Monthly Archives: February 2009

Harmonica Favorites: Part 2


The Kinks:  “The Contenders” from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One [1970]

This is a killer harp riff.  Just killer.

Wes Anderson mined this album for his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited, which has been mentioned on this blog more than once.  The Kinks are one of the most-cited bands on this blog, as a matter of fact, and this post continues our tradition of, um, Kinkiness?

Find out what the Kink Kontroversy is all about, K?

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Filed under 1970s, Rock

Drum Set Favorites: Part 1

Wolf Parade – “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” from Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

One of the best straight-up rock records of the past 5 years opens with one of the bitchin’-est drum parts around. A simple pattern of bass, snare, and half-open hi-hat (far as I can reckon) lends this song urgency and an off-kilter drive. Just try not to air-drum along.

See also: the killer guitar meltdown at 1:52. You think it’s all going to explode, but it goes into distant staticky surf guitar, and this song melts into the next.

Hungry Like The Wolf (Parade)?

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 2000s, Rock

Harmonica Favorites: Part 1


Bob Dylan – “Early Mornin’ Rain” from Self Portrait [1970]

In his famous review of this album, Greil Marcus asked “What is this shit?”  Mostly, he was correct.  But, as I mentioned some time ago on this blog, I actually like a few of the songs on Self Portrait. “Early Mornin’ Rain” is perhaps my favorite.  It is a Gordon Lightfoot cover, and as you can probably see by the title of this post, has a very nice harmonica part.

I’ve been especially aware of harmonica in music lately because I’m currently learning to play the blues harp.  I chose to post this song first because it was one of the songs that made me want to learn.  Over the next little while, I’ll be posting songs which contain some of my favorite harmonica parts.   Stay tuned.

Buy this shit

Posted by Adam

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Filed under 1970s, Acoustic, Singer-Songwriter



The Miles Davis Quintet – “If I Were a Bell” from Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet [1956]

Thanks to Presidents’ Day, I had today off work.   I think three days is the perfect length for a weekend; they should all be this long.  At any rate, after a long day, sometimes there is nothing better than cracking open a cold one and putting this record on the old hi-fi.   Miles’ trumpet is muted throughout the album, which gives it an especially relaxing tone.  There is also some studio banter between the tracks, which adds to the album’s informal feel.  The last sound on the album is John Coltrane asking “Where’s the beer opener?”  Classic.

This is one of four albums produced from two 1956 sessions.  The others are entitled Steamin’, Workin’ and Cookin’.

Buy Miles

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1950s, Instrumental, Jazz

Humble Acceptance

Moaned and groaned and rolled my bones

Moaned and groaned and rolled my bones

Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy – “81” from Get on Jolly [2000]

Many apologies for my lack of input on the old blogosphere. I’ve been in the middle of an intra-city move and a job switch, so the last month or two have been pretty stupid busy. But I have been listening to some good musics and found a bunch of represses in Chicago (Sam Cooke at the Harlem! Can you believe it?).

In any case, it’s February and I’m sort of sad and I can’t stop listening to this song. I picked up this cd in Indianapolis at Luna Music maybe a year ago and just started listening to it in November. It’s everything a great collaboration should be in that it highlights the strengths of each participant and allows both players to push the other creatively. Since I’m a stupid fan of Mick Turner (the Marquis de Tren, for this album) and I quite enjoy Will Oldham‘s stuff, it makes perfect sense for me to get into this collaboration.

Regardless, Oldham does some amazing things with these words and melodies, dovetailing them into Turner’s heartbreaking acceptance of Oldham’s offering. This song wrecks me. And I’m completely okay with it.

Hope you enjoy this one.

Posted by Phil

Buy it here


Filed under 2000s, Experimental, Folk


Bob Dylan – “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” from John Wesley Harding [1968]

This is Dylan at his very best.  Three verses, no chorus (this seems the preferred format on the whole of JWH).

In the first-person, he describes witnessing the piety, passion, and wisdom of St. Augustine during a dream.  In the third and final verse, in all candor, he admits with horror that he, the dreamer, was complicit in condemning the saint to death.  Upon waking, he cannot escape the shame of the dream and breaks down.

I have sold out good people before.  I have ignored the suffering of others.  Shame is a constant reminder of how far we are from perfection.

This album (buy it here) is so beautifully crafted and performed (one of the best bands of all time, no lie).

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1960s, Country, Rock


I dont know what these dudes have to be dejected about. Theyre in the freaking Himalayas!

I don't know what these dudes have to be dejected about. They're in the freaking Himalayas!

Okkervil River – “On Tour With Zykos” from The Stand Ins [2008]

“I go home, take off clothes, smoke a bowl, watch a whole TV movie. I was supposed to be writing the most beautiful poems.”

Those lines do it for me. Here is a song that I actually listen to when I’m feeling down on my luck — and it rarely fails to lift my spirits. As Jordy put it, music (and all art) is all about empathy, and I think this song promotes empathy — not least because it features a male singer singing from a woman’s perspective. I feel the speaker’s sorrow and know that my own isn’t quite so bad. Empathy is a two-way street, to use a hoary old cliche. Plus this song calls forth the exact feeling of arriving home after a bad night at a bar, stinking of smoke, ears ringing, too drunk but somehow not drunk enough.

In fact, all the Okkervil River songs I know are full of feeling and commitment, and I don’t hesitate to recommend the band to all y’all.

Can’t say that you’re feeling all that much at all? Buy Okkervil River

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 2000s, Rock

Heart-wrenching, crippling desire

Portishead, UK.  The band's namesake.

Portishead, UK. The band's namesake.

Portishead – “Undenied” from Portishead [1997]

Allow me to begin by saying that this is not quite my favorite Portishead song.  It’s my favorite song from their second album, but 1994’s Dummy has a few gems that are beyond compare.  That’s not to say I’m depriving you, dear readers, of quality Portishead goodness.  This song has a feeling that is unmatched by anything on Dummy or Portishead, and honestly I think this song is enough to convince you that you can’t live another minute without buying all their albums.  In keeping with our current “feelings” series here, I offer you “Undenied.”  This song evokes a feeling of overwhelming desire.  There is just something about Beth Gibbons’ voice, coupled with her delivery and the lyrics of this song that makes you really, truly know what it feels like to want someone, to quote the song, “totally.”

I also love the noir-ish, lo-fi feel of this song.  All of Portishead’s work has that feel, but it’s particularly evident in this song, which sounds as if it were being played on a scratchy vinyl LP.

I will go on record and say that Dummy is quite possibly the sexiest thing ever put to tape.  Portishead is darker and moodier, but parts of it sound like post-coital bliss.

Trip-Hop is not dead.

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1990s


consider this an endorsement

consider this an endorsement

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Hearts of Oak” from Hearts of Oak (2003)

Hope, not only the moniker of the alma mater to 3/4s of SWR, is an emotion called forth by some of my favorite music.

As noted here before, Ted Leo writes great songs about walking around–which, for whatever reason, I tend to associate with feelings of hopefulness. In “Hearts of Oak,” I can’t figure out whether he’s talking about a new band or a new love. Either way, it’s a great one to sing to yourself as you walk or bike (as I’ve been doing during the recent heatwave down south, hoping for more nice weather).

(Though this heat is probably attributable to global warming, a surefire killer-of-hope if there was one.)

Get your prescription from Ted Leo, Pharm.D.

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 2000s, Punk, Rock


Illinoiss dumbest holiday

Illinois's dumbest holiday

Sufjan Stevens – “Casimir Pulaski Day” from Come On Feel The Illinoise (2005)

I don’t listen to this one too much when I am actually feeling sad, but when it comes on I can’t help but being swept up in the low-key sorrow in this tale of love, grief, and waiting.

The song does a pretty good job of translating a philosophical concern (the absence of God’s hand in human tragedy) into emotional affect, by using, guess what, specificity, storytelling, and a great fucking melody–hallmarks of any good song. Its literary affectations (“and the cardinal hits the window”) skirt the edge of corn canyon but end up underscoring the story with a sort of mysterious subtext that opens it up. Great, great song.

(By the way, Jord-dog and other SWR mutts: sometimes I have trouble distinguishing emotions from other states of mind, so my subsequent posts in this series may stretch the boundaries a bit. Like, hope is an emotion, I’m pretty sure, but is romantic love? How about meanness? Regret? Dejection? Guilt? It’s like taste–you can say that something tastes crunchy, but come on, that’s texture, not flavor. But texture is as important as flavor sometimes. Hmm.)

Buy it here

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 2000s, Acoustic, Americana, Folk, Pop, Singer-Songwriter


Explosions in the Sky – “The Only Moment We Were Alone” from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)

Triumphalism has long been a sought-after criterion among my musical peers.  These songs usually grow a repeating chord progression over increasing layers of instrumentation into a moment (or, if you’re lucky, moments) of loud, dragon-slaying righteousness.

Explosions in the Sky of Austin, TX are masters of this format.  Their contrapuntal guitar work makes for an even headier climax.  This is life-affirming stuff.  Each of their songs on The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place is a born-again experience.  I picked this particular song because it has more of the good stuff (esp. the lead-up to 7:00 and at 8:30).

I saw these guys in Phoenix a couple years ago and it was everything I imagined but louder.

Buy Explosions in the Sky

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 2000s, Instrumental, Rock


Red House Painters – “Down Colorful Hill” from Down Colorful Hill (1992)

For me, music (and art generally) is about empathy.  I need to feel some connection to the songwriter’s joy or pain or to any of the other millions of emotions in between.  The successful songsmith will write a melody that is an immediate and pure distillation of a feeling to which I can relate and by which I can be comforted.  In the end, such songs are the only reason I continue to listen at all.

There was a time in my life when I listened to a lot of Red House Painters.  Each of their songs is an expression of despair.  Luckily for the listener, each is also of great beauty.  This, the album’s centerpiece, is among my favorite RHP songs.

Do you have a song that is therapeutic in its hurt?

Get your House Painted Red

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1990s, Rock

“Well, all right/We’ll live and love with all our might”


Buddy Holly – “Well…All Right” single [1958], “Rave On” from Buddy Holly [1958] and “That’ll Be The Day” from The “Chirping” Crickets [1957]

Fifty years ago today, a private plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed in an Iowa cornfield, killing all three, and instantly setting the progress of rock music back by at least five years.  Listen to “Well…All Right” and you’ll see what I mean.  To say that Holly was “ahead of his time” is cliche, but it is true, and that song proves it.  The emotions expressed in that song (not to mention the music itself) are more complex than anything anyone would hear until 1965, with the release of Rubber Soul.  Blind Faith did a great cover of this song on their album.  But listen to the original first.

This event was immortalized as “The Day The Music Died” in Don McLean’s “American Pie,” an eight-minute epic that traces the history of rock ‘n roll from Feb. 3, 1959 through about 1970 and connects Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper to Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin.  Listen to Don McLean too, but listen to Buddy Holly first.

Buy Buddy

Posted by Adam

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Filed under 1950s, Americana, Rock