What I’ve been listening to recently

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.

My 10 favorite songs with parenthetical song titles

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.


My 10 favorite songs that are shorter than 90 seconds

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.

My 10 favorite songs that are longer than 10 minutes

l’ve been working on three separate lists about quirky music stuff. They’ll appear here over the next three days.

Today: My 10 favorite songs that are longer than 10 minutes
Tomorrow: My 10 favorite songs that are less than 90 seconds
Thursday: My 10 favorite songs with parenthetical song titles

You should know by now that this is the place to come for meaningless lists.

Today we start with my 10 favorite songs that are longer than 10 minutes (studio version only). There isn’t much to choose from here because, well, it’s very rare to see a song that’s longer than 10 minutes. It’s hard to pull this off if you haven’t established yourself.

In no particular order, here is my list. And, hey, let’s get some participation on this thing. Did I miss anything? What is your top 10? Or top 3? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Everything is a remix

You probably know the song 25 or 6 to 4, which features that iconic five-chord progression at the start of the song. It is one of the best-known songs off Chicago’s second album, and 44 years later you’ll still hear it on the radio and in bars and in movies.

It’s a really awesome chord progression, but it’s far from the only song that features it. I remember when I first started listening to Led Zeppelin in high school, and I heard those same chords in Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. It’s interesting because that song was released in 1969, one year before 25 or 6 to 4. You can hear the progression at the 2:23 mark.

And here is 25 or 6 to 4, released in 1970.

And then I noticed the progression popping up in other songs, like Green Day’s Brain Stew.

In 2002, The White Stripes wrote a song called Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, and it’s pretty much the same thing.

And, finally, there is The Pillows’ Walkin’ on the Spiral, from 2004.

Of course, Led Zeppelin didn’t start this trend. In fact, they didn’t even write Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. It’s a Joan Baez cover from 1962. And Baez’s version is a cover of Anne Bredon’s version from the 1950’s. Bredon was influenced by folk singers from the 1940’s. You can stretch this back forever until you get to the Gregorian chant.

This isn’t to accuse anyone of plagiarism. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool that this chord progression has appeared in so many songs over the years. Of course, it pales in comparison to the traditional four chords that are featured in every pop song, ever.

A few years ago I watched Kirby Ferguson’s excellent documentary, Everything is a Remix. If you haven’t watched the four-part series, you should check it out. The point is that in any creative field, we first have to copy, and that’s ok, if it’s done legally. To an extent, it’s necessary.  I think back to the famous Isaac Newton quote: If I have seen it further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. We learn by copying.

And I think that’s what these songs show. They have the same chords, yes, but they are all unique too. These bands have carved out their own niches. So, I would say that creativity also involves a component of transformation – taking what’s been done before you and making it your own. Because there is nothing more exhilarating than creating a thing that is uniquely yours.

Even if it’s just a silly blog.

My 15 favorite songs I played in high school band

I had the good fortune to play a lot of good music in high school. Here are my 15 favorite:

15) Festive Overture, Dmitri Shostakovich

14) Abram’s Pursuit, David Holsinger

13) Hungarian March, Hector Berlioz

12) Poet and Peasant Overture, Franz von Suppé

11) Procession of the Nobles, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

10) Second Suite in F, Gustav Holst

9) Klezmer Classics, Johan de Meij

8) Suite of Old American Dances, Robert Russell Bennett

7) Saturn, Gustav Holst

6) La Forza Del Destino, Guiseppe Verdi

5) Lincolnshire Posy, Percy Grainger

4) Roman Carnival, Hector Berlioz

3) Mars, Gustav Holst

2) The Pines of Rome, Ottorino Respighi

1) Carmina Burana, Carl Orff