30 Day Song Challenge: Bonus Tracks

I gamely took the 30 Day Song Challenge as a catalyst to jumpstart my blogging. In the past, I’ve begun more than a few blog-related projects that I haven’t completed, but I’m proud to say I made it all the way through this one (in 30 days, no less).

In coming up with songs/videos available on YouTube, I found a few I was unable to use for various reasons; I also thought of other songs I’d love to post but didn’t quite fit any of the thirty designated categories. So, I present these “bonus tracks” for your listening/viewing pleasure (or not).

1. My favorite song at the moment. Even though it’s the middle of summer, I would listen to this one on repeat and wrap it around me like a comfy, drowsy big ol’ quilt if I could:


2. I really wanted to use this track in some capacity and almost did for “A Song That Makes You Happy“.  This somewhat crazy video for it, which I hadn’t seen before, makes me even happier:


3. Favorite cover version. If this were part of the challenge, I would have gone with what I picked for “A Song That Makes Me Laugh“, but this is my second choice–everything a good, unruly, blasphemous cover version should be:


4. Since my favorite artist pick was from a band, here’s a track from my favorite solo female artist:


5. …and one from my favorite solo male artist–a Tony award winner, no less:


6. It’s excruciating to pick just one all-time favorite song. Here’s another I seriously considered.

Day 30: Your Favorite Song At This Time Last Year

Ah, the summer of 2010. It seems like only yesterday (or 300+ days ago, to be exact). My favorites of that season included Tracey Thorn’s “Hormones”, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s “Dandelion”, The New Pornographers’ “Crash Years”, V.V. Brown’s “Shark in the Water” and most of all, this little extended Frankie Goes To Hollywood homage by the Scissor Sisters called “Invisible Light”. It has everything one could possibly want from a Scissor Sisters song: a pulsating beat, a Bee Gees-esque chorus, a langorous air of seduction n’ sleaze–and, as an added bonus, the voice of Sir Ian McKellen! It was the immediate highlight for me from their just-released third album Night Work, and I’m still puzzled as to why it wasn’t the lead single instead of the safer, if somewhat boring “Fire With Fire”.

They eventually made a video for it; not for the squeamish, but it propels the song unto an even greater sphere of awesomeness. If Derek Jarman were still alive, I’d like to think he’d be making stuff like this.

Day 29: A Song From Your Childhood

To this day, I retain I nagging fondness for late 70s / early 80s soft rock. I was a young child at that time and I can remember countless hours sitting in the backseat of my parents’ ’78 blue Mercury Monarch as they listened to Mix 99.1 FM, which played a considerable amount of Air Supply, Supertramp, Barbra Streisand (circa Guilty), Christopher Cross, Al Stewart, Billy Joel and Journey (whom I didn’t care for at the time and like even less now), among others.

The song that intrigued me most, however, was Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”. I didn’t even learn what it was called or who sung it until I was in college, which is understandable–Rafferty was not nearly as charismatic as, say, Elton John and the song doesn’t even have a sung chorus. In the latter’s place, of course, is that iconic sax solo, perhaps the real reason “Baker Street” became such a big hit. It’s a weirdly structured, at times introverted little song, but that sax chorus transforms it into an epic. Hearing it now still takes me back to being an only child and having little to do on road trips but listen along to the radio with my parents.

Day 28 – A Song That Makes You Feel Guilty

During a Q and A following a screening of Public Speaking at the Coolidge, someone asked the ever-acidic Fran Lebowitz, “Do you have any pets?”, to which she replied, “Is that a question?” That’s my exact response to this particularly silly category on the 30 Day Song Challenge. Really? A song that makes you feel guilty, a mere two weeks after asking what’s your guilty pleasure?  I’m not sure I see much of a distinction (at least my friend Michael had a good pick for this one).

On that note, I present Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s “Guilty”, a slice of early ’80s soft rock so luxuriously creamy that I almost feel a little guilty posting it (and no, I don’t know what the song has to do with Marilyn Monroe, either).

Day 27: A Song That You Wish You Could Play

If I ever return to practicing guitar on a regular basis again, the two genres that most appeal to me are classical and flamenco. Anyone can dick around with a few barre chords, but the intricacy and close concentration required of these two styles reaps greater rewards and substantial musical growth, I think. Anyway, I admire the nimbleness with which Rodrigo y Gabriela play “Tamacun”–it’s serious without taking itself too seriously, if that makes any sense.

Day 26: A Song That You Can Play On An Instrument

Unbeknownst to many of my current friends, I can play the guitar. I took lessons for years as a kid and also performed in my high school jazz ensemble. Since then, I’ve barely played at all. At some point, I discovered that I do not have as much discipline for practicing a musical instrument as I do for, say, writing.

However, I still hang on to my guitar in hope that some day I’ll pick it up and practice on a regular basis again. Back in the day, one of my favorite pieces to play was a 19th century classical exercise called “Allegro” by Matteo Carcassi. You can imagine my surprise when it turned up in the greek film Dogtooth (which made my top ten films of 2010). In the film’s infamous, absolutely bananas dancing scene, the guitar player seems to be stuck on the song’s first four bars, repeating them incessantly. Somehow, it perfectly accompanies his two spastic dancing sisters–particularly the second girl whose deranged footwork gradually spirals out of control.

Day 25: A Song That Makes You Laugh

Roxy Music leader Bryan Ferry forged a pretty nifty solo career flush with cover versions that ranged from merely unconventional to downright blasphemous, and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” undoubtedly falls into the latter category. If you only know Bob Dylan’s serious-as-a-heart-attack protest folk original, then you’re in for a treat. Ferry’s unapologetically camp rendering of the song could have come from the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, but it’s far from an abomination. Even though the video adds on extra layers of frivolity (dig the white piano and androgynous backup singers), Ferry strikes a clever balance between ironic distance (by way of his affected, over-the-top vocal) and total sincerity in his impassioned performance. His version makes me laugh in how it mercilessly deflates the original’s pretensions while being weirdly, movingly entertaining in its own right.

Day 24 – A Song That You Want To Play At Your Funeral

I know that I don’t want a funeral in a musty old parlor with everyone dressed in black and my embalmed body in a casket. Instead, I’d prefer a beautiful outdoor setting, perhaps near the ocean. Attendees will be encouraged to wear any color they please and imbibe elaborate cocktails (there will be mocktails for those who don’t drink). Then, while my ashes are scattered, XTC’s “Wrapped in Grey” will fill the air, reminding all that a life worth living is one full of brilliant colors and the endless capacity to create and dream. It’s an unconventional choice (especially given its unexpected last line), but the song’s lush, pastoral feeling is exactly the mood I’d like to go out on.

Day 23: A Song That You Want to Play At Your Wedding

Steve and I have been together for nearly five years now. If we ever decide to take the plunge and make things official (which we legally can do in Massachusetts, thank you very much), I can’t thing of a better song to play than Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love”. From her two-year-old album Lungs (gradually becoming one of my all-time favorite records), it’s opulent, starry-eyed romanticism personified, airily swooping and swaying with her trademark harp swirls, Annie Lennox-on-steroids vocals and robust, thunderous percussion. As much as I love her breakout hit “Dog Days Are Over”, I wish radio would give this one a few spins, too.  Also, Steve loves it as much as I do.

Day 22: A Song That You Listen To When You’re Sad

As previously stated, I don’t listen to sad music much all that much, especially when I’m feeling down (I often reach for something, anything to cheer me up). However, in thinking of the perfect song to accompany one’s misery, “Crowd Surf Off A Cliff” by Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton springs to mind. Best known as the lead singer of Metric, Haines is far more moody and melancholic in her solo work–a stark contrast to her band’s peppy, new wave-inspired pop. I love how this song has a stripped-down arrangement but somehow manages to sound full-bodied, as if all one needs are those amazing, resounding chord changes and Haines’ disembodied yet expressive vocal.

It’s quintessential music for when you’re awake at 3:00 AM, wracked with longing or despair and you feel truly alone because everyone else is blissfully asleep.