Monday, March 1, 2010

Music For: Sanity

OK so maybe not the best time to introduce what I want to be a new repeating piece when I haven't had the nerve to post anything other than a video link and a plea for support in the last few months. But I've been thinking about this one for a while now and I think after the somewhat hellish weekend of going into the office both days, I need to write a little somethin' to get my sanity back. So what better way than a suggested playlist of songs that I like when I need to collect my thoughts, focus, take a few deep breaths, and realize how truly lucky I am to be where I am, have the family and friends that I do, and how sometimes the things that cause stress or anxiety are all really just minor in the big picture of things.

So the thought is that we all use music in our lives for different things. To celebrate, to mourn, to take your mind off things, to get motivated, etc.So I'm going to try and do a few different Music For: segments in the upcoming days.

So without further ado, in no particular order:

Ella Fitzgerald; "Summertime":  In particular the version with Louis Armstrong. I don't know if it's because this song takes me back to Music Appreciation class in middle school when we first learned about Porgy & Bess, or remembering great summers spent, but it just makes me smile. Ella is the QUEEN of being able to relate to when it comes to her voice. When she was on, she was fucking ON and there wasn't nobody who could hold a candle to her (though I would give a limb to have been able to hear Sharon Jones sing together with her). A lot of people like Ella's faster tunes, but I think it's the slower ones and the ballads that really help her shine. Truly a wonderful tune.

Eric Clapton; "Nobody knows you when you're down and out" (unplugged album): I just read an article with Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck in Rolling Stone and it made reference to the fact that Beck replaced Clapton in the Yardbirds becuase Clapton decided to leave because he felt the bad wasn't staying true enough to the blues that he held so near and dear to his heart. They were straying too far from the integrity of the music. But yet on this particular verison, it seems to have an almost upbeat tempo, sung almost in a good way. The nice thing about this song is that it's written/sung from a point of view of someone who knows what they had before they lost it, and realize now, after the fact, how easy it is to take for granted or to not care. It really helps to take a step back, get things in perspective, and this song helps me do that. (BTW if you ever want to hear some incredible Rod Stewart on lead vocals, check out the version of Jailhouse Rock on Beck-ola. Fabulous!)

Zero 7; "Destiny": Yes, this one is a little bit of a departure from my regular genre, but honestly these guys are great. I first heard this song on a mixtape album from Dan the Automator titled "Wanna buy a Monkey?" which is an incredible mix of songs, btw. But I loved this song so much, the beautiful female lead vocal over some really rich electronic beats and melodies that I decided to splurge for the whole album. Was not disappointed. They're good. Some of you also may know them from their tune "In the Waiting line" that was featured on the Garden State Soundtrack, as well as, I believe, an episode of Sex and the City (so says my wife).

 Grateful Dead; "Ripple": If you aren't familiar with American Beauty, it's truly THE classic Dead album, but not in the way you would think. While best know for their trippy, jammy live performances, this album is almost the exact opposite of that. Of the ten songs on the album, not one of them lasts more than five and a half minutes. But rather what makes this album so wonderful is it's full, homey, Americana-style feel. It just feels like the kind of album you could sit down and listen to the entire thing in one sitting and want to listen to it again in ten minutes. But hey, maybe that's just me. It's a little folksy, but it's fun. And this tune in particular has loaned it's lyrics to many a high school yearbook quote for sure. It hits the mark, and makes you just smile and sway.

Crosby, Stills, Nash ; "Helplessly Hoping": Another classic act, this tune in particular is wonderful because it's a nice simple tune that stays in the background while the harmonies of the singers really take the forefront and sound just beautiful. It's one of those rare occassions also that I feel alliteration in song lyrics don't come off a super-cheezy. While probably not their most exciting or popular song, it's one that strikes a chord with me.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones; "Lochs of Dread": Hey, what could be cooler than an electric banjo, right?! I got into Bela Fleck in my early years of college, where I think the album "Live Art" was required daily listening for quite some time. The fact that Victor Wooten is one of the most incredible bass players EVER didn't even occur to me until I had been listening to them for a while (seriously, if you take nothing away from this article, at least watch this link of Wooten. Then you may leave) . And Futureman is a dude who created his own friggin' instrument, for crying out loud!

Beck; "Jack-Ass": Odelay is an incredible album. When it came out everyone knew Beck as "the dude who sang 'Loser'. But this album took him to another place. While eclectic, he showed that he had a knack for being able to write original material that wasn't held inside your standard musical stereotype. It wasn't rock, it wasn't emo, it was just fun. And this tune is the one that I kept coming back to over and over again.

Damien Rice; "Volcano": This whole album, "O", is phenomenal. The local radio station in Philly that I listen to most selected it as album of the year when it came out. It's one of those ones you listen to over and over and never get tired of hearing it. This Irish dude has a way of being able to put so much emotion and feeling into his voice on every tune, whehter it's with a full ensemble playing behind him or just him and him along singing. He's the kind of dude who you think must be completely exhausted after any show he performs because of how much it feels personal that he's singing these songs. This particular tune has more of an up-beat feel than most of his on this album, which is perhaps why I choose it more than any other to listen to. It's a perpetual favorite on any playlist, but one that has earned it's spot. Over and over again. Also, this video of the song is taken from the IFC series Live at Abbey Road. He did an incredible session. I'd recommend setting your DVR to record the series. They get some incredible guests. Some bands you'd think you weren't really into will really surprise you!

Billy Joel; "Summer Highland Falls": Songs in the Attic is and always will be my favorite Billy Joel album. Say what you want about the dude, but back in the day he delivered some really good work. And listening to it when he was live and he was in his prime you can recall the reason you had his albums when you were younger. This is another tune I remember from having on cassette from my parents and listening to incessantly when were in the Bieber Family Truckster (with the undercarriage rust protection of course) on one journey or another. Just brings back memories of a good time.

Mofro; "Brighter Days": If you don't know Mofro, you should. A soulful Florida band who play with a lot of emotion and energy. Seen them in Philly and also in Florida. They're fun. They're front porch soul. And this tune does a good job of starting off slowly and building throughout the tune. Definitely worth a listen.

Soulive; "Jesus Children of America": Soulive is a modern old-school trio, if that makes any sense. drums, Organ, and guitar. Two brothers and Eric Krasno. These dudes bring it hard. And they have for some time now. I still remember going to see them at Haverford College with Mallitz and Zietz, showing up hours before the show started because we were told that it was a student show and a limited number of tickets were available to the public and we didn't want to miss our chance. The concernt was in a fucking ballroom. we got there before the "ticket window" (a folding table just inside the front door of the building) was even set up. But you bet your ass we got our tickets! They cooked a sick 14-minute version of this Stevie Wonder tune at that show, which I am thankful to have an electronic copy of to relive whenever the need strikes. And for you, dear reader/listener, feel free to check out their major-label debut for a pretty impressive version.

OK while I could go on for a little longer, I think this may be enough to hold you over. I do leave an offer on the table that if anyone reading this is interested in hearing these tunes, or more from these artists, let me know. I'd be happy to send you some stuff.

Anyone else have any tunes they find particularly interesting to get their sanity back? Share in the comments, will you?

Peace out, yo.


  1. Thanks Brian, I queued these up on and am going to listen to them now (well, the Bela Fleck and Soulive weren't available, but the rest will have to do). I need it.

  2. Jen, Glad to hear it! In case you're still interested:

    Bela Fleck:


  3. On reccomendation, I checked out a new online music site, Grooveshark. Was able to set up an online playlist of the tunes in this post, which is now visible on the right side of the blog. Or, you can access directly here:

    Feel free to search and make friends on the site if you sign up, my user ID is "yobiebs"