Playlist #74

Happy Tuesday, folks. Got sick over the weekend, and took yesterday off to recover. Still feeling under the weather, but good news! It’s not Covid this time.

  1. Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”: We finally got around to starting Stranger Things season 4 over the weekend, and it’s quite good. The use of the Kate Bush song is perfect. I’m not ashamed to say I haven’t listened to much Kate Bush over the years; her stuff always struck me as too weird for my tastes. But this song slaps and deserves the attention it’s getting.
  2. Glen Phillips, “Held Up”: Sorta went through a Glen Phillips thing over the weekend, and this song especially spoke to me. Sung to me. Whatever.
  3. Bear Cub, “Hey B”: My brother used to play with this guy way back in the day (back when both of us had full heads of hair). He and his current singer, Kelly, did a cover of it about eight years ago. It’s quite good.
  4. Michael Penn, “No Myth”: Man, does this guy know how to write a bad song? No, no he does not.
  5. The Mountain Goats, “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome”: Speaking of great songs, this one’s title tells you everything you need to know about it and then some.
  6. Paul McCartney, “Beautiful Night”: I rather liked McCartney’s Flaming Pie album, with its Beatles allusions and smooth early aughts production values and him obviously playing most every single instrument on the thing. Plus, it frequently featured Steve Miller (Mr. Space Cowboy himself), who is coincidentally still alive and still touring, God bless ‘im.
  7. Rhett Miller, “Terrible Vision”: I dig the Old 97s, and actually found them through the backdoor of lead singer Rhett Miller’s first solo album, The Instigator. This is the closer from that album, and it’s beautiful and flawed and wonderful.
  8. Jars of Clay, “Frail”: The re-recorded version of this song from the Furthermore collection. Their second album left me rather underwhelmed, compared with their debut and their third album, If I Left the Zoo.
  9. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, “Hope The High Road”: I don’t think anyone else out there writes songs like this right now, and that’s a shame. Isbell is great at the hopeful, rocking anthem, and we could use more of those in these dark days.
  10. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Enough”: Sounds like a classic Toad song with modern production, which is exactly what new Toad the Wet Sprocket albums should sound like.

Playlist #69 (Nice)

I was this close to just making it all songs about sex. But aren’t all songs about sex, when you get right down to it? Anyway, give me a follow on Patreon and support your local author/songwriter. Anyway, here’s the first playlist of the new school year!

  1. The Mountain Goats, “Training Montage”: “I’m doing this for revenge!” John Darnielle cries out at the start of the chorus, and damn if that isn’t just the best line in a song I’ve heard this year.
  2. Iggy Pop, “The Passenger”: Is it the most relentless chord progression you’ve ever heard? Maybe. Are Iggy and David Bowie’s yelped “la”s in the chorus earwormy? Definitely.
  3. Bruce Springsteen, “Ain’t Good Enough For You”: I’ve featured this song on a playlist before. It still slaps.
  4. Calexico, “Cumbia De Donde”: Did you know cumbia is a type of Latin American dance music that originated in Colombia? Because the guys in Calexico sure do, and they want you to know they do.
  5. Spoon, “Don’t Make Me A Target”: I don’t know what it is about the way this band breaks down a song and then rebuilds it using the same basic instruments as every single rock and roll band that has ever existed that kicks me in the ass every time, but it kicks me in the ass every time.
  6. ZZ Top, “La Grange”: Back when I worked at a private school, I taught one of my students how to play this on the bass (it’s only three notes that even I could figure out). It’s fun.
  7. Pearl Jam, “World Wide Suicide”: Even late into their career, Pearl Jam can still pull out all the stops and offer a rocker that rips the doors off.
  8. John Mellencamp, “Right Behind Me”: Meanwhile, John Mellencamp has resorted to recording in hotel rooms with equipment from the 1950s to get that sound just right.
  9. Jay Farrar, “Feel Free”: Jay Farrar’s songs have gotten more esoteric and inscrutable as time passes, but this one is still early enough in his solo career that the lyrics make some sense. And it references “non-profit radio,” which is what I thought NPR stood for for far longer than I’d care to admit.
  10. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, “Be Afraid”: “Be afraid, be very afraid/But do it anyway,” is just some of the best damn advice you can hear right now, I think.

Playlist #65 – Stranger Things

Monday was the Wife’s birthday! In her honor, you could contribute to her GoFundMe. Covid hit her hard and our finances harder, so every little bit helps. And I’m doing my usual thing over at Patreon, where a new song will drop this Friday! This week’s playlist is inspired by my Wife, who – when hearing the Tom Waits song on last week’s playlist – said, “Why not do a whole playlist of weird songs?” To which I replied, “You mean a Tom Waits playlist?”

  1. Tom Waits, “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)”: I dunno, Tom. Your words are more than a little slurred here. I have my doubts about the veracity of your claim.
  2. The Magnetic Fields, “Epitaph For My Heart”: The Wife’s favorite Magnetic Fields song. It starts with a recitation of a warning on a door that threatens electrocution if you open it and gets weirder from there.
  3. Marcy Playground, “Sex & Candy”: Every time I hear this song, I think of that time I was working at the YMCA the summer after my first year of college, and when this song came on the bus, all the little children (like, 10 year olds) sang the first three words of the chorus – “I like sex” – and nothing else.
  4. Melanie, “Brand New Key”: Do roller skates even need keys anymore? It’s been so long since I wore a pair, but I’m pretty sure they don’t. Kids these days will never understand this song (not that I necessarily understand it myself, mind you).
  5. The Mountain Goats, “Cadaver Sniffing Dog”: Now, this playlist could have also just been a Mountain Goats playlist, and this song is a good example of why.
  6. REM, “Swan Swan H”: Does anyone ever know what Michael Stipe is singing about, including Michael Stipe? I’d wager the answer is “no.”
  7. Tom Lehrer, “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”: This man takes a certain glee from killing pigeons in the park. He might be a serial killer.
  8. America, “A Horse With No Name”: Hint: you can give the horse a name, dude. You can call it whatever you want. It’s a horse, it don’t care.
  9. The Presidents of the United States of America, “Peaches”: Again, another band where I could have made a playlist just out of their songs and it would have fit right in.
  10. Carl Douglas, “Kung Fu Fighting”: As the t-shirt says, surely not everyone was kung fu fighting.

Playlist #58: End of the School Year

It’s the last week of school finally. It’s been a difficult year, to say the least. But I keep posting new stuff on Patreon and I keep coming up with new playlists here.

  1. Alice Cooper, “School’s Out”: Yeah, of course this song was gonna be on here.
  2. The Mountain Goats, “Fall of the Star High School Running Back”: Who hasn’t gone from being the star player on the football team to selling acid to cops?
  3. Paul Simon, “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”: Ever have one of those troublemaker friends that your parents just couldn’t stand? Yeah, I did, too.
  4. Pearl Jam, “Education”: “I’m questioning my education.” Me too, Eddie. Me too.
  5. Sting, “History Will Teach Us Nothing”: I mean, maybe you just didn’t learn from your history class, Sting. Ever think it was you, not history?
  6. Sam Cooke, “(What A) Wonderful World”: I think I teach several Sam Cookes. “Don’t know much about history,” he sings. Yeah, my kids could sing that, too.
  7. Chuck Berry, “Schooldays”: “RIng, ring, goes the bell.”
  8. Nirvana, “School”: Kurt Cobain recognizes the need for recess and laments the lack of it in the modern educational schema.
  9. Belle & Sebastian, “We Rule The School”: The number of students in Belle & Sebastian who probably got beat up in high school on a daily basis is a nonzero number.
  10. Pink Floyd, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2”: The use of the double negative in the chorus indicates you do, in fact, need education, Mr. Floyd.

Playlist #39

Happy Monday, folks. Does the Wife get to come home this week? Who knows! Her doctor, possibly. Anyway, here’s a new playlist of songs to get you through the week.

  1. Andrew Bird, “Tin Foiled”: “What is moving will be still/What is gathered will disperse/What’s been built up will collapse/All of your dreams, they’re all fulfilled.”
  2. Bo Diddley, “Bo Diddley”: I hope to someday have the brass balls to write a song and just give it my name as a title. I doubt I ever will, though.
  3. Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”
  4. Les Paul and Mary Ford, “How High The Moon”: Les Paul just tears it up on this song.
  5. Tom Petty, “This Old Town”: There you go, Dad. A Tom Petty song from Highway Companion.
  6. Sean Lennon, “Would I Be The One”: Feels much like a song his dad would’ve written (admittedly, so does most everything else on this album. It’s a good album).
  7. The Rolling Stones, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”: Sometimes, you just need a rootsy Rolling Stones rocker in the playlist. Here’s this one’s.
  8. Ray Charles, “Unchain My Heart”: And sometimes you need some Ray Charles.
  9. The Mountain Goats, “Going Invisible 2”: Don’t look for “Going Invisible 1,” as there isn’t a song called that. This is rather a D&D reference to Invisible 2, a spell. I’m now going to go crawl back into my cave.
  10. Ronnie Spector, “Be My Baby”: I would die to have written the drum part for this song. Or the lyrics. Or the guitar. Or literally any part of it. It’s a damn fine song.

Did you know I don’t just write about music I like to listen to, but that I also write music? It’s true, and you can support me on Patreon in this endeavor! I’ll be releasing a new song there every month this year, so check it out!

Playlist #22

Happy Monday, folks. Have a list of songs.

  1. Jay Farrar, “Feel Free”: For years, I thought NPR stood for “Non-Profit Radio.” It made sense, right? That is not what it stands for, by the by.
  2. The Gaslight Anthem, “Mama’s Boys”: The most Rolling Stones-iest song they ever recorded. It’s fun to sing along at the top of your lungs as you drive way too fast down the road.
  3. Ra Ra Riot, “Ghost Under Rocks”: I don’t even remember how it is I came to know about this band, but I’ve always liked the promise of this song (even if I haven’t cared as much for the rest of their output).
  4. Lil Nas X, “THATS WHAT I WANT”: First off, can we discuss the lack of an apostrophe in the title? That always annoys me. Grammar aside, the song slaps.
  5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Featuring John Paul White), “Driver 8”: Did you know the REM song “Driver 8” had discernable lyrics hidden within it? And that they’re about a train driver? True story.
  6. ABBA, “Waterloo”: I’m a sucker for songs about historical subjects, and this is the second-best song about the Napoleonic Wars ever (the best is the 1812 Overture).
  7. The Mountain Goats, “Get Famous”: The continued prominence of the Mountain Goats gives me hope that even someone with a voice like mine could someday make it.
  8. George Harrison, “Cheer Down”: Not enough has been written about the wordplay and wry humor of George Harrison’s songwriting. This song is a great example of all that, and the guitar work is killer.
  9. Rhett Miller, “The El”: The way I found out about the Old 97s was by hearing this album by Rhett Miller first. Then I found Too Far To Care and it was all downhill from there for me.
  10. Gillian Welch, “Revelator”: So damn downbeat and depressing, melancholy and bittersweet and beautiful. So beautiful.

Playlist #17

It’s back to school for good ol’ me! Here’s a list of ten songs to get you back into the learning mood. Here’s the playlist on Spotify, for those so inclined (I’ve added all of the playlists there so far, so feel free to go back and listen to ’em).

  1. The Call, “Let The Day Begin”: Back when I was in high school, we listened to 107.7 FM, KRXO, out of Oklahoma City. And the morning show always played this song. Every morning. It was a ritual. A call to action. And so it is now.
  2. Genesis, “Just A Job To Do”: Sure, this song isn’t about teaching. It’s about a hitman hunting down his next target. But isn’t that what teaching is, really? (No, it isn’t)
  3. The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, “History Song”: Look, there aren’t nearly as many songs about teaching and the subject of history out there as you’d think there are, but this one has history in the title, so…
  4. Pink Floyd, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2”: Yeah, I was gonna do a playlist about returning to school and not include this song. “We don’t need no education!”
  5. Sting, “History Will Teach Us Nothing”: The old adage “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” comes to mind here.
  6. The Hollies, “Teach Your Children”: The Hollies covering the CS&N classic. I’m starting to think the Hollies were just a really well-liked cover band, for the most part.
  7. Paul Simon, “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”: Has absolutely nothing to do with school other than the title. But I think Julio is up to no good and you should probably avoid him, Paul.
  8. John Legend, “History Has Its Eyes On You”: John Legend takes the Hamilton tune and turns it into a glorious Gospel number. I dig it.
  9. Chuck Berry, “School Days”: “Hail, hail, rock and roll!”
  10. The Mountain Goats, “Fall Of The Star High School Running Back”: If you were thinking, “Gee, I wonder if this Mountain Goats song will be about a star high school football player who suffers a career-ending injury and turns to selling drugs and then gets caught,” well, have I got news for you. And the news is you are 100% correct and it’s as awesome as you think.

2019 (Music) In Review

Hey, I’m only a couple of weeks into 2020, so this isn’t too late, right? Right.

Anyway, here’s my favorite ten albums from 2019, in no particular order…

Gary Clark, Jr. – This Land

This guy just shreds, man. Plenty of chunky distortion and great guitar riffs, and his lyrics are pretty great, too.

The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

A concept album built loosely around Dungeons and Dragons? By the Mountain Goats? Sign me up for that gaming session!

The National – I Am Easy to Find

If this album only gave us “Rylan,” it would still be one of the best albums of the year. That the whole album is fantastic, start to finish, is just gravy.

The Highwomen – The Highwomen

My god, these harmonies! An update on the Highwaymen concept from back in the ’80s (that of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings fame) with a scad of kickass women grabbing music by the horns and it like it. I want more of this.

The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Break Lights

Is there such a thing as a bad New Pornographers album? I’ve yet to hear one. Weird that it didn’t have a Dan Bejar-led song on it, though.

Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet

Bird continues to put out challenging, engaging music consistently with each release, and this one is no exception to that. “Bloodless” was one of my favorite songs of the year.

Wilco – Ode to Joy

A mostly-acoustic affair, but it finds the Chicago band writing some of their best songs in years. It’s cozy, comfy, rainy Sunday afternoon music. And Jeff Tweedy still keeps my dream of chunky guitar hero alive.

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

Didn’t expect this one, did you? Well, I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that guy who really likes to listen to Lizzo play the flute like a badass.

J.S. Ondara – Tales of America

Sometimes, you say it best with just an acoustic guitar and minimal backing. That’s Ondara’s debut, Tales of America, which I found through NPR. The previous sentence is the whitest sentence I have ever written, and I used to write term papers about English religion and society during the theatrical reformation period.

The Black Keys – Let’s Rock

What? Sometimes, I just like straight-ahead bluesy rock. This is not an interrogation. Go away.