I’ve been listening to a lot of REM lately. Several of the blogs I follow have featured them recently (see here for Aphoristical‘s updated list of R.E.M Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best; and here and here for song features from badfinger20(Max). And so the other night I stumbled on this gem on YouTube – R.E.M.’s first national TV appearance on Letterman’s show on Oct. 6, 1983.
What a joy to watch this performance! In less than 10 years, R.E.M will be one of the biggest bands in the world, but here they are, just 4 guys from Athens, GA trying to make it. Peter Buck and Mike Mills jumping and bouncing all over the stage playing Radio Free Europe, while Michael Stipe anchors the whole song stationary, hanging on the mic, “murmuring” the lyrics, although you sense he could bound off the stage if he lets go.
In those days Letterman would often give his musical guest two songs, and so after the commercial break, they play a song the band says is so new it doesn’t have a title – and its So. Central Rain.
I found it interesting that the between song chatter with Letterman was handled by Buck and Mills – Stipe, the lead singer, is off to the side , sitting on the drum riser, so uncharacteristic of a lead singer who is usually the band’s spokesperson. I recall reading somewhere that Stipe said he viewed his voice as just another instrument in the band, and this fits with the idea that he’s just another bandmember.
I didn’t get into R.E.M. until Document in 1987, and was barely aware of them during my college years (82-86). On the other hand, I watched Letterman religiously during college so I’m not sure why I missed this. Although on reflection that was more in my junior/senior year, so this performance would have been earlier. What I can say is that if I had caught this performance, I am willing to bet I would have become a fan much earlier!
Ok a couple days late but its still the weekend so I’m going to slide my list of favorite songs of 2020 in and hope no one notices my tardiness…
2020 was a terrible year in so many ways but it was still a great year for new music finds. Here are 10 of my favorite discoveries this past year
10. The Chats – Pub Feed
I stumbled onto this band from someone’s blog earlier this year – sorry can’t remember who. The Chats are a self described pub-punk shed rock band from Queensland Australia who remind me of the Ramones with their straight head no nonsense punk sound. Their song deal with everyday concerns – getting a meal at the local pub, getting the clap, getting hassled by the police. Ok maybe not the everyday concerns of a 50 something white guy from the US East Coast, but great music nonetheless. Plus it keeps my streak alive of having at least one band from Down Under on the list the last number of years!
9. Tami Neilson – Call Your Mama
Tami Neilson is a R&B throwback to an earlier time. As Popdose describes here – ” If you’ve ever wanted to know what Wanda Jackson duking it out with Shirley Bassey in a alley while Rosanne Cash, Sharon Jones, and Amy Winehouse egged them on sounded like, look no further..” This put down on a cheating man cracked me up – A ring a ding ding!
8. Spanish Love Songs – Kick
This LA based rock band has been around since 2013 but I had never heard of them til this year. Their lead singer Dylan Slocum’s voice reminds me of another lead singer, but I can’t place it. Any ideas? Great guitar head cleansing rock
7. Brandy Clark – Who You Thought I Was
Brandy Clark has written a number of songs that have been hits for other country artists (Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgrave) but has also put out several albums on her own. I’m not a huge country fans, but do appreciate the roots/American branch, and I found this song gorgeous.
6. Okay Kaya – Psych Ward
I heard this song on a new music playlist early in the year and couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. Then it seemed very topical as the year progressed as it felt like we were living in a psych ward what with the way our leaders were running our country. Favorite line – “I am a very patient patient” Video has alot of non song content so posting Spotify link instead
5. Best Coast – Everything Has Changed
One of my favorite bands is back after a 5 year hiatus and sounding as great as ever. Sounds like songwriter / vocalist Bethany Cosentino has found contentment and happiness as the songs are no long all about lost love and broken relationships
4. Marcus King – Beautiful Stranger
Marcus King is a 24 year old singer/guitarist from Greenville SC whose debut solo album El Dorado was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The album is a fantastic combination of country, blues, R&B, and rock, anchored by King’s phenomenal voice. Featuring Beautiful Stranger here, but also check out the rest of the album, including The Well.
3. The Beths – Dying to Believe
Another of my favorite bands from Down Under whose album Jump Rope Gazers is great from top to bottom. I had tickets to see them in DC in May, which got postponed til the fall, which got postponed to …. actually I don’t know.. One of many huge disappointments this year. I really hope to see them in the States one day. But at least we got the new album. My buddy Mike posted I’m Not Getting Excited on his year end best of list (see it here), so here’s another keeper, Dying to Believe
2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Dreamiscle
Jason Isbell is one of those artists that I’ve been aware of for awhile but for whatever reason have never really checked out until recently – and geez what I’ve been missing. His 2020 album with the 400 Unit has a bunch of great songs on it that made it hard to choose just one, but this one was definitely my favorite. Great lyrics, great imagery, great chorus.
1. Bruce Springsteen – Ghosts
I hear the sound of your guitar Comin’ from the mystic far Stone and the gravel in your voice Come in my dreams and I rejoice
I don’t think there could be a better song intro for me in the current year for me than this, as it signals that Bruce and the E St. Band is back, better than ever. Its been a while, what with his book, the Broadway show etc. Just a fantastic fantastic song, which for me ranks in my top 10 Bruce songs ever. As my co-blogger Mike says, the album Letter to You is easiest is best in 20 years. From Roy Bittan’s piano, Max Weinberg’s drumming, to Jake Clemons sax, you just know that this song is going to be a killer live – and its even got the count out towards the end of the song to tease you. A bright ray of hope to all the great live musical moments that awaits us on the other side of this pandemic.
I’ve been doing a top ten albums list for almost 10 years. About 3 years ago my buddy Paul and I started this music blog. We went gangbusters the first year and as these things occasionally do, it lost a little steam over the past 2 years. Paul has posted a few articles but this may be the only one from me since my ten best of 2019. Nevertheless, I felt I owed it to my loyal small handful of followers to get this past years list up. So here goes….
2020 was an interesting year in music. Artists were left without that creative outlet that touring provides, so many improvised. Live streaming performances and stripped down, acoustic music with lo fi production became a thing., even from bands and artists we think of as big loud arena ready performers.Some went to the vault and recorded alternative versions of previously releases. The Bouncing Souls released Volume II , acoustic versions of some of their great rockers. I loved this album.
My number 10 album is by BillJe Armstrong/ Green Day. Really just a fun project of power pop covers including Hanna”s fave “That thing you do ” from the movie sound track> Here’s one i had on regular rotation.
10 Green Day “NO FUN MONDAYS”
9. The Beths. “JUMP ROPE GAZERS”
I like finding new music and owe this find to Paul. Not sure if he recommended this band but he has been a fan of female led bands and opened my eyes to what I was missing. Great range in this band.
8.Drive-by Truckers. “THE NEW OK”
Easy to get fooled into thinking these guys are just a southern rock band. They definitely have that southern twang thing going but they have a bit of punk and a socially progressive message. This song was inspired by the BLM protests this past year especially in Portland.
7.Chris Stapleton “STARTING OVER”
This artist has been around country music more than 10 years as a songwriter. He’s now put out a few excellent albums. This one is no exception and this song cold might be the best single song I heard this past year. AMAZING voice!!
6.Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “ REUNIONS”
His winning streak continues. whether solo or withe the fantastic 400 unit, Jason Isbell puts outfantastiic music. This song released early in 2020 was like a prediction for the rest of the year.
5. Haim “ WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III”
These sisters had a hit a few years back and Iv’e always like their cool LA vibe but this album kicked it up a notch . This song is great but the whole album is worth a few hundred listens
4.Dawes “GOOD LUCK WITH WHATEVER”
These guys have become regular occupants of my top 10. They just keep surprising me
3.The Killers “IMPLODING THE MIRAGE”
This band seems to be permanently stuck somewhere between 1985 and 1992(and I mean that in good way). loved this album from top to bottom.
2. The Menzingers “ FROM EXILE”
After seeing them open for Frank Turner a few years ago, I’ve been a big fan of this local PA band. best played LOUD
1.Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band “LETTER TO YOU”
Bruce had been pretty quiet for a few years until his very different introspective “Western Stars” last year. I thought that was great and it was my chill out album of summer 2019. I was beginning to wonder if Bruce was settling into his rock star emeritus phase. Then came this…which i think is the best thin he’s done since The Rising. He draws on his whole body of work without sounding like he’s recycling. Quirky characters like from his early work appear in “If I were the Priest”. “Janey Needs a Shooter” would be at home on “Darkness”
The chorus fo this son starts with a defiant “I’M ALIVE…” which was the perfect message at the end of 2020.
Well, its Christmas Eve 2020 here and while this year has been unique (and not in the good sense) the holidays helps anchor us to the traditions that make our lives meaningful and that can carry us through these challenging times. Yes the pandemic has altered Christmas as well, but it won’t stop me from posting some of my favorite Christmas songs! While there are many to choose from, here are five of my current favorites.
Eurythmics – Winter Wonderland
From the very first A Very Special Christmas benefit album from 1987 – I really love Annie Lennox’s vocals on this track, a very Eurythmics take on this classic. While the album was a mixed bag (imho) this was one of the standouts.
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl)
I’ve heard plenty of other versions of this song, but for me the original cannot be matched. There’s something about Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl’s vocals, and the Irish instrumentation that does it for me.
Pretenders – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Another standout from the A Very Special Christmas album – love Chrissie Hynde’s vocals on this.
Bruce Springsteen and the E. St. Band – Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Of course this Bruce holiday classic would make my list – probably one of most popular rock versions of a Christmas classic ever. There’s nothing like hearing this song live in concert (which I’ve been lucky to hear several times) and hear old Clarence’s HoHoHo. Really miss the Big Man. Here’s a live version from 1978.
Bob Dylan – Must be Santa
I discovered this Dylan cover a few years ago and its my new favorite. To be honest, the video makes it for me – Dylan in the white hat/Santa hat, the accordion player, the unexplained altercation and escape and the exchange of glances between Dylan and Santa. Looks to be a fantastically fun Christmas party!
Hearing wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
I decided to build a playlist the name of which is TBT. I’m considering anything from pandemic playlist to Purge the ‘rona
any song will do. Old, new, hits, obscure b sides, novelty songs. As long as it makes you feel good during dark days. Here’s my first offer. Great song just happen to hit me at the right time about 3 miles into my run this morningOn a beautiful 50° morning here in Macungie PA
Just heard the sad news about the passing of John Prine this evening from complications from Covid19. Prine was one of those artists that I knew of and appreciated the songs of his that I had heard, but I can’t say I knew more than a fraction of his work (that will change). I remember really liking his 1991 album The Missing Years. Here’s my favorite song from that album. All The Best.