I hit this great alphabetical run of songs starting a ways into the M’s of my iTunes library:
Measuring Cups (Andrew Bird) My daughter turned me on to this guy. Sings, plays violin, guitar, and whistles as if his last name were literal. This tune doesn’t feature his whistling, alas, but if you go to his web site, there’s video. It’s a tweet. Plus, he’s a great lyricist.
Message In A Bottle (Police) What a great idea for a song. If you haven’t heard it in a while, the propulsive speed of it may surprise you. And if you’ve never seen Sting do it live, he usually does a slow, solo version, and the chorus turns the crowd into one gigantic choir.
Missed The Boat (Modest Mouse) One of the catchiest songs I've heard in years. You get the big chiming rhythm guitar and the wiggly, fluid lead, one of which is Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths—I had no idea he’d joined the band. I’ve always admired the songwriting, but not the singing, of Isaac Brock. He sounds pretty good on this. And the guy can write. A great anthem for corporate drones, or for a fecklessly failing government.
Mistaken For Strangers (The National) Do you know this band? The big sound and song structures remind me of Coldplay and, every once in awhile, Simple Minds. But the singer’s like the love child of Mark Knopfler and that guy from Crash Test Dummies. He’s a mumbler and doesn’t have much range, but the lyrics are full of odd details. This is from a CD called “Boxer.” The drummer is mighty.
Money (Pink Floyd) How did this song become a radio hit at six-and-a-half minutes and with a word that had to be bleeped? By kicking ass, that’s how.
Morning Glory (Chrissie Hynde, a cover of a Tim Buckley song) From the anthology “Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village In The ‘60s,” full of contemporary artists interpreting folkies of the era. This is a weird one. It seems allegorical, and the particulars of the story aren’t really clear, but the feeling comes through. What’s the feeling? I guess I’d call it loneliness.
Muskrat Love (America) Well, a glitch along the way. I listened to it anyway, and thought, I guess it’s whimsical, but what the hell? Acquired during a Sound Card project. And, just now, thrown in the trash.
Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett) I should do a list of my favorite singers. I’m pretty sure Wilson Pickett would make the top ten.
My Back Pages (Marshall Crenshaw covering Bob Dylan) Not my fave Dylan song, but I love this arrangement of it. Jonah, at age four, asked me how somebody could be “so much older then” but be “younger than that now”? So I had to explain how the more you know, the less you know. My dad didn't have to explain that to me until I was 14. Kids these days.
My Favorite Mistake (Sheryl Crow) What a great piece of writing. “When you go, all I know is, it’s the perfect ending / To the bad day I was just beginning.” If art is clear thinking about mixed emotions, Sheryl is a bona fide artist. She may be too strident about toilet paper, but her songs are no shit.
My Sharona (The Knack) OK, I admit, I like it. It makes me think back to when Winona Ryder was sublime, dancing in a convenience store, a rare moment of exuberance in a movie that took its title literally and avoided reality for fear of its bite.
Myxomatosis - Judge, Jury, & Executioner (Radiohead) We conclude the M’s with this blast of polyrhythmic synthy-cism. I never know what Tom Yorke’s singing about, but I never doubt that he does.
Nettie Moore (Bob Dylan) This is probably my fave from “Modern Times.” It thumps right along, and Bob keeps going and going. Some of his phrasings are just superhuman.
No Count Blues (Sarah Vaughan) Sissy’s amazing scat vs. a muted trumpet. You can smell the cigarette smoke.
No Regrets (Tom Rush) One of the great, lesser-known singer-songwriters of the ‘60s and ‘70s, with one of the great, lesser-known, end-of-the-affair songs ever. I could have done without the big production, but the song can’t be denied.
Oh You (Greg Brown) “With your heart-shaped rocks and your rocky heart / With your worn-out shoes and your eagerness to start / With your mother’s burden and your father’s stare / With your pretty dresses and your ragged underwear / Oh you...” Nobody piles up lists in a song like Greg Brown. This is on “Milk of the Moon,” recent enough that he probably wrote it for Iris Dement.
Ol’ Man River (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) Well, he was no Paul Robeson. If hearing sad songs comically trashed is your thing, this one’s for you. Screamin’ Jay autographed my draft card at the premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s “Mystery Train.” Then my wallet got stolen. Man, I coulda sold that draft card on eBay for at least a buck-fifty.
Old Man (Neil Young) An absolutely unique artist in American music, and quite a guy. Who else was laying a banjo into a pop song back in, what, 1972? Or for that matter, singing about an old man? I remember listening to the Harvest album over and over while making leather belts to sell at head shops. Then we'd switch to Harry Chapin or It's A Beautiful Day. Then we'd run out of pot.
Open (Bruce Cockburn) Speaking of Old Man, shortly after my 50th birthday, I saw Bruce Cockburn live in upstate New York, and he opened with this. Glorious.
Our House (Crosby, Stills & Nash) One of the great cohabitation songs, written by Graham Nash for Joni Mitchell, so they say. I love the internal rhymes and the la-la-la.
Our House (Madness) Less a song than a music video, but I’d forgotten how catchy it is. Jonah loves to riff on it in a British accent. "Owah House...in the middle of my tush, Owah House...with some flowahs on a bush, Owah House...with the cats in the yahd..." He gets the two songs confused. The kid has no sense of rock history.
Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland) End with a broken heart.
The floor is now open for great iTunes mix lists. Don’t cheat!