Rhett Miller is a believer. Putting his iPod on shuffle, the Old 97’s frontman entrusts it to make the perfect mix tape for MAGNET. Miller also has faith in The Believer (Verve Forecast), his second solo outing of smart, countrified pop. From his home in Hudson Valley, N.Y., Miller dances the iPod shuffle.
OPAL “Harriet Brown” (1989)
Opal is the guitarist (David Roback) who went on to form Mazzy Star. It was his earlier band, super-psychedelic and with a different vocalist. Instead of Hope Sandoval, it was Kendra Smith. Now she lives up in Humboldt County on a farm. Dude, it’s this really beautiful, spacey stuff. I feel like Kendra never got her due.
PERNICE BROTHERS “Number Two” (2003)
Joe Pernice obviously was built to be a poet, but in this day and age when poetry is vilified, he had to turn to music. It has that great line, “I hope this letter finds you crying/It would feel so good to see you cry.” He’s a very sad guy.
ELVIS COSTELLO “It’s Time” (1996)
The first time I heard this, he was performing on Letterman. So I bought the record, and I couldn’t believe the job they had done butchering it in production. It’s all loops and drum machines and super-distorto guitar. It’s a nightmare, really.
WEDDING PRESENT “Anyone Can Make A Mistake” (1987)
I flew to Boston one time to see the Wedding Present play at the Paradise. I was probably 22 or 23, and the Old 97’s had just made our first record. I gave David Gedge a copy, and I saw the look on his face, which I’ve since come to recognize because it’s appeared on my face. You take the record from the sweet but sad-looking teenager and say, “Uh yeah, I’ll listen to this.”
ELLIOTT SMITH “I Better Be Quiet Now” (2000)
My wife and I went on our first date in London to Royal Albert Hall to see him play. Everybody was sitting down. My wife is a rock ’n’ roll chick from Ohio. She got fed up halfway through, stood up and danced and waved her arms in the air and yelled at all the British audience members to get up off their asses. It’s when I knew I loved her.
STONE ROSES “Elizabeth My Dear” (1989)
I lumped the Stone Roses in with the keyboard/ Manchester/ecstasy bands I despised. I found out later that it was unfair because they really had something cool. This is a bittersweet murder ballad set to the tune of “Scarborough Fair,” where he’s about to kill his girlfriend.
SALVATION ARMY “Going Home” (1982)
This and R.E.M.’s Reckoning were records that got put on repeat in my bedroom at my parents’ house in Dallas as a kid. But this is an especially indicative song of Michael Quercio’s writing style because it was so imagistic. I remember reading that he had written it while he was dyeing a girlfriend’s hair. I think they were tripping. It’s just all about colors. [Due to a change in band name, this song also appears on a 1992 reissue credited to Befour Three O’Clock, which later became the Three O’Clock. —Ed.]
CHAPPAQUIDDICK SKYLINE “Theme To An Endless Bummer” (2000)
It’s telling that my iPod picked two songs by Joe Pernice, because he’s my favorite guy working these days. Joe and I have traded e-mails, but I almost don’t want to pursue him too much because I really love his music. He’s supposed to be a really nice guy, but I don’t want to have to stop listening to it for some reason. There’s something about this song that captures the zeitgeist of Joe’s oeuvre.
PATSY CLINE “Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray” (1957)
This is one of the Patsy Cline songs that I’ve been obsessed with over the years. It’s one of those that I’ve stolen from in my career. I like any song where there’s multiple characters. This one has the line, “I watched her take him from me.” It’s a fucked-up sentiment.
BRENDAN BENSON “I’m Blessed” (1996)
I did an ASCAP songwriters party with Brendan years ago. He was really young at the time, and he played solo acoustic. I remember thinking he had some promise, but he sounded a lot like Elliott Smith. When I finally heard (1996’s) One Mississippi, I was blown away. “I’m Blessed” is indicative of that whole record. We’re all searching for the perfect pop songs.