigh) With every one of my visits to this site, it seems that I become more enamored. Warmed to see the Brion post. Our faceless friend Sam's excitement in discovery and connection must reinforce and personify your efforts. Just this morning, I noticed the VM quote in the sidebar. What a Sweet Thing! A favorite simple, powerful song.

All of this to thank you for being the good shepards of free thought and musical expression that you all are.

Posted by elfie at August 30, 2005 12:55 PM

Jon Brion has created so much magic with his production, soundtrack work, and as an LA session musician, it's interesting to track all his projects he's done.

I tried to put together a playlist of much of it here.

One of my favorite things about Brion is that he's mostly quiet but when he says something, he means it, like when he said recently that Bob Dylan and the Beatles helped ruin popular music.

Posted by drake at August 30, 2005 4:50 PM

Let's not forget too that Jon Brion co-produced the new Kanye West album that's already getting accolades...

Posted by drake at August 30, 2005 7:38 PM

I think I could listen to Blue Driver all day! Thanks!

Posted by jay at August 30, 2005 11:32 PM

"All of this to thank you for being the good shepards of free thought and musical expression that you all are." -'Elfie'


Posted by Sam at August 31, 2005 12:12 AM

Since I'm here, I'll try to continue this conversation...

I saw Punch-Drunk Love (supposed to be hyphenated?) and was blown away by the editing and the sound. And, I'll admit it, Adam Sandler was pretty goddamned good in that. I'm planning on rerenting it so I can enjoy the clattering, sometimes circus-like soundtrack and the rainbow, colour-splattered, firework fades from scene to scene.

Posted by Sam at August 31, 2005 12:20 AM

listen, you need to know 2 things:
1. fiona apple is amazing.
2. fiona. apple. has. one. 'n.'

Posted by CLAIRE at August 31, 2005 4:36 AM

Hey Jordan...great description of Jon Brion, the theme and the movie today, you really nailed it in those three short paragraphs.

And that Michael Hurley song is awesome.

Nice work. :)

Posted by rosie at August 31, 2005 8:46 AM

"Not kept in jars"

As in brains, of course. I always preferred mine in my head - firmly connected to my eyes and ears, so I can watch Eternal Sunshine and listen to the brilliance that is JB.

"Have you ever transcended space and time?

No. Yes. Uh, time not space. No. I have no idea what you're talking about."

PS - Ben Gibbard loves you. How cool is that?

Posted by josh at September 1, 2005 9:44 AM

word to that p.s. josh. sean is to tasteful to name drop, but everyone should know that ben gibbard named stg one of his 3 favorite mp3 blogs in an article he wrote on the subject for wired magazine.

Posted by george at September 1, 2005 2:07 PM


Posted by iliana at September 1, 2005 10:03 PM

Don't mean to be a wiener here, but the Cave allegory is actually a bit different from Michel Gondry's knowledge/pain, ignorance/bliss story. The way Plato laid it out, we are stuck bound to the wall of the Cave, watching with awe as the reflections from the trees and such outside the Cave get reflected into and onto the walls of the Cave, whos dancing and flickering becomes our concept of Reality. We're seeing the shadows, nothing more. The only person to actually realize this, and actually leave the confines of the Cave was Socrates. Relating Eternal Sunshine in terms of the Cave would equivocate not to leaving the Cave, but to making your own shadow puppets with your hand reflecting on the wall, rather than looking at the big shadows dancing from the reflections of the actual trees outside.

Oh yeah, and Jon Brion totally rocks. Buy his album, "Meaningless" it's moving and beautiful and fragile and strong all at once.

Posted by Michael at September 2, 2005 1:10 PM

Michael - I can't agree with you there. I don't think Plato was suggesting that we are stuck to the wall of the cave. I think he was suggesting that most of us don't bother to investigate beyond appearances to the core of things. And that investigating deeply is painful and, in fact, dangerous (remember, the character who discovers that the images on the walls are merely shadows is killed when he returns to tell the others). The point is that the unexamined life is not worth living. That even if it might be painful and dangerous to look beyond appearances, there's no going back. This seems to me to at least include this implication: (knowledge = pain/danger & ignorance = bliss/ease, but a lower form of existence). Though this is a very different formulation than Gondry's I do think it can be applied directly. I stand by my assertion that Plato, Nozick, and Gondry/Kaufman all support the idea that it is better to choose the difficult and painful life pursuing knowledge than it is to live the comfortable, unquestioning life.

Josh - That's by far my favourite line in the movie. Ha ha.

Posted by Jordan at September 2, 2005 10:49 PM

Sorry Jordan, he ( and me) ain't neither criminally insane. Hearing this song pop up here simply made me slow down and feel comfortable again. Hurley, like the Rounders, has an unquestionably idiocentric method of song writing, but it has been consistent in its expressions and content over a long 'career', no, life on the blue roads of amurica. He has a sound in his guitar playing, and back-up bands, and a outlook on lyrics pulled from life, along with a willingness to incorporate sounds into his songs for both effect and affect, that is one of the most sane you'll ever hope to hear.
Thanks for the post.

Posted by J at September 2, 2005 11:03 PM

The explanation of the cave thing by posted by Michael is pretty accurate according to what they taught me at university. But I definitely get your point Jordan. I watched I Heart Hukabees on Sunday. Whoa. I really did laugh, and I really did cry.

Posted by Makrugaik at September 6, 2005 10:58 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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