Weekly Top Ten (4/14/18)
Spring seems here, our house is nearly renovated — those damn unfinished hardwood floors! — and my new book is almost ready for the live air. Until then, here are the songs I’ve been obsessing over this week. Ranking them is driving me crazy, too, but then there’s the fun of being in control — much better than commanding air strikes, I think.
So on we go:
10. “Severed,” The Decemberists. Here’s a band I want to love, and sometimes I do. “Severed” is from their latest record, I’ll Be Your Girl. A bit more synthed than their usual stuff, which might be why this record appeals to me more than their others. Or it could be that after getting good medical test reports, I’m just inclined to be nice these days.
9. “In the Morning,” Destroyer. My favorite artists right now, this Canadian band, fronted by Dan Bejar, has been around since 1995. I wonder where I’ve been all this time? I included “Tinseltown is Swimming in Blood” on a recent list, and this one is very close in its evocation of the sweep of morning sounds with a psychedelic tinge. Kind of like an early 70’s sound by an artist upcoming this week.
8. “Ocean Breathes Salty,” Modest Mouse. From a record almost fifteen years old: Good News for People Who Love Bad News. Yesterday in the Regal Hair Salon on old East North Street, my stylist, Charlene, had a Pandora station going, and this little ditty popped up. You know you’re living right when your stylist — a woman roughly your own middle age — shows you how cool she is, with scissors in her hand. Anyway, Modest Mouse never ceases to please or to make me want to dance.
7. “Moonage Daydream,” Bowie. I read a book review yesterday in which the writer mentioned playing this song over and over for his seven-year old son. I can’t imagine. My parents played me Pete Fountain and Guy Lombardo and, when they were feeling extra sporty, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Imagine growing up to Bowie. My friend Jimbo gave me the album this one’s from — The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars — for Christmas in 1972. Now if I tell you that my life was never the same after I saw the record and after I heard this song, you’d believe me, right? “I’m an alligator, I’m a mama/papa comin’ for you.”
6. “At the Purchaser’s Option,” Rhiannon Giddens. She’s appearing in Greer, SC, tomorrow night at The Spinning Jenny. This song opens her most recent album, Freedom Highway. I love the lyrics, but sometimes I lose them in her voice. Country, folk, lamentation. Always in control, she sings from a place most of us just can’t understand.
5. “Out on the Weekend,” Neil Young. In the spring of 1972, on the afternoon before the opening night of our high school play, Harvey (that sort of imaginary, giant white rabbit), my mother took me to West Lake Mall and bought me a copy of Neil’s new Harvest LP. This is another opening track, and I can remember that a girl I dated exactly twice loved the image of that “big brass bed.” She might have had one, too, though I’ll never know. She was the second of three “Pam’s” that I would date. Not that any of this matters, but these are the reasons why we remember certain songs so well.
4. “Samba Pa Ti,” Santana. Also in my early high school years, I went to a birthday party at Jimmy Walker’s house, and the teenage DJ kept playing this song from Abraxas over and over so that young couples could slow dance. I had never slow danced before, but I sure did that night, my fourteen-year old body finally understanding a bit of nirvana. It’s a wonder to know that I once held Margaret Hagerty close. Someone mentioned this tune the other night at a Jazz House party. So, yeah.
3. “Bright Lit Blue Skies,” Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Makes you wonder why you, or I, didn’t come up with a name like that for our band. This song, and the one following, while fairly new, remind me of late 60’s psychedelia, particularly Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Tomorrow.” This one is a bit happier, and if you like it, also listen to Ariel Pink’s “Baby,” but only if you’re still in love or planning to be.
2. “Shark Smile,” Big Thief. I’ve been loving this song for the past three months ever since it debuted on Sirius XMU. I hope the band keeps on coming because their sound is one of those “crank up the volume” motions for me. Building and building, but with a voice that creeps under whatever emotion you want to bring to it.
Number One songs are reserved for those that make me sizzle inside and want to whisper to my wife that, “yes, you are the only one and don’t you just love this song?” So…
- “Rain,” The Beatles. My first 45, backed with “Paperback Writer.” It’s a long, sad story, but I never forgot you, my old love, despite where you had to go. “Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines, it’s just a state of mind?” 1966. Who among us understood zen, then? Who does now? “I can show you that when it starts to rain, everything looks the same…” But what is raining down in your land today?
Until next week, when the sun shines.