MAGNET Feedback With Mark Eitzel

I saw this piece as an interview. MAGNET chose these songs for me, and someone at the magazine really knows what I like. I mean, there are many others—“Heart And Soul,” Joy Division; “I Cover The Waterfront,” Billie Holiday (live at the Storyville Club); “Never Be That Tough,” Simone White; Digital Gardens, Big Sir (the whole fucking record). And on into infinity. But I was very happy to talk about abstract songs that don’t need huge choruses to make time disappear. —Mark Eitzel

Bird Of Youth, “Bombs Away, She Is Hear To Stay” from: Defender
The undefeated Beth Wawerna writes an anthem for empowerment that has no chorus. It doesn’t lecture, there’s no argument—it states simply that she is not moved (though, of course, she is), that it will take an army to move her (and it will), and I would gladly go into battle to defend this song.

Buzzcocks, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” from: Love Bites
Basically the soundtrack for the early “Mark”—and also to a slightly lesser extent for the later one. Its genius is simplicity and honesty and teenage bounce.

Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” from: You Want It Darker
I guess what it comes down to is this: You balance on a beam, and some teeter and totter, and some beat gravity. LC could balance on a toe. I saw him once, and it changed my life. Later, I got thrown out of the festival. This song is made of smoke. It’s like something from that Christian station off the 5. But that’s all such fakery. This is the way a believer actually speaks.

Elvis Costello, “Lipstick Vogue” from: This Year’s Model
“I wouldn’t worry/I had so much fun/Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being.” Come on. It’s just one of the best songs ever written. This lyric is one of those brilliant pieces of confetti the gods drizzle on our little meat parade. It’s bitter youth, injured pride and that great glittering knife where irony becomes anger. Listen to this song—you don’t have to listen to me. Elvis is such a genius.

Giant Sand, “1972” from: Chore Of Enchantment
I love this band. My favorite Howe Gelb story is how many years ago he tried to beat jet lag in the U.K. once by doing a hit of acid every day—and this song sounds just like that. Not sure what happened in 1972, but it was quick and not without a little pain.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Chuck E.’s In Love” from: Rickie Lee Jones
So this song was a big hit with my friends in 1979 —and really is a perfect expression of the liberated hipster—absolutely individual and rare. You can’t fake the joy in her voice. She was part of the zeitgeist and also right there on her block. It’s the kind of song the world triangulates around. Me? At the time, I was all self-important youth. It was all Magazine and Joy Division and the Raincoats and Iggy. I listen to this more honestly now than I ever could then. I love her, and I wonder if she is sick or happy to sing this song now. Probably happy.

Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” from: single
I grew up with a healthy distrust of Elvis. Maybe I read the NME too much at the time. This is iconic because: 1) You can see him singing this coke bloat, sweaty and karate kicking way on the other side from sunlight; 2) You can hear it in the BVs and the way the producer lowers and raises the volume at the end just like the live show to really make them cheer; 3) He sings it like Job. This song could be his actual life. Who could he possibly trust? He made his brand, and now it’s king-sized, in a mirrored room, and he can yellow those sheets railing against a justice that will never answer him back.

R.E.M., “Nightswimming” from: Automatic For The People
The great thing about this song is that it is no metaphor. There really was a postcard on the dash. They really did vanish into the night in a van. There is a sad acceptance. I never thought it was actually about swimming—though I’m sure that did happen. We all make up stories about the song, and the best ones are evocative without imposing the story on the listener. No one cares what you know—they wanna know if you can take them somewhere. This is simple as love.

Judee Sill, “Jesus Was A Crossmaker” from: Judee Sill
A flawless person. I really think she wrote from such a pure place. If she were an artist, all her paintings would be skies with perfect rainbows with smiling souls rising through the clouds to a heavenly reward, yet somehow you know they are crying inside and the whole thing made with crayon. She’s the god above greatly amused. This was a live performance, though she plays so perfectly you can’t tell until 2:00 or so, people applaud at the end. Almost nothing beats her song “The Kiss” (see the version on The Old Grey Whistle Test), because she lets herself into those tonalities that are of the spirit. It ebbs and flows just like hope.

Patti Smith Group, “Pissing In A River” from: Radio Ethiopia
It’s been years. Dammit, I love her. This track is ambitious and American and simple. Makes me feel stupid to write about it. It sounds sculpted and also improvised. It’s a piece of art from artists. It’s generous. Sometimes in songs I can hear applause lines written in, and though I’ll applaud almost anything, it’s kinda bullshit. This thing takes you over and leaves you gasping for air by the end. “Should I grow the length of the river?” Wow.

Songs: Ohia, “Hold On Magnolia” from: The Magnolia Electric Co.
The version I have is from a show in Atlanta. You can tell there are 50 people in front entranced. The rest are talking. It’s an amazing recording, like hearing something from the broken heart of America. He sounds like an angel. A song of forgiveness and beauty. Still they talk and talk. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this without actually knowing what’s going on. All I see is the light shining. Such a great songwriter. Check out the live concert on YouTube from Columbia, S.C. A perfect show.

MAGNET Feedback With Alejandro Escovedo

Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent two-thirds of my life listening to music and the other one-third writing and playing songs. Sometimes even in my sleep. Since I was really young, records were huge for me. I would look at those 45s and wonder how they were made and what made them sound so magical. I still feel that way. No matter how many years I make music, I still feel like it’s the one constant in my world that makes the most sense. I hope I always feel that way. Listening to and writing about these songs was a rush of so many memories, and where I was when I first heard them and who I was with. It’s really how I store history in my head: what music was around then. It’s like we’re all part of one big family of songs, and sometimes certain ones make the most sense. Then things change, and other songs take over. I hope it will always be that way for me and everybody else who loves all these sounds. —Alejandro Escovedo

Chris Bell, “I Am The Cosmos” from: I Am The Cosmos
Big Star still comes through loud and clear from more than 40 years ago, and a big reason for that is Chris Bell. He had a cosmic touch he brought to rock ’n’ roll, and coupled with Alex Chilton’s more streetwise sense, they formed a complete whole. Because Bell didn’t get to stick around as long he became a bit of an unsung hero, but to everyone whoever really listened to Big Star, it was obvious that Bell was a big part of what made that band so unique and unequaled. On this solo song, he almost sounds like he knows his time on the planet is limited and he’s getting ready to depart. Right into the cosmos.

John Cale, “Paris 1919” from: Paris 1919
There’s only one John Cale, and there won’t be any more. Here’s someone who had heavy classical training, came to America to work with a symphony under a Leonard Bernstein fellowship and ended up changing rock ’n’ roll forever in the Velvet Underground. He, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker didn’t last long as a band, only two albums with Cale in it, but nothing was the same after them. It was Cale who brought in so much of the musical experimentation into songs like “Heroin” and “Sister Ray.” And then he was gone. By the time he made Paris 1919, he was ready to add a lot of his classical influences and bump them right up to rock ’n’ roll. This song still feels like it’s part of a bigger picture, almost like a movie, and Cale is pushing away at all the boundaries to get as many influences in as he can without it being cluttered. John and I worked together, and it changed my life. He showed me there is nothing to ever be afraid of in music. It’s always a friend.

13th Floor Elevators,“I’ve Got Levitation” from: Easter Everywhere
There was never a band like the 13th Floor Elevators. Their main lyricist, Tommy Hall, also just happened to play electric jug. He was on a one-man quest to elevate the world through the use of LSD and thought he could do that by starting a rock band in 1965 in Austin. He enlisted 17-year-old Roky Erickson to sing his lyrics, and put him with a band called the Lingsmen. “I’ve Got Levitation” is a call-to-arms for the Elevators’ quest. The manic bubbling of Hall’s jug, which was played with a microphone held up to the top of it while Hall blew away feverishly, still perplexes listeners. “What is that sound?” It was the sound of the music of the spheres, and it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever do it quite like this again. The band had a small hit with first single “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in ’66, but after that it was police harassment and mental hijinks that finally did them in. Some went to jail, some went insane. Either way, the 13th Floor Elevators were over before they really got started. To hear them now is to be amazed at how passionate and powerful they were. They really believed their music could change the world, and for those who heard it and agreed, it clearly did.

Calexico, “Falling From The Sky” from: Edge Of The Sun
Whenever I drive from Texas to California and I go through New Mexico and Arizona, I think of Calexico and then try to listen to one of their albums as quick as I can. They capture the wide-open mystery of so much of that land and remind me what an endless melting pot music can be. The way their voices blend with the horns and guitars is something all their own. Sometimes it makes me want to go find them and sit in and feel what a luxury it is to play with musicians like that. One of my dreams is to someday make a whole album with them in some out-of-the-way town; maybe even record it outdoors so the landscape seeps into the songs. “Falling From The Sky” feels like a song that arrived completely written when it came down from the clouds. Calexico is definitely one of America’s treasures.

The Dandy Warhols, “We Used To Be Friends” from: Welcome To The Monkey House
Portland is such a great music city and has been for a long, long time. One of the bands I always think about when it comes to Portland is the Dandy Warhols. They have that proud Portland edge of playing rock with plenty of bite to it. Starting with their name, which immediately flashes feelings of the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol, the band has an uncompromising vibe that the Velvets helped invent 50 years ago. When we were recording last April in Portland, I thought about the Dandy Warhols and what the scene there must have been like when they started. I’m a big fan of finding about how different cities can cause different styles, like when I came to Austin in ’81 and we started Rank & File. I always feel like Portland gave that impetus to the Dandy Warhols: the rain, the coffee, the trees, the river. Everything around the city blends together to give groups their soul.

Sheila E., “Girl Meets Boy” from: single
You can absolutely tell from the first notes in this song dedicated to Prince how heartbroken Sheila was about his passing. I know how close they were and how strong their musical connection was going back all those years. There’s no way this music could’ve been anything different than what it is: a woman pouring out her feelings about someone she loved. As someone in my family, I share Sheila’s pain when she’s singing and also feel all that she’s remembering about her years with Prince. The Escovedos all have a similar spirit in our sensitivity, which no doubt dates back to my parents Cleo and Pedro Escovedo and the way they raised us, which Sheila got directly from her father and my brother Pete. It doesn’t get any deeper than family.

Ryan Adams, “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” from: Heartbreaker
What’s so great about Ryan Adams is how he can mix up wildness and sophistication. Bob Dylan was the king of that in the mid-’60s when he first went electric. That kind of music jumps up the excitement level because it delivers everything. It’s also so hopeful and beautiful. What really comes through is how the singer is out there on a limb and isn’t joking. He’s been sad and he’s been high, and you can immediately hear that in the words, in the voice, in the music, in everything. Pure inspiration.

Neko Case, “People Got A Lotta Nerve” from: Middle Cyclone
Some singers are inspirational from the first note. They convey such a deep compassion that it’s like they’re opening an upbeat way of looking at things. Neko Case has always had that in her voice and songs. She sings about a lot of different things, but somehow always comes through as offering more than what was there before the songs started. Plus, she has Kelly Hogan in her band, which gives her extra points immediately. Kelly came to Portland to sing on my new album and took it all to a whole new level. So hooray for both of them, and for this right-on song that says so much about the modern world.

Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball” from: Wrecking Ball
There’s one thing that’s a given: Bruce Springsteen will always surprise you. It’s mind-blowing about the depth and breadth of the music he’s created and how it never stops. He might go quiet for a minute or two, but you know he’s coming around the corner that’s going to knock you out. “Wrecking Ball” did that to me. It’s like a folk song that has a steam engine attached to it, pushing it forward in a way that turns it into a modern fable. I remember when he first got going and reading the line Jon Landau wrote about seeing the future of rock ’n’ roll and its name was Bruce Springsteen. I never would’ve guessed back then Landau would one day be my manager or that I’d end up onstage singing with Springsteen. But that to me has always been the beauty of rock ’n’ roll: There’s no way to predict what’s possible. “Wrecking Ball” is one of those songs that makes everything seem possible. Whenever I need a shot of energy to get me past a roadblock or brainlock or some other kind of lock, this one always comes to the rescue with flying colors. I hope he sings forever.

David Bowie, “Lazarus” from: Blackstar
David Bowie is probably the most influential musician I’ve had. Something about his approach to what he did got so deep inside me, it’s like he’s always been there. Every time he’d shift styles, I was right there with him. If I had to pick one artist I could listen to for the rest of my life, it would probably be Bowie. When he died, it felt like the world had lost a big part of itself—especially when I heard this song. It seemed like his death was part of his art, which you’d almost expect it to be. Now I go back and listen to all his albums, and each one has a world of memories for me: what I was doing when they came out and what was happening in the world then. It’s like I see history through David Bowie’s songs. I love his voice, I love his writing, I love everything about him. Sometimes I’ll play one of his songs in my sets, and the choice will change depending on how I’m feeling. He really was the ultimate chameleon in rock ’n’ roll, but it was never an act. It felt like that’s who Bowie was at the moment. Whether it’s one of his last songs like “Lazarus” or one of his first, it’s one long line of sheer greatness. I think that will never change for me.

Roky Erickson, “Starry Eyes” from: Don’t Slander Me
When Roky Erickson got out of the Rusk State Hospital for the mentally insane, he was lost. His years in the 13th Floor Elevators had been exhaustive, much of which was due to the massive amounts of LSD the band took. He’d been arrested for marijuana in 1968 and pled insanity to escape prison. Rusk was probably worse. When he finally was free and back in Austin, Doug Sahm set up a recording session with Roky and his band Bleib Alien. They recorded two songs for Sahm’s indie Mars Records, and “Starry Eyes” is one of them. It’s such a pure blast of Texas rock that it’s impossible to see why it didn’t become a big hit. It sounds like something Buddy Holly might have done if he’d lived long enough, and Doug’s chiming guitar and Bill Miller’s electric autoharp create their own Wall of (Austin) Sound. The single got a little airplay here and there but disappeared pretty fast. The vocals are so pleading and pure that to this day, it might be one of the very best things Roky ever recorded. The other side of the single was “Red Temple Prayer,” with the unforgettable chorus “Two-headed dog, two-headed dog/I’ve been working in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog.” Roky was to go on to a whole new career, some of which worked and some didn’t. He’s one of the greatest rockers ever out of Texas and still playing. He even has his own flavor named after him at Amy’s Ice Creams: Roky Road. They should rename a street there Roky Erickson Avenue and turn his birthday, July 15, into a city celebration every year.

Steve Earle, “Transcendental Blues” from: Transcendental Blues
What I’ve always loved so much about this song is that while it could only be by Steve Earle, it’s like he took a time machine back to the ’60s and dropped by a Byrds session in Los Angeles and asked them for help. The backward-sounding guitar solos, the echoed beats and the way he sings might have been inspired by their “My Back Pages” track, but then again Steve is such an unpredictable artist, there’s no way to tell what inspires him. It might be something he cooks up completely in his own head. Either way, there’s a relentless power to this song; at the same time, there’s such an undercurrent of sweetness that runs all the way through it. Maybe even a little Allen Ginsberg. I was born in San Antonio, and Steve is from around there, too, so who knows: We might have bumped into each other as children downtown by the Alamo. And even if we didn’t, it’s still cool to dream about such a meeting of two really little guys looking at each other across the plaza and trading transmissions about sometime ending up in the same racket. But back to “Transcendental Blues.” It’s one of the best songs of the past 25 years and always sends a chill up my spine.

Skip Spence “Cripple Creek” from: Oar
When Moby Grape’s first album came out in 1967, it was one of the best things I heard that year, which included Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and so many other timeless releases. There was something so appealing in all those songs. Two really stuck out: “Indifference” and “Omaha.” When I noticed that each was written by Skip Spence, I knew something amazing was happening. Then I read about how Spence’s mental problems caused him to leave the band and end up in Bellevue’s psych ward in New York. When an Alexander Spence solo record titled Oar arrived in 1969, I couldn’t believe how unique it was. He played all the instruments himself, recorded it in Nashville in three days and then disappeared. All those songs were like listening to someone losing himself but struggling to hang on. I’d for sure never heard anything like it. “Cripple Creek” could have been on the Band’s second album, but only if Richard Manuel had dropped all his defenses and come out the other side. Skip Spence was someone who’d been imbued by brilliance and visions but was battling what came with it. I’ve still never heard an album like Oar. Fifteen years ago, there was a tribute album to Oar called More Oar, and I got to record the song called “Diana.” It was cathartic trying to get inside Spence’s mind to try to find the heart of that song. I gave it my best, like the other 16 people on More Oar, including Robert Plant, Beck and Tom Waits. I heard that Skip got to hear the new versions when a nurse played him the tape of the whole album in his hospital room in Santa Cruz, and when it ended, he passed away. I still get chills thinking about that, and how he had lived on the streets and in group homes all those years after he recorded Oar in 1969 and rode his motorcycle back to California from Nashville. And that was pretty much it for Skip Spence: a rock ’n’ roll hero.

Uncle Tupelo, “Gun” from: Still Feel Gone
Having been in a band with a brother, I know what it’s like. Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy in Uncle Tupelo always felt like they were brothers. They had a submerged warfare going on that supplied so much tension that it was impossible not to think they weren’t related. You had to be related to be so dramatic together. This song could have been Jeff’s call to freedom in the band and maybe an early sign he would head off on his own. It’s definitely a rocker that shows his love of rock ’n’ roll, even when he says he sold his guitar to the girl next door. There’s also such a strong undercurrent of something sinister getting ready to happen, maybe it’s him knowing fireworks are coming for the band. When Uncle Tupelo split in half to make Son Volt and Wilco, it’s like fans got a bargain: two great new bands. “Gun” shows what Tweedy had in him and also showed he was only getting started when he did it.

The Velvet Underground, “What Goes On” from: The Velvet Underground
When I bought the third Velvet Underground album, I wasn’t sure what was going on except that it took my breath away. It was a lot quieter and was missing all the wilder instrumental sounds that John Cale brought to the band with his electrified viola. It seemed like the band had turned a corner into almost a folkier era. Of course, I was wrong. They were still the pioneers they’d always been; you just had to listen with open ears. “What Goes On” stood out immediately as one of the highlights. It had a relentless beat from Maureen Tucker’s jungle drums and a hypnotic rhythm guitar pattern, sometimes slashing and never slowing down. There was also this persistent organ playing chords in the background that got completely under my skin. Then there was Lou Reed’s voice. He sounded sweet and angry at the same time, which was one of his specialties. The lyrics were Reed at his best, like a missive from Manhattan that had to be reckoned with. When he broke into what he once called his “ostrich guitar” lead, it felt like a million bees had been let out of their hive and trying to sting you all at once. It was the Velvets at their best. More than 10 years later, I was working at the big Harry Ransom library at the University of Texas in Austin, and on the first day, a grad student came in and brought back all these dozens of books he checked out over the past 10 years. Turns out it was Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison, who’d been working on his doctorate there. We got to be friends later, and he loved coming to our shows and talking. And he could really talk. I wrote a song for Sterling called “Tugboat” after he died in ’95 because he’d ended up working on tugs in the Houston Ship Channel after he got his Ph.D. I never could figure how that happened, but that was so Sterling: enigmatic to the end.

Lucinda Williams, “Are You Alright?” from: West
A great Lucinda Williams song can smash your heart into a million little pieces almost without trying. And this is a great one. She tiptoes right up to the mystery of love and makes it seem like something you can understand, and before the song is over you realize you’ll never realize what it all means, and it’s going to be one of those things where you just have to live with the mystery. And Lucinda does that with such a beautiful voice that sounds like she knows so much more than anybody else. There are times when Lucinda writes like she’s made some kind of deal with a being from the beyond that lets her know everything while we know nothing. She was around Austin when I first got there in ’81, but it was obvious she wouldn’t be there forever. “Are You Alright?” is so direct and disarming, it’s like there are all these laser beams being zapped toward you and there’s no escape. She’s reaching out and asking the one question we all want to hear from someone we love: “Are you alright?” That says it all.

Sir Douglas Quintet, “Mendocino” from: Mendocino
No matter how much time you spend in Texas, whether you’re born there or you end up living in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, El Paso, wherever, Doug Sahm’s music is going to get into your bloodstream. It’s like he’s in the air there, and it’s just a matter of time before songs like “Mendocino,” “She’s About A Mover,” “Groover’s Paradise” or even “You Never Get Too Big And You Sure Don’t Get Too Heavy That You Don’t Have To Stop And Pay Some Dues Sometime” (that’s a real song title) will start bouncing around in your head and your heart. Doug Sahm is Texas music. That should designate him State Musician and put his picture up in the capitol. This song was his comeback from two years of tripping in the Haight-Ashbury with Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and all the others, and brought him back to the top 10. It’s got that far-out vibration that Doug loved so much but also was tight and compact and delivered the pop goods. It was also his last hit single, but that didn’t matter to Doug. He was always in it for the groove and had about as much fun as any human that ever lived. Whenever I want to reconnect with my true roots, I listen to Doug, in the Quintet, the solo albums and right on through the Texas Tornados. He was a guiding light forever and still is. Sometimes I think it’d be fun to get with the Quintet’s Vox organist Augie Meyers to make a whole album in one day. Just doing Doug songs we both love. I did “Too Little Too Late” for a tribute album a few years ago and was so happy to take one of Doug’s later and lesser-known songs and really do a trip on it. Doug would’ve been happy about it for a few seconds, would’ve told me he liked it, but quickly added his original was better. That was Doug, and that’s why we loved him. I miss him every day.

MAGNET Feedback With Martha Wainwright


I must admit to having written about songs of artists that I’ve had some contact with. It’s been a great privilege in my life to have worked with many of the songwriters on this list. When I hear and see other people doing what I do, it helps to form who I am as an artist. I guess I’ve been shaped by the music and artists who I’ve listened to over the years. Many I envy for their talent, and some I try to emulate in my own way. I can only hope that they feel the same way about me. —Martha Wainwright

Antony And The Johnsons, “Hope There’s Someone” from: I Am A Bird Now
I remember seeing Antony, now ANOHNI, play a lot in the early 2000s and getting a sense of how special she was, but it wasn’t until I Am A Bird Now and this song that Antony became a more realized artist. The right combination of sheer incredible talent, being truly and wonderfully different and an incredible album launched this artist into fame. She pushed out the walls of what is considered acceptable and normal and made the world a better place—a world where a song like this and a voice like this can cradle us in its beauty.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “God Is In The House” from: No More Shall We Part
A beautiful modern-day gospel triumph. I must also say it’s amazing having a mom and aunt who are Bad Seeds. Kate and Anna were the back singers for this album, and I don’t think they even realized how hip they were for being in the Bad Seeds. Of course, they came back from the studio refreshed and looking younger, having fallen in love with Nick and all the guys in the band.

Leonard Cohen, “Tower Of Song” from: I’m Your Man
I’ve been covering this song since I was 16 years old. Not only is it lyrically brilliant, but it speaks to me as a child of musicians. I feel I’m in the tower of song and that the legends around me are like neighbors in life. Such a great concept and image of Hank Williams in the tower and the power of song.

Billie Joe & Norah, “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine” from: Foreverly
This one is tough because Songs Our Daddy Taught Us by the Everly Brothers was in constant rotation in our house. The record was my mom’s copy, and it has wafted in and out of my life as long as I can remember: Songs My Mommy Taught Me. Everything that Norah does is natural, effortless and genuine. Her voice fits this music very well. I can’t say I don’t prefer the original, but kudos for doing it.

Beth Orton, “Central Reservation” from: Central Reservation
This is a fun sort of “feel good” song from Beth’s seminal record, but it doesn’t lack substance. Nothing that Beth does lacks substance. She is an artist with great turmoil and feeling in her lyrics, and her charm, intelligence and beauty come out in her work.

Prince, “Kiss” from: Under The Cherry Moon
Well, what can you say about a triple threat? The man is beyond reproach, and the song is perfect pop.

Steely Dan, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” from: Pretzel Logic
Steely Dan is one of my favorite bands in the world, which irks some of my friends because they just don’t get the appeal. This is probably one of their most famous songs and is a classic example of quirky, fun lyrics and fantastic musicianship. This song puts me in a mood of unabashed freedom. It makes me want to dance badly and make out with strangers.

Sufjan Stevens, “Go! Chicago! Go! Yeah!” from: Illinois
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t both jealous of and a little in love with Sufjan Stevens (despite never saying his name exactly correctly). He came to my birthday party recently and made me a pair of pants. Very cool pants. I wear them with great pride. I love his creativity, and this song is a good example of it.

Richard And Linda Thompson, “Shoot Out The Lights” from: Shoot Out The Lights
This is brilliant! It’s music as communication and language.

tUnE-yArDs, “Water Fountain” from: Nikki Nack
Super fun yet disturbing, too. Merrill is a brilliant artist with a sound like no one else. I remember the first time I saw her on Jools Holland, and I needed to stand up and stand right in front of the screen and watch closer. This is a great song and an example of her wit and ability to make a statement in a powerful way. I’m glad to report that she wrote a song for my new record, Goodnight City, and she plays on it, too, so I sound a little like her, which is exciting!

Rufus Wainwright, “Going To A Town” from: Release The Stars
What a powerful song—an anthem really. Of Rufus’ songs, this one is one of the most direct. It gets to the point and strikes the perfect chord. Rufus has a poetic-yet-unpretentious way of telling it like it is on this song. It makes you want to do better.

MAGNET Feedback With Madeleine Peyroux


Nowadays, there seems to be more music available and fewer curated places to look for what’s out there. I admit I’m not one who tries to keep up with the times, perhaps because I’ve lived in places where the radio didn’t help me through the rough stuff, perhaps because I got so caught up in the older records around the house. That said, on the rare occasion that I’m purposefully looking out for what’s new, I can’t do better than to ask a person. For me, it’s still the best and most influential way to find good music: to get it from someone else’s playlist, from the selection of a fellow human’s hand. So I’m honored, though somewhat perturbed, by having this responsibility in my lap this time. Hopefully, I can try to give back some of what I got over the years. —Madeleine Peyroux

Willie Nelson, “Crazy” from: …And Then I Wrote
How does Willie Nelson sing? Is he possessed by some sixth sense, something or someone that speaks with melody in every breath? I could listen to just Willie’s voice forever, I think. Ironically, it doesn’t matter what song it is. His own compositions are wonderful, such as this classic doozy that brought Patsy Cline into mainstream limelight, the lyrics of which make as much a winning case for minimalism as his vocal style. He might also be a good example of how a singer writes with their own voice in mind, though I doubt he’d admit to it. When I listen to him I feel a rare sort of calm, self-awareness and a simultaneous drenching in melody. That would be the kind of monk I’d like to be when I grow up: one who is silenced by the simple power of Willie’s voice.

Chet Baker, “Do It The Hard Way” from: It Could Happen To You
Another “artiste” who might be lost in some historical lexicon. Chet Baker’s sound is deceptively simple, but every note and every phrase is concisely put together. It is sensual and “cool,” yes, but that is only a small part of the story. Like all masters, his sound lingers on the melody, and his phrasing gives us a character with a background. I think we know who this person is when he is singing, unlike his public persona, which was under the radar and eventually tragic. Another wonderful, swooning, lesser-known track of his is “While My Lady Sleeps.” He’s that calming sound that comes off the waves at dusk, when the day’s work is done and all’s right with the world. A good friend to have, indeed.

Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” from: I’m Your Man
Well, there are just too many great Leonard Cohen songs to mention. And for the record, pun intended, I think his own versions are stunning, and often better than others’ covers, including my own cover of his song “Dance Me To The End Of Love.” Perhaps some of Cohen’s songs are just too powerful to be pegged by any artist, like “Hallelujah,” which has been so often and so well-covered, perhaps best by the late, great Jeff Buckley. But I chose “Everybody Knows” because I’m not sure anyone else could ever really do it justice. Perhaps one of the old bass singers like Hoppy Jones of the Ink Spots or soul man Isaac Hayes could really strut around those lyrics. But Leonard does it righteously, and the song carries our Western political story across in my favorite way. It’s not outraged at the reality of corruption in the world, as if that were news, and it’s not preachy. It’s pensive, wise and willing to face the news. Literally.

Bob Dylan, “Lay, Lady, Lay” from: Nashville Skyline
Probably like many of us, I’ve lived through different periods of my life alongside different periods of Bob Dylan. Willing to change and grow, perhaps like Picasso, he might be one of the few songwriters and performers who has defined so much for so long and so many. I’m from a later generation, so I discovered his different periods totally anachronistically, but all the more fun because I was discovering something by myself, whether it had already taken the world by storm. This song is one of the very first. My first gift of Dylan on LP was the Biograph set, and this was the first song out of the box. I was 13 years old and had just moved to a foreign country, a suburb of Paris. Men ogled me and other girls my age more openly than they had at home in the states (or so it seemed). And I had seen some horrible mistreatment of my mother by men by that time. So I wasn’t interested in a seductive male voice telling a woman what to do. I was against anything like it. Yet, here is this song and this singer, carrying a masculine message to a woman in his voice without the meanness, the arrogance, the violence that seemed to pervade the male culture around me. It might seem odd to hear me say it, but it was kind of like hope. Now, decades have passed. I’ve been through my first love with many other Dylan records, the bootleg tapes, his 21st century songs and a few incarnations of trying to cover them myself. I just want to say that that message of hope, albeit with a lot of work on my end of the deal, did not disappoint.

Serge Gainsbourg And Brigitte Bardot, “Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus” from: single
So there are two versions of this song with Serge Gainsbourg. The first, with Brigitte Bardot, was not released for 20 years after it was recorded in 1967. The second was released in 1968 with Jane Birkin, Serge’s longtime partner, and caused a lot of scandal, and it is the most well-known. It’s an essential song on the list for feminists. How do we defy the sexualization of women all around us and still free ourselves from the bondage of puritanism? How do we begin to talk about sex without losing sight of romance and love? And how do we assert our romantic freedom? Well, when you listen to this, you think—I guess we’re working on it! And I want to be clear on a distinction: Talking about something is a part of dealing with it. So when Bessie Smith says, “He knocked me with a rocking chair … that’s just a little love lick dear, ” or Billie Holiday says, “He beats me too, what can I do,” or Jane Birkin utters “oohs” and “aahs” in the octave range of an altar boy as Gainsbourg makes love to her on tape, we are seeing something important take place. We are getting a glimpse at what’s usually behind closed doors, and we’re talking about it in public. Aren’t we getting exactly what we need from these artists? The truth? As a side note, the version with Bardot has something more thoughtful in the arrangement with its heavenly church-organ sound, which sends an even stronger message about the whole concept of love being divine and sacred.

Bessie Smith, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” from: Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Oh, my honey! Oh, my honey! Yeah, this had to have been exciting way back in 1920-something when she covered this Irving Berlin tune. She’s called the Empress. Why? I really don’t think it’s just about the blues at all. It’s about something human, something complete in its essence from her. If you can’t hear the magic through the cloudy recording quality, try to picture her presence in the appropriate setting a little bit. Can you imagine a performer today who walks a member of the audience up onto the stage by staring into their eyes? She did that. Do you know of a performer who owns (not rents) a private plane? She owned a train. She was as technically versatile as Whitney Houston (one of the best singers of all time), as soulful as Aretha Franklin (need I qualify?), as dramatically powerful as Billie Holiday and as musical as Louie Armstrong. It’s a shame when we relegate her work to the old catalog of race records in a country where we are starving for American culture on a daily basis.

Joe Cocker, “Delta Lady” from: Mad Dogs & Englishmen
To me, it’s a symphony. Probably much of that is Leon Russell’s brilliance. I just don’t think we hear a band with vocalists, groove and rock energy like this anywhere. This record is so feel-good, I often wondered how it was done. So when I learned it was a last-minute thing, I found it very interesting. You can’t think about what you’re doing too much before you go introspective. Not to say that you can’t be introspective and think about what you’re going to do in preparation. But once you’re doing it, I think you have to be completely freed of purpose and just enjoy yourself. And that’s what I feel when I listen to this, so I’m guessing that’s what these amazing musicians were doing, and doing it all together at once!

J.J. Cale, “After Midnight” from: Naturally
So who is J.J. Cale really? I mean, is anyone really this cool? I believe so. I think he can be that cool because he’s doing everything for the right reasons. It feels like the intention is everything in this music. Even the intentions he masterfully keeps mysterious. When he sings this song, is he singlehandedly seducing every single woman in the world on purpose, or was it just a careless whisper to his own true love? Either way, I couldn’t imagine wanting to play guitar the way I want to now without hearing J.J. Cale—he’s defined so much in so little time and with what seems like so little effort. And I just like to hear that again and again!

Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” from: Lady Sings The Blues
I was invited to sing as a guest in a large group of American jazz musicians for a Billie Holiday tribute concert a few years ago in Brazil, as part of a festival that takes place in a mining town deep in the mountains, Ouro Preto, which means “black gold,” a former center for the Brazilian gold rush and, consequently, African slave labor. Naturally, several of Billie’s most well-known tunes were suggested and arranged before rehearsal, including “Strange Fruit,” an important part of Billie’s work. When the charts were passed out, one of the musicians cracked a joke about the title, which caused a few of us to gasp and stare, to which was the reply, “Sorry, I don’t know what this song is.” Out of the following pause, another person exclaimed, “Let’s not do this song.” So a fluent and accomplished jazz musician of my generation was ignorant of a milestone like this one. Up to a point, I wouldn’t blame someone for being ignorant. but I assume that that person is wiser now. We didn’t do it at that festival, and I haven’t heard it covered much. When Billie performed this tune on live television in 1957, she was being harangued by the FBI’s soldiers in the war on drugs, and she would soon be arrested while in hospital just before her untimely death in 1959, 20 years after she first recorded the song, which some believe started the FBI’s agenda against her. That TV performance must be the greatest performance of the song available to us now. Billie Holiday has been called a tragic figure for so long. But look at what she accomplished for the rest of us to savor—racial integration on the bandstand, open discussion of lynching and domestic violence, and iconic musical creativity that influences generations. It’s beyond triumphant and anything but tragic.

Joni Mitchell, “The Fiddle And The Drum” from: Clouds
Joni is another giant songwriter whose repertoire has defined decades of many of our lives in the states. And I don’t say that to distract from her prowess as a vocalist. She flutters over one hurdle to another like a hummingbird, through several registers, always in view of that sweet nectar, phrasing. I chose this song because it is relatively less known these days, (I just discovered it myself) but stands the test of the classics. For all she has given us over the years, from the sound of her voice, to the immense landscape of her ideas, to the strange and perfect guitar voicings underneath it all, there is no one place to focus ourselves on her. But this song, in part due to its being a cappella, but also because it is the most humble of stories, has the most naked approach that I’ve heard thus far.

MAGNET Feedback With The Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey


The folks at MAGNET saw fit to give me a crack at Feedback, and I’m honored. They must know me well, because the list of 20 songs they sent me were mostly slam dunks for me to relate to and enthuse over. It would’ve been almost scarily prescient if they’d thrown me songs by Nice As Fuck, La Luz, Courtney Barnett, case/lang/veirs or Summer Cannibals, artists who’ve been inspiring the hell out of me recently. It’s like they slipped into my house and saw the LPs stacked up by the turntable—though the selections here did seem to prove a decent knowledge of my record collection, so I’m pretty cool with that. —Scott McCaughey

The Beach Boys, “Heroes And Villains” from: Smiley Smile
This song has always been huge for me. As a kid, I bought the 45 when it came out, with its silly cartoon pic sleeve (and puzzling b-side “You’re Welcome”—1:17 long, two words?). I just thought, here’s a way-cool pop song—I didn’t know anything about Smile or the many permutations Brian Wilson put the song through. And then in March 1973, I saw the Beach Boys live for the first time. The wide-reaching Surf’s Up and Holland had sparked a resurgence in my interest in the group, which now bordered on fanaticism. Future Young Fresh Fellow Chuck Carroll and his brother and I drove four hours to see the band in the men’s gym at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Seated in folding chairs in the front row, we were excited but not quite prepared for the majesty of the Beach Boys’ experience of that era. They opened with “Heroes And Villains,” and it opened up a whole new world for me. I felt engulfed and lifted by the most gloriously beautiful sounds I’d ever witnessed, and newly aware of how intense and fully realized a live performance could be. (This is all without Brian’s onstage participation, by the way, which, of course, had been the norm for many years.) They concentrated on material from Pet Sounds forward and only touched upon their surfin’ hotrod hits in the encores. (Yeah, I was thrilled to hear those, too.) Afterward, we strolled surreptitiously into the backstage locker room (what security?) and chatted with Carl, Dennis, Al and the Wilsons’ mother, Audrey. I told Carl I loved all the old songs, but that newer songs like “Feel Flows” and “Long Promised Road” were more specifically blowing my 18-year-old mind. He said, “That means a lot.” I’ll never forget that moment. Through all the innovation and brilliance, the mysteries, miseries and triumphs, the Beach Boys have never stopped inspiring me.

The Smithereens, “Hand Of Glory” from: Especially For You
What a strange song. Written by my dear friend Jimmy Silva (1952-1994), it was covered by our pals the Smithereens on their breakout first LP. Drummer Dennis Diken had played on Silva’s original version, and the Smithereens stayed fairly true to it, it being an already perfectly formed slab of driving psychedelic folk/rock. On its surface, that is. Snatches of images, swathed in hypnotic reverbed harmonies, reveal a dark undercurrent beneath the 12-string slither: “Tallow drips upon a withered hand, beneath the shadow of a gallows pole/I took the branch of a tree, let it lie in a pickling jar/Hand of glory.” I recall that the lyrics were inspired by Jimmy’s delving into mythic 1890s tome The Golden Bough, but really, what better formula is there than a disturbing lyric delivered via shimmering pop song? It’s always been there for me. On the lighter side, when Silva got that first sizable publishing check in the mail, he bought himself a brand-new Ford pickup, referred to fondly from that day forward as his “Royalty Truck.” By the way, I first jammed in Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak’s basement with him, Dennis, and Mike Mesaros, pre-Pat DiNizio, in 1978. Thus, a case could be made for me being the original singer in the Smithereens, which would have resulted in very different, and less successful, lives for all of us. Thankfully they found Pat—I could never have written songs that exceptionally inescapable. In February, I played an emotional memorial show at Thee Parkside in San Francisco, in which Messrs. Mesaros and Diken were reunited, and proper due was paid to our dear musical friend Eric Scott (Flywheels) as well as long-gone Mr. Silva himself. They will abide.

The Dream Syndicate, “Tell Me When It’s Over” from: The Days Of Wine And Roses
The year: 1983. The place: Paramount Theater, Seattle. I went to see U2 (they were triumphant), but I was even more excited to see the opening band. I’d fallen for Days Of Wine And Roses like just about every other record store clerk across the land, and seeing the Dream Syndicate’s noisy mayhem firsthand was electrifying. I remember Karl Precoda’s guitar strings broken and wrapped around the neck of his Strat squealing through the last song. I’ve been lucky enough to play this song with Steve Wynn many times over the last decade, either in the guise of the Baseball Project or the Miracle 3. There’s something about its loping, droney groove that gets me (and the audience) every time. Add Peter Buck doing the stately riff on 12-string and super-powerhouse Linda Pitmon drumming, and I’m pretty much in heaven. A caterwauling, cacophonous heaven.

The Mendoza Line, “Catch A Collapsing Star” from: Full Of Light And Full Of Fire
Well, here’s a three-headed monstrosity of a band that never got their fucking due, that’s for sure. There are scores of Mendoza Line songs that demand attention, and indeed, this is one of them. Tim Bracy’s patented Dylanesque delivery (he must get sick of hearing that) in top form, and soon-to-be-ex-wife Shannon McArdle’s harmonies raised to almost Chipmunks status—it’s a combination that I find disturbingly irresistible. In the words of Rod Stewart, if you don’t know them, I really don’t know where you’ve been! Find and purchase all of their CDs (no vinyl, I’m afraid, a product of their times), listen to them relentlessly, kiss your children when you put them to bed, and don’t use the corkscrew for anything evil. Full disclosure: Timothy and I co-wrote “Dark Hand Of Contagion” from the Minus 5’s Killingsworth; it’s a deviously depressing number, but the line “Your wedding day was so well-planned, like a German occupation” always gets a hearty laugh at shows—not my line. Tim and Elizabeth Nelson Bracy have a highly current combo called Paranoid Style with a fresh LP that’s raunchy and torn, and I only helped or hindered on a couple songs. “Accept no imitations, baby, catch a collapsing star/It’s our limitations that make us what we are.”

Wilco, “Candy Floss” from: Summerteeth
You know those early-ish Who records with the overdubbed acoustic guitar mixed really loud and the drums flailing away and the lovely harmonies and the driving rhythm not necessarily featured like it should have been? This bonus track from Wilco’s masterpiece (neither their first nor nearly their last) Summerteeth always reminds me of that curious 1960s production niche. Was it intentional? I wouldn’t doubt it. The fact that “Candy Floss” in all its joyous glory was a “bonus track” only confirms how great this record is and exemplifies what would become a career-defining trait of one of the world’s Truly Greatest Bands Of All Time, which is: nothing but great songs, sublime production, wild abandon, considered humanity, all the time. This song places itself as a toss-off when in fact for any other hopeful contender it could be the culmination of all they’d hoped to achieve. Being friends with other musicians might skew your perceptions of their work favorably, but I’ve never felt it to be the case with Wilco—I’m pretty sure I’d be a worshipful fan even if they were a bunch of jerks I’d never met. Yeah, they aren’t.

The Monkees, “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” from: More Of The Monkees
The Monkees took young, freckle-faced me by storm. I was already a Beatle-maniac, so they didn’t change my life in that same way. But they perfectly fed my appetite for perfect pop records, and let there be no doubt that they made plenty. We all know that the group benefited from superb material from top songwriters, and “Look Out” is one (some might say the lesser) of maybe four Neil Diamond-penned ditties. “I’m A Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” were both hit singles, but “Look Out” has its own charms, the trademark Diamond acoustic-driven rhythm, and Davy Jones at his heart-throbbing best. Speaking as someone who has (ridiculously?—you be the judge!) devoted an entire side of an album to lavishing appreciation on Michael, Peter, Davy and Micky (and let’s not forget writers/producers Boyce & Hart), I can only say in my defense that the Monkees records were fantastic then and have definitely stood the test of time. And I watched Head recently and I think it’s a cruelly underrated film. So there.

Richmond Fontaine, “Northwest” from: We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River
On side two of the Of Monkees And Men platter, I offer the Minus 5’s sincere appreciation of other non-fictional sorts who’ve affected me strongly and positively in one way or another. From lost friends and musical cohorts Jimmy Silva and John Weymer (the latter my notorious bandmate in high school aggregations Hannibal’s Chorus Boys/Vannevar Bush & His Differential Analyzers), to legendary film star Robert Ryan, to Portland’s own long-lingering combo Richmond Fontaine. Now that Fontaine has announced its intentions to finally call it a day, the song I wrote for them (tipsy but unbowed at the Montage bar in Portland) can also be seen as a sort of eulogy like the others. They’ve recently given us an unasked-for but exquisite final statement, and You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To is in constant play in my mind. “Wake Up Ray” and “I Got Off The Bus” are as good as songwriting and sympathetic symbiotic group playing get. If these are their last words, they will be remembered. Now, “Northwest” is a sweet snippet, and as someone who lives in Portland within spitting distance of I-5, I hear it and feel it as intended, I guess. I’ll just say that Richmond Fontaine has created a body of work that, while certainly appreciated more abroad than here “at home,” still deserves more attention and I daresay will find it as the years scroll past. I was so pleased to join them recently as they celebrated the release of their new album with shows in Seattle and Portland in which the Minus 5 joined in, and boy, was it spectacularly worth it. If you were there, stand up loud and proud, because you and we all won.

Mott The Hoople, “All The Young Dudes” from: All The Young Dudes
David Bowie did the world one of countless favors when he gifted this song to Mott, thus reviving an all-time favorite band and making possible the ultimate glam-rock trilogy of All The Young Dudes, Mott and The Hoople. There’s never been a song before or since like “Dudes,” with its crowning melodic guitar riff, genius meandering chord progression, anthemic outcast lyrics and the audience shoutouts as the song fades away (“You there with the glasses—I want you.”). Ian Hunter still encores with it, and at the ripe age of 75 (or so), he still owns it and is still the Dude. (Sorry, Jeff Bridges. You’re awesome, too.) I followed Mott around England in 1974 (thanks, Britrail Pass) and to think 40-some years later I’d have actually joined Ian onstage for this song a number of times … it’s unfathomable. Thanks, Ian!

The Posies, “Golden Blunders” from: Dear 23
In a way, the Posies mirror the development of the Young Fresh Fellows, but only by outdistancing us at every milestone. Like the YFF, Jon and Ken made a first record bathed in innocence and lack of self-examination, and that very innocence and inexperience (though better than what anybody else was doing!) was a part of what made the music so endearing. They took a huge leap when they graduated from the sexy PopLlama Products label to DGC, and from self-produced-on-a-parent’s-eight-track-machine to a produced-by-John-Leckie sophomore effort. Yes, Leckie of Beatles and XTC fame, amongst so many other credits. The album is a thick, powerful record that to its credit does not sound dated at all 20-plus years on. It most reminds me of another one of my all-time favorite albums/productions: Wish You Were Here by Badfinger, helmed by another former Abbey Road tape-op by the name of Chris Thomas. And while “Golden Blunders” is not my favorite song on Dear 23 (that honor reserved for “Apology”), it is perfect, and was covered by a Beatle. Yeah—my friends wrote a song and Ringo Starr recorded it! That’s just too damn cool. The Posies carry on, off and on, and no one can stop them.

Alexander “Skip” Spence, “Little Hands” from: Oar
“Little Hands” opens Skip Spence’s one and only album so perfectly—it seems to fall out of the ether and magically coalesce, much as it must have when Skip layered the sounds together one by one in Columbia Records Nashville recording studio back in 1968. And then the ghostly voice rises over the creakily irresistible guitars, singing of children and mothers and drummers and freedom. It’s hard to ever truly know what Spence was getting at with this singular album, captured at the only time in his life when it could have been possible, when he was far enough out there but not too quite far. There’s never been another record quite like it, and it was a worthy if risky proposition to give it the tribute album treatment years later. Robert Plant rose to the challenge of covering “Little Hands” and wisely made it his own—smoothing the rough edges cost the song some of its mystery but the essence is still there, beautifully sung. Covering these songs was a real challenge and credit to Plant, Beck, Mudhoney and many others for fine versions. The Minus 5 drew the outtake “Givin’ Up Things” (mislabeled “Doodle” at the time), and I’m still very pleased with the rendition Peter Buck and I concocted, with the basic acoustic guitar and live vocal recorded by a microphone laid inside the clothes dryer in my basement. Don’t try this at home, kids. When I lived in Cotati, Calif., in 1978, Skip came over to my house after a Moby Grape show down the street at the Inn Of The Beginning (in which he did not perform but slept on drum cases to the side of the stage). He asked to hear Rubber Soul and I was pleased to oblige. After the LP ended, I asked what he wanted to hear and he replied: Rubber Soul. And it was done.

The Kinks, “Wicked Annabella” from: Village Green Preservation Society
Yes, obviously Village Green Preservation Society is in my Top Ten Desert Island All Time Golden Greats Super Hits. How could it not be? As quintessentially English as the subject may be, I relate to it completely. “Wicked Annabella” is pretty weird, musically and lyrically, and that’s a plus. The Minus 5 covered it on the flip of a Spanish 45, along with Guided By Voices’ “Echos Myron.” Now that’s a double b-side for you.

Fernando, “True Instigator” from: True Instigator
Fernando is flat out one of my favorite singers. I first heard him when a friend from Portland turned me on to Pacoima, in all its bilingual Luther Russell-produced glory. Even a few boring hours up I-5 in Seattle, Fernando was a secret then. It’s many years later and I’m really happy to see him out there touring non-stop (with European and U.S. stints alongside fellow travelers Dan Stuart, Richmond Fontaine and the Jayhawks) and spreading that amazing voice around. Peter Buck and I both made some noise on his latest, the gorgeously spooky masterpiece Leave The Radio On. “True Instigator,” the title track from his previous album, shows how adept Fernando Viciconte is at delivering a heavy Neil Young-style rocker, with sidekick Dan Eccles (also of Richmond Fontaine) lighting up on the guitar.

Michael Stipe, “The Man Who Sold The World” from: unreleased
Yeah, I was sad when R.E.M. announced to the world in 2011 that its mission was complete. I wanted to go around the world (or at least do a week in New York or Dublin or Athens or … ) playing the songs from Collapse Into Now so everyone might realize that final album belongs right up at the top of R.E.M.’s canon. But I knew well enough at the end of the touring cycle in 2008 that it might not happen again. Even at the luxurious level that a band of R.E.M.’s stature allows, touring can be a disruptive and exhausting endeavor. So, while I couldn’t love it, I understood and respected the decision. Peter and Mike quite naturally continued showing up on stages and riding in vans in ensuing years, and often I was happily there beside them. Michael delved into his many other artistic interests, and I have to say I love his work in sculpture, photography, etc. It would have been sad to be deprived of his incredible voice and gift for interpretation, but we don’t have to worry about that. He’s turned up on occasion opening for Patti Smith, singing covers of songs I love (including the aforementioned “All The Young Dudes,” as well as personal R.E.M. favorite “New Test Leper”). After Bowie died, Michael appeared on The Tonight Show with this amazing rendition of a song once famously covered by his friend Kurt Cobain. And took it to a very special place. Exquisite! And please, kudos to “the pianist,” who’s only credited as such as far as I can ascertain. A truly brilliant arrangement.

MAGNET Feedback With Chris Collingwood


Fountains Of Wayne singer/guitarist Chris Collingwood just released his first solo album, Look Park (Yep Roc). After writing more than 100 songs and recording them on his own following an extensive FOW tour, he went into the studio with producer/keyboardist Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Crowded House), bassist Davey Faragher (Lucinda Williams, Cracker) and drummer Michael Urbano (Ron Sexsmith, Todd Rundgren) and came out with a 10-track stunner that’s perfect for late-summer listening. Given his incredible knowledge of good music, we asked Collingwood for some MAGNET Feedback on songs both new and old.

Courtney Barnett, “Depression” from: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
I know nothing about Ms. Barnett’s process, but it sounds to me like she starts with a bunch of words and sets them to music. Some of them are gloriously trashy and others more reflective. Either way, just like Morrissey, it’s about the personality, and she had a full-blown star quality from the get-go. “Depreston” is a pretty song with fantastic little details like a Wallace Stevens poem. Alongside her other material, a lot of which is coolly detached, the melody has a vulnerable, confessional quality that stands out. It’s a beautiful slice-of-life song that I wish I had written.

Winterpills, “Celia Johnson” from: Love Songs
Full disclosure: Philip from Winterpills has been my friend since 1998, and he and his wife, Flora, appear on the Look Park record. Winterpills are an institution here in Northampton, Mass. They’ve put out six pretty fantastic albums, highlighted by Philip’s impressionistic lyrics and the otherworldly pairing of Philip and Flora’s voices. “Celia Johnson” is an upbeat minor-key number that I don’t have a reference point for—maybe like the Hollies singing a psychedelic Simon & Garfunkel song? It’s insanely catchy, and the rest of Love Songs is solid, thoughtful pop.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” from: Eldorado
I complain a lot about Jeff Lynne and made some enemies on Twitter the other night when I said he made me hate music. That was a joke, a bad one, and it was in the context of saying how much I liked the new ELO album. What bothered me was what he did to Tom Petty. Petty was my childhood hero, and he did “Refugee.” It was powerful and transcendent, and Lynne reduced him to a quarter-note-plucking near-copy of ELO that sounded complacent and bored. Then he did the same thing to George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Still, there’s a lot of fantastic ELO songs, and “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” would be fucking great even if it was recorded on an iPhone. We used to cover it live, much heavier, and Fountains Of Wayne put a version from some European festival on our b-sides record.

Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me” from: Alvvays
Call it a shortcoming, but when I hear big, sloppy guitars and arena reverbs, the part of my brain that processes the words sometimes shuts off. I’ve thought about this, and I think it’s because a lot of that kind of music is meant to hit you viscerally, and what the singer’s saying isn’t as important as the kick drum and the attitude. I was wrong not to pay attention to this song’s words because they’re very clever. It’s a simple idea, but between the gigantic choruses, it’s about Archie’s student loans and sailing and bread makers. Plus, the video has a dreamy throwback vibe that reminded me of the early days of MTV.

The Hollies, “Look Through Any Window” from: Hear! Here!
This song was co-written by Graham Gouldman, who over the course of his career had his name on many great songs, including “Bus Stop,” the Hollies number that Fountains Of Wayne covered for the TV show American Dreams. He also wrote “No Milk Today,” a Herman’s Hermits song that I’ve always wanted to cover but haven’t gotten around to. Then all those great songs with 10cc, like “I’m Not In Love” and “The Things We Do For Love.” The Hollies were a big influence on me, but it all happened when I was very young, and somehow I never learned much about their complicated history. I don’t think I realized “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was the Hollies until I was in college. In my defense, it doesn’t sound at all like the same band. “Look Through Any Window” has the distinction of being hooky and memorable while being about absolutely nothing.

PPL MVR, “People Mover” from: PPL MVR
A friend shared the video for this song, and it was like I was 10 again and watching the Kiss amusement-park movie. There’s three guys in monster outfits playing a riff so heavy that when they stomp, the camera shakes. And they shoot lasers out of their eyes, and there’s a hamster running in the kick drum. It actually inspired me to wire up the TV doohickey so my wife could watch it on a big screen in surround sound. We played it a bunch of times, and then one day it was gone from YouTube and the only trace of the band was an Instagram account with a few mysterious photos. I still have no idea who they are or where they went, but one day the video resurfaced, along with an EP, and I was overjoyed. What a great song. I could never write anything this kick-ass.

Lana Del Rey, “Shades Of Cool” from: Ultraviolence
I told my manager I really liked Lana Del Rey, and he looked at me like I had five heads. But in the category of “invent a persona and play it to the hilt,” she wins Best Actress. The video for this song looks like a David Lynch movie, which is the closing of some kind of metaphysical loop. It would all be just a great shtick, but the melody is an instant classic, and her delivery is spine-tingling.

Dinosaur Jr, “Just Like Heaven” from: You’re Living All Over Me
I see J Mascis in the supermarket sometimes. He bought a car at Northampton Volkswagen and then posed for a picture with the car salesman for the dealer’s Facebook page. It went viral, maybe only among my Northampton friends, because J is King Of The Pioneer Valley. I like this cover, especially the part before the bridge where they shout for no reason. I always thought that, all else being equal, and to be truthful, J’s and Robert Smith’s voices aren’t that far apart. The Cure version is a little precious and needed a kick in the ass. We did some shows with Dinosaur Jr once, and I’ve had a high-pitched squeal in my left ear ever since.

The Beatles, “Back In The U.S.S.R.” from: The White Album
I did a benefit a few years ago where various artists did the whole White Album in order. It’s such a strange album, a big jumble of disorganized ideas that sounds like it could be five different albums by four different bands. I love the Beatles, and I love The White Album, but that’s because it’s a giant part of my life and I haven’t heard it objectively since I was a child. I realized during that show how long it had been since I put on “Honey Pie” or “Savoy Truffle” or “Revolution 9.” I think “Back In The U.S.S.R.” sounds like a Beatles song from before this album—limited in lyrical scope and similar in arrangement to the songs on Rubber Soul or Revolver, with a nod to the Beach Boys. I opened the show with it, in front of just about the most cracking backup band I’ve ever heard. I told my friends that playing with that many amazing musicians behind me felt like piloting a 747.

Norah Jones, “Miriam” (Peter Bjorn And John Remix) from: Little Broken Hearts (original version)
In this song, the narrator is on her way to murder her husband’s lover. The lovely original is arranged with dark, faraway drums, piano and silky keyboard pads, which give it a haunting, ominous feel. The Peter, Bjorn And John remix of the same song has more in common with the Bay City Rollers: bubblegum guitar riffs, a bouncing kick drum and lots of hand claps. I guess these things are common these days, with the mashups and all that, and it seems like a guaranteed hit when, say, Ryan Adams covers a Taylor Swift album in the style of the Smiths, or when Sturgill Simpson covers a Nirvana song. We covered a Britney Spears song many years ago, and right away I wished we hadn’t. I’m all for taking a misunderstood gem and presenting it in a more favorable light, but what is it people really like about being smacked in the face with genre stunts? I blame American Idol.

MAGNET Feedback With Bruce Hornsby


Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby is a music icon. From his albums with the Range in the ’80s through his solo releases in the ’90s to his work with the Grateful Dead, Hornsby built himself a somewhat unpredictable career as a go-to piano cat in a wild array of styles—not only rock, but jazz, bluegrass, classical, electronica and Broadway musicals. He’s collaborated with Bob Dylan, Sting, Crosby Stills And Nash, Branford Marsalis, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Spike Lee and countless other artists. But Hornsby’s latest album with the Noisemakers, Rehab Reunion, is piano-free. Instead, he chose to play the dulcimer, and Hornsby recruited the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Mavis Staples to contribute. The dude is a fellow music obsessive, so MAGNET asked him to bend our ear on these songs.

Bon Iver, “Holocene” from: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Love this. It’s probably the fourth or fifth song I came upon after having heard that Justin Vernon had been interested in my music for several years. This reached me right away; love his vocal phrasing, and love the unique instrumentation. And love his singing on our new record!

John Coltrane, “Giant Steps” from: Giant Steps
For years, this was seemingly the crucible, the proving ground and intense test for jazz improvisers trying to showcase their abilities playing through difficult chord changes at fast tempos. I finally tackled it with Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette on our Camp Meeting record and tried to find my own way of playing and presenting it. I’m a “friend of jazz”; I know the language but don’t speak it fluently because I don’t play the music often. I could call our record Dilettante’s Dream!

Radiohead, “Pyramid Song” from: Amnesiac
This song reminds me harmonically of “Everything In Its Right Place” from their Kid A album. That song influenced me in the writing of my songs “Sticks And Stones” (Big Swing Face, 2002) and “Here We Are Again” (Solo Concerts, 2014). “Pyramid Song” takes me to a similar emotional place; love it.

2Pac, “Changes” from: Greatest Hits
Obviously, this song is a special one for me. Out of the blue in late 1996 or 1997, I received a cassette in the mail from the Shakur Foundation. On this cassette was an early (and way more incendiary) version of the song. They were contacting me to make me aware of the song’s existence, and to ask what I thought the publishing splits should be. I love what Tupac did with my old song, and loved what many other rap/hip-hop artists have done with it as well.

The Grateful Dead, “Dark Star” from: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been
By the time I started playing with the Dead, this song was played at a much slower tempo than this first studio version. The song totally works both ways. I was playing with the Dead at Wembley Arena in London in the fall of 1990 when during the drum section, Garcia, in whose tent I was sitting, asked me to go out and play “Variations On A Theme Of Dark Star.” I did, and this improvisation ended up on the Dead album Infrared Roses as a “song” called “Silver Apples Of The Moon”!

The National, “Fake Empire” from: Boxer
This is a beautiful, quietly anthemic piece that keeps building and building. I would imagine it’s a very dramatic live piece. Very affecting, with a very affecting video. I can’t relate; my videos were great cures for insomnia on MTV during the period 1986-1991.

The Staples Singers, “I’ll Take You There” from: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself
Iconic and timeless. Their version of “Samson And Delilah” is sublime (as are so many other Staples records). So proud to have Mavis sing a duet with me (“The Celestial Railroad”) on our new record. We had a beautiful time and lots of laughs.

The Hold Steady, “Stuck Between Stations” from: Boys And Girls In America
This is a great rock song, with Craig Finn delivering these (also great) lyrics referencing Kerouac and University of Minnesota athletic teams. Sometimes it reminds me of Springsteen’s “Rosalita.” I feel he’s a kindred spirit lyrically, especially the songs that my kindergarten friend Chip deMatteo and I write together. I’ve heard Finn play and sing solo, just guitar and vocal, and it’s totally affecting.

Bob Dylan, “Ballad Of A Thin Man” from: Highway 61 Revisited
Of course, a classic, from the greatest. I think the humor in his writing is sometimes underappreciated. At age 10 or so, I would listen to my little red 45 of “Like A Rolling Stone” over and over, trying to phrase the vocal exactly like him. Got to play with him on Under The Red Sky, sat in with him live in the early 2000s, and he sang Henley’s and my “End Of The Innocence” in his concerts for a while; all transcendent moments for me.

Jewelz, “40 Bars” from: unreleased
Whoever put this playlist together for me really did their homework. This is the great Allen Iverson rapping, from his ‘90s record that I’m not sure was ever released. “Chuck,” as I and many others from his home area call him, is an old friend. I’m so happy about his Basketball Hall Of Fame induction that is happening this year. And maybe it’s time for him to make his follow-up record!

MAGNET Feedback With Beth Orton


So here are a number of songs I’ve chosen for MAGNET. I relate to music as it relates to my life. I can only give my experience. I have chosen tracks that I believe have inspired me on my new record, Kidsticks, whether by osmosis or through intention. And a couple that I’m listening to right now just because they rule. —Beth Orton

The Slits, “Typical Girls” from: Cut
I remember listening to “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Typical Girls” at my friend Antonia’s house. I was probably 10, and she was a little older. I remember staring at the sleeve of Cut, fascinated and wondering what swamp they’d crawled out of, let alone what world. Me and my friends had these role models in women like the Slits who were not of the one-size-fits-all ideal. They were signposts along the way. I grew up around lots of punks when I was little. The Slits were punk and ska and some reggae thrown in, which was perfect for me.

Talking Heads, “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” from: Speaking In Tongues
Another band of my childhood. Lots of us aspired to their vision. I knew “Naive Melody” but was reintroduced to it a few years back by Tom Rowlands in a new light. It’s a total gem of a track. When I started making Kidsticks, this song was a kind of flag for me marking the way. I would think of it and make an approximation in the direction of what it feels like, its lightness and depth and how it builds and the subtle catharsis it creates. The turn of phrases and nonsensical sense it makes. Where it sits energetically in me when I hear it. How happy I feel from the moment it comes in to the moment it ends and how that stays in room just at the thought of it.

Curtis Mayfield, “Here But I’m Gone” from: New World Order
When I first heard this track, I’d always known it. Like it had always existed. It touches me. Had no idea he sung this after he was paralyzed, that he sang from his bed, line by line, because it exhausted him to do otherwise. I was most naturally drawn to going out dancing for hours on end to soul and funk from around 14. I found Aretha Franklin around the same time and Marvin Gaye (who I actually discovered first through the Slits). This was where I could truly lose myself and find a real place to feel free. When I dance to Curtis Mayfield or listen to him, I feel empowered and alive. When I listen to “Here But I’m Gone,” I’m connected to my fallibility and the fragility of all of us living by a thread. How things change so quickly when your health goes. I don’t find it a downer, though. I feel grateful, and I feel moved.

David Bowie, “Oh! You Pretty Things” from: Hunky Dory
Sitting in the back of my dad’s car on a Sunday and David Bowie would come on, and it would be a secret rebellion. He was more subversive than anything in lots of ways. Your mum and dad liked him, but he was really singing for us kids and expanded our minds into worlds beyond. There hasn’t been a period of my life that he hasn’t been an important part of. My fondest memories of many a night out or in are set to his music. I will always remember me and my best friend Carole putting on makeup to him before we went out and laying in a drunken heap at his feet on our return home. He built us up and softened our landing. What gets me now, since his death—a death that came as such a shock—is what an incredible lyricist he was, as ridiculous as that may sound. We can all sing along at the tops of our voices to his songs, driven by the force and genius of his words and how they make us feel, but since hearing him in the light of his passing, they have taken a new depth of meaning. I suppose that’s what makes a great artist: the ability to morph with the listener’s circumstance. It amazes me what he got past us that was right under our noses all along.

Joni Mitchell, “Amelia” from: Hejira
Joni Mitchell changed my life. I remember the beautiful boy who brought Blue to my room. We smoked weed and kissed and stuff. Once he slept, I lay still and watched the patterns the moon and the pretty net curtain made on the walls. We were in the box bedroom of the shared flat I was living in. I was 17 and trying to go to college and make good but was already about to flunk. I had a wooden portable record player I’d taken from home. He left me the record in the morning as a gift, or as a loan, but he never got it back. And the next day, I lay in a haze as Joni’s stories of love and honesty gave way to all the mysteries life might hold. The sunlight’s shadow now making imperceptible changes on the wall as the day turned in my hand. I listened to Blue over and over again. I had never heard music so beautiful and so sad in all my life. Maybe I felt true love for the first time listening to her sing. I fell in love with all that life might be. It was a moment of pure hope. It took me a long time to move beyond Blue. Eventually, I moved backward and forward through all her releases and learned to love them all. I still sometimes sing along to Blue from start to finish on long car journeys, I try not to do so with other people present, but I can think of one occasion the family had to grin and bear it! I know every breath by heart. She’s the most extraordinary songwriter and singer and visionary producer of sounds. The years have now turned her over and over in my consciousness, and I’ve never heard her the same way twice. I have chosen “Amelia,” as I’m listening to Heijira a lot right now. Listening with all my experience and inexperience and amazed now as much by her musicianship as her use of language, her poetry. Now I listen to her and look back on all the mysteries that have unfolded and fallen away. I listen as a musician who has tried to climb inside what I heard that night back when I was 17. I listen now as someone content to be who I am and not strive to be someone else. I will always be true to what she has inspired in me, though. I thought she held a purity I would never own. Before I’d even lost my innocence, I had lost being pure. Now I understand that Joni Mitchell was perfectly human all along.

Alethia & Donna, “Uptown Top Ranking” from: Uptown Top Ranking
This is my mantra. I was trying for them a couple of times on Kidsticks. It’s only an approximation for the feeling they give me, that sweet vocal over dub/ska/reggae beats. Not that “Uptown Top Ranking” is actually an example of that particularly. This track always makes me feel better. It reminds me of who I want to be, a little reminder of why I make music and how I want to live. It reminds me what’s important. Strictly roots, earthed. As long as music connects with me on a soul level, I don’t give a crap what genre it makes itself known as, though. I was super excited when Shahzad Ismaily added bass to “Flesh And Blood” on Kidsticks. He did it at my house onto my laptop, and it created an effect with what was already recorded that dubbed the track out, especially on the end. That’s why I left that long outro. I adore it. I would love to get a proper dub remix made of this song.

Japan, “Nightporter” from: Gentlemen Take Polaroids
My brother Adam was a massive fan of Japan, and he and I shared a room. I didn’t like everything my brother liked, but he did have good taste and we shared some very definite choices in music, and Japan was one of them. I feel like Japan influenced elements of Kidsticks. I didn’t notice the influence immediately. Sounds Andy (Hung) put to what I was playing on keyboard combined and had us following leads I didn’t see coming as we were jumping around the room laughing or beside ourselves just excited with what we were creating. It wasn’t until I was writing the songs that I realized the clear connection I was making with parts of my musical history that had never got the chance to have a place in the music I made before. I could access the years of my life that weren’t built around a love of all things folk. I’ve come full circle and am making music that allows all of who I know myself to be to exist, and it’s a great relief. I’ve chosen “Nightporter,” as it reminds me of the beautiful moment Dustin O’Halloran added the sublimely beautiful piano to the end of the track “Corduroy Legs” on my record. It was one of my most beloved moments of recording the album.

Erykah Badu, “Hello” from: But You Caint Use My Phone mixtape
Loved Erykah Badu from the moment I heard “On & On” from Baduizm. Her voice, the beats, her words. Effortlessly  beautiful. She has only gotten more interesting as an artist as the years pass. I’ve always felt she was my secret, totally unaware that she’s actually a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling artist. I loved her message and her humor and depth. I still do, and it’s gone deeper still. Her voice gets stronger with the years. I like how she carries herself. How she’s stayed healthy and alive and vital. She’s someone I look up to in an industry that trashes many a woman’s spirit. She has held her dignity, and she seems like a lovely mum to her kids. I lost her after the first couple of records due to no fault of her own. She came back round to me with the song “Window Seat” and the album New Amerykah Part Two. Since then, I’ve not lost her again, and with “Hello,” she’s got me again hook, line and sinker. It’s a timeless duet between her and Andre 3000, equivalent to some classic of old. Her voice sounds incredible, and his rap is heartbreaking and naughty. When they sing together, it’s heaven.

The Internet, “Under Control” from: Ego Death
Love this track! I feel stronger when I listen to this and infinitely happy. When I first heard it, have to admit I made assumptions and judgments. I stereotypically assumed it sounded so good it must be some girl perfectly placed in some bloke’s vision, manufactured into being. Then I found out that Syd Tha Kyd sings but is also the producer of her music. The more I listen, the better it gets. She sings like she’s speaking, and it’s superpersonal and relatable. She’s a legend. She seems to have an early hip-hop ethos to her style, which I like, too. I heard this after my record was made, but it’s a new inspiration for sure.

MAGNET Feedback With Britta Phillips


You know Britta Phillips from the bands Luna and Dean & Britta, but now she has a debut solo album, Luck Or Magic. The record features five Phillips originals alongside covers of songs by the Cars, Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Wilson and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog. Knowing what great taste in music Phillips has, we asked her for feedback on some tunes we love to play around the MAGNET office.

The Cure, “Friday I’m In Love” from: Wish
Love this song! It’s one of the great joyful love songs, like “Oh Yoko!” It’s really difficult to write a joyful and exuberant love song. Or a good protest song, for that matter. The Staple Singers’ version of Dylan’s ”Masters Of War” is one of my favorite recordings ever, but I digress. Dean & Britta recorded “Friday I’m In Love” for a Cure tribute album on American Laundromat. I feel like maybe more people have heard that track than any other Dean & Britta song. It was a lot harder to sing than we anticipated. Robert Smith has such a one-of-a-kind voice and delivery, and it just sounded weird when we sang it, so we went with deadpan. Even more deadpan than our usual deadpan. I mixed it, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I added these “ooohs” at the end that remind me of that ’70s song “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees (the three ladies with the sound of Philadelphia).

Bob Dylan, “I’ll Keep It With Mine” from: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3
Dean & Britta were commissioned by the Warhol Museum to perform music beneath projections of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests for a live show (that later turned into a DVD and then a CD) called 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. We wrote a lot of original stuff but couldn’t fi gure out anything good enough for Nico, so we decided to do this song. I’d also preferred Nico’s version to Dylan’s. Then Dean played me the Rainy Day recording with Susanna Hoffs’ singing, and that became my favorite. I was never a Bangles fan, but her voice is perfect on this song. We basically copied the Rainy Day version when we recorded it. Scott Hardkiss mixed two versions for us, one with just strings that he arranged and recorded. He also added a bit of Auto-Tune to my vocals for effect. At first, I didn’t like it, but now I think it makes me sound like a sad robot, and that’s an image I do like.

Pink Floyd, “Hey You” from: The Wall
I was a fan of Pink Floyd in junior high and early high school. I used to go see Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii at the theater, and their albums were on heavy rotation at all the stoner parties. I’d just dropped out of high school and moved in with a drug dealer when The Wall came out. I didn’t really like the album except for “Hey You,” which sounded more like their earlier stu to me. I didn’t dig the attempt to incorporate the disco beat. It reminded me of the Dead’s Shakedown Street, which I hated. I loved Donna Summer and the Bee Gees and used to listen to disco alone in my car because none of my friends liked it, but I think the Stones were the only rock band that could pull o the disco. I still love “Miss You.” I don’t ever listen to Pink Floyd nowadays. I did love “Hey You” in The Squid And The Whale, though I still might prefer to listen to Dean’s demo that he made for Jesse Eisenberg so that he could learn the song for the movie.

Galaxie 500, “Fourth Of July” from: This Is Our Music
I remember seeing Galaxie 500 on the cover of the NME or Melody Maker around 1990 when I was living in London with my first band, the Belltower. I was discovering good bands from the states over there because they wrote about them every week in the music papers, played them on the only radio station and showed their videos on TV. But the fi rst time I heard a Galaxie 500 song was right after I joined Luna in 2000 and had to learn “Fourth Of July” so we could play it as an encore. I still love playing this song, and I’ve played it a lot. I love the bass part; it’s so melodic and melancholy and unique. The hair on the back of my neck always stands on end when we get to the part where I join in singing “dooooo doo doo wahhhh” with Dean at the end. I always feel the room lift o at that point. Heavenly.

Jean Knight, “Mr. Big Stuff” from: Mr. Big Stuff
I recorded this song as Billie, the druggie guitarist in the 1988 cheesy/guilty-pleasure movie Satisfaction, about a (mostly) all-girl rock band, with co-stars Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman. It was for a very silly montage. Of course, I didn’t do the original song justice, but I did get to record it with Steve Cropper, which was pretty cool. I had a blast making that movie. More fun making it than watching it, I always say. The only music lessons I’ve ever had were from my guitar coach on the set. Scott Coffey, who played the lone guy in the band, was the first person I ever met with super-cool taste in music, and that kinda changed the course of my life.

MGMT, “Kids” from: Oracular Spectacular
I love this song, and I love this band. They were one of the first bands I heard (or maybe the first band?) that sounds like so many of the best indie bands nowadays (Tame Impala, for example). They manage to make super-poppy songs that have a soul. They’re like the Daft Punk of bands (and I’ve heard that Daft Punk are fans). I met them when my friend, Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom), was producing “Congratulations.” They were so young and sweet. I ended up singing a bunch of stacked backing vocals on the end of the song, “It’s Working.” Super-talented guys. I look forward to hearing what they cook up next.

Spacemen 3, “How Does It Feel?” from: Playing With Fire
Back in 1990, when I was living in London with the Belltower, my manager played Spacemen 3 for me and told me they were the shit. For some reason, I didn’t get it. I liked MBV, Lush, Swervedriver and Ultra Vivid Scene, and I guess I didn’t have the patience for the slow pace and space at the time. I realized a few years later that they are, indeed, the shit. So many bands have been influenced by them and continue to mine their sound. I love Pete’s voice. He has two voices, actually: one warm and ecstatic and the other cold, dark and teutonic. I met Pete (Sonic Boom) when he opened for Luna in 2002. But we really became good friends when he remixed some songs from the first Dean & Britta album. He’s one of a kind. I wish I’d seen Spacemen 3 live back when I had the chance, but at least I’ve seen a lot of great Spectrum and solo shows over the last 10 years. I always feel inspired to go record a song after seeing him solo, and I’m always blown away by the raw rock ‘n’ roll power of Spectrum, live. This primitive space music never gets old or feels dated.

Buffalo Springfield, “I Am A Child” from: Last Time Around
I recorded this song for American Laundromat’s all-female Neil Young tribute Cinnamon Girl. I had not heard this gorgeous and dark song before, which made me mad at myself. The bright side is that it’s like Christmas when I do stumble upon these gems that everyone seems to know but me. I love that the music and melody are so bright and optimistic like an innocent child who doesn’t understand the horror of the lyrics. The song sewing that knowing and not-knowing together is just devastatingly beautiful. I programmed the drums and played banjo samples on keys. Dean plays a guitar solo. I was going for a countrypolitan sound with strings. Listening to it now, I’d like to re-record my vocals with a bit more energy, a bit louder. (Note to self.) I especially love the ending where it gets a little trippy and almost jazzy with harp glissandos. I used this same backing track (changed the key and the chords around) and recorded the Wailers’ “She’s Coming Home” over it for a Christmas seven-inch single.

David Bowie, “Modern Love” from: Let’s Dance
It’s hard to talk about Bowie. I can’t think of anything big enough to say about him. “Modern Love” is now married in my mind to the scene in Frances Ha where Greta Gerwig is running/dancing down the street, which I love. There was one guy in high school who used to only play Bowie at his parties. The cool guy. And Bowie’s cool let  him slide effortlessly into the ’80s, where most other ’70s artists seemed ridiculous. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when he came into the studio while Dean & Britta were recording our first album with Tony Visconti. He was such a regular guy except that, of course, he wasn’t because he was David Bowie, and I kept thinking, “Stop staring at David Bowie while he’s telling a story.” But, of course, it would be weird and rude not to look at someone while they were telling a story. So, you see how it was meeting David Bowie. But he was just lovely and normal and excited about life. Sigh.

MAGNET Feedback With Eric Bachmann


We’ve been fans of Eric Bachmann since the very beginning. His first band, Archers Of Loaf, was as essential as Pavement, Superchunk, Sebadoh, Built To Spill and Guided By Voices as far as ’90s indie rock goes. After the Archers broke up, Bachmann started Crooked Fingers, which put out a handful of must-hear albums starting in 2000. Under his own name, he dabbled in soundtrack work before releasing his official solo debut, To The Races, in 2006. Now, Bachmann returns with a stunning new eponymous LP on Merge that proves he remains an amazing songwriter. The man obviously has an understanding of great music, so we asked him for his feedback on some songs we love.

David Bowie, “Five Years” from: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
David Bowie is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll man of all time. His ability to incorporate drama and grandeur without coming o as pretentious or silly is unsurpassed. In the Archers days while on tour, our esteemed bass player, Matthew Peter Gentling, would occasionally slip into these cosmic seizures—these strange, shamanistic, supersonic trances, usually after a night of heavy drinking—and sing out, “My brain hurts a lot.” I’d like to think that it was actually David Jones practicing mind control on Matt just to give us a laugh.

Neko Case, “Hold On, Hold On” from: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
I’ve been playing in Neko Case’s band for about three years. We do this one almost every night. I don’t tire of it. These lyrics, in particular, possess a certain mystery that kept it interesting for me. Like many good lyrics, it provokes questions more than it provides answers: What is it about your blood that makes it dangerous? Why would a bride marry a person if marrying that person requires that you take a Valium? If you’re thankful that you’re leaving the party alone, then why did you stay until 3 a.m.? I know you don’t enjoy drinking that much anymore. And then there’s that voice, of course. Some nights I don’t want to play any notes for fear of walking over something so elegant and beautiful.

Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” from: I’m Your Man
Leonard Cohen (with Sharon Robinson on this one) exercises superior command over the English language. He’s a legend for a valid reason. He is a legend for several valid reasons. His voice sounds great to me, and I love the way he incorporates backing vocals. I’d like to produce his next record.

John Coltrane, “Part 3: Pursuance/A Love Supreme, Part 4: Psalm” from: A Love Supreme
John Coltrane is the reason I majored in saxophone during my two years at Appalachian State. He’s also the reason I quit. I knew I could never reach that level of playing; I knew I wanted to sound like him too much; and I knew it was a bad idea to try to sound like someone else anyway. I remember reading Art Pepper’s autobiography, Straight Life, a few years later, and what he said about ripping off Coltrane resonated with me: “When I got out of the joint the last time in ’66, I had no horns. I could only afford one horn, and I got a tenor because, I told myself, to make a living, I had to play rock. But what I really wanted to do was play like Coltrane. In ’68, I got the job playing lead alto with Buddy Rich (in Las Vegas) … I was blowing Don Mensa’s alto in the motel room … jamming in front of the mirror, blowing the blues, really shouting, and all of a sudden I realized, ‘Wow, this is me! This is me!’ Then I realized that I had almost lost myself. Something had protected me for all these years, but Trane was so strong he’d almost destroyed me.” So—I’m no Art Pepper, of course—but what he says “was so strong” about John Coltrane is what destroyed me, too, in terms of why I quit focusing on the saxophone. So, there’s that. And then, there’s the fact that one of my favorite drummers of all time plays on this. I saw the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine perform at Jazz Alley in Seattle around 2001 or 2002. When I heard he passed away a few years later, I was, of course, sad; but I also felt really lucky to have seen him perform live. That first minute and a half of Elvin Jones by himself on this floors me every time.

Bob Dylan, “If Not For You” from: New Morning
I heard George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass for the first time as a kid when I was visiting my aunt in Cullowhee, N.C. I think she was a student at Western Carolina at the time. I was only five or six years old? She and her boyfriend had all of these Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac and John Lennon records. I remember thinking they must be hippies, wearing all that fringe suede and drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. George Harrison’s picture on the cover made me think the record was about fi sh sticks or the stormy sea because of his rubber boots and his hat and his beard. For some reason, my aunt kept poking fun at me, saying that I was a baby. I had only been born in 1970, so I was insecure about that particular issue and recall getting pretty pissed off at her insisting that I was, in fact, a baby. She dragged it out: “You are a baaaay-bee.” I couldn’t grasp that it was OK to be a baby, I guess, or comprehend the concept of someone communicating affection toward me in the form of gentle antagonisms. Out of frustration, I naively wrote her little hippie album off as merely odd-looking. Now, of course, it’s one of my favorite album covers and one of my favorite records of all time. I’m not mad at her anymore, either. She’s killer. Oh yes, and I like Dylan’s original version, as well—he wrote it after all; but I really love George Harrison’s voice on his version.

Slint, “Good Morning, Captain” from: Spiderland
Spiderland is a nice record for driving long distances. I enjoy listening to it while driving by myself late at night along desolate desert landscapes.

Superchunk, “Slack Motherfucker” from: Superchunk
I got on the internet to find the lyrics to this classic because—after hearing it live dozens and dozens of times—I could never understand exactly what Mac was singing in the first verse. Fortunately, the lyrics were easy to finbd. It was the lyric where he calls the antagonist of the song “smoke stack.” Now I like the song even more, which is silly because I already liked it so much. An interesting and perhaps blasphemous thing for me to announce here, however, is that this song—especially since it in some way represents the introductory siren for Merge Records—isn’t my favorite. Sorry, but my favorite musical side of Mac is the side that probably loses him money. I love Mac’s new instrumental deconstruction of Non-Believers called Staring At Your Hologram. Yes, even more than “Slack Motherfucker.” I love that EP of Tropicalia covers he did in Brazilian Portuguese, too. I went to Augusta a few years ago to see him perform a few soundtracks he had written for some Maya Deren films, and it was amazing. So, I’m putting my vote in now. I want Mac to start a strange, singular big band like Stan Kenton or George Russell or Sun Ra and wear a colorful suit and make odd squeaks and squawks. It would be a cool turn for him, and he’d be great at it, I think.

Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” from: Nebraska
I probably have an unhealthy fascination with organized crime. A lot of people do. Perhaps that’s why there are so many books and films about it. The mob’s power over certain aspects of U.S. infrastructure over the years—the devastation, violence and loss it has caused so many families, and the impact it’s had on our popular culture, in general— latches onto something primal in us. That this song starts with a reference to Philip “The Chicken Man” Testa getting blown up with a nail bomb by his rivals in the Philadelphia mob demonstrates the Boss’ fascination with this, too. It makes for great storytelling, and it makes for a great, dark song. I always wondered if Springsteen ever considered that he might be putting himself (and his family) on their radar in a bad way by singing about this so soon after it happened.

The Velvet Underground, “Candy Says” from: The Velvet Underground
I love the sound of Doug Yule’s voice on this. I have this image in my mind of Lou Reed standing uncomfortably close, being passive-aggressive toward the poor guy as he sings it in the studio. I know that’s probably not how it went down, but it’s how I think of it. I guess I feel like Andy Warhol (in the films) and Lou Reed (in this song) had an agenda with her or something; that they were exploiting Candy Darling for the sake of their art, and Yule was just innocently singing a pretty song without any agenda, even if he was somewhat in the dark.

Archers Of Loaf, “Wrong” from: Icky Mettle
The best part about this song is Eric Johnson’s guitar part.