Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Still Waiting For New Popguns? Not For Long

Even though it was nearly 20 years between the last two releases, and even though 'Pop Fiction' was like manna from heaven, and even though I'm sure we are all still giving that album regular spins, we pop fans are fickle, even when it comes to Pickles, and six months on seems just about the right time to start asking ourselves, "I wonder what the Popguns have up their sleeves next?"

Well, it sounds like they will be recording a new album soon, and that's reason enough to rejoice. In the meantime, though, our thirst is about to be satiated with new songs that put Wendy's wonderful voice front and center. The "Still Waiting For The Winter EP" features one of the most amazing moments from 'Pop Fiction,' but it's the three songs exclusive to this release that will have us all eager to order. "BN3," "Why You Fell In Love With Me" and "Diane's Song" are all stripped-down affairs chock full of warmth and melancholy. Check out the beautiful "BN3" below. The song is said to tell the story of a "sporting romance played out at Hove County Cricket Ground."

The "Still Waiting For The Winter EP" is limited to 1,000 CD copies and has an official release date of July 13. Matinée Recordings, however, should begin taking orders any day now. Watch for that all important Add to Cart button here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 36)

36. "Headache"
Artist: Frank Black
Year: 1994

This will be a short one since Black was in a certain band you may have heard of that might still be coming up on the countdown. Oh, so you are already familiar with the Catholics? I kid. Here's my question of the day: How many Frank Black/Black Francis albums did you buy before calling it quits? Black has had roughly 18 studio albums since the Pixies went on what would best be described (in hindsight) as a lengthy hiatus. I loved those first two long players Black did when he was still with 4AD, and there were several songs from the airy self-titled debut and the tighter followup, 'Teenager of the Year,' considered for the countdown, especially "Los Angeles," I Heard Ramona Sing" and "(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain." I went with "Headache" for Black's manic delivery and its commercial accessibility. It was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

For those who were fans, do you remember what a great time this was? We were still basking in the afterglow of one of the best bands of all time, Black's solo work was unimpeachable, and Kim Deal's former side project had exploded. In 1994, there seemed to be no end to our good fortune. Anyway, to answer my own question, the last album I bought was 'The Cult of Ray' in 1996, and I didn't even end up keeping it. Then I quit Black cold turkey. Part of my '90s malaise, I suppose. Feel free to let me know if you think that was a mistake.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 37)

37. "Looking For Atlantis"
Artist: Prefab Sprout
Year: 1990

Paddy wasn't all that productive in the '90s. Yet, I came up with five fine candidates from Prefab Sprout for this list. There were only two studio albums. One was fantastic, and the other was not too shabby either. Shockingly, there was the exact same number of compilations that came out during the decade. The "best of" from 1992 had a new song on it where Paddy unleashed his inner Pet Shop Boy. "If You Don't Love Me" to this day makes me wish I could hit a dance floor and wheeze along to it. This song has turned out to be the band's biggest hit in America, cracking the top 10 on the dance tracks list. Speaking of charts, this is as good a time as any to ask how it is possible 'Steve McQueen' only made it to No. 180 on the Billboard 200. We Americans have a lot to answer for around the globe, but this might be the biggest travesty of them all. Anyway, all of this is the long way around to stating that "If You Don't Love Me" and the lovely "A Prisoner of the Past" from the 1997 album 'Andromeda Heights' were the only two selections of mine that weren't from 'Jordan: The Comeback.'

Up until 2013, 'Jordan: The Comeback' was, without question, my second favorite album behind the aforementioned 'Steve McQueen.' The miracle comeback that was 'Crimson/Red' has had me reconsidering that position. Still, every one of the singles from that 1990 album deserves a spot at this table. "We Let the Stars Go" has always sounded like it could have been a 'Steve McQueen' outtake. "Carnival 2000," a huge favorite of our very own Echorich, is a great bit of fun. I chose "Looking for Atlantis" because it takes me back to a time just before the release of the album. It was the lead-in single, and the anticipation for 'Jordan' was almost unbearable after purchasing the brilliant 12". It clocked in at nearly seven and a half minutes! I don't claim to know why everything Thomas Dolby has produced for this band has worked, but I especially liked his touch on this one. So, even though I can only give it to you from my crummy USB turntable, you're going to get the extended version as well. In case you're wondering, "Looking for Atlantis" peaked at a modest No. 51 in the UK.

"Looking for Atlantis" (Extended)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 38)

38. "Stutter"
Artist: Elastica
Year: 1993

"Connection" is the one that connected with American masses in the fall of '94, but I was in Japan and, thankfully, missed all of the hype. I had discovered Elastica a year earlier thanks to a new and very special person in my life. For those of you who grew up listening to John Peel, 1993 is going to seem pretty late in the game to have found the legendary BBC DJ. I, of course, knew of him from the Strange Fruit releases of Peel Sessions, but for many of us on this side of the pond, the man was a mysterious figure. He was so often spoken of with reverence by our favorite bands. Yet, we had never actually heard Peel speak passionately about, say, his love for the Undertones. We would find out about his favorite bands through music magazines and other avenues. During my time abroad, I didn't have satellite television, nor did I mind a bit. My goal was always immersion and assimilation. I did miss having news from the west, however, and I eventually got a shortwave radio. It never occurred to me this would be my chance to listen to Peel, but he had a 30-minute program on BBC World Service that played weekly. Sure beat "Alf," "Little House on the Prairie" and "Doogie Howser, M.D.," the only English-language shows that popped up on my TV.

Peel introduced me to "Stutter" on the first program I ever heard him host. Loud, sloppy and an all-around wonderful two minutes of fun. Elastica's debut single was on Steve Lamacq's Deceptive Records. The song was written by Justine Frischmann, girlfriend of Blur's Damon Albarn and formerly of Suede when they were in their infancy. It was said to be about a certain problem fellas get in the sack when they have had one too many. "Stutter" didn't chart in 1993, but it did come in at No. 38 on Peel's Festive 50. Hardly a consolation prize in my book. There must have been quite a bit of buzz about Elastica by the time the self-titled debut album came out in 1995 because in America it came out on Geffen. It shot to No. 1 in the UK, and it didn't do half bad in my home country, peaking at No. 66. "Stutter" got another go on radio, and this time it did chart. I picked up a wonderful gold 10" of the song that Geffen put out at the time that included songs from a 1993 BBC radio session.

As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea how big Elastica had become during my time overseas. I got my first taste during television coverage of the '96 Olympics in Atlanta. I must have heard those opening chords of "Connection" on an oft-repeated Budweiser commercial about a hundred times. I loved that song before the ad, but I have yet to recover from that saturation. Otherwise, perhaps "Connection" would have grabbed this spot on the countdown.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 39)

39. "Heaven or Las Vegas"
Artist: Cocteau Twins
Year: 1990

It's not often a successful indie actually gets better following major-league attention, but I think Cocteau Twins' best work was after being signed by Capitol Records for distribution in America. I'll give you die-hard followers a moment to curse my name... I took to Robin Guthrie's ethereal guitar and, especially, Elizabeth Fraser's dreamy vocals fairly early on, but I only seemed to like them in small doses. They weren't like anyone else in my collection, which I found intriguing but challenging to my pop sensibilities. It felt as if the band's sound became a tick more accessible around the time of 'Blue Bell Knoll' in 1988 and even more so with 'Heaven or Las Vegas' in 1990, and that's when I really became a fan. Not very fashionable, but it's the truth.

My other candidates for this spot were the singles "Carolyn's Fingers" and "Iceblink Luck." It's interesting to study the band's chart successes. All three of the songs mentioned here cracked the top 10 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks list, but these would be the only appearances for Cocteau Twins on this side of the pond. After years of successive No. 1 hits on the UK indie chart, we Americans took to them just as interest in the UK seemed to cool. When it comes to great bands, we are often late to the party over here (or miss the soiree completely), but this is the rare occurrence when I think we favored a group at just the right time. OK, I'm ready. Let me have it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Dad

No gush. Just thinking about Dad today. Hard to believe he will have been gone 20 years come October. One of the last songs I remember playing for him was "The Beast in Me" from the first of Johnny Cash's 'American Recordings' with producer Rick Rubin. My Dad was a big Cash fan, and I am a huge fan of the songwriter, Mr. Nick Lowe. So, it was a rare moment of musical common ground. I did it all backwards. I could have enjoyed Cash in all of his glory from an early age, but that was Dad's music. So, of course, I hated it. That's what kids do. While lifelong fans of Cash saw the 'American Recordings' series as icing on the cake, this was where I finally dipped my big toe. Dad, you were certainly right about Johnny Cash. I wish I had opened my ears and my mind a little sooner.

The Beast in Me

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 40)

40. "Peaches"
Artist: The Orchids
Year: 1991

OK, we have finally reached Casey Kasem territory. For those keeping track, the Orchids are the fifth and final band* from the Sarah stable to appear on this list. To me, the songs and non-album singles surrounding the melancholy pop of the 'Lyceum' era will always be a cut above the rest, but there were a couple of singles, an EP and one long player (for some of you, perhaps two) from the '90s that are absolute must haves. My two just-miss candidates for the countdown were "Something For The Longing" and "Bemused, Confused and Bedraggled," but I decided to go off the board a bit with an album track from the 'Unholy Soul' album. Although this bugged the 7" purists that worshiped the label, yes, there were occasional full-length albums on Sarah. For those trivia buffs out there, I believe 'Lyceum' was Sarah's first ever 10", and 'Unholy Soul was the label's fifth 12".

If you were around for last year's list of my 50 favorite UK indie singles from the '80s, then you know the Orchids made the top 10. There were a couple of spirited comments on that particular post from some old friends who shared their favorite songs from this band. My choice of "Peaches" will please one of them, and I imagine I'm going to catch hell from the other. So, in advance, let me apologize to our pal Dirk. About this time a year ago I went on the record saying "Something For the Longing" was my No. 1 from the Orchids, but I have listened to "Peaches" many times since then, and I have grown to love the band's more mature sound... as well as the addition of Pauline Hynds' vocals. Yes, Friend of Rachel Worth, I'm backing you on this one.

The Orchids reunited about a decade ago and have released three albums since 2007. If anyone wants to put in the good word for any of these releases, I would love to hear about them.

*Technically, there is another Sarah band coming up, but my selection is from a time when they weren't on the label.

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (So Far...)
100. Die Funf Fruende - JETZT!
99. Save Ferris - Come on Eileen (Night Mix)
98. World Party - Put the Message in the Box
97. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd
96. The Ocean Blue - Sublime
95. Puffy Ami Yumi - Wild Girls on Circuit
94. The Muffs - Oh Nina
93. Smoking Popes - Need You Around
92. The Feelies - Sooner or Later
91. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
90. The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
89. fIREHOSE - Disciples of the 3-Way
88. The Sugargliders - Letter From a Lifeboat
87. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
86. Vegas - Walk Into the Wind
85. k.d. lang - Miss Chatelaine
84. Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You
83. The Pretenders - I'm Not in Love
82. Jeffrey Foskett - Thru My Window
81. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker
80. Blondie - Maria
79. Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong
78. Brighter - Does Love Last Forever?
77. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - History of Lies
76. Squeeze - Some Fantastic Place
75. Paul Weller - Uh Huh, Oh Yeh
74. Maria McKee - I'm Gonna Soothe You
73. Marine Research - Parallel Horizontal
72. Morrissey - Our Frank
71. Annie Lennox - No More 'I Love Yous'
70. Jellyfish - The King Is Half Undressed
69. The La's - Timeless Melody
68. Jonathan Richman - Surrender
67. Kirsty MacColl - Titanic Days
66. Roddy Frame - Reason for Living
65. The Divine Comedy - Becoming More Like Alfie
64. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Kiss Them For Me
63. Electronic - Get the Message
62. Scritti Politti - Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder
61. The Clean - Draw(in)g to a (W)hole
60. The Chamber Strings - Telegram
59. David Bowie - Something in the Air
58. Lambchop - Your Fucking Sunny Day
57. James - Laid
56. Suede - Metal Mickey
55. Blueboy - Popkiss
54. The Sundays - Here's Where the Story Ends
53. Brendan Benson - I'm Blessed
52. The Lucksmiths - Untidy Towns
51. Heavenly - Atta Girl
50. Freedy Johnston - Responsible
49. Neil Finn - She Will Have Her Way
48. Nick Heyward - Kite
47. Bjork - Big Time Sensuality
46. Velocity Girl - I Can't Stop Smiling
45. Buzzcocks - Innocent
44. Aztec Camera - Spanish Horses
43. Sugar - Gee Angel
42. Marshall Crenshaw - What Do You Dream Of?
41. The High Llamas - The Sun Beats Down

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 41)

41. "The Sun Beats Down"
Artist: The High Llamas
Year: 1998

I grappled with whether to include the High Llamas on this countdown. They were one of the most vital bands in what was a rather desolate decade for me, but this is list about songs, not albums, and I have never really had one go-to tune... at least not from the '90s. I do actually have a favorite song from the band in the '00s, but that's a post for another day. If this was about the long player, I wouldn't hesitate to place 'Hawaii' in my top 10. I'm quite sure I would look back on this countdown someday and wonder how I could have omitted the High Llamas from a list about the '90s. So, that's just not going to happen.

The tipping point to choosing "The Sun Beats Down" is rather silly, I guess. My last big countdown was the 50 best UK indie singles from the 1980s. Physically, these two lists couldn't be much different. A majority of the singles on the '80s list came from my vinyl collection. Predictably, most of the songs on the '90s list are from CDs. In fact, I have about as many picks from cassette singles as I do from vinyl (reason No. 38 why I hate the '90s). "The Sun Beats Down" is a rare 7" selection (among my records, anyway) from 1998. When I had my choices whittled down to "Nomads" and "The Sun Beats Down," the 7" got the edge over the CD. Yep, that's how I picked it. I don't have much to add about the High Llamas that I didn't cover at length back in January, but "The Sun Beats Down" is from 'Cold and Bouncy,' one of Sean O'Hagan's more electronic leaning albums, but there are still lots of marimbas, strings and other "unplugged" instruments for those who prefer that side of the band. Come to think of it, I'm glad this one is popping up now. It's a pretty unusual take on the summer song.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Old School Is the Rule

I'm taking a break from the '90s countdown today because I'm already dangerously close to my allotted monthly bandwidth limit. Makes me kind of proud because that means there are actually some readers out there following along. So, today's offerings are of the streaming variety, and I think you'll find them all worth your time.

I picked up 'Half the City' from Alabama natives St. Paul & the Broken Bones the other day, and I'm completely blown away by Paul Janeway's vocals and the band's passion for the sounds of Muscle Shoals. Sure wish I had another crack at my best of 2014 list, I can tell you. There are a lot of bands out there attempting to capture a bygone era, whether it be surf, garage, Northern Soul, girl group, R&B, soul or funk. The other day I surpassed 1,000 posts, and I decided to skip a celebratory moment since I can't give you a thousand of anything to mark the occasion. So, in lieu of that, to continue the recent 6th birthday of Linear Tracking Lives, here are six artists capturing one of the aforementioned retro sounds that I have taken a real shine to since the birth of this blog. Love it? Hate it? Too derivative? Let me know what you think.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Song: "Call Me"
Album: 'Half the City'
Year: 2014

Vic Godard & Subway Sect
Song: "Born to Be a Rebel"
Album: '1979Now!'
Year: 2014

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Song: "Sugarfoot"
Album: 'Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!'
Year: 2009

Charles Bradley
Song: "The World (Is Going Up in Flames)"
Album: 'No Time For Dreaming'
Year: 2011

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Song: "I Learned the Hard Way"
Album: 'I Learned the Hard Way'
Year: 2010

La Luz
Song: "Brainwash"
Album: 7" and digital single only
Year: 2013

Monday, June 15, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 42)

42. "What Do You Dream Of?"
Artist: Marshall Crenshaw
Year: 1996

Marshall Crenshaw will always be remembered for a stunning self-titled debut and, in my humble opinion, an even better followup. ('Field Day' is probably in my all-time top 10. Voice your displeasure below. I can take it.) Many of us didn't make it much past 1983. I ought to know because, for the longest time, I was one of them. 'Downtown,' in 1985, was the last album I bought as a new release, that is, until 'Miracle of Science' in 1996.

From late '95 through late '96 was a very tough year. You won't find an abundance of songs from 1996 on this list. I was consumed with a trying job in a new city. There were family issues, not the least of which was the shocking death of my father at the same age I am now. I think the way I came about buying this album perfectly illustrates my life at that time. I noticed it while browsing at a Borders, a cold mega retailer of books and music within the confines of a joyless mall. Just the kind of place I couldn't have ever imagined fulfilling my musical needs, but the Mrs. needed something at one of the stores. So, I stole a minute because, well, I could. At that time I didn't know where the indie shops were anyway, and I didn't have a moment for that kind of exploration. This is becoming a real downer. Let's move on to some better news.

I don't know what possessed me to buy it after an absence of more than a decade, but 'Miracle of Science' was a revelation... the kind of album that made me go back and discover all of Crenshaw's music that I had missed. I have no idea where this album ranks with others, but I assume my opinion that it's his third best album (behind the first two) is probably out of sync with most fans. Thing is, there were quite a few songs on 'Miracle of Science' that reminded me of those salad days. Actually, one, "Starless Summer Sky," was a proper recording of a demo from 1979. "Theme From 'Flaregun'" is quite possibly the best instrumental in my entire collection. Album closer "There and Back Again" was another strong contender for this list. The production was sparse, and Crenshaw played most of the instruments, giving the entire album an intimate feel. Ultimately, I chose "What Do You Dream Of?" for its pop sensibility and message. It just sounds like a single. Perhaps you have thought about this while attempting to slumber next to the love of your life. Here are a few of the insightful lyrics:

Just last night when we were in bed
This thought came into my head
I would give anything, girl
If I could steal a look into your secret world

What do you dream of?
Oh, what do you dream of?
I'll never know what really lies
Behind your sleeping eyes

What do you dream of?
Oh, what do you dream of?
Can you leave your worldly cares behind
Or do they rule your mind?

When I see you smile
I've got a reason to smile
Oh, what do you dream of?
I wonder once in a while

I have always imagined Crenshaw jumping up in bed and reaching for his glasses and a scrap of paper to scribble down this idea. 'Miracle of Science' brought me back into the fold, and I have stayed ever since.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 43)

43. "Gee Angel"
Artist: Sugar
Year: 1994 (released as single in 1995)

Time and place have much to do with why I hold Sugar's album 'File Under Easy Listening' in such high esteem. I got this one when I was living in Japan. Most of my music collection was being stored at an uncle's house back in Illinois. All I brought with me was a Case Logic CD holder that housed 96 discs. That black binder was meant to sate my musical hunger for two years... an impossible task. I toiled many weeks whittling it down to that number, let me tell you. Finding the right mix of classics, new releases and the stuff I was into at that moment, all the while avoiding too many albums from one artist, was maddening.

I was living in a rural area, and the closest town that could be described as civilization was an hour away by train. This was before the Internet explosion, and all I had to keep up with the west was a shortwave radio that was always tuned in to either the BBC or the Armed Forces Radio Network. At that time, the yen-to-dollar exchange rate was very much in my favor, and I was all about saving money for travel and to send home. This was easy to do because I lived in the constant fear of knowing at some point I would return home to the prospect of unemployment. The added benefit of living in the middle of nowhere was there wasn't much to tempt me to spend... unless you count beer. Occasionally, when I would feel the need to catch up on the world, I would hop the train to this small city. There was a cultural exchange foundation with a reading room where the handful of westerners in the prefecture would gather to peruse the latest issues of everything from the Economist to People. I swear I would hear angels singing every time I walked through the door.

One Saturday while at the reading room I read about the new release of 'File Under Easy Listening' in Rolling Stone. At the time, my 96 discs were feeling as stale as week-old bread, and the prospect of listening to something, anything, new, especially from Bob Mould, was exciting. I hopped a bus to Import Yamachiku, a record shop in the city center that was jammed with the latest CDs from America and the UK. Living far from this store was beneficial to my savings plan. My 21-year-old copy still has the price tag of 2,190 yen on it.

Easy listening it was not, and "Gee Angel" was about as hard as it got. I don't think many would put this album ahead of 'Copper Blue,' but I do. I'll freely admit it's because I bought it at a time when I was desperate for new music, and I played the hell out of it. Today, as I play it, I can't help but think about the effort it took to get 'File Under Easy Listening.' What now takes one or two clicks took me an entire day of reading, buying and transporting... and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 44)

44. "Spanish Horses"
Artist: Aztec Camera
Year: 1992

I'm sure you know "I Got You" by Split Enz. Although the song is revered by many, the reason it's not remembered as a timeless classic is that new wave synthesizer used during the verses. The chorus, however, is that pure pop Neil Finn patented for 30 years in Crowded House and as a solo artist. In other words, the band had a helluva half a song there. After repeated listens in the past week, that's exactly the problem plaguing the song originally meant for No. 44.

I loved Aztec Camera's "The Crying Scene" when it came out in 1990. It had been three years since the slickly produced 'Love,' and I welcomed Roddy minus all of that polish. Listeners in the UK didn't seem to share my enthusiasm for this song, and it stalled at No. 70. "The Crying Scene" did very well here in America, and I heard it played many times on WXRT Chicago. Aztec Camera on commercial radio was (and always has been) a very rare treat on this side of the pond. "The Crying Scene" peaked at No. 3 on the alternative chart... a listing that had some weight back in the day. So, why my change of heart? I'll make this short. I have grown to dislike like the hard guitar and raw vocals during the verses. Meanwhile, the chorus is like a different song. It's pretty, sweet and, well, perfect. Another great half a song. I decided that's not enough to merit my 44th favorite of the '90s.

There were a couple of avenues I could have taken to rectify the situation. I have a completed list of the first 10 out... a 101-110, if you will, that I plan on sharing after the countdown is complete. I could have chosen No. 101 to fill this vacancy, but I decided to go with my second favorite '90s song from Aztec Camera. "Spanish Horses" had almost made the cut originally anyway, and it would be much closer to a true No. 44 than a song that couldn't crack my top 100 the first time around. I hope that sits well with everyone.

I have always loved the guitar on "Spanish Horses." The sound hearkens back to Roddy's exotic plucking on songs like "Oblivious" and "Lost Outside the Tunnel." If there was ever a tune that made me want to learn the paso doble, this was it. "Spanish Horses" would appear on the 1993 album 'Dreamland,' an album I wasn't all that enamored with upon its release. It seemed a little too mature to the ears of a fella that graduated from college the same year. In time, it has really grown on me. What can I say? I'm old. These days, I pull it out more often than 'Stray.' "Spanish Horses" was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto and mixed by Julian Mendelsohn. Big names don't guarantee big hits. The song reached the less than dizzying heights of No. 52 in the UK, and we didn't bother with the song at all over here. For those who bought the single, you were treated to three terrific live performances ("Birth Of The True," "Song For A Friend" and "Killermont Street") from June 23, 1991, at Ronnie Scott's. The entire show can be had on the bonus disc of the 2012 Edsel reissue of 'Dreamland.'

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I've Been Telling Lines I Never Knew...

A couple of days ago George over at Jim McLean's Rabbit featured a wonderful cover of "Walk Away Renée" by the Four Tops. Not surprisingly, now I'm listening to the Left Banke incessantly. Here is one of the most overlooked singles of all time. Released in the spring of 1967, "She May Call You Up Tonight" peaked at a disappointing No. 120 on the Billboard chart. The protagonist has been making up stories to keep one of his pals away from a girl he has a history with, and whom he still seemingly likes. The girl is planning to call his pal, and the storyteller knows he's about to get busted. What will he say next? I love everything about this song. It reminds me of something the Zombies might have done during the "Odessey and Oracle" days. Sundazed did a great job reissuing the 'Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina' album a few years ago, and you can pick it up here.

She May Call You Up Tonight

So, if you're a regular reader, you might be asking why I don't have the next song for my '90s countdown up today. I hit a snag at No. 44. As a song approaches, I'll spend the previous few days listening to the song several times as I decide what I want to say about it. I came to a conclusion about the next song: I don't like it nearly as much as I did in 1990. In fact, although I love the chorus, I am finding the verses grating. So much so, I have decided I don't want it on the list. I hope to have the mess this creates sorted out in the next day or so.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 45)

45. "Innocent"
Artist: Buzzcocks
Year: 1993

This pick has much in common with the one from Nick Heyward last week. When our store copy of 'Trade Test Transmissions' arrived, I looked at it with skepticism. I was surprised Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle were trying to make a go of it. Why bother? You guys are legends! The legacy is secure. After all, there hadn't been an album from Buzzcocks since 'A Different Kind of Tension' in 1979. Still, all of that earlier work, including 'Singles Going Steady,' perhaps the best band compilation of all time, is absolutely unimpeachable. In other words, out of respect, this comeback album deserved my attention for at least a cursory listen. Whoa! Although I chose the single today,'Trade Test Transmissions' was no 7" surrounded by filler. In particular, There was something about those background vocals that really grabbed me. Check 'em out on "Innocent."

Not too terribly long ago I made a mix of my favorites from the band, and six songs from this album made the cut. I'm not going to be so bold as to say this album is better than a 'Love Bites' or 'Another Music In A Different Kitchen,' but no other long player had more than a half dozen picks. In other words, in my mind, there were still no dents in the discography after 'Trade Test Transmissions,' and I do lump it in with those earlier classics. Heck, it has been 22 years. This one is one of the classics!

Off topic, but here's a little plug for you purveyors of punk. Did you know Seattle has a shop called Singles Going Steady? Stop by when you're in the Belltown neighborhood.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Euphoric For Chris Stamey's New Album

The Granite Shore, the Catenary Wires and now Chris Stamey. For the third time in three weeks, I have a new album in heavy rotation. It's been a while since that has happened. The 60-year-old Stamey has been on fire. He followed up the 2012 dB's reunion album 'Falling Off the Sky' with the lush orchestral pop of the moody 'Lovesick Blues,' one of my 10 favorite albums of 2013. Where do you go from there? Well, thanks in part to his teenage daughter spinning 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' at home, Stamey turns up the guitar a bit and let's himself get lost in the sounds of the '60s.

Stamey gets help from a stable of stars, including Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Pat Sansone of Wilco, the Uptown Horns and, especially, old pal (and one of my biggest heroes) Mitch Easter. It's great to hear Stamey plugged in again while also embracing what he learned on 'Lovesick Blues.' These new songs are going to be a real treat to eventually hear live. Give 'Euphoria' a listen below.

Photo: Gail Goers

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 46)

46. "I Can't Stop Smiling"
Artist: Velocity Girl
Year: 1994

This slice of optimism comes at a good time as the start of this week has felt like a swift kick in the trousers... the front of the trousers at that. Obviously, it was the band's name that first attracted me to Velocity Girl. Those 83 seconds from Primal Scream just about define C86. So, if you're going to use a name like that, you had better be bringing the goods. Fortunately, Velocity Girl did. The band's early years on the Slumberland label were fuzzy, and they sounded like a bunch of UK shoegazers, even if they were from the D.C. area. They produced a few memorable singles in those days, and "My Forgotten Favorite" got some traction on college radio. That song garnered interest from Sub Pop just as the label was really making a name for itself. They sounded quite a bit different than the label's other bands, and it would be interesting to know why they went after a group that was often compared to Lush.

There were three full-length albums for the Seattle label. Velocity Girl matured during those years, and by middle album '¡Simpatico!' they had shed much of the lo-fi shoegaze for polished (but still fuzzy) power pop. The album's cleaner sound was credited to producer John Porter. Yes, the John Porter that was behind the desk for the debut album of the Smiths, as well as a few other memorable songs from the lads, including "How Soon Is Now?" I love this album and consider it one of the best from the decade. Hopefully this song will make you smile too.