Making Playlists: set your music free!

Hey there everyone, today I thought I would step away from my usual reviewing standpoint and try to wax philosophical about something that has been intriguing me recently, making playlists. I have found myself recently making a few, having some newer co-workers and meeting other people. I really have a lot of fun making them. It helps me review my own musical tastes from time to time, helps me learn about other music, and helps me get to know people a little better.

So I am in a constant rotation of new music. Having a big appetite for anything new is a blessing and a curse. While I can stay current and hear all the new stuff being produced every day, I often hear something once and move on, forgetting it as soon as it leaves my iPod. Making these mixes forces me to review these recent listens again, and delve into my back catalog to grab the best of everything I own. I have pulled out CD’s I hadn’t listened to in years, and even if I am sampling one or two tracks, it gives me an incredible amount of joy in the reminiscing of where I was when I was digging that record.

The next benefit of making mixes is that I get one back! I have been trading music with my co-workers, and they have interesting tastes. I can hear some bands that I dismissed, and by seeing that someone else gets something out of it, then I reconsider, because there might be something there I missed before. It can be highly revelatory. I feel like hearing a person’s music can really give you an idea of their personality and even make you think about that person’s experience in a whole new light.

I also get feedback from the people listening to my mixes. They might not like a band I love, and while I’m probably not going to change my mind, hearing their perspectives shows me another way music can be seen in so many different lights. One thing I love is when the perfect symmetry occurs and a song hits someone else and they can get something out of it. And really, this is what it is all about, sharing the music, sharing the passion for music and spreading the love around. Music is really a universal thing, magical in its appeal and wonder. Here’s a recent mix I made for someone, please enjoy it, and hey, share yours here on the blog! Comment back on what tracks you might put on a playlist, and let’s build the most amazing playlist the world has ever seen!


Song Artist
Monster Ballads Josh Ritter
Never Do That Again Ivy
Running Out Of Ink Barenaked Ladies
Saturday Morning Rachael Yamagata
Tropical Birds Miniature Tigers
Against History Dan Wilson
Don’t Be A Fool The Nines
Crystal Run Robbers On High Street
Say Yes Readymade Breakup
You Probably Get That a Lot They Might Be Giants
There Goes My Baby Mike Viola & Kelly Jones
Nice Day Persephone’s Bees
No More Lies Tony Cox
Zavelow House Owsley
Rocket Ship Love (Album Version) Julian Berntzen
Five Colours In Her Hair McFly
Quiet Town Josh Rouse
Indiana David Mead

Recent Releases to Check Out

Did you know that new music gets released every single day of the year? It’s true! Well, we here at Pop Underground aim to get the best of it straight to your ears. So here is a sampling of what I have been digging as of late. I picked a good even number, 10, so hopefully that keeps you crazy kids busy for a week or so.


Explorers Club – Grand Hotel: You may have seen my post from last year about this band’s series of EP’s leading to the new album. Well worth the wait, this album features some amazing songs. Some of the most memorable and engaging music I have heard in a long time.


Butterfly Boucher – Butterfly Boucher: the third release from this amazing artist, 10 incredible songs that have her signature sound, quite enjoyable stuff.


The Connection – Seven Nights EP/New England’s Newest Hit Makers: an awesome set of quick pure rock and roll, very fun and rockin’ collection.


Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis – Cheaters Game: though they have been recording together for years, this is their first album together, and it is wonderful. They go so well together, and the album is a perfect blend to make an awesome listening experience.


Thom Hell – Suddenly Past: When I put this album on for the first time, within seconds I was hooked. Such a great pop sound, and it sticks through the whole thing. Very excellent, indeed.


Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself: This album finds Mr. Bird very comfortable in his sound. It doesn’t feel forced or like it is trying to be anything, despite his quick rise to success over these past few years.


Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song: also recently featured on this blog, I too quite enjoyed this record. It doesn’t jump out at you with any force, just guides you along a fun engaging experience.


Brendan Benson – What Kind of World?: I always enjoy a new Brendan Benson record, and this is no exception. It does however pull back from that return-to-form that I so loved on his last album, and brings in some of that harder edged Raconteurs sound; there are still some good pop nuggets here.


The All-American Rejects – Kids In The Street: I keep wanting to hate this band, but then they deliver great slick pop songs that are just winners all around. This album continues that tradition proudly.


Corner Laughers – Poppy Seeds: a wonderful collection of pop goodness, two parts Beach Boys, one part indie-pop, twelve parts AWESOME! If that doesn’t convince you, then how about this, it’s produced by Allen Clapp, and at least one track features the inimitable Mike Viola!

Classic Picks Revisited – The Grays, The Honeydogs

I decided to take a look back to the past and delve into some albums I haven’t heard in full in several years! Albums which I constantly tell people to check out, but do I really know what these are about? That’s what I aim to find out in this project. This weeks’ project looks at two albums, separated by a decade. How will they stand up? See below!

The Grays – Ro Sham Bo
The Grays - Ro Sham BoI have long maintained that The Grays album Ro Sham Bo is one of the best pop albums of all time. I decided to take another listen today, and realistically speaking, it has its flaws. If anything, it relies too heavily on the alt-pop sound of the early 90’s. Each songwriter brings his own unique style to each song, so as a result, it comes off as inconsistent. Jason Falkner’s perfect pop shines lights all around, greatly contrasting with the darker pop of Buddy Judge and the overly intricate, effects heavy Jon Brion songs. Combined, these simply sound like 3 different early 90’s alt-pop EP’s put on shuffle. Any attempts to create a cohesive experience by having the same players on all tracks is put to rest by Brion’s “Not Long For This World”, a jagged spike cutting off the last third of the album. The remainder of the album fades out with no real focus or unity.

So maybe I can pull back my reverence for this album. However, it still contains some of the best pop songwriting ever put on disc. The highlights include Falkner’s “Very Best Years” and “Both Belong” as well as Brion’s “Same Thing”. The work these artists would go on to do overshadows this early work, but it should not be ignored for fans of this type of music.

The Honeydogs – 10,000 Years
The Honeydogs - 10,000 YearsMusically, 10,000 Years is The Honeydogs most ambitious effort. The music all feels like it belongs and is crucial to the story. There are a couple great stand-alone songs on here, and they achieve further impact by repeating themes in later songs. Lyrically though, it falls short for a couple of reasons. Listen, I’m all for concept records, and this does not even feel that much like a concept record, but trying to translate these songs to their impact on my daily life is next to impossible. Much of the lyrics are in the third person and do not lend themselves to any value beyond the meaning within this context. Also, the lyrics are quite obtuse at times. This does not make for memorable lyrics. Picking this record up after a couple of years, the song titles didn’t even give me much to go on as far as remembering what the songs sound like. I did remember “Poor Little Sugar” and “10,000 Years” but probably because they are the only two with repeating choruses. Don’t get me wrong, I love this album, but it really only works within its context, and that doesn’t offer very good options of songs to use to spread the word of The Honeydogs’ greatness.