Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops --
1. California Girls -- The Beach Boys
From Summer Days (And Summer Nights!) (1965)
I swear, a sea breeze just stirred my hair -- and is that sand between my toes? An instant trip to Southern California. When this first came out, I rankled at the line, "Those Midwest farmer's daughters really make me feel all right," but I longed to become a California girl myself. White Levis, Sun-In in my hair -- I tried everything. And then of course there's the Beatles' parody in the bridge of "Back in the USSR" -- "well, the Ukraine girls really knock me out ..."
2. "Lately I've Let Things Slide" -- Nick Lowe
From The Convincer (2001)
One reason I love the Shuffle: Nick Lowe suddenly appears when I least expect it -- and it hits me all over again why I love him so. "Smoking I once quit, now I've got one lit / I just fell back into it . . ." -- how succinctly he nails this lovelorn loser, sloping around his messy flat, laundry piling up in the corners, a carton of untouched takeaway spoiling on the table. God is in the details, both lyrics and music (those Nashville horns!).
3. "Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)" -- Lostprophets
From Liberation Transmission (2006)
Welsh indie rockers! Mostly this got onto my iPod because it is just so much damn fun to proclaim that staccato chorus at the top of your lungs: "Standing on the rooftops, everybody scream your heaaart out!" One of the rare tracks where a crunchy metallic tangle of guitar is totally necessary.
4. "No More, No Less" -- Collective Soul
From Dosage (1999)
My dear rock chick buddy Sharon loves this band, just loves 'em to death. I hear the hooks, I appreciate the soulful metal quality, but in the end, they just don't light my fire. Too much open passion for me, and not enough irony. Can't help it; I'm an irony junkie.
5. "Sister Madly" -- Crowded House
From Temple of Low Men (1988)
Irony -- like this. That great skippy pop rhythm sets off a tart little character study ("sister madly, stepping on my head!). Wonderful bebop piano solo too. Thank you thank you thank you Inaki for hepping me to this band -- I knew the singles, but there's so much more to discover.
6. "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" -- Dusty Springfield
From Dusty in Memphis (1969)
There's not a bad track on this album, is there? Dusty shows Bobbie Gentry how it's done. It matters not one whit that Dusty never lived in a shotgun shack at the edge of a cotton field; she never slept with the son of a preacher man either.
7. "Nightswimming" -- R.E.M.
From Automatic for the People (1992)
Ah, the mesmeric powers of Michael Stipe. The piano reels off endless arpeggios, strings and clarinet mourn, Stipe scats the same melodic phrase over and over -- and yet somehow I'm back in Indiana, in the dark of a summer night, brooding over boyfriends lost. Who knew R.E.M. had so much sweetness and melancholy in them?
8. "Take Off Your Uniform" -- John Hiatt
From Slug Line (1993)
In which Johnny H. langorously strips a coffee shop waitress and makes sorrowful, sympathetic love to her, in his best soulful yelp. A true man of the people. Why is this guy not bigger than Bruce Springsteen? Oh, I know the answer. . .
9. "One Thing" -- Neil Young
From This Note's For You (1988)
Possibly my favorite Neil Young album, his one brief shining jazz moment (that achingly beautiful guitar line!). Whatever was going on in Neil's life at the time, he proved beyond a doubt that he had intimate knowledge of the blues. "I think we're heading for a heartache / That's my suspicion / I think we're heading for a heartache / That's how I feel." The quaver in Neil's voice never worked better.
10. "Sound and Vision" -- David Bowie
From Low (1977)
Glam meets funk, all gussied up with synths -- yes, the experimental 80s were upon us, with Bowie and Brian Eno leading the way. This album is most memorable to me as the inspiration for Nick Lowe's own e-less EP titled Bowi. But you gotta love this disco-ready musical collage, with Bowie alternately growling and wailing disconnected phrases, like snatches of conversation overhead at a bar. Strung along that brilliant rhythm track, it's a song that begs to be danced to. With drugs.