No, That’s Not How It Goes…
Scary Pockets Top 22
9 May 2022
Scary Pockets have changed the modern music scene in their own creative, exciting way. It’s been incredible to experience it all unfold. At this point they have so many releases, a playlist is almost necessary to consolidate, and organize their prolific greatness. In this track-for-track collaborative playlist, Matt and Andrew each pick 11 prized tracks to guide you on what they believe to be the ultimate Scary Pockets trip.
SP do not only deliver fresh, always funky cover songs with sweet videos to match. These are also incredible collaborations with and endless roster of today’s finest musicians. Their covers are some of the best, and each one is a clever, funky, yet respectful rendition of the original that takes on a life of it’s own. It is also worth mentioning that the production quality on all of the Scary Pockets stuff is wonderfully tasty (which isn’t easy considering most of this stuff is tracked live, without headphones!) And for those who might be thinking: “Yea but don’t they have any original tunes?” Check out Scary Goldings, a side project featuring Larry Goldings and another astonishing lineup of guest musicians. So funky, and very original.
For this playlist, it’s all about the covers. Such as their take on Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” A classic no doubt, but SP brings in the great Nikka Costa and flips the groove, making it sweet and happy like the original, but adding a whole new vibe with back-beat and rhythmic creativity. Kenton Chen (a frequent vocalist in the group) crushes Britney’s “Toxic” backed by a 16th note driving house band. Newcomers or seasoned Scary Pockets lovers can take a deep dive into this playlist. These are 22 hip cuts that definitely flaunt that one of a kind funk that they all bring to these great cover songs.
Dare To Be Optimistic
29 April 2022
1/ Only Songs – The Wild Reeds
Is it hubris to make a list like this? Are we truly defying the Gods in attempting to mitigate life’s miseries with music? I don’t think so, and neither do the Wild Reeds. People need help to get through the hard times – solutions like religion, chemicals, extreme behaviors etc., always seem to come with a catch – a compromise or downside that often outweighs the promised benefits. But music’s not like that – music’s like ecstasy without the serotonin depletion – if you’re here for your twisted mind, your heartache or all your mistakes – sit back and let the list save you…
2/ Goose Snow Cone – Aimee Mann
The first song that pops to mind after reading the last sentence of Andrew’s introduction is Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” from the movie Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999). I love this track! I love the movie! I love Aimee Mann! But not even my enthusiasm can transform the song into a cheerful ditty. I end up cruising through her entire collection anyway and suddenly find myself on YouTube, lost in an interview she gave with Kim Gordon. Sucked (the intended effect, I’m sure) into the swirling rabbit hole that is YouTube, I discover more interviews, music videos, even snippets of guest appearances in TV shows. Who knew? Not me. I finally land on a live performance of “Goose Snow Cone,” which was shot at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in April 2017.
The footage begins with friendly banter as Aimee tunes her guitar, and then progresses into some groan-worthy yet fun music jokes, along with a light ribbing of the drummer. I wouldn’t say that I’d lost hope of finding an optimistic track by this time, because I wasn’t entirely convinced of finding one from the get go. Afterall, Aimee Mann isn’t exactly famous for her bubbly vocals and peppy girl group sound. I’m just enjoying the ride wherever it takes me.
“I was on tour in Ireland,” Aimee begins to explain the inspiration for the song. “It was very snowy, and I was depressed and tired,” she continues and then drops a surprising insight: “So to cheer myself up I was looking on Instagram at pictures of cats…”
I realize that “Goose Snow Cone” is, even in Aimee’s words, about loneliness and homesickness. It’s not the most upbeat track, unless you weigh it against the singer-songwriter’s entire body of work, where I think it could fit snugly somewhere in the top tier of such a list. However, it goes to show that even when you feel hopeless, Instagram cat videos are an instant mood changer!
Okay, not exactly the message.
I have followed Aimee’s career since her ‘Til Tuesday days. I know that she has struggled with PTSD, anxiety and depression, as so many do. I’ve chosen this song, not because the track itself is optimistic, but because the inspiration for it is.
3/ Irene – Courtney Marie Andrews
If you’re here looking for the boppy up beat “You Got This” musical equivalent of Nike’s “Just Do It!” this isn’t that kind of list, but you should definitely stick around. While I’m not totally against such saccharine lists, the problem is, like saccharin, they’re overly sweet, leave a bad taste in your mouth and if you listen to them too much they give you cancer*
Reality bites – you can’t wish away a broken windshield or a cancer diagnosis, no matter what “The Secret ™” tells you.
While it’s nice to think we live in a Unicorn paradise, the reality is that – sometimes – life is shit. Upbeat playlists tend to ignore that fact – ignoring reality never works out in the long run. The songs on this list reflect reality, they see the shit and recognize it for what it is but then – and here’s where the magic kicks in – they choose to be optimistic and point to a future that could be, can be, better. It’s daring to make that choice that leads to the opportunity to help yourself.
Irene’s real – she’s not some utopian cover up with all inconsistencies and flaws shoveled under the carpet – she’s you, she’s me, she’s everyone and I love her for it.
*OK so this isn’t strictly true when it comes to the sugar substitute but for a while there in the 80’s it was banned for fear of possible carcinogens – science man – who can trust it!
4/ One Fine Day – The Chiffons
Reality does bite sometimes (unless it’s a Ben Stiller movie), but music does have the power to ease the pain. This has rung true at certain points in my life. Goth and punk songs helped me maneuver through angsty teen years. Grunge and alternative were necessities during the ups and downs of relationships in university. As Andrew previously mentioned, a song (or genre for that matter) needn’t be saccharine to help navigate from bitter to sweet.Then again, such music doesn’t hurt either.
I mentioned my mother’s affinity for belting out 60s girl group songs (also 70s disco tracks) on my original Music to play in your vintage Mustang bio page. What I failed to mention was how she sometimes quoted lyrics and pop hooks to respond to me during my particularly bitter rebellious years. It thoroughly pissed me off—until one day it didn’t.
“God, you’re embarrassing. Just leave me alone!”
“One fine day you’re gonna want me for your mom,” she said, paused, and then broke into song, “Shoobie-doobie-doobie-doobie-doo-wop-wop, Shoobie doobie doo wop.”
We fell over each other laughing.
Up until this moment, I was 17, I thought she did this to piss me off. I came out the other side thinking she did it to lighten a bad mood. Over the years, I’ve wondered if it was because she didn’t know how to deal with me (she was only 18 years older), or if perhaps it was how she coped when my mood or words hurt her.
I never had the opportunity to ask. My mom died when I was 32.
Still, it’s these little forgotten ditties I never much liked as a teen, these seemingly unworthy saccharine songs that I hated in my twenties and began to love in my thirties, that mean a lot more in retrospect . This one warms my heart. I hope it makes you smile.
5 / Downtown – Petula Clarke
Jane’s write up for One Fine Day has me barreling back to childhood and examining my own musical relationship with my mother. While my father adored music, it was my mother who brought it into the house, literally. While I was growing up in Singapore, my mother operated a one woman piracy operation, “borrowing” and taping every classical record in Singapore’s National Library until we had a bookcase, five shelves high, packed with everything Deutsche Grammophone had to offer, complete with accompanying booklet that indexed and recorded her assault on the record industry’s economic model!
It was a natural way to spend an afternoon – sitting in my room next to the record player – albums like With The Beatles made a huge impact as did the Clancy Brothers and – god forbid – Rolf Harris, but while the albums were cool, it was my mum’s collection of 45s, brought over from the UK, that had some of the best songs. Downtown was my favorite. As a six year old I didn’t really know what Downtown was, but I sure knew what it meant.
Downtown is distraction – Downtown is stimulus – Downtown shuts down the internal voice and replaces it with an external chorus. And while you’re there – so long as you can handle it – there’s the opportunity to forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and who knows, maybe just dare, dare to be optimistic.
6 / Business Time – Flight of the Conchords
I’m laughing at Andrew’s mother assaulting the record industry, while simultaneously trying to figure out how in the world to follow up with something clever. I can’t. The image of Andrew’s mother is still in my head. I’m still chuckling. There isn’t room in my mind for much more.
Besides, even if I had the space, I know my limitations. I’m not a comedian with the ability to pull quick and witty comebacks off the top of my head. However, I do love to laugh. This leads me to a question: “Is it possible to be anything other than positive and optimistic while laughing?” As it turns out, I’m no psychologist, either. Nevertheless, laughter is the best medicine,” and even if Flight of the Conchords’ sexy track “Business Time” doesn’t make you roll on the floor like a maniac, I do hope it makes you smile.
7/ Take the Skinheads Bowling – Camper Van Beethoven
What I love about Jane’s Flight of the Conchords track is that not only does it make me laugh, (it’s hard to feel pessimistic when you’re giggling,) but in that moment, I’m not thinking about the shit I was stressing about earlier.
Comedy is genius, not only does it distract you, it makes you feel good in the process!
The thing is – sometimes I’m so down – the idea of “feeling good” is just not attainable.
The idea of being distracted however – well – that’s where the Skinheads come in.
You see, I find it hard to feel optimistic when I’m down – which is kind of a bummer ‘cos that’s when I could really use it – but if I can get distracted – if I can get to a neutral space – if I can just not be back “there” – then the opportunity for optimism arises.
What better to catch your eye than Skinheads on the lawn?
What better to tweak your mind than sleeping next to plastic?
What better to slap you upside the head than watching a guy deliver this note perfect karaoke in a saloon bar at 6,000 feet in Arizona?
I kinda smile every time I listen to it.
8/ Wet Dream – Wet Leg
As soon as I saw the song title on our collaborative playlist, the nonsensical lyrics of “Take the Skinheads Bowling” began bubbling up from memory. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve long been attracted to the absurd. In fact, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is the earliest memory of a book that my mother read with my brother and me when we were children. I’m not sure how often we took it out from the library — probably not often enough for my liking — but I distinctly remember the day when my mother told me to choose a new story as I hounded her to check this one out again.
I can’t tell you why I loved that particular story so much. It’s bleak as hell. Yet somehow the story’s ridiculousness made me feel gleeful. Absurdity, rebelliousness, experimentation still feels joyful to me. Liberating, even. I can’t say that exposure to nonsense instills a more optimistic outlook on life, but nonsense is the reason that I’ve chosen “Wet Dream” by Wet Leg.
“You climb onto the bonnet and you’re licking the windscreen, I’ve never seen anything so obscene, It’s enough to make a girl blush.”
The image I get from these lyrics makes me laugh, mostly because if it were a woman on the bonnet licking the windscreen (as it so often is and has been) it would be labeled sexy. Purposeful or not, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers aren’t the first musicians to use inversion to call attention to the absurdity of female representation in culture, but I do have hope (that’s my optimism showing) that in continuing to draw attention to some of the absurdities, we’ll see an end to such derogatory representations in the future.
9/ Good Morning Good Morning – The Beatles
When Jon from Fight Evil shared Wet Leg’s breakout track “Chaise Longue” with the epic recommendation of “There is nothing I don’t love about this video” – I became an instant fan – seems that Jane did too! I tried to see them in LA last year but when I opened their tour dates email 3 hours after it had been sent, both nights had been sold out – that’s the kind of vibe surrounding this band.
Typically when making a “trade tracks,” playlist it’s the music or lyric that creates a connection – Wet Dream immediately has me thinking of the perfect track to follow this – both sonically and lyrically – but – Jane and I are doing something different – writing up each track as we go – and her write up has me switching track and reaching for a classic.
You see – so long as each song is cool – it really doesn’t matter how you make the association – in this case – it’s Jane’s story of the Woman who swallowed the Fly – I too remember that clearly from childhood – and while sure, nursery rhymes generally use allegory to deliver easily grokkable life lessons – fuck knows what this one was meant to convey!
But I’m thinking it meant something to John Lennon.
Good Morning Good Morning is probably the least known track on the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it always resonated with me. There’s something about the transition in mood – from the mundane existence of the opening verses: boring marriage, boring job, the general malaise that affects how you see the world etc,. to how quickly things can change and suddenly, not only do you feel different but the world feels different too. The fact that the mood transition is brilliantly accentuated by swinging horns and what is a pretty rad electric guitar solo for 1967 – the track feels pretty apropos for a list that’s encouraging you to feel good.
It’s the end of the track though that got it on this list – there’s discussion on what the actual influences were but apparently John Lennon wanted to finish the track with a series of animal sounds arranged in order so that each animal could “eat” the one before it. So we get to hear birds, a cat, a dog, a cow, a horse, a sheep, a lion, an elephant, and a group of bloodhounds accompanying fox hunters on horseback with horns blasting.
I don’t know what the old woman who swallowed a fly would think about a sheep devouring a horse – since she herself died after attempting a similar feat – but if you find the idea of carnivorous survival of the biggest put to song a little disturbing – check out how the Irish convey a similar construct but with much less “eating” and a lot more glee: When it’s 5 a.m. at an Irish Wedding – Ho, Ro, the Rattlin’ Bog
10/ Flamingos – Cosmo Sheldrake
I doubt I’d be able to sing “Ho, Ro, the Rattlin’ Bog” at any time, let alone at five in the morning after a night of libation. In fact, my days of staying up ‘til dawn are increasingly few and far between. However, there’s nothing like waking early for a sunrise walk to put a positive spin on the world. There’s probably some scientific reason for it, but I simply find it calming to walk when the rest of the world sleeps. I don’t get to hear lions and elephants, like in the Beatles song “Good Morning Good Morning”, but I do get to listen to birds’ songs, and catch the shimmer of pale pink on flamingos feeding in the lagoon as the sunlight peeks over the mountain. There’s a beauty in the experience, and optimism in that beauty.
11/ Outside – Helen Jane Long
I love the Flamingos track – it’s just charming – and as Jane indeed suspects, there is plenty of evidence that listening to bird song does in fact make you feel good – this quote from Sound dude Julian Treasure basically sums it up:
“People find birdsong relaxing and reassuring because over thousands of years they have learnt when the birds sing they are safe, it’s when birds stop singing that people need to worry. Birdsong is also nature’s alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signaling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively.”
Feeling safe and stimulated, I’m now thinking – where do we go with this? Maybe Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or even some more literal tone painting like the first movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – but they all felt a bit retro and I wanted to move it forward and maybe pump the energy a little – I was going back and forth on another instrumental but then – while looking for another track (obvs!) came across this Helen Jane Long track that I had on my 2017 catch all list – and it’s perfect!
To me all I hear is forward movement – a simple melodic structure repeated throughout the track with varying layers of intensity – the driving percussive piano – the uplifting strings – the energy – the belief that yes – I got this! And the outro – I love it – the same simple figure as the intro but this time you know what it can become – so don’t need the embellishment – it’s already there in your head ready for you to do what you want with it. Optimistic indeed!
12/ Thank You – Josie Proto
The plucky strings in Helen Jane Long’s “Outside” entice me to linger a little longer along the lagoon with my aforementioned flamingos. The piano, on the other hand, gently tugs me into one uplifting memory after another. Instantly, I’m reminded of small things that make me feel grateful – flamingos included. Nathalie Merchant’s “Thank You” is the first track that comes to mind. Josie Proto’s song of the same name feels more uplifting, though. It must be her accent and my guiltless pleasure for Britpop bands. No matter the reason, or perhaps for no other reason, Proto’s music and lyrics simply feel right here and now, in this moment.
13/ Pride – Grace Petrie
There’s no need for optimism if things are just peachy.
What an imposition to find out you’re gay – that your love is dismissed – that your love is bad – poison – viral even…
“And the love we have each other
Will defeat the hate we suffer
You’re my sisters, brothers, and all that’s in between
And if everything that I’m made of
Was fashioned by your God above
It was Him that gave this kind of love to me“
Dictating who we can love is the ultimate arbiter of societal failure – that this song exists – it fills me up 🙂
14/ We’re Gonna Make It – Little Milton
I wouldn’t go as far to say that my life is always peachy, to use Andrew’s word. I’m much more of a realist than to view the world through rose-colored glasses. And yet, I’ve never needed to dare to be optimistic, either. I simply function on a positive level. I don’t know any other way to be. With this in mind, and for the sake of staying true to my nature, I’m just going to add a track that best reflects my view on life, the universe and everything — and no, it’s not called 42!
15/ Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers
I’m 13 – sitting in a classroom on a Friday night watching a bootleg version of The Blues Brothers – engineered by the genius of the English and History teachers who were busy changing and shaping our lives.
God I love this song – the energy – this movie – and for those who haven’t seen it – the ridiculous escape – Carrie Fisher – these lines:
“Elwood Blues: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake Blues: Hit it!”
I probably wear sunglasses more than I should…
16/ We No Speak Americano – Yolanda Be Cool/DCup
Ha! The Blues Brothers. Ha ha! Andrew wearing “Sunglasses at Night” (probably). And I’m laughing my ass off remembering Carrie Fisher as Mystery Woman! The only thing I really recall about that film is Carrie. She was hilarious. She was brilliant. Then again, when wasn’t she?
From what I do remember about Carrie’s Mystery Woman role in The Blues Brothers and her (spoiler alert) repeatedly failed attempts to kill Jake Blues, it does beg the question: does other people’s misery make us feel more optimistic about our lives? Hopefully not in real life, unless we’re talking about simple things like tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, but certainly in movies like this one.
Schadenfreude (if you can pronounce it) is defined by Merriam-Webster online as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.”
On its own, Yolanda Be Cool and DCup’s track “We No Speak Americano” doesn’t sound like schadenfreude. However, if you’ve ever seen the British E4 series The Inbetweeners, you’ll know exactly why I’m choosing this track.
17/ The Only Way Is Up – Martin Garrix, Tiësto
I’m always a bit suspicious of schadenfreude – the minute I find myself enjoying someone else’s misfortune, the universe tends to bite me on the ass – turning me into the idiot on the butt end of other people’s laughter.
And while there’s something strangely magnetic about watching other people fuck up – check the explosion in “Fail” videos – I’m more likely to feel empathy rather than glee – unless of course the person was being a dick – at that point it’s fair game.
But Jane’s track is all about the underlying groove and the synth hook that punctuates the chorus and pretty much the entire track – punctuates indeed as after a few listens you find it drilling into your brain and hooking in so deep you’re doomed to hum it forever.
But there is a cure – find a similar track that has its own hook – just as sticky and ever-present – and let the two hooks fight it out in your brain – if you’re lucky – they’ll cancel each other out. If you can do this on a dance-floor, shedding your cares and worries and waiting for the drop to send you into optimistic orbit – well – good luck to you – I’ll be very happy for your fortune!
18/ Plus One to Heaven- Ian McFarland
Andrew has a great cure for ear-worms, but I want to avoid going down that route. I’m exceptionally prone to infection, as you can tell from the sheer number of songs on my Hook, Line and Earworms playlist.
Too late! Thankfully, I also have a few remedies. One is listening to new music and artist submissions.
I came across Ian McFarland’s “Plus One to Heaven” a week ago. I won’t lie – it’s slightly infectious. It’s also such a great feel-good track. I first heard it on a dreary, drizzly morning. It instantly lifted me. Then and there, I knew it was perfect for this collaborative playlist. Besides, after all the recent chatter about schadenfreude, it feels good to spread a bit of cheer, help get the word out about an indie artist, and introduce a new song to those of you who are listening.
19/ Hoppípolla – Sigur Rós
It’s the guitars – Ian McFarland’s jangly guitars that take me back to my early twenties – while I’d started my jangling journey with Lloyd Cole in my teens – it was the morphing into shoegaze, drenching everything in chorus and reverb and the almost gentle vocals, that had me twirling in the backyard dreamily enjoying the moment and wondering if life could get better.
And of course it can!!!
That’s the brilliant thing about being alive – the longer you live the more time you have to discover new music – music that can lift you up to the heavens. I remember falling in love with Sigur Rós in my thirties – the magical soundscapes that would tweak my emotions, often accompanied by epic videos that felt like small movies. The melodic nature of Hoppípolla is almost akin to what Helen Jane Long was doing earlier in the list – taking a theme and making it magnificent – and oh how this track fills me up. The video is rather charming too – if you have a grandmother or grandfather in your life – you should def send it their way.
20/ Optimistic – Radiohead
One song that instantly popped to mind when Andrew first sent me an invitation to collaborate on this playlist was, for what seems an obvious reason, Radiohead’s “Optimistic.” However, as the two of us got deep into exchanging songs and write-ups, I completely lost track of it — until now.
And now seems the perfect time to drop a little Radiohead into the mix, not least because I already have a much more upbeat track in mind for the grand finale.
I’ve long been a fan of this band. Andrew is known to have some Radiohead love, too. And it’s for this latter reason that I want to add the track here: Thank you Andrew! It has taken us nearly three months to complete “Dare to be Optimistic,” but we made it, as I knew we would!
21/ You Get What you Give – New Radicals
Jane’s right – I think Radiohead are awesome, they were one of the bands I was listening to a lot when I changed my life back in ’99 – moving from corporate ladder climber to illegal immigrant musician – best thing I’ve ever done! Radiohead’s often dystopian view of the world has always been balanced by hidden hope and the sheer beauty of melody and harmony. That life can be quite awful – Orwellian even – populated by flies, vultures and stressed out marionettes – is nothing new and seems to be the default position for many – but even with all that – even in those moments – it’s always reassuring to hear Thom Yorke’s plaintiff cry that “You can try the best you can, The best you can is good enough.” I dare you to believe that! 🙂
It’s been a while since we started this and I’ve just gone back and listened to the list as I read the write ups – I’m so stoked! It’s been an absolute blast to make and – hopefully – far from the kind of music that many might expect from a “Dare to be Optimistic” playlist. Life is contrast, is context, and as we both alluded to earlier, there’s no need to be optimistic if you ignore that sometimes (oftentimes!) life can be rather challenging. And yet – sometimes I need to put on a hit – an unashamed “banger,” one that combines hope with the power of music, that practically injects optimism into my veins and helps me believe that what we’re doing here at musicto is worth something. It was the song I was listening to as the plane left London for LA and was the song I was listening to when it landed. It’s been 23 years and guess what – I still believe – I’m still full of hope – and I’m still daring to be optimistic.
Thank you Jane- this one was epic!
Good Day Sunshine/Corridor Music – Paul McCartney
Matt & Andrew Take Cover
28 April 2022
Covers can be tricky, but they can also be tasty. Two curators you might never expect to do a playlist with only cover songs, embark on a collaborative journey to showcase some tasty cover tracks. Matt and Andrew pick song renditions that both honor the original and hold up as their own. For instance, Scary Pockets and India Carney’s rendering of Radiohead’s Creep reads like a super funky James Brown groove, while still pulling at your heartstrings like the original does with India’s extremely passionate vocal take. It’s a balance thing. Or like Medeski, Martin, & Wood’s version of Hey Joe. (A cover of a cover by the way.) If you’re going to cover Jimi Hendrix, you might as well go with a completely opposite dynamic via piano ballad, but still keep all that deep feel that Jimi has. See, covers can be cool.
18 April 2022
Let’s Go Crypto
Sunday Hangover Cure
17 April 2022
This is the first collaborative playlist between Mert and myself, I hope it won’t be the last. Mert was musicto’s second ever intern joining us in the summer of 2017 and then going on to run the amazing Music to Save Anatolia – playlist – written in both English and Turkish, it still generates hundreds of visits a month – if you haven’t checked out Zaten Kırılmış Bir Kızsın – Bağzıları – I highly recommend it.
Over the years we’ve stayed in touch as he has pursued his education – we had a brilliant time in 2019 enjoying a smoke and a beer or two, walking down to the waves on Venice Beach into Santa Monica – a magical evening!
When The Live Track Is Better
8 April 2022
While the Spotify playlist is pretty dope in itself – a 22 track playlist spanning multiple genres and starting as loud as possible and finishing in a more mellow space – the videos are even better! Check them out below:
Thunderstruck – AC/DC
So – live track being better than the record eh?! – even if the record has sold 5 million copies and been streamed almost a billion times? Better start with the “Big Guns” – literally.
From ACDC’s 3 date gig at Argentina’s River Plate stadium in 2009 – over 200,000 people crammed into a single space – lights out – waiting for the gig to begin and this is what they open with.
The riff – the roar of the crowd – every person on their feet – 200,000 voices chanting Thunder – and then the wave of humanity as the entire stadium starts to rock.
Apparently if you ask any touring band who are able to fill large venues – Argentina is the best gig on the planet – looking at this crowd – it’s easy to understand why.
While the track on the record is awesome – this is just better!
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant – Billy Joel
I mean this is pretty cheeky ‘cos the record version is legendary – The Stranger sold over 10 million records and the track still features in his live sets today – but it’s maybe because it is so bloody good live that it still finds its way into the track list.
Made up of three separate songs that were “stitched” together for the album – it’s a bloody intricate piece of music – from the sax solos through to the amazing licks that Billy runs down the keyboard into the Brenda and Eddie section – you’ve gotta have serious chops to play these parts in the studio – let alone live.
I’ve seen many bands unable to recreate the record on stage – and it’s not that I’m looking for a facsimile – it’s that – I want to hear the melody I fell in love with – not the secondary lamer version that you end hearing ‘cos the singer can’t deliver the tune without “cut and pasting” – likewise that killer guitar solo that you’ve memorized and that just never shows up because again it was produced by studio wizardry.
Billy Joel is a master musician – as is his band – his voice hits all the notes – his playing is indeed faster than the record and the sheer swagger of a band at the top of their game – knocking out licks and knocking down sips of Wine – it’s a perfect addition to the list.
Waste A Moment – Kings of Leon
The live version of this track hit me hard, leaving more of an impression than the studio version. Starting from the intro, there is more emotion and impact taken away with the live version. The studio version does not give enough justice to how good the song is and how amazing the band is. The live version does a better job at getting across the tracks’ meaning while being more intimate at the same time. To me when I hear the live version it feels like Kings of Leon are singing directly to me. The addition of extra vocals and hearing the way it is sung with the band in its entirety made the track feel more complete this way. This version sounded more captivating from beginning to end. I could really feel the rock and the soul and the passion coming across. Listening to the live version made listening to this track an experience on its own. The sound is bigger and the track has more purpose.
Don’t Lose Sight – Lawrence
I love the story behind this band – a true indie success story as they organically grow their audience and indeed their band. While the studio version is excellent and the accompanying music video is great fun – this amazing stripped down “Acoustic” version of the track is just mind blowing – Gracie Lawrence’s voice is a freakin’ weapon!
I Wanna Make It Wit Chu – Desert Sessions
I love the entire concept of The Desert Sessions: a collective founded by Josh Homme in 1997, where musicians, some of whom have never met, are invited to spend a set number of days at the Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, producing songs on the spot for an album. Sounds familiar to me as a musicto creator, albeit we (curators/creators) aren’t producing albums ex nihilo, nor are we on the same spot.
I’m not going to lie. I love this live track for four simple reasons:
- PJ Harvey;
- Josh Homme;
- the lounge atmosphere;
- the circumstances under which this song was born.
The fact is that none of us will ever be privy to that creative moment in time at Joshua Tree. This live version is as close as we can hope to get to the totality of that collaboration. It’s rare. It’s special, and I’ll add that this live version could be counted among my top ten songs that are sexy AF!
Outside – Staind
OK, this isn’t exactly a revelation to anyone that listened to the radio in 2001. The live version is on Spotify as part of Staind’s greatest hits album. Even they know which version is better. The reason this song makes the playlist: it’s DRAMATICALLY better than the studio version. I can’t even listen to the album cut. I don’t even like Staind. But this live version captured something raw and tangible, puts you in Biloxi on that night, lighter raised and flaming. It could be two negatives making a positive (Fred Durst and Aaron Lewis don’t make many best singer lists). It could be the insecure mumbling of the first verse that builds into an audible confidence boost after the crowd cheers their approval. It could just be they were able to take an otherwise forgettable track and turn it into a moment. Point is, it makes the list.
Excuses – The Morning Benders
In the introduction to the video, singer Chris Chu talks about the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” concept – where you make the music so “big” by using a crap load of instruments and multi tracking – something they tried to do on the record but it just feels thin when you compare to what they achieved with a small orchestra live in the studio – one of my favorite melodies on this one too!
Paranoid Android – Radiohead
This is about two things – first – Thom Yorke’s vocal performance is just stunning – better than the record – to sing this melody with the kind of purity and groove he delivers is just stunning. Add to that – the overall performance of the band is just technically astonishing – for how OK Computer was critically acclaimed for its technical excellence in the studio – to not only match that live but exceed it – they’re just an amazing band.
Ball and Biscuit – The White Stripes
This was one of those moments where I watched frozen in awe. The medley/change of lyrics was perfect. No disrespect to the OG, but the drummer in the live version is not Meg White. Even the backhanded way he held his sticks was incredible. Jack White’s guitar solo was more piercing, his voice more urgent than the original. SNL has had some iconic musical moments. As we enter the 2020’s, this is my entry for the SNL performance to beat as “best of the decade”.
Iron Sky – Paolo Nutini
I wonder if it’s simply that the first time you hear a great track you can’t then change allegiance to a different version of it. I “saw” this track before I listened to the album version and while the record version has pulled in over 73 million streams – it’s just not as good. You want to know why? It’s the guitar. You see – on the record – the guitar part (I’m talking about the cat in the red T-Shirt with the black guitar) is perfect – it’s tight – it’s on the “one” and it’s cool. But on this version – the part is slightly off – there’s a looseness to it – by not being perfect, strangely enough, it makes it perfect! Oh and – who doesn’t want to watch Paolo singing “Rain on Me” – and watching the keyboard player for his disappearing sunglasses!
So Into You – Tamia
Ok, so this may be cheating. In fact, it is cheating. But you should ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Tamia created an undeniable classic in 1998 with this track. It’s on any playlist for best 90’s R&B. It’s the reason most people even know who Tamia is. The track was so good, it was basically remade into a hip hop track five years later by Fabolous. Then, 17 years later, Childish Gambino appeared on an Australian radio show and recorded his own interpretation, which introduced the song to a new generation, while paying homage to the original. Not much is altered, but the stripped down keyboard and finger snapping create an intimacy that the original lacks.
Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) – Garbage
I’ve never owned an analog version of any Garbage LP. By the time their self-titled debut album came along in 1995, CDs had pretty much overtaken the asylum. Plus, as a recent Uni grad that year, it was much more convenient to lug around 300 CDs and a Sony Discman as I traveled to find my place in the world than the nearly 500 LPs that I (regrettably) stashed in my parents basement — not to mention the turntable, amp and speakers on which to play them. I can’t tell you whether or not analog versions of Garbage albums are better than live recordings, but I can confirm that seeing this band live, whether or not they’re being recorded, is awesome.
Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) is a perfect example of a song I kinda liked when listening to the band’s 2001 Beautiful Garbage album, bought on CD, of course. It wasn’t my favorite track. However, it became a favorite when I heard Garbage perform it live at the 2012 Marés Vivas festival in Porto, Portugal. It was richer, fuller, potent. Maybe that was due to Shirley Manson’s deepening voice and empowering stage presence. Perhaps it was because of the energy of the crowd. It could very well have been due to the piff we smoked. I’ll never be able to listen, hear and experience that song like I did that night, but that’s exactly why live performances are better than recordings. Always.
Ultralight Beam – Kanye West
You can’t find this SNL performance on YouTube. I’m not sure why, but it’s a shame if it means more people can’t stumble across it. The song is great. This performance is incredible. It starts innocently enough, bad Kanye auto-tune before The-Dream does his thing. Ok, we’re back on track. Then Kelly Price comes in. STOP EVERYTHING. You miss how powerful her voice is when you listen to the studio version. Then Chance The Rapper does his thing: pure emotion and energy. Kanye is off to the side beaming with pride. Finish with Kirk Franklin over a dramatically collapsed Kayne. This performance gives you that intangible you can never get from listening to the album cut.
What’s the Use? – Mac Miller
Continuing the theme of live performances too close to untimely deaths, you can’t watch this without feeling the internal sadness, hearing the screams for help muffled in the lyrics. Although the entire Tiny Desk performance is a must-watch (as are most Tiny Desk performances), “What’s The Use” (starting at 5:40) is the standout track, mainly because of Thundercat. His bassline groove is the same we hear on the studio version, but SEEING him pluck those strings adds a flavor and bounce you just can’t get from just using your ears. The chemistry between Mac and Thundercat is strong, watching them interact can’t help but make you smile, even if you know how the story ends.
Tyrone – Extended Version – Erykah Badu
This is the first track I thought of when the idea for this playlist was introduced. Does anyone listen to the studio version? I bet most don’t even know it exists. The producer had to add a turntable record sound effect to clearly identify it as the recorded version. It’s longer, more polished; doesn’t matter. Nothing beats the “Sistas, how you feel? Brothers, you all right? Let’s see how you groove to this…” opening. Then the slow reveal of the song’s theme and lyrics to an audience that never heard the song before. Brilliant. By the second chorus, everyone was singing along. “Tyrone” was made for a live performance, and will never be as powerful as this virgin presentation.
Nerve – Charlotte Church
This song is such raw energy – the record seems almost muted compared to the live version. It’s the temptation to get into the studio and layer effect upon effect and before you know it, the song’s hidden. There’s a visceral energy to this performance that I just keep coming back to – that and the remarkable song structure and melody – you can’t see many singers of her generation pull this off. Oh – and – two drummers FTW!
Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana
Everyone knows this live performance for the foreshadowing-in-retrospect stare into something/nothing that Kurt Cobain gives at the end. When I first saw this, I enjoyed it for what it was. Later in life, when I revisited it, I wanted to know who Lead Belly was. That took me down a blues rabbit hole that introduced me to a whole world of great songs and covers (I recommend you do the same). Over time, it’s remained one of my favorite Nirvana songs, but the studio version is very forgettable. While more true to the Lead Belly original, I need that classic Cobain scream from the live version. And the stare.
Big Love – Fleetwood Mac
My bias of the live version of this track being better than the album version comes from hearing the live version first. I first came across this song when me and my friend were thinking of songs we could cover for an open mic night, this being one of the songs we came across. We became obsessed with the power this song held when it was stripped back to one guitar and one voice.
The live version is absolutely electric; you almost think the guitar strings are about to snap with the passion that this track is performed with.
Listening To The Rain – The Osborne Brothers
I’m kinda cheating with this one as the two versions of the track are by different artists but I just couldn’t resist having this amazing Sturgill Simpson cover from his Austin City Limits gig – it was this track that rocketed his Estonian guitar player – Laur Joamets – into the public eye – just an astonishing performance!
Make It Holy – The Staves
This track comes from The Staves breakthrough album where they holed up with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver in his Wisconsin studio and created magic. And while he sang on the record – breaking the trinity of the sister’s harmonies for the first time – I just don’t dig it – this version where it’s back to just the three of them – just feels so much more complete.
Hardly Wait – 4-Track Demo Version – PJ Harvey
P.J. Harvey is awesome – we have a fabulous three part article written just for her – you should check it out – and this is a great track – but again – we’re slightly cheating here – but the track appeared on my radar when Juliette Lewis covered it as part of her role as a rock singer in the totally bananas film “Strange Days” Likewise – if you’ve never seen the movie – I highly recommend it.
Caledonia – Dougie MacLean
Many songs, most even – stay the same as the record – loosely interpreted live but staying fairly faithful to the moment it was put down on tape or disc – but other songs – well – they have a whole life ahead of them. This is one of those songs – the longer it’s around the greater significance it develops and the deeper it crawls into the hearts of its country people. No record version of this track stands up to this – the latest version of a live recording and no doubt another version will come along in the future to supersede this – but for now – just check out the understated brilliance of a Scottish anthem.
6 April 2022
“a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
Two Much Tomatito,
Classical music with a little bit of spice. The spice being the Spanish guitar. There are two types of nostalgia to me. The first one crushes your heart, you really want to go back to that moment. The second one is lighthearted nostalgia, looking back at delightful memories but being over them. This piece belongs to the first category.
Theme from “Where Eagles Dare” Geoff Love & His Orchestra,
So we agreed on Nostalgia but never agreed on what Nostalgia was – no problem- ‘cos when I listen to Donia’s first track I’m immediately thrown back to childhood.
If I’m listening to orchestral music that steals the show – I’m listening to movie themes – the transition away from Beethoven and Bach – the road to salvation that says the Orchestra can be used for more than dead language –
I listened obsessively to this album as a child – I knew the music long before I saw any of the films – music that tells a story – OK – I’m up for this – where are you going next?
Les trois robes Michel Legrand,
MUSIC FROM MOVIES ! Epic orchestral pieces. This one takes me back to my childhood. « Peau d’âne » was my favorite movie when I was a kid.
Romeo + Juliet (arr. P. Bateman): Romeo and Juliet: The Balcony Scene (arr. P. Bateman for piano and orchestra) Craig Armstrong,
OK then – she went big and huge and brilliant – the three dresses – more brilliant film stuff – smart and – it felt classic and I wanted to make it more modern – which is odd ‘cos – nostalgia – but I wanted to make a bridge between classic movie scores and modern movies
I adore Baz Lurhmann’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliette – I adore this theme too
Lavender Oil Nicholas Britell,
Oh Romeo + Juliet.. my favorite movie in middle school.. see there’s a pattern here! I chose Lavender Oil because I can picture someone looking back at a memory and everything is in slow motion.
How to Disappear Completely Radiohead,
I know of the story – didn’t watch the movie – didn’t know the music was so – if not, spooky – kind of – mysterious and…
Which had me thinking of Kid A..
Walking Thompson’s Park Boy Azooga,
Freaking love Radiohead. The best for nostalgic music.
This song I chose takes me back to my time in Sweden, to the endless walks in the forest, by the lakes. This belongs to the sweet and lighthearted nostalgia category.
God Only Knows – Stereo / Remastered The Beach Boys,
Perfect Transition – you got me – I’ll go anywhere you want…
60’s vibe – that guitar tone,…
this is what it sounds like to me…
I love The Beach Boys heheh here is a Vulfpeck cover of a Beatles song, takes us back but not too far.
Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Angelique Kidjo,
I mean – The Beach Boys are pretty cool, and that’s an epic song – so how do you follow that?
- The Beatles
- Vulfpeck cover
Oh yes – I’m in – now I’m working hard – where to go – something classic but exotic – I’d been grooving on Angelique covers and this just seemed to make sense
Je vais t’aimer Michel Sardou,
This is a French classic that every French person knows. I particularly love it because it’s a reprise of one of my favorite classical pieces ever : Concierto De Aranjuez: 2. Adagio by Joaquin Rodrigo.
Sardou adds lyrics that talk about a love so strong that we can feel it and experience it.
Ça (c’est vraiment toi) – Remasterisé en 2015 Téléphone,
I can’t wait to read what Donia writes above this – what does the Michel Sardou song mean for her – to her – what is her experience of this music that we all know and love and just fucking adore!
Right now I’m feeling very French – in need of energy – so – time for Téléphone
Stéréo BB Brunes,
This is such a great album ! I used to listen to all of the songs on repeat. Everyone knows at least one BB Brunes song in France, their lyrics are always original and enigmatic but really, their songs are so catchy that there is no need to make any sense of the lyrics. So fun.
C’est si bon Thomas Dutronc,
I’m grinning again – the songwriting is just tight and dialed in – who needs to speak French to understand the power of the hook?
So I want to keep the energy up and I’m thinking of a Thomas Dutronc track but the transition doesn’t work and then I see Diana Krall has done a track with him and Iggy Pop and I’m – hang on – C’est si bon – hell yes it is…
One More Kiss, Dear Vangelis,
No more French songs, but a song from Vangelis’ incredible soundtrack for Blade Runner. This song sounds like what easy and comfortable love sounds like. Being in love in the 50’s or 60’s was probably the best.
What A Diff’rence A Day Made Dinah Washington,
Oh pianos – pianos that lead without the melody – all competent and knowing – and overbearing –
wrote the piano player…
but we’re back in a time – it’s the 30’s / 40’s – everything sounds authentic – so – where to go?
Well – we’re staying in the genre – we’re using background harmonies but we’re doubling down on the power of the vocal – and the lyric…
The Pack Animali,
This one also takes me back to my lovely time in Sweden. It doesn’t only makes me nostalgic of that time but it also sounds nostalgic on its own. I think it has to do with the singer’s voice; it really sounds like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s voice.
Fortunate Son Creedence Clearwater Revival,
Changing gear – a quite deliberate move – I’m all for it – so much so that – hang on – this is an homage to Weird Fishes – ok – I’m going to work the transition…
It’s a similar tempo – similar groove – probably a little trippier –
Another song, another memory. High school was actually pretty fun when I had such fun songs to listen to EVERYWHERE. I was one of those kids that had their earphones on whenever they had the chance to.
The first slower part of this song sounds like sad nostalgia whilst the second part sounds like fun nostalgia, if that makes sense.
Breathe (In the Air) Pink Floyd,
I was one of those kids too – still am – the ones who, if they’re not actually speaking to someone, are wearing headphones.
While Wish You Were Here is my home, this album, this song, sets the tone
Trompe L’Oeil Ramin Djawadi,
Westworld was a slap on the face. Ramin Djawadi did such a GREAT job with this score, which, to me, was wayyyyyyyyy better than his score for Game of Thrones.
This piece is heartbreaking.
String Quintet In C, D. 956: 2. Adagio Franz Schubert
We started this list with “classical” music – whatever that is – with film scores – with music that accompanied a visual and made it better – and I love that music – I love what it is – what it does.
I love the prompt – the framing and associated connections that frame my perception and shape my experience of the music. I find it reassuring.
I also love having no frame of reference.
I love going into a piece with no expectations – no preconceived idea of what I’m about to experience – what does D. 956 even mean?
I’ve known this piece all my life – I remember when it “hit” me – 20 years old – first major love ending – the garden in Germany – green stem glasses and the second movement washing over me – tears running freely down my face – my Mother in the house, fully knowing, turning the music up.