Top 5 Snowed in Songs

JOSHUA’S List

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

This song is what it sounds like – it’s a ten minute guitar solo. I’m not big on them as a rule, but this one is different and a little (and mostly likely apocryphal) backstory is necessary: The guitarist, Eddie Hazel, was sat down in a room with a guitar and given a whole bunch of acid. When he was tripping balls, the band started playing a slow backing rhythm. George Clinton then told Hazel that his mother was dead and to start playing the guitar. Halfway through the blistering, emotionally raw solo, Clinton shouted to Hazel that he lied and his mother was alive. You can hear in the track how the playing changes. Still, it’s an awesome song to be snowed-in to. It’s long, it’s haunting, and if you let it, it will take your breath away easier than that draft seeping in the window.

D’Angelo – Untitled (How Does It Feel)

What do you want when you’re snowed in? I know I want a blanket, some hot chocolate, a roaring fire, and a special someone to snuggle up next to. This song is perfect for that – Snuggle up next to your baby and the fire and put this on. Soon enough you’ll be generating enough heat together to want to put that fire out.

The Band – Acadian Driftwood

This isn’t exactly the happiest song. It speaks of the expulsion of the Acadian people from Canadian islands and the hardships they endured during and after. But the melodies and somber and soothing and the guitar is lilting and strangely powerful. It also has great winter lyrics, my favorite being “I set my compass north; I got winter in the blood.” And the singing of Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson always sets my mind to ease.

Miles Davis – All Blues

I was very close to making this list all jazz. There’s something to be said to huddling around in blankets with the windows covered in snow and listen to Miles Davis or John Coltrane soulfully eek out a wonderfully crafted solo. This song has that in spades. It’s slow-moving and plodding, helped by having a simple blues 1-4-5 chord progression played in a 6/8 waltz feel. The head is an almost dark, muted affair mingling Davis solo with harmonies by saxophone and trombone. This whole album is good for a snowy day, but I find I gravitate towards this song and the lead track, “So What,” namely because their dark motifs remind me of the windows being caked in snow and it being dark, darker than it should be for 2 in the afternoon. Brew up some dark coffee for this one.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife 1 & 2 / The Crane Wife 3

These are the title tracks the Decemberists’ fourth album, comprising one of their best song cycles. It retells the Japanese folktale of the crane wife. She is found, in the form of a crane, by a lonely peasant, who nurses it back to health from an arrow wound. Once she is set free, she returns as a beautiful women…well, why don’t you just listen to it? It’s heartbreakingly beautiful and impeccably sparse. Colin Meloy, the singer/songwriter for the band, is in rare form in this song cycle. An interesting side note about the songs: “The Crane Wife 3” is the track that opens the album, while “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” is the second to last track. It’s a great choice – “3” sets the tone for the album and piques the interest of the listener, who’s being let into the story in medias res.

Honorable Mentions:

The Decemberists – January Hymn: Disqualified from the main list simply because it’s too on the nose. Otherwise, a beautiful track.

Jamie Cullum – High and Dry: I normally hate Radiohead, but Jamie Cullum’s mournful vocal tone makes one glad you’re not outside.

Rasputina – Snow Hen of Austerlitz (Cellist’s Revenge Mix): Melora Creager’s ethereal, haunting voice only compounds the dark, dark plucks and short bow-strokes of the cellos on this track. Put this one on then watch The Shining. You’ll be terrified of the snow afterwards. And shouldn’t you be?

CLAIRE’S List

Shawn Colvin — “Riding Shotgun Down the Avalanche”

The guitar, at once spare and lyrical. Colvin’s voice, with it’s rising, even-keel alto (also Alison Krauss is music’s version of salt and her voice is the definition of “dulcet tones”). The lyrics, heavy-hearted and restrained. The combination is quiet and haunting, the sonic equivalent of stepping outside mid snowstorm, when everything is silent, and neighbor’s houses and lawns are one endless blur of soft white. The chorus’s request to  “Be quiet tonight, be sure to step lightly, on this mountain of new fallen snow” is fitting. This is the beginning of the storm. This is when it’s still magical, when your home is still warm-bellied and comforting, when the days haven’t passed and the tempers haven’t flared.

Joshua Radin — “Winter”

I don’t love snow. Now that I live somewhere without it, I have a sort of idealized craving for it when I come home for the holidays. I want to watch it flutter in the street lights, I want the soft powdery snow that piles up in the backyard and demands saucer sleds and mittens, regardless of age. This song is when it stops being fun. When I’m no longer barrelling down the enormous hill in my backyard, slicing through the cold air with ruddy cheeks and layers of soaked clothing. When the darkness, cold and still, wraps tightly around my house and the slow sadness of being alone, in the dark, with my thoughts, creeps in. On the nose, to be sure, but Radin’s whispery voice and the lyrics, painfully self aware to the point of melodramatic, exemplify the “I’m starting to wish this storm would end” feeling. Or, as I call it, Day 3.

Sufjan Stevens — “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti”

There are images of writing we all want—ones with big oak desks and low light, with a cigarette clamped in your teeth and a cup of coffee going cold and oily in the corner. The kind of writing that demands typewriters, thick glass tumblers, unbuttoned shirts and pushed up sleeves. You can be that person when you’re trapped inside. I’ve never done it successfully (my snowed in writing process goes like all of my writing processes—get up every 5 minutes, wear pajama pants, become really particular about having a glass of water, or cleaning something, or doing any and all non-writing related things). This is a good writing indoors song. It makes you feel something, though it’s hard to say what, and its got the right energy for being inside, thinking, maybe even productively.

Brian Eno — “By This River”

I used to work at a tiny music memorabilia company called Connected Music. I was there for years, starting in high school, and I attribute my Brian Eno love to that time. (My Top 5 Connected Music bands: Brian Eno, Nick Lowe, Bootsy Collins, Leftover Salmon, Lucinda Williams.) During one rough winter, (personally for me, financially for the business), the three of us listened to Eno, drank black coffee by the gallon, and snuck off for frequent, jittery smoke breaks, the smoke and our breath visibly intertwined in the cold air. A storeroom full of Devo costumes and Aerosmith lunchboxes is a weird place to discover Brian Eno, but there he was, the perfect soundtrack for long cold days in a musical bunker.

Van Morrison — “I Wanna Roo You”

One bright spot in an otherwise dark list. Van Morrison is required listening for snow days. And this song, a bouncey number set on a snowed in day, is perfect. The 23rd of December has come and gone, but may all your snowed in Roo-ing (or snow-less Roo-ing, for that matter) go exceedingly well. Roo away, everyone. Roo away.

Honorary Mentions:

Counting Crows — “Long December”: This song is being fifteen, sad, cold, and terribly deep. Pairs well with red wine pilfered from your parent’s bottle stashed under the sink.

Interpol — “Obstacle 1″: Featured prominently on a mixtape someone gave me in high school, which I listened to relentlessly for years. The first notes always give me the fresh anxiety of driving through a snow storm.

Mama Cass — “Dream a Little Dream of Me”: A good moony, daydreaming song. Snow days can be joyful and lovely. Our lists don’t reflect that (much), but I swear, it’s a possibility that your snowed in day will be all cocoa and old movies, picturesque views and good food. Fingers crossed, and if it is, here’s music for that sort of day. Enjoy it.

Top 5 Dealbreakers (by Claire and Joshua)

Claire: When you first meet someone, how do you answer the question “What kind of music do you like?” Do you give them a laundry list of every band you’ve ever liked? Do you rank your top 10 artists? Do you list every genre you listen to in alphabetical order?

No, you don’t. Why? Because that would be weird. Most people list a couple bands, a couple genres, and then they wait. If the conversation takes off, you keep going. If it doesn’t, you move on to “What movies do you like?” or “Where did you grow up?” or “Have you ever milked a cow?”

Your answer to this question is like…making a mixtape. It’s rarely made up of your favorite songs, all strung together willy nilly, vacillating wildly between incongruous bands and sounds. But it’s made up of songs that say something about you to the listener, even if all it says is “Here’s how I define good music, do you agree?”

Here’s the premise for dealbreakers this week: It comes out on the first date. If I found out a few dates in that the guy liked these bands or genres, and I liked him, it wouldn’t matter. Except for Insane Clown Posse. More on that later.

CLAIRE’s List: 

Billy Joel

Friends, family, nosy servers: they scoffed at this dealbreaker. “But Claire,” they said  “what about For the Longest Time/Uptown Girl/River of Dreams?” (People who say “But Claire, what about “Piano Man?” receive the surprise DOUBLE DEALBREAKER.) “Don’t tell me when For the Longest Time comes on in the car, that you turn the station,”my sister said. “Who hates Billy Joel?” the world said.

Well Zoe/the world, you’re right. I probably wouldn’t change the station. And I don’t hate Billy Joel. But if Billy Joel is your go to first date “here’s a prime example of the music you can expect to hear in my car/apartment/overly interlaced into my party soundtracks,” it’s not a great harbinger of what’s to come. Ask yourself this: Who is in the Billy Joel stable? When Billy Joel comes out, how likely is it that he’s joined by insert-an-appropriately-varied-and-genre-spanning-list-of-bands-here? OR is it much, much more likely that if Billy Joel is trotted out on the first date, he’s coming out with the rest of his classic rock cohort? And you know what that means….SURPRISE! Barry Manilow.

Galactic

Jam bands and I? We’re cool. I was spoonfed the Dead from infancy, and I can get down with Government Mule and some of their Mule-ish peers. Tertiary jam bands and I? Not so much. These are the bands that the serious jam-band-ites are seeing. Galactic, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident—if I wanted to be bored with a contact high, I’d…no, there’s not an end to this sentence. I don’t want to be either of those things, and  I don’t want to ever have to see Galactic live again (and the seeing bands live, not just listening to them, is a requisite for dating a legit jam band follower). I saw them once at Artscape years ago, and it was the only show I’ve ever walked out of because of mind-numbing, when-will-this-set-end boredom.

Top 40 Country

I could give you the “But real country music, you know, real country music? Like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams and Emmy Lou Harris and how would you define John Prine? He’s not country, but he’s in this grey area with maybe Bonnie Raitt, and then there’s the old stuff, the Carter Family and Patsy Cline, and the thing about American Roots music is…” speech, but lets be honest: that would be douchey. I’m not here to define what actual country music is; and I like a lot of country music, actually, but nothing that’s played on any station calling themselves country, and nothing that’s graced a Billboard chart in the past several decades.

People who say “I hate the Beatles.”

Just, stop it. No. If you don’t like certain albums, certain eras, I get it. But nobody hates the Beatles.  You know what this says? “I also hate water. And sunrises. And don’t get me started on puppies, especially videos of them doing adorable shit” and  “One day I’ll have questionable facial hair, if not today.”

Insane Clown Posse

Years ago, I was dating a guy who lived about an hour away. He visited me, but being a car-less freshman, it took me a month to venture to his place. When I got there, I learned a valuable lesson: Find out as soon as possible if the person you’re dating likes the Insane Clown Posse. After the where did you go to school, what do you do, where are you from, throw in a “Oh and by the way, are you an ICP fan?” question. If you don’t, you might end up waking up in the middle of the night in a room shellacked in glow in the dark ICP posters. Expect murderous day-glo clowns to appear nightly in your dreams.

JOSHUA’s list:

ABBA

I don’t know how anyone could like them. It’s some of the worst disco music the 70’s ever produced. Leave it to the Swedes. Everything about this “band” pisses me off, right down the all-caps stylization of their name. It says about someone who is willing to admit they like ABBA (even as a guilty pleasure) and it’s even worse if they mention it on a first date. If you ask your date who their top 5 favorite artists are and they mention ABBA, it’s time to go. In fact, if they mention them in anything other than utter contempt on the first date, you get up and pay the check and leave and never look back.

Sublime

I’m a big Sublime hater. This is, of course, rare for my age group and even rarer for those who like to smoke pot on occasion. The music is bland as shit and terrible to boot. But this isn’t one of those things that I would spit in someone’s space for liking them. But if my first date companion mentions this band as a favorite, I would have to take a long, hard look at them and wonder what makes someone listen to such boring music. Does pot really make things better or just more willing to let go awful musical flaws?

People who dismiss jazz and classical music AND people who only listen to jazz or classical

Obviously my problem with this is many-fold. People who dismiss jazz or classical music are probably not the smartest people in the world – and I can prove it. When someone says they can’t stand jazz, ask them what they define jazz to be in 20 words or less. I was a student of both jazz for 15+ years growing up playing upright bass and I doubt I can give you such a narrow definition that encompasses all of what jazz is. The best part of meeting new people is getting to know their musical tastes and adding the stuff you like to your library. These people could never do that, and probably have their radio dials stuck to the top 40 hits station (Mix 106.5 in Baltimore).

On the other side of the equation, those people who only like jazz or classical music remind me of Ian/Ray (wonderfully portrayed by Tim Robbins) in High Fidelity. These people are the ultimate music nerds or just straight up douchebags. Avoid them at all costs.

People who collect vinyl just to collect them

Vinyl is cool. Really cool. And I’m not just saying that because I own 100+ records, it’s just really cool. I love being able to hold my music collection in my hands and brush the small collected dust off the records and then putting the needle down and listening to them. This, however, is where classic collectors and I differ. They want to own vinyl for the status symbol, for the rarity, for the pride. Most true collectors barely care about the music pressed onto the vinyl, just how pristine the jacket or how rare the pressing is. These are the worst people to talk to music about ever.

Nickelback

Ok, so maybe I wasted saying the last group was the worst group to talk about music with. I’ve never met anyone who actually likes this band, but if I did, I probably would set them on fire with whatever was handy. I would probably stab my own brother (non-fatally, of course) to get a chance to torture every member of Nickelback for crimes against music, and either of my brothers would be ecstatic at his role in offing this pathetic excuse of a band. I’m not sure if killing Nickelback is even illegal in the USA, considering they are Canadian citizens. And if my first date admitted to even a passing fancy to this band, I first laugh in their face for easily ten minutes, get up, leave (stiffing them for the bill in the process), and then run to the nearest bar and drink the memory of ever meeting this person away for good.

Note from Joshua: I know Claire has included videos with her list, but I cannot bring myself to link videos to bands this bad. If you don’t know who they are, consider yourself lucky.

Happy Birthday Joshua!

Happy Birthday Joshua! Thanks for being an awesome friend, writer, musician, resident music snob, and person. In honor of Joshua’s birthday, here are my top 5 favorite blurbs/pieces of musical wisdom by birthday boy:

1. Parliament – “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off)” (from “Top 5 Songs Your New Years Eve Party Desperately Needs”)

“It’s pretty impossible to have a party without George Clinton. I mean, seriously, can you remember the last time you went to a party and a Parliament/Funkadelic/George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic didn’t make an appearance on the playlist? You can? I’ll bet that party sucked. No? You’re lying to me now. It was so good you got blackout drunk and you met your future husband/wife? Just stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. Everyone knows no party is complete without some interplanetary funk.”

2. Brad Mehldau– “When It Rains” (from “Top 5 Hometown Songs”)


“I love to make mix tapes. And Rob Gordon was right, there is a formula one must follow when making one. However, there isn’t a consensus on what one should end the tapes with. Some believe you need to make it end on extremely high note with an up-tempo song that leaves the listener wanting more. I’m of the belief it’s better to build up to that song with a few songs before it, then end with a denouement that leaves a feeling of total satisfaction, usually a ballad or a slower song. This is the song I set as a gold standard for that. It starts and ends slow and has an absolutely stunning solo by Mehldau in the middle section then fades back to slow. But what makes this song hit home so hard is that I have always wanted to make music like this. Before I broke my wrists, I was a pretty decent jazz bassist. I spent nearly 10 years of my life playing jazz and this is the perfect example of music I wanted to be a part of and now I’ll never be.”

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Deep Kick” (from “Top 5 Bad Songs by Good Artists”)

“The whole album this is on, One Hot Minute, is awful. And this song is heinous. It’s like John Prine meets Donovan meets Flea waking up from a bad booze, speed, and heroin hangover. This band was based on speed rock funk. Anything under 80 bpm just seems weird and this is truly bizarre. I just want to ask everyone involved what they were thinking, all the way down to the mixing board tech. Awful.”

4. The Isley Brothers, cover of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” (from “Top 5 Covers”)

“The original version is done by James Taylor. This version can convince anyone to drop their pants and get it on. Being able to do that with a song written by James Taylor? Priceless.”

5. Two Years

“A haunting, and beautiful, piece by Joshua about his father’s death. If you haven’t read it yet, you should, immediately.”

Two Years—Joshua

My father was found dead in his apartment two years ago.

He was 54. An aneurysm popped in his brain and he fell over dead on the spot. They tell me he never felt a thing. For many a day, neither did I.

I found out in the early evening. My mother managed to get both of my brothers home that night. My girlfriend couldn’t make it for some reason.

I got very drunk that night. This was, of course, against all wishes from my family and my girlfriend at the time, Kate.

I’ll admit it. I’m not the best person to be around under pressure. I don’t rise to the occasion well at all. In fact, I tend to crumble under intense pressure…even mundane pressure, like being in the weeds at work. I get overly frustrated quickly. Unfortunately, the first response to this is to both shut down emotionally and to drink heavily; these both feed upon each other.

Most of you who read this know little about me and even less about my father. This is very deliberate. I could not stand my father. He was a drunk. A drunk who loved to pick on his kids. The story goes that when I was first learning how to talk, I spoke my first full sentence to my father and he responded with, “You think you’re better than me, cuz you can talk now?”

It was a constant battle with him. It was almost Freudian how he came to see me as a threat. He showed off his dominance by emotionally belittling me and physical beatings. The worst instances would be when he’d been drinking. These, like any true alcoholic, would be followed the next day by broke-down crying apologies and profusely sincere declarations that this would never happen again. The truce would last as long as he could purchase his next six pack.

Maybe that was his way to deal, too. He was never ready to have children and drank the inadequacy away. I was unable to deal with his death and drank it away too.

***

His brother, one of the best male role models available to me, came to town from San Diego to help plan the funeral. He looked to me, as the oldest son, nearly 24 years old, to make all the decisions that needed to be made. My mother had divorced my father nearly eight years before; she didn’t give a shit about this. I was supposed to create the last memories of his life.

I choked.

I was either too emotionally numb or drunk or both to be able to help in anything. When it came time to make a decision on a wake, I just blindly sided my religion, not his (Jews don’t have them). When it came time to make a decision on burial or cremation, I said cremation (because I couldn’t deal with having his body in the same room). When it came time to plan the funeral, I let my uncle hire some hippie minister to officiate the ceremony (not to mention create the whole thing on her own). This is where the music comes in.

When the ceremony started, the minister gathered us to sit down. She then started pushed play on a boombox, playing the song “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young.

She started off welcoming us to the room and offering her condolences. She then went on to say all the music she would be playing during the ceremony was pulled off my father’s iTunes.

It was very obvious she had never met my father. I barely knew him and I knew he thought Neil Young was a pussy. I knew he had this song on his iTunes simply to depress himself – it was one of those songs we all keep around to make us laugh or cry or just kick us in the ass. I can’t imagine he liked it. Yet there it was, kicking off my father’s funeral in style.

I don’t know if you’ve heard “Heart of Gold,” but it’s, on face value, meant to be an intensely introspective song, but it fails miserably at this. It’s incredibly vain and shallow. It desperately tries, with the soft chord changes and the lilting vocals to be heart-wrenching, but all it can summon up is conceit and boredom. It sound like a 27-year-old got stoned and wrote a song about his quest for self-awareness.

This was the song the minister decided to begin the funeral with.

Looking back now, maybe she knew him better than I thought. This would be the kind of song my father would’ve found super “deep.” I can’t ever listen to this song again, knowing how vain it is and how wrong it was to begin the somber matter of my father’s funeral.

***

Yet somehow, she managed to hit home. And she did it in an even more cliché way than “Heart of Gold.”

When it came time to pause for a moment for silent reflection, she pressed play on the boombox and walked away. I can’t remember what she had said before, but when she walked away the small sounds of the first chords of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” began playing.

The song has become a walking cliché of “keep your head up when shit goes down.” And James Taylor’s voice is usually annoying as shit: Boring and halfway to Randy Newman. I’ve always hated the song.

And yet, when, those small, finger-picked chords began playing, and when Taylor began singing, I almost lost it. Tears started streaming down my face. I looked next to me at Kate and she was half sobbing, despite having never met my father. She only knew what I had told her about him, none of which was good. I can’t explain what happened with this song; I only can remember that the timing of it had every single person in the room sobbing like it was their family member who died.

***

This is the power of music. I’ll never be able to listen to “Heart of Gold” again without being both pissed off and depressed. Every time I hear it, it reminds me instantaneously of the funeral and I can’t help but walk away or turn it off, shutting down all emotions I feel. But when I hear “Fire and Rain,” I’m filled with the sense of hope Taylor meant but couldn’t really achieve. It makes me that happy kind of sad you get when you remember a great person who passed and all the wonderful memories you had with that person. I don’t have any of those memories of my father…but for the three and a half minutes “Fire and Rain” is on, it fools me into thinking I do.

***

I want to thank everyone who was there for me when this happened, which was of course most people I know. Specifically, I want to thank my uncle Chris Saunders, the co-author of this blog, Claire Moshenberg, and my friend Laura Valdivia. I want to also especially thank the ex-girlfriend I mentioned, Kate Eudy, who was just as clueless as I was and yet still had the wherewithal to keep me relatively sane. Without these people I doubt I would’ve been able to make through this. My thanks to you all is never-ending.

Top 5 Songs Classic Rock Radio Has Ruined

Joshua: At my job (for those of you who don’t know, I make the bagels at a small Baltimore café [a Jew making bagels? Go on!]), we have a busted-ass iPod speaker set. The actual part one would hook an iPod up to it is busted so all we can do with it is listen to the radio. The only station it picks up reliably is 100.7 The Bay, Baltimore’s only native classic rock radio station. Unfortunately, it’s corporate owned so it’s basically a Top 40’s station with classic rock instead of pop. The other day, I was working my ass off, slaving over the hot oven when I realized every single song they were playing had pissed me off. Every single song was terrible. I related this to a co-worker, who then said, “But they play the same damn songs every day, just in a different order.” So I said, “You’re right. I guess the order is what’s pissing me off today.” And that’s the crux of what we’re talking about this week. These are songs, if they came up on your iTunes or some other non-Apple-based-software shuffle you would totally dig, or at least not skip. But when they come on the radio and you can’t do anything but turn it off or suffer, they will piss you off every time. Bonus: Both Claire and I listened to a stream of 100.7 The Bay while writing this. We don’t recommend doing the same while reading it.

JOSHUA’S TOP 5:

Led Zeppelin – Kashmir

The problem I have with this song is really just the length. I love this song when it comes up in my shuffle. I mean, they are playing in 4/4 time and simulating 3/4 time over it. It’s a wild song. But the novelty of the time signature wears off about 4 minutes into the 8 minute song and certainly after the 69326th time you’ve heard it and had to sit through the whole damn thing. Not to mention it was sampled shittily by Puff Daddy for an even shittier remake of Godzilla.

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

I will come out and say I don’t really like Pink Floyd. People always tell me it’s because I haven’t “opened my mind” enough (read: acid), but that’s not the problem. The problem is that their music is bland and boring. This song is second to only “Wish You Were Here” in the boring Pink Floyd oeuvre. Side note: The scene in the movie The Departed where Leonardo DiCaprio gets it on with Vera Farmiga is both hot as hell and set to a much better version of this song, sung live with Roger Waters and fucking Van Morrison. This version I would love to hear on the radio, but instead I get the insanely boring album version.

David Bowie – Fame

The biggest problem I have with this song is that it’s one of two or three songs they play by David Bowie, the others being “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” and that’s it. Bowie has a huge collection of music and most albums are nothing like the one that just came before it. Having “Fame” being the one song 100.7 has fixated on playing by Bowie makes him seem like a one-hit wonder, which is both patently untrue and offensive. And racist.  Why racist? Shut up, that’s why.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio

This song is fine to sit through, with the exception of the chorus, which is needlessly repetitive. However, the real problem I have with it is the same problem I have with any song with a message on the radio: The more you hear it, the less the message hurts. And this song is supposed to hurt when you hear it. But all I can think about when it comes on the radio is “When the fuck will they shut up about ‘Four dead in O-hi-o’?”

Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

I actually really love this song. Straight up, unabashedly love this song. And that’s the real problem. I can’t hear it as often as 100.7 wants to play it, which seems like every two hours. When it comes up in my shuffle, I sing along so loud. And it has special meaning for me too: The first time I saw The Decemberists, I went to go pick up the tickets with the girl I was dating at the time (who, of course, was the one to get me into them) and I got to hear them doing their sound check and they totally sang this song. We were the only two people there…which makes it even worse to have to hear it as often as they play it. It tarnishes what should be a magical memory.

CLAIRE’S TOP 5:

Van Morrison — Brown Eyed Girl

This is a great song. Joyful, summery, with Van Morrison’s grainy Irish molasses voice (this is clearly a nonsense description, but you know what I mean, right? Like if molasses and a loofah had an Irish love child. There, that’s better), and the lovely silly “Sha la la la” chorus, designed by Russian scientists for maximum head bopping. Unfortunately, this is THE ONLY Van Morrison song for most classic rock radio stations. Oh sure, once in a while they’ll throw in a “Moondance,” or an “Into the Mystic” if they’re feeling really feisty, but when they need to hit that daily Van quota, they’re reaching for this. And after too many listens, those opening notes become a cue to switch that station, because not only is this a so-over-played-it’s-impossible-to-listen-to song, but it’s a so-catchy-it’s-impossible-to-shake-out-of-your-head-song too. Dangerous combo.

The Pretenders — Brass in Pocket

I love the Pretenders. I didn’t know that for years, because for years this was the only song of theirs I had ever heard. Years I tell you. It’s not a bad song—repetitive to a fault, more than a little cloying. But it’s another quota song, another “Hey guys, the Pretenders are classic rock, right? What’s the one song we need to play by them?” or “Hey, we never play songs by women, lets play “Brass in Pocket” and then….Heart?” Sigh.

Bob Dylan — Like a Rolling Stone

The overplaying of this song is part of a giant covert plot to make everyone hate Bob Dylan. Here’s the selection process: Lets look at a huge, luminous body of work (forget almost everything the man put out in the 80s, and that Victoria’s Secret commercial, okay? For me? Thanks.), and pick the most nasal, early Dylan-y voiced tune, play it incessantly, and only switch it up with “The Times, They Are a Changin’,” which fits the same voice model. And luckily, both songs are really long, so if you skip them, you end up going back to the station like three more times before the damn thing is over. No wonder everyone seems to answer the “What artists do you not like who you’re supposed to like?” question with Bob Dylan. For a lesson on how to like Bob Dylan again, just go listen to Blonde on Blonde a few times over. You’ll figure it out.

John Lennon– Imagine

“Imagine” is a haunting, beautiful, hall-of-fame-of-songs type song. And this is why it shouldn’t be treated like the latest Katy Perry pop trifle and put on repeat. Sometimes good songs needs to be treated like good foods. You wouldn’t eat a double ice cream scoop full of caviar. You wouldn’t spread foie gras on toast every morning and eat it standing up over the sink. Sure, it sounds awesome. But after a while, those luxurious treats would transform into technically good, but ultimately unexciting, foods that you could definitely do without. Who wants to feel that way? That’s how I feel about “Imagine.” Give it space to breathe, classic rock radio. And as with all artists—the man has other songs. Play them.

Everything by James Taylor, ever.

James Taylor, I hear you’re a good artist. And after reading “Girls Like Us,” I hear you’re a heart-breaking sex icon. That’s all terrific. Congratulations. Unfortunately, I can’t listen to any of your music. You are one of the few quota-less classic rock radio musicians, which means all of your music has been played to death. Maybe you’re proof that artists do need quotas?

Happy Aiko Aiko Birthday!—Claire

Happy birthday to my dad. Thanks for taking me to so many shows it’s actually impossible to remember the first one, enforcing good (and varied) musical taste way before it was technically appropriate, and doing stuff like making me a mixtape of songs featuring “17” for my 17th birthday (and Photoshopping out my much despised prom date in favor of Richard Thompson). Here’s your song.

So Hot Right Now, January 2012 (first draft)–Joshua

You may be asking yourself, So Hot Right Now? Is that exactly what it sounds like? Yes, it is. We all tend to have these songs that are stuck, like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth, in our brains for what seems like a month. I just happen to make them into a playlist with a catchy name (which I totally stole from from an ex). The spin I came up with was to create the list with the limitation that it must be able to fit within a standard length of a burned cd, making it essentially a So Hot Right Now mixtape. I also arrange the songs with some fleeting adherence to the rules of making a mixtape, which are many and more, according to Rob Gordon, so they aren’t exactly perfect. And in that vein, I also tend to revise the lists halfway through the month with what plays and doesn’t play. So without any further ado, here are our first So Hot Right Now lists of the New Year!

Joshua’s So Hot Right Now:

1. Gogol Bordello – Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)
2. Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
3. Barenaked Ladies – What A Good Boy
4. They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse In Your Soul
5. All Mighty Senators – Booty Fresh
6. Paul Simon – Graceland
7. Cake – Short Skirt/Long Jacket
8. Laughing Colors – Sunrise Highway (live, unplugged)
9. Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams
10. The White Stripes – You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
11. The Decemberists – O Valencia!
12. Faces – Stay With Me
13. Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over
14. Arcade Fire – Wake Up
15. Cake – End of the Movie

Claire’s So Hot Right Now:

1) Violent Femmes – Good Feeling
2) Barenaked Ladies (cover of Bruce Cockburn) – Lovers in a Dangerous Time
3) They Might Be Giants – We Want a Rock
4) The Strokes – I’ll Try Anything Once
5) Lana Del Rey – You Can Be the Boss
6) Rolling Stones – Loving Cup
7) Richard Thompson – Cooksferry Queen
8) Teenage Fanclub – The Concept
9) Regina Spektor – Eet
10) Taj Mahal – Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes
11) Florence + the Machine – Shake It Out
12) Drake – Marvin’s Room
13) Cake – Italian Leather Sofa
14) Etta James – Spoonful
15) Bootsy Collins – Munchies for Your Love