September 24th was the last time I published a post on this blog. I had ambitious plans to get at least two more posts up by the end of the month. Instead, I stopped publishing. It’s not writer’s block. I’ve done plenty of writing. As a matter of fact it’s added up to more than fifty thousand words in the nearly three months since. There are at least twenty pieces worthy of posting. But I stopped publishing and I am not sure why.
Could I call it publisher’s block? I just can’t seem to press publish. More than anything it is publisher’s inertia. I have discovered that for just about anything I do inertia plays a big role. If I am exercising every day, I will keep exercising every day until something bigger stops me. The same goes for writing, meditating, organizing, journaling, etc.
So it happened with publishing. I was clipping along at a pace of one or two pieces per week and it seemed so easy. Until it wasn’t.
It’s not that I can’t publish, I am simply not publishing. There were a few days at the end of September that got interrupted by various things and my forward motion stopped. The trick for me is how to use inertia for good. Like most of us I am driven by habit. When I am moving forward and inertia is in my favor it is easy to write, meditate, set goals, exercise, publish and more. It is simply something I do.
How do I turn it around so I can take all my unpublished posts and set them free?
If I have learned anything this year it is all about setting goals and acting on them. I have discovered the best way for me is writing goals down on paper first. Yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. Then I review and update those goals at least a few times a week. Yes, I have used just about every ToDo app out there, but they are tools to use once I have set the goals and tasks down on paper. From there I can use Wunderlist, ToDoist or Clear. They are great, but the regular act of writing and reviewing is what keeps my goals fresh, top of mind and actionable.
I kept a Spark Notebook with all my goals this year. It was only a six month notebook and once I hit the end of June my goals and focus for the year softened. At this point I’ve been counting down the days until my 2016 Spark Notebook arrives in the mail.
This weekend the mail brought good things. My new 12 month notebook is here! It’s time to get the pen out and set some goals. I’ve got some publishing to do and I need inertia on my side.
Well, hot damn! Did Spotify get it right or what? Week 9 nails it on so many fronts. It’s got great tunes almost across the board, plenty of variety and both old and new stuff I have never heard. There are five classic funk and soul tracks from the seventies, four great bands that are new to me, some loopy French pop and wild orchestral psychedelic folk from Korea. Let’s call this week the Goldilocks Playlist. It is just right.
Let’s get right to it.
The list kicks off huge with Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg in one of the greatest French pop duets, “Bonnie and Clyde” from 1968. Heavy guitars, crazy hiccuping backup vocals and the simmering vocal interplay between the two leads highlight this gem. The lyrics are based on a poem written by Bonnie Parker weeks before she and Clyde Barrow were gunned down.
Former indie rocker (Six Finger Satellite) John MacLean began dabbling in electronic music and joined former bandmate James Murphy on DFA records and began releasing records as The Juan MacLean. “Running Back to You comes from his 2014 release In a Dream. The slow electronic boogie features Nancy Whang on lead vocals.
New Jersey’s Family Portrait hail from the same circle as Real Estate, Beach Fossils and others. They trade in the same lo-fi garage pop and “Otherside” is a swell track from their 2011 eponymous debut.
Are there any bad Buzzcocks songs? At least not on their original 70s/80s records. The Buzzcocks delivered that manic pop thrill with just about every tune. “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” was their first single of 1979 and you can find it on the bulletproof Singles Going Steady compilation.
The first Steely Dan album, 1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, is a minor masterpiece from a band that was just getting started. Lead singer Donald Fagen had stage fright and the band enlisted David Palmer to handle live performances. Palmer would be gone shortly after they recorded the album, but he left us the incredible “Dirty Work,” his only released studio performance.
Patto’s “The Man” showed up in an earlier Discover Weekly. This slow blues burner comes from the band’s debut album. Perhaps the most notable thing about Patto is drummer John Halsey showed up as Barry Womble in Neal Innes’ Beatles parody The Rutles.
The Moby Grape made one brilliant album in 1967 and were heralded as the next big thing. Superstardom proved elusive but they hung around for four more albums before calling it quits. Their third album, Moby Grape ’69, features a few standout tracks including the country rock crawler “I Am Not Willing.”
Since we’re talking country rock let’s turn to the band that arguably started it all. The Flying Burrito Brothers. Their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, went all in on country rock, from the Nudie suits on the cover to the killer tunes on both sides. “Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise)” is a scorcher that leads off side one.
Black Sabbath was known for their bone-crushing proto-metal and 1970s Paranoid was one ot their heaviest and loudest record. “Planet Caravan” was the one ultra-mellow exception with Ozzy’s processed vocals oozing out over producer Tom Allom’s piano and Tony Iommi’s jazzy guitar riffs.
Philly Soul pioneers Gamble and Huff first big hit was The Soul Survivors’ infectious 1967 smash, “Expressway to Your Heart.” Knowing they were on to a good thing, the band stuck with the formula and followed up with lesser hit, “Explosion in Your Soul.”
Let us now praise Curtis Mayfield! Superfly is one of the finest soundtracks ever, plus it stands on its own as a classic album. Here we’ve got the title track in all its funky blaxploitation glory. It was Mayfield’s third studio album and it outgrossed the 1972 film. If you’ve never heard it, listen now!
One man band Abner Jay billed himself as “last working Southern black minstrel.” He traveled the South in a mobile home playing wherever folks would listen. “I’m So Depressed” comes from a posthumous collection and opens with some off-color jokes before he breaks into his wild outsider folk blues.
1972 found Stevie Wonder at the peak of his musical powers and Talking Book was a tour de force across the board. “Maybe Your Baby” is a slow churning funk workout defined by Stevie’s bubbling moog bass and Ray Parker Jr.’s (Ghostbusters) stinging guitar leads. Hot!
“Home” is the closing track from the third and final LCD Soundsystem album, 2010’s This Is Happening. The slowly percolating and lyrically introspective track is a great way for James Murphy to say goodbye.
Fly Golden Eagle’s “Tangible Intangible” from their second album, the double deluxe 26 track Quartz, is all slinky psychedelic with high lonesome vocals. These guys are from Nashville and brand new to me. They’ve got my attention and I want to hear more.
Courtney Barnett broke big in the wake of “Avant Gardener” and even bigger with this year’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. “History Eraser” comes from last year’s The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. Not only does it name check The Triffids, it captures everything that makes her great, from her sprawling stories to her shambling folk-rock and her wonderful singing drawl.
Drummer Buddy Miles played with Hendrix on Band of Gypsys, was a founding member of The Electric Flag and had a solid solo career. His 1970 album, Them Changes, had a hit with the title cut, but also featured a stellar funky jazzy version of Neil Young’s “Down By the River.” Yes!
The Moody Blues seem to have been erased somewhat from classic rock history, but they deserve better. They cranked out a clutch of solid, if somewhat lightweight, prog-rock albums and scored a handful of big hits. “Ride My Seesaw” is one of their harder rocking cuts from 1968’s In Search of a Lost Chord.
All I’ve got to say is more electric jug! If anything screams 13th Floor Elevators it’s that burbling, gurgling sound punctuating their wild garage rock and Roky Erickson’s manic yelps and howls. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” from their 1966 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators, is an essential song for any real music fan.
“Is This What You Wanted” is song one, side one from Leonard Cohen’s 4th album, 1974’s New Skin For The Old Ceremony. The song is a one-sided dialogue between the singer and a lover who may or may not be there. The puzzling lyrics add more layers to this haunting song.
“Love and Mercy” was the lead single from Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s eponymous 1988 solo debut. It had been years since Brian had released music and he was warmly welcomed back. Initially. his then round-the-clock therapist was credited as songwriter, but that has been removed on reissues. The song is classic Brian WIlson with gorgeous harmonies in spiritual cry for love and mercy.
Shin Joong Hyun was a South Korean musician and producer who found a college student, Kim Jung Mi, in 1973 and transformed her into a psychedelic folk singer. “Haenim” from her stunning debut LP Now is a lush orchestral dreamscape with her delicate vocals leading the way. Wow!
“96 Tears” is a true one hit wonder. You’ve heard the farfisa organ driving one of the catchiest garage rock singles of the mid-sixties. ? and the Mysterians burst onto the scene in 1966 and went straight to the top. There was nowhere to go but down and they never achieved similar success. That one song cemented their place in rock’n’roll history.
“Night Drive” is this week’s earworm. I want to hear it on repeat. Released in 2013 on PDA, the second album from Part Time, it is a wonderful New Order/M83 knock off that is captures the essence of both of those bands and stands on its own. Love it!
The seductive jazzy funk of The Lafayette Afro Rock Band has been sampled countless times. Nothing quite like going straight to the source and hearing “Darkest Light” from 1975. They never got the recognition they deserved, so check out the 1999 compilation Darkest Light – THe Best of the Lafayette Afro Rock Band. Superb!
The Talking Heads reached their pinnacle with 1980’s Brian Eno produced Remain In Light. Their jittery new wave combined with funk and layers of percussion made for a paranoid, polyrhythmic masterpiece. “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” opens the album superbly with David Byrne’s ranting and preaching vocals.
The Slits 1979 cover of the Whitfield/Strong classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” only gets better as the years pass. Ari Up’s incredible vocals and Viv Albertine’s skeletal guitar are anchored by Budgie’s drums. Dennis Bovell produced. So so good!
Garland Jeffreys was poised to be the next big thing in 1977. His album Ghost Writer got huge buzz, “Wild in the Streets” was a tough catchy single of teen anger, and then…..crickets. It’s a shame because the song is a classic and the album is just as good.
ESG is short for emerald, sapphire, and gold. They played minimalist funk with only drums, bass and vocals. “You’re No Good” is the lead song from their 1981 self-titled debut EP. Highly recommended.
What a great playlist! It started with the crazy Brigitte Bardot/Serge Gainsbourg duet and ended with the slamming ESG track. Plus there were two brilliant covers from The Slits and Buddy Miles. My only quibble, there were THREE repeats. Leonard Cohen, Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Patto. Spotify, I promise you won’t run out of songs. The only problem is now that everything is just right the three bears will come home.
I debated a couple of months ago about who would would win my monthly subscription fee, Spotify or Apple Music. Just a couple of days ago, i cancelled my subscription to Apple Music. Spotify has been winning my heart just a little more every week.
As always I wonder what Monday morning has in store.
It was a cruel joke played by the calendar. With Labor Day coming so late it was still summer, right? Wrong! Instead of letting the good times roll, the fun-killers at my son’s school decided to ruin a perfectly good three day weekend by starting early. Wasn’t it just a few brief weeks ago that we were cranking Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out?” Next thing I knew I was trying to put on a brave face for the vice principal at morning drop-off. I was so busted up I couldn’t push publish for two weeks.
Maybe that’s why Week 7 of Discover Weekly was such a double bummer. While the music was great and the curation was solid, it was all just a downer. Almost every song reeked of darkness, sadness, madness, depression and death. Coupled with my end-of-summer blues, I was ready to give up music forever.
Opening this week and setting the dark tone is Blind Melon. All I can think of is the Bee Girl and the lead singer dying of a heroin overdose. I never listened much beyond the one hit “No Rain.” This track, “Tones of Home,” rocks harder than expected. It was the first single from their 1992 debut album and has a bit of a Jane’s Addiction vibe.
“Dangerous Type” closes out The Cars’ second album Candy-O. Released in 1979, just a year after their incredible debut, this album is almost as good, but without the novelty that made their first album so satisfying and surprising.
The Replacements jumped from indie Twin-Tone to major label Sire in 1985 and killed it with their second best album, Tim. “Swingin’ Party” closes out the LP and showcases Paul Westerberg’s emerging songcraft and heart on his sleeve vulnerability in this poignant ballad.
The second album from Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Pig Lib, came out in 2003. The mid-tempo “Vanessa From Queens” is a fun little track on an album that showed the doubters he had truly broken free from his previous band, Pavement. Love the great low-key guitar heroics throughout the song.
Jesus Lizard evolved out of the phenomenal Scratch Acid. “Here Comes Dudley” starts their 1991 album, Goat. Recorded by Steve Albini, the track pummels from the get-go with a long musical vamp before David Yow’s vocals add the knockout punch! Boom
Then we travel sideways to Tom Petty’s solo debut, Full Moon Fever, and the fifth single from that 1989 blockbuster, “Yer So Bad.” There’s a reason it was the fifth single. At this point they were milking it and this cut got the nod. Sure, it’s fine, but sounds like every other mediocre Tom Petty song, pleasant but forgettable.
Recorded in 1972 right after the death of founding member Duane Allman, The Allman Brother’s “Eat a Peach” was a half live/half studio recording. “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” opened the studio album and is a heartfelt tribute to the departed Duane from brother Gregg. The album proved that the band could and would go on despite the tragic loss.
Here’s something I didn’t know, “Misirlou” is actually a traditional Mediterranean song dating back to the early 20th century. What I do know is Dick Dale’s twanging surf-rock version crushed it in 1962 and Quentin Tarantino’s placing it in Pulp Fiction guaranteed its immortality.
Born to Run just celebrated its 40th anniversary and countless articles lauded it as Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough. It’s easy to forget that he had already delivered two fine albums. “Kitty’s Back” from 1973’s The WIld, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle is an epic seven minute workout for the entire band. Hot damn!
Ween’s 9th album Quebec was their first release after getting dumped by Elektra. “Transdermal Celebration” traffics in the Ween tradition of making big arena rock sounds that sound like they are thumbing their nose at those same big arena rock sounds.
From Real Estate’s 2011 album Days, “Easy” opens the record with their wide screen jangly pop. Tom Scharpling of WFMU’s Best Show fame directed the video for this track. Wonderful!
Then we leap backward for Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.” Yep, that’s Jimmy Page on guitar and it’s rumored John Paul Jones may have played an uncredited role in the song. This slice of psychedelic folk came out in 1966 on Donovan’s third album, Sunshine Superman.
Don Henley was pissed that the press made a big deal out of a 16 year old naked overdosed girl found at his house so he wrote “Dirty Laundry,” ripping apart tabloid journalism and journalists. It was his first big post-Eagles success from 1982’s I Can’t Stand Still and became a #3 hit.
Jackson C. Frank released one almost forgotten, but incredible album in 1965. Produced by Paul Simon, it was just the man and his guitar playing some of the finest folk music of his time. “Blues Run the Game” is his most celebrated track and it leads off the album. Poignant and beautiful.
Creedence Clearwater Revival released three albums in 1969 and instead of getting tired, they just got better and better. “Midnight Special” off Willy and the Poor Boys is a raucous version of a traditional prison work song celebrating escape on the late night train.
“Slip Inside This House” was originally done on album number two, Easter Everywhere, in 1967 by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. 24 years later Primal Scream covered it for their groundbreaking Screamadelica. They copped Sly Stone’s laugh from the Stand! LP and threw in a little Amen Break to transform it into a crazy indie rock acid house masterpiece.
What more can be said about Big Star? The best band you never heard brings it with “The Ballad of El Goodo,” an Alex Chilton classic from their perfect 1972 debut album, #1 Record. Just listen. Then watch the documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. Then listen some more.
Let’s travel all the way back to Checker Records and 1956 for Bo Diddley’s absolutely essential “Who Do You Love?” It’s been covered by everyone (Quicksilver, Blues Magoos, UFO, The Doors, George Thorogood) but the original is still the knockout champion.
From Mac Demarco’s 2012 album 2, “Cooking Up Something Good” juxtaposes a lazy soft rock tune against dark lyrics. What seems like an ode to childhood boredom reveals ugly family secrets beneath the shiny pop surface. .
The big surprise this week is “I Love You All” by fake movie band Soronprfbs with actor Michael Fassbender on lead vocals. It’s from the 2014 movie Frank and the tune has a new wave, art pop, Magnetic Fields vibe. I love the tune and want to see the film.
We heard a 13th Floor Elevators’ cover just a few songs back. Now, we’ve got Elevators’ lead singer Roky Erickson with his band The Aliens in 1981 with the insane psychedelic rock of “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” the opening song from The Evil One.
Black Mountain debuted in 2005 with their dark, loud, psychedelic self-titled album. “Druganaut” is a killer song and best played at 11. If you didn’t know the vintage you’d swear you were trapped in a heavy, dark album from 1970. Rock on!
On his 4th album, Elliott Smith jumped to a major label and released one of his finest records, 1998’s XO. “Independence Day” is a gorgeous track, revealing his songwriting prowess, emotional fragility and lyrical depth.
Jane’s Addiction manage to mangle a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” for the 1991 tribute album, Deadicated. It’s mostly a case of two bands that don’t go well together. The song plays against their strengths and it’s basically a waste of time.
Much of Blondie’s catalogue isn’t on Spotify so many of their best songs are only available on the 2014 half greatest hits re-recorded/half new studio album, Blondie 4(0) Ever. Yeah, their original cover of the essential Nerves’ song “Hangin’ On The Telephone” is one of their finest efforts. This version just doesn’t do it justice. Not terrible, just not very good.
When it was released in 1970, Paul McCartney’s solo debut was largely hammered by critics. Decades later the scrappy, loose album has been reappraised and given its critical due. “Momma Miss America” is a rough and raw instrumental that fits right into the homemade magic of the whole record.
Most heartland roots rock has just never been my thing. I just can’t relate. “Memphis in the Meantime” which leads off John Hiatt’s 1987 album, Bring the Family, is a perfect example. I can see all kinds of dad rockers loving this, but it sounds forced and phony. The critics love this guy, but nope.
The incredibly prolific Ty Segall seems to release an endless amount of music. One of his many projects is Fuzz. They deliver a stomping version of King Crimson’s signature anthem, “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Hardly essential, but for the fact that King Crimson just ain’t on Spotify. So go Ty!
Erika M. Anderson did time in Amps for Christ and Drones before going solo as EMA. On her 2011 debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, she destroys it with second single, “California.” It’s a little shoegaze, a little Kim Gordon and a whole lot of awesome.
Closing out this week, we get Junior Murvin’s amazing falsetto on “Police and Thieves” from his 1977 debut album of the same name. Produced by the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry and backed by The Upsetters, this is a happy ending to a weird, dark week of Spotify Discover Weekly.
Summer is over. It’s getting darker every day and winter is coming. Let’s hope the weeks to come bring brighter, sunnier sounds. See you next week. Let me know if you;ve been checking out your Discover Weekly playlists and what you think.
How did it happen? How could I let Week 6 go by without standing on the rooftop and shouting to the world. Rock solid, it was the best one yet. However, as Summer 2015 drew to a close, this listener got lazy and didn’t press publish two weeks in a row. With Discover Weekly completely updating every week, how can I prove this near perfect playlist ever happened without screengrabs and a link? If a playlist falls in the woods without a blog post does it even make a sound? I will have to let the songs make my case.
Week 6 burst open with an overabundance of current new rock, old favorites and wonderful surprises. Plus, the genre selection expanded (slightly and warily) beyond the usual 1960s to 2010s rock. I keep trying to hack the curation algorithm to broaden the variety, but I am battling three years of listening history.
Let’s get to some music.
“Lawyers, Guns and Money” is the closing track from Warren Zevon’s near perfect third album. 1978’s Excitable Boy was a career high point both critically and commercially. Nice start to week 6!
Brand new music from Ty Segall is next. “Mr Face” is from a 2015 7″ EP and it sounds completely 1967. Fuzzed out guitar, breezy double tracked vocals and it all ends in a wild garage rave up. Two for two.
The awesome continues with the Cambodian pop/garage rock crossover of LA’s Dengue Fever. From their 2008 release Venus On Earth, “Tiger Phone Card” is a delightful mix and match of styles! Yes.
Seth Kauffman is a veritable one man band with his indie lo-fi project Floating Action. “Don’t Stop Loving Me Now” is a wonderful example of his pop sensibilities. Nice and brand new to me.
Who can deny the awesomeness of “Take the Skinheads Bowling” from Camper Van Beethoven’s 1985 debut album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory? Is it ska, folk, rock or are they just messing with all of us? This has been their signature song from the beginning and still sounds great.
Wreckless Eric emerged from the Stiff Records class of 1977 with his classic single “Whole WIde World.” He may never have topped this one, but this cut cements his legacy to be sure.
Bradford Cox and Deerhunter have a brand new album (Fading Frontier) just out that’s damn good. Going back to 2008’s Microcastles, their third album, “Never Stops” is a tremendous track from a great album.
We jump backwards to the heavy blues groove of Savoy Brown’s “Hellbound Train” from 1972. This is the title cut and closing track to their eighth album. They’ve kept going for almost 50 years with guitarist Kim Simmonds the only constant member. This nine minute epic is one of their finest moments.
Rising out of a successful run as drummer for Fleet Foxes, J. Tillman took on the stage name Father John Misty. He has released two must-listen indie folk rock albums and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” comes from his 2012 debut, Fear Fun.
“Killing Floor” was a 1964 single from Howlin’ Wolf. If you haven’t heard this 12 bar blues masterpiece, you might know the tune from Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” which borrowed heavily from “Killing Floor.”This is Chicago electric blues at its finest.
On their 4th album, 1969’s Liege and Lief, Fairport Convention covered the traditional British folk ballad, “Matty Groves.” It’s an epic story of temptation, adultery, betrayal and murder. Yes!
Dr. Dog is one of those bands that friends have recommended so highly and I just can’t make it happen despite my best efforts. “The World May Never Know” is the shuffling opener on their third album, 2005’s Easy Beat. Sorry, I just can’t hear it.
Who didn’t cover John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” in the 1960s? Pretty much everybody took a shot at it. The Nashville Teens were part of the first British Invasion and they had a minor hit with their garage rock version in 1964.
“Brighton Rock” opens Queen’s third album, 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack. Brian May destroys it with one of his finest guitar solos. Hard to believe one guy could do that with only six strings. Nice choice.
Bradford Cox of Deerhunter returns with his just as excellent solo project Atlas Sound. From 2009’s Logos, his second album, he is joined by Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) from Animal Collective for the joyous “Walkabout.” So good.
Psychedelic electronic music pioneers Silver Apples came and went in the late sixties, leaving two brilliant albums behind. They returned in the late 1990s, but their greatest work is captured on those two early records. “Oscillations” is the opening track from their 1968 eponymous debut.
They only lasted one album, but Blind Faith made a classic. Steve Winwood of Traffic, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker of Cream and Ric Grech of Family teamed up to form one of the first supergroups. “Can’t Find My Way Home” is a nearly perfect song from their brief time together.
“Easy Plateau” is a gorgeous Grateful Dead-influenced song from Ryan Adams. It leads off the second disc of his 2005 LP Cold Roses, his first with backing band The Cardinals.
With more than a slight nod to “Baba O’Riley,” “Teenage Wasteland” from Wussy’s 2014 terrific Attica! features Lisa Walker on vocals recalling her youthful memories of listening to The Who. So good!
Vetiver emerged from the freak folk scene in the early 2000s. “Strictly Rule” is a hypnotic jam with a slight Latin vibe from their 4th album, 2009’s Tight Knit.
Ginger Baker rears his head for the second time this week, but on a radically different recording. Fela Kuti and Ginger teamed up in 1970 for Live!. “Let’s Start” leads off this classic afrobeat album. There are a many ways to explore Fela’s music for a newbie and this is definitely one of them.
“Hot Dreams” is the title song on Timber Timbre’s fifth album from 2014. The Canadian band leaves their freak folk roots behind and explores more traditional soft rock territory.
Seaming together Modern Lovers, Velvet Underground and a little early Talking Heads all propelled by Anton Fier’s hyperkinetic percussion, “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness” leads off The Feelies 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms. This one is the first of many classic moments from a band that keeps on rolling.
“Jackie Blue” is the biggest song Black Oak Arkansas ever had. They hit on their first album with “If You Want to Get to Heaven” and hit even harder with their second album, It’ll Shine When It Shines. “Jackie Blue” hit #3 in 1975. Sadly, their fortunes went downhill from there.
Boom! “Passage to Bangkok” is always welcome on pretty much every playlist ever. Opening side 2 on Rush’s 1976 breakthrough album, 2112, this is an incredible song from and even more stellar album.
The Allman Brothers first released “Midnight Rider” in 1970 on their Idlewild South album. Three years later Gregg Allman rerecorded the track for his debut album, Laid Back. The earlier is rawer and sparser while Gregg’s version is smoother, more heavily produced and became a Top 20 hit.
The Meat Puppets changed styles quickly early on in their career. The angry fast punk of their debut gave way to the wild cowpunk visions of Meat Puppets II. By 1985’s Up On The Sun, they had begun evolving into the proto alt-country band they would become. The title song is a great snapshot of a band with punk roots and big ambitions.
Simon & Garfunkel released only five albums in their short time together and Bookends could be the finest. “America” tells the tale of a young couple hitchhiking across the USA. Poignant and beautiful, it was originally released in 1968 and reissued as a single in 1972 in support of a post-breakup greatest hits package.
And now we hit the one big turd in this week’s playlist. Yes, it is a jam band, The String Cheese Incident to be exact. “Colorado Bluebird Sky” is the opening cut on their 2014 studio album, Song in my Head. I don’t hate this, but I just don’t want to have to listen to it. Ever.
Finishing up this week’s playlist it’s MIracle Legion. Like so many jangly eighties college rock bands they play, yep, great jangly eighties college rock. From their 1987 debut Surprise Surprise Surprise, “All For the Best” delivers for five minutes and eight seconds. Yes, indeed.
There it is. One more week with some great tunes. The only real clunker for me is String Cheese Incident. I could also do without Jackie Blue and Dr Dog, but loved, loved, loved the Feelies, Silver Apples, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound and Wussy. And hell yeah, Rush, anytime anywhere. It was excellent to hear some variety, a little blues, Fela, Fairport Convention and more. I am working my other Spotify plays hard to break the mold and get a playlist that really knocks me out with bold choices. Will it happen? Not sure, but I will be checking it out first thing Monday morning. See you next week.
Ten years ago a small book attempted to codify rock snobbery. The Rock Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge laid bare the confusing rules of obsessive music fans. The knowledge so many music nerds had built quietly and kept secret for decades was now made available to the masses. The horror! Of course, only the rock snobs bought the book, but the secret was out.
Somehow Spotify is on to me and knows I am a card carrying music snob. It took seven very close attempts, but Week 8 pretty much could have come straight from the pages of the Rock Snob’s Dictionary. While not every single track qualifies as prime rock snob material, it comes pretty darn close. This list is centered on the 1970s and is spot on in its mix of snob-approved tracks, fun surprises, new music and a couple of big hits to keep it moving along briskly.
Sticking with the rock snob theme I have given each track a tongue in cheek snob rating. Ratings are highly subject to change depending on current critical trends and will vary from snob to snob. Three Snobs – A track like this gets three raised thumbs of approval. This is either undiscovered gold or perennially cool and unimpeachably great music for snobs of all stripes. Two Snobs – Some serious snob appeal. Likely obscure, rare, difficult, rediscovered, but too popular to get behind 100%. One Snob – Definite rock snob cred, but probably overplayed or fallen out of favor with cutting edge snobs. Zero Snobs – This doesn’t mean bad song in any way at all. It just means it wouldn’t get the snort of approval from the self-respecting music snob who has spent far too much time huddled over dusty crates of vinyl.
Now let’s dig into the music.
“Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” opens Brian Eno’sTaking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) from 1974, his second solo album. The dark lyrics in this oddly bouncy track were inspired by a Turkish Airlines crash near Paris. One Snob
Iggy Pop inspired the next song. While tripping a little too hard at David Bowie’s place, Mr. Osterberg imagined the TV was trying to eat his girlfriend. Bowie turned this vision into a holographic television for “TVC-15,” the second single and first song on side two of 1976’s Station to Station. One Snob
Hailing from New Zealand, Connan Mockasin plays a slinky brand of dreamy psychedelic pop. “I’m the Man that WIll Find You” is a great song from 2013’s Caramel, his second album. Zero Snobs
Emitt Rhodes did time in sixties pop act The Merry Go Round before going solo in 1970. “Somebody Made for Me” embodies his gorgeous Beatlesque pop songs that were almost forgotten and rediscovered more than thirty years later. He released three albums of great music before a decades-long hiatus. Three Snobs
Eric Clapton’s solo career is one of diminishing returns, but he still had a few tricks left when he recorded Slowhand in 1977. “The Core,” a fiery duet with Marcy Levy that opens side two is one of them. And that’s not even counting the epic guitar solo that makes up almost half of the sing. Zero Snobs
Plenty has been written about Syd Barrett, one time leader of Pink Floyd, and his tragic descent into mental illness. However, he did make some compelling music before he faded away. “No Good Trying” comes from his 1970 solo debut, The Madcap Laughs. Backed by David Gilmour and several members of The Soft Machine, Barrett’s rambling song reveals its subtle charms with repeat listening. Two Snobs
Between solo albums and Mothers of Invention releases, Frank Zappa was already on album number 17 when he put out Over-Nite Sensation in 1973. “Camarillo Brillo” opens the album and features Zappa’s signature vulgar humor, incisive lyrics and killer playing. One Snob.
In a perfect segue, we immediately get Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band next. From his 1967 debut, Safe As Milk, “I’m Glad” draws upon fifties doo-wop and sixties soul, but adds the extra twisted something that always comes with Captain Beefheart. Two Snobs
“Vitamin C” comes from Can’s 1972 LP, Ege Bamyasi. While many Can songs evolve into epic lengths, this one is short and sweet, but still manages to capture Can’s uncanny ability to grab a groove and drive it into the stratosphere. Two Snobs
Roy Wood departed ELO after two albums and with 1973’s On the Third Day it became the Jeff Lynne show. Closing out side one. “Showdown” is a straight ahead rocker that got some significant FM radio play and paved the way to their huge success just a few years later. One Snob
Tanx was the eighth studio album from T Rex, issued in 1973. It was panned by critics back then, but time has been kind. “Life is Strange” is a slow burner filled with nature sound effects and a wild, whimsical lead vocal from Marc Bolan. One Snob
Who doesn’t love “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by The First Edition? It was a big hit for Kenny Rogers (yeah, that Kenny Rogers) and company in 1967 and soundtracks one of the funniest scenes in The Big Lebowski. I always want to hear this one again. Fortunately, the algorithm agreed and it comes back later in this playlist credited to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Two Snobs
Few would disagree that Entertainment! by Gang Of Four is one of the most powerful post-punk records from 1979 and let’s take a vote that “Damaged Goods,” their first single, is one of the finest moments off that album. Everybody say aye! One Snob
The Troggs are back again this week with their third single, 1966’s “With A Girl Like You.” It was a big hit in the UK and hit the charts in the US. It’s no “Wild Thing.” but it’s a damn fine pop song. How have I never heard this before? One Snob
Panda Bear is one fourth of Animal Collective. but arguably the defining creative voice behind the band. “Comfy in Nautica” which leads off his 2007 album Person Pitch could easily be confused as a track from his primary band. The lurching, repetitive (in a good way) track drenches Panda Bear’s vocal in reverb and winds up sounding like he took the Beach Boys and ran them through a heavy cut and paste job. One Snob
“Fresh Air” was San Francisco band Quicksilver Messenger Service’s biggest hit back in 1970. It came from their third album, Just For Love, and features a more straightforward take on their psychedelic rock sound. Zero snobs
Don’t fuck with the formula! The Ramones rarely deviated from the formula that got them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” is a mid career burst of brilliance from their 1986 album, Animal Boy. Written in protest of Reagan’s visit to a German WW2 Cemetery, the song gave them some much needed critical success in their long slog through the 80s. One Snob
1973’s Stranded was Roxy Music’s third album and first without Brian Eno. Bryan Ferry took the reins and steered the band to a guitar heavy, more direct sound. “Mother of Pearl” is driven by an impassioned Ferry vocal and a vicious guitar attack from Phil Manzanera. One snob
Public Image Ltd reached their commercial (not creative) peak with 1986’s Album. featuring a much bigger sound with heavy handed production. The record’s big single, “Rise,” was written in protest of apartheid and features a who’s who of musicians including Steve Vai, Tony Williams, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jonas Hellborg, plus production by Bill Laswell. This is definitely one of Mr. Lydon’s finer moments. One Snob
Hey, guess what? I loved “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and wanted to hear it again. Well, here it is. This time it is credited to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Still a great song worth hearing twice, but we see the limitations of machine curated music. Two Snobs
“Walking on the Moon” was the second single from The Police’s second album, “Reggatta de Blanc.” This track typifies the light reggae funk of their earlier work that made them stars. This song hit number one in the UK. Zero Snobs
Link Wray, the man who brought the world the power chord checks in with “La De Da” from his self-titled 1970 album. The instrumentation is bare bones and the production is primitive, but this is mighty fine rock’n’roll at its rawest. That snare drum at the top is someone shaking a can of nails. Go daddy go! Two snobs
“Play with Fire” started out as the B-side to “The Last TIme” in 1965 and wound up on the US edition of Out of Our Heads. Jagger and Richards were the only Rolling Stones who played on this. Phil Spector added bass while Jack Nitzsche played harpsichord. It’s such a pretty song with a dark, menacing vocal and lyric. One of their best early songs. Zero snobs
Once again, we’ve got a repeat song from a few weeks back. Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” from 1971’s Meddle is a delicate acoustic song that fades out with a field recording of the Liverpool FC choir singing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It’s a great song, but seems a little early for Spotify to repeat songs. Give me new stuff! I promise you won’t run out of songs. One snob
After three albums with the Nazz, Todd Rundgren went solo and took the song “Hello It’s Me” and rerecorded it for his third album, Something/Anything, in 1972 and wound up with a hit. Rundgren has gone on to plenty of experimental music in his solo career and with Utopia, but this ballad of a man pining away for his ex is still a defining song in his career. One Snob
Cream said farewell in 1969 with the half live/half studio Goodbye. One of the standouts was the Eric Clapton/George Harrison composition “Badge,” a classic rock staple. The song features Harrison on rhythm guitar billed as L’Angelo Misterioso. Zero Snobs
The Zombies were all but forgotten beyond a couple of AM hits until their final album Odessey and Oracle underwent critical rediscovery and reappraisal somewhere in the late 90s. The gold rush was on and fans dug through all their material. “The Way I Feel Inside” is a Rod Argent ballad with only Colin Blunstone’s delicate vocal and a barely-there organ track. The song comes from their 1965 debut album, Begin Here. You may have heard it in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. Two Snobs
“White Light/White Heat” is The Velvet Underground’s loudest and rawest album. The title track is all about taking speed and features an aggressive musical attack and a tough lead vocal from Lou Reed. Two snobs
Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother bailed on Kraftwerk and formed Neu! in 1972. They kicked it off with a bang. “Hallogallo” is an epic intsrumental that opens their debut album and is one of Krautrock’s signature songs. The epic 4/4 motorik groove of this song had a huge influence in 70s German rock and beyond. My only reservation is Discover Weekly already served this up for me a few weeks back. Three Snobs
Closing out week 8 is Nico, model, actress and icy Velvet Underground singer,with the title track to her 1966 solo debut Chelsea Girls. Written by Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison of the VU, it is a quiet brooding dirge of chamber pop majesty. Two Snobs
And there it is, the definitive rock snob playlist. Wow! This was the best so far, even topping week 6. There were no new artists and only two songs I hadn’t heard before, Link Wray and The Troggs. We had machine failure with “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” coming up twice. Plus, we had repeats from Pink Floyd and Neu! That being said, this was a stellar playlist. I still want more diversity, but Spotify knows what I like and they deliver. Until next week.
Week Five and Spotify Discover Weekly is back on track. After last week’s Adult Alternative easy listening blowout we’ve got more energy and surprises. This week’s playlist is a solid mix of old, new, big and small, but a little harder edge and NO Charles Manson. Listenability is up, predictability is down.
I still want some metal, hip-hop, dub, industrial, or punk but this week stands up to repeated listening. I am playing a lot of difficult music in hopes of hacking the algorithm and seeing where it leads me. This week it didn’t seem to have much impact, but give me a few weeks. I will beat the machine at its own game.
Let’s listen to some music.
We open with “Peace Frog” from The Door’s 1970 “comeback,” Morrison Hotel. After the dull, dreary Waiting for the Sun and the misfire The Soft Parade (title cut is one of the few redeeming tracks), they fired back with a rootsy, harder sound. “Peace Frog” gives us his “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding/Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind” spoken couple allegedly inspired from a horrific accident he had seen as a child.
“Generation Landslide” is a hit-that-never-was from Alice Cooper’s sixth album Billion Dollar Babies, an album loaded with 4 big singles; “Hello Hooray,” “Elected,” “Billion Dollar Babies” and “No More Mr Nice Guy.” This one is loaded with hooks. Recommended!
“Sparks” is an instrumental from The Who’s 1969 double LP rock opera Tommy. It explores many of the musical themes found across the album.
It may be heresy, but I’ve always found The Black Crowes to be derivative and tiresome. However, “Wiser Time,” the third single from 1994’s Amorica ain’t the bad. I was definitely grooving pretty hard before I heard Chris Robinson’s vocals and realized I had just fooled myself. Damn it!
The Growlers are a new one for me. They call their style Beach Goth, but it sounds like a pretty cool stab at garage psych. “Big Toe” is a keeper and it’s the lead track from their 2014 album Chinese Fountain.
Grandmaster Flash nicked the bassline for “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” from Liquid Liquid’s 1983 “Cavern” off the Optimo EP. The original is a no-wave funk classic, possibly my favorite offering this week.
“Every Picture Tells a Story” is the title cut from Rod Stewart’s 1971 third album. He and Small Faces/Rolling Stone bassist Ronnie Wood co-wrote the song. It still stands as one of Rod’s finest moments.
From Smashing Pumpkin’s 1991 debut album Gish, “Rhinoceros” reveals Billy Corgan’s unbridled ambition to create some of the greatest classic rock of the grunge era. They recorded the album with producer Butch Vig who also did Nevermind and was in the band Garbage.
Another new one is Steve Gunn with “Water Wheel” from his 2013 release, Time Off. This is some fine singer-songwriter guitar folk-rock that takes a few listens. Brand new to me, and his catalogue is surprisingly deep.
After the Pixies imploded in 1991 Black Francis became Frank Black and he opened fire with Frank Black in 1993, a powerful opening salvo from an incredibly prolific musician. “I Heard Ramona Sing” is the second track on side one of his solo debut.
“30th Century Man” is a signature song from former Walker Brother, Scott Walker, from his seminal 1969 album, Scott 3. This album saw his began to distance himself considerable from his past and embrace more challenging dissonant sounds. The only problem is this song showed up already in WEEK ONE!
From their groundbreaking proto-metal 1968 debut album Vincebus Eruptum, Blue Cheer eviscerated Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” It was already a long way from the summer of love, kids.
The New York Dolls were too late for the sixties and too early for punk and wound up being as much a legend as a band. “Trash” is the lead single from their 1973 eponymous debut, produced by Todd Rundgren.
The Flaming Lips continued their wild evolution from lo-fi psychedelic garage punks to widescreen pop craftsmen with 2006’s At War With The Mystics. “The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat)” was the first single and introduced a much heavier guitar sound than the few previous records.
Al Green delivers a commanding performance with “I’m a Ram.” a much harder funking track compared to his usual soulful approach. It comes from 1971’s Al Green Gets Next To You, his third studio album.
The great Brian Wilson adds harmony vocals on Mini Mansions’ exquisite dreamy pop concoction, “Any Emotions.” This single comes from their 2015 album, The Great Pretenders.
The band with the most controversial name of 2015, Viet Cong, gives us the wonderful chiming “Unconscious Melody” from their 2014 release, “Cassette”. Two members used to play with the late, great Women.
Meat Puppets II was the first SST release I bought (based on a review in Bruce Pavitt’s Sub-Pop column). I expected punk and got so much more. The beautiful instrumental “Aurora Borealis” is just one of the many gems from this 1983 release.
Emerson Lake & Palmer often evokes snorts and chortles among music fans. They preferred bombast as a way of conducting business. However, Greg Lake’s soft acoustic “From the Beginning” off 1972’s Trilogy showcases their occasional ability to scale back with only a bit of Keith Emerson’s organ gurgling in the background toward the end to remind you of the prog-rock monster in the room.
“Dirty Back Road” opens with the late Ricky WIlson’s space-age surf guitar and then Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s vocals chime in. There is only one band that does this so well, The B-52s! From 1980’s second album Wild Planet, this driving song is, yeah, about driving.
Straight out of Perth, Australia, Pond specializes in hard psychedelic rock with nice pop touches. “Moth Wings” is the second single from their 2012 album Beard, Wives, Denim. They share members with Tame Impala and rock just as hard.
The man who wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” Chip Taylor, is also the brother of Jon Voight. He also wrote “Anyway That You Want Me.” Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce was still in the middle of the break-up with Spacemen 3 when he released this Trogg’s cover as the band’s first single in 1990.
“Panama Red” is better known as the title tune on the 4th New Riders of the Purple Sage album. However, Peter Rowan (who wrote the song), Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, David Grisman and John Kahn teamed up as Old and in the Way and here is their delightful bluegrass version recorded live. Owsley, the king of all things LSD, engineered the recording.
“Sunday Papers” is the second song and second single off Joe Jackson’s all-killer, no-filler debut, Look Sharp. My only quibble is this is the second time Jackson has shown up in five weeks. Surely Spotify can work a little harder.
“Long Journey” from the Allah-La’s is another new one for me. It’s damn good modern garage-psych from an Los Angeles. The track is the b-side to their 2011 debut single.
“Jumping Someone Else’s Train” is the third single from The Cure, released in 1979. It was among their last songs with their early new-wave/post punk sound. Soon after they embraced the more atmospheric, gothic sound they would employ through the next few albums.
“Polar Opposites” showcases Modest Mouse at their early career best. From 1997’s seminal second album The Lonesome Crowded West, the track pummels along with Isaac Brock’s vocals, spiky, angular guitar and pounding drums.
“Train in Vain: is the final track from The Clash’s 1979 masterpiece, London Calling. This track was added to album at the last minute and isn’t listed on the sleeve. On a double album full of incredible, seminal songs, this stands as one of the finest.
Closing out the playlist “I Wanna Destroy You” might be the greatest song that was never even close to a hit. It combines the Beatles, the Byrds and Syd Barrett with a little punk energy and deserves to heard, again and again. It leads off their brilliant 1980 album, Underwater Moonlight. Boom!!
And that’s it. This week was a corker with a brilliant start and killer finish. Again the spectrum is pretty narrow, but this week I am not complaining. Out of 29 tracks four were completely new. The best surprise was Liquid Liquid. The biggest bummer was the repeat Scott Walker track. The biggest miss was The Black Crowes and that was pretty good. I am a bit disappointed by three other repeat artists, Rod Stewart, Joe Jackson and Al Green. However, I can’t complain about how solid the tracks were.
I am really enjoying each week’s playlist. It is consistently a great mix of surprises, new artists and some songs I had completely forgotten about. What do you think of your discover weekly playlists? I know I look forward to every Monday morning. See you next week.
What started as a glorious fling has settled into the drab day-to-day reality of a relationship that might not be working out. Oh Spotify Discover Weekly, you seemed so right. You understood me. You knew what I liked and you gave it to me. Now, only 4 weeks into our time together, it just all seems so empty. How did it all go so wrong so fast? Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think so.
It’s not that you picked bad songs for me this week, it’s that you curated such a boring mix. The playlist is almost all so listenable, so nice, so predictable, so Adult Alternative. Music that’s good for me, but not always good music.
Much of this week falls under the umbrellas of World Cafe or Music by Starbucks or just plain Dad Rock. I want to curl up with a mug of tea and read a book. It’s music for people that don’t like music, but don’t want anyone to know. Make it stop! Make it stop! Give me some gristle, give me some bone.
I read a great piece earlier this week on Wired about the science of bad music playlists. The gist is the “brain privileges music that’s like stuff you’ve heard before.” Spotify and other streaming services takes advantage of this familiarity and the chemical response in your head. From Wired’s article:
“When you hear music that you find intensely pleasurable, it triggers a dopamine response,” says Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute.
When the music is so predictably similar, “the dopamine response will quickly diminish. It’s why people love improvisational music like jazz—it’s different every time.” So that Discover tab? It’s just giving me a short-term high, then I’m crashing hard.
None of this challenges me. Sure, there are some great tracks here, but I’ve heard it all before. It makes me want to change the channel and find something new.
Let’s get to the highlights, lowlights and the one crazy curveball of Week 4.
The playlist opens with “Pretty Good,” the closing track on side one from John Prine’s 1971 eponymous debut. And it is, um, pretty good.
I know I am supposed to like Paul SImon’s solo stuff, but it’s always been a big fat NO for me. Sure, “Kodachrome” was a giant hit from 1973’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, but why do I have to hear it again? Two songs in and you’re losing me.
However, track 3 has us back in business. The Nerves perfect two minute blast of angsty power pop from 1976, “Hangin’ on the Telephone” (later covered by Blondie) is an explosive rush of despair, passion and just plain awesomeness. Jack Lee, Peter Case and Paul Collins only released a handful of songs, but damn they were good.
“Pressure Drop,” a 1969 single from Toots & The Maytals, is a stone-cold classic. It also appeared on their 1970 album Monkey Man and The Harder They Come soundtrack in 1972.
“Lungs” comes from Townes Van Zandt’s eponymous 1969 album. With nothing more than an acoustic guitar, tambourine, powerful lyrics and his yearning vocals, Townes hits an easy home run.
Then we’ve got the batshit crazy “Spill the Wine” from Eric Burdon & War. I remember this song snaking out of AM car radios as a kid. Burdon had already lived two lives as leader of the R&B version of the (original) Animals, then leader of the hippy version of the Animals and now he had teamed up with funk/jazz band War. While Burdon wouldn’t have another hit after this, War went on the crush it repeatedly in the 70s.
What began as a side project for Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane became a full time band. Hot Tuna was a showcase for their musical chops and the instrumental “Water Song” from 1972’s Burgers is no exception.
“Farewell Transmission” from Jason Molina’s final Songs: Ohia album, Magnolia Electric Co. is the opening track to a masterful album. Steve Albini recorded the album and Molina was hitting his peak as a singer, songwriter and player. Haunting and gorgeous.
From the 4th J. Geils Band album, Bloodshot, “Give it to Me” captures their raucous live intensity in the studio. This one found its way into the lower reaches of the top 40 in 1973.
1974’s Natty Dread was the first album released as Bob Marley and the Wailers (as opposed to The Wailers) and the first recorded without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. “Lively Up Yourself” opens the album and became Marley’s perennial concert opener.
Graham Parker and the Rumour’s “Local Girls” comes from 1979’s Squeezing Out Sparks, their 4th album. Funny how he, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson were all lumped together back then as new wave’s angry young men.
The first real surprise is Dorothy Ashby, jazz harpist (yes, jazz harpist), laying down a funky groove on 1968’s “Afro-Harping.” This one swings and grooves like nobody’s business. A-plus!
There’s nothing really wrong with Dire Straits and they managed a handful of stellar tunes, but I just don’t need to hear them too much. “Down to the Waterline” opened their 1978 debut and it’s great. But there’s a reason I walked away so long ago. And I won’t be back very often. Sorry guys
Jerry Garcia lived to play music. In the early 70s when The Grateful Dead weren’t on the road he often teamed up with keyboardist Merl Saunders and they melded rock, jazz, country and blues in legendary live sets. Here they offer up a version of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” from 1973’s Live at Keystone.
Beck’s surf music inspired “Gamma Ray” from 2008’s Modern Guilt gets roughed up with a ragged Jay Reatard remix. Finally a little volume to counter the soporific haze of Week 4.
One of the biggest clunkers is Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s reggae-light “Yarmouth Road” from 2014’s Overstep, his 4th solo album. I am sure the fans love this one live, but NOPE, just nope.
In 2002 Broken Social Scene seemed to come out of nowhere with the gorgeous pop of their second album, You Forgot It In People. “Looks Just Like the Sun” is just one of the many great songs on that sleeper album.
Shortly after the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in 1969, Jimi began jamming with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. They played four shows on New Year’s Eve, 1969 and New Year’s Day, 1970 at the Fillmore East. Out of these legendary concerts they culled the Band of Gypsys 1970 live album. “Who Knows” is an epic track pitting Hendrix against Miles in nine minutes of vocal and musical improvisation.
Backed by most of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake brings us the electric folk of “Hazey Jane II” from his perfect 1970 album Bryter Layter.
Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso wrote “Panis Et Circenses” (Bread and Circuses), the opening track from the debut album by tropicalia legends, Os Mutantes.
Richard Swift is currently a member of The Shins and a touring member of The Black Keys. In 2008 he released the Ground Trouble Jaw EP. “The Bully” combines his surly spoken vocals with a ridiculous falsetto in a faux-fifties knockoff. Recommended.
Kraftwerk’s influence on electronic, dance, hip-hop and popular music in general can’t be overstated. “Computer Love” was the lead single from 1981’s revolutionary Computer World. Classic song from a classic album by a classic band.
“Cannibal Resource” opens Dirty Projectors’ 2009 album, Bitte Orca. Arguably their finest work and easily one of the best albums from that year, the music defies easy categorization, but rewards repeated listening.
“Range Life,” the song that got Pavement kicked off the 1994 Lollapalooza tour for dissing Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins, was the third single from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
“Bitterblue” comes from Cat Stevens’ 1971 juggernaut, Teaser and the Firecat. Unfortunately overshadowed by three hit singles, the track still packs a punch 44 years later.
Then it gets WEIRD. You may know “Look at Your Game, Girl” from Guns ‘N Roses“The Spaghetti Incident?” but it was originally recorded by Charles Manson in 1967. With his weak voice and acoustic guitar, the song is notable only for being a shitty song recorded by one of the the 20th century’s most notorious criminals.
Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills teamed up in 1968 for two days of recording that yielded Super Session. Bloomfield and Kooper tracked side one on the first day while Stills and Kooper cranked out side two the follwing day. Side two features a marathon version of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.”
Closing out this week’s playlist, it’s Genesis with “Squonk” from 1976’s Trick of the Tail. A squonk is a legendary creature from the forests of Pennsylvania. If captured it dissolves in pool of tears. Phil Collins reluctantly tracked the lead vocal on this track and became the lead singer in the wake of Peter Gabriel’s departure.
Spotify, my strategy for this week is to game your curation algorithm and spice up our relationship. Everything I listen to this week will be difficult, obscure and unpredictable. I will know Monday if I can beat your machine at its own game.
Two weeks ago I chronicled the sad, but long expected demise of my Nike FuelBand (Fuelband #4 to be exact). It was a poorly made wearable with limited capabilities. Over time I learned to accept my Fuel Points and use the data as a barometer for my general state of fitness. If I made my goal, I knew I had moved just enough for one day. It motivated me to get up, get out and get going.
When FuelBand 4 succumbed to the ravages of time, I opted for a Fitbit Charge HR. I needed something to get me moving, keep me motivated and give me the numbers. How many steps? How far did I go? How long did I run? I need to know.
Ten days ago the Fitbit arrived in the mail and I set it up quickly. I downloaded the complementary app. WIthin a few minutes I was out on my first run. While it’s only been a week and a half, I am very satisfied and thrilled that I moved on from my crumbling relationship with FuelBand.
Here’s a quick snapshot of what the Fitbit Charge HR tracks; steps, calories, distance, heart rate, sleep, flights of stairs climbed. It buzzes when I reach 10,000 steps. It’s a damn decent watch as well. Hell, it even syncs with my phone and buzzes when I get a phone call
The display is clean and easy to read except in bright sunlight. One click tells time, two steps, three heart rate, four distance, five calories burned and six flights of stairs climbed. I like that time is the first display. It works as a watch and it works as a fitness tracker. FuelBand required four clicks just to get to the time. It fits and adjusts like a watch too. The FuelBand was always a bit clunky with its hard casing. While I got used to it, I immediately liked the feel of the Fitbit.
Maybe the biggest thing is NO Fuel Points! Plus, it seems relatively accurate. Fuel Points always seemed arbitrary, often adding up more when I was driving than when I was actually walking. However, I had become accustomed to them and trying to meet or exceed my goal of 3000 per day had become a daily habit. Saying goodbye was very easy.
Steps vs points makes more sense and speaks a language I understand. 10,000 steps is a broadly accepted standard for moving enough every day. The first time it buzzed at 10K I was a bit shocked, but now I look forward to meeting that goal.
The Nike Fuel app was never my favorite. It took forever to sync and didn’t tell me much. I did like the simplicity, but Fitbit works faster and better. I thought I would miss the gimmicky FuelPoint badges, but NOPE, Fibit even has gimmicky badges too!
The Fitbit app is loaded with features, but is still simple and easy to use. It syncs almost instantly through bluetooth and offers an abundance of data right on the homescreen. Steps. Heartrate. Distance. Calories burned. Flights of stairs. Active minutes. Amount of sleep the night before. Plus it allows you to track exercise, log the water you’ve had to drink and number of calories you’ve eaten. You can even set up a food plan.
My favorite and most insightful feature has been the sleep tracker. Not only does it show how many hours you’ve slept, but also indicates how long your sleep was restless and how long you were awake during the night. What is shocking is how little I actually sleep. I knew I didn’t get enough rest, but my estimation of 6 1/2 hours per night was off. I am averaging less than 6 hours per night. Through Fitbit I’ve set a goal of 7:15 per night.
Three Small Quibbles
1 The Fitbit needs to be charged every 3 or 4 days. It says 5, but the warnings come early. Charging isn’t hard, it’s just annoying.
2 The USB charging cable is tiny. WHen i lose this, I hope a new one isn’t too expensive.
3 The plastic face scratches easily. I’ve already got a tiny scuff and i know there are more to come.
What happens over the next few months will be the real proof. I went through 4 FuelBands in less than three years. They broke, died and went haywire in rapid succession. Can the Fitbit Charge HR stand up to 24/7 wear and tear and keep going? Stay tuned.
Tell me about your favorite fitness trackers, apps and wearables.
Three weeks in and I am still impressed with my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. Each week has expanded upon the previous, delving deeper into my musical history and digging up even more unique artists and forgotten favorites. This week is another compelling mix of old, new, hits, misses and never-weres. While previous weeks had a certain flow from popular to obscure or grouped songs together loosely along decades or genres, this week leapfrogs around with delightful unpredictability. The only theme seems to be an overwhelming number of songs form 1967. While a few segues are jarring and there are a few clunkers, this week might be the best yet.
Opening the set is “Multi-Family Garage Sale (Bargain-Bin Mix)” from the wonderful and almost forgotten Land of the Loops. This was in heavy rotation on my Sony DiscMan way back when. What a joy to hear the cut-and-paste magic of this track from 1996’s Bundle of Joy.
Jumping back almost 30 years we get Neil Young’s stellar Buffalo Springfield Again opener “Mr. Soul,” a classic song from a classic album. So much talent (and ego) crammed into one group. It’s no wonder they imploded.
Then we get what might be the biggest clunker from three weeks of curated music. Daniel Lanois is a brilliant producer, but “The Maker” from 2008’s Acadie is a perfect example of music for people who don’t like music, but don’t want anyone to know.
However, we get right back on track with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats with the dark garage stomp of “I’ll Cut You Down” from 2011’s Blood Lust. Never heard ’em before, but sign me up for more.
From Animal Collective’s 2004 album, Sung Tongs, it’s “Leaf House,” the mesmerising opening track. They got better with later releases, but this track shows their early promise and brilliance.
Hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since we first heard The Pixies, but ‘Caribou” from their debut, Come On Pilgrim, is still a gripping introduction to one of the finest bands of their time.
While their brand new release is promising, Wilco seemed to lose the plot a long way back, but “Handshake Drugs” from 2004’s A Ghost is Born is one of my favorites from Tweedy and company.
Wow! Finally a little bit of classic 70s instrumental soul funk with Billy Preston and “Outa Space.” Spotify delivered on my wish for a broader, more diverse selection. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
I missed out on most of Van Morrison’s 80s output and when I hear songs from that era I am amazed at how damn good he has remained for a half century. “Cleaning WIndows” from 1982’s Beautiful Visions is a keeper.
It’s easy to remember The Lovin’ Spoonful as a mid-sixties hit factory that churned out a handful of Top 40 songs, but “Darling Be Home Soon” is largely forgotten. This lush production with strings, horns and a delicate John Sebastian vocal was featured on the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re A Big Boy Now in 1966.
Parquet Courts made their name with Pavement influenced rock, but they are much more than imitators. “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” from 2014’s Content Nausea is a slow burner until the final cathartic explosion of screaming and guitars. The epic 30 second fadeout is a great touch.
Now we are on a roll. The Brian Jonestown Massacre delivers with “Straight Up and Down.” (If you haven’t seen Dig!, the documentary following the parallel careers of TBJM and The Dandy Warhols, stop what you’re doing, seriously.) Anton Newcombe’s musical trainwreck delivers on every album and this song from 1996 is genius. There is an even better 11 minute version out there kicking around as well.
Jim James, the beautiful voice from My Morning Jacket, offers up “Know ‘Til Now,” the lead single from his 2013 solo album. Channeling an old sixties soul vibe, he veers far away from the roots rock of his band.
Then we segue perfectly into the classic white boy soul rave-up “I’m a Man’ from Steve Winwood and The Spencer Davis Group. Hard to believe Winwood was still a teenager when he tracked this 1967 masterpiece.
The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” is frozen in the acid-laced amber of 1967. What started as a B-side became their defining legacy. It’s a one hit wonder that captures the hippy zeitgeist at its absolutely goofiest.
“I Looked Away” leads off the classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs from Derek and the Dominos. 45 years on this 1970 album stills kills it with great songs by arguably one of the finest bands ever assembled.
Arthur Russell, who defies easy definition and leaped from style to style gives us the quietly beautiful “Close My Eyes’ from 2008’s posthumous compilation of unreleased material, Love is Overtaking Me. Folk, classical, disco, jazz, Mr. Russell could do it all.
“Ride Me High” is a delightful, understated 1976 cut from JJ Cale’s 4th album, “Troubador.” Drawing on blues, rockabilly and a bit of country, Cale makes every track sound easy, but under the hood his songs are wildly inventive.
Devo could do no wrong for their first four albums and their commercial peak was 1980’s Freedom of Choice. “Girl U Want” treads the fine line between their early herky-jerky guitar driven songs with their increasing use of synthesizers.
Smith is a band I knew from the inner sleeves of old ABC/Dunhill LPs, but I never knew their 1969 Top 10 cover of Burt Bacharach’s, “Baby It’s You from the A Band Called Smith album. This one’s a scorcher with a kick ass lead vocal from Gayle McCormick.
“Itchycoo Park” from 1967 is one of the biggest Small Faces’ hits with the unforgettable psychedelic guitar flanging. This was a blockbuster single in the UK and the lead cut off their second album, There Are But Four Small Faces, in the US.
From 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow by The Jefferson Airplane, the acoustic “Embryonic Journey” is a showcase of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s talents and a single listen is all you need to confirm his status as one of the great players of the late 60s and beyond.
Galaxie 500 only released 3 studio albums but their legacy and influence have endured since their 1991 breakup. “Strange” from 1989’s On FIre captures their essence perfectly with Dean Wareham’s fractured, vulnerable lead vocals and the band’s dreamy guitar pop. Wonderful.
Slint largely devised the template for post-rock over the course of two albums. All rising guitar tension and no catharsis, “Good Morning Captain” is the masterful closing track from 1991’s Spiderland (and showed up a few years later on the soundtrack to Kids).
From the first notes of fuzzed out guitar The Count Five’s (yes, they wore Dracula capes on stage) “Psychotic Reaction” is one of the great garage classics from 1966.
The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat,” is their second single and the opening track on debut album, Damned Damned Damned. From Barney Bubbles’ (RIP) cover art to the 12 songs within, you can’t do better than this classic example of 1977 British punk.
Cass McCombs’ songs always take repeated listens for the music to take hold and carry the listener away. 2007’s “That’s That” from Dropping the Writ is no exception. Each listen draws you in and slowly reveals its quiet magic.
Then, we’ve got Supertramp’s “Bloody Well Right” from 1974’s Crime of the Century. This was likely the first song many heard from this oft-maligned band. I might not have included it on the playlist, but the list will completely change by Monday. Onward!
The penultimate song is The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment,” one of the most powerful moments from a band that delivered dozens of powerful moments across five years and six albums. Ending side one of 1980’s Sound Affects, the song counters a bright acoustic attack with an ironic look at the difficult lives of the British working class.
Closing out the set is Widespread Panic’s cover of JJ Cale’s “Travelin’ Light.” I prefer the original and the whole laid back jam band vibe doesn’t really cut it. However, if I hadn’t seen the band name first, it might have been different. Widespread Panic caused me to, um, panic.
One thing I love about these playlists is right in the title, Discover. Each week I’ve discovered something new and remarkable. This week is no exception. Two new artists and a handful of songs I’ve never heard by artists I know well. It’s also a chance to rediscover things I’ve forgotten. I still hope it stretches far beyond the mostly rock diet it has served up. In the Apple Music vs Spotify war, Spotify is clearly winning with two great hours of music picked for me every week. Again, I can’t wait until Monday.
Last Friday I received an email with the subject line, “Legal Notice – Nike+ FuelBand Settlement.” It further went on to say that Nike and Apple “engaged in violations of consumer protection laws and warranty obligations in connection with the Nike+ FuelBand. Nike and Apple deny Plaintiff’s allegations and deny that they did anything wrong. The Court has not decided who is right.”
The key takeaway is as a FuelBand purchaser I am eligible to a $15 refund or $25 gift card from Nike. As if on cue my FuelBand died the next morning. It stopped holding a charge. Dead. I brought it into NikeTown. They tried to charge it up. Nothing. I filed my claim and tonight I tossed the FuelBand and its box. It was the quiet end to a 3 year saga of a should-have-been-better product that overpromised and underdelivered.
I got my first FuelBand a few months into the early hype. All the cool kids had them and it seemed everyone else wanted one. It looked pretty sharp and it was the next generation of fitness tracking. I had to have it.
First, let’s step back to the dark ages. I tracked my workouts long before there were apps, GPS and wearables. It was simple. I used a sports watch and wrote my results in a composition notebook. It was important to see how long I ran, how far I biked and if I improved. I even tracked how much time I actually spent skiing in an eight hour day on the slopes (it’s about two hours, kids). The data was valuable in many ways. I could train smarter and get better results by keeping good records of every workout.
Now, some would ask why I even need a wearable at all when I can use any of dozens of running and fitness tracking apps on my phone. Well, I used to wear my a fitness armband with my old phone, but the iPhone 6+ would be something akin to strapping a cookie sheet or personal pan pizza to my arm. I saw someone running with one tonight and it looked silly. Plus, I love the minimalism of running. Shoes, shorts, shirt and socks. A fitness tracker on my wrist keeps it simple.
Once I got my FuelBand I was puzzled about Fuel Points. What did they mean and how much exertion would it require to earn them? I would often earn more points driving my kid to school than I would on a three mile walk. Biking didn’t seem to earn that many either. The only real high scorer was running. However, I accepted the opaque and arbitrary Fuel Point and settled on getting 3000 a day. If I succeeded it signaled to me that I wasn’t just a waste of flesh, fat and bones. I had done something.
However, the real problem with the FuelBand was simple. It was poorly made. My first band broke down within a few months. Nike gladly replaced it. Number two last for an even shorter period. Replaced again. Three made it nine months. Replaced. Four managed to hang on long enough to hear the class-action judgment and shuffled off its electronic coil. My kids’ goldfish lasted longer. They fell apart, they stopped holding a charge, they just died.
The folks at Nike were always helpful and swapped them out without hassle, but you always got the feeling they knew it was a crappy product. My forthcoming $25 gift card bears out my suspicion.
So today as I mourn FuelBand IV I ponder our legacy of three years together. What kind of elegy can I compose over a poorly made piece of dead electronics? I will keep it short and mostly sentiment free.
FuelBand, you and your 3 older brothers served me adequately for the past three years. You tracked my movement and let me know whether I had completely wasted my day. You were too fragile for this harsh world. We didn’t share the same language. I talked in distance, time and calories burned. You spoke in FuelPoints. We may never have entirely understood one another, but we made it work. May you rust quickly in the great landfill in the sky. I won’t miss your poor syncing abilities, but I will cherish my 3,000,000 FuelPoints. Farewell, old chum.
As I pitched my FuelBand IV, I was busy setting up my new Fitbit Charge HR. Once NikeTown confirmed that FB4 was indeed dead, I ordered a new wearable. Five days of data will go untracked, lost forever, but I go forward knowing that I have taken 55 steps since midnight, my heart rate is 64 and in 26 minutes I’ve burned 46 calories.
Goodbye and Godspeed FuelBand. Hello Fitbit. Let’s get to tracking.