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.

Listen to Covers

Do you follow us on Twitter (ahem @chrmcityjukebox ahem)? Since we started tweeting, I’ve found a treasure trove of covers from music blogs and music magazines and music types, and I can’t. stop. listening. to. them. What is it about a solid cover that’s so magical? Our first post on Charm City Jukebox was about our Top 5 covers and we had enough leftovers to warrant a Leftover List and a Reader Request. We posted 23 covers that week and I think we could have doubled that, easily.

So if, like us, you can’t get enough covers, here are a few more to tide you over. And if you have more can’t miss covers, leave them in the comments, pretty please (we could use a few more. Seriously)

New Covers:

“Corrina Corrina,” Cover by Beck (via Pitchfork)

“God Only Knows,” Cover by The Flaming Lips (via Paste Magazine)

“Ophelia,” Cover by Bon Iver (via PrettyMuchAmazing.com)

Reader Recommendations:

“Walking with a Ghost,” Cover by The White Stripes  (originally by Tegan and Sara)

“Take Care,” Cover by Florence and the Machine  (originally by Drake)

Claire at 22: A Mixtape

Flash forward six years after yesterday’s post

…and we have Claire at 22. Those first few years out of college are a whirlwind— fast paced, full of change, and of course, complete with a rapidly evolving soundtrack. Here’s mine.

“I Need Some Fine Wine, and You, You Need to Be Nicer,” by The Cardigans

I think it’s brave to have a song title that’s a whole sentence. It shows a level of obliviousness that I enjoy—I can’t believe that nary a producer or studio exec or friend said “Hey, what about ‘Fine Wine’?” or “Hey, what about ‘You Need to Be Nicer’?” or “Hey…are you famous enough to have 12 word song titles?”

Before hearing this, the only song I knew by The Cardigans was “Love Fool,” which I’d been avoiding since elementary school. Once in a while, I get this type of insomnia where a song will race through my head over and over, hitting pause on all impending sleep. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad—honestly, the good ones are the worst, because they become unbearable to listen to after having heard them thousands of time in a row while the bags under my eyes acquire depth and shading. “Love Fool” was my first sleepless song, and it made me hate The Cardigans. 12 years later, “I Need Some Fine Wine, and You, You Need to Be Nicer” redeemed them and set me on a new path when it came my music listening.  The Cardigans introduced me to The Sounds, Jenny Owens Young, and Mazzy Star. Mazzy Star introduced me to early Beck, early Liz Phair, and The Smiths. The lesson here is that bands deserve a second chance—they may disappoint you once (Liz Phair), offer you a terrible show (Bob Dylan), or keep you up all night in the worst way (The Cardigans), but another go-round could change your music collection for the better.

“Mrs. Officer,” by Lil Wayne

I’ve made fun of Top 40 music here, and here, and in more places on this blog that I can’t locate, and trust me, I will again. But the truth is (and it might be a hard truth for our faint of heart readers), I don’t dislike Top 40—I like a lot of it, and when I used to drive, I listened to it with the same religious intensity of it’s teen target demographic. I like it because I like to dance and because I like to know what’s popular, but mostly I like it because it’s created to be likeable. It’s the musical equivalent of eating too much candy—you may not feel great about it, but you’re having a good time turning your tongue raspberry blue and spiking your blood sugar. “Mrs. Officer” was a big hit right around my 22nd birthday. I danced to it at every club I went to for months, I listened to it any time I had a chance to drive. It was upbeat and light and to this day reminds me of happy moments from a six month period that didn’t have many. (Also Lil Wayne is kind of awesome. Go watch the Carter Documentary and you’ll see what I mean.)

“Electric Feel,” by MGMT

My sister, who is categorically much cooler than me, had exhausted this song by the time I found it on her iPod. We were in Port Isabel, TX for a week visiting our grandparents. It was HOT outside. Really hot. By the time we got home, Baltimore had thawed out too, and the Maryland summer was in full swing. “Electric Feel” then, and now, was the perfect summery song: Fun, warm, the kind of thing I wanted to listen to while drinking mojitos and dancing outside.

“Devil’s Pie,” by Rhymefest

“Devil’s Pie” is an awesome, insanely catchy, socially conscious rap that samples The Strokes. My boyfriend bought this album that year and I listened to it relentlessly. If you like this track, check out “Bullet,” a similarly conscious rap that liberally samples Citizen Cope.

“Walking with a Ghost,” by Tegan and Sara

At 22, I’d been avoiding Tegan and Sara for a couple years. The last year was the hardest, since I had a roommate who loved them, and a boss who shared that sentiment and played Tegan and Sara-ish songs all day.

Why was I avoiding them? I have no idea. Seriously. For whatever reason, they became one of those bands: Other people liked them, I didn’t, and I wasn’t going to bother to do the legwork to figure out why. It’s the same thing that keeps my CDs wrapped in plastic for years, or allows lists of music recommendations to go dusty in old notebooks before I take a hint and listen to the Decemberists, for christ’s sake. It’s like I’m afraid I’m going to like something new, and that liking will require the kind of obsessive energy I put towards all music that I like. I’m going to have to buy albums and go to shows. I’m going to have to get hung up on a song, then another, and move through a handful of albums at a several year long snail’s pace. It’s a lot of work, being obsessive about music. It can cause this exact kind of avoidance and bitterness for no good reason. I heard this song at 22, I loved it, I got just as obsessive as I feared I would, and then there were new bands, new artists, more songs, more albums, and the cycle continued, as it should.

First Show/ Worst Show: Amy Berkowitz

First show: Are we talking about the first show I was at, or the first show I was at of my own volition? I’ll tell you about both. My summer camp put all of us on a bus in 1993 and drove us to an Aerosmith concert. Now, I can’t figure out where the concert was. My camp was on the Pennsylvania-New York border, so maybe it was the Binghamton show on July 2? (I’m looking at the Wikipedia page for the Get a Grip tour).

I remember the first thing I did was buy a T-shirt. This was a big deal. It was huge on me, and I didn’t really like Aerosmith, but it was important to have the T-shirt. Our seats were horrible. It was a big outdoor amphitheater, and we were sitting on the grass, on blankets, about half a mile from the stage. Now that I’m recalling this, I’m wondering if we even had tickets to the show, or if we were just sort of sitting near the concert. I remember smelling pot for the first time, and feeling very cool for knowing what it was and being around it. I remember being really bored and not liking Aerosmith at all. I remember thinking Steven Tyler was full of himself. I remember these lyrics: “There’s a hole in my soul / That’s been killing me forever / There’s a place where a garden never grows.” I remember thinking I could do better, and I was right.

The first concert I went to on purpose was Beck, Ben Folds Five, and Elliott Smith at Jones Beach in 1998. I loved Beck, but I didn’t know either of the opening bands, so we got there late and missed Elliott Smith, and only saw the last few Ben Folds songs. I don’t remember a lot about the performance, but I do remember that Beck danced a lot and really put on a show. I thought he was really dreamy. Jones Beach was kind of far from Manhattan, so we slept at my friend’s house in Queens. We got to bed late, and got up early for school the next day. I got out of the subway at 96th Street and bought a coffee from the bodega, the first coffee I ever bought. I felt really cool. I have drank coffee every day since then.

Worst show: You know what kind of shows I liked in 2008? Noise shows. Scummy basement noise shows. Noise shows at venues with bedbugs. Noise shows in weird parts of Brooklyn. Noise shows in weird parts of Queens. I once described a No Fun Fest (noise festival) venue as “perfect, because it felt like someone could actually die there.” It was a converted warehouse on the outskirts of Red Hook. Hey, that’s what I was into then. So when my friend told me he’d bought me a ticket to see the Magnetic Fields at Town Hall, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. But I paid him the $45 and went anyway. Town Hall is a far cry from The Hook. It’s an elegantly appointed theater in Midtown Manhattan, the kind of place that hosts events like “The International Championship of Collegiate A Capella Finals” and “Vocal Jazz Festival with Phil Mattson.” The night of the show, I hadn’t showered in a couple days, which I felt fine about until I walked into Town Hall. The bright lights and theater seating felt overly formal, and things only got worse when somebody came on stage and announced that the evening would begin with a live performance of a radio play.
Just… no. That’s not how concerts start. Also, a live performance of a radio play? Why? Some fools came on dressed in period costumes and acted out a corny play. Then the Magnetic Fields played. I don’t remember much about their performance, except that they were sort of subdued and Stephin Merritt seemed cranky. Then, an intermission was announced. Again, no. It’s a show. There’s not supposed to be an intermission. I walked out and got on the train home to Brooklyn and as the Q crossed the bridge I probably called my cool noise boyfriend to tell him how much the show sucked.

Top 5 Breakup Songs

Joshua: We are so obsessed with breakup songs, we couldn’t leave it at just describing the stages we go through. Here are our all-time, top five favorite breakup songs…plus a few more we just had to mention.

CLAIRE’s List

Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”

Etta James has completed the Love and Stuff Month triathalon: She’s on my Top 5 Love Songs (Sunday Kind of Love), Top 5 Songs for the Grown and Sexy (I Just Want to Make Love to You), and Top 5 Breakup Songs (I’d Rather Go Blind). I’ve never been able to shake the image from the chorus here—”I’d rather be blind, boy, than to see you walk away from me.” An achingly, heartbreakingly beautiful song, one that conveys raw, almost to the point of numbness, pain.


Imogen Heap, “Hide and Seek”

For the blank-faced times, the too many drinks alone time, the finding a song to cry to times. Sort of a theme for  “Speak for Yourself” (the album this song is from), so if you’re looking for a prolonged spell of crying jags and blind rage, queue up “Headlock” and “Have You Got it In You?”

A Fine Frenzy, “Ashes and Wine”

A Fine Frenzy does a couple things we all have to do after a breakup. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Feels nothing. Feels end-of-the-world-depressed. Feels suicidal in a “Yeah, that’ll show you way.” Then feels bad about all that and insists that this will be amicable, damnit.
  • Imagines her ex kissing someone else. Feels alternately ill, guilty about feeling ill because she has no claim on him anymore, sad about the realization that her claim is gone
  • Wonders relentlessly if somehow they’re going to muddle through this breakup and get back together. Asks that pleading question, albeit in a much more poetic way, “Are we going to get back together? Ever?”


Beck, “Lost Cause”

You’ve given up. You didn’t want to, this isn’t some big confident show of how over it you are, no. But you’re done trying. And it’s all sad and terrible but maybe a little hopeful, because it can be over now. Not over for real, not yet, but there’s a promise that it will be some day. And that’s something.


Joni Mitchell, “Down to You”

An oddly comforting song that, when you’re in the throes of your breakup, reminds you that this too shall pass. This is my all time favorite Joni Mitchell song. I remember driving around listening to this, about a month after a breakup, and those first lines clicked with me immediately: “Everything comes and goes/Marked by lovers and styles of clothes/Things that you held high and told yourself were true/Lost and changing as the days come down to you.” Also the part where she suddenly shrieks “Love is gone” with a chorus is hilarious. I know it’s not supposed to be, but it’s a much needed laugh. Between Joni Mitchell’s zen-like wisdom and so-serious-it’s-funny-choral-moment, this song feels like a huge relief.

Honorary Mentions:

Billie Holiday, “I’ll Be Seeing You”: Nobody does wistful like Billie Holiday.

Martha Wainwright, “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole”: It’s nice to hear a pretty song turn so filthy. Martha Wainwright is angry, is not interested in hiding it, is about to spend a full minute repeating “You bloody motherfucking asshole.”

Lauryn Hill, “Ex Factor”: If you’ve ever been through a breakup without “There for me there for me, said you’d be there for me/Cry for me cry for me, you said you’d die for me” running through your head at some point, you apparently missed out on the very crucial experience of listening to “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” on repeat for two years. Fix that.

Joshua’s List:

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake

A wonderful cover of the creator of nasty breakup songs, Willie Nelson. He can’t possibly begin to forgive his ex. She done him wrong. And he ain’t got no one to tell it to but his guitar and the tech recording his song. I hope whoever Nelson wrote the song for (and John McCrea sang the song for) actually heard the song. But it’s almost better if she didn’t, right?

“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” by Jeff Buckley

I’m not sure if this is actually a breakup song or not, I’ve just always used it as one. Maybe it’s the accordion. Maybe it’s the wide open D-chord transitioning to the horrible E-minor. Maybe it’s Buckley’s naturally wilting, wistful voice. You can’t help but wish…no, know, that she should’ve come back to him. He knows exactly what he’s done wrong. He’s a fucking idiot. Can’t he make a mistake? Unfortunately, he knows the answer, and it’s not good.

“Accidentally Like A Martyr” by Warren Zevon

This was a serious candidate for the breakup sex entry for me for a while. The chorus describes exactly that: “Mad love, shadow love, random love, and abandoned love.” Can you think of a better description for sex you shouldn’t be having? But it’s much better describing that period after you finally break off all contact with your ex and then force yourself to remember over and over again all the times you had passionate, uninhibited sex with her/him. It’s torturous, and Warren Zevon knows exactly what you’re going through.

“No Children” by The Mountain Goats

This song isn’t actually written from the perspective of a couple already broken up; rather, a couple that should be ending but can’t bring themselves to kill it. Or each other. Or themselves. I love the line: “And I hope when you think of me years down the line, you can’t find one good thing to say.” I’ve oft felt like this: I know I’ve never done anything to truly hurt someone, especially someone I’ve loved, but there’s a certain romantic charm in being hated in perpetuity by someone who once loved you. Maybe that’s insanity, but I have a feeling I inspire that kind of long-standing revulsion with my exes, and it’s rather comforting.

“So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power

After that, I had to end this entry on a positive note. And what better a song than this to express positivity of a breakup? The singer is, unfortunately, deeply in love with the person he’s singing it to, but he’s realized that it’s better for her in the long run if they weren’t together anymore. He can’t bear the thought of his girl being unhappy, especially if it’s because of him. He must make the ultimate sacrifice to step aside, but, in the end, he’s ok with it. It’s hard now, and it’ll get better, but goddamn, if this shit doesn’t suck. I one day hope to be that mature to realize when I should do what he’s doing…Cuz I’ve never done it before.

Honorable Mentions:

“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies: Ok, this is only on here because I’ve never been on this side of a breakup. Move along.

“Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes: A shuffle written about dying love. A straight up amazing classic.

“For No One” by The Beatles: Uh…damn, Paul. Damn. This is some fucked up shizz right here. And I’ve been there.