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.

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, April 2014 (by Joshua)


springFucking hell, it’s about time.

Spring is finally here in Baltimore, after what has seemed to be the most annoyingly long winter in recent memory. There wasn’t as much snow as, say, the winter of 2009-2010 (The Snowpocaplyse, as it were), but it was frighteningly cold the entire time. Winter is always an ordeal in the Delmarva area, but I don’t know of another winter I quite hated as much as this one. I literally wept two days ago when baseball season started – I got out of an especially grueling day of work to come outside to bright sun and 64 degrees and I couldn’t help a tear coming to my eye when I got home, opened up all the windows, opened up a beer, and watch the Orioles beat the reigning World Series champs, the Red Sox. (I fucking hate the Red Sox…more than the Yankees, less than the Steelers, about as much as I hate Jeffery Maier.)

So I figured my April list, which is usually bright, had to be especially upbeat this year. I had a lot of help this month from NPR’s lists of SXSW artists, which are…extensive. I’ve been pouring over them at work, much to the chagrin of my co-workers, who seem to prefer 80’s arena rock and Trampled by Turtles. (I know, it’s an odd combo. But it’s still better than Katy Perry and Eminem on forever repeat.) The song “Jardin Du Luxembourg” by The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is a good example of a song that I discovered from these lists, my co-workers are baffled by, and I’m enamored with. It’s got this great groove to it, but the ethereal lead singer and the droning, parallel fifths harmonies have proved to be just too weird for most. I guess I get it? But come on, get on board.

Really short story: You know how I often say I either write off or immediately dislike music when I first hear it, then once I either re-discover it or actually listen to it I find I love it? I had to live with the unfortunate result of my quirk this month when I super excitedly sent Claire the track “Oh Man” by Born Ruffians. The message was all like (as they often are), “Oh fucking fuck hell balls shizzbot, Claire, you gotta peep this with your earballs right this very second!” Of course, nearly immediately she sent back, “Uh, yeah, I know. I have. Born Ruffians were on my wonderful February SHRN list, which you follow.” Nice job, Joshua.

Some quick hits:

  • Holy balls, I cannot get the synth line from “Peaches” by In the Valley Below out of my head. They need more stuff on Spotify, pronto.
  • Also, according to this list, I’m apparently super into synth pop/rock now. Who knew that was gonna happen. Claire, I guess? She did turn me on to CRHVCHES. (Who are doing two shows at the 9:30 Club which are already both fucking sold out.)
  • Sold out too? Fucking Alabama Shakes. Why in the world didn’t I buy tickets when they first went on sale? I’m totally slacking on concerts recently, and I’m angry about this.
  • Not sold out? King Kahn and the Shrines, playing at the Ottobar in June. I’ll buy tickets to that, uh, tomorrow. Yeah.
  • I’ve always written off ELO as kinda lame (“Evil Woman” is, in fact, totally lame.), but holy hell is “Long Black Road” fucking funky as hell, and “Mr. Blue Sky” is perhaps the happiest song ever.
  • Most of these artists I’ve heard the one song on this list, so I’ve got some albums to listen to this month. I did already listen to the Summer Camp album, and it was really fun. I’d check it out, if I were you.
  • Yes, “April Come She Will” is a lazy, easy way to end a list for April. Also, fuck you.

So Hot Right Now, March 2014 (By Joshua)


I cannot figure out what I’m into this month.

When I first was putting this list together a couple weeks ago, it was like two-thirds 90’s rap. I had gotten into a discussion late last month with my brother about the best rap albums of the 90’s and my list quickly became a who’s-who of that genre: 2Pac, Biggie, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan…all the best were there. But after about a week I realized that I just couldn’t listen to them anymore. I don’t know why I’ve changed, but 90’s rap is really boring me recently. It shouldn’t; I really believe some of the best rap ever came out in the early nineties. I mean, it’s just hard to find a rap album better than A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, but I still can’t listen to it right now.

Having said that, this list is not devoid of rap or hip-hop….or whatever the hell you call OutKast. There might not be a better hip-hop album released in the Aughts (2000-2009) than Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It’s so much fun, and it’s so fucking weird. Also in this list is perhaps my favorite song from 1990, “Fight the Power.” It’s weird to think about how much Chuck D and Flava Flav hated white people, and the latter had two different shows on VH1.

Still, this list all over the place. I go from a band that sounds exactly like the Alabama Shakes would if they had a male singer (St. Paul & The Broken Bones [it’s freaky how much they sound like AS. Still great, obviously.]) to St. Vincent (how fucking awesome is their [her?] new album, guys?) to a whole section of 90’s songs I never thought I liked, but nonetheless have been stuck in my head. (90’s posts are coming, people. We just have to get up off our lazy asses. Well, I’m lazy; Claire has a wedding to plan.)

A couple quick hits:

  • “The Sign” is fucking poetry, y’all.
  • I really would like to hear a funk or soul version of “Come On Eileen.” Make it so, soul bands.
  • I could listen to “Counting Blue Cars (Tell Me Your Thoughts On God)” on repeat for days. It’s also probably responsible for the band Live, so, there’s that.
  • The series finale of Dollhouse is freaking awesome, and the it’s mostly the song they use at the end of the episode (“Everywhere I Go”) that makes it so heart wrenching.

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.

So Hot Right Now, February 2014: Spring Songs for Bright Rebels (by Claire)

cherry blossoms

I don’t know what it is about February. The month is short, it’s not quite Spring. The pressure of January with its capital letter NEW YEAR IS NOW theme and all the seriousness of resolutions and behaving has passed. The sun isn’t setting quite as early. Everyone has stopped talking about diets and the holidays are way in the rearview window.

This is the second year I’ve noticed the energy that fills me up at the beginning of this month—wide awake creative energy, young and lively, the kind I remember from my teens. I’m writing a lot. I’m reading a lot of Diane Di Prima. I’m seeing friends and walking in the fresh air and drinking too much coffee. And I’m craving a very specific kind of music: Spring music.

My Spring music essentials are simple. If there are cherry blossoms on the trees, I’m probably listening to:

  • Clapping and tambourines and surf guitar.
  • All-girl bands, specifically DIY 90’s girl groups where the lead singers’ vocals are described as “bratty” and modern bands with an old school Motown girl group sound.
  • Indiepop.
  • A splash of punk.
  • Cover art that charms, that makes you want to give the band a shot (An experience that’s become nearly impossible based on how I consume music now, but I force it for fun a couple times a year because I miss the thrill).
  • Lo-fi vocals.
  • Bands with teenager in the name.
  • Songs about starting a band, waiting for summer to come, and being a redhead.

These are songs that make you feel young and alive, like you might go on a big adventure and the whole thing might take place just down the street. And for dessert, fragile lugubrious songs for a restless mope. My So Hot Right Now for February is a soundtrack for tending to your bright rebellious spirit.

What are you listening to? Is your February mixtape approach completely different from mine? Is it a bad idea to get a tattoo of “We all love you, shifty disco girl”? Let me know in the comments.

So Hot Right Now, February 2014: Musical Regression (By Joshua)


Have you ever found yourself reliving your past? I seem to be doing that this month. All I want to listen to is my old So Hot Right Now lists. And the funny thing is I have very little desire to listen to the ones from 2013, just the ones from 2012. I hit those lists out of the goddamn park. The March list of 2012 is perhaps my favorite So Hot Right Now list I’ve ever made, and it’s a seriously weird one. I mean, on one list exists Warren Zevon, Rasputina, The Band, Rage Against the Machine, The Beatles, and The Moments. The weird part is that I know how I sequence these lists, which is to say I barely do any sequencing, and somehow each song flows perfectly into the next one.

I’m struggling to find a reason for why this list is so good. Maybe I was having a good month that month…but my list doesn’t seem especially happy. I think that was the month I moved into my place in Charles Village, but I honestly remember that as totally stressful and not at all happy. Maybe it doesn’t have to be happy to be good. Maybe it’s good because it’s unhappy. Either way, it’s good, and there are like 8 songs from that list on this one.

Also prominently featured on this list is my list from November of 2012.  And looking back at our posts from those months, I think I found a parallel: March was our month on the structure of an album, and November was our month on the structure of a song. Maybe I was just in better musical mindspaces in those months. I had to’ve been, these lists are hot as hell.

Included as well is a smattering of songs from both of my birthday mixtapes Claire made for me. They are both truly excellent, though for some reason I am drawn over and over again to the one from 2013. I love the inclusion of They Might Be Giants right next to the bird and bee’s cover of “I Can’t Go For That.” Also, I had to throw in the excellent Mavis Staples’ cover of “Can You Get To That” off of this year’s birthday list.

Now, you might notice that this list has 14 songs rather than my customary 15. The reason for this is simple: there’s a song on this list Spotify doesn’t have that I do. If you want to listen to it, it’s called “Gardening” by Spoke Ensemble. Good luck finding a good version – Youtube has a crappy video of a live performance in someone’s backyard, but that’s about it.

Oh! I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention why Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” is on this list, and the reason is simple: Because of my amazing acumen with music, I have won a slap bet with this song and therefore I get to slap my brother Matthew across his face. Hard.