Saturday, March 25, 2023


It's the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon and I wrote a piece for Spin breaking down the stories behind every track on the album. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 306: Weezer

Friday, March 24, 2023

A few months ago I ranked every Weezer album for Spin, which helped me get the ball rolling on a deep album cuts playlist, and this week I decided to finish that up. 

Weezer deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Surf Wax America
2. The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
3. My Name Is Jonas
4. No One Else
5. Tired Of Sex
6. Across The Sea
7. Crab
8. O Girlfriend
9. Death And Destruction
10. Burndt Jamb
11. Hold Me
12. Peace
13. The Angel And The One
14. Tripping Down The Freeway
15. Time Flies
16. I've Had It Up To Here
17. L.A. Girlz
18. Mexican Fender
19. Byzantine
20. Numbers
21. She Needs Me
22. What's The Good Of Being Good

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from Pinkerton (1996)
Tracks 7 and 8 from Weezer (The Green Album) (2001)
Tracks 9 and 10 from Maladroit (2002)
Tracks 11 and 12 from Make Believe (2005)
Track 13 from Weezer (The Red Album) (2008)
Track 14 from Raditude (2009)
Track 15 from Hurley (2010)
Track 16 from Everything Will Be Alright In The End (2014)
Track 17 from Weezer (The White Album) (2016)
Track 18 from Pacific Daydream (2017)
Track 19 from Weezer (The Black Album) (2019)
Track 20 from OK Human (2021)
Track 21 from Van Weezer (2021)
Track 22 from SZNZ (2022)

Weezer were always a band that some of my friends liked more than me. For the first few albums I didn't really dig any of their big hits besides "Say It Ain't So," and there were times when I wish some other band like Sloan or Fountains Of Wayne had Weezer's career. But they've really grown on me over the years as I developed more of a sweet tooth for power pop. And I found myself preferring a lot of their less ubiquitous singles like "El Scorcho," "Photograph," "Keep Fishin'," and "Troublemaker," which is really what made it easier for me to get into their albums. 

Of course, like most people, I'll admit that Weezer's first two albums loom pretty large over the rest of their discography. But I find Pinkerton kind of hard to take sometimes and am glad there's only one album like that in their discography, two would be too many. And while some of those later albums can get pretty rough, there's great songs sprinkled throughout pretty much all of them. "Death And Destruction," "Hold Me," "The Angel And The One," "L.A. Girlz," and "Numbers" were songs that all really stuck out to me when I was working on the Spin piece and it was fun to hear them all together here. And it was fun to slip in stylistic outliers like "Time Flies" and "Byzantine" that I think demonstrate that Rivers Cuomo can still be a little adventurous even when he's pursuing this increasingly monochromatic vision of a Beach Boys/Green Day west coast pop/rock ideal.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

I ranked and wrote about every Depeche Mode album, including the new Memento Mori, for Spin.

I also recently wrote a couple of brief news pieces about Tom Morello. 

TV Diary

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

a) "Swarm"
"Atlanta" was good enough often enough that I felt like a lot of Donald Glover's bad ideas were contained to his music, but he and his collaborators really let 'em all fly with "Swarm." Dominique Fishback's performance is extraordinarily committed, and there are a couple episodes where the concept sort of works or points in some interesting directions. But ultimately, it felt a lot like "This Is America," pressing on a lot of hot button issues in a sort of vacuous way, lots of violence and provocative pop culture references in service of something kind of mean, empty and glib. Also, probably would've worked better as a feature, just 3 of the best episodes with everything else trimmed out, you've got a reasonably novel little slasher movie, but as a series it really left a bad taste in my mouth. 

b) "UnPrisoned"
Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington are great in this comedy about a man who gets out of prison after 17 years and tries to reacclimate to the outside world, and his daughter who has a lot of complex feelings about letting him back into her life. There's some familiar sitcommy humor about dysfunctional families but it really feels like they're pulling no punches with the emotional minefield of the situation and letting all the characters feel like real, flawed people. Also Brenda Song is in her 60s now and holy shit I would still die for her. 

I don't know if I ever realized that Emily Browning is from Australia, I'd never heard her speak in her real accent before. Anyway I really like this Australian show on Amazon about an all-girls high school's 10-year reunion, which is held at a high elevation point on the night that some kind of cataclysmic tsunami happens and they become stranded on a small island together, unsure if anybody is alive in the outside world. So it's got a bit of a "Yellowjackets" thing happening, except they become stranded as adults, and it's a bit lighter in tone but very funny and dramatic and messy. 

d) "School Spirits"
"School Spirits" is one of Paramount+'s more promising shows to date, the story of a teenager who dies, and then haunts her high school trying to solve her murder and meeting the ghosts of every other kid who died at the school over the years. It's both melancholy and playful about death in a way that reminds me of "Dead Like Me," which is high praise. I'm not totally sold on it yet, but Peyton List and the rest of the cast, none of whom I've really seen in anything before, are all really good, and I'm curious to see where the story goes. 

e) "History of the World: Part II"
As I mentioned last week, I'd never actually seen History of the World: Part I until recently despite being a big fan of many Mel Brooks movies, and I was a little unimpressed. And I have to say, Hulu's sequel miniseries is pretty fun, for the most part it gets what worked in the original and comes up with new bits that work in the same way and occasionally have a more contemporary sensibility. Who knows how many jokes Brooks actually wrote with dozens of much younger comedy stars pitching in to pull it off, but it feels like a very loving continuation of what he started. There's a lot of Nick Kroll doing gratingly broad accents, which is not something from "Kroll Show" that I missed, but otherwise, pretty good. 

f) "Rain Dogs"
Don't really know what to make of this British comedy, Jack Farthing's character Selby is a really fascinating, magnetic screen presence, but the frequent scenes without him kind of amble onward as a comparatively uneventful slice of life story. 

Billy Crudup's character on "The Morning Show" is both one of the best things about it and one of the best roles of his career. But it feels a little odd that Apple TV+ has decided to build another show around Crudup playing a similar sort of character, a charming fast talker in a suit who's not entirely trustworthy, and I hope it doesn't mean that he's going to be on the next season of "The Morning Show" a lot less because he took this other gig. I keep watching "Hello Tomorrow!" hoping that it will click, that its odd dreamy mix of comedy and drama and sci-fi satire will start to feel like it's headed somewhere interesting. That hasn't happened yet, but I don't mind wasting a little time with Crudup and Hank Azaria. 

h) "Will Trent"
Will Trent is the main character in a series of crime novels, one of those quirky fictional detectives who has personal difficulties (dyslexia, trauma from growing up in foster homes) but is incredibly good at their job. I haven't read the books, but I can tell just from watching the show that they didn't work too hard at a faithful adaption based on New York native Ramon Rodriguez's atrocious attempt at a Georgia accent as the title character. It's an above average police procedural, though, and the whole dynamic with Rodriguez and Erika Christensen is interesting. 

i) "Accused"
"Accused" is a FOX anthology series, based on a British show, with each episode about a different court case. And they try to structure each story cleverly so that you're not sure at the outset who's the defendant, or exactly what they're on trial for, and then go back and tell the backstory with some misdirection and red herrings until it's all revealed. And I have to say, some of these stories are really stupid and emotionally manipulative, turning real life issues like school shootings or surrogate mothers into these simplistic little thought exercises. 

j) "The Watchful Eye"
An interesting Freeform show where a woman works a nanny for a wealthy family while scheming to steal from them, and also tries to solve the mystery of what happened to their previous nanny. It feels like the story is moving a little slow and isn't really a nailbiter, but I still enjoy it. 

k) "Alaska Daily"
Hilary Swank is the kind of acclaimed Oscar-winning actor who should have seamlessly transitioned into doing some great iconic TV roles in the past decade, but Netflix's "Away" was nothing special and I liked FX's "Trust" but kinda forgot she was in it. Now she's starring in a show on ABC that feels kind of beneath her, especially since they gave it a really lousy schedule -- the first 6 episodes aired back in the fall, then they did a dumb no-suspense cliffhanger, took it off the air for a few months, and then dumped the last 4 episodes in March. In some moments it's a good thoughtful show about journalism -- Swank had a great line in a recent episode, "editors are like dogs, they have to p*ss on everything" -- but sometimes it the plot feels ripped-from-the-headlines in a hacky way. 

l) "Wolf Pack"
This is not entirely a boilerplate teen werewolf show, despite having the same showrunner as MTV's "Teen Wolf" series. But it also has not really held my interest since a mildly promising first episode, and I feel bad for Sarah Michelle Gellar that she's been reduced to a thankless supporting role on a show like this. 

m) "Alert: Missing Persons Unit"
It feels like FOX put this on the air just looking to fill out their schedule with more stuff like "9-1-1," but to its credit it's not as mind-numbingly stupid as "9-1-1." But it feels very generic, like Scott Caan just needed another procedural to jump to after "Hawaii Five-0" ran its course. 

n) "Welcome To Flatch" 
There's a long, complicated history of networks retooling sitcoms and adding new cast members trying to turn it into a hit. So I rolled my eyes pretty hard when "Welcome To Flatch" returned for a second season with Jaime Pressly added to the cast, it almost felt like someone went "Well, what was the last successful sitcom about small town life, 'My Name Is Earl'? Let's get someone from that!" That being said, Pressly fits in with their existing ensemble pretty well, and the show's ratings went up slightly, so maybe it will help them get renewed for a third season, so I accept that change happily, transparent as it feels. 

o) "You"
Part of the appeal of "You" is naturally seeing Joe get himself into an impossible situation and somehow manage to survive and get what he wants (at least temporarily, before he starts killing people again). And the fact that Netflix split the 4th season into 2 parts released a month apart made it seem like maybe the show really had an ace up its sleeve on how it was gonna move the story forward this time. I just kinda rolled my eyes at how this season ended, though, it was fine and may set up an interesting season 5, but it kinda feels like the show has peaked now and they should be thinking about a good series finale. 

The story in this Mexican Netflix series, about a family who regularly kidnaps wealthy people to maintain their lifestyle, is pretty fascinating, but I think it's one of those things where I'm more curious about the real life inspiration than the fictionalized version and would like to watch a documentary about the Puccio family. 

q) "The Lying Life of Adults"
The second TV series based on Elena Ferrante's books is on Netflix and seems to have gotten way less attention than HBO's "My Brilliant Friend." It's pretty good, though, and it's been nice to see Valeria Golino more again lately on this and "The Morning Show," she was one of the first actresses I ever had a crush on. 

r) "Sky Rojo"
This Spanish crime thriller is in its 3rd season and is I think one of my favorite foreign language show Netflix has ever had, really ludicrous storylines and entertaining dialogue but still a little grounded in reality. 

s) "The Problem With Jon Stewart"
It feels like Jon Stewart's Apple TV+ series is a little less lethargic than when it started and has finally started to have a couple viral moments and start some larger conversations. I'm still not wild about the format, though, and it feels like he's moved into a less charming version of late period Letterman where his intrinsic embarrassment and self-deprecation about hosting a TV show has sort of swallowed any sincere efforts to host a TV show. 

t) "The Daily Show"
There's a whole fascinating history with Carson guest hosts and these days when Jimmy Kimmel goes on vacation it seems like unexpected celebrities are always really excited to land a temporary late night gig. But Comedy Central deciding to bring in a different guest host on "The Daily Show" for several months after Trevor Noah's exit feels fraught and awkward. Is every guest host auditioning for a permanent gig? Are they just killing time? As influential as it's been, I think "The Daily Show" has a very particular tone and it's felt very strange at times watching people who've had other late night shows like Chelsea Handler do their take on it. So far Hasan Minhaj has been the only "Daily Show" alum in the guest host rotation and I thought he was by far the best, "Patriot Act" was an excellent show and I wish they'd just give the job to him (or Roy Wood Jr. or Desi Lydic, honestly). The low points have been Kal Penn, who just isn't really a comedian, and Marlon Wayans, who interviewed NYC mayor Eric Adams in character as a guy in a jersey named 'Quon,' just garbage. 

I've never really actually played a party game like Mafia or Werewolf, but it seems like this is sort of a reality show version of those, with a bunch of people from other reality shows competing in a Scottish castle with Alan Cumming as the host. Seems pretty fun but I didn't get far in watching it, I find it hard to keep motivated in watching a reality show, especially when all the episodes are released at once. 

v) "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test"
This is really the bottom of the barrel of reality TV, a bunch of obnoxious fame hungry minor celebrities like Anthony Scaramucci and Kate Gosselin doing a simulated military boot camp and complaining about how hard it is until most of them get injured or give up. 

w) "Back In The Groove"
I'm surprised it took this long for someone to make a How Stella Got Her Groove Back-inspired dating show about middle aged women hosted by Taye Diggs, that's money in the bank. Feels like a less embarrassing alternative to the recent "MILF Manor." 

x) "The Parent Test"
A really weird quasi-academic reality show where a bunch of families compare their parenting styles and they try to 'prove' whether helicopter parenting or more casual parenting is better, the way they gamified these interesting subjects felt very unserious. 

A pretty cool Disney+ docuseries about Japanese surfers, great camerawork. 

The idea of investigating how much we may not know about ancient civilizations and constructing theories about how they ended is interesting, if it was done with some academic grounding. But this Netflix series just seems like fodder for conspiracy nuts like "Ancient Aliens," very stupid show. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 305: Bobby Caldwell

Friday, March 17, 2023

Bobby Caldwell passed away on Tuesday at the age of 71, I always loved "What You Won't Do For Love" so I thought I'd take a look at his catalog. . 

Bobby Caldwell deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Love Won't Wait
2. Come To Me
3. Take Me Back To Then
4. Special To Me
5. Open Your Eyes
6. I Don't Want To Lose Your Love
7. Open Your Eyes
8. It's Over
9. Carry On
10. Words
11. You Belong To Me
12. Never Loved Before
13. All Or Nothing At All
14. Stuck On You
15. Where Is Love
16. Don't Ask My Neighbor
17. The Girl I Dream About
18. Old Devil Moon
19. In The Afterlife
20. What About Me
21. Destiny

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Bobby Caldwell (later reissued as What You Won't Do For Love) (1978)
Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 from Cat In The Hat (1980)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Carry On (1982)
Track 12 from August Moon (1983)
Track 13 from Heart Of Mine (1989)
Track 14 from Stuck On You (1991)
Track 15 from Where Is Love (1993)
Track 16 from Soul Survivor (1995)
Track 17 from Blue Condition (1996)
Track 18 from Come Rain Or Shine (1999)
Track 19 from Perfect Islands Nights (2005)
Track 20 from House of Cards (2012)
Track 21 from Cool Uncle with Jack Splash (2015)

Before he was a solo star, Caldwell played in Little Richard's backing band and was good friends with Bob Marley. When he signed to TK Records, a label that released many of the biggest hits of the disco era, the label decided to promote "What You Won't Do For Love" to R&B stations and show Caldwell only as a silhouette on his album cover, letting much of the public assume he was black. And even today, it's become kind of a running joke on Twitter that every few months someone will post the "What You Won't Do For Love" video and express surprised that Caldwell is white. 

It's interesting to think about the songs by white artists that have been played heavily on R&B radio over the years. Some were by acts so famous that people were well aware of what they looked like (Elton John's "Bennie And The Jets," David Bowie's "Fame," Hall & Oates's "I Can't Go For That"), while in the '80s certain artsy pop acts were a little more deliberately faceless but it didn't feel like anyone cared too much about the race of who made it (Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait," Art Of Noise's "Moments In Love," Tom Tom Club's "Genius Of Love"). Later in the music video age, it felt like white R&B singers like Jon B. and Robin Thicke could find a semi-comfortable niche with everyone being aware of their race a little more than in Caldwell's era. 

But then, to me Caldwell sounds mostly like a jazz/blues-influenced soft rock guy like Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, or his friend Boz Scaggs. "What You Won't Do For Love" even has a flugelhorn on it! And a lot of his music sounds like it could've been made by Chicago or one of the acts that now gets called 'yacht rock' (in fact, Caldwell wrote a #1 hit, "Next Time I Fall," for Chicago's Peter Cetera). That's not a diss, because I like all those artists, and I think we kind of lost something when guys like that disappeared from the charts. 

"Open Your Eyes," a deep cut from Caldwell's second album, was famously sampled on Common's hit "The Light." Lil Nas X's "Carry On" sampled the title track of Caldwell's Carry On, and Caldwell's publisher sued Lil Nas X for millions in 2018. Caldwell had his last Hot 100 hit in 1982 (although in 1988 he released the lead single for the soundtrack to the legendarily awful movie Mac And Me). And his commercial decline, unfortunately, had a lot to do with label woes. Caldwell was signed to TK Records, which released a lot of the biggest hits of the disco era, but collapsed in the early '80s, and Caldwell initially released August Moon only in Japan, where his albums had sold better than in America. 

It seems like Caldwell was happy to continue making music under whatever circumstances he could, experimenting with a whole range of styles, including singing a lot of standards on his later albums and even playing Frank Sinatra in a musical. But in 2015, on what would be his final album Cool Uncle, Caldwell hooked up with a younger producer, Jack Splash (Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar), and sang on some funky retro R&B tracks with people like Cee-Lo Green and Jessie Ware.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 304: U2

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Having done over 300 of these things now, it amuses me how many massive household name artists there are that I haven't done a deep cuts playlist for yet, particular one that I've been listening to pretty much my whole life like U2. Last year I ranked every U2 album for Spin and decided to once again put off a U2 deep cuts playlist for a while after that. Then the band announced Songs of Surrender, out this week, which features new studio recordings of 40 songs from the U2 catalog, 10 songs selected by each member of the band. So I thought I'd do my little retrospective while they're also taking a look back. 

U2 deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Out Of Control
2. I Threw A Brick Through A Window
3. "40"
4. Surrender
5. MLK
6. A Sort Of Homecoming
7. Red Hill Mining Town
8. Mothers Of The Disappeared
9. Heartland
10. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
11. Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World
12. Some Days Are Better Than Others
13. Gone
14. In A Little While
15. One Step Closer
16. Stand Up Comedy
17. Cedarwood Road
18. The Little Things That Give You Away

Track 1 from Boy (1980)
Track 2 from October (1981)
Tracks 3 and 4 from War (1983)
Tracks 5 and 6 from The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
Tracks 7 and 8 from The Joshua Tree (1987)
Track 9 from Rattle and Hum (1988)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Achtung Baby (1991)
Track 12 from Zooropa (1993)
Track 13 from Pop (1997)
Track 14 from All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Track 15 from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004)
Track 16 from No Line On The Horizon (2009)
Track 17 from Songs Of Innocence (2014)
Track 18 from Songs Of Experience (2017)

The 40 songs that U2 revisit on Songs of Surrender are mostly singles (although it's not really a greatest hits deal -- a lot of big songs are passed over in favor of forgotten minor hits). In fact there are only about 7 deep cuts on the whole thing, which say interesting things about what eras each member wanted to highlight. The Edge picked "Out Of Control" and "Stories For Boys" from their debut. Larry Mullen Jr. picked a couple midperiod album tracks, Joshua Tree's "Red Hill Mining Town" and Zooropa's "Dirty Day," Adam Clayton picked "Peace On Earth" from All You Can't Leave Behind, and Bono picked three 21st century songs: "Miracle Drug," "Cedarwood Road," and "The Little Things That Give You Away." Still, they weren't out to check off every box -- nobody picked any songs from October or No Line On The Horizon to re-record, and oddly neither  "Surrender" from War nor "Moment of Surrender" from No Line was reprised for Songs of Surrender

"Red Hill Mining Town" is a song that fascinates me from a what-if perspective. After "With Or Without You" became U2's first #1 single on the Hot 100, "Red Hill Mining Town" was planned as the follow-up, and they filmed a music video, which the band wound up hating so much that they changed the whole singles campaign. Instead, they quickly shot the now-iconic "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" video, that song also went to #1, and the rest is history. "Red Hill Mining Town" never got its turn as a single, and today it's the 7th most popular song on The Joshua Tree behind "In God's Country," but one can safely assume it came very close to being one of U2's most well known songs had it been promoted at the peak of their popularity. 

Sometimes when I'm putting together a deep cuts playlist of a big rock band, I find myself straining to find uptempo non-singles because I get bored if I end up with too many ballads and slow songs. But U2 is one of those bands where the slow burners and more textural pieces are often my favorite tracks, so I was more than happy to include things like "40" and "MLK" and "Mothers Of The Disappeared" and display that side of the band. My friend and frequent studio collaborator Mat Leffler-Schulman always praised "Mothers" as a great Brian Eno production which ran a drum machine through a vocoder, very much influenced us. 

Achtung Baby was one of the albums that was ubiquitous in my mom's house (and, I guess, in the world in general) around the time I started to really get interested in music, and I'll always have a lot of love for that one, the hits and the deep cuts. It always surprises me to realize that most people don't think "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World" is not a key song on that record, it feels like it could've been a hit. The only time I've seen U2 live, in Baltimore in 2011, they did a lot of Achtung Baby for the 20th anniversary of the album, and "Ultra Violet" was amazing live. Between Bono's memoir, the upcoming Netflix biography series, Songs of Surrender, and the fact that Mullen is sitting out the band's Vegas residency this year, I have to wonder if U2 is finally winding down now after 40 years of massive albums and tours. It's been a hell of a run, though, whether or not it's anywhere near over. 

My Favorite Artists of the 1980s

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Last year, I finished my lists of my top 50 albums and top 100 singles for each year of the 1980s (links are at the bottom of this post). And something I like to do after I've done lists for an entire decade is crunch the numbers and figure out which artists made the most music I love in that period (I've previously done this for the 1990s and the 2010s). 

My Top 25 Album Artists of the 1980s:

1. Prince
2. Sonic Youth
3. R.E.M.
4. Elvis Costello
5. The Replacements
6. The Cure
7. John Mellencamp
8. Tom Petty
9. Bruce Springsteen
10. Meat Puppets
11. Talking Heads
12. U2
13. Madonna
14. Squeeze
15. Run-DMC
16. Tom Waits
17. Pretenders
18. Metallica
19. Peter Gabriel
20. Tears For Fears
21. (tie) Kate Bush
21. (tie) The Minutemen
23. XTC
24. INXS
25. Phil Collins

I kind of always accurately figured what the top 2 would be long before I tallied it up -- I mean, how could Prince not be #1?  He was, alongside Elvis Costello and The Cure, one of the only notable artists who made more than 5 or 6 albums in the '80s, to say nothing of how amazing most of them are. But hey, Tears For Fears got in there with only 3 albums. Sonic Youth was also my #2 album artist of the '90s, and R.E.M. was the only other act in both decades. I wanna do one of these posts for the 2000s, and I'm sure Sonic Youth will be high up in that one too. 

My Top 50 Singles Artists of the 1980s: 

1. Prince (solo / with The Revolution / collaborations / writing and producing)
2. Hugh Padgham (producing)
3. Phil Collins (solo / with Genesis / collaborations / writing and producing)
4. Jimmy Iovine (producing)
5. Michael Jackson (solo / with The Jacksons / collaborations)
6. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (with The Time / writing and producing)
7. Tom Petty (solo / with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / with The Traveling Wilburys)
8. Rick Rubin (writing and producing)
9. Mike Campbell (with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / writing and producing)
10. Madonna
11. U2
12. Mutt Lange (writing and producing)
13. Van Halen 
14. Sting (solo / with The Police / collaborations)
15. Steve Lillywhite (producing)
16. Nile Rodgers (with Chic / writing and producing)
17. Mike Rutherford (with Genesis / with Mike + The Mechanics)
18. Ted Templeman (producing)
19. Run-DMC
20. Bruce Springsteen
21. INXS
22. Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (with Talking Heads / with Tom Tom Club)
23. Genesis
24. David Lee Roth (solo / with Van Halen)
25. R.E.M.
26. Peter Gabriel (solo / collaborations)
27. Janet Jackson
28. George Michael (solo / with Wham! / collaborations)
29. Talking Heads
30. Stevie Nicks (solo / with Fleetwood Mac)
31. Brian Eno (writing and producing)
32. Pretenders
33. The Police
34. Jeff Lynne (with ELO / with The Traveling Wilburys / writing and producing)
35. John Mellencamp
36. Tears For Fears
37. Def Leppard
38. Queen
39. Public Enemy
40. Narada Michael Walden (writing and producing)
41. LL Cool J
42. Billy Idol
43. Pat Benatar
44. Squeeze
45. Journey
46. Billy Joel
47. Daryl Hall (solo / with John Oates)
48. Eric B. & Rakim
49. The Cure
50. Bobby Brown (solo / with New Edition)

For the singles artists list, I let things get more complicated as I'd include production/writing credits and collaborations with other artists in a person's total. Obviously with all the people Prince wrote and produced hits for, he was #1 by an even greater distance than on the other list. The people that are in both this and the '90s singles list were Prince, Tom Petty, U2, INXS, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, and LL Cool J. Legends only!

Of course, it gets a little messy in there to be able to have Phil Collins AND Mike Rutherford AND Genesis AND their producer Hugh Padgham each getting entries on the list based partly on some of the same songs. But I like being able to include people like Nile Rodgers or Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and have the list reflect some prolific hitmakers who made songs with lots of different artists, or people like Sting and Stevie Nicks who were big as both band members and solo artists. 

Movie Diary

Monday, March 13, 2023

a) Triangle of Sadness
It's not really the point of the title or anything, but one of my favorite things about Triangle of Sadness is its structure, three chapters that had a couple of main characters in common but felt very distinct from each other and each sort of contributed thematically in crucial ways to the whole. It's also an arresting choice because the most acclaimed and award-winning performance in the movie is Dolly de Leon, who's not present in the first chapter, barely seen in the second chapter (closer an extra than a supporting player), and then very important in the third chapter. A lot of people have characterized it as a simplistic "wealth and inequality = bad" satire but I thought it was a pretty thoughtful and rich film (no pun intended) in having a lot to say about money and labor and comfort, with other themes and storylines going on all the while and some really sharp dialogue. Surprisingly, the most broadly comedic interlude with Woody Harrelson was what I thought was the least effective and essential part of the whole movie. And it's sad to know that Charlbi Dean died shortly after making Triangle of Sadness, she's great in it. 

b) Women Talking
I think The Banshees of Inisherin is still my favorite of the Best Picture nominees at this year's Oscars, but Triangle of Sadness and this are close behind. It felt a little academic at some points, characters sort of representing different ideologies or archetypes very starkly to move the debate forward, but the performances were so good that it still worked, I wish Claire Foy or Jessie Buckley or Sheila McCarthy had gotten an acting nomination. 

c) All Quiet On The Western Front
I was really happy that this won Best Original Score, the movie was visually stunning but Volker Bertelmann's music really added a different dimension to it. At this point I only want to see a war movie if it's about the horrors of war, and this is really stark and memorable in that respect, was a nice counterbalance to the Top Gun: Maverick nomination. 

d) Puss In Boots: The Last Wish
As much as I hate to say anything nice about anything from the Shrek cinematic universe, I do like the Puss In Boots movies and this was by far the best one, definitely lived up to the hype. 

e) Bullet Train
This kind of reminds me of The Fifth Element in that the ads looked really garish and stupid but once I sat down to watch it, I mostly liked its stylized, colorful aesthetic and heightened reality, it was a reasonably fun movie with some cool action setpieces. I'm still confused every time I see Aaron Tyler-Johnson in something, though, like this is seriously the would-be superstar being considered to play James Bond? 

f) All That Breathes 
I only saw two of this year's Best Documentary Feature nominees (this and Fire of Love) but I was definitely rooting for All That Breathes and was a little disappointed it didn't win. The story of two New Delhi brothers who dedicate their lives to tending to injured birds and nursing them back to health is beautiful and inspiring and the guys are really likable and fun to spend time with. But the movie doesn't pull any punches about the fact that birds are falling from the sky because of the pollution and they feel some hopelessness about helping the birds while the root cause isn't being remedied. 

g) My Year of Dicks
I absolutely adored the Best Animated Short winner The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and am glad it won, but I also liked My Year of Dicks, it's a very funny and surprisingly affecting coming of age story. I almost wish it was a feature or series, those 25 minutes went by very quickly. 

h) History of the World: Part I
I'm glad Hulu started streaming this ahead of their "History of the World: Part II" sequel series, because as much as I grew up on most of the big Mel Brooks classics, this was always a blind spot I'd never seen. And I will say, it hasn't dated as well as a lot of his other '70s and '80s movies, some of it does make me cringe, but I'm glad I finally saw it, even if the famous bits I already knew of ("it's good to be the king," 15 commandments, etc.) were by far the funniest parts. 

Monthly Report: March 2023 Singles

Thursday, March 09, 2023

1. Sam Smith - "I'm Not Here To Make Friends"
I can very clearly remember 15 years ago when I saw Rich Juzwiak's supercut of people on various reality shows using the phrase that was not yet a TV cliche but absolutely is now: "I'm not here to make friends." Turning that catchphrase into a pop song could be as tacky as "Big Energy" depending on the execution, but I like that Sam Smith decided to purr "I'm not here to make friends -- I need a lover" over a disco track, it's a pretty good little twist. Here's the 2023 singles Spotify playlist I add new songs to every month. 

2. Coi Leray - "Players"
Speaking of "Big Energy," the success of Latto's song really seems to have opened up the floodgates for people to once again do big obvious Bad Boy-style samples of songs that were already sampled during the original Bad Boy era. So I rolled my eyes when Coi Leray previewed a snippet sampling "The Message." But the full song has grown on me quickly, I think it's one of those situations where this song exists because of "Big Energy" but it's still substantially better than it. And even though the Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five original is sort of ground zero for socially conscious hip hop and one of the genre's crown jewels, that beat is so dynamic and funky that I feel like it's kind of appropriate that it's been turned into lighter club fare several times now by Ice Cube, Puffy, and now Benzino's weirdo daughter. That "bout to catch another flight" pre-chorus vocal melody is so sick. 

3. Parker McCollum - "Handle On You"
The first verse of "Handle On You" opens with a great line ("I went and bought the biggest bottle they got 'cause you're gone") and then the opener of the second verse is even better ("I tell myself that I should quit but I don't listen to drunks"). Heartbreak and alcoholism make good country songs, especially together, and I almost wish George Jones was around to record this one. 

4. India Shawn - "Exchange"
"Exchange" was one of my favorite D'Mile-produced tracks on last year's Before We Go (Deeper), glad it became India Shawn's first single to make a dent on the R&B carts. 

5. Alex Vaughn - "So Be It"
Alex Vaughn is another young R&B singer with her first radio hit on the charts that I'm really rooting for, especially because she's from Prince George's County, Maryland, which is where I live, "So Be It" is a great dramatic slow jam. 

6. Linkin Park - "Lost"
I always liked a bunch of Linkin Park songs, but Chester Bennington's death made me reconsider how I held the emotion in those songs at arm's length, that I just enjoyed their nu-metal angst as an abstract aesthetic experience. But now I think about how Bennington really was suffering when I hear those songs and it's a bit more intense. Meteora is the band's best album and the one that they seemed to work on the hardest, reputedly writing 80 songs and mixing the final album over and over to get the sound right. So it makes sense that the first posthumous hit for the band since Bennington's death is a 2003 demo from an upcoming 20th anniversary edition of Meteora. I can see why "Lost" didn't make the album since it and "Numb" both being on there might feel a little redundant, but it's a good song, I'm glad it finally saw the light of day. 

7. Young Dolph - "Love For The Streets"
I loved Young Dolph's posthumous album Paper Route Frank and have been generally annoyed by the relative lack of attention that Dolph's music has gotten after his death, he deserves a lot more love. I'm happy that the album's opening track has started to get some spins, that beat is incredible. Dolph does a weird intro on the song talking about he had sex at 7 years old, which is the kind of thing that a disturbing number of different rappers have claimed on songs. 

8. Toby Keith - "Oklahoma Breakdown"
Toby Keith is one of the few country stars who had great singles in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, but his ability to make a hit really dried up some years ago. So I'm really impressed by "Oklahoma Breakdown," probably his most memorable single since "Beers Ago," makes great use of his voice. 

9. Zach Bryan f/ Maggie Rogers - "Dawns"
Zach Bryan released such an absurd amount of music in 2022 that I almost wanted him to just chill for a while. But then his first release of 2023 was a great collaboration with another artist I really like, which also became Maggie Rogers's highest charting song to date, feels a little different from both artists' solo stuff in a good way. 

10. Tiesto f/ Tate McRae - "10:35"
Tiesto has been a massive star in the EDM world for decades without doing a whole lot of collaborations with pop singers to cater to Top 40 radio like Marshmello or Zedd or whatever. But he's started to move in that direction lately and I really like is recent singles with Tate McRae and Charli XCX. 

The Worst Single of the Month: Lonnie - "One Night Stand"
When this song starts, I think about how it epitomizes everything I hate about whiny, bored-sounding rap singers like Post Malone and The Kid Laroi. And then the chorus hits and it's a baffling interpolation of "Lovefool" by The Cardigans, and it just gets so much worse than I imagined it could. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 303: De La Soul

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

I ranked De La Soul's albums for Spin a few weeks ago after the news of Trugoy's death broke. But now De La Soul's back catalog is finally available in full to stream for the first time ever, and I was pretty happy to put together a playlist I never thought I'd be able to make. 

De La Soul deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Description f/ Q-Tip and Prince Paul
2. Change In Speak
3. Ghetto Thang
4. D.A.I.S.Y. Age
5. Pass The Plugs f/ Prince Paul
6. Bitties In The BK Lounge f/ LeShaun
7. Let, Let Me In
8. Pease Porridge
9. Area
10. I Am I Be f/ Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, and Peewee Ellis
11. Eye Patch
12. Pony Ride f/ Truth Enola
13. Supa Emcees
14. The Bizness f/ Common
15. The Art Of Getting Jumped
16. Thru Ya City f/ D.V. Alias Khrist
17. Bionix
18. The Grind Date
19. He Comes f/ Ghostface Killah
20. Small Disasters with DJ Chokolate and DJ Khalid Music
21. Memory Of... (Us) f/ Estelle and Pete Rock

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 from De La Soul Is Dead (1991)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 from Stakes Is High (1996)
Tracks 15 and 16 from Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000)
Track 17 from AOI: Bionix (2001)
Tracks 18 and 19 from The Grind Date (2004)
Track 20 from De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present... First Serve (2012)
Track 21 from And The Anonymous Nobody... (2016)

When I rank an artist's catalog for Spin, I try to strike some measure of compromise between my own opinions and conventional wisdom, and I'm glad I summoned the confidence to put De La Soul Is Dead at #1, I really think it's probably one of the 10 best rap albums of all time. It was hard to even narrow down which songs to include from those early albums, they're just so jam-packed with great songs. 

I do feel a little bad that I had to rank the AOI albums so low because De La didn't really make any bad albums. "Thru Ya City" was produced by J Dilla, whose most famous De La beat is obviously "Stakes Is High." And Supa Dave West, who did a lot of great later De La tracks, produced "Bionix," "The Grind Date," "He Comes," and "Memory of... (Us)." And obviously all the early stuff was produced by the group with Prince Paul. 

There was a lot of trepidation when word got out that De La Soul had to re-record parts of these albums to get them ready to legally stream -- I've heard a lot of rap songs absolutely ruined by the need to replace uncleared samples. But I'm thrilled to say that these albums sound great on Spotify and while I've seen a few people point out moments where samples had to be replayed, I haven't noticed them much myself and certainly nothing that's actively detracted from my enjoyment of the songs, they did a great job and, fortunately, I guess were able to clear the really essential stuff. It's pretty much a fun coincidence that this became Vol. 303 in the Deep Album Cuts series, 3 really is the magic number. 

De La's first two albums came out before feature credits became a normal part of tracklist credits for rap albums, so I wanted to add credits for those songs. And I was surprised to realize that the woman who does the hilarious battle-of-the-sexes verse with Posdnous on "Bitties In The BK Lounge" is LeShaun, who later appeared on LL Cool J's classic "Doin' It." It's hard not to wonder if she could've been one of the biggest female rappers of the '90s if she'd gotten to make a solo album. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 302: Sheryl Crow

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Sheryl Crow is a 2023 nominee for the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, alongside Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, Iron Maiden, Joy Division/New Order, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes, and Warren Zevon. The consensus appears to be that Crow is probably the least exciting or deserving nominee out of this year's batch, which I would agree with. I don't think that's necessarily a harsh judgement, though, it's a pretty strong lineup. And I actually suggested Crow when I wrote a column about women who should be nominated for the Rock Hall a few years ago.

Sheryl Crow deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Solidify
2. I Shall Believe
3. No One Said It Would Be Easy
4. Maybe Angels
5. Love Is A Good Thing
6. Redemption Day
7. It Don't Hurt
8. The Difficult Kind
9. You're An Original (with Lenny Kravitz)
10. Safe And Sound
11. Wildflower
12. Lullaby For Wyatt
13. Hello My Friend, Hello
14. Long Road Home
15. Waterproof Mascara
16. Alone In The Dark
17. Cross Creek Road (with Neil Young and Lukas Nelson)

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Tuesday Night Music Club (1993)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from Sheryl Crow (1996)
Tracks 7 and 8 from The Globe Sessions (1998)
Tracks 9 and 10 from C'Mon C'Mon (2002)
Track 11 from Wildflower (2005)
Track 12 from Detours (2008)
Track 13 from Home For Christmas (2008)
Track 14 from 100 Miles From Memphis (2010)
Track 15 from Feels Like Home (2013)
Track 16 from Be Myself (2017)
Track 17 from Threads (2019)

By the time Sheryl Crow released Tuesday Night Music Club, she was in her thirties and had been kicking around the music industry for a while, spending two years singing backup on Michael Jackson's Bad tour, and recording vocals for commercial jingles and "Cop Rock." She'd already recorded a different debut album that was shelved, with some songs eventually being recorded by Celine Dion, Tina Turner, and others. And even when she finally did release an album, it took a long time to catch on. I remember hearing the album's first moderate hit, "Leaving Las Vegas," on the radio a bit before the album started selling and feeling like I knew about her early on, but that was already the third single and the album had been out nearly a year. 

Sheryl Crow was kind of the right artist for the right moment, an unapologetic classic rock traditionalist like Lenny Kravitz or The Black Crowes as well as a female singer-songwriter at a time when alternative rock radio was especially welcoming of them -- Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and others were also thriving, eventually banding together for the Lilith Fair tour. 

Sheryl Crow won lots of Grammys, collaborated with lots of legends, and made a self-produced follow-up album that was arguably even better than her big debut. And she survived the changing times better than a lot of her contemporaries, making more hits by pivoting towards pop ("Soak Up The Sun") and country (Kid Rock's "Picture"). But ultimately it feels like the space Sheryl Crow occupied in pop culture no longer exists and the kind of success she had is not necessarily what people think about when they remember the '90s. Even Alanis Morissette, who traveled a pretty similar arc, seems much more emblematic of the era now -- nobody's going to make a Broadway musical out of Tuesday Night Music Club. I think most of Crow's '90s singles have aged pretty well, but I didn't include any in my lists of the best pop and rock hits of the decade. 

"Love Is A Good Thing" is the song that famously provoked Walmart to not sell the Sheryl Crow album. I respected her a lot for writing that song and refusing to change it at the time, and when I wrote about that episode last year, I felt even more strongly that it took real guts to do that, when Walmart was that powerful in music retail and she was following up a huge album. And now Walmart doesn't sell guns anymore, Crow has really been vindicated in that entire thing. And I really love the whole sound of that self-titled album, Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake were involved and there's lots of cool textures like harmonium and Moog in the mix and nifty percussion sounds. 

"I Shall Believe" and "The Difficult Kind" are the only album tracks on the quadruple platinum The Very Best of Sheryl Crow, and "Wildflower" was the only album cut on Hits & Rarities. "Redemption Day" was covered by Johnny Cash. Those songs are among the most played deep cuts in her live repertoire alongside "It Don't Hurt," "Maybe Angels," and "You're An Original." Crow dated Owen Wilson, and "Safe And Sound" is allegedly the song inspired by their relationship, and wow, that's a great song and probably the best vocal performance of her career, I didn't think anything like that would be on the same album as "Soak Up The Sun." Sheryl Crow has said that Threads is probably her final album, and I mean, she's over 60 now, she's had a hell of a run and probably wasn't gonna have a big comeback at this point. But putting this together gave me a greater appreciation for her catalog, I wouldn't mind seeing her in the Rock Hall if she makes the cut this year. 

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
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
Vol. 118: Lil Wayne
Vol. 119: Nirvana
Vol. 120: Kix
Vol. 121: Phil Collins
Vol. 122: Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Vol. 123: Sonic Youth
Vol. 124: Bob Seger
Vol. 125: Radiohead
Vol. 126: Eric Church
Vol. 127: Neil Young
Vol. 128: Future
Vol. 129: Say Anything
Vol. 130: Maroon 5
Vol. 131: Kiss
Vol. 132: Dinosaur Jr.
Vol. 133: Stevie Nicks
Vol. 134: Talk Talk
Vol. 135: Ariana Grande
Vol. 136: Roxy Music
Vol. 137: The Cure
Vol. 138: 2 Chainz
Vol. 139: Kelis
Vol. 140: Ben Folds Five
Vol. 141: DJ Khaled
Vol. 142: Little Feat
Vol. 143: Brendan Benson
Vol. 144: Chance The Rapper
Vol. 145: Miguel
Vol. 146: The Geto Boys
Vol. 147: Meek Mill
Vol. 148: Tool
Vol. 149: Jeezy
Vol. 150: Lady Gaga
Vol. 151: Eddie Money
Vol. 152: LL Cool J
Vol. 153: Cream
Vol. 154: Pavement
Vol. 155: Miranda Lambert
Vol. 156: Gang Starr
Vol. 157: Little Big Town
Vol. 158: Thin Lizzy
Vol. 159: Pat Benatar
Vol. 160: Depeche Mode
Vol. 161: Rush
Vol. 162: Three 6 Mafia
Vol. 163: Jennifer Lopez
Vol. 164: Rage Against The Machine
Vol. 165: Huey Lewis and the News
Vol. 166: Dru Hill
Vol. 167: The Strokes
Vol. 168: The Notorious B.I.G.
Vol. 169: Sparklehorse
Vol. 170: Kendrick Lamar
Vol. 171: Mazzy Star
Vol. 172: Erykah Badu
Vol. 173: The Smiths
Vol. 174: Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
Vol. 175: Fountains Of Wayne
Vol. 176: Joe Diffie
Vol. 177: Morphine
Vol. 178: Dr. Dre
Vol. 179: The Rolling Stones
Vol. 180: Superchunk
Vol. 181: The Replacements