|Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. Huge Twins fan.|
June of 2009 was a time of gorgeous weather and great expectations. I had just graduated from Gustavus Adolphus (along with fellow contributors Tony and SilkyJ), I was all set to start a Masters program at the University of Minnesota in the fall, and I aced an interview for a summer position at a market research company in the meantime. To celebrate, I went shopping for some work clothes and put together two 15-song playlists that amplified my optimistic mood and just screamed "summertime" out of every track.
The day after my interview, I got a call from the market research company. They rescinded the job offer and decided to give the position to the company president's daughter. Six months later, I had dropped out of the U of M's mass communication program; I learned quickly that the professorial route just wasn't for me.
But I still had those 15-song playlists, forever etched on two Memorex CD-R. I still pull them out every summer, and they still do the job of amping me up for a road trip on a hot day, or passing the time on a trip down to my hometown of Waseca. Why not pass along those playlists to a group of folks who might also enjoy these tunes? Here's the track listing for CD number one.
1. "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady--Most of this band is originally from Minnesota, and frontman Craig Finn, a self-professed Twins fanatic--teamed with The Baseball Project on the song "Don't Call Them Twinkies" a couple years back. It's roughly 86,000 times better than that G.B. Leighton song that played during every Twins broadcast two years ago.
2. "The House That Heaven Built" by Japandroids--I originally had Japandroids' "Young Hearts Spark Fire" in this slot, but the Vancouver duo just released their second full-length and my favorite record of 2012 on June 5. "Heaven" is the first single off Celebration Rock, an album full of fist-pumpers and sing-a-long choruses, and if you're not busy on July 3, you should join me down at 7th Street Entry and watch these guys.
3. "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones--Mick Jagger just played this song on the recent season finale of Saturday Night Live with Arcade Fire as his backing band. It was awesome. You might recognize the ambling guitar line--The Verve sampled the orchestral version of this tune for their biggest hit "Bittersweet Sympony" (and subsequently lost all rights to the song to the Stones in a lawsuit).
4. "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" by Ben Folds Five--This track is all frenetic piano, and crashing drums, and it always reminded me of something Beethoven might write if he was born in 1983 and wore thick-rimmed glasses with no lenses.
5. "10 A.M. Automatic" by The Black Keys--Here's my favorite tune from a band that has blown up on the strength of the singles from their last two albums. Their latest El Camino was my favorite album of 2011, but this slightly older track of theirs boasts their best, most powerful hook and lyrics that make me sneer out an open car window while I tap the top of my 2000 Bonneville.
6. "Hello Operator" by The White Stripes--I was a witty, cheeky 22-year-old who thought putting The Black Keys and The Stripes back-to-back just made karmic sense. It sounds like a crazy, guitar-playing boulder falling off the side of a mountain, careening and smacking off every tree branch it hits on the way down to a guy playing a harmonica next to a bonfire.
7. "Run Through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival--Listening to this song is like taking a hoverboat ride through a New Orleans swamp. It's just sticky, like the air on a day where the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory. And John Fogerty sounds like a bullfrog croaking warnings through a megaphone to just stay the hell away from the whole ordeal.
8. "Season of the Witch" by Lou Rawls--I'm a big fan of jaunty horns whenever they show up in a song, and Rawls did this song a huge favor by adding them into this previously psychedelic 1966 tune originally recorded by Donovan. With the brass and the playful organ, this song turns from an eerie song about weird people staring at each other into a great tune to blast while driving around Lake Calhoun.
9. "Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sly and the Family Stone--This song is summer personified. Another horn-n'-piano-inflected number, I love this one for the coolness of Sly's delivery and the easygoing strings interspersed with the energetic, sing-a-long choruses.
|The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne with OKC's Kevin Durant.|
10. "The W.A.N.D." by The Flaming Lips--This song makes you wish you had gigantic hands so that, as you clap along to the insistent beats, bleeps, bloops, and ethereal sounds that touch the corners of this track, they would make a sound similar to a mini-sonic boom. The Lips are playing at the River's Edge Festival this weekend on Harriet Island, and I'm quite jealous of those that will get to see their carnival of a live show Sunday.
11. "I Got the Feelin'" by James Brown--Again with the horns! This is my favorite James Brown vocal performance; he just wails on this track. And it's super fun to bang out this drum beat, have it drop out, shout the "Baby baby bayyy-beh"s along with James, and then go right back to the drummin'.
12. "The Comeback" by Shout Out Louds--The Swedish quintet's signature tune is like the less hostile, indie 2000s Euro-equivalent to Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." It's got an easy chorus, a simple but effective chord progression, and the beginning always makes me think I'm about to take off in the alpine downhill competition at the Winter Olympics.
13. "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" by Warren Zevon--In addition to being incredibly catchy, this song always reminds me that, hey, life could be worse. I could be hiding in Honduras, or losing all my money in a game of dominoes down in Cuba or something. At least I don't need my parents to send a small cavalry in to my current location to get me out of big-time trouble. Thanks, Warren!
14. "One Big Holiday (Live)" by My Morning Jacket15. "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem--I can never separate these two songs from each other. They melt together into one 13-minute blur of bombastic longing for one more go at those ridiculous, epic, unplannable evenings with--ahem--all your friends, contemplating all those things tangible and intangible that seem to matter most in the world that dot your twenties and are supposed to wane as years pass. But as James Murphy sings on track 15, "I wouldn't trade one stupid decision for another five years of life."