Last week was a rough week, if I’m being honest. I was mostly over my case of covid, but still couldn’t return to work, and my wife…well, we had to take her to the hospital on Thursday because her O2 sats dropped dangerously low frighteningly quick. It’s only been in the past day or two that we’ve come to find out just how bad off she was. If we hadn’t taken her to the hospital when we did, she would not have survived the night.
So, she’s still at the hospital (in a covid isolation room where I cannot visit her), but thankfully on the mend. On Saturday, my old college advisor passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm, which…yeah, still haven’t processed it. All of that probably explains the slower tempo and more downbeat list of songs on this week’s playlist.
- The Horrible Crowes, “Sugar”: I always thought it was more than a little daring to open the album with this song, which is by far more downbeat and subtle than what follows.
- Iron & Wine, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: I don’t know how I found this particular recording. I think it’s from the TV show Copper, if anyone remembers that (I never actually saw it, but still somehow heard this version of the song).
- Jars of Clay, “Faith Enough”: A song filled with contradictions and paradoxes.
- Jason Isbell, “Cover Me Up”: Beautiful and heartfelt and far more subtle than most of the songs I prefer by him, but no less glorious for it.
- The Wallflowers, “Up From Under”: If Breach isn’t the best Wallflowers album, it’s definitely top two. And while this isn’t my usual go-to song from that record, it’s still simple (for a song with a string arrangement) and beautiful.
- Willie Nelson, “The Rainbow Connection”: A voice and a song that I’m surprised it took so long to put together, though I have to ask – aside from this one and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” just how many songs are there out there about rainbows?
- The Beach Boys, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”: “Sometimes I feel very sad.” Sometimes Brian Wilson just cuts right to the damn chase.
- The National, “I Need My Girl”: I would like my wife home from the hospital now, please.
- The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”: The happiest song about death that I know.
- Glen Phillips, “Train Wreck”: This one just sorta…feels right at the moment? That’s probably not good, is it?
So, as must come to pass eventually for all, I’ve gotten sick. I’ve gotten Covid. I blame Tennessee. But I have not forgotten you, and in my fever-hazed mind, I have put together a playlist for this week.
- Neko Case, “Fever”: So actually, I had a fever late last week, but it broke pretty quick and I’ve been fine since then. The Wife, on the other hand, keeps getting fevers of upwards of 103.
- MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”: Please keep your distance, I might still be contagious.
- The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”: Did you not hear what I just said? Stay at least six feet away at all times. Further, honestly, if you don’t mind.
- AC Newman, “Miracle Drug”: I’ll admit, I think the vaccines are pretty damn amazing and I’m glad I got them. If there were something I could take right now to get rid of feeling like garbage, I would.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Something In The Air (Live)”: What, another Tom Petty song, after last week? Yes. It’s on-theme.
- Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Something’s Always Wrong”: I’ve felt like crap since last Wednesday. It’s always something new.
- They Might Be Giants, “I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die”: There’s still lots I want to do before I’m ready to kick the bucket, and I hope I get old enough to do at least most of them.
- Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “The Pharmacist v. The Secret Stars”: I’ll be honest, I really like Ted Leo and I mostly chose this song because his backing band is called the Pharmacists.
- Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once”: I was fine last Tuesday. Woke up Wednesday feeling kinda meh. By Thursday, I was spending the entire day asleep because I felt absolutely awful.
- Van Morrison, “And The Healing Has Begun”: Given Van’s recent bizarre rants about Covid and lockdowns and whatnot, it seems a little silly to include him on this playlist, but I do feel like I’m on the mend now. Still definitely not 100%, but improving every day.
Happy New Year, folks! And happy snow week here in Northern Virginia, where we were supposed to start back to school on Monday and still haven’t (and won’t before Friday at the earliest, though I’m pretty sure we’re just out all week). This week’s playlist is all Tom Petty, all the time, and I tried to find songs that maybe folks aren’t as familiar with.
- “Walls (Second Version)”: Sure, the original version that comes at the beginning of the She’s the One soundtrack is amazing. One of my favorite Petty songs ever. But this one has a certain something to it, a certain wistfulness and bittersweet quality that’s hard to pin down, and I love it.
- “Louisiana Rain”: Damn the Torpedoes is my favorite Tom Petty album (well, or maybe Wallflowers. Don’t ask me to play favorites with my children!). This song, which closes out the album, is a pretty good argument for why it’s one of the best albums in rock’n’roll history. You’ve got a bit of Petty’s Florida twang in the vocals, the amazing guitar and keyboard parts, and the whole thing is just so heartfelt and heartbreaking (see what I did there?).
- “A Thing About You”: This is a dangerous song to drive to, as I’ve frequently looked down at the speedometer while listening and found myself doing nearly 90 MPH. It just gets the blood pumping.
- “Swingin'”: I didn’t really care much for Echo when it came out back in ’99, but that has transformed into a deep and abiding love. This song also features the best pun I’ve ever heard in the line, “And she went down swingin’/like Glenn Miller.”
- “Crawling Back To You”: “I’m so tired of feelin’ tired/as sure as night will follow day/Most things I worry ’bout/never happen anyway.” I would eat my own liver to write a verse that good.
- “Like a Diamond”: We could easily have a discussion about how The Last DJ is hands-down the worst of Petty’s albums, but there are still a couple of bright spots: this song, and “Dreamville,” specifically. And the title song is pretty fun, too.
- “It’ll All Work Out”: More songs need mandolin in them. Just sayin’.
- “Southern Accents”: Okay, I’m not usually big on the whole southern philosophy of the Lost Cause and the noble rebels and all that, but there’s something about this song that sits well with me. It’s beautiful and sad and I kinda love it.
- “Poor House”: Okay, a bit of a cheat, as this is a Traveling Wilburys song, but Tom takes the lead vocals and it’s just too much damn fun.
- “Built To Last”: A beautiful song off of Into the Great Wide Open. I don’t feel like the album cuts from that one get as much love as they deserve.
It’s my sister-in-law’s birthday this Thursday, so this week’s playlist is a Meredith playlist!
- Cher, “If I Could Turn Back Time”: I’ve yet to meet a Branco who doesn’t love this song.
- Mumford & Sons, “Little Lion Man”: Does it ever bother anyone else that his guitar strumming doesn’t seem to be in time with the rest of the song? ‘Cause it bothers me to no end.
- Glen Campbell, “MacArthur Park”: Have I featured this song on another playlist? I don’t recall. It’s a bizarre song, though, and I kind of love it. So does Meredith.
- Men At Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”: When I asked Meredith what she wanted for her personal ringtone on my phone, this was the song she picked. It’s a good ‘un.
- The Offspring, “Staring at the Sun”: Who doesn’t love rock’n’roll singers who also have PhDs?
- Muse, “Starlight”: I’ve never really listened to Muse much. I always kinda thought they were a bargain-bin Radiohead. I was wrong. They’re pretty catchy.
- Coldplay, “In My Place”: Re-listening to this song inspired me to go back and listen to the whole album again. It’s still pretty damn good.
- Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”: Who doesn’t want a girl with smooth liquidation?
- Green Day, “King For A Day”: An uptempo song about being a crossdresser that doesn’t get all weird and transphobic about it.
- Linkin Park, “One Step Closer”: I’m about to break.
Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, AKA “Online Consumer Armageddon.” I posted a list of stuff you can buy that benefits me back on Friday, for those who are curious. And now here I am with this week’s playlist, a set that features songs that are all about being long (but most of them are actually quite short).
- The Beatles, “Long, Long, Long”: Off the White Album, this quiet George Harrison gem is gorgeous and simple.
- Bruce Springsteen, “Long Time Comin'”: Features two of my favorite Boss lines: “Let your mistakes be your own” and “I ain’t gonna fuck it up this time.” Good stuff.
- Counting Crows, “A Long December”: With one of the best opening lines in any song, “A long December/And there’s reason to believe/Maybe this year will be better than the last.” Your lips to God’s ears.
- The Doobie Bros., “Long Train Runnin'”: My brother and I used to try to perform this one back in college. I…could not sing it then, and maybe sorta kinda can now, just not the way they do it.
- Green Day, “Longview”: I love how this song is mostly about the bass.
- The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)”: That one song that you always kinda thought was CCR but you weren’t 100% sure.
- Jars of Clay, “The Long Fall”: I’ve been a fan of these guys since I was back in high school dating a preacher’s kid. I kinda fell off for a few years, but their most recent stuff is still pretty darn good.
- Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally”: How do you not include Little Richard on this playlist, hmm? That’s the real challenge here.
- Bob Dylan, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”: I originally had a different Dylan song here (“The Man In The Long Black Coat”), but I think this one fits the general vibe and intent of the playlist better.
- Charlie Sexton, “It Don’t Take Long”: The train horn at the beginning of this song always throws me off, but it’s still lovely and all that.
Happy Turkey Week, folks! Just two days of work for me this week, then it’s off to Ohio to visit some family and stuff myself with more food than is advisable because, hey, Thanksgiving. Before that, though, we have this week’s playlist, which features songs about religion!
- Jeremy Messersmith, “Jim Bakker”: The song that inspired this list all about the life of that “poor, hard-working televangelist.” If you don’t know, Jim Bakker was a snake-oil salesman of the worst sort and fleeced his lovely old congregants for every dime he could.
- Genesis, “Jesus He Knows Me”: Could also be about Jim Bakker, for all I know. I just remember how tongue-in-cheek this song sounded when I first heard it, and it still resonates with its strong anti-bullshit message even today.
- The Doobie Bros, “Jesus Is Just Alright”: I mean, he’s okay, I guess.
- Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit In the Sky”: How confident do you have to be in your soul’s eternal destination to write and record this song? Confident enough that Greenbaum, who is Jewish, said he had a friend in Jesus. That’s ballsy.
- George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”: Admittedly, George was the most spiritual of the Beatles. While Paul was tossing out pop songs like most people breathe and John was pushing avant-garde art on anyone who came to close (and Ringo was…um…Ringo), George was the one who got into Transcendentalism and Eastern religions and the sitar and all that. “My Sweet Lord” isn’t the end result, it’s a symptom.
- The National, “Gospel”: What does this song actually have to do with anything related to the Gospel? Nothing, as far as I can tell. But it’s a beautiful song and lovely and I really like it, okay?
- Bob Dylan, “With God On Our Side”: Dylan’s a man who knows what’s up. This song was written in like ’64, which is damn-near peak Cold War (or near enough as it doesn’t matter), and he’s coming out so strongly anti-war that I’m surprised the FBI didn’t have a file on him a foot thick.
- Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Blood of the Lamb”: I love me some Mermaid Avenue, and this one – off the second collection – is a stompy, apocalyptic slice of what made the collaboration great.
- Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man”: Damn, if this don’t just send tingles down your spine, I think you might be dead.
- Blind Faith, “Presence of the Lord”: More for Steve Winwood than Eric Clapton, really, ’cause Clapton’s finally shown his true (rather hateful) colors and eff that guy.
Happy Monday! Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it my lack of desire to do anything other than lounge around in bed all day. It’s getting colder outside and the days are shorter, so let’s listen to some music, what do you say?
- The Cactus Blossoms, “Mississippi”: David Lynch put this one in the revival Twin Peaks series. I liked the song, didn’t care for the show.
- Calexico, “Guero Canelo”: As previously stated, I’m a sucker for basically anything these guys wanna do, music-wise.
- The Decemberists, “We All Go Down Together”: Watched The Suicide Squad over the weekend. Loved the movie, especially the soundtrack, which featured a Decemberists song at one point. Not this one (no, it was “Sucker’s Prayer”), but I love this song regardless.
- The Georgia Satellites, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”: If there’s a better song about waiting until marriage, I haven’t heard it.
- Glen Phillips, “Revelator”: Did not realize until quite recently that this is, in fact, a Gillian Welch cover. Live and learn, I guess.
- Golden Smog, “Until You Came Along”: I love the harmonies in this song. Love them.
- The Grass Roots, “I’d Wait A Million Years”: Every single song I have ever heard by the Grass Roots has been a banger. This one is no different.
- Hockey, “Song Away”: I don’t remember where I first heard this song. Probably on a TV show or something. But I dig it.
- Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell, “This Must Be The Place”: I’ve said before that I dig it when Sam Beam (the guy from Iron & Wine) collaborates with pretty much anyone. I haven’t ever heard a bad song come from him collaborating, and if he and, say, Calexico wanted to spend the rest of forever working together again and again and again, I would not complain.
- The National, “Wake Up Your Saints”: “Wake up your saints, Jenny, I need them,” pleads Matt Berninger. Same, Matt. I could use a saint or two in my corner.
Back in the day, I used to play on Sundays at a place up in DC called the Mansion on O Street. It’s a neat museum/hotel that features loads of nifty musical keepsakes. I sat in with a band that used it as a practice space on Sundays, having been invited by the flautist/singer of the group. It was loads of fun, and I’m kind of sorry I stopped playing with them after a while (mostly, they wanted to turn it into real rehearsal time, and I wasn’t a member of the band, so…). Anyway, here are some of the songs we used to play there.
- Brandi Carlile, “Turpentine”: Having recently re-discovered Brandi Carlile (due in large part to her involvement in the Highwomen), I have to say this song is a fun one to play. As with many of the songs we played, it was an easy one, with just a few chords, but the harmonies in the chorus were always great.
- Ethan Hipple and Podunk Road, “Cakewalk”: The other guitar player (who was actually a bass player by inclination and training) sang this one. It’s a fun country blues number.
- Bonnie Raitt, “Angel From Montgomery”: A John Prine cover. Beautiful. Another one where the harmonies really came through.
- 4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up?”: Like I was gonna put this song in any position other than number four.
- Gin Blossoms, “Until I Fall Away”: They were always impressed that I knew all the backing vocals to this song.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Breakdown”: You know me, I love a Tom Petty tune.
- The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun”: I have never been able to sing this one to my own satisfaction. The singer in the band, though, she could do it.
- Kate Wolf, “Across the Great Divide”: I prefer the version the band did to this version. This one is too polished and too ’80s-sounding. Our version was better.
- Linda Rondstadt, “When Will I Be Loved?”: The country covers band my uncle used to play in played this one every night, so I was pretty damn familiar with it when this group broke out in it and I was able to contribute to backing vocals.
- The Mystiqueros, “Good”: The band introduced me to this song, as to so many others. It’s beautiful, in large part due to the backing harmonies, which the band always killed.
Good evening! As we roll into November, I have a new playlist full of tasty treats for you.
- Drive-By Truckers, “Daddy’s Cup”: When I saw these guys live about 15 years ago, they played this song, and damn if it didn’t blow me away back then. Who knew racing cars could make for compelling family drama?
- Yo La Tengo, “Deeper Into Movies”: I always feel like I should listen to these guys more. They’re very good at what they do, and what they do is quite nice.
- Wilco, “Handshake Drugs”: I enjoy playing this one on the guitar. It’s only got four chords and two verses, so even my tiny brain can remember it all.
- Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me”: One of my freshman students was singing this song the other day. “How do you know that song?” I asked, as she did not strike me as the sort to listen to music that was more than six months old. “TikTok,” she replied, and a little piece of my curmudgeonly heart died.
- Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine”: When he repeats the “I know” over and over and over again, two thoughts run through my mind: (1) he forgot the next line and (2) how did he not pass out?
- Bruce Hornsby, “The Great Divide”: This guy writes good songs. I should probably listen to more than just this one and “That’s Just The Way It Is.”
- Bush, “Glycerine”: First of all, Bush is pretty terrible. Second, while this isn’t necessarily a good song, it’s at least entertainingly bad.
- Carole King, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”: Still one of the best, most underrated songwriters out there. Is there a bad song on Tapestry? No, no there is not.
- Charlie Sexton, “Burn”: Charlie Sexton, 80s heartthrob, Dylan guitarist, guy who puts out an album every decade or so. We’re way past due for a new one, Charlie. Let Bob spin his wheels behind a guitar for a few months, go record something for us.
- Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best”: Australian musician who has a wonderful off-the-cuff, relaxed lyrical style that I enjoy listening to, even if her voice is an acquired taste (and one the Wife has yet to acquire).