Feeling like Rollo: A whole bunch of sleep-related songs since I’m waking up out of my slumber

Somehow it’s been more than two years since I’ve updated this objectively crummy music blog.

I’ve moved across country, gotten married and listened to a whole lot of music in the ensuring months. Those first two have an awful lot to do with while I haven’t written about that last one.

However, in light of the lists circulating naming songs and albums of the decade as well as the impended year-end round-ups that will soon spring forth from egghead critics like Athena from Zeus, I’ve decided to shake off my rust and write about music.

A good old-fashioned listicle with a loose theme seemed like as good of a way to kick things off as any, so without further ado, here’s 10 songs about sleep or sleeping and some commentary on my choices.

Halcyon Digest was an album that was utterly impossible to escape in indie-loving circles 10 years ago, and it’s probably an Important Band’s best album. In the near-decade since, I’m not sure it’s reputation has stayed quite as lofty as it was, but this is still an all-time jam about dreaming. It sounds the right amount of distant, warm, friendly and fuzzy like parental voices drifting into your childhood bedroom while you drift off.

“Wake Up” by Arcade Fire

I guess this song might be more about the opposite of sleeping than sleeping itself, but it’s a modern anthem, and it seemed impossible to exclude it. I’m not sure whether people love it for the soaring “Ohs” or the livelier, Dixieland-meets-“Lust for Life” wind-down of the song’s last minute or so. I’m all about the accordion and strings version of Arcade Fire. It’s really the only time the band seems to justify the frankly preposterous number of members it has.

“I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles

John Lennon wrote about sleeping a lot, but this is probably his best song about sleeping. “I’m So Tired” is a close second. “How Do You Sleep?” is excellent, but contains so much misplaced venom directed at Paul that it can be a chore to enjoy. “Good Night” is so aggressively OK that I often forget it’s the closing track to my favorite Beatles album.

“Sleep When Dead” by A Giant Dog

This track is a revved-up standout from 2016’s “Pile.” It’s an album of unfashionably straightforward rock that didn’t really crack year-end lists, but deserves to be in the music libraries and playlists of every rock-centric dweeb. Sort of like Guns N’ Roses’ “Mr. Brownstone,” this song sounds super playful while warning about the tiring repercussions of substance misuse.

“I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms” by The Modern Lovers

Somehow, this song by Jonathan Richman and Co. might not be the most explicit song about sleeping and romance on this classic  eponymous album. “Astral Plane” with the lyrics “If you won’t sleep with you, I’ll still be with you on the astral plane” probably takes that cake.

“Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins

I adore this song. The moment the woozy beginning gives way to a wide-awake power pop song is absolutely stunning, and it’s a total earworm. I think time has been supremely kind to “Wincing the Night Away,” which was initially received as a solid-but-not-spectacular album by one of the most critically revered bands of an era. I’d posit that it’s actually the best The Shins album since it also boasts “Phantom Limb” and “Australia.”

“I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” by Weezer

Is it slightly embarrassing that an approximately 30-year-old Harvard student perfectly captured the consumptive passion of adolescent love over the course of about a dozen songs in 1994?

Yeah, at least a little.

But Pinkerton and it’s B-sides that were never assembled into a planned rock opera set in space still rule pretty aggressively. This has always been my pick for best track from the whole project, including the actual Pinkerton album. I’d even  just barely give it the nod over the much more obvious “Only In Dreams,” which is also great but way less esoteric.

Throwing this on a sleep songs playlist is a Mr. Fantastic-level stretch, but it sounds like Rachel Haden is sometimes singing about conferring with her dream man in actual dreams, so I’m including it.

“oh baby” by LCD Soundsystem

This songs is supremely comforting. Something about the gently surging synths and James Murphy’s voice really nails the gradual clarity of waking from a bad dream. It’s also off of an album called American Dream so it’s got sleep-related points to spare.

“Hold My Liquor” by Kanye West

This is such a weird song that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Chief Keef and Justin Vernon Harmonize, the beat is driven by intermittent noise blasts that sounds like an industrial pterodactyl and Kanye’s rhymes are loose and scatterbrained. Like the rest of Yeezus it just works anyway. It also features a ton of references to waking from a comma, so it qualifies for this list.

“By Your Hand” by Los Campesinos!

This song is indie pop perfection by one of my favorite bands of the past 15 years, and it contains the phrase “I’ve been dreaming you’ve been dreaming about me.” It’s really just the cherry on top of this rambling return to action, and a playlist that mostly sticks to its theme.

I’ll be doggoned: Songs about dogs

Lately, I’ve been playing with puppies for hours then leaving the pet store empty-handed because there hasn’t been enough heartbreak or emotional blue balling in my life.

Well, that, and I’m a big believer in rescuing, and I’m just trying to get a good feel for what sort of dogs would make sense for me.

So, given that canines are on my mind, I thought I’d put together a quick list of dog-related songs that get the Bloggenstatt stamp of approval.

  • Sun Kil Moon – “Dogs”

OK, so technically, this song is more about dealing with burgeoning sexuality coupled with the toxic role masculinity plays in the lives of young men, but it’s called dogs. And it’s on an album called Benji. Which is also the name of a movie starring a dog … in addition to being the name of Mark Kozelek’s dead friend.

  • The Beatles “Martha My Dear”

Once again really stretching my premise and spurning low-hanging fruit. Martha was the name of Paul McCartney’s sheep dog. He’s stated the song’s relation to the dog ends there, but I’m counting it.

  • Frankie Cosmos – “Sad 2”

Finally, a song that is unabashedly about a dog. A dead dog. OK, this is a song about the utter languish of putting a pet down. I thought this would be a happier list. The seesaw melody of this song is delightful to warble along too even if it’s a big, ole downer. Try it. “I’m juuuust a normal girl, but my name is FraaaAAAAaaaAaank” is a wonderful thing to say in a Muppet voice.

  • The Stooges – “I Wanna Be Your Dog”

Because there are bells on this proto-punk classic, it counts as a Christmas carol. Because Iggy Pop mostly sings about being, “So messed up,” and wanting to be someone’s dog it’s the best Christmas carol.

  • The Sonics – “Walking the Dog”

Pacific Northwest garage-rock legends included a super scuzzy take on Rufus Thomas’ song on their classic album Here are The Sonics. This one even includes dog whistles. One of my least tenuous picks.

  • Wanda Jackson – “Rockabilly Hound Dog”

This tweaks Elvis’ much more famous Hound Dog sound and mostly just extols the virtues of Rockabilly music. It’s extraordinarily silly, but Wanda Jackson doing a full-throated growl backed by a saxophone is always worth a listen. It definitely alludes to an extremely literal dog.

  • David Bowie – “Diamond Dogs”

This is really a song about  feral mutants from the future, but it has one of the coolest intros ever, “This ain’t rock’n’roll, it’s genocide!” and it’s Bowie grooving to some serious cowbell.

  • Florence + the Machine – “The Dog Days Are Over”

This is a super pleasant song I had the privilege of hearing a lot when I worked retail. Like a lot. For years this song was part of the corporate mixed CD we had to play while folding polos and selling cargo shorts to suburban dads. Years later, I don’t hate it, so I have to assume it’s a rock-solid song.

I’ll probably never have a reason to write about Florence Welch on this website again, so I’m going to air this unpopular opinion: Between her and Adele, Flo is the better British song-belter. It’s always bugged me. I feel like in a world in which Adele didn’t exist, people who say things like, “She’s really got pipes” before looking around for nodded approval while listening to Top 40 radio would have glommed on to Flo.

I feel bad for her, and now her song is on my dog playlist, so I’m really doing my best.

  • Surfer Blood – “Demon Dance”

These guys were one of my favorite guitar-heroic indie rock bands of the late ’00s. I even stuck around to hear their second album despite some disturbing allegations. This is track-one side-one for that album. Like pretty much all of Pythons it’s slick, enjoyable guitar-pop. It references the, “the hounds of hell” so I included it.

In the ensuing years since their sophomore album, Surfer Blood have put out a lot of pretty OK music. Their first album, Astro Coast is deservedly the most lauded release in their catalog, but I really think Pythons is overlooked despite containing some of the hookiest, crunchiest pop-rock of the past decade.

For more information on Surfer Blood, check your local library.

  • Weezer – Undone (The Sweater Song)

Not at all about dogs. Not even one bit about them. But the music video features so many dogs. Worth noting: The video was directed by Spike Jonze, who would go on to make some tremendous movies and has a dog’s name.

I feel good about this pick.

Let’s be Frank: ranking my favorite musical Franks

Last week, when discussing my favorite albums of the year with a co-worker, the topic of the new Frank Ocean album came up.

I admitted to never being much of a fan, but said I appreciated my opinion was in the minority and I had even come around to liking a few songs. I also mentioned that in my opinion, Frankie Cosmos had the stronger 2016 release.

This planted a seed in my mind that’s been germinating ever since: There are a disproportionate number of

musical Franks. For a name that’s often shorthand for working class, an awful number of people named Frank or Frankie have hit it big in the music industry.

Everything is better in unresearched listicle format, so here is my (F)ranking  of musical Franks.

“I came in at No.6!”

Frank Sinatra

Maybe sacrilege to have him in dead last, but this is my list, and I’ve never found the Rat Pack as charming as other people do. Also, it irks me that a bunch of misogynist drunks with ties to organized crime have somehow become the de facto soundtrack for ‘classy’ events. If I have to put on a suit and tie for an event, I can be almost certain I’ll here Frank Sinatra. Ain’t that a kick in the head.

Frank from the movie “Frank”

The title character from this short, weird and funny movie that pokes fun at common tropes in indie and underground music was actually not all that interesting. Michael Fassbender imbued the oddball character with a certain level of gravity that otherwise would’ve been missing, but other than some funny non-sequitors, there wasn’t much to the character beyond a hysterical Papier-mâché head. However, Maggie Gyllenhall kills it in a supporting roll, and Domhnall Gleeson is excellent.

Frank Ocean

I really appreciate how awesome it is for an extremely influential R&B artist to be a young, non-heterosexual male. That Odd Future Wolf Gang Attack Kill Them All was Frank’s springboard to stardom makes the whole thing extra awesome, but I just don’t find his music all that compelling.

Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose. Frankie gotdang Rose. I feel like she isn’t even the highest profile female Frankie currently making indie music, but she definitely should be. She was an original member of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, and she made two rock-solid solo records. I’m particularly fond of 2013’s Herein Wild.

Frankie Cosmos

I know I just said Frankie Rose deserves to be more famous. This was an incredibly tough decision. This is especially true since I liked, not loved,  2016’s Next Thing and am mostly lukewarm on most of Greta Kline’s other albums. With that said, I’ve listened to Zentropy in its entirety at least 50 times. It’s one of my most-listened to albums ever. It’s the right blend of breezy indie pop, garage rock and so, so many hooks. A handful of likable releases and one slice of punchy, short and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny perfection is enough to elevate someone to the upper echelon of Franks.

Frank Zappa

Zappa might be my parents’ all-time favorite recording artist, and it’s a pretty defensible position. He was a savant-level musician, an independent force for absurdity and put on a heck of a live show. Rude, lewd but n

ever crude, Zappa managed to make a brand of very jazzy music with lots of guitar music that was actually enjoyable. He also featured prominently into the creation of some career-making albums for Captain  Beefheart and Alice Cooper.

Frank Black

If you’re the lead vocalist and principle songwriter for The Pixes, you’re the best Frank. It doesn’t matter if your solo albums are almost completely inessential. Your bestial, unhinged yowls make”Debaser”. And on “Vamos” you showed you could even do it in Spanish. Frank Black, sometimes known as Black Francis, could sing about almost anything and create a seminal alternative rock song. Some topics he managed to make into classics:  A girl named after a fabric, aliens, underwater guys,  rice, beans and horse’s lard. This is the greatest Frank in music.

P_oblematic: Three great songs that could’ve skipped the R-word

While running this morning–I know, I hate myself too–I was listening to The Exploding Hearts, and was caught off guard by the lyrics of one of my favorite tracks, “Sleeping Aides and Razorblades”.

“You know the first time you left me, babe it was so hard and it didn’t hurt that you told all my friends I’m a retard”

The whole song is a jaunty comic depiction of an off-again-on-again relationship and uses suicidal references for levity so it’s beyond obvious that “retarded” isn’t being used in a genuinely hateful way, but it’s tough to imagine the lyrics being penned in 2016.

However it occurred to me The Exploding Hearts aren’t the only band I love to flippantly include the R-word in an otherwise excellent song. Some are more defensible than others but really “retard” isn’t really integral to either “Sleeping Aides…” or these other songs.

“How Am I Not Myself” by The Shocking Pinks

In 2007, four years  after The Exploding Hearts put out the classic Guitar Romantic, The Shocking Pinks–a buzzy, one-man-band signed to DFA–released an incredible, self-titeld record.

That record includes some wonderful, emotive songs including the heavy-lidded pop of “This Aching Deal” and the utterly perfect “Second Hand Girl”.

Sandwiched in between those songs is “How Am I Not Myself?” which is a premium slice of Sad Bastard Music.

The song is pretty much an outpouring of depressing sentiment and imagery, so it’s not totally surprising when a really depressing relation dynamic is described as follows:

I love you when you’re happy/I love you when you’re sad/But I’d rather be a retard babe than be your motherfuckin’ dad

It’s an ugly sentiment in a song that’s lyrically the seeping ooze pumping out of a deep wound so it doesn’t seem out of place, just wholly unnecessary.

“Famine Affair” by of Montreal

Improbably of Montreal have been a thing for two decades. They began as a twee-indie-pop band with bizarre concept albums as likely to contain radio serial skits and character studies as songs about love.

Around 2004, things started to pick up a funky, electronic edge and glam influences crept in. Generally, this has been for the better, and it produced the masterful Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

All those influences are present and accounted for on the excellent “Famine Affair” off of 2010’s often overlooked False Priest, but since it’s included in the post you can guess what else is included–the word retard.

In what’s quickly becoming a theme for this list, the song is about a toxic relationship ending in entirely foreseeable disaster with Kevin Barnes singing about flying toward tragedy in a glass bottom airplane. But the next lines have always seemed to need more context.

Looping like a retard/Are you still playing the race card?

They basically work as a couplet in context of the song, so there’s really no reason the whole thing couldn’t have been scrapped from what is otherwise my all-time favorite breakup song for triumphant disco and Woody Allen reference reasons.

Honorable mention to: Jay Reatard and “Mongoloid” by Devo.

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to start a song

Dawned on me this morning that an awful lot of songs decide that the perfect way to kick off a song is with the sound of a drink being poured or smoke being inhaled. In my opinion, it’s an incredibly obnoxious way to start a song, but some bands pull it off better than others.

The songs that sample either Track 9 from Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins upcoming sound effects album or feature the always soothing sounds of someone inhaling smoke and loud coughing aren’t always bad after the annoying opening seconds, but some are outright terrible.

So here is a ranking from most to least annoying of songs that much like Rod, need to let you know they party.

“Smoke Two Joints” by Sublime

A perfect and obvious example of he most heinous end of the spectrum is “Smoke Two Joints” by Sublime, which also includes a cold open sample of Refer Madness.  It’s safe to say the sounds of a bong hit don’t exactly push an otherwise subtle, enjoyable song into tacky territory for a brief moment. This is the Spencer Gifts blacklight, felt poster of songs. It might be the most noxious track on an album that famously includes “Date Rape”.

“I Was a Teenage Hand Model” by Queens of the Stone Age

The closing track on the self-titled debut from Josh Homme and Co. is actually a pretty awesome song in its bones, but it goes on a little too long, includes some really distracting electronic abrasion  and there’s next to no reason for smoking noises to open the track. It’s always driven me insane. Here’s this loping, melodic, paino-driven tune that hints at the dulcet Jack Bruce-crooning that Homme can absolutely deliver, and it gets all gunked up by it’s non-musical components. It’s beyond infuriating, and I’ve always wished QOTSA recorded the track later in their existence, when they had to confidence to just let a slow song smolder.

“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Doggy Dogg

By virtue of featuring flatulence after the sounds of a drink being poured, this is by far the most obnoxious opening to any of these songs, but it quickly cedes to some velour G-funk tones. A stone-cold classic, such as “Gin and Juice”“Gin and Juice” can afford to shoot itself in the foot  and still come out more than OK.

“Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath

Technically, this song only features violent hacking coughing, but it’s a song called “Sweet Leaf” that boasts lyrics such as, “You introduced me to my mind.” It’s not too hard to parse out what’s going on. Normally, I’d find this totally repulsive, but Ozzy Osbourne delivers a pretty strong vocal performance, and Tony Iommi’s guitar riff in this song is incredibly iconic–even if it is tough to hear without chanting, “Ali Bobba and the 40 thieves,” when you hear it.

“What D’You Say?” by The Go! Team

Like “Teenage Hand Model” this is a song that has no real apparent need for the carbonated noises that open the track, but in this case, the fizzy sounds match the track’s bubbly tone. The Go! Team are always dependable for some absolutely joyous songs and this might be their most infectiously smiley tune.

Trigger warning: Songs about horses

The delightfully snide Seattle band Tacocat just put out a new album, Lost Time. It’s a pretty good collection of songs, but maybe not quite as good as their last album,  NVM.

One super silly tune off of their new release stood out to me in particular: “Horse Grrls” an ode to females who cherish horses above all else. Everything about the song is delightful, the galloping beat, the drum-stick countdowns that presage the speedy bits and the on the nose descriptions of a certain adolescent female archetype.

This celebration of the people who celebrate horses inspired me to throw together a playlist of my favorite songs about, or ostensibly about, horses. Unfortunately, there weren’t really all that many horse songs I would willingly endorse, so I had to get creative.

By using band names, lyrical content, thinking of songs that mention horse racing and remembering the Mr. Ed theme song was sampled once, I was able to come up with a decent collection of vaguely horse-related songs.






Teacher, mother, secret lover: three songs about T.V.

This is a needlessly esoteric premise even by my standards, buuuut:

In the “Treehouse of Horror V”, The Simpsons‘ fifth Halloween special, Homer abandons attempted homicide to gaze at small, portable television lying in the snow and states, “T.V. Teacher, mother, secret lover.” He more or less coos the last two words.

Today, while listening to Colleen Green, I realized I knew of three songs about television that hit on at least one of those criteria pretty squarely while also generally being good songs, and decided I might as well preserve that thought for posterity in the form of this list.

  • “T.V.” by Colleen Green

This power pop song off of Green’s third album, I Want to Grow Up, really covers the first two elements of Homer’s television triad very well within this song’s opening seconds. “T.V. is my friend/And it’s been with me everyday/From an early age,” succinctly sets the stage for a song all about forging a meaningful, lifelong connection  bathed in the soft, blue luminescence of a television screen.

It really reminds me of that famous Freaks and Geeks scene where a latchkey kid played by Martin Starr makes a disgusting snack and hunkers down to watch t.v. and laugh riotously,even though it’s readily apparent his life is generally miserable.

  • “T.V. Luv Song” by Wavves

Musician and delightful human waste product Nathan Williams definitely seems like a dude who watches a lot of t.v.–possibly immediately after ingesting drugs.So it wasn’t really a surprise that he penned a gleeful ode to getting trashed with only t.v. to keep him company.What is a surprise is that years after this tossoff single was released, I still return to it’s bubblegum garage sound fairly often.

This improbably falls into both the teacher and secret lover categories.

  • “TVC15” by David Bowie

I thought I might have a tough time finding a song about a person with explicitly romantic feelings for an appliance, but thankfully, there’s this gem off of Station to Station.

As Bowie helpfully explains, “This is a love story between a girl and her television.”

It’s really that cut and dry.