“Vagabond” by Wolfmother
“Vagabond” by Wolfmother
“Lucy Rider,” by Alberta Cross
Gordon by Barenaked Ladies
Before this week, I had kind of forgotten this album existed. I’m so terribly in love with both Rock Spectacle and Stunt that I hadn’t bothered to listen to any other Barenaked Ladies album for what must’ve been a decade or more. What a terrible mistake! I put this on the speaker at work at the beginning of the week and basically never turned it off.
I can’t say it’s as polished as Stunt or as upbeat as Rock Spectacle, but it might be just as good. There are certainly songs on the album that show up on the live Rock Spectacle, namely their hit “Brian Wilson.” Funny story about that song: When I was a kid, I never understood the lyrics properly, so I thought the chorus was “Lying in bed, just like crying in Amsterdam.” Why did I think that? I have no idea. Sue me, I was like 10. Also, I may have played no other song more times on my guitar than that song.
“Enid” is probably the standout of the album. It pops out like a sore thumb, or in a better analogy, like a great pair of breasts – no one in the room can take their eyes off of them. You can’t help it; it’s almost involuntary. I’ve listened to the song probably half a hundred times in the last week, and what gets me every time is the last part of the second verse, where they’re singing a bit faster. The line “I could work overtime, I could work in a mine, I could do it all for you – but I don’t want to” is simply awesome.
I have to think that some or all of the members had a background playing jazz – with songs like “Box/Set” and “I Love You,” it’s nearly irrefutable. “Box/Set” is an interesting take on the dynamic between a singer getting older and his fans, and it’s a rather caustic song to be in the samba style (of course, this does have a pretty awesome precedent). So get listening; you won’t be disappointed.
“Weekend” by Class Actress
“Alright” by Supergrass
Mood music month is coming to an end, and this list is by far my favorite. Listening to my favorite calm songs several times over made me silly tranquil. My angry songs turned me into raging Hulk. My sad songs post was so hard to write that I stopped several times, and worried that I would never wrap it up. But these songs? Pure bliss. It’s amazing how effective music is when it comes to your moods. I hope these five tracks lift yours, whatever state it’s in.
“Ain’t That Enough” by Teenage Fanclub
Six months ago, I fell in love with Nick Hornby’s “Song Book.” I tracked down some of the songs the first time I read it, and was thrilled with them: O.V Wright’s version of “Let’s Straighten It Out” was perfection, “Ain’t That Enough” was heady British bliss. I was sure I was on to something good—it felt like one of my favorite authors had arranged a mixtape, just for me.
Of course that’s not how music works, or music writing. Hornby made a mixtape based on him, just like I do every week right here on this blog. Recently I’ve tracked down lists on Spotify cataloging every song from Songbook. And it’s a little grim. I’m not sold on the bands I’d never heard of, the songs that were meant to redeem artists I had heard of didn’t do much for me. I keep test-driving the songs though because of “Ain’t That Enough,” a song I wouldn’t have found, a song I wasn’t sold on from first listen. Now it’s a song that epitomizes happiness to me, a song I listen to several times a week. “Ain’t That Enough” makes me happy and hopeful, about all things, including Hornby’s list of maybe mediocre songs that could, on 100th listen, be secretly brilliant
“French Navy” by Camera Obscura
“French Navy” has the soaring, upbeat rhythm of a Motown girl group dance hit. The tambourine glitters and bangs, the violin quickens your pulse. The lyrics are laced with heartbroken melancholy, and periodically a little odd: “You and your dietary restrictions/Said you loved me with a lot of conviction” always gets lodged in my head for a few hours post-listen. The song encapsulates the dangerous excitement of new love—it’s riveting, sinfully catchy, and brimming with joy. The first time I heard this, I spent months tracking it down. I’ve listened to it thousands of times since and I’ve never grown tired of it. In low or tired spirits, it always does the trick.
“The Love You Save” by The Jackson 5
Few musicians warm the cockles of my heart like pint-sized Michael Jackson. That voice! The dancing! The tiny vests! The circa Jackson 5 Michael Jackson is as adorable as he is brilliant. Jackson 5 songs are 100% attached to happy memories for me: Dancing as a kid at bat-mitzvahs, dancing at weddings as an adult, reading High Fidelity (which introduced me to this particular Jackson 5 song), visiting SF before I moved here, sitting around the Mt. Washington Tavern in Baltimore one night with childhood friends, laughing and drinking beers and taking the jukebox hostage. All happy, warm-hearted, smile filled stuff, full of shaking hips and good friends and cold beer, soundtracked by the pure joy that is classic Jackson 5.
“Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants
Really, the entire Flood album is one giant mix of happy songs for me. I’ve been listening to this album since before I can remember. It exists, like beloved stuffed animals and childhood bedrooms in long ago apartments, in this fuzzy memory netherworld for me. I can hear my mom, who was my age now, walking around the living room singing “I’m having a wonderful time/ But I’d rather be whistling in the dark.” I can see the dust that twinkled in thick beams of sunlight during the showtuneish opening of “Theme From Flood.” I can see my pudgy little kid limbs, plopped on the dining room table, with my trusty sidekick Bunny Puppet standing guard as I dunked my blonde head into an enormous bowl of chocolate mousse, emerging innocent-faced and chocolate-haired when my mom walked in. She washed tall peaks of dessert out of my curls as “Keep the night light on inside the birdhouse in your soul” played cheerily in the background.
“This Will Be Our Year,” by The Zombies
There’s a writer I really like who wrote a blurb about this song and said she wanted to play it at her wedding. Her argument for this was “How awesome would it be for your wedding song to be by a band called the Zombies?” And while that’s a fine reason, and I salute that awesomeness, I think a better argument for this as a wedding song is that it’s the happiest, warmest musical love bauble I’ve ever come across. It’s not just a perfect love song, it’s a perfect sonic hug of a song that makes me want to skip through a meadow painted in bright, psychedelic palette brushstrokes. Lovely and simple and so warm, it is all kinds of happy. Don’t wait to play at your wedding when you could be playing it right now. This kind of happy music deserves daily air time, not just a special occasion spotlight.
“Never Forget You,” by Noisettes
I work a lot. I’ve mentioned how I do the bulk of my music listening per day at work – in large part because I’m at work 7 days a week. I’m willing to be for most people that would be a total bummer. And while I’ll admit sometimes it can really suck (working every weekend means I often miss out on some of the coolest stuff), I love it. I love getting there and being alone for a few hours and cranking up the music so loud it shakes the walls. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of loudness – if the music’s good, it’s gotta be turned up. And what better time to drop some rump-rattlin’ beats then when you’re happy? It gets you up, it makes you dance. When I need a good pick-me-up, these are the songs I invariably go to.
“St. Thomas” by Sonny Rollins
This song makes me miss playing jazz so much. When I played in a small combo, it was always the song we closed with – it’s super recognizable and has a great drum beat. This, of course, led us doing our favorite move: giving the drummer a solo and walking off stage for a smoke while he plays. And while the awesome drum beat lends itself to a great solo spot, it’s Rollins’ solo that shines here. His second solo after the drum break is one of my all-time favorite sax solos, and it’s no small coincidence that the melody is hands down my favorite jazz head.
“Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” by The Rebirth Brass Band
Recently, frequent guest poster Miriam Doyle gave me her copy of the soundtrack to the first season of the wonderful show Treme, and I think I’m eternally grateful. It quickly became the soundtrack I put on at work when I was ecstatic, and I think I forced a great deal of my friends to listen to it as well. The track above totally embodies the sound of New Orleans – and if I remember correctly, the placement of the song in the show is at a funeral. I want that for my funeral. No lounging around, no moping, no crying. Just get the coroner to coax my face into a smile, prop my body upright on a float, and parade down St. Paul St. with a giant band funkin’ it up.
“The Most Beautiful Girl [In The Room]” by Flight of the Conchords
I love Flight of the Conchords so much, I own the album this song appears on in vinyl format. It’s hilarious and remains hilarious even without the show’s visuals to back it up (a claim that cannot be made of a good deal of their second album, and, relatedly, Tenacious D’s “Sasquatch”). It makes me laugh every time I put it on, and I think every time my little brother comes home from college, we end up playing it together. So funny.
“Sheep Go To Heaven” by Cake
This list would be completely incomplete without an appearance by Cake. I always listen to them when I’m in a good mood (or a bad mood, or a blah mood…perhaps I listen to too much Cake. Is that possible?), and this song always gets my goat (ha hah!). It’s got a simply infectious beat and lyrics that make zero sense, making it as silly and fun as a song can be.
Sidenote: An ex-girlfriend of mine always pointed to this song as the reason she didn’t like Cake because “the lyrics are dumb.” Hell yeah they’re dumb! It’s not supposed to be a deep song, or even a good song! (It is a good song.) It’s just supposed to be fun, and, it conveniently fills us in on the afterlives of livestock, which sorely needed addressing.
“Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady
I just got to see these guys in concert, and what a fucking show. They opened with this song and the club went insane. I’ve never seen so many people all yelling “Get hammered!” in unison before. And how can one not go nuts over this song! It’s fast, heavy on the guitar, and talks about getting wasted all summer. I know that’s all I want to do all summer – and if I had a water tower to climb on top of, you bet your ass I’d do it. It also contains one of my favorite rock lyrics: “Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer – I think he might have been our only decent teacher.” I know growing up in a city is awesome, but this song kinda makes me want to have spent a high school summer in a small Midwestern town.
“Enid” by Barenaked Ladies