iPod Confidential: My Top Ten Tunes In Heavy Rotation

Here are the top ten songs in heavy rotation on my iPod this month:

this man's identity has been shielded for his own protection

"Selling Out" by Duncan Sheik:

Duncan Sheik's new album, the by turns mesmerizing and acerbic Legerdemain opens with this Coldplay-tinged commentary on contemporary music thats both lyrically spot-on (sample lyric: She says her night begins when the DJ spins/As if I don't know/You bought it all.....even when I was selling out") and catchy as all get-out. Love the Dave Evanseque guitar filigrees.

"Ready For Love" by Bad Company:

I recently discovered that Mick Ralphs brought this Mott The Hoople song to the band for their self-titled debut on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label. While I am not familiar with the original, this "cover" is the best example of a blues-rock ballad. As the flip-side to the cocksureness of "Feel Like Makin' Love", "Ready For Love" sounds like the last futile plea of a man who gave his body to a lover, and now regrets not sharing his heart. This tune will never grow old on me.

"Seaside" by Arovane:

First time I heard this tune, it was on SomaFm's "Drone Zone" ambient station. At 3:45 in the morning. I love its continually-cycling guitar line and the sound of the ocean gently washing over the reverse-engineered loop  - that sounds like it could be either a guitar or piano, I'm not sure. Hypnotic, melancholy, yet transcendent, I actually find myself so immersed that when it begins its nearly sudden fade-out, I feel compelled to hit the repeat button. And I do.

"Pressure Off" by Duran Duran (featuring Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers):

1986's Notorious album, produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers (featuring his signature guitars to great effect) may not be Duran Duran's strongest album, but I still think "American Science" is the most underrated pop protest song ever recorded ("A little megalomania becomes you/There aint a thing you can't acquire - with your cling-wrap plaything......") Its good to hear Rodgers reunite with these guys, and Janelle Monáe's soulful vocals and rap passage keep things current and fresh. 

"Blazing Gentlemen" by Robert Pollard:

"The sun alarm sounded/We escaped to Phoenix, with ostrich feathers in our skullcaps/And the wrong choice of photographic memories...." Now, that's beat poetry. The title track to Pollard's 2013 release (his # umpteenth solo outing) is equal parts Pete Townshend and William S. Burroughs: loud, concise, strident and unapologetic. I mean, who else but Pollard could end a stream-of-consciousness rant with the mantra, "What can I do? I like you!"

"Lavender" by Ray LaMontagne:

Of all the songs on LaMontagne's Supernova disc (overshadowed by the heavy hand of Dan Auer-Black Keys) not only is this opening salvo the most uncharacteristic tune he's ever written, it has all the coolness of Beck, and that's speaking volumes. A marvelous slice of lysergic pop-sike, this is the direction I plead LaMontagne continues to explore. We don't need another blue-eyed soulman, however satiny and haunting your voice is.  I say, bring back the Summer Of Love!

"When I Was A Boy" by Jeff Lynne's ELO:

Considering the only member of the original line-up of ELO on this album is Jeff himself, either hubris or copyright ownership (or both) dictates he include the moniker of the band that defined both the 70's and 80's pop landscape. Regardless, on an otherwise hit-and-miss affair, Lynne nails it with the opening number, "When I Was A Boy" - a rock ballad of introspection and sadness that lovingly informs ELO's mentors, The Beatles. And dammit if Lynne doesn't sound like ol' Mac himself.

"Little Neutrino" by Klaatu:

Albums I absorbed in my high-school years always hold a special place in my heart, and Beatles-hype/scam aside, the debut album by Canada's Klaatu was a brilliant pop album. And frankly, even here, their influences expand beyond the Fab Four. Take this futuristic, vocoder-laden piece of prog-rock, for example. Atmospheric, well-constructed, with just a tinge of Moody Blues for good measure. And the ending is one of prog-rock's best interludes - beautifully bombastic and trippy.

"Dream Within A Dream" by Spirit:

Musically, Spirit was light years ahead of their time - too bad the average person (if he knows at all) associates them with their 70's ecology PSA, "Nature's Way." But these guys were much, much more than that. I love the fuzz guitar-meets-orchestral feel of this paean to suicide ("Stepping off this mortal coil will be my pleasure") that sports gorgeous harmonies and expressive grand piano. When I feel the way that lyric suggests, listening brings me a sense of tranquility and peace. 

"Another Distant Star" by Elysium:

Eight years to the day I first started an ambient side-project with producer Rutger Holst and bassist/programmer Paul Christensen, I am relieved and saddened that our latest is the last in the Elysium trilogy. Relieved, because of how long it took to bring to fruition, sad because I think we created something special. For reasons I can't explain, this track, "Another Distant Star" gives me hope that future celestial travels await. 


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