This is the original Great Unheard project, from 2008. Forty people each made a ten-song playlist comprised of “great songs that most people have not heard.” This project included a liner note for each song. To jump to a contributor’s playlist, click their name below.
1. “You Still Believe in Me” by The Beach Boys / I used to think the Beach Boys were lame until I really listened to the zillion layers of sound in their songs and then you realize they’re orchestral. Play it loud.
2. “Better Not Look Down” by BB King / You cannot knock this tune. It is a song for driving in a convertible. A little bit inspirational and a little bit funny.
3. “Kooks” by David Bowie / A song that is so good validating for even the most self-doubting parent. Its sweetness shows this other side of Bowie beyond the glam. The lyrics are perfect.
4. “Double Dutch Bus” by The Gap Band / About a time in our lives, pre-hip-hop. Such a fun song.
5. “The Hatfield Side” by Cheri Knight / Her whole album is excellent but I picked this one because who doesn’t love a historic ballad once in a while?
6. “100,000 Fireflies” by Magnetic Fields / The first song I heard by this band when I was in college. It’s just pure lovely melody and her voice is pretty ethereal. Makes me happy
7. “Graceland” by The New Pornographers / This song rocks. Best played loud and while intoxicated.
8. “The Ship Song” by Nick Cave / Another sad song I couldn’t not include.
9. “Peculiar Groove” by Frances Ashman / We heard this in the film Nil By Mouth and did lots of sleuthing to find the track – it’s the only recorded song by this artist. Against the backdrop of slum London it really plays nice.
10. “This Will be Our Year” by The Zombies / Sixties amazingness.
1. “Danger! High Voltage!” by Electric Six / Jack White denies that he’s singing on this track. So does Electric 6. But how could that possibly be true?
2. “The World Turned Upside Down” by Billy Bragg / This will put you in the mood for universal healthcare, if not a new people’s revolution. Go OBAMA!
3. “Waiting Room” by Fugazi / Waiting Room
This is one of the songs that my “band” almost learned all the way through. We ended up learning Rio instead, which was just about the most fun I’ve ever had.
4. “La Vie Est Belle Strait” by MC Solar / from the mean city streets of Paris, France. French rap doesn’t initially sound likes it’s going to be a good idea, but very quickly you learn that it is in fact awesome. I think it has something to do with the fact that although the language is French, the rapper is from Senegal.
5. “Baby Love Child” by Pizzicato 5 / Became my favorite song one summer in the 90’s driving out to Montana. Got a speeding ticket. $10.
6. “Breakin’ Up” by Rilo Kiley / Overall the new Rilo Kiley album isn’t that good, but three of the songs are, and this one is super fun. Jenny Lewis I love you.
7. “L’Anamour” by Serge Gainsbourg / I learned about Serge Gainsbourg in the 90’s and at first only considered him a source of amusement. Aside from being France’s biggest pop star ever, he is famous for being ugly.
8. “Laisse Tomber les Filles” by April March / From the Death Proof soundtrack. I downloaded it as soon as I heard it looping on the menu screen of the DVD.
9. “Red Dirt Girl” by Emmylou Harris / My friend MC introduced me to this song. I imagine she has a friend like Lillian.
10. Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe” by Whale / I can’t explain this one. They’re Swedish.
1. “Oh Katrina” by The Black Lips / Is it about love gone bad, someone treating you wrong, or a big ole hurricane??? You decide.
2. “Big Bird” by The Deadly Snakes / This song is actually a cover version of a Wilson Pickett tune, and the Deadly Snakes are actually from Toronto not Montreal, but if this doesn’t get your booty shakin’ then you must not have a booty to shake.
3. “No Satisfaction” by Black Mountain / It’s like the Velvet Underground, early Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath met the Rolling Stones. This whole album is great and this is one of my fave tunes from it.
4. “Left Your Dorr Unlocked” by Harlan T. Hobo / Harlan is one of the best songwriters going. He’s cut his teeth in the Memphis garage rock scene, but his solo albums are closer to the melancholy country tinged sound that Beck was after on the album “Sea Change.”
5. “Light Rail Coyote” by Sleater-Kinney / Holds a special place in my heart because this album was released while I was living in Portland Ore, and this song is an ode to Portland Ore. A love song to a great city.
6. “I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known” by International Submarine Band / And now a commercial announcement, every fall the magazine Oxford American releases their Southern Music issue, the magazine is great, the music is even better, its one of the highlights of the year. ISB was the band that Graham Parsons started.
7. “You’ve Got Me Humming” by The Reigning Sound / Another Memphis garage rock heavy hitter, and another Stax cover. The Reigning Sound have taken this Sam and Dave hit and made it their own. Good times!
8. “Not a Doll” by Corn Sisters / The Corn Sisters are Neko Case and compatriot Carolyn Mark, I couldn’t stop listening to this song when I bought this record. You might not either.
9. “All Kindsa Girls” by The Real Kids / The Real Kids are Boston legends who never got the attention they deserved in the music world. This is their signature tune, its also what a great rock tune should sound like.
10. “Me and My Baby Brother” by War / So I understand that having a tune from a greatest hits record might go against an unheard music comp, but I haven’t played this song for anyone who’s ever heard it already.
1. “Decepticon” by Le Tigre / It’s my favorite song.
2. “Another Devil Dies” by Badly Drawn Boy / You can kill a Devil by singing. Also, I like that the audience sounds like a siren.
3. “Wall of Death” by R.E.M. / I like roller coasters the best, too. I like when he says the merry-go-round goes nowhere.
4. “Gold and Silver” by Toots and the Maytals / It’s about pirates. I like silver better than gold. His voice is different than anyone else’s.
5. “King of Bongo” by Manu Chao / Bongo is a funny word and the song sounds funny.
6. “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker / Saying ‘boom boom boom boom’ over and over is fun. This is the first adult song I liked.
7. “Dance Music” by The Mountain Goats / I like when the cops are coming for him and he’s just listening to music.
8. “Danger Man II” by David Bromberg / I like that he’s got a dangerous nose and that he’s so ugly that he breaks a mirror. I also like the background music [horns].
9. “El Matador” by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs / I like that it’s in Spanish. It’s kind of funny for English people, but I like it.
10. “Hockey Monkey” by James Kochalka Superstar / When the scientist is chasing the monkey, he can’t catch him. When the monkey has the hockey stick, he’s probably hitting the kids with it.
1. “Care of Cell 44” by The Zombies / There’s more to the Zombies than “Time of the Season.” Why does no one pay attention to them? This album is GREAT. Also, I realize that “odyssey” is misspelled up there, it was apparently an error by the artist who designed the cover, and they just had to go with it.
2. “Van Helsing Boombox” by Man Man / This band opened for Modest Mouse when we saw them last year. They were totally mesmerizing, catch them if you can.
3. “Lather” by Jefferson Airplane / Great lyrics, enjoy. Plus, Grace Slick is hot stuff.
4. “Can You Get to That?” by Parliament Funkadelic / P-Funk! Not just a garden of samples for rap songs! There’s some great rock and roll in there! Play this song LOUD!
5. “Buck” by Nina Simone / This song has a fun hip hop beat to which I enjoy shaking my booty.
6. “Out In The Streets” by the Shangri Las / From Myrmidons of Melodrama. Yes, I had to look up “myrmidon.”
7. “If There Is Something” by Roxy Music / I loves me some Roxy Music. Brian Eno was in the band at this time. This song is a little bit country, a little bit art rock. A great epic of a song. It’s their “Stairway,” only more fun. Check out Bryan Ferry’s excellent vibrato vocals.
8. “Step Right Up” by Tom Waits / Tom plays the role of salesman/ barker here. Good times. Reminds me of that song from “The Music Man” that my mother would know the title to.
9. “You Left the Water Running” by Otis Redding / A fun little ditty.
10. “Hammond Song” by the Roches / The Roches are sisters who sang backup for Simon & Garfunkel in the 60s. Pretty harmonies that explode into your ears, like the Mamas n the Papas. I think they’re back on tour right now, actually.
1. “That Time [Nice Mix]” by Layton / Reminds me of the late 70s, early 80s and the dude’s voice kinda sounds like David Byrne but more airy.
2. “Kissed You by the Fountain” by Vector-Lovers / This is the inspiration for my cover art. It’s obscure because you’ve never heard it before, have you?
3. “Bad News From the Stars” by Stereo Total / I dig songs with minimal lyrics.
4. “Open Your Heart” by Lavender Diamond / Sounds like an ad for a soft drink.
5. “Siriustar” by Deerhoof / hmm…
6. “Oblighetto” by J Dilla [Brother Jack McDuff] / This one’s got some bass to it.
7. “Steady as She Goes” by The Raconteurs / You’ve heard this one, but did you know this was the song that inspired Jack and Brendan to form the band? A new band of old friends.
8. “Pendejo” by Babasonicos / Self-explanatory.
9. “Hey Boy” by The Blow [Khaela Maricich] / I’d like to dedicate this song to all the guys who never called back… if only I could remember their names…
10. “I’ll Kill Her” by SoKo / ‘Cuz i’ll kill her.
1. “Superior Friend” by Bake McBride / Bake McBride was a pretty good major league outfielder in the 70’s, but for me this name belongs to the 4 member Boston band from the mid 90’s. I was at BU, met the bands guitarist became friends and a quickly a fan of the band. They produced one album, High Rock Way, which oddly enough way the name of the street two of the members lived on.
2. “Hatfield 1980” by Everything But The Girl / I’ll forever go to this husband and wife duo for her voice and his arrangements. Tidbit: their unusual name “Everything but the Girl” from the slogan of well-known Turner’s furniture shop in Hull England.
3. “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” by Kitty Wells / A response to Hank Thompson’s cynical 50’s hit “The Wild Side of Life” which suggested woman were abandoning their domestic roles and becoming “honky tonk angles”. Wells stood up, responding with this song, establishing her career as well as paving the way for other female country artist.
4. “Let Go” by Frou Frou / This song came off Garden State soundtrack, make you want to get up and go, great song to walk to.
5. “Vaiven De Mi Carreta [The rocking of my cart]” by Jose Conde / This song is a classic Cuban Folk song that has been covered by many latin artists. Jose Conde’s version respects the classic sound of Cuban music but with all of his songs adds his contemporary twist. He’s a New Yorker and is great live, be prepared to salsa.
6. “Skyway” by The Replacements / Every year my friend of 15 years sends me a mix CD [once a mixed tape] for my birthday. This tradition has introduced me to some great groups, this is one of them. This song may not be that memorable but each time i hear it I ‘m reminded why i like it – it’s a delicate beautiful little song.
7. “King of the Road” by Roger Miller / Although this is a pretty popular song, I’m not sure it gets heard enough. It’s a classic that instantly makes you want to jump in a car, and hit the road.
8. “Mama” by Sugarcubes / This great alternative band [1986-1992] was the springboard of Bjorks super successful solo career.
9. “That Kind” by Bake McBride / The finale song their album, That Kind, has big sound gets pretty intense. This sounds was aided by the gospel singer they brought in to sing backup, the guitar solos and strong percussion.
10. “The End” by Llorca [Hepop Original] / Speaks for itself.
1. “Available Space” by Ry Cooder / This tune is pure joy. When I shuffle off the mortal coil this is the tune I’ll be whistling.
2. “Little Things” by Los Lobos / Let this one hit home.
3. “Poet Game” by Gregg Brown / There are a handfulf of cats left who can pick that piedmont style and write great songs, too. Brown is somewhere at the top that short list.
4. “Third Week In the Chelsea” by Jefferson Airplane / Shades of Hot Tuna here. Can’t have a collection of great songs without Jorma and Jack.
5. “Cosmic Mirror” by Paul Pena / I swapped an email with Paul once, that’s how cool and kind he was. The heart and soul of the breezy San Francisco sound. This tune is an impromptu jam. Pure art.
6. “Will But You Won’t” by Keith Richards / I defy anyone to tune their guitar to an open G and outrock this guy. Talk is cheap.
7. “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams / This dude’s a punk who needs his ass kicked badly…and he’s a great songwriter.
8. “Mission In The Rain” by Jerry Garcia / If you’ve ever been to the Mission District in San Francisco you’ll understand. Jerry G had it together with his muse.
9. “Heathen Rage” by Corey Harris / Bet you didn’t think anybody made fantastic reggae music anymore.
10. “My Gal” by JJ Cale / The master. Period.
1. “American Hearts” by A.A. Bondy / Ryan Adams’ long lost bro–sigh.
2. “I Broke My Promise” by American Music Club / Recent/not-so-recent love loss strikes a cord.
3. “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own” by Bruce Springsteen / Self explanatory, dontcha think?
4. “Rise Up with Fists!!” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins/ What is life really all about.
5. “Not Pretty Enough” by Kasey Chambers / Strikes a cord with the insecure little girl in all of us.
6. “Foundations” by Kate Nash / The struggle to let go and take charge of your life.
7. “Let Me Go” by Kristen Price / Powerlessness.
8. “The Beast in Me” by Martic Sexton / Hot sexy – makes great background music if you know what I mean…
9. “Jane Fonda” by Mickey Avalon / Naughty and fun = this mix needs it.
10. “The Way” by the Pierces / Loving everything by these 2 sisters.
1. “One Crowded Hour” by Augie March / I found this song when Amazon.com sent me: “If you like Ryan Adams, you’ll love Augie March” and I did! I love how this song builds momentum.
2. “Late Morning Lullaby” by Brandi Carlile / I found myself unable to resist singing along to this song even when I didn’t know the words. I love the ‘yodelly’ quality to her voice.
3. “The Golden State” by John Doe [and Kathleen Edwards] / Great song. I imagine myself singing this duet with Matt at his next gig at Stingers. NOT!
4. “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin / I cannot get enough of Patty Griffin! This song never fails to lift my mood.
5. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Jake Shimabukuro / I thought this was a harp the first time I heard it, but it’s a Ukulele! Makes a beautiful melody even better.
6. “Angel From Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt [and John Prine] / Not very obscure but it’s my all-time favorite song. Wanted to share it with those that don’t know it.
7. “Suffering” by Satchel / Loved this song ever since I first heard it from the soundtrack to ‘Beautiful Girls’.
8. “1952 Vincent Black Lightening” by Richard Thompson / I bought “Rumor and Sigh” in the early 90s because I liked the song “I Feel So Good” which was getting a lot of playtime on WLIR [and which I now hate]. I’d never heard of Richard Thompson before that. His guitar in this song amazed me. It’s a sweet story, too.
9. “Grace, Too” by The Tragically Hip / I made a cassette mix-tape years ago that I called ‘Trance’ of songs that put me in a sort of state of reverie. This one was most effective. Who needs drugs?
10. “Arrow” by Cheryl Wheeler / Just a beautiful, sad song.
1. “The Great Salt Lake” by Band Of Horses / This is a band that will probably be the new “break out” soon. It’s nothing completely ground-breaking but this song definitely rocks.
2. “House & 90 Acres” by Chris Knight / “But I won’t give up my land!” This is amazing song that reminds me of something Steve Earle would write…great lyrics.
3. “The Mansion” by John Vanderslice / “We set off in hope of changing our lives but settled instead on Holiday Inn.” A great album [Life and Death of an American Fourtracker] but this song is the standout.
4. “Burning the Church House Down” by Kevin Gordon / This is an artist that not many know. He’s an awesome songwriter and this is by far my favorite track on the album [Down To the Well].
5. “Time To Pretend” by MGMT/ Wow, if this was put out in the late 90’s it would have been the soundtrack for my early-twenties…great song!
6. “For Real” by Okkervil River / One of my favorite songs ever – this one gets intense.
7. “Christmas in Southgate” by Ry Cooder / Here’s some roots for ya. “I’d work any job just to clear a day’s pay except for being President of the old USA. That’s dirty work, no future it’s true, I’d rather drink up my last nickel with you.” Great stuff.
8. “News Blackout” by Tim Easton / It’s very simple, Tim Easton is the man! He just keeps getting better with every album. “I had a better dream, a better dream that Scarlett was kissing me.” I agree Tim, she’s very hot.
9. “Providence” by TV On the Radio / This song has something new every time I listen to it. TV On the Radio is a band to look out for in the future…great potential here.
10. “Wink” by Blue Mountain / I want to head to the Appalachian Mountains, drink whiskey and chug some brews whenever I listen to this band. I think they only have two albums but this is worth looking into [Dog Days].
1. “Exile” by Lord Ekomy Ndong featuring Sally Nyolo / Great, melodic, beat driven African kwaito—hip-hop—with powerful lyrics about the diaspora of African peoples. Get ready for globalization and break out your high school French to hear what’s rapped and sung by Ghanian musician Lord Ekomy Ndong and African pop-icon Sally Nyolo.
2. “Pound to the Dollar” by Maroon Town / Raw, fat beat and lyrics about money from legendary multi-racial, breakbeat/ski/rap, Brixton-spawned Maroon Town. [Their big break: Sponsorship by Doc Martens, back in the day.] Think on the emotional meaning of money while you bust some moves to this in the privacy of your home.
3. “Lift Me Up” by Telson & Brewer / I wish the wind would lift me like a bird.” Sung by the Five Blind Boys of Alabama playing the role of Oedipus as an ensemble in Lee Brewer’s gospel musical adaptation of the Greek tragedy.
4. “Rock el Casbah” by Rashid Taha / You’ve heard this, but not like this. “Rock the Casbah” sung in his native language by Algerian-born, Paris-based Rashid Taha. Listen to the Western pop, North African fusion in the breaks.
5. “Number in the Book” by Lucky Dube / Enormously popular and admired for his heroic role fighting apartheid with his subversive lyrics, reggae star Lucky Dube takes on the South African AIDS epidemic in this plea for personal responsibility and compassion. Sadly, most in the West heard about Mr. Dube not through his music but from last years’ brief spate of headlines about his tragic death, gunned down in a car jacking in a Jo’zi suburb.
6. “Get Your Business Straight” by Magic Slim and The Teardrops / Hard drivin’, rockin’ blues from a Mississippi born, Chicago made, Nebraskan adopted Magic Slim. Those in the scene either admire or dismiss him, but no one disputes his skills as a compelling live performer.
7. “Notre Devoir” by Intik / Completely infectious, crisply musical North African reggae from Paris-based group Intik. Consider yourself a citizen of the world if you can translate the French lyrics; consider your potential for obsolescence if you can’t.
8. “Point/Counterpoint” by Streetlight Manifesto / Authentic, disturbing lyrics about dying young with a “bullet in my lung” sung at a breakneck tempo backed by the huge sound of a horn section. What’s not to like? Heh-heh.
9. “Injured Bird” by Michael Stipe and Vic Chestnutt / Y’all probably have heard R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe’s independent work, but I hadn’t. So it was obscure to me with suitably obscure but intriguing lyrics.
10. “Pata Pata” by Vusi Mahlasela / You’ve heard this one, too, but not like this. South African star Vusi Mahlasela—another musical freedom fighter—takes this classic, made popular throughout the world by Mariam Makeba, to another and different plane.
1. “Your Party” by Ween / Sax provided by legendary horn player David Sanborn. He captures the essence of the song perfectly. This song makes me want to eat tri-colored pastas and attend grown up parties in CT.
2. “Big Dipper” by Built to Spill / Try not to bop your head to this song. Also the first time I heard this song I had no idea that “Albertsons” was a national super market chain… I often wondered if he was referring to my town somehow. I should have known. No one knows Albertson.
3. “The Road” by Levellers / These guys are from Wales and are active Anarchists. No joke. They take their anarchy seriously which in turn makes me laugh a lot. These guys are “Tinkers” or “Gipsys”, supposedly they have a Dead-like following in Europe.
4. “Guitar and Video Games” by Sunny Day Real Estate / Put head phones on, turn the volume to 11 and hit play. Repeat this process three times. I love this song.
5. “From Under the Dust” by Letters to Cleo / This band from Boston [was every female act in the 90’s from Boston?] opened up for pretty much every act that toured through CT. when I was in college. We got to know them pretty well. This is a good tune that probably would be sung by Kelly Clarkson these days. This singer was the voice for Josie [of the Pussycats fame] and sings the current Care Bear theme song along with lots of soundtrack work.
6. “Sublime” by The Ocean Blue / More people should know these guys. The music sounds similar to The Smiths but the voice does not.
7. “Green Flowers, Blue Fish” by Superchunk / One of my favorite bands of all time. It was so hard choosing one song. I chose this song because it is their middle ground. Great tune.
8. “Boxcar” by Jawbreaker / These guys are a huge influence on lots of today’s great bands like The Hold Steady. The singer Blake writes his songs in a Beat Poetry style. This song is an atypical funny song by them that makes fun of the punk scene and its rules.
9. “A King and a Queen” by Okkervil River / Great tune by a great band that I discovered last year. They describe their music as ‘gothic folk’.
10. “Strange Design” by Phish / This song was never released on an album for fear that their label would release it as a single. They often played it live though. This version is from an epic NYE show at MSG. Phish does not get enough credit for their songwriting—people tend to focus on the jamming aspect of the band. This song is sung by Page McConnell, their keys player.
1.“Mendocino County Line” by Willie Nelson & Lee Ann Womack / Willie’s the best.
2. “Spanish Rose” by Van Morrison / From a great collection – Bangmasters.
3. “Breakdown” by Jack Johnson / Song makes me think of Nick Colleluori, an inspirational guy from Hofstra.
4. “Hurry Up Sky” by Jen Chapin / This song was written for a friend who died in the 9/11 attacks.
5. “Be Strong” by Acquiesce / Another song written after 9/11 for the lead singer’s brother who died that day. It makes me think of my own brother.
6. “Hero” by Michael McGlone / McGlone is a suspect actor and marginal singer, but I loved him as Fran in “She’s the One” and I like this song.
7. “Addictive Love” by Maceo Parker / This song makes me want to go to a Maceo Parker show at the Blue Note Café in NYC. It comes from a good live album.
8. “Reconsider Me” by Warren Zevon / I like this one.
9. “Roomful of Light & Darkness” by The Bogmen / I’ve been listening to these guys for over 15 years now and have seen them play what seems like 100 times. They are a great live band and this is a live recording of an old song of theirs.
10. “Girl Next Door” by The Bogmen / This is a newer song, but a good one.
1. “In the Graveyard” by Nina Nastasia / A tune from the lovely, weird, strange, saddish, musical stylings of the mysterious Nina Nastasia. She is supposedly based in NYC, though her tour dates always seem to be in Europe. Catch her live if you can.
2. “Waiting on June” by Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell / I first heard a track from this disc on the radio while looking for parking in Brooklyn. Thankfully it took a while to find a spot.
3. “Indian Summer” by Chris Whitley / This album was recorded in one day, with one microphone, in a barn. Maybe not so obscure, but I don’t think enough people know about this man and his music.
4. “Kronkronhinko” by Ayub Ogada / A Kenyan musician who plays the Nyatiti and the Djembe. This disc is a long time favorite of mine. I have given it as a gift many, many times.
5. “Keep Your Eyes On the Road” by Karla Schickele / My wife burned this song on to a CD mix she made for me on our 2nd date. Whenever I hear it the piano part stays in my head for days.
6. “Please, Mr. Please” by Scud Mountain Boys / “Guitar with just enough twang to remind me that girls who smell good don’t like me.” [Ok, I didn’t write that, I found it online when poking around the SubPop website, but it was said about the Scud Mountain Boys, so there you go.]
7. “Working On the Building” by The Swan Silvertones / I first heard the Swan Silvertones in a music history class in college. I have been a fan ever since. I’m always amazed that everyone else in the world doesn’t go through obsessive bouts of listening to them over and over and over again.
8. “Solamente Una Vez” by Los Panchos / This trio was formed in NYC in the mid 1940’s and went on to sell millions of records around the world. They will make you believe in love [Did I just write that?].
9. “Night Jet Trails” by Paul Curreri / Great guitar picking/singing/song-writing from our man in Virginia. Plus, he uses the word “fuck” in this track. Always a plus.
10. “The Ballad of Floyd Collins” by Adam Guettel / A friend gave me this disc as a thank you for doing the music at his wedding. Songs about a man meeting his maker 50 feet below the surface of the earth. What more could you want?
1. “The Gulag Orkestar” by Beirut / This demented, drunken funeral procession of a song perfectly captures my attraction for the mournful and melancholy.
2. “Boho Dance” by Bjork / Bjork brings a new dimension to one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs from the 70s. The poetry in these lyrics fill a cinematic universe, large even for Joni.
3. “Spark” by The Bird and the Bee / The stand out song on the debut album from this indie musical duo from Los Angeles, creates a strange hypnotic mood somewhere between pop and choral hymn.
4. “Cat’s Paw” by Svelte / ‘Grind Your Bones’ is the title track from the New Zealand Bands’ 6-track debut EP.
5. “Lonely” by Yael Naim / Born in Paris, raised in Israel, the song is good, but the voice is pure and childlike.
6. “Semen Song for James Bidgood” by Matmos / Boundary and genre crossing, from the electronic concept album with tracks dedicated to people who have most influenced the Matmos duo, Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt.
7. “I Believe In the Good of Life” by The Hidden Cameras / Corny, irrepressible and earnest. Joel Gibb calls it ‘gay church folk music!’ any song containing the line: ‘I did not do those drugs or steal those underpants’ gets my attention.
8. “Edith and The Kingpin” by Elvis Costello / I’ve loved this song for 32 years. The droning, sour horns express the pathos of the Big Man and his mistress brilliantly.
9. “To Build a Home” by Cinematic Orchestra / I particularly like the poignant, creaky soundscape of the climax.
10. “Quartet for the End of Time, Praise of the Immortality of Jesus” by Olivier Messiaen / This is the last movement of his quartet that he wrote while imprisoned in a Nazi camp in the early stages of WWII and first performed in the prison to an audience of prisoners and guards. The triumph of hope and good over evil.
1. “Ultras Horas” by Orchestra Baobab / This is great anytime music. It’s from a double disc album that won’t get old. Orchestra Baobab are from Senegal [Baobab is lovely indigenous tree, below]. They have been around forever, this album was originally released in ’82 and the group broke up, and then re-released in 2001.
2. “They” by Jem / I like the beat!
3. “Witness Blues” by A.A. Bondy / Just became aware of AA Bondy the other night when I went to see another band play, the Felice Brothers, who weren’t very good. I think his voice is perfect.
4. “Tapha Niang” by Toumani Diabete’s Symmetric Orchestra / Toumani plays a 21 stringed instrument called the Kora. He comes from a long line of Kora players. He’s played with Ali Farka Toure, but on this album he’s playing with a 50 piece band with people from all over Africa. This song is slow, but most of the songs are very upbeat. If you like this song, get the album, it is incredibly, incredibly good.
5. “Fireflies [w/ Rachel Yamagata]” by Rhett Miler / Rhett Miller is the former singer of the band Ol’ 97’s. I can’t stop listening to this song. Matt has Rachel Yamagata’s album if you want a copy!
6. “In Other Words” by Ben Kweller / This song is a few [pop] songs in one. I love Ben Kweller and though he’s not unknown, I think he’s underrated.
7. “Que N’ai-je” by Keren Ann / Keren Ann is Israeli, Dutch, French, lives in Paris, sings in French. She has a few albums, and all of them are good. They are sung about 50/50 French/English.
8. “If I Needed You” by Townes Van Zandt / Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Tex. He sings with Lyle Lovett on this album.
9. “Bizcocho Armargo” by si*se / Si*se is a band that was signed on their very first live show by David Byrne of the Talking Heads.
10. “NY, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Soundsystem / “Your billionaire mayor’s now convinced he’s the king”.
1. “Roll on John” by The Greenbriar Boys / I grew up trying to play like John Herald, the lead guitar for many of Ian & Sylvia albums. The tune is so sweet and mournful it is hard not to sing along. The guitar solo is just right.
2. “Katmandu” by Bob Seger / It is simply a good R&R song. The repetition of the “Ka” is fun.
3. “Hey Joe” by The Byrds / Somehow I’ve always preferred this cover. I’m also a sucker for a fast electric12-string guitar.
4. “Candy Man” by The Grateful Dead / This is a song I loved when I was younger and sillier. Now it stands up because of its simplicity and one of the best goddamn pedal steel solos ever.
5. “Far Away Eyes” by The Rolling Stones / The chorus is one of the best sing-along [late at night] tunes. It also is silly and Mick is so full of it. Funny and Fun!
6. “Nashville Cats” by Del McCoury Band / Better than The Lovin’ Spoonful and with Jerry Douglas on dobro, it make sense.
7. “Lost In The Backyard” by James McMurtry / Mr. McMurtry can certainly write a lyric, and I can hear the short stories of Sherwood Anderson. There is something to be said for very slow songs.
8. “Look Out Cleveland” by The Band / A great understated rocker. Damn, the Band is tight.
9. “U.S. Blues” by The Harshed Mellows / The only cover of a Grateful Dead song that is better than the Dead.
10. “Bird Song” by The Grateful Dead / Like the pedal steel solo on “Candy Man” the guitar solo is wonderfully soulful. It’s also a well-written song. Thank You Mr. Hunter.
1. “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show / Great driving song.
2. “Twilight Creeps” by Crooked Fingers / “Why’s everybody always act so tough when all anyone wants is to find a friend?”
3. “A Break In The Clouds” by The Jayhawks / It’s like Gram Parsons and Emmylous Harris redux.
4. “Everything I Ever Loved” by The Insteps / This one was written by our friend Justin.
5. “And The Healing Has Begun” by Van Morrison / One of my favorite songs of all time.
6. “Houses On The Hill” by Whiskeytown / I love the story this tells.
7. “A Song For Lovers” by Richard Ashcroft / One of the better post-Verve songs by Ashcroft.
8. “Get Blown Away” by Ocean Colour Scene / Listen to this on an autumn day.
9. “Happy” by Bruce Springsteen / Our wedding song.
10. “Luna” by Smashing Pumpkins / Takes me back to 1996.
1. “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number” by The Beatles / Originally the B-side to “Let it Be,” it was never released in stereo. John apparently came up with the lyric and title after seeing a postal advertisement. Brian Jones plays saxophone. A reference to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ associate producer Dennis O’Dell caused numerous calls to his home by crazed fans singing the lyrics.
2. “Harley Davidson” by Brigitte Bardot / Arranged by Serge Gainsbourg, this was recorded originally for a French TV show called “Le Brigitte Bardot” in 1967, where Bardot appeared singing her songs in provocative poses, of course, and in this case, straddling a Harley. She doesn’t have a spectacular voice, but I still find it hilarious to listen to, and her incomprehensible over-emphasis on the SON in Davidson cracks me up.
3. “It Hurts Me Too” by Karen Dalton / Dalton was an apparent muse to Bob Dylan, who once called her his favorite folk singer. They also played together. But not many people seem ever to have heard of her. A friend gave this CD to me last year, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. I love what seems to me like the awkwardness of the phrase in the chorus, “If things are going wrong for you.”
4. “Start Wearing Purple” by Gogol Bordello / If you were hanging around the Bulgarian bar in New York in the early part of this decade, or really like ethnic punk or, I don’t know what else, you may have heard this.
5. “Sing” by The Dresden Dolls / This song was released as a single, but only to radio stations, not the public. It’s not like most of the Dresden Dolls’ more cabaret-influenced songs, but I love it as the anthem for an American-idol obsessed U.S., and I love Amanda Palmer’s voice on this song, which is an awesome mix of sweet, hushed, breaking and strident.
6. “Star Spangled Banner” by Kiss / Maybe you’ve heard Hendrix’s version? I just thought this had to be here.
7. “Baby” by Os Mutantes / Os Mutantes is a band that was part of the Tropicalia [Tropicalismo] counterculture movement in Brazil in the 60s, when Brazil was under brutal dictatorship. Tropicalismo covered art, poetry, theatre, film, music, etc. The music was heavily influenced by American rock, blues, psychedelic and jazz.
8. “La Media Luna” by Cecilia / I lived in Chile between 1995 and 2000 and Cecilia [Pantoja Levi], a pop icon of the 60s, was making a comeback with Chileans in their 20s and 30s at the time. She has a powerful, if sometimes screechy, voice and was heralded as a kind of Chilean Elvis for being provocative and sexualized on stage in ways that broke with convention.
9. “Not Going Anywhere” by Keren Ann / This is from the album prior to her American breakthrough album Nolita. She really has an exquisite voice, and great pop sensibility. It’s terribly pretty.
10. “Cucurrucucu Paloma” by Caetano Veloso / This is one always manages to make me choke back tears for the absolute and utter sweet sadness of it [it may help that he’s singing in Spanish, which I understand, instead of his native Portuguese.] This guy is a living genius.
1. “Errol Flynn” by Amanda McBroom / Just a poignant song. My brother Jack sent it to me.
2. “Boxing” by Bette Midler / Another poignant one.
3. “Dirty Water” by Bruce Springsteen [with Peter Wolfe] / If the song is familiar, it’s because it’s the Red Sox’ theme song. What I really love about this version is that it’s a real bootleg, so you can hear the crowd talking and singing along. It was recorded when Bruce played Fenway.
4. “The Magdalene Laundries” by The Chieftans and Joni Mitchell / Joni sings and she wrote it. It was on a Chieftans album and I didn’t quite get it until I Googled it and then saw the movie.
5. “Sweet 16” by Chris Henshaw / I remember my father singing this when I was young. Hadn’t thought of it in years, until my friend Chris added it to his repertoire.
6. “I Love my Shirt” by Donovan / One of Donovan’s silliest, and a favorite of my husband, Bryan.
7. “Marieke” by Elly Stone & Co. / A sad one from Jacques Brel.
8. “Golden Apples of the Sun” by Judy Collins / Yeats set to music. I love it.
9. “I Feel Pretty” by Little Richard / I bought an anniversary issuance of artists covering songs from West Side Story. This was worth the price of the CD.
10. “Outside a Small Circle of Friends” by Phil Ochs / Inspired by the Kitty Genovese murder in Queens in the early 1960s. I think that’s the right name, and why do I remember it? Anyway, she was murdered outside her apt., and none of the tenants in the building came to her aid. Phil Ochs was a protest singer who wrote a couple of great songs, and this is one of them, his anthem to apathy. But who cares?
1. “Baby Took a Limo to Memphis” by Rani Arbo / I love the zaniness of this album. [See attached.] My brother sent it to me because he loved it, too. It lifts my spirits.
2. “I Do My Crying At Night” by Rani Arbo / Same as above.
3. “Those Wedding Bells Shall Not Ring Out” by Joan Morris / This one was written in 1896. I love this because of the melodrama!
4. “It Feels Like Home” by Nancy Lamott / Jack Barthel introduced me to Nancy Lamott, and since then, I have acquired a few of her CDs. I love the purity of her voice and her delivery, and the songs she chose to sing. She died at age 43 in 1995 after a long battle with Crones disease.
5. “The Lady Down the Hall” by Nancy Lamott / This tells a nice story. I’m rooting for them, too.
6. “Not Exactly Paris” by Nancy Lamott / Same as above.
7. “She Moves, Eyes Follow” by Michael Feinstein / This is a great album. Jimmy Webb has written some great songs and when I put the CD in the computer, it had a video I didn’t know was there. Fun! Anyway, Michael can be a bit much sometimes, but he sure sings these songs well.
8. “Back to Before” by Marin Mazzie / I don’t know if you saw this show, but the music is great. Here, Marin Mazzie plays a well-off housewife, whose husband has always been the master of her universe. He goes off to the North Pole, or someplace, and she meets someone completely different, who gives her freedom and changes her outlook on life. When her husband returns, he finds a wife who has taken charge of things and her life and who cannot “go back to before.” Maybe you have to have lived then, as a woman to understand.
9. “We Live On Borrowed Time” by Nancy Lamott / David Friedman has written many of the songs she sings and I like them all. Because she died so young, this has special meaning for me.
10.“Les Pecheurs De Perles” by Bizet / Sung by Janez Lotric, Igor Morozov.
1. “Cowboy Song” by Thin Lizzy / Awesome double guitars, way ahead of the crowd with this sound. Credited as inspiration by a lot of bands, but not given any real credit past “Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” by the public. A real Western feel considering it’s an Irish band with a half-black Irish/Brazilian lead singer.
2. “Shoot You Down” by APB / Great funk beat. band was around about seven years and released only one album. Really big WLIR band. A big “Jimmy’s basement” song.
3. “Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four / More good punk, funk beat, staccato guitars, another band that inspired later groups – Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM. Could have been much bigger, but pissed off EMI and the label started pushing Duran Duran.
4. “I’m One” by The Who / One of the best biographic songs ever written. If you know Townshend and have seen pics when he was young, you get it; the outsider, loner, but confident. Quadrophenia: required listening – give it a few plays front to back, close your eyes and watch the story.
5. “Devil Doll” by X / Good punk; awesome energy, evil with a beat. “People turn their heads, she scares little kids. I’d wrap her up in a bullet and shoot her around the world.”
6. “Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow / Eerily beautiful voice. “You’re going home now, Home’s that place somewhere you go each day, To see your wife.” If you want to read something beautiful go to her website http://www.phoebesnow.com . Sadly, it’s the eulogy for her daughter.
7. “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane / If kids knew how cool this song could be, they wouldn’t have beaten you up for humming it in the hallways.
8. “Jolene” by Cake / Quirky, great guitar riff. Song makes you yearn for her, hypnotic. Great combo of guitar riff, horns and singing. Story ambiguous, but you still love her. Song probably goes a little too long at the end, but I still love it.
9. “Castles Made of Sand” by Jimi Hendrix / Tough to list Hendrix as obscure, but his albums, only 3 studio albums, need to be explored more; need people to realize he is not heavy metal, much more rhythm and poetry than people realize. Love the first tale: “Down the street you can hear her scream “you’re a disgrace”. As she slams the door in his drunken face, And now he stands outside and all the neighbors start to gossip and drool. He cries “Oh girl, you must be mad, What happened to the sweet love you and me had?” Against the door he leans and starts a scene, And his tears fall and burn the garden green.”
10. “Eleanor Rigby” by Stanley Jordan / One man, one guitar, no mixing, no gimmicks. Seriously, listen to what’s going on here. I don’t think most people understand the breadth and complexity he can create through his “tapping” technique. Obviously, not an obscure song, but a great song to demo the style.
1. “Tears in Your Eyes” by Yo La Tengo / I just love how these guys can relax you. Great sleeping, reading, rocking your babies to sleep music.
2. “Dear John” by Ryan Adams / Adams is by far my favorite artist out there in recent years. Just with he wasn’t so into himself. I think this is a classic example of HIS music and not the music he tends to rip off others. [even though he does a damn good job of it].
3. “Melody Calls” by The Doves / I think these guys are underrated.
4. “Remember the Mountain Bed” by Billy Bragg and Wilco / Not many vocalists can reach out and grab the emotions the are trying to express like Jeff Tweedy. Most of you guys probably know this song but what the hell.
5. “Some Tragedy” by The Good Life / The midwest’s indie answer to the Cure without the hair.
6. “Country Heroes” by Hank Williams III / This guy is just insane. He is the ultimate rock star. I saw him in farmingdale and it just blew my mind. He plays with an amazing band. His shows consist of three sets, but I guarantee that all of you could only make it through one and a half. The first set is strict classic acoustic country and is amazing. Covers of Cash, grandpa, and originals. The next set is strict rock-a-billy, which becomes progressively harder. The last set is death metal and I had to leave. By the way he did all this without missing a note while he drank at least 10 beers, 15-20 shots of beam, smoked joints like Marley, and ate unknown pills that were thrown on stage. I really don’t know how this man is alive.
7. “Cow” by Sparklehorse / I love these guys. The are so underrated. I love the build up of this song. It reminds me of driving around the north shore of Oahu looking for surf. You have to listen to it loud.
8. “Man with a Mission” by Bad Religion / You can’t go wrong with great punk mixed with slide guitar. Listened to this record a lot while living in Miami through the good and bad days.
9. “Ball and Biscuit” by The White Stripes / This needs to be turned up while cruising around town. I wish this was out when we used to cruise in the flame with the magnetic speakers on the roof.
10. “Bonzo’s Montreux” by Led Zeppelin / Just ridiculous. I will never understand how an unnamed friend of mine who is involved in this music exchange could not like Zeppelin. You know who you are.
1. “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” by The Four Freshmen / The Jimmy Rogers version of this song was written and recorded in the 50’s and was the flip side of “Honeycomb” a million seller. This is a better song.
2. “That’s the Way Love Is” by Bobby Darin / Perfect Darin interpretation and big band sound of the 40’s.
3. “Nobody knows You When You’re Down and Out” by Kathy Moffatt / Jack and I used to go to a place called the Dolph Inn on Guy Lombardo Blvd. in Freeport. It’s no longer there, but this was a favorite of the piano player, Bobby.
4. “Listen to My Heart” by Laurie Beechman / No one sang Memory in Cats more than Beechman. This dramatic song has beautiful music and lyrics. She died in her 30’s.
5. “Errol Flynn” by Amanda McBroom / Every song she writes is wistful. Great line about seeing a picture of her father and realizing “Now I’m older than him.”
6. “Danny Boy” by Eva Cassidy / This song should only be sung by a woman, not a tenor. Cassidy gives it a whole new soulful meaning. The best version of a familiar song. She also died in her 30’s.
7. “Greenfields” by Brothers Four / I heard this song in college and I have never heard another recording of it.
8. “Jesse” by Joan Baez / The words, the musical transpositions, chords are sad yet so hopeful. Should only have piano accompaniment to appreciate the perfect melody. I was struck dumb on hearing this Janice Ian composition.
9. “Parting Glass” by The Pogues / The Clancy Brothers version is the classic favorite. This Pogues version gives the lyrics a whole new dimension. From the last scene in the movie.
10. “I Spoke Too Soon” by The CrewCuts / Glen Rock, NJ, 1957. Sheila Arnett’s basement. It’s the flip side of Sh-Boom and is the perfect high school break-up song.
1.“Yatra-ta” by Tania Maria / My uncle turned me on to this crazy-ass Brazilian jazz vocalist/pianist on a long road trip in Switzerland. Her vocal acrobatics are unlike anything I’ve heard.
2. “The Grid” by Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon / After Phish broke up, bassist Mike Gordon was looking for something to do. He’d always wanted to play with acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke, so he cold-called him. This is one of the fruits of their collaboration.
3. “Black Market” by Weather Report / A lovely song from this pioneering band of modern jazz. Might not be particularly “unheard” among jazz fans, but to the uninitiated, it’s a perfect introduction to the aural imagery the Weather Report can paint.
4. “Police Dog Blues” by Ry Cooder / My good friend Sean Monsarrat turned me on to Ry Cooder [I was only aware of his involvement with The Buena Vista Social Club], and this song convinced me to go take a few guitar lessons to learn blues finger-picking. Not that I can play anything close to his sick pickin’.
5. “Heart Full of Leaves” by Robyn Hitchock / I like to close my eyes whenever I listen to this. A polished little mood piece by the eccentric Brit.
6. “Glass Hotel” by Hitchcock / Had to include a second Hitchcock song, after paring down the possibilities from about 20. His strange imagery is obtuse, but still evocative and emotional, and his voice his particularly sweet and plaintive on this one.
7. “St. Expedite” by Grant-Lee Phillips / An excellent vocalist who went solo after grabbing a few college radio hits with his band Grant-Lee Buffalo. If you ever get the chance to see Grant-Lee live, take it. He’s the real deal.
8. “Badger” by Let’s Active / Another college radio regular, but from the mid-80s. Some of their songs got a good deal of play, but this one was tucked quietly into one of their albums and has always been my favorite.
9. “Starstruck” by Steve Forbert / A cover of an old Kinks song.
10. “Underwater Moonlight” by The Soft Boys / Robyn Hitchcock’s first band. Made some weird music. Worth a listen.
1. “Re-Make/ReModel” by Roxy Music / Roxy Music is hardly obscure, but their first album never had any hits or radio play. Which is a shame, because it’s the most experimental – most Eno-driven – of their albums. Check out the sound sampling, Eno’s synthesized accents, the overblown saxophone, all juxtaposed on a driving rock beat and wild guitar and Bryan Ferry’s off-kilter sexy vocals. This is what art rock was supposed to be.
2. “Fungus Hedge” by Baxter Dury / As quirky in his own way as his father Ian [famous in the late 70’s for “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Rock” and “Wake Up and Make Love With Me”], Baxter Dury’s tripy stuff [featured in the movie Laurel Canyon] sounds like someone who grew up with Bowie’s Space Oddity as their only album. Which, it turns out, might not be all that bad.
3. “Everybody’s a Star” by The Kinks / Another obscure album from a not-obscure band. With Soap Opera, Ray Davies one-upped the Who and pre-dated reality TV by 25 years with the story of a rock star who bets he can change places with an “ordinary man”, make him a star, and take up his ordinary life. As good as the music is, the pathos of the story and the sharpness of Ray Davies’ insights on stardom and regular life make it unforgettable.
4. “Wednesday Week” by The Undertones / Called the first Irish Punk band when they were still teenagers in Derry, North Ireland, the Undertones were big enough to open for the Clash on the London Calling tour. But, with their songs about girls and school and friends and cousins named Kevin, they never lost the feeling of a bunch of teenage guys in a garage on a hot summer night.
5. “Drifting” by Fleetwood Mac / Before they went to Hollywood, before there were girls in the band, Fleetwood Mac was a serious English blues band. Formed when Peter Green left John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers [where he had been Clapton’s replacement], they included John McVie in the name even before he joined the band as an enticement to leave the Bluesbreakers.
6. “Tear My Stillhouse Down” by Gillian Welch / A happy iTunes discovery, Gillian Welch would have sounded at home in a 1930s Oklahoma roadhouse. From her T-Bone Burnett produced 1996 debut, Stillhouse is the bluesy end of a album spectrum that goes past country all the way to bluegrass. Authentic Americana, in the best sense of the term.
7. “Bim Bom” by Astrud Gilberto / Her career started when she recorded an English verse for her husband João’s collaboration with Stan Getz on Girl from Ipanema purely because she was the only Brazilian who could speak English present. But she went on to make some of the music that defined the 60s. A simple pleasure.
8. “Sonny’s Lettah” by Linton Kwesi Johnson / A poet and journalist who turned the frenetic toasting of the 60s and 70s into something darker and both more lyrical and more political. Sonny’s Lettah tells the story of English blacks victimized by the Tory governments Search Under Suspicion laws.
9. “Go Down Moses” by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros / On the last album before his death, Joe proves once again, 20 years after the Clash broke up, that nobody could make a song rock harder. Mixing reggae rhythms, biblical imagery, and the toils of the urban drug culture, Get Down Moses has all the beautiful ferocity of a slave spiritual.
10. “You Look Like Rain” by Morphine / With only bass, sax, drums, and world-weary vocals, Morphine could have been them music for Charles Bukowski’s life. You Look Like Rain proves that great rock and roll can sometimes sound just like jazz.
1. “Star Sail” by The Verve / This is the first track from The Verve’s first LP, “a storm in heaven”, which is a perfect way to describe the sound of this song and the perfect way to open an LP or a mix tape. “Hello, it’s me, calling out, I can see you. Hello, it’s me crying out, crying out, are you there?” I find this to be a very distinct and unique rock sound, especially when you consider that it came out during the…ehem…’grunge years’.
2. “Twilight Campfighter” by Guided By Voices / It was very hard to choose a GBV song, but this is the best song R.E.M. never wrote and it’s vintage GBV.
3. “Lucinda Williams” by Vic Chesnutt / There are two things that I really love about this song: the warm, Rick Rubin / American Recordings-style production and the crescendo of the last two verses. Michael Stipe actually produced this record and it has a very natural, live and organic feel that is missing on many recordings — like it was recorded in a living room, which it was.
4. “Book Of Rules” by The Heptones / A few things always appear in great reggae tunes: an overt message of justice and righteousness, the feeling of optimism and hope and a great melody and bass line moving it along.
5. “All Downhill From Here” by Jim O’Rourke / This is my “Born To Run”. A song to drive to. It’s definitely one of Greg Dulli’s best songs, Afghan Whigs, included.
6. “Beautiful Ones” by Prince / This song has a very specific sound from a very distinct time and place – THE EARLY 80S. I think many music fans under the age of 45 are probably like me in that hearing “Purple Rain” brings back that time and place as well as any 80s song I know.
7. “Unravel” by Bjork / This is Bjork’s best from her best album, “Homogenic”. It’s a beautiful song. When she nails it, it’s unlike anything else.
8. “Rubies” by Destroyer / I love all the lyrics to this song, but some jump out at me: “Quiet Ruby, Someone’s coming! Approach with stealth! It’s just your precious American underground, and it is born of wealth.” Dan Bejar is better known for his contributions to The New Pornographers, but this is a phenomenal, quirky, rock/folk/pop record.
9. “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan / This was recorded Live at Royal Albert Hall in 1966. It’s Dylan with The Band [before they were known as The Band] not long after plugging in at Newport and Forest Hills. This is the infamous “Judas!” show and Dylan and The Band are on fire here — you can hear Robbie Robertson’s distinct solos and this performance reinvents a very good song and makes it great. I also love how the three verses really only cover a few seconds of actual time — this is why Dylan is a genius. He wrote a perfect song about a fleeting thought that was brought on by a specific part of a particular day and specific remembrance of something that happened in the room he was in. And even though in the song that thought lasted only 20 seconds, he communicates a feeling that might last years. Brilliant.
10. “Teenage Wristband” by The Twilight Singers / This is my “Born To Run”. A song to drive to. It’s definitely one of Greg Dulli’s best songs, Afghan Whigs, included.
1. “The Weather was Really Nice” by Jennifer Marks / How can you not love a girl who names her album pizza and talks about not hurting anyone’s feelings
2. “Happy” by Natasha Bedingfield / Natasha has some great words in her songs and this one says it all—just be happy.
3. “Flake” by Jack Johnson / Growing up in our house,”Maybe” DID always mean “no.”
4. “How You Gonna Know?” by Undercover Funk / A friend of a friends band and the music reminds me of a great trip to N’Awlins
5. “Like The Way She Moves” by Chris Isaak / Reminds me of lots of crazy nights out with crazy friends.
6. “Boots Like Emmy Lou’s” by Janis Ian / I work with a 71 year old Emmy and she is as much fun as this song.
7. “I Don’t Want Love” by Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks / Love makes us all do funny things.
8. “Separate Ways” by Undercover Funk / Tried to cut this song but just couldn’t.
9. “Lester’s Methadone Clinic” by Sonia Dada / Any song with the name Lester in it is a winner – and this one definitely is!
10. ”Hobbies” by David Sanborn / A great way to end a CD & a fabulous way to end a Stuper-bowl game!
1. “A Little Satisfaction” by Jon Cleary / A fresh breeze of a tune straight from the bayou. Cleary, joined here by his Absolute Monster Gentlemen, also plays keyboards for Bonnie Raitt.
2. “Killing Him” by Amy LaVere / Her voice is both kittenish and smoky, perfect for this twisted tale and its lethal refrain. She’s a Memphis original on the rise.
3. “Snake Eye” by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers / Is there no stopping the man? This energetic rant is from his 55th album. Incredibly, he has yet to win a single Grammy.
4. “Whiter Shade of Pale” by King Curtis / There are more than 800 recorded covers of this song, but none are quite like saxman Curtis’. It’s slow, sad, sweet and ecstatic. Less than a week after this live performance in 1971, King Curtis was stabbed to death.
5. “O What a Thrill” by the Mavericks / Yes, it is definitely a thrill, especially the part about stars standing still. While this was a Nashville hit in the 90s, I missed it and therefore deem it obscure.
6. “Skin and Teeth” by Joe Henry / This is Henry at his best—catchy and evocative. It came out just he was starting to become semi-unobscure, his current status.
7. “Train Song” by Victoria Williams / A funkish, infectious lament for the old-fashioned locomotive. Williams, a Louisiana native, received some attention when her song Crazy Mary was covered by Pearl Jam.
8. “Snow in San Anselmo” by Van Morrison / What a wail: He wails in wonder at the happenings at an all-night IHOP, including the first snowfall in 30 years. This deserves a place right up there with Moondance.
9. “Man at War” by Daniel Johnson / You may never hear a more remarkable two-minute story.
10. “Please Be With Me” by Cowboy / Not to be confused with the later, lesser version by Eric Clapton. Cowboy, which toured with Gregg Allman in the 70s, is joined here by Duane Allman on dobro. It’s one fine song.
1. “The Hues Of Longing” by Mors Syphilitica / One of my favorite bands of all time, the New York city-based duo of Eric and Lisa Hammer broke up a few years ago to pursue separate interests. The majesty of Lisa’s soaring operatic vocals particularly in the chorus gets me every time. Lyrically [I know it’s hard to decipher without the words in front of you], it’s simply a beautiful song about vegetation.
2. “Denn Die Toten Reiten Schnell” by Faith and the Muse / Another band I love from the American goth scene, Faith and the Muse create many songs that are heavily influenced by classical music. Translated into English as “for the dead travel fast” [taken from Bürger’s vampire poem ‘Lenore’], this is an appropriately haunting track with nice rolling piano notes–gothic rock at its best.
3. “Cage In A Cave” by Rasputina / Rasputina are avant-garde cellists that often write songs about historical figures and events. This one is about Thursday Christian’s father, Fletcher Christian, an 18th century man who was part of the Mutiny on the Bounty in Tahiti. I love hearing strings in rock music and there’s a nice complexity to the way the cellos are arranged in this one, but the melody is still distinct and memorable.
4. “Eternal Flame” by Joan As Police Woman / Joan As Police Woman is led by former Antony And The Johnsons band member Joan Wasser and she was also the girlfriend of the late Jeff Buckley when he died. I like the serene feel of this waltz and the deep background vocals in the chorus are a nice touch too.
5. “Come, Sing Me A Song” by Sing-Sing / British duo Sing-Sing sadly called it a day at the beginning of this year after releasing two albums. This song wonderfully recalls 60s-era Britpop with it’s faux-horn flourishes and cooing vocals.
6. “God Knows [You Gotta Give To Get]” by El Perro Del Mar / Sweden’s Sarah Assbring is the sole member of El Perro Del Mar and this song, like the entire album, harkens back to the 60s girl-groups, but with a slightly eerie modern spin. I find the chorus on this song to be especially uplifting.
7. “I Like A Boy In Uniform [School Uniform]” by The Pipettes / I promise this is the last 60s-influenced song on the disc. U.K. girl group The Pipettes are well known across the pond, but this is a rare early single that has never been officially released on CD. An insanely catchy chorus masks the somewhat risqué lyrics of the verses.
8. “Te Quiero Mucho” by Naty Botero / Naty Botero has been often called the Colombian Kylie Minogue and it’s easy to understand the comparison when listening to this song. Not a one-dimensional dance track, the muted rock and Latin guitars give it extra depth.
9. “Gary’s Song” by Alice Smith / Newcomer Alice Smith’s recently rereleased debut album ‘For Lovers, Dreamers & Me’ is a blend of rock, r&b, jazz, soul and blues and her song “Dreams” was featured in a few TV shows. This is another track that bridges musical genres. The verses climb nicely before reaching the plateau that is the chorus.
10. “Scratch Your Name” by Noisettes / After choosing the songs for my disc, I found out that this track by British punk band Noisttes was featured in the series finale of ‘The Sopranos’ and heard by millions of people. Oh well. Fast, driving, with inspirational lyrics, it’s makes a perfect anthem.
1. “Broken Hearts and Auto Parts” by Kevn Kinney / That is not a misspelling, his name is spelled Kevn. I think this guy is from Hoboken, or maybe I just bought his CD there. I love this song and the line about ‘broke my shoelace getting ready for church/shit can’t get much worse’ never ceases to amuse.
2. “Blokes on 45 [BBC Session]” by Orange Juice / These guys were apparently a big influence on other Scottish bands like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura and you can see it here – the big sound with the almost mopey ho-hum voice singing about housing estates or whatever it is they’re always singing about.
3. “Choked Up” by Whiskeytown / No idea what Whiskeytown period this one was from, but it sounds like Pneumonia as it’s quite rocking for them and he talks about being poor, which he is kind of hung up on in general, but seemed to be more hung up on then.
4. “Gabrielle” by The Nips / Guess who that is singing? That is your favorite toothless booze-fiend Shane MacGowan, before the Pogues. You can hear what he’d eventually sound like when he’s shouting ‘Do you remember! Do you remember! Shake it up!’ I always assumed that drugs and alcohol had ruined his voice, but listening to this you realize it was just never that good.
5. “July 4, 2004” by Jason Anderson / Anderson should be more popular than he is, and I wish I’d known about him sooner. This is off the highly recommended LP [by not many other people than me, apparently] ‘Tonight’. Usually I hate anything self-referential, but the part in here with ‘Jason, are you waiting? I am, I am and I love this part’ makes you think his live show should surely be ass-kickingly awesome.
6. “Just Be Simple” by Ohia / I’m such a sucker for pedal steel and the way it opens this song made me love it three seconds in. ‘You’ll never hear me talk about/One day gettin out/Why put a new address/On the same old loneliness’ – what an opening. Not well known, but it should be, and though I hate sentiment, I enjoy the sentiment. Right?
7. “Last Dance” by The Mekons / How awesome is the fiddle in this song? So awesome. Great dancehall stuff, made even better by the legend of partying surrounding this band. These guys were said to be among the drunkest people on the planet at one time, and that makes the song better, at least for me.
8. “Lee Harvey Was A Friend of Mine” by Laura Cantrell / There’s an expression about every murderer being somebody’s old best friend, and that’s kind of why I dig this song. Also, the deranged conspiracy theories being talked about from a child’s point of view sort of puts them in their place.
9. “That Summer, at Home, I Had Become the Invisible Boy” by The Twilight Sad / Another bunch of Scots – it occurs to me I rarely hear a Scottish band I don’t like, and I’m not sure why. I like them even better when I can hear an impenetrable accent over crushing guitars. This is such a raw and obviously very personal song about this guy’s family hating his guts – ‘They’re sitting around the table/and they’re talking behind your back’ – it’s rare you hear such an outpouring of anger anymore from a young band.
10. “Uncle Frank” by Drive by Truckers / I’m right about so few things, but I think I’m right about this: the Drive-Bys would have gotten more respect earlier if it weren’t for the silly name. Maybe the same applies to their early albums – this song is off of Pizza Deliverance. I mean, seriously? Whatever. The song is 100% awesome from beginning to end, with the big, loose guitars and little people being lied to by the government and anyone else who could. ‘The cars never came to town and the roads never got built’ – you knew they wouldn’t as soon as the song started.
1. “Jesus Gonna Make It Alright” by Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry / These guys made record from the 40’s to the 80’s.This song is from 1972. Sonny Terry was born in Georgia, but died in Mineola, NY. And he was in the original Broadway cast for “Finian’s Rainbow.” How about that!
2. “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died” by Roger Miller / Funny song.
3. “Morality” by Smog / Great guitar.
4. “That Summer Feeling” by Jonathan Richman / Summer’s so good it will haunt you.
5. “Rain City” by Turin Brakes / No comment.
6. “Two Ways” by The 1900s / This is a great band from Chicago.
7. “Venus And Mars/ Rock Show” by The Langley Schools Music Project / Grade-school children in Canada from 1975. Their teacher recorded them in the gym. This is a Paul McCartney song. They also do David Bowie and The Beach Boys.
8. “Stuck On an Island” by Liz Phair / This sounds like a John Hughes movie.
9. “Jenny & The Ess-Dog” by Stephen Malkmus / Funny song.
10. “Shout It to the Top” by The Style Council / No comment.
1. “Joker and the Thief” by Wolfmother / “Neuvo” aussie classic rockers reminiscent of early Sabbath and Zeppelin. Jimmy Page hand picked them to cover Communication Breakdown at Zeppelin’s UK rock & roll induction. High praise indeed.
2. “I’ll Be the One” by Government Mule / Thank heavens for Sirius Radio and Jam On 1. That’s the only place to hear this gem on the radio. And only after guitarist Warren Haynes [of course, of the Allmans] married the DJ.
3. “Girls Got Rhythm” by AC/DC / I recently “rediscovered” old AC/DC. Man they could rock. Turn this one to 11.
4. “Me and My Guitar” by Freddie King / The Texas Blues legend. The way old Freddie sings about women in this tune, no wonder it’s just him and his guitar.
5. “Revolution” by The Derek Trucks Band / The other half of the Allman’s dynamic guitar duo. This band is Derek’s side solo project. The album is Songlines and it’s incredible. A catchy chorus and you’d swear the lead at around minute 2 was Clapton during his “Phil Collins-Journeyman” phase.
6. “Homecoming” by Robert Randolph & The Family Band / Raw jammin’ and a mean electric slide.
7. “Dimension” by Wolfmother / See band description for Track 1. If you hate early Black Sabbath, skip to track 8.
8. “For The Turnstiles” by Neil Young / B-side banjo track off Decade album. “All the great explorers are now in granite laid/Waiting for the big unveiling at the big parade.” Talk about obscure. Can someone please tell me what the heck is Neil talking about? Not sure he knew.
9. “Second That Emotion” by Jerry Garcia / While the song may not be obscure, this version is. Jerry and Motown just go together, contrary to popular belief.
10. “This Sky” by Derek Trucks Band / Also off Songlines. Dreamy, almost hypnotic, tune with amazing vocals. And Derek’s lead around minute 4 is sweeet!
1. “Decoy” by Jenny Toomey and Calexico / Exhilarating, devastating, anticipating subtle instrumentation.
2. “Genesis 19:1-2” by The Mountain Goats / One in a series of Mountain Goats songs with biblical citations. This reference is to Lot leaving Sodom behind without looking back.
3. “Dreaming” by Sun Ra and the Cosmic Rays / Early pop single from Sun Ra, one verse repeated three times. The piano is all percussion and barely audible.
4. “When You Walk” by Smog / Takes apart a melody.
5. “The Endless Plain of Fortune” by John Cale / An overlooked song on one of my favorite albums. It’s supposed to be about Modernism, I think.
6. “You’ve Got to Earn It” by The Staple Singers / To get ashes from wood, you got to burn it.
7. “The Irony Engine” by Franklin Bruno / Allows you to ponder “how a three-prong plug can supervene on a lunar tug” for hours, years, days, or not at all.
8. “Untitled #5” by Jim O’Rourke / Unbelievable guitar playing, composition and production.
9. “Lost Blues” by Palace / Exhortation.
10. “Sea of Teeth” by Sparklehorse / So sad.
1. “Take Five” [live] by Dave Brubeck / We all know the hit record version. This is a live version: longer, faster and far better that the one you know.
2. “Streets of Baltimore” by Nanci Griffith / Nice harmonies, a bit wistful. One of Griffith’s best.
3. “Something I Dreamed Last Night” by Johnny Mathis / Get over the Johnny Mathis thing….this is a beautiful, intricate song that I have never heard anyone sing other.
4. “Poinciana” by Ahmad Jamal / by Ahmad Jamal Long piano bit from the 60’s. I asked a radio DJ that I knew in Bangor, ME to play this and she got in trouble for playing an 8 minute song.
5. “One Girl Cried” by Tim O’Brien / I don’t like much else of what this guy has done, but this too is a nice wistful song.
6. “Hold Me Back” by Michelle Shocked / A raucous takoff off on the old Frankie and Johnnie song by a singer with an interesting last name.
7. “Old Friend” by Michael Feinstein / I always say I don’t like Stephen Sondheim and her pops us what I think is a Sondheim song…..wistful again.
8. “Michael’s Song” by Nanci Griffith / Another of her best and a lovely little guitar interlude.
9. “It Happened Once Before” by the Four Freshman / From their first album in the 50’s. Another song that I have never heard anyone else sing.
10. “Canadian Whiskey” by Ian Tyson / Without Sylvia. “Her eyes were the color of Canadian Whiskey, so light brown and fine.”
1. “All That I’m Good For” by Hem / At first I thought the imagery in this song was allegorical, then one day I realized it’s literal. It sounds like it’s about a man trying to get back in the good graces of his lady. But it’s really about a dog.
2. “27 Jennifers” by Mike Doughty / It’s about the way the person you love stands out in a crowd. “You might be the girly who shall end all girls / You might be the sweet unspiteful.” The video is unstoppable. Yes, I’m 41 and I still watch music videos.
3. “Summer of Love” by Peter Nelson / When you hear the troubadour style of this song, you might think, “This ain’t my cup of tea.” But I urge you to listen to it all the way through. Among other things, it’s amazing the way this guy can compose such a moving narrative using language that’s so simple.
4. “Against Pollution” by The Mountain Goats / Covers the same thematic territory as one of my favorite short stories, Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” which posits that we’re pretty much blind to ourselves, but big events can give us glimpses into our own souls. I never tire of this.
5. “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy over Herb Alpert / The best mash-up I’ve ever heard [not like I’m an expert—that would be Sean Barrow—but still]. The combo of Public E and Herb A appears to be a silly gimmick at first listen—the kind of ham-handed irony that you see in car commercials. But then everything is in such good synch that it just works.
6. “Roscoe” by Midlake / If I were rock critic, I’d say this is Fleetwood Mac meets Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.” But I’m not a rock critic, so I’ll just say this: I have no idea what this song is all about, but it’s mesmerizing. Best line comes @ 2:17, “Whenever I was a child, I wondered what if my name had changed into something more productive like Roscoe.”
7. “Tip of My Tongue” by the Tubes / Yes, the Tubes! Never have a group of New Wave whiteys sounded so much like Earth, Wind & Fire.
8. “Sad” by Pearl Jam / A song about anguish that refuses to disappear. “He’s searchin’ for escaaaaaaaaape!” It’s a second-tier Pearl Jam song because the lyrics are kind of klunky, but it rocks so hard that you hardly notice.
9. “The Music Never Stopped” by The Grateful Dead / At Dead shows, the last song of their first set tells [told] you if the band is [was] going to be “on” for the rest of the show. This is a favorite first-set closer from a great year for the Dead . And, yes, they were “on” this night in Englishtown. If you’ve wondered what people revere in Jerry Garcia, make sure to listen to the tail end of this one.
10. “I Can Tell” by Michael Penn / The best Beatles song written after 1973. Michael Penn is almost as big a jerk as his brother. But, like Sean, he’s awesome at his chosen profession. Though he did score the 1998 remake of “Godzilla” …
1. “Voce Fica Mechor Assim” by Lo Borges / Good tune to start with, makes you feel like are being chased by an undercover cop in Rio De Janeiro.
2. “Gravel Specs” by Terror Sheets / Short song, it’s as if you pick it up midway through, given the pace + it ends abruptly, good.
3. “Between Here and There” by Eleventh Day Dream / Sounds like many rocking bands, seems like they missed making it huge as a Chicago band by about 5 years.
4. “A Night In” by Tindersticks / An angry man introduced me to the music of these guys while hanging sheetrock on Superbowl Sunday, 1999.
5. “Mystery Juice” by Sean Lennon / Yep, his son. This guy doesn’t suck as bad as he should, there are some good words used together + some rocking – also, released on Grand Royale, The Beastie Boys’ label.
6. “Modern Art” by Art Brut / New favorite band. Are you kidding me with these lyrics? [Ed. Note—In live shows, the band’s front man, Eddie Argos, sometimes signals the start of a new song with this question to his mates: “Ready Art Brut?” I find this endlessly hilarious.
7. “Nothing Sign” by Mike Fellows / Not sure who this guy is, other than a Lou Reed impersonator. Stephen Malkmus plays lead guitar on this track.
8. “4 Ton Mantis” by Amon Tobin / Figured I’d kick it up a notch, since I’ll bring it down a notch on the next tune. This guy does not really fuck around.
9. “Waitin’ for a Superman” by Iron and Wine / This is me taking it down a notch. Obviously a low-key cover of The Flaming Lips, which I think is one of the best ever.
10. “Ole!” by Bouncing Souls / This song should be played only when Jose Reyes hits a triple [or goes from 1st to 3rd on a bunt].
1. “City” by Natalie Imbruglia / Natalie Imbruglia’s success in Australia and winning an MTV award in 1998 might make her easy to Google, but if you play any song other than “Torn,” you can call it obscure.
2. “Art of Motion” by Andy McKee / Andy McKee may be the most incredible guitarist you will ever see. It’s hard to believe that there is only one person playing at a time. Look him up.
3.”Glad” by The Wood Brothers / This album is mostly two brothers, one guitar, one stand up bass. Perfection in its simplicity. I don’t know how the Grammys missed this one. Well actually, maybe they didn’t. Who pays any attention to the Grammys?
4. “Busker” by Glenn Roth / While waiting for the “S” train one day, I found myself glaring at the guy next to me. When he looked up to see who was looking at him, I showed him my iPod with his album currently playing. What are the odds? A strange moment for both of us. Glenn Roth is a great guitarist who plays very complex songs effortlessly. It’s fun to watch.
5. “You Ain’t Thinking [About Me]” by Sonia Dada / Sonia Dada is a band of seasoned musicians from Chicago. This band has multiple guitars, drums, horns, four lead singers and has never recorded a bad song. The hardest part was picking which song to use.
6. “Girl, I Want To Lay You Down” by Animal Liberation Orchestra / I just can’t see anyone not liking this song.
7. “There She Goes” by Brother Love / This song is a little “bubblegum” but I like it. The true starving artist from queens, “Brolo” sells his songs on his Website between waiting tables at a Jewish steakhouse in Brooklyn.
8. “Blues For Ben” by Garage-a-Trois / I don’t know how these guys got on my iTunes but I know they’re good.
9. “Ten Year Night” by Lucy Kaplansky / Lucy Kaplansky is a staple at most folk festivals and has performed with many bigger names. I don’t know why she isn’t more well known.
10.”If You Into It” by The Flight of the Conchords / The perfect first date song.
1. “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw / Title song from debut album. Second one is out and he won’t be obscure once the teenie bopper girls find him.
2. “Little Sister [Live]” by Mark Erelli / Singer/Songwriter guy. Missed a show in Huntington a few years back I’m still kicking myself over.
3. “You Don’t Treat Me No Good” by Sonia Dada / Little Feet-ish. Love this track. Gotta sing along.
4. “My Hips” by Erin McKeown / Good vocals, good guitar. Just like it.
5. “Song For Lilly Christine” by Big Rude Jake / Somehow, I think the name probably fits him.
6. “Fish Ain’t Bitin’” by Corey Harris / Glad a thirty-something is continuing the down south, roots music.
7. “Listen To The Radio” by Nanci Griffith / Kinda twangy, still good.
8. “Spirit” by The Wood Brothers / Love every song from this debut album. I can’t wait for #2.
9. “Not Pretty Enough” by Kasey Chambers / Loved her from Mountain Stage.
10. “In These Shoes” by Kirsty Maccoll / Great, fun song.