From The Desk Of They Might Be Giants: Five More Soul Songs I Love And Why

TMBGLogoPerhaps it’s poetic license that has seen They Might Be Giants—Johns Flansburgh and Linnell—through a voluminous series of ups, downs and holding patterns over its three decades in operation. TMBG’s second adult album in five years and its 16th overall, Nanobots (Idlewild/Megaforce) boasts 25 new songs. Much of Nanobots takes advantage of what is now a fully acclimated quintet that also includes guitarist Dan Miller, bassist Danny Weinkauf and drummer Marty Beller. “We’d been functioning as a two-piece for 10 years, and we really just sort of talked ourselves into it,” says Linnell of the bumpy transition, which began in 1992. “It’s still John and I making the decisions, but we lean heavily on the other guys for a lot of the musical resources. It’s a benevolent dictatorship.” Flansburgh will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new TMBG feature.


“O-O-H Child,”  the Five Stairsteps
This was a staple of ’70s pop radio. The track is an ever-shifting, strangely triumphant parade of different vocalists, toggling between the smooth female vocals to the explosive smoldering male lead. It also has possibly the most extreme stereo panning of tom fills ever committed to tape.

“Tramp,” Carla Thomas & Otis Redding
This is a sweet slice of the Stax Records session band ripping it up. Carla Thomas and Otis Redding, who recorded an entire album of great duets for the label, seem to be having the time of their lives on this joyful, hilarious track.

“It’s A Shame,” the Spinners
Although this is a later track from the soul era with many of the elements of the Philadelphia Sound, it was actually produced by a very young Stevie Wonder. It is clean and slick but in a great way; the song just builds and builds to an amazing crescendo of groove and arrangement.

“Yes We Can Can,” Allen Toussaint
It’s hard to imagine the author of Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights” is also responsible for some of the funkiest music ever recorded but it’s true. Toussaint seems to rediscovered every 10 years or so, and for very good reason. He was an amazing record producer and keyboard player for (Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas), horn arranger (check out “Rock Of Ages” by the Band) and writer of countless hit songs for other soul, funk and rock acts. But personally, I find his own recordings often the best versions of his songs—and while the Pointer Sisters version of this song was a far bigger deal, Toussaint’s original has got me hooked.

“Groove Me,” King Floyd
As they say in the U.K.: “It’s does what it says on the tin.” This song is the groove song.

Videos after the jump.