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 #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 #26 – Spooooooky Tunes

Happy Monday, folks! As you probably known, this coming Sunday is Halloween, so for this week’s playlist I’ve put together songs from (mostly) 90s horror and Halloweenish movie soundtracks! I mostly wanted an excuse to put Toad the Wet Sprocket’s cover of “Hey Bulldog” on a playlist.

  1. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Hey Bulldog”: From the I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a good Beatles cover?
  2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”: From the Scream soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a song about the devil?
  3. D Generation, “Helpless”: From The Faculty soundtrack. This was the band Jesse Malin was in before he went solo. They’re very punk and snarly and sneering. It’s fun, but it’s not a Neil Young cover.
  4. Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, “Willie the Wimp (And His Cadillac Coffin)”: From the From Dusk Till Dawn soundtrack. Vampires and Texas electric blues go together better than you’d think.
  5. Nine Inch Nails, “Dead Souls”: From The Crow soundtrack. Part of the impetus for this playlist was just a glut of fantastic 90s soundtracks. This one is more specific than it could’ve been, since I could have added stuff from Empire Records, or Reality Bites, or any other seminal Gen-X soundtrack.
  6. Stabbing Westward, “Torn Apart”: From the Spawn soundtrack. Y’know what’s super-nineties? Spawn. Like, the comic, the movie, the whole thing. So 90s.
  7. Danny Elfman, “What’s This?”: From The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. It’s classic Danny Elfman from a movie that, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never actually seen.
  8. Roger Daltrey, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”: From The Lost Boys soundtrack. Now, this one is a bit of a cheat, since The Lost Boys came out in 1987, but it’s Roger Daltrey and it’s my playlist, so deal with it.
  9. The Wallflowers, “Heroes”: From the Godzilla soundtrack. Soundtracks in the 90s were often an opportunity for a band to play cover songs. This isn’t the best David Bowie cover out there, but it is pretty solid.
  10. Heather Nova, “I Have The Touch”: From The Craft soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a Peter Gabriel cover? No one, that’s who.

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 #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.

Favorites: The Wallflowers’ Breach

On a whim over the weekend, I decided to listen to the Wallflowers’ Breach. In the process, I rediscovered something that I already knew: it’s a damn fine album; probably their best. Sure, there are folks who prefer Bringing Down the Horse, what with “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” but song for song, nothing beats Breach.

Let’s get this out of the way first: “Sleepwalker” is probably their best song. Like, in their entire catalog. Yeah, they’ve got plenty of other great songs (the aforementioned “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” for instance), but nothing that really reaches the level of “Sleepwalker.” If we look at the continuum of Wallflowers albums — from their trying too hard to sound like Bob Dylan debut to their trying too hard to sound like the Clash Glad All OverBreach is the album where Jakob Dylan finally becomes comfortable in his own skin and with his status as the son of one of the most famous singer/songwriters in music history. Everything about the album just clicks in a way they hadn’t before (and really haven’t since). Rami Jaffee’s keyboards are perfect, guitarist Michael Ward plays some of the best work of his career, and Dylan’s lyrics are both reminiscent of his father’s work and wholly his own.

Song by song, this is the strongest writing in the band’s catalog. Opener “Letters from the Wasteland” sets the tone: the keyboards are foreboding, as are Dylan’s lyrics. He sings of abandonment and isolation, of “Slow danc[ing] to this romance on [his] own.” From there, the band transitions into “Hand Me Down,” which could’ve been vintage Bob Dylan.

Then comes “Sleepwalker.” The minor-key, up-tempo number feels foreboding, right up until the song enters the chorus and Dylan’s vocals are accentuated with poppy hand claps. Then everything takes a turn for the worst in the bridge: “I’m in your movie and everyone looks sad/But I can hear you, your voice, the laughtrack/But you never saw my best scene/The one where I sleep/Sleepwalk into your dreams.” It’s a killer bit of lyrical genius, the sort of thing most musicians would kill to have written. And it’s not even the best bit of that particular song. Dylan is firing on all cylinders here, and the band rises to meet him.

From there, the album tracks are just as solid. “I’ve Been Delivered” is full of clever wordplay and jaunty, keyboard-driven instrumentation. “Witness” is a slow, dirge-like song that sounds — again — like vintage Bob Dylan, with the addition of excellent horns. “Some Flowers Bloom Dead” is probably the best album track the Wallflowers have ever released, with pitch-perfect guitar, keyboards, and rhythm section combining with Dylan’s vocals to carry the song forward and make you want to immediately restart the song and hear it again.

Following “Some Flowers Bloom Dead” are a pair of slower, more stripped down songs: “Mourning Train” and “Up From Under.” Both are atypical of the album, featuring pared down instrumentation (especially “Up From Under,” which is almost entirely acoustic guitar and strings) and thoughtful, introspective lyrics. From there, things pick up a bit once more for “Murder 101,” a bouncy tune about learning how to kill people.

The final two songs share some thematic elements. “Birdcage” features some of the best guitar work of the album, and it’s a damn shame the song fades out just as Michael Ward really gets going. It’s a slow, thoughtful song, meditative and deliberate. And it’s followed by “Baby Bird,” a hidden track that features plinky toy piano and a plea for the baby bird to “come back home.” It’s a beautiful, poignant way to end the album, and a perfect final track.

The Wallflowers are one of my favorite bands. I wish they’d put out music more often (their last album came out in 2012. Two thousand twelve! That’s too damn long for more music from these guys). They’re put out decent albums since then (aside from the clunker that was Red Letter Days), but nothing has come close to reaching the heights of Breach.