I’ve been using Last.fm to track my music plays for more than a decade. This week I hit the landmark of 200,00 tracks played. Last.fm doesn’t track all the music I listen to – I currently only have it scrobbling plays on my phone and on my work laptop, not on the stereo – over the years it’s formed an interesting picture of my music listening habits.
Here are my top ten tracks according to Last.fm, limited it to one song per artist. Songs by Aimee Mann, Gene Clark, and Can narrowly missed the cut.
(intro) by Tom Waits
from Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)
Nighthawks at the Diner was a live album of new material, designed to emphasise Waits’ jazzy side. There are six tracks named ‘(intro)’ on Nighthawks at the Diner, so every time I’ve listened to the album ‘(intro)’ was scrobbled six times. None of the ‘(intro)’ tracks feature my favourite Waits dialogue from Nighthawks, introducing his band:
They all come from good families, but over the years they justTom Waits
Kind of individually developed some ways about them that just aren’t right
Coincidentally, it’s Waits’ 70th birthday today (or yesterday, depending on what time zone you’re in). Happy birthday from Aphoristic Album Reviews!
Right Here by The Go-Betweens
from Tallulah (1987)
Tallulah was my first Go-Betweens record and I was obsessed with the Australian quintets’s hooky and literate pop songs. If I didn’t limit the list to one song per artist, the list would be overrun by Go-Betweens tracks, due to Go-Betweens bootlegs. ‘Right Here’ isn’t one of my favourite Go-Betweens tracks, but it features some of Grant McLennan’s best lines:
It rains for days
So you stay inside and lock your door
Cryin’ all the time
Crying for, you don’t know what for
You say, you’re undone by his kissGrant McLennan
But don’t you think
That for once in your life
It should be like this?
Southtown Girls by The Hold Steady
from Boys and Girls in America (2005)
Boys and Girls in America was another album I obsessed with. The group perfectly straddled classic rock (Springsteen and Thin Lizzy are obvious influences), alternative rock (like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, front-man Craig Finn came from the Twin Cities), and the rapid-fire lyrics of hip hop. The closer ‘Southtown Girls’ is a triumphant anthem, starting with a rough-hewn a capella chorus before the band kicks into overdrive.
Keep On Sailing by Ian Matthews
from Valley Hi (1973) and Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You (1974)
Ian Matthews started his career with English folk-rockers Fairport Convention, but his solo career explored American styles like country-rock. He’s best known for his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ with Matthews Southern Comfort, but he made some nice country-rock albums in the early 1970s. For some reason he included his pretty ‘Keep On Sailing’ on two consecutive studio records; the Michael Nesmith produced Valley Hi in 1973 and Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You in 1974.
Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road by Robert Wyatt
from Rock Bottom (1974)
Robert Wyatt was the drummer and vocalist for art-rock bands Soft Machine and Matching Mole, before a 1973 accident left him as a paraplegic. The stately and chaotic art-rock of Rock Bottom has enjoyed critical acclaim over the years. Wyatt’s name has become a verb; “Wyatting” is the practice of playing unusual tracks on a pub jukebox to annoy the other pub goers.
Tonight The Sky by Sun Kil Moon
from April (2008)
Mark Kozelek’s work has devolved into tossed-off stream-of-consciousness pieces over the last few years, but he was once a great songwriter. Sun Kil Moon’s April is my favourite Kozelek project, and it was inspired by the premature death of his former muse; the same women he wrote Red House Painters’ ‘Katy Song’ about. On ‘Tonight The Sky’ Kozelek goes into Neil Young mode for a lengthy and cathartic piece.
Some nights we roar like lionsMark Kozelek
some we coo like doves.
Bird Song by The Trees Community
from The Christ Tree (1975)
In 1975, the Christian collective The Trees Community recorded a single album which sank into obscurity, despite its fascinating nature. The group lived in a monastic community and played Christian freak-folk with an exotic array of world instruments.
In 2007, the record was released in a four disc set, and was praised by Pitchfork in the wake of the freak-folk revival – they wrote “Our general understanding of modern Christian music is so far removed from what the Trees Community accomplished that this release comes as a startling revelation.”
Sweet Little Mystery by John Martyn
from Grace and Danger (1980)
English folkie John Martyn recorded his emotionally charged divorce album in 1980. Grace and Danger is different from the folk material that Martyn was best known for, but it’s gorgeous anyway. Martyn was accompanied by his friend Phil Collins on drums, who was busy recording his own divorce album, Face Value.
It’s not the letters that you just don’t writeJohn Martyn
It’s not the arms of some new friend
It’s not the crying in the depth of the night
That keeps me hanging on, just waiting for the end.
Appetite by Prefab Sprout
from Steve McQueen (1985)
More literate 1980s indie-pop, this time from the pen of Durham’s Paddy McAloon. After the hyper-busy pop of 1984’s Swoon, producer Thomas Dolby helped the band to refine their sound for their breakthrough second album, renamed Two Wheels Good in the US for legal reasons.
If your eyes are wanting all you seePaddy McAloon
Then I think I’ll name you after me
I think I’ll call you appetite
These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs
from Our Time In Eden (1992)
I’ve already devoted an entire blog post to ‘These Are Days‘, a song from Natalie Merchant’s last album with 10,000 Maniacs. To summarise, for me it’s a song of springtime and of renewed hope, and it was fittingly played at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.
If anyone else out there is still using last.fm, please befriend me. My username is “troutfunk”.