What, it’s Tuesday? I accidentally forgot to post a playlist yesterday because I took the day off from work and forgot that the rest of the world keeps spinning while I sit and play Persona 5? Inconceivable!
- Sting, “We Work The Black Seam”: I’ve been working on notes and slideshows for next year, when I’ll be team-teaching a World History II class (my favorite class content!). This week, it’s the Industrial Revolution, so terrible conditions and black lung for everyone! Hurray!
- Taylor Swift, “Betty”: Am I including it because it’s a sweet song possibly about a same-sex crush she had as a teenager, or because my grandmother’s name is Betty? Who knows! And I’m not willing to examine that question any further.
- Pink Floyd, “Lost For Words”: Included for no other reason than to hear David Gilmour sing, “And they tell me to please go fuck myself/You know, you just can’t win.”
- Glen Phillips, “The Next Day”: Love this song, though I frequently got it confused with a David Bowie song of the same name.
- David Bowie, “The Next Day”: Love this song, though I frequently got it confused with a Glen Phillips song of the same name.
- Wilco, “The Late Greats”: “The best life never leaves your lungs.” Damn, ain’t that true. Or is it? I dunno. It’s a great line, though.
- Jars Of Clay, “Much Afraid”: Could this be a theme song for our time? It feels like it could be. It feels like there’s so much out there to be afraid of.
- Billy Bragg, “A New England”: I’ve loved this song since I first heard it many years ago. Grad school, maybe? There’s a simple charm to it, a searching quality that’s tricky to pull of and not sound like an asshole. Bragg manages it.
- Bob Dylan, “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”: The way this song builds and builds until it finally explodes in that blistering, cathartic guitar solo at the end? *chef’s kiss*
- Rodney Crowell, “Oh Miss Claudia”: I’ve only started listening to this guy last week, but I already like his style and his songwriting. It’s just superb. I could have picked any song off the recent The Chicago Sessions and it would’ve been a good example of what he does, but I like the shuffley tempo and slightly off-kilter tone of this one.
It’s yet another Monday, yet another playlist. A rather lowkey playlist for the week, given how lowkey I’m feeling this week.
- The National, “Start A War”: NPR sometimes uses a short snippet from this song as a bumper sometimes. They did it this morning, so now this song is stuck in my head. This is not a bad thing.
- Neko Case, “Maybe Sparrow”: At some point, I’m pretty sure I’ll have included every song from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood on a playlist. This just puts us one step closer to that eventuality.
- The New Pornographers, “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”: Two Neko-sung songs, back to back? Surely I didn’t do that on purpose.
- Wilco, “I Might”: Been giving later-career Wilco a chance lately, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the musicianship.
- The Wallflowers, “Up From Under”: Breach is still probably the best Wallflowers album.
- Michael Stipe & Big Red Machine, “No Time For Love Like Now”: The song title reminds me of something from 30 Rock, which makes me giggle uncontrollably.
- Fastball, “Out Of My Head”: It’s everyone’s second-favorite song by a band named after a porno!
- Fleetwood Mac, “Everywhere”: Christine McVie was an underrated songwriter, I feel, and never got enough credit for her songs in Fleetwood Mac. This one’s a perfect latter-day example of her craft.
- Gillian Welch & David Rawlins, “Jackson”: I sometimes wish Gillian Welch would loosen up and sound like she’s actually having fun playing music. Playing is so much fun, I think. But I guess when you’re in the vanguard of gatekeeping a traditional music structure/style, you feel like you can’t ever let your guard down.
- Greg Brown, “Someday When We’re Both Alone”: This dude’s voice just gets me every time.
Good morning, playlist people. We’re well into May now, and the end of the school year is in sight! Apparently my wife’s school got robbed over the weekend, which is exciting and frustrating and led me to create this week’s playlist (though I criminally left off Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century,” which I hadn’t realized until I gave this playlist that title just now).
- The Decemberists, “The Perfect Crime #2”: “A heist? A heist! No one will ever suspect us, the goofy band that sings about Victorian women swooning on the moors, of being bank robbers.” That’s how I imagined the conversation went.
- Genesis, “Home By The Sea”: A song about a dude trying to sneak into a house and getting trapped there by some supernatural entity for all of eternity. As one does.
- Sting, “After The Rain Has Fallen”: I only came here to steal your jewelry, not you, m’lady.
- Hem, “The Fire Thief”: Ah, the theft of fire, the prototypical thief with a heart of gold story. And the song’s by Hem, which means it sounds beautiful and wistful and ever so slightly sad.
- Iron & Wine, “Arms Of A Thief”: I dunno, Sam, maybe the arms of a thief aren’t as safe as you’d have us beleive.
- Uncle Tupelo, “Steal The Crumbs”: I feel like my cat does this, only she doesn’t just go for crumbs. She’d take the whole sandwich, given half a chance.
- Van Morrison, “Steal My Heart Away”: I always like to imagine that every thief is really just there to steal your love more than anything else. All the jewels and cash are just a bonus.
- The Beastie Boys, “Rhymin & Stealin”: Just rockin’ it old school, or Old Skool, if you will.
- LEN, “Steal My Sunshine”: I am not sorry.
- Ben Harper, “Steal My Kisses”: Poor Ben. Maybe it’s time to find a new ladyfriend who is more giving with her smooches.
Happy first day of May! Here’s this week’s playlist.
- The Gaslight Anthem, “The Diamond Church Street Choir”: Re-listened to a lot of the Gaslight Anthem last week, and damn does this song (and the album it’s from, American Slang) slap. They released a new single last week, by the by.
- Placebo, “Without You I’m Nothing”: From the album of the same name, which remains my favorite release from this band. It’s just so damn good and so 1998.
- Fugazi, “Waiting Room”: Also been watching a Youtube channel that goes in-depth into various music genres and bands, and their video on Fugazi (a DC-area post-hardcore punk band) was really good. I’d never listened to them before, but now I have and now I love them.
- Bloc Party, “Banquet”: Another band picked up from that Youtube channel (it’s called Trash Theory, and while it’s definitely more Anglo-centric in its musical taste and focus, it’s still quite good).
- The Cranberries, “Zombie”: I defy anyone to not sing along when that chorus hits.
- Squeeze, “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)”: Squeeze is a strange little band. I quite like them for more than just that one song, “Tempted.” This one is also pretty good.
- The Specials, “Pressure Drop”: Yeah, I only heard about these guys from the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack, but I’ve played this song live before and it’s just too much fun.
- The Who, “Eminence Front”: Possibly the worst Who song in existence.
- The White Stripes, “Jolene”: Do they do it justice? Not really. Is Jolene a good enough song that it doesn’t really matter? Pretty much.
- Elvis Costello, “Waiting On The End Of The World”: At this point in the school year, it feels like that’s all we’re doing.
Happy Monday! Today marks two years since I started doing the playlist a week thing. In honor of that, I’ve decided to revisit the first playlist and pick new songs by those ten artists. Have I doomed myself by placing a one-hit wonder on that first list? Let’s find out!
- Bruce Springsteen, “Radio Nowhere”: Starting out strong with the Boss, so there’s plenty of songs to choose from. This is one of the few latter-day Springsteen songs that I truly enjoy, and it reminds me so much of a song I wrote (“Complete Control,” for those who are curious). I think my song predated his, but I also doubt he knew anything about my song because it only got released this year finally.
- Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”: You can’t go wrong with a song written by Shel Silverstein and sung by Johnny Cash.
- Dog’s Eye View, “Umbrella”: Here’s where I thought I’d screwed myself. I barely remembered that first Dog’s Eye View song, and was pretty sure they hadn’t done anything else of note. Having heard this song, I’m still not 100% sure they did, but it’s…not bad. It’s okay. Fairly forgettable mid-90s earnest singer-songwriter stuff.
- Bob Dylan, “High Water (For Charley Patton)”: I blame this song for sending me down a delta blues rabbit hole last week. I ended up listening to a lot of Robert Johnson and Charley Patton. And boy, can Patton holler, y’all.
- The Interrupters, “Raised By Wolves”: These guys are just too much damn fun. I could honestly have picked just about any song off any of their albums and it would’ve been a banger. The “Ah-wooooo”s in the chorus kill me every time.
- Madonna, “Vogue”: It’s easy finding other well-known, popular Madonna songs. Finding other well-known, popular Madonna songs that I can stand? Taller order. This one’s pretty good for dancing music, I guess.
- Phoebe Bridgers, “If We Make It Through December”: Very quiet song, piano driven. Vocals almost a hushed a whisper. The lyrical content – about the struggles of surviving winter and the dark months – is quite depressing, but I kinda dig it.
- Redbone, “Come And Get Your Love”: Sometimes picking a second song from a specific band is a no-brainer. This is one of those moments.
- Aimee Mann, “Stranger Into Starman”: I’m a sucker for Aimee Mann songs and songs about crossword puzzles, so this was an easy pick.
- Hem, “The Pills Stopped Working”: My pills all still work just fine, singer for the band Hem. Maybe you need to go see your doctor again and get your prescriptions checked. Have you been taking the pills consistently? Have dosage levels changed?
Happy Monday. We’re in the 4th quarter of school out here in Northern Virginia now. The home stretch. Here’s some songs to get you through the week, at least.
- Adeem the Artist, “Books & Records”: A song about leveraging the things you love just to survive and the hope that you’ll be able to recover them someday. It’s so sad and heartbreaking and hopeful that I just can’t help but love it.
- Dion, “Runaround Sue”: The song itself is pretty good, yeah, but it’s the vocalizations at the beginning and end that really get me on this one.
- Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “What I Am”: Someday, I’m going to put together enough songs for a philosophy playlist. This will be the first song on that playlist.
- The Elected, “I’ll Be Your Man”: Did you want a sad some about trying to win someone’s heart? Because here’s a sad song about trying to win someone’s heart.
- The Mountain Goats, “Woke Up New”: If you really want to twist the knife in your own guts, you listen to the Mountain Goats. Because that’s all those guys do.
- Roy Orbison, “Workin’ For The Man”: “Well, I’m pickin’ ’em up and I’m layin’ ’em down/I believe he’s gonna work me into the ground” is just a banger of a couplet.
- Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, “Killing The Blues”: What did we do to deserve not one, but two whole albums of these two duetting? What dark pact did we make? What price will we have to pay on down the road?
- Paul McCartney, “Ballroom Dancing”: I had the album this song is from, Give My Regards to Broad Street, on a tape that my uncle (I think) made for my dad back in the 80s. Damn near wore that thing out. Kinda giggle at the line “Big B.D.” now (it stands for “Ballroom Dancing,” FYI).
- The Flaming Lips, “Vein Of Stars”: “Who knows, maybe there isn’t/A vein of stars calling out my name.” Wayne Coyne just knows how to write a good song, eh?
- Fleetwood Mac, “Storms”: I’ve come to appreciate the album Tusk over the past couple of years.
Happy Monday, folks. I spent last week visiting family in Oklahoma; specifically, I went to see my grandparents. They’re all getting up there in years (all of them are now well into their 90s), and their health is in decline. They take it with the same sort of Okie stoicism I’ve come to know from them over the past 40-odd years, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see these remarkably strong people become increasingly weaker and less able to do things they used to do with such ease.
Of particular concern is my maternal grandmother. She, like her husband before her, has started to suffer from dementia. We finally got her into an assisted living center last month, but that was a trial and a half and thank God it’s over. While she seemed resistant to it at first, she seems to have settled in and is doing quite nicely. She likes all of the staff and she’s made friends and is participating in activities. Everyone keeps talking about how sweet she is, to which I replied, “Really? My grandmother? The sour-faced lady?” But she does seem to be genuinely happy for the first time in . . . years, I’d say. Since before my grandfather got poorly, at least.
Anyway, all of that had me thinking about memory and the things we carry with us and the things that we try to carry with us but, ultimately, can’t, and this playlist popped out.
- Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”: Glen Campbell suffered from Alzheimer’s, and toward the end of his life couldn’t really do much as that disease robbed him of everything that made him, him. But he gave us one last song, and damn if it isn’t a doozy. Contemplating life, death, and loss, he reflects on the fact that while the Alzheimer’s might be destroying him, it’s really those around him who will suffer from it.
- The Pixies, “I Can’t Forget”: The Pixies cover a Leonard Cohen song. About trying to remember but being unable to do so.
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”: A long, sinuous jam of a song, the sort I’m usually not that in to. But this one is pretty good, as those things go.
- Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Remember The Mountain Bed”: Woody Guthrie’s words are so evocative here, so painfully, painstakingly clear, that I can picture the mountain bed of the title in my mind. I can picture the girl, and the leaves, and the boy lying beside her, whispering things to one another that are just on the edge of hearing. And it feels a little bittersweet. This is clearly a moment from the distant past, a stolen piece of time between two people who are no longer in each other’s lives. And it’s beautiful and ephemeral and it’s one of my favorite songs ever.
- Jars of Clay, “Unforgetful You”: Now, just for a minute, forget that the song is a Jesus song. I know, it’s hard to take it out of that context, but work with me here. It’s still a fun song about someone who absolutely refuses to forget about you, and we all kinda need someone like that in our lives.
- The Mountain Goats, “You Or Your Memory”: Once more proving the adage that there’s not a playlist yet that can’t be improved with a Mountain Goats song, we’ve got this one. As per usual, Darnielle cuts through the noise and rips out your heart, and he does it all in under 2 and a half minutes. That’s just efficient.
- Neko Case, “Don’t Forget Me”: It’s an old cover. It’s beautifully sung, because it’s Neko Case. I don’t know what else you need to hear.
- Peter Gabriel, “I Don’t Remember”: This song and the Glen Campbell song were the two that sparked this whole playlist. The Gabriel song is edgy and nervous, anxious about the loss of memory, while the Campbell song is resigned to it and leaning in.
- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “If I Am A Stranger”: There were quite a few Ryan Adams songs I could have put on this list (and more than one from the album Cold Roses), but I settled on this one because I remember my grandfather going from knowing everyone who was around him to being surrounded by strangers. I think it scared him sometimes, not recognizing our faces.
- George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”: The song I always come back to for comfort. George understood the world and our place in it better than just about any other musician, and he understood that death comes for everyone eventually. And he accepted that with grace and dignity. It’s just wild to me, and helps me come to terms with things myself.
Happy Monday, folks. As you read this, I’m heading toward my home state to visit family during Spring Break. Yeah, it’s a bit late, but that’s just when FCPS and the rest of Northern Virginia do it.
Anyway, there’s a number of absolutely fantastic musicians who call or called Oklahoma their home, too. Here’s a list of then of ’em and some of their songs.
- JJ Cale, “Clyde”: While I can’t see him pickin’ on a bass, I can see my brother barefoot on the porch pickin’ his guitar, so this one’s close enough.
- JD McPherson, “Crying’s Just A Thing You Do”: Apparently McPherson isn’t his own singer? He’s just the guitar player (as if anything this guy does on the guitar is “just” anything. He’s fantastic).
- Parker Millsap, “Other Arrangements”: These new Oklahoma musicians draw on styles and themes from the past but give them modern twists. I like it.
- The Flaming Lips, “Five Stop Mother Superior Rain”: From really early in the Lips’ career comes this number, which references a Jesus egg? I don’t know what that is, but the song is trippy and beautiful and fun to play on guitar.
- Woody Guthrie, “Pastures of Plenty”: One of the key touchstones of Oklahoma music and folk music in general.
- The Gap Band, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”: Damn, that keyboard riff. That drum beat. Damn.
- The All-American Rejects, “Gives You Hell”: I’ve never listened to these guys. Dunno what I was expecting. It wasn’t this. Some MOR alternative rock that sounds designed by committee to be as non-offensive as possible. I expected this song to have more teeth.
- Gene Autry, “Back In The Saddle Again”: I prefer this version to the Aerosmith version.
- Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction”: I prefer the Turtles’ version of this song, but they’re not from Oklahoma. McGuire was, apparently.
- Roy Clark, “Yesterday When I Was Young”: You ever see this guy do pickin’ live? He was a monster on a flattop acoustic. Dude coulda put all those metalheads to absolute shame.
Hello and happy Monday, folks! Today is not only the 100th playlist, but also my birthday! As a result, I’m changing things up a little. Instead of giving you a playlist of ten songs, it’s a playlist of ten albums, my (current) ten favorite albums of all time. Well, eleven albums. I can’t just play it straight. Let’s go:
- The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten: One of my absolute favorite bands from the past fifteen or so years, the Gaslight Anthem are always energetic and heartfelt and wear their Bruce Springsteen obsessions on their sleeves. While The ’59 Sound and American Slang are both brilliant, near-perfect albums as well, my favorite songs are all on Handwritten: “Howl,” “Biloxi Parish,” “Here Comes My Man,” “Too Much Blood,” and “Desire” are all-time greats, and the rest of the album doesn’t miss a shot.
- Tom Petty, Wildflowers: My love for this solo Petty outing is already well-documented, but I’d like to reiterate here that it’s still one of the most compelling, thoughtful albums ever recorded. I’ve only come to appreciate it more as I’ve grown older.
- The Beatles, Rubber Soul: The transitional albums for the Beatles – Rubber Soul and Revolver – have always been my favorites. They’re still putting out great pop music, but they’re experimenting with it more, trying new things, adding new instruments into the mix. It’s endlessly fascinating to listen to, and the songcraft and care they put into each song only grows on me year after year.
- Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon: I only recently gushed about this best of Pink Floyd’s albums, but it bears repeating: this is one of the best albums of that or any other decade, filled with daring experiments, soaring guitars, and the best damn wordless vocals ever delivered.
- Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself: It’s hard to pick a single Andrew Bird album as my favorite, as every one of his albums appears as a concise, well-mannered cosmos in and of itself, filled with interesting arrangements and beautiful violin. It was really down to this one or Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…, and honestly the only thing that made Break It Yourself top Things Are Really Great Here is the inclusion of “Orpheo Looked Back.”
- Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: The first and best of the Boss’s stripped down, acoustic-based albums. It features some serious subject matter and excellent songwriting, including some of my favorite Springsteen songs to play on guitar (including “Atlantic City” and “Open All Night”). It’s great to put on late at night with headphones.
- Bob Dylan, Love And Theft: You knew Dylan had to appear on this list. But did you suspect this particular album? Probably not. Maybe Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited, or Blood on the Tracks, right? And while those are all amazing albums (and among my favorites, don’t get it twisted), my favorite is still Love and Theft. It’s Bob Dylan after he’s stopped caring what other people think about his music (which, admittedly, happened sometime around 1967, but I digress). He’s just making the music he enjoys, and damn does it sound good. His backing band is impeccable, his lyrics are sharp and incisive, and he even throws in a knock-knock joke.
- Gin Blossoms, New Miserable Experience: This one was a little out of left field for me. I didn’t listen to the Gin Blossoms back when they were popular in the ’90s. I was too busy listening to Pearl Jam and Pink Floyd. I totally missed their effective, heartfelt M.O.R. alternative rock. They just write good songs, songs that hold up even thirty years later (damn, New Miserable Experience came out 31 years ago. I’m dust). There’s not a bad song on this album (“Cheatin'” aside), and it’s one that I’ll throw on in the background for just about anything. It’s also great driving music.
- Wilco, A Ghost Is Born: While Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the one that received all the critical acclaim and success, and rightly so, Ghost is still my favorite. From the noisy opener “At Least That’s What You Said” to closer “The Late Greats,” it’s just a series of well-written, well-executed songs, covering the American condition as it was in the early 2000s.
- Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood: Best Neko Case album, hands down. Sure, it’s got the megahit “Hold On Hold On” on it, but the rest of the album slaps just as hard. It’s moody and atmospheric and wistful all at once, full of sadness and hope and anger and so much more than I can ever even begin to describe here. If you haven’t listened to it, just go listen to it. You can thank me later.
- The National, High Violet: I knew I wanted to include an album from The National on the list, and it was down to between this one and Boxer. High Violet just barely edges Boxer out, though. From the opening strains of “Terrible Love” all the way through to closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” there is not a single bad song on this album. It is just . . . perfect. No notes. Personal favorites include “Sorrow,” “Anyone’s Ghost,” and “Bloodbuzz, Ohio.” And the entire rest of the album, honestly. It’s wall to wall awesome.
No, don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind and finally made an all-Elvis playlist. No, this is a playlist all about rooms and buildings. It goes rather like this:
- John Hartford, “In Tall Buildings”: A rumination on giving up the wild, carefree days of youth to go work in tall buildings downtown. It’s sad and thoughtful and a little bit rueful.
- Counting Crows, “Perfect Blue Buildings”: “I wanna get me a little oblivion,” Adam Duritz sings. I think we could all use a bit of oblivion. Or at least a nice nap in a perfect blue building.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, “Our House”: Why are the two cats out in the yard? They’ll decimate the bird population! Is that what you want, guys? Huh?
- The Wallflowers, “I Am A Building”: Being the son of Bob Dylan must be hard. I’m pretty sure that’s why Jakob Dylan tried being a building for a while in the early ’00s.
- The Commodores, “Brick House”: She is mighty mighty.
- XTC, “No Thugs In Our House”: This seems like a reasonable thing to expect. Little Graham better be on his best damn behavior, that’s all I’m saying.
- The White Stripes, “Hotel Yorba”: Did you know you can still write a song that’s just G, C, and D? Jack White knows!
- Traveling Wilburys, “Poor House”: If there’s a song that’s more fun to play in a pickin’ circle, I don’t know it.
- Tom Petty, “The Apartment Song”: I, too, used to live in a two-room apartment where the neighbors were knocking on my walls. Tom Petty is the Everyman.
- Bruce Springsteen, “Mansion On A Hill”: However, I never lived in a mansion, hill-based or otherwise. So much for this man of the people!
Tune in next week, when I’ll do something completely different for Playlist #100!