Playlist: 20 Songs For August 2015

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1. Lyla Foy – “Impossible”

2. The Rolling Stones – “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”

3. Donnie Iris – “Ah! Leah!”

4. Nada Surf – “Blonde On Blonde”

5. Timber Timbre – “Hot Dreams”

6. Bruce Springsteen – “Land Of Hope and Dreams”

7. Langhorne Slim & The Law – “Changes”

8. Youth Lagoon – “Highway Patrol Sun Gun”

9. Sibylle Baier – “Colour Green”

10. Among Savages – “New York City”

11. Jefferson Starship – “Jane”

12. Apanhador Só – “Mordido”

13. Gabor Szabo – “Love Is Blue”

14. One Direction – “Little Black Dress”

15. Beach Slang – “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”

16. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Gimmie Love”

17. Beach House – “Sparks”

18. Mac Demarco – “Another One”

19. Arbes – “Key Largo”

20. Small Black – “No One Wants It to Happen to You”

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Spotify Playlist: The Open Road

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There’s still plenty of summer left, which means you still got time to get in your car and take that road trip you’ve been meaning to take since you read ‘On The Road’. Or you can go visit your grandma who lives an hour away. Or you can go to the store and pick up some toilet paper. No matter where you’re going, you’ll need some good tunes for the road.

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Robert Frank: The Photographer Behind ‘Exile On Main St.’

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(Frank in 1996)

In 1955 Robert Frank, a Swiss immigrant who came to the United States to become a photographer, was given a Guggenheim scholarship to find, according to his application: “what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere.”

It would be a year long road trip, with just his Super 8 camera and a used Ford Coupe to keep him company as he traveled solo across the United States to photograph Eisenhower’s America, from the deserted towns of the midwest to the rich hills of Hollywood. Frank photographed everyday objects of American life – signs, cars, clothes, diners, people themselves – in both small towns and big cities to give a sense of the country’s mood at the time. From the uneasy glare of a couple, to the wishful gaze of a woman in an elevator, to the lonely dive bars, Frank transformed these every day incidents into stark black and white commentary on a nation at the verge of falling apart over nuclear destruction and racial divide.

Frank was a part of the Beat generation and, like his peers, he was in search of that “other” America, to photograph the same America and its cast of freaks and outsiders that Kerouac was seeing on the road and what Ginsberg was howling about.

Frank took about twenty-seven thousand photos, which amounted to more than seven hundred and sixty rolls of film to develop. A few of my favorites are below:

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Parade — Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955


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Funeral — St. Helena, South Carolina, 1955


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Elevator — Miami Beach, 1955


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Political Rally — Chicago, 1956


Robert Frank, TrolleyÑNew Orleans, 1955; gelatin silver print; 8 5/8 x 13 1/16 in.; Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005; © Robert Frank

Trolley — New Orleans, 1955


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San Francisco, 1956


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U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955


Frank chose eighty-three of those photos to appear in The Americans, his groundbreaking photo album which was first published in Paris in 1958 and then a year later in America.

Jack Kerouac, whose On The Road was published a year earlier, wrote the book’s forward and praised Frank’s bold work, which was meant to be taken as both a portrait and a criticism of a country in a personality crisis: “Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world…you end up finally not knowing any more whether a jukebox is sadder than a coffin.”

One of those twenty-seven thousand unused photos, a single shot of a collage of photos from supposedly a New York tattoo parlor, would be used in 1972 by another band of outcasts and outsiders.

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(Frank’s orignal photo)

In 1972, Mick Jagger reached out to Frank and ask him to come to the Bel Air villa, the Los Angeles home where Mick and his band was staying while they finished their new album. Their new album was something unlike anything they’ve done yet, something raw and uniquely American. Jagger wanted its album cover to reflect the band as runaway outlaws using the blues as its weapon against the world. The album’s cover had to reflect this feeling of joyful isolation, grinning in the face of a scary and unknown future. It had to be perfect.

Frank was originally meant to shoot the band as they walked along the seedy Main St. of LA that they were supposedly exiled from, and those photos are all on the album’s back side where the band looks just as strange as the freaks from Frank’s photo. You can see more footage of those sessions here. However, his tattoo parlor photo caught the attention of John Van Hamersveld, who was hired by the Stones to put together the album package. Hamersveld had already worked with the Beatles and Hendrix and had already designed the classic poster for the 1966 surf documentary The Endless Summer, but Hamersveld knew right away that Frank’s photo, which he found among his many American outtakes, was destined to be used for this new album. Impressed with the photo, Hamersveld took Frank’s work and turned it into the famous album cover that we all know and love.

The final product is below:

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It’s fitting that Frank, an exile himself, would create the image of one of the greatest works about exile and American life. Frank was also a filmmaker, and he filmed the band on their 1972 tour supporting the album he photographed. His filmed was called Cocksucker Blues and it was never officially released due to it being too obscene. Imagine that.

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Neil Young’s “Ditch Trilogy” And The One Song He Borrowed From The Rolling Stones

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young lately, specifically to his “Ditch Trilogy” and its dark masterpiece ‘Tonight’s The Night’.

For all you NY newbies, the Ditch Trilogy were the three albums that Young released after his 1972 breakthrough ‘Harvest’. That album was such a runaway hit (it would become the best-selling album of 1972) that Young, jaded by the mainstream success of the album and of its signature song “Hart of Gold”, withdrew from the spotlight and for the next couple of decades, with a few exceptions, intentionally avoided the AM-folksinger persona that everyone wanted him to uphold by releasing, among others, grunge, synth-pop, and really bad rockability albums.

In the liner notes of the 1977 compilation album ‘Decade’, Young writes: “‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road, traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch,” and thus the term “Ditch” is born to describe the moody and complex albums released between ‘Harvest’ and his 1975 radio-friendly collaboration with Crazy Horse ‘Zuma’.

The trilogy is made up of ‘Time Fades Away’ (1973), ‘On The Beach’ (1974), and ‘Tonight’s The Night’ (1975), though ‘Time Fades Away’ has long been out of print and has not been rereleased, which is strange considering how giving Young is with his unreleased material. However, the two Ditch albums that we do have access to are considered by many critics and fans to be his best albums. This was the time when the notoriously inconsistent Young was finally able to channel his many songwriting styles, which ranged from soft folk to distorted guitar rock, into making engaging albums that married his ability to write simple yet emotionally compelling songs with his desire to let his electric guitar do most of the talking. None of these albums produced any hits, but they’re his best albums because you can listen to them from start to finish in one setting, which for a Neil Young record is quite the achievement.

The Ditch Trilogy albums are also infamous for being Young’s darkest works. A lot of this had to do with his tremulous state of mind at the time. Along with the sudden fame and fortune, Young was grieving over the loss of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, both of whom died of heroin overdoses (to make matters worse, Whitten was found dead the night when, earlier that day, Young had fired him from Crazy Horse). Young, consumed by guilt and grief, was able to pour his frustration and anger across a whole series of albums all confronting how fragile and twisted life is when you see it end right before your eyes and what you try and make of it when you’re left standing, alive yet alone.

My favorite Neil Young album is ‘On The Beach’ (to me it’s his most essential album and it has my favorite NY song, “Ambulance Blues”), but I’ve been listening to ‘Tonight’s The Night’ a lot more since I’ve moved to New York City. It’s not an easy album to listen to, but sometimes it’s a welcoming soundtrack to a lonely late-night subway ride. Young had never been an overly confessional or personal songwriter, yet ‘Tonight’s The Night’ finds Young at his most naked and vulnerable, singing about specific people and places and, without relying too much on metaphors, sings of his pain and sorry that, in the brilliant way that only great musicians can do, feels familiar and relatable.

One song in particular that stood out to me on my first listen was “Borrowed Tune”, a quite piano ballad in which Young sings someone else’s song, because he’s “too wasted to write my own.”

It’s a beautiful song, but when I first heard it, all I could think of was how much it sounded like a certain Rolling Stones song:

Later in the song, Young confirms that his borrowed tune was taken from the Rolling Stones, and I recognized that it was “Lady Jane”, a somewhat obscure ballad from 1966’s ‘Aftermath’.

Why did Young pick this specific song? It’s hard to say. Neither Young nor any of the Stones have come forward to acknowledge each other’s involvement or history during this time and how it influenced this album. Maybe this was Young’s favorite Stones song at the time, or maybe it was Danny Whitten’s or Bruce Berry’s favorite song. Who knows. Even on his most personal album, Young is still a man shrouded in mystery.

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Playlist: The 70s – Dazed And Confused

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Just like I made a playlist for the 60s, the good old 1970s gets its own spotify playlist.

I’ve tried to cover as much ground as I could – from disco (Bee Gees, ABBA), Heavy Metal (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin), R&B, funk, and soul (Al Green, Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye), lo-fi and punk (Buzzcocks, The Clash, New York Dolls), soft rock (Fleetwood Mac, Elton John), singer-songwriter (Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor), to good old rock & roll (Bowie, Springsteen, Aerosmith). I also tried to throw in some deep tracks, including songs from Ann Peebles, Candi Staton, The Damned, David Essex, Dr. John, Fela Kuti, Freda Payne, Jorge Ben Jor, The Osmonds, Richard Hell, Rodriquez, The Slits, and more.

And yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Dazed and Confused soundtracks are on here too.

Enjoy!

 

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Playlist: The 60s – Peace, Love, and Dylan

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I made for y’all a Spotify playlist of my greatest hits of the 60s, which includes Aretha Franklin, The Byrds, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Sly & The Family Stone, The Velvet Underground, The Who, and many more. I’ve also included some deeper tracks from the likes of The Bobby Fuller Four, John Leyton, The Zombies, and more.

And yes, Bob Dylan is on here.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find The Beatles on Spotify, but I think there are plenty of great songs on here to make up for that.

 

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Playlist: 20 Songs For August 2013 (Via Spotify)

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The month of August: back to school, back to college football, back to Breaking Bad, and back to listening to some cool tunes. This month’s playlist includes two bands that have “deer” in their names, I finally watch Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, and I pay tribute to The Postal Service and J.J. Cale.

Here are 20 songs for August 2013.

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20 Songs For July 2013 (Via Spotify)

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July was a very busy month for me, but I still managed to distract myself by listening to a lot of music throughout my summer school finals (very hard to do right?).

This month’s playlist includes a special 4th of July song from Bruce Springsteen, deep cuts from The Replacements and Stones, and I finally get around to listening to Songs: Ohia and The Microphones.

Here are my 20 songs for July 2013.

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Playlist: 20 Songs From April 2013 (Via Spotify)

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Well April marked the final days of winter – we still had snow in Indiana at the beginning of the month – which means I was on my annual National kick during the ugly transition between winter and spring (and because they have a new album coming out!). There was also plenty of great new music from James Blake, Kurt Vile, Daft Punk, Fall Out Boy, Iron And Wine, and Phoenix.

Here are my 20 songs from April 2013.

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