Wednesday, December 31, 2008
My favorite albums of 2008, in the order I recall them.
1. The Lonelyhearts - Disaster Footage At Night
2. Army Navy - Army Navy
3. British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
4. Bye Bye Blackbirds - Houses and Homes
5. Hold Steady - Stay Positive
6. R.E.M. - Accelerate
7. Robert Forster - The Evangelist
8. Sloan - Parallel Play
9. (tie) School of Language - Sea From Shore
The Week That Was - The Week That Was
11. Pugwash - Eleven Modern Antiquities
12. Baseball Project - Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
Honorables: Byrne & Eno, Death Cab For Cutie, Even, Firemen, Future Clouds & Radar, Glen Campbell, Lucksmiths, Matthew Sweet, Nada Surf, Shake Some Action!, Sparks
So long, 2008. And don't come back!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I watched Get Smart on an airplane. Steve Carrell was great as Maxwell Smart, but as much as I love Anne Hathaway, as an Agent 99, she's no Barbara Feldon. Missed it by that much.
Monday, December 29, 2008
With my 49ers long eliminated from the playoffs, the major excitement I've been getting from the NFL lately is watching other teams get eliminated. Yesterday was a great day for that, with a bunch of teams fell out of the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.
This year's most spectacular NFL collapses were by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets. Both teams were eliminated by dramatically losing three of their last four games, with me cheering against them every step of the way. This time last month, Brett Favre and the Jets were 8-3 and heading to the playoffs and the inevitable Subway Superbowl with the Giants (even though there's no subway to the Meadowlands). They ended the season losing to a Dolphins team led by Chad Pennington, the QB that Favre replaced, finishing the year 9-7, with a 1-4 record in December. As an added bonus, Miami's win also eliminated Bill Bellicheat and the Patriots, who will also be watching the playoffs this year. Any day that disappoints fans from Boston and New York is a most frabjous day for fans from ... everywhere else!
But the happiest part of yesterday for me was Dallas getting eliminated. The Dallas Cowboys have been my least favorite sports franchise for as long as I can remember, which is when they beat the 49ers in the 1972 playoffs. For 36 years, any day the Cowboys get eliminated from the playoffs has been like a double helping of strawberry shortcake with extra whipped cream for me. And each update on yesterday's Cowboy collapse against the Eagles was like taking another bite of sweet dessert.
Other NFL teams that were eliminated yesterday were the Bucs (who lost to the Raiders-- at home!), the Bears (who lost to the Texans!), and the Broncos (who had another major collapse and lost to the Chargers). This year's playoffs might be tough for me, because I don't have any teams to actively cheer against. There's still the defending champs, the Giants. No one wants to see them repeat!
Closer to home, hats off to Samurai Mike for being named the full time coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He took over a woeful team midway through the season, and led them to the verge of respectability. I saw the 49ers game against Favre's Jets a few weeks ago, and while they still don't have much in the way of talent, they have a lot of intensity and are fun to watch. Singletary ended the year with a winning record (5-4), and took the Niners from 2-5 to 7-9. Single digit losses qualifies as a great year in San Francisco!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
This was another song I found on last year's All Songs Considered Holiday Mix. It's available as a free download from his website. It's a short song (less than a minute) that starts with the letter Z, which makes it an ideal mix ender on two fronts.
And with that, our journey is over. 28 songs in 28 days. There's nothing more self-indulgent than writing about your own mix tapes (or discs or playlists). At times this exercise has seemed like a superlong version of "Freebird" where the solo after "and this bird you cannot cha-a-ange!" keeps going on and on and on .. for two fortnights.
And now after everyone has gone home, I'm finally wrapping it up. My next post will be back to regular programming, whatever that is.
Daddy Bone - Zombies Eating My Brain (for Christmas)
(from daddybone.com, which is not that cheap domain site).
Saturday, December 27, 2008
"Santa I Got Your Number" by Tommy Tutone.
There's a special spot on my holiday mixes for artists that turn their own songs into Christmas songs. Tommy Heath (like Debbie Harry and Blondie, Tommy Heath is the lead singer of the band Tommy Tutone!) probably noticed at some point that the words to "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" matched pretty well with the tune of his biggest hit, and decided to match them up for giggles. It's common for Weird Al or Dr. Demento novelty acts to do this, but not that common when the actual artist does it.
The two songs match up pretty well if you adhere to the Spector/Springsteen arrangement of "Santa Claus". The choruses ("Santa Claus is comin' to town" and "867-5309") have the same number of syllables, and the verses follow the same meter more or less. And the rest is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!
Friday, December 26, 2008
This Boxing Day carol is featured on the Spongetones holiday album Mersey Christmas (a pun that's been used many times many ways) and is one of the few songs celebrating the joys of the day after Christmas.
When the 26th has come to town
Sending seasons on their jolly way
Don't forget to take the tinsel down
Save it for an after holiday
Have a Merry After-Christmas
Filled with After-Christmas Cheer
With the afterglow of laughter in your after New Year's year
Singing after Christmas Carols
Heaven after snowflakes fall
We'll be happy ever after after all
This song is probably the most famous Boxing Day carol.
Happy St. Stephen's Day, everyone!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I always try to make track 25 on my Christmas mixes something extra Christmasey (since I like short songs, there's always a track #25), and this might be the most Xmasey Xmas song ever. R.E.M. released their version last year on their annual holiday single, featuring Mike Mills as Noddy.
So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun. Look to the future now, it's only just begun. What, exactly, do those words mean? Who knows? But I hope everyone has a merry happy Xmas. I'm having a White one here in the Sierras. Everybody knows that Christmas snow is the best snow there is!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Did you know Ryan recorded a Christmas song? I didn't either until just recently. He released this as a holiday single in 2003,and it's also on Kevin & Bean's Christmas comp The Year They Recalled Santa Claus.
The Parker in question is probably Adams' then-girlfriend Parker Posey. I don't think she reads this blog, but it's Christmas Eve, so I'd like to wish Parker and everyone else has a Merry one!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Red Star Belgrade took their name from a Serbian football club which might make "Xmas Day" the second best Christmas song about an Eastern bloc football club, after "All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit" by Half Man Half Biscuit.
I've always wanted to include this on one of my holiday mixes, but despite it's greatness, it really doesn't seem to be about Christmas.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Pugwash is the nom du band of Irish songwriter Thomas Walsh, and I like almost everything I've heard by him/them, even though some of the songs might be too busy for some. Nearly every Pugwash song is layered with keyboards and percussion and Beach Boys harmonies, so there are a lot of things going on, but his ears are always in the right place, and the songs are all pretty and melodic.
I will probably have one song from their latest album Eleven Modern Antiquities on my 2008 best-of as well as this track on my Xmas mix. I like these songs because they're the sort of songs that I tend to like. What's so funny 'bout peace, harmony, and melody?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This is the last song on Christmas Shopping, Buck's second Christmas album which came just one year after his first one Christmas With Buck Owens & His Buckaroos. A few years later, the albums were repackaged as A Merry Hee Haw Christmas after Buck's rediscovery on that TV show.
Frankly, I blame "Hee Haw" for Buck Owens not being taken seriously by an entire generation. As far as country music goes, Buck should be up there with Johnny, George, and Merle, but mention his name to anyone and it's "wasn't he the guy on Hee Haw?"
The most well known Christmas song by Buck & the Buckaroos is "Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy" from the first album, a monster hit in 1965 that even Garth couldn't mess up, but there are lots of great original tunes on both his albums, and "Tomorrow Is Christmas" day is one of them.
It doesn't really fit the theme of my mix, and was supposed to be track #24 (with the Bobs as track #23), because that's the most suitable slot for a song called "Tomorrow Is Christmas Day". His ND Xmas is still available for download if anyone hasn't downloaded it yet.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The 20th track on His ND Xmas is "The Night Before the Night Before Christmas" by The Bobs.
The Bobs' Christmas album Too Many Santas is another one of the few single artist Christmas albums I can listen to from start to finish, and I think I've included songs from it on my last four Christmas mixes.
"The Night Before The Night Before Christmas" tells the story of a holiday party hosted by a couple about to be divorced, but the wife is waiting until after the holidays to serve the papers.
Their holiday party has secrets in the air
Something that he doesn't share
She's found another, she's movin' on
The day after New Years she'll be gone
The gift that she's giving he can't foresee
a gift that begins with a "D"
When he gets the papers
Things will look grim
Why ruin Christmas for him?
I can't find "The Night Before The Night Before Christmas" on youtube, but here are the Bobs with their unique take on
"Santa's Got A Brand New Bag".
Friday, December 19, 2008
This was the 1974 Christmas number one in England, one of their two chart-toppers that year along with "Tiger Feet". Most U.S. Americans aren't familiar with the song or the band, but Mud were hugely popular in the mid-70s in the U.K. In 1975, according to their wikipedia entry, they had "no fewer than seven" singles in the UK Top 40. Since it's wikipedia, maybe they could provide an exact number of top 40 singles instead of this "no fewer than" crap -- I think "no fewer than seven" is just a fancy P.R. way of saying "seven".
Anyway, Mud were really popular during the mid-70s, and "Lonely This Christmas" is a cooler song than this year's Christmas #1. which will likely be -- Alexandra Burke's X-Factor cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
Okay, maybe it's not a better song than "Hallelujah", but it's still pretty cool!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I first heard this song on NPR's "All Songs Considered" holiday mix last year, a few weeks before Distortion came out. I had it slated for inclusion on my 2008 mix right after I heard it, and it sort of set the theme for the songs that followed.
One year later, I think it's one of the two or three good songs on the album. Just like Ichiro, Stephin Merritt has a batting average of about .333, so one song out of every three is really good. This means that 69 Love Songs had 23 good songs, but the last two albums have only had three each. The solution is to for him put more songs on each record!
Magnetic Fields - Mr. Mistletoe
(mp3 from some blog)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This track comes from Little Steven's Christmas a Go-Go compilation, along with nineteen other songs in a similar vein, everything from old faves like the Kinks' "Father Christmas" and Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" to new songs by the Chevelles and the Chesterfield Kings. It was tough to include just one song from this compilation, but this song by the LP3 fulfills both the rocking and seasonal criteria, so it won the pool.
I just discovered that Little Steven's Underground Garage is listenable in my locality (Sundays 9-11pm on KSAN 107.7FM), and it's become my favorite way to wrap up the weekend since M. Dung's Idiot Show on KFOG. Like Dung, Little Steven doesn't care if a song is from last week or 1953, just as long as it rocks, so the Underground Garage has big names and small names, and old songs and new songs and everything all together. It's like all radio should be!
Little Steven's Coolest Songs In The World CD series is giving Now That's What I Call Music! a run for it's money with seven volumes of garagey rock. The albums are all available on emusic (as is Christmas a Go-Go) and provide the ability to listen to the Underground Garage all the time, 24 x 7.
The Len Price 3 are one of Little Steven's favorite bands; he put out their latest album Rent a Crowd on his label Wicked Cool, and gave their Christmas song a peach position on Christmas A Go-Go where their music could be heard by people like us when it's Christmas time, Christmas ti-i-ime, Christmas time!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I've been a devotee of this song since I first heard it on the 2006 reissue of Chris Stamey's Christmas Time Again by the dB's & Friends, and it almost made my mix the last two years.
The two main criteria I use when choosing songs for my Xmas mixes are (1) Does it rock? and (2) Is it Christmasy enough? The first question is more figurative than literal, more "does it have a purpose?" than "does it have a back beat that you can't lose, any old time you use it?". Most songs that rock do so both literally and figuratively, but "Christmas Light" does not, in a literal sense, rock. It's kind of ... light. As in Christmas Light.
"Christmas Light" also falls somewhat short in the second criteria, because despite the title, the song doesn't mention Christmas in the lyrics. So when I'd be listening to my prospective mixed, this song would always stand out as being not particularly about Christmas, and would be flagged for replacement. This year I decided to let it stay, because even though it's not about Christmas, it's still a very nice song, and even though it doesn't rock in a literal sense, it certainly rocks in a figurative sense.
Keegan Dewitt & the Sparrows - Christmas Light (from odeo.com)
Monday, December 15, 2008
This is another track from Yep Roc's Oh Santa comp, and it's also on Jason's Best Tracks And Side Tracks via the same label.
In the song, Kristi celebrates the holiday season in a joyous chorus worthy of Dolly Parton or Tammy Wynette..
Christmas is a lovely time of year
Sitting by the fire with a cup of cheer
Everyone's so happy
So sweet and so sincere
Christmas is a lovely time of year
While Jason's punk rock verses keep getting more and more exasperated about Christmas anxiety
Christmas Christmas what a stress
All the presents, all the stress
One more card and I will scream
My face is turning red and green
Almost like a bipolar mashup between two different songs, which in other words, is an ideal selection for my Christmas mix. Christmas is a lovely time of year, but it's also a stressful one, and some of us can experience both extremes over the course of a three minute song.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I thought the best way to follow a Merle Haggard song, both stylistically and alphabetically, was with a George Jones song, and had George's "I Want A New Baby For Christmas" in this #14 position, but this Isaak song supplanted it. Mainly because my mp3 of "I Want a New Baby" was 128kbps and not the greatest quality, sounding like it was ripped from a well-played 45.
"Christmas on TV" made a good substitution though. It's about the same length as "I Want A New Baby For Christmas" and sounds like something George Jones would have cut back in his heyday.
I'm watching Christmas on TV
And wishing you were here with me
Merry Christmas from one million miles away
Jimmy Stewart, he's with his friends
The bells are ringing, it's near the end
Merry Christmas from one million miles away
Strangely, I can't find a youtube of "Christmas on TV", so here's "I Want a New Baby For Christmas" by George Jones.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This is a cover of a Merle Haggard song (of course!) from a compilation I found on emusic called If I Make It Through Christmas, that has six holiday songs by Scandinavian bands. American Suitcase (Norwegian band from Oslo) transform Merle's "If I Make It Through December" into a Magnetic Fields song, without diluting its underlying theme.
I've adapted the tagline of this song "if we make it through December, we'll be fine" as my blog description for December, and those words make a near perfect encapsulation of how many of us are probably feeling at the end of this year.
Here's Merle's original version, from 1973.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wheeling and dealing and spiritual healing. In this cheap Chinese plastic Wal-Mart town. And just when I get that yuletide feeling, my Christmas tree starts falling down.
This is a great tune that fits the mix really well, and the song is streaming at his myspace page and available for download below
Bill Kelly - Here Comes Christmas
(from Songs: Illinois Style)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I've always considered the Grip Weeds to be a few steps beyond the other powerpop Beatles wannabes that sprouted in the early 90s, because they're so unapologetically Beatlesque (right down to their name) to render any complaints about their lack of originality meaningless, and they break the power-pop mold by having a chick in the band who doesn't even play bass! Like many of their contemporaries, their songs sound a bit samey over the course of an entire album, but their recent greatest "hits" compilation is pretty good from start to stop.
"Christmas, Bring Us" has been out for a couple of years, and almost made last year's Christmas mix, so it was near the top of songs I selected for this year's mix. It's a song about the hopefulness of the season in the face of all the materialism, and has lots of quotes from "It's a Wonderful Life" to boot.
Songwriter Kurt Reil said that he wanted the song to "to be good enough to measure up to our other songs and also be something you’d want to hear it even if it isn’t Christmastime." I think Kurt succeeded in the first part, and maybe even the second.
Non Xmas addendum: Mentioning those Beatles reminds me that Scott Miller's latest Beatles-heavy 1965 installment of "Music: What Happened?" has four songs that were in the top ten in the week I was born. Which was a pretty strong week for the Top Ten!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Even though I have a higher tolerance for holiday music that anyone I know, I can still count the number of single-artist Christmas albums I can listen to all the way through on one hand. Probably two or three fingers of one hand. But now there's one more finger, because Stocking Stuffer is a winner from start to end.
The Fleshtones have been around for more than thirty years, and are really good at what they do, which is hard-edged garage rock. Instead of falling back on timeworn standards like "Silent Night" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town", the 'tones break out a bunch of original rock songs, and a few well-chosen cover songs. The most well-known song on the album is probably Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph", and they also tackle "Hooray For Santa Claus" from the early 60's cult Christmas classic "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians", but the rest are pure Fleshtones goodness. And it's a winner all the way through if this is your thing. And if this isn't your thing, then may the Lord have pity on your rock and roll hating soul!
For literary accompaniment to Stocking Stuffer, I would also recommend Joe Bonomo's Sweat, a Fleshtones bio where you can almost feel the perspiration in the book's title oozing through each page. The Fleshtones haven't really made it big, but the fact that they've endured through all these years has a success all it's own.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The song comes from their album A Nice Place To Be. CD Baby's album notes describe the song as "a charming, amiable pop gem that could grace a million play-lists", and I discovered it last year on one of those million play-lists, the best of 2007 mix by the summervillain.
When I played "Snow Day" for the first time, I was sure that it was totally going on next year's Christmas mix, so I created an iTunes playlist called "Xmas08", and added this song as a seed, so it graced another play-list.
As it turns out, it doesn't really fit with the rest of the songs on the mix, but it was here first, so perhaps the rest of the songs don't fit with it? It's a happy song about a snowy day that provides a nice respite from all the sad songs about holiday depression.
Baby won’t you play hooky with me
We can sit around
Drink peppermint tea
Go outside and build a snowman
Throw some snowballs at the mailman
Baby that sounds perfect to me
And to me as well.. Go to the Fawns myspace page, give "Snow Day" a spin, and watch your holiday depression go away for the next two minutes and thirty seconds!
Monday, December 8, 2008
I have this song on Rhino's Bummed Out Christmas compilation, but it's also on the Everlys' Stories We Could Tell, the final album they released before splitting up in the early 70s.
"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" is the perfect anti-holiday song, and has to be one of the saddest Christmas songs ever. Written by Dennis Linde (who penned a few other sad songs on Stories We Could Tell), it tells the story of a lonely man trying to hitch a ride on Christmas Eve.
God forgive the man who drives right by the other man
Have pity on the stranger in the cold
'Cause Christmas Eve can kill you
When you're trying to hitch a ride to anywhere
As far as Christmas depression goes, this hits the lowest of the bottom, the "Sunday Morning Coming Down" of Christmas songs, so after this there's nowhere to go emotionally but up. I took a nice little truck driver's mood change to the next song on the mix to provide a small oasis of hopefulness in my desert of holiday despair.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This song, more than any others, capsulates the frustration with the holiday season that I was trying to capture in this compilation. It's also the only song on the mix that has bad words. Those two things seem to go hand in hand.
So I'm leaving you on Christmas day
In truth I think we never liked each other anyway
But I don't care what all the people say
I say peace and goodwill starts with getting the hell out of here alive
It's featured on the compilation It's Not Like Christmas
(and playable here).
Saturday, December 6, 2008
With this song, the title really says it all. I found out about it during the annual holiday music rundown at mistletunes.com, and was intrigued by the cover and title.
And the song itself does not disappoint. It's a singalong rant by a cranky 'ol redneck who doesn't like mistletoe, deck the halls, or noel, and wants to be dead by Christmas, dead by Christmas, dead by Christmas, or at least by New Year's Eve. To me, it sounds like what might happen if Gil Ray ever recorded a Christmas song!
Speaking of Christmas tunes by people I (we) know, there's a new holiday entry at The Doubtful Palace called "Linus and Lucifer". Guaraldi meets Gang Green (for alliteration's sake, are there any satanic death metal bands with names that start with G?). It dropped too late for my mix, but would have fit the theme perfectly.
Friday, December 5, 2008
This song turns the whole holiday letter tradition inside out, in an annual holiday letter by the Andersons, who have been banished to an asteroid by the robot council, but it still hasn't undermined their holiday cheer. Instead of paraphrasing Jonathan's lyrics, I should probably just quote them directly.
This year has been a little crazy for the Andersons
You may recall we had some trouble last year
The Robot Council had us banished to an asteroid
That hasn't undermined our holiday cheer
And we know it's almost Christmas
By the marks we make on the wall
That's our favorite time of year
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime
Where we're working in a mine
For our robot overlords
Did I say "overlords"? I meant "protectors"
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime
This weekend is the final opportunity to download my Christmas mix, so be sure to grab it while it's still available. The links are somewhere down there, and when it's gone, it's really gone!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I guess it could even be called the "title track" of the album, even though the song and album have different punctuation. I've checked the song title on the internet, and the correct title really is "O! Santa", as in capital-O, exclamation point space Santa. There are a few Christmas carols ("O Little Town of Bethlehem", "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" come to mind) that start with a single "O", which I think is an alternate for "Oh!". So this song means something like "Oh! it's Santa".
The band Chatham County Line is a folk, bluegrass ensemble that doesn't use amplification or microphones (kind of like Asylum Street Spankers), but they aren't complete bluegrass purists since their latest album was produced by Chris Stamey, and one of their first hits on youtube is this bluegrassified cover of "I Got You (I Feel Good)". And the next is a Wilco cover.
They don't have any performances of "O! Santa" on youtube, but the Oh Santa is available on emusic and amazon and all the usual places, as are all four of their albums. They're from Raleigh NC but Chatham County is in Southeast GA -- I don't know what's up with that?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I still haven't caught the buzz on experimental folk, or freak-folk, or whatever they call the Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes indie subgenre, but I have a soft spot for any band that name themselves after one of Santa's reindeer, especially if they put a Christmas song on one of their regular albums.
"Christmas is Coming Soon" is from BT's self-titled debut which came out in 2003, but was reissued a couple of years later. It's a very cool song, that references both Steve McQueen and Donkey Kong, and it's available for a limited time as a free download from amazon.com
Blitzen Trapper - Christmas Is Coming Soon
(mp3 from Music Under Fire)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I discovered this song when it was featured in a J.C. Penney ad last year, and found it by googling the lyrics. The other material by the Weepies is a little too cute and cuddly for me, but this tune is all that I want in a Christmas song.
The full moon dips its golden spoon
I wait on clip-clops, deer might fly
Why not? I met you
The Weepies also had a song in an Old Navy ad last year, so they seem to be the go-to band for commercials these days. If you're going to sell out to the man, really sell out to The Man!
Monday, December 1, 2008
It's not as inspired as that song, but just as weird, with sad lyrics spoken over an instrumental version of "White Christmas". "I'm having a depressed Christmas, just like the one I had last year. Where treetops glisten, as I listen, to the last Christmas song I'll ever hear". It goes in a similar vein for the entire duration of the instrumental "WC", but I only included the first 45 seconds on my mix.
The entire "song" is downloadable from WFMU's "Beware of the Blog", if this link is still active. But 45 seconds is more than enough to get the gist of the song.
Culturcide - Depressed Christmas ( from WFMU)