Dusting off an ancient feature today for nostalgia’s sake. Enjoy! Discuss! Rejoice!
Bob Dylan – When He Returns
Bob Dylan’s “born-again” era is the most forgotten, least-treaded or too generalized of his entire catalog. It’s the inkstain on his mythos. No one really wants to talk about it, and Dylan himself is often vague of the period. But one thing’s certain: 1979’s Slow Train Coming is some of his most inspired, frighteningly honest material since his heyday as a young singer-songwriter living in the West Village. Most of the album is wrought with conviction and praise is framed beautifully by the guitar of Dire Straights axman Mark Knopfler by the album’s final track is a propulsive, powerful ballad that is nothing more than Dylan and piano accompaniment. “How long can you falsify and deny what is real?,’ he questions, before rounding the killer couplet: “How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?”
Frank Turner – I Still Believe
Frank Turner is Billy Bragg for post-millenial hardcore kids. His songs straddle a fine line of folk music with punk rock energy. So much of his work is hook-heavy, songs seem to eclipse their albums, much like Bragg’s work. That’s frustrating a lot of the time, but not in this case. “I Still Believe” is the lead track from Turner’s stopgap “Rock & RollEP. Characteristic lilting vocals, call and response choruses, and shout outs to “Jerry Lee and Johnny and all the greats” make it a fun four minutes. There’s no real message here, and that’s okay. It’s a good example of why EP’s exist.
tUnE-yArDs – Gangsta
What’s great about Merrill Garbus is the deliberate incongruence of her songs. Rarely anything she does sounds natural. It’s cut up, shuffled and reconstituted with the strength of a glue stick, and that’s what makes it so exhilarating. There’s no better example than this song, layered vocals, caddywompus horns and a prowling beat keeping it together. At first listen, her latest album W H O K I L L sounds like several loose ends, but with repeated listens, the songs weave a pretty brilliant tapestry.
Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies
I love this song exactly for what it is: A killer pop single. Sonically, nothing seems to connect it to the same five people that made classics like Rumours and Tusk. Stevie Nicks often is the face for this band, but Fleetwood Mac have always seemed to be far more democratic when it comes to lead vocals on their singles. For this particular song, Christine McVie is up front, Nicks in the back, and Lindsey Buckingham is relegated to an echo. The hook is monstrous, and anyone growing up listening to pop radio in the late 80’s and early 90’s has that chorus imprinted on their consciousness. Girl Talk even appropriated it for “Overtime” from Night Ripper. To put it into Cheap Trick terms, it’s “The Flame” to their “Surrender”.