Saturday, June 11, 2011

Okay, okay, the book's done, the kitchen's back in working order, the kids have finished school. I've run out of excuses -- I'm back in the saddle. (Thanks for the nudge, Lori!) 

1. I Know What You're Thinkin' / Bill Lloyd
From Set To Pop (1993)
If you like jangly guitar pop -- and you know I do -- you've gotta check out Bill Lloyd. Despite a turn in Nashville as half of Foster and Lloyd, he really shines when he goes electric, revealing his debts to the Beatles and the Kinks (I first learned of him from his cover of "This Is Where I Belong").  Don't let those catchy melodies and hooks fool you -- he slices and dices relationships like nobody's fool.  Jangly guitar pop with an edge; that's even better.

2. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa / Vampire Weekend
From Vampire Weekend (2008)
Why, yes, thank you, I will go to the Cape this summer!  An irresistibly catchy bit of indie polyrhythm; love that little Bach fugue they throw in on the organ towards the end.

3. Summer in the City / The Lovin' Spoonful
From Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
Probably THE best song ever written for an urban summer night, as I've mentioned before. The back of my neck's been getting pretty dirty and gritty lately, now that you mention it. 

4. Ackee 1-2-3 / English Beat
From Special Beat Service (1982)
But you know, Vampire Weekend didn't invent this indie polyrhythm sound; the English Beat and all their ska revival pals had it down in the early 80s. Another great urban summer song, with sassy horns, a touch of steel drums, an infectious sloppy singalong chorus, even a dog barking at the end.   

5. We Won't Dance / Greg Trooper 
From Noises in the Hallway
Aw, what a great song, and Troop's original is sooooo much sexier than Vince Gill's cover (from the album that made him a star, 1989's When I Call Your Name). The premise is, he's saying goodbye to an old girlfriend, with a shiver of regret that they won't, ahem, dance together anymore.  (Wink wink, nudge nudge...) "You won't dance with him / The way you danced with me..."

6.  Hollywood / Guy  Clark
From Someday the Song Writes You (2009)
Well, speaking of brilliant folk-country songwriters, here's the Texas master, spinning another gently weary cautionary tale about tinsel dreams going all tarnished.  I love Clark's scuffed-up voice, the acoustic twang of his guitar, but what I love most about his songs is something even rarer -- hard-won wisdom.       

7. Radar Love / Golden Earring  
From  Moontan (1973) 
Surprise! Not my usual fare, I'll grant you.  But I often listen to my iPod in the car, and well -- sometimes you need to put the pedal to the metal, and this is the song that'll do it for you.  Who are Golden Earring?  A Dutch heavy metal band?  I'm pretty sure I never heard another song from them, but Wikipedia tells me they're still together, still performing, still recording, with multiple hits in Holland, so what do I know? This is one hell of a track. 

8. Tell You / Ron Sexsmith
From Grand Opera Lane (1987)
Sure, there's poppy jangle here, but Sexsmith's sweet yearning vocals make it hard to be cynical.  I can't think of many modern songwriters who can honestly write about things like joy and  faith. Refreshing.

9. I Can't Love You Anymore  / Lyle Lovett
From The Road to Ensenada (2008)
You know, if that "Anymore" were spelled "Any More," this would be a different song.  And I know that Lyle knows this.  Compared to the usual dumbed-down Nashville fare, Lyle's intelligence and songcraft amaze me over and over. (I don't even consider him country, anymore -- well, maybe Western.) No wonder he's buddies with Hiatt.  

10. Wild Honey Pie / The Beatles
From The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
A minute of anarchy -- and I hang on every note.

11. Trusted  / Ben Folds
From Songs for Silverman (2005)
Okay, let's say "Wild Honey Pie" doesn't count.  Because how could I cut off Ben?  This was the first of his albums I ever bought, and it absolutely astonished me -- those perfect pop hooks, the emotional melodies, the sharp lyrics, the edgy relationships.  I can't get certain lines out of my head -- "I thought  you could read my mind / Then I came home early and saw that a drawer'd been opened / Looks like you were reading my diary instead" or "That's when I know / She's gonna be pissed when she wakes up / for terrible things I did to her in her dreams."  These ARE the sorts of things that drive people apart, and it's horrible, and Ben dissects it with fearless ferocity, sailing along on crashing piano chords and arpeggios.  This guy's stuff absolutely rivets me....


Alex said...

Congrats on getting the book done... as well as your long-awaited return here!

BTW, Golden Earring had another big US hit in 1982 called "Twilight Zone" -- which you probably heard and forgot. And Wikipedia sez they're celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band (and still include 2 founding members and 2 others who've been in the band for more than 40 years). Who knew?

Uncle E said...

Glad you're back, we missed you! I, too, love Ben Folds stuff, especially Ben Folds Five's last one, "The Unauthorized Biography....". Riviting is a great word to describe his work. He brought back grand piano pop, long overdue in my opinion. HIs solo stuff, like SIlverman and Rockin' The Suburbs is just as great.

wwolfe said...

"Candy's Gone Bad," the follow-up to "Radar Love," got some airplay in Northeast Ohio when I was a high schooler, but it never broke nationally. A decent rocker, but not the epic that was their biggie. I've always loved these lines: "Radio plays that forgotten song/Brenda Lee's 'Comin' On Strong'." The obsessive pop love demonstrated by the writer's specifying the (relatively obscure) song title always pleases me. Not a lot of folks were paying tribute to Brenda Lee in the mid-1970s, it's fair to say, so I appreciate G. Earring's tribute. Plus, "Comin' On Strong" a pretty groovy little record.

Anonymous said...

Ya know I love your "Shuffles" but now Bill Lloyd is in there & I'm so happy you liked him too.
Very cool Holly!

Dave K. said...

Moontan is a fine record and was something of a hit back in the day. Vanilla Queen was not a single, but received a lot of airplay on FM radio. Though Radar Love is still the king of driving songs.

Holly A Hughes said...

You guys slay me. Who knew there were so many Golden Earring fans out there? I'd like to say my ignorance is due to their having been before my time, but alas...

Well, any shuffle that's bracketed by Bill Lloyd and Ben Folds works for me!

Glenn said...

Hey Holly, this question is totally out of left field, but I'll explain later why I'm asking, if your answer is "yes".

Here's the question: Do you have any memories of "The Sandy Becker Show" when you were a kid? Early '60's kids variety program. Not sure if it was syndicated out in the midwest, but in the NYC area it was on WNEW-TV.


Holly A Hughes said...

Sadly, I don't think we got that in Indianapolis. We had Harlow Hickenlooper instead (not that I would have traded Harlow Hickenlooper for anybody else). But now I'm intrigued -- why do you ask?

Glenn said...

Well, ok, if you must know... the question was to be Phase I of a diabolical plot to trick you into blogging about some music -- one artist in particular -- from the '60's era that is definitely not rock-n-roll, but nonetheless emotionally formative to a lot of kids of our age group.

And I thought, perhaps if you also were fond of this artist, you might be cajole-able into blogging a post or two about it. I know you'd do a great job of bringing it back to life for a lot of us who might have had similar experiences listening to it. Your Wolfeian descriptive abilities to could really do it justice! But, of course, only if you actually had been a fan, peripheral or direct.

Hence my query about "The Sandy Becker Show": Becker used one piece from this artist as an intro/outro for his kids' show. I figured if you'd ever watched it, you'd probably be familiar with at least this tune, and upon re-listening to it in 2011 -- figuring out how to get you to do that was Phase II -- it might be a fond enough "blast from the past" for you to think "hey, wow, yeah, that was fun music!" thereby oh-so-cleverly hooking you into doing a blog post maybe.

See? So that was the scheme. Until you derailed it by having watched Harlow Hickenlooper instead of Sandy Becker. Jeez, Holly.

Anyway, I'd explain more, but it might take a while. I'm hesitant to blab further here without your permission because of what happened last time. (A while back, you asked me a question, and I wound up over-enthusiastically barfing about ten paragraphs on your blog, and was then mortified to see that my blog-formatted reply was about 2x longer than your original post. OMG. I was really embarrassed.)

But let me know. I'll be happy to ramble on with more background if you think you might be interested.

Holly A Hughes said...

You mean, if I encouraged you you'd REALLY go on too long?

Well, I did look up the Sandy Becker show on YouTube and there's a chirpy sort of orchestral tune -- lots of strings -- that sounds vaguely familiar, but I promise you, it doesn't have anything like the visceral impact on me that I bet it does on folks who grew up with it.

Now ask me about Harlow Hickenlooper's Happy Birthday song...which invariably ended with a custard pie in the face...that one squeezes out a spark or two for me!

Glenn said...

Hey Holly, remember Harlow Hickenlooper's Happy Birthday song? The one that invariably ended with a custard pie in the face? How did that go again? Da da da, da da da da, dadadada, ... dadada... right? Or was it dadadaaa, tatadaaaa daaaa, da da da...? Maybe you can do a blog post about it?

Sorry. Just trying not to be a sore loser.

Btw, this artist I have in mind was actually a co-discoverer of the Beatles. Really.