5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To is the result of digging through the troves of music that get sent to us, swimming through the sea of music blogs, and rising to the top with 5 songs clenched in our fists. 5 songs that made us feel something. 5 songs that will be with us long into the future. These are those 5 songs. Listen to them on Stitcher by following Milwaukee Stories on your Stitcher app, or pick and choose with the links below.
San Fermin’s Pick: Sia- “Chandelier”
San Fermin’s leader Ellis Ludwig-Leone graduated from Yale with a degree in musical composition. I thought that his pick would be something abstract and dense, the last thing that I expected him to pick was a pop song, and that is exactly what he did. But at a second glance it makes sense. The song blends technical composition and pop sensibility. Maybe pop music got it right with this one.
Sia’s new album, 1000 Forms of Fear, is available now.
Listen if you like: Strong compositional sensibility on a pop track, the new Grimes song, San Fermin.
Cold Specks- “A Broken Memory”
The pop world is designed to produce songs that are happy. (Cue Happy by Pharell) But I’ve always found this a little disturbing, like happiness itself is as formulaic as a pop song. I prefer artists that stare into the musical abyss. Artists like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and now, Cold Specks.
Darkness in music is like the ocean floor. Most of it is unexplored. And when someone finally goes there, it really feels like a discovery. When listening to this song I like to think that Virgil is leading Dante down to the seven layers of hell, they have a Bluetooth speaker and an ipod on shuffle, and this song’s on the playlist.
Cold Specks’ new album, Neuroplasticity, is available now.
Listen if you like: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen.
Raury- “God’s Whisper”
Raury is living the 21st century musical fairy tale. The idea that anyone can put something out on the internet and out of the internet’s level playing field its inherent meritocracy, that any one’s work can reach and inspire the biggest names in the world. The fairy tale is that you can make it big if Kanye West just clicked the link on your SoundCloud. It never happens for most musicians, but that is exactly what happened to Raury. Kanye West himself watched his video. And he liked it so much that he flew Raury out to meet him and personally tell him that the video and song inspired him.
And it’s inspired us too. In a globalized world of the internet, the song is a musical Pangaea, there is something about it that sounds both foreign and native at the same time.
Raury’s debut album, Indigo Child, is out now.
Listen if you like: a musical Pangaea, bands who yell “hey!”, well spaced vocals.
The romantic pull of the moon has had singers howling at it forever. These are some of my favorites. (Supercut heard on-air or in the SoundCloud link above features bits from the following songs: “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”- Billie Holliday, “Moon River”- Frank Sinatra, “Blue Moon”- Julie London, “Pink Moon” –Nick Drake, “I’ll Shoot the Moon” (live)- Tom Waits, “Like the Moon”- Future Islands, "The Moon Song" -Karen O, and “The Moon Her Majesty”- Jack Kerouac)
Today I will add another song to this list. By the young Sudanese born Ahnmed Gallab, who goes by Sinkane. The moon has pulled him and his partner into a little salsa, looking into each other’s eyes, moonstruck.
Sinkane’s new album, Mean Love, will be available this Tuesday, August 2.
Listen if you like: the theme song to the movie Brazil, Woody Allen movies, romantic salsas.
Ms. Lauryn Hill- “Black Rage”
In the history of Black Music, one of the most important aspects is the Call and Response. Abel Meerpool and Billie Holiday responded to southern lynchings with Strange Fruit, Gil-Scot Heron responded to institutionalized racism in a post civil rights era with The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and now the call came from Ferguson Missouri, and Ms. Lauryn Hill has released a response, Black Rage.
Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Black Rage comes in the form of a children's song, It’s melody taken from Rodger and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things.” Cleverly changing the lyrics from innocence to brutal reality. Lauryn Hill has been performing it live since 2012, and this version she recorded it in her home and released it via SoundCloud with the message “An Old Sketch of Black Rage, done in my living room. Strange, the course of things. Peace for Missouri.” There is a call. And there is a response.
Listen if you like: call and response, politically conscious songs, true soul.
BONUS TRACK: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- “Nobody’s Baby Now”
The Milwaukee Film festival announced that it will be screening the documentary about Nick Cave called “20,000 Days on Earth.” I missed it when it came to Madison a while ago and I thought I might never see it. On top of that, I have been looking for a copy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s 1994 album, Let Love In, on vinyl for several years to no avail, and I went to Rush More on the very day that they announced that this film was being played at the festival and it was up on the wall. I said, “Dan, I have been looking for this album for years! It’s impossible to find!” and he just looked at me and said, “That’s why you have Rush Mor.” (He picked it up from someone in Russia, who got it from a guy in Poland, I am not making that up.)
This song itself is a total destroyer. Nick Cave is mournfully recalling a relationship that he once had. There is sadness and regret in his voice. He goes over the things that he loved about her. He doesn’t know why they split up, but that’s not the point. All he remembers now is that she is not there, and he admits that he still loves her. But there is nothing he can do. I am a total sucker for songs like this. A man at a piano, singing a song of regret, I’ll listen to every one you got.