So Hot Right Now: August 2012

Claire’s List: If we named these lists, I would call this one “Napkin Songs” or “Margin Songs,” since they lived on napkins and in margins, scribbled over the course of several months. In a weird experiment, I listened to them in order, and they mostly worked as a playlist, with a few minor alterations.

1. “Sweet Thing,” by Van Morrison

2. “Minneapolis,” by That Dog

3. “Le Temps de L’Amour,” by Francoise Hardy

4. “Fluffy Lucy,” by Cracker

5. “Everyday,” by Rogue Wave

6. “The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage,” by Smokey Robinson

7. “Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song),” by Iron & Wine

8. “Benny and the Jets,” by TV Girl

9. “Love My Way,” by The Psychedelic Furs

10. “Life is Short,” by Butterfly Boucher

11. “Smokers,” by the Old 97s

12. “Waiting for Tonight,” by Tom Petty

13. “I Want You Back,” by Hoodoo Gurus

14.  “Malibu,” by Hole

15. “The Crane Wife (Part 3),” by The Decemberists

Joshua’s List: I usually put these together with some sort of theme in mind. This time, I didn’t. It’s just badass.

1. “We Used To Wait” by Arcade Fire

2. “Demon Kitty Rag” by Katzenjammer

3. “Classy Girls” by The Lumineers

4. “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” as done by Cake

5. “Choose Me For Champion” by Rasputina

6. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

7. “Stay With Me” by Faces

8. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (live)” by The Band

9. “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” by The Decemberists

10. “Telegram” by Saul Williams

11. “The Road” by Tenacious D

12. “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

13. “Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire

14. “Dog Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine

15. “As I Rise” by The Decemberists

Joshua at 13

This is tough.

I know I’m supposed to look back at my high school years with disdain, with intense dislike for the choices I made, the people I hung out with, the music I listened to, etc. And I do, without a doubt, feel that way. But there’s something so intriguing in the concept of burgeoning musical ideals: At 13, you’re not quite a child anymore, but you’re a long way off from being an adult (despite having my Bar Mitzvah that year, I wasn’t exactly rushing out to vote or find an apartment). Developmentally, you’re much closer to a child than an adult – puberty’s real effects are just setting in and your brain is at least a decade away from being fully developed. You don’t have any real control over the way you think and how you create your person because you don’t know you have that ability yet. You make small gestures at that idea, though – a big one being rebellion towards all things related to your parents, which, for most people, are the ones creating and shaping your social and personal development.

Which brings me to my music taste at 13. It’s fascinating to come to these conclusions and realize that the teenage “rebellion” wasn’t that – it was just another way of finding out how to be yourself. And I did that with shitty nu-metal.

“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit

I’d like to think that there was meaning behind these songs, that the message of the songs had some insight into the person I was at 13. But I liked a band fronted by Fred Durst. It’s like saying your best friends are Joe Rogan and that dude who makes the “Girls Gone Wild” videos (news flash: he’s a prick.). And I really liked this band, I had all of their albums. I even, in an insanely misguided emulation, bought one of those obscenely obnoxious red Yankee hats. Sidenote: Why is Snoop Dogg in this video? He thought this was cool? If so, I’m off the hook. Double sidenote: Apparently the members of this band had no idea the name of their band was a euphemism.


“Falling Away From Me” by Korn

I will say this: Re-listening to this song after listening to the previous song, Korn has at least a modicum of musical talent, and exponentially more than any member of Limp Bizkit. But they are terrible. Though the harmonies in the bridge are actually really good – kind of like a Gregorian chant, and has a major resolve in a minor key. It’s a shame they picked this kind of music to play. The drummer is really good. The guitarists rarely solo, so it’s hard to judge them but on their songwriting (which is bad). And the singer is annoying, but not horrible. I wonder if they would be good if they had gone harder (like true metal) or not been so fucking emo.

“Roll Into The Light” by Laughing Colors

Finally, we get into the artists I still like. Being 13, you can’t really travel to see bands (I was poor, I couldn’t jet off to the coast to see a band I loved but was only stateside for one show) so you’re forced to (if you’re like us, and obsessed with music to the point of having to go see a show even if you don’t know the band) go to the local venue and see whatever you can. I happened upon this band on one of those nights, and I’ve never regretted it. They have some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, period. I wish they were still together.

“Guerilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine

This band started out as a rebellion band (ridiculously loud, ludicrous political ideas) but became something more. It took me a real study of this band to realize that behind all the anarchism and screeching guitars was insanely good musical talent. They can hit a groove that would make a grown man weep (not an admission) and Zach De La Rocha has real lyrical skill, despite the subject matter. But these realizations came long after I originally liked the band, so I now know that the only reasons I liked them were for the rebellious reasons (ridiculously loud and ludicrous political ideas).

“Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds (live)

It’s weird to think of Dave Matthews as the light at the end of the tunnel, but I think that’s what it was. I first this track in Pennsylvania at a distant family member’s house for my paternal grandmother’s funeral. On face value, you would say that this has some greater meaning, that the death of a family member was enough of a shock to knock me out of my ill-advised foray into terrible, but no. I never liked my grandmother, and she didn’t like me. It wasn’t a “I’m so happy she’s dead” moment; I just didn’t feel anything. But this song struck me that night. I had certainly heard the song before (it was such a huge hit in 1996) but I hadn’t heard it stripped down like this.

But the song isn’t what’s important, it’s the change it precipitated. Somehow, getting into Dave Matthews Band pulled me back to my roots, led me back to the music I should’ve been listening to all along. I can tell you how, but you’ve already seen my posts from my music at 16, 18, and 22. I can’t tell you why, however. I can’t figure it out. (Note to Dave Matthews: It’s not a sweet song. It’s fucking creepy.)

Claire at 13: A Mixtape

At 13, I wanted to run as far away from the past several awkward years of bad haircuts, braces, and boys who didn’t merely ignore me but appeared (to my ever-sensitive self) to actively dislike me. I wanted to go on a date. I wanted to wear cool clothes. I wanted to go to art school, where I looked forward to dying my hair blue and falling in with the wrong crowd (I did go to art school; neither of those things happened. It was all pretty tame. That’s another post). I had a year of waiting, followed by a summer of daydreaming, before I turned 14 and bid adieu to my middle school years. Here’s what I listened to.

“Doo Wop (That Thing),” by Lauryn Hill

My clearest middle school memories are soundtracked by Lauryn Hill. “Every Ghetto, Every City” reminded me of apartments I grew up in, the pack of kids I ran around with, pooling spare change for melting popsicles, frying our organs as we lay on top of generators, the warm hum coupled with our screechy laughter. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” was the slow song at my bat mitzvah. “When It Hurts So Bad” and “I Used to Love Him” played as I mourned a crush and reached echelons of heartbreak that I had only encountered in teen movies.

I listened to “Doo Wop (That Thing) every night before I went to bed, for three years. Karaoke is no friend of mine, but when this song is available, I sing the hell out of it. That’s my ultimate karaoke advice: If you can’t sing, if you’re not a natural ham, be a nerdy preteen in the late 90s who’s obsessed with Lauryn Hill. Three years of practice will really calm those pre-performance nerves.

“Candy,” by Mandy Moore

“When you start dating, your dad’s going to sit in the front yard with a baseball bat.” 

Around the time I hit puberty, I started hearing this a lot.  It was so clearly a stock thing adults say to maturing girls for a couple of reasons: We lived in an apartment and didn’t have a front yard.  I looked like a casting ideal for an indie flick about a mega-dorky Jewish kid’s adventures in misfitland. (Think “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” set in Pikesville.) I was pretty far from dating anyone.

But the main reason why this quote made no sense was because my relationship with my dad just wasn’t like that.  My first date happened when I was thirteen, and my dad dropped me off for it at the mall, sans baseball bat. When I came home, I sat in the basement and cracked jokes with my dad about how lame the guy was.

Dating? That was fine. Music? That was complicated.

Music was the territory where we fought about my impending teendom. He may not have come armed when it came to my first date, but he wanted to smash my Top 40 proclivities with a baseball bat. This came to a head when we were planning the playlist for my bat mitzvah. Aside from birthday sleepovers, this was basically my first party, and I wanted to make it count. I wanted to show off the music video moves I’d been copying in my bedroom for months. I wanted to lock eyes with some mystery boy and bat my blue eyeshadowed eyes at him and turn him into my dream boyfriend.  I wanted all of this to take place with a sexy, teen temptress soundtrack, featuring Mandy Moore.

My dad vetoed this soundtrack.  He was DJing. There would be funk. There would be a few upbeat Grateful Dead tracks and some fun, obscure 80′s stuff. There would not be 15-year-old Mandy Moore wailing “I’m missing you like candy.” I was crushed. My list of songs was friend approved. What would they think? How were we going to dance to his music? It was the first time my dad’s music was only his. It had always been mine too.

You can read this moral however you want, but here it is: We danced our little preteen hearts out, and the tapes from that night lived on for years. I played them throughout high school and college, until I stopped owning little old cars with tape decks. I wish I still had them now. Dad: 1, Mandy Moore: 0.

“Perfect World,” by Liz Phair

I was hooked on Liz Phair from the second I heard “Polyester Bride” on 99.1 HFS. My girlfriends didn’t get it; at a sleepover, I played them the album which they said sounded like “70s witch music.” Then we had a Liz Phair fueled séance in a blanket fort. My whitechocolatespaceegg t-shirt was a magnet for cool adults, who saw the shirt as a sign to treat me like a fellow (albeit shorter) cool adult. Middle school teacher: “Oh man I saw Liz Phair last week at a show in DC. We brought a bottle of wine, my ex boyfriend was there…you know how that is.” (I did not.)

Being treated like a cool adult was basically the dream for me, since cool pre-teendom was not working out. Liz Phair became my social wing woman. I turned my nose up at the middle school boys who did not return my affections, the popular girls with their tiger stripe highlights who never said hi. One day, I was going to be cool, tall, vulnerable, and luscious. One day, I was going to drink wine at Liz Phair shows and run into ex boyfriends. They didn’t even know.

“All For You,” by Janet Jackson

The summer before high school I went abroad for the first time, to England and Ireland, with my aunt and uncle. I had a Walkman stocked with Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin bootlegs, and maybe a Melissa Etheridge album. And while I listened to that music constantly when I was there (Richard Thompson bootlegs were basically developed to soundtrack driving across the Irish countryside), the song that reminds me most of that trip is “All For You” by Janet Jackson. It exploded right when I got back, and in a way, so did I. That trip made me feel older, better able to shake off my mortifying middle school years and dive into my new high school self. So I did.

That summer I babysat at night, and spent the money on languorous, overly air-conditioned trips to the mall with friends where we hummed along to this song as we sifted through jeans and platform shoes, wondering what we were going to look like in a month as high schoolers. I slept over at my friend Ashley’s house and we went to parties, a novelty we never had in middle school. We wore mascara and too much jewelry, we sat in basements drinking fruit punch and rolling our eyes whenever some guy inevitably took over the stereo and blasted Eminem. I listened to this song on nights when I was home. It was hot. Things were changing. I wondered if they would play this song at the homecoming dance in the fall, and if I would go, and what I would wear.

“Jump, Jive, An’ Wail,” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra

Like khakis, short haircuts, and polo shirts, swing music is something so tied up in middle school angst that I can’t broach it again without an organ shifting internal shudder. I debated which mortifying middle school story to tell. The one most tied up in music takes place at the 8th grade swing dance.

Swing music was the trend du jour in late middle school. Our dance in eighth grade was an elaborate swing dance, complete with lessons and a swing themed set by the school band. In a fit of uncharacteristic bravado, I called a popular boy the week before the big night and told him that I liked him. He was unbelievably polite. Even though he was very clear that the feeling wasn’t reciprocated, the fact that he wasn’t a total ass seemed like an invitation for us to fall in love (…who taught me this stuff? Like really?) I showed up at the dance all aglow and gussied up. One of the popular girls came up to me and asked me if I liked Mr. Polite. I grinned and babbled about how cute he was, and she insisted, in a rare girlfriend-y moment, that she was going to ask him to dance with me. I was floored. Popular girl friends? Dance with popular-future-boyfriend? Okay! Let’s do this.

Popular girl went over and made a big embarrassing scene about how much I liked him, and how I had demanded that she ask him to dance to me. He said, and I quote (or more, repeat, since it was repeated to me several times over): “I don’t fucking like her. Hello? She called me and I said I don’t like you. I would never ever like you. Eww. Get with the program.” He even mimed the phone call by holding his hand up to his face like a fake telephone. For some reason that always stood out as the meanest part.

I learned a lot of lessons that night: Don’t trust people who have never previously been trustworthy and are suddenly overly interested in your personal life. DEP hair gel makes curly hair look like a frizzy turtle shell. A nice rejection is still a rejection. And whatever you do, don’t go to the swing dance. If you do, you’ll never want to listen to the Brian Setzer Orchestra again.

 

Master Class: Covers in Context (by E.c. Fish)

With no little thanks to the tens of thousands of cover bands that strive to make it sound like the record in the motel lounges and sports bars of this great nation of ours every Thursday through Saturday, the whole concept of the cover version has a somewhat dodgy reputation, carrying with it a taint of unoriginality and mercenary intent. This is a shame, because every cover (yes, even the “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ ”  Who Cares and the Who Gives a Shits will use to close their second set this weekend at the Lonely Salesman lounge out in Nowheresville) represents a recontextualizing of a song into… something else, even if it’s just something a little off (hey, you try singing like Steve Perry four shows a week). In the best examples, it can be much more than that, to wit:

“Bizarre Love Triangle,” by Frente!

An undercover cover, so completely recontextualized that for a long while in the ’90′s I was familiar with both this and the New Order original without realizing they were the same song. They are, and it’s a rather beautiful one, a point made nicely in the stripped down Frente! (love that superfluous punctuation) take. You can no longer dance to it, I give it a 98.

“Oops! I Did It Again,” by Richard Thompson

Another dance floor evac and rescue job, and musical proof positive that there is nothing whatsoever in this world that is completely beyond redemption. Hear also: John Wesley Harding’s “Like A Prayer,” for which I could find no link that didn’t cost money or hurt.

“Creep,” by Carrie Manolakos

An amazing live take on the Radiohead original, both musically and interpretively. Manolakos’ minimal arrangement reduces the song to its essentials, while her vocal interpretation neatly flays Thom Yorke’s original, stripping it of any hint of hip ironic distance to reveal the stone cold painful motherfucker beneath. She means this, and it’s crushing her soul while you watch.

“Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” by Joe Jackson

A cover nailed through sheer force of personality. Jackson’s interpretation is a straight up if necessarily stripped down take on the hyperproduced Steely Dan studio original. Jackson’s persona (a guy you’d meet at the pub for a couple of pints), however, is a much better messenger for the wise compassion of the lyrics than singer/songwriter Donald Fagen’s (a hipster you’d meet at a lounge bar for some vodkas and maybe some hard drugs).

“Wonderwall,” by Straight No Chaser

More a capella as the ultimate strip-down, presented in lieu of an even sparer guitar and  fiddle cover I saw some buskers do down by the river in Iowa City right about the time the Oasis record came out. As in “Creep”, removing the song from the hipster Englishmen who originated it gives it a genuine kick upwards in the sincerity department.

Looking for more Covers in Context? Stop by next week for Lesson 2 by E.c. Fish

Top 5 Drinks-with-Musicians Fantasies (By Claire)

Music fans, you know it’s true: If you could hang out with your favorite musicians, you probably know how it would go. You know what you would ask, you can guess what they’d order. They might not answer all your questions, they might not play all your favorite songs, but they would sit across from you and get a Club sandwich and one too many cocktails. They would talk about something, hopefully their music, but maybe just their gardening advice or tips on where to buy a good hat in Cleveland.

Here’s how I think a night with each of my Top 5 musicians would go…in my dreams:

(***Note: While none of these things have happened, all of the artists listed can feel free to email me if they want to change that. Drinks on me. XOXO.)

Loudon Wainwright III: Bourbon and gin, Karaoke Night somewhere.

No one knows how Loudon Wainwright and I ended up singing the Heavy D classic “Now That We’ve Found Love” at a dive bar karaoke night. We certainly don’t know, although half way through the song I vaguely remember drinking gin martinis and wanting to make a joke about ordering Pinot Grigio (which luckily seemed inappropiate, since that line is from a song about his late mother.) The crowd is rapt, and it’s not because of me. Loudon has taken all the mournfulness and humor hidden in “Now That We’ve Found Love” and amplified it. Couples on bar stools are leaning on each other, misty eyed and thinking about mortality. Regulars are swaying and raising a glass. Our performance ends; the bar fills with roaring applause. It all feels right—embracing life, doing something ridiculous, moving a group of strangers to tears. Throw in some family drama and failed relationships, and  I’ve got the full Loudon Wainwright experience. So when he says “I got us two bourbons, and we’re breakdance battling that couple from the front row,” I think about mortality and nachos and how I should’ve stuck to Pinot Grigio after all, and I say yes. I really want to see if Loudon Wainwright can spin on his head. I’m pretty sure he can.

Lauryn Hill: Champagne, I’ll never tell.

I know everything. I know where she’s been, I know what she’s up to, I know what she’s doing next. I’ve got a demo of her new album in my back pocket and it’s gold, guys, really. Remember the first time you heard The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? It’s like that, but better, and even better for me, because I heard it while playing Taboo with Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, and D’Angelo. Dave won, and we all ate those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kiss in the middle, while Lauryn explained the back story for each song. Then we drank a bottle of champagne and I signed a blood oath to never reveal the location of their artists-who-disappeared-but-need-to-come-back club house.

Liz Phair: Irish coffees and shots, at a dive bar and a garage band show

It’s like…I don’t really want to go see a local garage band, and I can tell in a second that Liz is that friend. She’s telling some story about how she dated one of the guys, for a while, but not any more but he’s really cool, they’re still cool. She’s overusing the word in cool in a way that tells me that this story is mostly a lie, and she wants to go to the show to check out his new girlfriend, whose Facebook picture she shows me at the bar. We’re drinking Irish coffees and we’re the only two people dancing at an empty little dive, a legit dive, only occupied by rum soaked regulars. “Lets gooo” she’s saying so we do, and the band is fine, and his girlfriend never shows, so we sit in the corner and get in a fight about her weird pop makeover a few years ago. There’s no resolution: She wanted money, I wanted another Exile in Guyville or whitechocolatespaceegg, and both of us are right. It could’ve gotten awkward, except the bartender showed up with free shots and a bowl of Chex Mix. We smile at each other. I tell her I kinda liked “Extraordinary.” She tells me she kinda hated “Why Can’t I.” We cheers when we take our shots, and the only thing left to fight about is who’s bogarting the Chex Mix. (It’s her.)

Bootsy Collins: Who knows.

We talk for seven hours. We talk about P. Funk and we talk about his solo stuff. We talk about “Groove is in the Heart” and we talk about Elmo. We talk about haberdasheries and where to buy platform shoes. We talk about what we like on grilled cheese sandwiches and we talk about the future of funk music. We talk about our lives, and where they’re going, and he gives me a lot of career advice that seems really spot on. I highly recommend using funk legends as your career coaches. But mostly we talk for seven hours because I just want to hear him talk for seven hours. I could’ve done fourteen. It’s a nursing beers kind of day. I don’t even notice what we drink. I just keep waiting for him to say his own name.

Aimee Mann: Dolores Park, Fat Tire

“I never find good Japanese curry,” Aimee says, a little hunched over as she devours the treasured potato croquette hidden in the Japanese curry at Chaya. We’re splitting a platter of the stuff, and shes been a doll about letting me make quick work of the carved carrots and cucumber flowers, but when we get down to it, the last treasured bites, she’s Aimee Fucking Mann and if someone is getting that doughy blob of potato, it’s her. I agree, and shake my head no when she offers me a bite. We were in the Mission, on the way to the bar but starving, and we started talking about Japanese curry. I said “I know where to get that, but I want to hear the saltiest, most ridiculous tour stories you’ve got.” We shake on it, then pinky swear (“These aren’t going in that blog of yours, okay? Now this one time I’m at a bodega with Paul Thomas Anderson and Steve Buscemi and a coyote, yes, a coyote….”)

Curry cleared, we skip the bar and take a cue from her adventures with wild animals and Academy Award nominees; we hit a bodega and buy a six pack of Fat Tire and a sack of peanut M&Ms. We sit on our spread out coats in Dolores Park. I want to know about process—when does she write? How does she get started? How does she come up with this stuff?  It’s an embarrassing, non-writer type of a question, but I’ve had at least one Aimee Mann song stuck in my head for about ten years, and I want an answer, even if it’s mortifying. And anyway, she got the croquette.

We talk about Carol King, who we both like but can’t get into, and we make a list of record shops she should go to in the morning. We talk about jeans and prom dates and she teaches me how to poach an egg. She never answers any of my questions, but it doesn’t matter because I’m sitting in the park with Aimee Mann, and it’s a full time effort to quell the inner squeals of my dorky fan girl. We finish the six pack. Our coats are muddy, and we eat the rest of the M&Ms as we walk home.

Top 5 Artists I Want To Get A Drink With (by Joshua)

My close friends always tend to be women. I’ve never been much for the company of other men – I find it hard to open up to men. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part my closest friends are women. However, if I want to go out on the town drinking, I always tend to call up a dude (with the exception of my dear friend and guest blogger Miriam Doyle). Perhaps that’s why the majority of the people on this list are men – I want to drink with them, not pour my heart out to them. I want to pick their musical brains, sure (I mean, these are all people I deeply revere), but I also want to see what they drink, how they drink, and, most importantly, if they can keep up with my alcohol intake. The artists below will be ranked thusly.

Warren Zevon, circa 1982

What He Drinks: Whiskey, possibly on the rocks, possibly in the form of an Old Fashioned.

What We Talk About Musically: Songwriting structure. I’m desperately interested in how he creates songs that aren’t too much alike each other but still thematically relevant to each other – like on Excitable Boy, how he managed to make a disco song work in the album…because it did.

What We Talk About (beyond music): Who we would kick in the nuts if we could. I bring it up, but he runs with it. He has a fucking list, and he doesn’t need to check it twice.

How Much He Drinks: I’m passed out under the bar. He drives home.

Levon Helm (of The Band), circa 1978

What He Drinks: Beer, domestic, with a shot of whiskey on the side.

What We Talk About Musically: Drumming. I’ve never been able to drum, ever. I can play multiple instruments, and sing while playing them, but I’ve never been able to play the drums with basic proficiency, let alone sing while doing it.

What We Talk About Beyond Music: How much of a prick Robbie Robertson is. I mean, really.

How Much He Drinks: We both leave the bar, arms clasped around each other’s backs, both in a symbol of camaraderie and in an effort not to fall down.

Stevie Wonder, at present

What He Drinks: Something with fruit in it, but curiously strong.

What We Talk About Musically: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED AFTER 1976. I mean, really, Stevie (we’re on first name terms by this point), how could the man who wrote “Sir Duke” and “Maybe Your Baby” write and perform “Ebony and Ivory?” I mean, seriously?

What We Talk About Beyond Music: Nothing. After that, he gracefully excuses himself and leaves.

How Much He Drinks: See above. I pay the tab.

Tom Waits, circa 1979

What He Drinks: Bourbon. Cheap bourbon. Straight up. Down the hatch.

What We Talk About Musically: Nighthawks at the Diner. “I don’t care about your other albums, man, just that one.” I want to know how it was recorded, how he came up with the ideas, how much of it was improvised, etc. “Can you play me ‘Big Joe and Phantom 309?’”

What We Talk About Beyond Music: Booze. Specifically, why don’t we have more in our glasses right now.

How Much He Drinks: I wake up in the hospital, charcoal all over my lips.

Melora Creager (of Rasputina), at present

The only exception in my male drinking partner list. I’m desperate to find out if she’s as funny in real life as she is on stage.

What She Drinks: She has no steady drink – she drinks a new drink with every order.

What We Talk About Musically: Bowing technique. I played upright bass for a score of years now and I’ve never been a hundredth as good with a bow as she is. It’s a different instrument, sure, and a smaller bow, but technique is technique.

What We Talk About Beyond Music: Zombies. I was totally right, she is as funny off the stage. She’s shy at first but opens up after the third drink.

How Much She Drinks: After the fourth drink, she’s ready to challenge me to a drinking contest, but she remembers she’s gotta get home to relieve her babysitter for her new kid. Another time, she says.

Top 5 Albums You Have to Own for the Serious Music Fan (by Joshua)

We reference High Fidelity (both the movie and book) a lot on this blog (probably because we owe our blog’s existence to it), and this post will be no exception: Barry, interacting with a customer: “Don’t tell anyone you don’t own Blonde on Blonde. [Hands him the album] It’s gonna be ok.”

That’s how I feel about these albums. You cannot call yourself a fan of music without owning all (yes, all, not just one or two) of these albums. I’ve been accused of being elitist before, and it’s more than true. I do believe you to be less of a music fan if you do not own these albums. I don’t, unlike a lot of hipsters (I’m not saying I’m a hipster, mind you), care what form you own it, be it .mp3, cassette, vinyl, etc. But it’s impossible for me to take your musical opinion seriously if I peruse through your collection and cannot find these albums.

(***Let me make one distinction clear before we jump in. These are not albums I think everyone in the world should own, just those one who calls themselves a serious fan of music should have. Albums I think everyone in the world should own will be discussed at a later date.)

I’m Still in Love with You or Call Me by Al Green

Here’s the deal: Al Green has one of the all-time, top 5 greatest voices, period, and easily the best male falsetto ever. Curtis Mayfield’s is great, but he doesn’t make people cream their jeans like Al Green did and still does. And the music on either of these albums is exactly what anyone wants from music ever: smooth, buttery, silky, delicious soul. There’s edge, too: “Love and Happiness” is funk to the level only Al Green can take it to. It was tough to decide between the two albums, so I compromised: if you own either of these albums I can respect your taste. The more grievous sin would be to own no Al Green albums – I don’t care if you have “Let’s Stay Together.” Everyone does. Serious music fans have one of these albums.

Still Bill by Bill Withers

Each track off this album is a testament to the understated beauty that is Bill Withers. He never hits you over the head with his message or music, but always leaves you with the undeniable truth of the matter at hand. The best example of this idea is the track “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?” – he knows you’re fucking around on him, but he doesn’t shout, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t mash his teeth, he states the problem simply, calmly, and tells you to get the fuck out. Not owning that one track is a horrible sin, let alone not owning the album, but it’s rare that most people have even heard that song or, truthfully, any Withers songs other than “Lean on Me” or “Use Me” (of course, both are on this album). What a shame. Those people are truly missing out. They should buy the fucking album.

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

It’s tough to put into words the effect this album had on the landscape of music, if it can even be put into words. It was transcendent in both creating a new look on music and depth of the music actually on it. But we’re not here to talk about the music on it – we’re here to ask why you don’t own this album. I mean, really. Are you one of those people who can’t listen to jazz? I’ve never understood those people – there is nothing more interesting than a jazz musician at his or her peak recording some of the best solos of all time, and that’s exactly what you’re getting on Kind of Blue. It’s musicianship at a level rarely seen, and more than likely, it will never been seen again. Not owning it is saying you just don’t care about music, or that what you think of as “music” is a joke, since this the plateau of what music can be.

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is such a good musician that he had won a Grammy for Album of the Year twice, in ’74, ’75 and justifiably took a break. Paul Simon won the award in ’76 for Still Crazy After All These Years, and thanked Wonder for not putting out an album that year so that someone else could win the award. Wonder countered by winning the award the next year for this album. It’s the most sweeping statement Wonder ever made, and it’s also gorgeous. “Sir Duke” is has one of the best horn breakdowns ever written by anyone ever, period. And what is its legacy? Getting sampled by Will Smith for a god-awful steampunk movie? It deserves so much better than that horrible fate. Please, please, go buy this album. I know you don’t have it, but your life will be so much better for having it, I promise.

Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads

So, I’ll admit this list has been rather biased, and that this inclusion could easily be called token, being the only white artist on the list (and, I just realized, the only album from after 1976). But let’s be honest – the previous four albums are so good it’s tough to argue against them. This is no exception. I like to think if you own nothing else from the 80’s but this album (and Graceland by Paul Simon, of course), you’re probably ok. In my opinion it’s the most definitive statement of the Talking Heads are you are like to get, and truly badass at that. Every song on the album just thrums. (Let me be clear for a second here – I’m not talking about the version of the album released in the ‘90’s, I’m talking about the 9-track LP released in 1984. The distinction is paramount to my argument: the re-released version is almost double the length and half as good for it.) Of particular note are…Actually, no. I’m not going to tell you the best tracks. You, who doesn’t have this album, will buy it and tell me which tracks are the best.

Favorite Beatles Song? (by Claire)

Oh dear, we have been some negligent bloggers. There are so many 4th of July songs I wanted to post, and instead I sat in the park and watched fireworks and ate tacos. Look up the one by Aimee Mann. It’s still good on the 12th of July.

Joshua and I are having a conversation RIGHT THIS SECOND about favorite Beatles songs, and how I claim I can always remember everyone’s favorite Beatles song, which he immediately proved wrong by hating “Norwegian Wood.” Which led me to wonder about everyone else’s favorite Beatles song. What’s yours? Why? And is there one that you hate (a la “What the hell Claire, duh Norwegian Wood isn’t my favorite Beatles song, I hate that song.”)?

We’ll leave ours in the comments. See you there.

 

So Hot Right Now: July 2012

Claire’s List: 

Inspirations for this list: Rereading Song Book by Nick Hornby, listening to an old Pandora station called “Indie Work Radio” that I made at my first job out of college, the tail end of a two month long Motown obsession, songs recommended by in conversations and in posts on this blog by my friends/fellow Charm City Jukebox writers Noura Hemady and Amy Berkowitz. Also I always have a week or so in July when I listen to “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” by Squeeze. I have no idea why.

Little Itty Bitty Pretty One” by Frankie Lymon

Stay” by Maurice and the Zodiaks

Bruises” by Chairlift
Swingset Chain” by Loquat
Dance Me to the End of Love” cover by Girl Crisis
Ain’t That Enough” by Teenage Fanclub
It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” by The Royalettes
Sleeping Aides and Razorblades” by The Exploding Hearts

Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” by Squeeze

Grey Or Blue” by Jaymay

When the World Ends” by The Bittersweets

 “A Minor Incident,” by Badly Drawn Boy

Untidy Towns,” The Lucksmiths

In the New Year” by The Walkmen

Roam” by the B52s

Joshua’s List:

So, I think my list needs a bit of explaining: It’s started out as a driving list, then an ultimate 90′s music list, then it became just this. And then I bought B-Sides and Rarities by Cake and found some truly excellent covers…So Hot Right Now.

Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon

Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants

Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” by Cake, as done originally by Barry White

What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M.

The Freshman” by The Verve Pipe

Do Right” by Jimmie’s Chicken Shack

Oceanographer’s Choice” by The Mountain Goats

Down Rodeo” by Rage Against the Machine

Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, as done originally by Stevie Wonder

The Road” by Tenacious D

Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger

Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

War Pigs (live)” by Cake, as done originally by Black Sabbath