Deep Album Cuts Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants

This week, They Might Be Giants are releasing their 16th or 17th (or something like that) studio album, Glean, which consists mainly of songs released in their 2015 revival of the Dial-A-Song project they started over 30 years ago. I also recently read a (disappointing) book about the band's most popular album, Flood, so I've kind of been in the mood to listen to the band.

I usually do 'deep cuts' playlists for bands with a lot of hits and little cult appeal, so in some respects They Might Be Giants are not the best fit. But I think they were a great singles band, who regularly got radio and video airplay, in their first decade, and I never would've checked out their albums if those hits hadn't hooked me. So I wanted to put something together that I think would appeal to someone who enjoys "Birdhouse In Your Soul" or "Ana Ng" but doesn't just want to be told that they need to hear Flood or Lincoln or their whole big clottered discography.

They Might Be Giants Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Rhythm Section Want Ad
2. Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love
3. Mr. Me
4. My Evil Twin
5. Whistling In The Dark
6. New York City
7. I've Got A Match
8. Sleeping In The Flowers
9. Women & Men
10. Working Undercover For The Man
11. Mammal
12. Your Racist Friend
13. She's An Angel
14. Santa's Beard
15. When Will You Die?
16. Memo To Human Resources
17. Dead
18. Careful What You Pack
19. Everything Right Is Wrong Again
20. Narrow Your Eyes
21. Sleep
22. They Might Be Giants
23. You Don't Like Me
24. Pet Name
25. Older
26. Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head
27. Turn Around
28. Hearing Aid
29. The End Of The Tour
30. Cage And Aquarium
31. Nouns
32. Till My Head Falls Off

Tracks 1, 13, 19 and 26 from They Might Be Giants (1986)
Tracks 3, 7, 14 and 30 from Lincoln (1988)
Tracks 2, 5, 9, 12, 17, 22 and 28 from Flood (1990)
Tracks 4, 11, 20 and 27 from Apollo 18 (1992)
Tracks 8 and 29 from John Henry (1994)
Tracks 6, 24 and 32 from Factory Showroom (1996)
Tracks 10 and 25 from Mink Car (2001)
Track 16 from The Spine (2004)
Track 18 from The Else (2007)
Tracks 15 and 23 from Join Us (2011)
Tracks 21 and 31 from Nanobots (2013)

For simplicity's sake, I didn't bother with anything from their 4 albums of children's music (although many of those songs very easily fit in alongside songs from their 'regular albums) or anything from the many compilations or EPs or live records (although they contain some of their best songs). Still, that leaves 11 albums to choose from, most of which have upwards of 20 songs. Brevity is a big component of They Might Be Giants' music, and 32 songs is easily the most I've ever fit into my (kind of anachronistic) self-imposed 80-minute black CD-style time limit for these mixes, beating out Blink-182 by 6 songs.

I balanced things pretty evenly between songs primarily written/sung by John Linnell and ones by John Flansburgh -- I'm always fascinated by bands with multiple singer-songwriters, and how their respective sensibilities kind of mix together to produce the band's personality. Linnell has always seemed to me to like the more effortless melodist, the one with the more arcane, mysterious lyrics, while Flansburgh's more overtly humorous songs have kinda nudged them both into the nerdy novelty act vibe they give a lot of people. But while I would credit Flansburgh with a lot of their worst songs, they're pretty evenly split on the band's very best songs.

They Might Be Giants have a song or two on most of their records that have a surprising amount of pathos and/or a lack of overt conceptual weirdness, and those songs always kinda give you a glimpse at the more earnest, 'normal' alternative rock band they could've been -- "Narrow Your Eyes," "Pet Name," "She's An Angel," even "Dead." Those are some of their greatest tracks, but I wouldn't really want a world where that's all they did. I appreciate the whole range of what they do, even if I have to cherry-pick around the more annoying stuff to make a mix of songs I really like.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
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