Clearly, getting this feature on Wednesdays hasn't really been working all that well, so it looks while I'll break up the stellar recommendations of our music writers into posts for Thursday and Friday. Then again, I might change my mind next week. It's the surprises that make life worth living, right?
In this segment, tracks by Donovan, David Bazan, Tippy Elvis and Grandaddy. Tomorrow, five additional songs for your perusal.
Donovan, "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"
Forget the dreadfully affected vocal delivery on the verses, the outdated vocal effects (the Auto-Tune of the '60s?), and the hippie lyrics (although as far as hippie lyrics go, you could do worse than, "Cannot believe what I see / All I have wished for will be / All of our race proud and free"). It's the song's arrangement and, most of all, that gorgeous fucking chorus that make this song worth putting on repeat.
Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion, released his second solo album, 'Strange Negotiations,' this past May. For whatever reason I missed it, and it wasn't until recent weeks when Rialto master of all trades Ryan Trayte started pumping it on a regular basis that it was on my radar, mostly on the strength of the first track, "Wolves at the Door," which perfectly captures the grim minor key ethos of the independent guitar rock of the '90s that I cut my teef on. Evocative of Silkworm's "Nerve," in tone, feel, and its effective use of one of my favorite cusses, "goddamn."
Tippy Elvis, "Surf Poet"
Before The Killers killed and prior to Panic! at the Disco disco-panicking, the greatest band to emerge from Las Vegas' neon-encrusted dusthills was...well, hardly a rock band at all. Rather, Tippy Elvis was a strange amalgam of The B-52s and Weird Al Yankovic, with a tuba pumping the low end instead of a bass guitar. Led by spoken-word/slam bard Dayvid Figler, this punk-polka "goofcore" quintet ruled Sin City's alt-music roost in the mid- to late-'90s, and their song "Surf Poet" shows you why. Great lyrics ("Ridin' the waves/in their black berets/Catchin' some rays/And drinkin' lattes"), Figler's absurd Fred Schneider-esque vocals, and Sean Jones' ? and the Mysterians-grade keyboard runs make for a great combo. Plus, Ginger Bruner's tuba-blowing blows minds. I keep my fingers crossed that this band will reunite for a studio album of new material.
Grandaddy "Lost on Yer Merry Way"
Grandaddy’s penultimate album, 2003’s Sumday, evokes an eerily familiar world, where howling winds scatter fast food bags, where every ‘c’ has been replaced with a ‘k,’ and where office drones are stymied by nature. Populated by limo drivers with “weird cologne” and “magic hair,” a dejected, defeated couple wasting away in the “Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World,” and, our narrator, the becalming frontman Jason Lytle, Sumday represents a world as mundane as it is magnificent (sound familiar?). The brilliance of the album, ideally encapsulated on this plaintive, driving dirge, is the way its quirky lamentations about nature always give way to (or provide depth for) Lytle’s searching, wounded narrator: “All that I’m asking tonight/ is that I make it back home alive/ no explosions, no crashes, no fights.” Think of it as “Help Me, Rhonda” for a group who portends evil in the “Little Deuce Coupe.”