Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite Songs of 2003
The next mixtape we have for you is from 2003. I don't quite remember this year and the songs don't really help jog my memory.I attribute this to age. At this point in my life music wasn't accompanying major life events as much anymore. When you're younger, almost every song has some significance. As you get older, you love the songs, but you're on to more serious pursuits like holding a job and getting married or having kids or other things generally not recommended by your younger or much older self. That said, this was a fertile period for my record collection for sure, with more accessibility to records and concerts than in some of the lean years in the past. One thing of note was the presence of a two-year-old in our house, but otherwise it was business as usual with more songs and more albums. Here is my best recall of what happened. A strange assortment of songs is all I can say. I stand by all of them.
26 “Among the Living” / The Thorns
Too many place the beginning and ending of Matthew Sweet’s career at Girlfriend, his power-pop masterpiece from 1991. While it’s true he never came close to topping it ever again, you could make a killer playlist from his post-Girlfriend albums. Thankfully for him, power-pop fans are a devoted congregation—as long as Matt is toasting up pop tarts, they’ll be eagerly waiting to gobble them up. At one point, Sweet unwisely took a break to team up with some pals for a “supergroup” album (using the term very loosely) with Pearl Jam-anointed Pete Droge and Shawn “Lullaby” Mullins for a one-off album as the Thorns and for the most part it was a waste of tape (especially their rushed, anemic cover of the Jayhawks classic “Blue”). With the exception of its final song, the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous “Among the Living,” the rest of the album could be classified as “waiting for your latte” pop or Little League Crosby, Stills & Nash. Yuck. But, as Droge and Mullins know all too well, all you need is one song and people will keep you on the shelf for eternity. I know I’ll keep the record handy until I’m dead and buried mainly because I’d love this track to be on my personal funeral mixtape (oh how I wish I could be there). It’s a sweet (pardon the pun) meditation on life and death—what we give it and what we take from it—that can steal your breath away. Especially when you don’t know it’s coming,* and I’m hoping this one brings some tears to my funeral “audience” someday. My death will be worth it if I can turn people on to a few killer tunes before I’m six feet under.
*Proven recently when the song was beautifully incorporated into a particularly heart-tugging episode of Ricky Gervais’ underrated After Life series (Hulu). It was almost like it was written specifically for the moment and not 17-years prior. Get out the sandbags, tears will be flowing.
25 “Improper Dancing” / Electric Six
I’ll take no crap for this one. “Improper Dancing” is an over-the-top goof of the highest order, executed with unbridled enthusiasm* by Detroit’s kings of bombast, Electric Six. If you liked Tenacious D’s combination of humor and riffs, you’ll totally dig this combo platter of unapologetic in-you-face vocals, set-to-stun guitar riffs, and, as the title of the last song celebrates, “Synthesizer”! You could dismiss Electric Six with a tight-ass roll of the eyes, but you couldn’t ignore them (especially if you didn’t have control of the stereo). The band’s debut album, Fire, was absolutely loaded with glib triumphs, but initially gained attention due to their breakout single “Danger! High Voltage” or perhaps the deliriously spastic “Gay Bar,” but “Improper Dancing” gets the nod here because I love when singer Dick Valentine (you expected anything less?) summons the Chief of Police in order to prevent illegal and immoral street dancing. If that isn’t enough for you, there’s also the randomly inserted “Have you ever been to New York City?” question from out of left field, and, in a touch of genius, the James Brown-esque “Stop!... Continue” band instruction at the 2:50 mark. This is almost too much fun in too short a time, but that’s what rock & roll was invented for, right? From day one the kids have been “improper dancing” much to the horror of conservative parents everywhere. Kudos to E6 for modernizing, and blowing the doors off, the rich old tradition.
24 “I Can’t Sleep At Night” / The Deadly Snakes
“I Can’t Sleep At Night” could’ve been wedged into Lenny Kaye’s legendary garage/psych compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968) and nobody would’ve been the wiser, but alas they were over 30 years late to that party. And they even missed Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedeli Era (1976-1995) by a little less than a decade. So the big question remains, when is Grandchildren of Nuggets coming out, celebrating the next era of garage classics? There’s certainly enough bands to pick from—the genre will never grow out of style, especially with Little Steven still around—and if The Deadly Snakes don’t make the final track list, I’m going to be pissed. This is a vintage, smoking track, with period guitars and some snarling vocals, that deserves to be unearthed from its final resting place. The time is again upon us for a resurrection, my grandchildren.
23 “Wendy” / Jesse Malin
Jesse Malin was fresh from his stint with D Generation when he released The Fine Art of Self Destruction, an album that couldn’t be much more of a shift from the glam-punk of his former band. The style suited him well, however, and a new career as an alt-country troubadour was born. We’re all better for it as he’s always been a damn good songwriter and this format lets his songs breathe a little more. “Wendy” is a heartbreak tale and you can see why he misses her: “She likes Tom Waits and the poet’s hat/Sixties Kinks and Kerouac.” If that was her Tinder profile, I’d be swiping right, too. Girls like Wendy don’t come around too often and they certainly don’t sit still for long.
22 “A Wolf at the Door (It Girl. Rag Doll)” / Radiohead
Radiohead has bored the shit out of me post-Kid A for the most part*, but occasionally they hit on something really cool if you take the time to go deep into the shag. Is that worth it to you? Thom Yorke’s meandering, undecipherable falsetto is audio Ambien for me usually, but his vocal performance here is among his most stunning of the band’s “second phase.” It’s almost like he was given a post-hypnotic suggestion** to “Do something interesting when you wake up.”
*I speak from experience here. Radiohead went from thrilling to boring in three shows for me. First, on the OK Computer tour, where they were galvanizing, seizing a moment in time and delivering an inspired and life-changing show the crowd will never forget. Second, the Kid A tour, which brilliantly blended some of that early classic Radiohead sound with a thrilling new electronic component that whipped the crowd into a drug-like (in my case, drug-fueled) frenzy on a 100-degree day with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. Unforgettable. Then, only a few years later, they showed up for a dull show featuring Jonny Greenwood tinkering in the corner for most of the show while Thom Yorke spent much of the show seated and mumbling incomprehensibly into the microphone over a bunch of bleeps and bloops for two hours (and I don’t dislike electronic music). It wasn’t just me either, there was so much “forced” energy in the room, you could feel people trying to will the show to be something it wasn’t. People were sitting on their hands and the energy was lost. Perhaps they got it back in future shows, but that was my last one. I'm done.
**Which reminds me of a classic Dick Van Dyke Show episode where Rob is accidentally hypnotized to become roaring drunk every time he hears a bell ring. Priceless physical comedy from one of the all-time greats.
21 “Dead Disco” / Metric
Metric are beloved in Canada, but never made as big a mark in the US for some reason. This song is better than most alternative rock of its time and it features a killer chorus that basically pronounces popular music dead on arrival. Perhaps that’s why radio didn't warm up to it. Singer Emily Haines was a great frontwoman for the band and went on to do some strong solo albums (including a great one, Choir of the Mind, just three years ago). On a side note, the band also played “Dead Disco” in the excellent French film (in any other country I’d have called it a movie) Clean, which was nominated for the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. I’m not sure if that performance (they also had a short speaking part) is what turned me onto the song, but it didn’t hurt.
20 “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti” / Sufjan Stevens
At one time it was rumored that Sufjan Stevens was going to release an album inspired by each state in the United States. He did one for his home state of Michigan and then followed two years later with one for Illinois, but that’s all we have so far. Since Illinois was fifteen years ago, don’t hold your breath for state number three any time soon. “For the Widows in Paradise…” was from 2003’s Michigan and is literally about Paradise. Michigan, that is; a city his high school sports teams would visit for games now and then. (He also notes that Michigan has a town called Hell, so they’ve got their bases covered.) When in Paradise, pardon the pun, he noted a disproportionate amount of women in the stands which eventually inspired the song in question here. It imagines a town where many of the men died in the war or subsequently left, and the mothers who stepped in to fill both paternal roles. The chorus is a stunner, confirming what we already knew about maternal instincts, “If there’s anything to say/If there’s anything to do/If there’s any other way/I’ll do anything for you.” It’s about as touching a song as I can recall right now.
19 “In the Lines” / Portastatic
It’s hard to remember now, but the immediate aftermath of 9/11 shut a lot of people down for a long while. Portastatic, the side-project of Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan, put out The Summer of the Shark in the Spring of 2003, and it was a really strong record overall, but not a full-blown response to 9/11 like Springsteen’s The Rising (the world wasn’t clamoring for Portastatic’s response either, believe it or not). But “In the Lines” remains one of the best post-9/11 songs in my opinion. The song tells the story of someone trying to reach their friend in New York shortly after the terrorist attack, only to find they’ve called a wrong number. In response, instead of the usual irritated hang up (especially from someone living in Manhattan), empathy radiates from the person on the other end of the line, “I hope you find your friend/I get lots of calls for him/I hope he’s fine.” What really drives home the tense mood of the song is McCaughan’s vocal—raw and shredded, desperate for news, trying to find someone who has dropped off the radar. It’s one of his most unusual songs and a performance unlike anything I’ve heard from him since. It’s gut-wrenching and simple—a moment captured in time that somehow conveys everything that happened that day in three-minutes. People seeking people, hoping for the best with a real fear of the worst.
18 “Bossa 31” / Rosalia de Souza
This song promises bossanova (Portugese for “new wave”) and delivers bossanova, albeit a more contemporary version of the traditional Brazilian form. And that’s about it—what else do you possibly need? We’re knee deep in the middle of a bunch of alternative rock, power-pop, and Americana songs, so “Bossa 31” arrives poolside like a cool, refreshing passion fruit at some exotic Rio resort, delivered by the playful and sultry Rosalia de Souza no less. I don’t care how you use this five-minute respite—groove to it, dance to it, bing-a-bing-bing to it, whatever you like—but I suggest you take the opportunity to refresh yourself during the intermission provided, for we have a long trek before we get to the end of this playlist.
17 “All the Right Reasons” / The Jayhawks
Yes, I hear you, the Jayhawks were best when Gary Louris and Mark Olson combined their voices together. Those were the glory days of the band. I don’t disagree that they had magical chemistry between them. But don’t delude yourself into thinking the post-Olson years didn’t produce some great Jayhawks songs, too. They were just different. I saw a few times during this era, but one that stands out is a show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. Song after song, most all penned post-Sound of Lies, were played and it sounded like a greatest hits set list. Even when I saw them almost two decades later they put on a great show. Their songs were built to age well, thankfully. “All the Right Reasons” from the first side of Smile (which is among the best sides in their catalog in any incarnation) is a love song as sweet as a freshly picked ear of corn.
16 “All Kinds of Time” / Fountains of Wayne
An ironic song title in retrospect, with Adam Schlesinger a tragic recent victim of Covid-19 at the age of 52. (Moment of silence.) In 2003, it was just another odd little pop song in a Fountains of Wayne catalog loaded with likeminded gems. The song was never about the false sense of security with which some of us seem to live anyway. Instead, it was about the inner workings of a great quarterback’s mind as he fades back to pass. It takes on the 500-million dollar question (at least in Patrick Mahomes’ case): “What is it about our hero athletes that allows them to slow down key moments under intense pressure and achieve greatness consistently?” What I love about this song is that it dissects such a moment in “slow motion” and allows us to experience it like never before. In this case, Schlesinger has the QB fading back for almost the entire duration of the nearly four-and-a-half minute song, despite the fact that the normal time window before getting crushed by a bunch of 300-lb giants is actually somewhere between two and seven seconds on average. During his time in the pocket, our QB sees flickering images of his young bride and his family watching the game on TV at home. In other words, he’s going on instinct and relying on his training. He knows what he’s doing and where his receivers are and suddenly he realizes he has way more time than he needs to execute. That must be a pretty good feeling, especially when you live in the eye of a hurricane multiple times every Sunday. The subject matter is typical of what you might expect on a Fountains of Wayne album where nothing was really off limits. Even though Schlesinger didn’t have all kinds of time in the end, he did more with the time he was given than most. When you have a natural gift that’s what happens.
15 “Toxic” / Britney Spears
Britney is having a resurgence…again. Just a few weeks ago, Rolling Stone published a list of the Top Debut Singles of All-Time. Who’s at #1? You guessed right, it was “…Baby One More Time” by then 17-year-old Britney Spears. Obviously, that’s a titillating and transparent crock of bullshit and even Rolling Stone knows it. But they also know that Brit, even at 38-years young, sells magazines. The public has been fascinated with her every move since day one. I’m no exception really—I find her songs have more staying power than I ever dreamed at the time. To her credit, every time she’s been counted out, she’s come back and hit the top of the charts regardless of what crazy-ass shit she gets herself into during her free time. “Toxic” was still Britney Phase I, riding the first wave of Britneymania, but about to hit her first speed bump. Even I, not the biggest fan of over-produced pop-radio megahits with ten writers/ producers, bought “Toxic” immediately. It was sexy and massive and its club dominance was not even debatable (so I understand). Britney Spears has always been an ad for sex, as far from subliminal as you can get, and she thanks you for watching (oh, and listening, too).
14 “Young Liars” / TV on the Radio
For my money, there were not many bands better than TV on the Radio in the 00s (aughts, if you must). Young Liars, their first EP, contains hints of everything that would eventually make them my favorite band from the early 21st century. It opened with “Satellite,” a calling card of sorts, announcing an important new band. After that came one of their signature songs to this day, “Staring at the Sun,” which was eventually re-recorded the following year for their debut full-length Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (I’ll cheat and save that one for my 2004 list). Later (as a hidden track) came one of my all-time favorite covers, Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves” (from Doolittle). A revelation! In fact, so much was packed into this five-songer, you couldn’t help but be excited for the band's future. “Young Liars” for me is the standout song from and its the one I've spent the most time with over the years. It shows a band fully in command at a very early moment in their history, experimenting with sound and song dynamics. To this day, I don’t know exactly what they’re getting on about, but the fever dream persists nonetheless, which is all that matters. TV on the Radio has always had kind of a surrealist, supernatural vibe, so I doubt they ever wanted us to figure it out in the first place.
13 “When I See You” / Macy Gray
I feel like I say the same thing every time I write about Crazy Macy. Something to the effect of, “Macy Gray will be more revered as time passes.” She simply has too many great songs for her legacy not to be retroactively reassessed. Which doesn’t mean she lacks hardcore fans—she does. I’d still argue her acclaim is nowhere near what she deserves. Perhaps she’s a little too freaky for her own good, which is ironically why I love her so much. “When I See You” is yet another example in a long list of under-appreciated Macy tracks that should’ve been huge hits. The song busts open from the get-go with Macy promising her lover not only an apology for past craziness, but also to “love you all over the place” if he decides to return. Which isn’t a given. On one level, it’s an intriguing offer (the craziest girls have the wildest sex, as some would claim); on another, it’s scary as fuck—especially when considering Macy’s track record. Just two years prior to this song, Macy wrote “Relating to a Psychopath” and she was the song’s protagonist. Another red flag, “Give Me All Your Lovin or I Will Kill You,” will make even the horniest lover step very carefully back into the ring of fire. But that’s what I like about Macy—with her unhinged free spirit comes an appealing combination of nuttiness and joy depending on the moment. “When I See You” exudes a live-in-the-studio electricity few modern R&B tracks seem to have. Here, we get Macy “Two Joints”* Gray at literally her highest level and when she’s in the zone few can match her unique energy. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the song, she yells to the producer, “Now don’t tell us to double that shit!” Because she knows that’s crazy talk.
*Reference to her definitive cover of the Toyes’ “Two Joints.” Talk about your perfect pairing of material with artist.
12 “This Boy is Exhausted” / The Wrens
The Wrens aren’t remembered beyond a small group of loyalists, but within that small group they are revered and The Meadowlands regarded by most as their masterpiece. At the time, I had a two-year-old son, so it’s no secret why “This Boy is Exhausted” is the song I related to most and endures to this day. I wish my boy was exhausted at the time, but in this case it was me who was in a perpetual walking daze. Even today, seventeen years on, I am exhausted in a new way, and that kid is now old enough to vote. Playing this song now is like going back in time, and amazingly, the song (and album) still sound as good now as it did then.
Note: My copy of the Meadowlands features a cover hand-painted by the band, which I always thought was a nice touch. I’m sure it’s not worth much more on the open market, but I wouldn’t sell it anyway so I’ll never find out.
11 “Wicked and Weird” / Buck 65
Canadian rapper Buck 65 once stated that he’s “loved and hated every city I’ve ever lived in.” A little research led me to the fact that he was born in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, a great town name, not to mention a killer euphemism for getting kicked in the nuts. (“One second I had my hand up her blouse, the next, her knee was in Lower Sackville!”) On “Wicked and Weird” Buck takes what, for all intents and purposes, is an “I’m leaving this small town behind” country song, guts it for parts and rebuilds it with rapid-fire imagery and a slick backbeat. Along the way, with his dog riding shotgun, he runs through his current state of mind which is packed with quotable lines that detail his rough shape. “I have no plans and nothin’ to prove either/I eat out of a bag and sleep in a movie theater.” But, in the end, there’s no doubt he’s happy with his decision no matter where and what the trip brings him. The only thing he really knows is this: Don’t go back to Sackville.
10 “Transatlanticism” / Death Cab for Cutie
Ben Gibbard didn’t uncork an epic very often, but when he did, it was amazing. The eight-minute “Transatlanticism” is undoubtedly his masterpiece, and it benefits from not being the stalker nightmare that is the creepy, but still amazing, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which clocks roughly a half-minute longer. Gibbard’s boyish vocals have always been in contrast to some conceptually advanced songwriting. It’s almost like the two don’t quite belong together, but succeed in spite of (perhaps because of) that contradiction. If you read the lyrics to “Transatlanticism” it’s miraculous that it achieves such majestic grandeur in execution, but in the end what’s more dramatic than love? Were the oceans really created to prevent true love? You tell a broken heart that they weren’t.
9 “Sleeping Aides & Razorblades” / The Exploding Hearts
They had a great band name, a great 70’s punk look not unlike the Clash, a killer album title (Guitar Romantic), and most importantly, an inspired batch of convincingly authentic pop-punk songs to match. There’s no doubt that Portland’s The Exploding Hearts were something special and the rock press fell over themselves with excitement and praise. The table was set for future world domination. Then on the July 20, 2003, their van crashed, killing three members, putting an end to the band before it even really got started. Listening to the band has been bittersweet ever since. The bitter is obvious, but the sweet is Guitar Romantic. If you have to leave this world early, who wouldn’t want to go out on a stone-cold classic record as an epitaph? It’s very rock & roll in a way. “Sleeping Aides” is one of many songs I could pick from the album—two-and-a-half minutes of vintage pop-punk. To this day, when a new band captures the spirit of first generation punk in some way, they are inevitably compared to the Exploding Hearts. This song explains what all the fuss was about.
8 “July, July!” / The Decemberists
The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy routinely takes lyrical twists and turns that no human being should be able to pull off. In a normal situation, we should be dismissing him as a pretentious twat with an overly active imagination and a large stack of Civil War history books. But Meloy is anything but normal, which is what makes him such a national treasure. This is, for better or worse, how he’s wired. I’m totally convinced of that now. Otherwise, how do you begin to write the songs that come from his head? What happened along the way to push him toward this form of songwriting? Is he the reincarnation of a Civil War soldier? A battlefield medic? A 15th century blacksmith? “July, July!” is one of his finest, and most exuberantly weird songs in a catalog filled with them, but the storyline, which involves a crooked uncle from Canada who gets shot running gin and then spends the rest of the verse holding his guts in place, soon explodes into a joyous chorus extolling the wonderfully strange month that is July, July! (You must say it twice for effect.) I don’t really know what the fuck is happening, but isn’t it wonderful to enter a strange and enchanting alternate universe once in a while? I for one welcome the suspension of disbelief required to truly get lost in the bizarre world of the Decemberists. I’m going to go out on a limb and call the guy an eccentric genius.
Note: This contemplates the mass release on Kill Rock Stars, but was given minor release in 2002 by Hush.
7 “David Courtney” / Rancid
This may not jive with conventional choices, but my two favorite Rancid records to this day are their self-titled album from 2000 and Indestructible from 2003. "David Courtney," from the latter, is a folk tale about a fictional (I assume) legend of the mob underworld—imagine a Tony Soprano type, but with an even more menacing presence—that can negotiate the mean streets unarmed and untouched based on his badass reputation alone. The song is typical Rancid, with a great raging chorus never more than a street corner away. But what separates this track from the many other Rancid classics is a vivid cinematic interlude late in the track that briefly recounts the tale of a hoodlum who unknowingly attempts a dark alley stick-up of David Courtney. The scene picks up with Courtney coolly staring down the barrel of a gun. Most similar stories come to a grisly end at this point, but this one only adds to the legend:
And they shuddered at the sight, when the words were spoken,
"Go ahead son, but you're making a big mistake."
As the coolness of the night reflected off the cobblestone road, and silence took over
He said, "Do you know who the fuck I am?"
We don't find out exactly what happens next, but I suspect it involves a load being dropped in a pair of pants. The only message anyone needs to know is made, literally, loud and clear: "Well all you motherfuckers, criminals will be suckers. If you don't step aside for David Courtney."
6 “Hey Ya!” / Outkast
Andre 3000 is a smart man. He knows that people would rather dance and have fun, so he housed a serious take on modern romance in one of the most deliriously off-the-wall tracks of all time. Hey, if the relationship ain’t working, move on and find a girl who will shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture. Which reminds me of my rich Aunt Anne, who died long ago and left me nothing but, and this is no joke, her Polaroid camera. I guess she remembered that I liked it when I was visiting her lakefront condo. (What I really wanted was my dead uncle’s red velvet smoking jacket.) So thanks for thinking of me! What I do know from my years in possession of said camera is that shaking it does no good. Actually, they discourage it. So this is a song with a pretty bleak assessment of male/female relationships and gives poor advice to Polaroid photographers. But, as they say, if you can keep them dancing, nobody will care what the fuck you’re singing about.
5 “With My Own Two Hands” / Ben Harper
I’ve never been a big Ben Harper fan, but he has some moments of brilliance peppered throughout his catalog and there are few songs more universally uplifting than this one. It's just a shame Bob Marley didn't live long enough to record it. It puts the power for change into the hands of each individual. When you think an issue is too big for any one person to affect change, put this song on and your worldview might change. It's especially important right now in 2020. You can make a change, no matter how small, that can collectively add up to something profound and if enough people follow suit something good could come out of it all. The beauty of the song is its simplicity. Stirring and inspiring stuff, Ben.
4 “There’s No Home for You Here” / The White Stripes”
I’ve loved a lot of songs from Elephant, but “There’s No Home for You Here” has always been my personal favorite. It even tops the ubiquitous “Seven Nation Army” with its football stadium-rocking guitar riffs that never fail to invigorate a crowd at any event where it's played (which is all of them, I believe). On any given day “Black Math” gets this spot. Same for “Ball and Biscuit” and “Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine.” A White Stripes album has always been a little “Rag and Bone” for me, to use the band’s own words from Icky Thump—a little of everything all thrown together to make an unpredictable and delirious whole. I love the nearly spoken verses of this song (“Completely baffled by a backward indication/That an inspired word will come across you tongue”) and the “wind-up” to the chorus before a giant choir of layered voices joins in majestic unison to bring it all home. All this culled from the brilliant sonic junkyard in Jack White’s mind.
3 “No Culture Icons” / The Thermals
The trash-heap punk songs from the early Thermals records were wonderfully shitty sounding. Hutch Harris spewed a litany of nerdy non-sequitors while his contraption of a band (featuring co-founder Kathy Foster) bashed away on their instruments with the end result being strangely and bizarrely appealing. I remember thinking at the time that I've never heard a band that sounds like this, which is saying something. When I heard “No Culture Icons,” I knew I’d found a new favorite band. “Hardly art, hardly starving/Hardy art, hardly garbage” was the slogan for the band (and turned into a record label later on) that identified their sound for a career that lasted all the way until 2018. Who would’ve realistically thought back in 2003 that this band would last so long let alone remain so consistently great?
2 “There is a Boy That Never Goes Out” / The Lucksmiths
The Lucksmiths were a band of Smiths-loving* Aussies who played ultra-sensitive and melancholy pop songs (you expected hardcore punk?) and they also made an album in 2003 that ranks with my most-played records of all time (time divided by plays). Naturaliste came along at just the right time for me, when I was in my worst mental state in years. These songs mirrored my mood and reflected my state of mind. This record is a companion more than a recording. While it's perfect for days of deep introspection, it does have moments of uplift. That's because the Lucksmiths have a way of bringing gorgeous melodies to even their most slow-moving and downcast material. Some are bordering on lively! Perhaps that's why I return to it. It helps me cope, but it also makes me feel better. It doesn't pile on the depression, it commiserates and tells you that you're not alone. I've been connected to the record for so long now, I know exactly when it's really needed. For me, the record is a whole, but this song is a great example of the Lucksmith's signature sound. Favorite line: “I’m trying hard not to be so antisocial/Truth be told, I’m not entirely hopeful/I’ve woken up on one too many floors/But my favorite was yours.” It knows how you're feeling, but also knows the way out. Give it a listen the next time you're not feeling in sync with the world and see if it works for you, too.
*The song as well is a thinly-veiled tribute to the Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out."
1 “From Blown Speakers” / The New Pornographers
The chorus tells you everything you need to know about this song: “It came out magical/Out from blown speakers!” Predictably this is one of the band’s most crankable singles and that seems to be by design. Carl Newman’s songs rarely if ever come in easily recognizable packages, but he smartly knows to include a catchy hook substantial enough to land a 50 lb tuna (and having Neko Case's soaring accompaniment doesn't hurt). His lyrics can be parsed for meaning if you’re ambitious, but most of the time it’s a futile pursuit to unpack anything definite. “From Blown Speakers” has perhaps the ultimate New Pornographers chorus and it lives up to its title every time. You can listen to this pop masterpiece on headphones or AirPods or whatever you like and it will probably sound great, but until you put this song on the big house speakers, it simply won’t come out quite so magical. Trust me, it's a huge difference. This is not a song to short change, so use your volume wisely, people.
We'll get into the Delorean again soon. But where will we be going? Tune in to find out.