September 2014 SHRN: Lets Get Classic, Lets Get Weird

September 2014 SHRN

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

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

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

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

Quick Hits:

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

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

Stephanie Tanner’s Makeout Party Mixtape

gia from Full House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer 2014 Belongs to Burger Records

burger records image

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

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

“Sweetest Talk” by Habibi 

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

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


“Gold Sneakers” by Wax Idols

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

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


“Only One” by Colleen Green

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

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


“Dreamphone” by Peach Kelli Pop

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


“Generator” by Gap Dream

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

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

Top 5 Underappreciated Summer Songs

nate summer jam collage

By Nate Logan 

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

“It Must Be Summer” by Fountains of Wayne

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


“One Summer Night” by that dog.

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


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

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


“Summer Babe (Winter Version)” by Pavement

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


“I Hate Summer” by Fucked Up

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

So Hot Right Now: May 2014 (by Claire)

sidewalk flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Hot Right Now, March 2014: The All Hits Scrapbook (by Claire)

One time everyone was at the apartment carving pumpkins and, having exhausted everything new that I had in rotation, I played my Happy Songs mixtape. Every time a new song played Amy looked up, happy and alarmed, and announced “All of the hits!” It was my all time favorite mix tape compliment.

Usually I want to offer this bouquet of musical discoveries. I want you to hear exactly what I’ve been listening to for the past month (or, more often, week). And then I forget, in the rush of so much new, all the old things I love listening to most of all. It’s comfort food, something good and warm for the soul.

I felt kind of overwhelmed by the present and the future these part few weeks, so I bopped around in the past and pulled together something that me at any age would call “All of the hits!” I’ve been time traveling a little with this playlist. Here’s where I’ve been going:

1. The first time I remember hearing “I’m Waiting for the Man,” I was 21 years old and it was the favorite song of the four-year-old girl I was babysitting. I was sitting in that house with the girl’s mom, taking a break from painting in the garage, paint smears on her loose clothes, her charming light eyes and short short hair. The house smelled like baby shampoo and sliced bread gone stale and some sweet arid food smell that lingered no matter what I cooked for dinner. “Sure, you can listen to it one more time,” the mom said, so we listened to it three times in a row and the girl danced around and the grownups grinned. For some reason, everything about this moment was great. Baby’s first Lou Reed jam.

2. It was very dark grey all the time and most mornings my car valiantly tried to start but wasn’t up to it. I was 19, living in Baltimore, and working at the music memorabilia shop a couple days a week. The staff smoked cigarettes in the rain and ate steamy plastic vats of glossy Chinese food from the same awful carry out place every day. I scrawled the names of records and reorganized knick knacks, wrote copy, but mostly I walked around the musty mini warehouse, sifting through the comforting chaos of musical oddities. I played Get Behind Me Satan nonstop for at least two months.

3. It was the middle of the night and I had just tracked down the High Fidelity soundtrack. Like a guardian angel, that movie kept appearing on TV the second I plopped down on that tremendous couch in that tremendous house, two sweet dogs with little old man faces illegally crawling onto the leather to curl up in a ball by my side. Outside was Australia, but I was always inside, sleeping or working or having no money to do much of anything. But it was nice sometimes, those long dark hours in the middle of the night, when I wrote and drank espresso and listened to what I wanted to listen to. Sometimes Joshua and Noura were up and I’d have maybe my second conversation of the day. “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” is sitting in the dark, content and caffeinated, finally putting a name and a band to a song I’d been wanting to track down for years.

*************************

“Honey Love” is dazzlingly sweet, from images to title to sound, upbeat and cheerful. “Cussin’ Cryin’ and Carryin’ On” will guarantee that you never forget the awesomeness of Tina Turner again. “Let’s Go” sounds like the start of a big adventure.

And you’ve heard the rest of these, right? It feels a little bizarre to lay out the basics of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” to you.

What are you listening to this month? Have you been doing any musical time traveling? Let me know in the comments.

Mixtape Tuesday: Blizzards, Amiright? (by Claire)

Happy Mixtape Tuesday! Why is it always snowing in Maryland? Always. Every time I talk to any of my lovely Baltimore folks—snow, blizzard, more snow, rinse repeat.

In honor of the endless snow, and because I promised Joshua some jams, I made him (and you!) this blizzard mixtape. Knowing Maryland, it’s probably Spring again now. Or another blizzard. Or 100 degrees.

Some notes on the actual mixtape:

  • My vision was 80’s pop and modern garage rock sandwich.
  • But then I walked down the street listening to Talking Heads 77 and decided that “Pulled Up” is the musical equivalent of drinking a pot of coffee and blizzards are made for getting too hyped up while trapped in your house.
  • CLAIRE sounds like if Florence Welch or Hannah Reid from London Grammar decided to make pop music instead. Which Florence Welch did briefly last year, and I really enjoyed the results.
  • Every mixtape I’ve ever made for Joshua contains an out of nowhere funk/ soul interlude.
  • I cannot stop playing “Cussin’ Cryin’ and Carryin’ On.” This entire compilation of women in funk is pretty great.

Important discoveries I made while making this mixtape:

  • “Sex Dwarf” by Soft Cell—it’s not only in their top 10 songs, it’s number five! How? Who is listening to this? Are they listening to it for an 80s pop version of Spinal Tap?! Can I write for that? Call me.
  • “Now That We Found Love” by Heavy D and the Boyz heavily samples this delightful classic O’Jays song “Now That We Found Love.” Of course I didn’t find that while Googling “Pretty versions of Now That We Found Love” for my wedding ceremony…of course not….
  • Nashville Skyline has always been my favorite Bob Dylan album and I did not realize that until I actually sat down and listened to it as a palate cleanser after epic mixtape making