It's been raining off and on for a week. And I've got a wicked cold incubating in my sinuses. So forget the looming book deadline -- let's shuffle!
1. "Mercury Poisoning" / Graham Parker
From Another Gray Area (1982)
So what do you do on your first album after leaving Mercury Records? You write a song about how much you hated Mercury Records! "Their promotion's so lame...the geriatric staff thinks we're freaks... I've got a dinosaur for a representative" -- GP pulls NO punches on this mischievously danceable track -- and we can't help but sing along.
2. "You Don't Know Me" / Ben Folds with Regina Spektor
From Way to Normal (2008)
This snappy little duet got a lot of airplay a couple years ago, and why not? Ben and Regina blithely trade zingers, their voices weaving in contrapuntal accusations. Why do we always imagine that our true loves will "get us," when in the end we're always disappointed? Just another lesson in disillusionment from this master cynic.
3. "Ohio" / Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
From So Far (1974)
Ah...the days when music and politics walked hand in hand. The Kent State shootings chilled our generation in May 1970; the next weekend, 100,000 students marched on Washington; this record hit the airwaves 2 weeks later, an amazing feat in that pre-digital era. The righteous indignation shivering through Neil Young's voice still stirs me to the bone, more than 40 years later.
4. "Hold On" / Ian Gomm
From Summer Holiday (1978) (Original US title: Gomm With the Wind)
Sparkly New Wave pop from ex-Brinsley Ian Gomm's debut album. This was the album's big radio hit, rising to #18 on the US charts in 1979 (nearly as good as the #12 scored by ex-bandmate Nick Lowe that same year with "Cruel to Be Kind," a song Gomm and Lowe co-wrote). The chorus is a real earworm hook -- just try to get it out of your head.
5. "Do You Remember Walter" / The Kinks
From The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
This should be the theme song of all high school reunions. "I bet you're fat and married and you're always home in bed by half-past eight / And if I talked about the old times, you'd get bored and you'd have nothing more to say" -- a jaunty tune underlaid with despair at the fleeting power of nostalgia. Not coincidentally, that's the theme of this entire album, a neglected masterpiece for sure.
6. "Chasing Forever" / Ron Sexsmith and Don Kerr
From Destinations Unknown (2005)
Wistful folk-pop from my favorite Canadian songwriter. Ron's quite a Kinks fan himself, and this album is its own kind of Village Green, reflecting on nostalgia and preserving an already-lost past in songs like "Lemonade Stand" and "Diana Sweets." I've surrendered to the inevitability of Ron Sexsmith; might as well buy all the albums, they're all soul-satisfying.
7. "Nutted By Reality" / Nick Lowe
From Jesus of Cool (1978)
That album cover, featuring Nick in six different outfits (twelve if you count the inside shots), clues us in: This album is all about showing how many different musical styles he can master. And this track goes even further -- it's a two-fer! Adolescent humor rules (a song about castrating Castro -- really?) and if we Americans weren't exactly sure what it means to be "nutted" by reality -- well, it's too catchy for me care. Am I the only person who hears the McCartney parody in all this?
8. "My Home Town" / Alan Price
From Geordie Roots and Branches (1982)
A brassy updated version of this clever little rag, first heard in the brilliant film soundtrack for O Lucky Man! I'm guessing that this album was never released in CD -- I only have the vinyl, and it's one of my most precious rarities -- it was recorded for a Newcastle charity project as a favor to Alan's former Animals bandmate Chas Chandler, a year before their second reunion tour. This track isn't nearly as charming as the O Lucky Man! original, but the very fact that I've got it on my iTunes at all brands me as a hopeless Alan Price fangirl.
9. "Bone Tired" / Gomez
From A New Tide (2009)
I like this young-ish English band (debut 1998), but for some reason I can't quite love them. They've got too many songwriters, and in the name of versatility they dabble in too many styles, so I can never quite find their groove. But hey, I'm still waiting for them to grow on me. Listen and see what you think.
10. "List of Distractions" / Fionn Regan
From 100 Acres of Sycamore (2011)
On the other hand, the minute I heard this winsome Irish songwriter I knew I loved him. This is his second album, and it's just as charming as his first, The End of History. Dig his sweetly confiding voice, the truly poetic lyrics, the romantic sweep of his melodies -- I'm a sucker for it all.