“Chris’ Mix (Vol. 2): Music I Discovered in 2009” – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-04-03 13:23:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

In April 2009, I decided to put together a playlist for a friend, one which would represent my favorite music that I had discovered since I began paying close attention to new music, as well as expanding my range of interests.  This had all started in the middle of my first year of teaching; now that I made a regular salary, I realized I could budget out enough money for regular music purchases.  So, it all started in January 2008 with Ringo Starr’s Liverpool 8.  I would have bought that album anyway, but I went on to buy albums that I never would have paid much attention to in the past.  Some, like R.E.M.’s Accelerate, are albums that I consider to be among the best of all time.

I’m glad I didn’t miss them!

Now, of course, there were many mediocre (and worse) albums along the way, but in the end, this decision has been fruitful.  I look forward with excitement to each “New Music Tuesday,” waiting to receive the Newbury Comics newsletter in my inbox.  Many weeks, there is music that piques my interest, and I set off on the journey to pick it up and listen.

I will feature this first playlist of 2008 music on next week’s edition of “Playlists on Parade,” but I felt the strong urge to start with my latest playlist.  This is a collection of songs that I discovered in 2009, either because they were released that year, were recommended to me, or I stumbled upon them.  I hope you enjoy the brief liner notes and consider picking some of these up!

1)  “Got Some” – Pearl Jam

This is the song I thought should have been the lead-off track on their 2009 album Backspacer.  I first heard it performed live on the first-ever Late Night with Conan O’Brien show, and I was head-over-heels for it from the first snare shots.  The studio version didn’t disappoint, and thus, it’s the lead-off track for this playlist.

2)  “Wilco (the song)” – Wilco

I’ll admit it:  I laughed when I first heard this song performed live on the Colbert Report, but I simply fell in love with the album version.  The band is clearly so comfortable with themselves that this very direct, very cheesy statement comes across as consoling and encouraging.  I needed it last year, and I continue to sing along every time.

3)  “Help Me, Suzanne” – Rhett Miller

I vividly remember hearing this song for the first time on Mike Fusco’s iPhone.  He was playing this because it was a song he had to share.  He had heard it on the Hollister store soundtrack, and I was surprised by just how good it was.  How could such excellent music slip by unnoticed?  Well, Mike noticed it, and I picked up the album shortly after.  There are a couple other great songs, but although the album is enjoyable, there’s no song that competes with this gem.

4)  “Singing Joy to the World” – The Fruit Bats

This is one of the most stripped down performances on the Fruit Bats’ brilliant 2009 album The Ruminant Band.  You just don’t hear too many ballads like this one, and I’m hooked on the lyrics and melody every time I listen.

5)  “Part of It” – Relient K

Why this song wasn’t released as a single from 2009’s Forget and Not Slow Down, I’ll never know.  It is easily one of the best performances on the album, and it is one of my favorite Relient K songs of all time.  My favorite line?  Gotta be: “I’m the Cusack on the lawn of your heart.”  Now THAT is a metaphor for the ages!

6)  “Jonathon Fisk” – Spoon

Mentioned in an email by former student Geoff Troup less than a month before the New Year, I set out to hear Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight before their scheduled 2010 release of Transference (which is fantastic, by the way).  I realized I did know “That’s the Way We Get By,” probably from watching The O.C. with my sister.  (Did I just admit that in an official post?  Wow.)  The album was a bit odd to me at first, but after a few listens, I couldn’t get enough of their unique style.  “Jonathon Fisk” is among the best, and I hold a special place in my heart for this track since I learned it for a recent Laptop Session.

7)  “The Mob Goes Wild” – Clutch

Clutch came highly recommended by my colleague Dan O’Brien, and although I liked Blast Tyrant very much (so much that it just missed charting on my favorite 50 albums of the decade list), “The Mob Goes Wild” immediately stood out from the rest.  It is one of those songs for which you feel compelled to learn the lyrics so you can competently sing along.  It also adds a nice, harder edge to this playlist that balances out the quieter tracks.

8)  “Cornerstone” – The Arctic Monkeys

Like “Singing Joy to the World,” I instantly fell in love with the story told in this song.  Not only did I listen with rapt attention that first listen, but I was fascinated by the instrumental and vocal blend.  “Cornerstone” is a wonderfully quirky, hauntingly skeevy, and addictively entertaining track, one that softened my distaste for the Arctic Monkeys,’ an opinion I had based on their early work.

9)  “Life of a Thousand Crimes” – Echo & the Bunnymen

If you believed the critics that write for the major music magazines, you would have ignored the 2009 release (The Fountain) that yielded this Echo & the Bunnymen gem.  McCulloch’s vocals are in gritty, perfect form for leading this upbeat romp.

10)  “Peacemaker” – Green Day

There were so many standout tracks on Green Day’s 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown that it was difficult to choose just one for this playlist.  Overall, though, “Peacemaker” is one of the most instrumentally and vocally interesting, not to mention one of the catchiest.  When I recorded my Laptop Session cover song version of this track, it certainly gave me a workout as I figured out how to fit in all the vocals and still breathe!

11)  “Cream and Bastards Rise” – Harvey Danger

Remember “Flagpole Sitta”?  Well, it seems that this is about the only Harvey Danger song that anyone remembers.  And it’s a shame because 2005’s Little by Little… is an outstanding disc, one that featured this catchy, killer performance of their lead single.  (And, sadly, they’re so right!)

12)  “Jocelyn” – Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle

If you liked the hidden track on the Barenaked Ladies’ 2000 album Maroon, then Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle are for you.  This, as you may have guessed, is Hearn’s side project, and their second album (2004’s Night Light) yielded this beautiful little song.  After the frenetic buildup of “Peacemaker” and “Cream and Bastards Rise,” I thought this was the perfect track to relax on before “Got Some” returns again for another go-round.

Reflections on Rock Music: The Subtleties of the Playlist

Originally posted 2009-06-22 23:50:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

For those who don’t know me, it can safely be said I’m a music dork for the ages.  And so, with that distinction clearly in place, it is with great honor that I present to you an article for the Laptop Sessions new music blog dedicated to what is perhaps my favorite digital innovation:

The playlist.

For anyone that owns an mp3 player and certainly anyone that uses iTunes, playlists offer new and unique ways to group your songs.  Whether you’re making one for yourself, a friend, or significant other, there are countless formats you can use.  Here are the major categories:

1.)  The Artist Compilation

This is the ultimate test of your knowledge and love for a given artist:  Can you create a compilation of a band or artist’s best songs?  Here’s the added twist:  In my personal opinion, I think compilations should adhere either to the length of a CD (about 74 minutes) maximum, or 20 songs at most.  Giving yourself a boundary to work within forces you to nix some songs that just shouldn’t make the cut, even if they do remind you of the first time you kissed your significant other, or whatever.

The trick here is to compile a set of tracks that are both comprehensive and satisfying in one grouping, taking care to order them in an interesting manner that gives the compilation a life of its own.  Sometimes, chronological is okay.  But if you’re just going to choose tracks and throw them randomly into a playlist, then please don’t even try.

These are valuable playlists to have, particularly for more under-the-radar bands like Ben Folds and (until last week’s “Best of” release) the Wallflowers, as well as artists whose greatest hits come in multiple and/or unsatisfying formats, like R.E.M. and (until recently) Bob Dylan.  Even when you love albums like I do, you may just want to hear a mix from time to time.

2.) The Artist Catalog Playlist

Similar to the artist compilation, the artist catalog playlist focuses on one band or artist.  However, this is for true fans only.  The playlist comprises a chronological collection of any and all tracks you can get your hands on.  Oh yeah, I’m talking about all those demos, live tracks, and soundtrack cuts you’ve accumulated over your long career as a fan.

Personally, I drop all the studio albums into the playlist first, ordering them by release date, and then I add all other tracks around those mainstays.  Even when a track has technically come out previous to a studio album during the same year, I put the tracks after the album.  My reasoning?  Hey, the albums are — hopefully — the first, best source for great tracks and provide some great structure to what could be an exhaustive (and exhausting) playlist.

This works very well for bands with popular, lengthy careers — like Pearl Jam — or more under-the-radar artists, such as Wilco (I spent more time than I should have compiling my “Wilco, etc.” playlist, which includes a ton of Jeff Tweedy solo work, Golden Smog, Loose Fur, and more) and Jim Fusco (don’t even ask — of course I included such great rareties as “Parody Writer” and all the bonus tracks on releases like My Other Half and the enhanced CD section of Formula).

3.)  The Themed Playlist

Perhaps the most popular of all playlists, I think anyone who considers him/herself a fan of music or of life in general should have to make at least one themed playlist for someone special, or at least for personal use.  Just last night, my friend Dana Camp was describing the track listing of a “Date Playlist” that he has.

Recently, I’ve made playlists for the drive to the beach, rush hour traffic, the unfortunate bank overdraft/identity theft crisis of a friend, and you better believe that I had a downright melancholy compilation prepared and put to good use while I was broken up from my girlfriend last year.  These sorts of playlists are the most versatile, and the degree to which you take the song choice and track order into consideration say at least as much about you as the tracks say about the artist/band.

4.)  Long Format Playlists

Last but not least we come to the long format playlist.  Similar to the artist catalog playlist (which can be played straight through in chronological order if you prefer), this list is most often played while your iPod or other mp3 device is in shuffle mode.

My favorite examples of this type are the “Albums by Year” compilations I put together recently.  On my iPod, I have playlists titled “Albums – 1990,” “Albums – 1991,” and so on up to the still-expanding “Albums – 2009.”  Because I’ve been spending a lot of time working recently, each day I choose a year and just let it play.  This is fun and fascinating because you can laugh and say, “Wow, I haven’t heard that song in FOREVER!,” as well as begin to appreciate in retrospect the songs and albums that came out during the same years.  For instance, I didn’t really fall in love with albums and music in general until the turn of the millennium.  Now that I’m listening to the 1991 playlist, I’m coming to appreciate the juxtapositon of Tom Petty’s more straightforward Into the Great Wide Open with the more alternative Ten (Pearl Jam) or Temple of the Dog (by the one-off band of the same name), as well as the atypical acoustic format and vocal clarity of R.E.M.’s Out of Time.  What will it be today?  Maybe I’ll go back to the hey day of my early musical roots, circa 1997 or 1998…

…and then remember why I came to love the Sixties music of bands like Bob Dylan and the Beatles!

Seriously, though, I hope you have enjoyed my breakdown of playlist formats.  If you have any of your own, please comment — I would LOVE to be able to think of more ways to effectively utilize the playlist functions of my iPod.

Christmas, Volume 1 – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-27 17:27:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Living for years with a friend who made it his business to know, love, and compile Christmas music, I’ve never really taken much ownership of the hundreds of holiday songs that are on my iPod, many of the older and/or more obscure selections having been discovered through him.  Of course, there are certain albums that I look forward to hearing every year.  These albums are collections of music that really help me get into the spirit of the season, ranging from classics like the Beach Boys’ sixties Christmas album to 2004’s Barenaked for the Holidays.

The problem I encountered last year was that the albums were easy to isolate in my iTunes, but the individual tracks from artists that I only listen to at Christmas time were more difficult to call up.  Some of the more legendary singers are easy to remember, like Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, but it is still inconvenient to flip between artists after every song or two.

This year, I was struck by the desire to hear the songs I missed last season, so I woke up early this morning to sort out all the yuletide tracks.  In the end, I had 340 songs in a playlist titled simply “Christmas Collection.”  Now, this is an excellent list to play on random when friends or family come over, or when you’re simply looking to mix it up.

But it could also be a drag to suffer through all your least favorite versions of your favorite songs or to keep hoping a song you’re thinking of is coming up next.

Thus, I sorted out my favorite songs into a separate playlist.  After I had picked through all 340 tunes, I found myself with 70 songs.  Still too many, so I forced myself – forced! – to cut out ten more.  With sixty remaining, I set about separating them into three more manageable lists of twenty each.

This is volume one of the creatively titled “Christmas” playlist series!

In this first playlist, I’ve included some of my absolute favorites, like the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” and the Moody Blues’ “Don’t Need a Reindeer.” I’ve also added some lesser known but equally excellent holiday themed tracks, like Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa” (a song I definitely did NOT fully understand when I first heard it at age 12) and Relient K’s “I Hate Christmas Parties.”  One of the most difficult decisions for me here was whether to use the original and unarguably classic Band Aid version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  In the end, I went with the BnL version, which is on the whole much more listenable, as it’s louder and clearer.

When they remaster the Band Aid version, I may need to revisit this playlist…

I’ll be back with more commentary on the tracks in specific and my process overall next Saturday, so be sure to check back for volume two!

1. “Little Saint Nick” (Single Version) – The Beach Boys

2. “Christmas Vacation” – Mavis Staples

3. “Don’t Need a Reindeer” – Moody Blues

4. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Barenaked Ladies (Band Aid cover)

5. “Back Door Santa” – Clarence Carter

6. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love

7. “Holly Jolly Christmas” – Burl Ives

8. “The First Snow” – Mike Fusco

9. “Winter Wonderland” – America

10. “Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On” – Ringo Starr

11. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley

12. “I Hate Christmas Parties” – Relient K

13. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon

14. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Judy Garland

15. “Christmastime (Oh Yeah)” – Barenaked Ladies

16. “Christmas Time is Here Again” – The Beatles

17. “Christmas Don’t Be Late” – Alvin & the Chipmunks

18. “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry

19. “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Bob Dylan

20. “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole

Christmas, Volume 3 – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-12-11 10:30:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

And so we come to the final installment of the ever-so-cleverly titled “Christmas” playlist series.

I don’t have much to say here, as I’ve already explained the process I went through and the purpose of these three Christmas playlists I’ve posted on the blog.  I will mention that this third volume seems to be a more relaxing, laid-back set than the previous two, especially after the first couple songs.  I didn’t mean for it to work out that way, but I’ve found this one quite soothing to listen to as I do some work around the house tonight.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through them, and don’t miss next Saturday, when I’ll publish the final “Playlists on Parade” post of the year, which will serve to wrap up my work with Christmas music this season.

1. “Angels We Have Heard on High” – Relient K

2. “Elf’s Lament” – Barenaked Ladies

3. “Christmas to Remember” – America

4. “The Christmas Guest” – Johnny Cash

5. “December Snow” – The Moody Blues

6. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – The Beach Boys

7. “Mele Kalikimaka” – Bing Crosby

8. “The Christmas Blues” – Bob Dylan

9. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee

10. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms

11. “Santa Claus is Back in Town” – Elvis Presley

12. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – Elmo and Patsy

13. “What I Really Want for Christmas” – Brian Wilson

14. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen / We Three Kings” – Barenaked Ladies (with Sarah McLachlan)

15. “Merry Christmas Darling” – Mike Fusco (with Jim Fusco)

16. “Holiday” – The Bee Gees

17. “Step Into Christmas” – Elton John

18. “White Christmas” – The Drifters

19. “Santa’s Beard” – The Beach Boys

20. “Joy to the World” – Brian Wilson