Day 21: A Song That You Listen To When You’re Happy

I could pick just about anything from The New Pornographers’ first three albums–it’s all spazzy, sprightly, catchy poppy goodness–but I will go with “Use It” from Twin Cinema. I can’t begin to decipher how many different hooks the song contains; I also just can’t help but jump up and down like a grinning idiot whenever I hear it.

One neat thing about this project is that it makes me search for videos that I never knew existed. They’re all on YouTube, of course, but there’s just so much I could spend hours looking for them all, and I already spend far too many hours surfing the net.  This clever clip for “Use It” features David Cross, always a welcome addition to a music video.

Day 20 – A Song That You Listen To When You’re Angry

When I’m so frustrated I want to leave my work space, walk out on the fire escape and emit a blood-curdling scream (I actually did that once!), I want to listen to something seething with both anger and a sense of humor to dissipate the bad vibes and reach a healthy catharsis. Since I saw them live in concert last night, I have Cibo Matto’s “Birthday Cake” on my mind. It’s a hilariously loopy song, endlessly quotable (the stanza that starts with “You were born in the ’60s” never fails to crack me up) and full of surreal imagery; it’s also obnoxiously loud and practically frothing at the mouth, especially in the explosive “SHUT UP AND EAT!” chorus. I wish they had made an actual video for it–when you watch the clip for “Know Your Chicken“, you can only imagine how they would have visualized this one.

Day 19: A Song From Your Favorite Album

I’ve already written at length about my favorite album, R.E.M.’s Automatic For the People. Rather than post the video for “Man On the Moon” or “Everybody Hurts”, I’ll go with one of the lesser-known tracks (although it was a single in a few countries), “Nightswimming”–a strong contender for the most beautiful song the band ever did. Fans of R.E.M.’s earlier material often complain about how Michael Stipe sounded less interesting once you could decipher his lyrics, but I think this is his most moving, effective vocal. Man, this band–they could take a topic as mundane as skinny-dipping and make it seem resonant and otherworldly.

Day 18: A Song That You Wish You Heard On the Radio

YouTube has rendered radio irrelevant as a space to hear new music these days. Even pre-internet, I first heard many of my favorite artists either on MTV (when they played music videos) or, more often, via reviews and word of mouth that led to stuff I could find at the library. It’s reached the point that I can only name one new artist I like that I discovered through the radio this year.

Robyn is a different case. She actually had big radio hits back in 1997 when she was 18 and riding the teenpop wave. Following a decade of record-label woes, she reemerged in America with a more muscular, mature yet still poppy sound. Her recent stuff is critically acclaimed and super catchy to boot, so why have I not heard any of it on the radio? Why does foghorn-voiced Katy Perry rule the airwaves instead? (The two women are touring together this summer, believe it or not). Is Robyn’s take on dance pop too emotionally complex for mass consumption? I would gladly post anything from her latest album Body Talk, but will go with “Call Your Girlfriend”, in which she simply dances and kicks ass.

Day 17: A Song That You Hear Often On the Radio

Lately, every station I listen to (except for NPR) seems to be playing “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys: adult alternative 92.5 The River, Emerson College radio (WERS 88.9) and Sirius XM stations such as the 80s channel (an obvious place, I know) and retro alternative First Wave. I don’t know why I’m surprised–after all, it was their biggest hit to the degree that most Americans think of them as one-hit wonders. Actually, they had five additional hits from 1986-1988, but nothing after that, which is almost tragic since their very best album (called Very) came out in 1993. Despite its status as the PSB song you’re most likely to hear on the radio, it holds up rather well twenty-five years on. I won’t say that it doesn’t sound of its time, but the catchy melody and wry, perceptive half-spoken, half-sung lyrics do seem timeless.

Day 16: A Song That You Used to Hate But Now Love

It’s not that I ever hated Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”; it’s just that when I was 13 in 1988, I didn’t understand what it was doing on the upper reaches of American Top 40 next to George Michael and Def Leppard (I couldn’t fathom what Guns ‘n Roses was doing there either, but that’s another story). The song’s introspective vibe and Chapman’s somewhat androgynous vocal sounded like nothing else at the time. Two years later, In Living Color’s wicked parody did little to convey Chapman’s considerable talents to me. Only much later, after I had grown up a little, did I get it. Now, whenever I hear “Fast Car”, I no longer change channels. It’s a tremendously beautiful song with stirring chord changes and a neat but unfussy arrangement. Perhaps if I had been born five or ten years earlier I would’ve gone out and purchased Chapman’s self-titled debut album upon first hearing it.

Day 15: A Song That Describes You

I used to take pride in calling myself a weirdo. I wanted to stand out, to not be like everyone else, to not conform to other people’s opinions of how I should dress, what I should listen to–in short, what I should like. As an adult in my mid-thirties, I wince at some of my younger self’s shallow idealism. It makes me think of the old King Missile lyric, “I want to be different, like all of the different people”. Although I now understand there’s no sense in being weird just for the sake of it, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t celebrate their own individual differences and quirks, especially when they come from a genuine, heartfelt place.

Some deride her as “secretary rock” for her two ubiquitous hits from a few years back, but I really admire Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall. She almost seems like an accidental pop star–talented and ambitious, but also authentic and down-to-earth. “(Still A) Weirdo” from her recent album Tiger Suit tenderly sums up everything I attempted to articulate in the preceding paragraph. The song is a bold statement, wistfully disclosed and I deeply relate to its comment on time assessed.

Day 14: A Song That No One Would Expect You to Love

Now this is hard. I like just about every musical genre except for metal, country and rap. I think I’ve lost the ability to surprise anyone who has ever received a mix tape/CD from me. The best I can come up with for a seemingly unlikely Kriofske Mix candidate is AC/DC.  I’ve never bought one of their albums nor downloaded any of their songs (actually, no one can do the latter), but I kinda like them. And I love “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”–simplistic and Cro-Magnon enough to make the Ramones seem like deep thinkers, but Bon Scott’s sneering, clipped vocal (I definitely prefer him over his successor, Brian Johnson) appeals to the pimply adolescent in me. Check out this performance, recorded in Australia in 1976–the youthful audience proves AC/DC’s allure extended well beyond biker bars.

Day 13: A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure

A guilty pleasure is just another way of saying, “I know how cheesy and indefensible something is, but I love it anyway.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having one, but it’s not something you would splatter all over your Facebook page or emphasize on your profile.

All you need to know about Boney M is that they were the brainchild of the man who went on to create Milli Vanilli. Their eurodisco sold millions in Europe and mostly squat in the US. One of their biggest hits, “Rasputin” is also one of their silliest. Even though it uses the pop song form as an outlet for a history lesson, it has no redeeming social value whatsoever. I love every second of it, from the audacity to refer to the man as “Russia’s greatest love machine” to every last Hey! Hey! Hey! Just remember: mindless kitsch always wins out over well-intentioned schlock.

Day 12: A Song From A Band You Hate

I had to think long and hard to come up with a band I truly, scathingly hate. I love most music and even artists I can’t stand often have at least one redeemable song in their catalog (such as Pearl Jam’s “Better Man”). But I would love to spend the rest of my life without ever hearing a Counting Crows song again. Their music is bland and inoffensive – not so the main problem I have with them, which is lead singer/songwriter Adam Duritz. His vocal affectations just rub me the wrong way.

Upon first hearing him I thought he might be mentally challenged. The video for “Mr. Jones” did not entirely negate my suspicions, either. Actually, I didn’t mind “Mr. Jones” the first fifty times I heard it, but it annoyed me like a persistent cold sore thereafter. Duritz and his Crows still keeping making music and progressively suck harder with each attempt. Their absolute nadir is a pointless, abominable cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. Rather than link to that horror, here’s “Mr. Jones”, where you can test my Duritz-developmentally challenged theory for yourself.