September 2014 SHRN: Lets Get Classic, Lets Get Weird

September 2014 SHRN

Lets get classic because yeah, we need to nearly kick off the playlist with “September Gurls.” Is it a little pat? Sure. But the day before my birthday Big Star finally clicked for me—like when your little kid taste buds flip over and suddenly some always loathed foodstuff tastes inexplicably delicious. I am old enough to appreciate Big Star now I guess, a delicious treat on foggy days when Alex Chilton in my ears feels like heaven.

Lets get weird—just imagine this collection of artists at a dinner party. It’s a fun game.

I love Fall. The air feels so fresh and all the holidays are just around the corner, close enough that they’re pure fun without the fretting. And no matter how many years I’m out of school, the start of September always feels like the beginning. The beginning of a new year, the beginning of an adventure, the crisp leafy end to lazy summer days. It doesn’t matter how much that doesn’t cue up with reality—it some ways its been a lazy summer, but hardly the kind where you lie on the beach and snooze. This is Northern California after all, leave your bathing suits and concepts of summer weather at home.

It is the start of something, that’s for sure. In less than two months, I’m getting married to the delightfully tall human who stole my heart long ago. I put this list together after dumplings, in a giant coffee shop where we drank too much caffeine at night and grinned at each other between long stretches of typing.

Quick Hits:

  • Don’t stop at “Blah Blah Blah,” the entire Girlpool album is delicious lo-fi gold. I found out about them through this Maria Sherman interview in Wondering Sound. (And of course they’re putting out awesome freshman albums in their late teens, because didn’t you know that Generation Z is taking over the world and putting us all to shame? To shame kids, to shame.)
  • More gold? The Chef soundtrack. I’ve had this on repeat since July—see the movie too if you like feel good food-porn.
  • Come on Alabama Shakes, you’re the band for all seasons, ESPECIALLY Fall, but you gotta put out a new album. Please?
  • Sometimes I think everything I know about music stems from having accidentally read I’m With The Band: Confessions of a Groupie at least five times. A little random, sure, but also a plug for rediscovering The Flying Burrito Brothers a few times a year.
  • Every autumn playlist requires a dash of Talking Heads and Pavement.

What are you listening to? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Birthday, Claire! (Sort of!)

It's the birthday owl!

It’s the birthday owl!

So, yeah, I’m a day late on this, but I’m hoping I can make up for it with this playlist. Also I hope it makes up for the fact that I haven’t written on this blog for, I dunno, forever? Too long.

This playlist arises out of a conversation I’ve had a few times with Claire about the music at her upcoming wedding, namely that Claire has exacting standards when it comes to music. The basic idea was good music, and a complete lack of things you hear far too often at these types of gatherings. I’m of course talking about any song that requires a large group of people to do the same steps in the same order for 5 minutes – basically any song with the word “slide” ending the title. I get that. It’s tough to “program” for a wedding – you have to appeal to the drunk 20-somethings that comprise the friend group while still allowing for the parental groups to get their groove on as well.This is a task I’m usually uniquely suited to. I love obsessively putting together playlists that appeal to a wide demographic, and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

This, however, was a real challenge for me, because of the fact I cannot, for the life of me, dance. Not even a little bit. It’s really weird, too, because it’s not a matter of time keeping or feeling the rhythm – I’ve played bass for two-plus decades. I can stay in the pocket no problem, I can set myself up behind the beat no issue. I can wait 140 bars not playing anything and come in on the and-of-three without a second thought. Can I move my arms and legs in a pleasing fashion to a beat? Not to save my life.

Still, I had to try. I decided the best way to do this effectively was to come up with a theme appropriate for a wedding put on by Claire. That theme is this: middle school dance, circa 1997 meets coked-out disco, circa 1978 meets the dance club from Walk Hard: A Dewey Cox Story where people go to dance erotically. I can almost hear the squeal of joy across the coast when Claire hears this list – it’s chock full of those tracks that makes a dance floor go, “Ooooohhhh!”

Some quick hits:

  • I had to start the list off oddly and awesomely, with the New Orleans-style bounce jam from Mystikal, “Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Up Against The Wall).” It’s ridiculous and the beat does, in fact, bounce. And those horns!
  • There was no way I was going to make a list for Claire’s birthday or wedding that didn’t include “Return of the Mack.” I think she might walk down the aisle to it.
  • “Go Your Own Way” isn’t perhaps the most danceable, but it is a song to jump up and down and shout and play air drums. Maybe it can be played after the chicken dance.
  • I did keep to a couple wedding cliches – you can’t have a wedding without some Michael Jackson. I think it’s actually illegal in most states.
  • The real crown jewel of this list is, as it was always going to be, “Ignition Remix,” which is why it’s the last song. I toyed with playing it first, but I didn’t wanna blow my wad on the first song. It’s such an awesome song, I’m not sure I remember what it was remixing.

Happy birthday, Claire, and I cannot wait for your wedding.

Stephanie Tanner’s Makeout Party Mixtape

gia from Full House

Who are the rebel icons who inspired your wild spirit in your formative years? David Bowie? Courtney Love? Gia from Full House?

Yeah, Gia from Full House. Me too. Because she started smoking when she was 11 and threw makeout parties and had a perpetual jean jacket that epitomized the word “bitchin.” Clearly I was a Stephanie Tanner (precocious sarcastic nerd rocking questionable haircuts) tryna be a DJ (good at school, boys, and having blonde hair/ editor of the school newspaper). But Gia was maybe my first exposure to a TV bad girl, (even though they reformed her in later seasons and made her a fun loving side kick, who knows why, we all know that role belonged to Kimmy Gibler). Her final rebellion pre-sidekick transition takes place in one of my favorite sitcom episodes—the one, the only, “Making Out Is Hard to Do.”

After school special style episodes of all 90s family sitcoms are clearly the best, and “Making Out Is Hard To Do” is no exception. Gia throws a lights-out, frenching-fest while her mom is working the night shift at the restaurant. Stephanie, of course, shows up with a board game. But even she can’t escape the strong desire to mack, which she does, briefly, before (25 YEAR OLD SPOILER YOU GUYS) she calls home for a ride and the party gets busted by one of our nation’s filthiest comedians.

I fulfilled my life long dream of becoming an early 90s makeout party DJ with this playlist, and answered the question on all of our minds: What would Gia put on her makeout party mixtape? Lets take a closer look:

  • “Satellite” by Dave Matthews Band: Oh Gia, little do you know that this will remain the makeout music du jour for the next several decades of bros. And no one can completely avoid the siren song of bros. Look forward to OAR.
  • “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base: Because it is the 90s and it is mandatory and you already ruined “I Saw the Sign,” or maybe you do that in the future? There are limits to my Full House knowledge. There aren’t many, but there are some.
  • “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star: Obviously swiped from the tape deck of a brooding college aged older sister who we never see. I imagine her coming home on breaks with a backpack full of zines and feelings and a Tiger Trap tape.
  • “The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade: Falls into the “stolen from mom” category, a category that, if the show had gone on for three more seasons, would’ve included the station wagon and some cheap chardonnay.
  • “Back And Forth” by Aaliayah: The jam, forever and always. Pairs well with makeout party mainstays like “I’ll Make Love to You” and “Dreamlover.”

Hey—were early 90s hits racy in a way that feels, while technically less explicit in language, more frankly sexual? I used to sing the words to many of these songs, loudly, whenever I got the chance, and the results of relistening now are blush-worthy.

Anyway—go forth. Makeout. Channel you inner rebellious teen. Meet me in the comments for a 90s nostalgia party—your favorite cringeworthy early 90s song, or Full House episode. GO!

Summer 2014 Belongs to Burger Records

burger records image

It’s summertime, kids—time to get the highest SPF and the fuzziest guitar hooks. The season is four days old, but already a musical success, because I finally have a name for the genre of music that I want to listen to from February through August (yes, I start rebellious summer music season early—Bay Area, no seasons, you know the drill). “Suburban perma-teen mutants.” Or “sugary, eccentric power pop and audacious garage rock, extolling a carefree message of love, music and DIY attitude.”

Basically, if Burger Records touched it, I want in. They’re part indie record label, part cassette evangelist, part record store, part “rock n roll philanthropic quasi-religious borderline-cultish propaganda spreading group of suburban perma-teen mutants.” They sum up my summer 2014 sound, and I’m hoping you’ll get equally obsessed. Here are five starter songs from five bands with Burger Records connections that belong on your summer playlists.

“Sweetest Talk” by Habibi 

I’m in a fight with Spotify Radio right now. Buddy, we get it, I love Habibi, but I’m getting to that territory where I know it’s too much and I’m on the edge of burn out.

I’ve gotta be careful. This isn’t a Top 40 jam that I want to OD on and discard. This is a classic, the kind of album I’ve been waiting for, one that deserves a dedicated dance party beyond the one occurring daily in my living room. Do you like the kind of Motown girl group inspired, indie rock songs that demands twitchy syncopated dancing, turned up speakers and rolled down windows? The kind of songs that make you want to drive faster and stay out later and get in a dash of trouble, because you know you have the perfect soundtrack? Here you go. Habibi. Enjoy.

“Gold Sneakers” by Wax Idols

Clock in at maybe two and a half minutes. Sound breathless. Create breathlessness. Conjure words and feelings like “giddy,” “elated,” hell…maybe even “jubilant.” Yes, light hearted garage rock can be downright jubilant in the hands of Wax Idols, especially with lyrics like “Can’t you just be happy to be alive/ Either way, I wanted you to know/ I l-l-l-love you.”

It’s a summer song recipe, all of this, and “Gold Sneakers” should be your go-to example of a summer song done right. Serve it up on every party playlist for the next three months.

“Only One” by Colleen Green

I was in DC on a business trip and I couldn’t stop calling stuff fun. It’s a verbal twitch that makes me cringe—one part stress, one part exhaustion, combine and the results for yours truly is a weird adjective fixation. I unknowingly pick one and embrace it, hard.

Colleen Green is fun though—in fact, she might be the funnest, and this is no twitch (I know this for a fact, since I just went to an event where inexplicably everything was “awesome.” Sigh.). “Only One” is a rare tribute to awesome boyfriends. The lyrics are straight forward loving relationship gems, undisturbed by jealousy or cynicism. The high potential for cheesiness (the chorus is “Uh huh/ Oh yeah/ I really love my boyfriend”) is mitigated by Colleen Green’s sweet distorted vocals and all around relentless coolness.

“Dreamphone” by Peach Kelli Pop

Suburban summer time blues get the twinkly vaguely retro treatment with “Dreamphone.” It’s all sitting in your room alone, a head dizzy with calls you want to make but never will. A baby blue phone under your pillow; crushes and longing all dressed up with bells and cymbals and yummy fuzzy vocals. In an alternate universe, we all wear little pastel dresses and play bass guitar and this is a summer hit.

“Generator” by Gap Dream

Weird dreamy pop, with that stretched out sound like bodies slowing down in heat. Words tumble out like they’re clinging to the tongue. Underneath it all, the steady clap, bright pockets of a borderline surf rock sound.

It’s almost never drag hot here—maybe a week here and there, and everyone loses their mind. Some kind of psychic energy in the city goes unhinged, unlike in Baltimore and DC where there’s a persistent low tremor of humid discontent, the kind that makes you feel mean and wild. It can be a little fun in small doses, when you misbehave in small ways and the mean never quite sets in. You stay out a little too late, you say the wrong right thing. “I’ve got a funny feeling/ everything’s gonna be alright/ You always do things better at night,” Gap Dream teases on repeat at the end. Spot on parting words for sweaty summer malcontents.

Top 5 Underappreciated Summer Songs

nate summer jam collage

By Nate Logan 

Consider adding some of these songs to your rotation this summer for added poppy vibes. Honestly, how many times can you listen to Best Coast and “Boys of Summer” without getting a little bored?

“It Must Be Summer” by Fountains of Wayne

Though probably more well-known these days for their song “Stacy’s Mom” and it’s very summer-centric music video, “It Must Be Summer” is a cut off Utopia Parkway that shouldn’t be looked over. This song is about having the summer blues. The song’s protagonist is trying to get in touch with a romantic prospect, but she’s nowhere to be found. The protagonist calls his prospect’s mother, sister, and the prospect herself, “but [she’s] just not there.” Simple, catchy, relatable, and better than “Stacy’s Mom.”

“One Summer Night” by that dog.

This song by Los Angeles’ that dog. (featuring two of the three famous Haden triplets, Rachel and Petra) recalls a female protagonist telling the tale of a crush on an older boy (“I asked him if he’d write me when he went away to school, and he said, ‘maybe’”). Propelled by Rachel Haden’s bass, this song is split into four parts: two verses, a slow bridge, second two verses, and a slow ending bridge. What strikes me most about the song is the ending—it’s drawn out much longer than it has to be and features some gorgeous, melancholy violin from Petra Haden.

“A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill” by Jens Lekman

Handclaps! Trumpet! A chorus of voices singing, “Bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp!” There’s a lot to love about this song. Not to be confused with “Another Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill,” this song is a fun, dance-inducing number by Lekman that’s infectious in the best possible way. The “Oh, no!” breakdown in the middle of the song begs to be dissected and sung aloud by a group of you and your friends as you head out for adventure this summer.

“Summer Babe (Winter Version)” by Pavement

I don’t know if this exactly qualifies as an underappreciated summer song, but Pavement should appear somewhere on any mix of summer songs. Listening to Stephen Malkmus eek out “tourtuuuuure” in the third verse is reason along to seek out this song, though I imagine this song qualifies as “required familiarity” for many Pavement fans. Check out the Luxe & Reduxe version of Slanted and Enchanted for a high-energy live version.

“I Hate Summer” by Fucked Up

You can’t escape the heat of summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rail against it. There’s actually a sweet sentiment woven through this song (“One day let’s set up a home / Where it’s winter all year long / Boots, hats and winter mitts / Summer nights I will not miss”). But also it’s an appreciation song for fall, which everyone knows is the best season. You’ll probably be singing this song sometime in July or August when summer is at its worst, though maybe not with the same intense, guttural vocal delivery. This song will probably work best at the end of your summer mix.

No, Seriously: Top 5 Bands You Should Already Be Listening To (by Joshua)

Listen up, kids. Claire and I have been writing this blog for years now, and we love it. Sure, we take off vast chunks of time sometimes for no reason, but we do love it. What has begun to bug me, however, is how little some of you actually listen to the stuff about which we talk emphatically. This is evident because I will put the music on, and you will say, emphatically (yeah, I used it again.), “Damn, this is really good.” And because I’m often a dick, I will Rob Gordon you and say only, “I know.” But what I really want to say (and occasionally do say) is, “You dummy! I’ve been talking about this band for so long now!” So here are the top 5 bands you should’ve already been listening to, if you took our recommendations seriously. And each band will be explained as if you have just told me you’ve never listened to them.

Alabama Shakes


I cannot stress how good their debut album is. I’m not sure where you’ve been since it came out. It’s been all over the place – literally every music publication has a big ol’ hard on for them. And how can you blame them? It’s such powerful music, all punctuated by the unbelievably strong and sexy voice of lead singer Brittany Howard. The band sounds like a modern version of Otis Redding, and there is literally nothing wrong with that. And while Redding’s songs were often carried on his voice alone, Howard has an excellent band backing her. No, you’re not going to get rollicking solos akin to, say, the Hold Steady, but you are getting probably the best name in modern soul – and they do this without a horn section. So suck on that, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings! Wait, you’ve never heard of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings?

Middle Brother



Seriously? I know I’ve played you their songs before. It’s a super group comprised of the dudes from Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit….None of them? Really? Well, I mean, I guess I can’t blame you, because it took me hearing this album before I got into all of those bands, but I’m the one in the right here, so you have failed. This album has all the makings of perfection: soaring harmonies, rocking licks, and that bit of folksy twang that’s just so irresistible. I have described them before as if The Beatles were somehow American, grew up in Wyoming, and had a drinking problem….I haven’t? Well, the description fits. And honestly, if that description doesn’t make you want to listen to the album right now, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Little Green Cars



Are you sure I haven’t told you about this band? They were my first musical obsession of the new year. I previously totally wrote off the album because it didn’t sound exactly like the single I had heard on the radio, but I’m willing to bet it was because I was totally hungover when I listened to it.  This is another band that has such amazing harmonies that they alone should sell you on the band. But the instrumentation is also wildly compelling – they manage to blend electric and acoustic so well I’m never exactly sure when I’m listening to each. And yes, the album does hit kind of a rough patch in the middle (actually, maybe it’s just the song “Red and Blue” – that song does suck), but it’s so worth it to stick it out to the aforementioned single, “The John Wayne,” because the song sounds like a happier Arcade Fire, like a happier, Irish, less full of themselves Arcade Fire.

The Oh Hello’s


Oh, you like the Lumineers or perhaps Mumford and Sons? Perhaps you have been annoyed by both bands’ absolute failure at creating cohesive and compelling albums that make you listen all the way through. …You don’t listen to albums all the way through? You just have a few of their singles? Well…you suck. But, wait, just because I insulted you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to the album they have called Through the Deep, Dark Valley. This brother-sister team can really make folk music. And their harmonies are amazing, and they only get better by being bolstered by what sounds like the entire choir from their Texas church. (The siblings are from Texas, so I just assume they go to church with more regularity than me going to shul, which is for weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs only). But yeah, speaking of folk, there’s only one name in folk rock, and also happens to have the best concert ever recorded:

The Band

the band

The Band! No, not which band, this isn’t a fucking Abbot and Costello bit. The Band, you asshole. So you haven’t seen The Last Waltz? That’s a real shame. I could go on for hours about why you’re all sorts of idiotic for having not seen the finest concert movie ever made, but I do have to ask – are you even familiar with them? Because it seems like most people these days only know their most famous song, “The Weight.” ….Yes, I mean what you have mislabeled in your iTunes as “take a load off fannie by bob dylan.” Wait, Bob Dylan? I know they were his backing band for a bit, but come on. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start. Ok, here’s what we’re gonna do. Here’s my personal copy of Music from Big Pink….and, you don’t have a record player. Well, I give up. Have fun at your Ke$ha concert.

So Hot Right Now: May 2014 (by Claire)

sidewalk flowers

I’ve had mountains of things to say to you kids about music this past month. Like if Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings come to your town, cancel your plans and go see them, unless you’re not a fan of rollicking funk dance parties and uncontrollable glee. And if you see Valerie June maybe tell her a joke, because she seemed pretty glum when she played the Fillmore (and if you don’t see her, go listen to Pushin’ Against A Stone, but that’s not news—I’ve been offering that unsolicited advice since last August.) Also if you want to have a really long talk about Andre 3000, I’m your girl. Drop me a line. And find this five track set on Spotify where he discusses his top 10 songs for going out, which includes:

  • Him waxing poetic on the piece of bubblegum he’s chewing
  • A shout out to Billy Joel
  • A description of Steely Dan parties, where people come together and try to decipher the lyrics (Are these real? I need to know. Leave me a comment if you’ve been to one of these, seriously.)

And the part in “Sixteen” by Rick Ross where Andre 3000 announces that he’s a merman—-look, do you want to get coffee and talk about Andre 3000? I want to get coffee and talk about Andre 3000. I’m very prepared and always undercaffeinated.

But I have been, as Joshua mentioned last month, silly busy. So lets skip to May. (If you’re very very curious about what I listened to in April, go listen to Joshua’s excellent April So Hot Right Now. Or listen to my extremely similar playlist.)

I want everything to sound like Habibi right now. Joyful and retro and ready to pair with long summer nights in small vintage dresses. I want everything to feel exactly like “I’ve Got the Moves” which I wish would play the second I step on to any dance floor for the next month, at least. “High School Lover” sounds nothing like my new favorite Brooklyn girl quartet, but does sound like old school Strokes and nostalgic teen rebellion, which in the throes of this rare San Francisco heat wave, both sound like a very good idea.

Yes, it’s nearly summer. Lets dance and be raucous and play everything too loud. Carefree with a nearly addictive hook—that’s what I’m going for mixtape-wise this month. “Lets Get Drunk And Get It On” fits the bill. It’s a choice gem from the new Old 97’s album, whose origin story I imagine started with Rhett Miller stomping into a room full of bandmates and announcing “Okay…so lets make the most Old 97s sounding Old 97s record possible,” then sticking to a diet of classics like “Barrier Reef” and Wild Turkey.

There’s a triumphant return from bands I forgot I loved: Slow Club, Bleached, and Operator Please. “Complete Surrender” sounds like it’s from a whole new band, but I still can’t stop playing it, while “Back and Forth” has somehow made me love Operator Please even more than before. And speaking of returns, welcome back to the mix Leftover Salmon and Taj Mahal version of “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes,” one of my favorite versions of one of my favorite songs. The 20 charming seconds of Taj Mahal talking in the intro always makes me smile.

You’re up: Tell me absolutely everything you’re listening to right now. Or your favorite Andre 3000 fact. Or your plans for a Steely Dan lyrics party. I want to hear it all—go!