The Smiths – Girlfriend in a Coma (1987)

February 16, 2020 – Day 238

It’s the single that broke up The Smiths! Rumour was that Johnny Marr hated the b-side (a cover of Cilla Black’s “Work is a Four Letter Word”) so much that he quit the band. (He later wrote in his 2016 memoir “Set the Boy Free” that it wasn’t quite that immediate.) The A-side though, is another classic Morrissey and Johnny Marr single. The song starts with a bouncy bass line – a very similar one was used throughout the entire song “Girls and Boys” by Blur, but I digress – and then over Marr’s synth string arrangement and guitar, Morrissey takes it from there to do what he does best – deliver sardonically funny lyrics in his casual style. “There were times when I could have strangled her / But you know, I would hate anything to happen to her”

Radiohead – All I Need (2007)

February 15, 2020 – Day 237

The most recent of the holy trinity of Radiohead albums, In Rainbows (preceeded by Kid A and OK Computer) broke the mold for how music is released, but over a decade later it’s more often remembered as a great set of accessible songs – still pushing the boundaries of popular music but more song based and less experimental than their most recent output at the time of its release. It’s hard to know exactly what the lyrics mean because Thom Yorke never discusses his work in great detail in interviews, lettting the work, rightfully, stand for itself. An interesting theory I read around the time of release is “In Rainbows” is a concept album from the perspective of someone stuck in a coma after a car crash. If you study the lyrics there are lots of references that fit – “All I Need,” one of the most melodic songs on the album, uses words like “waiting, trapped, ignore” to express a yearing to be somewhere or go somewhere. An interesting theory, anyway. Radiohead has known how to write pretty love songs from the beginning but they have rarely sounded this sincere and direct. With strings, including Johnny Greenwood on viola, and a glockenspiel, it sounds pretty enough to match the lyrics, but there’s still a bit of experimental Radiohead added in for good measure, with one section designed to sound like the white noise generated by a band in a rehearsal room (also Johnny’s idea.) “I am a moth / Who just wants to share your light / I’m just an insect / Trying to get out of the night”

David Byrne and Brian Eno – Home (2008)

February 14, 2020 – Day 236

David Byrne and Brian Eno’s first collaborative album since “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” is radically different, as it should be for two restless artists over 25 years later. Instead of the densely layered sample heavy album they released in 1981, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” is more of a callback to the dance pop of their Talking Heads collaborations and it was Byrne’s most accessible batch of songs in years. Leadoff track “Home” sets the pace, opening with a gently strummed acoustic guitar and a found-sound percussive beat with Byrne’s familiar croon. The lyrics focus on homelife, possibly a callback to the Talking Heads song “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” but in the final stanza the singer reaches outwards to contemplate his existence. “We’re home and the band keeps marching on / Connecting to every living sole / Compassion for things I’ll never know”

Natalie Prass – My Baby Don’t Understand Me (2015)

Februrary 13, 2020 – Day 235

Natalie Prass released a live EP of mostly covers but the lead track is a performance of “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” which is taken from her debut album. The LP was released in 2015 but recorded in 2012, strangely delayed due to the release of her friend and producer Matthew E. White’s debut album being released to critical acclaim. Three years is a long time, and the vocal performance on this live version feels more powerful, focused and authentic. Natalie needs to carry the song more on this live edition than she does in the studio because the horn and string arrangement is replaced with a stripped down band a wurlitzer. She delivers, with more vibrato, and more variety in the delivery of the refrain of “Our love is a long goodbye” which builds the song to the climax. “Our love is like a long goodbye / We keep waiting for the train to cry / Because my baby don’t understand me / He doesn’t understand me anymore”

Paul Westerberg – Love Untold (1996)

February 12, 2020 – Day 234

Paul Westerberg’s solo career started with a bang – two great songs contributed to Cameron Crowe’s “Singles” soundtrack and a solo album which followed with modest sales. In hiring Pearl Jam’s producer, Brendan O’Brien for his second album, it could have elevated him into the stratosphere but he didn’t have enough songs to justify keeping O’Brien around and hired Lou Giordano to finish off the album. The single, “Love Untold” comes from the O’Brien sessions – a rock ballad which saccharine but not unpalatable because Westerberg can pull these types of songs off. Ultimately, it didn’t make much of a dent in the charts but did almost go top 20 from people who loved “Dyslexic Heat” and wanted more from where that one came from. “They were gonna meet / On a Rocky Mountain street / Two bashful hearts beat in advance”

Arthur Lee – Love Jumped Through My Window Last Night (1972)

February 11, 2020 – Day 233

The original lineup for Arthur Lee’s band Love only lasted 3 albums, so despite Vindicator being his first official solo album, he had already recorded multiple Love albums with musicians for hire. “Love Jumped Through My Window” is a standout track from the album, much more hard rock than the early Love albums, but Arthur Lee was friends with Hendrix and experienced recording Hendrix and it must’ve rubbed off on him. Charlie Karp, who had played in Buddy Miles’ band, another Hendrix connection. “Love jumped through my window last night / And left a pain in my heart / My feet just won’t forget it / I better quit it”

Brian Eno – I’ll Come Running (1975)

February 10, 2020 – Day 232

“I’ll Come Running” is a glimpse at a possible alternate path for Brian Eno. A love song with quirky lyrics from (then recently) former Roxy Music synthesizer player and future ambient music trailblazer (not to mention David Bowie and Talking Heads producer), shows he had a possible future as a rock star, but he rightfully took a different path. The song from 1975’s “Another Green World” is not quite as glam rock as some of the songs on his first few solo albums but it’s definitely artistic pop music – the guitars are played with mallets and made to sound something like castanet percussion. A fuzzy guitar played by Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) ties the song together. “Just watching patiently from the window / Just waiting seasons change, some day / Oh, oh, my dreams will pull you through that garden gate.”

Herman Dune – I Wish That I Could See You (2006)

February 9, 2020 – Day 231

There’s someone over the ocean who David-Ivar Herman Düne misses but at least he got a clever song out of it. He’s not the type to want to brood, instead writing a song with a call and response with a choir of “angels”, bongos and a horn solo. “I Wish That I Could See You Soon” is very realistic, he knows the ocean is a big obstacle to their relationship but he’s wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’. The video is worth looking up – it features a muppet angel on trumpet. “I had no plans to meet you baby / I had a million things to do baby / But you hit my heart with a harpoon / I wish that I could see you soon”

Mia Doi Todd – Close to Me (2016)

February 8, 2020 – Day 230

The studio version of The Cure’s “Close to You” has Robert Smith panting in the background and a drum beat that sounds like anticipation. Mia Doi Todd’s cover from her LP “Songbook” doesn’t have either of those, but it still sounds like the classic love song, including a saxophone with flourishes throughout and a relaxed take on the wild solo from the original. “Just try to see in the dark / Just try to make it work / To feel the fear before you’re here”

Tom Verlaine – Pillow (1990)

February 7, 2020 – Day 229

There’s plenty of what made Television’s first two albums great – guitar heroics, great melodies and clever lyrics – in Tom Verlaine’s discography. He never quite broke out as a solo artist but not from a lack of great material. In 1992 Television reformed with a great album – the early 90s must have been a potent artistic time for him because he released two solo albums just prior to the Television reformation. 1990s “The Wonder” was full of great melodies and focused songwriting with tons of hooks. “Pillow” is a perfect example of 1990 music – a synthy tune with punchy drums and a big guitar solo. Verlaine’s abstract lyrics feel poignant but he’d have to tell me what they mean. I’d guess it’s pillow talk. “Time is a stupid thing. That’s what you read to me. / Watching the birdies fly, / You whispered, “I could die, ” / As I recall; it’s really nothing.”