R. Stevie Moore is a cult figure of the highest magnitude. The son of a Nashville session musician, Moore started out making his own music in mid-‘60s, finally releasing his debut album Phonography in 1976. The album is at turns catchy and eccentric (and sometimes both) and kicked off a staggering number of releases over the years. Moore makes Robert Pollard look lazy, having released hundreds upon hundreds of tunes (and he had the good taste to cover one of my all-time favorite Sparks songs, “Fletcher Honorama”). Moore plays many instruments, is an expert in lo to mid-fi recording, has a keen melodic sense and can pen a hook. He’s the original bedroom indie pop artist and current fans of artists like Ariel Pink (who has collaborated with Moore) would be well advised to track down his music. Let’s pay tribute to this original and enduring talent by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Squeeze – Labelled With Love (East Side Story): A great change of pace number from Squeeze’s finest album. Here, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook craft there version of a country music ballad, which had to please producer Elvis Costello to no end, as this was around the time he was working on his country LP, Almost Blue. What I love about this song is how Difford respects the tradition of country lyrics while not losing his own distinctive voice, resulting in the best of both worlds. On top of it, this is a really poignant story.
ABBA – Knowing Me Knowing You (ABBA Gold): I remember reading that Pete Townshend was a big fan of this song, and I can see why. ABBA were the kings and queens of Europop for a good reason, as Bjorn and Benny not only knew how to write a great pop song (and this song does a great job of building from the moody verse to the powerful chorus) but how to produce it. ABBA records are full of great arrangement choices and, of course, awesome harmony vocals.
Nicole Atkins – Love Surreal (Neptune City): A fine track from Atkins’ awesome debut album. Whereas many of her songs have such a classic approach, this song actually has a bit of a dissonant aspect in the verses before soaring into the chorus. While her second album was also great, I’m very excited that she is working with the producer of this album on her upcoming third LP.
Thin Lizzy – Solider Of Fortune (Bad Reputation): A dramatic number from one of the most rocking Thin Lizzy album. This song calls upon Phil Lynott’s balladeer skills, and after his passionate vocal sets the scene, the song hits familiar dual lead guitar, amped up Irish folk song territory, and everything is more than fine.
Tommy James & The Shondells – Ball Of Fire (Anthology): A soulful ballad from Mr. James. This has a great arrangement, with a bit of a pop vibe in the verses but the chorus is almost like gospel music. Good track.
Underworld – Born Slippy (Nuxx)(Trainspotting): Perhaps the signature track from the excellent soundtrack to the movie Trainspotting. Underworld really progressed from a so-so debut album to making some fantastic electronics laden dance music.
The Bees – Go Karts (Free The Bees): The Bees are retro gods, and this little slice of Brit pop sounds like it could have come out in 1967. What I love is how the jaunty music is offset by melancholy organ and horn instrumental sections.
Duke Ellington – Ain’t Nobody Nowhere Nothin’ Without God (Highlights From The Centennial Edition (1927-1973)): Duke showing that even gospel music can swing.
Thom Yorke – The Clock (The Eraser): I resisted getting Yorke’s solo album, for no articulable reason. I think I wondered if there was anything he needed to say outside of Radiohead. At one level, the answer to that is yes. But this is a good album in the vein of what he’s been doing with Radiohead, so I’m glad I overcame my bias. This has a glitchy electronic backing track, some interesting bluesy overlays of sound and a typical floating Yorke melody.
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim with Florence Welch – Here Lies Love (Here Lies Love): This concept album doesn’t quite work. This is ostensibly the story of Imelda Marcos, told through the eyes of Marcos and one of her servants. Overall, it isn’t pulled off very well, as Byrne’s lyrics are pretty clunky. Still, it was an excuse to get some terrific female vocalists a chance to sing some nice melodies. Miss Florence and the Machine gets to tackle one of the best songs on the record and she shows off a bit softer side (as opposed the powerhouse nature of her vocals on many songs).