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.
Picking favorite tunes by Guy Clark is more an exercise in what to leave out, rather than what to include. The songwriting legend is entering his seventh decade, still at the top of his game.
He’s got new knees, plays homemade guitars and has that road-weary voice that blends perfectly with his wonderful observations on life. Guy, accompanied by sideman extraordinaire, Verlon Thompson will grace us with his presence three times in the near future: February 29 at the Old Rock House in St. Louis, March 4 at Richardet Floor Covering in Perryville, Mo. and September 12 at Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, Mo.
Five — it could have been 10 — of my favorite songs come from Guy’s masterpiece “Old No. 1″ — in my opinion the best debut album ever. Guy was already 34 when he released this gem, and a lot of his friends were already doing his songs. The album would have been amazing with just Guy and his guitar, but add Emmylou and Sammi Smith’s vocals, future stars Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle, guitar wizards Chip and Reggie Young, piano player David Briggs, Mickey Raphael on harmonica and master fiddle player Johnny Gimble, and you have an instant classic.
1. “Desperados Waiting for a Train” Of all the songs Guy has had covered he says his favorite is character actor Slim Pickins’ version of this song.
2. “Texas 1947″ Vivid recollections of Guy’s childhood.
3. “Like a Coat From the Cold” There might be better love songs, but I’ve never heard them, especially when sung with Emmylou.
4. “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” How can you not include this one when Guy often mentions that it’s his favorite song, about “10 seconds in a woman’s life.”
5. “Let It Roll” As a music fan you know how you have those magical moments. One of mine would be with Guy from years ago at the Sheldon Concert Hall. He stepped forward and off-mic recited this classic. I’ve never heard anything more emotional or a room that quiet.
Usually when a debut album is so fine the followup is disappointing. Not so with Guy Clark. “Texas Cooking” again included a stellar cast and was almost as good. I could have included more songs from it on my list, but I just picked one.
6. “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” Guy was really proud and honored when this modern-day western ballad became the title song to a Johnny Cash album.
7. “Randall Knife” Guy’s emotional tribute to his father first appeared on 1983′s “Better Days.” A lot of people sing better than he does, but nobody recites a song like Guy.
A second show would be ideal for those fans who didn’t buy tickets quickly enough, but there’s no sign of that happening.
Jane’s, arguably the first mainstream “alternative rock” band, last played here in 2003 when they headlined the KPNT HoHo Show at the Savvis Center. According to a Post-Dispatch reviewer, “nearly a third depart[ed] following Deftones’ set and a steady stream of folk exit[ed] while they played.”
This month’s show should be a different story. The Wednesday night show sold out very quickly and the excitement over the show is evidenced in the eBay and StubHub resale prices.
Here are my top 10 Jane’s Addiction songs, with some thoughts on each.
1. “Ted, Just Admit It…” (from “Nothing’s Shocking,” 1988)
This song, along with “Summertime Rolls,” is Jane’s Addiction — epic, hard-hitting, lyrically provocative and full of twists. In my neck of the woods, “Nothing’s Shocking” was the soundtrack to the summer of 1989. When played at parties, it was truly a no-hater zone — skaters, metalheads, goths and Britpop fans were equally thrilled at Jane’s bad-assedness. Mainstream pop fans had no idea who they were.
2. “Ocean Size” (from “Nothing’s Shocking,” 1988)
Elegant and rip-roaring at the same time, I’ve logged more hours on this song playing air guitar, drums, bass and vocals than any other song, no contest.
3. “Been Caught Stealing” (from “Ritual de lo Habitual,” 1990)
From the opening barks, this whimsical track is a non-stop dance party.
4. “Mountain Song” (from “Nothing’s Shocking,” 1988)
Good memory: Watching singer Perry Farrell, bassist Mike Watt and the rest of Porno for Pyros blow the roof off of Mississippi Nights in 1996, playing this song as its encore. Not-so-good memory: At Lollapalooza 2009, Band of Horses inexplicably played over their end time on the opposite stage, drowning out some of this song and the entirety of “Up the Beach.” I like Band of Horses, but disrupting the festival owner’s Sunday night headlining set? Epic FAIL.
5. “Three Days” (from “Ritual de lo Habitual,” 1990)
Seeing this progressive rock-style song live is nothing less than a religious experience for many. This and other B-side songs on Ritual are thought to be about Farrell’s deceased friend Xiola Blue, who died of a heroin overdose in 1987 while still a teenager.
6. “Whores” (from S/T, 1987)
This is the ultimate early JA song, encompassing their unique blend of punk and metal. Lyrically, it set the tone for Farrell’s lifelong fascination with the beauty of society’s underbelly.
7. “Jane Says” (from “Nothing’s Shocking,” 1988)
The song is uber-repetitive, yet mesmerizing and classic — much like what “How Soon is Now?” did for the Smiths.
8. “Just Because” (from “Strays,” 2003)
This explosive single, their most successful hit yet, was a highlight of JA’s first ‘comeback’ album. The song helped introduce the band to legions of younger fans, many of whom had no idea just how much their tastes were shaped by Jane’s.
9. “Superhero” (from “Strays,” 2003)
Do I like this song simply because it’s been pounded into my head as the theme to HBO’s “Entourage”? Maybe, but it’s a cool jam that’s even better when you listen to the full version.
10. “Underground” (from “The Great Escape Artist,” 2011)
This is classic Jane’s, as guitar god Dave Navarro shreds on guitar, tweaking out many cool effects. Farrell’s voice doesn’t show much sign of age. Their latest album got mixed reviews, but I think it’s a good, if not great, effort.
That being said, I hope Farrell is smart enough not to play this entire album at the Pageant. This hungry St. Louis crowd is going to want classic Jane’s addiction songs and lots of them.
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.”
Here’s my roundup of favorite country sounds of 2011. Enjoy!
The Carper Family – “Back When” (Self-released)
Three gals from Austin create a sophomore release mixing great covers and original tunes with wonderful three-part harmonies. Brennen Leigh adds mandolin and guitar, and the steel guitar and dobro of the great Cindy Cashdollar round out this fine release.
Cow Bop – “Too Hick for the Room” (B-4MAN)
Bruce Forman, Pinto Pammy and friends serve up another helping of jazz and swing tunes with great arrangements. Bruce’s guitar work is stellar.
Amber Digby & Midnight Flyer – “Live at Swiss Alp Hall” (Heart of Texas)
There’s nothing quite like a live honky tonk album, and Amber Digby delivers the goods, recorded at a historic Texas dance hall. Midnight Flyer features her uncle, steel guitar Hall of Famer Dicky Overbey, while HOT label mate and duet partner Justin Trevino lends his voice to the evening.
The Five and Dimers – “Quarter of a Tank” (Five and Dimers)
A relatively new band from the East Side, the Five and Dimers feature lead singer and chief songwriter Matt Taul, along with fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and drums, with occasional pedal steel worked in. A strong debut release.
Merle Haggard – “Working in Tennessee” (Vanguard)
He’s mellowed somewhat — like an aged Tennessee whiskey — but his output still amazes me. His marvelous songwriting continues to impress and his voice sounds as vibrant as 30 years ago. There’s even a reworked version of his hit, “Working Man Blues” with fellow country icon Willie Nelson. Long live the Hag!
This is a list of records I found while digging through the excellent record stores that St. Louis has to offer. I did enjoy a number of 2011 releases, but this year my most memorable experiences listening to music came from these records (with the exception of the new Thundercat album).
Happy 2012! Enjoy all the music you can before the world ends!
The Beach Boys – “I Can Hear Music/ All I Want To Do” 7″
I’ve always liked Carl Wilson’s voice best and he has superb lead vocals on this Barry/Greenwich/Spector-penned song. Good song to sing if you’re trying to get out of jury duty.
Blue Magic – “Blue Magic”
I only got this album because of the song “Look Me Up.” If I had a falsetto like that I’d probably try to play in the WNBA.
Bootsy Collins – “Ultra Wave”
“F-Encounter” is a song everyone should experience at a party. Preferably, a freaky party with costumes.
D-Train – “You’re The One For Me”
Classic dance album from ’82. The record cover — a woman smiling at D-Train from the window of a train — is actually how D-Train meets all his women. COME RIDE THE D-TRAIN, BABY! Fun Fact: D-Train helped write the Pokemon rap song for the cartoon show. Don’t call it a comeback.
Deodato – “Artistry”
Gotta cite my sources and say my boyee Neil showed me this. It was recorded live at the Mississippi River Festival in Edwardsville, Ill. I can’t believe how crisp the sound is for a live recording — this ain’t “Kiss Alive” sucka! My fav song is “Rio Sangre.”
Ten Best National Releases
1. The Wombats – “The Wombats Present: This Modern Glitch”
Literate, funny, biting, sincere and maudlin, all the same breath. This collection of indie-pop/electro gems has the wearying problem of being too good too consistently. Every song on this 14-track sorta-concept album is good. And that’s something you don’t hear often.
2. Hail Mary Mallon – “Are You Gonna Eat That?”
Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic team up and wreak havoc on tracks. It boasts big, blustery tracks stacked with verbose rhymes and a dense sorta-mythology, making it the hip-hop equivalent of a Mars Volta album.
3. Kanye West & Jay-Z – “Watch The Throne”
Some would give me hell for including this album on my list, but you can’t deny the sheer gut-punch power of Kanye and Jay-Z’s collaboration. Though it does occasionally misfire (“Lift Off” featuring Jay’s wife Beyonce reeks of nepotism).
4. Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”
Sleater-Kinney is dead. Long live Sleater-Kinney. The synth-heavy debut by an indie-rock supergroup of sorts, this first outing is a doozy, turning what could have been a retread of old ideas into something visceral and youthful and alive.
5. Mister Heavenly – “Out Of Love”
Stomping from New York with a brand of music they’ve affectionately called “Doom Wap” this other supergroup-ish collaboration slinks through styles, never really settling on one, save for power-chord overload.
6. Telekinesis – “12 Desperate Straight Lines”
Indie rock so baroque and perfect, you’d wonder if you had accidentally slipped a Guided by Voices best-of. In fact, Telekinesis cover GBV’s “Game of Pricks” on their EP that came before this album. The comparison, though less lo-fi, is apt. Jangly alterna-pop with a Beach Boys bent and a savvy penchant for lyrics. Short, but never
7. Tom Waits – “Bad As Me”
Once and future king of weirdness returns with a more straight-forward record than even last year’s “Glitter and Doom” tour album. Which says a lot. Mr. Waits’ latest twangs and strums and bangs and does all the other things we’re used to, but somehow it’s more streamlined. And that’s a good thing.
8. Peter Bjorn and John – “Gimme Some”
The story was tailor made as a kind of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs-in-reverse, an electronics-heavy band ditches the electro for guitars. And, unlike the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it actually delivers on the premise. The Cure-biting “Eyes,” cowbell-banging “Second Chance” are the standouts, though the whole record is top-to-bottom excellent.
9. Amanda Palmer, Ben Folds, Damian Kulash and Neil Gaiman (aka 8in8) – “Nighty Night”
A one-night writing, editing, performing and singing session brought together a British author, his wife the piano-banging punk-cabaret singer, their friend the lead singer of YouTube superstars OK Go and producer to the stars Ben Folds. It’s about as awesome as expected, particularly Neil’s singing debut on “The Problem With Saints” wherein Joan of Arc wreaks havoc in modern times.
10. M83 – “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”
Electronic and dreamy and synth-heavy, somehow it still stands out because of how human it all sounds. Messy and illogical and purely pop, it takes leaps over other pop albums for its sheer audacity.
Derided in countless jokes, often by the very people that play it, the banjo just might be poised to show us why it really is the greatest instrument ever. Or, at the very least, to make a good case as to why it isn’t the worst.
1. Jens Kruger releases the “Appalachian Concerto,” an homage to the banjo and its place in the history of Appalachia. And it’s a concerto. With, like, strings and everything.
2. Noam Pikelny releases “Bluegrass Diva” a video that is not only funny, but includes some of the most notable players of the instrument ever, including Béla and Earl. And, for once, it’s the singing that makes the piece funny, not the presence of a banjo.
3. Béla Fleck premieres his “Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra.” Hmm, that makes two banjo concertos this year.
4. Steve Martin releases a banjo album with a title intended to poke a bit of fun at birdwatchers. (How’s that for the pot calling the kettle black?) The strength of “Rare Bird Alert” helps make Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers the IBMA performers of the year.
5. Eight-year-old Jimmy Mizzone records a version of “Flint Hill Special” with his two brothers in his bedroom that, when posted to YouTube garners a gazillion hits.