Let's get 2011 off to a shufflin' start...
1."I Want to Be an Anglepoise Lamp" / The Soft Boys
From Can of Bees (1978)
This is how Robyn Hitchcock started out -- the frantic beat sounds like punk, but the lyrics and spirit are way too art-school absurdist. This track always makes me think of that classic Pixar short about the baby lamp, the one they played before Toy Story...
2. "Surf Medley" / Junior Brown
From Semi-Crazy (1996)
Amazing surf guitar instrumental from country guitar whiz Junior Brown, channeling 60s hits like "Walk Don't Run" and "Secret Agent Man," plingy riffs soaring over a furiously slapping drum track. Thanks to Napoleon Wakeup for this one!
3. "The Race Is On" / Rockpile
From a BBC radio broadcast August 1979
Dave Edmunds' rockabilly leanings took Rockpile down some dusty roads indeed (we shoulda known Nick would end up a country crooner). But hey, who could resist covering this George Jones classic? No Rockpile link, sorry (me and my bootlegs), but check out George's version.
4. "State of Confusion" / The Kinks
From State of Confusion (1983)
"The tumble dryer's broken, the telly's on the blink..." Poor besieged Ray Davies -- just can't cope with the modern world, can he? Even in the midst of the Kinks' arena rock heyday, he was harping on the neuroses of "20th Century Man" and "Holiday." And the girlfriend who leaves because the VCR broke -- sounds like "Sunny Afternoon"s girlfriend, fleeing home with "tales of drunkenness and cruelty." Fickle females!
5. "Plastic Lips" / The Aquabats
From Charge!! (2005)
Not all that different from the Soft Boys, really, though the Aquabats add a comic-book twist (dig the superhero costumes, despite physiques that the tights don't flatter). Funny, absurd, hectic. Love these guys live!
6. "Smokers" / The Old 97s
From Drag It Up (2004)
What? You've been reading my blog for how long, and you still aren't an Old 97s fan? Shame on you. It's alt-country for thinking people, with clever lyrics and just enough neurosis to balance out the yearning melodies. I love this atmospheric track, the hazy sound quality, the vocal riffs that curl upwards like a trail of smoke.
7. "Bummer in the Summer" / Love
From Forever Changes (1967)
Heh heh. Talk about hazy. Heh heh.
8. "Secret Heart" / Ron Sexsmith
From Ron Sexsmith (1995)
Was it Elvis or Nick who first covered this sweet tune? Either way, I wouldn't have discovered this wonderful Canadian singer-songwriter without that, so thanks, guys. Saw him open for Nick in '06, met him after the show -- he's just as much of a sweetheart as you'd think. Of course Dan knows him, too, like all the rest of the Toronto music mafia..
9. "Rocky Road" / Nick Lowe
From Party of One (1989)
Speak of the devil. Okay, it's a perfectly pleasant track, but -- dare I say it? --a tad generic, sorta like a mash-up of earlier songs like "Raining Raining" and "I Can Be The One You Love." On the other hand, it's my fault for keeping every single track he's ever recorded on my iTunes; I'm bound to get a little filler occasionally. Doesn't mean I'm going to delete any of it...
10. "Seventh Son" / Georgie Fame
From Seventh Son (1969)
And if it hadn't been for Van Morrison and Georgie Fame, I'd never have discovered Mose Allison. Nobody else gets that intersection of Delta sharecropper blues and beatnik jazz quite like Mose. Georgie's organ goes crazy staccato on this one -- "Everbody's talkin' 'bout the seventh son / In this whole wide world there is only one / And I'm the one, the one they call the seventh son." Cheeky!