Top 5 Verses (by Claire)

I’ve been getting a little too smug about listening to new music.

Before we started this blog a year ago (!!), I was in a serious musical rut. It seemed like every year I collected an album here and there, a spare song or two, but mostly I was hung up on the same artists singing the same songs that I’d been listening to for years. Then I started writing lists every week and assumed, I’m guessing correctly, that showcasing the same five songs every week would raise the ire of Joshua and all of you lovely readers. So I made it my mission to get into new music: I started reading more blogs, setting aside time for listening, devouring other peoples lists and mixtapes. Throw in the advent of Spotify, and a year later I have a rabid hunger for new music. I avoid records and artists I’ve spent too much time with: I want new songs, new voices, new list material!

When it comes to favorite verses, my ears abandoned this quest and returned to neglected favorites. These are the verses that pop up in my head out of nowhere, that I sing in snippets when I’m distracted, that still feel fresh and perfect after thousands of listens.

I feel so good I’m going to make somebody’s day tonight
I feel so good I’m going to make somebody pay tonight
I’m old enough to sin but I’m too young to vote
Society been dragging on the tail of my coat
But I’ve got a suitcase full of fifty pound notes
And a half-naked woman with her tongue down my throat

–“I Feel So Good,” by Richard Thompson

This is the crowning moment in “I Feel So Good,” Richard Thompson’s ode to gleeful misbehavior. The protagonist is young, fresh out of jail, and has transformed his desires for pleasure and revenge into an itinerary for an impressive evening. The motives, and plan, are layed out here. The impotence of youth may have rendered him “old enough to sin…but too young to vote,” but what does that matter when he can make your day, make you pay, and make off with a half naked woman and a suitcase full of cash? Never before has anger and revenge been treated with such good cheer. Thompson delivers the song with a grin you can hear through your speakers.

“While perspective lines converge
Rows of cars and buses merge
All the sweet green trees of Atlanta burst
Like little bombs
Or little pom-poms
Shaken by a careless hand
That dries them off
And leaves again”

–“Little Bombs,” by Aimee Mann

In high school, I vaguely remember this poetry workshop that filled me with endless dread where we wrote poems about paintings and the teacher dangled the opportunity to pitch the poems to an art/poetry themed magazine in front of us like a big abstract painting of a carrot. The whole experience left me in a cold sweat—it seemed impossible to make my writing as visually arresting as the exercise required.

Aimee Mann would’ve aced that class. Aimee Mann would’ve crushed us all. Read the first lyric from “Little Bombs,” or listen to it. Mann transports you to Atlanta, plops you down beside her, offers you her view in brilliant Technicolor, without fussy descriptions or overwhelming amounts of language (common pratfalls when trying to describe something visual). In my dream world, Aimee Mann decides to teach a writing class in San Francisco and I get to grill her on every nitty gritty detail of her strikingly clean prose. (Since it’s a dream, we also become best friends and go on a wacky road trip wearing matching pink wigs.)

“This shirt was the one I lent you
And when you gave it back
There was a rip inside the sleeve
Where you rolled your cigarettes
It was the place I put my heart
Now look at where you put a tear
I forgave your thoughtlessness
But not the boy who put it there”

–“This Shirt,” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter is the boss. Seriously. If you’re not an undercover fan likes yours truly, you might be rolling your eyes at this admission of Lite FM/ quasi country musical love. But trust me: That’s a mistake. Even though her most famous song is a cover (“Passionate Kisses,” originally by Lucinda Williams), she’s an incredible songwriter who produces lovely, impeccably balanced lyrics. In four lines, she can break your heart while juggling an ABAB rhyme scheme.  John Darnielle, frontman for The Mountain Goats, will back me up if you need references. “This Shirt” is a great example of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s songwriting abilities, and I love this verse, which captures love, betrayal, and nostalgia in one sleek verse about a torn shirt.

“Don’t make a hullabaloo I’m not the hoi polloi
I’m try any trick and I’ll pull any ploy
I’m a used up twentieth century boy
Excuse me if you will”

–“New Paint,” by Loudon Wainwright

The language here is great—like Biden resurrecting “malarkey,” Loudon Wainwright slips “hullabaloo” and “hoi polloi” into the same lyric, maybe as proof that he’s a “used up 20th century boy.” This is a dark snippet from a seemingly light song—he warns his new lady love, who he has romanced with movies and dancing, that he’s a little devious and a little worn out, maybe not the ideal partner, but he hopes she’ll forgive that since “a woman that kind/is hard to find.”

If a guy ever used these lines on one of my friends,  it would warrant elaborate eye rolling and warnings. With Loudon, I find it sort of charming and the lyrics get lodged in my head, forcing me to hum along for hours after listening….I guess Loudon should hang out with my friends?

“Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers and styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing as the days come down to you”

–“Down to You,” by Joni Mitchell

This is one of my Top 5 break up songs; it arrived on my stereo when I was in the throes of a bad break up years ago.  The first time I heard the first verse of this song, I burst into tears. They weren’t tears of sadness, they were tears of relief. The idea that things come and go, that ideals crash, and that you somehow survive, was so incredibly comforting. I almost wrote the word quenching there. I think it was both.

Circa 1974 Joni Mitchell became the big sister I never had. She was wise. She was available to hang out all day, and took all my teary late night calls. She knew what I was going through, and unlike everyone else, she always knew exactly what to say.

Top 5 Drinks-with-Musicians Fantasies (By Claire)

Music fans, you know it’s true: If you could hang out with your favorite musicians, you probably know how it would go. You know what you would ask, you can guess what they’d order. They might not answer all your questions, they might not play all your favorite songs, but they would sit across from you and get a Club sandwich and one too many cocktails. They would talk about something, hopefully their music, but maybe just their gardening advice or tips on where to buy a good hat in Cleveland.

Here’s how I think a night with each of my Top 5 musicians would go…in my dreams:

(***Note: While none of these things have happened, all of the artists listed can feel free to email me if they want to change that. Drinks on me. XOXO.)

Loudon Wainwright III: Bourbon and gin, Karaoke Night somewhere.

No one knows how Loudon Wainwright and I ended up singing the Heavy D classic “Now That We’ve Found Love” at a dive bar karaoke night. We certainly don’t know, although half way through the song I vaguely remember drinking gin martinis and wanting to make a joke about ordering Pinot Grigio (which luckily seemed inappropiate, since that line is from a song about his late mother.) The crowd is rapt, and it’s not because of me. Loudon has taken all the mournfulness and humor hidden in “Now That We’ve Found Love” and amplified it. Couples on bar stools are leaning on each other, misty eyed and thinking about mortality. Regulars are swaying and raising a glass. Our performance ends; the bar fills with roaring applause. It all feels right—embracing life, doing something ridiculous, moving a group of strangers to tears. Throw in some family drama and failed relationships, and  I’ve got the full Loudon Wainwright experience. So when he says “I got us two bourbons, and we’re breakdance battling that couple from the front row,” I think about mortality and nachos and how I should’ve stuck to Pinot Grigio after all, and I say yes. I really want to see if Loudon Wainwright can spin on his head. I’m pretty sure he can.

Lauryn Hill: Champagne, I’ll never tell.

I know everything. I know where she’s been, I know what she’s up to, I know what she’s doing next. I’ve got a demo of her new album in my back pocket and it’s gold, guys, really. Remember the first time you heard The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? It’s like that, but better, and even better for me, because I heard it while playing Taboo with Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, and D’Angelo. Dave won, and we all ate those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kiss in the middle, while Lauryn explained the back story for each song. Then we drank a bottle of champagne and I signed a blood oath to never reveal the location of their artists-who-disappeared-but-need-to-come-back club house.

Liz Phair: Irish coffees and shots, at a dive bar and a garage band show

It’s like…I don’t really want to go see a local garage band, and I can tell in a second that Liz is that friend. She’s telling some story about how she dated one of the guys, for a while, but not any more but he’s really cool, they’re still cool. She’s overusing the word in cool in a way that tells me that this story is mostly a lie, and she wants to go to the show to check out his new girlfriend, whose Facebook picture she shows me at the bar. We’re drinking Irish coffees and we’re the only two people dancing at an empty little dive, a legit dive, only occupied by rum soaked regulars. “Lets gooo” she’s saying so we do, and the band is fine, and his girlfriend never shows, so we sit in the corner and get in a fight about her weird pop makeover a few years ago. There’s no resolution: She wanted money, I wanted another Exile in Guyville or whitechocolatespaceegg, and both of us are right. It could’ve gotten awkward, except the bartender showed up with free shots and a bowl of Chex Mix. We smile at each other. I tell her I kinda liked “Extraordinary.” She tells me she kinda hated “Why Can’t I.” We cheers when we take our shots, and the only thing left to fight about is who’s bogarting the Chex Mix. (It’s her.)

Bootsy Collins: Who knows.

We talk for seven hours. We talk about P. Funk and we talk about his solo stuff. We talk about “Groove is in the Heart” and we talk about Elmo. We talk about haberdasheries and where to buy platform shoes. We talk about what we like on grilled cheese sandwiches and we talk about the future of funk music. We talk about our lives, and where they’re going, and he gives me a lot of career advice that seems really spot on. I highly recommend using funk legends as your career coaches. But mostly we talk for seven hours because I just want to hear him talk for seven hours. I could’ve done fourteen. It’s a nursing beers kind of day. I don’t even notice what we drink. I just keep waiting for him to say his own name.

Aimee Mann: Dolores Park, Fat Tire

“I never find good Japanese curry,” Aimee says, a little hunched over as she devours the treasured potato croquette hidden in the Japanese curry at Chaya. We’re splitting a platter of the stuff, and shes been a doll about letting me make quick work of the carved carrots and cucumber flowers, but when we get down to it, the last treasured bites, she’s Aimee Fucking Mann and if someone is getting that doughy blob of potato, it’s her. I agree, and shake my head no when she offers me a bite. We were in the Mission, on the way to the bar but starving, and we started talking about Japanese curry. I said “I know where to get that, but I want to hear the saltiest, most ridiculous tour stories you’ve got.” We shake on it, then pinky swear (“These aren’t going in that blog of yours, okay? Now this one time I’m at a bodega with Paul Thomas Anderson and Steve Buscemi and a coyote, yes, a coyote….”)

Curry cleared, we skip the bar and take a cue from her adventures with wild animals and Academy Award nominees; we hit a bodega and buy a six pack of Fat Tire and a sack of peanut M&Ms. We sit on our spread out coats in Dolores Park. I want to know about process—when does she write? How does she get started? How does she come up with this stuff?  It’s an embarrassing, non-writer type of a question, but I’ve had at least one Aimee Mann song stuck in my head for about ten years, and I want an answer, even if it’s mortifying. And anyway, she got the croquette.

We talk about Carol King, who we both like but can’t get into, and we make a list of record shops she should go to in the morning. We talk about jeans and prom dates and she teaches me how to poach an egg. She never answers any of my questions, but it doesn’t matter because I’m sitting in the park with Aimee Mann, and it’s a full time effort to quell the inner squeals of my dorky fan girl. We finish the six pack. Our coats are muddy, and we eat the rest of the M&Ms as we walk home.

Songs About Moms

Joshua and I play this game that could best be summed up as “Theme. Songs. Go.” This week it was songs about moms, in honor of Mother’s Day being right around the corner. Do you have other songs about moms? Leave them in the comments.

Songs About Moms:

Take Your Mama by Scissor Sisters

Hey Mama by Kanye West

Dear Mama by Tupac

White Winos by Loudon Wainwright III

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings

Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J

More Goodies:

Get to Know: Loudon Wainwright III (by Claire)

When it comes to live music, Loudon Wainwright is one of the greats. He’s funny and charming, able to banter with ease, soothe drunk hecklers with a well timed joke, then launch into his repertoire of songs that will alternately split your sides and break your heart, usually on opposite ends of the same chorus.

I once told Loudon Wainwright III that I loved him, right to his face. I was about 15 years old and I had just seen him in concert for the first time. After the show, he signed autographs in the front lobby of the Birchmere. I lined up with my dad and when we reached the table, Loudon was a slightly sweatier, more subdued version of his stage self: charming, quick to offer a quip and a broad smile. He looked at me and said “I bet your old man dragged you this show, huh?” and I blurted out “What! No! I love you.”

This outburst was… embarassing. Seriously. For both of us, and I’m not talking about my dad (who, to his credit, waited until we got to the car to say something along the lines of “Wow. You be straight crazy.”) Loudon looked at me like I had three heads, or, to be more precise, he looked at me like “Who is this big eyed, frizzy haired teenager and why isn’t she at a Hanson concert?” (I love Loudon, but I’m going to guess his pop music references are a little off)

But that’s what he does—he gets under your skin. He’s honest, incredibly vulnerable, periodically hilarious, and an impeccable songwriter. You feel like you know him, or like he knows you, and though both things are certainly false, his music creates a connection with the listener that is real.

“New Paint” on Album III

Loudon offers a pretty picture of early romance, when walks in the park and dancing are still par for the course, when lips are first kissed and parents first met. It’s a sweet song about early love with a nice girl—and, you know, waning youth and nascent feelings of mortality. In interviews, Loudon talks about how “New Paint” is proof that he has always been obsessed with mortality and age: he makes reference to it repeatedly throughout the song, until it becomes a sort of second chorus, and he wrote this song when he was 25.

When I was 19, there was a guy in my French class who was 30. One day he told a lengthy story about how when he was 25, he figured out that he wasn’t going to age backwards, and he started to rebel. He went out to bars every night, he threw punches, he bought a motorcycle. None of it mattered. He wasn’t old, not by a long shot (not even when he was telling this story, five years later), but he wasn’t going to get younger. I’m 25 now, and I understand how French class guy felt. I imagine Loudon was in a similar place, and based on later songs, I think it took him more than five years to move on to a new place. But that’s another post.

“The Swimming Song” on Attempted Mustache

In “The Swimming Song,” Loudon strikes a perfect balance between cheer and doom. It starts off upbeat with a twangy, bluegrassy feel, and focuses in on a typically pleasurable activity: Swimming. He swam in public and in private, did backstrokes and butterflies, wore a swim suit or went suitless. I think the line “At the latter I was informal/At the former I wore my suit” is a demonstration of his economy when it comes to words, and his intelligence when it comes to sound composition.

In the midst of all of this twang and splash, there is something dark creeping around the edges.  The second line is “This summer I might’ve drowned,” and later he calls himself  “A self-destructive fool” after chlorine gets in his eyes, and salt gets in his wounds. The song closes with him doing a cannonball when no one is looking. You could say it’s another meditation on mortality, but I think it’s something simpler: It’s hard for him to be happy, even when he’s supposed to be. The swimming settings highlight his unhappiness in happy situations.

“The Acid Song” on More Love Songs

Loudon Wainwright is hilarious. Seriously. You might already know this, since he was a consistently funny part of the Apatow crew on “Undeclared,” and made a brief humorous appearance in “Knocked Up.”  Here, Loudon drops acid at a bar with five of his friends after 12 acid-free years. Things almost immediately go wrong: They get kicked out of the bar, the sidewalk starts sweating, they blow the joint to go listen to the Grateful Dead. That’s when the dialogue starts: “Wow, I’m really glad we did this, this feels great. Just like the old days. Yeah I know my hair is on fire” and “Hey you want to hold some fruit? Hold some fruit! It breeds, it really does.” They hit the road again and head to the country, and Loudon gives a laugh out loud funny tutorial on how to drive on acid.

The song features all the classic fun Loudon vocal tics: The wailing stretched out words, the stuccato moments mid song, the scattered bits of dialogue. The whole song is hysterical without being an obvious comedy song or a trying-too-hard novelty song.

“White Winos,” on Last Man on Earth

A haunting song about the end of Loudon’s mother’s life, when he and his mother reflected on their shared past over several glasses of white wine. It manages to contain everything I love about Loudon: family history, heavy themes delivered with a sonic light touch, a bit of sardonic humor. All of this is housed in a song which has a repetitive flow that is reminiscent of a drawn out villanelle.

“Grey in L.A.,” on Strange Weirdos

If there were a Grumpy Old Man Song Hall of Fame, this one would definitely come out on top. It’s too sunny. The weather is too good. Your house is going to smell like a wet dog. Your car is killing the planet. LA is a sad sack cesspool. Everything is just the worst! But because it’s Loudon, the message is delivered in a light, catchy package. I hum it to myself on rainy days in San Francisco, when I want to pretend that a break from the perfect weather is a nice change of pace. (Sorry for the crappy video on this! If you find a better version, send it my way and I’ll swap it in—

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.

Top 5 Bad Songs by Good Artists (claire & joshua)

Claire’s List:

Good artist: Liz Phair

Bad song: Why Can’t I?

In 2004, Liz Phair decided to replace her beloved bad girl indie image with a toothy, crooning, Top 40 makeover. In the grand scheme of this “I was created for the opening credits of a Kate Hudson movie” genre of pop, Why Can’t I is not a horrible song. But from the woman who wrote Exile from Guyville, from the voice that sang Polyester Bride and Shitloads of Money on repeat in my bedroom during a two year long middle-school whitechocolatespaceegg bender? It’s a disappointment on par with the weird “I Love the 90s” appearances she made where she listed each year’s top Fuck and Run guys. Ick. 


Good artist: Loudon Wainwright III

Bad song: I Wish I Was A Lesbian

Loudon Wainwright is funny. He has the goofy grin and the jerky movements, he has the blinking twitchy schstick, he was Katherine Heigl’s kooky gynecologist (Knocked Up), mentored every comedian you’ve liked over the past eight years (Undeclared), hell, the man was on MASH (…MASH). I like his funny songs. The one where they all do acid? Priceless. He Says She Says? A personal, parallelogram filled favorite. I Wish I Was A Lesbian? An overplayed, over twangy, not even particularly funny bit of AM DJ trash. 

Good artist: Richard Thompson

Bad Song: Cold Kisses

I like creepy, haunting Richard Thompson. But this is just creepy. Richard Thompson, I want you to misunderstand and talk about Bathsheba and plead for what’s already yours! Not play a gross guy game of underwear rifling and dick-comparing.  


Good artist: Elvis Costello

Bad song: Cover of “What the World Needs Now” with Burt Bacharach

Lounge Lizard madness, from one of the world’s greatest singer/songwriters. I’m sure this made a lovely first dance song for all the weddings no one wanted to go to that year (“Did they just do a rap version of Corinthians? Why are the bridesmaids wearing sailor hats? DAMNIT, IS THAT ELVIS COSTELLO AND BURT F**KING BACHARACH?!”)

Good artist: Bob Dylan

Bad song: Man Gave Names to All the Animals

After albums like Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks, Dylan mixed it up by becoming a born again Christian and releasing the early folk version of Veggie Tales. This is really all I have to say:

He saw an animal up on a hill

Chewing up so much grass until she was filled

He saw milk coming out but he didn’t know how

“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”.”

Joshua’s List

Good artist: Eric Clapton

Bad song: I Shot the Sheriff

Why do white people have such an obsession with covering reggae music? It never seems to work. And this time it fails miserably. The song isn’t that great to begin with and this is like the bubblegum-made-with-Splenda version….Yeah.

Good artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Bad song: Deep Kick

The whole album this is on, One Hot Minute, is awful. And this song is heinous. It’s like John Prine meets Donovan meets Flea waking up from a bad booze, speed, and heroin hangover. This band was based on speed rock funk. Anything under 80 bpm just seems weird and this is truly bizarre. I just want to ask everyone involved what they were thinking, all the way down to the mixing board tech. Awful. 

Good artist: Led Zeppelin

Bad song: Carouselambra

As good as the two previous albums (House of the Holy and Physical Graffiti) are, that’s how bad this song and the album it’s on is (and the grammar of this sentence). If that made no sense, that’s fine, because that’s exactly how I feel about this song. Why is there like 20 minutes of synth playing? Why does it alternate between fast and slow parts? What the hell were they smoking that made them write and record this song? Baffling.

Good artist: Michael Jackson

Bad song: You Are Not Alone

The song is bad. It’s Michael Jackson meets Michael Bolton. And the video just makes it even worse. A newly white and disfigured Michael sings to a very pale and odd looking Lisa Marie Presley. And they’re both naked! What. The. F**K. 

Good artists: Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney

Bad song: Ebony and Ivory

I saved the worst for last. Stevie and Paul both have some of the greatest music ever recorded, but this gets close to the worst song ever recorded. It’s not “Friday” or “Party All The Time” bad, but it’s right under it. It’s patronizing to both the artists and the fans. And simply putrid to listen to. I don’t know even know how to talk about this song without the bile rising in the back of the throat. That sounds like hyperbole, but I just spit up a little listening to the refrain. I mean, does anyone like this song? Anyone out there in blagosphere even remotely like this song? I’m willing to bet serious money that no one has ever liked this song, including Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

Honorable Mentions:

  • BB King and Heavy D – Keep It Coming: Another entry in the Worst Duets contest.
  • Cake – Dime: It’s no secret that I love Cake. I routinely blast them when I’m driving. But this song is bad. The worst part is the refrain, where John McCrea lands the word “shine” for nearly 3 measures.
  • Rage Against the Machine – Anything off the album Renegades: It’s no small wonder that they broke up after this album. The only passable song is the cover of “Maggie’s Farm,” but that’s only because it’s such a good song to begin with. The worst part is that the song selection is fantastic, it’s just the execution that is terrible.

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