Playlist #56

Another school year is winding towards a close. Here in Northern Virginia, seniors are taking their final exams this week, and they graduate next week. Week after that, school’s over for everyone else. It’s been a…challenging year, to say the least. I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

Support me on Patreon! I’m about to release the song for May, and it’s a good one, if I do say so myself.

  1. Maria McKee, “Never Be You”: This song was written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, and man, does it sound like it. Classic late ’70s/early ’80s Heartbreakers tone and style, through and through. I’d never heard this song before this weekend, but it’s good.
  2. The Black Keys, “Burn The Damn Thing Down”: Bluesy? Or Bloozy? It’s good, either way.
  3. Mike Doughty, “Fort Hood”: It takes some chutzpah to totally lift the coda from “Age of Aquarius” and use it as your chorus, but Mr. M. Doughty pulls it off.
  4. The National, “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness”: They don’t usually do guitar solos, but they do one here, and it makes you wish they did them more often.
  5. Wilco, “The Thanks I Get”: Still the best Rod Stewart song Rod’s never sang.
  6. She & Him, “This Is Not A Test”: Fun and poppy. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I still go back to this album. It’s just fun.
  7. Franz Ferdinand, “Do You Want To”: I’ll never understand how these guys aren’t bigger than they are. They do great, straight-ahead rock numbers with lots of arch humor and and nudging asides.
  8. Bruce Springsteen, “Radio Nowhere”: Even on later Boss albums, you can still usually find a good track or two. This one’s pretty solid. Avoid the remake of “Ghost of Tom Joad” he did with Tom Morello on 2013’s High Hopes. Those two are two great tastes that don’t taste great together.
  9. The Jayhawks, “I’d Run Away”: Love me some two-part harmony.
  10. Mark Knopfler, “Speedway at Nazareth”: I just love how this song builds. Not just in terms of the music – though the build to that coda is fantastic – but lyrically as well. Just a master class in how to write a great song.

Playlist #45

It’s a classic rock sorta Monday. Make sure to follow me on Patreon, where I’m starting work on March’s exclusive song!

  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, “Carry On/Questions”: I love the bassline in this song. And that wah pedal solo in the latter part of the song.
  2. Cream, “Badge”: This is clearly a George Harrison song and I won’t be taking any questions.
  3. The Animals, “Gonna Send You Back To Walker”: Who doesn’t love the Animals? No one. And if they do, cut them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of negativity.
  4. Jackson Browne, “These Days”: “Yeah, I’ve been out walking/I don’t do that much talking these days,” the song starts. And just gets better from there. I’ve always preferred the Jackson Browne version to the Nico version. Your mileage may vary.
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”: This song does stomp.
  6. Paul McCartney, “Junk”: “Buy, buy says the sign in the shop window/Why, why says the junk on the lawn.”
  7. The Rolling Stones, “Far Away Eyes”: Yeah, it’s goofy and clunky and not even a little bit authentic, but it’s a helluva good time.
  8. The Eagles, “After The Thrill Is Gone”: Over Winter Break, while I was back home in Oklahoma, I played this song with my Dad. He’d never played it on the guitar before somehow.
  9. Grand Funk Railroad, “Some Kind Of Wonderful”: Someone I follow on Twitter was saying yesterday that everyone should have a shout-along song. This one might be mine.
  10. Bruce Springsteen, “Rosalia (Come Out Tonight)”: Or maybe it’s this one. I dunno.

Playlist #31 – Loooooong

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).

  1. The Beatles, “Long, Long, Long”: Off the White Album, this quiet George Harrison gem is gorgeous and simple.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Green Day, “Longview”: I love how this song is mostly about the bass.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally”: How do you not include Little Richard on this playlist, hmm? That’s the real challenge here.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Playlist #24: Dance Dance Revolution

Happy Monday morning and Happy Indigenous Persons Day! Today, I feel like dancing.

  1. Elliott Smith, “XO (Waltz #2)”: “Here it is, the revenge to the tune/You’re no good” is just one of the best lines ever.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark”: Who doesn’t want to drag Courtney Cox up onto stage to dance with the Boss?
  3. ABBA, “Dancing Queen”: Oddly enough, not the first song I thought of when I came up with this theme.
  4. Frank Turner, “Four Simple Words”: This is the song that inspired the playlist. “I want to dance/I want to dance/I want lust and love and a smattering of romance/But I’m no good at dancing/But I have to do something.” C’mon, that’s a great chorus.
  5. Van Morrison, “Moondance”: Van has gotten progressively weirder and more irascible as he’s aged, but this song (and the whole album of the same name) remains solid gold.
  6. jeremy messersmith, “It’s Only Dancing”: Dude decided a couple of years ago to decenter his ego by no longer capitalizing his name, which…that’s not how proper nouns work, Jer. That’s not how they work at all. Still a good song, though.
  7. John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked”: Excellent advice, as long as nobody’s watching.
  8. Dire Straits, “Walk Of Life”: I’m pretty sure the walk of life is a dance. If it isn’t, it ought to be.
  9. Calexico, “Sunken Waltz”: Any excuse to include a Calexico song on a playlist is fine by me.
  10. Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”: Included due to the “Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda/You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me” in the chorus. It’s sad and sweet and touching and heartbreaking all at once.

Playlist #18

It’s playlist time! Here it is on Spotify.

  1. David Bowie, “Starman”: We can all agree that Ziggy Stardust is, like, one of the best albums of the last fifty years, right? Right. It’s obvious.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “My City Of Ruins”: the Boss’s paean to New York City following the September 11th attacks. I know he’s never really been known for his subtlety, and this song definitely ain’t subtle, but it’s uplifting and beautiful and I kinda love it.
  3. Pure Prairie League, “Aime”: While I was in Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, we (meaning my father, my uncle, their cousin, and me) tried singing this song and recording it for posterity. Sadly, the backing vocals were “lost” (according to my uncle) and no one will ever hear it ever. Ever.
  4. Pearl Jam, “Hail, Hail”: When you just wanna crank up the volume on the car stereo, roll the windows down, and jam the hell out, it’s hard to top Pearl Jam.
  5. Owen Danoff, “Never Been Kissed”: I found this dude through a tweet from Nathan Fillion. That man has never led me wrong.
  6. Old 97s, “Champaign, Illinois”: If you’re going to rewrite Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and turn it into a raucous rave-up, this is what it would indeed sound like. Exactly this, since that’s exactly what they did.
  7. The Gaslight Anthem, “Here Comes My Man”: With the “Ooh, sha-la-la”s this is like a punky version of a girl-group song, yelped by Brian Fallon instead of the Ronnettes.
  8. George Harrison, “Isn’t It A Pity”: George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass is the best post-Beatles Beatle album and I will fight you over this.
  9. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “Sad But True”: I don’t really listen to much Metallica, but if more of it sounded like this I probably would.
  10. The White Stripes, “Offend In Every Way”: Sometimes you just need a good stompin’ blues-like song.

Playlist #13

I’m traveling to Oklahoma this week, so all of this week’s songs are by Oklahoma artists or bands related to Oklahoma in some way, shape, or form. It’s also longer than most of our lists, ’cause I couldn’t leave any of these songs off.

  1. John Fullbright, “Jericho (Live)”: Sort of Oklahoma’s favorite musical son. He’s a damn good singer, and this is my favorite song by him. I also sang on the same tribute album as him once, so we’re, like, connected and stuff.
  2. Parker Millsap, “Truck Stop Gospel”: He’s a good ol’ country boy just pickin’ and grinnin’.
  3. Samantha Crain, “Santa Fe”: A Shawnee girl (my hometown), she apparently went to high school with my brother?
  4. The Regular Joes, “Restless”: My uncle’s old rock and roll band. He’s the lead guitarist.
  5. The Flaming Lips, “Waitin’ For A Superman”: Yeah, this is two Flaming Lips songs in a row, but it’s my playlist and I’ll put the Lips on as many playlists as I wanna.
  6. Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land”: Patron Saint of Okies, unionist, and antifa before being antifa was cool.
  7. Tulsa, “Shaker”: They called their band Tulsa. Like I wasn’t gonna include one of their songs on this list.
  8. Turnpike Troubadours, “Every Girl”: Country hoedown! Bop along and sing along if you know the words.
  9. Cross Canadian Ragweed, “In Oklahoma”: The late-90s Oklahoma musical success story that still kicks out new stuff even now.
  10. Billy Bragg & WIlco, “Way Over Yonder In the Minor Key”: “I come from a place called Okfuskee,” this song begins. That’s where the town of Okemah, where my grandparents lived for so long (and where Woody Guthrie is from), is located.
  11. Leon Russell, “Tight Rope”: He’s an Okie from Lawton. Dude was the session musician back in the ’60s and ’70s, and he continued to kick ass until his death in 2016.
  12. Bruce Springsteen, “My Oklahoma Home”: Hey, remember the Dust Bowl and how it tried to kill the Great Plains? This song is about that, though it has a sense of humor about things.
  13. JD McPherson, “Signs and Signifiers”: This guy does ’50s-style rave-up electric blues like it never went out of style. This song is slower than most of the rest of the album it’s from, but it’s still pretty awesome.
  14. James McMurtry, “Choctaw Bingo”: Let’s have a family reunion in Okahoma, why not?
  15. Merle Haggard, “Okie From Muskogee”: Look, if I didn’t include this song on this list, they’d take away my Okie License, and then I wouldn’t be able to go snipe hunting anymore, and I still haven’t caught a damn snipe yet.

Playlist #1

I’ve started creating weekly playlists, ten songs each. Trying not to repeat artists from week to week or on a playlist. Don’t want to replicate songs from week to week. Here’s last week’s playlist.

  1. Bruce Springsteen, “Ain’t Good Enough For You”: Uptempo and fun, a joyful bop to start us off.
  2. Johnny Cash, “Out Among the Stars”: Could anyone other than Johnny Cash write such a cheerful, uplifting song about a kid committing suicide by cop? No, they could not. And that chorus is awesome.
  3. Dog’s Eye View, “Everything Falls Apart”: You could have told me this song could have been written and performed by any of a few dozen guitar-based alternative rock groups from the ’90s and I would have believed you. It is so completely generic that you could replace the lyrics with gibberish and folks would still bounce around to it.
  4. Bob Dylan, “Positively Fourth Street”: The meanest kiss-off song in the business, even sixty or so years later. No one lays down a sick burn like a scorned Dylan.
  5. The Interrupters, “She’s Kerosene”: Who doesn’t like a little skank in their music? Commies, that’s who.
  6. Madonna, “Like a Prayer”: Remember how controversial this song and video were back in the ’80s? All those burning crosses and the Black Jesus! It’s a damn good song, though.
  7. Phoebe Bridgers, “Kyoto”: I dunno, I like the keyboards.
  8. Redbone, “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee”: Native American band telling it like it is.
  9. Aimee Mann, “Great Beyond”: I absolutely adore the work of Aimee Mann and I’m kicking myself for the “no back to back songs from the same musician/band” rule I established for myself already.
  10. Hem, “Great Houses of New York”: Every song by this band feels like it belongs with a film. It’s all very cinematic. This song is no exception, except it’s exceptionally amazing. Like all of Hem’s work.

Ten Days, Ten Albums, Some Explanation

Over on Facebook, a bunch of my friends have been doing this thing where they post a series of albums that influenced them significantly. Over the course of ten days, you post ten album covers, but offer no explanation as to how or why you chose the albums you did. I just finished doing it myself, but I enjoy explaining things and going into detail about why I’ve made the choices I made. So, for your reading enjoyment, I present my ten days, ten albums, with some explanation.

1. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes!Damn The Torpedoes

The first Tom Petty album I owned, and the one that I go back to time and time again. The damn thing plays like a greatest hits collection, and there’s not a bad song on there. I still think it’s the most essential Tom Petty album there is, even moreso than Full Moon Fever or Wildflowers (and I’ve already gone on at length about my love for Wildflowers).

2018-04-25 14.22.05.jpg2. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

This album was my introduction to the Flaming Lips (I mean, aside from “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which everyone had heard on 90210). The first song, “Fight Test,” just floored me. The mixture of weird electronic squiggles and beeps with the acoustic guitar and Wayne Coyne’s strained, heartfelt vocals . . . I was hooked.

3. The Beatles, Rubber Soul2009-04-28 15.03.36.jpg

If you didn’t think I was going to include a Beatles album on a list like this, you haven’t been paying attention. The Beatles are the alpha and the omega, the source of everything I love about music, and Rubber Soul is their best album, if you ask me. It’s the perfect balance between their earlier, more raucous work and their later, more deliberate and formalist efforts. They made more interesting and experimental albums after this one, but they never made another album as cohesive and awesome as it.

2018-04-25 14.23.114. Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind

And here’s the requisite Dylan album. Time Out of Mind might seem like an odd choice–there are definitely better Dylan albums to choose from–but it’s the one that had the greatest impact on me. Discovering that he could still produce music that was this visceral and heartfelt, even as his voice broke completely and he seemed well-past his prime . . . it was inspiring. And the songs are pretty damn good, too.

5. Queen, A Night at the Opera2018-04-29 12.37.57

Queen blew my tiny little middle school mind like nothing else. The obvious epic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is there, but so is the biblical apocalyptica of “The Prophet’s Song” and the nasty character assassination of “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated To…).” The sheer stylistic range on display is incredible, with heavy rockers, music hall goofs, and folky acoustic numbers with soaring harmonies. God, the layered harmonies. And don’t forget Brian May’s guitar work. The album kicks ass from start to finish.

2018-04-27 12.45.596. Pink Floyd, Meddle

This little-known Floyd album is one of my all-time favorites. The pulsing bass of opener “One of These Days,” the dreamy quality of “Fearless,” and the laid-back fun of “San Tropez” and “Seamus” make for a varied, entertaining album that doesn’t get weighed down in the concept album pretensions that most Floyd albums have to deal with. And the closer, the epic “Echoes,” with the sonar ping and murky, underwater feel…classic.

7. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat2018-04-27 12.46.24

I had the privilege of seeing this album performed live in its entirety last year, and it was one of the best concert experiences of my life. The harmonies are the obvious highlight, but Jenny Lewis’s lyrics and songwriting are just as sharp and incisive as they were almost 15 years ago when this album came out.

2018-04-27 12.46.488. The National, Boxer

My introduction to the National was through a bootlegged live show right after this album came out. The show was made up almost entirely of songs from the new album, and I was intrigued so I sought Boxer out. Now, they’re one of my favorite bands, and this record is the reason why. Personal favorites include “Slow Show” and closer “Gospel,” though there’s really not a bad song on the album.

9. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska2018-04-27 12.47.09

Until the release of the likes of Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils + Dust, Nebraska was a weird outlier for the Boss. Solo acoustic, just his voice and guitar and a harmonica with a four-track recorder: that’s pretty much all there is to Nebraska. But it’s haunting, and glorious, and full of fire and brimstone and the sort of carefully-sketched character studies that Springsteen is known for. It’s the polar opposite of what Springsteen was known for: stripped down instead of piled high with overdubs, loose and slightly sloppy instead of precision-perfect.

2018-04-27 12.47.30

10. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

My introduction to Wilco came when I was listening to a Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame) bootleg solo acoustic show. Folks in the audience were calling out what they wanted to hear next, and some dude kept asking him to play a Wilco song. And then he threw in a reference to them in one of his own songs, and I decided to check them out. YHF blew my mind, with its mix of acoustic instrumentation, weird blips and beeps and effects, and phenomenal songwriting. The fact that this album led me to so many other amazing bands–The Minus 5 and Uncle Tupelo being the two most prominent–and also led to me finding out about the Mermaid Avenue collections (Billy Bragg and Wilco play around with old Woody Guthrie lyrics? Hell yes!) is just gravy.