Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Playlist: 2013

Last January, I shared with you a collection of 10 tracks that I thought would accompany me throughout the year. Of them, I'd say a good seven were on near-constant repeat across the months, so I've decided to construct another playlist to take me into 2013. As with the previous list, the songs were culled from my current collection. Most aren't recent, but they certainly sound good to me, and that's really the goal of any playlist I ever make. They come to you in no particular order. I hope you'll check them out, if you're not already familiar with them. Enjoy!

1) "Little Bird," Annie Lennox
I have a friend who recently relocated to England, and after he left, I sent him a playlist of good British music, and this song was central to that assemblage. The point I made when I sent it to him is that, as Scottish as Lennox can be, she's also oddly American at times, pulling inspiration from Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin and having an impact on Stateside artists as diverse as Fiona Apple, Lady Gaga, and Gwen Stefani. (NB: the link is to the video edit of the track; while I recommend the album cut, the video is worth a look, since Lennox doesn't hesitate to send herself up. You might also check out her performance of "Little Bird" from the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, where she was at her theatrical finest.)

2) "Too Close," Alex Clare
Speaking of British musicians, here's another. I'm not sure what to do with Clare; the video for this song makes no sense (even more so than a standard music video), the track was inexplicably featured in a commercial for Internet Explorer--INTERNET EXPLORER, I ASK YOU--and he sounds American but looks impossibly English. Setting those things aside, "Too Close" is indebted to Depeche Mode's "Dream On," which I love, and is a great tune in its own right. I can't skip it when it comes up on shuffle. If you're not totally sold on the electronic aspects of the song, check out this unplugged version; for me, it doesn't have the same impact, but it sounds good nonetheless.

3) "Wayfaring Stranger," Johnny Cash
Some of my friends seem to think I know nothing about country music. The same dude from above told me, "You need Johnny." What most of them don't know is that I do have a decent sense of some country musicians, including but not limited to the Man in Black. One of my favorites of his is "Wayfaring Stranger," a traditional tune included on American III: Solitary Man. It doesn't get much better than this, am I right? Plus, fun fact: Sheryl Crow played accordion on this track!

4) "Last Day of Magic," The Kills
I've been on this Jack White kick lately, and The Kills are sort of ancillary to that--Alison Mosshart works with White as part of The Dead Weather when she's not busy singing for The Kills. This song appeals to me because I feel like it describes so much of my life--the wondering, the chaos, the attempts to work it all out. Mostly, though, it sounds fun, and it's great to sing along to in the car.

5) "Come Along," Titiyo
The truth about this track is that it should have been on last year's playlist, because I love it to pieces. The first time I ever heard it, it was March 2011 and I was in a Ford Focus station wagon in Belgium, listening to English-language pop on the radio (this sounds like the start of a bad joke, I'm sure, but it's not). I found myself wondering why the artist wasn't more of a Thing in the States, because she has a great voice--not to mention some fabulous cheekbones--but, like many international artists before her, she seems to be more of a European phenomenon, particularly in her home country of Sweden. On a side note, she's Eagle Eye Cherry's stepsister!

6) "Pocketful of Sunshine," Natasha Bedingfield
Like Olive Penderghast before me, I have a love-hate relationship with this song. It's catchy as all get-out, so I can't flip past it on the radio. But it seems a little too twee for me? On the other hand, it's possible that this is the kind of aesthetic I need to incorporate into my life a bit more. So I'll keep turning it up, even if I say, every time, "Blagh, worst song EVER."

You may notice a trend here: I'm pretty late to every party out there, hence the reason it took me until 2012 to come around to Fergie's 2006 hit. Say what you will about her, but Stacy Ferguson's vocal gymnastics on this track give me hope for the future of pop singles. Plus the track is full of the type of bombast that can only be achieved by someone confident with herself, and that's a cool thing to witness.

8) "Take Your Mama," Scissor Sisters
My friend Ed regularly shares with me songs he thinks I should hear. Of all the links he's sent, this one might be my favorite. Scissor Sisters are clearly the heirs to Elton John's throne, which is part of what draws me to them, but I'm also attached to this particular cut because it's perfect for strutting (no joke--I do it all the time when walking to work) and also brings a summertime feel to your life when you're stuck in the rain, snow, or mud.

9) "A Long December," Counting Crows
I'm a famous non-fan of Adam Duritz's voice when it comes to him being a lead vocalist (though I adore his background work on the Wallflowers track "Sixth Avenue Heartache"--one of my all-time favorites). Having said that, I think "A Long December" is a stellar track, and it only takes a few notes of the bridge to send me right back to fifth grade, the age at which I first heard the song. Moreover, it's pretty much a time capsule for everything that was right about alternative music in the mid- to late-'90s, and you have to respect that.

10) "Genius of Love," Tom Tom Club
My first introduction to this song was, like so many others of my generation, via Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." That track made great use of the original, incorporating the sample seamlessly with a few tweaks. Tom Tom Club's master, however, is way more spaced out than Carey could ever hope to be, and it's a great cruising song--just roll the windows down, turn the volume up, and enjoy the ride.

Feel free to share your own essential tracks for the coming year in the comments; we'd love to know what you're listening to right now!


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