1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – High Flying Birds
Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s recent reunification brought happiness and excitement to rock fans all over the world. And then we read the about the record’s concept and thought, “Oh dear God.” But really, while we all thought Neil was an old man gone ‘round the bend, this record carries on a tradition of weird, wonderful, unconventional cover records that are reminiscent of the fantastically hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable “Rock Swings” (2005) in which Paul Anka covered all kinds of hard rock songs from previous decades. This record Crazy Horse-izes traditional folk and quintessentially ‘American’ songs in such a way that they’re virtually unrecognizable. The best of the lot is the band’s virtuostic, sprawling, bluesy “High Flying Birds”, a must listen and return to classic Crazy Horse form. I wouldn’t expect anything less weird, interesting or conceptual from Neil.
2. Rhett Miller – Picture This
A long-time fan of Rhett Miller and his more rollicking Old 97’s, I was pretty stoked about the new record. It’s not a life-changing, groundbreaking opus like his previous solo effort, but with repeated listening, rich home-y sounds pull familiar heartstrings and overall, the record just makes me feel happy and summer time-y and it’s thoroughly, front-to-back enjoyable. Picture This is a song about knowing someone and loving someone and picturing how wonderful it will be – how wonderful it is – to grow old with that person. It’s the best track on the record and a perfect ode to how lovely it is to love ‘the one’.
3. Yolanda Be Cool – We No Speak Americano
After trying to figure out what this song was called and who it was by for months, I finally found it. I can’t even describe why I love this song so much, save for the fact that it’s a party in a boom box, and once it starts playing, the people start dancing and the world becomes a slick-but-quirky Spanish-flavoured block party.
4. Kylie Minogue – Time Bomb
While I try to maintain that I’m too anti-establishment for the mainstream, I’m not, nor have I ever been ‘above’ an artist like Kylie Minogue; her phases – from ex-soap opera pop stardom in her native Australia, to her off-the-wall 90s ‘indie’ phase with her moaning rasps and dark lyrics, to her techno/disco/pop 2000s comeback, I’ve LOVED Ms. Minogue. Her latest single is from a greatest hits collection and it’s completely and utterly modern, enjoyable and catchy as hell.
5. The Byrds – Blue Canadian Rockies
One time, I saw Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs in concert and they did an incredibly simple and moving cover of this “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” track which name-drops Lake Louise and reminds me of home. Lately I’ve been itching to go home again and see my parents, etc. and so it’s really lovely to listen to this song this week and think of all the good in my life.
6. Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
Yes, my guitar instructor somehow felt I could play this on my acoustic piece-of-crap guitar. There are string-pulls and hammers and all kinds of stuff I’m completely new to and it confuses the hell out of me. But hearing that riff, even on an acoustic guitar, is bliss. This is one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time, and it always will be.
7. Ray LaMontagne – Jolene
Speaking of Ray LaMontagne, I was thinking this week about how many great songs are called “Jolene”; there is at least two that we know of, and a few good covers of the haunting Dolly Parton song, “Jolene”. Ray LaMontagne captures love and vagrancy and despair in his “Jolene” and the results are as emotionally pulverizing as they are undyingly beautiful. It’s one of my most-played songs on iTunes and it never gets old for me. I still don’t know what love means, either.
8. Deer Tick – The Bump
I just saw Deer Tick last week at the Starlite Room and it was rockin’. Following two openers – Newfoundlanders The Novaks and Nashville’s answer to Hard Core Logo, Turbo Fruits – Deer Tick’s show was all about drunken parties, slurring and spraying beer around, and bringing good time garage rock to a relatively small but enthusiastic audience. “The Bump” is a song personifying drugs, and it’s wry and clever and raw. Call-and-response hardly ever sounds this badass.