"Circle" by Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, 1988

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One of the reasons I started this list was to see what songs my brain and body and heart really went for if all the potential embarrassment went out the window.

I was a freshman in high school when Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars came out, and I was already slipping comfortably into a neo-hippie, tie-dying wearing idiom, listening to the Dead and Pink Floyd and classic rock radio. As modern bands went, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians was a pretty easy step for me. You'll recall the guitar solo from the LPs lead single, "What I Am," was essentially a Jerry Garcia homage.

Most of that LP--and this isn't my pride talking--I can take or leave nowadays, preferably leave. But "Circle," which was everyone's favorite song on that album back in the day, still sticks with me. The LP turned up again in my life as a freshman in college, when groups of us neo-hippies would sit around listening to or singing "Circle" in particular along with our Indigo Girls favorites, and I associate the song vaguely with independence and new crushes and all that sort of freshman-in-college stuff.

Also I still really like her sultry hippie voice. So sue me.

"Call Me" by Throwing Muses, 1986

Monday, January 20, 2014

I've already talked about Kristin Hersh in this series of posts. This song, from her band's eponymous debut in 1986, is a perfect representation of the band's sound in its earliest years: Dave Narcizo's nearly cymbal-less drumming pounds like Hersh's bipolar heart; Leslie Langston's driving bass lines guide the song from mountaintop to valley in spite of Hersh's angular and sort of formless guitar playing; and Hersh's voice and lyrics are haunting, complex, and mad.

"Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders, 1979

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What can you say about Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders? As far as I'm concerned, she's the first lady of rock and roll, the ultimate hard-working, ass-kicking rock vocalist and songwriter, and the only permanent member of the Pretenders. She is the Pretenders. I hear her influence in everyone from Pat Benatar to Kristin Hersh to KT Tunstall.

I might have chosen "Don't Get Me Wrong" or "Chain Gang" if I'd made this list in a different mood. In fact, Learning to Crawl and Get Close are two of my favorite LPs of all time, and any number of tracks from either record wouldn't be a huge stretch to show up on this list.

The original video for "Brass in Pocket" is a classic, and it's below, but I'm also adding a recent live performance so you can see how much ass Hynde still kicks.

"Brand New Love" by Sebadoh, 1992

Friday, January 17, 2014

[I actually thought I'd finish blogging about my top-100 songs some time in the fall. Whoops.]

I first heard this song on Tossing Seeds, the compilation of Superchunk early 7-inch and EP releases. They covered Sebadoh, as a lot of the great artists of indie rock did back in the mid 1990s. I remember my cousin saying, "Have you notice how many people cover Sebadoh?" I had not noticed. I was not a Sebadoh fan until I picked up Bakesale in 1994, and I still think of that LP as their best. (Sorry, Gaffney.)

I bought Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock years later. By then I'd heard "Brand New Love," owing to how much I'd wore down the digital grooves on my copy of Tossing Seeds, but the original Sebadoh version is an entirely different experience. It begins empty and far away, with one sad little guitar lick, and then the bass and drums that make it somehow sadder. Lou Barlow is in typical indie-emo form, his voice as emotionally low as it gets. The lyrics, too, are angry and stark, cynical and decidedly anti-love. When the snare roll and overdrive guitars come in for the chorus, with a decent pair of headphones or your speakers way up and the couch and house to yourself, the noise and melody and drone is a singular experience.

New Year

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year.

2013 was a big year, but all of it was about as personal as it comes. Some of it was awful (medical stuff; we survived), and some of it was awesome (baby girl born two days before Thanksgiving), so all in all it's a year that I can't sum up with "great" or "terrible" or even something as basic as memorable, simply because there was so much I'd like to forget. It was simply BIG.

2014 can't be as big, and that's fine. We're hoping for a basic year: a book release, a new kindergartener, a baby who will smile and walk and maybe talk--all good things, but things that won't strike us at the very marrow, that won't be life or death, that won't have us lying in bed at all hours, staring into the blackness, quiet together, wondering if the next day will bring a precipice or sturdy bridge, a guillotine or a stay of execution.

Wow, that was dramatic. I'll get back to that top-100-songs list any day now. Meanwhile here's a wish:

  --Randall Jarrell