Bittersweet Melody's Posts
|I'm a KDHX programmer and host of Bittersweet Melody, heard on 88.1 every Monday morning from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. CST. Follow my blog for news and reviews of indie rock, Americana and all kinds of great pop music. And visit me on Facebook.|
With My Morning Jacket visiting St. Louis with Band of Horses, I thought it was a good time to put together my top 10 favorite My Morning Jacket songs. Bring your headphones and get ready to rock for the band’s show at the Peabody on August 8.
10. “Librarian” (“Evil Urges,” 2008) – A beautiful song. “Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me.” Oh, and James uses the term “interweb” in a song. How could this not be on the list?
9. “Xmas Curtain” (“At Dawn,” 2001) – I certainly don’t think of this when December 25 rolls around, but it’s a beautiful and haunting song. Great for the other 364 days each year.
8. “Lowdown” (“At Dawn,” 2001) – It’s difficult for me to make a top 10 MMJ songs without including several from this album. A great song about convincing her that you won’t hurt her like she’s been hurt in her past relationships. “So, love dawg, can’t you see? That you only have to dance with me …”
7. “Dancefloors” (“It Still Moves,” 2003) – A road song. But what makes this song wonderful is the mix of styles. From the honky-tonk piano to the ’70s/’80s southern-rock sound to the slow bass line into the horns. This song has more lives than a litter of kittens.
6. “Gideon” (“Z,” 2005) – “Truly, truly we have become / Hated and feared for something that we don’t want / Listen, listen. Most of us believe that this is wrong.” I have to believe this song refers in some way to the Iraq War and James’ stand against it. Regardless, a great song.
The year 2011 was a great one for music. My #1 was an album that I heard at the beginning of the year, but it was able to stay in my top spot, a rare occurrence for me.
My top 10 also included an album (The Black Keys) that I didn’t hear until about December 1. After more time, it may have been higher (or lower). Others were new finds for me in 2011. All in all, it was an excellent year for new music.
10. Dawes – “Nothing Is Wrong”
Some say Dawes sound a lot like Jackson Browne from his heyday in the ’70s. I can’t deny the similarities. The laid-back style and vocals are eerily similar. Dawes, however, brings a modern take to the sound. Favorites include “Time Spent in Los Angeles” and “Fire Away.”
9. William Elliott Whitmore – “Field Songs”
Having never heard Iowa-based William Elliott Whitmore prior to this album reaching the stacks at KDHX earlier this year, I didn’t know what to expect. His distinct bluesy vocals and spare Americana arrangements certainly don’t lend themselves to parties. In concert and on the album, the songs are accompanied either by his guitar or banjo with some songs also featuring a kick drum. But the songs need no more than this to exude both power and warmth. Favorites include “Everyone Gets Gone,” “Field Song” and “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground.”
8. The Lonely Forest – “Arrows”
The Lonely Forest, from the Pacific Northwest, signed to Chris Walla’s (guitarist in Death Cab for Cutie) label and released their debut full-length album in 2011. Their album is full of power-pop gems. Favorites include “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside,” “We Sing in Time” and “I Am the Love Addict.”
7. The Black Keys – “El Camino”
Much poppier than any previous Black Keys album. Almost as if they wanted to experiment with hand claps, short songs and pop structures. As a fan of their darker albums before this one, initially I wasn’t sure if this was a direction I was entirely happy about. Luckily, the songs have grown on me. Favorites include “Stop Stop,” “Little Submarines” and “Gold on the Ceiling.”
6. The Blind Eyes – “With a Bang”
Locals the Blind Eyes released a terrific album in 2011. My only hope is that their indie-pop songs reach outside of St. Louis. Favorites include the title track, “Hold Down the Fort” and “Into the Breach.”
The band, most of whom were raised in Alabama, have released nine studio albums over their 15 year history (not including a collection of B-sides). They’ll be in town at the Pageant this Friday, October 28. Here I rank my 10 favorite Drive-by Trucker songs. Hope you enjoy it, y’all.
10. “Lookout Mountain” – “The Dirty South” (2004)
A staple of the Truckers live show for years, this song finally made it to vinyl on the third album of the Truckers’ Southern trilogy. An incendiary live song. Let this song wash over you at the show this Friday.
9. “Decoration Day” – “Decoration Day” (2003)
Jason Isbell was in the Drive-by Truckers for only three albums. Despite the fact he was limited to no more than three songs on each album, he made them count. “Decoration Day” is a tour de force of family pride and Southern feuds. Think the legend of the Hatfields & McCoys in a song.
8. “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” – “The Dirty South” (2004)
The songwriting tandem of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley make up the majority of the Trucker’s songs over their run. And I make no apologies for my love of Mike Cooley, a born story teller with a knack for brilliant wordplay. From the opening bass drum this powerful song about a son gleaning knowledge from his moonshining Dad in the Prohibition-era South melts faces. With lyrics like “Daddy tell me another story … tell me why the ones who have so much make the ones who don’t go mad,” one can’t help but hope to hear an answer.
7. “The Righteous Path” – “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” (2008)
A Patterson Hood original. Released in January 2008, eight months before the hard fall of the financial system and the beginning of the recession, lines like “More bills than money, I can do the math / I’m trying to keep focused on the righteous path” and “We’re trying the best we can to keep keeping on / We got messed up minds for these messed up times / And it’s a thin thin line separating his from mine,” one can’t help but wonder if Patterson knew something the rest of us didn’t.
6. “Women Without Whiskey” – “Southern Rock Opera” (2001)
From their third album, a double-album that opened the door to the Trucker’s success and quite possibly my favorite album of the ’00s, comes this Mike Cooley song. Describing an alcoholic who knows it and doesn’t plan to stop drinking any time soon, a great rock song emerges.
With Arcade Fire due in St. Louis tonight at the Scottrade Center, it seems fitting to honor quite possibly the most critically acclaimed band of this young century. After three albums, one EP and heaps and heaps of praise, I bring to you my Top 10 Arcade Fire songs (so far).
10. Haiti – Funeral
Such a sweet song and quite different from most of Funeral. This track doesn’t have the immediacy of many of the band’s songs but rather moves at a more languid pace. An effortless melody propels the song that commemorates the homeland of Regine Chassagne, a Canadien of Haitian ancestry.
9. Ready to Start – The Suburbs
After the calliope feel of the leadoff title track, “Ready to Start” is a rocker that showcases Arcade Fire’s ability to write a simple pop song. Yet, with one minute left, the tempo changes and the listener wonders if the band is going to take the song off of its proverbial tracks, only to bring it back and rein it in for the ending.
8. No Cars Go – Neon Bible
Following the critics darling debut Funeral, even a strong album like Neon Bible can be a disappointment. But, this song seems to revisit some of the chaotic sounds of their amazing debut while still sounding fresh and new.
7. Suburban War – The Suburbs
The Suburbs saved its two best tracks for the end of the album in “Suburban War” and my #2 track. This song begins wistfully, recreating the feeling of being back in the suburbs in high school. But, as Arcade Fire does so well, a tempo change midway through the song reminds you that you’re not reading and reminiscing over your high school yearbook but listening to an Arcade Fire song, one of its very best at that.
6. Rebellion (Lies) – Funeral
Ahhh, Funeral. An album so good that this song is my fourth favorite song on the album. A terrific song in its own right. No other band does chaos onto tape better than Arcade Fire.
5. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) – Funeral
The opener of the debut LP. A slow build of what was to come. All of the best elements of Arcade Fire classics are there: the build up, the tempo shifts, the fervor. They just did it better on two other songs on the same record.
4. Intervention – Neon Bible
Never has an opening organ been so prominent and perfect (and meaningful) since Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” This album was recorded in a church and this song sounds all the better due to it. Of course, Christianity may not like the slap in the face the song seems to be portraying (or mocking). You be the judge.
3. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) – Funeral
There’s no power out in this song. More of the wonderful chaos that the sounds of Funeral provide. Of course, lyrics like “And the power’s out in the heart of man, take it from your heart put in your hand..” can easily be lost in such an incredible song. One of Arcade Fire’s gifts is that the listener can interpret the lyrics in any way they want. Or you can ignore the lyrics and listen to the wonderful noise that is “Neighborhood #3.”
2. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – The Suburbs
From the third album, this is the closest Arcade Fire has come to the songs of Funeral. Possibly even better because some of the fervency of the best songs of Funeral seems to be reined in, allowing the song even more power. And there’s no doubt that The Suburbs isn’t just a random title for the album. “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small, that we can never get away from the sprawl, living in the sprawl, dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains, And there’s no end in sight, I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.” Wal-Mart be damned!
1. Wake Up – Funeral
The lyrics can be interpreted as children growing up and losing faith in God and/or religion. But this song is so glorious, so joyous that in some way, it shows how much beauty really is in the world. I can’t wait to hear this song at Scottrade Center tonight!
Did I miss any? What are your favorites?
In memory of March 16 -20, I present my Top 10 Uncle Tupelo songs.
10. “Before I Break” – No Depression
From the debut. On an album of mostly dark small-town songs fusing punk rock along with country comes a song that fuses punk rock with country and is about trying to get through the small town days with the help of liquor. Coming from a small town like Belleville, Ill., a town of German heritage with a brewery (Stag, which closed in 1988) and many industrial businesses, the thought of growing old and spending your last dime on liquor must have seemed like a very real possibility and this song embodies that possibility.
9. “Still Be Around” – Still Feel Gone
In the midst of the punk/country maelstrom that is UT’s second album, Still Feel Gone, comes an acoustic song that could seem out of place; when it’s a song this good, it makes perfect sense. The acoustic guitars and plaintive vocal from Jay Farrar singing “When the Bible is a bottle and this hardwood floor is home,” you can’t help but feel for the bedraggled protagonist of the song and answer that, yes, you’ll still be around to put him back together when he breaks in two.
8. “Wipe the Clock” – March 16-20, 1992
For their its album, UT hired Peter Buck to produce a 90 degree turn from the assault of the first two albums. March is a gorgeous album of original songs that fit perfectly with the 6 traditionals and 1 Louvin Brothers track. “Wipe the Clock” is an original (I would have included “Moonshiner” and possibly “Coalminers” had I included traditionals in my top 10) that closes the album with harmonica, grace and one of the strongest Jay Farrar vocals ever.
7. “Fifteen Keys” – Anodyne
Anodyne, Uncle Tupelo’s fourth album, is my favorite. The blend of pedal steel and banjos open up the songs and give them a more personal sound to make up for the lack of the personal lyrics of the first two albums. I admit to being more of a sound and music listener rather than someone who focuses on the lyrics. Sometimes the simple sound of the lyrics and how they’re sung can make the best instrument. For example, listen to the line “Danger slow sign ahead, exhaust fumes Thin Lizzy instead…” and let the words wash over you.
6. “Grindstone” – March 16-20, 1992
An opening song that marked a new Uncle Tupelo, one that was willing to risk an absolute change in direction and managed to mesh perfectly with the murder ballads and traditional songs yet to come. “Maybe a waste of words and time….” Hardly.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the passing of Bob Stinson, founding guitarist for the Minneapolis band. That makes this list a little bittersweet.
But without further ado, here are my favorite 10 Replacements songs.
10. “Answering Machine” – Let It Be
Maybe a little antiquated technologically but unrequited love will never go out of style.
9. “Color Me Impressed” – Hootenanny
In my opinion, the earliest (of many) great songs by the Replacements.
8. “Achin’ to Be” – Don’t Tell a Soul
From the Replacements stab at the pop market, Don’t Tell a Soul is a much maligned album to many fans. This song, however, is great and the title perfectly fits the song.
7. “Merry Go Round – All Shook Down
From the Replacements’ swan song (or what many consider Paul Westerberg’s first solo album) comes a song that stands up to their best.
6. “Alex Chilton” – Pleased to Meet Me
Paul Westerberg managed to put one of his best songs in memorial to one of his biggest influences, Alex Chilton of the Box Tops and Big Star.
5. “Sixteen Blue” – Let It Be
Even though I didn’t hear this song until I was in my mid-20s, it still manages me to put me in the confused mind of my 16-year-old self. Genius.
4. “I Will Dare” – Let It Be
The next three can interchange between spots 2-4 at any time. The leadoff track from the album that stands as, arguably, their best. With Peter Buck of their peer group R.E.M. helping on guitar.
3. “Hold My Life” – Tim
One of my first handmade cassettes was Tim on one side and Pleased to Meet Me on the other. I listened to that tape every day for about a year. Auto-reverse, I love you. Love this track. And I still don’t know the words: Razzle dazzle, razzle roam, razzle dazzle razzle die…?
2. “Here Comes a Regular” – Tim
Bittersweet. Sad. Comforting. Lovely.
1. “Can’t Hardly Wait” – Pleased to Meet Me
My favorite Replacements song, by a huge margin. Just an amazing song. If you haven’t heard the version from the Tim sessions, check it out. I fell in love with this song on Pleased to Meet Me … the demo version from the Tim sessions that I heard years later made me love it even more.
Any songs I’m missing? What’s your favorite?
2010 was a great year for music and while I only scratched the surface of the 100,000 some releases from the year, I found many worthy of being in my Top 10. After culling the list down, I present to you my Top 10 of 2010.
10. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
It took me a little while to get into this album and the concert I saw in Columbia, Mo. certainly helped. But, this may be their best album. It’s missing some of their most anthemic songs like “The Funeral” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” that showed up on their first two albums, but the songs seem to have more depth. Songs like “Older” with its sound that’s new but oh so familiar set the tone for a great album. I highly recommend “Older,” “Laredo” and “Dilly.”
9. Joe Pug – Messenger
Joe Pug, a Chicago based singer-songwriter is new to the music scene, having released just an EP in 2009 and this, his first full-length album earlier in 2010. But, you wouldn’t know it based on the great lyrics and the wizened voice that brings those words to life. I mentioned to someone at his show at Off Broadway on July 4 that the second track on this album, “How Good You Are,” may just be the most perfect track I’d ever heard. And in that moment, it was. Now I’m not even sure if it’s my favorite track on the album. Messenger is a truly great first full-length album. Check out “How Good You Are,” “Messenger” and “Speak Plainly, Diana” (also on his EP, Nation of Heat).
8. The Black Keys – Brothers
I didn’t know the Black Keys’ music until this year. With all of the music out there, sometimes things get missed. When I’d considered them in the past I always thought to myself, “Self, you already listen to the White Stripes. Why should you listen to another band without a bassist?” Well, that dude was totally wrong. When the new album came out, I listened to it … a lot. I also went back to their old albums and listened to them. But, I often find that my first exposure to a band sets the tone for all future albums and I end up loving the first album the most. As is true in this case. In my defense, I do think the songs are better on the new album than any of the previous ones. They’ve reduced the sludge and allowed the songs to breathe more which, for me, makes for a better listen. Favorite tracks: “Unknown Brother,” “Howlin’ for You” and “Everlasting Light.”
7. Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
Before this year, I’d heard stray tracks from JTE and knew he was the son of legendary guitarist/songwriter Steve Earle but had never really listened to his albums in their entirety. After hearing Harlem River Blues, I’m not sure why I hadn’t. Enlisting help from friends like Jason Isbell, best known for his time spent as the lead guitarist in Drive-by Truckers, this album wears like a favorite t-shirt. Starting with the great gospel-influenced title track, each song takes you to a new place yet sounds familiar. A great album. I love “Harlem River Blues,” “Wanderin’” and “Christchurch Woman.”
6. Hollerado – Record in a Bag
A brand new band from Manotick, Ontario. They released their debut album Record in a Bag earlier this year and it is exactly that, a record that comes in a sandwich bag filled with confetti, a download code and some nice fortune cookie sayings. The interesting packaging works for them. Their fun, infectious songs remind me of Weezer when they were worried more about having fun than becoming the poster child of the emo movement or matriculating at Harvard. This album (and especially their live show) draws in the listener and doesn’t let them go. The album is pure pop goodness with loud guitars, great melodies and lots of energy. I love “Juliette,” “Fake Drugs” and “Americanarama.”
With three albums now under their belt (their third, Infinite Arms, is due to be released on May 18), Band of Horses can play yearning and soaring anthems better than just about anyone in today’s music scene. KDHX was fortunate to welcome Band of Horses lead singer and guitarist Ben Bridwell and drummer Creighton Barrett into the studio on May 4 (the afternoon before their opening set for Pearl Jam in St. Louis). Hear them talk about their new album, label change, the tour, and more in this revealing interview with Allen from Bittersweet Melody (which airs every Wednesday, 5-7 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX).