Playlist #103

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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).
  9. 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?
  10. Fleetwood Mac, “Storms”: I’ve come to appreciate the album Tusk over the past couple of years.

Playlist #101: Oklahoma for Spring Break

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Parker Millsap, “Other Arrangements”: These new Oklahoma musicians draw on styles and themes from the past but give them modern twists. I like it.
  4. 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.
  5. Woody Guthrie, “Pastures of Plenty”: One of the key touchstones of Oklahoma music and folk music in general.
  6. The Gap Band, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”: Damn, that keyboard riff. That drum beat. Damn.
  7. 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.
  8. Gene Autry, “Back In The Saddle Again”: I prefer this version to the Aerosmith version.
  9. Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction”: I prefer the Turtles’ version of this song, but they’re not from Oklahoma. McGuire was, apparently.
  10. 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.

Playlist #82: Give Thanks!

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short week here, as Thanksgiving is this Thursday. A two-day work week? How will I ever survive? With a new, Thanksgiving-inspired playlist, that’s how!

  1. Neil Young, “Harvest Moon”: What is Thanksgiving if not a harvest festival? One without sacrifice to the harvest gods, that’s what. And you can’t tell me that’s right. The old gods grow hungry and angry. Hangry old gods. Don’t ignore them this year, I beg you.
  2. Alanis Morissette, “Thank U”: I’m not 100% sure why Alanis is thanking India and disillusionment, or quite what she’s thanking them for, exactly, but it’s a good song anyway.
  3. Wilco, “The Thanks I Get”: Yeah, this one was just featured a few weeks ago on another one of my playlists. It still slaps. What else do you want?
  4. Dido, “Thank You”: Remember when this song was everywhere for, like, a month in 1999? Man, turn of the millennium was a weird time. We were all pretty sure society itself was gonna collapse when January 1, 2000 rolled around, so we just listened to damn-near anything.
  5. Glen Phillips, “Thankful”: I always really enjoy Glen Phillips songs. They’re quirky and catchy and I just really dig them, okay?
  6. John Mellencamp, “Thank You”: I was listening to Mellencamp for most of the weekend (the newly-released extended version of Scarecrow, which is alright), so it only seemed appropriate to include one of his tunes on this list. Thematically appropriate, too.
  7. The National, “Sailors In Your Mouth”: It’s a Thanksgiving song, I swear.
  8. The Flaming Lips, “Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber-Optic Jesus)”: It’s truly, deeply weird, as all good Flaming Lips songs are.
  9. The Beatles, “Thank You Girl”: Sure, this is less about giving thanks in the traditional Thanksgiving sense of the word, and more “thanks for the sex stuff, lady friend.”
  10. The Band, “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”: And to round things out, here’s another song about harvesting. I’m pretty sure King Harvest is some sort of simulacrum, a wicker and cornhusk concoction – or maybe even abomination – brought to life to bring the horror of the new harvest straight to you.

Playlist #38

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Jars of Clay, “Faith Enough”: A song filled with contradictions and paradoxes.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. The National, “I Need My Girl”: I would like my wife home from the hospital now, please.
  9. The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”: The happiest song about death that I know.
  10. Glen Phillips, “Train Wreck”: This one just sorta…feels right at the moment? That’s probably not good, is it?

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 #12

It’s the Wife’s birthday this weekend, so this week’s playlist is all songs she likes!

  1. The Pixies, “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf Mix)”: Preferred version of this song. Dunno why. But it feels suitably surf-y and UK-y.
  2. Arcade Fire, “Intervention”: I think it’s the organ that does it in this one. I do know that this is probably off her (and my) favorite Arcade Fire album, Neon Bible.
  3. AC Newman, “Take On Me”: A beautiful, slowed down cover of the a-ha classic, complete with the really high “in a day or twoooooooooooo”s.
  4. Elliott Smith, “Baby Britain”: I think the Wife was the one who introduced me to Elliott Smith. This song is great, if for no other reason than the fact that he references both Revolver and the song “Crimson and Clover.”
  5. The Cure, “Just Like Heaven”: I did not care much for the ’80s when I was a wee lad. The music felt overproduced, all artifice and no substance. I’ve since learned that I was not even close to 100% correct on that second point (the jury is still out on the first point). This song is really good, either way.
  6. Annie Lennox, “Walking On Broken Glass”: For a song about the torture of a love affair gone bad, this song is very upbeat and fun.
  7. The Flaming Lips, “Free Radicals”: “You think you’re radical/But you’re not so radical/In fact, you’re fanatical/Fanatical (Fuck!)” may be the best chorus of the twenty-first century.
  8. The National, “Slow Show”: Okay, no, it’s “I wanna hurry home to you/Put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up.”
  9. REM, “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”: Why do I love songs where the first part of the title is in parentheses and why have I not written one yet? Oh, right, because it will never be anywhere near as good as this song.
  10. The Magnetic Fields, “Epitaph For My Heart”: I’m reasonably certain this is her favorite Magnetic Fields song. It’s the one she plays every time we listen to that band.

Playlist #3

A little less of a downer this week. Let’s gooooo:

  1. Hunters & Collectors, “Throw Your Arms Around Me”: Apparently Australia’s unofficial national anthem? So says one of my coworkers who told me I should learn the song. It’s only three chords, so that will be pretty easy.
  2. Nur-D, “Brighter Day”: Rapper out of Minnesota who decided last year to shift from rapping about nerd culture (Superman, Power Rangers, etc.) to discussing Black Lives Matter and issues near and dear to his community. He still slips in stuff about superheroes and nerdy stuff, though.
  3. Hozier, “Take Me to Church”: Someday I’m gonna put together a playlist of songs relating sex to religion (this one, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” and Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven,” just to name a few) and write an essay about the concept.
  4. The Replacements, “Alex Chilton”: Back in the day when the sister-in-law and I played Rock Band every day, we loved playing this song. It took us forever to five star it at the hard difficulty, but the rush when we finally did…awesome.
  5. Savage Garden, “I Want You”: Did you know there were actual words to this song? I mean, more than that whole “chickey-cherry cola” line? It’s true!
  6. Violent Femmes, “American Music”: “Everytime I look at that ugly moon/It reminds me of me” is one of the best self-deprecating lines ever. Fight me.
  7. The Wallflowers, “Misfits and Lovers”: I know my brother doesn’t like the album this song is off of, but I absolutely love this track (and that whole album, Glad All Over). Again, fight me.
  8. Fiona Apple, “Extraordinary Machine”: I just love the way she works her words and phrases in this song. It’s just perfect, as is the church bell.
  9. The Flaming Lips, “Fight Test”: Best Flaming Lips song. Fight me (it’s appropriate this time).
  10. Fleetwood Mac, “Gypsy”: My wife hates Fleetwood Mac. Hates them. But this song is my jam. She won’t fight me, but that’s probably for the best.

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.

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!