That is a demented ballpoint self-portrait of me in my toddler days, rocking my bottle in my Mom’s old room. I changed her bed to a dragon guardian angel, like you do. I just figured it’s best to start the year with something uh, “optimistic”. With that in mind, it is time for the first WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2022, starring the finest songs that have crossed our path in recent days! I should note that this list features some gorgeous stragglers from the end of 2021 as well. As such it is Double Stuf™ size! Anyway, the world is still a mess but, hyperbolic sentimentality coming, there is still magnificent music to commiserate with, soundtrack our confusion, and rope us in when things feel nuts (and they do). Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. Rock on as best you can.
This is a pic of the wondrous Carla Thomas performing at the legendary Wattstax concert in 1972. While every day is a good day to celebrate her endless fabulosity, today I have a more specific reason to talk her up as she is a key player within one of my weirdest musical obsessions: covers of ’70s soft rock songs done by soul artists in the actual ’70s. I know. You’re like wtf, that is really, really specific and nerdy. But it is a more vast, beautiful and magnificently weird world than you can imagine…and I really want you to hear what I’m talking about.
I wrote a piece here at PuR a while back but have blown it up to epic proportions over at Cover Me. There you will find a demented and infatuated essay titled “My Cover Story: Soul In The Middle Of The Road” where I break down some of the absolute finest and craziest R & B covers of ’70s soft rock songs ever-ever-ever. When I say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Donny Hathaway turning a smoky LA club into a church on his version of “You’ve Got A Friend” or Walter Jackson rambunctiously reinterpreting Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and covering it with white powder or Carla walking down and owning James Taylor’s “Country Road”, well, you haven’t lived. I’ll explain, share 30(!) soft-soul covers and talk all kinds of loved up (and brutally honest) shiz about the songs and the artists responsible, as well as describe how years of sitting in the back seat of my Mom’s car and being endlessly showered with the sounds of ’70s AM pop radio, did unspeakable things to my future musical taste. Plus if you have a little soul in your heart, I promise you will fall in love with at least one of the covers (or be seriously confused by them and hey, that’s always fun).
When things are tumultuous, you tend to crave comfort food and that extends to the music you listen to. When you’re anxious and scared you want warmth and safety, you want what you know, you want Adele doing her Adele thing (if that’s your thing, me I’ll take Sade doing her Sade thing) and so on. Over this past year, like a lot of humans, I spent a fair amount of time listening to old faves from my younger days, holding onto them like I would my Mom’s jean leg during a thunderstorm when I was a squirt, and burrowing in their comfortable familiarity. Yet despite that, I never stopped craving and seeking out new music.
It’s estimated that 60,000 tracks are uploaded daily onto Spotify alone, meaning that finding and discovering new things can be both overwhelming and exceptionally labor-intensive. And algorithms aren’t necessarily the most trustworthy guides when it comes to finding the good stuff (I know, understatement). This past year I spent a lot of time searching (okay, like every year). I traveled down endless rabbit holes, watching, reading, and listening to all sorts, every day, in the hope of unearthing something special. While 2021 saw me queuing up Hall & Oates’s “Wait For Me” for roughly the ten trillionth time in my life, I also kept up the dig for new stuff like the world’s nerdiest musical loving gopher ( can’t stop, won’t stop).
Welcome to PuR’s 50 Best Songs of 2021!
It was extraordinarily difficult to consolidate this list to 50 entries. The playlist they emerged from was 600 songs long and that list was an edited version of an even larger one (again, nerd here).The list is a little weird and idiosyncratic. And it is full of heart-squeezingly, dirty wonderful songs and people who collectively represent the only reason I remain on speaking terms with 2021. I should note that it is in no particular order because as my Mom still says “I love all you kids the same” 😉
You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
I genuinely, honestly and sincerely, hope you find something or someone you love within these 50 fine, foxy and fabulous things. Rock on and keep breathing…
THANKS TO ALL THE ARTISTS & CREATORS OF THESE WONDERFUL SONGS, YOU ARE THE SUN.
AND THANKS TO THE LOYAL AND ENDLESSLY WONDROUS PuR READERS, YOU ARE THE REASON.
In November of 1981, my Mom dropped me off at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island so I could see Genesis for the first time. It was a birthday present and apart from actual records was the only thing I wanted that year. My seat was in the second row behind the stage meaning I was close but also had a weird view of the band. That didn’t prevent me from loving every minute, clutching the tour program and tees I bought with my b-day money in my arms as I left and feeling utterly ecstatic that I got to see Genesis play live. Fast forward to this past Sunday, and there I was again, nearly 40 years to the day I’d seen them for the first time, watching Genesis at MSG for likely the last time ( well sort of, I ended up going to the second MSG show too because my heart insisted). The whole experience felt kind of surreal, a lot of memories swirled in my head during the show about the band and how I used to sit for hours drawing in my childhood bedroom while ‘Abacab’, ‘Duke’ or ‘A Trick of The Tail’ blasted in the background. I was overcome with emotion a few times during the shows and some tears were spilled, even during the loudest most upbeat songs. When the band took their final bow and walked off the stage, I just kind of mouthed “thank you”. Genesis meant sooo much to me as a young one and I’m grateful they were able to do one last go-round and that I too, was here to see it. It’s not often you get to bookend your lifelong bond with a band so neatly, in fact, that may have been both the first and last time I’ll experience that symmetry. It was emotional as hell to spend the night with my young teen self who was with me in spirit the entire time the band played…but also, what a gift to be able to meet up with her that way.
And for the record, we both still agree that “Invisible Touch” sucks.
And now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path over recent days. They are all gorgeous and fine and tied for #1in our hearts.
p.s. Gonna be posting The Best Songs (and stuff) of 2021 list here next week! See you then!
About a month ago I had to bring my laptop ( top and bottom pictured above) to the Apple store to have the battery replaced. The associate looked at it and informed me that as my beloved little machine was now 8 years old, it was considered “vintage”, meaning they didn’t have the battery needed on hand and would have to order it. It took a month but thankfully they did manage to score one. I was disappointed at not only how lost I felt being without my robot sibling for a mere 24 hours ( pathetic) but at how something so young on paper was now considered “vintage”, like a freakin’ card catalog at the library or a tube television (the latter of which my Mom still proudly employs so she can watch her Judge Judy). Mostly though, if my laptop is the age of a third grader and now regarded as an antique that requires research to fix, well then I am literally a renaissance painting. Time for my nap.
And with that, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have come our way over the last handful of days. They are all otherworldly lovely and tied for #1 in our cobwebbed, discolored, vintage hearts. Listen to them on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
Right now at the Metrograph theater NYC, you can see a gorgeously restored version of the 1980 cult classic film Out Of The Blue (until 11/28 to be precise). I wouldn’t quite call it a coming-of-age film because that seems like too trivial a characterization. It’s more like a wholly disturbing and freakin’ amazing coming-of-realization movie. Dennis Hopper directed and stars in it, but the lynchpin of the film is Linda Manz ( who passed away in 2020 at age 58). Her magnetic presence, persona, and insane charisma are what make Out Of The Blue so worth seeing. She delivers a straight-up “what the f is happening right now” kind of performance, reminding me of one of those kids who would have absolutely terrorized you in school (or anywhere she saw you) or, if she was feeling benevolent that day, made you her pet. Either way, she was the sun and you were the in deference earth. And that’s kind of how it feels watching her, even as the world spirals down around her, she’s the boss ( with the painfully soft, hidden center). And so yes, please go check out Out Of The Blue and/or add it to your “wanna see” list for when this restored version is officially streamable.
And now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. It was an off-the-wall weird kind of week, meaning this new batch is somewhat sonically diverse…but in the best possible way. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
We’re working on some big ‘ol stuff for this here blog right now. Coming soon you will see an immense “Rating the Albums” breakdown on a behemoth, beloved band ! Plus “The Best of 2021″ breakdown ! And hey, there will likely be a new installment of ‘That’s Their Pet Sounds” in there somewhere! It will all be coming your way over the next month (uh oh). As a result I have no lengthy anecdote to offer today (giving you a break, because dammit, you deserve it). Instead I humbly present you with this, your latest dose of the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path over the past seven days. They are all seriously swoon-some and gorgeous, I’m telling you.You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
Today is Joni Mitchell’s 78th birthday and I’m going to make a pop music true confession: I was only inspired to buy my first Joni album (Court And Spark) because Prince “told” me to. It was the ’80s, and I loved my Prince and I’d seen an interview where he mentioned how awesome she was and called her a genius or something to that effect. On went the bulb. If the person who made my #1 favorite album at the time (Purple Rain) with my # 1 favorite song (“I Would Die 4 U”) loved her, there had to be a reason and I needed to know what that reason wasdammit. I bought the album and by the time I’d finished playing it, like most humans upon exposure to Joni, I’d been transformed into a complete devotee, snarfing up every album in her catalog and playing them endlessly forever to this very day. That Prince, he knew what he was talking about. While every day is the right one to play some Joni, today is a really right day ( I am rocking the “Jericho” hard right now). Happy Birthday to the goddess genius.
And hey, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music that has crossed our path over recent days. I always say this but I’m telling you there are some spectacularly gorgeous songs in the mix this week, yup. You can hear them all below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
P.S. And hey, if you want a bit of weird and fun Joni-related ephemera to peruse today, I’ve written a couple of features you can check out over at Cover Me sharing some of the coolest covers from Court And Spark (read here) and her underrated ’80s years (read here).
“Nina Simone’s Gum” is a new book by Warren Ellis ( of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Dirty Three). While it is about an actual piece of gum Nina discarded in a towel on her piano before her headlining slot at 1999’s Cave curated Meltdown Festival, it’s also about LOVE.
The story of the gum’s journey, from Nina to the towel to Warren who grabbed it when she’d finished as a souvenir, to its evolution from treasured piece of nerdy fandom to artistic muse to spotlit object in a museum 20 years later is a tearjerker ( or at least a mist-inducer). And the emotion the gum inspired in everyone who came into contact with it, the art that was created in its honor and how protective people became when entrusted with it is incredibly moving (descriptions of that last scenario especially got to me). And so, wanted to recommend the book to you all with a big thumbs up.
I’d like to note that when I went to get the book this Halloween weekend, the woman I spoke to at the information desk was dressed as Liza Minnelli (purple sequined jacket, ink black pixie haircut and serious eyelashes). I wish that was how the earth operated every day.
It is now time for some beauteous music. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days.They are all gorgeous and currently tied for number one on our hit parade.You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
I did something weird a while back whilst visiting my hometown. For some reason I wanted to “mark” the town and acknowledge that it was on this patch of land in my sad-weirdo childhood bedroom that I first discovered and was emotionally rescued by pop music. And so I took one of my old 45 adaptors and placed it behind a fence near where I used walk to school many decades ago. Yes, it’s a weird, nonsensical gesture, not to mention non biodegradable. But I liked that there was some small acknowledgement of that musically obsessed squirt listening to records in her 20th century blue shag rugged room on that particular patch of land. I also liked the idea of someone noticing it and thinking “how the f*ck did that get there?” ( well, at least the people who actually knew what it was, I acknowledge that it is a prehistoric artifact at this point). I’m sure it’s at least a foot underground by now, having been pounded by the elements for the past year and is now mingling with the dirt and weeds, relieved at never again having to be forcibly plugged into stuff like “Broken Wings” and “The Candy Man”.You’re free now pal, rest in peace.
Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path over the past 7 days. They are all beautiful to the core. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.