Five Songs You Need To Hear (To Everything There Is a Season)

Goodness, October’s looming, and I’ve not offered one of my ongoing Five Songs You Need To Hear articles in September! Guess I should rectify that this morning, if only to satisfy my own obsessive tendencies. And, of course, to goose your curiosity on some music that you might never have heard before, but should. I’ve already written a few pieces this month about new things that are rocking my world, so rather than reiterating or re-culling cuts from those albums, the five songs below represent older things that have re-emerged into the active playlist hereabouts, with pleasing results. In each case, some external factor jogged my memory, so I also offer a little narrative before each song on why I’m playing and loving it now, in some cases after many years of not having heard it.  As always, you can click here to get all of the previous “Five Songs” installments (scroll down after you click that link to move past this current article), which are now at 19 posts and counting. Your Head A Splode.

#1. “I Am The Walrus” by Spooky Tooth. (Why: It played over the end credits of the Watchmen mini-series, which we enjoyed. It’s a shockingly visceral take on a very cerebral Beatles cut).

#2. “Weakling” by Swans. (Why: We watched the outstanding Where Does A Body End documentary this week. Two hours and forty minutes of pummeling, along with some great, informative interviews. Perfect. Brutal. Sweet. Also, note the cover of the 1983 album from which this cut was culled, and compare/contrast to the mask I am wearing in my current profile photo).

#3. “Sweet And Dandy” by Toots and the Maytals. (Why: First, because we watched the film Yardie recently; it was partially set in the early ’70s Jamaican gang war era that framed the epic The Harder They Come film, the classic soundtrack of which featured this song. Second, because Toots Hibbert died this month, alas).

#4. “Come On Over” by Olivia Newton-John. (Why: I wrote a whole article explaining this one).

#5. “Uncloudy Day” by The Staple Singers (Why: We also watched the outstanding Mavis! documentary recently).

Five Songs You Need To Hear (I’m Only Bleeding)

In 2004, I took on a self-imposed project to write and post a poem a day on my website for the entire calendar year. I got it done, but it was a slog. On August 31, 2004, the day’s bit of poesy was called “Twice As Far Behind As Yet To Go,” noting that the year had hit its two-thirds mark, and how it was feeling a bit endless on one plane, but with an end visible ahead on another. With a little editing, it’s a perfectly apt sentiment for August 31, Anno Virum, as well:

It’s summer, yet an illness falls like snow,
atop an ice of hatred hard below.
The dire year drags relentlessly, although
there’s twice as far behind as yet to go.
The joys of friendly discourse are benumbed.
We’re isolated, bludgeoned, stricken dumb.
But as we plot the “to” against the “from:”
there’s twice as far behind as yet to come.
Off in the distance, maybe, we can see
a shoreline from this sea of misery.
Perhaps we can feel hope, to some degree,
with twice as much behind as yet to be.
(The writer sighs on reaching a plateau,
with twice as far behind as yet to go).

If all goes as planned, Marcia and I will wave off 2020 from a new house somewhere in Northern Arizona, knowing that we’ll be in the final three weeks of the worst Presidential term in American history. Please Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Brahma, Flying Spaghetti Monster, [Your Deity Here], let it be so. It’s harder to predict the state of the virus and the festering sores of institutional inequity at that future point, though I suspect that with an anti-scientific, greed-fueled, sexist and racist administration perhaps twitching in its death throes, its purveyors and enablers may purposefully make things worse before they have any possibility of getting better. But again, LORD willing and the creek don’t rise, come the end of January, we will most hopefully be in a place where those who steer our collective colorful caravan are actively interested in seeking a path toward health, justice, social equity, security, safety, stability and charity. We’re desperately in need of a new compass pointing that way.

A stirring soundtrack for that trip wouldn’t hurt either. Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to this installment of my ongoing “Five Songs You Need to Hear” series. Which was motivated primarily because I just nabbed one particular song that you most definitely need to hear, right now: Public Enemy’s 2020 remix of their towering 1989 anthem “Fight the Power,” from Spike Lee’s equally thrilling film Do The Right Thing.  The core riffs, beats and rhymes of the original version of “Fight the Power” are just so iconic all these years on, and I am most pleased that P.E. have returned to this classic with a topical and timely update, involving some of the many talented folk they have inspired over the years.

I vividly remember hearing “Fight the Power” for the first time when Marcia and I saw Do The Right Thing (one of my all-time favorite films) in Washington DC on or very near its release date, and it opened with Rosie Perez dancing and boxing on the big screen with that song just absolutely kicking!!! It remains the only time I can ever recall an audience clapping, standing and whooping for an opening credit segment. (You should watch it now). As provocative and inspirational as the song was in and out of its original context, it’s dismaying to think that it’s been 31 years (“1989, a number . . .”) since Spike released that great film, in which the climactic scenes hinge upon a black man being choked to death by a police officer. I guess I hoped, dreamed, maybe even believed in 1989 that things would have changed by 2020 in ways that such acts would be inconceivable, not commonplace. But nope, we’re not there yet. And we’re maybe not even twice as far behind as yet to go on that front. We’ve got work. Let’s do it. Voting smart would be a great step, for starters.

The other four songs in this month’s installment are also 2020 cuts with topical themes, food for thought, fuel for action. You can click here to get all of the previous “Five Songs” installments (scroll down after you click that link to move past this current article), which are now at 18 posts and counting. Loads of musical wonders and weirdness await intrepid explorers there. Get down to the sound of the funky drummer!

#1. “Fight the Power: Remix 2020 (Feat. Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Jahi, YG and Questlove)” by Public Enemy

#2. “Amoral” by Napalm Death

#3. “Asylum Seeker” by Gordon Koang

#4. “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” by Run The Jewels

#5. “Please Don’t Fuck Up My World” by Sparks

Five Songs You Need To Hear (It Felt Like A Kiss)

It’s been a little while since I did one of these ostensibly-monthly featurettes, so today seems like a fine day to return to form and schedule. For this installment of “Five Songs You Need to Hear,” I’ve picked cuts that are all from 2020 releases, and are by bands who I’d never heard prior to This Foul Plague Year. I’m always pleased to find exciting new artists of interest, in keeping with my “the best music ever made is being made right now” ethos. While I didn’t specifically intend it to be that way, after compiling this list, I noted that there’s a decidedly international feel to the selections, with the artists featured representing Mexico, Canada, Norway, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. That’s been fairly typical of my listening this year, and I suspect my year-end Best Albums list will be fairly multi-culti accordingly. Beyond those thematic links, the five songs have nothing else in common stylistically, but I am loving them all, I doubt you’ve heard them all, and I think you will enjoy them once you give them a spin. You can click here to get all of the “Five Songs” installments (scroll down when you get there to move past this article), which are now at 17 posts and counting. Loads of musical wonders and weirdness await the brave and intrepid there. Get ’em in your ear holes!

#1. “Chapter III: The Mortician’s Lamenting Dirge” by Deathnoisefrequency

#2. “Relativistic Jets” by Par Ásito

#3. “Texas Drums Pt I” by Pottery

#4. “Spiritual Change” by Etuk Ubong

#5. “The First Thing I Remember” by Slow Is The New Fast

Five Songs You Need to Hear (This Bird Has Flown)

Been a bit since the last installment of my ongoing “Five Songs You Need to Hear” series, so tonight seems a good evening to rectify that situation. As reported here and here, Marcia and I made our first foray out of the Des Moines metro area this past weekend, with a nice road-trip up to rural Minnesota, about five hours driving each way. I always make sure I’ve got fresh music playlists when we take to the highways, mixing hot new stuff with favorite cool classics. So for this month’s “Five Songs,” I’ve picked cuts that are guaranteed road-trip fare, good for blasting and shouting along, whenever your own quarantine situation lifts enough to allow you to drive, drive, drive. Other than that thematic link, the five songs have nothing else in common, except that I love them all, I doubt you’ve heard them all, and I think you will enjoy them once you give them a spin. You can click here to get all of the “Five Songs” installments (scroll down when you get there to move past this article), which are now at 16 posts and counting. Loads of musical wonders and weirdness await the brave and intrepid there. Happy listening! And safe travels!

#1. “Ride The Party Bus” by Jed Davis

#2. “Gravel Road” by Clutch

#3. “Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J

#4. “Shove It” by Santigold

#5. “Rocks In The Road” by Uriah Heep

(I’m Always Touched By Your) Five Songs You Need to Hear

I will be doing my summary “Best Albums of 2020 (First Half)” report in the next couple of weeks, six months after I posted my comprehensive Best Albums of 2019 feature. (That was the 28th consecutive year I’ve done such a year-end article, in a combination in print and digital outlets; almost all of them are on the website now). I usually try to do my Albums of the Year reports in early December, recognizing that things that come out after that just aren’t likely to have enough time in the hopper  and proven legs for me to want to claim them as being among the year’s greatest musical achievements. Because of that timing practice, I allow myself a wee bit of calendar fudging for mid-year reports; if something hit the streets in the last couple of weeks of a given year, but its greatest impact is most fully felt in the following year, I’ll still include it on the list.

As as teaser for that list, I offer a fresh installment of my “Five Songs You Need to Hear” series, with each of these selections culled from albums likely to appear on my mid-year Best Albums list. As always, the premise here is that I love all of these songs, you have probably not heard all (or any) of them, and I think that you might want to do so. So give ’em a listen, and then maybe explore their five host albums further. If this series piques your curiosity, here’s the link to all of the “Five Songs” installments (scroll down when you get there to move past this article), which is now at 15 posts and counting. Loads of musical wonders and weirdness await the brave and intrepid there. Happy listening!

#1. “Poisoned Kobra (Shrouds Remix) by Hyperlacrimae

#2. “Vinter” by Myrkur

#3. “Conveyor/Boxes” by Moses Sumney

#4. “Five and Dime” by Hazel English

#5. “Ten Grand Goldie” by Einstürzende Neubauten

Five Songs You Need to Hear (In The Name Of Love)

Look at that, it’s apparently been a whole month since our last installment of “Five Song You Need to Hear.” Time really flies when you’ve become unstuck in time. Good thing I’ve got a calendar to help anchor myself in my unreal reality. The fact that we’ve got freeze warnings in effect over Mother’s Day weekend only adds to the sense that we’re living in some twisted liminal space where nothing is quite like it should be. Oh wait. This is Iowa. Awful weather is actually normal here. Phew! There’s something you can count on to be consistent, no matter what else may come. Carry on.

As always, the premise here is that these songs don’t have anything in common except that I’ve been listening to them lately, I love them all, you have probably not heard them, and I think that you might want to do so. So give ’em a spin! Or a click! Or whatever it is that we call pushing the “play” button on our computer screens these days! If you like any or all of these recommended cuts, here’s the link to all of the installments in the series (scroll down when you get there), which is now at 14 posts and counting. Loads of musical wonders and weirdness await the brave and intrepid. Happy listening!

#1. NRBQ, “Magnet”

#2. Against All Logic, “Illusions of Shameless Abundance” (Featuring Lydia Lunch)

#3. Shriekback, “Mothloop”

#4. Theophilus London, “Revenge” (Featuring Ariel Pink)

#5. Magma, “Üdü Ẁüdü”