I’m an uncle. Very exciting stuff. Little Rainey was born into the family yesterday. My own daughter is 9 now. I hazily remember the first few weeks after she was born. We didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a stretch for 6 weeks. You don’t know problems from normal baby stuff. Having a baby can be hard adjustment for the body, the bank balance, and the bedroom. It’s a tough job.
Of course, there is no greater source of wonder, joy, and fear than your own baby. You can have an academic understanding of how having a baby will change your life, but until you actually do it… It’s the difference between reading the ingredients list and actually eating ice cream.
A lot of artists have been moved by their own experiences as children, lovers, and parents. Here are some I got to thinking of when I heard the news.
- Joy – Phish
Phish has written a lot of songs about nothing in particular (“Stun the puppy, burn the whale. Bark a scruff and go to jail.”) and about fictional situations. This is a heartfelt song Trey wrote to his daughter. “We want you to be happy, ‘cos this is your song too.”
- Mama’s Always on Stage – Arrested Development
These guys were talented and had a positive message. I wish they could have kept it together. This track has it all: a fast, danceable groove, rocking harmonica, exuberant backing vocals, and praise for mothers from Speech. It’s a must-have for your collection.
- All U Can Eat – Ben Folds
In this song, a father advises his son not to be an ugly American.
- Isn’t She Lovely? – Stevie Wonder
From one of my top 5 desert island discs, “Songs in the Key of Life.” This is one of Stevie’s most celebratory songs. Every second of the 4-minute harmonica solo is worth close attention.
- Three Is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
15 years later, I’m still sad about the untimely death of Shannon Hoon. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Nico, and shortly before he died, Blind Melon covered this Schoolhouse Rock classic.
- You’re My Girl – Neil Young
Neil Young visited Motown on his album, “Are You Passionate,” and wrote this great song about taking his daughter out into the woods to show her some things.
- Wild World – Cat Stevens
Old school. Before he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and called for the murder of Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam and Allah (may he be praised eternally), Cat Stevens was a loving father and great songwriter.
- Daughters – John Mayer Trio
“Try!” was fantastic live album, which I just realized I should write up this week. Some of the pop Mayer writes loses me, but he’s a tremendous talent and rocked that album. This is a live performance at the GRAMMYs. “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.”
- Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
This wonderful, soothing John wrote for Sean is part lullaby, part fatherly advice and also contains a favorite lyric of mine, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
- Mother Mother – Tracy Bonham
Ms. Bonham writes a letter to her mother about going out into the world. The gutsy and honest vocal performance makes this track rock.
- A Father’s Son – Citizen Cope
Greenwood laments a man’s life gone wrong because he didn’t grow up like his father.
- When You Dream – Barenaked Ladies
This is a surprisingly sober and beautiful song from these goofballs. He wonders what a child with so little experience could dream about.
- Robots for Ronnie – Crack the Sky
This 70’s rock band that almost made it big reminds me of Phish in their goofy lyrics and brilliant, often jazz-influenced music. This ballad is about parents buying a robotic friend for their fat loser of a son.
- To Zion – Lauryn Hill
People advised her to think of her career, but she decided to have the baby. She says, “Now the joy of my world is in Zion,” referring to her son, Zion David-Nesta Marley (grandson of Bob Marley).
- New Mistake – Jellyfish
They wound up sounding an awful lot like Queen on their second album, but since I like Queen, that’s not a problem for me. This is a cool power pop examination falling in love and having a baby.
- Alligator Pie – Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews is still putting out great music. His daughter, Stella, asked, “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song?” 2009, apparently.
- Kooks – David Bowie
My all-time favorite song written by a father for his child. Bowie invites his child to “…stay in our lovers’ story.” Listen and read along.
- Sons & Daughters – Decembrists
I like the hopeful tone of this song. He promises a better world for our children, which is what we all hope for.
I may return to this topic, because I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of songs inspired by artists’ children. Enjoy this song with a coke because, you know, we have to stay straight for the kids.
Wow. It has been a lot harder than I was anticipating finding time to write posts for my blog now that I’m working again and a single dad. I think things are settling down a little bit and I am going to try to do this more regularly. Wish me luck.
Anyway, for today I’m going to go ahead and jump on the bandwagon for the new album from Chrissie Hynde and J. P. Jones. You may well have heard the story because it’s so unusual and frankly cool. J.P. Jones is a musician who was born in 1978 (if my math is right). That was the very same year Hynde met the original members of The Pretenders. JP had been a lifelong fan of Chrissie Hynde when he saw her in a bar one night. As many of us may have done, he approached her and tried to strike up a conversation. It was perhaps too loud to talk but they exchanged numbers and continued their conversation over the phone. Conversation turned to romance and within a few months they were vacationing together in Cuba.
The pair share a love of each other and a love of music. They started writing songs to, for, and about each other and have released them as JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys on an album called “Fidelity.” I have also been a lifelong fan of Chrissie Hynde and have included some of her recent work on some of the mixes I recommend on Fridays. I have to say, though, being in love seems to suit Ms. Hynde. There is a creative edge to the music that, while still deeply rooted in her new wave rock/pop style, is fresh and appealing. There is a youthful energy in the songs that you could not expect to hear from a 60 year old.
I have never heard any previous work by J.P. Jones and to be honest I doubt he would have hit the big time by himself. That said, I like the pairing. Perhaps it is the chemistry we’re hearing. Maybe it’s sexual energy. Maybe Jones is simply a great new muse for Hynde. I’m not sure, but the songs are uplifting and they convey emotion. Give some of my favorites a listen and see if you don’t want the rest.
- If You Let Me – I love the energy of this song and the sentiment is wonderful. In this song at least, you can hear the chemistry. It’s a beautiful love song.
- Fairground Luck – Chrissie and JP give us another moving love song, this one with a heavy and deliberate pace, but an uplifting chord progression and touching lyrics.
- Australia – Wow. The verses are OK, but this one is all about the irresistible hook at the chorus. JP does a fine job with his singing but, man, Chrissie’s still got it.
- Fidelity – JP proposed that they have a child. Since Chrissie is clearly past a time when that is possible, he said their child could be an album. In performances, JP has said, “We named this song after the baby.” So here’s your title track in which Chrissie declares her love for JP and says it’s like they have a little girl, Fidelity.
You can’t help but be happy for them and a newly inspired Chrissie Hynde is a wonderful thing.
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.
Alright, readers. What’s the deal here? Why has no one told me about The Dirtbombs? I had to stumble upon them myself. How is it no one has directed me to check out this crazy good punk/soul/rock band? I was actually making my rounds at the library when I picked up “If You Don’t Already Have a Look.” The cover didn’t particularly draw me. I had never heard of the band, though I like the name. I just picked it up at random.
I got home and spun it and song after song kicked my ass. “If You Don’t…” is a double album with no less than 52 songs on it. And it is tremendous. I was thinking, “Jeez, do these guys stop? Save some for the next album, fellas.” Well, it turns out “If You Don’t…” is a compilation of singles, rarities, and covers from a band out of Detroit, MI with 4 albums to their credit in the last 10 years.
At the core of The Dirbombs is Mick Collins, a founding member of the influential punk band, The Gories. Over the years, though, a slew of Detroit musicians has contributed to the band (including Troy Gregory, who has done quality work with a variety of bands and who is going to get his own write up on this blog soon). The sound is mainly punk, though without the anger. There is a lot of pop sprinkled with some funk. They achieve a raw garage band sound, which wouldn’t normally sound like something one has to “achieve,” but the songs are clever and catchy and the arrangements are thin and perfect. The energy is inescapable and I have checked their website for tour dates because it sounds like their show would be the most fun you could have standing up.
I will have to go back and buy the rest of their catalog, but I have a feeling “If You Don’t Already Have a Look” is the best way I could have discovered this band. Of the 52 songs on the disc, 27 are now shaking up my iPod. Disc 1 is full of original singles and rarities. Sadly, I can’t recommend the songs with the coolest titles, because they weren’t my favorites. That means you’ll have to go find ‘I’m Saving Myself (for Nichelle Nichols),’ ‘Never Licking You Again,’ ‘Candyass,’ ‘She Played Me Like a Booger,’ and ‘They Hate Us in Scandanavia’ on your own. However, I will link you to these great songs.
- Stuck Under My Shoe – This will give you a feel for much of this release. Simple, energetic music and lyrics that aren’t deep, but are clever and fun.
- Here Comes That Sound Again – The song reminds me a lot of ‘Major Tom,’ the 80s hit by Peter Schilling, minus the suck. This chorus is much cooler.
- Cedar Point ’76 – Here is one of the rarities from this release. It’s about being a teen and trying to pick up some chick at the Ohio amusement park.
- Headlights On – Dirty rhythm guitar and wailing lead guitar back a danceable groove that is worthy of Beck.
- Merit – The rhythm isn’t as fast as a lot of punk, but the drummer sounds appropriately pissed about the great guitar riff.
Disc 2 is all covers, which knocks me out.
- Maybe Your Baby – I had never heard this song by the Cheater Slicks, but I’m glad the Dirtbombs decided to play it for me.
- No Expectations – Yes, the Rolling Stones’ classic. The Dirtbombs pep it up and blend it with ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ which it actually follows on the Stones’ ablum “Beggars Banquet,” complete with the ‘Sympathy’ percussion and the backing “Hoo hoos.”
- Kiss Kiss Kiss – The original Yoko Ono version nearly ruined “Double Fantasy” all by itself. I hated this song for 30 years, but hearing the Dirtbombs’ cover makes me realize that the song is weird but interesting. The problem was Yoko.
- Mystified – Here they dig up a gem from The Romantics. This is not a song I had ever heard, but then I could probably only name 1 Romantics song.
- Ha Ha Ha – I barely remembered this song by Flipper, the classic 80s punk band. It’s a great choice. The Dirtbombs clean up the sound a little bit and make it less repellent than the original. You don’t get to hear the laughing chorus on this sample, which would be the only part you would remember if you don’t recognize the title.
The good news is the band seems to still be cranking out music and should be due for another one soon.
2011 is shaping up. I landed a job I applied for late last year. It looks like a good one, too. So at last I’m leaving the ranks of the under-employed and I’ll be making some money. Things are going swimmingly with my girlfriend too. (What is the genesis of that odd expression, anyway? Swimmingly?) I’m going to a posh wedding tonight that promises to be fun. All in all, I’m feeling pretty damn good.
On that note, I put together a mix of songs that are either about good times or have happiness in the title.
- This Will Be Our Year – OK Go
You remember their treadmill video for ‘Here It Goes Again’ and you might remember their awesome Rube Goldberg machine video for ‘This Too Shall Pass.’ These guys are about a lot more then gimmicky videos, though. They are about joyful, inventive pop music like this.
- It’s About Time – The Lemonheads
I’ve always been a big Evan Dando fan. He writes the most pleasing melodies and he has a great vocal delivery.
- Finally Made Me Happy – Macy Gray
A lot of people took notice of Macy Gray’s debut album and then she faded a bit, but I don’t thing she’s lost a step. I always check out her albums when she releases one. This is from her 2007 release, “Big.”
- Joyful Noise – Derek Trucks Band
This aptly named nearly-all-instrumental composition is such a high-energy, upbeat song. This is a good live performance, too. Trucks is an amazing guitarist and a heck of a bandleader.
- Happy Hour Hero – moe.
Go out and pick up “Tin Cans and Car Tires.” Oh, and go see moe. next time they come to your town. Give a listen to the lyrics in this great Rob Derhak tune.
- Awesome – Satellite Party
Satellite Party is a Perry Farrell project. This is a surprisingly pretty love song. It’s almost cheesy, but somehow Farrell sells it to me.
- Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy – The Kinks
Vintage Ray Davies. Thank you once again to John Cusack for turning me onto this great song I may not have found otherwise.
- Stupidly Happy – XTC
I love XTC. This is nearly a silly filler track for them but many songwriters would kill to be able to generate infectious guitar riffs and vocal melodies that they seemed to toss off so effortlessly.
- Joy – Bettye LaVette
LaVette has been in the business a long time and has come to mainstream success comparatively late in life. Check out this live performance and you’ll wonder why it took us so long to notice her.
- Happy Feet – 8 ½ Souvenirs
These guys play fun, jazz-influenced music with a throwback feel, kind of in the mold of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but more polished.
- Action Figure Party – Action Figure Party
This is the title track to one of the coolest party jazz albums I own. Listen to the great lyrics as you groove to the funky jazz.
- Wonderful Night – Fatboy Slim
I have never heard of Lateef the Truth Speaker, but he really lays it down on this track. The energy is great, but watch out for the lyrics, parents.
- Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
This song has been used in many TV shows so you’ve probably heard it before. If not, though, don’t miss it. Honestly, I think it’s better than Judy Garland’s version of ‘Rainbow’ and as good as Satchmo’s version of ‘Wonderful World.’
- Happiness – Built to Spill
The fantastic slide guitar on this track makes it my favorite from Built to Spill’s great release, “Ancient Melodies of the Future.” As always, Doug Martsch gives a great vocal performance, too.
- I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
No one did bitter like Elvis Costello. The instruments play an upbeat, poppy song, but the lyrics contain sarcastic gems like, “But you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever.”
You may have noticed that I only got two posts up this week and the “Friday Mix” got posted on a Saturday. I think I’m going to be busier now that I’m working. I will still try to get up a least a couple album reviews during the week, but I may start calling these the Weekend Mixes instead so I can get them up on Saturdays when I will have more time. Enjoy this mix with a glass of champagne and let the good times roll.
I have long been a fan, supporter, and proponent of Morphine. The jazz-influenced trio released 5 fantastic albums before the tragic early death of lead singer/songwriter/bass player Mark Sandman. Sax virtuoso Dana Colley has done great work since Sandman’s death with a variety of projects (A.K.A.C.O.D., Twinemen, Orchestra Morphine) playing new music and keeping the old Morphine music alive.
Colley’s newest endeavor is a great act that calls itself The Ever-Expanding Elastic Waste Band. Or maybe Members of Morphine with Jeremy Lyons. It’s unclear. (Maybe you can help me out, Dana.) Former Morphine drummer Jerome Deupree is with Colley again and a talented guitarist/bass player named Jeremy Lyons has stepped in to make them a trio. He plays and often sings Sandman’s parts when they cover Morphine tunes and has written some new songs for the band. As I mentioned in a previous post, I failed to get their disc, “Members of Morphine with Jeremy Lyons,” at the live show when I saw them, but my girlfriend came through and scored it for me for Christmas.
The album is great. Colley still has much to say musically. Deupree blew me away live and sits right in the pocket on this album. Lyons does fine work on the Morphine tracks they cover and he helps them into some great new territory the rest of the time. Check out a few winners off the disc.
- Hurricane – Lyons is credited with writing this song, but only the lyrics are new. The guitar and vocal lines are from ‘Goin’ Down South’ by R.L. Burnside (particularly the North Mississippi Allstars version). That’s not a criticism, though. There are only a dozen chord progressions in blues anyway. Everyone borrows. The lyrics are about God crushing Baton Rouge. The guitar work is cool without being flashy and Colley’s sax rumbles through the whole song.
- Different – The pace of this song is glacial but Colley’s atmospheric sax work is gorgeous. Nobody else sounds like this.
- Pulled Over the Car – This is unmistakably an old Mark Sandman song that they never released on a Morphine album. The guys performed this song when I saw them at the Beachland Ballroom this year. Fantastic. Sandman was such a clever and funny songwriter. They get a little help from some brass in the studio and the arrangement is hot.
- Know – I like the original songs EEEWB have written for this release. This is a heavy and slow love song. The baritone sax and electric guitar interact in unexpected and pleasing ways.
- Palestrina – What a beautiful instrumental. I believe it’s a live recording, too. It’s mostly Colley noodling on his saxophone but he gets some fine moody support from the drums and bass.
If you were ever a fan of Morphine and The Ever Expanding Elastic Waste Band comes to your town, you must go see them. In fact, even if you weren’t a fan you will like these guys. All three members are talented musicians with a fantastic catalog of new and old songs. It’s a fun show.
Hey, have you ever heard of The Beatles? Those kids from England were pretty good. I was on a discussion board where someone expressed the opinion that The Beatles aren’t that great and he doesn’t even like their songs. I don’t usually engage in such discussions, especially since he was probably a troll. However, in that case I was moved to respond that I guessed he was a twenty-something who has no idea how every band he likes is standing on their shoulders. He didn’t respond but I got a chorus of agreement from other readers.
Of course, they were arguably the most influential pop act of the 20th century. They were great singers (except Ringo), gifted songwriters (except Ringo), talented players (INCLUDING Ringo), and strong personalities. John had a huge impact on popular culture, obviously, and Paul has been knighted. Today, I’m actually writing up an album by the quiet one, George Harrison.
George left behind a fantastic body of work both musical and charitable. I enjoyed the Traveling Wilburys and lots of his later work, but my favorite Harrison album remains 1970’s “All Things Must Pass.” This was the first album he released after the breakup of The Beatles and it is a treasure trove of wonderful songs. There might have only ever been 1 band where a songwriting genius like George Harrison couldn’t get songs onto a record. With the potent writing combination of Lennon/McCartney populating albums, George was often frustrated that there wasn’t room for some of his great work. When ‘Isn’t It a Pity’ didn’t make the cut, Harrison considered offering it to Frank Sinatra. Instead, it and other gems were released on this triple album.
“All Things Must Pass” was a breakout album by a recently frustrated musical genius in his prime. A lot of Harrison’s more famous Beatles songs were on the mellow side, but if you’re familiar with ‘I Me Mine,’ ‘I Want to Tell You,’ ‘Savoy Truffle,’ and ‘Taxman,’ you know Harrison rocked as well. He did plenty of both on this album. All the songs are good, but these are my favorites.
- I’d Have You Anytime – The album kicks off with this gorgeous love song. It still makes me sigh every time he lays down that lick. He doesn’t let up either, and plays fantastic accompaniment throughout.
- My Sweet Lord – This song is about the Hindu god Krishna and though he originally wrote it for Billy Preston, Harrison released it himself. Harrison was famously sued over similarities between this song and The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine.” He was found to have “subconsciously copied” the song and was forced to surrender some royalties for that song and his entire album.
- Wah-Wah – Harrison said “Wah Wah” was Liverpool slang for a headache in his book I Me Mine. Probably. It was certainly written after he and Paul had a fight during the “Let It Be” sessions. In the song, he says “you made me such a big star,” and “I don’t need no wah-wah. And I know how sweet life can be if I keep myself free from the wah-wah.” Could be a headache from the business of music.
- All Things Must Pass – A little melancholy, a little hopeful, but very wise. This has always been an uplifting song for me.
- Let It Down – Do you know this song? If not, you’re welcome. This is one of the best songs you’ve never heard. The intro and chorus is as big as the guitar end of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ but the verses are beautiful. The whole thing is brilliantly constructed and I have never heard it on the radio.
- Apple Scruffs – This song is so much fun I put it on my daughter’s mix on my iPod. Sunny harmonica, a happy melody, and goofy lyrics make this a wonderful love song.
- I Dig Love – Ringo played on this album and his percussion makes this weird little groove really roll. Love this song.
If you’ve never heard this album, definitely pick it up. If you haven’t listened to it in a while, dust it off. It really has staying power.