Jennifer Warnes was the new discovery for this month. I love her dismissal of common love tropes and her earnestness about being herself, no matter what. This is obviously most present on “Don’t Make Me Over,” but it also appears on “I Know a Heartache When I See One,” which is one of the most self-aware songs I’ve heard in a minute. Swamp pop reappeared this month – always and forever a favorite; I’m grateful that I discovered it. Sometimes songs and genres appear in your life and feel right. Speaking of always and forever favorites, I “rediscovered” The Replacements this month. The ‘Mats are usually in the background somewhere – I listen to them off and on regularly – but for whatever reason, I dove back in this month. “Little Mascara” was the standout of theirs that I listened to this month. It’s a more obscure cut, and you know me: I always go for the obscure. I found a music blog that discusses The ‘Mats, which is rare. That made me happy, obviously, to find like-minded souls out there, but I also had to laugh because they kept saying that X song was the best one Paul Westerberg had ever written. And then another blog post would allege that no, Y song was the best one he’d ever written. It proves that The Replacements have an extensive catalogue of hits beyond “Can’t Hardly Wait.”
The Replacements are an all-time band for me, as I’ve probably mentioned before, so it’s not too surprising that they appear on this playlist. What might be surprising is the deep cut I picked this month: “Nightclub Jitters.” The song sounds almost nothing like their other work: it’s slower, more thoughtful, and I can’t hear any drums. Contrast that with “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which is one of The Replacements’ best-known songs: a cut that is distinctive from jump and features Paul Westerberg’s somewhat raspy voice in its best light.
I’m not too familiar with Grimes, admittedly, beyond her feature on “Pynk,” but I discovered “Genesis” through her KEXP performance off a list of top KEXP features. That live version is excellent; it’s also interesting to see electronic music performed live: all the twists and dials. You’d think that as a result, electronic music would always sound the same, but it doesn’t. On KEXP, Grimes sounds lighter and more atmospheric.
Alex Melton has been releasing some absolute jams of late, but I picked two that I like. His countryfied cover of “I Miss You” by Blink-182 hits a little different and almost sounds sadder than the original. Meanwhile, “American Idiot” takes me back to middle school.
Speaking of songs that take me back, “Bullet Train” by Stephen Swartz was my introduction to dubstep years ago. I couldn’t find the acoustic version, which is really what I was listening to this month, but have the original for a classic of the genre.
This month was surprisingly atmospheric to start with. The slow, methodical songs “It Only Has To Happen Once” and “Photograph” both have similar beats. They’re both mystical, too; “Photograph” has a shimmery, tremulous overlay, especially in the beginning.
“American Ambition” was the standout of the month. I found it randomly on Twitter, actually. The narrative is so compelling and recalls folk ballads by Crosby, Stills, & Nash or the Everly Brothers.
Speaking of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, their iteration with Neal Young appeared this month, too. “4 + 20” was a find from a book I’ve been reading, and which I’ll review soon. It’s a unique song because you can hear the pause/gulp in the middle of the narrative, which interrupts the beat.
“Is She Really Going Out With Him?” was probably the song I listened to the most after “4 + 20.” It’s whiny, sure, but incredibly catchy, too. You can’t always dismiss a song for being whiny; sometimes you have to love it for what it is.
What were your standouts? What have you been listening to lately?
Kicking off this past month with a stadium-sized banger in “To the Top” by Twin Shadow. I’ve got two other favorite songs of his, “Too Many Colors” and “Beg for the Night,” both of which are quieter – pensive, even. His husky voice really has range.
“Sedona” is a jangly favorite revisited. I like its Old West vibes and slightly twangy guitar line. I had forgotten the song existed until the lyrics came back to me – as so often happens – and I rediscovered it. I love when that happens. I feel like I’m reopening a treasure box.
The Who kind of turned into a comfort band this month. “Baba O’Riley” is just such a good song. I’ve written extensively about it, here and elsewhere, so I don’t know what more there is to say. Other than that I reach for the song when I need something beautiful. And “Won’t Get Fooled Again” has been memed to death, but that howling yeeeaaahhhhh is pure rock’n’roll.
I don’t know if “So Weird” by Veruca Salt will show up on the playlist, but it was another song on repeat. I like the beginning of the song in particular. The guitar is a slow, careful drone that eventually explodes, while the drums are incredibly heavy. I reach for this song when I need not to care.
More of an EP this go-round, but these are a couple of the songs I had on repeat this past month.
Two songs from the Drive soundtrack, which is a unique choice given that I… haven’t seen the movie. Idk, man, the soundtrack is excellent. And I was listening for the nostalgia factor more than anything else. Whenever I hear the opening drone of “A Real Hero,” I’m transported back to college when it was on repeat for everyone else, too. (Plus the “real human bean” meme, which I was only tangentially aware of.)
Two “oldies” songs close out the EP. I always think that “Video Killed the Radio Star” is an ’80s song, but it actually came out in the late ’70s! And it was the kickoff song for MTV, fittingly enough.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of the year. I thought about doing a “best of 2022” post, but then I realized that many of the songs on these playlists aren’t from ’22. So there’s that.
This month’s playlist is a weird little one. I listened to “Wake Up” a lot at the beginning because it’s kind of the perfect angst anthem. It’s really too bad that the lead singer of Arcade Fire is a trash bag. Meanwhile, “10,000 Miles” by Cam’ron and “Live & Direct” by Sugar Ray were both Tumblr finds. (How old am I?)
As for “AA” by Walker Hayes, I never thought a bro-style country song would appear on one of these playlists. Never. It’s not a genre that I gravitate towards. Yet one of my Uber drivers this month had excellent taste in music, and this song is so incredibly catchy.
We round out the playlist with “Co-Op” by the cast of “Co-Op.” It’s a fake Broadway musical that appears in the satirical TV series Documentary Now! All of the songs on the album are hilarious, but I felt like the opening number sums up the idea best.
This month started out ’80s and ended up ’10s. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is so, so catchy. I had to keep stopping myself from belting the lyrics at work. It’s also weirdly euphoric for the subject matter. Maybe it’s the stadium-sized production.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Alex Melton before; he’s appeared on at least one other Monthly Obsession playlist. His cover of “Iris” is beautiful. It retains the emo of the original (“yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive”) while creating something nearly profound.
Speaking of “oof” songs, I don’t know why, but “Back In The High Life Again” just gets me. It’s both hopeful and wistful. Also, Steve Winwood’s voice was tailor-made for easy listening.
The Replacements were the big thing this month. I mainly listened to Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was, which is their remastered “greatest hits” album. Two songs off of that appear below. “Stumblin’ Home” was a recommendation from a friend, and boy is it catchy. I refuse to be shamed for my love of One Direction; “Hey Angel” is probably one of my favorite songs of theirs. The Outfield was a surprising addition. One of my best friends loves them, especially their classic “Your Love”: “you know I like my girls a little bit older” and the melancholy of that song. I guess it’s one of those things where you’re inspired to look up an artist and just fall down the rabbit hole of their other songs. (Happens to me all the time.) If you haven’t heard the Beck remix of “Get Some” by Lykke Li, do yourself a favor and put it on repeat. It makes me feel cool. Rounding out the month was frat rock, which I should do a history lesson-style post about at some point.
Once again, it’s a grab bag of genres and decades. What were your favorite songs this month?
Today’s retrospective is interesting because the playlists are usually half this length. I attribute the longer playlist to a writing project I’ve been tinkering with. I find background noise both helpful and inspiring.
I’m not able to pick out any themes this go-round, other than the presence of The 1975. I hadn’t listened to them in ages. It’s just one of those things where I’m reminded of an artist’s song and then go down a rabbit hole to listen to the others. (Also, remember when I featured “The Sound” as a new music recommendation? Hard to believe I’ve had this blog for this long!)
“So Blue” by The Jades is on here because of the Lou Reed exhibit I went to a few days ago. It was his first band. Naturally I had to go look it up after I came home from the show. “So Blue” is probably my favorite of his early releases. His voice is actually very well suited to doo-wop. He’s singing more than the softer talking style he adopted later in his career.
I have to laugh at “The Joker” because while it’s a great song, I have to file it under “lyrics I didn’t understand when I was younger.” I loved the chorus – “I play my music in the su-u-u-un” – but I didn’t know what a “toke” was. So I’d just be singing “I’m a midnight toker” as innocently as can be. Ah, memories.
It was quite the busy month for me in terms of songs on repeat. I started things off with a major throwback: I hadn’t listened to Nicki Minaj in years. Pink Friday was a big album when it came out, and it will always make me think of college. I still haven’t heard “Super Freaky Girl,” and I don’t think I will; Nicki has fallen off my radar recently. Her early songs, however, as the kids say, “slap.” I guess I needed a motivation boost because the two songs of hers that I was listening to are major brags.
We’ve also got JAMC on there, because of course. “Sometimes Always” was a cover that I talked about this month. But the other songs on the list are, by and large, throwbacks as well, primarily to the ’80s and ’90s. Prince came on rotation, and “On the Dark Side” was a newer discovery.
“Spanish Sahara” is one of those iykyk songs: Misfits, anyone? Beach House was part of my early “indie” music tastes, bundled in with Cults and Sleigh Bells.
The newest song on the playlist is “American Teenager” by Ethel Cain. Wow. Sweeping Americana and a chorus that makes you want to pump your fist and yell along. Her voice has an amazing poignancy. I listened to this one over and over and over this month.