Priest Picks #20: Our Favorite Songs of Q3 Mixtape
Welcome to week #20 of Priest Picks! At the end of each fiscal quarter (March, June, and Sept) I’m going to put together a “Favorite Songs of the Last Quarter (So Far)” mixtape for you. It’ll be easier to keep track of our favorite songs in smaller packages. There will not be a mix at the end of next quarter as it will be replaced by our Year-End Review. Songs are not ranked, but they are ordered for maximum impact like any self-respecting mixtape. As always, one song per artist maximum.
1 "Hello Hello Hello" / Remi Wolf
Here's the perfect song to welcome you to our Q3 mixtape, but don’t follow along too closely because you might find that you’re being fucked with by a certified vegetarian gambler. They’re everywhere these days. But if you have to be two-timed, or double-dealt, it may as well happen to a rope-skipping beat like this Remi Wolf earworm.
2 "Drop Off Head" / Toots & The Maytals
The planet’s biggest musical loss of Q3 was this Jamaican reggae legend, but he left us with a darn good farewell album loaded with sage advice (weed’s most beneficial side effect) like “What fall off your head, fall on the ground.” Sounds pretty logical (inhale) to me (exhale).
3 "Chocolate Samurai" / Fantastic Negrito
And while that sweet Jamaican buzz is still trudging around your brain looking for cells to assassinate, let’s keep the vibe going with “Chocolate Samurai,” the one song from 2020 that I’d like to see made into an action movie. We’ve got to see what this translates to on the big screen, because on headphones it’s fucking gonzo shit. He’s kicking ass, he’s putting syrup on his pancakes (not in his Sprite, kids!), having lots of sex, achieving his dreams, and partying with Satan, too. All in a day’s work.
(For more on Fantastic Negrito see Priest Picks #16)
4 "Fighting for Equality" / RZA ft. Ghostface Killah
This song is actually from a real movie, Cut Throat City, which I haven’t seen yet (in limited release right now with Covid restrictions). It’s a heist film—set in post-Katrina New Orleans—and this song from the film’s director, and Wu-Tang mastermind, RZA, sadly shows that the issues facing black Americans have always been the same. Ghostface Killah adds just the right amount of righteous anger to the track, which also manages to work in a little Avalanches-esque sampling for good measure.
(For more on RZA see Priest Picks #16)
5 “the last great american dynasty” / Taylor Swift
I feel like I’ve written about the Swiffer’s new album enough this year already so I’ll redirect you to that post instead (link below). I have now scoured her past lyrics and this is her only song where a dog gets dyed key-lime green. Everything about this song doesn’t fit the Taylor Swift model, and that’s exactly why it appeals to me.
6 "Turf Accountant Daddy" / The Pretenders
If you want to know how good the “new” Pretenders are with a 68-year-old Chrissie Hynde at the helm, you should’ve been in the “Which song from Hate for Sale should we put on the Q3 Mixtape?” discussion. There were at least four in contention from one of the more overlooked records of the year. I know rock and roll isn’t cool right now, but c’mon people. She’s still got it.
7 “Freequent Letdown” / illuminati hotties
A two-minute, self-deprecating garage rock number from Sarah Tudzin that’s the best sounding Debbie Downer single of 2020. Never has letting everyone down sounded so perky and catchy. If you told me this was a 188.8.131.52’s outtake from Kill Bill, I would’ve believed you.
8 “Olympia, WA” / Molly Tuttle
Ace bluegrass instrumentalist turned Americana peach put out a great covers record this year loaded with unlikely gems that show off her versatility—vocally, instrumentally, inspirationally—but none more surprising than this Rancid classic from …And Out Come the Wolves. It’s everything you want a cover to be—nothing like the original, but an equally worthy reinvention.
(For more on this album see Priest Picks #16)
9 “We Were Alright” / Arlo McKinley
Just like Arlo himself, this song hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized where it was headed. I don’t know if I’ve heard a song that is so achingly beautiful for the first half and so heartbreaking in the second half. You so want the feeling to be real that I was almost angry when I found out the truth. Masterfully written.
10 “Recuerdos” / The Mavericks
Why can’t anyone stay together anymore? This is yet another heartbreaker, but the parting in this case is sweet sorrow for both parties. Man, I was really hoping “Receurdos” was Spanish for “Records” (why isn’t it?) and that this would be a song dedicated to a beloved record collection. But, alas, nothing so harmless when translated. Even though this is entirely sung in Spanish, somehow Raul Malo brings home the feeling of heartache with an unbelievably stirring performance. This is a timeless song, and record, you’ll absolutely fall in love with.
(For album review see also Priest Picks #15)
11 “Captain” / Nicole Atkins
At this point, I need something—anything—to go right, so here’s a story about a couple guiding a ship to a port in the storm. When one tires, or crashes on the rocks, the other takes the helm. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
(See album review in Priest Picks #18)
12 “Summertime” / Orville Peck
As we get into late September, the lost Summer of 2020 drifting away slowly, there’s more to lament than usual this year. In order to cope, here’s your assignment. Get your fall jacket out of the closet, swap your shorts for jeans, grab your dog’s leash (not optional), and go for a cool walk outside. Take some deep fall breaths and bring your best headphones, too. Press play on Orville Peck’s “Summertime” and let it all go. Things will be better next year, things will be better next year…
13 "Apparitions" / Anthony Garcia
This magnum opus could come nowhere but at the end of a side. There’s really nothing that can follow it, really. So before you flip to side two of this tape, revel in these surreal visions and marvel at one of the best guitar solos of the year. Then, when it’s through (and you’re allowed to played it twice, even three times) move on to Side B. But rest assured, few things will match the elation of “Apparitions” from here on out. It's that great.
14 “What’s In Fashion?” / Pottery
Pottery’s new record, Welcome to Bobby’s Motel, is a mixtape unto itself, so it almost seems reductionist to make it change rooms at this point. What are these other songs that now surrounding me? But something from this madcap album needs to be here, so this delirious little oddball is the perfect choice. If you don’t like the noise, don’t call the front desk. They won’t have any of it.
15 "Purple Alien" / Iron Wigs
Every mixtape needs a percolator—a track that demands you be sharp and alert—and “Purple Alien” is your triple-espresso for Q3. Iron Wigs is a hybrid of the dexterous Chicago School raps of Vic Spencer and Verbal Kent and some pub-fueled mutterings courtesy of UK rapper-producer Sonnyjim, and the collaboration spits out a dizzying array of clever rhymes that’ll have you rewinding or replaying often to fully appreciate.
(Iron Wigs album review in Priest Picks #16)
16 “Dear Life” / Brendan Benson
Brendan Benson’s new album, that I almost missed, finds him vacillating between happiness and uncertainty. Every time I start thinking he’s happy now, something seems to get in the way. I guess, like all of us in this day and age, we’re hanging on for dear life. Only when Brendan does it, it sounds like a hit single.
17 “A Hero’s Death” / Fontaines D.C.
It’s taken me a while to get a read on the new Fontaines D.C. record—it just hasn’t been as immediate as last year’s Dogrel, my #3 record of 2019. But at the end of the day, this title track is where I always seem to end up. I speculate that it’s because my weary soul needs some inspiration right now and “A Hero’s Death” is a strong dose of positivity—like sharing a pint with that one friend who always puts things in the proper perspective for you. The band has always used repetition to their advantage, creating mantras in the process, and “Life ain’t always empty” is a perfect one for right now. It reminds us to see the bigger picture of life. The track is loaded with wisdom that defies the band’s relatively young average age. “When you speak, speak sincere/And believe me friend, everyone will hear.” I hope that’s the case, because this song has such a strong message it deserves to be heard by a much wider audience.
18 “I’ll Be Happy When You Die” / The Roly Mo
If Dublin’s Fontaines are harshing your negative attitude, you can always zip over to Glasgow for this new Roly Mo “anthem” and call it a year. Don’t look back.
(For EP review see Priest Picks #18)
19 “Living in a Bubble” / The Jayhawks
It’s a tribute to 2020 that almost every song seems to double as a coping mechanism of sorts. Some songs amplify issues, some express deeply held frustrations, some help us tolerate the new normal, and some even make lemonade from our new sour reality. “Living in a Bubble” is a little of all four. Gary Louris, possessor of a penchant for pretty pop, makes it all go down sweet and easy with this sunny little number that makes everything sound a little more tolerable for a while.
20 “Processed by the Boys” / Protomartyr
What do Protomartyr know that you don’t? Listen to this song and find out. And be thankful you won’t be here when all this ends. Or will you?
(For album review see Priest Picks #19)
21 “Bo Diddley Bridge” / Throwing Muses
The return of Throwing Muses this year was not anticipated, but it is welcomed. I’ve always loved a song that doesn’t just come out and tell you everything, which is why this blurry number attracts. It also completes a mid-tape mini-suite that started with “Living in a Bubble” that seems to acknowledge the inevitable collapse of our society as we know it (at least temporarily). The extended fade-out of this song would be almost soothing if it wasn’t so frightening, “The bridge collapsing, the water waiting, who’s saving us?” Tucked inside, however, is a rare pearl of clarity from singer Kristin Hersh, “You know what? / Only fuck with what doesn’t matter / And only fuck who does.” Could it really be that simple?
(For album review see Priest Picks #19)
22 “When You’re My Age” / Lori McKenna
Perhaps this can act as the epilogue for the story told in the prior three songs. It’s a song written for the offspring of our current conflicted version of “adults” in 2020. “When you’re my age, I hope the world is kinder / Than I seems to be right now / And I hope the front page isn’t just a reminder / Of how we keep letting each other down.”
23 “Dead on a Wheel” / Waylon Payne
An artist seemingly named with 2020 in mind finds the heart of the matter, and contrary to what Linda Ronstadt might think, it’s dead on arrival. Run over like Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.
(For album review see Priest Picks #18)
24 “Beautiful Stranger” / Marcus King
If this is the sound of the “new” blues, sign me up. Clearly we put Marcus in a box way too soon. His new solo record shows an artist of substantial depth with infinite room for growth. When this song starts at the rail of a tavern you’ll have no idea where it will end up or what it will sound like, but it is pretty damn celestial. Or is that just the whiskey talking?
25 “(You Don’t Get To) Do It Again” / Cowboy Junkies
After the recent death of their mother, this “family band” continues a reckoning that started with their last album and sees it to its ultimate and obvious conclusion here. So make the most of it, people. Unless reincarnation is really happening, you've got a limited number of days left.
26 “Lord Protect My Child” / Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
For parents, there’s no plea as heartfelt as this basic desire. In the end, we want to protect what’s most vulnerable and important to us and this Bob Dylan-penned song expresses that emotion perfectly. Diane Blue, with support from Ronnie Earl’s crying guitar, turns in one of the great vocal performances of 2020 to bring it home. I can think of no better way to make it through the rest of this year.
While the world is asleep
You can look at it and weep
Few things you find are worthwhile
And though I don’t ask for much
No material things to touch
Lord, protect my child
(For album review see Priest Picks #19)
See you sooner than you think for our Year-End lists. Until then, make the best of the circumstances and listen to some good music.