Top 5 One-Hit Wonders (by Joshua)

I’m not sure of my relationship with one-hit wonders. I obviously like the ones I’m about to present to y’all, but being keyed into the one-hit wonder scene is a conundrum for me: To say you’ve never gotten into the one-hit wonders is to say you’re not into pop music, which I ostensibly agree with for my music taste. But, not knowing these songs is reaching a disconnect with the culture at large that is simply unacceptable. Also, saying you don’t know anything about pop music is both erroneous and needlessly hipster, and I’m trying my best to get over my hipster phase. Of course, my hipster phase was listening to funk and soul from the early 70’s, not this lo-fi crap all you jackasses in the skinny jeans listen to.

So maybe I haven’t gotten over the hipster. But I do like some pop music, and I do know lots of one-hits that are badass.

“Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground

What’s not to like about this song? It’s 90’s to the MAXX. It’s so blasé it hurts, it’s musically minimalistic, and it has lyrics that are vaguely sexual and has a word Tipper Gore wishes wasn’t in the title. It’s the kind of rebellious anyone can get away with. I could get away with playing this song at an old folks’ home without them even batting an eye. Despite that, there’s something so alluring about the song – its boredom is so potent it’s attractive. It’s like the girl in your high school who hated everything and stood just off property smoking Pall Malls, deriding the local music scene for not being hard enough and spitting. Like, all the time spitting.

“Drift Away” by Dobie Gray

No one could ever possibly dislike this song. And fuck Uncle Kracker.

“Cult of Personality” by Living Colour

Um, maybe this may be racist, but was anybody else surprised when they found out these guys were all black? It’s a badass song. I always somehow associate the song with the 90’s despite the fact it came out in the late 80’s. It has that sound of funk and hard rock so popular in the 90’s (think Rage Against the Machine or Red Hot Chili Peppers), but really it’s just a harder version of Funkadelic. Not that I’m complaining, it’s so cool. It’s like a black Faith No More! Oh man, I should’ve included Faith No More in this list.

“Epic” by Faith No More

Oh, sweet, I did. It’s a primordial RHCP, and therefore it doesn’t have the polish they had, or the amazing opportunity of being able to work with George Clinton. But there’s still something there. Then again, I imagine once the Chili Peppers came out, Faith No More said to themselves, “Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Wow. I had forgotten just hot ridiculous this song was. Why is dressed up like Mozart from Amadeus? Why does he rhyme like 60% of the time? Why is his flow akin to a Stravinsky symphony? Who fucking thought it was a good idea to let Biz Markie rap/sing a song? What the fuck.

Master Class: Cake

Now it’s time to get right down to it. If we were eating birthday cake, the first week would be the icing: The first taste, beautifully sweet and supple. The second week would be the cake itself, firm yet delicate, with just the right amount of sugar. Today’s entry is the fork: it’s nothing like the birthday cake, but it’s entirely essential to eat the cake properly.


Ok, I was going to write something else here, but I love that analogy so much. These are the songs the Workaholics crowd would be proud of: “Let’s get weird!”

“Jolene” on Motorcades of Generosity

This is the most straight-up rock song Cake has, but I think it’s also one of their best songs overall. It doesn’t sound much like the sound they’ve become known for, but it’s off their first album – they were just figuring out what they wanted to do. Having said that, it’s a brilliant song, and one of my favorite break-up songs, having helped me through the last one I went through. The lyrics to the chorus are particularly effective:  “every time I pull you close / push my face into your hair / cream rinse and tobacco smoke / that sickly scent is always, always there.” What separates it from the rest of their music, however, is the outro. It’s raw and truly angry. I have to wonder how often they play this song anymore. It can’t be a fan favorite. At least, not your average fan.

“You Part the Waters” on Motorcades of Generosity

Oh, what a fun, fun song. And weird. I’m convinced that the chorus, with the repeated use of the word “piano,” is just a distraction from the fact that John McCrea couldn’t come up with a rhyme for “piano.” In earnest, this song is all over the place. But I’ve found that it’s an incredible song to drive around and sing along to. The re-entry to the music after the strings-break is one of my all-time favorite Cake moments. It’s fun, it’s funky, it’s totally odd. It’s exactly what I want from a Cake song.

“Mr. Mastodon Farm” on Motorcades of Generosity

It’s pretty much a spoken word track; you’re just going to have to accept that. The lyrics in the verse sound like a college freshman got too stoned one afternoon and wrote a very, very odd poem. I can’t imagine the truth of writing this song is that far off from the previous description. But there’s something super soothing about this song, as if you could put it on while taking a bath. I’ve never been able why exactly I like this song as much as I do, but I do. And you probably should, too.

“Nugget” on Fashion Nugget

If you’re pissed off and need to listen to some angry music, most of the time Cake will not be your answer. The few exceptions are the song above, “Jolene,” and this song. The verse lyrics make little to no sense but are really fun to angrily shout, and the chorus is perfect those who are angry: “Shut the fuck up!” And it’s filled with “YA!’s” and vibraslaps a-slapping. It’s angry and silly at the same time – something only Cake could pull off.

“Thrills” on B-Sides and Rarities

I was very recently introduced to this track by my friend Karee. I was ecstatic to find a Cake track I hadn’t yet heard! And this song did not disappoint. It’s great, and singularly weird. A true spoken word track, this time with a seriously kick-ass beat and a liquid guitar line. There isn’t much to say about this track: In the immortal words of Mitch Hedberg, you’re either gonna love or hate it, or think it’s ok.

Top 5 One Hit Wonders (by Claire)

My music collection wouldn’t be complete without these one hit wonders, and over years of listening they’ve become bands I claim to like, even though I really only like their one song. I’ve almost ended up at Tom Tom Club Shows hundreds of times before remembering that I only know “Genius of Love,” and that going to a band’s show for one song is a choice that rarely works in my favor (although when it does, it really does. Be risky about shows, kids! Just maybe try to listen to two or three songs first.)

Lessons for if you don’t want to be a one hit wonder, based solely on this list: Don’t put punctuation in your band name. And don’t be in the 80’s.

“Genius of Love,” by the Tom Tom Club

I get a weird kick out of music that references other music (recent Ke$ha and Maroon 5 odes to Mick Jagger excluded). When done by an artist I like, it’s like getting a quick peek at their record collection, and sharing a fan moment with someone usually relegated to the other side of that equation. “Genius of Love” references quite a few musicians, even repeating James Brown’s name enough times that the “James BROOOWN, JAMES Brooown” line always gets stuck in my head. If one hit wonders are the one-offs that I can’t imagine my music collection missing, than “Genius of Love” is the music industry’s ultimate one hit wonder. It’s sampled in a hilarious number of (mostly rap) songs, including two of my 90s favorites: “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison, and (obviously) “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. Fun trivia fact: This song was only included in “Stop Making Sense” so that David Byrne could slip away to change into his giant suit.

“Groove is in the Heart,” by Deee-Lite

“Groove is in the Heart” is a magical collage of music. First, there’s Dee-Lite, a dance band that put out what would become the original house music, featuring the notoriously slinky vocals of Lady Miss Kier. Bootsy Collins plays bass guitar, a very young Q-Tip raps, Tina Turner plays the tambourine, funk legends Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley join in, and the whole song revolves around a Herbie Hancock riff. The song features more than 9 samples, one of which is the theme song to Green Acres. Throw in some funny fake French dialogue, an acid trip of a music video, and a ludicrously catchy chorus, and you have one of the world’s most perfect dance songs, prominently featured on many top dance song lists. If you’re looking for something to do, I highly recommend wasting an hour on Wikipedia tracing the various bizarre musical roots of this song, while watching the video on repeat.

“Take on Me,” by A-ha

The three of us were the kind of silly drunk that only budget booze and being eighteen years old can conjure. We were made sillier by our Halloween costumes. Rahnia and I had paced the local discount store for hot glue guns and clothing we could tear and glue into something festive. She was a librarian maybe, or something that required a perfect slash of red lipstick and glasses perched seductively at the end of her nose. I was a fairy, covered in plastic blooms from a beheaded bouquet and yards of gauzy fabric, with big maribou wings stuck to my back. I don’t remember what the third girl wore. In a move that seemed genius, we ditched the last in a series of parties to blast this song and jump on Rahnia’s bed. The song played again and again as we soared through the air, laughing and tumbling, acquiring bruises we would only find hungover the next morning. I was very sure that the world would be a sorry place without the musical stylings of A-ha. Though I have long since retired vodka housed in plastic jugs and homemade fairy wings, I stand by that statement. Life is more fun with A-ha playing, a bed to jump on, and laughing friends to break your fall.

“Voices Carry,” by ‘Til Tuesday

Aimee Mann rocks a platinum, Flock-of-Seagulls ‘do, and her menacing yuppie boyfriend doesn’t like it one bit. He also doesn’t like her rat tail, her cool cuff earrings, her band full of po’faced, long haired guys who look like they’ve forgone the trendy 80s fashions and gone straight for the trendy 80s downer pharmaceuticals. Menacing yuppie boyfriend wants her to be quiet yuppie arm candy. Don’t speak up! Don’t play in your band! Hey, wear these ugly earrings I bought you.

I’ve listened to a lot of Aimee Mann breakup songs. A lot. Almost daily. Mann has a cannon of musical heartbreak.  “Voices Carry” stands out though because it’s so raw. Even in a sea of new wave musical stylings, there’s no polish, no clever images and wordplay. That’s not to say it’s not a well written song, it is—it’s just not hiding anything. And Mann seems so incredibly vulnerable: the warble in her voice as she sings “When I tell him that I’m falling in love/ why does he say” as she launches into “Hush hush/keep it down now/voices carry.” The resoluteness when she sings “I try so hard not to get upset/ Because I know all the trouble I’ll get.” In the video, menacing yuppie goes from cartoonish villain in an 80s movie to truly violent, shoving Mann on two separate occasions. It’s hard to watch.

80s Aimee Mann, you’re too cool for all this nonsense. Stay away from scary yuppies. Sing your heart out while you’re sitting in the audience at Carnegie Hall. Don’t pay attention to the shocked old lady or mean boyfriend knudging you. Sing on, Aimee Mann. Keep that cool cuff earring. I’m even warming up to the rat tail.

“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes

How weird is it that this song is called “What’s Up?” when Linda Perry screams (from the tops of her lungs, no less) “What’s Going On?” over and over again? According to Wikipedia, the title was to stop people from confusing this with Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On?” I would like to meet the person who would confuse Linda Perry and Marvin Gaye. I have a lot of questions for them, like did they also confuse Taylor Swift and The Cure (Love Song) or when they heard the Counting Crows version of Uncle John’s Band, did they think that guy with the dreadlock filled Bam-Bam ponytail was Jerry Garcia?

When I first heard this, I remember thinking it was really cool that the singer was so angry, and blunt about it, and how I’d never really heard a woman be that aggressive in a song. I thought that was a good thing, and it was something I would go on to seek out in other (better) songs. Now this song sounds pretty dated, and Linda Perry’s vocals are kind of grating. But I dig her combat boots and socks, and the band’s overall early 90s anti establishment look and message. (Fun 90s trivia: Linda Perry is now dating the woman who played Darlene on Roseanne.)

Top 5 Forgotten 90’s Songs (by Joshua)

I would, as Claire said in Monday’s post, like to say these are not, repeat, absolutely not my favorite 90’s songs. I do like a few of them, but generally they’re songs that I had forgotten existed and occasionally wished I had never remembered.

“Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger

That is definitely not true for this song. I loved it when I was in middle school, and hearing it again now is awesome. It has everything you want from a 90’s song: too-blunt counter-culture references (“publish zines and rage against machines”), intensely self-conscious lyrics, and just enough distortion pedal with a little too much feedback. The video is also fantastically hilarious. It’s also got that 90’s sense of rebellion and naiveté – they’re angry about something but don’t have the wherewithal and age and experience to be righteously angry. This is also called being a teenager.

“The Way” by Fastball

Man, I forgot just how annoying this song is. We get it, you like sweep arpeggios. If you’re not a classical guitar master or Mark Knopfler, we don’t need to hear you do it every two seconds. But this song had an odd reaction on the radio: I heard it on both the top 40 station in Baltimore (that being Mix 106.5, back when they wouldn’t play anyone with too much melanin) and the “alternative” station (either HFS or DC101). I’m not sure what made it appealing to both sets…it’s not that good.

“Scream” by Michael and Janet Jackson

Jesus, this one is a blast from the past. This came out a little after the first round of sex abuse scandals, remember? It was a musical response, and obviously an attempt to have a family circle-the-wagons moment. “I support you, brother,” says Janet, “Maybe we should do a really creepy and weird and almost incestuous song and video together to show the world how normal we both are?” “Oh Janet, you always know what to say to cheer me up. You even did your nose up like mine!”

“You Always Get What You Give” by The New Radicals

The video is halfway to the next Fox special: When Flash Mobs Go Wrong. It could also be, When Pop Singers Think They’re Way Cooler Than They Actually Are, and Would Never Be Accepted By The Groups of People They Have Dancing Around In This Video. (Maybe Fiona Apple named that show.) Despite that, I rather like this song. It’s pretty dumb but it’s fun in spite of itself. And I have a soft spot for one hit wonder bands….mostly because I’d love to be one.

“Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)” by Scatman John

This is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days, for so long that you think you may kill yourself from the annoyance, but once it’s gone, you almost miss it. You’ll never admit to yourself that you like this song – mostly because it’s just god-awful – but you do. At least, I do. I don’t consider it a guilty pleasure because I hate the song, but there’s something about it that I find so endearingly hilarious that I never stop myself from putting it on at a party. Doing that tells you a few things about the party-goers: Those who dance to the song have no problem looking like an idiot or are drunk (or both) or have seen Baseketball and loved it or will dance to anything (or all three!). Those who walk off the dance floor muttering under their breath about killing the DJ are fools, fools who don’t know the simple pleasure of the Scatman. Side note: Maybe this was a case of faulty association, but I always thought Scatman John was black. Evidentially he’s not.

Master Class: Cake (by Joshua)

Last week’s introduction of Cake wasn’t really a fair shake. To put it simply, it just wasn’t weird enough. Cake has the ability to get really weird, but I don’t think you’re quite ready for the truly odd stuff. So today I’m going to give you a little insight into what makes Cake so awesome, and then we’re gonna delve a little deeper into their discography and get a little harder…and maybe a little weird.


Cake has an incredibly unique sound, one that I imagine would be nigh impossible to duplicate. From the beginning, they suck you in with guitar riffs that you, if you played guitar, could probably pick out relatively easily, but would never think to do on your own. Then, the bass kicks in. Oh, the Cake bassists are legendary for their funkiness and precision timing with the drummer, who is always, always in the pocket. And then the voice comes over – it’s nearly monotone but has a tender quality to it, and always very jovial. You come to realize the deeper you delve into their songs that it’s almost never serious, too: Cake writes funny – or at least, deeply ironic – songs all the time.

With that in mind, here are some songs that you probably wouldn’t listen to if you weren’t already a fan of Cake. Consider it a glimpse into the mind of one who loves their sound, and knows that their strength lies in their humor…and their ridiculous covers. They can cover a song like nobody’s business.

“Arco Arena” on Comfort Eagle

I wanted to bring you in on a song that does two things: First, it gives you a glimpse (albeit a short one) into the harder side of Cake. They can rock out. Second, it lets you in on the ubiquitous Cake “YA!” John McCrea shouts “YA!” in almost every single song. Now that you know this fact, you’ll never be able to ignore it again, and like me, you’ll come to love it.

“Wheels” on Pressure Chief

This was a narrow miss for one of my Top 5 Album Openers. It’s an excellent track, and sequenced perfectly at the top of Pressure Chief. This album was a bit of a departure in sound from the previous album, but it became a fan favorite. It also has one of the funniest lines ever uttered in a song: “And the muscular cyborg German dudes dance with sexy French-Canadians.” And, oh yeah, the groove. Holy balls, what an amazing bass line. And the in-the-round fade-out? Amazing.

“The Guitar Man” on Pressure Chief

The other day we asked you what covers you thought were better than the original. If there was any shoe-in for that category, it would be this cover of a pretty lame ass Bread song. It doesn’t have to stray far from the original, but they give it the Cake flair (and of course, the Cake “YA!”) to great effect. And if I haven’t mentioned this before, Cake does harmonies like no other, and this song certainly showcases that.

“I Will Survive” on Fashion Nugget

The cover that started it all. That bass, man…sheesh. It’s lumping perfect, from hilariously restrained vocals (with cussing) to the aforementioned bass to the wicked awesome guitar solos, including my favorite one-note solo of all time after the guitar and bass breakdown. Fun fact: Gloria Gaynor, the original singer of the song, hates this cover. Well, tough shit, Gaynor, this is hands-down better than your version. And, if you notice, McCrea doesn’t change the gender of the subject either, singing “his eyes” over and over. It also has a mid-song count-off! And a badass trumpet solo! It’s easily one of my favorite covers of all time, and in the top 10 of Cake songs.

“Sheep Go to Heaven” on Prolonging the Magic

Ok, yes, this is an odd song. The lyrics truly make very little sense, but they are hilarious. I have an ex-girlfriend who could never get into Cake because of the inanity of the lyrics. She obviously missed the point of the band – the lyrics aren’t there to be deep and evocative (though they can be on occasion) – they’re there to have fun. That’s what this song is all about. And if Cake wasn’t there to teach us about the afterlife of livestock, would we ever know? I highly doubt it. Bonus: The video is good. And weird.

Top 5 Forgotten 90s Songs (by Claire)

At the beach a few weeks ago, I spent several blissful hours watching that really old “Top 100 songs from the 90s” special on VH1. It was awesome. It almost made up for the fact that the beach was unseasonably chilly, and that the arcades weren’t open for the season yet (The lack of spinning teacups in my trip was a small tragedy.)

After all that 90s nostalgia, it seemed impossible that there could be any uncharted 90s musical terrain left. But a few weeks later, Joshua and I started talking about 90s music and after an hour of back and forth, most of which consisted of “How could I forget that song!” and “Dibs!,” we decided to mine 90s music a little more and put together our Top 5 forgotten 90s songs. Note: These are not my favorite songs from the 90s (Well, maybe Return of the Mack.) So before the Venga Boys hate mail starts pouring in, just remember that I warned you. These are lost 90s hits, pulled together so everyone else can have multiple “How could I forget that song!” moments. I’ve already called dibs.

“Boom Boom Boom Boom,” by the Venga Boys

I remember this song from NFTY (National Federation of Jewish Youth) dances, which shows how current their song choice was, since those dances took place in the early 00s. Some girl with a side ponytail always ended up doing a Salt and Peppa style push it move to the “Boom Boom Boom Boom” chorus as her friends stood around her in a circle and laughed. She was, of course, the wild one. (This entire concept of the wild child being a girl with goofy hair dancing to a 10 year old song is indicative of Jewish youth group hijinks. Throw some awkward makeout sessions at poorly supervised dances and pilfered Manischewitz in there, and you have the full text of a very strange and thankfully brief chapter of my social life)

The Venga Boys were part of a Euro-pop techno moment that happened in the late 90s. They were joined by the “change-that-station-STAT!” likes of  “Blue Da Ba Dee” by Eiffel 65 and “All Around the World” by ATC, and their clear 2000s spawn of Cascada and…I know there are others, but please don’t make me listen to more of their music. I can’t. Cascada is all you get! I blame this entire phenomenon on “A Night at the Roxbury,” the first proof I ever had that if you mock something enough, you may inevitably fall in love with it. Like little boys on a playground, America threw a pile of rocks at “A Night at the Roxbury,” and we ended up with the Venga Boys. Whomp Whomp.

“Fade Into You,” by Mazzy Star

This song has always sounded like it should be paired with Winona Ryder in wabi sabi flannel, staring at the camera, throwing silent love daggers at the hearts of aspiring alt-rock boys. But according to my old pal Wikipedia, this classic dream pop 90s gem appeared on nary a classic 90s film soundtrack, with no Winona Ryder in sight! How could this be?! Also, the female singer songwriters who had a moment in the first half of the 90s had some great names. Hope Sandoval headed Mazzy Star, and the awesomely-monikered cohort I’m thinking of includes Me’shell Ndegecello, Ani Difranco, and Fiona Apple. They need a 90s, awesome names super group. The Names. Hope Apple. NdegecelloDifrancoSandoval. They’re creative. They’ll figure it out.

“My Boo,” by Ghost Town DJ

Here’s a conversation I had a lot about six months ago:

Me: Ahhh! Have you heard this cover of “My Boo” by Friends? I used to LOVE that song!

Friend:..Friends the show?

Me: Why would a show sing a song?

Friend: What’s My Boo?

Me: You know! My Boo! If your game is on? Give me a call? Boo?

Friend: It’s really weird that you refuse to sing songs. How am I supposed to know what that song is based on the words?


Lessons learned: People have forgotten about “My Boo,” which is unacceptable. Here’s the song, since as you just learned, I probably won’t sing it for you.

“All I Want,” by Toad the Wet Sprocket

Some sensitive guy alt rock from the 90s still sounds fresh. I listened to Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet a few weeks ago and it was still crisp, full of solid songs about girls and righteous break up anger. The average R.E.M. song doesn’t sound desperately in need of remastering, and the same goes for “Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston and the occasional slow classic by Oasis. Music that’s a few decades old can also still sound great while showing it’s wrinkles—listen to Rumor and Sigh by Richard Thompson, one of my all time favorite albums, and you can hear the musical crows feets in it’s very 90s mixing and production. But it’s still good. I’ll still listen.

This is a very roundabout way of saying that “All I Want” hasn’t aged well. It may have never been a good song—I liked it in the 90s, but my age and level of music appreciation in the 90s were both low (and probably connected). But even if it was good then, it’s not very good now. The song now is uncomfortably paced and there’s something distinctly overproduced about the music, especially during the chorus. The way the moment before the chorus hangs in the air, this odd nasal note followed by a blip of silence, and the attempt at rough throatiness towards the ending…it’s very early 90s. And not in a good way. One day music like this will seem as kitschy and alien to my kids as cheesy 50’s oldies radio sounded to me.

“Return of the Mack,” by Mark Morrison

Unlike Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “All I Want,” sometimes songs can sound dated in a magical way. This is one of those. The beat, the repeated clapping, the weird talking moment towards the end, the all leather outfits (people don’t look like they’re avoiding a blizzard anymore in music videos. Let’s change that. I want parkas, people.), even the hair styles: “Return of the Mack” is mid-90’s R&B perfection.

Top 5 Songs for English Majors (by Claire)

“So you were an English major?” the woman at lunch said, as she confirmed with her order of a second Chardonnay that it was in fact 5:00 o’clock somewhere, even if it was only 11am here. She knudged her friend. “KATIE, she was an English major. And you have a job. Isn’t that something. You know there’s a joke about that right? About how your kind doesn’t get jobs?”

I do know that joke, because I live in the world. As someone who graduated three months before the economy collapsed, it seems awfully dated. Aren’t people supposed to be impressed that anyone without a computer science degree got a job? Come on, give me more credit, Boozy Susie (“Oh she majored in rhyming; KATIE, she majored in rhyming.”)

No matter what people say, or what putdowns they revive four years after graduation, I loved being an English major. Sometimes I miss a month off in the winter and a party every night, but a lot of my college nostalgia is attached to staying up all night scribbling in the margins of a novel as I swilled a 3am cup of coffee. I still read with a highlighter and a pen. I still want to talk about personal agency and postcolonial literature. I still miss fighting about books. Even with a degree and four years spent on other pursuits, I’m still an English major, and I funnelled all my English major super powers into this list of songs about writers and books. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go highlight a book for no reason (There is a long paper about personal agency that will never get written, but for once I’m so prepared for it.)

“Wuthering Heights,” by Kate Bush

Kate Bush explores the emotional journey of Catherine in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Height. The song is sung from her perspective and addressed to her doomed love interest, Heathcliff. I was a bookish kid from the get go, and I remember really liking this song around elementary school, when my dad played it for me during a heavy Brontes period (It ended with a viewing of the very creepy BBC version of “Jane Eyre,” and was revived in college when I wrote a lengthy thesis on “Wide Sargasso Sea.”) It’s an odd song, full of shrill wailing and twinkly Casio keyboard piano riffs, but the video is amazing: Kate Bush does what looks like an SNL impersonation of an interpretive dance in a field. She even “magically” appears at the beginning, folded up in a very high school actor pose, forehead smushed against her tangled arms and legs. It’s dated in a way that’s not even attached to a decade; the song is from 1978, and this might be my age showing, but it seems impossible that this was ever current. But you know who didn’t feel that way? Tupac Shakur, who included it in the soundtrack of his life in high school.

“Bukowski,” by Modest Mouse

Perhaps the most succinct summary of lovable caustic poet, Charles Bukowski: “Yeah I know he’s a pretty good read, but God who’d wanna be such an asshole?”

“Our Love,” by Rhett Miller

Rhett Miller gives a ridiculously catchy history lesson on the love letters of two pairs of doomed, famous lovers: Composer Richard Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck, and Franz Kafka and Milena Jesenka. Kafka’s letters to Milena, who was also a writer and married to famed literary critic (and friend of Kafka) Ernst Pollak, were compiled in the book “Letters to Milena.” It’s an extraordinarily literary love story—one featuring an all-writer love triangle, that was started with a shared writing project (translating Kafka short story “The Stoker”), one that began and took place almost entirely through daily written correspondence. Rhett Miller lays out a few important facts from the story: they only met once in person (“Their rendez vous was singular”), Kafka and Pollak were friends (“Her husband was his friend”), and the affair came to a close when Milena refused to leave her husband (“He was waiting for a love that would never arrive.”)

“Jacob Marley’s Chain,” by Aimee Mann

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge’s former business partner Jacob Marley is forced to carry a chain in the after life where each link was added due to a bad deed.  Aimee Mann is an incredible writer, and her description of the chain is lovely “But it’s not like life is such a veil of tears/ It’s just full of thoughts that act as souvenirs/ For those tiny blunders made in yesteryears/ That comprise Jacob Marley’s chain.” In the song, she not only uses the Dickens reference as a metaphor, but discusses the use in a meta moment towards the end of the song. The song is brief but rich, and sets a melancholy tone that would make Charles Dickens proud.

“Hey Jack Kerouac,” by 10,000 Maniacs

I could listen to Natalie Merchant read a phone book; this video proves it. Something about her funny, sharp diction is unbelievably charming, as is her weird warbly singing voice. She is truly a lost 90s treasure. “Hey Jack Kerouac” is from her days as an 80s treasure, when she sang for the band 10,000 Maniacs. The song is a brief history on the famous beat poet, starting with his New England upbringing (It’s a song about “someone who was not New England,” Merchant asserts at the beginning of the video above), weaving through his time in San Francisco, naming his West Coast Beat compatriots, and ending with his death.

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