Sing it, Nick.
I am not one of those people who sing and drive at the same time. I need to concentrate on the road and not kill people! But there are, like, three musicians I make an exception for. One is Bruce. One is Tom Petty. And the other is David Bowie.
Back in 2009, I worked as a ballboy at a tennis tournament in Rockland County, New York. It was only a week, but it required a 45 minute drive every day. It was a beautiful drive down my favorite road – Bear Mountain Bridge Road – and the backstreets of New City.
I drove with my friend, Matt. We’d blast Q104.3, New York’s classic rock radio station. On the first day, we heard Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure on the ride back, right as we exited Bear Mountain Bridge Road.
The next day, the song played again, at the exact same spot on the exact same road. We thought it was weird and funny and tried to calculate the odds of that happening. It was … improbable.
The next day, we were talking about it on the ride home. Imagine if Under Pressure came on again? There’s no way.
We get to the spot, and then … we hear it. No! It couldn’t be! Not a third straight day!
We turned the radio to full blast and sang at the top of our lungs. CAN’T WE GIVE OURSELVES ONE MORE CHANCE? It is one of my favorite memories. It is also, by a wide margin, the least likely thing that has ever happened.
I never saw David Bowie live. I never met the man. But when I think of David Bowie, I just think of driving through the shadows of Bear Mountain, on a random summer night, singing Under Pressure.
Before we march on to 2016, I’d like to take a quick moment to thank you for reading this blog, whether you’re a regular reader, or you happened upon this site recently. It was a good year for the blog – we had a record number of visitors from 106 different countries. I expect next year – my fifth year writing here! – to be even better. I’ve got some good stuff planned. Stay tuned.
And now, a few end-of-year lists ….
5 Favorite Albums
Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
Currents, Tame Impala
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Sound and Color, Alabama Shakes
Star Wars, Wilco
10 Favorite Songs
Atoms Never Die, Adam Levy
Black & White, The Staves
Cold Slope, Wilco
Future People, Alabama Shakes
I’m Gonna Be Myself, The Sheepdogs
The Less I Know The Better, Tame Impala
Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett
Somebody Was Watching, Pops Staples
Trying So Hard Not to Know, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
5 Favorite Movies
Mad Max: Fury Road
5 Favorite Sports Moments
Jose Bautista bat flip
Michigan State game-winning blocked punt
This ridiculous Arkansas 4th and 25 conversion
American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown
Vinci takes down Serena
5 Favorite Tweets
5 Favorite Blog Posts (Me)
5 Favorite Blog Posts (Others)
5 Favorite YouTube Videos
This week was the 40th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. If the album were a person, it would be middle aged. Maybe it would have kids. It would be time for a colonoscopy. As Louis CK says, 40 is half dead.
A lot has been written this week about the album’s anniversary, and it’s been interesting to read some of the columns in Rolling Stone and NPR and Fortune. The writers talk about listening to the album in high school, or college, or their formative years right after its release in 1975. I can’t say the same, because I was -16 years old when the album came out. I could not listen to this album forty years ago – because, as far as I’m aware, I was not living in 1975.
It’s a damn good album, one of the best. A nice round anniversary gives us a chance to look back and celebrate it.
Anyway, here’s the best video on the internet.
An annual tradition. Here are my 42 favorite songs of 2014.
After the Disco, Broken Bells
Ain’t Got Nobody, Weezer
Argentina (Parts I, II, III), Tokyo Police Club
Avant Gardner, Courtney Barnett
Be Lucky, The Who
Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers
Bullet in the Brain, The Black Keys
Call Me, St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Don’t Wanna Lose, Ex Hex
Every Morning, J. Mascis
Every Other Freckle, Alt-J
Everyday Robots, Damon Albarn
Eyes to the Wind, The War on Drugs
Foolish Father, Weezer
Gold, Chet Faker
Half the City, St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Heart Is A Drum, Beck
High & Wild, Angel Olsen
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You, The Hold Steady
I’ll Sing It, Tweedy
J Smoov, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
The Janitor Revealed, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Just One Drink, Jack White
Kansas City, The New Basement Tapes
Left Hand Free, Alt-J
Lights Out, Angel Olsen
Louder Than Words, Pink Floyd
Low Key, Tweedy
Make You Better, The Decemberists
Manipulator, Ty Segall
Mr. Tembo, Damon Albarn
North Cackalacky Girl, Reigning Sound
On the Rocks, Rural Alberta Advantage
Rain Plans, Israel Nash
Rent I Pay, Spoon
Terrified, Rural Alberta Advantage
Trouble’s Lament, Tori Amos
Violent Shiver, Benjamin Booker
Waking Light, Beck
Weight of Love, The Black Keys
Would You Fight For My Love, Jack White
Time for another random and pointless list! Today we’ll be going through my 10 favorite songs with na na’s in them.
10) Drops of Jupiter, Train
9) Can’t Hold Us, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
8) Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin, Journey
7) Centerfold, J. Geils Band
6) A Long December, Counting Crows
5) Without Me, Eminem
4) Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, Steam
3) Land of 1,000 Dances, Wilson Pickett
2) All The Small Things, Blink-182
1) Hey Jude, The Beatles
There must be something in the water. The rock greats of the 60s and 70s are pumping out new music at a rate that hasn’t been seen since, like, the 60s and 70s. And, sure, these guys are past their prime, they’ve already written their best music, but I still get a jolt of excitement when I read: The Who release a new single. Pink Floyd to pen new album. Stones to tour North America.
The Who announced a massive two-leg, 38-concert North American tour for their 50th anniversary in 2015. They also released a new single, their first new song in eight years.
It’s not terrible! It does have that distinctive Whovian style (minus the autotune), which is more than can be said for their awful 2006 album Endless Wire. But there’s no comparison to Who’s Next or Quadrophenia. And that’s fine, by the way. Roger and Pete are still going, and dammit, they’re going down swinging.
Led Zeppelin will probably never perform together again, but Robert Plant just released a new album: Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar. Plant has actually had a nice renaissance over the last few years. In 2007, Plant and Allison Krauss wrote an album called Raising Sand, and all that did was win the frikkin Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. I don’t think his new album will win any awards. I did like this song.
OK, great, now can you please go back on tour with Jimmy and John Paul?
Next month, Pink Floyd will release their first album in 20 years. They are, of course, missing Roger Waters, who penned their greatest albums of the 70s. But I can now say that Pink Floyd released an album while I was a sentient being. That’s pretty neat.
Only one song on the album has lyrics, which is a little disappointing. I was expecting The Trial, Part 2.
The Pixies released a new album, Indie City, their first in 23 years. The Pixies sorta remind me of the Princess Bride.* The band had modest sales and were, to an extent, overlooked during their time in the late 80s and early 90s. But in the 20 years since, they have gained a cult following. They certainly influenced many of the bands that followed them in the 90s, including a guy named Kurt Cobain who wanted Smells Like Teen Spirit to sound like a Pixies song.
*The Princess Bride didn’t do that well at the box office in 1987, but it has become one of the most beloved movies of all time.
Oh, and Prince – Prince! – released a new album. I haven’t listened to it, but that is a thing that happened.
These artists have nothing else to prove. They have secured their legacy in the pantheon of music greats. They have enough money to do whatever they want to do. But, they still write. They still create. They might have lost something on their fastball, and the years have taken their toll, but they keep on keepin’ on. It’s what made them great in the first place.
A lot of good music has been released over the last few months. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:
Rent I Pay, a single from Spoon’s upcoming album They Want My Soul.
Would You Fight For My Love, from Jack White’s Lazaretto. Released 6/10.
Weight of Love, from The Black Keys’ Turn Blue. Released 5/9.
Half the City, from St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ album of the same name. Released 2/18.
Violent Shiver, a single from Benjamin Booker’s upcoming debut album.
Parentheses in song titles are an odd thing. Do you ever think about this ? You don’t? OK. Sometimes I am not sure how my mind works, but I feel compelled to write about this nonetheless.
Joe Posnanski wrote about this on his blog back in January, and I think he sums it up well:
I am way, way, way too fascinated by parenthetical remarks in song titles. Take the Simple Minds song “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” To give you an idea how insane I think that title is, I got it completely wrong the first time. I thought the (Don’t You) part was in parenthesis. That made little sense. The way it actually is makes even less sense.
Look, these quotes might not be quite as powerful if we had used parentheses:
“(All We Have To Fear Is) Fear Itself.”
“(Ask Not) What Your Country Can Do For You.”
“(A House Divided Against Itself Cannot) Stand.”
I’ve always thought parenthetical songs carried a panache that other songs didn’t. There is a reckless courage about them. They have style. Here are 10 of my favorites.
There are two reasons most songs are three to five minutes:
1. We have short attention spans.
2. The original format of 78 rpm-speed phonograph records only allowed three to five minutes of music per side.
And then there are songs that are barely even songs – they are more like interludes that somehow find their way onto an album. Today I’ll list my ten favorite that are shorter than 90 seconds.
By the way, you’ll notice that Pink Floyd appears heavily on the list from yesterday and today, particularly songs from their 1977 album, Animals. That was one of the strangest albums ever made in terms of song length. Three songs were longer than ten minutes, and two were less than 90 seconds. And that’s the whole album. They were an unusual band.