Five Christmas Songs you probably don’t have in your collection, but should

The wonderful Poprocket podcast did a holiday episode recently that got me wanting to recommend some of my favorite Christmas tunes.  So here’s a list of five songs that need to be in your collection (if you listen to Christmas music, that is.)

1.”Nuttin’ for Christmas” by Sugarland. This countrified version of the classic novelty song is wonderful, and captures the impish spirit of the original without being so annoying.

2. “Carolina Christmas” by Squirrel Nut Zippers. A jazzy swing song about Christmas in the South. I love the swoopy voice of the lead singer, and the stand-up bass makes this song amazing.  Plus this line: “It’s Christmas in Carolina / It’s Christmas all over the place.”

3. “Christmas Christmas” by Mojo Nixon. This is one of Finn’s favorites, and the Louie Louie riff makes for a real party song with a groovy, trashy vibe.  Slightly adult themes.

4. “Carol of the Bells” by Straight No Chaser. Perhaps my only serious and touching song on this list — the a capella group’s arrangement of this song is great.

5. Last, my favorite part of the Muppets, the chaotic and wide-grinned Dr. Teeth sings “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” Like the Sugarland track I mentioned at the beginning, it’s a wondrous capture of the sense and spirit the holiday gives me.

Two honorable mentions: I absolutely love the Voicedude mash-up “Here Comes Santa Claus in Black” and the They Might Be Giants song “Santa’s Beard,” but this wouldn’t be a list of five songs if I included seven.  The last is “Here Comes Santa Claus In Black” by voicedude. I don’t know where you can get this last one, alas.


May music roundup

It’s been a good month, music-wise.  The albums I listened to were all pretty good, with a variety of styles that kept me on my toes.  Here they are:


  • Great Big Sea, Play – This album was an instant hit for me, as it is the album GBS was touring for when they recorded their amazing live album Road Rage.  It’s cool to hear the studio versions of these songs I know so well.  On top of that, I got to know some songs that weren’t on the live show setlist, especially “Seagulls” and “Recruiting Sargeant,” the latter of which is a depressing tale of hundreds of young men who went to World War 1 and didn’t come back.  “Beggar Dude” is a weird last song that turns on a repeated refrain of “do dah dah.”
  • The Soul of John Black, A Sunshine State of Mind  – A nice mix of soul and blues sounds with a contemporary feel, I like this album quite a bit.  The more bouncy tunes like “Johnny Bear (Give It To Me)”, “Shake it Off”, and “Lemon Tree” are joyous looks at the world, while the smoother songs like “Beautiful Day”, “Lenny Love Cha Cha”, and “Summertime Thang” are fine love songs.  My favorite, though, is “Magic Woman,” which lands at the venn diagram in the middle of the songs on this album.  Very enjoyable.
  • Don Giovanni Records Sampler – A mix of songs from this publisher.  Lots of straightforward alt rock that didn’t do a lot for me. There are a couple standouts like “Swan Dive” from Waxahatchee (which is more of a meditative ballad) and “Old Friends” by Noun.  I’d also point to “Switched On” from Stormshadow as a miss, for me.
  • Pete Seeger – four songs. All pretty much standard fare, though “Souix Indians” sure didn’t age well.  Yeesh.
  • Garfunkel and Oates, three songs from Slippery When Moist – “Google” is a funny take on online dating, and “Go” is a longer version of their show’s theme song.  I like the re-take of “I Would Never” shifted into the realm of science class too.

DanC Best 2014 – Every year, my friend Dan sends out a compilation of the music he’s been listening to.  It always takes me a while to get it into the mix, but it’s a delight once I do.  Here are a few favorites

  • “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift – The woman knows how to write a catchy song.  It’s good.
  • “Rattle My Bones” by The Secret Sisters – good harmonies, good rhythm.  A little close to modern country for my taste, but on the right side of that divide.
  • “Home” by Dolly Parton – I like this song a lot.  A good tune to put on a “feeling bummed, want to feel better” playlist.  Parton talked about this song in her interview with Jesse Thorn on Bullseye, so it’s fun to hear it in full.
  • “The Trailer Song” by Kacey Musgroves – full-blown country, but damn funny.

and a few songs that didn’t work for me.  These are songs that grated on me every time.  I really didn’t like:

  • Suzanne Vega, “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” – two moments (one singular, one repeated) drive me nuts in this song: the mention of Macklemore wanting to “pop some tags” and Vega’s urging that you have to go on stage because “page or the stage is the cage for that tiger rage that you feel.” Like fingernails on a board.
  • RuPaul, “Sissy That Walk” – This is a catchy song, with good humor (his voice pops in from the side at :16 to scoff “bitch!”) and a nice message.  I like it as I listen until it gets to the chorus.  Right after RuPaul says “Now Sissy That Walk,” there’s this weird break with an electronic beeping sound and this weird pattern.  AWFUL.
  • Toni Braxton, “Sweat” – I just find this song annoying.

Anyhow, it’s always great to have another DanC compilation to listen to.

April Music Roundup

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.  This month, my ‘reviews’ of the albums tell you almost nothing about them.  Enjoy.


  • four songs from Syl Johnson, Complete Mythology.  I didn’t know Syl Johnson until I heard about him on Bullseye, and he’s a great member of the classic soul music movement.  I downloaded four songs, with the idea of getting his “Complete Mythology” collection bit-by-bit from emusic over the next couple months.  Alas, now it’s gone, so until I pony up somewhere else, I’m stuck with only these four classics: “Falling in Love Again,” “Different Strokes,” “Dresses Too Short,” and “Is It Because I’m Black.”  The last song carries particular resonance these days, but all four are great.
  • Silent Majority, Based on a True Story.  This kind of late 1990s growly punky music is the sort that I would have scrunched my face up at when I heard the deejay before me playing it at our college radio station.  (For the record, I would have followed his punk set with Bob Dylan, modern folkies like Ani DiFranco, and a bunch of They Might Be Giants.  His set was probably more popular.)    I came upon this group when one of my podcasts featured someone talking about “Knew Song,” which I like very much.  It’s a lighter, more melodic one, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Overall, doesn’t do much for me, but it does make me think of Perry Lamson.  (There’s a deep cut for you UF readers.)
  • Fat Cat Records Winter Sampler 2013. These samplers are, obviously, a mixed bag.  The only song I liked enough to mention here is “Edward the Confessor” by Breton, which sounds like a missing track from a Killers album.
  • Pete Seeger, Spike Jones, and Garfunkel and Oates — I’m almost out of these songs, so I’ll only be mentioning them a few times more.  “Ox Driver’s Song” from Pete Seeger is pretty good, and “My Apartment’s Very Clean Without You” is a surprisingly heartfelt and sad song from G&O.

Other sources:

  • The Script, No Sound Without Silence – A gift for Avery from her grandpa, I put it in my music queue too.  I imagine this will be harder to do as her tastes tend toward whatever tween girls are listening to.  That said, The Script is decent light radio music — something that you’d hear between Maroon 5 and the latest Kelly Clarkson son.  “The Energy Never Dies” is pretty good; “Never Seen Anything ‘Quite Like You’ ” tonight is pretty great, though I found myself imagining it as a song being sung by a Lovecraftian cultist to a lugubrious half-human monster.  In their better moments, it seems like they could reach toward Mumford and Sons or toward Great Big Sea, but they aren’t as good as either of those bands.
  • Wu-Tang Clan, A Better Tomorrow – The guys from ReplyAll like Wu-Tang, and I have been feeling like the absolute gap in my music knowledge that is ALL OF HIP HOP is a glaring problem, so while I plan to make a more orderly entree into the genre, I also just picked up an album I could get easily and cheaply.  “Mistaken Identity” resonated significantly with recent highly public police killings; I really like the sample on which “Keep Watch” is built; “Preacher’s Daughter” is an interesting take on the classic “Son of a Preacher man” that still holds with the idea of the titular character being, well, experienced. But the song I kept returning to most was “Necklace,” which seems to be a meditation on the nature of fame and status, and has both a great sample from an old timey movie and excellent use of the vibraslap.  (Also, it gave me the motivation to look up the name of the Vibraslap.)

NOTE: Wu-Tang song is NSFW.

March music roundup: Raconteurs, Bhi Bhiman, Tally Hall

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.

Emusic albums:

  • Bhi Bhiman, Bhiman – Bhi Bhiman continues to impress.  This is the second full-length album of his that I’ve gotten and it’s great.  It opens with “Guttersnipe,”a swelling paean to a difficult childhood and the potential he’s moving toward, moves into the bouncy “Time Heals” and “Crime of Passion,” the latter seeming entirely too happy for the dark nature of the song.  I really like “The Kimchee Line” despite the fact that I don’t really know what the song is about.  “Life’s Been Better” wraps up the album with a great little story song.  All around, great.
  • Tally Hall, Good & Evil – This album was slippery on my attention — I almost never noticed it playing during the month.  It doesn’t have quite the same quirkiness that Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum did.  A couple of the songs are pretty memorable, though, including “Cannibal,” a song about masochistically staying in bad relationships, and “Turn The Lights Off,” which channels TMBG pretty well.
  • ATO Records Spring Sampler 2013 – As a sampler, I’ll just mention the songs that I really liked. “Youth Wasted” (from Joby Ford, Jorma Vik, Ken Horne, Brad Magers) for its early 00s rock-pop sound and “Jah is Listening Now” by Jacob Hemphill has a great folksy sound

Emusic parts of albums

  • Pete Seeger, a few songs – “Summertime,” sapping all the hope out of the Gershwin tune, “Talking Blues” a great story song that fills in some of the history I needed to understand Bob Dylan’s music (put “Talking Blues” next to Dylan’s  ).  I haven’t got much to say about “Lolly Too Dum” or “St. James Infirmary.”
  • Garfunkel and Oates, selected songs from Slippery When Moist.  “Save the Rich” is a blistering song, a bit outside their usual goofy fare; “Hey Girl in the Moonlight” is the kind of autobiographical song we’ve come to expect from this pair.  The joke about how well he plays guitar is spot on.
  • Spike Jones, selected songs. These are the last of the Spike Jones songs.  More jokes about the military and how dumb women are.  Sigh.

Other albums

  • The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers – Anything with Jack White in it is pretty dang reliable.  “Steady, As She Goes” is a great bluesy rock invocation of the Kinks, “Together” has an altogether softer sound, with the keyboard giving it a hint of 1970s, and “Yellow Sun”  comes from a similar vein.

Other songs

  • I downloaded the Professor Elemental song “Get High,” which was made/released in conjunction with the card game.  I love Elemental, and this is no slouch of a song.
  • Another kickstarter prize, “Villainy Affiliated, LLC Corporate Anthem” is Jonathan Coulton’s paean to evil villains and their cubicle drones.

Also, it makes me really happy that he has a little girl (I presume his daughter?) dancing next to him, like “Bosstone” Ben Carr, the dancing dude who tours with Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

February Music roundup

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.

Spider Blues - Spider John Koerner The Hands That Thieve - Streetlight Manifesto Lakeville - Amy Correia Oh, What a Life - American Authors

Emusic albums:

  • Amy Correia, Lakeville – Correia has a soulful style with bluesy, sad music.  Some of her songs sound like they’d work perfectly at a piano in a smoky bar.  It’s a bit like Tori Amos if she cared to try the blues.  “California” is particularly lonesome in a lovely way, “The Devil and I” has a good gravely blues line, “Beautiful/Ugly” is a wonderful lament for a lover.  A great album.
  • Streetlight Manifesto, The Hands that Thieve.  It’s been almost three years (can’t have been, but is!) since I bought a Streetlight Manifesto album.  These guys have a solid sound, reliable but unchanging.  That said, I like the new album the way I like a new James Bond movie — it’s not really going to do anything that different, but I like what it does.  Again the theme of the album seems to be “we will stand by one another when bad stuff happens.”  I like the title track quite a bit, and the “Oh Me, Oh My” is an amusing meditation on the end of the world.  “Toe to Toe” is a nice, slightly quieter bit of songistry.
  • Spider John Koerner, Spider Blues – Koerner is a great bluegrass artist, with a storytelling angle and great guitar skills.  His songs are bluesy and folksy.  The whole album is great, so it’s hard to pick out songs I like better than others.  “Baby, Don’t Come Back” is a good classic blues song; “Good Luck Child” shows off Koerner’s storytelling and harmonica skills; my favorite is “Rent Party Rag,” which helps explain how to raise money to pay your rent by having a party.
  • Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series Sampler – A compilation of folksy tunes.  “Poor Boy a Long, Long Way from Home” by Cat Iron feels like a classic old-timey bit; Jean Ritchie’s “Most Fair Beauty Bright” is a lovely fairy tale in the storytelling style of old folk songs;

Emusic parts of albums:

  • Pete Seeger, a few songs – “John Hardy,” “Johnson,” and “Washer Lad” are all crushingly sad.  People trapped in jail, in slavery, or ambushed by bandits.  Sheesh.  And then there’s the last song, a yodeler about a man who has tuberculosis, “T.B. Blues.”
  • Garfunkel and Oates, selected songs from Slippery When Moist.  This is the album they made in time with season one of their show on IFC.  “Wow” is their delightful theme song, “I Don’t Know Who You Are” is a great song about not recognizing someone who recognizes you.  Then there’s “Go Kart Racing,” which is funny but definitely NSFW.
  • Spike Jones, selected songs. Only one month more of Spike Jones and his orchestra.  It’s been quite a ride of mid-century racism and sexism and weird comedy.  The cover of “It Had To Be You” is pretty great, and “Paddlin’ Maddelin Home” is a funny song about a canoe date.

Other Sources:

  • American Authors, Oh, What a Life – The whole album sounds like their ubiquitous and uplifting “Best Day of my Life,” pleasant light pop rock.  “Trouble” is probably my favorite, but really they’re all very similar.


January Music Roundup: The Tossers, Leslie Hall, Rodeo Ruby Love

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.


Burger Records Sampler
An enjoyable, if not particularly striking to me, mix of contemporary pop and rock songs.  Several of my favorites feel like songs from a different era, recalling pop songs from the 50s and 60s. Highlights include: “Oh Cody,” which is an enjoyable classic sounding pop song that made me think of “Where the Hell is Bill” every single time it played, because the opening chords are either similar or identical; “Send Me Your Love” by Fletcher C. Johnson also has that classic 60s feel; “You Need a Big Man” by Memories is pretty cool, evoking They Might Be Giants just a bit. “Dolphin Patrol” by The Pizzaz is pretty good too.

Rodeo Ruby Love: Your Love Has Made Everything Beautiful
These Indiana alt-rockers continue writing evocative, harmony-driven songs.  I like this album a lot.  “Boys vs. Girls” is a lovely example of the kind of song this band does best.  We have a return of “A Small House in the City,” which is a great song, still.  “Boyfriend” parts 1 and 2 make a nice two tracks, though I think Part 2 is better.

Leslie Hall: Songs in the Key of Gold
Andrew sent me this album to highlight Hall’s “Zombie Killer,” and this kind of dance music isn’t usually on my radar.  But Hall brings nerd culture to the genre, which gives me the rabbit hole into it.  And letting the album play, I’d say it’s pretty great.  Highlights include “Tight Pants Body Rolls,” “How We Go Out,” and “Shake Your Hips.”  “Zombie Killer” is pretty great too.  Recommended!  Check out these lyrics from “How We Go Out”:

Cuz this dance challenge is harder than it looks
J. K. Rowlings (sic) writes very thick books
Never did I say you could rest your body
If your heart rate slows, then you do karate

The Tossers: Purgatory
I’ve wanted to download albums from this band for a while, so I was happy to find them suddenly available on eMusic.  They don’t disappoint.  This fast-paced punk/folk celtic music is right in my wheelhouse, sitting comfortably near Flogging Molly, the Pogues, the Dropkick Murphys, and so on.  The Tossers are closest to The Pogues in feel, with not too much in the way of electric guitar, and quite a few ballads or calm songs.  Highlights from this album: “Monday Morning,” “Chicago,” which includes an epic rant about gentrification, and “The Squall,” which continues the old folk tradition of advocating for causes.

December music roundup: Holiday tunes

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.

Snow Family by Sylvia Chan
Snow Family by Sylvia Chan (cc-licensed

Simplify Christmas, Volume 3. Various artists
This album is a mix of new songs and covers of classics.  The new songs are generally quite good, with the best being “It’s Gone Before you Know It” and the favorite in my family, “The 12 Days of My 1970’s Christmas” featuring Charlie Hines.  I’ll keep my eyes out for Simplify Christmas albums vol 1 and 2.

Christmas by Low
A calm, cool album mixing new songs and classics.  With a mellow and contemplative mood, it’s good background music for a quiet party or dinner.  I like “Just Like Christmas” and “Taking Down the Tree” the best, but all are a bit slower than I like in my holiday music.

A Not Ordinary Christmas by Various Artists
This selection of new tunes wasn’t my favorite.  “Gimme Toys” is kinda silly, and “A List for Christmas” feels like a classic Christmas ballad, but generally these are forgettable.  I wouldn’t recommend this album.

Menorah Mashups by Various (compiled by DJ bc)
A good collections of Hannukah-themed mashups.  “Challahback Girl 2011” is a funny juxtaposition, and “Hannukah in Dub” has a kinda weird coolness to it.  The clear winner for me is “House of Klezmer” by FAROFF, which I’ve mentioned on this blog at least once.  It’s in the top three songs of the season for me.

Santastic Four and Santastic Five by Various (compiled by DJ bc)
Once again, two robust collections of holiday mashups.  There’s AC/DC, fast swing music, some ska, I was going to highlight some, but I couldn’t decide which ones I liked the best.  From Santastic Four, check out the swingy “The Polex Swing,” mojochronic’s “Whoville (Won’t Get Yuled Again),” and “The Nightclub Before Christmas” from dj BC.  On Santastic Five, I like Mojochronic’s “Rudolph (You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light)” and “Christmas Bop,” which mixes a variety of tunes with the Ramones. Smash-Up Derby gives a military feel to the big man with “7 Nation Santa,” and there’s an uncategorizable delight in “Insane in the Winter Wonderland.”

I also had three new novelty tunes in my mix this month:

  • “Holidays Song” from Paul and Storm is the cranky person’s anthem, very NSFW.
  • “Pretty Little Dolly” was recommended by a friend as a good holiday tune, but it seems downright creepy to me.
  • “Captain Picard sings Let It Snow,” a masterful supercut giving our favorite bald space captain the holiday treatment.

Scaling back the podcasts

"Headphones" by Kai Friis
“Headphones” by Kai Friis (cc-licensed

The last couple years have seen a big drop-off in the number of books I read.  In 2008-2012, I read more than 100 books each year (this includes comic collections). But in both 2013 and 2014, I have come in well under that.  There are two reasons for this drop.  First, as the Executive Director of Operations in addition to my primary work as an Associate Professor, I’m very busy these days.  But equally significant in my reading load is my podcast schedule.  In listening to more and more podcasts, I’ve slipped away from audio books.  Check out these stats:

While podcasts are great, I miss the longer form books I devoured during that listening time.  My goal this year will be two audio books each month.  I’ll check in next January about this.

2014 in Review: Podcasts

"Headphones Cat" by Pete Prodoehl
“Headphones Cat” by Pete Prodoehl (cc licensed

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  I’m planning to scale it back a bit, but here are the podcasts I listen to, divided up by how frequently I listen to them:

Exhaustively (I listen to every episode of these podcasts – they’re the first to get played):

  • Judge John Hodgman (weekly)
  • Jordan Jesse Go (weekly)
  • Wham Bam Pow (weekly)
  • International Waters (bi-weekly)
  • The Board Game Show (bi-monthly)

Thoroughly (I might miss an episode here or there, but I catch most of these):

  • Wait Wait … Don’t Tell me (weekly)
  • Ask Me Another (weekly)
  • Throwing Shade (weekly)
  • Sawbones (weekly)
  • Planet Money (weekly)
  • TL;DR (weekly)

Often (I listen to these regularly, but don’t worry or backtrack if I miss one):

  • On the Media (weekly)

As the Whim Takes Me (I look through the backlog of these and pick some occasionally, randomly):

  • The Memory Palace (monthly)
  • The Moth (weekly)
  • WTF with Marc Maron (weekly)

Nostalgically (Podcasts I used to listen to exhaustively that have slipped down my queue but I want to get back to):

  • This American Life (weekly)
  • RadioLab (weekly)

Aspirationally (Pocasts I like, I wish I listened to more often, so I keep them on the iPod):

  • Topics (weekly)
  • Welcome to Night Vale (weekly)

Without category (These podcasts were not easily put into one of the other categories)

  • Serial (I listened to all of these, but it’s on hiatus now)

New to the Family (I used this opportunity to add a few podcasts to the mix to see if I enjoy them.  Check back next year to see if these are still here.)

  • The Adventure Zone
  • Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
  • Lady to Lady
  • Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
  • Reply All
  • Sklarbro Country
  • StartUp Podcast

2014 in Review: Music

This is the hardest review post to write, as I often don’t pay strict attention to the music I ingest, even as I’m listening to it.  Nonetheless, here are some notes about music this year.

Pokey LaFarge
Pokey LaFarge by Bill Streeter (cc-licensed)

New albums (by month acquired):

  • The White Stripes, The White Stripes
  • Passenger, All the Little Lights
  • Katy Perry, Prism
  • Pete Seeger, American Favorite Ballads (five songs a month)
  • Jonathan Coulton, Code Monkey Save World
  • Cheap Trick, The Essential Cheap Trick
  • Greg Brown, Hymns to What is Left
  • fun., Aim and Ignite
  • The Langer’s Ball, Ships are Sailing
  • Missy Higgins, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle
  • Reel Big Fish, Cheer Up!
  • Young Statues, Young Statues
  • Tim Minchin, Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra
  • The Pogues, Hell’s Ditch
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!
  • John Halloway, In Celebration: 25 Years of Naxos
  • Great Big Sea, Fortune’s Favour
  • Gaelic Storm, Chicken Boxer
  • The Wayfarers, Music from Around the World – Australia
  • Paul and Storm, Ball Pit
  • Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • Dropkick Murphys, Signed and Sealed in Blood
  • Primus, Pork Soda
  • J. Mascis, Tied to a Star
  • Garfunkel and Oates, Music Songs
  • Pokey LaFarge, Riverboat Soul
  • u2, Songs of Innocence
  • The Mountain Goats, The Coroner’s Gambit
  • The Real McKenzies, Off the Leash
  • Various collections and compilations

Notable songs:

  • Passenger, “The Wrong Direction”
  • Avicii, “Hey Brother”
  • fun. “Walking the Dog”
  • The Langer’s Ball, “The Titanic”
  • Missy Higgins, “Hello Hello”
  • Reel Big Fish, “A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way”
  • Bearcat, “The Nothing”
  • Tim Minchin, “Thank You God”
  • The Pogues, “Rain Street”
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, “My Heart Will Go On”
  • The Taxpayers, “Medicines”
  • Great Big Sea, “Oh Yeah”
  • Gaelic Storm, “My Lucky Day”
  • Paul and Storm, “Write Like the Wind”
  • Tom Waits, “Big Black Mariah”
  • Dropkick Murphys, “Don’t Tear Us Apart”
  • Pokey LaFarge, “La La Blues”
  • The Real McKenzies, “Old Becomes New”

Most played:  “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore.  “I’m gonna take your grandpa’s style”  is still hilarious.

My Jam of the Year: “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” by The Toasters




Five Holiday songs I’m enjoying this year

Christmas music doesn’t have to be the same 25 songs over and over each year.  Each December, I buy new Holiday music for my playlist, I add two Santastic mashup albums, and I add holiday songs I’ve encountered throughout the year, and I listen to it during my work time.  Here are five songs I’m enjoying this year:

I’m also enjoying this VERY PROFANE Christmas song by Paul and Storm.

And of course, James Picard singing Let it Snow:


November Music Roundup: The Mountain Goats, The Real McKenzies, etc


The Mountain Goats,The Coroner’s Gambit
The Mountain Goats early albums have a pretty distinct sound, and I’d say The Corner’s Gambit fits that profile pretty well.  These guitar-driven story songs with fuzzy recording technique feel sincere and whole and often heartbreaking.  I particularly like “Island Garden Song” for its hopeful hermit narrator, “The Coroner’s Gambit” for its melancholy meditation on death from the otherside, and “Horseradish Road” for its slightly more complicated music line and its cryptic plot. “Insurance Fraud #2” seems to tell the story of a man investigating insurance fraud, or perhaps worried someone is trying to bump him off.  There’s probably a metaphor there, but I don’t know what it is. (See also: March 2013 Music Roundup)

The Real McKenzies, Off the Leash
The Real McKenzies have a schizophrenic sound, half Scotch-sounding Rock band with a solid bagpipes section and half 90s-era pop-speed-Punk.  “Chip” and “The Ballad of Greyfriars Bobby” feel distinctly Scotch, while songs like “the Lads Who Fought & Won,” “Anyone Else,” and “Too Many Fingers” sound like Offspring songs.  Then there are some that don’t easily fit categorization: I particularly like “Old Becomes New,” which blends the two sounds above well, or “The Maple Trees Remember,” which feels like a Cake song, or “My Mangy Hound,” which is almost as bouncy as a Blink 182 song.  An enjoyable album with a broad spectrum of rock-driven, celtic-influenced songs. (See also: August 2012 Music Roundup)

Compilation, Now Hear This! – The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners (part 3)
It’s always hard to write about compilations, because the song styles are so diverse as to make any statement about the album itself pretty useless.  (I wrote about the first half of this album last month). That said, I liked this album alright.  Highlights are:

  • “Change Your Mind” by Alan Hampton has a strange floating quality with a solid folky songline.
  • “Mistletoe (feat. Chris Ayer)” by Amanda Duncan sounds like a great song from the jazzy 20s.
  • “1000 Nights” by Roscoe James Irwin is a light-touch pop ballad; reminds me of Rodeo Ruby Love a bit.
  • “M.O.D.” by Hemoptysis stood out as so distinctly different from the other songs in the album that I had to write about it.  It’s from the ‘driving guitar, growly singer’ genre of metal.  Not my cup of tea.  The driving beat reminds me a little of Helmet or Ministry, though.
  • “Balloon” by Echo & the Empress is lovely and gentle, with excellent singing.
  • “Crushing Limbs” by Anni Rossi has a light, cute feel despite rather dark lyrics.  Also, solid synth work.

Modern Jazz Stylings of Blue Canue Records – four songs that are about what you’d expect.  Still makes me thing of my friend John Chapman, who played jazz bass in Florida, and whom I went out to hear play once or twice. (So little new to say that I just repeated my entry about songs from this album that I wrote last month.)

Pete Seeger, four from American Favorite Ballads – This selection of four songs, including “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier” and “No More Auction Block” reminds us of the folk progressive roots of folk music.  And depresses you unless you’re just soul-less.

Spike Jones, four songs from (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection – Some love songs, “At Last I’m First With You,” “Red Grow the Roses,” and “Liebestraum.” “City Slicker Polka” is a tale about a country lass being harassed by a hound-dog full of goofy sound effects.

The Wayfarers (six songs from Music from Around the World – Australia) – Two about cooking: “Toss Another Shrimp on the Barbie” and “Who Put the Roo in the Stew,” one real classic: “Waltzing Matilda,” and a weird paean to odd Australian names: “Wooloomooloo.”

Garfunkel and Oates, last song from Music Songs – “Only You” is a lovely (or sad) song in honor of the partnership that is this novelty duo.  Also, a little NSFW.

October Music Roundup: Pokey LaFarge, Haunted Halloween, and the new U2 album



Pokey LaFarge, Riverboat Soul
Last month, I liked the Pokey LaFarge song from the “Now Hear This” compilation so much that I downloaded a whole album from emusic this month.  The songs on this album are all pretty similar (the way most bands are), but that’s part of what makes them great.  I particularly like the upbeat positivity of “La La Blues” and “Daffodil Blues,” the jaunty speed of “Hard Times Come and Go” and the remix of an old classic in “In the Graveyard Now.”  I was also glad to hear their cover of “Old Black Dog,” a song from Koerner, Ray, and Glover that I enjoy.

Various, Haunted Halloween, Vol 1
This album has 25 tracks, many of which are clips from trailers or old horror movies.  The rest are classic monster-themed songs.  They all have the same goofy feeling as that most-classic of monster songs, “The Monster Mash.”  My favorites are “Jam At the Mortuary” and “The Mummy’s Bracelet,” both of which are weird narrative songs, and “Wombie Zombie,” a great dance number.  There are some real misses as well, particularly: most annoying and misogynistic is  Ivan’s “Frankie Frankenstein” and Jan Davis’ “Watusi Zombie,” for it’s jungle sounds that recapitulate the worst parts of the 1940s zombie movies. Weirdest is Don Hinson’s “Riboflavin-Flavored Non-Carbonated Polyunsaturated Blood,” about a scientist who manufactures a fake blood that’s better than the natural stuff — True Blood, in essence.

U2, Songs of Innocence
I generally like U2, so when their new free album showed up in my iTunes, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s a fine example of late U2, as far as I can tell, but it didn’t have much impact on me in the listening.  I like “Volcano,” “Song for Someone”, and “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” but not a lot more than the other songs.  I guess my main review here would be: meh.

Compilation, Now Hear This! – The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners (part 2)
It’s always hard to write about compilations, because the song styles are so diverse as to make any statement about the album itself pretty useless.  (I wrote about the first half of this album last month). That said, I liked this album alright.  Highlights are:

  • “Singin’ in Tongues” by Bleu – a pretty good rockin song.
  • “North Side Gal” by JD McPherson – sounds like a song from the Otis Redding / Wilson Pickett era.  In a good way.
  • “Mockingbird” by Spring Creek – a great, bouncy bluegrass song with a bluesy notion.
  • “Brother” by The Soul of John Black – a great blues song.
  • “Roller Coaster” by Kira Willey – a great family song with a zip-zip-zip theme.


“Head to Head (With the Undead)” by Chas ‘n’ Dave – a goofy, catchy song from the movie Cockneys vs. Zombies.  It’s great.

Garfunkel and Oates, three from Music Songs – “One Night Stand” and “Silver Lining” are both great, funny and positive.  But “As You Are” stands out as a great friend/love song.

Pete Seeger, four from American Favorite Ballads – “Oh, How He Lied” is a silly, fun song that’s just DEPRESSING.

Spike Jones, four songs from (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection –”Yankee Doodler” is another of Jones’ jingoistic weird songs with a verse about the Japanese returns to the ol’ racism, as does “Down in Jungle Town” with its ‘African Rhythms.’  I can see why Dr. Demento was relatively restrained with the number of Spike Jones songs he played.  Yikes.

The Wayfarers (ten songs from Music from Around the World – Australia) –”The Australia’s Cup” is all about a team of sailors trying to win the America’s Cup; “The Last Keg on Earth” revisits the old Australian concern with always having enough to drink (viz “A Pub with No Beer”).

Modern Jazz Stylings of Blue Canue Records – four songs that are about what you’d expect.  Still makes me thing of my friend John Chapman, who played jazz bass in Florida, and whom I went out to hear play once or twice.


September Music Roundup: Primus, J. Mascis, and More!

It’s been a long time since I posted a music roundup.  The idea of this post is to write a bit about the music I listened to this month.  Sometime halfway through the month or so, I’ll do a catch-up post from a previous month.

“So Long Honeybee, Goodbye,” by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three


Primus, Pork Soda
I recently shuffled my way into Sailing the Seas of Cheese, the only Primus album I had on CD (though I had several on tape), and it got me missing the bass-heavy weirdo band.  So I downloaded Pork Soda this month and enjoyed it immensely.  Of course, because I knew the album already, old favorites like “My Name is Mud” and “Pork Soda” were great.  But I found myself most intrigued by “Bob,” a seemingly goofy song that, as soon as you listen to the lyrics, is downright tragic.  Also intriguing is the ethereal and odd “Wounded Knee,” which has no lyrics but also feels surprisingly cheery given its title.

J. Mascis, Tied to a Star
The Dinosaur Jr lead singer has long been a favorite of mine, especially his solo albums.  I like his acoustic music a lot, if nothing else it’s because I think his singing voice (with its strong touch of vocal fry).  While all the songs hold up to his usual quality, I particularly like “Every Morning,” “Wide Awake,” and “Trailing Off.”

Compilation, Now Hear This! – The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners
It’s always hard to write about compilations, because the song styles are so diverse as to make any statement about the album itself pretty useless.  That said, I liked this album alright.  Highlights are:

  • Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, “So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” – jazzy swing song
  • Scott H. Biram, “Just Another River” – bluesy song with some audio fuzz.  Good stuff.
  • Charlie Hope, “One That I Love” – jaunty, cheery pop song
  • Amanda Richards, “Undead In My Bed” – a country song by a woman who loves her zombie man
  • Jon Bauer, “Chasing After Me” – cute alt-rock song about finding love
  • Amy Correia, “Powder Blue Trans Am” – soul song with good blues lines in the guitar
  • Company of Thieves, “Look Both Ways” – hoppy pop band similar in sound to Rodeo Ruby Love


Welcome to Night Vale (three songs from early in the series) – The WtNV folks do a great job of picking Weather music that has audible similarities to music styles.  This month, I pulled three songs to listen to – “Last Song” by Jason Webley, a Tom Waits-style tale; “This Too Shall Pass” by Danny Schmidt, a driving tale that reminds me a bit of Leonard Cohen; “Jerusalem” by Dan Bern, an early Bob Dylan parody that’s pretty good in its own right.

Garfunkel and Oates (four songs from Music Songs) – My favorite is “I Would Never,” which seems like a good riposte to the obnoxious meme of the “Friend-zone.”

Pete Seeger (four songs from American Favorite Ballads) – You Are My Sunshine is almost perfect in his light banjo version.

Spike Jones (four songs from (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection – Nothing really stands out in this sequence, except maybe “Horsey, Keep Your Tail Up,” which is weird but not as memorable as many other songs from SJ.  On the upside, nothing notably racist or sexist in this batch of songs.

The Wayfarers (nine songs from Music from Around the World – Australia) – Nothing much stands out from this set of songs, though “Santa Never Made It Into Darwin” is a fucking depressing song about a town destroyed by a big storm on Christmas Eve.

Modern Jazz Stylings of Blue Canue Records – four songs that are about what you’d expect.  Makes me thing of my friend John Chapman, who played jazz bass in Florida, and whom I went out to hear play once or twice.

Buke and Gass, “Seam Esteem,” a leak from the new album of weird and wonderful music. Great stuff.

On Voices 7

Harvey Hudson

An update of the audio book narrators I’ve read since the last On Voices post.

*Books narrated by their authors

This list includes only the readers I’ve encountered more than once.  The singletons are below the fold.

Continue reading On Voices 7