Friday, February 27, 2009

February 27, 2009: Joel RL Phelps & The Downer Trio - "Get the Chills"

This song comes from the Lost Classics Department. Phelps & company's 1999 album Blackbird was one of the new releases on the endcap when I started working at Oar Folkjokeopus. I knew that a handful of my friends were fans, so it was one of the first discs I checked out on the job. To this day, I maintain that it is one of the overlooked masterpieces of '90s indie-rock. I have not been able to make myself feel anything more than ambivalence toward the rest of Phelps' catalog, but this one is a must-own.

"Get the Chills"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 26, 2009: Leonard Cohen - "If It Be Your Will"

Leonard Cohen is coming to town. If I ever compiled a list of favorite living artists who I would probably never get a chance to see live, he would be right near the top.

I've been a fan of Cohen since before I was thirteen years old. For my friend Chris' 13th birthday (which was about six weeks before mine), after a day of intense comic book shopping, his parents allowed the two of us to see the R-rated Pump Up the Volume in the theater. It was pretty badass... an angst-ridden, music-driven teen drama with boobs, and we got to see it! Cohen's music was a focal point of the film. His original version of "Everybody Knows" served as the opening song to Christian Slater's pirate radio show. "If It Be Your Will" made a lone appearance during a key scene late in the movie.

Pump Up the Volume introduced me to a lot of great music at a pretty young age. I was initially crushed when Leonard Cohen failed to appear on the soundtrack CD (the version of "Everybody Knows" on there was Concrete Blonde's cover), but that disc was my first exposure to the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains and Henry Rollins. And though they didn't appear on the soundtrack either, the movie also introduced me to the Descendents. My musical tastes were progressing rapidly. In the span of about a year, I had moved from pop hair-metal to Metallica and Anthrax. I had just started listening to KJ104 and getting into the Red Hot Chili Peppers. All those punk and college-rock bands from Pump Up the Volume easily appealed to me. I can't quite figure out why Cohen had such an impact. Whatever the reason, I am grateful.

Now he's coming to the Orpheum Theater and I'm going to skip it. Tickets are $80-$250. That's not in the budget.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25, 2009: Robyn Hitchcock - "Your Head Here"

One of my most pleasant musical surprises so far in 2009 is Robyn Hitchcock's outstanding new album Goodnight Oslo. It does not come as a surprise that it's a good album, as Hitchcock has always been good. He has, however, always been a guy who I have enjoyed listening to when I hear him, but for some reason have never gone out of my way to study his post-Soft Boys catalog. Well... it looks like I have a new project.

"Your Head Here"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24, 2009: The "5" Royales - "The Slummer the Slum"

Last month, my boss Mark recommended that I pick up the new issue of The Oxford American. It's the annual music issue, and being the 10th anniversary of the music issue, it includes two fantastic CDs of southern music. I finally got around to picking it up last weekend, and I have been listening to the discs non-stop.

My favorite song on the CDs is this cut from the "5" Royales. I had already owned a CD and an LP from the "5" Royales, but had never heard this landmark song. Just listen to the squawkin' guitar!

The magazine is great, the CDs are great... head down to your local bookstore or magazine stand now to pick this up. It will be the best $10 you'll spend all month.

"The Slummer The Slum"

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 23, 2009: The Flaming Stars - "You Don't Always Want What You Get"

Hey, everybody! The Greatest Song of the Day is back! Thanks to some dude on ebay, I have a new power cord for my computer (at a fraction of the cost of a Dell factory replacement) and am ready to roll. I won't lie to you, the week off from doing this was nice. It was nice to hear from so many of you, concerned that this was over. Far from it, though. I feel refreshed. After three months of posting one song per day, everyday, there were times where it started to feel like a chore. I have a long mental list of songs or bands that I can not believe I haven't already selected. Without further adieu, we'll get started with the band at the top of that list.

For many years, The Flaming Stars have held the title "Dan's Favorite Active Band." I've been known to dump other titles on them, too... "Best Band That Nobody In North America Has Ever Heard" and the more simplified "Best Band In The World" among them. Since 1995, they've been plugging away in obscurity, one great album after another. If I had to choose one of their albums as my favorite, I think I would go with 2000's A Walk on the Wired Side. "You Don't Always Want What You Get" is one of the standouts from that LP and, in a perfect world, would be widely recognized as one of the great rock songs of this decade.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 15, 2009: The Temptations - "Cloud Nine"

Sweet lord, I love the Temptations. Sorry about the sporadic posting these last few days. The power cord on my laptop died. I'm borrowing my mom's computer for a few days while I wait for the new one to arrive. We should be back to normal by the end of the week.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14, 2009: Sam Cooke - "Cupid"

What? You thought it was going to be "Girls L.G.B.N.A.F." by Ice-T?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009: Television - "Venus"

The song that was in my head at the beginning of the day was actually the title track to Television's 1977 debut Marquee Moon. I didn't want to do a ten-minute Song of the Day, though, so after several listens to the album today, I have decided that my other favorite song on the record gets the honor. Timely, too... Venus... Roman goddess of love... Valentine's Day tomorrow...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 12, 2009: Sleater-Kinney - "What's Mine Is Yours"

In 2005, Sleater-Kinney left their longtime record label Kill Rock Stars for the larger Sub Pop Records and hired renowned producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Low) to record what would become their final album, The Woods.

While there was some speculation that Fridmann's typical polished and layered sound would take over, thus alienating longtime S-K fans, what the fans actually got was an entirely different and almost completely unexpected type of alienation.

For The Woods, Sleater-Kinney turned the volume up to 11, so to speak. Through a wall of distortion and Janet Weiss' thunderous drumming came the ballsiest record of the year. It was definitely hated by many. I love it. It was my favorite album of 2005. I love it when a band evolves.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 11, 2009: Alejandro Escovedo - "Swallows of San Juan"

It happens every year. There's always one album that I hear and think, "Hey, that's pretty good," but for whatever reason it doesn't hit heavy rotation status on my stereo. Then, shortly after the new year, I'm prompted to dig the album out again and it hits me in a whole new way. I'll declare it a masterpiece and it will be my most listened to album of the year, the year after it came out. Last year, as I've mentioned before on this blog, that album was Steve Earle's Washington Square Serenade.

Alejandro Escovedo's Real Animal is well on its way to being that album for 2009. It has it all. At 58 years old, Alejandro still rocks twice as hard as kids a third of his age, and the ballads (such as "Swallows of San Juan") are as gorgeous as ever. Real Animal is quite possibly the pinnacle of Alejandro's storied career.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 10, 2009: Thunder In the Valley - "Motherless Children"

Last month, the dearly departed Thunder In the Valley decided to offer their unreleased last album as a free download. It was recorded in Philadelphia with Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man). Some of the songs appeared on their Where Oh Where Oh Where EP, but the rest of 'em never saw the light of day during the band's active lifespan. It's a shame, too, because... wow... these boys were up to something special.

Download the Song of the Day

(Click on the picture to download the album.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 9, 2009: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - "Please Read the Letter"

I don't usually pay much attention to the Grammys, and this year was no exception. My wife and I spent Sunday night giving the dog a bath and watching The Wire on DVD. I was completely oblivious to the fact that the Grammys were taking place that night.

Well after midnight, while checking Twins updates on the Star Tribune's website, I noticed a link in the "Most Read Stories" sidebar that read "Plant, Krauss dominate Grammys." I smiled. I don't give much credibility to those awards, but it's still nice on those rare occasions when they get it right.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 8, 2009: Rolling Stones - "Beast of Burden"

At work today, I was asked, "What's the best Stones album?"

Without blinking, I confidently answered, "Exile on Main Street," which has always been my personal favorite.

The young lady then asked me, "What's your favorite song of theirs?"

That question was not such an easy one to answer. I don't know if "Beast of Burden" is my definite choice, but it sounds really freakin' good at this moment!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 7, 2009: The Grifters - "Covered With Flies"

It's funny how the hype machine can swallow some bands and bury them like a time capsule. I hadn't thought about the Grifters for a long, long time until I saw their name in print today. They really were a great band, but almost a decade after their break-up, they seem completey forgotten. Here's to hoping I won't forget them again...


Friday, February 6, 2009

February 6, 2009: Thin Lizzy - "For Those Who Love to Live"

"For Those Who Love to Live" is another all-time favorite for me. I think it's one of the most underrated rock songs, and it is definitely the most under-appreciated Thin Lizzy jam.

If your exposure to Thin Lizzy does not extend further than "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Jailbreak," do yourself a favor and pick up their 1975 album Fighting. While I do love Jailbreak, their 1976 breakthrough, Fighting is the album that I spin over and over again.

February 5, 2009: Rufus Thomas - "Walking the Dog"

Yes, I know the song is about a dance, but I've learned that I have a tendency to interpret titles literally when selecting the Song of the Day. The past two days have been perfect dog-walking weather, even despite all the unmelted ice sheets passing for sidewalks in my neighborhood. Sophie has been a very happy puppy.

February 4, 2009: The Fall - "Couldn't Get Ahead"

This song, more than just about any other I can think of, sums up how I have felt for the last few days. Things have been busy at work with our remodeling and reorganization. Things have been busy for my record label, working on three new releases simultaneously. And, thanks in part to a very energetic puppy, as well as my natural tendency to procrastinate and then do everything at once, things have been busy at home. It's exhilarating and exhausting.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February 3, 2009: The Clean - "Anything Could Happen"

The last few days have been pretty busy and exciting at Treehouse Records (my place of employment).

Yesterday, Mark Olson and Gary Louris - the former frontmen of the Jayhawks - gave a fanastic in-store performance. It got me thinking about my favorite in-stores that we've done over the years, and one of those favorites would have the be The Clean.

"Anything Could Happen" is also an appropriate song of the day because this morning we completed a bold move that would have been difficult to imagine a few years ago. After removing one of our CD racks at the end of last week, six LP browser racks were hauled up from the basement and two rows of shelving for vinyl was added to our floor. My boss Mark joked about "this new analog age" yesterday. Indeed, vinyl is back!

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 2, 2009: The Jam - "Going Underground"

In case you hadn't heard, the groundhog saw his shadow today.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1, 2009: The Steelers - "Get It From the Bottom"

This wonderful single from Chicago soul group The Steelers is another song that was introduced to me by the Kent's Cellar of Soul compilation CD (which has previously been represented on Song of the Day by Homer Banks, back in November). The disc really is essential for anyone with an interest in great and relatively obscure '60s soul.

And, of course, it is today's Song of the Day because it is by a group who shares it's name with today's Super Bowl champions.

I have always loved the Pittsburgh Steelers. While my relationship with my hometown Minnesota Vikings has been admittedly fair-weather over my lifetime, I have always been fascinated by the Steelers. I think this fascination must have started when I was about four years old.

In 1980, Coca Cola ran this classic commercial of Pittsburgh's Mean Joe Greene being offered a bottle of Coke by a young fan, and returning the favor by throwing the kid his jersey. The following year, building on the massive success of that ad, Coke introduced a new promotion that featured vinyl bottle caps of various NFL stars. Each one was grey with a black headshot of the player. It was underneath the actual bottle cap, so every time you opened a bottle of Coke, you would peel this collectible from the cap. The deal was that once you collected all the different caps, you could send them in and receive your very own Mean Joe replica jersey. My whole family and extended family was obsessed with this over 1981, and my Mean Joe jersey became my first sports jersey.

Anyway, over the years the Steelers have been a model of consistency. They have employed only three different head coaches over the last 40 years, and each one has now won a Super Bowl. They have been owned by the Rooney family since their inception in 1933 (and owner Dan Rooney is one of the most philanthropic professional sports owners of all time). They now have more Super Bowl titles than any other team, and they have constantly personified their city more than any other team in any other sport -- a blue-collar team for a blue-collar town.

Yes, tonight may have showcased the finest Super Bowl I have ever watched. Needless to say, I am thrilled with the result.