5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To is a collection of our newest favorite songs. Every week we ask an artist that we love to tell us about the music they love.
Listen to the whole segment and all the songs below.
1. John Prine picks Tex Ritter – “Hillbilly Heaven”
Our guest today is John Prine. He is a singer-songwriter from Chicago, beginning his career in the early 70s, known as the “singing mailman.” This year, he released his first album in 13 years, “Tree of Forgiveness.” Before his show in Milwaukee recently, I was able to talk to him over the phone about his new album.
Justin Barney: So, “Tree of Forgiveness,” where’s the song title come from?
John Prine: My wife and I used to eat at a restaurant outside of Dublin, Ireland called The Tree of Idleness. I liked that title so much that I stole an ashtray from there. I just kept thinking that’s a cool title, The Tree of Idleness. So, I just morphed it from there, to forgiveness. I managed to fit the title into the last song. That was the last song I wrote for the record, so I thought I had to get the title in somewhere.
Justin Barney: My neighbor, Luke, and I were listening to the album last night. He brought up to my attention that the beginning of it is awfully similar to Tex Ritter’s “Hillbilly Heaven.”
John Prine: Wow. That may be, because that was one of my favorite records when I was a kid.
Justin Barney: Really?
John Prine: Yeah, I loved that record. I like the part where it gets to his name and he’s like “OooAhh” and then he goes “I dreamed I was there, in hillbilly heaven.”
Justin Barney: Yeah! We were listening and wondering if you took the beginning has those whoosh sounds.
John Prine: I never steal anything on purpose, just by accident.
- Tex Ritter’s “Hill Billy Heaven” was released in 1961.
- Listen if you like: songs that are histories, old country music, John Prine
- Check the full interview here
2. John Prine – “Lonesome Friends of Science”
Before and after his show here in Milwaukee, I had been listening to John Prine’s new album “The Tree of Forgiveness” a ton. I particularly fell in love with this song, “Lonesome Friends of Science,” and then I got to talk to him about it.
Justin Barney: So one of my favorite songs on the new album, one that just gets my brain fired up, is the “Lonesome Friends of Science.”
John Prine: Oh, yeah. I like that one.
Justin Barney: This surreal song that the planets themselves kind of anthropomorphize. Where did you come up with the kernel for this song?
John Prine: Well, I remember, I guess it was around 10 years ago when they put a little article in the papers that they decided Pluto was no longer a planet, it’s just a star. That really ticked me off. I just let that simmer for a few years. I thought, “I’m gonna get these guys.” I mean they got nothing better to do than take a whole planet and make it an ordinary star. Then they come back here and say, “Okay, it is a planet, but it’s a dwarf planet.” I mean, talk about insult to injury. I thought I’d write something about the humiliation of the planet Pluto.
Justin Barney: I love that so much! That is so funny.
- John Prine’s new album, “Tree of Forgiveness” is out now.
- Listen if you like: surreal songwriting, levity, a truly great human being
3. Roy Wood Jr. picks Outkast – “Bombs Over Baghdad”
Our guest today is Roy Wood Jr. He is best known for being a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” He is also a stand-up comedian and will performing at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee this Saturday, May 15th.
Justin Barney: What’s one song you can’t stop listening to?
Roy Wood Jr.: For me, it’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” by Outkast.
Justin Barney: That is one of the greats of all time.
Roy Wood Jr.: For me, there’s a lot of lyrics in that song that really ring out. You know, there’s a part where Big Boi says, “Make a business for yourself, boy, set some goals. Make a fat diamond out of dust ‘n coals.” There’s a little bit of inspiration in there. For me, when you have a song like that, where you’re doing this type of job, where you don’t necessarily know if you’re doing the right thing. Entertainment is one of those things where you’re constantly questioning every single choice and every single path that you’re walking down as a performer. So, you know, the song was uplifting, upbeat, and you know, all those things.
Justin Barney: Yeah, man.
Roy Wood Jr.: That music makes me remember the times when I didn’t have anything and things were a lot tougher. It gives me an opportunity to sit and reflect and be thankful now. Instead of being instantly hyped. Also, I’m 40 now. I can’t move my body the way I did 20 years ago.
Justin Barney: It’s still a hyped song, though. You know?
Roy Wood Jr.: Oh yeah, it’s timeless. I still sing it at karaoke.
Justin Barney: I would love to hear that.
Roy Wood Jr.: I’m more… I sing “Roses.” I have to chill out the room. There’s a lot of women in the room, I’ll sing “Roses,” but it also depends on what the people before me sang. If they sang a bunch of downtrodden, slow R&B songs, then we gotta do some “Bombs Over Baghdad.”
- “B.O.B. was released in 2001 on Outkast’s album, “Stanktonia.”
- Listen if you like: Southern hip-hop in the early ought’s, Goodie Mob, Master P
4. Poster Children – “Grand Bargain”
Our guest today is Ken Sumka.
Justin Barney: Ken, what’s one song you can’t stop listening to?
Ken Sumka: “Grand Bargain.” It’s the title track from the new Poster Children album. They’ve been around since the late 80’s, started in Champaign, IL. It was Rick Valentin and his then girlfriend, Rose Marshack and a steady cavalcade of drummers. They’ve had seven drummers.
Justin Barney: Spinal Tap style?
Ken Sumka: But they’re really good friends with all the drummers. The drummers were all amazing, but for whatever reason couldn’t stay with the band very long. Probably because they had a very heavy duty touring schedule. So then, after the first album, Rick’s brother, Jim, joined the band. Rick and Rose subsequently got married. They’re both professors at Illinois State University. They were originally at University of Illinois. Now they’re professors with kids, but they still love making music. They haven’t had an album in 14 years. They went back to their roots. They had Steve Albini record this one. He had done a couple of their previous albums. They do not sound like 50-year-old people who are professors at a university.
Justin Barney: Right on.
Ken Sumka: They’re punk rock. They’re DIY. They did some time with Sire/Reprise, but now they’re back on indie labels. They’re still doing it the exact same way they’ve always done it. Even when they were on the major labels, they didn’t take tour support. They always supported themselves with really great merch.
Justin Barney: Principle punk.
Ken Sumka: They drove their own van. They never had any fat in their organization and they’re still doing it the way they’ve done it since 1989. They’re just phenomenal.
Justin Barney: Right on. What does the song sound like?
Ken Sumka: The song is a little heavy. It’s called “Grand Bargain” and the album’s out mid-May, and it’s just fantastic. Classic Poster Children.
- Poster Children’s new album, “Grand Bargain” will be out May 18.
- Listen if you like: Principled punk, sing/talking, Ken Sumka
5. serpentwithfeet – “cherubim”
In this song serpentwithfeet sings about singing like the cherubim, the angels in praise of god, which, is a pretty accurate way to describe the way that he sings. He sings in this kind of quivering falsetto, that, in this song, communicates the awe of which he has for whom or what ever he sings about in this song. An object that he kind of leaves up for your interpretation.
This song sounds big and weighty. It sounds like a church. In the end there is a deep and resonant choir that sings around him that makes you feel the sanctity of this song.
- Serpentwithfeet’s debut album, “soil” will be out June 8.
- Listen if you like: Perfume Genius, Bjork, Algiers