Quintessential Albums

VINYL of the Week :: Rio (1982) :: Duran Duran

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VINYL of the Week :: Rio (1982) :: Duran Duran

The first “issue” for the VINYL of the Week just had to be a Duran Duran LP. My first band, my first music-fandom (before “fandom” was a thing), my first band-love, and a whole lot of other firsts, the copy I have of this album is VERY scratched up and more than a lot used, but I love it. It was given to me by my best friend as a birthday present, and though I’ve bought a different copy since (as this one really does not play well anymore), I could never give this one up.

Duran Duran was everything to teenage me. I spent COUNTLESS hours listening to their music, watching their videos, paging through music and teen magazines, tearing out posters and pin-ups, cutting out pictures and articles, filling pages of scrapbooks and photo albums. I haunted record stores and swap meets for imported singles and 12 inches, and those hard-to-find tour and fan books. My friends and I talked about them obsessively, and we all had our favorites.

Mine was Nick Rhodes.

I loved this band so much that my mother still refers to them as “your boys” if she sees them on TV. I’ll get a random text reading “I saw your boys today” and she doesn’t need to explain.

They will always be my boys. Yes, yes, they will.

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A Little History:

Rio is the second studio album by Duran Duran, originally released worldwide on May 10, 1982. The album reached # 2 in the UK and # 1 in Australia.

The album was re-released in the United States in November 1982. It earned a Gold disc on March 1, 1983, and went Platinum on April 26, 1983, eventually reaching Double Platinum status. It peaked at # 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US on March 12, 1983, and remained on the chart for 129 weeks.

The first song to be recorded for Rio was “My Own Way”, written and recorded in October 1981, and released as a single in November 1981. The rest of the album was recorded in the early months of 1982 at Air Studios in London, with producer and engineer Colin Thurston. “My Own Way” was re-recorded for the album and the newer version is significantly different from the 1981 single version.

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The second single, “Hungry Like the Wolf”, was released in the UK on May 4, 1982. It peaked at # 5 in the charts on June 26, 1982.

The Rio album was first released worldwide on May 10, 1982, peaking at # 2 in the UK in its second week of release. The image on the album’s distinctive purple cover was painted by artist Patrick Nagel. The cover itself was designed by Malcolm Garrett.

John Taylor takes credit for the title. “[It] was something I had thrown into the mix,” he recalled in 2012. He was particularly fascinated with the idea of Brazil, and “Rio, to me, was shorthand for the truly foreign, the exotic, a cornucopia of earthly delights, a party that would never stop.”

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The band had their own plans and ambitions for promotion. They reunited with director Russell Mulcahy (who had directed the music video for their first single, “Planet Earth”), and planned the release of a full length video album—eleven videos for the best songs off of the Duran Duran and Rio albums. The band travelled to Sri Lanka and Antigua between tour dates to film the memorable videos for the singles “Rio”, “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Save a Prayer”, as well as the lesser-known “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “Nightboat” — the latter video being a creepy zombiefest set on a deserted island.

While filming the videos, guitarist Andy Taylor contracted a tropical virus and was hospitalized on his return to England. This forced the delay of the band’s European tour, and the record company decided to hold the release of the third single until the band was ready to promote it again.

“Save a Prayer” was finally released on August 9, 1982, and peaked at # 2 on the UK charts in mid September 1982. On November 1, 1982, the “Rio” single was released worldwide. It peaked at # 9 in the UK in December 1982.

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My thoughts:

Listening this morning I was somewhat amazed at how the music still holds up, and how their sound and style still pops up in current bands (latest album by The Temper Trap anyone? That first album by the Killers? I could go on…). The bass — oh my stars, John Taylor on the bass — and the keyboard — Nick Nick Nick — still is quintessential, unique and amazing. And Simon, his poetic and literary referential lyrics, sigh…

When “New Religion” starts up, that slow build of keyboards, and the bass coming in, still sends all over body chills to me. It is almost orgasmic, and that is not the fangirl in me talking…or maybe it is. All the same, though, it does it for me…big time.

Strong opening song, “Rio” is not just the title track, but a surefire, meant-to-be hit that is catchy and timeless, and even though it is such a song from the 80’s, I do think it transcends the sound trends of the time, while still being of that time.

And the rest, all of the songs really, they hit me on so many levels. This band, they were such an important piece of my coming-of-age, so much a part of my sexuality, and my self-regard, and so much of the girl I am. These songs, some of them make me tear up hearing them, and others make me just scream-sing-a-long.

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Those pants, Roger? Oh my stars.

Something I wrote about Duran Duran awhile back…seems fitting to put it here:

One could blame Duran Duran for the woman I am today, though I am not sure blame is the right word. For me, I am grateful, more so than I often give sufficient thought, nor credit to. The band was this enormous part of my adolescence, in some ways the band was my adolescence, and though I still carry a never-ending love for them, and their music, I will be the first to admit that I take Duran Duran for granted, and I often under-appreciate them to a huge degree.

Let’s start with sexuality. Prior to their music, and images, hitting my day-to-day, I did all I could to keep sexuality buried deep within me. Learning too early on about sex from abuse was not the kind of education that my friends had received, at least not that I  knew of. The realization would come years later that more than I knew of my cohorts and companions had been through the nightmares, too. But, at this juncture of my coming of age I thought I was alone in all of it, and I ran from thoughts of sex as fast as I could.

Then along came this band and I had to stop running. I pretty much had no choice, it was like being smacked in the face, and well, everywhere else, with desire. Whether it be the heart thump and vibration of the bass line, the seduction of the poetic lyrical refrains, or that they were quite beautiful to look at, I was helpless to escape. Nearly every fantasy, every lustful feeling, every personal exploration and vibration beneath the bed sheets was either about, or to the soundtrack of, Duran Duran. My first orgasm was with the lights off, in my bedroom alone, with The Chauffer playing (yes, of course I remember).

A few years later, the boy who I would later share my virginity with, would also share a Duran Duran related “meet-cute” with me. It went something like this: I saw him at a movie theater before the lights went down, he was wearing a John Taylor style of hat that along with one hell of a smile, got my attention. After the movie we ran into each other again at a late night diner and when he asked my friends and I to join he and his friends I made mention of his hat and he smiled that smile again, adding a wink to the mix, and said “John Taylor approved.”

I have been known to say that that boy knew something that a lot of the boys I went to high school did not. They all made fun of the band, mocked the music, the looks, throwing sexuality accusations and dismissing any talent or merit they had because of their predominate female fan-base. These same teenage boys would grow up to be men who would later admit to liking their music in secret, a confession I have heard from many men I have come in contact with, and each time I end up laughing and shaking my head at them. When asked why it amuses me so I always say that if they had been that exception, and if they were interested in girls, they could have had it all over the other boys, a space next to us at concerts and an invitation into the conversation, and the strung up and out desire we were all pulsing with.

It was more than what the music did to our sexy bits though, much more actually. As I consumed their music, and every article and interview I could get my hands on, I started to learn about their musical influences. Without a doubt, I can directly credit the members of Duran Duran for introducing me to Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground, Chic, Joy Division, early David Bowie, Japan and T-Rex. I was also moved and inspired to write more. Lyrically, the majority of their music reads like poetry intermixed with passionate proclamations and a little bit of wonder. These were not the simple pop infused love song trope of so much of the other music that hit the radio stations, this was something more, and it had me writing up a storm. Sometimes what I wrote was about them (yes, this was my first venture into fan fiction), but most of the time it was creations all of my own, written with their music blaring in the background.

They gave me big dreams, too. Their videos, all shot in far off and exotic locations, made the world seem so much bigger than my tiny life was. When things were horrible at home and I found myself questioning my existence, and at more than a few low moments, questioning my life, it was their big lives, or the perception of their big lives, that kept me going. I thought there was so much more to see, to do, to be that I just had to hang on longer. I could not help but believe in the mystery. I wanted to believe. And, well, I thought I might just someday run off and marry Nick Rhodes. A teenage girl can dream, can’t she?

My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Save a Prayer

“Some people call it a one-night stand,
but we can call it
paradise.”

2. New Religion

“‘Cause sometimes people stare,
coming down,
electric chair,
and steaming crowds they gather and they shout.”

3. Hold Back the Rain

“We’re miles away from nowhere,
and the wind doesn’t have a name,
so call it what you want to call it –
it still blows down the lane.”

4. Lonely in Your Nightmare

“Because there’s heat beneath your winter,
let me in.”

5. The Chauffer

“And the sun drips down,
bedding heavy behind,
the front of your dress,
all shadowy lined,
and the droning engine throbs in time,
with your beating heart.”

Quintessential Albums :: Recovering the Satellites :: Counting Crows

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Quintessential Albums :: Recovering the Satellites :: Counting Crows

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A Little History:

Recovering the Satellites is the second album by Counting Crows, released on October 14, 1996 in the United Kingdom and two days later in the United States. Released three years (and two years of worldwide touring) after their debut album, it reached #1 in the United States and was a top seller in Australia, Canada, and the UK as well.

For this album, the quintet became a sextet, with fellow San Franciscan Dan Vickrey added, contributing a second guitar as well as sharing in songwriting credits on four of the fourteen tracks. Steve Bowman was replaced as drummer by Ben Mize.

Counting Crows brought in producer Gil Norton for Recovering the Satellites (The track Miller’s Angels was produced by Marvin Etzione).

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Lyrically speaking, the album is full of songs in which Adam Duritz contemplates his loss of privacy and sudden change of fortunes, among other angst-ridden subjects. Sleep, and the lack thereof, is also a recurring theme, as is failed relationships and weather (all three common themes in most of Counting Crows music).

Angels of the Silences was the lead single and is the second track from the album. The song peaked at # 3 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart, making it the highest-placing single from the album. Adam said of the songs on VH1 Storytellers as:

I write quite a few songs where the sort of issue is faith–having faith, keeping faith. And this song in particular is about the difficulty in having faith in things, and finding things to have faith in, in yourself, in God, in like he said, a woman. Faith is a weird thing, it in a sense it is all about waiting. It’s not actually about getting anything, you know, faith is about the wait, because once you get something there is no need anymore. So a lot about faith is just the willingness to sort of throw yourself on a fence and hang there for a while. That’s a very difficult and bitter thing, you know. In this song, I keep saying the main character, *I*, I said, “All my sins, I would pay for them if I could come back to you.” It’s not just about finding things to believe in, it’s about wanting to be able to believe in anything too. And it’s about all the voices that get inside your head and whisper for you to do it or not to do it as well. And it’s called “Angels of the Silences.

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A Long December was the second single and thirteenth track from the album. The song peaked at # 5 on the U.S. Hot Modern Rock Tracks and # 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart.

The music video featured Courtney Cox, who Adam once dated.

Adam said of the song, also on VH1 Storytellers:

“In the middle of December of ‘95 my friend Jennifer got run over by a car, and just creamed; and I spent that whole month, while we were just beginning the record and most of Jan & Feb in the hospital, each like, morning and early afternoon then I’d go to the studio, the house where we were recording, and we’d play all afternoon and all night . It was a very weird time because ya know, there is a lot of stress ; not that it’s a big deal being a second album, but any album. There just not that easy to make. It’s a very stressful process, and especially when you’re first starting out. And like I said, I spent a lot of time in the hospital which is pretty weird. But one day I just left the studio about 2 in the morning, and I went to my friend Samantha and Tracy’s house which is Hillside Manor; and uh.. That’s what we call it anyway, it’s just a little house and I sat there talking with them, I woke ‘em up, got ‘em out of bed and made ‘em talk to me for a couple hours, then I went home to my house. “And I wrote this song between about 4 and 6 and then went to the hospital the next day, and came to the house and I played it for the guys before dinner and … and taught it to them after dinner. And we played it about 6 or 7 times ..and .. do you remember which take number it was? Take number 6. We just stopped, that was it. We recorded the song, it was done. We all went in to the kitchen and had a cold beer, I grabbed Brad our engineer and ran back out about 5min later, had him play the tape three times, just recorded all the harmonies …and uh..we’ve never touched it since, that was it. It’s a completely live song except for the harmonies. “It’s a song abo ut looking back on your life and seeing changes happening, and for once for me, looking forward and thinking… ya know…things are gonna change for the better ‘maybe this year will be better than the last’ and uh… and so, like a lot of songs on the end of album it’s not about everything turning out great, but it at least is about hope…and the possibilities …”

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Daylight Fading was the third single and also the third track of the album. This song, along with previous releases such as Mr. Jones and A Long December, had video rotation on MTV and VH1. Adam said about this song:

“At some point, it’s always going to happen…it’s a lifetime commitment. (Life’s) always going to go up, it’s always going to go down…. for me, at least. It may not be as extreme as it once was. There’s always going to be periods where I don’t write for a while, where I get sort of bitter. Maybe life will change and get better that way. But, you know, I wouldn’t…wouldn’t bet on it. It’s a one in a million thing to get what we got. Everybody that’s in our position wants….all of our friends at home, everybody wanted to be in a rock band. And, we have a lot of friends who are still playing music who are really good who haven’t had the success. We’re together, spending our lives playing music, unless we screw it up. I wouldn’t trade that for anything….any happiness… any peace of mind…there’s nothing in the world that I would trade for being able to do this with my life. Instead of having some wasted life like I thought I was going to have. At the same time, if you have difficulties coming into this sort of a situation, fame doesn’t necessarily fix them. It fixes some things, but it doesn’t fix any problems you might have with yourself. If you have problems dealing with people, all you have now is more people. Some of it actually exacerbates. It’s not a black and white thing, it’s a gray thing. There’s really parts of it I wouldn’t trade for the whole world, and parts of it I have trouble with, adjusting to those things. I’d really gone into hibernation and I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that the thing which was most important to me in my life was causing me the most pain and…um….fear that I’d ever been through. Fear….really, fear over what was happening. I was very scared dealing with all those people all of the time. Everywhere I went, I was really freaked out by that. Honestly, I can say “have you ever been scared of anything?” I was just scared. I didn’t dislike the people or anything, I just was….scared. And that was a weird thing to have…that the thing that you wanted the most in your life was causing you this sort of thing…this tape-loop you can get onto and it’ll drive you crazy. And I didn’t see any way out of it. Those songs are kind of about that…I just don’t know how to deal with this… I *didn’t* know how to deal with it. Now I just pretend its not happening. Because I’m not on the road yet. (In trance-like voice) I AM NOT HERE…I AM NOT HERE….THERE IS NO AUDIENCE HERE.”

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

It would be near impossible for me to choose my # 1 favorite Counting Crows album. Some days, of course, I lean towards their freshman album, August and Everything After, like the majority of fans, I think. Much like Pete Yorn’s debut, musicforthemorningafter, sometimes August and Everything After overshadows all the other albums, which does an injustice to the other great music that came later. Thing is, there are so many songs on the other albums that have been so monumentally important to me that it would be tragic and wrong, and impossible, to not include some of them in my “quintessential” lists.

This one, their sophomore endeavor, is so important to me and over the years, and through the re-listens, endears itself to me more and more. There are so many songs that hit me emotionally in that deep and bittersweet way, songs that hold in them memories of mine that are opened and unraveled with every new listen, songs that remind me of love and loss and significant moments in my life.

The sleeplessness, the losses, the longing, the questions of love and hope and faith, and all the wishes for a better new day all resonate so strongly with me. And the “Los Angeles” and “California” in the songs, I relate to them so much, too. There is a beautiful sadness in this album, a gorgeous melancholy, and an unforgettable desperation that is so real and raw and wonderful. This album has an edge to it, too, a rockier sound than its predecessor, and an overarching theme that is timeless, to me.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Goodnight Elisabeth

“If you wrap yourself in daffodils,
I will wrap myself in pain.
And, if you’re the queen of California,
baby, I am the king of the rain.”

2. A Long December

“And it’s one more day up in the canyon,
and it’s one more night in Hollywood.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean,
I guess I should.”

3. Catapult

“All of these quiet battered voices,
wait for the hunger to come.
we got little revolvers,
and stupid choices,
and no one to say when we’re done.”

4. Mercury

“She’s entwined in me,
crazy as can be.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.”

5. Recovering the Satellites

“Maybe you were shot down in pieces,
maybe I slipped in between,
but we were gonna be the wildest people they ever hoped to see,
just you and me.”

Quintessential Albums :: Pictures For Pleasure :: Charlie Sexton

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Quintessential Albums :: Pictures For Pleasure :: Charlie Sexton

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A Little History:

Pictures for Pleasure, released in 1985, is the first studio album released by singer/guitarist Charlie Sexton. The album was the first solo effort by the then 16-year-old musician who had already secured a reputation as a skilled guitarist.

Pictures for Pleasure can best be described as a combination between Sexton’s blues rock roots and the more commercially viable (at the time) new wave genre. The album produced the Billboard Hot 100 # 17 hit Beat’s So Lonely.

Before its release, the teenaged guitarist had been bashing out blues and roots-rock around his native Austin, Texas, but the market for that music was limited — hence the decision to layer the record with drum machines and synthesizers, and go for a more “new wave” sensibility.

The album was recorded in Los Angeles, California. The album was produced by Keith Forsey, who also produced Billy Idol’s biggest 80’s hit albums.

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Charlie Sexton’s mother was 16 years old when she gave birth to him in San Antonio, Texas. When he was four, he and his mother moved to Austin, where clubs such as the Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon, and more notably the Split Rail and Antone’s Blues Club later exposed him to popular music.

After a brief period living outside Austin with his mother, Sexton moved back to Austin at the age of 12.

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By the early 1980’s, while Charlie and his brother Will Sexton were still young boys, they were both taught how to play guitar by the local Austin legend W. C. Clark, known as the “Godfather of Austin Blues”. With the help of Joe Ely and other local musicians such as Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sexton developed his talents as a musician.

charlie-sexton-2What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

My best friend and I discovered Charlie Sexton’s album in the bins at one of our favorite record stores of the past, Music Market. We had never heard of him before, but in a very “judging a book by its cover“, or in this case album sleeve, we were taken in by how beautiful Mr. Sexton was, and decided to take a chance and buy it. Luckily, the chance was worth it, as it would soon become one of our favorite albums.

I would later notice Beats So Lonely in the film Some Kind of Wonderful, and get gleefully happy to hear it, thinking “our Charlie” was featured in the movie. I couldn’t help it really, it felt like he was our discovery.

My immediate favorite song remains my favorite off the album, the song Impressed, that is overflowing with literary and cinematic “coupling” references. It remains one of my favorite love songs, the sentiment that the kind of love the singer is crooning about is better than any fictional/famous love story always resonated with me, because don’t we all want that, a real love that puts all the other loves of the past, real and imagined, to shame?

I still listen to this album, and obsess over certain songs on it. I think I always will, which, to me, makes it “quintessential“.

Now I just need to a) get a copy of this on vinyl (again), and b) seek out some of Charlie’s more recent music.

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Did you happen to notice him in last year’s film, Boyhood?

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Impressed

“I am not impressed,
I love you the best.”

2. Beats So Lonely

“Come on, baby,
you know there’s something missing,
don’t find nothing,
no more coincidences.
Ready, baby,
look in these eyes and you will see,
the things will happen,
but only if they’re meant to be.”

3. Restless

“Always someone out there that is calling my name.”

4. Hold Me

“Hold me,
darlin’ won’t you hold me,
never let me go.”

5. You Don’t Belong Here

“You don’t belong here,
you know it’s true.
Oh, you look all wrong here,
don’t know how to act or do.
But, you know sometimes I think,
I don’t belong here, too.”

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Quintessential Albums :: Nightcrawler :: Pete Yorn

dj.mlwmkbst.1200x1200-75Quintessential Albums :: Nightcrawler (2006) :: Pete Yorn

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Keep Art Alive :: Photo by Jim Wright

A Little History:

Nightcrawler is the third full-length studio album released by singer Pete Yorn.

On release of Nightcrawler, in 2006, the album was described as exploring, and bringing full circle, the day-for-life metaphor (morning-day-night) which had begun with his debut album, musicforthemorningafter, in 2001, and continued through 2003’s Day I Forgot.

Pete was quoted as saying, “This new record is not so much for the night,” says Pete, “but for a later period in my life. The perspective I have comes from having lived more and experienced more.

On release, the album was described as being perhaps the most musically complex and fully realized album of Pete’s career (thus far), a wealth of striking harmonic textures and sophisticated chord shifts framed in a lyric sensibility that’s dark and hopeful and knowing and funny all at once.

Jason Killingsworth, writing in Paste magazine, said that Nightcrawler is “More daring and challenging than anything Pete Yorn’s done up to now.”

Pete was also quoted as saying in a 2006 interview with silentuproar.com, in regards to Nightcrawler, and the so-called “trilogy” of albums:

“I didn’t mean like a Star Wars trilogy where it’s one story at all.” Pete expressed, describing the albums as less than a “trilogy”, but more as a diary of sorts; a person gaining new life experiences and simply commenting on them in linear order. “So it’s a sort of continuing analysis of those topics, and the Nightcrawler LP would represent a later phase,” Pete said.

Nightcrawler included a few special guests. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) played drums on the track For Us, Butch Walker who produced, and played synth strings, piano, bass, percussion on the track Alive, and Martie Maguire played fiddle and Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks) added backing vocals to the track The Man. The album includes a cover of the Warren Zevon song, Splendid Isolation.

The song, Same Thing, includes audio from the film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in the background.

The closing track, Bandstand in the Sky, was written shortly after Jeff Buckley’s death.

With the release of Nightcrawler, Pete toured extensively in support of it. He preceded every show with an instore acoustic appearance at an indie record shop in the town he was passing through, coined the You and Me Acoustic Tour (much like the recent tour Pete did at venues across the United States). All of these in-store performances were recorded, thus creating an extensive series of Live EP’s.

Nightcrawler was named one of the Top 20 records of 2006 by Paste magazine.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

I could easily write about each of Pete Yorn’s albums as “quintessential” to me, and may do that eventually, as they all have tremendous musical meaning in my life, each for different reasons, but all have left an indelible mark. Nightcrawler specifically was a grower for me as a full album, mostly because the songs were not as initially linear as past albums, which caused the album to come off somewhat disjointed, at first.

After a few listens, though, that became part of what I love about this album. It feels like a great mix tape, with mood swings and tempo shifts, highs and lows, and emotional changes to create a flow and intensity to it that makes the best mixes, and this album, listenable. I look forward to the different places and stories each song takes me to, and find that each time I re-listen I decide on a new favorite song.

This album, out of all of Pete’s, is my favorite to drive to, and is a “must-have” on any road trips I take. It has all these great songs to sing-a-long to, and the every-changing feelings match the ever-changing scenery of a good road trip, especially up the coast, or through the desert landscape.

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Keep Art Alive :: Photo by Jim Wright

My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
(this one changes all the time, but for today…)

1. The Man

“It’s clear to me,
you’re like the oceans and the light;
try and you’ll remember what you used to be.”

2. Maybe I’m Right

“I let you go,
you never put me out.
Stop it now,
just stop now…
And say, ‘I will’,
say, ‘I will’.”

3. Broken Bottle

“And your love is like a broken bottle.”

4. Splendid Isolation
(live version, at Bing Studios)

“I want to live alone in the desert,
I want to be like Georgia O’Keefe
I want to live on the Upper East Side,
and never go down in the street.”

5. Ice Age

“Those Summer years,
have long since gone.
Throw your arms around my neck,
and whisper softly,
of a thing that we will get.”

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Keep Art Alive :: Photo by Jim Wright

Quintessential Albums :: Sam’s Town :: The Killers

album-sams-townQuintessential Albums :: Sam’s Town (2006) :: The Killers

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A Little History:

Sam’s Town is the second studio album by American rock band The Killers, released on October 2, 2006 in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States. Regarding the album, vocalist and primary lyricist Brandon Flowers noted that he “wanted to create an album that captured, chronologically, everything important that got me to where I am today“.

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The album takes its name from Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, a hotel-casino in Las Vegas, the hometown of the band. It is also a local nickname for Las Vegas. Sam’s Town was also a huge sign that was visible by band member Mark Stoermer through his room window when he was young.

4155According to photographer Anton Corbijn, the band initially wanted a “chic, gypsy look,” for the album, and that “out of those discussions [for the sleeve] came these elements of faded glory.” The album’s co-producer, Flood, is dressed as a Native American in the CD booklet. The artwork inside the album booklet is taken from a Downtown Las Vegas mural painted by Suzanne Hackett-Morgan, a local painter. The cover artwork of ‘Sam’s Town‘ features model and singer Felice LaZae. Sam’s Town, and each of the singles from Sam’s Town, use a script typeface for the titles, Archive Roundhand Script from Archive Type, or Gigofonts’ Gf Script No 2.

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The album has been said to be influenced by the works of U2, Duran Duran, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Electric Light Orchestra & Dire Straits among others.

In the October 2006 issue of Giant magazine, Flowers was quoted as saying that Sam’s Town would be “one of the best albums in the past twenty years” and in Entertainment Weekly he remarked that it would be “the album that keeps rock & roll afloat.”

Flowers later said of production techniques used on the record, “We didn’t use too many vocal effects. On the first album, we used auto-tune, and I didn’t even realize what was going on with these machines and the computer. I was adamant about not using it this time. You really hear what my voice sounds like, for the first time.”

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The Killers dropped a controversial song about murdered schoolgirl Jodi Jones from the album. Flowers wrote “Where Is She?” after watching a TV news report about the 14-year old’s murder when on tour in Scotland.”

The album debuted at # 2 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling about 315,000 copies in its first week. It became the band’s second number 1 album on the UK Albums Chart, selling about 260,000 copies in its first week. It has been certified Platinum or multi-Platinum in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Argentina, and Ireland. Sam’s Town also produced multiple charting singles including the Platinum chart topping single When You Were Young. It was the second album by The Killers to receive Grammy nominations.

In December 2009, Sam’s Town was voted by Rolling Stone’s readers as the most underrated album of the decade.

Q magazine ranked it as the 11th best album of the decade.

Sam’s Town is estimated to have sold over 8 million copies worldwide to date.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine name-checked U2 (Bono) and Springsteen (The Boss) in his review of the album:

The ghosts of Bono and the Boss are everywhere on the Killers’ second album, Sam’s Town. They’re there in the artful, grainy Anton Corbijn photographs on the sleeve, and they’re there in the myth-making of the song titles. 

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For me, I feel like this album is a rock opera, of sorts, unraveling a story as the songs play. I hear U2 and Springsteen, Queen, too, and even some Alice Cooper and The Eagles thrown in. The Duran Duran reference? I heard that more on their debut, but you can’t really escape the influence, especially in the bass lines.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

The first time I played this album in its entirety it was on my way home from Amoeba Records. I was with my then boyfriend, and fellow music obsessive, and both of us were initially let down by it. I think we were waiting and wanting another Hot Fuss, though looking back I do think this album was more us (we just didn’t realize it that night). I can’t speak for him, but knowing us then, and somewhat now, we were/are both writers and storytellers, and this album is one hell of a story.

I grew to love this album so much that it overtook Hot Fuss and became my favorite Killers’ album. Even though I enjoyed, and love, the albums that followed, this one is still my favorite. Sam’s Town reminds me why I love albums so much, and why it matters to listen to them from start to finish, from side A to side B (if you still spin vinyl), and to see how each song works into the next. This album reminds me of the desert, and my love and curiosity I feel for it. It reminds me of writing, and stories. And, this album, helped to inspire a novel I’m writing that takes place in the desert.

Sam’s Town also contains my all-time favorite song by The Killers, Read My Mind.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that night in the car, on our drive home, and say to both of us – LISTEN to this…really, really listen to this. But, we’d probably protest, insisting that how we felt right then was HOW WE FELT, and go back to discussing music, or pulling off to the side to make out. So be it. I wouldn’t want to disturb us back then.

I’m just glad I hear it, and love it, now.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Read My Mind

It’s funny how you just break down,
waiting on some sign.
I pull up to the front of your driveway,
with magic soaking my spine.
Can you read my mind?

2. Bones 

“Don’t you want to come with me?
Don’t you want to feel my bones,
on your bones?”

3. Sam’s Town

“Why do you waste my time?
Is the answer to the question on your mind.
And I’m sick of all my judges,
so scared of what they’ll find.”

4. Why Do I Keep Counting?

“Am I strong enough to be the one?”

5. When You Were Young

“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus,
but he talks like a gentlemen,
like you imagined,
when you were young.”

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Quintessential Albums :: Some Kind of Wonderful Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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Some Kind of Wonderful :: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1987)

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A Little History:

Some Kind of Wonderful is a 1987 American romance film starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Lea Thompson. It is one of the several successful teen dramas written by John Hughes in the 1980’s, although this one was directed by Howard Deutch.

As with most of John Hughes’ penned stories about adolescence, Some Kind of Wonderful is a story set against the social hierarchy of an American public high school. Watts, the “tomboy” drummer, and Keith, the “misfit” artist, are best friends. Unbeknownst to Keith (at least consciously), Watts carries a pretty significant torch for him. Keith, on the other hand, is drawn to the “out of his league” (but not his zip code), Amanda Jones, who has a rich, asshole boyfriend and rich, asshole friends.

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Keith manages a date with Amanda when he catches her at an emotionally vulnerable, and subsequently rash moment. Watts agrees to help. See where this may be headed?

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Though the story may have its predictable elements, the characters are richly written, and not typical. Oh, and the music is anything but predictable, unless one means “predicatably awesome” in the way that all John Hughes teen movie soundtracks were/are.

The soundtrack for this movie had a large number of unknown artists for the day, which certainly wasn’t the norm for a John Hughes production at that time (so even less predictable than his previous work).

The soundtrack fit perfectly into ever moment and scene in the film, from the attention grabbing opening track, to the night club scene, to the kissing lesson scene/first kiss scene, to the climatic party moments, and finally, the unusually beautiful cover of I Can’t Help Falling In Love during the closing credits, every song appears to have been chosen with meticulous precision.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

I have a weakness for John Hughes films, and their accompanying soundtracks. Two of the soundtracks from those films definitely make it on my favorite albums list, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. I still have my well-worn cassette and vinyl album of this movie, well-loved and played so often, each song a favorite, each song a sing-a-long moment. I love the memories that are attached to the songs, as well. Memories of one of my life-long, best friends, memories of friendship turned to love, of being in love with your best friend and memories of first kisses, first heartbreaks, and those moments of first falling in love.

This movie itself is all about Watts to me. I love her character, her complexity, her strength, her vulnerability, her flaws, and her style. I do wish, though, that there was more to her character’s motivation beyond Keith (or at least a sequel of what she did next – maybe her stint in an all-girl punk band).

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The music on this soundtrack though? I love it more than I ever loved the film, and the film is in my all-time long list of favorites. It is such a snapshot of that time in my life, the late 80’s, the eclectic music that filled my days and nights.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. She Loves Me :: Stephen Duffy

“The minutes that we missed,
the idle lips that should’ve kissed,
are now gently together;
the first kiss lasts forever.”

2. I Go Crazy :: Flesh For Lulu

This city’s mad in the head and sick in the soul,
all the stars flew away a long time ago
.”

3. Brilliant Mind :: Furniture

I’m at the stage,
where everything I thought meant something,
seems so unappealing.
I’m ready for the real thing,
but nobody’s selling;
except you and yours,
saying open up your eyes and ears,
and let me in
.”

4. Amanda Jones :: The March Violets

“Round and round she goes,
the world of Amanda Jones.”

5. Can’t Help Falling In Love :: Lick The Tins

“Take my hand,
take my whole life too,
’cause I can’t help falling in love with you.”

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Quintessential Albums :: The Man Who :: Travis

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Quintessential Albums :: The Man Who (1999) :: Travis

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A Little History:

The Man Who is the second studio album from the Scottish band Travis. The album was released on May 24, 1999, becoming the album that gave the band international recognition.

The album was produced by Nigel Godrich and recorded at producer Mike Hedges’ chateau in France. The band continued recording at, among other studios, RAK Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London. The Man Who initially looked as though it would mirror the release of Good Feeling. Although it entered the charts at # 5, with little radio play of its singles, it quickly slipped down. Worse, many critics who had raved about the rocky Good Feeling rubbished the album for the band’s move into more melodic, melancholic material.

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However, when the album slipped as far as # 19, it stopped. Word of mouth and increasing radio play of the single Why Does It Always Rain on Me? increased awareness of the band and the album began to rise back up the charts. Then, when Travis took the stage to perform this song at the 1999 Glastonbury Festival, after being dry for several hours, it began to rain as soon as the first line was sung. The following day the story was all over the papers and television, and with word of mouth and increased radio play of this and the album’s other singles, The Man Who rose to # 1 on the British charts.

The album also eventually took Best Album at the 2000 BRIT Awards, with Travis being named Best Band. Music industry magazine Music Week awarded them the same honors, while at the Ivor Novello Awards, Travis took the Best Songwriter(s) and Best Contemporary Song Awards.

Travis followed the release of The Man Who with an extensive 237-gig world tour, including headlining the 2000 Glastonbury, T in the Park and V Festivals, and a US tour leg with Oasis. In Los Angeles, an appearance of the band at an in-store signing forced police to close Sunset Strip.

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The title “The Man Who” comes from the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by neurologist Oliver Sacks.

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The majority of songs for this album were written before Good Feeling was even released. Writing to Reach You, The Fear and Luv being penned around 1995/96, with As You Are, Turn and She’s So Strange dating back as far as 1993 and the early Glass Onion EP.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

This album is loaded with emotion for me. That almost year in Salt Lake City, all that transpired there, and all that fell apart. I was partnered with someone whose addictions had begun to take the wheel and hit the gas pedal hard, his drinking was the worst it had ever been that almost year, worse than I would ever see it again. There was a room in the basement that he had claimed as his which held a chair he’d often pass out in, a beat-up boom box, a television and game console, mis-matched CD’s and cases, and empty party sized bourbon bottles (party of one) scattered everywhere.
Sometimes he would let me in. Other times he would push shut the door and scream at me from the other side to go away. That day he took off, threatening to walk miles to our home because I’d looked at him funny in a darkened movie theater, he had locked himself up in that room after, for what felt like days, to me.
I lost a baby that almost year. Soon after, his Mother died. Right before she did she screamed at him across the phone lines, blaming him for our lost baby. There were many things that almost year that I’d agree were his fault, but the baby, and his Mother’s death, were not any of those things.
He blamed himself, though, and drank even more.
This was one of the mis-matched CD’s littered on the floor of that basement room. After the losses he played it on repeat for weeks. Sometimes I would find him crying in there, to the songs. Sometimes I would find him staring off into nothing, eyes alcohol glazed, his depression on high tilt and gaining momentum. One night, though, I sat in there with him, cross-legged on the floor, as he tried to play along on his guitar. We sang-a-long to the album, from start to finish, together that night.
To tell the truth, I loved him and hated him that year, in equal parts. I think I blamed him for more than I should have, and I know that he drank more than he should have. Together, mixed up with my resentment, and his out of control behaviors, we were not a pretty picture.
Death, of all sorts, shadowed us that almost year.
I never told anyone how dark and painful that time was. Looking back now, I still have trouble thinking on it, much less articulating it, at all. But this album, in its entirity, brings it all back.
The songs, over the years, have softened their blow on me. Maybe that is forgiveness. Maybe that is closure. Maybe that is letting go. I’ve grown a fondness for the songs, and the bad memories, though not gone from me, are also linking arms with some of the good ones. I’ve actually grown to love the album, and consider it one of my favorites.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Driftwood

“Home is where the heart is,
but your heart had to roam,
drifting over bridges,
never to return,
watching bridges burn.”

 2. Writing to Reach You

“Every day I wake up and it’s Sunday,
whatever’s in my head won’t go away,
the radio is playing all the usual,
and what’s a wonderwall anyway?”

3. Why Does it Always Rain on Me?

“Sunny days, where have you gone?
I get the strangest feeling you belong.”

4. Turn

“So where’s the stars?
Up in the sky.
And what’s the moon?
A big balloon.
We’ll never know unless we grow.”

5. Luv

“What’s so wrong?
Why the face so long?
Is it over?”

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Quintessential Albums :: Lovesongs for Underdogs :: Tanya Donelly

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Quintessential Albums :: Lovesongs for Underdogs (1997) :: Tanya Donelly

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A Little History:

Lovesongs for Underdogs is the solo debut album by Tanya Donelly, who had formerly recorded with Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly. The album was released on August 9, 1997.

Two singles were released for promotion of the album. Pretty Deep was released in July 1997, while The Bright Light was released in October 1997. In the U.S both 4AD released singles were released in two parts, each including 2 newly released B-Sides. Pretty Deep featured Spaghetti, Morna, These Days and Influenza. The Bright Light featured Bury Me, How Can You Sleep?, Life On Sirius and Moon Over Boston.

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A music video for each single was produced and aired on Vh1 and MTV2. Both videos differed highly in creative and artistic direction from previous Belly videos and exclusively featured Tanya solo, in movie like settings.

Pretty Deep and The Bright Light enjoyed heavy airplay on Triple A radio stations in the U.S Northeast.

Lovesongs For Underdogs peaked at # 36 on the Official UK Albums Chart for 2 weeks upon its release. The singles, Pretty Deep and The Bright Light peaked at # 55 and # 65 (the latter) for 2 weeks each upon their 2 CD Single releases.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

There was a certain part of the late 90’s where everything in my life took a huge turn and the landscape and architecture and cast of characters that inhabited my story previously completely changed. Sure, there were those people who are lifelong that stayed (as I hope they always will), and there were the parts and pieces of who I have always been that were still with me (no matter how far you travel, you are always along for the ride), but things were different.

Other years, and other spans of time, have done the same – but this album, and these songs, they transport me back to the late 90’s and all that transpired then.

Tanya has always been one of my favorite female singer/songwriters. Her lyrics, quirky and off-kilter, are layered with the same kind of confusion and messy relationships and life missteps that I felt at the time when I first bought, listened, and fell in love with this album. Each song, and the stories within the melodies, seem to be about the way things can fall apart, how illusions of love and relationships are usually wrong, and the struggle for self that is always there, dancing in the background (or sometimes taking the reigns) conflicting, confusing and challenging love.

I don’t think the songs are angst-ridden for the sake of doom and negativity. I don’t think that they are anti-love “lovesongs“. On the contrary, I think they are more a collection of songs that are about what love actually often is. How attraction and attention plays a part, as well as desire, need, perception, and ego. I remember listening to every song, over and over, while I struggled through my own relationships. I fell in love to these songs. I tested my definitions of self to these songs. I pulled myself apart, and in multiple directions, trying to make my life more malleable and strong to these songs. And, I changed a hell of a lot to these songs.

Goat Girl and Pretty Deep were my favorites back then, and I still hold them dear, but on this go-around with the album Manna and Swoon are the ones that do me in. I think I take them in differently, the resonating lines like “leave the locks on the door, I can find my own way home” just seem to slip in to these new chapters of my life.

It is near impossible to not hear those echoes of me while listening to this album. But, I don’t think that is such a bad reaction. I love all of it, in its entirity, as much as I did then and I think I always will. That is definitely a big part of what makes this album “quintessential” to me.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Manna

And when I hold you like tomorrow you might die,
well, that’s because you might.
But I am here now,
and I am staying put for reasons my heart knows
.”

2. Goat Girl

“I wanted a lion,
but I ended up with a man who wanted a gazelle;
But I am a goat girl.”

3. Acrobat

You’d have to be an acrobat to touch her,
where she can feel a thing
.”

4. Swoon

“But I’ll always get out,
I’m not afraid.
With these hips,
these lips,
these getaway sticks;
I’ve got it made.”

5. Pretty Deep

“I wish I carried a camera,
I’d have proof that you’re never where you say.
I wish I could fly up in a helicopter,
I’d shine a blinding light on your escape.”

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Quintessential Albums :: More Adventurous :: Rilo Kiley

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Quintessential Albums :: More Adventurous (2004) :: Rilo Kiley

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A Little History:

More Adventurous is the third full-length album released by Los Angeles based band Rilo Kiley. The album, released on August 17, 2004, marks a significant change in the band’s sound with the goal of being “more adventurous” than their previous music. The effort paid off by increasing the group’s audience and garnering critical praise.

Two versions of the album were released: the regular store-sold version in a normal jewel case and a limited edition digipak version (1,000 copies) sold at the album’s release party and concert.

The song Accidntel Deth was produced by Jimmy Tamborello, known for his work in The Postal Service and as Dntel (which explains the unusual spelling of the title).

Lead singer Jenny Lewis would tour with The Postal Service this same year.

The songs Ripchord and It Just Is were written in response to the death of Elliott Smith.

The song More Adventurous alludes to a line from Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, “Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.”

Mike Mogis, who was essentially the Saddle Creed house produced at the time, working most notably with Bright Eyes, helped bring this album to life. He is credited as playing banjo, glockenspiel, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, synthesizer, vibraphone, and wurlitzer on the album.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

Where do I begin with this one, when so many of these songs hold so much significance to me? I think it was It’s a Hit, the opening track, that I heard first. I recall playing it on a drive to and from airport when a close friend was coming for an Autumn visit, back when she used to do that every year, or so. There was something about the song we both loved, maybe the wit and edge to the lyrics, or the sentiment of “writer’s block” that we both could relate to, or maybe it was just the fact that we were discovering the song, and the band, at the same time, together.

It would be a bit of time later that Does He Love You? would come into my life and hit me hard. I had found myself in the midst of a complicated, long-distance “something” with a married man that was full of “what if’s” and “when I leave her and come out to California“, that latter one something I never believed, but still stuck around to hear more than a few times. Nothing ever came out of any of it really except for some passionate emails, and some brilliant mix CD’s. We never met in-person, we never broke anyone’s vows, though I think both of our hearts were left with some slow to heal bruises. This song, during that time, felt ripped from my insides, and even though it hurt to hear, I played it over and over again.

The title song, More Adventurous, along with Portions for Foxes, both felt like anthems for the first year after I left a broken relationship, and was trying to make it on my own again. I Never found itself on music mix love letters sent off to a poet I would have two passionate stops and starts with, each time believing no stops were up ahead. And then there was A Man/Me/Then Jim that I wouldn’t pay much attention to for years, and then one night the song would start playing in my car, part of a mix that a friend had made, and I would find myself mesmerized by it. I love storytelling in songs, and this one ended up becoming a favorite of mine. The characters in the song tragic and vivid, leaving me wanting to know more.

rilo-kiley-portions-for-foxes-music-video1-750x421My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Does He Love You?

A married man,
he visits me.
I receive his letters in the mail twice a week.
I think he loves me,
and when he leaves her,
he’s coming out to California.”

2. A Man/Me/Then Jim

We sat quietly in the corner,
whispering close about loss.
And I remembered why I loved her,
and I asked her why I drove her off
.”

3. Portions for Foxes

“And the talking leads to touching,
and the touching leads to sex,
and then there is no mystery left.”

4. It’s a Hit

“But it’s a sin when success complains,
and your writers block,
it don’t mean shit;
just throw it against the wall and see what sticks.”

5. More Adventurous

“I’ve felt the wind on my cheek coming down from the East,
and thought about how we are all as numerous as leaves on trees,
and maybe ours is the cause of all mankind:
Get loved, make more, try to stay alive.”

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Quintessential Albums :: Got No Shadow (1998) :: Mary Lou Lord

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Quintessential Albums :: Got No Shadow (1998) :: Mary Lou Lord

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A Little History:

Got No Shadow is an album by Mary Lou Lord, released in early 1998 on Work Records.

The first track on the album, His Lamest Flame is a reference to the Elvis Presley song “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame“.

The song She Had You became a hit in the Philippines, it was played in a FM radio NU 107 midnight count down.

The song Lights Are Changing is a cover song, the original done by British band The Bevis Frond, It appeared on their 1988 album, Triptych.

The song Some Jingle Jangle Morning is a re-recording of the same song which appeared on Mary Lou Lord’s debut 7″ EP for Kill Rock Stars in 1993. The song is said to be about Kurt Cobain, as Mary Lou was briefly involved with Kurt in the early 1990’s at the beginning of Nirvana’s rise to fame.

The song Shake Sugaree is a cover of an old folk and blues song written by Elizabeth Cotten.

On the album’s release, Rollilng Stone described it as “…a seamless collection of folk-rock that offers more than a glimpse of Lord’s roots playing for passersby in London and Boston subway stations. Largely a collaborative effort with her mentor and songwriting idol Nick Saloman of the British psychedelic outfit the Bevis Frond, ‘Got No Shadow’ comes two years after Lord’s self-titled indie EP, a subsequent record label bidding war for her services and a spate of publicity she probably could have lived without.”

In the same interview with Rolling Stone, Mary Lou Lord was asked what she hoped people’s reaction to the album would be. She answered with the following response:

The best thing that could happen is if some young woman or person came up to me and said ‘You inspired me to write music’ and gave me a tape of their stuff. If you can jolt someone into writing a song, if they feel they have no choice but to do it, I think that’s just great. Because there’s a point when you’ve listened enough to other people’s music.”

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

The late 90’s found me standing at a crossroads in my life which would lead to many changes, and paths that would lead me to life-altering decisions and moving out of state for the first time. My heart was pulled in so many directions, and I was desperately searching for meaning and self-identification and direction. I’d learn eventually that there are no clear answers, and I would learn eventually to be okay with that, but in 1998 I was determined and curious, and oh so in need of something to hang on to.

Music was what I found. It is what I always find, really. Music ever my religion and my spirituality and my soul mate and forever love. I identified mostly with female artists, grrrl rock and indie folk and all that would be so quintessentially “90’s“. I happened upon Mary Lou Lord’s album at a small record store by the beach and I fell hard and fast for it, listening to it on repeat days at a time. So many of the songs on this album found their way on countless mix tapes I made. I remember wanting everyone I knew to hear the songs, especially Western Union Desperate and Some Jingle Jangle Morning.

This morning I was listening to Bob Dylan sing Mr. Tambourine Man and the lyric came up that sings “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, in the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you” and I was immediately reminded of this album. I pulled my car over and found Got No Shadow on Spotify, and played it in its entirety for the rest of my morning commute, singing-a-long to all the songs and feeling very nostalgic for me at 29. I knew then that it was the album to write about today. This time around some of the songs hit me differently, new perspectives and new lines that got my attention, I love how that happens with music and books and film. I still love the album so much.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Western Union Desperate

So hey, California here I come,
I’ve got a backpack and a sunburnt thumb.
I hope my compass is tried and true,
cause when I need a friend it’s still you
.”

2. She Had You

“I have respect now,
I always knew I would,
’cause I had a passport out of the neighborhood.
And when I go back,
I always see her there,
I ask how she’s doing,
not that I really care.
She’s still on the corner,
she’s still going nowhere,
but she had you.”

3. Some Jingle Jangle Morning

Somewhere it all got crazy,
and now it’s like a dream,
and I knew that I blew it from the start.
I was too freaked out to deal with it all,
and too fucked up to care;
I stood right there and watched it fall apart
.”

4. Lights are Changing

“All that summertime I revolved around your eye,
in accelerating spirals in an asymmetric sky.”

5. Shake Sugaree

“Oh, Lordy me,
didn’t I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is down in pawn.”

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