I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen this weekend.
Not that that’s unusual.
Another year, another bunch of songs I listened to over and over and over again on my iPod. As per usual, I’ll hit the ol’ reset button on the iPod after posting this list, making it possible for new songs to reign supreme in 2013.
25. Moxy Fruvous, “Boo Time” (23 plays): This was one of my favorite bands in college, and I still (obviously) enjoy putting their songs in playlists or just listening to entire albums. The album this particular gem is off of, You Will Go to the Moon, is fun and serious and silly and touching and everything else, all at the same time.
24. Dr. Dog, “Lonesome” (23 plays): I dunno how iTunes decides what song is in what position when they’ve all got the same number of plays, but it decided to put this one in at number 24. I love the dobro part (it sounds like a dobro. Might just be a regular acoustic, but I dunno).
23. Better Than Ezra, “At the Stars: (23 plays): Another of the 23 Plays Club, this one a classic (can I use that word for a song that came out during my lifetime?) from a quintessential ’90s band.
22. Paul McCartney, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (24 plays): This is one of those songs I just love singing along to. I defy you to listen to it and not bounce along merrily. You can’t do it.
21. Mumford & Sons, “Little Lion Man” (24 plays): I tend to think of these guys as “Dave Matthews with a banjo,” ’cause that’s all I hear when this guy sings. And now you’ll hear it, too, and you won’t be able to un-hear it.
20. Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do” (24 plays): I’ve always liked the folky side of Zeppelin, when they bust out the acoustics and get a little more down-home. This just happens to be one of the best “my woman ain’t no good” songs out there, and it’s fun to play on the guitar (even if I can’t hit the high notes like Robert Plant).
19. Charlie Sexton, “Regular Grind” (24 plays): The Dylan guitarist and near-legendary session man from Austin is something of a perennial favorite of mine, and this is one of the best songs off of the excellent Cruel and Gentle Things. Isn’t it about time he did a new solo album?
18. Bruce Springsteen, “Two Faces” (24 plays): I feel like Springsteen’s late ’80s/early ’90s albums are rather unfairly maligned. There’s some great songs on them (and some crap, too, to be quite honest), and though they definitely suffer from the production style of the time, you can find some stuff worth listening to. “Two Faces” is such a song: heartfelt, sad, a little bit angry, but with a great organ solo in the outro.
17. Richard Thompson, “Beeswing” (25 plays): Just a beautiful, sad song. The live version is even better than the original studio recording.
16. fun., “Some Nights” (25 plays): What? I’m allowed to like things that are popular sometimes, even if I think most of the rest of the album is absolute rubbish.
15. Woodkid, “Iron” (26 plays): I like it exclusively for its use in the trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Don’t judge me.
14. John Fullbright, “Satan and St. Paul” (26 plays): Probably my favorite song off of his first studio album, From the Ground Up, which you might recall was one of my favorite albums of the year.
13. Deer Tick, “Easy” (26 plays): A holdover from last year’s list, when it was #1 with a bullet, this song still held me captivated for a good chunk of the year. It’s just a damn good song, and pretty sinister.
12. The National, “Ashamed of the Story I Told” (28 plays): An amazing cover of an old Polaris song, one of those rare instances where the cover truly surpasses the original.
11. The Wallflowers, “Sugarfoot” (30 plays): Say what you will about the Wallflowers debut album (and believe me, I know it was a flawed effort), this song is just awesome and clearly firing on all cylinders.
10. Of Monsters and Men, “Little Talks” (31 plays): I was amazed how much I actually ended up liking their full-length album when it came out this past year. Much stronger than I’d thought it would be, even if I did forget and leave it off my end of the year list.
9. The Gaslight Anthem, “Stay Lucky” (31 plays): The disappointment that was Handwritten drove me back to American Slang and this particular track, which I always have to listen to more than once when it comes up on rotation.
8. First Aid Kit, “The Lion’s Roar” (31 plays): The title track from their debut album (which I did remember to include on my list of albums for 2012) is just a masterclass in how to do awesome Americana. I’m rather in awe of these two (barely out of their?) teens from some cold country in northern Europe.
7. Dan Auerbach, “My Last Mistake” (32 plays): I think next year I may have to disqualify songs that were in the previous year’s list, ’cause otherwise you end up with nothing new to say about a song other than, “Yes, it’s still awesome, what do you want?”
6. The Black Keys, “Sinister Kid” (32 plays): I think it’s all down to the “Uhn!” that starts the song. I could care less what happens after a start like that, so it’s just gravy that the rest of the song is so damn awesome.
5. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Hometown Blues” (33 plays): One of the best Tom Petty songs you probably don’t even know. It’s off their debut album from way back in the ’70s, and obviously gets overshadowed by hits like “American Girl” or “Breakdown,” but it’s just a damn fun song.
4. Josh Ritter, “Girl in the War” (33 plays): A beautiful, melancholic tune about loss and war and fighting for what is important to you. It’s a very moving song, really.
3. Josh Ritter, “See Me Through” (36 plays): A great acoustic number from Ritter’s 2012 EP “Bringing in the Darlings” (if more of So Runs the World Away had sounded like this, I’d have liked it a lot more). I could sit and listen to the chorus of this song for days.
2. Gin Blossoms, “Pieces of the Night” (36 plays): Look, I’m not proud. I know the #2 song on my list is a Gin Blossoms song. About drinking so heavily the night before that you don’t remember jack squat the morning after. I realize all this, okay? I’m not proud of it, but I own up to it, at least.
1. Old 97s, “Champaign, Illinois” (38 plays): It’s an authorized rewrite of Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” only replaced that song’s sense of sadness and desperation with a kick-ass yowl and beefed-up alt-country rhythm and lyrics about Illinois and being on the road. And the chorus is just perfect.
So, there you have it: the twenty-five songs I listened to the most in the year 2012. Thoughts? Favorites? What did you keep hitting repeat on this past year?
It’s a question that’s been asked since we first figured out how to record sound onto physical media for later playback: if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have five albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Now, admittedly, in the age of the iPod and cloud-based computing, this is maybe a slightly less relevant question than it once was. However, it’s still a fun exercise, and one I have given much thought to over the past few days. It doesn’t hurt that I watched High Fidelity Friday night.
Anyway, my top five, desert island discs are, in no particular order:
1. Wilco, A Ghost is Born: This may not be the best Wilco album (an honor that still goes to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or maybe SummerTeeth), but it’s my favorite. It’s one of those records I can listen to over and over and never get tired of it (well, except for maybe “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and “Less Than You Think”). Plus, every time I hear that record, I hear something new in the songs. That’s something worth taking to a desert island.
2. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: Atypical of the Boss’s albums in terms of style and arrangement, but Nebraska is (I think) the essence of Springsteen’s songwriting boiled down and stripped of all unnecessary elements. It’s just his voice, his guitar, and occasionally a harmonica. It’s just the bare soul of the songs, and you really connect with the tunes on this album in a way you can’t with some of his more elaborate, bombastic stuff with the E Street Band. I know folks toss around words like “haunting” a lot for records like this, but it’s applicable. And it’s not like there’s a single bad song on the record, either: “Atlantic City” is a fatalistic yet somehow still optimistic look at struggling through a rough economy, “Open All Night” is a fun, goofy rockabilly number, and “Reason to Believe” is at times warm, at times sad, and at times jubilant. This is Bruce’s best storytelling album, hands down.
3. The Beatles, Rubber Soul: It’s hard not to just pick all Beatles albums for this (and even then, it’s hard to just pick five), but if I had to narrow it down to a single Beatles record for the rest of my days, it’d probably have to be this one. It’s the Beatles at the peak of their early career, transitioning into the headier themes of the second half of their arc. You start to get a bit of the experimentation that was to come (“Norwegian Wood” and its sitar, for instance), but you still have just really well-crafted, fun pop songs, too. I think I’d have to have the version of the album with the false start on “I’m Looking Through You,” just because it’s always interesting to think of the Beatles as fallible.
4. AC Newman, Get Guilty: I would listen to this guy sing the phonebook, I think, because he just writes such damn catchy songs. This would be the album I’d have to spin to remind myself that, while I might be stuck on a desert island, life is still pretty damn good. Also, maybe I could finally take the time to figure out what the hell it is, exactly, that he’s singing about. It’s the newest album in this group, admittedly, but it’s one that I listened to a dozen or so times in the first few months that I had it, and I never seem to get tired of songs like “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” or “Elemental.” Alternately, I could swipe this out for the New Pornographer’s Twin Cinema, which is essentially more AC Newman goodness with Neko Case singing a bunch (and that’s always awesome).
5. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited: Selecting a single Dylan album to take is, much like the case with the Beatles, very difficult. But if you have to go with just one, this is the album to go with. From the pistolshot crack of that first snare on “Like a Rolling Stone” to the honky tonk piano of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and the wailing harmonica outro on the epic “Desolation Row,” it’s an album unlike anything else in his catalog, and there’s just not a bad song on it (well, maybe “Queen Jane Approximately,” but that’s less bad and more just kinda boring). Plus, I’d have that police whistle thing from the title track to keep me company on those lonely nights on the island.
It’s hard making a list like this. On another day, it might’ve included Van Morrison’s Moondance (or Tupelo Honey), or the Avett Brothers’ Emotionalism, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedos! (yes, the exclamation mark is necessary and part of the title), or Pink Floyd’s Meddle, or…well, you get the idea. This isn’t easy.
But, dear reader, what would your top 5 desert island discs be? Let me know in the comments section!
In my effort to make use of technology most people have been utilizing for at least 5 years, I posted my first Youtube video today. It can be viewed here. It’s just a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” I did at work after hours while waiting for my wife to finish a meeting. The laptop I use at school is about 5 years old, so the audio and video quality leave a bit to be desired. Plus, you have to stare at my ugly mug for a good 2 minutes and change. Regardless, I hope folks enjoy it.
As with every year, I’m about to reset the play count on my iPod. Before I do that, though, let’s see what got the most play this year.
1. The New Pornographers, “The Bleeding Heart Show” – 48
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Cotton Fields” – 43
3. The National, “Ashamed Of The Story I Told” – 38
4. The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” – 38
5. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Midnight Special” – 37
6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Stay Lucky” – 35
7. Jakob Dylan, “Everybody’s Hurting” – 34
8. The New Pornographers, “Sing Me Spanish Techno” – 33
9. Harlem Shakes, “Strictly Game” – 32
10. Josh Ritter, “Wait For Love (You Know You Will)” – 31
11. Dawes, “That Western Skyline” – 30
12. A.C. Newman, “Take On Me” – 28
13. Bruce Springsteen, “Hungry Heart” – 27
14. Jakob Dylan, “Holy Rollers For Love” – 27
15. Cat Stevens, “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” – 26
16. Andrew Bird, “Fiery Crash” – 23
17. Jakob Dylan, “Lend A Hand” – 23
18. She & Him, “In The Sun” – 23
19. The Band, “The Weight” – 22
20. Bon Iver, “Flume” – 22
21. Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” – 22
22. Great Lake Swimmers, “Everything Is Moving So Fast” – 22
23. Great Lake Swimmers, “Pulling On A Line” – 22
24. The Spencer Davis Group, “Gimme Some Lovin'” – 22
25. Steve Winwood, “Back In The High Life Again” – 21
I always reset the play count on all the songs in iTunes at the beginning of a new year, but first I like to look back at the songs that received the most play over the course of the year. Here they are, along with the final play count for 2009.
1. The Replacements, “Alex Chilton” – 38
2. Steve Earle, “More Than I Can Do” – 37
3. The Gaslight Anthem, “Say I Won’t (Recognize)” – 36
4. Jakob Dylan, “Will It Grow” – 33
5. A.C. Newman, “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” – 32
6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Senor and the Queen” – 32
7. Daniel Lanois, “Where Will I Be” – 31
8. Elvis Costello, “Pump It Up” – 29
9. The National, “So Far Around the Bend” – 29
10. Bon Iver, “Skinny Love” – 28
11. Neko Case, “People Got a Lotta Nerve” – 28
12. Death Cab for Cutie, “The Sound of Settling” – 26
13. Statler Brothers, “Flowers on the Wall” – 26
14. Creedence Clearwater Revival, ” Wrote a Song For Everyone” – 25
15. The Grass Roots, “Temptation Eyes (Original)” – 25
16. Modest Mouse, “Satellite Skin” – 25
17. Band of Horses, “The General Specific” – 24
18. The Submarines, “You Me and the Bourgeoisie” – 23
19. Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” – 22
20. A.C. Newman, “Take On Me” – 21
21. Bruce Springsteen, “All the Way Home” – 21
22. Michael Andrews & Gary Jules, “Mad World” – 21
23. Bellamy Brothers, “Let Your Love Flow” – 20
24. Bon Iver, “Blood Bank” – 20
25. The Envy Corps, “Story Problem” – 20