February’s Bestest Songs

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Here are my favorite tracks from the February that was. It was so cold, it should work at Friendly’s.

1. Lizzo – “Cuz I Love You”

Lizzo reminds us that love is the best kind of devastating, singing with real, visceral, mascara-streaked joy. An instant classic.

2. Benjamin Earl Turner – “Ja Rule”

If Mega Millions branded their winnings as “I don’t give a fuck money,” I’d buy a ticket every day.

3. Jessica Pratt – “Poly Blue”

My wife perfectly described this gentle folk song as music to put on while taking a nap with someone you love. She was totally talking about me, right???

4. Ex Hex – “Rainbow Shiner”

Mary Timony’s shit-hot band is back after five years, writing riffs that make me search for used El Caminos on Craigslist.

5. Serengeti – “Dust”

Over a playful Wurlitzer loop that would make MF Doom jealous, this Chicago MC shows off his knack for describing professional failures: “Wanted to be a food stylist / Ended up at Little Caesar’s.”

6. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “For Real”

A previously unreleased gem about artistic authenticity, from one of rock’s most authentic voices.

7. Tierra Whack – “Only Child”

Current lyric of the year: “You done turn my heart so cold / I should work at Friendly’s.”

8. Kero Kero Bonito – “The Open Road”

If you didn’t believe this delightful British trio had hooks to spare, remember that this is a fricking B-side.

9. Maxo Kream – “Meet Again”

This gifted Houston rapper pairs heartbreaking rhymes about an imprisoned friend with a beat that’s as smooth as a summer cocktail. This dissonance is brilliance.

10. Spellling – “Haunted Water”

Vintage horror movie synths, torch song vocals, and a shout out to “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” = a formula we didn’t know we needed.

11. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Cyboogie”

If our robot overlords could groove like this, John Connor would be out of a job.

12. Mountain Men – “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

One of the purest songs ever written, sung with reverence and warmth? It doesn’t make me cry at all. It’s just getting a little dusty in here, what with all the country road travel and such.




Denver: Underrated Artist, Overrated Omelet

Saturday night, I reviewed “Country Roads,” a theme concert from the Buffalo Philharmonic that featured a five-piece band performing tunes by John Denver (above, in full Beastmaster mode) and Dan Fogelberg, with the orchestra fleshing things out. Other than reinforcing my feelings about both artists – Denver’s melodies are grand, timeless things, while Fogelberg’s are sopping loaves of Wonder bread – it got me feeling all defensive about one of my favorite country singers. So, here’s a list of reasons why John Denver deserves more cred than he typically gets:

1. His songs are audaciously simple. It ain’t easy to connect with listeners using basic language, and Denver does it as effectively as anybody, injecting warmth and truth into seemingly throwaway sentiments like “Sunshine on my shoulders/makes me happy.”

2. He’s so square, he’s cool. There’s never been anything hip about a guy with an acoustic guitar singing about mountains. Denver didn’t care, singing about dizzying natural highs with a passion that’s as refreshing as a gulp from a Rocky Mountain stream.

3. His love songs are untouchable. Whether it’s the swooning romance of “Annie’s Song” or the tender parental poetry of “For Baby,” Denver’s fusion of simple sentiments with soaring melodies make for unforgettable expressions of love.

4. He makes you sing along. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” could get a monk to break his vow of silence.

5. While hiking in West Virginia, a backwoods mystic (a.k.a. “mountain mama”) gave him an enchanted amulet on a golden necklace. It gave him the power to grow sexy hair and speak with the animals, after which he fell in love with a falcon named Stephanie (above).