Sunday, October 02, 2022

I wrote a wrote a piece for the Baltimore Banner spotlighting some of the best local indie rock/punk/experimental music of the past month, including recent songs by Natural Velvet, Don't Start None, and Micah E. Wood. It's sort of a counterpart to Lawrence Burney and Taji Burris's monthly rap and R&B column

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 279: The Golden Palominos

Friday, September 30, 2022

Anton Fier, who died last week at the age of 66, was an enormously talented drummer who played on a an impressive range of revered and influential albums, including The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms, The Lounge Lizards' self-titled debut, Bob Mould's Workbook, John Zorn's Locus Solus, and Pere Ubu's Song of the Bailing Man. But Fier also led The Golden Palominos, which had released 9 albums with a rotating cast of collaborators since the early '80s. The band weren't exactly hitmakers -- their only charting single, "Alive And Living Now" featuring Michael Stipe, peaked at #14 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart in between Out Of Time hits. But they left behind a really fascinating  and varied catalog that I wanted to show some love to. 

The Golden Palominos deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Cookout
2. Buenos Aires
3. Clustering Train
4. Silver Bullet
5. I've Been The One
6. Something Becomes Nothing
7. Angels
8. Darklands
9. Lucky 
10. Thunder Cries
11. Dying From The Inside Out
12. I'm Not Sorry
13. Touch You
14. Metal Eye
15. Never Gonna Change

Track 1 from The Golden Palominos (1983)
Tracks 2, 3 and 4 from Visions Of Excess (1985)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from Blast Of Silence (Axed My Baby For A Nickel (1986)
Tracks 8 and 9 from A Dead Horse (1989)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Drunk With Passion (1991)
Track 12 from This Is How It Feels (1993)
Track 13 from Pure (1994)
Track 14 from Dead Inside (1996)
Track 15 from A Good Country Milie with Kevn Kinney (2012)

The original iteration of The Golden Palominos that made the self-titled first album came out of the no wave scene, with Fier, Bill Laswell, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, Fred Frith and other New York avant jazz guys toying around with funk, noise, and hip hop. In fact, it was one of the first non-rap albums to feature turntable scratching as an instrument (incidentally, the self-titled album is on Spotify twice, and the one dated to 1983 with the original artwork has a weird glitch where a song from a whole other album, "Darklands," is erroneously on the track labeled "Cookout," but the 1997 reissue with a different cover has all the correct music). 

On subsequent albums, The Golden Palominos kind of became an amorphous ensemble with Fier and Laswell the only consistent members, and the band's sound shifted many times, to country and rock in the mid-'80s to trancey downtempo dance music in the '90s. A lot of notable guest vocalists appeared on the band's albums, including, on this playlist, Michael Stipe on "Clustering Train," Bob Mould on "Dying From The Inside Out," and Jack Bruce on "Silver Bullet." And over the years the cast of players grew to include Bernie Worrell, Richard Thompson, Carla Bley, T-Bone Burnett, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and more. Matthew Sweet sang on "Something Becomes Nothing" five years before his career took off with Girlfriend. And Syd Straw sang on many tracks on my two favorite Golden Palominos albums, Blast of Silence and Visions of Excess, before launching a solo career. 

I remember reading about the band in magazines a few times here and there in the '90s (most likely Alternative Press, possibly also Rolling Stone or Spin), long before I ever actually heard them, and I knew who Syd Straw was because she had a recurring role on one of my favorite shows, "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." But I didn't actually hear The Golden Palominos until the past few years, when streaming services have allowed me to check out a lot of music I read about growing up that I didn't find room for in my CD shopping budget. In an odd way, just the idea of The Golden Palominos was very influential on my band Western Blot (along with, to an extent, The Roots), the idea that a drummer could be a bandleader and the primary songwriter/producer of a band that has different sounds and different collaborators from album to album, just following that drummer's whims. So it was cool to dive into the albums and find musical things that resonated with me after being broadly inspired by the template of the band.  

After Syd Straw went solo, Amanda Kramer became the primary lead vocalist for The Golden Palominos for two albums, and then Lori Carson for three albums. The Lori Carson era is so different from the early records, these kind of noir femme fatale narrative things over dusky trip hop and industrial beats. It's probably for the best that I didn't buy Pure after reading a review of it at the time, the '80s albums were a better gateway for me appreciating the band, though I love hearing how Fier's live drums dart around the drum machine track on stuff like "Touch You." Fier continued playing in different projects over the past couple decades, but the only new Golden Palominos album was a 2012 collaborative record with Drivin N Cryin frontman Kevn Kinney, sort of a move back towards the band's twangy '80s era. And that album opens with "Never Gonna Change," written by Jason Isbell, but the whole thing is pretty excellent. 

When I heard Blast of Silence and thought it was so cool that the album opens and closes with Syd Straw singing two great early songs by one of my favorite bands, Little Feat, "I've Been The One" and "Brides Of Jesus." The Golden Palominos' covers, including Moby Grape, Nico, and The Numbers Band, feel like a glimpse at the proto-alternative canon as it was being formed, the '60s and '70s being seen through a new lens in the '80s and '90s. And the band's original songs kind of chart a course, too, through one musician putting his own spin on different genres and subcultures. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 278: Coolio

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Coolio died on Wednesday at the age of 59. His time in the spotlight was relatively brief, but he really made his mark in history, with "Gangsta's Paradise" being probably the first really serious street-oriented rap song to hit #1 on the Hot 100. Over the last couple decades he lived it up as a professional celebrity, doing things like publishing a cookbook and becoming the running mate for a porn star's campaign for president. But he was a major star of west coast rap's commercial explosion, with a couple of songs that will live forever, so I thought I'd dig a little under the surface of his catalog. 

Coolio deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. It Takes A Thief 
2. Hand On My Nutsac
3. U Know Hoo! f/ WC
4. I Remember f/ J-Ro and Billy Boy
5. Smokin' Stix
6. Dial A Jam
7. Thru The Window
8. Rollin' With My Homies
9. Exercise Yo' Game f/ E-40, Kam and 40 Thevz
10. Is This Me? f/ LV and Rated R
11. For My Sistas
12. Get Up, Get Down f/ Malika, Shorty, Leek Ratt, P.S., WC and Ras Kass
13. Kinda High, Kinda Drunk
14. Homeboy f/ Montell Jordan
15. 2 Minutes & 21 Seconds of Funk
16. Hit 'Em f/ Ras Kass
17. Money (Dolla Bill Y'all)
18. Gangbangers f/ Daz Dillinger and Spade
19. What Is An MC

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from It Takes A Thief (1994)
Track 6 from The Jerky Boys: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1995)
Track 7 from New Jersey Drive, Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1995)
Track 8 from Clueless: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1995)
Tracks 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 from Gangsta's Paradise (1995)
Tracks 14, 15 and 16 from My Soul (1997)
Track 17 from In Tha Beginning...There Was Rap (1997)
Tracks 18 and 19 from El Cool Magnifico (2002)

Coolio moved to Compton as a kid and released his first single in 1987, the year west coast rap started to really take off with Ice-T and N.W.A.'s first albums. Coolio was a member of WC And The Maad Circle, who made an album in 1991, before WC became part of Westside Connection. And then in 1994, after Death Row had turned L.A. into the new center of the rap universe, Coolio got a solo deal and became a mainstream star with "Fantastic Voyage." 

I guess it makes sense that a soundtrack single became Coolio's enduring hit, because "Smokin' Stix" and two other songs from It Takes A Thief appeared in Poetic Justice before the album was released. And Coolio hit the soundtrack circuit hard after that first album, appearing on at least four soundtrack albums in 1995 alone. His contribution to Clueless, "Rolling With My Homies" inspired the very memorable "rollin' with the homies" dialogue in the movie, and it's a real '90s time capsule to see Coolio right between Green Day and Superchunk on the Jerky Boys soundtrack. It's just a shame Coolio's "Kenan & Kel" theme song never made it to streaming services, that's a banger.

L.V. from "Gangsta's Paradise" is one of those odd pop footnotes, a guy who sang the hook on one blockbuster song, but never really launched a career of his own after that, who was almost 40 at the time. He appeared on one deep cut on the Gangsta's Paradise album called "Is This Me?" and it's surprising they didn't drop more songs as a duo. It's fun to hear Coolio on tracks with west coast legends like E-40 and Ras Kass, or remake Jimmy Spicer's "Money (Dolla Bill Y'all)" for In Tha Beginning...There Was Rap, the compilation of covers of early rap songs best known for the Def Squad version of "Rapper's Delight." 

Public Enemy's Chuck D and Jay-Z were both 26 when their first albums were released, and are considered the classic examples of late bloomers in hip hop who were grounded by having lived a bit before they became stars. By comparison, Coolio was 31 when It Takes A Thief came out. He never necessarily posed as an OG or a veteran, but he had a certain no-nonsense air to him, even on uptempo songs. Coolio was really a versatile guy who could hang with the gangsta rappers or keep it light, whatever worked for the song. He became a crossover star without dancing around like MC Hammer, and continued carrying himself like a seasoned everyman rapper.

Coolio had the kind of 3-album career arc that was typical in hip hop's first couple decades: a hot debut, and even bigger second album, a follow-up that had a decent-sized hit, and then quickly dwindling fortunes after that. He had an album called released only in Japan in 2001, and then included a few songs from it on his next domestic album, El Cool Magnifico. He released 3 albums after that aren't on Spotify today. But it seemed like he lived a good life and got to really reach heights that not many rappers of his generations did in terms of chart success, and he had a great flow that always sounded perfect on big trunk-rattling G-funk beats. 

TV Diary

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

a) "Andor" 
Rogue One didn't leave a huge impression on me at the time, I think I was just more invested in the Abrams/Johnson Star Wars trilogy, before it ended so terribly, and didn't give that little standalone adventure much attention. But I rewatched it recently before starting "Andor," and that's a pretty excellent movie. I wish Diego Luna's character didn't have such a Star Wars-by-numbers name like Cassian Andor, though, it sounds like the name a budget toy line would put on a repainted Lando Calrissian action figure. So far this is definitely the most promising Star Wars since since "The Mandalorian," and benefits from not leaning on any cutesy Baby Yoda-type stuff. But I'm just enjoying the cast and the visuals more than I'm really invested in the story, particularly Fiona Shaw, Stellan Skarsgard, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Aria Arjona as the gritty yet unspeakably beautiful mechanic.  

b) "Quantum Leap" 
My wife and I both loved "Quantum Leap" as kids and were excited to see the new reboot. Raymond Lee from "Kevin Can F*** Himself" is a pretty good new lead, but the first episode was just okay, I think we were both a little underwhelmed. Maybe the original show was a little cheesy and of its time, I love it but it's not the easiest premise to modernize. 

c) "Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story"
This is probably the best thing Ryan Murphy has made in a while, and Evan Peters is impressive in the role. But seeing this on Netflix just makes me think about how "Mindhunter" was ten times better and we're never gonna get another season of that. And god, the full title is so stupid, why is it like that? 

d) "The Patient"
"The Patient" is about a fictional serial killer but I think it's a much more interesting portrayal than something like "Dahmer." Domhnall Gleeson is a guy who's killed people and gotten away with it, and once to get help and stop killing, so he abducts a therapist, played by Steve Carell, and forces him to do therapy sessions. Seeing the whole situation through Carell's eyes is terrifying, but as the show goes on, Gleeson's character is being slowly revealed in interesting and sometimes funny ways (it really cracked me up that he's a Kenny Chesney fan who says things like "the central idea of No Shoes Nation is love"). 

e) "Monarch"
"Monarch" was originally set to air back in January, but 2 weeks before the premiere date, Fox pushed it back to the fall (apparently because of Covid-related production delays). So it feels a little weird to finally see the show after almost a year of commercials. And it really feels like kind of an annoying bait-and-switch that Susan Sarandon was front-and-center in all that advertising and then her character dies in the first episode. Maybe she's gonna be around a lot in flashbacks, I dunno. That's no slight on Anna Friel, who starred in a great show, "Pushing Daisies," before, but I don't think this really has the makings of a great show, these music industry soap operas are getting tired. 

f) "Wedding Season"
In "Wedding Season," Rosa Salazar plays the bride in a wedding where the guy she's been having an affair with tries to object and stop the wedding. And then the groom and his entire family are poisoned, and everybody assumes they did it, and they go on the run together and try to figure out what happened. Kind of an odd, funny rom com/mystery thing, not a home run so far but one of the better, more memorable new series I've seen lately. 

g) "Tell Me Lies"
This Hulu series is based on a popular novel and tells the story of an on-again-off-again couple over the course of 8 years after they meet in college. Lots of sex scenes and cheating and tragedy and plot twists, but if the book compelled people I think they must have really lost something in translation, it's just a drag. I don't know if the male lead, Jackson White, was the wrong actor for the role, or if the character is just terrible, but I just hate the show when he's onscreen. 

h) "Vampire Academy"
This is also based on a popular book, which my wife has read, but she seemed to have zero interest in this series, and apparently it was already a flop movie a few years ago. Not very promising so far, Peacock has some high quality shows but it feels like all their teen/young adult shows are made by a separate division that's like a rung below The CW. 

i) "Leonardo"
Speaking of The CW, this series was produced in Italy before it was picked up for US broadcast by The CW. But a show about a young sexy da Vinci being accused of murder just feels like an absurd parody of CW shows, it's so stupid. 

j) "The Serpent Queen"
I had never heard of Catherine de Medici, an orphan servant girl who became the queen of France, and it's an undeniably great story and a great role for an actress of Samantha Morton's caliber. What I've watched so far was heavy on flashbacks with another actress, Liv Hill, playing the young Catherine, and it's a pretty dark story at times, but I should catch up on it, it's good so far. 

k) "Heartbreak High"
Apparently "Heartbreak High" was a popular Australian teen drama in the '90s, and this is the new reboot on Netflix, so in my mind it's the Aussie "Degrassi." Seems like a nice little low stakes soap opera, love the accents. 

l) "Mike"
Like a lot of people, I saw Jamie Foxx's pitch for a Mike Tyson biopic and it seemed like he'd do such an incredible job that it dampened my enthusiasm for this Hulu miniseries starring Trevante Rhodes. And that's a shame, because Rhodes is incredibly talented and charismatic and has some great moments here and there, but of the episodes I've seen so far, there's also a lot of moments that don't work, especially the whole framing device of Tyson onstage telling his story to an audience. 

m) "Kevin Can F**k Himself"
I think AMC's ads for this are the first time I've seen the self-important phrase "the final season" used to describe a show's 2nd season. The first season of "Kevin Can F**k Himself" was such a unique and ambitious show that sometimes kind of buckled under the weight of what it was trying to pull off that I'm not surprised they decided to end it here, in fact it gives me hope that they'll wrap it up satisfyingly. I like that Alex Bonifer's character Neil spent pretty much the whole season in the sitcom half of the show and is now mostly in the drama half, so you get to see both the actor's range and different sides of the character. It'll be interesting to see if the same thing happens with Kevin by the end of the series, Eric Peterson gives such a great and committed performance in that kind of deliberately one-dimensional role that it could really be something. 

n) "Atlanta"
"Atlanta" returning this year with two back-to-back seasons to end its run has been interesting. Even though the reviews remained strong, I noticed really sharply divided reactions to season 3, which had a lot of standalone episodes without the main cast, and episodes where the main cast was far away from Atlanta. And it seems like season 4 kind of returns to the tone and style of stories of the first season, almost to the point of feeling overly familiar and formulaic, but it was a great show from the beginning, I'm not complaining, I'm happy to see more of Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred, such a great character and performance. 

o) "Los Espookys"
I feel bad for all the excellent shows that made their first season before the pandemic and then ended up taking 2-3 years to get the second season out ("Russian Doll," "Ramy," "Avenue 5"). I had started to forget how funny "Los Espookys" was but that first episode really brought it back, everything Julio Torres says is hysterical. 

p) "Abbott Elementary"
One of the cool things about a network sitcom becoming a hit right out of the box like "Abbott Elementary" did last season is that you can pretty much count on a good 5-10 years of this show being on every week and hopefully maintaining this level of quality for a while. After Sheryl Lee Ralph's Emmy win it was fun to see her get probably the best line of the season premiere ("Sea Barbara is very different from Land Barbara"). But I especially loved the episode because it felt like Quinta Brunson's character was suddenly at a low point and the other characters were there for her, they're already kind of deepening the character dynamics. 

q) "9-1-1"
My wife and I still watch this, incredibly. A ridiculous show, but I do enjoy those cold opens where you meet some unfamiliar character going about their day and kind of wait for the shit to hit the fan, it's often the most entertaining part of the episode, just trying to predict how it's all going to go wrong. 

r) "The Resident"
The less ridiculous Fox procedural that's also kind of just lumbering along with a likable cast. At this point I fully wish Malcolm Jamal-Warner was the main character of the show, I'm tired of Matt Czuchry and Bruce Greenwood. 

s) "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners"
Cyberpunk has been the name of an entire genre for my entire life so it's always weird when people make it the title or a specific thing, whether it's a Billy Idol album (lol), a video game, or this Netflix anime based on the video game. Pretty cool animation style in this show, though. 

t) "Sago Mini Friends"
I put this Apple TV+ cartoon on for my 7-year-olds but he didn't any attention to it, it's kinda for babies in that way that's annoying for anyone older than a toddler. 

u) "Central Park"
As far as animated shows from "Bob's Burgers" people, this is way better than "The Great North" but it's still trailing pretty far behind "Bob's Burgers," they need to make better use of Titus Burgess. 

v) "Super/Natural"
This Disney+ nature docuseries narrated by Benedict Cumberpatch has some really cool, creative editing and storytelling to sort of show the relationships between different species with dramatic zooms and long tracking shots, really puts a new spin on a familiar genre. 

This Freeform reality show about 6 young creatives in NYC feels a little like a Gen Z answer to the original "The Real World," but without the manufactured drama of making everybody live together. Not terribly gripping stuff but I appreciate that it's portraying everybody in a pretty empathetic and non-sensationalized light. 

This E! show about parents raising their kids to be in show business is depressing, some of these people are just gross and I feel bad for the kids. Also, feels kind of messed up to have the F-word in the title of a show that's mostly about kids, especially kids who are trying to work in media and know they're on a TV show and what it's called. 

y) "Shadowland"
This Peacock docuseries is a continuation of The Atlantic's series of articles about Americans who believe in conspiracy theories. It feels helpful to put some faces of normal people on this problem, which sometimes seems to huge and pervasive and abstract, but man, it's so depressing seeing how far through the looking glass some of these folks are. 

z) "Sins of Our Mother" 
In a world full of horrible news stories and true crime infotainment about abuse and murder, the story of Lori Vallow killing her own children and remarrying and pretending they never existed is one of the few stories that really deeply upset and angered me. I watched a bit of the new Netflix miniseries about it but man, it's just a really rough story to contemplate. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

I wrote about the 10 most important Talking Heads moments for Spin. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 277: Bjork

Friday, September 23, 2022


Bjork's new album Fossora is out next week, so it felt like a good occasion to look back at her amazing catalog. 

Bjork deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. One Day
2. Come To Me
3. The Anchor Song
4. The Modern Things
5. You've Been Flirting Again
6. Enjoy
7. Unravel
8. Pluto
9. 5 Years
10. In The Musicals
11. I've Seen It All (with Thom Yorke)
12. Aurora
13. It's Not Up To You
14. Oceania
15. Pleasure Is All Mine
16. I See Who You Are
17. Mutual Core
18. Quicksand
19. Utopia

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Debut (1993)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from Post (1995)
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 from Homogenic (1997)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Selmasongs (2000)
Tracks 12 and 13 from Vespertine (2001)
Tracks 14 and 15 from Medulla (2004)
Track 16 from Volta (2007)
Track 17 from Biophilia (2011)
Track 18 from Vulnicura (2015)
Track 19 from Utopia (2017)

Bjork actually released two solo albums before 1993, one as a child in 1977 and one in 1990, and her band The Sugarcubes were essentially Iceland's biggest musical export until she went solo. But obviously Debut is where her proper solo career begins. And let me just say, The Sugarcubes made some awesome music, I definitely would've thought about including stuff from their albums if Bjork had shorter songs or fewer albums. 

When we talk about electronic music, things are often polarized between the underground subcultures and the big lucrative crossover EDM world. But I think Bjork deserves a lot of credit as a figure who bridged different worlds, a huge star who became a gateway to the experimental side of electronic music for a lot of people. Her albums featured work with Nellee Hooper, Tricky, Matmos, and Arca, as well as the amazing avant garde harp player Zeena Parkins, whose '90s improv records had made me a fan and I was really excited when Bjork decided to work with her on Vespertine. And Bjork also self-produced some great stuff like "You've Been Flirting Again" and "Pleasure Is All Mine." 

"I've Seen It All" was nominated for an Oscar (the year Bjork wore her famous swan dress, of course). "Oceania" was composed for the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy and sampled on a really entertaining E-40 song, "Spend The Night." And a ton of people have covered "Unravel," including Thom Yorke, Okkervil River, and Something Corporate. I've seen some memes on Twitter this year where clips of "Pluto" are kind of used as a shorthand for the craziest, harshest, most abrasive music someone could think of, or an example of how weird Bjork's music is, which is kind of funny, that song kicks ass.

Bjork's most performed deep cuts include "Pluto," "The Anchor Song," "5 Years," "You've Been Flirting Again," "Unravel," "Come To Me," "Pleasure Is All Mine," "Mutual Core," and "One Day." I think my personal favorite, at least of her deep cuts, is "The Modern Things." I also forgot how much I love "In The Musicals." Growing up, my brother and I sort of had a shared CD collection, and he was the one who'd buy all the Bjork albums in the '90s, though I enjoyed listening to them too. And since then I haven't kept up as closely with everything Bjork has released. So it was fun to catch up a bit and verify that she's continued making great unique music all through her career. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 276: Earth, Wind & Fire

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Tonight is the 21st night of September, so I thought I'd finally collect Earth, Wind & Fire's best deep cuts on the day that people celebrate their most beloved hit. I'm actually working an event this week and looked at tonight's script and it says the speaker walks out to "September," obviously. 

Earth, Wind & Fire deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Moment Of Truth
2. Beauty
3. Where Have All The Flowers Gone
4. Interlude, No. 3
5. Build Your Nest
6. Caribou
7. Reasons
8. See The Light
9. Yearnin' Learnin' (live)
10. Sunshine
11. Earth, Wind & Fire
12. Imagination
13. Departure
14. Be Ever Wonderful
15. Love's Holiday
16. Beijo (Interlude)
17. Love Music
18. Rock That!
19. You And I
20. In Time
21. Pipe Organ (Interlude)
22. Lady Sun

Track 1 from Earth, Wind & Fire (1971)
Track 2 from The Need Of Love (1971)
Tracks 3 and 4 from Last Days And Time (1972)
Track 5 from Head To The Sky (1973)
Track 6 from Open Our Eyes (1974)
Tracks 7 and 8 from That's The Way Of The World (1975)
Tracks 9 and 10 from Gratitude (1975)
Tracks 11, 12 and 13 from Spirit (1976)
Tracks 14, 15 and 16 from All 'n All (1977)
Track 17 from The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978)
Tracks 18 and 19 from I Am (1979)
Tracks 20 and 21 from Faces (1980)
Track 22 from Raise! (1981)

I love going through an act's discography in chronological order and seeing their sound develop. Their musicianship is really impressive on the early albums, but their sound is a little more raw and funky and a little more like War on those first 5 albums before they blew up with "Shining Star" and became hitmakers. And I dig how even as their sound got more ornate and cinematic, they'd still throw in jazzy complex things like the 7/8 groove on "See The Light" or the 11/8 part of "Caribou." I mused on Twitter the other day that it seemed like a weird coincidence that Earth, Wind & Fire released a song called "Caribou" in 1974, the same year Elton John released his album Caribou. But it turns out it wasn't a coincidence, as someone pointed out that both records were recorded at Caribou Ranch, a Colorado studio built by Chicago producer James William Guercio where a lot of hit records were made in the '70s and '80s.

"Reasons" and "Love's Holiday" weren't charting singles but have appeared on the band's best-of compilations and have become R&B radio staples. "September" was one of the three new songs on the band's best-selling album, the The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 compilation, so I included the new song that wasn't a single, "Love Music." Most bands that have a song that shares the name of the band write that song pretty early on, sometimes naming the band after the song, but I think Earth, Wind & Fire might be the only one who put a self-titled song on their 7th album (the closest I've seen of anyone else is They Might Be Giants, who didn't do it until their 3rd album). 

Obviously, EWF has been sampled a lot throughout hip hop history, and not just the hits. "Moment of Truth" was sampled by LL Cool J, the Jungle Brothers, and Kid 'N Play. "Beijo (Interlude)" was interpolated by Joe on Big Punisher's "Still Not A Player." "Reasons," which has become kind of a wedding song standard, was sampled on Cam'ron's "More Reasons" and E-40's "Seasoned." And Timbaland sampled "Sunshine" on multiple tracks, including Jay-Z's "Jigga What, Jigga Who." 

Andrew Woolfolk, who played saxophone in the band's horn section from Head To The Sky through to the mid-'80s, died in April of this year. And of course founder Maurice White died in 2016. But Philip Bailey and Verdine White continue to lead the band and they've pretty much never stopped (I remember working with a few members of the band when they were taping a promo for a TV appearance maybe 8 or 9 years ago). EWF hasn't released an album of new material since 2013, but last year their single "You Want My Love" became the band's biggest R&B radio hit in over 20 years. 

My Top 100 Singles of 1981

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Here's the Spotify playlist

1. Queen and David Bowie - "Under Pressure" 
2. Frankie Beverly & Maze - "Before I Let Go" 
3. Luther Vandross - "Never Too Much" 
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates - "You Make My Dreams"
5. Phil Collins - "In The Air Tonight" 
6. Rush - "Tom Sawyer" 
7. Billy Idol with Generation X - "Dancing With Myself" 
8. Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"
9. Rick James - "Super Freak" 
10. The Police - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" 
11. Squeeze - "Tempted" 
12. Talking Heads - "Once In A Lifetime" 
13. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - "Bad Reputation" 
14. The Waitresses - "Christmas Wrapping" 
15. The Jacksons - "This Place Hotel" 
16. Taana Gardner – “Heartbeat”
17. Blondie - "Rapture" 
18. Laurie Anderson - "O Superman" 
19. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "The Waiting" 
20. Journey - "Don't Stop Believin'"
21. Billy Squier - "The Stroke"
22. Genesis - "No Reply At All" 
23. Pat Benatar - "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
24. Rod Stewart - "Young Turks" 
25. John Mellencamp - "Ain't Even Done With The Night" 
26. Prince - "Controversy" 
27. Rick Springfield - "Jessie's Girl"
28. Foreigner - "Juke Box Hero"
29. Styx - "Too Much Time On My Hands" 
30. Van Halen - "Unchained"
31. The Rolling Stones - "Start Me Up" 
32. Chaka Khan – “What 'Cha Gonna Do For Me”
33. Daryl Hall & John Oates - "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)"
34. The Go-Go's - "We Got The Beat"
35. Madness - "It Must Be Love" 
36. Rick James – “Give It To Me Baby”
37. Depeche Mode - "Just Can't Get Enough" 
38. .38 Special - "Hold On Loosely"
39. Rush - "Limelight"  
40. Yoko Ono – “Walking On Thin Ice”
41. Kool & The Gang – “Get Down On It”
42. Stevie Wonder - "Happy Birthday" 
43. The Cars - "Shake It Up" 
44. ZZ Top - "Pearl Necklace"
45. Steely Dan - "Time Out Of Mind" 
46. Ozzy Osbourne - "Flying High Again" 
47. Phil Collins - "I Missed Again" 
48. U2 - "I Will Follow" 
49. Daryl Hall & John Oates - "Private Eyes"
50. George Jones - "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)"
51. Pretenders - "Message Of Love" 
52. The B-52's - "Private Idaho" 
53. Billy Squier - "Lonely Is The Night"
54. Grover Washington, Jr. & Bill Withers - "Just The Two Of Us"
55. Blue Oyster Cult - "Burnin' For You" 
56. Foreigner - "Urgent"
57. Men At Work - "Who Can It Be Now?"
58. Kim Carnes - "Bette Davis Eyes"
59. The Gap Band – “Yearning For Your Love”
60. Split Enz - "History Never Repeats" 
61. Pat Benatar - "You Better Run" 
62. Bruce Springsteen - "The River" 
63. Luther Vandross - "A House Is Not A Home"
64. Duran Duran - "Girls On Film"
65. Roger Troutman – “So Ruff, So Tuff” 
66. The Ramones - "We Want The Airwaves"
67. Billy Squier - "In The Dark" 
68. Lakeside - "Fantastic Voyage"
69. The Police - "Spirits In The Material World" 
70. Deniece Williams - "Silly" 
71. Olivia Newton-John - "Physical"
72. The Clash - "The Magnificent Seven" 
73. Daryl Hall & John Oates - "Kiss On My List" 
74. The Rolling Stones - "Waiting On A Friend" 
75. Prince - "Let's Work" 
76. The Go-Go's - "Our Lips Are Sealed" 
77. Devo - "Working In The Coalmine" 
78. Phil Collins - "If Leaving Me Is Easy" 
79. The Who - "You Better You Bet" 
80. The B-52's - "Party Out Of Bounds" 
81. Stevie Wonder - "All I Do" 
82. Christopher Cross - "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" 
83. Sheena Easton – “Morning Train (Nine To Five)”
84. The Police - "Invisible Sun" 
85. Gleaming Spires - "Are you Ready For The Sex Girls"
86. The Specials - "Ghost Town" 
87. Frankie Smith - "Double Dutch Bus" 
88. Joey Scarbury – “Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)”
89. Foreigner - "Waiting For A Girl Like You"
90. Men At Work - "Down Under" 
91. Van Halen - "So This Is Love?"
92. Stevie Wonder - "Lately" 
93. The Jacksons - "Can You Feel It" 
94. Devo - "Through Being Cool" 
95. Genesis - "Abacab" 
96. Little Feat – “Rock And Roll Doctor”
97. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)" 
98. Billy Squier - "My Kinda Lover"
99. Kool & The Gang - "Celebration"
100. John Lennon - "Watching The Wheels" 

A tremendous year. It would be hard for me to every call one thing my favorite song of all time, but if I ever really had to narrow it down to one, "Under Pressure" is a top candidate. Queen and Bowie are two of the artists I play on shuffle the most while my family eats dinner, so we hear "Under Pressure" a lot and I never get sick of it.  

Movie Diary

Monday, September 19, 2022

a) The French Dispatch
I've been pretty cranky about Wes Anderson for most of his career, loving his first three movies but feeling indifferent, annoyed, or grudgingly respectful of most of his work since then, and often baffled that more people didn't think he'd kind of disappeared into his own stifling aesthetic and lost the ability to tell a story or direct actors. But I really liked The French Dispatch, the anthology format and the connecting thread worked really well and kind of freed Anderson from repeating himself even as he still indulged in a lot of his usual obsessions. And there were so many delightful moments from the cast, particularly guys he hadn't worked with before like Jeffrey Wright, Benicio del Toro, Christoph Waltz, and Steve Park. It reminds me a bit of "Documentary Now!" in its mix of affectionate parody and tribute to 20th century cultural history. 

b) Thor: Love And Thunder
Thor: Ragnarok was easily one of my favorite Marvel movies, and I would've been prepared for Taika Waititi's follow-up to be just as good had I not seen it months after months of bad buzz and negative reviews. And perhaps I had just lowered my expectations a lot, but I found it to be pretty good, certainly not on the level of Ragnarok but as someone with little investment in the MCU, it hit the spot for me. Christian Bale and Natalie Portman were great, I laughed at some of the dumbest gags, and the GnR songs worked great as a running theme. 

c) Morbius
Another Marvel movie where the terrible reputation around the whole thing lowered my expectations, but this one genuinely is bad, if in a sort of bland, awkward way. I particularly felt bad for Al Madrigal and Tyrese for struggling to make their crappy supporting roles work. 

I'm of the opinion that Jurassic Park/World is a perfect example of a franchise where each sequel is worse than the movie before it. But out of a love of dinosaurs or Bryce Dallas Howard, I decided to subject myself to one more barrel-scraping entry, and it was at least fun to see the return of the stars of the original movie. 

e) Uncharted
I liked that this movie started right off with a thrilling action scene (albeit with Tom Holland leaping through the air in ways that would've been implausible even if he was playing Spider-Man). But then it just turned out it was a flash-forward to the middle of the story, and then they backed up and showed it again in context. I liked Sophia Ali's character, sort of a Bond girl-style frenemy/antagonist/love interest, but the movie bored me when she wasn't around. 

f) End of the Road
I put on this new Netflix movie starring Queen Latifah and Ludacris not knowing if it was a comedy or a drama or what. Turns out it's kind of a horror thriller where things quickly awry, which is a little more entertaining than what I was anticipating. Not particularly great, though. Sometimes people will suggest that Queen Latifah is the greatest or most accomplished rapper-turned-actor, and listen, I probably watched every episode of "Living Single" and she's a great sitcom-level screen presence. But she's really not much of an actor in anything with any dramatic stakes, she reads every line in the same way and never disappears into the character. 

g) The Adam Project
As someone who enjoyed Free Guy and the general Ryan Reynolds brand of nonsense, I checked this out and it was pretty good. Apparently Tom Cruise was attached to the script a decade ago and I could see it working as a bigger, maybe slightly more serious movie, but I think it worked out well as is. Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo were good and it put a moderately fresh spin on old time travel tropes. 

I eagerly watched the new season of "The Kids In The Hall" when it debuted back in May, but I didn't realize Amazon also released a 2-hour documentary about them around the same time, so I watched that recently. Comedy Punks is sort of a film version of the excellent Paul Myers book about the troupe, One Dumb Guy, but it also feels equally essential in its own right, full of footage of their early Toronto performances, working behind-the-scenes on the shows and the movie, and some really funny, insightful interviews with the guys and some other comedians. 

Monthly Report: September 2022 Singles

Friday, September 16, 2022

1. Nate Smith - "Whiskey On You"
So far TikTok's biggest impact on country music has been helping blow up "Fancy Like" by Walker Hayes, an obnoxious song by an established major label act. But it's starting to get some promising new artists signed: Nate Smith's 2019 independent single "Wildfire" got popular on TikTok and helped him get a Sony deal, and his first Hot 100 hit "Whiskey On You" is even better (of the 10 or so songs he's released so far, "Sleeve" is another favorite). The drums are really what put this song over the top for me, especially the big snare fills on the chorus and the floor toms building up into the final refrain. Here's my 2022 singles Spotify playlist that I update every month. 

2. Priscilla Block - "My Bar"
Priscilla Block is another country singer who got her deal after an independent release, "Just About Over You," went viral on TikTok. And the follow-up single "My Bar" is a pretty good too, a cleverly written little breakup song. 

3. The 1975 - "Happiness"
Back when The 1975 released their last album two years ago, they'd started palling around publicly with one of their biggest influences, Brian Eno, and both seemed game for the idea of an Eno-produced The 1975 album in the future. I tried not to take it as a given that it would happen, but I was still disappointed last month when The 1975 announced a new album co-produced by Jack Antonoff (which is coming out on October, the same day as an Eno solo album, which kinda twists the knife). I don't have as many reservations about Antonoff as some other people do, though, and I'm kind of used to The 1975 releasing sort of minor songs as first singles and then following it up with something stronger. So after the oddly muted, lyrically obnoxious "Part of the Band," I was really ready for the follow-up and "Happiness" is just fantastic, a dizzy danceable love song that taps into the band's best pop instincts. It kind of makes me sad to hear that Matt Healy and FKA Twigs recently broke up, because "Happiness" and "I'm In Love With You" are such blissful sincere tracks from a band whose previous most straightforward-sounding love song was a metaphor for heroin addiction. 

4. Maggie Rogers - "Want Want" 
The first Maggie Rogers album was successful on triple A radio but it wasn't really clear to me whether the best case scenario for her would be to lean more pop and cross over to Top 40, or lean more rock and get more alt-rock radio play. But Rogers and Kid Harpoon (who produced all of Harry Styles's stuff) figured out a good way to put a little rock crunch into her sound on "Want Want" and break her into alternative radio without losing the beauty of her voice or the ornate leftfield production touches. 

5. Bad Bunny - "Titi Me Pregunto"
It's been interesting to watch Bad Bunny's steady rise over the last few years. It's been 4 years since he hit #1 on the Hot 100 with Cardi B's "I Like It," and he's just gotten bigger and bigger in every conceivable way but having a solo track at #1 or in heavy pop rotation, this stalemate where he refuses to make music in English and the pop world continues to just barely hold Spanish language music at arm's length. But a couple weeks ago, the last award presented at the MTV VMA's was Artist of the Year, and Bad Bunny received the award during his sold out Yankee Stadium concert, and performed "Titi Me Pregunto" for the broadcast, which felt like a pretty huge climactic moment. I dunno if this will be the biggest crossover song from Un Verano Sin Ti, but it's a pretty catchy one, with a memorable little bit that's in English ("selfie, say cheese"). But another one of the album's big hits, "Moscow Mule" just entered the R&B/hip-hop airplay charts, I'm curious to see how far it gets there. 

6. Muni Long f/ Saweetie - "Baby Boo"
I wish this song got bigger than it did, it felt like such a perfect sweet uptempo song for the summer, taking a big obvious sample like "My Boo" but having a lot of fun with it and sort of adding a different energy to the track. 

7. Giovannie & The Hired Guns - "Ramon Ayala"
This is kind of an interesting melting pot moment. One of the biggest songs on alternative radio right now is a Texas band's grungy rock anthem that uses hip hop slang to namecheck one of Mexico's most popular conjunto accordion players ("I still bump Ramon Ayala when I get drunk"), which gets changed to a Selena shoutout in the last chorus.  

8. Moneybagg Yo - "See Wat I'm Sayin'"
Moneybagg transparently has a formula for his lead singles, but it's a formula I happen to like, and "See Wat I'm Sayin'" brings in the more established Tay Keith in place of "Said Sum" and "Time Today" producer YC. 

9. Babyface f/ Ella Mai - "Keeps On Fallin"
I'm really looking forward to Babyface's upcoming Girls Night Out album, which is comprised of duets with female R&B stars. The other single with Kehlani is also really good, and it looks like D'Mile is continuing to be 2022's R&B MVP. People love when people like Jason Derulo sing their own name, but I think the really elite ad-lib is when someone sings the names of both people on a collaboration like "Akon and Young Jeeeeezy," and Ella Mai does a great "Ella Mai, Babyface" riff at the end of this song. 

10. Diddy & Bryson Tiller - "Gotta Move On"
Diddy has been on this weird campaign of asking "who killed R&B?" and talking about the death of R&B, which is funny coming from a rapper who's driven the cross-pollination between hip hop and R&B more than perhaps anyone in history. And it's just an odd way to promote a song with the guy who made T R A P S O U L. I like the song, though. 

The Worst Single of the Month: King Combs f/ Kodak Black - "Can't Stop Won't Stop"
It's a little surreal that Diddy is back on the radio saying "can't stop won't stop" at the same time that his son is doing a whole Puff Daddy cosplay thing in a Lil Kim-sampling single (which, of course, is released by Bad Boy and has his pops doing some ad libs at the end). It just feels like all the strains of celebrity nepotism and '90s nostalgia coming together in one big dull package. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 275: No Doubt

Thursday, September 15, 2022

I gave a little thought to combining No Doubt's catalog with Gwen Stefani's solo career for this playlist, but I think they really belong as separate playlists, although I really don't like her solo stuff as much, so I may never do that one. 

No Doubt deep album cuts (Spotify Playlist):

1. Move On
2. Paulina
3. Total Hate '95 with Bradley Nowell
4. Open The Gate
5. Happy Now?
6. Different People
7. Hey You
8. Sixteen
9. End It On This
10. Magic's In The Makeup
11. Staring Problem
12. Marry Me
13. Too Late
14. Too Late (instrumental)
15. In My Head
16. Waiting Room
17. Rock Steady
18. Platinum Blonde Life
19. Undone
20. One More Summer

Tracks 1 and 2 from No Doubt (1992)
Tracks 3 and 4 from the The Beacon Street Collection (1995)
Tracks 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 from Tragic Kingdom (1995)
Tracks 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 from Return Of Saturn (2000)
Tracks 15, 16, 17 and 18 from Rock Steady (2001)
Tracks 19 and 20 from Push And Shove (2012)

No Doubt's early history is interesting. Keyboardist Eric Stefani and lead singer John Spence formed the band in 1986, about a decade before No Doubt became a household name, with Gwen Stefani as a backing vocalist, and the other three members of what would become the definitive No Doubt lineup joining gradually by the end of the '80s. But John Spence committed suicide in 1987, and on social media people occasionally blow each other's minds with the revelation that No Doubt's original singer was a Black man. The band's early sets with John Spence included a couple of songs that later lineups of the band would record, "Paulina" (co-written by Spence) and "Total Hate," which became "Total Hate '95" featuring Sublime's Bradley Nowell. 

After the failure of their first major label album, No Doubt did something kind of impressive, which was self-record and self-release a more successful record, The Beacon Street Collection, that helped them regain the confidence of Interscope and get everything in place to make and release their blockbuster breakthrough Tragic Kingdom. The band's pre-fame stuff is better than I expected based on the awful single "Trapped In A Box." Eric Stefani wrote or co-wrote half the songs on Tragic Kingdom, but by the time the album was out he'd left the band to focus on his animation career. And honestly, a lot of people have left a band just before it became hugely successful, and working on some of the best seasons of "The Simpsons" is by far the best reason anyone's had to do that. 

I have a lot more affection for No Doubt now than I did during their hitmaking peak. They were still sort of stuck in the new wave era, and had a lot more in common with Oingo Boingo or Fishbone than the bands they were on the radio alongside in the '90s. The band's most played deep cuts include "Different People," "Happy Now?," "End It On This," "Total Hate '95," "Rock Steady," "Magic's In The Makeup," "Hey You," "In My Head," and "Move On." 

Return of Saturn wasn't nearly as successful as the albums released directly before and after it, but it's the only No Doubt album with no songs I dislike. There's not a lot of major label rock from the year 2000 that has aged well, but Return of Saturn sounds really good today. There's even a hidden track, a beautiful instrumental reprise of "Too Late," that prominently features piano by Mike Garson and a string arrangement by Paul Buckmaster (both of whom known for their work on David Bowie classics). Rock Steady is an alright album, I had a promo copy when it was new that I got some enjoyment out of. 

A song co-written and co-produced by Prince didn't have as much prestige in 2001 as it did in earlier years (or even in later years), but "Waiting Room" is a pretty cool, weird little song despite being one of the least streamed tracks on any of No Doubt's successful albums. It's interesting to think that it's one of the few instances of Prince having any kind of engagement with the '90s/2000s alternative rock scene (alongside his Foo Fighters and Radiohead covers). 

One thing that doesn't sit well with me about No Doubt is that they're pretty much the only mainstream ska band who treats their horn section as secondary members -- trombonist Gabrial McNair has been recording with No Doubt since 1993, and trumpeter Stephen Bradley since 1995, pretty much the band's whole existence as mainstream stars. Of course, there isn't much brass on No Doubt's biggest hits besides "Spiderwebs," but you can hear their horns on a lot of deep cuts, including "Happy Now?," "Different People," "Sixteen," "Staring Problem," and "Marry Me" and McNair played a lot of the keyboards on albums after Eric Stefani left the band. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 274: Carly Simon

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Carly Simon will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November alongside Pat BenatarDuran Duran, EminemEurythmics, Dolly Parton, and Lionel Richie. And to be honest, she was probably the artist I was most surprised to see make the cut this year, but it gave me a reason to dive into her catalog beyond the hits and learn more about her. 

Carly Simon deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Just A Sinner
2. I've Got To Have You
3. The Girl You Think You See
4. Waited So Long
5. Night Owl
6. We Have No Secrets
7. Haven't Got Time For The Pain
8. Hotcakes
9. Playing Possum
10. One Love Stand
11. Be With Me
12. Dishonest Modesty
13. Boys In The Trees
14. De Bat (Fly In Me Face)
15. Back Down To Earth
16. Memorial Day
17. Pure Sin
18. Them
19. From The Heart
20. Such A Good Boy
21. Spoiled Girl
22. Do The Walls Come Down

Track 1 from Carly Simon (1971)
Tracks 2 and 3 from Anticipation (1971)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from No Secrets (1972)
Tracks 7 and 8 from Hotcakes (1974)
Track 9 from Playing Possum (1975)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Another Passenger (1976)
Tracks 13, 14 and 15 from Boys In The Trees (1978)
Tracks 15 and 17 from Spy (1979)
Track 18 from Come Upstairs (1980)
Track 19 from Torch (1981)
Track 20 from Hello Big Man (1983)
Track 21 from Spoiled Girl (1985)
Track 22 from Coming Around Again (1987)

I feel like Carly Simon was one of the big three artists who really cemented the female singer-songwriter archetype that became such a big part of pop music in the 1970s, alongside Joni Mitchell and Carole King. All three worked extensively with one of the era's preeminent male singer-songwriters, James Taylor, who Simon was married to. And Taylor and Simon were probably music's biggest platinum power couple of the '70s, the closest thing that era had to a Jay-Z and Beyonce (you can hear Taylor's backing vocals pretty clearly on some of these songs, including "Waited So Long" and "Playing Possum"). 

Simon's not as revered as a songwriter as Mitchell and King, and was a bit more of a sex symbol and a tabloid fixture. But she was a pretty impressive writer at times, "Dishonest Modesty" and "Them" and "The Girl You Think You See" being deep cuts that really stuck out to me for their lyrics. "You're So Vain," and the decades of coy hints and debate about whether it was about Mick Jagger or Warrent Beatty or whoever, may as well have created the blind item pop song, a tradition that's been carried on heavily in recent years by Taylor Swift, Drake and others. 

Kris Kristofferson wrote "I've Got To Have You," which wasn't released as a single in the U.S. but was a top 10 hit in Australia. Carly Simon didn't release "We Have No Secrets" or her cover of James Taylor's "Night Owl" as singles, but both appeared on the triple platinum The Best of Carly Simon compilation, her best-selling release. In 2015, Simon published a memoir, Boys In The Trees. And its companion album, Songs In The Trees (A Musical Memoir Collection), featured a number of album tracks, including "Boys In The Trees," "I've Got To Have You," and "We Have No Secrets."  

There are a ton of big name musicians on Carly Simon's records, but also some surprising celebrities on backing vocals, like Tim Curry on "Pure Sin" and Laraine Newman on "Them." Lowell George and Bill Payne of Little Feat played on "Waited So Long" and her cover of Little Feat's "One Love Stand," which also has some tasty backing vocals from Michael McDonald (who co-wrote one of Simon's biggest hits, "You Belong To Me"). I didn't expect to find a song like "Memorial Day" in Simon's catalog, which feels almost like her answer to Steely Dan's "Aja": an 8-minute epic with multiple tempo changes and a Steve Gadd drum solo (incidentally, the same album has a song co-written by Libby Titus, who'd later marry Donald Fagen). 

"De Bat (Fly In Me Face)" is an embarrassing little novelty song Simon sings in a Caribbean patois (with Luther Vandross on backing vocals!), it was singled out for scorn by Gawker some years ago. Kind of an unfortunate presence on one of her best and most popular albums (a decade later, she also closed her comeback album Coming Around Again with the title track sort of remixed into "Itsy Bitsy Spider"). Thankfully, she didn't attempt any kind of Jamaican accent again when she collaborated with Sly and Robbie on two songs on Hello Big Man, including "Such A Good Boy." Looking at some of her setlists, it appears that "De Bat" is bafflingly a staple of Carly Simon's concerts, alongside better songs like "Haven't Got Time For The Pain," "We Have No Secrets," "I've Got To Have You." 

Torch was Carly Simon's first album of standards, which has become kind of a trademark of the second half of her career. 5 of the 13 albums she's released since 1980 have been collections of standards, she was kind of ahead of the curve of other aging rockers like Rod Stewart doing albums of old jazz ballads and Tin Pan Alley songs. But I included the one original song she wrote for Torch, "From The Heart." It was the last album she released before she and Taylor divorced, so it feels like there's maybe a personal subtext to her singing all these old iconic songs of heartbreak. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 273: Florence + The Machine

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Dance Fever is one of my favorite albums of 2022 so far. And it's Florence + The Machine's 5th full-length, so she's at the point where there's a good amount music for a playlist, and she's gonna be touring around America for the next few weeks.

Florence + The Machine deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. What The Water Gave Me
2. Howl
3. The Bomb
4. Patricia
5. Long & Lost
6. I'm Not Calling You A Liar
7. Haunted House
8. If Only For A Night
9. Which Witch
10. Choreomania
11. Breaking Down (live)
12. South London Forever
13. Bird Song
14. Prayer Factory
15. Bedroom Hymns
16. When In Disgrace With Fortune And Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29) with Rufus Wainwright
17. Between Two Lungs
18. Morning Elvis (acoustic)
19. Seven Devils
20. I Will Be
21. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Tracks 2, 6 and 17 from Lungs (2009)
Track 13 from the Lungs (Deluxe Edition) (2009)
Tracks 1, 8 and 19 from Ceremonials (2011)
Track 15 from Ceremonials (Deluxe Edition) (2011)
Track 11 from MTV Unplugged (2012)
Tracks 5 and 21 from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015)
Track 9 from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Deluxe) (2015)
Track 16 from Rufus Wainwright's Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets (2016)
Track 20 from Songs From Final Fantasy XV EP (2016)
Tracks 4 and 12 from the High As Hope (2018)
Track 7 from the "Moderation" single (2019)
Tracks 3, 10 and 14 from Dance Fever (2022)
Track 18 from Dance Fever (Deluxe) (2022)

I can be a little snobby about modern British festival indie and adult alternative, and I kind of turned my nose up at Florence + The Machine when "Dog Days Are Over" first came out. But after "Shake It Off" and "Sweet Nothing" I had to at least admit that she was a really impressive singer, and the more my wife played her music around the house, the more I became a fan myself. In 2018 we saw her at The Anthem in D.C. in support of High As Hope and it was a fantastic show, maybe the best concert I've seen in the last 5 years. Some of her most frequent concert staples include "What The Water Gave Me," "Between Two Lungs," "Only If For A Night," How Big's title track, "Howl," and "Patricia. "

I used to just assume that Florence + The Machine was simply Florence Welch's stage name or a catchall band name for whoever she happens to be collaborating with. And that's what it's become at this point, but in the beginning it was a duo of Welch and Isabella "Machine" Summers, who contributed percussion, piano, songwriting, and production to Florence's first three albums. Songs on here that Summers co-wrote and/or co-produced are "Between Two Lungs," "I'm Not Calling You A Liar," "How Big," and "Which Witch," and of course she also helped launch the whole thing onto the charts with "Dog Days Are Over." In recent years, Summers has produced tracks for other artists (Tate McRae, Iggy Azalea, Angel Haze) and composed scores for a whole lot of recent TV shows ("Physical," "The Offer," "Little Fires Everywhere").

Welch has cast a wide net of collaborators, and one that kind of surprised me was that "Long & Lost" was co-written by Ester Dean, who's known for penning a lot of big pop hits by the likes of Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj. But otherwise she largely travels in that major label alternative world: "Bird Song" was co-written by Dev Hynes, "Patricia" was co-written by Emilie Hayne, "Cassandra" was co-written by Kid Harpoon, and "Choreomania" and "Prayer Factory" were co-written by Jack Antonoff. When an artist doesn't have a whole lot of albums but most of them have deluxe editions with bonus tracks, I like to include some of those, and I was pleasantly surprised that some of Florence's deluxe editions have some absolute killers, "Bedroom Hymns" and "Which Witch" are among my favorite songs on here. "Haunted House" was a b-side from a non-album single a couple years ago that I think really deserves more attention, a great little song.