As a lyricist myself, I know that one of the hardest things to do in music is to put your emotions into words. Usually the easiest things to write about are the internal struggles that you face that you feel define you, and ironically sometimes one of those struggles is figuring out how to write lyrics. That’s why, I myself am a big fan of tunes that include lines like “this song” in them. I’m a sucker for moments of self-referential clarity, and thus there’s a lot of songs I could have put on this list, but here’s my top 7 that really hit home.
#7 - Elton John – “Your Song”
Well duh, obviously this had to be on there. Bernie Taupin and the Big E wrote a shitload of killer tunes, but I always felt this one was the most deserving of its’ widespread recognition. If you don’t listen to terrestrial radio anymore, then hopefully it hasn’t been as overplayed in your mind as it has for most of normal society.
#6 – Weird Al Yankovic- “Six Words Long”
There’s probably a few Weird Al songs that fit int his category, (“Smells Like Nirvana”) but this is one of those songs that even overshadows the original in my mind sometimes. And fuck, I love that 80′s George Harrison tune too, but Al seems to do a great job of calling out the go-to repetitive chorus of any of the late greats here.
#5 – Tenacious D – “Tribute”
Sure the glory days of the D are gone, although the new Simply Jazz release is pretty fucking genius, but “Tribute” always rang a special bell in my head. It happens to the best of us: you wake up in the middle of the night with a killer new song in your head and you say to yourself, “Fuck it, I’ll remember that shit in the morning,” and then the sun rises and that tune is forever lost in the universe.
#4 – My Morning Jacket – “Slow Slow Tune”
This is my favorite track off the latest MMJ album “Circuital” and I think it’s one of Jim James’ finer lyrical moments. I love the notion of future projection used here – “You, somewhere in the future listening/ I hope the present for you is glistening.”
#3 – Built to Spill – “You Were Right”
For 10 years I tried to write this song and failed, and then I discovered Doug Martsch and realized he had already written and perfected it years before. It calls out the idiotic fall-back of saying “everything’s gonna be all right” which so many songwriters go to for some reason. Oh, shit’s crazy but it’ll be all right – yeah, we’ve got mothers to say that, we don’t need to hear our rock stars say it. The rest of the song is calls of respect for the truest, and darkest lines in popular rock history.
#2 – Wilco – “Someone Else’s Song”
This is one of the simplest, and most brilliant songs Jeff Tweedy has ever written, and it positively crushed me to the floor when he closed with it at a solo performance I saw years ago. The same chord progressions are used so much in music, over and over again, and they’ll continue that way for eons. This may be the greatest self-admittance of that fact.
#1 – Blues Traveler – “Hook”
The irony that his song became popular is the greatest thing John Popper ever pulled off in his life. The entire lyrics to the songs are about how the song is about nothing: It doesn’t matter what I say,so long as I sing with inflection
That makes you feel that I’ll convey some inner truth of vast reflection
But I’ve said nothing so far and I can keep it up as long as it take. And then of course the chorus reveals that you dig it because it uses the catchiest hook of all time – Pachelbel‘s “Canon in D Major” – The inescapable I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V – believe me, it’s the pattern to at least 3 of your favorite songs, whatever they may be.
I was listening to a friend recently talk about his band playing on NBC’s The Today Show or something like that, and the absurd notion of waking up at 5:30 AM to go play 10 minutes of rock music. But you know, it’s one of those things you just gotta do if you’re really trying to have commercial success. At the best points, you’re joking with Conan before hitting his stage. At the low points, you’re fighting with Al Roker for the last gluten-free hot-dog. So this got me thinking about compiling the greatest morning talk show performances of all time, but frankly I didn’t have the stomach for all the archived Katie Couric footage today. Instead, I’ve been contemplating the best TV moments when a rock band appears unexpectedly. Yeah, we all expect them to rock the late night talk show, and forget all the dumb reality show crap. What about when all the sudden your favorite band is a guest cook on Iron Chef? That’s what I’m into. Here’s my Top 3 moments.
1) Pink Floyd Plays the First Moon Landing
How fucking cool was the BBC back in the day? On the evening of July 29, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were taking the first human steps on the moon, the BBC actually had Pink Floyd live in the studio to jam along to the footage. I know this sounds like some LSD fantasy – Dude, what if… – but it’s actually legit. This video below has the original audio, but is spliced on top of some later moon footage since the video/audio original seems to have been lost. Originally entitles “But What If It’s Made of Green Cheese”, it was later classified as “Moonhead.”
2) Jeff Tweedy Does The Weather
Last December, before some Wilco hometown shows in Chicago, they must have been doing some sort of in-studio thing for the local station. And some genius producer decided it would be hilarious to have Tweedy do the weather. Well, he was right. His sarcastic charm sets the whole weatherman profession back a good 10 years. Great moment.
3) Gwar Appears on Joan Rivers
The legendary day-time interview from 1990 is magical. Joan Rivers is hilarious, Oderus Urungus is hilarious – it’s a lot better than when they went on Springer. You gotta love when her return-from-commerical music blends into one of their tunes. Fuck though, remember when people really cared about this band (for better or worse?) They used to be huge.
So I plan on ranting about last night’s Wilco show at the beautiful Schnitzer Concert Hall here in Portland, but thought I’d take a few moments to highlight the great opening band which I of course didn’t get there in time to see. You know, here’s the way I see it – no matter how big Wilco gets, they shouldn’t be seen as this band that you need to dedicate your undying focus to – they’re a band that you should go see with a buddy and have a beer before hand and not worry if you miss the opening song….Anyway. I last saw White Denim a few years ago open up for somebody small…Dr. Dog maybe? Either way, a national tour opening up for Wilco is a big deal for this Austin rock band. It’s interesting that it happens now for the band though, because I think their latest album was by far their least interesting. It’s a great rock record for sure, but they’re kinda going down that same path that Dawes is right now – like playing it safer is the way to get more into the swing of things. Well I smoothly missed out completely on their set last night, so I can’t really justify if live it’s been the right move for them, but the way that their schedule looks right now and how much some critics like Dennis Cook are drooling all over them, I guess shit’s working. Here’s one of my favorite songs from a few years back, “Don’t Look That Way At It,” and a fairly recent live cut of the newer “Street Joy” – I think they’re both good representations of their different stages of song writing.
50 – 41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40) Ween – Caesar 1 & 2
- The New Hope boys haven’t released anything formally since 2007, so for the Ween-freaks like me out there, this collection of demos from the Quebec era provides quite the fix. First put out on Mickey Melchiondo’s (Deaner’s) facebook page, the amount of never-before-heard-or-released tracks that are friggin’ awesome here proves just how prolific these guys really are. “Eulogy for David Anderson” – fucking beautiful. “You Can Go Shit in Your Hat” – dope as all hell. “Hello Johnny” and “Wide Open” – why the hell didn’t they release these?!? Thanks Dean.
39) Neon Indian – Era Extraña
- When I first heard “Should Have Taken Acid With You” 2 years ago, I figured Neon Indian was going to evolve into a dub-step mess of synthesizer patches by 2011. But instead of taking the easy way out, Alan Palomo put his head back down, wrote some waaaaay better tunes, and found a way to make all those patches sound epically classy. Good lyrics, good beats, and a truly fun use of modern sound – I’m on board for the rest of his ride.
38) Givers – In Light
- A group of Louisiana sub-brooklynites make music that half draws from Phoenix and half from Paul Simon’s African skies vibe. But don’t think about how that first Vampire Weekend really got annoying after multiple listens – Givers go deeper in stacking of melodic layers, have a killer guitarist, and aren’t afraid to intelligently slow things down when they want to. I’m going to listen to this album a lot in 2012.
37) Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/ The Dream
- This San Francisco garage-rock attack force is like Iggy Pop with better chord changes. Loyal to the melodic vengeance of pre-punk punk-rock, this is the kind of band that your friends who don’t like punk-rock will be like “Oh, I dig this though.” While your friends who love punk rock will be like, “Maybe not as sloppy as I’m used to, but I like this shit a lot.” It’s better to just call it rock and roll.
36) Starfucker – Reptilians
- It’s hard to make an acoustic guitar sound cool in a quasi-electronica band, but the opening cut from Reptilians make it seem essential for Portland’s Starfucker. Think Beta Band turned up a few notches, focused more on potentially danceable grooves, and not afraid to have a shit-load of glitchy tweek noises cycling in the background. The album turns into more of a dance-party as it goes along, but there’s a lot of potential for this horribly named band to go deep – soon.
35) Wilco – The Whole Love
- I’m one of those people who loves Wilco but thought the last album kinda blew chunks for the first time in their career. It wasn’t bad, it just featured the most non-memorable songs in the band’s history – it was cliché Dad rock. Then I heard “Art of Almost” and let out an enormous sigh. Again, the whole cycle of songs isn’t nearly as strong as what they used to release, but there’s a solid handful of ridiculously good songs on The Whole Love. It’s definitely not the album that’s gonna win any new fans, but it definitely will keep the old ones happy.
34) Real Estate – Days
- More and more lately this album has been reminding me of Echo and The Bunnymen. It’s because Real Estate not only has that same space-folk feel, but also has the same drive to keep things from getting too boring. The beats, the melodies, and the reverb are all the things that put this album on my top 50 and keep The Fleet Foxes out of it. “It’s Real” has been cycling in my head many a morning the past few months.
33) Floating Action – Desert Etiquette
- Shit, somebody forgot to tell Seth Kaufman that stupid puns are always crappy ideas for album titles…moving on. There’s a late-50’s beach-rock swing that is the basis of Floating Action, and that Kaufman is constantly gaining more indelible control of. This is the perfect music for a backyard party in the summer – or at least for drinking a beer before 5 on a weekday during the winter. It’ll be interesting to see how long this band remains so seriously underrated.
32) Destroyer – Kaputt
- I figured Destroyer was a new side project for Dan Bejar of The New Pornographers to get his yacht-rock coke-funk passions out, but turns out he’s been releasing stuff with this act since the 90’s. Either way, all 9 tracks on the album are classics that will make you want to drink Zimas in the sun. You’ll hear one track and think there’s no way he can keep up that cool-ass groove for the whole record, but boy does he.
31) TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
- What happened, did people just get tired of talking about how great this band is? After Rolling Stone put 2008’s Dear Science as their album of the year, it’s like people don’t want to admit that TV on the Radio are as important as they actually are. Nobody is crafting rock in such epic rhythmic syncopation these days, and Light is probably their finest work to date. And despite bassist Gerard Smith’s passing, these guys still have a lot of soul left in them to unleash on the world.
Well, we’re 24 hours past the dawn of the rapture and things seem to be functioning properly. I presume that most of you, like myself, have already paid our $10 registration fee at www.aftertherapturepetcare.com- yep, its’ real. Sine JC hasn’t come and swept me up yet – what, occasional Christmas and Easter visits to the local Protestant church weren’t enough for you big man?!? – well, since that hasn’t happened yet, I decided to post my Top 5 songs about the End of the World. Now I’ve excluded some of the popular hits – R.E.M. just seemed way too obvious, although that is probably one of my favorite songs of theirs. And although I won’t deny my love for the girl, I decided best to not throw in Britney Spears’ hot new club banger – it’s not even really that bad, just not my thing. And sure, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” could probably be considered as well as a lot of others, but I really tried to take this top 5 list a little more literal. The Cure released a tune called “End Of The World” in 2004 but it kinda blows, which tempted me to put “Just Like Heaven” on the list instead…but then I decided I’ll just save that for a future blog about how awesome The Cure are. So without further ado, here’s my Top 5 End of the World tracks starting with #1.
#1 – U2 “Until The End of the World” - Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of Bono and the boys from the Emerald Isle, but this track’s pretty fucking huge. Edge rocks the echo thing perfectly, killer beat, killer lyrics. My top apocalypse croon-along.
#2 – Skeeter Davis “The End of the World” – Now the Carpenters had a much bigger hit with this track 10 years or so after Skeeter put her rather awesomely normal vocals on it. Karen’s voice is probably a touch more soothing, but fuck Karen Carpenter – she doesn’t get spots on my lists. Yeah, that’s right. It’s the end of the world, no holding back.
#3 – Prince “1999″ - I mean c’mon… this puppy’s gotta be on there. Not as literal as the others, but whatevs…Crappy audio here, sorry Prince deletes shit.
#4 – Wilco “You Never Know” – 2009′s Wilco The Album was somewhat of a letdown. Things got a little too beige for my boy Jeff Tweedy on that album, and not too many songs even really stood out. But this one grabbed me from the get-go and the first line is one of my all-time favorites of his.
#5 – Nick Cave (I’ll Love You) Til The End of The World – Shit man, sometimes Cave feels like the most bad-ass dude on the planet, and this tune’s just such a case. It’s hard for a quasi-spoken word song to be something you want to listen to regularly, but this one’s a killer.