Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Favorite Songs of 2023 - Songs 1-11

At long, long last we've reached the end of 2023's List. Hardly an end of the year list, as it turned out. Nonetheless, I hope you've found some new favorite songs that will carry you well in to 2024.

1. Stick Season by Noah Kahan.

"And I'll dream each night of some version of you
That I might not have, but I did not lose.
Now you're tire tracks and one pair of shoes
And I'm split in half, but that'll have to do ...
Have to do."

Several significant departures from the norm for the List with this song atop it. Never before has a song released in the previous year (i.e., 2022) made number one. Neither has a song this popular (14 million YouTube hits for the original video - which is not the one above) been at the top. But this is the song that kept bouncing around in my head from early in 2023, and convention was thrown out the window. Also check out Homesick and Dial Drunk from the excellent Stick Season album.

2. Lights Light Up by Fenne Lily.

"You came to me at the speed of a bad decision
Just the speed, the bad not so much.
We held each other while everything burned up 'round us
And inside of me, too
That's called love."

A lovely little love song from Ms. Lily. The first two stanzas quoted above are likely my favorite lyrics of 2023. As often happens, Lights Light Up traded the top spot with Stick Season for much of the year. The fact that it ended up number two is no reflection of how much I admire this song.

3. Modern Girl by Bleachers.

"Changed my meds, changed the flight
Bodies on, bodies wild
Body cam, only flams
Bleachers band only flams.

Playin' it like a heart attack for you
We playin' it like a heart attack."

Yes, the Jersey boys are back on the List. And they may well have risen to the top again, if this song had been released earlier in 2023. Pretty sure they could care less ...

4. Honey by Samia.

"I wanna go to the beach and die on the beach
I wanna be a mermaid.
I'm not scared of sharks, I'm not scared to be naked
I'm not scared of anything."

Along with boygenius member Lucy Dacus, Samia is the only artist on 2023's List that I've seen live - and that was as an opening act for ... Lucy Dacus. Bonus fact: Samia's last name is Finnerty, which was my paternal grandmother's maiden name. No wonder I like her, and love this song.

5. Dripfield by Goose.

"Howling out the prism
Calling for the rhythm
Time's my only prison
Dripfield where you sitting
Rising like the weather
Blood gets pumping redder
I know that life comes better
I know that life comes better
In love."

Believe it or not, there are two songs that are 5+ minutes long in 2023's top 11. Even more incredibly, there are two songs by bands named after winged water fowl in 2023's top 11. This is the first of both. Goose are apparently a popular jam band, which generally isn't my cup of tea. But this song goes down smoothly, especially first thing in the morning. Check out Hungersite and 726 from Goose's Dripfield album as well.

6. Not Strong Enough by boygenius.

"I don't know why I am
The way I am
There's something in the static,
I think I've been having revelations.
Comin' to, in the front seat, nearly empty.
Skip the exit to our old street and go home ...

Go home alone."

My admiration for Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and particularly Lucy Dacus has been expressed many times on the List. Put them all together and you get ... well, genius.

7. 3D Country by Geese.

"I used to cut 'em up
I used to tear it down
I coulda been the king of this town ...
But I'm going home."

Yup, here's the other big bird on the 2023 List. As well as the other 5+ minute song. What is it about geese and long songs you may ask? I have no idea. But I love Cameron Winter's (the lead singer for Geese) vocals on this song.

8. Expert in a Dying Field by The Beths.

"Can we erase our history
Is it as easy as this?
Plausible deniability
I swear I've never heard of it.
And I can close
The door on us
But the room still exists
(and I know you're in it)."

Spotify tells me this was my most-listened to song in 2023, which makes sense because it was released in 2022 and it may have been the first song I added to the playlist that eventually became The List. While their "A Real Thing" made 2022's List at No. 27, as you can tell I prefer this song from their "Expert in a Dying Field" album.

9. Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing by The Menzingers.

"They hope is a dangerous, dangerous little thing.
To keep finding out the hard way
What tomorrow never brings."

Now this is something you don't hear much of anymore (at least I don't): good ol' fashioned punk rock. That driving drumbeat certainly gives it away.

10. For Your Soul by Josh Ritter.

"Will you be worthy and yet
Unworthy in the same breath
And look yourself in the mirror?
Will you be righteous and strong
By saying when you are wrong
And put aside your own fear?"

"This is a test." But, apparently, this is not only a test.

11. Tropic Morning News by The National.

"I was suffering more than I let on
The tropic morning news was on.
There's nothing stopping me now
From saying all the painful parts out loud."

One of my all-time favorite bands issued not one, but two, albums this year. To be honest, I found them a little uneven, but this is my preferred song from both "First Two Pages of Frankenstein" and "Laugh Track."

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Favorite Songs of 2023 - Songs 12-22

Better late than never? We are definitely not going to make the Jan. 1 deadline, but what's a week or so between friends? Here's the red-headed stepchild of The List:

12. Then It All Goes Away by Dayglow.

"You tell me everything and tell me it's fine, but
There's 'something tells me that
There's something going on here.'
I know the way you got that look in your eyes
And then it disappears."

No "sounds like The Strokes" song on this year's List, but this one definitely puts me in mind of a frequent List member. Any idea who (here's a hint: they're French)?

13. Road to Joy (Bright-Side Mix) by Peter Gabriel.

"Get the blood to flow in every nook and cranny
Get the blood to flow from my head to my toes
Get the blood to flow, flowing all around me
Get the blood to flow with the life in my soul.

Back in the world
Walking down the road to joy."

One of my all-time favorite artists, but he's never appeared on The List before, probably because this is his first new album in ... 21 years? Anyway, welcome back Peter.

14. It's Fine by Bethany Cosentino.

"And it's fine
'Til it's not fine.
This conversation's going on too long.
I'm sick of it, I started it
With a little bit of wind blowing through my mind ...
It's fine."

The lead singer of Best Coast (whose Different Light made The List in 2020) is back. Sounds like she's finished with whatever relationship she's addressing in this song ...

15. Sixers by The Hold Steady.

"He's home late from some dinner and some drinks
Another Friday with the suits in the steakhouse.
Asset management's as thrilling as you'd think
But they pay him pretty well
Now he's renting out the penthouse."

Another song of urban malaise from Craig Finn and the band. It's so hard to choose just one stanza of lyrics from a Hold Steady song, because they're all great, and they're all connected.

16. Don't Look Back by The Revivalists.

"I don't look back
No, I ain't got time.
I can't relax, it's down to the wire
Six feet deep in the fire now."

Another rocker. Much prefer this song to "Kid," the song from from their album "Pour It Out Into the Night" which got all sorts of airplay this summer.

17. Chosen to Deserve by Wednesday.

"We always started by tellin' all our best stories first
So now that it's been awhile, I'll get around
To tellin' you all my worst.
Just so you know what you signed up for
What you're dealin' with.
Just so you know
What you've been chosen to deserve."

So what are Wednesday (from Asheville, NC)? Country? Alternative? Indie? Shoegaze? My brother Jeff declares "Americana Cowpunk." Seems about right.

18. Really Really Light by The New Pornographers.

"I am blurry on this here particular scene
That I'm trying to paint, if you'd sit still for me.
Paid off all the vultures up in the air.
I'm not seeing them so we must be more or less square now."

Neko Case, A.C. Newman and crew are back with this upbeat sounding song about ... the white noise in all of our lives? 

19. Living in the Sunshine by Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers.

"Living in the sunshine
Living in the bright light
Wasting time, feeling fine
Yeah, feeling fine, fine.
Living in the sunshine, hey hey
I heard it said, heard it said
Got to grow up sometime ...
But not now."

A bit of a cheat here as apparently this song was recorded as a part of the Spirit Trail sessions, one of my favorite records ever. But since Living in the Sunshine was release for the first time this year, we get to enjoy it along with great songs like Pete & Manny, Great Divide, and Sneaking Up on Boo Radley. Spirit Trail had the 25th anniversary of its release this year (as if I didn't already feel old just seeing Bruce H. now as compared to last century).

20. Too Good at Raising Hell by The Struts.

"Sex so good, make the neighbors smoke a cigarette.
But I'm still bored to death.

Think I'm getting too good, too good at raising hell
But I'm wearing it well."

Remember my comment that there were some fairly mindless rockers on this year's List? The video definitely borrows from old stars like Alice Cooper and Kiss. And the first line quoted here? Classic.

21. Too Drunk to Drive by hey, nothing.

"You hate the sight of mullets so you close your eyes
But the spinning's just beginning and it's on the rise.
And you're nauseous
Think you better call it a night."

Apparently hey, nothing are "Tyler Mabry and Harlow Phillips - two highschoolers from just outside Atlanta." So, basically they and I have nothing in common. Except for this song, which I really like.

22. nothing to do by Oso Oso.

"Nothing to do but hang around
I always knew I'd let you down
Nothing to do but hang around
Slip through the cracks, let myself drown."

Doesn't sound like Oso Oso (aka Jade Lilitri, a former List denizen) was in a very good place when he wrote this one. I also recommend checking out "nothing says love like hydration" including the amusing lyrics: "Nothing says love like a Gatorade, Nothing says love like hydration."

Stay tuned for the Top 11.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Favorite Songs of 2023 - Songs 23-33

It was a weird year musically for me - no live concerts, lots of time on Spotify and in C's car on Sirius and semi-listening to songs suggested by Uproxx to find candidates for this year's List. The result is an odd combination of new artists and old favorites, quiet, often sad songs, and loud, pretty much meaningless rockers, obscure releases and very popular ones, and a few that fall somewhere in-between all of the above. It may not be my most coherent list, but I prefer to think of it as ... eclectic. 

23. Gimme Back My Soul by Medium Build.

"When I met you at the tap room
I was young, with big brown eyes.
Got your number, for the summer
I was drunk, but you were nice, nice, nice.

Told you about Jesus
I told you about James
Told you about all the pieces of me
That I can't change."

The first of many songs on this year's List that I can empathize, but not sympathize, with.

24. Surfing in Iceland by Goth Babe. 

"I was waiting right there away from 
Hiding from the bad and hiding from the bad 
I was standing right there in Iceland 
And this is mighty rad and this is mighty rad."


Yes, Goth Babe is a male (Griff Washburn). And, yes, he apparently really did surf in Iceland.

25. Positive Charge by The Gaslight Anthem.

"I need a spark
I need a positive charge
Plug it into my veins and make me love this life again.
I need a spark
I need a positive charge.
Plug it into my brain and make me love my life again."

In the oft repeated "reminds me of" category on the List, this song definitely puts me in mind of the best from the Gin Blossoms back in the day.

26. Joiner by Blondshell.

"You've been running around LA with trash
Sleepin' in bars with a gun in your bag.
Asking 'Can I be somebody else?'
You've been riding around on handlebars
Buying drugs from guys in cars
Asking 'Can I be somebody else?'"

I can't tell if Blondshell (aka Sabrina Teitelbaum) is rubbernecking a car wreck, or wants to become part of it.

27.  Highlands by Middle Kids.

"Wherever you are, we're just getting started
Out of the dark, into the highlands.
Give me your heart, I wanna hide it
And I can't keep waiting for things to change."

The Kids from Down Under are back. And it sounds like they're ready to stir some ... stuff up.


"Slap me in the face and tell me I'm perfect
I wanna feel nice instead of just feeling sad
The world is so big and its future is yucky
I wanna play nice but you should treat me real bad."

Not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the message, but anything that pronoun/PRONOUN (aka Alyse Vellturo) does is so darn catchy it can't be ignored.

29. Something Wrong by Hand Habits.

"I'm beggin'
Beggin' you to understand
Amazing, call you my friend
Is there something wrong with that?
Is there something wrong with that?"

This song from Hand Habits (aka Meg Duffy) is haunting, but I like it. Is there something wrong with that?

30. CSI: Petralona by Westerman.

"Close shave in Petralona
My new friend walked me, hand in hand
Down to that busy square
You said, 'Let's head someplace quieter'
Athen is small
Everybody knows you here."

No, not that CSI. Sounds like Westerman was sorting through some deep stuff. Glad he had his friend with him.

31. Sugar Babies by Spoon.

"At the bar, don't forget les au revoirs les sugar babies
They saw me in the storefront standing still
They walked on by they couldn't chill
They'll say hello next time now maybe."

Anything Spoon does is worth a listen. Their longevity (they formed 30 years ago) and ability to not get stale and yet be true to themselves and their sound is admirable.

32. Save the World by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

"Balloon popping at the grocery store
My heart jumping in my chest.
I look around to find the exit door.
Which way out of here's the best?"

We know how you feel, Jason. I love how the instrumental intro sounds like "breaking news" music on a t.v. station.

33. I Don't Know What You See in Me by Belle and Sebastian.

"I've been looking in, and looking out
And there's a million faces in the crowd
But you chose to hold your gaze on me.
And it only took a moment to see."

Belle and Sebastian have been around for almost as long as Spoon, but I believe that this is their first appearance on the List. Welcome, old friends!

Stick around friends, 22 more songs to come!

Monday, January 16, 2023

Favorite Songs of 2022: Songs 1-11

We've come to the top of the list a little later than most years past, but hopefully not too late for you to appreciate my favorite eleven songs of 2022. 

1. Returner by Gang of Youths.

"Now I live by a motto, just like Assou-Ekotto
And it's 'F___ you and pay me,' it's a line I respect.
A below-average shooter, I'm hardly Batistuta
But the vision, the motivation I get."

We complete our Australian-centric list, naturally, with another artist from Down Under. Gang of Youths have made the list several times before. This is my favorite song from their excellent album Angel in Real Time because of the above lines and their soccer references, as well as the Pacific Islands chorus. Because my friend Charlie, also a GOY fan, says this is his least favorite of all on the record, I'm going to break the rules and give you a second song, a number 1.b., if you will, which is likely the most-played song from Angel in Real Time - In the Wake of Your Leave.

2. Rubberneckers by Christian Lee Hutson.

"I'm a self-esteem vending machine
A doctor's office magazine.
A funhouse at the county fair
A staircase to nowhere.

If you tell a lie for long enough,
Then it becomes the truth.
I am going to be okay some day,
With or without you.
With or without you."

The next three songs are all in the running for my favorite lyrics of the year. I believe that it's hard to find a word in this song that is out of place. If you listen closely to the chorus, you'll likely hear the voice of an artist mentioned in the first edition of this year's list with the promise that she'd reappear. She also produced Hutson's album Quitters, along with her frequent collaborator Conor Oberst.

3. Blush by Matt Nathanson

"And when the sun is getting lower
And your wildest days are done.
And they ask you about a photograph
From back when you were young.
Baby, you don't have to tell 'em
What you did when we were us.
But when you think about it
I hope you blush,
Just a little bit.
When you think about it
I hope you blush."

Another song about lost love, but one fondly remembered. The "We looked good, we looked good, we looked good" chorus makes me smile everytime I hear it. And I also really like the words, and the feel, of this song overall as well.

4. Canola Fields by James McMurtry.

James McMurtry at Mountain Stage.

"And there's not much moving on the romance radar
Not that I'm craving it all that much.
But I still need to feel, every once in a while
The warmth of a smile and a touch.

In a way back corner of a cross-town bus,
We were hiding out under my hat.
Cashing in on a thirty-year crush.
You can't be young and do that,
You can't be young and do that."

The (now long ago) aforesaid old favorite I got to see in 2022, at Mountain Stage. As already mentioned, I have a hard time deciding whether these lines are my favorite ones of 2022, or whether one of the two songs immediately above contain them.

5. American Teenager by Ethel Cain.

"I do it for my daddy
And I do it for Dale
I'm doing what I want and, damn
I'm doing it well.
For me, for me,
For me, for me."

Quite the backstory for Hayden Silas Anhedonia a.k.a. Ethel Cain (according to Wikipedia, anyway). Her voice reminds me of an American Dolores O'Riordan (of The Cranberries). A lovely, haunting song.

6. Country by Good Morning.

"Yeah, I think it's a little bit different now
I got a boyfriend and I got a psych.
I know that one really cares about me,
And, at least, that the other one tries."

Yet another Australian band, although honestly they sound very American to me (again - guess I just need to give up trying to figure that out). A really catchy song with great lyrics about a lost friendship - but I love the instrumental intro and outro best of all.

7. Time Escaping by Big Thief.

"Desert ground so cold and clean
Spreading out like a magazine
Reading the dirt like gossip.
What do the weeds say? They say:
'Everything, everything, everything falls through
Each dimension breaks in two
Like the two hands clapping ...
Like the two wings flapping.'"

So many really good songs on Big Thief's double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. This is my favorite, but if you're inclined, check out "Certainty," "No Reason," and "Little Things" too.

8. Love Is Yours by Flasher. 

"It's like a knock on the door,
I've never heard it before,
You have me opening, oh so naturally.
It's better than the real thing,
I'm seeing 2020,
You got me missing what I didn't know I need."

One of several songs (numbers 2, 5, 6, and 11 are the others, to be precise) from artists in the Top 11 that I didn't know before 2022, but am glad I do now. Flasher sounds like a cross between The Dandy Warhols and The New Pornographers to me.

9. Here to Forever by Death Cab for Cutie.

"Oh, these days it's so hard to relax
You gotta hold a gun to my back
To make me smile
To make me smile."

Sounds like our old friend Ben Gibbard spent the pandemic contemplating his mortality. Completely understandable.

10. Free by Florence + The Machine

"I'm always running from something
I push it back, but it keeps on coming.
And being clever never got me very far,
Because it's all in my head.
And 'You're too sensitive,' they said.
I said, 'Okay, but let's discuss this at the hospital.'"

Florence has appeared on the list several times before - she's back and strong as ever. I don't think I've ever said this before, but that harpist can jam! "And for a moment, when I'm dancing ... I am free." If only we all could be.

11. Rewind by Daybed.

"And I hoped maybe time would slow
Feels like the end of a road
With all the friends I used to know."

And here I thought Hometown was an obscure choice. This song now has 144 YouTube views (and at least four are mine). I love the music on this one (particularly the banjo). Apparently Daybed = Reagan Smith, the banjo player of The Oh Hellos (which, I guess, explains why the banjo is so good).

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Favorite Songs of 2022: Songs 12-22

I believe this is a particularly strong second set of songs this year. Songs 12-17 all spent some time in my Top 11 at various points in 2022. Enjoy!

12. Running with the Hurricane by Camp Cope.

"And if is the bottom,
I can show you what to do
There's no other way to go
There's no other way to go ...
The only way out is up.
And I'm keeping up."

Not the first time this band from Down Under has been on the list. But a little less "punkish" this time, and perhaps even a little Southern twang thrown in for good measure? I think Camp Cope is keeping up and growing up.

13. Blue Hours by Bear's Den.

"Why won't you just stay with me? Why do you lie?
Why's there always something keepin' you up at night?
Don't act like you're so hard to find
I know where you hide, I know where you hide ...
In the blue hours."

One of my new discoveries this past year (along with the already-mentioned Caracara and at least two yet to come), I really like Bear's Den, particularly their lead vocalist (and that bass line). I was surprised to learn Bear's Den are from England - they sound very much like an American band to me.

14. Tennessee Dust by Henry Grace.

"Riverman shining shoes
Singing Appalachian blues
Drinking black coffee.
Was a fire in his soul
And it rang like rock and roll
Roared like a freight train."

Took us a long time to get to the first Americana song on this year's list. I hope you agree it was worth the wait. I like it enough that I even forgive Henry for singing "App-ah-lay-chan" not "Ap-puh-lah-chn."

15. Tonight by Phoenix (feat. Ezra Koenig).

"I take all the blame
Is it hard to understand?
When it's all the same
I've played all the games
And lost almost everything.
Now I talk to myself and it's quite surprising."

Much like the Arcade Fire song in the last installment, it's so refreshing to hear a Phoenix song that sounds like Phoenix. And bringing Ezra Koenig (of Vampire Weekend fame) along for the ride doesn't hurt a bit either.

16. That's Where I Am by Maggie Rogers.

"I found a reason to wake up
Coffee in my cup,
Start a new day.
Wish we could do this forever
And never remember
Mistakes that we make."

Another real love song, about friends who became something more than that. Haven't done the research, but I'm guessing that this is probably the most watched video of any song on the list this year.

17. Did You Say Such a Thing by John Mellencamp (feat. Bruce Springsteen).

"What people say about me
Don't amount to much
I guess some may be true
But who can you trust
Did you say such a thing?
How come you said such a thing?

This year's The Boss singing backup entry, which is definitely becoming a regular thing. I'm a longtime admirer of both. This entry demarks the line on the list, which appears at a different place every year, between those songs that I liked and those that I really, really liked.

18. Colorglut by Caracara (feat. Anthony Green).

"Is this a wedding or a funeral? I can't tell by the attire
Hunting for a beat
Like Serengeti beasts
I was listening to Dirty Projectors in a Volvo by the freeway funeral pyre."

The opposite of Bear's Den - I would have guessed that Caracara are from England, except for the fact that they spell the song name Colorglut, not Colourglut. Sure enough, they're from Philly. Can't not include on the list a song that references Dirty Projectors (and a Volvo).

19. Somebody Desperate by The National.

"That wasn't me
I don't know who that was
That was somebody desperate
Someone in love."

A pretty, sad song, not about love lost, but instead love never found.

20. Kissing Lessons by Lucy Dacus.

"I asked her how to win my man
And she said, 'I know just the thing'
Gave me lipgloss and a hair toss
And, after school, a lesson in kissing."

The she-who-was yet-to-be-named in my first edition of the list, my significant other and I got to see Ms. Dacus live twice this year. The first in Charlottesville, when she played guitar (and still rocked!) from a couch for most of the concert because of a bad back.

21. Just Around the Corner by JD McPherson.

"I'm so glad I live
Right around the corner from you
So happy I don't know what I will do
Please don't go
Find somebody new
Oh I'm about to live right around the corner from you."

I didn't realize until posting the list on Facebook that this is in fact a cover. Since I didn't have a separate covers list this year, we're leaving it where it's at. Always love to hear from JD and his rockabilly style.

22. Alaska by Pinegrove.

"When we landed in Orlando
And the local time was 11:11
The pilot had his eyes closed
Through that opalescent open road."

Seemingly fully recovered from their unfortunate hiatus, Evan Stephens Hall and friends were back with a familiar sound, and some confounding lyrics.

The Top Eleven is on its way soon - stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Favorite Songs of 2022 - Songs 23-33

We made it! Most of us mostly intact. 'Twas a slim year for me, live music-wise, but did get out a little bit, enough to see one of my favorite artists twice and an old friend at Mountain Stage once. But more about that later.

We begin my list of favorite songs of 2022 with a recent list favorite. Hope you enjoy!

23. Sidelines by Phoebe Bridgers.

"Watching the world from the sidelines
Had nothing to prove
'Til you came into my life
Gave me something to lose."

Perhaps second only to she-who-is-not-yet-named, Ms. Bridgers has appeared most frequently on the list in the last few years. I like this song a lot, but perhaps not as much as ... 22 others this past year. The release of this song gives us some hope that we'll hear more from Phoebe in 2023. But in the meantime, she's busying herself with production work - and you'll find out more about that in the last iteration of this year's list.

24. Wild by Spoon.

"Trippers and askers, they surrounded me
All them describing how they'd like me
All them wanting somethin' special
Bring 'em roses, sing them blues."

Sounds like someone's not all that comfortable with ... comfort. Always admire Spoon for keeping true to themselves, yet being fresh at the same time. Comforting, one might say. Check out their album "Lucifer on the Sofa." For the name, if nothing else.

25. Scab Song by Dora Jar.

"I've got a brain in my head
I've got a brain in my head and it thinks as hard as Einstein ever did
MC squared equals E
That's the theory of relativity
And how are you relative to me."

This year's silly pop song entry, about ... a scab on Dora Jar's leg. Don't judge me.

26. The Lightning I, II by Arcade Fire.

"I heard the thunder and I thought it was the answer
But I found I got the question wrong
I was trying to run away but a voice told me to stay
Put the feeling in a song."

So nice to hear an Arcade Fire song that sounds like Arcade Fire. Makes me feel all ... 50 again.

27. A Real Thing by The Beths.

"Picking up the tires from the side of the road
Gonna push back the coming tide
Laying down beside them like I'm in on the joke
Wake me up when the world is fried."

One of several songs on this year's list that sound like the female-lead power pop bands of the '80's. but with better musicianship. This song appears to have a decidedly un-'80's theme, though -- guessing the "Real Thing" is global climate change.

28. Talk by beabadoobee.

"A crowded place, waitin' for you
Am I lost? Why can't I find you?
A silhouette that's in my head
You don't exist, you're my imagination
You don't exist, you're just a bad decision."

Seems as though 2022 (or more likely 2021) was/were bad year(s) for relationships - love gone bad songs abound on this year's list. Another song that puts me in mind of The Go-Go's or the Bangles.

29. Soberish by Liz Phair.

"I already told you
It was love at first sight
And that's a frightening notion.
I'll hold the light
And you can read me what we owe."

A middle-aged love song. But a love song nonetheless, for a change, from "alt-rock icon" Ms. Phair.

30. Sweet Memory by Geographer.

"Sweet memory
Burning like a candle 
At the bottom of the sea
I don't believe in love, and
It doesn't believe in me
All I have is my sweet memory."

One of those "happy sounding sad songs." Geographer returned to the list last year after a long absence. And now here he/they are again, a year later.

31. Reprise by The Lumineers.

"Callin' on your neighborhood
Tell me who to like
Everyone's a friend
Every now and then
Tell me who to like."

"Reprise" as in a different version of "Brightside," the first song on The Lumineers' latest album, also called Brightside. I like this version better. My friend Dave likes Brightside better. And I'm okay with that.

32. Hometown by The K's.

"Hometown, playing all his favorite songs.
In the sun, in the sun, in the sun.
Put 'em on, put 'em on, put 'em on, put 'em on."

Admittedly, I've gotten a little lazy and depend on google to tell me what the exact lyrics are for a song. Or most of them, anyone. Hometown is apparently sufficiently obscure to not warrant their publication. So the above lines are a guess. Seems clear I like this song mostly because of the driving guitar, not the lyrics, huh?

33. Stay Out of It by Michigander.

"It feels like everybody's talking
But nobody's ever listening
And it breaks my heart because I know I can't
Stay out of it."

Michigander is/are Jason Singer (good name for a singer!), originally from Kalamazoo in the Mitten State. As if the name wasn't enough to put Michigander on my radar, I love the bouncy beat, and, yes, the singing.

Stay tuned for the second edition of the list coming soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Favorite Songs of 2021 - Songs 1-11

One would be tempted to bid 2021 a less-than-fond good riddance ... if we hadn't already done that with 2020. So let's just appreciate the new music that our seemingly endless pandemic brought us. Including three albums (which happen to contain the first three songs on my list) that could have filled out the Top Ten all on their own.

1. Stop Making This Hurt by Bleachers.

"But if we take the sadness 
Out of Saturday night
I wonder what we'll be left with
Anything worth the fight?
I wanna run from the darkness
Wanna shout at the light
It's coming over me now
Two, three, four, five oh God we barely survived!"

I went back-and-forth a lot between this and number two on the list for much of the second half of the year. Stop Making This Hurt, however, was the one song that I never skipped on any device throughout the year, and it's the one that compels me to crank up the volume more than any other. And so, here are the Jersey boys, with their horns and Jack's goofy dancing. Long may they rock. I also recommend giving a listen to Don't Go Dark and How Dare You Want More from the LP Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (along with the already nominated Chinatown).

2. Not Dead Yet by Lord Huron.

"I've been out way too long
Heading right for the edge
If she asks about me
Tell her I'm not dead yet."

The boys from Michigan return to their western/rockabilly roots on their new album Long Lost and I for one am glad for it. I believe that Lord Huron now holds the distinction of having two Number Two songs on my list through the years (Until the Night Turns was second in 2015). So close ... I also recommend to you Mine Forever, Long Lost, Love Me Like You Used To, and I Lied from their 2021 offering as well.

3. Hot & Heavy by Lucy Dacus.

"You knew that I wanted you to bend the rules
How did I believe I had a hold on you?
You were always stronger than people suspected
Underestimated and overprotected."

The above lyrics are perhaps my favorites of the year. If not them, then the ones I will gift you immediately below. Lucy's latest album Home Video (which, as the title suggests, is based on memories from her past) is chock full of them. Check out VBS and Brando from that LP as well, at the minimum. The video's fun too and consistent with the Home Video theme. I'm sure it was made in RVA (but didn't look it up to confirm).

4. Family Farm by The Hold Steady.

"When she was combing through the carpet I could not resist her charms
She brought me to a fortress she called the family farm
Out along the towers there were guards with heavy arms
I guess there was some tension with the neighbors."

So do you prefer Lucy's wry observation or Craig Finn's deadpan understatement? Tough call for me. The boys from Brooklyn (by way of Minneapolis - the midwest is the setting for many of their tracks) are back with another set of lyrically brilliant songs courtesy of Mr. Finn in their new album Open Door Policy. Give Lanyards a listen as well.

5. Empire Builder by Typhoon.

"You and I know we both know that
Everybody's angry
Everybody's lonely
Maybe it's hopeless
And maybe love is not enough
But let's not rule out the possibility."

Definitely a pandemic song. Perhaps an apocalyptic song. At least Kyle Morton's still got a bit of hope. Typhoon recorded their album Sympathetic Magic remotely, no small feat for a notoriously large ensemble. The entire LP is very good, especially (in addition to Empire Builder) And so What if You Were Right.

6. Fire and Brimstone by Sean Rowe.

"I had a dream
Last night
When I was lying
On my bed
And the whole world
Was standing still
And the moon
Was turning red."

My New Year wish: that, for one day in 2022, I can sing like Sean Rowe.

7. Dino's by Gordi and Alex Lahey.

"There was a greatest hits on the stereo
There was a nun drinking her doubt
There was a young boy making promises
To a Dolly Parton cardboard cutout."

A pretty ode to ... a Nashville dive bar (okay, I admit that I looked up the location). Both Gordi and Alex hail from Australia. I'm glad that they found their way to Tennessee, at least for one evening.

8. Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender.

"I was far too scared to hit him
But I would hit him in a heartbeat now.
That's the thing with anger
It begs to stick around.
So it can fleece you of your beauty
And leave you spent with nowt to offer
Makes you hurt the ones who love you."

A song of teenage rage (and an abusive father, I'm guessing). But with the redemptive vision of someone who "got out" reflecting on the person he was, the one he could have become, and the one that he became instead.

9. Questions by Middle Kids.

"And I got questions
And you got answers
And I'm not sure
 if they're fact or fiction
And I got questions
And you got answers
And I'm not sure
 if they're even worth asking."

The Kids are back with another stellar effort, part of their 2021 album Today We're the Greatest. Not much doubt where they stand with regard to whomever this song was written about. Cellophane (Brain) is also worth a listen from their newest LP.

10. Faith Healer by Julien Baker.

"Faith healer
Come put your hands on me
A snake oil dealer
I'll believe you if you make 
Me feel something."

The third member of boygenius didn't quite make the top of my list, unlike her cohorts Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. But her 2021 album Little Oblivions was well regarded by people whose opinions count more than mine (in other words, just about everyone's). This is my favorite song from that effort. We're all searching for something, aren't we?

11. New Fragility by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

"On a holiday, you said you just need to get away
Taking some midnight ride out to Long Beach Island
Stranded, half-naked on a strange man's couch
No hearts are broken when there's no one to let down."

All the low notes of a break-up (or, more exactly, post-break-up) song. That last line gets me everytime.

Here's to (hopefully) seeing some live music in 2022 - that would be a good way to restart, wouldn't it?