Video of the Week: First Aid Kid–“Emmylou”

Recommended Albums #76

Nanci Griffith: One Fair Summer Evening (1988)


Sweet-voiced songstress Nanci Griffith straddled the folk and country genres, enjoying modest success with her own recordings and having her songs recorded by country hit makers such as Suzy Bogguss and Kathy Mattea.

Before courting a wider audience with the more pop-oriented releases that followed–much the same way that Mary Chapin Carpenter had done more successfully a couple years earlier–Griffith’s August 1988 Anderson Fair (Houston) performance neatly encapsulated her career to that point with a combination of originals and well-chosen covers

She even made Julie Gold’s “From a Distance” a top ten hit in Ireland prior to Bette Midler taking the song to stratospheric heights.

The sympathetic, restrained accompaniment of the Blue Moon Orchestra gives this live release an organic feel throughout. Compared to the original studio versions, which often seem over produced, these recordings feel like the definitive versions of these songs.

Despite only modest success on its release, this album feels like a classic today.


Listen to: “Once in a Very Blue Moon”


Listen to: “Looking For the Time (Workin’ Girl)”


Listen to: “The Wing and the Wheel”


Listen to “From a Distance”


Listen to: “Love at the Five and Dime”

Video of the Week: The Sound Illusion that Makes Dunkirk so Intense

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’

At a Weezer live show a couple years ago I waited in vain for personal favorites from more recent albums as the band played most of their self-titled debut, known in fan parlance as “The Blue Album” due to the band’s tendency to repeatedly release self-titled albums most easily distinguished by their color.

I have nothing against the Blue Album. Although “Beverly Hills” from eleven years later was their only true top ten pop single, it was their 1994 azure-covered debut which spawned the essential post-grunge modern rock hits that concert fans truly cut loose to: “Undone–The Sweater Song”, “Say it Ain’t So”, “My Name is Jonas” and “Buddy Holly”.

But like other bands we’ve recognized in this series of posts, the artistic successes have come along more often than the commercial ones, and there are some overlooked gems in the band’s catalogue which truly show off the band’s main strength–Rivers Cuomo’s killer melodic knack.

So here are ten great Weezer songs that aren’t from the Blue Album.


1. “Susanne”

As has been covered elsewhere in this blog, “Susanne” first appeared as a B-side and on the Mallrats soundtrack before shedding its rarity status with its inclusion on the bonus disc of the Blue Album’s deluxe reissue. The song has a great backstory, reprinted here from that album’s liner notes:

Susanne was a talented A&R assistant at Geffen. In the long months of limbo between completing the Blue album in October ’93 and its eventual release in May of ’94, she became a big Weezer supporter, doing her best to keep the guys optimistic about their future with Geffen. As the lyrics imply, Susanne did in fact help Rivers (Cuomo) out with her spare winter coat when he needed one, and made plates of brownies to cheer him up. Her devotion and aid were perfectly summed up in this song. Before she knew of the song’s existence, the guys performed it a cappella for her in her Geffen office. Needless to say, it surprised the hell out of her!

Originally the line “Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose, when I call you put ’em all on hold” read “Even Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose…” In April ’94 the shocking news came of Kurt’s untimely death. Though the two had never met, Rivers had found great inspiration in Kurt’s songwriting on Nirvana’s Bleach. So when it came time to record “Susanne”, Rivers decided to change the lyric, not wanting to disrespect the memory of one who had been such an inspiration.

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

When I met you I was all alone
Cold and hungry cryin’ on the phone
You baked me brownies and said “don’t you cry”
And gave me the coat off your back

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose
When I call you put ’em all on hold
And say to me that you’d do anything
And all I can do is say that
I haven’t much I can give you in return
Only my heart and a promise not to turn
But I’ll sing to you every day and every night
Susanne, I’m your man

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush,  drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted
Of a girl


2. “Island in the Sun”

Not really an overlooked song; this was an MTV staple at the time. One of their best, from perhaps their strongest album (The “Green Album”)


3. “Perfect Situation”

This one starts out with a fairly assertive guitar solo (with some wah effect) before the heavy layers are stripped away for the vocals. It’s reminiscent of Steely Dan’s “Don’t Take Me Alive” and a dramatic way to begin a song.

Check out the great music video which accompanies this one.


4. “The Damage in Your Heart”

And speaking of drama…the lyric and melody work together here to heart-wrenching effect. And a piercing three-note fill cements the songs joints together nicely. One of Cuomo’s best efforts.


5. “Ruling Me”

Co-written with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. Stop-start dynamics wind up a chorus that effectively explodes onto you with its sugary power pop rush. Possibly the band’s best pure pop song.


6. “Da Vinci”

Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
I couldn’t put it in a novel
I wrote a page, but it was awful
Now I just want to sing your gospel
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words


7. “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing”

Songs like “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” make one believe that, far from being past his songwriting prime, Rivers Cuomo is only now perfecting the formula for the type of music he’s most interested in producing. Whatever post-punk or post-grunge or post-whatever paradigm gave impetus to their initial success, Cuomo has seemingly deduced that his singular talent lies in refining the sugar found in classic bubblegum rock and roll. I hear echoes of acts from Connie Francis to ABBA in the melodies and arrangements of Weezer’s recent albums.

And yeah that’s a good thing.


8. “King of the World”

Being an admirer of Brian Wilson, it’s not surprising Cuomo’s songwriting arsenal includes a shrewd comprehension of the power of the nonsense syllable. It never sounds forced, but rather completely organic. Here he tags the end of the chorus with a melodic woah-woah-WOAH, woah-woah-WOAH…and it sounds like nothing so much as an intrinsic part of the lyric.

Check out another perfect example in “Perfect Situation” above.


9. “Weekend Woman”

Bells and glockenspiel add melodramatic effect to a mournful lost love song. Pop magic.

I still believe your beautiful lies…


10. “Sweet Mary”

To describe “Sweet Mary” is to repeat myself about Cuomo’s aptitude for a sweet melancholy melody and his great pop instincts. But I won’t let that stop me.

Note how the extended bridge lends tension that leads to sweet melodic relief and resolution in the final chorus. Masterful.

See also:

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs That Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs That Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

A D.J. Could Save Your Life Tonight

Photo by Chad Batka

(via The New York Times)  By

On New Year’s Eve, you’ll be dancing, one hopes. If you’re lucky you’ll be dancing to an honest-to-God disc jockey — not to someone’s Spotify playlist or the musings of the latest demi-celebrities to fancy themselves party conductors. A real D.J. is part shaman, part tech-wizard, part crowd psychologist, all artist. Many people claim the title but far fewer embody it.

That’s because, for the art of, technology has been as much of a disrupter as it has been a boon. New software and hardware tools allow the neophyte to deploy a base version of skills that take decades to perfect. We’ve also seen the nurturing of an entire generation for whom music is an à la carte experience. Add to that the skepticism, if not outright hostility, much of our society shows toward the notions of expertise and hard-won knowledge…

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