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5 Songs We Can't Stop Listening To with Shakey Graves

The flow of music slows down from the middle of December to the middle of January. The critic’s Top 10 lists give many albums a bump in popularity and album sales, and record labels don’t want their releases to come after the lists have been set or so early in the year that they will be forgotten. This is changing. Beyonce’s self-titled album in December 2013, and D’Angelo’s album, Black Messiah, both prove that releases can be quite successful in December and early January. All the songs this week are examples that there are breaking the mold.


1. Jens Lekman- "Postcard #1"

I think of all my favorite artists as my friends. And I know how pathetic that sounds. But, I know many artists more intimately than some people who I’ve called “friend.” These artists have told when they were heartbroken, admitted their self-doubt to me, or shared their excitement, or their intimate thoughts, or even their little revelations on life with me. And I have listened, like a friend.

So I was so happy to see, Jens Lekman’s New Years resolution. He writes as follows: “While working on my next album, I will sit down once a week, write down my thoughts, turn them into a song and share it with you directly. Think of these little songs as postcards. Little greetings from me to you. Then at the end of this year we can sit down you and me and listen through these 52 songs, and remember where we were and when we were there, who we kissed and who we missed. I’m looking forward to that.” I am looking forward to that too, Jens Lekman. I’ll be here listening, friend.

  • Listen if you like: Diary entries, meta-modernism, friends.

2. D’angelo- "Sugah Daddy"

It might even be a stretch to call this a song, it’s a tease. Sugah Daddy is light on its feet, floating over the dancefloor like a Michael Jackson dress shoe. It flirts with being a song. And that’s exactly what it's trying to do.

The key to D’angelo’s music is and always has been, sensuality. And this song is all that.  It’s musical foreplay. Fingertips on your back and sides. At times it hints at taking it somewhere further, tempting satisfaction, but then it pulls back making you want it more. This song is a tease, and that’s why it’s so attractive.

  • Listen if you like: Prince, sensuality, funk.

3. Shakey Graves picks Patti LaBelle- “Stir It Up”

Every week I ask a musician to pick one of the 5 Songs for the week. This week I talked to Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, who picked “Stir It Up” by Patti LaBelle.

Alejandro Rose-Garcia was funny and lighthearted in the studio. At one point he got a call that a band member had broken an ankle while roller skating under the influence. “That’s the third one this month!” he yelled. “They ain’t gonna get me, I’m too limber on those skates,” he said to me with a wink.

When we were in the studio I asked him for a song and right away he pulled Patti LaBelle. He was excited and he told me a great story. Sometimes I have to pry artists to say something interesting, but Shakey Graves was on point the whole time.

  • Listen if you like: Beverly Hills Cop, cheesy 80's songs, synth.

4. King Khan & BBQ Show – “Alone Again”

Loneliness is my favorite song subject. Because it’s hard to talk about lonliness, but songs get a pass.Talking about loneliness is a catch-22. If you are alone, you have no one to talk to, and if you are talking to someone about loneliness you are not alone. So it’s hard to talk about it, but, its alright to sing about it. And listening to a song about loneliness when you’re lonely can be the source of companionship that you are looking for. At least I know it can for me.

Now most songs about loneliness sound something like this (que “Lonely” by Tom Waits) slow and sad. But this song’s got a different take. Its up-tempo and lo-fi, it’s gritty. And it’s got these gunfighter guitars that could be right out of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And these guitars gives it the song the same tone of loneliness and desolation that Spaghetti Western soundtracks gave to the Wild West. If you listen to this song when you are lonely, you will never be alone again.

  • Listen if you like: Lo-fi, Spaghetti Westerns, loneliness.

5. Iain Woods- "Fiend"

Sometimes, pop culture get lodged in our subconscious. And they come up in weird ways. In Slaughter-House 5 Kurt Vonnegut incidentally included 6 parallels between the midevil Song of Roland and the life of his character Roland Weary. Was it subconscious or was there something else going on there? This has happened before, and I’ve discovered a similar case.  Or, I should say that it found me.

It’s this song “Fiend” by Iain Woods. And it sounds eerily familiar to the podcast Serial. The haunting repeated piano lines sound strangely similar to the Serial theme song in double time. And it plays under what sounds like a global tell link, or a prepaid call from who knows? And there is something about the subject matter itself, a Fiend, that lays some suspicion as to what is really happening here.

Did Iain Woods really do this? Did he subconsciously recall Serial in this song? Is he capable of pulling something like this off? Or is Iian Woods just a victim of circumstance?

  • Listen if you like: Serial, a sample of a Public Enemy sample, a funky beat with a beautiful voice.