Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1994

1. East River Pipe - Axl Or Iggy - Shining Hours In A Can
I think I came to this album about 10 years late, but it fight right in with that Flaming Lips/Modest Mouse/Wilco surge I was on. This song is on my Time & Space Lounge mix, right in between Clem Snide and Low. Great shimmering indie rock guitars, and it opens one of the best lines I've ever heard: "You thought you were Axl, or Iggy, but you were nothing like that."

2. Tom Petty - A Higher Place - Wildflowers
This is one of the albums I could never live without, and this song is one I've put onto several mixes. I'd consider this a career achievement for Petty, even given how constistently outstanding he's been for 30 plus years. Petty sings "When I add up what I've left behind, I don't want to lose no more," and makes the damn thing sound hopeful... Now that's a skilled performer.

3. Lyle Lovett - Hello Grandma - I Love Everybody
I don't think anybody has ever married clever songwriting with honey smooth vocals like Lyle Lovett. This shuffling, jazzy country tune has a guy calling the grandma of an old flame, only to find he's dialed wrong and has to backtrack, saying "I ain't called this number in too many years." A throwaway song in somebody else's hands, it's a subtle charmer here.

4. Rusted Root - Ecstasy - When I Woke
I don't really listen to Rusted Root much these days, but I had my era of fandom. I saw them live at the HORDE Festival, and definitely dug what they were doing. It's a full and frantic type of intensly rhythmic acoustic music that I once called "organic techno," full of energy and definitely danceable.

5. Weezer - Only In Dreams - Weezer
(So I admit it, I cherry picked on this list... I thought it was getting obvious... the shuffle went to about 30 songs before I got my 10... just wanted to clear the air.)
I don't think I ran into anyone throughout college who didn't like this album. It was an undeniable classic within about four years, one of those albums you could (and I did) put on at a party and play straight through, and not only please the crowd, but have folks arm-in-arm in the living room, hoisting beers and singing every word. It's an album I caught the first time around and loved even more on the second wave... and this 8-minute album closer is pure joy.

6. The Refreshments - Down Together - Wheelie
A storied band around these parts, the Roger Clyne-led Refreshments mixed an extra bit of pop sensibility into the mix of country, rock and punk that bands like the Gin Blossoms and Sidewinders had established under the fairly nonsensical label of "desert rock." "Down Together" is one hell of a song, and you gotta love this shout-out: "We could all wear ripped up clothes / And pretend that we were Dead Hot Workshop." This version is from the band's self-released debut CD (which was apparently a run of only 500 copies - I snagged a download from the excellent AzLocal blog)

7. Johnny Cash - Flesh & Blood - Unearthed
Johnny Cash's resurgence through his partnership with Rick Rubin is amazing and fitting for a legendary musician, and I don't doubt that I'd know next to nothing about Cash myself these days if it weren't for the five volumes of his American Recordings albums and this five-disc box set. On the VH1 Storytellers disc, Johnny talks about writing this song in 1971, on a trip to a lake with June: "It was one of those magic days, you know, when the sun was just right and the temperature was just right and the breeze was just right and she was just right. I let her drive on the way back and I wrote a song called 'Flesh & Blood'."

8. R.E.M. - Strange Currencies - Monster
For some reason, this is one of the most sold-back CDs ever, one of those albums you see a stack of for $5.99 in any used rack, to this day even. I still have mine, and while it's not my favorite R.E.M. (that would be it's predecessor, the stunning Automatic for the People) it has plenty of high points and not much in the way of low points. The third of five singles, "Strange Currencies"

9. Meat Puppets - Severed Goddess Hand - Too High To Die
What a hell of a record - more melodic and self-assured than the Meat Puppets more experimental and punk albums, this is one that I'll always hold dear. It's a hodge-podge of sounds, even for the Meat Puppets, and there were years that I couldn't get enough. "There's a gleamin hope for an understanding / Timing's gone and there's been no planning / Two heads, one dream / Two-thirds a crowd it seeems." Man, I love this song.

10. Green Day - Burnout - Dookie
A slightly more palatable album title than Turd, Dookie is the perfect major-label debut for the Beavis & Butt-Head age, of which I was a full and willing participant. For some reason, I'll always associate this album with that cartoon duo, and it makes perfect sense. Because no matter how irreverent and juvenile the humor was on Beavis & Butt-Head, those two shitheads wouldn't for a second tollerate any shitty music. And Green Day was definitely not shitty music.

Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow & Mary Chapin Carpenter - Flesh & Blood (Johnny Cash cover)
Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - Down Together (live)
Meat Puppets - Severed Goddess Hand (live)
Rusted Root - Ecstasy (live)

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