I thought I'd try something different on this blog, since nobody reads it anyway. The thematic Top Tens will continue, but every month I'm going to try to give you (my nonexistent reader) an earshot of just what I'm listening to right now. Some of these will be new songs, some will be old, some will be VERY old. You might not care, but it's enshrined in the blogger's code of practice that we do whatever the hell we want if we want to stay interested...
So here, for your delight and disgust, are my Top Ten Songs right now. I'm not saying any of them are better than my all time favourites...there's nothing here that competes with Wichita Lineman or Levi Stubbs' Tears...but they're all pretty cool in their own way, if you have time to give them listen.
10. Tom Brousseau - Hard Luck Boy
Heard Cerys Matthews play this on 6 Music and had to track it down. The story of a young boy whose mother takes him on one final shopping trip, it stuck in my imagination and just wouldn't shift. It's the opening track to the American songwriter's eleventh album (according to iffypedia... though some of them seem pretty hard to track down and aren't available at all on Amazon). He describes himself as a "musical storyteller and guitarist" and after hearing this track, I'd hoped the rest of the album would be similarly spoken word short story territory. Unfortunately it's a little more traditional folky singing that fills out the record, but Brousseau still has a gift for tender, heart-bruised lyrics that paint evocative pictures in your mind.
9. Danny & The Champions of the World - Never Stop Building That Old Space Rocket
Another new discovery who, it turns out, have been around for ages: this is from their fourth album released in 2013 (and apparently they have a new one out this summer which is rumoured to be their best yet). Described as "British Americana" (whatever that means), if this track's anything to go by, they tell heartfelt stories of hope and optimism with guitars. You know, like pop songs used to (says the old bling-less bastard in the corner who's just turned off the radio because another scary chick is singing about the size of her ass...ets). I will be investigating them further.
8. Charli XCX - Breaking Up
Having condemned the contemporary music scene with that previous comment, you may be surprised to find this in here, but I always liked a bit of spunky girl pop. 2015's answer to The Go Gos, Joan Jett, Shampoo and Daphne & Celeste... this is what I'd be listening to all day if I was still 15.
7. Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct
Well, they certainly don't make 'em like this anymore. Except... it turns out they do. When I first heard this, I thought it must be an oldie: it reminded me of the Boomtown Rats doing their very best Springsteen impression or Thin Lizzy circa 1981. I was closer with the second guess: BSR are the remains of Lizzy who had been touring for many years in tribute to the late, great Phil Lynott but finally decided to create something new, with a new name to boot. I think Phil would be proud...
(I thought they'd long since stopped making album covers as outrageously rock 'n' roll the one above too.)
6. Idlewild - Utopia
Another old favourite back from the dead, this is the closing track from Idlewild's first album in 6 years. While the rest of the record is pretty varied, it's obviously Idlewild in most places. Utopia is a different beast altogether, built around a haunting piano refrain with the sustain pedal working overtime... it's great to hear them still keen to experiment.
5. Father John Misty - The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment
From his second album, which has been on frequent rotation in my car since it came out, a superb slice of character assassination right up there with You're So Vain from the eponymous JT / FJM...
If the opening verse doesn't make you cheer, you've no right to call yourself a pedant.
Oh, I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a manFiguratively speaking...although a true pedant might question his exact definition of malaprops.
I mean like a goddamn marching band
She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes
And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream
I wonder if she even knows what that word means
Well, it's literally not that...
4. Meat Loaf - Everything Louder Than Everything Else
In preparation for the long-awaited Meat & Jim reunion album later this year, I've been re-listening to some of their earlier collaborations...and discovering new ways to appreciate them. I ended up sobbing at Objects In The Rear View Mirror (May Appear Closer Than They Are) once the true meaning of that metaphor finally revealed itself to me (I think you have to be a certain age - I didn't get it when I was 21). And I finally figured out just what Meat wouldn't do for love... it's obvious if you just listen to the lyrics, folks. But out of everything on Bat Out of Hell 2 (an ill-advised sequel that's aged surprising well), Everything Louder Than Everything Else is, in many ways, the ultimate distillation of Jim Steinman's songwriting... from the self-explanatory title to the fact that you can almost hear him screaming when the song starts to fade out prematurely around the 7 1/2 minute mark... "No, no, we're not done YET! Somebody get the bagpipes!"
Over the many years I've been writing this blog (and the previous one) I've grown a little tired of explaining why I think Jim Steinman is a genius. If you're not on board that train, it's your loss. But in short, he takes everything I love about Springsteen, Jim Morrison, the Stones and rock 'n' roll, throws in a blender with Dante's Inferno, Richard Wagner and Stephen Sondheim, then turns the resulting noise up to twelve. He's clearly insane, but he knows it... and he has a wicked SENSE OF HUMOUR (which is probably why all the stuffy muso-critics don't get him). Further explanation follows, taken directly from the lyrics of this song...
What's the meaning of life? What's the meaning of it all?3. The Decemberists - Philomena
You gotta learn to dance before you learn to crawl!
But it seems to me to the contrary, of all the crap they're going to put on the page,
That a wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age!
If you want my views of history, then there's something you should know:
The three men I admire most are Curly, Larry and Moe!
Don't worry about the future, sooner or later it's the past
If they say the thrill is gone, then it's time to take it back!
And I like my music like I like my life...
Everything louder than everything else!
I confess I haven't paid much attention to the Decemberists since The Crane Wife, and that's nearly ten years ago now. However, their new album, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (great title), has grabbed me by the lapels, and while this might not be the best song on it...it is the dirtiest.
All I ever wanted in the worldAnd if you're wondering just how much more Colin Meloy wants (extra points for being the lead singer of a cool folk-indie band with a name like Colin)... well, all I'll say is that the chorus goes Down. Down. Down.
Was just to live to see a naked girl
But I found I quickly bored
I wanted more, oh, so much more...
2. Lightin' Rod - Sport
Came across this on a Blaxploitation compilation I picked up from the library. I've been getting into quite a lot of old 70s funk recently, but this is in a different class altogether. I knew nothing of Lightnin' Rod, but turns out it's a pseudonym for Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, a New York poet who became known as The Grandfather of Rap. The fictional character Sport, introduced in this song, is so cool he makes John Shaft look like David Cameron...
Yes I was a down stud's dream, a hustler supremeHowever, the rest of the album isn't quite as funky: Jalal had Kool & The Gang helping him out on the opening track.
There wasn't no game that I couldn't play
And if I caught a dude cheating, I would give him a beating
And I might even blow him away!
1. Sun Kil Moon - Dogs
I've written about the album this comes from (Benji) a few posts back, but I still can't get over it: I've not heard anything like it... ever. If I were to try to describe it, I'd say it was Loudon Wainwright III doing Nebraska. Which doesn't do it justice at all. Starkly autobiographical lyrics over a ghost train acoustic guitar. And Dogs is the most mesmerising track on there: A Complete History of Mark Kozelek's Sexual Failures (& Successes), it's frank and explicit enough to make Jarvis Cocker blush. But it's also honest and heartwarming and contains truth in the way they say all great art should... I just hope names were changed to protect the guilty.
Oh Patricia, she was my first love.
She sat eight rows behind me and I couldn't breathe.
I gave her Pink Floyd - Animals when we were in sixth grade.
And it was on her turntable when I met her on Sunday...
So... what have you been listening to lately?