José González – Stay Alive

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In late 2013 I saw two very different films in the theaters – The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller. Wolf was an assault on the senses – every form of depravity in all its glory (and pitfalls) in my face for 2 hours plus. I loved every second (as did the critics). Walter Mitty was the follow-up film for me, and I also loved every second for very different reasons. Critics seemed divided, but I think is because there isn’t any sarcasm to be found. It’s just a feel good movie that leaves you feeling inspired at the end. Wolf doesn’t make my top 10 films of all time, while Mitty is entrenched in the 2nd spot (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou will never budge from #1). Swedish artist José González was tasked with composing music for the film – star Ben Stiller had been a fan of his music and specifically requested his input. Stay Alive was the single from the soundtrack and was a collaboration between González, Ryan Adams, and Teddy Shapiro. I have had it on constant repeat ever since it was released. Plaintive vocals, lyrics that convey doubt & hopefulness – it is imbued with a sense of the Walter Mitty character that Ben Stiller brought to life so wonderfully. The orchestration is lush while the music is a perfectly constructed indie pop song. Lyrically, it is simply perfect. “Sometimes there’s things a man cannot know / Gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow”…We’ll do whatever just to stay alive / Well the way I feel is the way I write / It isn’t like the thoughts of the man who lies / There is a truth and it’s on our side”.

The Lovely Intangibles – Air & Numbers

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Seems like just a year ago I was listening to the debut album by The Lovely Intangibles. Actually, it has been just over a year since the band’s debut Tomorrow Is Never was released to great acclaim (including by yours truly). The band features 3/5 members of The Lost Patrol, Jon Camp of Renaissance fame, and Mary Ognibene of Dotsun Moon. The chemistry is natural and the tunes are magnificent. The sophomore album was mixed and mastered by Brian Kehew – known for his work with The Moog Cookbook, Air, Fiona Apple, and The Who (among others). Air & Numbers takes the sounds of the debut to the next level – the shimmering intersection of post-punk and shoegaze.

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Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

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Strange as it may sound I didn’t full investigate the rich musical discography of Leonard Cohen until I heard Waiting For a Miracle on 2000’s Wonder Boys soundtrack album. Taken from 1992’s The Future it entranced me with its musical mysteries and Cohen’s deep, deep vocal delivery. Little did I know that it would begin a 16 year (and ongoing) odyssey into the world of Mr. Cohen. Lyrically, I find Leonard Cohen to be unparalleled. Words or phrases that would seem simple on their own become complex thoughts when tied into other trains of thought. Others – as in Hallelujah – become an ode or lament to carnal desires. Sometimes, within the same song. Hell, sometimes within the same verse. Jeff Buckley may have delivered the definitive version vocally, but the words are Leonard’s. To be misunderstood for eternity it seems. Late 60’s to late 70’s Cohen had a higher vocal registry and was keyboard free. From the 80’s on Leonard Cohen could be found experimenting with keyboards and delivering modern hits such as First We Take Manhattan and Everybody Knows. After a decade away, Cohen returned in 2001 with 10 New Songs – a stunning statement of intent. You Want It Darker is Cohen’s 5th studio album since his return and his 3rd since 2012. It may also be his finest.

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Evan Dando – All My Life

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

By the late 90’s The Lemonheads had mostly disappeared from the music world. 1996’s Car Button Cloth hinted at Evan Dando’s despair and drug fueled adventures, serving as a (temporary) epitaph and harbinger of things yet to pass. In 2002 a live album and EP was released under Evan Dando’s own name followed by 2003’s full studio album Baby I’m Bored. Years lost to partying parlayed into an engaging album full of self-reflection. Curiously, the song that I love the most was written by Ben Lee – though written from Dando’s perspective. All My Life deserves a place in the Great American Songbook. The weight of living a wild life is clear in every word sung by Dando – reminding more than a bit of the sole album by Dennis Wilson. Folk pop with a strong chorus, lyrically it is heartbreaking – though like the best songs it lets some sunshine in. You get the sense of sadness as he thinks about his days of drinking, drugging, and womanizing but also know that it is a thing of the past. “And I’m so impatient / For a new sensation / All my life / I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

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On Saturday, February 6th 2016 I was finally able to go see Black Sabbath in concert. I went with an old friend and had a blast posing with protesters, taking in the heavy metal music, and basically enjoying life. It was quite honestly a concert highlight for me, in a year that has seen me attending the most concerts of my life (cue up the mid-life crisis jokes). That night – me + a friend living out our heavy metal dreams – was also the last night of life in the Philadelphia suburbs for an Aunt that I was very close to.

I woke that Sunday to a somber message from my Mom asking her to call. Bleary eyed and confused, I called her. My Aunt had passed away early that morning after an unexpected asthma attack w/ complication. I had been very close to my Aunt in the days after college – I had even worked with her for a year after she put in a good word for me. The 3000-mile distance between Seattle and Philadelphia never felt far away when I saw her on my visits home. We had a natural relationship that I expected to last another 35 to 40 years. I broke down on the phone that day, then later again on the phone with my Mom and Great Aunt. Then…nothing. I’ve blocked out the pain and have distracted my thoughts when they present themselves.

In the summer of 2015 Nick Cave lost his 15-year-old son Arthur in a tragic accident. He died after falling off a cliff near Ovingdean Gap in Brighton, England. I remember reading the articles and wondering “How does someone recover from something like that?”. I felt the pain would almost be insurmountable. When Skeleton Tree – the 16th studio album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – was announced, I was intrigued. How can an artist regroup and move forward in the face of unimaginable tragedy? Little did I know, this album would help me to deal with the grief and pain that I have suppressed since my Aunt passed away.

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U2 – Staring At The Sun

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In the mid to late 90’s U2 were restless and relentless in their musical experimentation – beginning with 1991’s Achtung Baby and ending with 1997’s Pop (including 1995’s Passengers project w/ Brian Eno). For me personally, that is the 2nd Golden Age of U2 (the 1st period is their post punk masterpieces encompassing their 1st 3 albums). Pop was not universally embraced and was even later bashed by the band as feeling forced. I can see that on some songs, but Staring At The Sun doesn’t fit within that narrative. The 2nd single lifted from the album, it hit #3 in the UK and #26 in the US. Slightly less electronica based than other songs from the record, it has that classic U2 sound w/ sonic embellishments. Lyrically, it is one of my favorite U2 songs. Weren’t we all told not to stare at the sun when we were kids? Do we always listen to what we are told? Images of summer passing, pushing yourself to try something new, dealing with fears. The one lyric that really makes an impression on me is during the musical interlude. Adam Clayton’s bass sounds positively menacing (looped, sampled, and played live) while Bono sings “God is good but will HE listen”. As an artist who has continually put himself on the line by proclaiming his faith, those words pack a punch. A sometimes overlooked anthem in the U2 canon, Staring At the Sun is a song I continually return to. Perfection.

The Lemonheads – The Outdoor Type

outdoor type cover

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Ah, the great outdoors. In Washington State I have no lack of friends who rough it – camping in tents under the stars in the great outdoors. And there is a certain beauty in that and something that I admire. But I’ll be honest – 9 times out of 10  it just isn’t my thing. I like the comfort of a bed at night. And I might also like comfy pajamas, hot cocoa, and checking Facebook by the glow of my phone. It is a battle to be sure. A cabin isn’t so bad though. Back in the mid 90’s Evan Dando’s The Lemonheads brought these exact conundrums to a wider audience. The Outdoor Type was a single released from the 1996 album Car Button Cloth. An album that still confounds me to this day, it is made up of dark masterpieces and slight alternative rock throwaways in equal measure. Little talked about fact – The Outdoor Type was written by Tom Morgan and 1st recorded by his band Smudge in 1994. So The Lemonheads version is a cover. Evan Dando imbues the song with a sense of being lived in, and is equal parts funny & honest. In some ways, the sound points towards his 2003 solo album Baby I’m Bored – melodic, wistful, and just a tad country. For me, this is the quintessential song by The Lemonheads. I’ve played it more times than I know in the last 20 years, and I’d imagine the next 20 years hold more of the same in store. I don’t usually post the entire lyrics from a song, but this one still makes me smile and demands it.

Always had a roof above me
Always paid the rent
I never set foot inside a tent
Couldn’t build a fire to save my life
I lied about being the outdoor type
I’ve never slept out underneath the stars
Closest that I came to that was one time my car,
Broke down for an hour
In the suburbs, at night
I lied about being the outdoor typeToo scared to let you know
I knew what you were looking for
Lied until I’d fit the bill
God bless the great indoors
I lied about being, the outdoor type
I’ve never owned a sleeping bag, let alone a mountain bike

I can’t go away with you on a rocking climbing weekend
What if something’s on TV and it’s never shown again
Just as well I’m not invited
I’m afraid of heights
I lied about being the outdoor type

Never learned to swim
Can’t grow a beard or even fight
I lied about being, the outdoor type

Minor Victories – s/t

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Minor Victories carries that heavy term “super group” that can be the kiss of death in the music world. Comprised of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, Mojave 3), Justin Lockey (Editors), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), and James Lockey (film-maker, also Justin’s brother) – it truly is an alternative music world super group. Fortunately in this case the group exceeds all expectations. Braithwaite had claimed in an early interview (before the album was released) that the group sounded like the best bits of the members main bands. And, well – he wasn’t wrong. The album also features contributions from Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) and James Graham (The Twilight Sad). Each contribution adds something to the overall atmosphere of the record. In fact, I expected this to be a nice stop-gap to hold me over until the forthcoming Slowdive album. Instead what I got was an album that I’ve had on repeat since the day of release.

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