Songs About Andreas (by Claire)

andrea mixtape

Well friends, I asked if you wanted name mixtapes, and you delivered! First up: Andrea.

Unlike Josie, my life has been full of a consistent stream of Andreas. Who, like most people who share the same name, have almost nothing in common.

But Andrea songs paint a clear picture about Andreas! According to this playlist:

  • Andrea is at a 90’s nightclub somewhere in Europe, listening to techno.
  • Andrea is breaking the hearts of pop punk boys.
  • Andrea is charming the occasional indie folk type.
  • Andrea is friends with a series of European pop stars.
  • Andrea just got some bitchin’ clothes.

People have a lot to say about Andrea. People want to scream about Andrea. People sometimes want to combine the two and scream on and off about Andrea for five minutes or more. She seems to be having an excellent time though, except for that run-in at the nail salon.

Based on these songs, I would say Andrea is a fun loving, adventurous sometimes-party girl.

What are the Andreas in your life like? Does this sound right? And how much do you want to bring back “Gag me with a spoon” after listening to “Valley Girl” (So much, guys. Lets bring it back stat.)? Let me know in the comments.

So Hot Right Now: March 2013 (by Claire)

Frank Zappa, my spirit animal

A long February weekend in San Diego was all day-glow smoothies, hefty breakfast burritos, and Fleetwood Mac, maybe in that order.  It’s not a beach vacation if you don’t listen to Rumours at least twice, preferably while accumulating sand in the tiny crevices of your toes, or chugging down the main drag with the windows down. And it’s not Rumours if it’s not stuck in your head for at least another three weeks, conjuring the smell of melting sunscreen and coconut surf wax as the wind cuts clean and cold against your cheeks.  Summer is months away, but when it comes, listen to “Never Going Back Again” while tracing the edge of the ocean with your bare feet.

I wore my “Happy Songs” playlist down to the bone months ago, and I’ve needed a set of musical uppers ever since. “I’ll Come Running to Tie Your Shoes” by Brian Eno and “Swimming Pool” by Toy Love both do the trick, as does old favorite “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin. My nerves have been fried and scattered like some strange delicacy lately; music puts them back on the mend. (Wasn’t it Frank Zappa, my spirit animal right now, who said “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”?)

Misheard lyrics abound—“Medicine Wheel” spun circles between my ears for a month at least, and I always thought the chorus was “Are you salmon, baby/under the bridge” instead of “Are you saddened baby/under the bridge.” “Dry the Rain” played a similar trick for years, when I turned it up and was convinced that they were saying, over and over again, “You will be all right” because I needed to hear that. “I will be your light” is still good though, maybe better. If we’re talking about the how and when of consuming songs, I recommend taking a long walk up big hills in San Francisco, and timing this six minute gem just right so that you reach the crescendo of your walk, peer out at the city, as the Beta Band chants “I will be your light.”

Remember when I made fun of Bob Dylan’s, well, Dylanyness this week? I felt bad. I contracted Bob Dylan guilt. Do you, Dylan, and I’ll promise to never see you in concert again and keep listening to you and half-heartedly defending you to haters. In the meantime, haters and non-haters, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” is one of my favorite Dylan songs. It’s sunny and lovely and always reminds me to watch High Fidelity again if its been too long. It also pairs well with “Help Me Make It Through the Night” by Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Sometimes you’re sitting at your desk, rattled and riddled with racing thoughts, and the right song comes on. The right song, one you’ve never heard, one you absolutely needed. It’s a rare gift from the universe. Celebrate it.  Cheers to The Belle Brigade’s “Loser” (which I had heard once or twice, but only paid a fraction of my attention to it each time), which appeared and filled my speakers when I needed it most.

Top 5 Songs in My Head, Walking Through Melbourne on Rosh Hashanah (by Claire)

“I forgot how quickly I start narrating stuff out loud to myself when left to my own devices.” –Message to a friend about my month in Melbourne

The other night I walked around for hours, too afraid to listen to my iPod based on my current dreamy state and nervousness about not looking the right way when I looked both ways.  I sang songs in my head, like I always do, except maybe at a more fevered pace. It was cold and I was hungry. I wondered, could a night have a Top 5 list? As I walked and shopped, ate and remembered, I came up with mine. Here’s what happened the other night, and what I was singing in my head.

“For the Young Sophisticate” by Frank Zappa

It was raining the first time I realized I had missed Rosh Hashanah. I slept until 1:30pm that day, a blessing when you work until 4:00am, but even all those precious zzs couldn’t help me shake the tired fog that surrounded me. That level of exhaustion veers in two directions: magical or depressing, but the depression is particular. It’s not real feelings and chemicals, even if you think it is. It’s little kid sadness—you’re so tired, you could cry over anything. A stubbed toe is a tragedy, a missed TV show is a reason to call it quits and crawl back into bed. As for the magical—well, sometimes you’re sitting at brunch and you wonder if you’re awake or dreaming.  Rain drops twinkle and wink. You wonder if you thought about it really hard, if maybe you could fly.

It was raining and I was walking to my third convenience store, trying to find the perfect Cadburys bar or a flavor of Tim Tams I hadn’t tried yet. I remembered it was Rosh Hashanah. No apples, no honey, no family dinner. I burst into tears. I conjured the song that had been looping through my mind for days. “Dear Heart, Dear Heart, tell me tell me what’s the reason,” I hummed. I turned it into a Zappa mash-up, I imagined his voice saying “Is that a REAL poncho or a SEARS poncho?” I smiled.

“Pablo Picasso,” Jonathan Richman

I went to a souvlaki joint. I ordered a souvlaki, and while I waited, I killed a cockroach on my table with a handful of receipts I’d found in my purse. I wondered why people always ask me twice if I want chili sauce. Did I stutter? I read “Love Goes to the Building on Fire” and I thought about Jonathan Richman. What does his music sound like now? Is he good live? I tried to figure out what my Top 5 Jonathan Richman songs are, but I got distracted by the phantom cockroaches that I kept imagining scuttling across the Formica.

“Dry the Rain,” The Beta Band

High Fidelity showed up on TV a few hours before I left the house. I caught it a minute before it started. It was a Rosh Hashanah miracle. It wasn’t the first time that I felt like Rob Gordon knew I was feeling down, and had arrived to pull me out of a funk, or give me permission to embrace it. And what better song to walk through the rain, in need of cheer and food and a good soundtrack, then the Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain”? Yes, I will be alright. You’re right, Rob Gordon, you’re right as usual.

“Stupid Thing” and “Freeway” by Aimee Mann

I keep coming home and listening to Joni Mitchell. I keep resting my forehead against the cool, calm of tried and true singer songwriters. Joni Mitchell, Aimee Mann, Carole King. I play a little Etta James as the day winds down, I play a little Joni Mitchell during my first late night espresso. I play Carole King when it’s raining really hard, but I only did that once because she kind of bores me, and listening to “Far Away” started to seem downright maudlin. And I listen to an entire Aimee Mann album every night, so the low buzz in my head when I’m not thinking is replaced for days by “Freeway” and “Stupid Thing.” Musical comfort food, Aimee Mann.

“Listen to Her Heart,” by Tom Petty

My friend Amy Berkowitz did a reading from her new book “Listen to Her Heart” a few months ago. There was a line in one of the poems about going to the drugstore when you’re lonely, buying hair ties. I’ve done that a hundred times. I love moments like that in poetry—when you see a bit of yourself that’s always been there, but you’ve never noticed. When I went to the pharmacy in Melbourne the other day, hair ties cost double. No thoughtless buying allowed when they cost double.

My boyfriend was working late, and every day I tried to bring him a treat. I went treat shopping after souvlaki. I flicked through racks of Tim Tams, I dawdled in a myriad of brightly colored candy aisles. At the grocery store, I bought a chocolate bar with raspberry jelly bean bits and honey comb laced throughout. It reminded me of the kind of candy bar a child would make, the first experiment that would’ve come out of Willy Wonka’s factory after Charlie took over. “All sweets together all at once!” I ate half of it on the way home.

Master Class: Covers and Cultures (by E.c. Fish)

The oft-told tale of post-WWII American popular music– and baby, that is rock and roll, among others– is a tale of cultural cross pollination, of white musicians adopting African American forms for a mass (that is, white) audience and creating a new kind of music that conquered the world. Depending on your point of view, it can also be seen as a story of outright theft, of riffs, songs, styles, publishing rights, and record sales as conquered colonies of the majority’s cultural empire. It is also the context for the cultural give and take of the second batch of covers in this master class. Notebooks ready, here we go…

“Karma Chameleon,” by Beat Farmers

For “Covers and Culture,” a cover of Culture Club by The Beat Farmers, an ’80s cowpunk outfit. The self conscious irony and DIY ethos of the postpunk era made it a new golden age of covers– Velvets songs, Monkees songs, old cereal commercial jingles, whatever the hell else you wanted to throw in there– mostly because writing songs was something a lot of these bands couldn’t do themselves. While this wasn’t necessarily true of the Farmers, this is a stellar example of the phenomenon, with the band using the original’s already copped from country harmonica line and drummer Country Dick Montana’s natural status as the anti-Boy George to turn the song into a sort of semiotic jamboree that flatly insists on the ridiculousness of both the original and the whole cultural enterprise.

“Dedicated To The One I Love,” by The Mamas and the Papas

A gorgeous record, and a near perfect example of an old school cover. Back in the age of vinyl long long ago, the record business was geared to the sale of 45s like the one you see in this video. LPs (or, for our younger readers, those big round things in the cardboard jackets with the nice graphics down in your parents’ basement) were tacked together from singles, b-sides, and cover versions. Covers were thus common, accepted, and thick on the ground, an A and R tradition that continued clear into the ’60’s and records like this one. It’s also an example of another cover tradition: a bunch of white people taking a song by a bunch of black people, buying it on the cheap, and throwing class privilege in the form of money and studio technology at it. The resulting record is quite beautiful, meticulously crafted, and very, very white. Also an example of a cover too few people know is a cover. School yourselves, people.

“Sail On, Sailor,” by Ray Charles and The Beach Boys

This is arguably not so much a cover as a live take with a guest vocalist, but with this particular guest vocalist that becomes a distinction without a difference: Ray Charles is going to change the Beach Boys much more than the Beach Boys are going to change Ray Charles. This is a nice reversal of the racial politics of “Dedicated”. As a slim and sane appearing Brian Wilson tells us in the intro, it was Ray’s voice that he heard when he originally wrote this song, making this both a performance closer to the original intent of the song than the recorded version and a solid homage to Ray and the African-American roots of rock and roll. Much nicer than the more common practice of taking a song by a black man (for example, Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”), changing the lyrics (to something about, oh, I don’t know, water sports), and claiming the result as original work, thus screwing said black man out of his publishing rights and royalties. Sad but true: Before Brian Wilson was God, he was Pat Boone.

“Norwegian Wood,” by Cornershop

Unless you’re a Punjabi speaker, this comes dangerously close to the cover as novelty record, but it actually represents another turn of the cultural screw twisted by Ray Charles above. Cornershop takes George Harrison’s imperialist hipster rip on Indian music (grafted rather superfluously  onto a Lennon song) as an excuse to wrap the whole thing up and ship it to the subcontinent. Plus, as my favorite seven year old music critic aptly pointed out, the sitar is much prettier on this one.

“Tears Began To Fall,” by The Persuasions*

More cultural reclamation. Frank Zappa was heavily influenced by doo-wop, and the Persuasions take that influences right back to the originating genre. One doesn’t even miss Flo and Eddie until after the two minute mark, when, like most middling doo-wop, this gets a little repetitious before (gulp) adding some instruments. Doo-wop fail.

(*Most videos of this song were recently taken off of YouTube. If you find a good video link, send it to and we’ll post it here. Thanks!)

Can’t get enough covers know-how from Professor E.c. Fish? Come back next week for the final Master Class, and check out last week’s lesson

Top 5 Album Closers

Claire: We’re closing out our month long amble down record collection lane with album closers. Joshua and I had a long discussion about this post after I admitted that post by post, it’s come to my attention that I skip out on the end of most albums. Even some of my favorite albums contain mysterious final tracks that I’ve never reached. Why? Boredom sometimes, but more often it feels like the rhythm and narrative of the album got lost in the last few tracks, and after the penultimate and pre-penultimate, I can’t sit through another assault on my mini musical experience. Leave your favorite album closers, and closer criteria, in the comments! Maybe this post and your suggestions can end my stint as an album closer novice.

“The Big Country,” by the Talking Heads on Talking Heads 77

The Big Country is the epitomy of a proper album send-off. After a musical smorgasbord, this track winds you down, but not too much, not too fast. Perfectly paced, and still in pace with the album as a whole, with a solid last track length. If I’ve learned anything from our month of album posts, it’s that you never really want to leave a Talking Heads album. Once it’s on, once it gets going, it’s hard to give it up, hard to let it end. The Big Country is so satisfying it’s downright quenching.  And when Talking Heads 77 is done, you’ll probably replay the album (I know, you can’t help it) but if for some reason you couldn’t listen through again—if there was a tornado or some kind of martian landing— you could walk away and be okay. Until you remember Stop Making Sense, and then wipe out your schedule and cozy up to David Byrne, cause you’re a goner.

 “Jackson,” by Lucinda Williams on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Around the time I turned 16, my family spent a week in St. Cloud Minnesota, the town where I was born. We stayed with my parents’ friend Julie’s house, where we shucked corn in the backyard, ate mole off of plates perched on our laps, and flailed our open, stinging palms through the air, swatting mosquitos. It’s strange to say three cities later,  but everyone seemed so much more alive in Minnasota. My dad was on the radio, bonfires sprung up and filled with my parents’ college friends, and my sister and I ran free. I tasted my first beer that week (and developed a lifelong hatred of Leinenkugels), got my ears pierced, and spent the morning of my 16th birthday walking right down the center of an endless, empty road. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus and listened to it relentlessly.

There’s a great line in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, about listening to “I Will Always Love You” over and over again, and crying because she had never experienced that kind of love. During that week in St. Cloud, I felt ready to grow up and be tumultous, adventurous, and achingly heartbroken, as soon as I could, and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was my window into a life I didn’t have yet, but could reach out and almost touch.

“Save Me,” by Aimee Mann on Bachelor No. 2 or the Last Remains of the Dodo

I was in the throes of a bad breakup, and bingeing on sad girl music (…like Fergie) and a newly reacquired cigarette habit, when I got introduced to Bachelor No. 2. I remember that summer as being rainy and constantly dark, though looking back it was so sunny that I came home daily with a pink, scabby sunburn. And I also remember this album being a pitch-perfect ode to heartbreak, so personalized Mann may as well have laced my name through the choruses. But it’s not, not really. It’s heartbreak and growing up and being so strange inside that new love, someday, feels unlikely. I think this is where I ended up five years after I had exhausted Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, when I really was heartbroken and a little more grown up, and it was a lot less delicious than I had imagined.

“One Man Guy,” by Loudon Wainwright on BBC Sessions

Loudon Wainwright III is the world’s saddest man. If there were a “Sad, old guy singing sad songs” version of the Hunger Games, he would win in a heartbeat. He would get a walloping score from the Gamemakers, based on a freestyle ode to his lost loves and distant children. He would pull out a guitar and beat Leonard Cohen death, then melt everyone into a depressive heap with his pretty, lowkey songs, rife with death and loss and major life mistakes. (Oh my glob I want to cast the Sad Old Guy Hunger Games. What are we thinking, guys? Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, wild card from District Experimental, Brian Eno…) (I’m reading the Hunger Games and they’re actually haunting my dreams. And this post, apparently.)

“One Man Guy” is an apt ending to a live-ish album: Loudon in concert is a carnival of kooky facial expressions, quips, and goofy smiles, all working together to cleverly mask some of the wrenching sadness in his songs. This song is an exploration of his lodged-in-his-bones-loneliness, and a quick peek behind his live performance mask.

“Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows on August and Everything After

Murder of One is a great big “things are going to change” song. It’s also solid internal montage music: If you need to imagine that things will change, for the better, in a quick, several scene cuts kind of way (instead of in the usual slow, up and down, un-soundtracked way that life works) this is your song. A nice, almost upbeat ending to a brooding, emotional rollercoaster of an album.

Honorable Mentions

“Rock Me to Sleep,” by Jill Sobule on Pink Pearl: Pink Pearl is the worst kind of album: Heartbreakingly sad, and equally catchy. It’s a lovely hummable type of torture, full of failed heroes and cruel lovers and Mary Kay Latourneau. “Rock Me to Sleep” is a pitch-perfect send off—a song about unbearable loneliness masquerading as a lullabye.

“Stumbling Through the Dark,” by The Jayhawks on Rainy Day Music: Another con—the opening sounds lighthearted and playful, but listen to the lyrics for a second and it’s another lovely ramble on sadness and confusion.

“Montana,” by Frank Zappa on Over-Nite SensationWeird and fun, like this whole album. Makes me miss the “I might be moving to Montana soon/ To raise me up a crop of dental floss” pin I made in high school. It had a green field on it with tiny boxes of dental floss growing out of the ground.

Joshua’s List:

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon, on Excitable Boy

The first line is so good: “I went home with a waitress…the way I always do.” It begins with a count-off. It’s loud, crass, and mean. It’s the perfect way to end Excitable Boy. Oh, and the music is pretty damn cool too. I love big guitars, both as a wall of sound and actual physically big guitars. And I can only assume this song has both.

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake, on Fashion Nugget

I may have mentioned this song before, but as Cake is one of my favorite bands they’re going to get a lot of mentions. And they actually don’t have very many good album closers, at least none I’d be willing to put on this list. Except for this song, of course. It’s a great cover of a Willie Nelson song, and it fits in perfectly with the whole jilted lover theme they have running through the album. Plus, it’s a nice slow way to end the album, which is my favorite way to end an album. And it’s a ¾ waltz! Who doesn’t like a waltz?

“Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, on O.C.M.S

Let me preface this song with telling you that I am not a big fan of this band. The album this is on is not very good and the only other standout on the album is a song called “Big Time in the Jungle.” But this is quite possibly the best campfire sing-along song of all time. When I was at St. Mary’s College, it seemed like every single person knew the lyrics to this song and everyone who played guitar knew the key changes. So yeah, it wraps up a bad album, but it does it in one of the happiest ways ever.

“Sons & Daughters” by The Decemberists, on The Crane Wife

I’ve seen The Decemberists three times now, and twice they’ve ended their encores with this song. It’s big, it’s happy, and it’s a sing-along! (Ok, so sing-alongs are a running theme this week.) Every time I hear this song it puts a big smile on my face. It’s the perfect way to end The Crane Wife, which I feel is ostensibly a “winter” album, with the spring peeking out of its hidey hole and giving us hope after a long, dark winter.

“All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints” by Paul Simon, on Graceland

So yeah, I love this album. It’s on three of the four lists we have about albums. But goddamn, this is an amazingly fun song. It’s singy, it’s danceable, it’s balling. Also, props to the many mentions of watermelon. I totally want some after listening to this song.

Honorable Mentions:

“The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned” by The Decemberists, on The Hazards of Love: Only bumped because of previous mentions and a Decemberists song already on the main list. Otherwise, one of my favorite album closers.

“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” by John Lee Hooker, on Live at Café Au-Go-Go: His signature song, and one of the best versions available.

“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book: Gets a big positive for closing out the movie version of High Fidelity. But it’s also a crazy good song. Also, the outro is really, really, really funky.

What is a musical hangover, you ask?—Claire

No dears, it’s not what it sounds like. Tuxedo clad singers won’t appear bedside after a night made out of a bottle of wine and some alcoholic spare change, both firmly lodged and aching somewhere behind your eyeballs. This is not the macaroni-and-cheese, peanut-butter-out-of-a-jar, kiddie-pool-full-of-coffee, musical hair of the dog. (Though that would be a good list, huh? Joshua, take note. I’m thinking a next morning cocktail of the Jayhawks and Zappa, with Katy Perry sprinkled on top…it could work.)

A musical hangover is more than a song that’s stuck in your head. It’s a song that’s lodged in your week. It’s a song you wake up singing, that you listen to on repeat for days without tiring of it, and still listen to (albeit with less fervor and repetition) on and off forever. You don’t wear it out—you just wear it, to the point that you convince yourself it means something, it’s part of the elusive soundtrack of your life, someone in a studio is pressing play as you walk through the doors and see that person, or do that thing, or gaze moonily out a window (moony moon-gazing is a serious side effect of musical hangovers). Enjoy your musical hangover while it lasts. Too soon, you’ll hear some awful jingle or bit of Top 40 fluff that will run through your head like an unpleasant musical flu.

Now that our Charm City Jukebox vocabulary lesson is over, here are three of my most recent musical hangovers: