Playlist #54

Good Monday Morning, folks! Follow me on Patreon. I’m super excited about May’s song there. Meanwhile, here’s this week’s playlist:

  1. Dream Wife, “Hey Heartbreaker”: The chugging guitar is great, and I love the overlapping vocals at the end.
  2. Drive-By Truckers, “Outfit”: “Don’t call what you’re wearing an outfit,” the narrator’s father admonishes him, and I can admit that I have done that on numerous occasions. Oh well.
  3. Wilco, “Say You Miss Me”: A heartbreaker of a song. Love it.
  4. Tom Waits, “Goin’ Out West”: “Well, I’m goin’ out west/Where the wind blows tall,” Tom Waits begins, and things only get weirder from there. Because of course they do, this is a Tom Waits song.
  5. Spoon, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”: A reverb-drenched shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.
  6. SaraoMusic, “Coming Home”: Sunny So-Cal indie pop at its finest.
  7. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl”: Always imagined this as the mid-70s version of that Shakespearean sonnet, “My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun.”
  8. The Beatles, “Two Of Us”: If there’s a better song on Let It Be, make your case in the comments.
  9. Rhett Miller, “The El”: Who doesn’t love rattling along on the El in Chicago?
  10. Josh Ritter, “Hopeful”: Taking those first few tentative steps out into the wild after a relationship collapses can be terrifying, but you gotta stay hopeful.

Playlist #51

Happy Tax Day, America! Happy regular ol’ Monday after Easter! Happy, um, April 18th, everyone else? Don’t forget to join my Patreon, where I’m making new music every month for your listening enjoyment (actual amount of enjoyment may vary. Please see your doctor if you receive too much enjoyment from listening to my music)! Anyway, here’s this week’s playlist.

  1. The Beatles, “Taxman”: Like I wasn’t gonna do this today. “My advice to those who die/Declare the pennies on your eyes.”
  2. Bruce Cockburn, “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”: Only started listening to him this morning, but the line, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/You gotta kick in the darkness till it bleeds daylight” is just one of the all-time best.
  3. The Ink Spots, “Java Jive”: Like most music from the first half of the 20th century, my exposure to this song was through a cartoon when I was a small child. Little Lulu, I think?
  4. Lizzo, “About Damn Time”: Here comes Lizzo with another summer jam. God, where did she find that bass player? That bassline slaps.
  5. Ten Years After, “I’d Love To Change The World”: With a chorus that literally says, “I’d love to change the world/But I don’t know what to do/So I’ll leave it up to you,” this is the quintessential Boomer song. “Eh, I’d love to do something about it, but I’m not gonna. Tough luck, future!”
  6. XTC, “Across This Antheap”: Another song with so many good lines just tossed off all casual-like. And that trumpet? So good.
  7. The Wallflowers, “Bleeders”: Included simply because of the way that organ sounds at the very beginning of the song.
  8. Ben E. King, “Stand By Me”: You know what always aggravates me about the John Lennon cover of this song? It adds absolutely nothing to it. You might as well just go back and listen to the Ben E. King version instead. Which is why this version is on the playlist.
  9. Otis Redding, “That’s How Strong My Love Is”: Listening to this song, I’m reminded of how very much in-touch with that ’60s R&B Stax sound CCR (or really, John Fogerty) was. This coulda been a CCR song. Or any CCR song coulda been an Otis Redding song.
  10. Josh Ritter, “Old Black Magic”: This song just chugs along and gets downright fiery towards the end.

Playlist #42: Love Stinks!

Happy Valentine’s Day, folks! Here’s some songs about love that anyone can enjoy, whether you’re single AF this year or happily married or anything in between.

  1. The Beatles, “I’m A Loser”: Back when I was in college, I put together anti-love playlists every Valentine’s Day. This one was a recurring feature.
  2. Sting, “She’s Too Good For Me”: It was true 15 years ago when I married the Wife, and it’s true today.
  3. Jesse Malin, “She Don’t Love Me Now”: I think it’s the guitars on this one that really do it for me.
  4. The Hold Steady, “You Can Make Him Like You”: “You don’t have to go to the right kind of schools/Let your boyfriend come from the right kind of schools/You can wear his old sweatshirt/You can cover yourself like a bruise.”
  5. The Grass Roots, “Things I Should Have Said”: Is there ever a bad time for a Grass Roots song? No. No, there is not.
  6. Placebo, “You Don’t Care About Us”: I swear, I had at least three friends who listened almost exclusively to this album during high school/college. If you didn’t do that, you probably also have at least one or two of those friends as well.
  7. Beck, “Loser”: When you can’t just say it in English, say it in Spanish as well: “Soy un perdador.”
  8. Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”: When you fight, you should always make up afterwards. Maybe don’t wait a whole week for it, though.
  9. Hank Williams, Sr., “You Win Again”: The resignation in his voice is just…damn, Hank.
  10. The White Stripes, “The Denial Twist”: “If you think that a kiss is all in the lips/C’mon, you got it all wrong, man.”

Playlist #32

New week, new playlist!

  1. Pearl Jam, “Black”: I learned to play this song last week, only 20-some years too late for it to be relevant.
  2. Jonathan Edwards, “Sunshine (Go Away Today)”: Also learned this one last week. It’s fun and folky.
  3. Sting, “Shape Of My Heart”: I just really like the guitar figure in this one.
  4. The Decemberists, “Sucker’s Prayer”: I mentioned this one the other week, and then just put a different Decemberists song on the playlist instead. Here’s this one now.
  5. Big Red Machine, “Renegade (featuring Taylor Swift)”: Am I sucker for recent Taylor Swift? Yes. Is this song really gorgeous? Also yes.
  6. The Beatles, “For You Blue”: I dig George Harrison songs, and this one is just so much fun. John’s slide playing is gleeful and too much fun.
  7. The Avett Brothers, “Ain’t No Man”: I dig these guys, and this song is tub-thumpin’ good times.
  8. Wilco, “Everyone Hides”: I like how Wilco has eased into their dad rock years and are just hummin’ along, making laidback music and having a good time.
  9. Yael Naim, “New Soul”: Pretty sure this was a song featured in an iTunes commercial back in the day? I don’t remember. But it’s cute and lovely.
  10. The Horrible Crowes, “Mary Ann”: Sometimes, you just need Brian Fallon shouting someone’s name in the chorus.

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 #21 – So Tired Edition

As with so many other people my age (or just anyone who is living through these interesting times), I feel like I’m constantly tired. Here’s a list of songs to wake you up.

  1. The Beatles, “I’m So Tired”: My theme song for this week. This month. This year. This…decade, probably? God, was there ever a time I wasn’t tired?
  2. The Pretenders, “I Go To Sleep”: Wouldn’t it be lovely to just drift off to sleep right now? I think it would be.
  3. The Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”: NO! SLEEP! TILL BROOKLYN!
  4. The Barenaked Ladies, “Who Needs Sleep?”: The jauntiest song about insomnia ever.
  5. The Wallflowers, “Asleep At The Wheel”: For years, the Wife was always concerned I’d fall asleep while driving. She probably still worries about it, she just doesn’t bring it up anymore.
  6. Billy Bragg and Wilco, “California Stars”: Much as Woody Guthrie said, I’d like to lay my weary bones down. Not necessarily on a bed of California stars, but a regular bed, maybe? Yeah, a regular bed would be just fine.
  7. Hem, “I’ll Dream Of You Tonight”: I don’t often remember my dreams, which is probably a blessing since the ones I do remember are usually not at all pleasant. This is possibly something I should discuss with my therapist.
  8. Iron & Wine and Calexico, “Burn That Broken Bed”: I mean, if the bed is broken, you could just leave it out by the dumpster or something. Burning it seems extreme, guys.
  9. Josh Ritter, “Can’t Go To Sleep (Without You)”: Though I do not fault her for this at all, the Wife and I usually go to bed at vastly different times, and I frequently struggle to sleep until she is in bed. Dunno why.
  10. Cake, “When You Sleep”: Is this song about masturbation? I think this song might be about masturbation while you’re asleep, which is an impressive skill, I guess? I don’t know, I’m tired.

Playlist #14

This week is my father’s birthday! For the playlist, I chose songs from bands we’ve seen play live. Going to concerts was how my father and I bonded (rather than sports, or cars, or reading interests, or stuff like that. I don’t think he was particularly ready to have an indoor son), and we’ve seen some great shows over the years.

  1. The Doobie Brothers, “Black Water”: The first concert I went to was in the 5th grade, and it was to see these guys. In hindsight, I think this show was more for my dad than for me; I mean, I liked “China Grove,” but I wasn’t really familiar with much of the rest of their stuff. It was still a good time, though.
  2. Genesis, “I Can’t Dance”: We saw Genesis on the tour for the We Can’t Dance album down in Dallas, TX. I remember us trying to walk to the stadium where the show was held, then deciding it would work better to drive ’cause it was just too damn far.
  3. Eric Clapton, “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”: We caught Clapton on the tour for Me and Mr. Johnson, where he did a bunch of old Robert Johnson tunes. Billy Preston played keyboards on the album and the tour. It was pretty fantastic.
  4. John Mellencamp, “Rain On The Scarecrow”: Mellencamp was touring for his greatest hits album when we caught him. He did a little acoustic set in the middle of the show, and this was one of the songs they played during that part.
  5. The Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Women”: Caught them in Norman when I was in high school. Nearly got crushed trying to get to our seats by the press of drunk Boomers. Good times.
  6. ZZ Top, “Sharp Dressed Man”: Dusty Hills, the bass player, just passed away last week. These guys put on a damn good show.
  7. Crosby, Stills, & Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”: Caught them at the Civic Center Auditorium in Oklahoma City back in high school. These guys can harmonize, and Stephen Stills may be one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen, hands down.
  8. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Don’t Do Me Like That”: Tom Petty was one of my favorite artists growing up. I only had a couple of his albums when he went on the Into the Great Wide Open tour, but we managed to get front row center tickets to the show. I sang along at the top of my lungs to every song, and Tom Petty gave me his guitar pick at the end of the show. Just awesome.
  9. Chicago, “I’m A Man”: Now, I haven’t ever seen Chicago in concert. Not sure I wanna see a Terry Kath-less Chicago anyway. But I know they’re one of my dad’s favorite bands, and I know he saw them back in the ’70s, so i really couldn’t resist putting at least one Chicago song on the list.
  10. The Beatles, “Norwegian Wood”: Again, I’ve obviously never seen the Beatles in concert. They were done a good decade before I came along. But we grew up listening to them. Dad and I used to go see a Beatles cover band called Tribute 1964 every time they rolled into Norman (which, when I was in high school, was an annual occurrence). I would have been remiss in not putting a Beatles song on this list, and I know dad likes to play this one on the guitar.

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.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2017

When I was a younger man, single and insecure and full of anxiety and dumb ideas, I was a bit of a sad sack.  Okay, a lot of a sad sack.  I moped around the campus fountain at midnight listening to sad songs on my Discman like some mooney-eyed twit.  And I made mix CDs of songs about love gone sour and losers.

Nowadays, I tend to mope less, mostly because I finally got medication and therapy.  Marrying an amazing woman helped, too.  While I don’t make mix CDs anymore (I make playlists on my phone instead, because it’s 2017), I do still enjoy putting together thematic lists for special occasions.  While I think of myself as less of a loser than I once did, I thought it might be fun to put together one more Loser List for Valentine’s Day.

Before the list, though, a few words on this holiday.  I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it’s a result of being single throughout college and grad school.  Maybe I resent being told I have to be romantic on a set day in a specific way (today’s comic is a pretty clear indicator that the Wife and I have our own unique brand of affection and romance).  Honestly, I don’t think there’s any real reason to feel obligated to do some big, ridiculous thing today, unless you really want to.  Some folks really love Valentine’s Day, and that’s great for them!  For the rest of us, let’s just act like it’s a regular ol’ Tuesday, and everyone has joined Garibaldi’s Red Shirts for the day for some weird reason.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the Losers List.

The Beatles, “I’m a Loser”: A Hard Day’s Night is one of my absolute favorite Beatles albums, and this manages to be one of the best songs on the record.

Beck, “Loser”: Like this song wasn’t going to show up on this list.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Even the Losers”: More a song of hope than anything else, it always gives me strength to think that even the losers can get lucky sometime.

The Avett Brothers, “Shame”: Sometimes we feel so sure of ourselves, only to realize we’re being tremendous assholes.

Bob Dylan, “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”: Blood on the Tracks is full of sad songs of love gone wrong, but this is one of my favorites.

Cake, “Friend is a Four-Letter Word”: If early-20s me had an anthem, this was probably it.  If anyone needed a punch in the face, it was early-20s me.

Camera Obscura, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken”: “‘Cause I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment.”  Brilliant.

Sting, “Seven Days”: Sting’s face is pretty punchable, too, if only because he refers to his rival as “Neanderthal.”

Jesse Malin, “She Don’t Love Me Now”: I’m a sucker for great horn arrangements.

Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do”: Your woman runs around on you while everyone’s at church?  Robert Plant feels your pain.

Halloween Playlist

Are you like me, and find yourself wanting to enjoy Halloween but struggling because of a dearth of decent songs associated with the holiday?  I mean, in terms of inspiring music, it’s not Christmas, that’s for sure.  I just find that I can’t stand listening to the Monster Mash and the Addams Family theme and the Munsters theme again and again on repeat this year.  I need some actual, non-novelty music.

And we’re in luck!  There are actually plenty of real, pretty awesome songs that have a stealth-Halloween theme to them.  Here’s a selection of some of my favorites.

1. The Eagles, “Witchy Woman”: Sure, it’s easy to rag on the Eagles as being the dad-est of Dad Rock, but they did some fun songs.  This one carries the witch metaphor throughout pretty strongly, and fits right in with our “real song but Halloween-y” theme.

2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “I Put a Spell on You”: Yeah, I know, the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins version is probably better, and certainly more Halloween-y, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to include a CCR song on a playlist.

3. The Beatles, “Devil in Her Heart”: Not even a little bit of the right tone, barely even mentions anything Halloween-related (the titular devil in her heart, which is more metaphorical than actual), but it’s the Beatles, and it’s my playlist, so nyah.

4. Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London”: There was a 0% chance I wasn’t going to include this.  An obvious but classic choice.

5. Tom Petty, “Zombie Zoo”: “Sometimes you’re so impulsive/You shaved off all your hair/You look like Boris Karloff/But you don’t even care” is probably the best line in any song ever, and I will fight you if you say otherwise.

6. Josh Ritter, “The Curse”: A love song about a mummy told as sincerely as this is proof this world is sometimes better than we deserve.

7. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”: Honestly, you could just put a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds album on for Halloween it’d be fine.  If I have to go with one song, though, this is the one.  The Pete Yorn version from the first Hellboy movie isn’t half-bad, either.

8. Jeremy Messersmith, “Ghost”: A haunting beautiful (get it?) song about disappearing out of someone’s life.

9. The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Part 1”: War of the Worlds, if it was fought between a Japanese pop singer who knows karate and giant pink robots that want to eat people.

10. The White Stripes, “Walking with a Ghost”: I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one.  I just wanted another song about ghosts on here.

Happy Halloween, everyone!