one hundred times
Corey's piece on being present for the music you're listening to struck a chord with me [HARDY HAR HAR], since I practice a variation [I'LL STOP SOON] on that theme.
For the last 2 1/2 years, I've kept a Spotify playlist of songs I have literally listened to 100 times in a row. Since I answer a phone at work, sometimes this takes a couple of days. It's interesting to inspect the strata of my life through the window these songs provide.
First we have "Lock the Door Christina" and "In the Meantime" from Joe Pug's album "Live at Lincoln Hall." My deep, abiding affection for Pug is pretty well known. His voice is not everyone's cup of tea (I find it incredibly homely and comforting), but if you can dismiss the strength of his lyrics, then I will have to dismiss YOU.
Also, this is why I have the words "in the meantime" tattooed on my arm. Cut me: I will bleed this album.
Next is Kathleen Edwards' "Good Things." It's dreamy. I identify strongly with song themes of unrequited love, sort of a quiet hope that things might get better, the now and not yet.
Let's save the psychoanalysis for later.
Ah. The Avett Brothers' cover of Prine's "Spanish Pipedream." An amazing song. I kind of bailed on the Avetts not too long after that, though, so of everything on here, this might be my least favorite.
Beck's "Blue Moon." Again - dream state. I really like Beck. I think he's got enough money and sway to do WHATEVER he wants, and he's still putting out really high quality pop music. This is more reflective of how I felt at this time, since I tend much more to the Midnite Vultures end of the Beck spectrum.
"Moonshiner" (traditional) by Redbird. Redbird is husband & wife Jeffrey Foucault & Kris Delmhorst, plus Peter Mulvey, although this song is just Foucault singing. Guaranteed to rip your heart out.
Turnpike Troubadour's "Diamonds & Gasoline." The sad song theme is firmly established now. I like this album a fair bit. Not for every day, but this song is good, for a genre that's usually kind of overblown.
"The Weeping Willow" - again, a traditional cut, by Devon Sproule & Paul Curreri. (Husband & wife duos, good ones, are my favorite.) I associate them and this song very much with Virginia, so this song stands for all good things and happy times.
And now we're into the Ryan Adams layer. "Dear Chicago" is the first song of his I can remember hearing (thanks, Pandora). Since Adams is the King of Sad Songs, this is the crown jewel. There's a little hope here, a pinprick of light at the end of many long winters.
John Newman's "Love Me Again" - gosh. I love this kid. I don't know why this album wasn't huge. Maybe because he sounds terrible live. But this is, for my money, one of the best produced albums of 2014. Sometimes people pile it all on and it would be better if you removed half of it - this is one of those ones where I thought the excess was glorious.
Then I turned to The Band. "Don't Do It," from their extraordinary album "Live At The Academy of Music". Don't do it, don't you break my heart. It didn't work. My heart broke anyway. But that backbeat was a lifeline.
Paul Curreri's "Letting Us Be." He's a master of wordplay, which I found reassuring when nothing else was going right.
"Cheating" (John Newman again). It's a great song. It's a little Elvis-y, a little Stray Cats-esque.
Band of Horses now enter the scene with "St. Augustine" & "The General Specific." I saw them right around this time. They were great, but it wasn't particularly meaningful - too loud, too happy, I was a million miles away, wishing I was at home and hadn't spent the money.
"Beneath a Crozet Trestle Bridge." Paul Curreri again. Air to the drowning, an invocation for better times.
I was at the stage of gritting my teeth and getting on with things when I found David Ramirez' album "American Soil." "Carry Me Like The Wind," "Bloom," and "Fires" all stood out from this for me. There's a certain freshness to them.
Fall was setting in. Sam Amidon's take on the traditional-ish "I Wish I Wish" was calming, the kind of thing you listen to when it gets cold out.
Ryan Adams' "Love Is Hell" was on repeat a lot. The tracks that struck me most were "World War 24" and "The Shadowlands". I blogged previously about the latter. It's such a tremendous song, that desperation unfolding into freedom, joy, hope.
Which makes a tremendous segue to "Life is a Carnival" (again, The Band"). Those horns. I found out when I finally bought the album that Allen Toussaint arranged them.
I returned to an old favorite here: The Avett Brothers' "Ten Thousand Words." I still think this is their best work. A finely written song, their voices more unpolished then they are now, rising, swaying, leaning heavily on each other, and a simple arrangement.
"If Still It Can't Be Found" (Joe Pug again). If it's not around this corner, it's around the next. I don't know if that's true for the immediate corner; I know it's true of the ultimate corner.
"How Much Light." Ryan Adams. Oh, it's sappy. It's oozy. And I listened to it 100 times. How much light till the ocean tips over? Okay, going to listen to this 100 more times.
The other recurrent theme is deep voices. They feel solid when everything else is quicksand. Hip Hatchet's "Hold You Like a Harness" and "Words of Wisdom" were played incessantly last summer. (And HYLAH has been my alarm for roughly a year.)
Ryan Adams "Rip Off." I maybe found this one a year too late. Still love it. A little more Whiskeytown-ish than a lot of his other tracks here.
"Lady of the Desert" is my favorite cut from Rayland Baxter's "Imaginary Man." This is a perfectly crafted song. This reminds me of something intangible, mostly forgotten, the voice or face of someone long dead, slipping through your fingers.
In the winter of 2015/2016, I found Renee Fleming & Rufus Wainwright's version of "In The Bleak Midwinter" on my long-running search for Christmas music that doesn't suck. While I'm not normally a huge fan of either artist, the harmonies here are unparalleled, and this is a testament to the beauty of restraint in arrangements.
Then there was a long break, until this week, when I added "Trade All the Lights" (Caleb Caudle with Lydia Loveless). Spotify's "Discover Weekly" turned this one up for me. It's left me feeling a little weird, actually. The sensation of missing someone you don't know (although that's not quite the message of this song) has been pursuing me for over 10 years. At times, I've thought I knew who I missed.
This week, while staying with the Torreys (which is a blog post in itself), I finally read C.S. Lewis' "Surprised by Joy" (which is another blog post). I won't get into it here, suffice it to say, there's a reason it's considered required reading. He talked so much of that unutterable longing we all feel. Not necessarily the pursuit of joy, beauty, happiness, companionship, but the longing that's still there even when you have what you want. I think the best songs tap into that to some (imperfect) extent. Carry on. I'll keep adding to the list.