Friday, June 13, 2008

Learn to Count the iPod Way!

All sortsa goofy things you can do with your iPod. It can even be educational. Here's a special, arbitrary countdown of the top ten tracks on myPod -- 10,314 songs strong.

10. "Ten Feet Tall" by XTC. Someday the world will catch up to this incredible band. Probably not today.

XTC songs are ready-made for some kind of dramatic adaptation a la the Beatles and Across the Universe. "Ten Feet Tall" is a prime example, a Colin Moulding-penned number about how marvellous it is to be in love. I can see the heroine of a musical giddily warbling it after that first chance encounter with her sweetheart.

9. "Nine Times Blue" by the Monkees. We've gone on and on at Pop Culture America about how sadly underrated the Monkees are (Helloooo!! Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!! Helloooo!!). Although now that Madonna is in, maybe it's a badge of honor that Mike, Mickey, Davy and Peter have stayed out of that obviously-not-terribly-exclusive club.

"Nine Times Blue" is a Nesmith song, a sweet country tune that's as humble about love as "Ten Feet Tall" is lightheaded. It's also, along with the songs from Head, one of the last gasps of the Monkees as a four piece. Peter would leave shortly after.

8. "Eight Days a Week" by the Beatles. I suppose it was inevitable that a Beatles song would come up. This is the Fabs at their lightest and frothiest. And it was the last hurrah for their peppy, love-song early incarnation. Things began to darken and complicate with the Help! album and would continue to do so until their untimely demise.

And once again, just for the record, I LOVED Kristy Lee Cook's revved-up, hayseed throwdown version of this song on "American Idol." Randy, Simon and Theodore could not have been more wrong. And heaven knows, they try.

7. "Seven Seas" by Echo and the Bunnymen. The Bunnies get lumped in with the Smiths and the Cure as 1980s gloom-and-doomers, but they could be incredibly silly. Check out the video for this number and see for yourself.

"Seven Seas" comes to us from the Bunnies' seminal 1984 opus Ocean Rain. I love the rollercoaster bass riff and the bell accents.

6. "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" by Split Enz. Boy, a lot of 1980s music coming up in this search. I swear I've got plenty of recent material, too. Honest.

Before there was a Crowded House, there was Neil Finn's first big band, Split Enz. 80s fans probably know them best for "I Got You," the closest they ever came to a hit in the States. They also scraped the bottom of the chart with "One Step Ahead."

Those early singles had a stalking, ominous feel to them, but "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" is all breeze and piping synth loops, though there's still a certain amount of peril in the predicament. Still, they managed to last for six months, right? Not bad.

5. "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain" by the Flaming Lips. Hey! Something from after the 80s. Barely. This one comes from the Lips 1990 masterpiece In a Priest Driven Ambulance and finds Wayne and the boys in an acoustic, melancholy mood. The lyrics muse about the deaths of major figures (JFK, John Lennon, Jesus) while the music features an aggressively strummed acoustic guitar with keening, mournful electric wailing behind it.

There may be no better summation of the Flaming Lips philosophy than this song's blunt, "You're f*cked if you do, you're f*cked if you don't."

4. "Four Little Diamonds" by the Electric Light Orchestra. Sure, they were just going by "ELO" at this point, but I always loved the goofy grandeur of the full name. Jeff Lynne indulges his 1950s rock & roll obsession on a pounding track with a beat that recalls "Don't Bring Me Down" from just a few years earlier.

You youngsters out there (and I think you know who I am) might know this as a featured track on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's Flash-FM radio station. It's introduced as "a real good one." As always, GTA is correct.

3. "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Bob wakes up early and sees a few birds cavorting and tweeting outside his door. Inspired, he concludes that "every little thing gonna be all right."

Apparently, the birds in question have gotten hold of a little rastafarian herb. As has Bob.

Possibly the sunniest, most reassuring song ever recorded. I feel for you if this doesn't put a smile on your face.

2. "Two Trains" by Little Feat. From an optimistic song we move to one about impending derailment. Lowell George's metaphor for drug abuse and dysfunctional relationships is headed for a crash as inevitable as a pair of locomotives headed in opposite directions on one track.

The Fabulous Feat were just as self-destructive as the trains -- or George himself -- experiencing about as many break-ups and realignments as they had albums. Still, when the music was on, it was nothing short of miraculous. Here a rollicking barrelhouse rhythm is married to a soulful groove with some sweet background singing counterpointing George's gruff, cynical vocal. The back-up singers include Bonnie Raitt. From the album Dixie Chicken; the Dixie Chicks swiped their name from it.

1. "One" by Aimee Mann. Recent Pop Culture America review subject Mann covered the Harry Nilsson classic for the Magnolia soundtrack, and it suited her almost too well, with it's sad resignation and loneliness.

It features in the film as each main character is introduced in a wild blur of audacious Paul Thomas Anderson shots and editing flourishes. The movie was directly inspired by Aimee's songs and includes a few direct lifts of her lines in the script. One of my favorite films (see list at right) and the Aimee Mann soundtrack songs are all essential.

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