The Saturday Shuffle
At last -- a free hour in my day! Let's turn on the old shuffle machine and see what it yields...
1. Do You Want It All? / Two Door Cinema Club
From Tourist History (2010)
Tasty little morsel of British indie pop, sort like Death Cab for Cutie meets the Kooks. (And no, that's not a reference to the sadly kaput marriage of Ben Gibbard and Zoe Deschanel). The production values are quirky, almost lapidary, with fragments of phrases repeated urgently, like mantras, over a peppy rhythm track spiced with space-age sound effects. But absolutely radio friendly!
2. When in Rome / Nickel Creek
From When Will the Fire Die? (2005)
Sitting sweetly at the intersection of bluegrass and indie pop, this wonderful trio (also, sadly kaput) composed of fiddler Sara Watkins, her guitarist brother Sean, and mandolinist Chris Thiele (now of Punch Brothers) was a real find for me. Snarky lyrics and modernist rhythms, textured with Americana instrumentation -- trust me, it's a winning combination.
3. The Rat's Prayer / The Soft Boys
From A Can of Bees (1980)
And now for something completely different -- at least on the surface -- Sir Robyn Hitchcock's first band, psych-folk-punk renegades the Soft Boys. Garage-y guitars and drums, herky-jerky tempos, folky harmonies, and best of all, wickedly absurdist lyrics.: My. Cup. Of. Tea.
4. Better Days / Roseanne Cash
From This One's For Him (2012)
No, not the Kinks' "Better Things," but a wise and rueful Guy Clark song, covered here by real Nashville royalty, Twitter queen Roseanne Cash. This new tribute album is one of the finest country albums of many a year -- with Clark's warm and witty songs as the foundation, it should be brilliant, and it is.
5. Martha My Dear / The Beatles
From The White Album (1968)
Paul McCartney in full music-hall mode -- scrumpdillyumptious. I say music-hall, but alongside the oom-pah/ragtime beat Sir Paul can't help tossing in a bossa nova groove here and there. And yes, we all know he really wrote this about his Old English sheepdog ("hold your head up, you silly girl / Look what you've done" -- poop on the carpet!), but it's still a crazy mad wonderful song.
6. (I Wanna) Call It Love / Sondre Lerche
From Duper Sessions (2006)
Remember the Steve Carell movie Dan in Real Life? Probably not; it was highly missable. But I loved the soundtrack tunes by this sweet Norwegian singer-songwriter, and immediately plucked several other tunes out of his slim catalog. There's a little soft-shoe jazziness here too, a smooth strain of Cole Porter romanticism, but with a touch of Scandi angst, too. Well, why not?
7. Groovy Movies / The Kinks
From The Great Lost Kinks Album (1973)
Sorry, no link -- it's a bootleg. (Got to solve this mp3 posting conundrum...) This album only hit the market for a nanosecond before the horrified Kinks demanded it be withdrawn; most of it was discarded demos, scraps of songs that Ray Davies had written for other projects, padded out with some Dave Davies solo work. This is one of the Dave tracks, sloppy rather than whimsical, but kinda endearing all the same.
8. Cry Like a Baby / The Box Tops
From The Best of the Box Tops (1968)
Hard to believe this came out the same year as "Martha My Dear"; it's soul-saturated Memphis pop, with horns instead of oom-pah, Farfisa organ instead of plinky piano, and a raft of gospel back-up singers. And the divine vocals of Alex Chilton...
9. I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord / Lyle Lovett
From Smile: Songs from the Movies (2003)
Full-on gospel -- whoever said Lyle Lovett could only do country? This track appeared in the 1997 Robert Duvall film The Apostle (searing performance, Bobby D!) and it sure enough gives me that old-time religion. Do I love this cat's voice or what? That supple vibrato with just enough creak and twang -- there's no one else sounds even remotely like him.
10. We Should Be Making Love / Huey Lewis & The News
From Hard At Play (1999)
Lazy, loungy, soulful pop, as easy on the ears as Huey himself is easy on the eyes (Huey and Daryl Hall: my two big 80s music crushes.) And one of my favorite song premises: Our singer hero is always listening to his woman friend's romantic issues, until now he's finally 'fessing up that he longs to BE her romantic issue. You could slide into this like a pair of warm moccasins, girl. Why not?