If there is a distinct thread of nostalgia running through this month’s playlist (and trust me, there is), I did not consciously plan it; the music just came out that way. But perhaps it’s not surprising as I constructed this list while in the middle of moving out of a house my wife and I have lived in for 17 years. Nostalgia is in the air. So, here on 2.06 it turns out there are the obvious throwbacks such as Jesse Winchester’s unspeakably gorgeous “Sham-a-Ling-Dong-Ding” (and if you’ve never seen the late singer/songwriter do a live version of this on Elvis Costello’s old “Spectacle” series, drop everything and watch it now) and Patti Scialfa’s girl-group-ish “As Long As I (Can Be With You)”; there are also songs by Amy Rigby and Waxahatchee that offer contemporary spins on early-rock’n’roll-ish melody lines. But the nostalgia here, I see after the fact, runs subtler and deeper than that, via both the older songs that show up and the lyrical recollections featured in a few of the more contemporary tracks. And then you have the Pat Benatar track (Pat Benatar?), which manages to be doubly nostalgic, burying its Phil Spector-ish beat beneath an ’80s patina that was of course very contemporary at the time. Musicians today please take note.

Speaking of Amy Rigby, is “All I Want” one of the most adult love songs ever written, ever? “I just want a little pat on the back from you/Not another little subtle attack from you”—now that is a grown-up lyric (and a brilliant one to boot). Or: “I feel kind of furious/And you’re not even curious.” Note I called it a love song even though it sounds more like a break-up song. But it’s an adult love song because rather than veering towards an adolescent “You suck, I’m leaving,” it’s an effort at mature communication, of the “What you do X, I feel Y” variety. It’s just the kind of thing that couples who want to figure out how they can stay together even if they are driving each other crazy are instructed to do. This entire Amy Rigby album, Middlescence, is something of a lost classic, as clever lyrically as it is skillful musically. As a bonus, Rigby remains one of the rare musicians who blogs interestingly; check out what she’s up to here: https://diaryofamyrigby.wordpress.com/.

And speaking of grown-ups, and best things ever, is Cassandra Wilson’s cover of the Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville” one of the best cover versions ever done of anything? I’d suggest so. She managed to turn a very pleasant but rather fluffy song into something deep and memorable. And it’s not just because she inserts that wordless vocal refrain in 9/8 time, but honestly that doesn’t hurt.

Full playlist below the widget.

A list of things I didn’t do (Eclectic Playlist Series, 2.06) by Fingertipsmusic on Mixcloud

“Boy With a Coin” – Iron & Wine (The Shepherd’s Dog, 2007)
“Last Train to Clarksville” – Cassandra Wilson (New Moon Daughter, 1995)
“More…” – Wilco (Star Wars, 2015)
“This Town” – The Go-Go’s (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)
‘I Don’t Want to Take a Chance” – Mary Wells (single, 1961)
“All I Want” – Amy Rigby (Middlescence, 1998)
“Sham-a-Ling-Ding-Dong” – Jesse Winchester (Love Filling Station, 2009)
“Thick as Thieves” – The Jam (Setting Sons, 1979)
“She Came” – Fé (single, 2013)
“Perfidia” – Janet Dillon (single, 1967)
“Neighborhood Girls” – Suzanne Vega (Suzanne Vega, 1985)
“Bodhisattva” – Steely Dan (Countdown to Ecstasy, 1973)
“Betray My Heart” – D’Angelo and The Vanguard (Black Messiah, 2014)
“We Belong” – Pat Benatar (Tropico , 1984)
“No Excuses” – Alice in Chains (Jar of Flies, 1994)
“Goodbye” – The Argument (Everything Depends, 2009)
“All the Diamonds in the World” – Bruce Cockburn (Salt, Sun and Time, 1974)
“As Long As I (Can Be With You)” – Patti Scialfa (Rumble Doll, 1993)
“Calling For Your Love” – The Enticers (single, 1971)
“Swan Dive” – Waxahatchee (Cerulean Salt, 2014)

The Cairo Gang

“Ice Fishing” – The Cairo Gang

“Ice Fishing” is a semi-garage-y, amorphously psychedelic bit of guitar-driven power-pop brilliance that keeps getting better and better with repeated listens, being that rare combination of catchy and complex. Plus, it’s a song about ice fishing, which is about as refreshing a topic for a pop song in 2015 as can possibly be imagined (after of course dancing and fucking).

Just how many satisfying chord progressions ferry this song forward is difficult to quantify. And just how comforting front man Emmett Kelly’s voice is is equally hard to measure with objectivity, but his warm blend of Robert Pollard, Elvis Costello, and Jonathan Richman is a beautiful thing to behold. But most beautiful is the song itself, a wondrously assured construction of heart-melting chords and generous melodies. “Ice Fishing” is in fact so melodically generous that one of the song’s best bits is all but a throwaway: the wordless melody that functions as a kind of unresolved bridge between 2:29 and 2:40. How much self-possessed momentum does a song have to have to effect something like that? And okay the best bit of all is the most gloriously obvious: the nonchalant two-line chorus (first heard beginning at 1:00), each line with its own distinct, bittersweet/wonderful hook.

The Cairo Gang is a five-piece band based in Chicago. “Ice Fishing” is from their new album, Goes Missing, released last week [6/23] on God? Records, a side imprint of Drag City Records. The album is the band’s fourth. MP3 via the record label. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.

Blind Lake

“Lately” – Blind Lake

Comfy like a roomy old leather reading chair, “Lately” glides with offhanded purpose and resonant charm. Fueled by crisp acoustic strumming, the song’s instrumental palette is craftily expanded by a melodic bass line, tasteful electric guitar accents, and some good old “oo-oos” in the background. No one is in a hurry here, but the song still feels sharp and essential.

At the center of it all is the underutilized trick of synchronized lead vocals, as the duo of
Lotta Wenglén and Måns Wieslander both sing the entire song, often without harmonizing. And there is something about their cumulative effort, leading to the climactic lyric “I’ve got myself a pair of slippery hands/And nothing to hold onto” that turns “Lately” from merely comfy to downright moving without my quite knowing how it happened.

Blind Lake is based in Böste, Sweden; they take their name from a 2003 sci-fi novel by American-Canadian author Robert Charles Wilson. In their press material, the band claims that “Lately” is “best played while driving on a slightly wet road on a late summer’s night while deep thinking.” Have yet to try it but I won’t argue.

You’ll find the song on the album On Earth, released earlier this month. Thanks again to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.


“Bad Tattoos” – Thanks

There’s something intriguingly old-school about “Bad Tattoos”—the hand-constructed beat, with its slightly fuzzy and very insistent bass line; those penny-whistle synth bursts; and a female lead singer full of soul and swagger, who happens to perform with the name Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, the song’s sonic landscape and general drive feels entirely of our 21st-century moment. While rock’n’roll may be past the point of reinventability, there is the occasional band that comes along and gives it a good ride. The Portland sextet Thanks appears to be one of these bands. If nothing else, how often, I am realizing as I listen to this, do you hear a stompy, minor-key rocker these days? Not very often, I assure you.

I like too how embedded and cloaked the guitar work is here; more than a minute passes before you hear the guitar, and it arrives with such muted self-assurance (1:04) that it immediately seems as if it had already been here and you just weren’t paying attention. Through most of the rest of the song, the metallic, low-register splendor of Andrew Hanna’s guitar provides both motion and density to a song with a gratifying number of moving parts. By the time the recurring guitar line coalesces into a bit of a solo (2:50), you will have thoroughly forgotten that this song was ever anything but a guitar rave-up. But go back and listen to the beginning; surprise!

“Bad Tattoos” is a track from the annual and always engaging PDX Pop Now! Compilation, the 2015 version of which was released in early June, in advance of the PDX Pop Now! music festival, scheduled for later this month in Portland. More information about the 42-track album is available here. “Bad Tattoos” is also slated to appear on Thanks’ next release, No Mercy in the Mountain, their second full-length, and an album they are at this moment raising money for on Kickstarter.

Things have been slow around here because I am in the process of moving. Fun!

In clearing out and packing up, I realized that I might have a few too many CDs lying around. Especially if the stated goal of the move is “downsizing.”

But my loss is your gain, potentially. I have packaged up a box of 30 (count ’em, 30) CDs that I have received promotionally over the last 12 years. Every CD in the box is from an artist featured at least one time on Fingertips. So while I can’t vouch for the consistent quality of every track on every disc in the grab bag, I do know that each album contains at the very least one very good song. Which is something!

For more information, visit the Contest page: http://fingertipsmusic.com/?page_id=15489