I made a classic rock playlist. If you’re into classic rock, you may want to check it out.
A word on the term “classic rock”: How one defines classic rock is open to debate. For my playlist, I’ve included a lot of rock hits from the ’70s and the ’80s. The included artists are overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly white. This doesn’t mean that my definition of classic rock only includes white guys. I’ve made other playlists which are not so male, and not so white, that I’ll also be sharing here.
When I make a playlist, I tend to include one-off hits (AKA one hit wonders) or “the only song I like” by a given artist. This will help explain why some of my favorite artists are so infrequently featured on my Assorted Artists playlists. I find it impossible to choose one track by a favorite band, and I usually make separate playlists for my favorite artists, like my Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits playlist. This isn’t a hard and fast rule: Supertramp and ELO both make appearances on my Classic Rock playlist. But for either of them, you’re also getting some Redbone, Looking Glass, and King Harvest.
I put together this playlist in pairings. I’d find a song I liked, then experimented by pairing it with another song, until I found a series of pairings that stuck. They’ve stuck so well that, in some instances, I can’t hear one song without expecting the other to play next. Anything else sounds….off.
Hope you enjoy. Scroll to the bottom for a link to the full playlist.
Pairing #1: “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest + “Brandy” by Looking Glass
Pairing #2: “Baby Hold On” by Eddie Money + “I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren
“Baby Hold On” is an example of an artist taking what could be a really boring easy-listening schlockfest and elevating it by “Making the Right Choices.” In this case, Money adds the background vocals around the :50 second and 1:30 marks, as well as the bridge at 1:50, which turn an otherwise “whatever” track into something special.
If Todd Rundgren had played it straight, he could have cranked out easy-listening hits like this one throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s. Instead, he became a pioneer of “progressive rock”, electronic music, and a successful producer. Anyone who hears a track like “I Saw the Light” or “Hello It’s Me” and thinks these songs define Rundgren’s sound is sorely mistaken: guy has a bit of freak in him.
Pairing #3: “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra and “Take the Long Way Home” by Supertramp
I use these two tracks to close out the playlist.
Now we’ll get to what I’ll call “The Quadfecta”:
“Hold Your Head Up” by Argent + “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” by the Alan Parsons Project + “Couldn’t Get it Right” by Climax Blues Band + “Kiss You All Over” by Exile
You can check out the full playlist by clicking HERE. Be happy to hear what you think of it. Please, no recommendations for additions; it’s perfect as is.
Hello! It’s Matt and I feel like writing again. I didn’t feel that way for about a week.
The first few posts I made on this site came easily enough. Some of it was stuff I had been waiting years to write down; I just needed an excuse. So I conjured one up: I’ll start a website. I hope some of you are enjoying it well enough.
I’m the type of person who, without a decent amount of vigilance on my part, can get pulled into distraction mode late at night. Instead of writing, or reading the book I said I would (I’m working on Something Wicked This Way Comes), I’ll watch Netflix or stupid videos. Lately, I’ve been watching the British television show Taskmaster , full episodes of which are available on YouTube. That’s easier to do than writing, and it’s a good distraction at the end of my day. Still, sometimes I’d prefer to write. I just need to prioritize it. So here I am, prioritizing it!
We’re going to talk about music again. If you’re open to a deep-dive into the minutiae I concern myself with, please read on. We can talk about cooking later.
Best 3-Song Run on an Album
I found an article on the AV Club a couple of years ago in which a few writers contribute their personal “Strongest 3-Song Run on an Album”. You can find that article by clicking here. The AV Club was originally the Audio/Visual (media) section of the Onion Newsletter, back when the Onion was available in print in most major U.S. cities. The AV Club then became its own standalone thing for a while, but has since merged, along with the Onion, into the G/O Media “Family”. Please take a look at the article, and do yourself a favor and check out the comments. The AV Club has long had a devoted/fanatical comment community. They are both very clever and very kind, so it’s a nice place to go if you’d like to avoid the general toxicity that exists on most sites these days.
Back to the task at hand. We’re going to be searching for the best 3-song run on various albums. I’ll be listening to albums both contemporary and classic and then reporting in on my findings. What is a 3-song run? Here are “the rules”:
A 3-song run is 3 songs, in order, from a proper album. Songs must run sequentially, and instrumental interludes must be counted.
Greatest Hits or other compilations are not albums.
Some albums have had several versions, depending on geography (much of The Beatles’ catalog) or time (Rumours was re-released to include “Silver Springs”). One must specify which version of an album they are discussing.
Each song must be great on its own merit. You get to decide what “great” is, and I get to agree or disagree, and vice versa. A good subjective metric for “great” is: would you skip the song if it popped up on the radio or shuffle, depending on your mood? Or would you listen to it pretty consistently? We’re looking for the latter.
It’s not about “the flow”. It’s about the songs. We can talk about Dark Side of the Moon later.
3 songs is the max. I don’t want to hear about the Abbey Road suite, or “All of Kid A,” or “tracks 1-8 are really ONE song”. Sorry if that’s limiting, but you could always do your own list.
Agreement and disagreement are equally appreciated here, and both are encouraged.
I originally intended this to be a single post, but I’ve decided to turn it into a series. This way you can keep pace with what I’m listening to and I’ll be able to look back someday and take stock for myself; see what I was up to.
If you’d like to comment with suggestions or opinions about your own personal 3-song runs or albums you think I should check out, please do. I have the site set up so that comments must be approved by me before they are seen publicly, which I know isn’t immediately gratifying, but I’ll monitor and approve them the same day. I promise to try to listen to any suggested music and to offer an opinion if you’d like.
I’ve been listening to Shore by Fleet Foxes since its release, which coincided with the 2020 autumn equinox. For those interested in various music delivery systems: I’m listening to the album via digital format, primarily over our Sonos home speakers or in my car. I’ve pre-ordered the vinyl release, which is set to ship in February of 2021.
Fleet Foxes are an indie folk-rock band who formed in Seattle in 2005. They’ve garnered praise for their vocal harmonies and evocative lyrics, and have been compared to some of the greats, including The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They have released 4 LPs up to this point, with Shore being the latest. I’ll likely visit their self-titled debut sometime on this site, but for now, we have Shore. Here’s a sample:
This is about as “poppy” as Fleet Foxes get. It’s a good sound for them, and in some ways reminiscent of their debut album. The past two Fleet Foxes releases, Helplessness Blues and Crack-Up, veered heavily toward long track times (upwards of 8 minutes on a couple of songs) and more experimental qualities in their songwriting. This often resulted in numerous “movements” within songs, and earned the band a characterization by Pitchfork Media as “Prog Folk”, a genre mixing elements of progressive music (think Yes, Jethro Tull, or Boston) with traditional folk.
By comparison, the songs on Shore are compact, accessible, and straightforward, leaving one to wonder if the band can just conjure up a pop hit whenever they want. I wouldn’t attempt to take away from what the band accomplished on their prior two releases, but I will admit that I’m a candy-addict sometimes when it comes to music. I want to bop around while I’m cleaning the house, or maybe have something to hit the accelerator to. Shore offers that, and in spades. The first 8 tracks or so are all really great, but, for your consideration, I offer tracks 2-4 for a strong 3-song run. It includes “Sunblind”, which I’ve posted above, followed by “Can I Believe You”, which you can listen to here:
And lastly, “Jara”, which is my new favorite Fleet Foxes song:
“Jara” is a song which is great, in part, because of how it rebels against the format typified by the band’s two previous releases. I’ll direct you to the timestamp of 2:08 in the video above for a good example of this. The second the first chorus ends, the song just picks back up where it left off, and actually picks up steam. Whereas in the past two Fleet Foxes albums, this would be the part of the song that warranted a sudden tempo change, this song just stays the course and accelerates a bit. It’s a great choice, and the right one, too. This is a song which will stand the test of time, and I believe it will be a future classic.
Strongest Song: “Jara” – It’s basically made of folk-sugar. That’s a thing.
Most Likely to be Skipped: “Can I Believe You”. It gets a bit repetitive. Still, it’s a strong track on a strong album, and sits in between two greats.
Best Album Track Not Included in the 3-Song Run: That’s a really difficult choice that I’ve forced myself into here; the album is truly excellent and has a lot to offer to a various different moods. I have no problem turning this album on and finding a song I want to listen to, regardless of what I’m doing. Forcing myself to choose something, I’d recommend “Maestranza”, a good night-drive song which sees the band veer close to the old comparisons to My Morning Jacket they had received earlier in their career.
If Dad Had to Choose a Slow Song: You’ll notice that I gravitate toward upbeat music whenever possible. This album has some truly magnificent slow songs, however, and I recommend both “A Long Way Past the Past” and “For a Week or Two”. I’m sure there’s even justification in putting these two together, along with “Featherweight” or “Maestranza”, for a competing 3-song run.
If Dad Could Re-sequence It: I’d move “Can I Believe You” one track back and offer the following 3-song run.
“Wading in Waist-High Water”
Chances this 3-Song Run is the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT): For now, low. The album is only a month old! We’ll have to see how it fits into the pantheon of all-time greats a bit later in life. For my money, however, I’d rank the first half of this album as the greatest of Fleet Foxes’ career, which I consider to be high praise. They had already reached great heights, and this release solidifies their legacy as a capital-G Great Band.
Join us next time when we get into a bit of trouble tackling Rumours by the other Fleet-band. Bring your opinions, would love to hear them! And remember, suggestions in the comment section. Until then!
Autumn is here! It’s my favorite time of the year; always has been. Some of my favorite memories are from autumn. Let’s collect a few:
Here I am, under the apple tree in my grandparent’s backyard, raking leaves but not really wanting to. Some of these are for filling up a plastic bag in the shape of a pumpkin. You remember these? I’m not even sure they’re legal anymore, unless they are more biodegradable than I remember:
But not all of the leaves are for bagging. We rake a bunch into a huge pile and take turns jumping in. There’s a smell, something like nothing else, of lying in a pile of freshly fallen leaves. I sink in, close my eyes, and listen as they crunch under and shake around me. Other than this and the sound of my brother squealing as he takes another turn, it’s quiet for a few moments. Then I roll up and pop out, running away just to circle back and jump back in. We do this for as long as we’re allowed; it’s only after we’re exhausted from the fun that we realize that these leaves are, regretfully, also for bagging.
And now, years later, in middle school: I walk outside the back door of my school. There’s a small hill standing in front of me and I have my cleats in my hand. It’s an hour before my very first soccer match, and for a while, I am by myself. I’ll join my team in a few minutes, but for now, I slowly bend and start lacing my cleats on. There’s a buzz in the air, something electric; anticipation. I walk to the field alone, watching my shadow bounce alongside me on the hillside.
And this book, from when I was a kid. No, not Something Wicked This Way Comes, I didn’t read that until much later. This one:
The Ghost-Eye Tree is a 1985 children’s book written by John Archambault and Bill Martin, Jr. You may know Bill as the guy who wrote the Brown Bear series of books with Eric Carle. The Ghost-Eye Tree is really something special, though, and it all comes down to the illustrations by Ted Rand, which are absolutely fantastic for a children’s book.
The Ghost-Eye Tree scared the living shit out of me when I was a kid.
The plot is pretty simple. Two kids go out at night to run some errands, and they encounter the titular “Ghost-Eye Tree”, which justifiably scares them, because it’s a tree, at night time, with knots in the shape of eyes. I got a copy from the Scholastic Book Club because I thought ghosts were cool and I liked the cover. I couldn’t look away from the book. You know how people refer to things as “haunting”, but that word never really represents the feeling they are trying to describe? The Ghost-Eye Tree quite literally haunted me. I’d think about it all the time, but especially on trash night. I was old enough to be tasked with certain chores, and among them was taking out the trash. Our trash cans resided under a gigantic weeping willow tree, all the way on the other side of our property. I’d be lugging the garbage across the driveway, trying not to look at the weeping willow. I’d get under it and do a quick inspection for “ghost eyes”, whatever those are. Inevitably, I’d find one and hot-tail it back to the house.
You’ll be happy to know that it never caught me.
Maybe this is you: “Matt, how is that a good memory, and what does this all have to do with Something Wicked This Way Comes?”
It’s a good memory because The Ghost-Eye Tree was my introduction to something mysterious in the natural world; something just on the fringe between what the world truly allows and what our imaginations can make it be. It was dangerous. Not dangerous like a car crash, but dangerous like something unknowable and yet sitting right in front of you. Like how your favorite climbing tree could somehow eat you at night time. Dangerous like Halloween, when the streets that are so familiar during the daytime are now dark and twisted; you visit a neighbor and maybe hear their voice, but they no longer look like themselves. And you? You get to play along, too. It’s my favorite holiday.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a Halloween story that, for a very long time, I was scared to read. Not scared in the literal sense; I had grown up quite a bit in between discovering The Ghost-Eye Tree and gaining an awareness of Something Wicked, so there was no fear that I’d be scared of the dark again if I read it. Yet that seemed to be the exact problem. I was scared of the possibility of disappointment. I wanted to be impacted to the degree that Archambault and Martin’s book had stirred something in me. I was afraid that, as an adult, this would be impossible. Yet there was something about that title, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which filled my imagination and left me curious.
I talked with a friend of mine about my relationship to the book I had never read. She said she had read it, it was excellent, I should read it, and she would find me a copy. And then she did.
I read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the first time last year, and made a promise to myself that I would read it again this year, just before Halloween. My copy of the book has 54 chapters, an introduction, and A Brief Afterword, so I’ll be reading about 2 chapters a day until Halloween. If you’d like to read along with me, please do. Also, I’d love to hear about any special autumnal memories you have, any thoughts on these books or others, or any Halloween stories in the comments! I’ll be writing about the first few chapters soon. See you then!
Here we are, the inaugural post on my “Media” section of this site. This space will be used to talk about music, television, movies and other stuff I come across and want to talk about. It’s obviously been difficult to get together with people post-COVID. Those times that we’d have people over and put on music or watch a television show were already growing further apart now that we negotiate bed time for two kiddos. I really miss impromptu conversations of mutual appreciation, so please feel free to contribute in the comments!
I have a few posts in mind for the coming weeks/months/when I can actually get around to it. Expect a listening session with The Radio Dept., a band I recently discovered and am really enjoying this autumn. I’ll be focusing heavily on their album “Clinging to a Scheme” (2010), but I’ll also touch on some of their stronger B-sides and one-off singles that aren’t featured on any of their “proper” albums. I’ll also be asking for, and responding to, input on an upcoming topic: best 3-track “run” on an album. More to come on that later. For this first post, I’d like to share with you my favorite song, why it’s my favorite, and why it will always be my favorite.
A couple of housekeeping things before we dive in:
I’m not trying to sell you on this song. I’m just sharing a couple of stories with you. You’re allowed to dislike the song.
This is not a story about the “Greatest” song of all time. There’s a lot of all-time, by-the-decade, and yearly lists out there. This is not that. My favorite song is not the greatest song of all time. It’s my greatest song of all time.
Before we get to my actual song, I’d like to tell you about the runner up, because I like the story and figured I’d tell it. My very first favorite song was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. “In the Air Tonight” was a single from Phil’s 1981 debut album Face Value. This detail is important.
If you’ve never heard the song before, you can try this video:
Or you can try the official music video:
“In the Air Tonight” firmly held the position of Dad’s Favorite Song of All Time back when I was a kid and had only heard 100 songs. I remember being introduced to it while someone in my family watched a Miami Vice rerun. Do you remember how strongly “In the Air Tonight” used to be associated with Miami Vice? Phil Collins may be having a resurgence now, but he was not cool when I was a kid. With that said, tell me this isn’t cool:
Now that’s a mood. The long establishing shots tell you everything you need to know about the stakes at hand. Lots of sexy car. Lots of staring into the long, dark night of the soul. Then the gun comes out. “How much time we got?” says a young, great-looking Don Johnson. “25 minutes,” replies the triple-first-named Philip Michael Thomas. Who even cares where they’re going or what they’re doing? I sure don’t remember. I just know they looked awesome. A young me wished he would ever be this cool. I still wish I could ever be this cool. Phil Collins wishes he was this cool. “In the Air Tonight” was the soundtrack to this mood, and that mood was what I thought adulthood would be like. Driving around at night in sexy cars, looking great, seeking out a bit of danger. Adults had it made. I was probably 10 at the time.
Not much later, I received my first CD Walkman as a gift. You remember those, the kind that you had to hold just so, or else the CD would skip all over the place? I had heard you could skip an entire track just by pushing a button! I got one of those. It was glorious. But I didn’t have any CDs to play in the damn thing, because nobody in my house owned any. So what should I get for my very first CD?
I know! A Phil Collins album! Then I can listen to my favorite song whenever I want! Brilliant! I could also listen to his other song I like, “Another Day in Paradise”! (Side note: it was much later that I realized “Another Day in Paradise” addresses the issue of homelessness, a field that I worked in for several years).
A few words about music delivery systems for you kids out there. Right now, you likely have something in your pocket that can play any song you want, whenever you want. I’m very happy for you. I also have one of those. When I was a kid, however, I had a CD Walkman. A CD Walkman only played one CD at a time, and that CD had a limited amount of tracks on it. You’re welcome for this history lesson.
For the holidays that year, I knew that I wanted to be able to listen to my favorite song whenever I wanted. Toward that purpose, I asked for this exact thing: “A Phil Collins CD”.
And what did I receive? Exactly that!
No Jacket Required is the third solo album by Phil Collins. It was released in 1985. It features the hits “One More Night”, “Sussudio”, “Don’t Lose My Number”, and “Take Me Home”. I opened it feverishly, unable to wait a moment longer to hear my favorite song “whenever I wanted”, which in this case, was RIGHT NOW. I scanned through the tracks, skipping each one until I heard the opening drones of “In the Air Tonight”, waiting to be magically transported to a super cool car under my new identity as Don Johnson’s wingman.
Of course that never happened, because as you know, “In the Air Tonight” was featured on Face Value, and not on No Jacket Required. It was in this moment, and the several conversations I had with my mom afterward, that I learned a terrible truth: not every CD by an artist features all of their greatest songs. It was a hard way to learn what an “album” is. I continued to learn that lesson when I bought both of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits compilations, Early Days and Latter Days, only to discover neither featured “Dyer Maker” or “Fool in the Rain”. Don’t they realize what their best songs are?
I never bothered getting a copy of Face Value, or even a Phil Collins Greatest Hits CD. “In the Air Tonight” was so ubiquitous that I never had to worry about finding it on the radio. I put it on a few mixtapes. I learned to like some of the songs on No Jacket Required. I remember listening to “One More Night” over the course of a particularly hot summer, really feeling my feelings as a 12 year old. My love for “In the Air Tonight” waned a bit over the years, but I’ll still listen to it if it pops up; I have it on my No-Skip list. And if it comes on during a night drive, I turn it up, always keeping my phone close, in case Don Johnson calls.
But you didn’t come here to hear about a song that used to be my favorite, did you? Click the 2 below to continue on to “Dad’s Favorite Song of All Time.”