Last month, the European online music service Spotify became legally available to American users. I’d heard about the much-heralded site before, but only yesterday did I sign up for it. Basically, the service is like iTunes, except that everything’s free and it’s even easier to use. Yeah, all the buzz you’ve heard about it is true. I spent the day feeling like a kid who’s just been given his own candy store with miles and miles of bursting shelves.
Looking back, my first day’s playlist seems to be missing free jazz, heavy metal, and techno. I’m open to suggestions. I’m using the site to make new discoveries every day (today: Sleigh Bells, Sunny Sweeney, and Das Racist), and I’m doing it without leaving my chair. I feel like a cooler person already.
I originally planned to post an inventory of my first day’s take, but then I figured it would be more productive to make a list of the 10 most interesting songs I found on Spotify. If there’s a preponderance of older songs here, it’s because the newer songs I download tend to be the same ones that everybody else does. I’m embedding YouTube clips with these, where available. (I was using YouTube as my free music service, but Spotify looks good to replace it.) Explicit lyrics are ahead, so be warned:
10. “You’re As Gay As the Day Is Long” (Ralph Sall Experience)
This is the only song available off the Hamlet 2 soundtrack. I’m bummed that “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” isn’t on the site yet, but I’ll take this combination of filthy lyrics couched in an upbeat, aggressively wholesome, Up With People-style arrangement.
9. “Simple Kind of Life” (No Doubt)
This is a track off the band’s 2000 Return to Saturn, a neglected album between two giant hits. Still, I like the grown-up discontent in this song. The band isn’t known for anguish and introspection (they are called No Doubt, after all), but it sounds good on them. Is it really 10 years since they’ve recorded anything together?
8. “Honeysuckle Rose” (Lena Horne)
The old-movie geek in me got this song recorded for the 1943 musical Thousands Cheer and then later featured in That’s Entertainment!. Horne had a reputation for being aloof and elegant, but this song shows she can bring the sexiness, too.
7. “Daybreak” (Barry Manilow)
Okay, I hear you snickering. Most people would call this as a “guilty pleasure,” but I don’t believe in feeling guilty about songs that give one pleasure. Manilow’s quasi-religious inspirational tune isn’t a good song by any objective measure, but it cheers me up. Make fun of me if you want; I know you’ve got a Spice Girls CD lying around somewhere.
6. “Billy Crystal” (Yelawolf)
Ran across this song and thought, “A rap song about Billy Crystal? That might be funny.” Oh, it’s much better than that. It’s about a crystal meth dealer named Billy. The song’s driving rhythm and air of paranoia make it sound like a white-guy version of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’.” (If you’re wondering about the other white-guy version of “Ridin’,” I got that one, too.)
5. “Stormy” (Classics IV)
Love Dennis Yost’s smoky voice, love the sinuous bass line, love the sax solo in the middle.
4. “Creole Love Call” (The Comedian Harmonists)
This legendary 1920s German singing group (and subject of a 1997 movie bio) use a Duke Ellington song to mimic the sound of an instrumental jazz band with their voices. Uncanny.
3. “Temptation ’Bout to Get Me” (The Knight Brothers)
Coming out of the extremely fertile 1960s Chicago R&B scene is this absolutely terrifying song. It’s only about a girl who’s tardy in answering a letter, but it sounds like some sort of biblical judgment is being delivered.
2. A Grand Grand Overture (Malcolm Arnold)
A piece written for the Hoffnung Music Festival, a gathering three times between 1956 and 1961, organized by the short-lived German-born British cartoonist Gerard Hoffnung. The festival was a send-up of classical music before P.D.Q. Bach was a glimmer in Peter Schickele’s eye. This piece is written for orchestra, organ, rifles, three upright vacuum cleaners in B-flat, and an electric floor polisher in C.
1. “Essence” (Lucinda Williams)
I was looking for the track that my friends and acquaintances would be most shocked to find in my playlist. I think this is the winner. Lucinda Williams is famous for her repetitive musical structures, but this time it fits the addict’s monomania, and as for the song’s generally unwholesome atmosphere, I can’t get enough.