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MAGNET Feedback With Chris Collingwood

ChrisCollingwood

Fountains Of Wayne singer/guitarist Chris Collingwood just released his first solo album, Look Park (Yep Roc). After writing more than 100 songs and recording them on his own following an extensive FOW tour, he went into the studio with producer/keyboardist Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Crowded House), bassist Davey Faragher (Lucinda Williams, Cracker) and drummer Michael Urbano (Ron Sexsmith, Todd Rundgren) and came out with a 10-track stunner that’s perfect for late-summer listening. Given his incredible knowledge of good music, we asked Collingwood for some MAGNET Feedback on songs both new and old.

Courtney Barnett, “Depression” from: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
I know nothing about Ms. Barnett’s process, but it sounds to me like she starts with a bunch of words and sets them to music. Some of them are gloriously trashy and others more reflective. Either way, just like Morrissey, it’s about the personality, and she had a full-blown star quality from the get-go. “Depreston” is a pretty song with fantastic little details like a Wallace Stevens poem. Alongside her other material, a lot of which is coolly detached, the melody has a vulnerable, confessional quality that stands out. It’s a beautiful slice-of-life song that I wish I had written.

Winterpills, “Celia Johnson” from: Love Songs
Full disclosure: Philip from Winterpills has been my friend since 1998, and he and his wife, Flora, appear on the Look Park record. Winterpills are an institution here in Northampton, Mass. They’ve put out six pretty fantastic albums, highlighted by Philip’s impressionistic lyrics and the otherworldly pairing of Philip and Flora’s voices. “Celia Johnson” is an upbeat minor-key number that I don’t have a reference point for—maybe like the Hollies singing a psychedelic Simon & Garfunkel song? It’s insanely catchy, and the rest of Love Songs is solid, thoughtful pop.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” from: Eldorado
I complain a lot about Jeff Lynne and made some enemies on Twitter the other night when I said he made me hate music. That was a joke, a bad one, and it was in the context of saying how much I liked the new ELO album. What bothered me was what he did to Tom Petty. Petty was my childhood hero, and he did “Refugee.” It was powerful and transcendent, and Lynne reduced him to a quarter-note-plucking near-copy of ELO that sounded complacent and bored. Then he did the same thing to George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Still, there’s a lot of fantastic ELO songs, and “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” would be fucking great even if it was recorded on an iPhone. We used to cover it live, much heavier, and Fountains Of Wayne put a version from some European festival on our b-sides record.

Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me” from: Alvvays
Call it a shortcoming, but when I hear big, sloppy guitars and arena reverbs, the part of my brain that processes the words sometimes shuts off. I’ve thought about this, and I think it’s because a lot of that kind of music is meant to hit you viscerally, and what the singer’s saying isn’t as important as the kick drum and the attitude. I was wrong not to pay attention to this song’s words because they’re very clever. It’s a simple idea, but between the gigantic choruses, it’s about Archie’s student loans and sailing and bread makers. Plus, the video has a dreamy throwback vibe that reminded me of the early days of MTV.

The Hollies, “Look Through Any Window” from: Hear! Here!
This song was co-written by Graham Gouldman, who over the course of his career had his name on many great songs, including “Bus Stop,” the Hollies number that Fountains Of Wayne covered for the TV show American Dreams. He also wrote “No Milk Today,” a Herman’s Hermits song that I’ve always wanted to cover but haven’t gotten around to. Then all those great songs with 10cc, like “I’m Not In Love” and “The Things We Do For Love.” The Hollies were a big influence on me, but it all happened when I was very young, and somehow I never learned much about their complicated history. I don’t think I realized “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was the Hollies until I was in college. In my defense, it doesn’t sound at all like the same band. “Look Through Any Window” has the distinction of being hooky and memorable while being about absolutely nothing.

PPL MVR, “People Mover” from: PPL MVR
A friend shared the video for this song, and it was like I was 10 again and watching the Kiss amusement-park movie. There’s three guys in monster outfits playing a riff so heavy that when they stomp, the camera shakes. And they shoot lasers out of their eyes, and there’s a hamster running in the kick drum. It actually inspired me to wire up the TV doohickey so my wife could watch it on a big screen in surround sound. We played it a bunch of times, and then one day it was gone from YouTube and the only trace of the band was an Instagram account with a few mysterious photos. I still have no idea who they are or where they went, but one day the video resurfaced, along with an EP, and I was overjoyed. What a great song. I could never write anything this kick-ass.

Lana Del Rey, “Shades Of Cool” from: Ultraviolence
I told my manager I really liked Lana Del Rey, and he looked at me like I had five heads. But in the category of “invent a persona and play it to the hilt,” she wins Best Actress. The video for this song looks like a David Lynch movie, which is the closing of some kind of metaphysical loop. It would all be just a great shtick, but the melody is an instant classic, and her delivery is spine-tingling.

Dinosaur Jr, “Just Like Heaven” from: You’re Living All Over Me
I see J Mascis in the supermarket sometimes. He bought a car at Northampton Volkswagen and then posed for a picture with the car salesman for the dealer’s Facebook page. It went viral, maybe only among my Northampton friends, because J is King Of The Pioneer Valley. I like this cover, especially the part before the bridge where they shout for no reason. I always thought that, all else being equal, and to be truthful, J’s and Robert Smith’s voices aren’t that far apart. The Cure version is a little precious and needed a kick in the ass. We did some shows with Dinosaur Jr once, and I’ve had a high-pitched squeal in my left ear ever since.

The Beatles, “Back In The U.S.S.R.” from: The White Album
I did a benefit a few years ago where various artists did the whole White Album in order. It’s such a strange album, a big jumble of disorganized ideas that sounds like it could be five different albums by four different bands. I love the Beatles, and I love The White Album, but that’s because it’s a giant part of my life and I haven’t heard it objectively since I was a child. I realized during that show how long it had been since I put on “Honey Pie” or “Savoy Truffle” or “Revolution 9.” I think “Back In The U.S.S.R.” sounds like a Beatles song from before this album—limited in lyrical scope and similar in arrangement to the songs on Rubber Soul or Revolver, with a nod to the Beach Boys. I opened the show with it, in front of just about the most cracking backup band I’ve ever heard. I told my friends that playing with that many amazing musicians behind me felt like piloting a 747.

Norah Jones, “Miriam” (Peter Bjorn And John Remix) from: Little Broken Hearts (original version)
In this song, the narrator is on her way to murder her husband’s lover. The lovely original is arranged with dark, faraway drums, piano and silky keyboard pads, which give it a haunting, ominous feel. The Peter, Bjorn And John remix of the same song has more in common with the Bay City Rollers: bubblegum guitar riffs, a bouncing kick drum and lots of hand claps. I guess these things are common these days, with the mashups and all that, and it seems like a guaranteed hit when, say, Ryan Adams covers a Taylor Swift album in the style of the Smiths, or when Sturgill Simpson covers a Nirvana song. We covered a Britney Spears song many years ago, and right away I wished we hadn’t. I’m all for taking a misunderstood gem and presenting it in a more favorable light, but what is it people really like about being smacked in the face with genre stunts? I blame American Idol.

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MAGNET Feedback With Bruce Hornsby

BruceHornsby

Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby is a music icon. From his albums with the Range in the ’80s through his solo releases in the ’90s to his work with the Grateful Dead, Hornsby built himself a somewhat unpredictable career as a go-to piano cat in a wild array of styles—not only rock, but jazz, bluegrass, classical, electronica and Broadway musicals. He’s collaborated with Bob Dylan, Sting, Crosby Stills And Nash, Branford Marsalis, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Spike Lee and countless other artists. But Hornsby’s latest album with the Noisemakers, Rehab Reunion, is piano-free. Instead, he chose to play the dulcimer, and Hornsby recruited the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Mavis Staples to contribute. The dude is a fellow music obsessive, so MAGNET asked him to bend our ear on these songs.

Bon Iver, “Holocene” from: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Love this. It’s probably the fourth or fifth song I came upon after having heard that Justin Vernon had been interested in my music for several years. This reached me right away; love his vocal phrasing, and love the unique instrumentation. And love his singing on our new record!

John Coltrane, “Giant Steps” from: Giant Steps
For years, this was seemingly the crucible, the proving ground and intense test for jazz improvisers trying to showcase their abilities playing through difficult chord changes at fast tempos. I finally tackled it with Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette on our Camp Meeting record and tried to find my own way of playing and presenting it. I’m a “friend of jazz”; I know the language but don’t speak it fluently because I don’t play the music often. I could call our record Dilettante’s Dream!

Radiohead, “Pyramid Song” from: Amnesiac
This song reminds me harmonically of “Everything In Its Right Place” from their Kid A album. That song influenced me in the writing of my songs “Sticks And Stones” (Big Swing Face, 2002) and “Here We Are Again” (Solo Concerts, 2014). “Pyramid Song” takes me to a similar emotional place; love it.

2Pac, “Changes” from: Greatest Hits
Obviously, this song is a special one for me. Out of the blue in late 1996 or 1997, I received a cassette in the mail from the Shakur Foundation. On this cassette was an early (and way more incendiary) version of the song. They were contacting me to make me aware of the song’s existence, and to ask what I thought the publishing splits should be. I love what Tupac did with my old song, and loved what many other rap/hip-hop artists have done with it as well.

The Grateful Dead, “Dark Star” from: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been
By the time I started playing with the Dead, this song was played at a much slower tempo than this first studio version. The song totally works both ways. I was playing with the Dead at Wembley Arena in London in the fall of 1990 when during the drum section, Garcia, in whose tent I was sitting, asked me to go out and play “Variations On A Theme Of Dark Star.” I did, and this improvisation ended up on the Dead album Infrared Roses as a “song” called “Silver Apples Of The Moon”!

The National, “Fake Empire” from: Boxer
This is a beautiful, quietly anthemic piece that keeps building and building. I would imagine it’s a very dramatic live piece. Very affecting, with a very affecting video. I can’t relate; my videos were great cures for insomnia on MTV during the period 1986-1991.

The Staples Singers, “I’ll Take You There” from: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself
Iconic and timeless. Their version of “Samson And Delilah” is sublime (as are so many other Staples records). So proud to have Mavis sing a duet with me (“The Celestial Railroad”) on our new record. We had a beautiful time and lots of laughs.

The Hold Steady, “Stuck Between Stations” from: Boys And Girls In America
This is a great rock song, with Craig Finn delivering these (also great) lyrics referencing Kerouac and University of Minnesota athletic teams. Sometimes it reminds me of Springsteen’s “Rosalita.” I feel he’s a kindred spirit lyrically, especially the songs that my kindergarten friend Chip deMatteo and I write together. I’ve heard Finn play and sing solo, just guitar and vocal, and it’s totally affecting.

Bob Dylan, “Ballad Of A Thin Man” from: Highway 61 Revisited
Of course, a classic, from the greatest. I think the humor in his writing is sometimes underappreciated. At age 10 or so, I would listen to my little red 45 of “Like A Rolling Stone” over and over, trying to phrase the vocal exactly like him. Got to play with him on Under The Red Sky, sat in with him live in the early 2000s, and he sang Henley’s and my “End Of The Innocence” in his concerts for a while; all transcendent moments for me.

Jewelz, “40 Bars” from: unreleased
Whoever put this playlist together for me really did their homework. This is the great Allen Iverson rapping, from his ‘90s record that I’m not sure was ever released. “Chuck,” as I and many others from his home area call him, is an old friend. I’m so happy about his Basketball Hall Of Fame induction that is happening this year. And maybe it’s time for him to make his follow-up record!

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MAGNET Feedback With Beth Orton

BethOrton

So here are a number of songs I’ve chosen for MAGNET. I relate to music as it relates to my life. I can only give my experience. I have chosen tracks that I believe have inspired me on my new record, Kidsticks, whether by osmosis or through intention. And a couple that I’m listening to right now just because they rule. —Beth Orton

The Slits, “Typical Girls” from: Cut
I remember listening to “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Typical Girls” at my friend Antonia’s house. I was probably 10, and she was a little older. I remember staring at the sleeve of Cut, fascinated and wondering what swamp they’d crawled out of, let alone what world. Me and my friends had these role models in women like the Slits who were not of the one-size-fits-all ideal. They were signposts along the way. I grew up around lots of punks when I was little. The Slits were punk and ska and some reggae thrown in, which was perfect for me.

Talking Heads, “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” from: Speaking In Tongues
Another band of my childhood. Lots of us aspired to their vision. I knew “Naive Melody” but was reintroduced to it a few years back by Tom Rowlands in a new light. It’s a total gem of a track. When I started making Kidsticks, this song was a kind of flag for me marking the way. I would think of it and make an approximation in the direction of what it feels like, its lightness and depth and how it builds and the subtle catharsis it creates. The turn of phrases and nonsensical sense it makes. Where it sits energetically in me when I hear it. How happy I feel from the moment it comes in to the moment it ends and how that stays in room just at the thought of it.

Curtis Mayfield, “Here But I’m Gone” from: New World Order
When I first heard this track, I’d always known it. Like it had always existed. It touches me. Had no idea he sung this after he was paralyzed, that he sang from his bed, line by line, because it exhausted him to do otherwise. I was most naturally drawn to going out dancing for hours on end to soul and funk from around 14. I found Aretha Franklin around the same time and Marvin Gaye (who I actually discovered first through the Slits). This was where I could truly lose myself and find a real place to feel free. When I dance to Curtis Mayfield or listen to him, I feel empowered and alive. When I listen to “Here But I’m Gone,” I’m connected to my fallibility and the fragility of all of us living by a thread. How things change so quickly when your health goes. I don’t find it a downer, though. I feel grateful, and I feel moved.

David Bowie, “Oh! You Pretty Things” from: Hunky Dory
Sitting in the back of my dad’s car on a Sunday and David Bowie would come on, and it would be a secret rebellion. He was more subversive than anything in lots of ways. Your mum and dad liked him, but he was really singing for us kids and expanded our minds into worlds beyond. There hasn’t been a period of my life that he hasn’t been an important part of. My fondest memories of many a night out or in are set to his music. I will always remember me and my best friend Carole putting on makeup to him before we went out and laying in a drunken heap at his feet on our return home. He built us up and softened our landing. What gets me now, since his death—a death that came as such a shock—is what an incredible lyricist he was, as ridiculous as that may sound. We can all sing along at the tops of our voices to his songs, driven by the force and genius of his words and how they make us feel, but since hearing him in the light of his passing, they have taken a new depth of meaning. I suppose that’s what makes a great artist: the ability to morph with the listener’s circumstance. It amazes me what he got past us that was right under our noses all along.

Joni Mitchell, “Amelia” from: Hejira
Joni Mitchell changed my life. I remember the beautiful boy who brought Blue to my room. We smoked weed and kissed and stuff. Once he slept, I lay still and watched the patterns the moon and the pretty net curtain made on the walls. We were in the box bedroom of the shared flat I was living in. I was 17 and trying to go to college and make good but was already about to flunk. I had a wooden portable record player I’d taken from home. He left me the record in the morning as a gift, or as a loan, but he never got it back. And the next day, I lay in a haze as Joni’s stories of love and honesty gave way to all the mysteries life might hold. The sunlight’s shadow now making imperceptible changes on the wall as the day turned in my hand. I listened to Blue over and over again. I had never heard music so beautiful and so sad in all my life. Maybe I felt true love for the first time listening to her sing. I fell in love with all that life might be. It was a moment of pure hope. It took me a long time to move beyond Blue. Eventually, I moved backward and forward through all her releases and learned to love them all. I still sometimes sing along to Blue from start to finish on long car journeys, I try not to do so with other people present, but I can think of one occasion the family had to grin and bear it! I know every breath by heart. She’s the most extraordinary songwriter and singer and visionary producer of sounds. The years have now turned her over and over in my consciousness, and I’ve never heard her the same way twice. I have chosen “Amelia,” as I’m listening to Heijira a lot right now. Listening with all my experience and inexperience and amazed now as much by her musicianship as her use of language, her poetry. Now I listen to her and look back on all the mysteries that have unfolded and fallen away. I listen as a musician who has tried to climb inside what I heard that night back when I was 17. I listen now as someone content to be who I am and not strive to be someone else. I will always be true to what she has inspired in me, though. I thought she held a purity I would never own. Before I’d even lost my innocence, I had lost being pure. Now I understand that Joni Mitchell was perfectly human all along.

Alethia & Donna, “Uptown Top Ranking” from: Uptown Top Ranking
This is my mantra. I was trying for them a couple of times on Kidsticks. It’s only an approximation for the feeling they give me, that sweet vocal over dub/ska/reggae beats. Not that “Uptown Top Ranking” is actually an example of that particularly. This track always makes me feel better. It reminds me of who I want to be, a little reminder of why I make music and how I want to live. It reminds me what’s important. Strictly roots, earthed. As long as music connects with me on a soul level, I don’t give a crap what genre it makes itself known as, though. I was super excited when Shahzad Ismaily added bass to “Flesh And Blood” on Kidsticks. He did it at my house onto my laptop, and it created an effect with what was already recorded that dubbed the track out, especially on the end. That’s why I left that long outro. I adore it. I would love to get a proper dub remix made of this song.

Japan, “Nightporter” from: Gentlemen Take Polaroids
My brother Adam was a massive fan of Japan, and he and I shared a room. I didn’t like everything my brother liked, but he did have good taste and we shared some very definite choices in music, and Japan was one of them. I feel like Japan influenced elements of Kidsticks. I didn’t notice the influence immediately. Sounds Andy (Hung) put to what I was playing on keyboard combined and had us following leads I didn’t see coming as we were jumping around the room laughing or beside ourselves just excited with what we were creating. It wasn’t until I was writing the songs that I realized the clear connection I was making with parts of my musical history that had never got the chance to have a place in the music I made before. I could access the years of my life that weren’t built around a love of all things folk. I’ve come full circle and am making music that allows all of who I know myself to be to exist, and it’s a great relief. I’ve chosen “Nightporter,” as it reminds me of the beautiful moment Dustin O’Halloran added the sublimely beautiful piano to the end of the track “Corduroy Legs” on my record. It was one of my most beloved moments of recording the album.

Erykah Badu, “Hello” from: But You Caint Use My Phone mixtape
Loved Erykah Badu from the moment I heard “On & On” from Baduizm. Her voice, the beats, her words. Effortlessly  beautiful. She has only gotten more interesting as an artist as the years pass. I’ve always felt she was my secret, totally unaware that she’s actually a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling artist. I loved her message and her humor and depth. I still do, and it’s gone deeper still. Her voice gets stronger with the years. I like how she carries herself. How she’s stayed healthy and alive and vital. She’s someone I look up to in an industry that trashes many a woman’s spirit. She has held her dignity, and she seems like a lovely mum to her kids. I lost her after the first couple of records due to no fault of her own. She came back round to me with the song “Window Seat” and the album New Amerykah Part Two. Since then, I’ve not lost her again, and with “Hello,” she’s got me again hook, line and sinker. It’s a timeless duet between her and Andre 3000, equivalent to some classic of old. Her voice sounds incredible, and his rap is heartbreaking and naughty. When they sing together, it’s heaven.

The Internet, “Under Control” from: Ego Death
Love this track! I feel stronger when I listen to this and infinitely happy. When I first heard it, have to admit I made assumptions and judgments. I stereotypically assumed it sounded so good it must be some girl perfectly placed in some bloke’s vision, manufactured into being. Then I found out that Syd Tha Kyd sings but is also the producer of her music. The more I listen, the better it gets. She sings like she’s speaking, and it’s superpersonal and relatable. She’s a legend. She seems to have an early hip-hop ethos to her style, which I like, too. I heard this after my record was made, but it’s a new inspiration for sure.

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MAGNET Feedback With Britta Phillips

BrittaPhillips

You know Britta Phillips from the bands Luna and Dean & Britta, but now she has a debut solo album, Luck Or Magic. The record features five Phillips originals alongside covers of songs by the Cars, Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Wilson and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog. Knowing what great taste in music Phillips has, we asked her for feedback on some tunes we love to play around the MAGNET office.

The Cure, “Friday I’m In Love” from: Wish
Love this song! It’s one of the great joyful love songs, like “Oh Yoko!” It’s really difficult to write a joyful and exuberant love song. Or a good protest song, for that matter. The Staple Singers’ version of Dylan’s ”Masters Of War” is one of my favorite recordings ever, but I digress. Dean & Britta recorded “Friday I’m In Love” for a Cure tribute album on American Laundromat. I feel like maybe more people have heard that track than any other Dean & Britta song. It was a lot harder to sing than we anticipated. Robert Smith has such a one-of-a-kind voice and delivery, and it just sounded weird when we sang it, so we went with deadpan. Even more deadpan than our usual deadpan. I mixed it, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I added these “ooohs” at the end that remind me of that ’70s song “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees (the three ladies with the sound of Philadelphia).

Bob Dylan, “I’ll Keep It With Mine” from: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3
Dean & Britta were commissioned by the Warhol Museum to perform music beneath projections of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests for a live show (that later turned into a DVD and then a CD) called 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. We wrote a lot of original stuff but couldn’t fi gure out anything good enough for Nico, so we decided to do this song. I’d also preferred Nico’s version to Dylan’s. Then Dean played me the Rainy Day recording with Susanna Hoffs’ singing, and that became my favorite. I was never a Bangles fan, but her voice is perfect on this song. We basically copied the Rainy Day version when we recorded it. Scott Hardkiss mixed two versions for us, one with just strings that he arranged and recorded. He also added a bit of Auto-Tune to my vocals for effect. At first, I didn’t like it, but now I think it makes me sound like a sad robot, and that’s an image I do like.

Pink Floyd, “Hey You” from: The Wall
I was a fan of Pink Floyd in junior high and early high school. I used to go see Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii at the theater, and their albums were on heavy rotation at all the stoner parties. I’d just dropped out of high school and moved in with a drug dealer when The Wall came out. I didn’t really like the album except for “Hey You,” which sounded more like their earlier stu to me. I didn’t dig the attempt to incorporate the disco beat. It reminded me of the Dead’s Shakedown Street, which I hated. I loved Donna Summer and the Bee Gees and used to listen to disco alone in my car because none of my friends liked it, but I think the Stones were the only rock band that could pull o the disco. I still love “Miss You.” I don’t ever listen to Pink Floyd nowadays. I did love “Hey You” in The Squid And The Whale, though I still might prefer to listen to Dean’s demo that he made for Jesse Eisenberg so that he could learn the song for the movie.

Galaxie 500, “Fourth Of July” from: This Is Our Music
I remember seeing Galaxie 500 on the cover of the NME or Melody Maker around 1990 when I was living in London with my first band, the Belltower. I was discovering good bands from the states over there because they wrote about them every week in the music papers, played them on the only radio station and showed their videos on TV. But the fi rst time I heard a Galaxie 500 song was right after I joined Luna in 2000 and had to learn “Fourth Of July” so we could play it as an encore. I still love playing this song, and I’ve played it a lot. I love the bass part; it’s so melodic and melancholy and unique. The hair on the back of my neck always stands on end when we get to the part where I join in singing “dooooo doo doo wahhhh” with Dean at the end. I always feel the room lift o at that point. Heavenly.

Jean Knight, “Mr. Big Stuff” from: Mr. Big Stuff
I recorded this song as Billie, the druggie guitarist in the 1988 cheesy/guilty-pleasure movie Satisfaction, about a (mostly) all-girl rock band, with co-stars Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman. It was for a very silly montage. Of course, I didn’t do the original song justice, but I did get to record it with Steve Cropper, which was pretty cool. I had a blast making that movie. More fun making it than watching it, I always say. The only music lessons I’ve ever had were from my guitar coach on the set. Scott Coffey, who played the lone guy in the band, was the first person I ever met with super-cool taste in music, and that kinda changed the course of my life.

MGMT, “Kids” from: Oracular Spectacular
I love this song, and I love this band. They were one of the first bands I heard (or maybe the first band?) that sounds like so many of the best indie bands nowadays (Tame Impala, for example). They manage to make super-poppy songs that have a soul. They’re like the Daft Punk of bands (and I’ve heard that Daft Punk are fans). I met them when my friend, Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom), was producing “Congratulations.” They were so young and sweet. I ended up singing a bunch of stacked backing vocals on the end of the song, “It’s Working.” Super-talented guys. I look forward to hearing what they cook up next.

Spacemen 3, “How Does It Feel?” from: Playing With Fire
Back in 1990, when I was living in London with the Belltower, my manager played Spacemen 3 for me and told me they were the shit. For some reason, I didn’t get it. I liked MBV, Lush, Swervedriver and Ultra Vivid Scene, and I guess I didn’t have the patience for the slow pace and space at the time. I realized a few years later that they are, indeed, the shit. So many bands have been influenced by them and continue to mine their sound. I love Pete’s voice. He has two voices, actually: one warm and ecstatic and the other cold, dark and teutonic. I met Pete (Sonic Boom) when he opened for Luna in 2002. But we really became good friends when he remixed some songs from the first Dean & Britta album. He’s one of a kind. I wish I’d seen Spacemen 3 live back when I had the chance, but at least I’ve seen a lot of great Spectrum and solo shows over the last 10 years. I always feel inspired to go record a song after seeing him solo, and I’m always blown away by the raw rock ‘n’ roll power of Spectrum, live. This primitive space music never gets old or feels dated.

Buffalo Springfield, “I Am A Child” from: Last Time Around
I recorded this song for American Laundromat’s all-female Neil Young tribute Cinnamon Girl. I had not heard this gorgeous and dark song before, which made me mad at myself. The bright side is that it’s like Christmas when I do stumble upon these gems that everyone seems to know but me. I love that the music and melody are so bright and optimistic like an innocent child who doesn’t understand the horror of the lyrics. The song sewing that knowing and not-knowing together is just devastatingly beautiful. I programmed the drums and played banjo samples on keys. Dean plays a guitar solo. I was going for a countrypolitan sound with strings. Listening to it now, I’d like to re-record my vocals with a bit more energy, a bit louder. (Note to self.) I especially love the ending where it gets a little trippy and almost jazzy with harp glissandos. I used this same backing track (changed the key and the chords around) and recorded the Wailers’ “She’s Coming Home” over it for a Christmas seven-inch single.

David Bowie, “Modern Love” from: Let’s Dance
It’s hard to talk about Bowie. I can’t think of anything big enough to say about him. “Modern Love” is now married in my mind to the scene in Frances Ha where Greta Gerwig is running/dancing down the street, which I love. There was one guy in high school who used to only play Bowie at his parties. The cool guy. And Bowie’s cool let  him slide effortlessly into the ’80s, where most other ’70s artists seemed ridiculous. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when he came into the studio while Dean & Britta were recording our first album with Tony Visconti. He was such a regular guy except that, of course, he wasn’t because he was David Bowie, and I kept thinking, “Stop staring at David Bowie while he’s telling a story.” But, of course, it would be weird and rude not to look at someone while they were telling a story. So, you see how it was meeting David Bowie. But he was just lovely and normal and excited about life. Sigh.

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MAGNET Feedback With Eric Bachmann

EricBachmann

We’ve been fans of Eric Bachmann since the very beginning. His first band, Archers Of Loaf, was as essential as Pavement, Superchunk, Sebadoh, Built To Spill and Guided By Voices as far as ’90s indie rock goes. After the Archers broke up, Bachmann started Crooked Fingers, which put out a handful of must-hear albums starting in 2000. Under his own name, he dabbled in soundtrack work before releasing his official solo debut, To The Races, in 2006. Now, Bachmann returns with a stunning new eponymous LP on Merge that proves he remains an amazing songwriter. The man obviously has an understanding of great music, so we asked him for his feedback on some songs we love.

David Bowie, “Five Years” from: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
David Bowie is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll man of all time. His ability to incorporate drama and grandeur without coming o as pretentious or silly is unsurpassed. In the Archers days while on tour, our esteemed bass player, Matthew Peter Gentling, would occasionally slip into these cosmic seizures—these strange, shamanistic, supersonic trances, usually after a night of heavy drinking—and sing out, “My brain hurts a lot.” I’d like to think that it was actually David Jones practicing mind control on Matt just to give us a laugh.

Neko Case, “Hold On, Hold On” from: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
I’ve been playing in Neko Case’s band for about three years. We do this one almost every night. I don’t tire of it. These lyrics, in particular, possess a certain mystery that kept it interesting for me. Like many good lyrics, it provokes questions more than it provides answers: What is it about your blood that makes it dangerous? Why would a bride marry a person if marrying that person requires that you take a Valium? If you’re thankful that you’re leaving the party alone, then why did you stay until 3 a.m.? I know you don’t enjoy drinking that much anymore. And then there’s that voice, of course. Some nights I don’t want to play any notes for fear of walking over something so elegant and beautiful.

Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” from: I’m Your Man
Leonard Cohen (with Sharon Robinson on this one) exercises superior command over the English language. He’s a legend for a valid reason. He is a legend for several valid reasons. His voice sounds great to me, and I love the way he incorporates backing vocals. I’d like to produce his next record.

John Coltrane, “Part 3: Pursuance/A Love Supreme, Part 4: Psalm” from: A Love Supreme
John Coltrane is the reason I majored in saxophone during my two years at Appalachian State. He’s also the reason I quit. I knew I could never reach that level of playing; I knew I wanted to sound like him too much; and I knew it was a bad idea to try to sound like someone else anyway. I remember reading Art Pepper’s autobiography, Straight Life, a few years later, and what he said about ripping off Coltrane resonated with me: “When I got out of the joint the last time in ’66, I had no horns. I could only afford one horn, and I got a tenor because, I told myself, to make a living, I had to play rock. But what I really wanted to do was play like Coltrane. In ’68, I got the job playing lead alto with Buddy Rich (in Las Vegas) … I was blowing Don Mensa’s alto in the motel room … jamming in front of the mirror, blowing the blues, really shouting, and all of a sudden I realized, ‘Wow, this is me! This is me!’ Then I realized that I had almost lost myself. Something had protected me for all these years, but Trane was so strong he’d almost destroyed me.” So—I’m no Art Pepper, of course—but what he says “was so strong” about John Coltrane is what destroyed me, too, in terms of why I quit focusing on the saxophone. So, there’s that. And then, there’s the fact that one of my favorite drummers of all time plays on this. I saw the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine perform at Jazz Alley in Seattle around 2001 or 2002. When I heard he passed away a few years later, I was, of course, sad; but I also felt really lucky to have seen him perform live. That first minute and a half of Elvin Jones by himself on this floors me every time.

Bob Dylan, “If Not For You” from: New Morning
I heard George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass for the first time as a kid when I was visiting my aunt in Cullowhee, N.C. I think she was a student at Western Carolina at the time. I was only five or six years old? She and her boyfriend had all of these Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac and John Lennon records. I remember thinking they must be hippies, wearing all that fringe suede and drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. George Harrison’s picture on the cover made me think the record was about fi sh sticks or the stormy sea because of his rubber boots and his hat and his beard. For some reason, my aunt kept poking fun at me, saying that I was a baby. I had only been born in 1970, so I was insecure about that particular issue and recall getting pretty pissed off at her insisting that I was, in fact, a baby. She dragged it out: “You are a baaaay-bee.” I couldn’t grasp that it was OK to be a baby, I guess, or comprehend the concept of someone communicating affection toward me in the form of gentle antagonisms. Out of frustration, I naively wrote her little hippie album off as merely odd-looking. Now, of course, it’s one of my favorite album covers and one of my favorite records of all time. I’m not mad at her anymore, either. She’s killer. Oh yes, and I like Dylan’s original version, as well—he wrote it after all; but I really love George Harrison’s voice on his version.

Slint, “Good Morning, Captain” from: Spiderland
Spiderland is a nice record for driving long distances. I enjoy listening to it while driving by myself late at night along desolate desert landscapes.

Superchunk, “Slack Motherfucker” from: Superchunk
I got on the internet to find the lyrics to this classic because—after hearing it live dozens and dozens of times—I could never understand exactly what Mac was singing in the first verse. Fortunately, the lyrics were easy to finbd. It was the lyric where he calls the antagonist of the song “smoke stack.” Now I like the song even more, which is silly because I already liked it so much. An interesting and perhaps blasphemous thing for me to announce here, however, is that this song—especially since it in some way represents the introductory siren for Merge Records—isn’t my favorite. Sorry, but my favorite musical side of Mac is the side that probably loses him money. I love Mac’s new instrumental deconstruction of Non-Believers called Staring At Your Hologram. Yes, even more than “Slack Motherfucker.” I love that EP of Tropicalia covers he did in Brazilian Portuguese, too. I went to Augusta a few years ago to see him perform a few soundtracks he had written for some Maya Deren films, and it was amazing. So, I’m putting my vote in now. I want Mac to start a strange, singular big band like Stan Kenton or George Russell or Sun Ra and wear a colorful suit and make odd squeaks and squawks. It would be a cool turn for him, and he’d be great at it, I think.

Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” from: Nebraska
I probably have an unhealthy fascination with organized crime. A lot of people do. Perhaps that’s why there are so many books and films about it. The mob’s power over certain aspects of U.S. infrastructure over the years—the devastation, violence and loss it has caused so many families, and the impact it’s had on our popular culture, in general— latches onto something primal in us. That this song starts with a reference to Philip “The Chicken Man” Testa getting blown up with a nail bomb by his rivals in the Philadelphia mob demonstrates the Boss’ fascination with this, too. It makes for great storytelling, and it makes for a great, dark song. I always wondered if Springsteen ever considered that he might be putting himself (and his family) on their radar in a bad way by singing about this so soon after it happened.

The Velvet Underground, “Candy Says” from: The Velvet Underground
I love the sound of Doug Yule’s voice on this. I have this image in my mind of Lou Reed standing uncomfortably close, being passive-aggressive toward the poor guy as he sings it in the studio. I know that’s probably not how it went down, but it’s how I think of it. I guess I feel like Andy Warhol (in the films) and Lou Reed (in this song) had an agenda with her or something; that they were exploiting Candy Darling for the sake of their art, and Yule was just innocently singing a pretty song without any agenda, even if he was somewhat in the dark.

Archers Of Loaf, “Wrong” from: Icky Mettle
The best part about this song is Eric Johnson’s guitar part.

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MAGNET Feedback With Michael Cerveris

MichaelCerveris

It’s one thing to be a creative quadruple threat (film actor, stage actor, television actor, musician); it’s another thing entirely to excel as a quadruple threat for the better part of 43 years. From multiple Tony nominations—and wins—to starring roles on Fame and Treme, Michael Cerveris may be best known for his versatility as a thespian, but he proves just as formidable behind the mic on his long-awaited sophomore solo album, Piety (Low Heat). His sonic pedigree is unsurprisingly impressive, having shared the stage with the likes of the Breeders, Bob Mould, Teenage Fanclub and Frank Black. We celebrate workaholic Cerveris’ latest triumph by mining the veteran’s thoughts on indie, country and jazz contemporaries.

Big Star, “Jesus Christ” from: Third/Sister Lovers
I have always loved this song—one of the few bright moments of Third/Sister Lovers, which is such a beautiful, dark record. It’s always been one of my favorite Christmas tunes. In fact, it was the first one Loose Cattle recorded in our annual free Christmas single series. It just seems so unabashedly hopeful and, well, Christian in a non-dogmatic, embracing kind of way. I never knew if Alex Chilton was being sarcastic (that always seemed like a possibility), but with the production and all, it seems sincere—and sincerity in pop music is pretty rare, especially when it’s a song about being joyful. I guess that’s what I love about it: the lack of a need to mask joy, even if you’re playing music for the cool kids.

Boston Spaceships, “How Wrong You Are” from: Zero To 99
Despite being a devoted, rabid, borderline obsessive GBV fan and Fading Captain completist, there came a point some years ago when I confess I got a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with Bob. So, I somehow missed a lot of Boston Spaceships, and this total Pollard gem. Robert Pollard always makes me smile and turn into a kid bobbing my head in my bedroom or behind the wheel of the ‘69 Dodge Dart I drove into the ground. I admire the hell out of how he’s made music utterly on his terms for years and never let growing old or people’s opinions of age in rock mean a fuck to him. And this song is just vintage Bob: Kinks-y, Beatles-y, 120 Minutes-y. It’s like an indie-rock time machine.

Death Cab For Cutie, “Codes And Keys” from: Codes And Keys
I never quite got on the Death Cab train, for reasons I’ve never understood. I probably had an ex-girlfriend who loved them so much and then stomped on my heart at some point, and I just associated them with fecklessness. Which is a shame, because I think a lot of their songs are great, like “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” Additionally, Ben Gibbard will always have my respect for taking Big Freedia out on tour with the Postal Service in 2013, broadening and blowing the minds of their wispy indie-kid followers.

Ella Fitzgerald, “Mack The Knife” from: Ella In Berlin
Ella Fitzgerald is just amazing, and one of my favorite scat singers next to Louie Armstrong. She does things with a melody and a lyric that defy description, and her take on this song is a wild one that’s fun to hear. But I’ve always been kind of confused by how this really twisted piece of Weimar jazz cabaret by Kurt Weill has been such a popular standard, often sung by crooner types who just kind of neuter it of its darkness by making it swing like they want to show us they’re “wild hepcats, man.” When I was playing Kurt Weill in LoveMusik, I found a recording of Bertolt Brecht singing it in German with Weill’s original orchestrations. That weird mixture of off-kilter calliope brightness and dark maniacal glee is what I feel this tune should always have, whoever’s singing it.

Hawkshaw Hawkins, “Lonesome 7-7203” from: Lonesome 7-7203
From my hometown, Huntington, W.V.! Most people know his name because he died in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline. Fewer know that he bought his first guitar by trading five rabbits that he’d trapped. These are things you learn when you have West Virginia studies in high school. This is one of my favorite kinds of country tune. A whole story and character delivered in less than three minutes with a great hook and a melancholy, but witty lyric. And props to Hawkshaw for bringing vibraphone into the country-music palette.

Hollywood Vampires, “My Generation” from: Hollywood Vampires
I’m sorry. I like Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry as much as the next guy who likes them OK. But I don’t really see the point of this. On the other hand, maybe that’s unfair. I mean, why shouldn’t massive rock stars and their movie star friends get together with their other equally or more famous random friends and play through the songs they wish they’d written, just like the rest of us do? Just because their pickup band plays live on AOL from Rock In Rio and ours plays for tips for the bartender and the guy fixing the toilets, that doesn’t mean they’re bad …

Hüsker Dü, “Green Eyes” from: Flip Your Wig
One of many songs I love from Flip Your Wig. That blend of pop songwriting and blistering delivery that Hüsker Dü invented is a deep part of my musical soul. Even though this one is a Grant Hart song, it of course makes me think of my brief time playing guitar for Bob Mould on his ’98 U.S./U.K. tour. That was one of the highlights of my whole life—not just the creative part of it. The hours playing onstage, trying my absolute fucking best to deserve to be there and trying to conquer my fear that I didn’t, and the many more hours of Bob and I taking turns at the wheel of our rented sedan, driving cross-country and talking into the night about life and music and deep stories from his past, while Matt Hammon and Jim Wilson slept in the back seat. And while it didn’t all go precisely according to plan (or maybe exactly as remembered in his book), I will always be grateful for the time he gave me the gift of that experience and trust and respect.

Cyndi Lauper & The Minus 5, “Midnight Radio” from: Wig In A Box: Songs From And Inspired By Hedwig & The Angry Inch
I love this cover. I’ve always admired Cindy Lauper—classically trained, genre-defying and -defining. I love how she completely gets parts of this song wrong, but just holds on by force of will (and remarkable breath control) until the band comes around to where she is. I’d say she really gets the heart of this song. Which is good, because it’s always been one of my favorites from Hedwig. It was the moment in every show where I would be soaked in sweat, covered in bits of smashed tomato, seeds and juice running down my near-naked body, lipstick and glitter in my teeth, and strands of wig hair in my throat, my voice on its last cords … and then have to sing this Bowie-esque song of redemption, release and communion. It felt like the purest rock ‘n’ roll catharsis and apotheosis every time. It still does.

The Sex Pistols, “No Feelings” from: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols
I am proud to say that when I sang this as Ian Ware on Fame, I believe I was the first person ever to sing a Sex Pistols tune on American national television. Possibly including the Sex Pistols. And even though it was a na show populated by mid-to-late 20-somethings pretending we were in high school, we did deserve some cred points for having Lee Ving of Fear in one episode. For the club scene where I sang “No Feelings,” I told the producers not to get extras from central casting, that I would go to the Scream Club (my regular weekend haunt in L.A.) and get real punks and musicians to come be in the background. The o er of $50 and free catering and craft services was enough incentive that I managed to fi ll the studio with leather, chains, mascara and hair gel to last all season. You can spot members of the Zeros, Kommunity FK and my friend Kaptain, who sometimes did costumes for Troma features and porn films, and insisted he had been Guns N’ Roses’ first drummer when they were all squatting in a house in the Hollywood Hills. (Who am I to question him?) I’m very proud to have brought that to television screens across the country.

Simon & Garfunkel, “America” from: Bookends
One of my favorite S&G songs. It’s folky and pop, and has that swelling B3, the Leslied guitar, the crazed clarinet sounds. I love pop music that’s so lovingly orchestrated and meticulously arranged. Serge Gainsbourg, Van Dyke Parks, Scott Walker. This song is somehow simple and epic at the same time. Which makes it a perfect representation of the subject in its title. It also feels so Super 8-movie kind of nostalgic, and speaks to that idealism and innocent belief in the idea of our country that so often gets co-opted by rightwing conservatives. This is the sound of progressive America being patriotic. Sure, the idealism is tempered with irony and cool—I don’t see the problem with that. And the Kathy (Chitty) verse breaks my heart every time. Also it makes Saginaw seem as exotic as Xanadu.

Sleater-Kinney, “A New Wave” from: No Cities To Love
Name me another band that has come back from a 10-year hiatus with a return to form that not only doesn’t miss a beat, but actually one-ups its own genius catalog of passionate, thoughtful, impossibly cool rawk. Yeah, I thought so. Full disclosure: These are friends of mine, and Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss played on my first record (Corin even co-wrote a track), but that only makes me more of a fan. Their gender is both beside the point and exactly the point. Janet pounds harder than almost any drummer I can think of, but with such tasty, surprising and intricately melodic parts; Carrie shreds like a mother, is a great writer and comedienne, and has the best rock-star moves of any guitar player working; Corin is a mother and a subtly brilliant writer with a voice that is a force of nature. Thank God(dess) for Sleater-Kinney.

Teenage Fanclub, “Baby Lee” from: Shadows
More full disclosure: Norman Blake is a longtime dear friend, and I’ve spent a fair bit of time with the Fannies over the years. I made a record with Norman, Raymond McGinley and Francis Macdonald that never got released, but contains early versions of some songs on my Piety LP. I can listen to TFC anytime, anywhere and be immediately happier. Those harmonies! Those melodies! Those chiming guitars! I love that with three great songwriters, they make a policy of each having four songs per record and sharing duties and spoils. Even in the early distortion-drenched records, the songwriting and melodies were there. They have that gift for writing tunes you feel you’ve always loved from the fi rst time you hear them. This is one of many favorites. Two decades and nine albums in, and they’re still writing songs like this. I can’t wait for the next one.

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MAGNET Feedback With Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor

What do the songs “Anything You Want” by Spoon and “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” by Franz Ferdinand have in common? They’re both written about one down-to-earth chick: Eleanor Friedberger (Fiery Furnaces). Growing up singing with her grandmother in a Greek Orthodox church, she has strayed from the spiritual, but not the soulful. Her new album is called New View, out now on Frenchkiss. MAGNET sent Friedberger some tracks from classics, newcomers and here-to-stays for her feedback.

Michael Hurley, “You Get Down By The Pool Hall Clickety Clack” from: First Songs
I was introduced to Michael Hurley by my friend Mike Fellows, who I met when I first moved to New York. I played a few shows with Mike, including a show opening up for Michael Hurley. He gave me this album, which includes a song called, “You Get Down By The Pool Hall Clickety Clack.” I liked the song because it’s this guy singing about, “Get away from my sister, my little sister,” and I imagine my brother singing it about me.

David Byrne, “Ex-Guru” from: Plum 7” Box Set
David Byrne’s version of “Ex-Guru” is a very “Furnacey” song. I grew up with him. The Talking Heads were a band that my brother and my mother, the three of us, could all listen to together. So, hearing David Byrne singing words that I had sung was truly bizarre. You know, it’s funny—I’ve met him since, a few times, and we’ve never talked about it, but it was really surreal.

Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities To Love” from: No Cities To Love
Sleater-Kinney is one band that I don’t own any of their records. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. They’ve been a huge influence on me, but not necessarily musically, if that makes any sense. I relate to them more as, like, fellow women musicians. The first time we ever played in London, we opened up for them at the Astoria. That was like the greatest night ever.

The Fall, “Winter (Hostel Maxi)” from: Hex Enduction Hour
I listened to just a little bit of it last night, and I forgot “Colder Accordingly.” That was the song my brother and I covered. It was a little intimidating trying to sing like Mark E. Smith. He’s somebody that I revere, and also am repulsed by because he’s so erratic. I’ve seen him drunk and not be able to finish any songs, and I’ve seen him perform brilliantly.

Robert Wyatt, “Just As You Are” from: Comicopera
I know Robert Wyatt mostly from his work with Soft Machine, and I love their second album. It’s my favorite. And, of course, there’s Rock Bottom. Just to have that kind of longevity is, I think, really incredible. The melody and, really, everything he does has this kind of sadness to it. It’s just like this kind of sweetness in sadness that is pervasive in all his work, which I love.

Built To Spill, “Jokerman” from: Bob Dylan In The 80’s Volume One
“Jokerman” is a song I love, and I thought it was funny that it was included in some kind of ’80s Dylan comp. I thought it was fun; I just thought, like, whatever. I didn’t think it was radically different, and I love the original so much that I think it’s weird enough. I think maybe there’s a line in “Jokerman” that mentions “the fiery furnace,” but that’s not where we got our band name.

Yoko Ono, “Open Your Soul To Me” from: Onobox
I’m a huge Yoko Ono fan, so someone gave me the boxed set, and that was when I really dove into her work. I was asked to do a cover of basically anything for this Merge Records anniversary singles collection, and I chose that song. Nobody’s heard it because it’s not available on mp3 or anything, but I love our version. I wish more people could hear it.

Sebadoh, “Not Too Amused” from: Bakesale
I was always under the assumption you could either like Dinosaur Jr or like Sebadoh. You couldn’t like both, at least in the ’90s. I was a huge, huge Dinosaur Jr fan. It’s funny to fast forward many years later, and I end up in a band with Jason Loewenstein, who’s the bass player of Sebadoh.

Gerry Rafferty, “Baker Street” from: City To City
I recently got into a little bit of a Gerry Rafferty binge because one of my bandmates was singing “Right Down The Line” at karaoke night. “Baker Street” is one of those songs you can appreciate it, but there’s something that makes you want to throw up a little bit. It’s got this nauseating quality where you can’t keep it on. I guess it’s kind of like this visceral gut reaction to music.

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MAGNET Feedback With Kinky Friedman

Kinky

For The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, his first new studio album in 32-plus years, Texas-based songwriter, essayist, cookbook author and Manhattan mystery novelist Kinky Friedman decided to drop the satirical humor that made him a self-designated “Jewish Cowboy” and the most caustic candidate to run for the governorship of Texas (Rick Perry beat him). Instead, Friedman’s new album fi nds the grizzled singer focused on spare, un-comic renditions of his favorites—vividly detailed, emotional songs of lost love from the pens of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Tom Waits and Warren Zevon—as well as several of his own most serious titles. That doesn’t mean Friedman doesn’t still think comically when you get him in the clutches. Here are some musings.

—A.D. Amorosi

Willie Nelson, “Bloody Mary Morning” from: Phases & Stages
You can hear Willie in every part of this song— his guitar Trigger as well. Lots of heart. His sister Bobbie is nice, too. Willie once told me a story about this song. Turns out that Glen Campbell gave him $25,000 to publish everything he wrote that year. What, 1970? Well, Willie says that he only wrote one song that year, and this was it. Glen didn’t like the song either. It’s out of rhythm, or o the rhythm. That’s just how Willie writes and plays. Plus, I love that “leaving baby somewhere in L.A.” line.

Tom Waits, “A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” from: Blue Valentine
There’s nothing to not like about Tom Waits. This song in particular is audacious. I mean, the whole song is a lie except for the last lines: “I don’t have a husband/He don’t play the trombone/I need to borrow money to pay this lawyer.” Classic. We might be more similar to the lies than the truths.

Faron Young, “Hello Walls” from: Hello Walls
Willie wrote this. Real honky-tonk, too. Reminds me of a West Texas beer hall. Whenever I want to have that feeling, this is the song I put on the record player; that or “Silver Wings” or “Me & Bobby McGee.”

Merle Haggard, “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” from: A Portrait Of Merle Haggard
Merle’s got the best voice in country music, and this is one of his truly brilliant songs. He’s a poet. It’s about his daddy trying to feed his mama’s every hunger. Merle’s version has 10 background singers, and strings, and Nashville session cats. Mine is a spare as a skeleton, and I think we served the song just as well. You can’t miss, though, with it; the song is so fucking beautiful.

Lee Marvin, “Wand’rin Star” from: Paint Your Wagon
First off, I grew up with Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe musicals, the gentlemen of My Fair Lady fame. There was more to this song, though. That’s how I was born: under a wandering star in the sky. If you were truly born under one of these, that explains a lot about your life. That is my blessing and my curse. I roam. So, this song cuts deep, really means something to me. It’s not usual compared to what I’ve recorded before. And thanks for saying I sound better than Lee Marvin.

Bob Dylan, “Girl From The North Country” from: Nashville Skyline
This tune is my halfway point between him and me, between who he is a songwriter and who I am. I hung with him during his Rolling Thunder Revue show. Played a few dates. Decent fellow. He wanted to write songs together with me and do an album. I chose not to. Does that tell you anything about how stupid I can be? I get this song of his because I had a girl from the North Country. I left one there, too. I know what he’s talking about, and every line, is … you just know that they know. Everything, however, is written between the lines.

Johnny Cash, “Pickin’ Time” from: The Fabulous Johnny Cash
That was the very song that ever made me—how do you put it—swoon. It was my dad’s favorite song too. John’s a silent witness.

Judy Campbell, “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” from: New Faces
That was our song—the one between me and the lovely Miss Texas of 1987—when we lived in London. Very pretty. Of course, I was Miss Texas of 1967, so I’ll always have that title.

Warren Zevon, “My Shit’s Fucked Up” from: Life’ll Kill Ya
Warren and I were never really close, but I always appreciated him. You know, I think I was born in the same hospital as him in Chicago; Zevon, me, Shel Silverstein, Steve Goodman, all Jews. Zevon wrote this knowing that he was dying of cancer, but—I repeat—but, it is not, in my mind at least, about just one man dying of cancer. It just happens to be an aptly told tale of the condition of the world as it stands today. Not to beat a dead horse, but things are a mess; irrevocably, at that.

Kinky Friedman, “Ride ’Em Jewboy” from: Sold American
Sold American is probably the one album of mine that, back to front, I consider my most wonderful musical achievement. Not just because it still sounds great—heh, heh—but because that’s the one with “Ride ’Em Jewboy.” It’s not a funny song. It’s got heart. “A melody which burns you deep inside/May peace be ever with you as you ride.” Nelson Mandela used to listen to this song every night in his jail cell, in that cassette tape player that he smuggled in. His cellmate of 17 years, his right-hand man, once told me that, so that’s coming from the horse’s mouth. Dolly Parton was his favorite singer and “Ride ’Em Jewboy” was his favorite song. Wow. Politically, we don’t have a Mandela out here right now— a Martin Luther King, a Jesus. That involves sacrifi ce. So, if you gave me the choice of playing a stadium or writing a song that you know Nelson Mandela listened to late every night—maybe gave him solace or hope—I’d take the latter. I’ll be that guy.

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MAGNET Feedback With Maynard James Keenan

MaynardJamesKeenan

One can easily imagine piss-taking Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan smirking while fanboys squirm in anticipation of the prog-metal outfit’s first album since 2006’s 10,000 Days. The once reclusive, mysterious vocalist has exhibited impressive public versatility in recent years, launching Arizona winery Caduceus Cellars, penning his autobiography and staying musically active in longtime avant-rock project Puscifer (third full-length Money Shot was appropriately released just before Halloween). We sent the always entertainingly opinionated Keenan 10 tracks from openers, contemporaries and idols. He did not disappoint.

Failure, “Petting The Carpet” from: The Heart Is A Monster
Greg Edwards is one of a few artists I imagine listening to any new material I’m working on. I imagine him tearing it apart with single words. He keeps me on my toes. Greg, P.J. Harvey, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits are just of the bar-raisers toward which I reach.

The Dresden Dolls, “Sing” from: Yes, Virginia…
Songs like this, that are rooted in so much joyful sadness, drive me. Super happy songs make me want to punch stuff. I’m not familiar with the entire Dresden Dolls catalog, but if it’s anything like this, they will make an appearance on the Caduceus Cellars Harvest playlist next vintage.

The Mars Volta, “The Widow” from: Frances The Mute
We need more bands like these crazy fucks. Raising the bar ain’t easy, and they still managed to do it while stoned.

The Nightwatchman, “Shake My Shit” from: The Fabled City
When I hear any of Tom Morello’s material, I’m transported back to the early ’90s. Tom would organize bowling night with the L.A. transplanted Libertyville crew. A grounding experience I often miss. Our Midwestern roots go deep, and it’s those simple gatherings that keep your compass true.

Queen,“Bohemian Rhapsody” from: A Night At The Opera
No one has pipes like Freddie Mercury. I’m humbled every time I hear this track. I remember the first time I heard it. I was living just outside of Akron, and it changed the way I thought about music.

The Police, “Synchronicity II” from: Synchronicity
This Police album has some overlooked musical gems on it. Never mind the popular tracks and singles. If you can look beyond the silly MTV designer homeless bag lady wardrobe, there is much to discover.

Alice In Chains, “Man In The Box” from: Facelift
Few people know just how insanely funny Sean Kinney is. The perfectly in-thepocket timing of his chops extend to his mouth. One night with him will leave your funny bone bruised but good. He also has a friend named Steve who shows up on occasion. Not as funny.

The Stooges, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” from: The Stooges
Perfect example of a time and a place. So many attempts to cover this song by a bazillion lo-fi bands. And they never quite get that it’s a moment, not a song. The notes are secondary.

Nirvana, “Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” from: MTV Unplugged In New York
Not my favorite Nirvana moment. But it does remind me of hearing (comedian) Greg Berendt saying, “Apparently, ‘Unplugged’ means ‘to sit down.’” I think it was Greg. I forget. Anyway. Bleach redirected the ’90s rock-band GPS. Mostly in good ways.

Melvins,“Night Goat” from: Houdini
My favorite Brown Note track besides any Swans Holy Money/Greed track. I almost sharted just thinking about it. Powerful PoohJo. It reminds me of my favorite Melvins T-shirt. Big skull on the front with “the Melvins” just above it. And on the back it says, “Why did the metalhead cross the road?” “Because he’s a gullible moron who’ll buy anything with a skull on it.”

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MAGNET Feedback With Craig Finn

CraigFinn

Hold Steady frontman (and longtime MAGNET fave) Craig Finn has a great new solo album out, Faith In The Future (Partisan). Do yourself a favor: Buy it immediately. Knowing what an insightful music nerd that Finn has been his whole life, we thought, “Who better to get feedback from on these 10 songs?” There are some classics and some soon-to-be-classics. Read all about them.

Cheap Trick, “Tonight It’s You” from Standing On The Edge
People think of mid-’80s Cheap Trick as being past their glory period, but they continued to release amazing rock songs, and this is one of them. Just like “Surrender,” the end chorus here goes on forever and somehow keeps getting better. The thing is, you need a really great singer like Robin Zander to pull these songs off. I know because I’ve tried to take part in Cheap Trick covers. It’s a dangerous business for a limited singer. I especially love One On One, the record before this one. Despite the fact that they have a ton of big hits, I still think Cheap Trick is an underrated band. They are certainly one of the only bands that every person in the Hold Steady actively loves.

Drive-By Truckers, “This Fucking Job” from The Big To-Do
Patterson Hood is a master of telling stories of the people on the fringes and how economics and politics actually affect them. Nearly every day, the front page of the New York Times has stories about minimum wage and a disappearing middle class, but Patterson brings it life here in a haunting song disguised as a sing-along rocker. I think the big takeaway here is the character wanting to accept doing what his dad did before him, only to find that it’s not available anymore. I admired Patterson’s songs greatly long before he became a good friend.

Father John Misty, “I Love You, Honeybear” from I Love You, Honeybear
I love both FJM records a ton. I think it’s fascinating how he blurs the place between his real person and this character. It’s amazing how often his songs are both tender and honest while still being funny on some level. And sexy. The line that kills me most here is the nod to genetics and mental health, right in the middle of an (admittedly twisted) love song: “I’ve brought my mother’s depression/ You’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia.”

Heartless Bastards, “Black Cloud” from Restless Ones
Erika Wennerstrom’s voice is, to me, one of the most awesome and unique instruments out there. I just got o tour with them and had the pleasure of hearing the Heartless Bastards play this song every night. I’ve known them for a while now, and they just keep getting better and better. This song is a great example of what they do best: a soulful hook that just stays with me for days. I love the fuzzy bass on this, and it works within more of a classic pop structure than some of their bluesier songs. But in the end, it’s Erika’s voice that takes it over the top, especially in the chorus, which has such a fantastic melody.

Hüsker Dü, “Green Eyes” from Flip Your Wig
I have this song on my mix for the gym, so I hear it a few times a week. Hüsker Dü really had two incredible songwriters in one band, and this is one of Grant Hart’s classic pop songs, which seemed to really hit their peak around Flip Your Wig. I think if you took the distortion off of this, it would sound right at home on ’60s AM radio alongside the Association or something like that. It sort of has a spooky California vibe, too, like a lot of great songs from that era. I never get tired of this band.

The Replacements, “Unsatisfied” from Let It Be
I got into the Replacements after they put out their Hootenanny record, so this is the first record I remember waiting on release with bated breath. I was only in eighth grade, but I could tell this was a special record. Or maybe it was so special to me because I was in eighth grade and having a difficult time. Both “Unsatisfied” and “Sixteen Blue” are like tender asides to a troubled kid, which I really needed then. But maybe the most amazing thing is that those songs co-exist on the second side of Let It Be with “Gary’s Got A Boner.” In that dichotomy lies the ragged genius of my favorite band.

Spoon, “The Agony Of Laffitte” from A Series Of Sneaks
Britt Daniel brings such an elegance to all of his songs; I’m always in awe of him. This is obviously a harsh song about their A&R guy, but it’s also beautifully rendered and works whether you know the story or not. In fact, in 2015, this era of the music business is so far gone, it’s hard to imagine it existing. Perhaps the lesson is that great songs live on, while expense accounts get shut down. The whole thing comes off as a monument to artistry and persistence.

Strand Of Oaks, “Goshen 97” from Heal
This band’s Heal was one of my very favorite records of the last year. It has all this kick-ass guitar playing alongside really great songs with honest—almost jarring—lyrics. This is one of the more rousing songs on the album, but still has some sadness in there. I like how Tim Showalter goes back to capture what music meant to him as a kid, and how it seemingly saved him, but then let him go. “Before I got fat, drunk and mean/Everything was still ahead” is a pretty incredible line. Somehow, in acknowledging his adult pitfalls, he takes back the hope he once had and makes it his own again.

Bruce Springsteen, “The River” from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live 1975-1985
This is one of the peak songs for me as a lifetime Springsteen fan. I love the story here before the song starts about how he deals with his draft notice, and how complex the whole thing is regarding the war and fi ghting with his father and confusion and fear. I can tear up listening to it still, and I’ve heard it a million times. And then he gets to the song, which is crushing in itself. I really love songs that are able to move the story forward quickly. Bruce does that in this song so well: “Then I got Mary pregnant /And man, it was all she wrote/And for my 19th birthday /I got a union card and a wedding coat.” In one stanza he bridges childhood to adulthood with all the detail the audience needs.

Velvet Underground, “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together” from 1969: The Velvet Underground Live
A few years back, I got really into the version of this on Lou Reed’s Street Hassle LP. I ended up chopping it up and turning it into walk-on music for the Hold Steady. I had to chop it up because I wanted to come onstage at the big drum fill, and it sort of comes later in the song. When I made my first solo record, Clear Heart Full Eyes, producer Mike McCarthy and I were listening to a lot of solo Lou Reed. There are a number of songs that were recorded by both VU and Lou as a solo artist. Listening to both versions helped me grasp the differences between songs, instrumentation, arrangement and production. Those run together in a lot of rock situations. This is just one of the many ways Lou Reed has helped me out over the years.

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