Here's the playlist to soundtrack your reading experience. Feel free to listen ahead to future S's o.t.D.
July 24th, 2021, "In a Station" by Karen Dalton. Coming soon...
July 23rd, 2021, "Didn't I" by Darondo. William Daron Pulliam, AKA Darondo, may have one of the most interesting music bios under his belt — which is a tall order. He had some modest hits in early 70s, cultivated a reputation that extended to a rumored career as a pimp, drove a Cadillac with a minibar and the vanity plate DARONDO, and hosted both a late-night variety show and a children's show at the same time while also sustaining a brutal cocaine addiction. He stepped away from showbiz to travel and get off the white, got a gig as a cruise ship guitar player, then went on to have a career as a physical therapist and speech pathologist. And that's the quick-and-dirty version. "Didn't I" was his biggest hit.
July 22nd, 2021, "Rye Whiskey" by Tex Ritter. The father of the great John Ritter, Tex Ritter covered this traditional folk tune, the first recording of which was done by Fiddlin' John Carson & His Virginia Reelers. It wasn't long after I'd first heard this tune — maybe three years ago — that I came across this old documentary interview with a Cajun man who could very likely be in my hometown in this clip. At the end, he references an old town drunk who used to sing the chorus of "Rye Whiskey" as he caroused around Acadiana.
July 21st, 2021, "Thanks A Lot" by Ernest Tubb & His Texas Troubadours. My family first became addicted to this song on a drive from El Paso and Marfa, TX. It was coincidental that I had recently listened to the first episode of Cocaine & Rhinestones, in which Ernest Tubb is the main character. The most fascinating thing I came across learning about this album and this song, in particular, is the life of its primary songwriter Eddie Miller — the other writer listed is Don Sessions, about whom I can't find much. But Eddie Miller! A high school dropout, former train engineer-turned country music legend who wrote a full-length country opera and a full-length gospel opera! ...!?!?!?
July 20th, 2021, "No Halo" by Kevin Morby. The thing that has always impressed me about Kevin Morby from the first time I heard "Harlem River" is how casually he approaches song structure. His vocals and distinct arrangements distract from how shockingly simple this song actually is. And yet the lyrics about a strict religious childhood don't need gussying or variation. Instead, it's pretty blunt what Morby is obliquely saying:
When I was a boy
No rooftop on my joy
When I was a child
Nowhere, no how, no one, nothing was not made of fire.
And then, at a certain point, Morby's childhood self realizes that there are no halos. No need to go deeper than that, since both religious and anti-religious experiences share at least one quality: they're impossible to fully communicate. Morby's solution? Simply report the facts and move on.
July 19th, 2021, "Preta Pretinha" by Novos Baianos. At about 1:20, you can hear perhaps the best 12-string solo of all time. This 1972 tune from Brazilian rock group Novos Baianos brings an almost proggy structural ambition to this simple, nearly bossa nova song of love and yearning. I've put this song on so many times, my daughter Cleo — who doesn't speak a word of Portuguese — can flawlessly phonetically sing it from beginning to end.
July 18th, 2021, "Not Given Lightly" by Chris Knox. As far as I can tell, Chris Knox may be the most important figure in the 80s NZ garage scene, forming the bands The Enemy, Toy Love, and Tall Dwarfs while also released solo albums and comix. The main lyric and title of the song is taken from The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs": Taste the whip, in love not given lightly. Unlike the source material, it is a straightforward love song to Knox's partner and "John and Liesha's mother," Barbara Ward.
July 17th, 2021, "Hyacinth Threads" by Orange Bicycle. I don't know if any other British band of the 60s did quite such a good job at ingesting Brian Wilson's harmonic genius and retooling it in the service of a very different song. Orange Bicycle were one of those bands that seemed to have a shadow career of much more famous acts. Much like the Beatles, they started off as a poorly named skiffle group. They were the first rock group to play on the other side of the Iron Curtain. They played the Isle of Wight Festival alongside T. Rex, Jefferson Airplane, and Fairport Convention. And yet they remain a gem-like obscurity.
NB: Their most famous member, drummer, keyboarder, and singer Wilson Malone, went on to produce albums for Iron Maiden, Todd Rundgren, Black Sabbath, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, and The Verve.
July 16th, 2021, "I Go to Sleep" by The Applejacks. I'm very happy to be doing Song of the Day because otherwise I would've never learned that this oft-covered Applejacks tune was actually written by but never formally recorded by none other than Ray Davies of The Kinks. I also learned that the tune was recorded and released the same year (1965) by Cher. According to Wikipedia, it's been recorded 27 times. The first time I remember hearing this song was from Anika and then Rasputina. It wasn't until I searched for the song and found all the other versions that I realized it had such a long history.
July 15th, 2021, "Incident in a Greatcoat" by The Cleaners from Venus. This dream-logic garage tune is one of my many favorites from this underground cassette band. The album was written while Martin Newell was quarantined with chickenpox, and the lyrics about slipping through a portal into a bar packed with beautiful celebrities whilst in one's early 20s strike me as a familiar quarantine wistfulness.
As a bit of a nonsequitur re this song, in particular, is my special affection for this quote from Newell in reference to his early inspo, like The Who, The Beatles, and The Kinks:
“I don’t want to copy those singles. I want to find what they were looking for. I’m not following in the footsteps of the ancients; I’m trying to seek what they sought.”
July 14th, 2021, "TIME AND SPACE" by THE DOOPEES. THE DOOPEES are a fictitious Japanese duo made up of Suzi and Caroline — both voiced by Yumiko Ohno. They were the space-age exotica brainchild of Yann Tomita, who wrote this concept album to describe a young girl's journey to — I think — better understand a recent breakup and grasp how one finds meaning in a world that just seems to be happening to you without your permission. The intrepid listeners who dedicate at least a few concentrated listens through the 1h13m runtime of the full concept album "Doopee Time" will find some unexpected rewards to be had in its musical maze.
July 13th, 2021, "Tactile Sob" by Bona Dish. This co-ed Hertfordshire quartet is the perfect upbeat jangly antidote to another one of John Peel's pet favorites (and mine), The Fall. Inspired by the same musical energy but probably not as much synthetic energy as Mark E. Smith, Bona Dish could've gone on to be a John Hughes soundtrack go-to, but they disbanded after releasing only two cassettes, gathered and released by Captured Tracks in 2013.
July 12th, 2021, "Promises I've Made" by Emitt Rhodes. Rhodes is one of the great mysteries of pop music. He wrote and self-recorded three hit records between 1970 and 1974, playing all of the instruments himself and managing to sound like a possibly better version of Paul McCartney's solo efforts of the time. He sunk back into the shadows as a recording engineer for the next three decades until his final album was released in 2000.
July 12th, 2021, "Peepers" by Polar Bear. This British jazz ensemble sounds positively African on this hit from their 2010 album by the same name. Led by drummer Seb Rochford, the remarkable thing is how restrained Rochford's playing is. My favorite drummer-led jazz groups are much more in the Art Blakey or Sunny Murray veins, both of whom are play much more selfishly with the groove. If you like Mulatu Astatke, you'll dig this tune.
July 11th, 2021, "Shapeshifter" by Paleo. Unfortunately, David Strackany's music project was named in 2004 and came to connote a very different scene than the one he came from. You may remember him for his early genius usage of the internet as a tool to promote himself and his music when, in 2007, he embarked on a roadtrip during which he wrote and recorded a new song every day for 365 days. This song reminds me of early Modest Mouse fused with The Dead Milkmen.
July 10th, 2021, "Your Touch" by Saâda Bonaire, a strange disco/world-music hybrid from Germany featuring two Nico-esque front-women. They were produced by Dennis Bovell (The Slits, The Pop Group, Matumbi) in Kraftwerk's studio. This sultry groove calls to mind an image hookahs in The Hacienda, and it's sad to know that ICM abandoned this group for their manager's budgetary indiscretions. What could have been the future of mutant world-disco?
July 9th, 2021, "Hollywood Dream Trip" by Syrinx. On the heels of his earlier group, Intersystem, John Mills-Cockell — an early champion of the Moog synth — formed Syrinx in 1970 with Doug Pringle (no relation to the potato chip family) and Alan Wells. Between '70 and '72, the group shared the stage with the likes of Miles Davis and Ravi Shankar before disbanding. This tune is perhaps the most unsettling vision of what a "dream trip" might sound like, but it was an appropriate companion through the doldrums of Portland winter. Not good for party mixes.
July 8th, 2021, "Dark Red" by Steve Lacy. My six-year-old daughter is sick of this song by now, but I'm not! This is from Lacy's first solo release, Steve Lacy's Demo, recording entirely on his iPhone. It feels like the perfect song to drive around L.A. just before magic hour, at that point where the sun is a potentially fatal traffic hazard and the only thing preventing you from panic is the way Lacy delivers his paranoid lyrics with the utmost cool.
July 7th, 2021, "strongboi" by honeythighs. One of only a few songs released under this moniker and side project from Alice Phoebe Lou, a psychedelic singer-songwriter from South Africa whose captivating voices calls to mind Molly Burch or Aldous Harding. Until I discovered the voice behind the band, I was a tad frustrated about the lack of output from honeythighs, so I was thrilled to learn that Lou has already released three albums under her own name. Check out her 2020 single "Witches" for another taste of her sandpaper-sweet voice.
July 6th, 2021, "Pacific 202" by William Fairey Brass Band. I don't know how I came across this, but it immediately became a go-to writing loop — a song that I put on repeat so I can concentrate without being distracted by learning about each song that catches my ear. Then, months later, I heard the original by 808 State and got really confused because I didn't know the culture of UK brass bands like the Fairey Band — being from southern Louisiana, a brass band is a very different thing. Turns out it was a cover. One of these days, I'd like to write something about how originals can often just feel like covers of the more-familiar cover, but I will not write that today.
July 5th, 2021, "Shebeen Queen" by Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya. A shebeen is an Irish word for speakeasy. The word spread to other parts of the globe, including Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, where the godfather of Zamrock, Rikki Ililonga, wrote this ballad to a barmaid. It set the stage for what would become a vibrant psychedelic scene that's currently one of my favorite time-space eras in music history.
July 4th, 2021, "Lonely Woman" by Ornette Coleman. Perhaps my favorite jazz song to sit and occupy at the moment because the tension between Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins' unsteady rhythm and Coleman and Don Cherry's near-dissonant mournfulness creates an unnameable uncertain emotional instability that only living inside of this song provides. In doing some cursory research for this write-up, I came across this bit about the song from an interview Coleman did with Jacques Derrida.
Before becoming known as a musician, when I worked in a big department store, one day, during my lunch break, I came across a gallery where someone had painted a very rich white woman who had absolutely everything that you could desire in life, and she had the most solitary expression in the world. I had never been confronted with such solitude, and when I got back home, I wrote a piece that I called "Lonely Woman."
July 3rd, 2021, "Seabird" by The Innovations. The A-side of a two-song demo released in 1977 by a Peruvian duo about which I know little else is a cover of the schmaltizer Alessi Brothers version. It sounds like the grandfather of Drugdealer and current-day L.A. bands of that ilk. Just as worth a listen is their one original tune, "Put a Little Away," the best song about saving money that I personally have ever heard.
July 2nd, 2021, "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb. I feel like I'm late to this song, but it grabbed me and didn't let me go back in October 2020. The restraint in Hebb's voice is what's most arresting, even toward the end when he starts to belt. Knowing that it's dedicated to his brother, who had just been stabbed to death, is no surprise if you zoom in on just how bittersweet Hebb's voice is.
July 1st, 2021, "Last Night the Moon Came" by Jon Hassell, who died at age 84 on June 26th, 2021, my son Lazlo's third birthday. This is possibly the late Hassell's most popular composition outside of his collaborations with Brian Eno. It's the (more or less) titular track from his 2009 ECM release, Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street. Listen to the whole album or just put this song on a loop and drift into a graceful oblivion along with the creator of the genre known as Fourth World, music for unknown and imaginary regions, who's now floating in the realms he spent his life conjuring from trumpet and electronics. He'll be missed.
June 30th, 2021, "Master Blaster (Jammin')" by Stevie Wonder. The most perfect blend of reggae rhythms with hot funk energy, there's perhaps no better summer driving song than this burner from 1980's Hotter Than July.