Friday, September 16, 2011


Back to school time -- got my clean notebooks and sharpened pencils and new plaid skirt all ready to go.  Summer's distractions have been put behind me, and I'm ready to get back down to bizness. 

Only problem is, my Amazon widget -- the one that let me post links to mp3s so you could listen to the songs with me -- isn't working today.  My apologies -- I'll be sure to come back and add those links when it's been fixed. 

1. I've Got It All (Most) / Modest Mouse
From Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Well, now here's a song that speaks to my current mood.  "I've got it al......most / I've got it all, almost all figured out / But when I get there / Always when I get there, / The pieces, they just fall apart."  If Cubists made rock and roll,  this is what it would sound like: neurotic vocals and lurching offbeat rhythms, sewn together with swoops of melody and a funky underpinning.  As my son remarked, listening to Modest Mouse's contribution to the Rave On Buddy Holly tribute: "If I heard this song blind, I wouldn't know it was Buddy Holly, but I'd definitely know it was Modest Mouse. You can't mistake that sound."  

2. Take the Long Way Around / Teenage Fanclub
From Songs From Northern Britain (1997) 
Don't these guys do great hooks?   Somehow their songs always slide past without me really listening to the lyrics, I guess because the lyrics are beside the point.  But they've got all the pop energy their name promises, refreshingly s l o w e d  down just enough to let it swing. And those rich vocal harmonies make me think for some reason of the Jayhawks -- anybody else?

3. Find Another Girl / The Hives
From Veni Vidi Vicious (2000)
Speaking of re-invented covers -- these snappy Swedes have utterly transformed this Curtis Mayfield-Jerry Butler Philly soul classic, turning it into -- ta-da~  a Hives song!  What else, when you've got Howlin' Pelle Almqvist's tuneless vocals and that scruffy skate-punk wall of sound? Still, I dunno -- that note of existential despair works oddly well for this song.  Who'd a guessed that?

4. So It Goes / Nick Lowe
From  Jesus of Cool (1976)
Well, this has been quite a week for St. Nick, freshly canonized in the mainstream press in honor of his new country crooner album The Old Magic.  (Yeah, yeah, I've got it, I'll be reviewing it soon -- that one deserves a full weekend's listen, preferably with a good bottle of Scotch.)  But it's a nice change-up to get an invigorating shot of Old Nick. It's easy to get caught up in the boppy beat and those overlapping "so it goes"-es, but Nick's surrealistic lyrics were always better than they needed to be for Pure Pop. Best verse: "In the air there's aftershave lotion / In the wake of a snaky Persian / On his arm is a skin-tight vision / Wonder why she ain't mine, she's his."  There's a whole novel there, my friends, or at least a Cameron Crowe movie.    

5.  Lost and Found / The Kinks
From Think Visual (1986)
Mmmm....Ray's hurricane song.  This has been quite a week for Ray as well, as tickets have been selling like hot cakes to his November U.S. tour dates.  (Hours battling Ticketmaster finally snagged me a 4th row way on the side for the New York City date -- hmmph. I hate scalpers.).  

6. One for My Baby / Rosemary Clooney
From 70 -- A 70th Birthday Celebration (1998)
I'll take Rosemary Clooney over Peggy Lee any day -- nearly as sultry, but with a voice as clear as a mountain stream, even on this late recording.  Sinatra's original of this Arlen/Mercer classic is pretty hard to top, but damn if Rosie doesn't pull it off, with masterly phrasing and a seen-it-all shrug in her voice. Set 'em up, Joe!

7. All In Good Time / Ron Sexsmith
From Time Being (2006)
Nick Lowe keeps telling interviewers lately that Ron Sexsmith is one of his favorite songwriters. Another thing I have in common with Nick Lowe!  Ron's our great Canadian folk-pop philosopher, reflecting on the nature of love and loss with a gently lilting acoustic twang.  This song pretty well sums up this album's earnest meditations on mortality -- the catchiest sermons you'll ever love.

8. The Lasting Kind  / Greg Trooper
From Floating (2003)
Another Greg Trooper album you ought to own, the first one that hooked me on this guy's genius. A little country wheeze adds plangency to this yearning-for-love song that should have covered by mega-artists and made Troop the fortune he deserves. (Calling Curtis Stigers!)  Dig how those brooding verses swell into the heartfelt chorus: "There's love that sees and love that's blind / Love that pays no mind / Leaving and the left behind / I'm looking for the lasting kind."  Aren't we all?

9. Long Gone Lonesome Blues / Sheryl Crow
From Timeless: Hank Williams (1998)

Wow, this is really Covers Night, isn't it?  Sheryl's cover doesn't take the crown away from Hank's original, but it ticks along nicely, and her yodeling is way better than you'd expect. (Disclaimer:  I still haven't forgiven Sheryl for Lance Armstrong.)  I got this track on a mix-tape my friend Jim sent me (yes, people do still send each other mix-tapes, children) and every time this track comes up, I grudgingly admit, "you know, I really ought to listen to more Sheryl Crow." So I'm open to suggestions....

10. I've Just Seen A Face  /  The Beatles
From Help!  (1965)
Talk about going country -- here's Paul trying on some rockabilly shoes, back in 1965 when these guys absolutely could not fail. (Come to think of it, their entire career was like that.)  A delicious dose of rockabilly syncopation: "Fallin', yes I am fallin' / And she keeps callin' / Me back again" -- oh, if only.


Anonymous said...

TFC, Hives, Kinks...the lady of good taste is back;) xo MrL

Alex said...

I'm sure you heard it, but Nick Lowe was on Fresh Air this week (Thursday?) playing some songs live, talking about the songs, and generally being exactly the kind of genial guest I'd always dreamed he'd be.

Holly A Hughes said...

I take that as quite a compliment, MrL, coming from you, the epitome of coolness and good taste. :D

Indeed I did catch Nick on Fresh Air! I loved how Terry Gross kept trying to get Nick to say his marriage was falling apart --wishful thinking, Terry! She seems to have such a crush on him. Well, don't we all?

TwennydollaBill said...

Tried to see Nick open for Wilco last night in Boston--only to be held up by the Wilco entry policy. Eventually got in, 20 mins into short set, caught maybe 3songs--Alison, P,L&U and part of another (maybe Cruel to be Kind?). He was quite well received by young-ish crowd.