You may call him Bobby, or you may call him Zimmy – yep, it’s Bob Dylan’s birthday! I’m not sure if there’s any brief way to fully pay tribute to one of the major composers and performers of the ‘60s, whose influence changed rock and pop music about as much as anyone. Let’s just say, thanks to Bob Dylan, popular music could go in directions well beyond simple two and three minute ditties. And Dylan is still capable of putting out great music, even as his vocal capabilities diminish, as evidence by 2012's fine Tempest album. As the video from that album and his satellite radio prove, Dylan remains cool beyond all belief. In honor of Mr. Dylan, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Supergrass – You Can See Me (In It For The Money): One of many brilliant songs from the second, and best, Supergrass album. Their debut revealed Gaz Coombes’ talent at conjuring a melody, and the follow up showed an incredible sophistication - they grew up so quickly. This is one of the songs that showed Gaz’s flair for wistful, melancholy melodies, which are balanced by an angry chorus.
Calexico – Splitter (Algiers): Last year’s Calexico album didn’t get as much love as it should have. The songs are consistently strong throughout the album. While they’ve toned down the horns and other desert rock elements, the band sounds great. This upbeat tune (which has some horns) is an instant classic, a song that could have come out in any decade from the ‘70s onward.
Shearwater – Open Your Houses (Basilisk)(Animal Joy): Animal Joy definitely titled towards Shearwater’s aggressive side. This song is coiled and tense and sounds like a collaboration between late ‘70s David Bowie and Talk Talk, which is a very good thing.
Nirvana – Sliver (Incesticide): This is an unusually light hearted story song from Nirvana’s outtakes album. While the music still ends up in a typical slash and burn mode, Kurt Cobain’s song still about as bouncy as a Nirvana tune can be.
Them Crooked Vultures – Dead End Friends (Them Crooked Vultures): This album seems to grow in my estimation over time. While there’s no one killer cut, the songs are all really solid and hearing Homme, Grohl and Jones play is thrilling. While there are obviously similarities to Queens Of The Stone Age, the vibe is different – not better or worse, but different, making this so worthwhile, I hope they put out another album some day.
Laurie Anderson – Language Is A Virus (Home Of The Brave): This single is one of Laurie’s most accessible songs, based on a William Burroughs quote. The song has a bit of a Talking Heads vibe to it.
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians – The President (Element Of Light): While not epic in length, this is a big rock song from Robyn, from what might be the best album he did with the Egyptians, although there is a lot of competition for that designation. While musically this is nothing like Dylan, the lyrics definitely show his influence on Hitchcock.
Jets To Brazil – Mid-Day Anonymous (Four Cornered Night): A chilling, powerful tune from the second Jets To Brazil album. The song is sung from the point of view of a school shooter. The song has a foreboding keyboard intro before starting off almost jaunty, but the band brings in the guitar power as it is revealed how disturbed the protagonist is. The arrangement of this strong tune really captures the power of the lyrics. This song came to mind immediately after I first heard about Sandy Hook.
Plug Uglies – All Done In (Inner City Sound): Plug Uglies were an early Aussie post-punk band. This is a skittish indie pop song with hiccupping vocals and jittery guitars.
Midlake – Core of Nature (The Courage of Others): Midlake certainly perfected a British ‘70s folk rock sound for their last album, which did not have quite as many compelling songs as the previous breakthrough Trials of the Van Occupanther. This song actually is a bit more in the vein of the prior album, showcasing Tim Smith’s intent vocals. The guitar work is really good.