Posted in Commentary, Creations, Music Mondays

IAVSX13: Images, Words, & Movement

It’s that time of year again, for those keeping score at home, and while I’ve been putting this CD swap playlist together all year, and had been listening to a draft version in my car last week until my ER visit and subsequent vertigo bullshit kept me out of the driver’s seat, I realized today that I’d best get this done before the holiday had come and gone. And so I have, because I’m good under pressure like that.

This year’s theme was a vague “Images, Words, & Movement” that left open too many possibilities, Ghost (tsk, tsk), but some of these songs I chose because of specific images that I dig, or just how they groove, and many of them because they were story songs, which are like audio movies, and movies are what I think of when I see the words “Images, Words, & Movement.” So that’s the connection, at least in my head, even if it doesn’t seem that way to the listener. My thoughts on the choices below. If you’d like this playlist for your very own, hit me up with your request and mailing address, and I will oblige you with an old-school CD, because that’s how we mix swappers roll on the eve of 2017. It’s all part of the sensual experience; trust. But if you can’t wait that long, you can grab the songs here, though they may not be in the proper order, because I wasn’t going to change all the names.  (I told you to get the CD, didn’t I?)  

Without further ado…


Motions, King Of Spain
I didn’t even realize I had this song/band.  It popped up on my iPod one day, and while it starts like it’s going to be kind of monotonous and relentless, that is a feint, and it actually encourages you to listen to the lyrics carefully.  And I think they’re really interesting.  Plus, you know, “Motions”=“movement.”  Theme bullseye, no?

My Silver Lining, First Aid Kit
There is a rhythm that sounds like a moving train that I really love, in any song I hear it in, and this song has it, too.  I don’t know how two young Swedish women came to write this kind of lonesome Western song, but I dig it. It FEELS like it’s rolling out on the prairie. You’d queue this song up for some kind of epic, soul-searching roadtrip and listen to it again and again.

Good as Gold, Dala
I confess, I included this song because it’s pretty, and the color fit with “Images,” plus I liked juxtaposing it with the title of the previous song.  Silver and gold, silver and gold…  My word nerdery knows no bounds.

Cleo’s Mood, Jr. Walker & The All Stars
This song moves, and it brings the funk.  Every time I hear it, no matter what I’m doing, I have to dance.  I’m doing it now, even as I type.  I’d be very surprised if many babies were not created to this song.

The Curse (live from Iveagh Gardens), Josh Ritter
This is a fantastic story song.  The first time I heard it, I was mesmerized, and appreciated Ritter’s flair for fiction. I fictionalize elements of the songs I write to make them work, to broaden their appeal, or to hide a little too much truth, but I’ve never written a whole story that wasn’t true in any of them. I’ve always been an essayist and poet; I don’t think I’ve written any serious fiction since 9th grade. But he created this whole, perfect mummy tale, with nothing wasted, and nothing missing, in six minutes and change. You can see it all, the imagery is so clear. It’s masterful songwriting.  

Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale, a-Ha
Believe it or not, a-Ha wrote more songs than just “Take On Me” in 1985.  Which was 31 years ago.  Jesus, I’m old.  Anyway,
Hunting High and Low is an album worth absorbing.  The idea of your life being as exciting as your favorite adventure story is kind of sweet, I always thought.

If I Saw You in a Movie, Heather Nova
Now we’re really getting meta.  A story/movie song about seeing someone in a movie and falling in love?  It’s. Too. Much.  But speaking as someone who regularly falls in love with men in movies, going back to when I was 6 and fell in love with Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie, and continuing until right this second, where my current favorite movie crush is Chris Evans, particularly as (but certainly not limited to) Captain America. I recently wrote a song about my propensity to fall in love with romantic movies and the actors therein.  Romantic movies are addictive and dangerous.  Just sayin’.

Airwaves, Thomas Dolby
“She Blinded Me with Science” is what most people remember Thomas Dolby for, and granted, it’s a really fun song, but I had kind of dismissed him as a novelty one-hit wonder back in the day…until I heard this one.  It always seemed so wistful and yearning to me.  I like that.  Bittersweet is my favorite flavor of art.

Last Man Standing, Duran Duran
I haven’t gone back to check, but it seems highly unlikely that I’d do a mix that doesn’t include at least one Duran Duran song.  This is this year’s. It’s from 2007’s mostly forgettable Red Carpet Massacre, an album that even the band isn’t terribly fond of. They worked with both Timbaland and Timberlake on it, and that seemed bizarre to me at the time it came out, and still. It’s not an album I can recommend, but this song I do like. Simon is usually the lyricist on their songs; that’s why they hired him, and his imagery is always interesting, if sometimes opaque, though it’s gotten less so as he’s matured. And I can say that Simon LeBon’s voice, an improbably sexy, nasal whine, was, is, and shall remain, unique.  There’s no one else in the biz that sounds like him, and I love him for it; I never tire of hearing him sing.  The last time I drove out to California, I listened to nothing but Duran Duran for 7 hours straight, and I gotta tell ya…it was one of the better days of my life.

Don’t Go, Yaz
I just really love how this drives.  I kind of wish sometimes I could sing like she does, but those are not the vocal chords I was given.  Neither does that kind of music come out when I sit down to write.  I always wonder what’s going on in the heads of people who can write fast, hard rock and pop.  

40 Mark Strasse, The Shins
I love what’s going on musically in this song…and then there’s this:

“Cause every single story
Is a story about love
Both the overflowing cup
And the painful lack thereof

Painters, Jewel
I think this may be the song that made me a Jewel fan, though that was nearly 20 years ago, so I can’t be sure. Picture it:  Annandale, Minnesota, 1997ish.  I was teaching Spanish and English in a small town, and it was my practice during work time to play music–almost always classical, because it encouraged my little worker bees, put their brains into productive learning patterns (if the research was to be believed), and wasn’t distracting. But every once in a blue moon, a kid would bring in an album and ask to play it, and if I were in a generous mood, I might pop it in the boombox with the caveat that if I didn’t like it, it was over.
Pieces of You was a pretty good album, though the song that used the word “faggot” I skipped over real quick, though not quickly enough, to my chagrin. But I ended up buying the album myself in time. The story in this song is so sweet and so very sad. Tragedy and philosophy in under 7 minutes. The bridge of this song, both melodically and lyrically, breaks my heart every single time I hear it.  I don’t think there will ever be a time when it won’t.

Lilly’s Prayer, Sweetwater Drive
I don’t even know this band, but this song was on a KXCI Presents:  Locals Only album I got from a friend, and this
is such a clear vision of what it’s like to live out here in the desert. It’s an audio postcard to my swap pals.

The Toad’s Song, Justin Farren
Justin Farren played at a house concert hosted by my guitar teacher and his wife, and this was my first introduction to his music. Farren has an uncanny knack for being simultaneously silly and deeply thoughtful. The first time I heard this song, I was taken with the ridiculous idea of a toad weaving himself a shawl out of kittens’ whiskers, and I thought, “oh isn’t this adorable!” And the imagery of all that’s going on at the Toad Shawl Ball is pure delight, both for what it evokes and Farren’s wordcraft:  “And should your judgment shrink from too much drink, there will be lodging in the tractor tire…”  That line kills me–the image! The rhyme! Oh me!  And I got so caught up in all of that when the end of the story came, it punched me in the gut and broke my heart, and with tears in my eyes, I thought, “Well done, Mr. Farren.  Well done.” And then I listened to it again.

Silver Light, Simon Lynge
Simon Lynge was the opener when I saw Emmylou Harris a few years ago, and I left a bigger fan of him than her, in truth. A native of Greenland, he came to us by way of Washington state, and offered beautifully nimble vocals and impressive guitar, not to mention some really good imagery and hooks that won’t quit. Not to mention what was unquestionably the best cover of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” I have ever heard. But what I really liked most was the irrepressible streak of hope and strength, and belief that we were better than this world might currently suggest, in his lyrics. That seemed like something I needed to hear in Trump’s ‘Murica, and a good message to end this mix with. Sign me up for the revolution of the human soul!

Nuages, Gipsy Kings
I wanted to go out on this upbeat instrumental number.  It’s got movement galore, and, at least to me, suggests a relaxed, sunny Saturday afternoon in some country I’ve never been to, but where anything might happen.  All that without words. Instrumental music has often suggested entire stories to me, and I often wonder what stories other people hear in them.


Posted in Creations, Music Mondays

IAVSX12: Comin’ In Hot

For the 12th year in a row, a small group of merry music lovers have agreed to come up with a tasty mix CD (yes, actual CDs–we’re old, though if you find yourself interested in having this mix, and are not a swapper, hit me up and we’ll see what we can do) and send it, in the spirit of holiday giving, to each other.  There are only 5 of us left, and of those, only 2 that have done every swap (I’m one of them), though at its height, I think I might have sent out as many as 10 CDs.  I’m dedicated like that, and am happy to have any excuse to a) create a mix playlist that b) shows off my incredible taste in music, and c) the wonder of my vast and eclectic music collection.  (Whether it actually accomplishes the last 2, I really don’t know, but I flatter myself that it should.)

Long-time readers know that creating the mix is only half the project; the other half is to do a blog post explaining why you chose the songs you did, or how the songs pertain to the theme, or why the songs mean something to you, or free-associate about all of the above and then some, which is what I like to do.  This year’s theme, conjured by Ghost, who has taken over the swap administration in recent years (bless him!), is “Comin’ in Hot.”  Enjoy!



  1.  Barton Hollow-The Civil Wars
    I can’t remember now how I found this band.  I think some other musician I follow on Facebook may have posted them.  Or maybe I happened upon them on one of my Tuesday afternoon perusals of the new releases I did back when I was chained to a desk in my cubicle.  In any case, they were featured on last year’s mix with a song from their second and final album, and the year before that as well, if memory serves.  I really love their music; it’s a shame they couldn’t hold it together.  “Barton Hollow” is actually from their first album of the same name.  I remember the first time I really listened to it hard.  I was driving home from Beth and Pam’s one Friday night, rounding the curve where Harrison becomes Wrightstown, and it hit me. And then I hit the replay button again and again.  And then the next time I had a guitar lesson, I made my teacher help me figure it out.  (I’d tried on my own, and had made some progress, but it was in drop-D and I never recognize alternate tunings.)  I’ve played it ever since, thought at a faster tempo.  And then my duo played it.  I figure these songs will never be played again by The Civil Wars, so we may as well.  I don’t think I’ve ever rehearsed it just once; it’s so fun to play that to my recollection we’ve played it at least twice at every practice. I’ve been known to play it more times than that in a row when I’m alone.

  2. Bit by Bit-Vanity Theft
    This song just drives, which seemed to fit with the theme.  Plus, I never tire of all-woman rock bands, of which there are not enough.

  3. Come Closer-Miles Kane
    Last year I had 2 Miles Kane songs in contention for the mix, and it was close right up until the end.  This is the one that didn’t make it last year; I think I finally broke the tie by assuring myself that I could put this one on next year’s mix.  Listening to it again now reminds me that I think this would be fun to learn to play, especially that crunchy lead guitar.  As if I play lead guitar…but I could start.

  4. Your Love Is Mine-Corinne Bailey Rae
    This is just kind of sweetly sexy and lovely.  All of CBR’s songs remind me of relaxed summer afternoons, breeze blowing through the curtains, and perhaps also the jasmine in my mind.

  5. I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know-Marc Broussard
    This song is actually a cover of an old Blood, Sweat & Tears song, but Marc kills it.  The sax is a nice touch.  His live show still ranks among the best I’ve seen; but the man continues to break my heart by not coming back to Tucson.  Jerk.

  6. Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand-Lake Street Dive
    Lake Street Dive was an opener at a show I saw; I can’t remember who they opened for, but I see a lot of shows, and it’s rare that I am totally mesmerized by the opener. The bass line in this song, doubled by the guitar, is killer. The whole band is fun and solid, but lead singer Rachael Price’s voice kills me. Unique, strong, sexy, nimble.  They’re coming back to Tucson in February.  Do yourself a favor and go.  I’ll be there.

  7. Death Letter Jubilee-The Delta Saints
    I am so delighted that my Android phone has this little musical note icon to listen to KXCI and tell me who’s singing whatever is currently tripping my trigger.  I probably have a hundred screen captures on my phone of just that kind of instant musical research (because if I think I’ll remember enough of the song to google it when I get home, I’m dead wrong) that got me this song.  It rocks.  That is all.

  8. You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional-The Lone Bellow
    Had a bit of a Miles Kane situation (see #3 above) with this band as well last year.  I like pretty much everything they do.  This song is fantastic.

  9. Sodade-Lila Downs, Niña Pastori, Soledad Pastorutti
    “Saudade” (as one more often sees the word) is a Portuguese word without a direct English translation that “describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”  This version has been translated from the Portuguese original, made famous by Cesária Évora, to Spanish.  The percussion and the groove throughout kills me.  I got to see Lila Downs perform last year; she is simply amazing live.

  10. Calabash & Catamaran-Gabriel Kahane
    I’d never heard of Gabriel Kahane until he opened for the Punch Brothers this spring with a set of some of the smartest, most challenging, yet entirely catchy music I’ve ever heard.  I was an instant superfan, and told him so at the break when I went out to buy his album.  You have to listen hard to Kahane’s music; there’s a lot going on, and it has unexpected, but perfectly wonderful twists and turns, evidence of his classical music education, but frequently veering into modern composition with unusual time signatures and surprising melodies.  He IS more composer than mere songwriter, but using traditional rock band instruments along with the rest of the orchestra, and still his music is accessible.  His voice is warm and rich.  And his lyrics are smart, too…and often funny. I’m obsessed with the chord progression in the chorus here, to the point where I’m planning to steal it outright to write a totally new song and melody over it.  This song has banjo, synthesizer, electric guitar, and a brass section. How can you not love that?  Of the 2 albums of his that I have, this is my favorite song.  And with all that said, I think this song is, at least in part, about an iPod, which is droll as hell.  “You caress the dial, it makes you whole again…” Listen to the outro again, to how many sonic layers there are in it behind his voice.  OMG the layers…so good.

  11. Wake Up Alone-Amy Winehouse
    I came very late to my appreciation of Amy Winehouse…like in the last year or two, long after she was already gone.  I wasn’t particularly interested in a young throwback drunk/junkie, and I didn’t bother to give her a listen when she first hit the scene. Somehow, along the way, no doubt thanks to a fellow pirate, her album Back in Black ended up in my collection.  I would hear her songs come up on shuffle play from time to time and think, “You know, she’s better than I thought.”  I guess it’s kind of like talking to someone on the internet and liking them before you see their face…her sneaking up on me randomly, where all I could hear was her voice, allowed me to judge just her music, instead of all the collateral stuff about her lifestyle.  But even so, it took this song sneakily winning me over one day.  If I can nerd out a little (or perhaps I should say, a little more after #10), the unexpected progression of the Am to the G# in the verses, and then how the last line of the chorus resolves…man, that just kills me.  It kills my guitar teacher, too, as he had to sit there and listen to me play the latter over and over again, with giddy celebration of the awesomeness of it after each and every time, during my last lesson. Poor guy is so patient.

  12. Uptown Funk-Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
    The first time I heard this, I was backing out of my garage, and I was all, “WHO IS THIS???”  (Bruno Mars is such a musical chameleon, and I’m not all that familiar with his work, so I didn’t recognize his voice.)  And I wasn’t aware that Mark Ronson did anything but produce other people’s stuff.  It’s so fun and makes you want to get your dance on.  In fact, I am dancing right now on my chaise as I type this.  However, my current ensemble, which I could best describe as Hobo Pajama Party, is NOT club-ready. But the song definitely is comin’ in hot.

  13. Be Fearless and Play-WookieFoot
    Maybe last year…maybe the year before (memory fails), my brother sent me 2 CDs of this band he knows.  I think he might even know some of the people in it.  They write thoughtful, uplifting songs, and this one particularly spoke to me awhile back.  And now it’s especially important, as PLAY is my new mantra. More on that in this space soon!