Most Played Songs of 2012

It’s a week early, but I am resetting the play counter on my iTunes account tonight, which has been diligently accumulating records of tracks played on six iPods since its last reset nearly a year ago. As I’ve noted before, this is always a fun process for me, in that our “most played” list represents the place where three listeners with very different tastes find common ground, in places that we often don’t expect.

2012’s list is an interesting and pleasing one, for me. It includes songs from two Iowa-bred bands (Love Songs for Lonely Monsters and Mumfords), which is good, since this is our first complete year here, and I am glad to have found bands I like hereabouts. It also includes seven songs by three Albany bands (three by Kamikaze Hearts, two by K. Sonin and two by Gay Tastee), so I am glad that those old community favorites still resonate with us, half a continent away.

Robin Gibb’s lingering illness and death had us listening to a lot of Bee Gees this year, and the political environment seemed perfectly suited for the most played song of the year in our household: “All Hail the Corporation” by Andy Prieboy, who appears three other times to boot, once solo, twice with Wall of Voodoo. We have a couple of current pop stars (Taylor Swift and Madonna) in the mix, as well as a couple of tracks from ’60s pop titans, The Monkees. There was underground hip hop on the list, plus some funk from West Africa, some classic ’70s progressive rock, and even a cut from the original soundtrack to the notorious blaxploitation film, Dolemite. We’re nothing if not omnivorous in our listening habits.

Here’s the full list, with selected links for further exploration into some of the more obscure tracks, if you’re interested in hearing them:

  1. All Hail the Corporation” by Andy Prieboy
  2. “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by The Bee Gees
  3. This Summer’s Been Good From the Start” by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
  4. “Nights on Broadway” by The Bee Gees
  5. Weekend in Western New York” by Kamikaze Hearts
  6. Reputation” by Love Songs for Lonely Monsters
  7. “Jive Talkin'” by The Bee Gees
  8. “One Brown Mouse” by Jethro Tull
  9. “Send in the Drugs” by Andy Prieboy
  10. Birth Comes to Us All” by The Good Rats
  11. “Flowers of Angst” by Shriekback
  12. “Summer Twin” by Blitzen Trapper
  13. 10 Years” by K. Sonin
  14. “You Just May Be the One” by The Monkees
  15. Now I Wanna Go Home” by Shriekback
  16. “Winston” by Gay Tastee
  17. “How Bad (Do You Want It)?” by Check Engine
  18. Formel” by K. Sonin
  19. “Lament” by King Crimson
  20. “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round” by The Monkees
  21. Dulwich Fox” by Wild Turkey
  22. “Beware” by Death Grips
  23. Da Supafriendz” by Vast Aire featuring DOOM
  24. “Every Valley Is Not a Lake” by Cold War Kids
  25. Creeper” by the Soul Rebellion Orchestra
  26. “The Grass is Greener” by Wall of Voodoo
  27. Feeling You Got” by El Rego et ses Commandos
  28. 4 Hours” by Clock DVA
  29. Beautiful Brand New” by Gay Tastee
  30. Beverly Hills” by Kamikaze Hearts
  31. “The Great Deceiver” by King Crimson
  32. Blues for the 18th” by Jethro Tull
  33. “Five Point Turn” by Kamikaze Hearts
  34. “Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars
  35. “SOLD!” by Mumfords
  36. “40 Stripes” by Blitzen Trapper
  37. “Ray of Light” by Madonna
  38. “Elvis Bought Dora a Cadillac” by Wall of Voodoo
  39. Love’s Secret Domain” by COIL
  40. “Feedback in the Field” by Plants and Animals

Happy listening in 2013 to you all!!!

As Sure As Eggs is Eggs

1. John Crowley’s Engine Summer is among my all-time favorite books. It has such an unexpected, poignant and profound ending that I immediately re-read the whole book after finishing it the first time, just to experience the text while knowing what was coming at the end. Superb!!! Marcia read it soon after I did, and also counts it as a favorite. Katelin just finished reading it for the first time yesterday. I am glad to (finally) have someone new to discuss it with!

2. To the best of my knowledge, Jim Hodder sang lead vocals on only two commercially released songs: “Dallas” and “Midnight Cruiser” by Steely Dan. “Dallas” was intended to be the group’s debut single, but it was recalled at the last minute and, along with its b-side, “Sail the Waterways,” has pretty much been completely expunged from the Steely Dan catalog by mainstays Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. (Poco did release a cover version of the song years later, though). “Midnight Cruiser” appears on the Dan’s 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, when the group were¬† more democratically apportioning lead vocal tracks, Hodder taking his turn alongside David Palmer (who left the band soon afterward), Fagen and Becker. Once the Fagen-sung “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years” became hits, though, he became the full-time voice of Steely Dan, and Jim Hodder (who was also the group’s drummer) became the second original member of the band to depart after 1973’s Countdown to Ecstasy. (Hodder’s photo appears on the back of Steely Dan’s breakthrough album, Pretzel Logic, though the drum tracks on the album were played by Jim Gordon, with Hodder appearing only as a backing vocalist on “Parker’s Band”). After some spotty session and studio work in his post-Steely Dan years, Jim Hodder drowned in his own swimming pool in 1990, at the age of 42. So does it seem weird for me to claim him as one of my all-time favorite singers based on just two (amazing) songs? Click those links above to hear them yourself, before calling me crazy . . .

Video of the Month: Can’t Stop Watching . . .

How awesome to see some long-time Albany friends and neighbors in this fantastic new live-in-the-studio clip! Jason Martin is an extraordinary artist, and I’ve followed his work happily and eagerly for years and years, having first interviewed him for Metroland way back in 1998. How many people do you know whose calling card reads “Artist, Musician, Wolfman, Consultant”? Not many, I’m betting, though Jason Martin is fantastic in each of those pursuits, as a spin through his generous and fascinating website will prove.

Jason also performed twice on Sounding Board, The CableACE Award-winning television show I wrote for and hosted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A clip from his 2001 performance (featuring me introducing the show in one of the garish Salvation Army shirts I always wore on air) is now available online, so you can compare/contrast what Jason and I looked and sounded like then. Jessie Pellerin appears in both clips, too, as a clarinet player in the 2001 one and as the drummer in the 2012 one. Troy Pohl (the bassist in the 2012 clip) was one of the primary singer-songwriters for Kamikaze Hearts, who made my Top 21 Albums of 2012 list last week.

It’s wonderful to see them all making such great music together here!

Visions of Angels

1. As November turns into December, Ashby Avenue in Des Moines is once again rapidly transforming into America’s Prettiest Christmas Block. Despite my deeply-seated Grinchly tendencies, I have already done my neighborly duty and hung an entirely credible (if not extravagantly complicated) string of blue and white lights around the front of our house. We had to take down a very big (but very sick) old tree in our front yard this fall, so when we replace it in the spring, we’ll have something else out front to hang lights on next year, adding a bit of depth to our holiday presentation. Cars are already beginning to slowly cruise our block with their headlights out, and in the weeks ahead, we’ll be watching similarly-darkened limousines and tour buses crawl by, filled with folks paying their chosen livery professionals for the privilege of gawking at our festively lighted neighborhood. How nice to be able to see it every night, for free!

2. Marcia and I went to see Ang Lee’s Life of Pi at our neighborhood movie theater on Friday night. We paid the premium price for the 3-D version, got our absurdly expensive popcorn and bottled water, and walked into a movie theater with a shockingly, oppressively tiny screen, so that no grand theatrical experience was going to be possible. When the film started, the projectionist didn’t make the adjustment from 2-D to 3-D correctly, so we had a black bar blocking the screen for part of the previews, and throughout the movie, the edges of the print were cut off, most glaringly during an important scene with subtitles, that we could not see fully, because they were projected under the bottom of the screen. I turned to Marcia at some point during the evening and said: “That’s it . . . I am done leaving home to see movies.” And I meant it. We have a large TV at the house with a good sound system and a Blu-Ray player, and it is cheaper for me to buy used Blu-Ray discs of movies than it is for us to go see a film in theater, and the experience is orders of magnitude better at home than it is in a theater. The movie itself was good, for what it’s worth, though its visuals were washed out and muddy for me because of the crappy 3-D effect that does little more than give me a headache and make the film on the screen look blurry. I may have to buy this one as a used Blu-Ray disc a year from now and watch it in the way it deserves to be seen, in the privacy of my own home.

3. USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was deactivated this week after 51 years of active duty Naval service. The Big E was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steaming on the power provided by eight A2w reactors. While I never actually served onboard the Enterprise, she does have some special significance and resonance for me. First, her prototype reactors (A1W-A and A1W-B) were located at the Naval Reactors Facility at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, where I worked from 1991 to 1993. The A1W reactors were still being used to qualify sailors for fleet service at the time, and I did my qualifying training as a radiological controls worker in those plants. Second, in my last Naval Reactors job, I was the contracting officer who negotiated and managed a lot of equipment contracts related to Enterprise‘s mid-’90s refueling complex overhaul, so when Big E retired this week, she still had a lot of instrumentation, control, steam generator, circuit breaker and refueling equipment onboard that I would have priced and purchased on behalf of the nation’s taxpayers. She’s a legendary and important ship, and I’m proud to have played a tiny role in Enterprise‘s amazing career. I’m hoping the Navy turns the Big E into a public museum somewhere at some point, so I can go check up on the stuff I bought for her.