From The Desk Of They Might Be Giants: Five 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.


Flansburgh: These days, folks in bands get asked to write a lot of things. I recently wrote a piece about a bunch of songs I love but for whatever reason it was cut, so as I wrap things up here, I resubmit to y’all—the great internet public—10 of my all time favorite soul songs.

The world of soul music is as wide as it is deep. Oldies radio does the genre a huge disservice by focusing almost entirely on Motown and ignoring regional records of the era whose influence proved just as important to British and American rock acts. Here is a quick list of some awesome soul cuts that might be a bit fresher to the uninitiated. All these tracks are really classics of soul and I guarantee would be a welcome addition to any playlist.

“Express Yourself,” Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Charles brings an unrivaled level of excitement to his vocal performance. By the end of the song, it seems he is truly losing his mind. If you find yourself DJing a wedding, this song will fill the dance floor and get ’em swinging from the chandeliers just about as well as any track out there.

“I Can’t Stand The Rain,” Ann Peebles
The percolating drum machine in this track sets a haunted vibe that all drum programmers envy. It’s a good sample, but it’s an even better song!

“It’s Your Thing,” the Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers career is amazing in almost every way, and their transition into the funkier side of things led to some amazing recordings. This is one of them.

“Teasin’ You,” Willie Tee
Willie Tee specialized in this kind of song and revisited the form in few different tracks. Although the track has a very light touch, there is an insidious undertow. I bet Willie was a tough dude.

“Check Your Bucket” Eddie Bo
Growing up in Boston, I knew the Duke And The Drivers version that was in constant rotation on WBCN, along with J. Geils Band covers of soul classic from the mid-’60s. Hearing the original recording lead me into the whole world of New Orleans soul. Eddie Bo had a very long career, but all in the 45-rpm single era, so his legacy is largely lost except to rare record collectors and some placements on compilations.

Videos after the jump.