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.
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.
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.
First, news! I published a new short story that you can buy, right now! It’s a Halloween-themed Eddie Hazzard short story where he hunts a werewolf and is generally a curmudgeon about things. Go check it out! Without further ado, here’s this week’s playlist.
- Donovan Woods, “Lonely People”: “Lonely people/Wrote every song you ever loved.”
- Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama, “Take My Hand”: Sometimes, you need a gospel-tinged get-down. This song won’t disappoint.
- The Black Keys, “Burn The Damn Thing Down”: “She said, ‘I hate my job, I’m gonna burn this place down!’ And I said, ‘You better not!'” “She said it was an electrical fire.” “Oh.”
- Radiohead, “Lotus Flower”: Included mostly because I find Thom Yorke’s dance in the video hilarious.
- Tom Waits, “Down, Down, Down”: Do I feel a certain way this week? I dunno, maybe. Music can be a reflection of one’s feelings at the time. That’s a disconcerting thought, if this song is any indication, thoguh.
- The Gaslight Anthem, “Mama’s Boys”: “‘Cause there’s no room in heaven/For New York girls or mama’s boys.”
- Neko Case, “Hold On, Hold On”: First Neko Case song I ever fell in love with, but far from the last.
- Parker Millsap, “Truck Stop Gospel”: Reminds me of home and I-40. Doesn’t hurt that Millsap is an Okie.
- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, “Man On Fire”: Please, if you see me caught on fire, put out the fire. I do not enjoy being on fire. No one should.
- Eklipse, “Cry Me A River”: For the life of me, I cannot remember where I originally heard this song, but I Shazam’d it and it downloaded onto my phone without me even knowing that’s what Shazam was doing (it’s not a big deal, but a heads up would’ve been nice, Shazam). It’s good. Has a dark edge to it that I don’t usually associate with orchestral music.
This week’s playlist is all Bob Dylan covers! Because I love me some Bob Dylan covers. Don’t forget to support me on Patreon.
- The Byrds, “My Back Pages”: Yeah, the Byrds make a bit of a career covering Dylan songs, and this is their best one.
- Faces, “Wicked Messenger”: Rod Stewart & Co. take an acoustic song from John Wesley Harding and make it rock.
- The Band, “This Wheel’s On Fire”: I mean, when you are Dylan’s backing band for several albums and use that as a jumping off point for your own separate career, you’re gonna borrow a couple of songs from the man. It only makes sense.
- George Harrison, “If Not For You”: I’ve always preferred Harrison’s version of this song to Dylan’s. That’s probably true of a lot of Dylan covers.
- The Gaslight Anthem, “Changing Of The Guard”: I have a soft spot for Street Legal, the album this song is off of, and the Gaslight Anthem provide a suitably raucous interpretation.
- Neko Case, “Buckets Of Rain”: You know how some folks seem to be made explicitly for certain songs? I think this is one of those cases.
- The Turtles, “It Ain’t Me, Babe”: The Turtles manage to pump quite a lot of energy into this song.
- My Chemical Romance, “Desolation Row”: It’s a tough song to cover, but they manage it in typical MCR style.
- The Hollies, “Mighty Quinn”: Did you know this song needed banjo? Because the Hollies did.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “All Along The Watchtower”: I mean, you knew this one had to be on here, right? It’s the quintessential Dylan cover. Of course it’s on here.
Happy Monday, folks. I’m back at work after a lovely and relaxing Spring Break. Over the break, I worked on the next song for Patreon, which you should join if you haven’t already. Anyway, here’s this week’s playlist:
- Pink Floyd, “Hey, Hey, Rise Up (featuring Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox)”: A song recorded in conjunction with Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk, who cut short his American tour with his band Boombox to go back and fight against the Russians. The lyrics are from an old anti-war song from 1914 called, “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow.”
- Whiskeytown, “Jacksonville Skyline”: The more I listen to Ryan Adams’ lyrics, the more I realize the dude doesn’t really write coherent stories. What the hell is a “hopeless streetlight,” anyway?
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, “Alabama Pines”: The loneliness and isolation this song’s narrator goes through is palpable, and the little details – like the only liquor store on the north side of town – add the perfect amount of realism and sincerity to the song.
- Mott the Hoople, “All the Young Dudes”: A David Bowie song in all but name. He produced their album and wrote this particular song.
- Neko Case, “Hold On, Hold On”: “In the end I was the mean girl/Or somebody’s in-between girl.”
- Norah Jones, “Creepin’ In”: Did you know Norah Jones recorded a song where she dueted with Dolly Parton? She did. It’s this song. It’s fun.
- Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Kicks”: I originally heard this song when it was covered by the Monkees, of all bands, on an old greatest hits tape my mom had. It’s a damn fine song.
- Tonic, “If You Could Only See”: The ’90s called, and it said you can have this song. They overplayed it already, thanks.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Straight Into Darkness”: Yeah, the album Straight Into Darkness isn’t the most essential Tom Petty release. Most of the songs are inconsequential and nowhere near the heights of Damn the Torpedoes or even Hard Promises. But even mediocre Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers can still kick the crap outta most other bands on their best days.
- Soul Coughing, “16 Horses”: I would love to write a song like this someday. I’d love to be able to play a song like this someday.
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.
Here’s this week’s playlist. I was feeling a little more melancholy this week than last, which I feel is reflected in the selections.
- Josh Ritter, “Come and Find Me”: Pretty sure most of this song is just a G chord with little variations to keep it interesting.
- The Lemonheads, “Into Your Arms”: One of my team teachers loves the Lemonheads (she’s seen them in concert dozens if not hundreds of times) and I learned how to play this song on the guitar for her. It’s a good and simple song.
- The Low Millions, “Eleanor”: Did you know Leonard Cohen’s son had a band? And it was this band? And they never put out another album other than the one this song is on? It’s all true.
- The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See”: I’m a sucker for songs with a real simple chord progression, and this one is just D, C, G, D the entire way through. That’s it. No variation, no chorus, nothing but those three chords.
- The National, “90-Mile Water Wall”: My favorite part of this early song from the National is that you can hear the lead singer breathing into the microphone if you listen for it.
- Neko Case, “Margaret and Pauline”: Such a beautiful song and character sketch. The juxtaposition of the two characters is sad and gorgeous.
- Sturgill Simpson, “Keep It Between the Lines”: Part of the album Simpson wrote ostensibly as advice to his newly-born child, this one advises the listener to, “Stay in school/stay off the hard stuff and/keep it’ tween the lines.” Good advice for anyone, really.
- Uncle Tupelo, “High Water”: There was a time in graduate school where I became more than a little obsessed with everything even tangentially related to the band Wilco, which included Jeff Tweedy’s original band Uncle Tupelo. This song, from their fourth and final album, is a good indicator of why I liked them so much if not really representative of what they did as a band (think “punk country” or “alt-country,” if you will).
- Van Morrison, “Wonderful Remark”: Specifically, the version from the Philosopher’s Stone collection of outtakes and rarities. The original version is awesome, too, though this one somehow feels more striped down without the overwhelming piano of the original (and this one has flute).
- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “Friends”: Ryan Adams, I think we can all agree, has some problems. Dude is terrible to women and suffers from diarrhea of the recording studio (remember those times he put out three albums in a single calendar year? Yeah, I said times, plural, ’cause he’s done it more than once). But this song, from the double-album Cold Roses (which I still insist would have made one of the finest single albums of his career if he’d just cut some of the fat from the two-disc set), is still one of the best he’s ever written or committed to tape.