Monday, February 13, 2012

The Playlist's The Thing

By Reece Hirsch

Thanks to Steve Jobs and the iPod, our lives really do have soundtracks now, and here’s mine. There’s no theme, and they aren’t my all-time favorites, but these ten songs are all in heavy rotation this week as I ride the BART train to work.

"If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" by The Staple Singers. This is the follow-up single to their classic “I’ll Take You There” and has the same irresistible pop-gospel vibe, but it’s far too good to be dismissed as a knock-off. And who wouldn’t like to go with Mavis, Pops and the gang to a world with “no economical exploitation, no political domination”? Not a bad theme song for the Occupy movement.  In memory of Don Cornelius, click on the link for a major Seventies Soul Train flashback.

“Darkness” by Leonard Cohen. I haven’t fully absorbed Cohen’s new CD Old Ideas, but this bluesy track already stands out. Sample lyric: “I caught the darkness/Drinkin’ from your cup/I said ‘Is this contagious?’/She said, ‘Just drink it up.’”

"Dawned on Me" by Wilco. This insanely upbeat song from The Whole Love is guaranteed to lift your mood. Like a few songs that Jeff Tweedy has written lately, the melody reminds me of All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison.

"Little Black Submarines" by The Black Keys. The El Camino CD is getting a lot of play from me right now. I didn’t think they could top Brothers, but they did. I could have picked just about any track from the CD, but I like the way this song starts acoustic and then achieves total heaviosity.

 "You've Got To Be Kidding" by Graham Parker and The Rumor. Although he was once characterized as the poor man’s Elvis Costello, lately I find myself returning to Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment even more often than Elvis’s early records because Graham is a more soulful singer. This bitterly sarcastic put-down song is what “Positively Fourth Street” would sound like if it had been recorded by Jamaican producer Leslie Kong.

"Sometimes I Don't Need To Believe In Anything" by Teenage Fanclub. This band is my go-to happy music. Gnarly guitars, sweet harmonies and huge pop hooks – what’s not to like? Like most of us, the boys have grown a little more melancholy with age and turned down the volume a bit, but this song from their last CD Shadows is pure pop ebullience filtered through middle-aged wisdom.

"Flesh and Blood" by Solomon Burke. This R&B great passed away in 2010, but not before staging a furious comeback, as demonstrated by this dark, hellacious, epic wail of torment and remorse, penned by Joe Henry. Need a soundtrack for the dark night of your soul? Here you go.

 "Raymond Chandler Evening" by Robyn Hitchcock. Since this is Criminal Minds, I had to include this song, which is as short, sweet and moody as a Chandler short story.  How’s this for a haiku distillation of noir? “It’s a Raymond Chandler evening/And the pavements are all wet/And I’m lurking in the shadows/’Cause it hasn’t happened yet.”

"Birthday Boy" by The Drive-by Truckers.  The first line is a short story by itself:  "Which one's the birthday boy? she said, I ain't got all night."  The Drive-by Truckers are one of the best live bands around and they have been consistently making solid records for years. If you’re not familiar, start with Southern Rock Opera.  On the CD, this is a great rock and roll song, but the linked acoustic version is also nice.

"England 2, Colombia 0" by Kirsty MacColl. Most people know the late, great Kirsty best for her duet with Shane MacGowan of the Pogues in “Fairytale of New York,” but she was also one of the best pop songwriters and wittiest lyricists I can think of. Take, for example, this song about a woman who goes out on a date to find out in the nick of time that the man she's with is married, as a soccer match plays in the background. "And I know just how those Colombians feel …."

Bonus Tracks:  "Rider" by Okkervil River; "Excuses" by The Morning Benders; "Heart Full of Love" by The Invincibles; "You Said Something" by P.J. Harvey; "Barstool Blues" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse; "Rocket Man" by My Morning Jacket; "Castanets" by Alejandro Escovedo; "Strange Powers" by The Magnetic Fields; "Gettin' Grown" by Cee-Lo Green & His Perfect Imperfections; and "Chinatown" by Destroyer.

Secret, Hidden Tracks:  "Another Girl, Another Planet" by The Replacements (covering The Only Ones);  "Champagne and Reefer" by Buddy Guy and the Rolling Stones (Buddy Guy's glare is worth the price of admission).


Michael Wiley said...

I like that you've even given the links, Reece. A great playlist, and a great window into your BART ride.

Reece said...

Thanks, Michael. I didn't think the links were working so I embedded the YouTube clips, too. Chalk it up to my lack of tech savvy. Glad you enjoyed the list.