My Blue Supreme

It may seem premature to form strong opinions about the oeuvre of a band I’ve only been listening to for a few months, but I think Interpol’s latest album just ¬†might be their strongest. That may just be the discovery effect, given that it was the first Interpol record I really paid attention to, and worked my way back to the older stuff. The discovery process happens rarely enough that you’ll excuse me for getting excited. But seriously, though, what a comeback. Absolutely one of my favorite records of last year.

(Photo by Adi Putra).

My Best Friend’s Girl

A steadfast “80’s music” staple that has held up well. Quotation marks because, like a lot of what we lump in with 80’s New Wave, this song (and a lot of the Cars’ other hits) actually came out in the 70’s. Not that petty genre distinctions truly matter when it comes to good music. 1978 was a great year for music, all across the genre board. You can call it New Wave or Post-Punk or whatever you like, but you know exactly the sound I’m talking about, and The Cars were one of the better bands to put that sound on the radio, which is why they’re still on the radio.

My Beautiful Leah

PJ Harvey is an eccentric artist. Is that an understatement? She is. No, I don’t like everything she does. In fact, more often than not, I don’t. Sometimes she’s brilliant, sometimes she’s just loud. But when she’s brilliant, she’s really brilliant. And weird, and sexy, and disturbing, and intense. She’s definitely one of the few who made the 90’s popscape a tiny bit more bearable. Too bad I wasn’t quite the right age to fully appreciate her at the time. Now I can see that she was among the first to showcase how being lewd, raw and demented could be a serious artistic statement for a ladyperson.

My Back Pages

Another one of those Bob Dylan songs that most people agree was definitively done better by someone else. True, The Byrds really elevated it beyond Dylan’s own croak-and-guitar interpretation. If you direct your attention to the video, a birthday celebration of relatively recent mint, you may notice that among the army of big name buddies swapping verses and solos up there, Dylan’s contribution is the least enthusiastic. Roger McGuinn sings it like he owns it, which I guess at this point he kind of does. These kinds of star-packed events often feel like self-congratulating circle jerks, and I’m not sure why Bob Dylan goes to so many of them, given that he inevitably looks like he’d rather be dead. Anyway, this is definitely a Dylan classic that is long out of Dylan’s hands.

Mutoto Kwanza

Add this to your world music dance party mix. (Which surely you already have.) Add this to your regular dance party music mix. It’s hard to think of music more positive and uplifting than Angelique Kidjo’s. Being a positive force in the world is kind of her thing. She’s a prolific activist and humanitarian, very proactive in her positivity. But without knowing that, you can sense it flowing all through her music. It’s just happy music, a seriously effective picker-upper.

Mutilated Lips

If I had known in 1997 how much weird and wonderful was out there, I would have been a much happier camper. As it was, I didn’t know Ween existed, and didn’t find out until much later what I’d missed out on. In those dark times, there really wasn’t any way to find out. Now we have little flashback timebombs flying out of the infinite ether of the internet all the time, breeding nostalgia for things we never actually personally experienced, but theoretically could have. I’m not immune to 90’s nostalgia – I’m the right age for it – and if it begets a Ween comeback, that would be awesome. Come back, guys, there’s got to be at least a little popular demand for your brand of weirdness-as-its-own-reward.

Must Do Something About It

Paul McCartney, the ever egalitarian, will sometimes allow other members of his band to sing lead vocals. It’s a very democratic and fair policy that stems all the way back to the days of letting Ringo do one. Shockingly, even when Paul McCartney steps back and lets someone else take the vocal reigns, it still sounds exactly like a Paul McCartney song. Does that defeat the purpose of letting other people take the spotlight, or does it do the opposite? I think it shows that there’s definitely a ‘Wings sound’ that doesn’t have to be all Paul all the time. As it happens Wings at the Speed of Sound is the most egalitarian Wings record, with songs allocated to each member of the group, then numbering five. Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch even got songwriting credit. It also happens to be one of the better wings albums. More contributions from more people help keep it from sinking into the love song after love song formula McCartney is prone to, but it still sounds cohesive. In this case, drummer Joe English takes on frontman duties, tackling a song written by Paul and Linda. It sounds like Paul wrote it for himself – it is very, very McCartney-esque, and English nails McCartney’s vocal cadences so well that if you didn’t know it, you’d think it was the Cute One himself.