Month: July 2020

Welcome to the Love Crypt: Vol.4


Welcome to PuR’s Love Crypt, spotlighting the underrated, secretly classic albums & songs that didn’t always get the attention they deserved upon release but are worthy of adoration & a listen. Basically, if Love Crypt were a Beatle it would be George Harrison. Now join us under the radar to meet some beautiful dark horses…

Laura Veirs: The Canyon (2018)

Things are messed up right now. And songs about the finite nature of human life, and the fact that we are all basically dustballs might feel like the last thing you’d want to hear at the moment. But maybe “The Canyon” will change your mind. It originally appeared on singer-songwriter Laura Veirs’s superb 2018 album The Lookout and for a song whose theme is our mortality, it is oddly, extraordinarily, comforting. It begins as a somewhat sunny singalong before morphing into a twanging windswept (mostly) instrumental. If riding off into the sunset had an actual sound it would undoubtedly resemble what happens in the last minute and a half of “The Canyon”. An utterly embraceable beauty.


That Petrol Emotion: “Heartbeat Mosaic” (1993) 

 That Petrol Emotion were formed from the ashes of legendary Northern Irish band The Undertones in 1984 and featured that band’s core guitar team of brothers John and Damian O’Neill. Their sound uncannily predicted the unruly animal that would come to dominate mid ’90s musical culture, namely the beast of Britpop. “Heartbeat Mosaic” which appeared on Fireproof, the 5th and final TPE album, is a sparse, epically handsome ballad that despite being full of optimistic imagery ( “sun-kissed oceans”) and sweet psychedelic illusions (“moonbeams and maybes”) sounds like it should be playing over a set of closing credits after a particularly intense final scene. And singer Steve Mack’s vocal positively soars with love, love, love.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 25 !

hopeslide ozzy

Here’s another suburban hometown childhood pic I took 10,000 years ago i.e. in the early ’80s. SABBATH. OZZY. SMOKE DOPE. PCP. BOBBY+BARBRA. TRACY WAS HERE. You can tell the wall artists had a really good time exulting all the stuff that most pissed off & terrified the adult population ( like Bobby himself  I’m guessing). Anyway, I’ll never get tired of looking at this & just wanted offer eternal belated thanks to the Dirtbag Picasso(s) responsible for it wherever they are in this life right now.

And now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST showcasing the absolute finest songs we’ve heard in recent days. I have to add that we were positively BLESSED this week as there were an astounding number of brilliantly wonderful songs that crossed our path. Seriously. It doesn’t happen that often ! And so special thanks to all the beautiful Musical Dirtbags responsible from this Dirtbag here. You’re all at #1.

Listen on Soundcloud:

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The Girl Can’t Help It: An AOR Story


From the mid-seventies through the late eighties AOR, aka Album-oriented rock, ruled the radio airwaves in the USA. And I absolutely hated it and all I believed it stood for. Then Journey released a song in 1986 and ruined everything…

This essay won’t necessarily make you like Journey or the sound of AOR or ultimately appreciate either of them if you haven’t before. And I totally get that. But please know I was once like you. I was for all intents and purposes, a hater. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What is this AOR?: If ever asked to define the AOR sound, I always say the same thing : It’s basically the musical equivalent of Baby Bear’s bed in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” as in not too Hard (Rock), not too Soft (Rock) but juuuuust right…in the middle that is, taking elements of both ( loud guitars from the former, melody from the latter) and not overly accentuating either. And for added context, I’ll usually add that Journey are The Beatles of AOR. They were the purveyors of most accessible and successful AOR songs (including the genre’s defining theme tune, “Don’t Stop Believin”) and they remain the standard by which all other AOR artists are judged.

More Than A Feeling: By the time I hit my teens I had organically, inevitably begun to shed some of the uncool, childish musical accoutrements I’d accumulated in my youth. Once I hit junior high, I stopped buying Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine and instead started getting Creem and Circus, the “cooler” rock themed mags whose covers featured people like Patti Smith and Cheap Trick. I removed the Andy Gibb poster from my wall and used my allowance to buy albums by ELO and Eddie Money. I was growing up and my quest to ROCK had officially begun ( okay ELO and Eddie Money were not all that “hard” but you know, baby steps).

While I loved the 2 aforementioned artists, the first full on rock band I obsessed over was Boston, whose 1976 debut album, home to classic rock stalwart “More Than A Feeling”, remains one of the best selling records of all-time. I particularly loved their hairy singer Brad Delp, slapped his pictures on my bedroom wall and even went so far as to do a painting of him, which I sadly trashed years ago. And so, predictably, the first actual rock concert I ever attended was a Boston show at Nassau Coliseum after which I bought a tour shirt and a glossy program to ogle. Yes, guilty, total fan girl.


I don’t know, I just did

The reason I am bringing all this up is because Boston are rightfully regarded as one of the seminal AOR bands and the premise of this whole piece is based on my resistance to and hatred of AOR. They literally helped architect the sound. And I loved them, so clearly,  the AOR appreciation gene existed in my inner circuitry, a part of me was drawn to it. The fact is the root of my hatred for AOR had less to do with the actual music than it did with an unpleasant association. Namely that the kids who bullied my shy, weird, art nerd ass in junior high and high school all seemed to love it. Which is to say I noticed which band was on your tee-shirt or badly painted on the back of your denim jacket as you were verbally laying into me. I wasn’t only getting my butt kicked by you but by the band the you liked. As you were tearing my notebook in half, the band looking out from your shirt were your approving henchmen and totally on board with the brutalization.

And so I started to hate the music my tormenters openly liked on principle. Fuck Yes. Fuck Bad Company. Once I hit high school, I was still me but of course the bands had changed. Fuck REO Speedwagon. Fuck Journey. Thankfully there exists a visual aid, courtesy of Freaks and Geeks, that explains this concept far better than I ever could:

When ballots were being passed out in homeroom during senior year to choose the official Prom theme song, I distinctly remember Journey’s “Open Arms” being one of the choices. While I don’t recall if it was ultimately chosen, I do recollect my exact thought when I saw that it was on the 3 song shortlist: What a shit song. I checked it off on the ballot, just to be spiteful.

Senses Working Overtime: And it wasn’t a challenge to hate AOR. Boston aside, I wasn’t fighting a powerful urge. In fact I didn’t feel like I was missing a damn thing.  My “unwelcoming” classmates could totally have their WPLJ with it’s horrible AOR parade of Journey, Billy Squier and f-ing Styx. See, by the time I got to high school I’d discovered my own musical homebase in the form of an NYU generated radio show called Wavebreaker that featured the latest songs from all the coolest New Wave and Post Punk bands of the era like Soft Cell, XTC and The Jam. I fell under it’s spell instantly and loved nearly everything they played. Hearing those artists for the first time was nothing short of revelatory. That AOR shit didn’t even come close. I mean how could this even compare with this ?


My official teenage God, Bible and Overlord…

She Needs More: MTV hit just as I began college and I spent a disturbing number of hours every day watching in rapt attention, clocking in anywhere from 3-8 hours a viewing session ( at least). In retrospect I may have been a bit too into it.

Journey were still extraordinarily popular at that point and so were a staple of MTV’s daily playlists. It was therefore inevitable that they and I would cross paths during my lengthy viewing shifts. And it was during one of these shifts in 1986 that I first heard “Girl Can’t Help It”, the latest single off Journey’s then brand new album Raised on Radio. The video itself featured the sweaty band performing the song live at Calaveras County Fairgrounds. It wasn’t even the official single aka the studio version you could buy. But it didn’t matter. All I knew was that I totally loved the song.

Dammit to hell.

You Want A Piece Of My Heart? : Up until then, Journey and AOR had been the musical embodiment of high school bullies and suburban conformity. And that association ran deep for me. But pop music doesn’t care about your history. It is forever trying to charm and persuade you, to gain entry into your life by any means necessary. I was conflicted but there was nothing I could do, I wanted to hear “Girl Can’t Help It” again…and again. Mere days later, there I was in Record World, purchasing my first ( and not my last) Journey album. And just like that all my years of concentrated, deliberate hatred went up in smoke.

It is said that the truth shall set you free and the truth soon became clear, which was that not only did I love Journey but that I totally loved AOR itself. Was it because I was finally hearing it out of the dangerous school environs and it’s terrifying associations ?  Was it a case of you can take a girl out of the ’80s suburbs but you can’t take the ’80s suburbs out of the girl ?

I didn’t spend too much time questioning it. I just gave in to the urge. I began to openly explore and indulge this new found passion. I started tuning into the AOR themed radio stations I had previously mocked and avoided. I bought albums by Jefferson Starship, Zebra and Loverboy and allowed them to brazenly rub their leather clad crotches up against my Smiths and Cure LPs. Deep cuts by Heart and Foreigner were finding their way onto my previously elitist, obscurely post-punk band-ed mix tapes.

I admit it was a slow burn. Even as I began to explore my AOR tendencies, I still favored my New Wave/Anglophile side, and as far as radio still primarily worshipped the New Wave mecca that was WLIR…but I was finally comfortable buying albums and singles by AOR bands I liked. I felt free enough to admit that I liked Night Ranger out loud to other humans.

Can’t Fight This Feeling: AOR thinks it’s cool but it isn’t. It tries too hard. But that earnestness, that heart on the sleeve conviction is what makes it so inherently lovable. From opening track to closer, every song on an AOR album brazenly aspires to be a single. And while there are plenty of love and lust themed songs within it’s arsenal, there are also an equal amount of songs about overcoming things, hometowns and basic survival. With their laser focus on the concept of “chorus”, AOR songs provide the ideal soundtrack to any car excursion. This last fact was brought home during my high school Drivers Ed class. Whether we were tooling around town or making illicit trips to the beach, our mustachioed, chain-smoking, shotgun-seated, born and raised on Long Island instructor always had the radio tuned into…yeah, you guessed it. No other soundtrack would have made sense.

Any Way You Want It: You can’t really be an AOR connoisseur. It’s an oxymoron. The songs are all about living in the moment meaning the only logical response or reaction to a good AOR song is a hearty “I f-ing love this song”. Then you start singing along. Simple as that, no deep analytical conversation or thought is necessary.

Okay, so if I were stuck on a desert island, which songs would I blast in my 1981 Camaro Z28 as I took laps around it’s perimeter along with “Girl Can’t Help It”? Oh, for sure it would be these bitchin’ babes:

Jefferson Starship: “Find Your Way Back” (1981)

Once gigantically voiced Mickey Thomas joined Jefferson Starship as their new lead vocalist in 1979, taking over from giants Marty Balin and Grace Slick who’d departed the previous year, the band began to lean hard into the AOR. “Find Your Way Back” is an anthemic, histrionic piece of candy that sounds like it’s always existed. If you were putting together an AOR song in a lab, this is what it would sound like. It features all the necessary ingredients that go into making a perfect AOR song. Infectious, simple acoustic intro. Over the top vocal. An unadorned, shamelessly singalong chorus. Shredding of a supremely neat and shiny nature. It sounds good blasting in both vehicle and arena. I love it. It also evokes powerful memories of…My Mom’s Cowbell™ ( not to be confused with this one).

Growing up, my bedroom and my brothers were inches away from one another and were divided by a single wall. Being teenagers who loved music meant that shit was always turned up loud. While I was listening to all that British stuff mentioned earlier, he spent a lot of time tuned into the AOR radio stations. Neither of us were considerate enough to use headphones which often led to a passive-aggressive battles wherein each of us would incrementally increase our respective volumes in an attempt to drown out the sound of the other. It got to the point that when my Mom would call us downstairs for supper, we couldn’t hear her over the musical din. Having to yell for us endlessly began to take it’s toll (translation: to really piss her off). And so she purchased a cowbell, a real one, like the kind that would hang around a cow’s neck in an old children’s book. Anytime she needed to summon us, she simply stood at the foot of the stairs leading to our rooms and violently rang the cowbell. And I have a distinct memory of hearing “Find Your Way Back” emanating from my brother’s room as Mom was shaking her thang one night to summon us to dinner. Which is why I will forever think of my Mom as an unofficial member of Jefferson Starship and is another reason why I will always love this song.

Heart: “Wait For An Answer” (1987)

While Heart’s 1987 album Bad Animals was home to the legend that is maniacal, unrequited love power ballad and former #1 song “Alone”, this deep cut, the last song on what used to be known as “Side One” is the jam. Like all the best Heart songs it is extravagantly, hair pulling-ly overwrought with Ann Wilson’s gargantuan voice making a vertigo inducing ascent skyward while synthesizers and drums chase after her. “Wait…” is also home to a truly extreme and magnificent key change on the last chorus because Ann Wilson can just do that shit. The song was written and originally recorded by Canadian artist Dalbello and unlike the typical AOR song, features somewhat cryptic and interpretable lyrical content; the protagonist sounds both haunted and desperate and makes oblique references to something bad that happened in the past. All of which only serves to make it cooler. It’s nuts and it’s awesome.

Night Ranger: “When You Close Your Eyes” (1984)

Night Ranger are most famous of course for one of the most beloved and polarizing AOR power ballads in history, “Sister Christian”. “MOTORING”! And it does rule…but “When You Close Your Eyes” will always be the one for me. It was Top 20 hit in 1984 and a welcome addition to the the noble pantheon of hit songs about getting acquainted in the back of a Chevrolet, effortlessly equaling the majesty of it’s predecessors by Bob Seger and, of course, Sammy Johns.  Which is to say “When You Close Your Eyes” is about as straight forward as it gets, a clumsily wistful bit of reminiscing and wondering about an old love wrapped in an optimistic and gloriously melodic tune. In an interview with Songfacts in 2010, Night Ranger’s Jack Blades explained his inspiration for writing it this way;

I thought about my old girlfriend, where we split up, and I wonder if she ever thinks about the past, and all these things you went through when you were growing up, and all these things you did when you were together…and your first love…and the first woman that I made love to. And then everybody moves on in their lives, and you just go in separate ways. And I always wondered, “When you close your eyes, do you think about me?”

That’s about as AOR as a songwriting inspiration could possibly be. Perfect.

Zebra: “Your Mind’s Open” (1986)

Zebra are a 3 piece band whom despite hailing from New Orleans proved to be immensely popular on Long Island and as a result ended up relocating there in the early ’80s. Which meant I heard their name bandied around pretty regularly as a teenager.  This choice of homebase and the fact that they were especially beloved by people from my teenage hell ground zero of course meant I wanted no part of what they were selling. Oh MTV tried to convince me, showing the videos for “Who’s Behind the Door” and “Tell Me What You Want”, 2 slabs of pretty perfect, melodically sophisticated AOR with some regularity, but I refused to let them in.

Of course once I had my born again moment that avoidance ended. I f-ing love Zebra. They are responsible for several of my absolute favorite AOR songs ever. “Your Mind’s Open” is the kind of thing you’d hear whilst entering the gate of a carnival whose theme was AOR. It’s plush and it spins around and offers a vaguely inspirational message, a little bit mind over matter, a little bit personal affirmation. It’s like candy-coated version of Led Zeppelin and I totally adore it’s gloriously falsetto-ed, synthesized fairground heart.

Hold On To That Feeling: In 2018, Steve Perry of Journey did an interview with Kate Mossman for New Statesman magazine and said something so on-point and buddha-like regarding his former band’s music that all I could do was nod in appreciation. He said he had loved high school and looked upon it as “a magical time, when innocence is running your life” and that he thought of a concert venue as “the backseat of a car “. He described his songwriting inspiration like this; “Everything I write comes back to high school. I know it sounds funny, but everything. It all comes from the emotions I grew into during my adolescence. Those moments are not to be tossed away. If something means something to you, go back and get it and make it part of your life. And anyone who doesn’t understand how important that is, you tell them to FUCK OFF”.

And therein lies the essence of Journey, one I wasn’t conscious of at the time but should’ve been perfectly obvious. Duh. Of course. Journey were literally about high school. And while I was actually in high school at the time when they were singing about it, at the peak of their popularity, I wasn’t having the Journey experience of it. None of the carefree, sometimes tears but mostly fun experiences but rather the polar opposite, the other side, the otherness, the bad shit. Turns out I was destined to resent Journey ( and their ilk). The joy of high school was literally baked into their songs. It made sense that I’d gravitate to all that angry, wanting and weird British New Wave and Post Punk. That’s who I was, they were like me.

As a teen, the pop music you love gives you an identity. It helps you understand who you are, helps to articulate all your awkward ass thoughts. And when I think about how genuinely angry I was at certain bands and sounds I get it. I was hilariously, disproportionately emotional about it but, you know, I was teenager who lived for music so…

I guess the simplest way to explain it is this; there are a lot of assholes in the world that like chocolate but that’s not chocolate’s fault. Which is to say, I’m sorry AOR (and Journey specifically), you just got caught in my teen hate dragnet and I was mad. I know it wasn’t you. Thanks for still welcoming me in with Open Arms.

Welcome to the Love Crypt: Vol.3


Welcome to PuR’s Love Crypt, spotlighting the underrated, secretly classic albums & songs that didn’t always get the attention they deserved upon release but are worthy of adoration & a listen. Basically, if Love Crypt were a Beatle it would be George Harrison. Now join us under the radar to meet some beautiful dark horses…

Jackson Browne: Hold Out (1980) 


The initial reviews for Jackson Browne’s 1980 album Hold Out were not particularly favorable. Upon release Rolling Stone magazine stated “What we have is a song cycle with scarcely a single tune that has the moral imagination, pop grace or writerly precision of Browne’s best material”. Doesn’t exactly make you wanna run out to the record store right ? …but people did, in fact it ended up being Browne’s first # 1 album. Truth be told, it was riding on the reputation of it’s predecessor from 3 years before, a critically acclaimed, multi-platinum behemoth called Running On Empty, Browne’s absolutely beloved suite of songs about life on the road. That album got as high as # 3 on the charts and it’s success and quality inevitably ratcheted up the expectations for whatever was to come next. And so when Hold Out arrived 3 years later, the world at large was primed. But as Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk was critically savaged for not being like planet earth’s favorite album Rumours, so too was Hold Out for being not only a mere shadow of Running On Empty in terms of song quality, but for Browne’s not sounding like the favored acoustic troubadour of years past.

But forget all that. Seriously. For while, Hold Out is as slick and shiny as a brand new Corvette cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway on a summer day in 1980, it’s also a ridiculously good, earnest and heartfelt bunch of pop songs. It has a lot of things working in it’s favor. It’s an easily digestible 7 tracks long. It consistently employs the most wonderful of all pop music tropes with it’s sweet, upbeat tunes marrying themselves to sad and wistful lyrics. It’s over-arching theme is loss. Lost and unrequited love in”That Girl Could Sing”and “Call It A Loan”, a lost friend in “Of Missing Persons” and a population of lost souls in the supremely radio-friendly “Boulevard” and “Disco Apocalypse”. It’s closing track, “Hold On Hold Out”, an 8 minute unabashedly romantic epic with an exceptionally clumsy spoken word break is Browne doing his best Springsteen and it’s a pretty endearing thing to behold.

Yes, Hold Out is not Running On Empty or the soul baring equal of any of Browne’s uniformly fine albums of the early ’70s…but it is kind of wonderful.


Hear it here: 


Tashan: “For The Sake Of Love” (1993) 

Tashan’s “For The Sake of Love” had little in common with what was happening in R & B at the time of it’s release in 1993. While the soul charts at that point were dominated by latter era New Jack Swing grooves, slick ‘n sweet boy band-girl group pop and glossy, over the top balladry, “For The Sake of Love” was looking the other way, namely backward. The song was a brazen throwback to the string-laden, lovelorn “Philly Soul” that the legendary team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wrote and produced for eternal lover man Teddy Pendergrass in the late ’70s. It didn’t sound modern…and, maybe unsurprisingly, sank without a trace. To make matters worse, despite it’s being released through Sony, as of this writing you won’t find the song or Tashan’s album of the same name on Spotify or I-Tunes ( though the cd can be had through Discogs pretty cheaply). It’s a damn shame because it is an extraordinarily lush and beautiful song (with an especially wondrous hook on the chorus) and deserves to be heard. I know that’s a whole lotta breathless hyperbole to take in but “For The Sake of Love” is pretty special.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 24 !

hopeslide smoking

I loved taking pictures when I was a teenager in the ’80s. I mostly skulked around my Long Island town and gravitated toward minimally populated places, making a conscious effort to avoid human contact and questions ( namely the infamous “why are you taking a picture of that ?”).  And so I have a lot of photos taken from behind storefronts and in deserted parks. Parking meters, fences, construction equipment, if it was inanimate and couldn’t talk back, I was all over it. The picture above was taken behind the local 5 & 10 ( 20th century equivalent of the dollar store) up the street from my house. I don’t know how many clearly, nearly empty spray paint cans it took to capture Beelzebub enjoying his doobie but the effort was absolutely worth it. That fiery butt-end is a treasure.

Speaking of fiery treasures, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest and most fabulous songs we’ve heard over recent days ! Check ’em all out below….


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Welcome to the Love Crypt: Vol.2


Welcome to PuR’s Love Crypt, spotlighting the underrated, secretly classic albums & songs that didn’t always get the attention they deserved upon release but are worthy of adoration & a listen. Basically, if Love Crypt were a Beatle it would be George Harrison. Now join us under the radar to meet some beautiful dark horses…

Psychic Babble: My Brother’s Ears, My Sister’s Eyes (2011)


I made a playlist a while back called “Beach Boy-esque” featuring songs that openly and lovingly bowed toward the legendary band in sound and scope. And within that list were a couple of songs by Psychic Babble, the side project of Colin Frangicetto, guitarist of artistically ambitious band, Circa Survive. 2011’s My Brother’s Ears/My Sister’s Eyes is the only album Frangicetto has released under the Psychic Babble moniker thus far and it’s a beauty. It’s alt-rock filtered through a Brian Wilson lens, plushly melodic, occasionally edgy and filled end to end with epic, echoing, sundown soundtracking anthems. Special nods go to “Harper”, “Let Me Change” and “Samantha” , all undeniably handsome and evocative to the last.

Hear it here:


Emmylou Harris: “The Connection”

For a song that won a Grammy in 2006 for best “Female Country Vocal Performance”, “The Connection” feels oddly obscure. For one thing it’s introduction to the world wasn’t particularly conducive to discovery; it appeared as the last track, #19, on the 2005 compilation The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches and Highways. It was never a single. It was over 5 minutes long. It fell in right between the chairs, not quite a sleeper but hardly famous. But it is one of the true Emmylou lost gems, an absolutely gorgeous and wistful waltz of desperation, ethereal and melodic. The song was written by by Jack Routh and Randy Sharp, who in an interview with Songfacts said the idea behind the song  ” …was this connection, this stream, this desperate person who just wouldn’t let go. And the state of mind that they would go to. But the concept of just refusing to let go, even when there really was nothing there… so desperate that they’re conjuring up a connection of any kind just to keep from letting go”. Emmylou offers up a vocal of pure, rustic beauty and “The Connection” remains an absolute stunner.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 23 !

hopeslide mom85

Wanted to post one more Mom pic in honor of her 80th b-day last week. This one above dates back to a time in the ’80s when I was completely infatuated with photography & would regularly coerce she & my brother into posing for me. But because of my innate teen weirdness most of the pictures look like this one you see above. See I was obsessed with Hipgnosis, the designers behind all those classic Pink Floyd album covers & wanted to be part of their team ( obviously they needed a nerdy suburban teenage girl with “progressive” ideas). And so I looked at the world as if it were an immense album cover, gatefold sleeves & all. All that remains of the dream are nonsensical pics like this that wish they were “Atom Heart Mother” or “Houses of the Holy” but aren’t. Still, it’s cool to have captured Mom serving up her best ‘spectral queen on her way to a sacrifice’ pose for eternity. Okay enough sentimental reminiscence & onto NEW MUSIC ( Happy 80th Mom) !

It’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the absolute finest songs we’ve heard over recent days. All beautiful, enveloping & plush, all #1’s in a better alternate universe. Listen below & sail away…

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Welcome to the Love Crypt: Vol.1


Welcome to PuR’s Love Crypt, spotlighting the underrated, secretly classic albums & songs that didn’t always get the attention they deserved upon release but are worthy of adoration & a listen. Basically, if Love Crypt were a Beatle it would be George Harrison. Now join us under the radar to meet some beautiful dark horses…


Todd Rundgren: Nearly Human (1990)


4 years had passed since Todd Rundgren had last released a studio album by the time Nearly Human hit the shelves in 1989. 4 years is of course a veritable eternity in pop music. But instead of chasing modern sounds, Todd instead went the other way, eschewing the trends and making an epic, straightforward soul-pop record. Nearly Human contains none of Todd’s trademark quirky interludes and no outright experimentation ( another Todd tendency), it’s basically “Hello It’s Me” on steroids. Melodic, plush and stirring, full of longing lovelorn anthems (“Parallel Lines”, “The Waiting Game”) and hymns of self-realization (“Can’t Stop Running”, “Hawking”) as well as a wondrous scenery chewing cameo from R & B legend Bobby Womack on magnificent roof-raiser “The Want of a Nail”. Nearly Human is a beauty.

 Hear it here:


Annuals: Be He Me (2006)


The debut album by Annuals ( led by Adam Baker) is an ambitious mix of indie rock, seventies style harmonizing, emo and Brian Wilson. Tuneful as hell, it stomps, pleads and intermittently screams and is home to many a singalong chorus. It received a fair amount of acclaim upon release but seemed to fade from view with alarming speed…which is a shame because it’s a manic, theatrical and truly inspired record. From the absolutely gigantic opening track “Brother” to the seven minute closer, the sweet, sad, almost proggy “Sway”, there’s a lot to love here.

Hear it here:


Glen Campbell: “Early Morning Song” (1977)

Legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb had no greater muse than late country legend and virtuosic guitarist Glen Campbell. “Early Morning Song” was a deep cut off 1977’s Southern Nights LP, the title track of which went to #1 in the pop charts that year.  Despite being on an album that also sold pretty damn well ( hitting #1 on the Country chart ) and Glen going so far as to perform it on TV, “Early Morning Song” remains a lost gem, never appearing on any of the multitude of Campbell compilations that have been released over the years. It’s a world weary cousin to the absolutely perfect “Wichita Lineman” ( also composed by Webb), full of regret, loneliness…and hope. Glen could do a wistful tearjerker like nobody’s business and he absolutely crushes it here offering up a truly heart-squeezing vocal. It’s full of evocative Jimmy Webb poetry, the song’s narrator recognizing he “ain’t that much fun no more” and dedicating the proceedings to cowboys, hawks in the morning haze, friends lost along the way and lovers “trying to love a telephone”. Campbell said “I think it’s one of the most beautiful ballads he’s ever written”. You got that right Glen.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 22 !


That up there is a collage my Mom made back in 1970. She was (is) a bit of a hippie. Got her first tattoo in the late ’60s when young, single, suburban Moms didn’t do that sort of thing. She had a curtain of beads instead of a door for her bedroom. But most significantly, she had a white Chevy Nova with a huge yellow sunflower painted on the side. When my brother & I were in grade school it was huge source of embarrassment as it wasn’t unusual for other kids to come up to us & say “Hey, I saw your Mom’s car today !”, but like, not in a good way. Of course, 10 trillion years later, I now think it was the coolest thing ever. Anyway, she’s gonna hit the big 80 next week & just want to share this insane piece of art, full of counterculture heroes, rolling paper wrappers, evil politicians, Janis, Jimi & Jim & all the stuff that rocked her world. I’m biased but I think it rivals anything Picasso kicked out :).

Speaking of fine art, welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music we’ve heard in recent days. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. It’s a good one.

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