(Early) Summer Crushes: Part III

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The final installment of our (Early) Summer Crushes series

Fun Fact: These two writers have known one another since infancy

April

(1) I’m going to be sneaky here and use music as an excuse to talk about a movie. Do you ever do a thing where you start watching a movie and it immediately begins to resonate with you in a way which causes you to cry approximately every 15 minutes for the duration of the film? If yes, then you’ll understand when I tell you this is how I felt throughout “20th Century Women.” This is a movie, made by a man, about women, in the most respectful, loving, and feminist way, that I was moved to tears and swooning simultaneously. I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll just drop some key terms; Zoe Moss, clitoral stimulation, and “I think I’m a feminist” (as said by the most adorable teenaged actor who plays the male lead role). I’m now on the fast track to wanting to do more research on Roger Neill who did all of the instrumental/incidental music for this movie (do you like how I brought things back around to musc?).

 

 

(2) I have been listening to this album/particular songs from this album every day for the past 1-2 weeks. For me, this album is a perfect example of needing to hear music at the right place and/or time. I tried to listen to it when it first came out and for some reason I found it inaccessible. When I reflect on that now it makes me want to build a time machine just so that I could go back and give myself a good shaking. Sarah Assbring is the sole member of this group. Yes, go back and read that sentence again. One woman, who is clearly a genius, is behind this music. The whole album is brilliant, and I highly recommend listening to “Endless Ways” and “Kouign-Amman.” But, someone has kindly put the entire up on YouTube, so you should just listen to the whole thing.

 

(3) Here’s how I got into Shriekback. I was on a roadtrip and we had Sirius radio. As the trip progressed my significant other and I were both in agreement that the station that played the most consistently good (or bare minimum interesting) music was “1st Wave” where for some reason all of the disc jockeys have Australian or British accents (or pretend to). Anyway, on the last day of our trip one of the djs played this song and shared that he felt it was a precursor to bands like “White Zombie.” Now, I’ve never been into “White Zombie” but I am into Shriekback. Especially after seeing this clip. If there was a class that all aspiring performers would be required to pass before first taking the stage, I feel confident that there would be content on the final exam connected to this Shriekback performance.  Also, on the recorded version, take note of the woman who sings the super high part in the background. Shriekback created some highly ambitious pop music and I dig them. Fun fact: The director Michael Mann is also a fan of this band and used their music in Miami Vice and the truly amazing movie “Manhunter.”

 

(4) I got into Nitzer Ebb vis-a-vis Shriekback. As in, I kept coming up with excuses to talk to my significant other about Shriekback whenever it seemed like it wouldn’t be too much of a conversational stretch. When that didn’t work I would just say things like, “Can I talk to you about Shriekback now?” As part of my fervor I borrowed a Goth music box set from the library (because there was a Shriekback song on one of the discs) and subsequently said, “I thought I was into goth music, but maybe not.” To which my SO replied, “I think you might actually be into industrial music.” A quick Wikipedia search later on Industrial Music and I was doing a swan dive into the world of Nitzer Ebb.

As you listen to “Join the Chant” please consider this; being that music is so much about organizing and arranging sounds, why don’t more artists work human noises (that aren’t words) into their songs? I’m pretty seriously obsessed with that yelp/cry/moan thing they do in this song and I want more of it. Also, how do you record something like this? As in, what the bejeezus are you doing in the studio to get yourself to be able to make that sound on cue in order for it be recorded? I guess these are all secret Nitzer Ebb mysteries to which I may never find an answer.

 

(5) I might be stretching the parameters of this “Summer Crush” prompt with this one for a couple of reasons. (1) I’ve been really into listening to these talks for over a year now which certainly pushes the limits of the definition of the word crush, and (2) while these talks do include some chanting (usually at the start), they aren’t really musical in nature. But, I. Don’t. Care.

My favorite speaker on this site is Ajahn Amaro because he’s so amusing/down-to-earth/relatable/smart/entertaining/insightful/calming. Thus far I pretty much only listen to the posts which feature Ajahn Amaro. I’m fairly certain I’ve listened to every one of his talks from 2016 and thus far I’m really trying to pace myself with the newly posted 2017 talks. I will leave “Kindness to Yourself” here for you, because I hope you will find it accessible (even if you aren’t a Buddhist). Before you immediately write it off as some modern day mindfulness gobbledy goop, I would encourage you to take a listen with an open mind. You might just find it helpful, in the simplest way possible.

http://www.amaravati.org/audio/kindness-to-yourself/

Kellie

Bleachers: There’s a couple of bands that are my go-to’s in the summer – you know, the ones you just have to blast in the car with the windows rolled down on the highway, driving … exactly the speed limit. Probably one of my top summer bands is Bleachers. I discovered them a couple summers ago when I was living in coastal South Carolina and had long commutes everywhere I needed to go. I think I listened to their first album nonstop for the entire summer. It checks a lot of boxes for me – it’s got a kind of nostalgic 80s feel to it, it’s anthemic and it’s real music, not this shit that passes as music these days. And their new album just dropped a couple days ago so it looks like I’ve got another summer of Bleachers blasting in the car to look forward to. 

BetaPlay: This little band makes my heart happy. It’s another of my summer go-tos. And they are coming to Virginia Beach in July with Toad the Wet Sprocket, and I am definitely going to be there. (Also, who else didn’t know that Toad the Wet Sprocket was still a thing?) 

My David Bowie coloring book: Look, I don’t know what the rules are for this Summer Crush list, but I feel like my newly acquired Bowie coloring book has to be on it. There are no rules in rock ’n’ roll anyway, right? My aunt sent me this coloring book, and it’s everything. Not only does it have iconic Bowie pictures to color, but it also includes a bunch of facts and stories. And I can use my David Bowie calendar to make sure I’m coloring all of his outfits correctly (because coloring Bowie all willy-nilly seems sacrilegious somehow).

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Graveyard Whistling: The Old 97’s (I wrote about them once, remember?) put out a new album a couple months ago, and once again, they have not let me down. Of particular note, the song “She Hates Everybody.” A misanthrope love song? Be still, my beating heart. 

The Handmaid’s Tale: OK, OK, it’s not exactly music-centric, but this show uses music in the best way possible. I don’t know who’s scoring this thing, but it’s fantastic. There’s not a ton of music, but that’s why the musical moments really resonate. And the music really says something about the characters and also serve as a reminder that at one time these characters had normal lives just like us and they listened to normal music just like us. (New episodes Wednesdays on Hulu – you need to be watching this).

Our writer’s (Early) Summer Crushes Part II

A continuation of last week’s post.

Things we’re crushing on at the start of summer 2017.

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Matt

Donna Summer – Romeo (Live) – This performance must be part of the argument for why Donna Summer is in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.  Holy shit!  Wait for it to kick in after the malt shop intro.  Hopefully this backing band was at least invited to the Rn’R Hall of Fame dinner…

 

I used to think that Iggy Pop was gaming David Bowie.  I’m beginning to accept that it was likely the other way around. 

 

Released in 1987. You could release this song today and it would make 40 year old men with Trans Am CD collections wet across the globe.

 

Midnight Oil – Read About It – Live 1985 – So, Peter Garrett is basically an Australian Freddie Mercury fueled by social justice!  Resist!

 

Sometimes life is tough.  Sometimes we find ourselves alone and heading into battle with only one song to spark a sense of hope and reassurance.  For me, this has been one of those songs in recent months.

 

Dan B

  1. Music for the Boys-The Suburbs

2. Them Changes-Thundercat

3. Candy-O-The Cars

4. Girl U Want-(Devo cover) by Soundgarden

5. Rockit-Herbie Hancock

Some of our writers reveal their (Early) Summer Crushes

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Summer is a time for falling in love (or so we’ve been told via music, movies, and books). Here at LL2RNR we like to be proactive, and so we’re prepping early for summer love by compiling some lists of our writer’s Top 5 (Early) Summer Crushes. This is Part 1 of a 2, or (if we’re really lucky) 3 part series.

Please enjoy!

NICOLE

“Under the Sound of Rain” by Sinn Sisamouth: I first saw the excellent documentary film Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n Roll last winter, but this song is particularly suited to late spring in New York. Whether it’s an all-day soaking that covers the streets in fallen flower petals, or a warm night fog that blurs the tops of the buildings, the precipitation pairs perfectly with these languid saxophones and soft, heartsick vocals. It’s the blues, but a particularly luxurious variety thereof.

“Ring the Alarm” by Tenor Saw: When I was little, summertime meant long trips in the back of my mom’s car. The music varied, but quite often, it was one of her Bob Marley albums—Survival, Uprising, or one of the greatest-hits collections. So, inevitably, a link formed in my mind between reggae music and warm weather. Lately, this song has taken up serious residence my head. That gorgeous, rich voice, the slinky, slightly haunting melody, and the undeniable beat are just begging for hot nights, cold drinks, and serious dancing.

“Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen: This one taps into a whole range of teen-girl fantasies. It’s the kind of thing you blast in your best friend’s car on the way to Dairy Queen, when it stays light until ten o’clock. Or maybe it comes on at a party and you dance in the corner, trying to catch the eye of any cute boy who might be watching, but also sort of hoping that nobody’s watching, because you’re not sure you’re ready to actually be kissed like that yet. It’s walking around the mall, chewing sour bubble-gum as ostentatiously as possible. As for what this has to do with me, well… I never did any of that stuff in high school, but when I listen to this song, I can imagine what it would have felt like if I had.

“On Lankershim” by Foxygen: From its opening lines, which echo Gram Parsons’ “Return of the Grievous Angel”, to its swooning, Hollywood-tragic finale, this song taps into the kind of mythic Americana that I will probably always be drawn to. Dreams of neon and cacti and the glow of gas stations, of hanging around scrubby bars with friends after a gig, trying to stay sober enough to beat the boys at pool… I mean, look, it’s an old story that’s been told in countless ways, but right now, this song is telling it the way I want to hear it.

“U.S. Gay” by Sons of An Illustrious Father: This was written in response to last year’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, but given the state of things, it’s an anthem we’re going to need for a while. This song, and the accompanying video, makes the crucial point that for some of us, celebrating who we truly are is a radical act in the current climate. So let’s do it—fight back the darkness with love and glitter and loud music. They’ll never know what hit them.

 


ANDREW
(“So my Summer Top 5 are my go-to albums for summer activities.”)

FIRST ALBUM OF THE SUMMER
Funny Farm by King Kong

We all have that one album we reach for to acknowledge that summer is finally here. For me, it is the second album by King Kong. This one tackles tough topics like farm life, tornadoes, being stranded in the desert or even on a desert island. It also includes a pretty sweet cover of Laid Back’s “White Horse.”

COMMUTING TO WORK
Whammy by the B-52s

Traffic sucks. This album doesn’t. I pretty much ignored this one until recently which is my loss as it’s great. Analog Drum machines, angular guitars, dancehouse horns, and B-52 pop hooks.

CUTTING THE GRASS
Danzig by Danzig

Maybe it’s kind of a “I fought the lawn and Danzig won!” anthem or maybe it’s Rick Rubin’s production that cuts through the sound of the lawnmower. Whatever it is, it gets the job done. Every time.

RUNNING/EXERCISING
Phantom of Liberty by Camera

This album gets me going. It’s got all the stuff I love about Neu!-inspired krautrock with fuller production and less of the trying passages. Driving “Motorik” drum beats, repeative riffs, and no fussy singing to get in the way.

DRIVING AT NIGHT
Lifestyles of the Laptop Café by The Other People Place

This is album is best enjoyed on a long road trip in the middle of a humid night with the windows down. 808 + 88° = night rider.


CHRISTINE

  1. A Seat at the Table by Solange
  2. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
  3. This song and video >>>>>
  4. “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan
  5. Wilco performance at Beacon Theater, NYC on March 18. My mind keeps returning. March is always a tough month. Cold, wet, rain, snow, gray plus an overwhelming desire to see some sun and foliage asap. The set was beautiful and immediately put my mind at ease. Went with a good friend and we agreed that it was the antidote to everything that is terrible right now (surely you know what I’m talking about). It also shined a light on everything that’s lovely (having a child is perhaps top of that list). Jeff Tweedy said it well that night: “Save your pessimism for better times.”

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    My real life photo. Not bad for a crowd shot.

Life Changing Events in LL2RNR History

April

If there was a sport that consisted of humans versus cassette decks, and I was a world famous competitor in said sport, the fans would fondly refer to me as, The Destroyer. You remember your most favorite stuffed animal or blankie? Remember how you slept with it, carried it everywhere, dropped it on the ground, dragged it around the house, and loved it until it lost it’s shape, some eyes (if it had eyes) and the stitching came apart? That’s how I was….but with cassette decks. Ok, ok, I didn’t sleep with them or take them everywhere with me. But, I did love them. In fact, I loved them so hard that as a child I earned a reputation in my family. A bad reputation. For breaking them. Repeatedly. In my defense I now am aware that my family has always had, and still has, a tendency to be cheap. If something is marked down or on sale it must be a deal, right? In my defense I would like to propose a high probability that the cassette decks that were gifted to me were already not the most durable or quality items in the first place.

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I used the portable cassette decks in our household both like a tool and a toy. This was the height of the cassette tape’s reign, the glorious 1980s. It was truly an amazing amazing thing to have the capability, the easy and unlimited access, to record sound independently anytime, anyplace, whenever and however you wanted. I distinctly remember hiding under the dining room table and recording my grandmother and mother talking. Later when I did the big reveal and played it back for them I remember that my grandmother was shocked. “Is that me?” she said, “Is that what my voice sounds like?” Yes, Grammy, that is what you sound like…behold the power of the cassette! In addition to spying on unsuspecting family members I also (like many other people at the time) would “tape” songs off of the radio. These recordings would often come out sounding warbly and watery as if they had passed through some type of psychedelic funnel but it didn’t matter. They were now my songs. I could play them back whenever and as often as I wanted.

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The majority of the “taping” I did occurred during some point in my elementary school life (I’m fuzzy on what grade I would have been in at the time) when I developed a consistent routine of coming home after school, pulling out a few very specific stuffed animals from my ever evolving collection, and recording stories of my own creation onto tape. I used different voices. I used different stuffed animals. I would sing. Sometimes, actually more like often, the stories had a moral lesson. Be nicer to other people. Don’t exclude people. It hurts to be picked on or teased. I was simultaneously working out what I was seeing and experiencing at school and making sure that the stories ended as I thought they should. Friendship and kindness always triumphed. Bullies went down in flames. I was making art but I didn’t know it. I was having fun but I also had some vague concept that this was important work. I vividly remember needing multiple reminders from my Mom to come downstairs for dinner because I was too busy working on a particular story. There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of recording and suddenly there is another voice on the tape that should NOT be there, “Are you coming downstairs?” Argh! Rewind. Play. Stop the tape at the exact right spot so that you can start over and pick back up where you left off before the interruption.

I’m not exactly sure what it was that I was doing that resulted in so many broken cassette decks other than using them. And, well, okay, sometimes I would push different buttons simultaneously just to see what would happen. But, who didn’t want to do that just to find out what would happen? I didn’t mean to break those machines. They were magical, fun, and helpful. It was the cassette that allowed me the ability to record my perceptions of the world and rework them into an alternate reality that made more sense to me. Cassettes also allowed me to showcase my creative abilities. I could play my stories for my family, friends, and also could listen to them myself. I could save the “good” ones and erase or re-record the “bad” ones. For those of us who aren’t always that good at talking about how we feel or explaining ourselves to others sometimes a tool is needed. For my elementary aged self, that tool was the cassette.

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Angela

If I never received that clock radio for my 11th birthday in 1995, I may be a totally different person today. Though my dad would play his own cool records (Bowie, The Police), my very own radio allowed me to listen to almost whatever I wanted. Without that clock radio, I may have never discovered The Smiths on the Saturday morning “Prehistoric X” show on Pittsburgh’s 105.9. I may never have known U2 was coming through town on their 2001 Elevation tour, thus missing my first concert. I never would have annoyed my mom to bits while blasting The Four Non Blondes’ “What’s Going On?” I certainly never would have woke up on time for school without the alarm jerking me awake with whatever was on the radio at that very moment. I can’t think of the last time I willingly listened to the radio, but it’s all many of us had once upon a time. Maybe I didn’t have as much a choice in what I listened to on the radio as I thought, with record companies and media giants throwing their weight around over the airwaves, but I innocently believed I did. I let in what spoke to me most, and without that clock radio, I’d have missed out on something big.

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My vinyl copy of Tigermilk by Belle and Sebastian is dear to me, but the intangible mp3 on my first-generation iPod got the hell played out of it. MP3 players may not be as cool or impactful as vinyl, but they can go everywhere with you. During the summer of 2005, I rode buses from my parents’ home in the suburbs to downtown for work. Two hours round-trip, I used the time to contemplate job plans, relationship dreams, living situations, and life in general to the sad soundtrack of Tigermilk thanks to my first-generation iPod. It was bigger than a deck of cards and heavy as a brick, but revolutionary. I could go from being moody to moodier or moody to happy over the course of a bus ride thanks to being able to carry my favorite music with me all over Allegheny county. No doubt there’s something magical about holing up in your bedroom with a pile of records, but there’s something differently beautiful about carrying your favorite music in a handheld device all over the world.

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Best Search Terms from 2016

First things first, this blog relies on people willing to spill their hearts and guts into letters (that are then posted on the internet).

That being said, if you are reading this post right now you should seriously be considering writing a letter or a Flashback Fives (a.k.a. FF). Go. to. Submissions!

In the meantime, while you begin crafting said letters or FF, here is a list of our favorite search terms people used to find our blog (interestingly enough, WordPress gives blog owners access to such fascinating information).

See if you can figure out which letter or post matches to the search term. It’s fun!

2016 Search Terms

“tall blonde singer with john prine”

“damon albarn + sneering”

“letter to a friend for green day”

“broken heart letter”

“naught love letter”

“hard nails by vj jingo”

“so many people in uk with droopy eyes paul mccartney”

and last, but not least

l doo wop my hope this summer girl our love your ring on my chain”

Things We Love (Still Celebrating Our 1 year Anniversary)

You love music. But what do you really, really love about music?

I have a sound in my head.

If you want to be highfalutin’, you could say it’s an audio equivalent of Plato’s Forms, an abstract ideal that represents the perfect sound, beyond human realization, just outside our mortal ability to craft and replicate in this mundane real world. If you prefer to remain grounded to the planet we inhabit, you can call this sound a mere (?!) joyous reflection of every song I’ve ever heard, every tune I’ve ever loved, and every fantasy I’ve ever entertained of the promise of pop music.

But it’s neither. It’s an AM radio, tuned to an imaginary station that never existed. It’s as real as dreams, as corporeal as passion, and as timeless as memory, experience, grace, hope, ambition, disappointment, and love. It kinda sounds like The Beatles in 1965. Also James Brown. The Ramones. The Bay City Rollers. Otis Redding. Chuck Berry. The Everly Brothers. The Sex Pistols. Paul Revere & the Raiders. Prince. The Go-Go’s. The Isley Brothers playing “Summer Breeze.” KISS singing “Shout It Out Loud.” The Monkees being The Monkees. The Flashcubes. God, The Flashcubes!

What do I really, really love about music?

Everything.

I can’t narrow it down more than that. I love the way music makes me feel, even when the feeling is melancholy, like how The Kinks’ “Days” reminds me that I recited the lyrics of that song at my Dad’s funeral, or when some random tune recalls past betrayals, lies, or heartbreak. Lyrics. Hooks. Harmonies. The drum, the bass, the guitars. “It’s My Life” by The Animals blows me away every time I hear it, its self-assured wall of melody unerringly prompting me to marvel at the precise, perfect placement of each note, each lick. Everything in its place. “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa.” “On Broadway.” Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.” Bowie’s “Life On Mars?” “God Only Knows,” and the entirety of Pet Sounds.  “In The Midnight Hour.” “Laugh, Laugh.” “Freedom” by Wham!, ferchrissakes. “I Only Want To Be With You.” “I Wanna Be With You.” “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”

On my blog, I have an ongoing series called The Greatest Record Ever Made. Notice the singular rather than the plural “records;” an infinite number of records can be The Greatest Record Ever Made, as long as they take turns. (“September Gurls.”) You live your life within each song as it plays. (“The Tears Of A Clown.”) Your faith is fully invested, without reservation, and your belief is rewarded with each never-ending spin. (“Kick Out The Jams,” muthas and bruthas.) The allegiance is eternal, immortal…at least, until the next song plays.

Do you believe in magic? I do. And that means I’m unable—unwilling—to dissect music’s appeal. That would be like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll. Well, actually, I’m eager to do that. But my discourse will retain its reverence, its delight, its wonder, its awe. My cranial transistor is tuned to Sly Stone, Alice Cooper, Suzi Quatro, Rotary Connection, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, The Shangri-Las, P.P. Arnold, The Smithereens, The Four Tops, and to a bunch of singers and groups I haven’t even heard yet. But I will. I’ll hear ’em all. What do I really, really love about music? My God, what is there not to love? And how would we even know how to love if we didn’t have it?

The beat’s cool, too. I do dig the beat.

Carl

Our Writers Chose Their Top 5 Songs of 2016 (Part 2)

MELISSA

“Me and Your Mama”
Childish Gambino
A perfect blend of soul, funk and psych. I can’t remember when a single hit me as hard as this one.

“Ages of You”
R.E.M.
I spent a lot of time this year watching old R.E.M. videos on YouTube. In one from 1982 in Raleigh, they did this B-side, and I was instantly smitten. It was collected on Dead Letter Office, though I couldn’t find my copy—thankfully, it was reissued this summer.

“Mad”
Solange
Picking my favorite song off A Seat at the Table was nearly impossible, but “Mad” has such an amazing groove and that Lil Wayne verse: “And when I attempted suicide, I didn’t die/I remember how mad I was on that day.”

“Here Comes the Night”
The Beach Boys
I got really into Wild Honey last year, and this spring, my husband found me a pristine used LP copy. I usually start with side 2 so I can hear “Darlin'” and this song—sometimes I don’t even make it to side 1.

“Dorothy”
Kevin Morby
This ode to Morby’s guitar was a consistent source of joy all year, once I got over the shock of falling for a new guitar-based rock song sung by a dude.


WYETH

“The New World”
X
A song from 1983 that sums up 2016. X capture the feeling of having years of slow social progress and a growing sense of empathy toward marginal voices smashed flat by a comically oversized jackboot, with shoutouts to the dying auto industry along the way.

“Desirée”
Blood Orange
Dev Hynes has shown himself to be an artist committed to the projection of marginal voices, and Freetown Sound was one of my go-to listening choices this year. The dusty bass and electric piano groove of this track struck me from the outset.

“Shakedown Street”
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
This Dead cover (from the massive Day of the Dead comp) replaces the paranoia and darkness of the original with a chaotic, lustful bounce that happily reminds me of the Purple One at his most giddy. A pick-me-up without the sugar crash.

“Let’s Relate”
Of Montreal
Though Kevin Barnes’ emotional firebombing of those close to him has become difficult to stomach, this track shows a gentleness and sweetness towards a new object of affection in simple terms – “I already like you, I like that you like you, I think that you’re great, let’s relate.”

“Tonight”
Sibylle Baier
A devastatingly simple acoustic track that transitions from dark to light in the course of a brief interaction between two lovers, where the interior world of thought is affected by the exterior world of touch. This track evokes the feeling of sanctuary that my own home has attained this year with my significant other; while uncertainty and chaos roils outside, there is a peace of mind and body in our little shared space that comes directly from the presence of the other person.


NICOLE

“Where Are We Now?”
David Bowie
When I found out that David Bowie had died, it seemed impossible. He wasn’t just a musician. He was a comet flaring through the culture, altering whatever he touched. I had that Tuesday off, so I decided to treat myself to breakfast at a diner near Washington Square. As I sat watching the traffic on Sixth Avenue, this song came into my head. To me, it’s always seemed like a song of making peace, of looking around at one’s life and realizing ‘I’ve got a good thing going here’. “As long as there’s sun… as long as there’s rain… as long as there’s fire… as long as there’s me…. as long as there’s you.” And I felt like his spirit was there, in the spike of the Empire State Building against the bright sky, in the hum of the subway and the crystalline wind.

“Wild Imagination”
Kurt Vile
When I first listened to this album, this song didn’t make much of an impression. But I kept the album in heavy rotation through the winter, and the whole thing grew on me—I realized that every song had layers of meaning under that laid-back façade. At the end of April, everything changed. My friend Dan, a fine musician in his own right, died just six months before his twenty-sixth birthday. The fact of his death hit me like a brick wall. How could I get around, or through, or over? “I’m looking at you/ but it’s only a picture/ so I take that back…” People had posted hundreds of pictures of him, clowning around on stage and off. What hurts are the pictures I didn’t take—like the one of him walking up outside the bar on 67th Street a week after I got back to the city, in his Harry Nilsson shirt, looking at me like I was the best thing he’d ever seen. For a while, this song was all I could stand to hear. It’s full of longing, but it, too, has a sense of peace about it—a chapter has closed, but the world hasn’t ended.

“Left of the Dial”
The Replacements
Having already written about this song and its role in my friendship with Dan, I don’t feel the need to add much more. But that piece brought me a lot of kindness, from people who knew Dan and some who never met him, so I’m grateful for that.

“You Ain’t That Young Kid”
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
This was one of the only new albums I bought this year. Again, I feel like I’m only starting to appreciate its complexity, but from the first time I listened to it, this song stood out as the heart. Like the others on this list, it’s a meditation on change, loss, growing older. I turned twenty-five this year. I have a full-time job, and some grey hairs coming in. I’ve been through a lot. So when Leithauser croons about “some way-too-long road with some way-too-young folks,” I think I know what he means.

“My Zero”
Ezra Furman
This song would be one of my favorites in any year; it has a timeless quality to it, as if I’d always known it. But in this year of so much doubt and disappointment, it’s been an anchor. We all need a ‘zero’—a place (or person), for our hearts to rest on—as our minds and bodies take on this business of living.


EZRA

“Love and Mercy”
Brian Wilson

“I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good”
Nina Simone

“The Diaz Brothers”
The Mountain Goats

“This is Magic”
Majical Cloudz

“You’re So Fine”
The Falcons


ANGELA

When asked what positive experiences I had in this notably sucky year, I thought of the big goal I accomplished with the help of music—finishing my second marathon. Getting lost in a meditative-like reverie when running with music is why I do it. These five songs are now wedded to specific, memorable moments I experienced over those hundreds of miles.

“Birdhouse in Your Soul”
They Might Be Giants
TMBG is hard for me to avoid as I’m married to a fan. In trying to gain an appreciation for them, I added some of their songs to my running playlist. Only one failed to annoy me (no offense) while I got caught in rainstorm while running a winding path through a rolling meadow with humming powerlines zig-zagging above. It was pretty dreamy, and with this song’s steady beat and seeming to go on a little too long, I felt like I was floating.

“Dot Dash”
Wire
was a band I discovered with my college friend Dana the summer we shared an apartment. At this time, I hadn’t talked to Dana in two years. In December 2016, though, we randomly reconnected, finding that we’ve both been dealing with similar crap and having the same 30-some year old realizations, but mostly just talking about anything and everything—just like we did ten years prior over a bootleg Wire cassette tape.

“Spanish Bombs”
The Clash
Between miles 17 and 20 of the actual marathon, I was super cranky. I was so sick of running. I seriously thought about quitting. Knowing I’d hate myself if I did, I forced myself to get into a better groove. This old favorite came on shuffle, and I sang along aloud. Especially the parts in Spanish. I channeled Joe Strummer, who ran the Paris marathon, I dug deep, and I laughed out loud at myself.

“Life on Mars?”
David Bowie
In the fallout of one of the many depressing news stories of the year, I chugged along my typical route on a long Sunday run. The neighborhood cat I usually stop to pet wasn’t around. I worried that my niece will grow up miserably in a terrible world. Perfectly timed, one of Ziggy Stardust’s magical songs came on. But, instead of feeling eased, I sobbed. I didn’t stop to catch my breath and wipe my face. I didn’t care if anyone saw me. I just let myself be in that moment with Bowie and thinking, “I really fucking hope there’s life on Mars.”

“Gypsy”
Fleetwood Mac
Alone, I chugged along a wooded trail at dusk. I was a little paranoid, hoping a mugger (or worse) wouldn’t surprise me. After tracing a sharp curve, I came upon a doe gracefully leaping into the brush to my right. On my left, two fawn spied me from behind thorny brambles. Stevie Nicks blasted in my earbuds, “I have no fear. I have only love.”


CARL

The frustration and heartache of this trying year cast a long shadow over the music I played. These are the five tracks which stand out in my mind as the songs I listened to the most often in 2016. One is an actual new 2016 release, three reflect a few of the many losses felt by the pop world this year, and one is just a perennial, much needed blast of transcendent rock ‘n’ roll brilliance. In no real order:

“Birth Of An Accidental Hipster”
The Monkees
One of a number of tracks I could have selected from The Monkees’ superlative 2016 album Good Times! It could just as easily have been “Me & Magdalena” or “You Bring The Summer.” Far and away my favorite album of the year.

“Life On Mars?”
David Bowie
2016 wasn’t even two weeks old when we lost Bowie, and we should’ve taken that as a sign to return the damned year to sender, postage due. Bowie’s passing affected me a lot more than I ever would have imagined, and I started my own blog because I needed a place to vent. I have several favorite Bowie songs—”Rebel Rebel,””Suffragette City,””Panic In Detroit,” and “Heroes” come to mind—but “Life On Mars?” was the one I kept coming back to, over and over, in search of…catharsis. I guess.

“Your Own World”
1.4.5.
1.4.5. was an offshoot of The Flashcubes, my all-time favorite power pop band. Piloted by ‘Cubes guitarist Paul Armstrong, 1.4.5. has encompassed many varying lineups; this track is from the 1987 album Rhythm n’ Booze, and it features the late Norm Mattice on lead vocals. Mattice’s passing was the 2016 death that felt like the biggest, most vicious single punch to the gut. He was one of our own, a Central New York talent who should have been a star, and not a homeless man who died of exposure, all alone, unable to find shelter from the cold Syracuse night. He had friends and family willing—eager—to help him, but it was of no avail. Nothing was. Nothing could be.

“I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”
Prince
We’d been playing Prince’s “When Doves Cry” on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl a bit throughout the first few months of 2016, and I betcha it would have made our year-end countdown even if Prince had remained one of our greatest living rock stars into 2017. His death in April sealed the case for this year’s ongoing infamy. “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” was never a song I thought much about before—if I were going to play Prince, I’d be more likely to go with “When Doves Cry” or “When You Were Mine”—but a request for the song from TIRnRR listener Joel Tinnel prompted us to play it on the show the week after Prince died. And it just clicked with me, suddenly but unerringly. I’ve been playing it ever since.

“You Really Got Me”
The Kinks
Always. Especially in a year like this one, a year which has demanded more from us than we’ve felt capable of giving. Turn it up. And I say we attack 2017 before it attacks us.


CHRISTINE

“Cold Cafe”
Karen Marks
Basic and beautiful. Basically beautiful.

“Paraphrased”
Parquet Courts
Riffs, anger and wit.

“Mood”
Porches
It’s a challenge to find songs that satisfy the three distinct musical tastes in my household, which include those of a 17-month-old child. The entire Porches album Pool manages to get us all, and this song in particular is a standout.

“Am I Wrong”
Anderson.Paak
Big ol slice o feel good.

“Buzzin’ Fly”
Tim Buckley
I could curl up in a ball and fall asleep with it around me. Goodnight, 2016.