Okay, so Jack tagged me last week, but I just noticed it. I’m not sure how a post got past me, but it did. Anyway, here goes…
1. Total volume of music files on my computer: 4812 songs, 14.5 days, 23.97 GB, as reported by iTunes. I’ve probably got another gig or so on my machine at work that doesn’t overlap with this collection.
2. Last CD I bought: Hell if I know. Seriously. I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs. I get my music from the internets these days, mostly from the iTMS. However, I think the last CD I bought was Joe Jackson’s Live 1980/1986, which probably puts me on some hipster list. It was either that or ‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets! by Los Straitjackets, “13 Rockin’ Christmas Instrumentals!” for my last Tiki Christmas Extravaganza, which proably removes me from that list.
3. Song Playing Right Now:“Lovers in a Dangerous Time” by Barenaked Ladies, which is a cover of a Bruce Cockburn song (and a really good one, too — I mean the cover and the song itself. This song has one of my all-time favorite bits of song lyric: “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight / Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”
4. Five Songs (or Albums) I listen to a lot or that move me:
- Ghost in the Machine (A&M 1981) by The Police: my all-time favorite album. Despite it being the band’s “experimental” album and being full of odd instrumentation, it sounds as fresh today as it did in 1981. I used up at least two cassette copies of it before moving to CD. It got me through a lot of shit, even at the age of 12 (how old I was when it came out).
- Reckoning (I.R.S. Records 1984) by R.E.M.: a close second on the all-time list. I came to the R.E.M. party a little late (1986), but hearing the opening strains of “Harborcoat” literally changed my life on that rainy Spring day in 1986. I still come back to that album and marvel at the sounds of those songs: “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”, “Pretty Persuasion,””(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville,” et al. An amazing record (and it has a cover by the late Rev. Howard Finster). This album and the murkier followup Fables of the Reconstruction play central roles in my personal vision of the South.
- Bread and Circus (CBS 1989) by Toad the Wet Sprocket: I always thought the band did themselves a disservice with the goofy name. I think it had something to do with them being woefully underappreciated despite putting out five amazing albums (and a good collection of outtakes). And the thing about Toad is that each album is really different from the others, but still has a distinctive “Toadness” about it. Just the best, most intelligent guitar rock put out in the 1990s amidst all the grunge and boybands and shit that littered the American music scene during that decade. B&C was a tough choice and you could argue any of their albums as the “best”, but fuck it, I’m sticking with my answer. It’s the first and contains some transcendent moments like the odd time signature change during the guitar solo in “Know Me,” which is a weird thing to highlight out of all the possible choices amongst great examples like the line in “Rings” (from their last album, Coil), which using the metaphor of a tree keeping its whole history inside itself “Isn’t it strange / to see my life / you must cut me down /tolook inside.” I saw Toad up close and personal at Juanita’s in Little Rock on the tour for the following album, Pale, and they blew me away. One of the very best shows I’ll ever see.
- “Throw Your Arms Around Me” by Hunters & Collectors, from their 1986 album Human Frailty. That song just rips me up every time. One of the best, weirdest love songs ever. I submit into evidence, the chorus: “We may never meet again/ So shed your skin and let’s get started / You will throw you arms around me”. H&C were a wildly popular Australian band who barely made a dent here in the U.S. An odd fact: their singer, Mark Seymour, is the brother of Paul Seymour, the bassist (and cover artist) for kiwi (and 1/3 Aussie) band Crowded House who have a great live acoustic version of this song.
- “Oh, Lucky Man” by the Grapes of Wrath from their 1987 album Treehouse. Just a great example of some late-80s Jangle Pop: big chiming Rickenbackers, soaring harmonies, a driving rock beat. Another obscure gem.