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.

So Hot Right Now: January 2013 (by Claire)

I spent the last few months of 2012 on a well documented hunt for new music; now, I’m embracing the new/old. Friends (read: people I don’t know at all and follow on Twitter) who are already drafting posts on the best albums and songs of 2013, I salute you.  But I need a break. In lieu of the newest of the new, here’s my not new at all discovery: Little Ann. I’m obsessed, and “Going Down A One Way Street” will show you why.

“I don’t like Sonic Youth; it’s all noise.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but I spent so many years parroting that sound bite that I never gave Sonic Youth a fair shake. Then I listened to Sister and I retired that chestnut in favor of endless relistening. “Cotton Crown” gives me chills; I feel deep down better about everything I could feel better about when “You’re gonna manifest the mystery” is on the tip of my tongue.

The holidays always put me on a brief Regina Spector kick.  I have bleary, champagne infused memories of dancing to “Dance Anthem of the 80s” on New Years Eve with a bunch of girls in pretty dresses. Same goes for “I’m Gonna Be Your Elevator,” which I think is my ideal dance party song right now. It reminds me of this scene in The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield where she dances at an underground lesbian nightclub. She has this perfect fitted dress and ridiculous Betty-Draper-in-Italy hair, but best of all and most importantly, she does this adorable swishy twitchy little dance. I model basically all of my dance moves off of it and probably look terrible. Champagne helps. Watch that movie if you haven’t, it’s really bizarre and the whole thing is on YouTube.

The Dum Dum Girls’ cover of “There’s a Light That Never Goes Out” always makes me feel like I’m going to own a leather jacket soon. Songs like that are important, especially with my New Years resolutions, which include “Stay out late,” “See more concerts,” and “Find a leather jacket.” “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding has the same catchy sense of promise, like the world is your glittery dive bar oyster. I also spent part of the holidays devouring the first season of Girls, and caught this song like a musical flu after watching the trailer for Season 2.

Light and sweet sounds nice for summer music, but sounds pretty fantastic for January music when the weather is not terribly interested in sunshine.  “You’re Too Weird” by Fruit Bats and “Heavy metal drummer” by Wilco will make you smile and consider some lime tinged, tonic filled drink.  The sun came out today after three foggy, rain soaked days spent lying on the couch nursing a cold. Walking to the store in the sunshine with “Baby Be” by The Pharmacy in my ears was just what the doctor ordered.

Now stop worrying about losing five pounds or running a marathon—you’ll do it, I swear, you can do it without worry or incessant social media updates. Take some time and enjoy the new year. Listen to something you love, or finding something new to love on this list. And let me know what you’re listening to this month in the comments.

Joshua’s So Hot Right Now, December 2012


I think this may be the first month (set of months?) where I haven’t repeated a song from the previous month’s So Hot Right Now. This is kind of a big deal for me – as I’ve said before, I can listen to songs many, many times before even getting close to getting sick of them. But with the amount of new music listening to Spotify radio stations have introduced me to, I’ve been getting that insatiable need for new music Claire speaks of. There are definitely artists and bands on here I know and like, but playing songs I’ve not heard before or listened to in a long time. I’d literally forgotten how awesome “Jackson” was. Completely flew out of my head, and yes, it’s proof of my ever-growing insanity.

It’s a shame Spotify doesn’t have the version of “Gold Watch and Chain” as performed by Meryl Streep and Garrison Keillor from the movie A Prairie Home Companion. It’s easily my favorite version of that song, though Emmylou Harris does a fantastic job with it. The verse that begins with “The white rose” is so pretty and heartbreaking, but very nearly ruined by the man’s voice. Why, Emmylou, why? Great people always want the ball when the game is on the line (two things: Yes, I did just paraphrase The Replacements, and I really wish Ray Rice would say that instead of standing behind Cam Cameron, but that’s another conversation) and she laterelled it, Ed Reed style, and it was fumbled.

There are three really amazing covers on this list, two with some serious funk to them (“Toxic,” as done by Mark Ronson [yes, the Britney Spears song] and “Seven Nation Army,” as done by Alice Russell) and a third with an edge to it that even Bob Dylan at Newport Folk Festival in 1965 might say, “Oh, that’s a bit much.” I’m referring to the penultimate song on this month’s list, “Maggie’s Farm,” as performed by Rage Against the Machine. I spent my morning at work today seriously rocking out to this cover. It’s off RATM’s cover album Renegades, which is pretty terrible. The track is perfect for RATM to cover – it’s already righteously angry so all they had to do was add some heavily distorted guitars and a banging riff and sit back.

Top 5 Songs We Wish Would Get Covered (by Joshua)

We here at Charm City Jukebox are totally and completely obsessed with covers. It’s actually kind of unnatural how much we think about them. The subject on our mind as of late are hypothetical covers – songs we wish could be done by another band, and what it would sound like and how fucking awesome they would sound. Sometimes it’s of a need to correct the mistakes done on the original version (think the Joe Cocker version of “With a Little Help From My Friends), but mostly it’s because we think the new artists would do just an insane version of the song. And they would, believe you me.

“All the Girls Love Alice” by Elton John, as performed by Sly & the Family Stone

This song is already so funky, but man, how funk-tastic could it get with Sly Stone at the helm? Of course, we’re talking late 60’s/early 70’s Family Stone, not today’s living-in-a-van-down-by-the-river homeless Sly Stone. (That’s right. Sly Stone is broke and homeless, living in a van, down by the river.) This is the kind of funk we all wish we could aspire to, but never quite make it. It would be a deep, deep funk sound, slowed down a bit, but with a ridiculous bass line and a horn section, with all the breaks cut with the horns. As amazing as Sly & the Family Stone were, they were never the most amazing songwriters. Can you imagine the marriage of Elton John’s writing and Sly Stone’s funk? I can. We would listen to nothing else; they would be revered as Mozart or Miles Davis, but, you know, actually listened to by most people.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette, as performed by Cake

We all know Cake has ridiculous talent and penchant for covers. They’ve covered it all, from Willie Nelson to Barry White to the most famous cover they’ve done, “I Will Survive.” They like to cover songs where someone is pissed off, and this fits the bill. It would have an insane backbeat, which is crazy, because the original backbeat is hotter than hell. But this would take it to the next level. The vocals would be, of course, even-toned. It would have that same build-up, though, and crescendo into a huge guitar/trumpet solo. It would be an instant fan favorite. Get on it, Cake.

“Chain of Fools”  by Aretha Franklin, as performed by Johnny Cash

This would have to be non-vintage Cash, but the subdued, near-death version recording America IV. It would have those same qualities of the amazing covers of “Personal Jesus” and “Hurt:” it would be slow and haunting, but it would also be different in one respect – this song would have a sense of humor. It wouldn’t be outright funny, but it would sung with slick, sly smile that only Cash could pull off. You can see him smiling to himself as he sings this into a studio mic, totally alone but filling the room with his voice.

“Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green, as performed by The Band

Oh man, this would be so fun! There’d be the big horn section of “Ophelia” and it’d be just as fast, but with that stripped down backbeat, four-on-the-floor groove the late, great Levon Helm just loved. He would sing lead, too, but everyone would be involved for the big swelling four-part harmonies in the chorus. And somehow, even if they sang “Forget you” instead of “Fuck you,” it’d still be ok. It would be an instant American Classic, played everywhere.

“The Mariner’s Revenge Song” by The Decemberists, as performed by Meat Loaf

This is tough, but doable. I think Meat Loaf deserves a thrust back into the mainstream; hough, covering a song that sounds like a 19th century sea shanty admittedly may not be the way to achieve that. Still, I’d love to hear what he could do with this….I’m seeing big, big guitars (when is there ever not big guitars in a Meat Loaf classic jam?) and a bruising, pounding vocal performance. Think “Bat Out of Hell,” but about pirates instead of motorcycles. It would be huge and epic in proportion, even more so than the original. They’d be a full orchestra. It would be nearly 20 minutes in length. Colin Meloy would shit his pants.

Top 5 Covers: The Leftover List (claire and joshua)

this week, we talked covers. five wasn’t enough; hell, neither was eight. so for all you fellow musical gluttons out there, here are our leftover lists, for your Friday listening pleasure. enjoy.

Joshua’s List

Song: Personal Jesus

Covered by: Johnny Cash

Originally by: Depeche Mode

Song: Sunshine (Go Away Today)

Covered by: The Isley Brothers

Originally by: Jonathan Edwards

Song: Smooth Criminal

Covered by: Alien Ant Farm

Originally by: Michael Jackson

Claire’s List

Song: That’s it, I quit, I’m movin’ on
Covered by: Adele
Originally by: Sam Cooke

Song: Men’s Needs

Covered by: Kate Nash
Originally by: The Cribs

Song: New Paint

Covered by: Elvis Costello

Originally by: Loudon Wainwright III

Top 5 Covers (by Claire and Joshua)

Claire’s Top 5 Covers

Song: Go Straight to Hell

Cover by: Lily Allen

Originally by: The Clash

Lily Allen’s lullaby-sweet vocals and borderline-cheery background music, paired with these classic Clash lyrics, makes an already haunting song doubly so and gives “Go Straight to Hell” some dichotomous whimsy.

Song: I Go To Sleep

Cover by: Sia

Originally by: The Kinks

Sia will haunt your f**king dreams. I know it’s a different song, but can we talk about the end of Six Feet Under? Come on. This is also a song made for covers: Look up versions by The Pretenders, Peggy Lee, and a very young Cher.

Song: Magnet

Cover by: Yo La Tengo

Originally by: NRBQ

I listened to this song at least a thousand times when I was eighteen years old. It was one of those classic “Oh, you wrote this for me” moments you have with music in early college, where heightened emotions and self obsession are at their peak. My father and an old boss of mine would call it blasphemy, but I like this version way more than the original, which has a grating level of upbeat NRBQness.

Song: I’m On Fire

Cover by: Bats for Lashes

Originally by: Bruce Springsteen

Also, haunting, because this is apparently Claire’s haunted covers collection. Boo.

Song: Needles and Pins

Cover by: The Ramones

Originally by: Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono

This was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon, which is a great version. It’s another song made for covers: Look up the Cher version (I know, Cher again, who knew super young Cher was so awesome?) and the Tom Petty/ Stevie Nicks cover, which is lovely.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Raspberry Beret,” cover by Warren Zevon and The Hindu Love Gods
  • “Naive,” cover by Lily Allen
  • “Hard to Handle,” cover by Toots and the Maytals

Josh’s Top 5 Covers

Song: I Will Survive

Covered by: Cake

Originally by: Gloria Gaynor

This song encapsulates everything Cake is about: emotionally subdued vocals, fat-ass bass riff, and funky guitar. They take the original version, a glitzy, disco’d-out dance number by Gloria Gaynor, and strip it down the bare necessities: punchy drums and a thumping bass line. They then add John McCrea’s staple singing and quite possibly the best one-note guitar solo ever recorded. Plus he swears! And there’s a vibraslap! And a mid-song count-off! It doesn’t get much better than this.

Song: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight

Covered by: The Isley Brothers

Originally by: James Taylor

The original version is done by James Taylor. This version can convince anyone to drop their pants and get it on. Being able to do that with a song written by James Taylor? Priceless.

Song: Take Me to the River

Covered by: Talking Heads

Originally by: Al Green and Mabon “Teenie” Hodges

This version nails the song in a way Al Green never conceived. It’s harrowing in a way only David Byrne’s vocals can convey and the backup singers only further that goal. The sparse instrumentals are the kicker in this version: the majority of the song is one drum riff and one repeated bass line. I don’t know how Byrne decided to do the song this way, but it’s another version where the desperation of the lyrics is shown off better in the cover than the original.

Song: I Know I’m Losing You

Covered by: Rod Stewart

Originally by: The Temptations

I’m gonna go out on a limb here. I think this is a better version than the original…which is done by the Temptations. I know that sounds blasphemous, but this version wins on every level. The guitar work is funky, the drumming is amazing, and Stewart’s raspy vocals appeal the song’s message in a way the smooth sounds of the Temptations never could. It’s all together more desperate and wanton than the Temptations ever had the capacity to be.

Song: Hallelujah

Covered by: Jeff Buckley

Originally by: Leonard Cohen

The original was haunting and vaguely spiritual. This version is all sex, dripping with lonely reverb-laden guitar notes, plucked individually and rarely strummed, and filled to the brim with regret and shame. It’s like sleeping with your ex-girlfriend and then seeing her the next day in another man’s arms, laughing coyly and casually playing with his hair. It’s the kind of broken-hearted that makes you want to drink scotch all night listening to Charlie Rich and smoking profusely in the dark. This song is not for the faint of heart.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “The Guitar Man,” cover by Cake: A great version of a great song, with the ever present Cake “YA!”.
  • “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” cover by Toots & the Maytals: So much better with a Jamaican accent. Isn’t everything?
  • “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These,” cover by Marilyn Manson: Put this song on in the dark at three in the morning. It’s actually scary.
  • “Hurt,” cover by Johnny Cash: A cover so good that the original writer, Trent Reznor, said that the song was Cash’s from then on.