Deb Tanal and Steve Tannen were both established musicians when they met at one of Tanal’s shows in Cambridge, MA in 2001. They found they had a musical affinity and began playing together as The Weepies. They released their debut independently in 2003 and by 2005, they landed a deal with Nettwerk Records. Their major label debut, “Say I Am You,” was released in 2005 and they were on their way. “Say I Am You” was an iTunes smash and they started getting songs picked for use in a bunch of TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, One Tree Hill, Scrubs, The Riches, How I Met Your Mother, and several more.
The Weepies’ sound is rooted in indie, but with more accessible poppy appeal. There’s a certain heart wrenching nostalgia to a lot of their songs that makes me remember good times in my life with a bit of sadness that they’re gone. The music is usually acoustic, with Tanal and Tannen taking turns at the lead vocals but often singing beautiful harmonies as well. I am frequently reminded of other musicians when I listen to their music. They aren’t breaking any new ground at all, but originality isn’t always where it’s at. Both are potent songwriters and while their sound isn’t minimalist, it is often simple, beautiful, and moving.
I gave 7 of the album’s 13 songs a permanent home on my iPod. Check out my picks.
- Take It from Me – This is a relatively unremarkable pop song, but it’s very catchy. It reminds me of Sarah Harmer, or maybe even Natalie Merchant, a little bit. It isn’t cutting edge, but I liked it enough to rip it.
- Gotta Have You – Quiet acoustic guitar and gentle percussion back Deb Talan breathing a sweet love ballad. Again, it’s not particularly fresh but it’s really appealing, largely because of the lyrics.
- World Spins Madly On – I discovered The Weepies because this song wound up on the One Tree Hill soundtrack. It reminds me a little of Nickel Creek, with Steve Tannen taking lead vocal duties on this one. Talan adds some lovely harmony vocals, though.
- Riga Girls – The vamping percussion keeps the light keys and plucked acoustic guitar rolling along as Tannen confesses, “Oh, I wish I had someone.”
- Suicide Blonde – This is probably the most energetic song on the album and I think it’s my favorite as well, even though it’s only a minute and a half long. We even get a bit of electric guitar in the solo.
- Painting by Chagall – They lay some true indie-pop on us. It’s a sweet, small song. If you give it a listen, though, make sure you stick around for the irresistible chorus.
- Love Doesn’t Last Too Long – This terribly sad and bluesy song feels out of place amidst all the sunny folk/pop. They also do some uncharacteristic production tricks in the studio. I like it, though.
The Weepies have put out 2 albums since “Say I am You,” and I haven’t heard any songs from either yet. I’m going to seek them out, though. I’ll let you know what I find.
Last week’s mix wound up being mostly rocking music so I’ve had some mellower stuff piling up. This week I want to catch up on that. This isn’t sleepy stuff or even all ballads, but these have a consistent relaxed feel. This would actually make a pretty nice mix in your living room, which some of my themed mixes would not.
- I Don’t Know What to Do – Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson
I will be writing this entire album up next week, I think. It is surprisingly good. Johansson has a sweet voice and this track has an appealing organic pop vibe.
- Cosmic Rays – Helium
This is a beautiful and contemplative song with passages of pretty harmony vocals and passages of heavy chords and strings.
- Free Until They Cut Me Down – Iron & Wine
The ominously quiet acoustic groove persists for about half the song before the percussion kicks in. It never really builds much, though. The vocals stay almost whispered while banjo and acoustic guitar see us to the dwindling end.
- Birthday – The Sugar Cubes
Before Bjork struck out on her own, she was with The Sugar Cubes. I like exactly two songs by that band and this is one of them. It might be my favorite song Bjork ever did, too.
- Ain’t It So – Pigeonhed
Shawn Smith is the voice behind Pigeonhed, Satchel, and Brad. He’s a great songwriter and a singularly talented vocalist. His voice works particularly with this funk/soul vibe.
- Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight
This track has gotten a lot of run in TV soundtracks lately, which is how it came to my attention. It has kind of a Coldplay meets old U2 thing going on. I like it.
- Go Get Some – David Lynch & John Neff
The David Lynch movie Mulholland Drive really stuck with me. There were a couple songs from the soundtrack that did the same. This instrumental is over 7 minutes long and it gets weird at times, but it’s a great vibe.
- Failure – Kings of Convenience
The Kings remind me of Simon and Garfunkel in that many of their songs are pretty, mellow, and feature guitar and two-part harmony. This one actually has a bit more of an arrangement with some strings and horns joining in by the end. They are my favorite group that fits into the indie category.
- Why Did You Call? – The Magic Numbers
I just wrote up the Numbers’ debut album a few weeks ago, but this is from their new album. Their sound on this one is much more produced, though not overly so, and the songs are as appealing as ever. This is a minute-long sample on YouTube.
- Wilted Daisies – Joshua James
My ex turned me onto this guy last week. He’s got the most interesting and expressive new voice I’ve heard since Ray LaMontagne and this track comes in pretty and small before becoming a big, country-influenced jam.
- Sugar Never Tasted So Good – The White Stripes
My girlfriend recently turned me onto this track, which had somehow flown under my radar even though I’m a big Jack White fan. It’s simple but catchy and sparkles with lyrical genius.
- On and On and On – Wilco
Jeff Tweedy used to write a lot of cute and goofy songs, but as he has matured and seen greater success, his songs have deepened and now Wilco routinely puts out songs that are daring or complex or moving, like this one.
- Inside and Out – Feist
The album version of this song sounds like disco-era Abba or something, but when she plays this unaccompanied on her guitar you hear what a beautiful melody this is.
- Machines – Mason Jennings
Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and dropped out of school to pursue his musical career… in Minneapolis, MN. I didn’t realize MN had such a hot music scene but it seems to have been a good move. Or maybe that tells us this guy would have succeeded no matter where he went.
Enjoy this mix with a mimosa, because mimosas are yummy and not too hard. Have a great weekend.
I would like to acquaint you with the beautiful music and sad story of Nick Drake, if you’ve never heard either. Let me say that Nick Drake was a talented singer and guitarist and nothing short of a brilliant songwriter. I think it is fair to say he was ahead of his time, though his music was definitely a product of its time. You have probably heard his music somewhere, since it crops up in odd soundtracks and other places, but his name may have escaped your notice.
Drake released his debut album, “Five Leaves Left” in 1969, when he was 20 years old. It wasn’t well received critically and didn’t sell many copies. He was confident his second album, “Bryter Layter,” would be a commercial success. It sold less than 3000 copies. 3000. Oof. Drake, who was throughout his life prone to depression and insomnia, didn’t take it well.
He began work on his final album, “Pink Moon,” in 1971. He was by then smoking what a college friend called “unbelievable amounts” of marijuana. Yeah, in 1971. I can’t imagine what quantities would be required to cross the “unbelievable” threshold in 1971. In any event, he strove for an even more stripped down sound on “Pink Moon.” He recorded it over just two nights in the studio with most songs featuring just Drake and his guitar. It received some good reviews, but sold even fewer copies than his first two releases.
Drake became more depressed and withdrawn. He lived frugally and simply, often with his parents. He had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for 5 weeks in 1972. In autumn of 1974 Drake succumbed to an overdose of antidepressants at age 26. Colleagues told him he was a genius, but ultimately he had a rather sad and unsuccessful life.
Nobody really talked about Drake throughout the rest of the 1970s, but in the ‘80s, he got a shout out from members of The Cure, R.E.M., and Dream Academy. People started identifying Drake as a romantic tragic figure. He got a little more attention in the ’90s, including a biography on BBC2 in 1999. In 2004, nearly 30 years after his death, two of his songs actually reached the charts in the U.K. His songs have started appearing in movie soundtracks and TV commercials. In fact, after one of his songs appeared in a Volkswagen commercial, he sold more records in a month than he had the previous 30 years (or so Wikipedia would have us believe).
Now Drake is recognized as an influential artist and has a pretty large cult following. You should pick all three of his releases because they are delightful. Some of the songs are somber and frankly depressing, but many of them are serious in tone but uplifting and gorgeous.
Here are 4 brilliant tracks from his debut.
- Time Has Told Me – An acoustic intro with a typical pensive Drake melody is joined by piano and picked electric guitar and becomes kind of uplifting, like many Drake songs. It actually sounds a bit like early Bowie – maybe something off of “Hunky Dory.”
- Three Hours – Acoustic bass and bongos back Drake skillfully playing some ornate acoustic guitar as he sings an ethereal melody. It’s a really beautiful piece and there some interesting facts about Drake to read on this YouTube video during the song.
- Cello Song – Guess what instrument accompanies Drake and his acoustic guitar. The name isn’t clever, but the song is beautiful.
- Man in a Shed – It’s a clever song with a beautiful melody. Drake’s instrument was the guitar, but the piano is particularly busy and joyful.
By all means, dig deeper. Interestingly, there are many still photos, but there is no film footage of Drake as an adult. His live shows were reportedly awkward and brief, but the sadly small catalog of music he left behind reaches out to touch us even now.
I had heard good things about the debut album from The Magic Numbers. The band is two pairs of siblings (Romeo and Michele Stodart and Sean and Angela Gannon) all from England who apparently play friendly, sunny pop. I don’t usually go in for music that is described that way, but I kept reading that it was good so I decided to check it out.
The Magic Numbers debut album, “The Magic Numbers,” is indeed full of sunny, playful pop that is nearly cute. The thing is, the hooks are irresistible, the instrumental arrangements are interesting, and the vocals, while occasionally almost saccharin, are unlayered and give the album the feel of seeing a show in a small venue. It is undeniably good, though some of it is just too sweet for me. Still, I recommend you give at least these 4 a listen.
- Long Legs – Energetic percussion and girlish harmony vocals back this tale of a guy who as near as I can tell has two girls and doesn’t want to lose either of them. This sounds like a demo version or something. It’s not the album version, but it is studio and it is the whole song so I’m linking you to it.
- Love Me Like You – This has an old-fashioned pop feel to it, particularly with the backing vocals again. The guitar and bass both do good work on this track.
- Don’t Give Up the Fight – Still straight-ahead pop, but it’s a little more complicated than the first two. It’s an emotional little song about a girl who wants to keep trying to make a relationship work.
- Love’s a Game – This is my favorite song on this album. I think it’s because the catchy verses give way to dark and sad choruses. Even with the soulful guitar work it still sounds like a couples’ skate song.
Interestingly, their second album sounded a lot like this one but in June of 2010 they released “The Runaway,” which premiers the band’s “new sound.” They seem to have grown up a bit – at least from the few samples I heard. I’ve ordered the album and I’m certainly going to give it a spin. As usual, I’ll let you know.
I have another library pick for you today. “Cripple Crow” by Devandra Banhart. The cover art drew me immediately and I have to say it sounded a little like what I expected, only weirder. In fact, when I looked up Banhart for my post today, articles I read described his style as psych folk, avant-folk, freak folk, free associative work, and even New Weird America. I hear elements of Donovan, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and Dr. John, but Barnhart is stranger than any of them. Yes, even Donovan. Still, he has great instincts and the fearlessness with which he explores his ideas and grooves means he hits on some really great music.
On the other hand, that same fearlessness leads Barnhart so far down the rabbit hole that sometimes he loses me completely. I listened to all 22 songs on “Cripple Crow” and only liked 3 or 4 of them. Now, 3 of them I really liked a lot and they inspired me to pick up other releases. The bottom line is I find Barnhart to be a guy from whose albums you want to cherry pick. Give these 3 a listen and you may be interested enough to delve some more. I was.
- Long Haired Child – Banhart’s vocals remind me of Dr. John, for you old school folks out there. In fact, the fuzzy electric guitar, and self-examining lyrics all feel like throwback material. The last minute of the song changes significantly from 60s psych folk to just a pretty, timeless ballad.
- Lazy Butterfly – I still like this song more every time I hear it. The melody is dreamy and it is made even more so by the tabla percussion, sitar, and other atmospheric instrumentation.
- I Feel Just Like a Child – This track is so much fun. The vibe and the lyrics are irresistible. You can get a good feel for Barnhart’s goofy side from this video.
Banhart was born in Houston, was raised in Argentina, and moved to California as a teenager. His work is mostly acoustic and often mellow, but he still pulls from a variety of musical traditions for his sound. He has put out 7 albums and numerous EPs and collaborations. There is a great volume and variety of music to choose from and I’m looking forward to exploring it.
I haven’t been sleeping. First off, I seem to have trouble actually going to bed. I putter around and I mean to get to bed, but I don’t actually lay down until it’s already pretty late. Then I often have trouble actually falling asleep. Last night I actually was sleeping and I had a dream that woke me.
I was on a hillside somewhere and noticed that I had sat down next to a little garter snake. Harmless little fellow. Well, then it pulled its head out from its coils and I noticed it was quite a larger snake than I had thought. Not a python or anything, but maybe a 5-footer of some kind. I scooted about 3 feet away from it figuring it wouldn’t be interested in me. It looked at me and then struck suddenly. I was so startled that I jumped and woke myself. It was 4:30 AM and I was wide-awake, heart pounding. I didn’t get back to sleep last night.
As I lay there contemplating the vague outlines of my dark room, it occurred to me that a sleep mix might be a good topic for today. This isn’t sleepy music, but all of the songs have sleep in the title (save one). Sleep has inspired some great music. I hope you enjoy them.
- Sleep – Crack the Sky
These guys were a classic 70s act that never quite broke through, but I was into them back in the day and they’re still great. A lot of their songs are tongue in cheek, but this alternately energetic and beautiful song is one of their more serious tracks.
- Sleeping Beauty – A Perfect Circle
Well, you’d never fall asleep with this one on but it’s fantastic. Guitarist Billy Howerdel wrote songs for Tool’s Maynard Keenan to sing and their album “Mer de Noms” is packed with winner after winner.
- Majik City / Sleep Logging – Glocca Morra
Glocca Morra’s vocalist spends a fair amount of time screaming on this album, but the melodies are pleasing and the arrangements are interesting. I like this two-parter.
- Can I Sleep in Your Arms? – Willie Nelson
I’m not a big country music guy, but Willie’s “Red Headed Stranger” is a masterpiece. Give a listen to this gorgeous track. Most of the album has this emotional, mellow feel.
- Sleeping Lessons – The Shins
This is apparently what I need. Kind of a cool fan-made video for this song of two distinct halves. I really like how the unusual melody Mercer sings plays with the repeating keyboard and guitar arpeggio.
- A Song for Sleeping – Stone Temple Pilots
This was the best song on “Shangri-La Dee Da.” My daughter just aked me to put it on her mix, too, for anyone still looking for more kid’s music. Incidentally, how many hundred times do you have to play this song on Guitar Hero to nail it like this?
- Sleepless – Soul Coughing
“I got the will do drive myself sleepless. Skeedunt. Stunt the runt, smoking Buddha blunt.” Where do the lyrics come from?
- Sleepwalk – Santo and Johnny
What a fabulous vintage instrumental, circa 1959. I can see the bobby soxers slow dancing with their letter-wearing boyfriends now.
- Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) – Radiohead
Radiohead kind of lost with Amnesiac / Kid A but, man, they came roaring back on Hail to the Thief. These guys remain the best current band I have never seen live.
- A Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd
Out of their entire impressive body of work, I believe this is the most beautiful song they ever wrote.
- Sleepyhead – Moke
These guys only put out a few albums before they broke up in 2001, but the one to pick up is “Superdrag,” which has this one.
- Sleep to Dream – Fiona Apple
Apple was only 19 when this was released so presumably she was even younger when she wrote it. It’s a remarkably mature song to come from such a young woman.
- Sleep on the Left Side – Cornershop
“When I Was Born for the Seventh Time” has a bunch of fascinating, irresistible songs like this one and, sadly, some weird stuff that is hard to listen to. This one always makes me happy when it comes up.
- Sleep Comes Down – The Psychedelic Furs
Not the typical sound you expect when you think about the Furs. It’s a cool track, though, that has aged really well.
Enjoy this with a Daylon’s Bedtime and get to bed. Have a great weekend.
I picked up a disc called “Sharpen Your Teeth” by a band called Ugly Casanova a few weeks ago at the library. I liked it, but it sounded veeeery familiar. I couldn’t place it. On the Ugly Casanova website, there is a long and slightly too-quirky-to-be-true story of Edgar Graham, a.k.a. Ugly Casanova. Ostensibly, Graham was an odd character who impressed the band Modest Mouse. After hanging around with the band a bit while they were on tour, he began to share some of his own music and even performed some of it before a few shows, always disappearing after the impromptu performances with a look of anger and shame. He created a few recordings and then vanished. Members of Modest Mouse took up his music and have been performing it in the hopes that he would return someday. Well, that’s the story, anyway.
In fact, Ugly Casanova is a side project involving Isaac Brock and Dan Gallucci of Modest Mouse, Pall Jenkins and Brian Deck from Black Heart Procession Tim Rutili of Califone. Brock invented Edgar Graham perhaps to add interest to the project, perhaps to deflect attention away from himself in interviews. Whatever.
The music is interesting. It’s more stripped down than either Modest Mouse or Califone. There aren’t as many elements or as much polish as in these guys’ permanent projects, but there is plenty of interest. The melodies are appealing and the guys are adept at laying back to serve the song – or sometimes to lay down a canvas for another musician to paint. They keep things pretty organic, even to the point of sounding a little like Tom Waits from time to time. It won’t be for everyone and I didn’t like every song, but check out these 3 absolute winners.
- Parasites – There are horns that play a pretty steady riff and the percussion is patient and groove oriented. The guitar and various affects noodle around behind a brief description of what happens to your body when you die.
- Things I Don’t Remember – The percussion marches along with vamping guitar. The vocals are layered and interact but the real interest comes from the bizarre lyrics. “There was dressed up alligator. There was cum on the piano. Disco dancing neighbors who were born in mashed potatoes.” OK, then.
- So Long to the Holidays – This is the album’s closer, and as often happens, this one doesn’t sound like a lot of the rest of the album. It’s a little more electronic and there is a fuzzy white noise permeating the song. The wailing vocals sound like something from Animal Collective. It’s a beautiful piece.
Ugly Casanova put out “Sharpen Your Teeth” in 2002 and only released the follow-up this year, the soundtrack to 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless. Fortunately for me (and you perhaps), I didn’t discover these guys until their follow-up was out already so I don’t have to wait 8 years like people who liked it when it was new.
I can’t always immediately lay my hands on copies of discs I want to hear. Sometimes a friend recommends something at a party. Sometimes I’m not confident I’ll like something so I want to get it from the library if possible and that can take time. I keep a list in my phone of stuff that I have read about or that has been recommended. The name White Rabbits has been in my phone for months and months. I finally got around to finding an album by them and picking it up. The album is called “It’s Frightening” and I want to thank whoever it was who recommended it to me. You know who you are. I hope. I don’t remember, but thank you all the same.
White Rabbits is a six-piece out of Columbia, MO, though they operate out of Brooklyn, NY now. They are billed as an indie rock band, though they pull a lot of different influences. I hear some early Radiohead in their music, though producer Britt Daniel’s (of Spoon) fingerprints are all over the sound. What I really ask for in this genre is good playing and songs that don’t go right where I expect. White Rabbits deliver both of these. I ripped 6 of 10 tracks, which is a good ratio. Check them out.
- Percussion Gun – Cool percussion and harmony vocals make this a good opener.
- Rudie Fails – I love the vocal melody in this track. This song makes me think of The Beatles meets TV on the Radio.
- They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong – The percussion is built to fit around the cool piano and vocal work.
- Company I Keep – This acoustic groove sounds familiar, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually heard it somewhere or if it reminds me of something I’ve heard. Either way, I like it.
- The Salesman (Tramp Life) – This is another surprising vocal melody and the harmony work is good too.
- The Lady Vanishes – The odd chord progression keeps this from being a standard indie rock song, but ultimately it’s unusual enough to keep my interest,
This was their sophomore effort, which is often a weak one. I’ll have to go back and check out their debut, “Fort Nightly.”
In my house we accumulate books. After decades of collecting them, today we packed my trunk and back seat with 7 boxes of books and carted them off to Half Price Books to sell or trade them. While we waited for the woman to total up an offer for the books, I got to wander around and shop for what I would be reading next. I love bookstores. I worked in one of Cleveland’s last great independent bookstores in 1991 and 1992. To this day it remains the best job I ever had. Anyway, I left with a handful of books and a fistful of money. Nice haul.
For the mix this week, I want to celebrate the written word. And while I’m at it, I want to champion a personal cause of mine. It’s very simple. Parents, read to your kids. That’s all. I teach sometimes and I know a lot of parents just don’t do it. It’s good bonding time; they love your attention. They learn new words and new ideas. They travel to places and times they could never go in real life. They hear how inflection works and how sentences are constructed. It makes book lovers of kids. I am convinced that short of inoculation, it is the best thing a parent can do for his or her kid.
So today, enjoy music that celebrates enjoying books.
- This Red Book – Pinback
Pinback’s album, “Summer in Abaddon,” has many songs in it with a measured, mathematical feel but it still has soul for all its precision. This has a patient, plodding pace and appealing guitar and vocal work.
- Every Day I Write the Book – Elvis Costello
What a great songwriter he was. I put that in past tense because I haven’t been knocked out by a lot of the stuff he has released in the last decade or so. This is a typically wonderful song by Costello from the mid-1980s.
- I Can’t Read – Tin Machine
By way of contrast, David Bowie is a guy who never stopped writing great songs. I think if you comb through his 25 studio albums for dogs you MIGHT be able to put together 1 album that was merely good.
- Reading My Mind – John Cale
I am a fan of The Velvet Underground, but I don’t have a lot of solo John Cale. This is a cool track, built around a neat little descending piano riff.
- Paperback Writer – The Beatles
This was released as an A-side single with ‘Rain’ as the B-side, which makes this my favorite duo of songs released by the early Beatles.
- Just Read the Poems – Don Was
This is from the Backbeat soundtrack. Not the one with all the Beatles covers, but the incidental jazz score by Don Was. This is some really hip, smooth jazz. I highly recommend this album.
- Trick in the Book – Cornell Campbell
I can’t listen to a lot of reggae all at once, but, man, I love it when some reggae pops up on my iPod and I always like it in a mix.
- Did You See the Words – Animal Collective
Animal Collective is often not very accessible. Still, the more I hear them the more I like them. I love that so many of Panda Bear’s melodies have this backwards tracked Brian Wilson feel. The rotating personnel in the group nearly always bring interesting instrumentation and fat harmony vocals.
- I Write Sins, Not Tragedies – Panic! At the Disco
The music is good, but this one is all about the great lyrics. What a brilliant if sad song.
- Same Page – Virginia Coalition
Virginia Coalition writes bright, poppy songs that remind me of some of Blues Traveler’s cuddlier material. This song will make you happier when it comes on.
- Books Are Burning – XTC
I’ve been an enormous fan of XTC since about 1983 (after they had stopped touring, dammit). The seeming ease with which they tossed off brilliant pop melodies makes their breakup very sad. I like this anthem.
- Empty Pages – Traffic
Homer Simpson hates traffic – the phenomenon and the band. I love the band, particularly this track off of “John Barleycorn Must Die.”
- All Your Words – Bleeding Heart Narrative
OK, so this song isn’t as wonderful as ‘Colours Turn Colours‘ from the same album, but it has the same feel, a pretty melody, and a big, layered sound.
- Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
I love Harriett Wheeler’s voice. And not just the clear, breathy tone. I also like her diction, the way she pronounces the words. This is probably my favorite song by them.
Enjoy this mix with some Shakespeare Vodka and grapefruit juice. In fact, make it a double. Enjoy your weekend.
In 1993, Liz Phair crashed into the music scene with her wonderful debut, “Exile in Guyville.” The album was met with near universal praise, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and was named by Rolling Stone Magazine the 96th best rock album of all time. Phair has said in interviews that the album was meant as a song-by-song reply to The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street,” but also that the honest, gender-role explorations in the songs were a response to the cliquish Chicago indie music scene.
Musically, the album is a stripped down blend of indie rock and pop with catchy hooks. Lyrically, it is packed with brutally honest look at relationships and frank discussions of sexuality. Some few reviewers feel that the album is overrated and was only noticed because of the sexual content. They accuse her of pandering. The negative reviews are far in the minority, though, and I have to agree with the folks praising this album. The clean sound and honesty are refreshing and the songs are fantastic. It was a game changer for a lot of people.
You should definitely buy this entire album; all 18 tracks are great. But if you need some convincing, listen to these 6.
- 6’1” – Phair kicks off the album with a great, rollicking guitar riff and spirited vocals. It’s a solid opener.
- Never Said – She kicks it up a notch with this great pop hook. The guitar riff and percussion is regular as a metronome but the syncopated lead and backing vocals add a lot of texture.
- Soap Star Joe – On some of her albums, Phair has a tendency to get very commercial and overproduced. This is a stripped down song with just vocals and clean guitar. I like it when she lets the song speak for itself.
- Fuck and Run – Part of the genius of “Guyville” is the startling, naked honesty of the lyrics. This is the saddest song on the album.
- Divorce Song – This is my favorite song on this album. It’s only slightly less sad than ‘Fuck and Run,’ but it tells a great story and it takes some interesting twists and turns musically, finally ending on a rocking harmonica solo.
- Flower – There’s no other way to say it, this song is weird and dirty. I’m not sure what it says about me that I like it so much.
A lot of people, even some who loved “Exile in Guyville,” hate Liz Phair now. She has been very up front about the fact that she is in the music business to make money and has written several songs about it. She has moved in more mainstream directions – often at the urging of her record label – and lost more fans than many musicians have ever had. In a more recent interview, Phair said, “When I made “Guyville”—and I still love “Guyville”—it was a really fucked-up time in my life… I was pent-up, lost—and you can’t stay there!” So perhaps this was just a snapshot of an intensely emotional and creative time in her life and she won’t write music like this again. I still pick up Phair releases and always manage to find a few songs I like. This one, though, is wall to wall gold.