Playlist: Power Pop, Vol. 1

A Spotify playlist featuring power pop gems from the last 40 years or so.

"Starry Eyes" 45

So here I am presenting a nice little power pop playlist, even as I am finishing as we speak a post for the Linn Products blog about how tiresome genre-related playlists are, and how playlists online should really be much more eclectic. Potentially a contradiction, but what can I say? I contain multitudes.

Besides which, as I was attempting to articulate last week, when reviewing the fine new Blurry Lines song “The Hunted,” power pop is an elusive genre at best. Which got me thinking what’s up with power pop anyway, which quickly became an excuse for me to attempt to tell by showing. Here is what power pop sounds like to me. I don’t think I have too many genre-based playlists in me, but this one is a necessity.

In the interest, always, of relative conciseness, I make no effort here to be exhaustive. I include enough of the all-time, critic-approved power pop and proto-power pop must-haves (“Go All The Way,” “September Gurls,” “Starry Eyes,” et al.) to ground it in consensus, while skipping over a number of others (“Girl of My Dreams,” “Surrender” “Cruel To Be Kind,” et al.), just because that’s how this list played out for me. We start effortlessly, with the impeccable Shoes classic “Too Late,” veer unexpectedly into late-era Matthew Sweet, and move on idiosyncratically from there, ranging in time frame from the proto-power-pop years of the early-ish ’70s all the way through to 2012, but in no order except that dictated to me by the sound and flow of the music. Two Fingertips selections are mixed in (“Anime Eyes,” “Wildlife Control”), and some other left-field choices spice things up (the Ass Ponys song is a particular oddball gem, says me). My only regret is that there are not nearly enough women in here, but power pop has historically been a male pastime—although I obviously could have included another Blondie song or two had I chosen. And no doubt I left out some obvious others I have either forgotten or have yet to discover. I am delighted in any case to present the late great Kirsty MacColl, who can never be praised enough, and whose untimely demise 13 years ago (!) still brings tears to my eyes. That the only version Spotify has of “He’s on the Beach” is the long version is a bit of a shame; power pop doesn’t need to go much longer than four minutes and is ideal between 3:20 and 3:40, but there are plenty of exceptions. Hell, “Starry Eyes” is four and a half minutes, and it has long been considered by many the greatest power pop song of them all (and I would not disagree—notwithstanding production that sounds a little dead to my 2013 ears).

While each and every entry here strikes me as a power pop gem, note that I don’t believe so much in “power pop artists” as “power pop songs”; a wide variety of bands are here shown achieving some semblance of power pop bliss, even if few of them line up regularly in lists of notable purveyors of power pop. In my mind, few worthy artists hew that tightly to this idiosyncratic musical style to be filed entirely under power pop, and that’s all for the best. It’s a crazy-brilliant-slippery genre for intermittent songs, but to aim for this sound as a career move might simply be crazy-making.

That said, there are enough great songs past and present omitted or otherwise overlooked on this playlist that I leave at least the possibility for sequels. Thus, here is Power Pop, Vol. 1…..

Playlist: Kinks favorites

A Spotify playlist featuring 25 Kinks favorites.

The Kinks

So the Ray Davies contest is over, but any time I start spending any amount of time thinking about Ray Davies, I always end up falling into a Kinks jag. The material is just too good, too rich, too deep. This time I’ve emerged from the depths with a playlist.

A few notes about the playlist:

– Yes, it’s on Spotify again. For better or worse, that is where I am going to be creating playlists, at least in the near term future. There are all sorts of issues with Spotify, but at least it’s legal.

– While I include a couple of their more widely-known songs, I have more or less steered away from the most obvious choices, aiming this more for discovery than nostalgia. (Besides which, neither “Sunny Afternoon” nor “Waterloo Sunset”—which I would have included; they’re too great—are on Spotify. Neither is the original version “Lola.” See next note.)

– Because we’re dealing with Spotify, and because we’re dealing with what some would call a “heritage” artists like the Kinks, not all the necessary albums are available, for whatever arcane reasons of rights and distribution and such. I used songs from alternative sources when the song itself is still the original version of the song. But I did not include things like a live version of “Victoria” when the original version of “Victoria” is not available. (Sadly, the great Arthur album is not on Spotify, and neither are a number of other essential albums from the back catalog, such as The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround.

– For the excessively curious, here are the songs I had included on my original playlist that are not available on Spotify:

* “Victoria”
* “Shangri-La”
* “Apeman”
* “God’s Children”
* “Sunny Afternoon”
* “Waterloo Sunset”

They were replaced with:

* “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”
* “Death of a Clown”
* “This Time Tomorrow”
* “Living on a Thin Line”
* “Tired of Waiting For You”
* “Sitting in the Midday Sun”

All in all, great stuff. If I can entice even one person not otherwise too familiar with the Kinks to give this a listen, my work is done.

Best of Fingertips 2003-2013: A Playlist

An idiosyncratic look back at 10 years of Fingertips music.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. If you have Spotify, this should work for you. If not, then probably not, and sorry about that, for now. (Plans are in the works to get around that; see note below.)

Okay, so, a few things to understand about this playlist. First, these songs are not in a definitive order—that was too difficult to do, and rather too pointless. What comes out here as the “number one song” is not necessarily my number-one favorite song. Ever out of step with the times, I don’t tend easily towards ranking and list-making. My concern is more a decent flow of music. The best I can say is that the ones nearer the top tend to among my most favorite favorites, but they are all terrific songs, as are hundreds I could not put on the list.

Second, note that the list originally contained 40 songs, but Spotify didn’t have four of the songs, so they are vanished (for now; again, see note below).

The cool thing about this list is that it allows me to revisit any number of songs I originally featured as free and legal downloads (or else they would not have been here), but have not been available free-and-legally, as MP3s, for quite some time. Going to a legal streaming service allows me to present them to you again with a clear conscience. (Or, at least, semi-clear; I know that Spotify has its own issues, but at least it’s legal.)

But because I ideally want all 40 songs to be part of the list and because my long-ago background as a free-form radio DJ compels me in that direction, I may yet attempt to make more of a podcast-like presentation out of this, including all 40 songs, complete with (one hopes) informative commentary. I will surely let you know if that happens and where to find it, which won’t be on Spotify.

New playlist: Fall 2011

Fall 2011   I love the fall, even as I often wonder why a season that is so
   obviously about decay, a season that marches us intractably
   towards the bitter winter, can yet be so lovely and nourishing.
   The songs here are not obviously about the fall but rather
   address the season’s bittersweet glory indirectly.

   The Fingertips Playlist is a curated flow of music featuring free and    legal MP3s, all of which are still available to download, and all of    which were originally featured on Fingertips. This time around most of the songs are all from the last couple of years. Total play time is about 46 minutes.

New playlist: summer, persisting

   When last I checked my calendar, it was still summer. Even with fall    looming on the horizon (did I just see Halloween candy in store? I    did), I assert our collective right to maintain a summer attitude for at    least a little longer. This playlist is a step in that direction.

   The Fingertips Playlist is a curated flow of music featuring free and    legal MP3s, all of which are still available to download, and all of    which were originally featured on Fingertips. Total play time this time    is about 42 minutes.

New playlist: Spring break

Spring 2011   Fingertips is on a belated spring break this week; there will be no new    songs, but not to leave you empty-handed, I’m offering up a new    playlist. I see this playlist as an effort to reflect on the springtime as    both a time of year and a state of mind.

   The Fingertips Playlist is a curated flow of music featuring free and    legal MP3s, all of which are still available to download, and all of    which were originally featured on Fingertips. Total play time this time    is about 43 minutes.

New feature: Fingertips playlists

Question Marks

   Hundreds of songs that have been featured on Fingertips over the    years are still available online as free and legal MP3s. One way to find    them is to poke through the Artist Index—but, because that remains a    work in progress in terms of cleaning out dead links, this isn’t    necessarily the best way to unearth the hidden gems very quickly.

   The intermittent Flashback feature (click on the “flashback” category    in the sidebar to check those out) is another way to source older    MP3s—but this too lacks a certain immediacy, as the Fingertips Flashback appears maybe once a month.

So here is a new feature: Fingertips Playlists.