My single top Rock 'n' Roll fantasy goes as follows. The Beatles are in trouble and Paul clings desperately to the idea that he can save the band by convincing John that the only thing to be done is to head out on a secret, small-clubs-only tour where they will show up randomly at bars and play only their favorite Chuck Berry-influenced faves. I am alive, of concert-going age, and stumble into a bar in Manchester to catch a set by these furry phantoms, who sound an awful lot like...no...it is! This track has everything you might want from a Beatles track: Paul and John getting along for long enough to record vocals together, Harrison loosely wailing through a great rocker, and BILLY FUCKING PRESTON!
“Act Naturally” Dwight Yoakam Dwight Sings Buck I Had an argument about this song recently. We were trying to come up with good Bakersfield Sound tunes to include on our wedding playlist and I suggested this one. Too sad, she said. It's not the kind of sad you take seriously, though, I said; it's just a funny bit of self-deprecating mockery. I was wrong, she retorted, since the protagonist is sad and lonely. I guess I just never thought this song was sad because I so associate it with Ringo Starr who, for some reason, I just can't seem to take seriously.
“We'll Never Sleep (God Knows We'll Try)” Rilo Kiley Take Offs and Landings The lyrical power of Jenny Lewis is something to behold on the first few Rilo Kiley albums. I'm not so much a fan of the less-than-substantive Under the Blacklight, but her writing early on cut insightfully to a generational malaise. Her bittersweet takes on relationships – familial, amorous and otherwise – are emotionally stirring without being trite or heavyhanded. And hearing Blake Sennet (or Soper or whatever he calls himself now) noodling his way through a guitar interlude that sounds, chord-for-bent chord, like a less-than-perfect Modest Mouse garage practice session is an added period-pegging treasure, considering how far he's come as an axeman.
“Man in a Suitcase” The Police Zenyatta Mondatta Fuck it. Here goes: I like the Police. For all the douchebaggery associated with its frontman, Gordon Sumner – the I-can-fuck-longer-than-thou tantra bragging, the beyond-rainstick new age schlock he's recorded unapologetically since Dream of the Blue Turtles, and his smug fucking Sting face – this band recorded some fantastic pop songs. I'd like to geek-qualify here – say that I only like a few of the early fake-punk singles like “Fall Out” or claim that my affinity for the group formed before I could really be held responsible for my musical taste, that I only listen intently to get to Stewart Copeland's legendary drumming – but I can't. Even though I just kind of did. Whatever. You play “Tea in the Sahara” and I will unashamedly sing along.
“Against All Odds” Postal Service Single But I will not abide Phil Collins, for some reason. For a lot of reasons. Like the Ben Folds/Rufus Wainwright cover of the Wham! track “Careless Whisper,” I've dropped this track on a couple mixes with only the smallest bit of irony. The original makes me want to poke the eyes out of the nearest toddler, but this cover is great. -- Sean Cronin