Donovan Woods is one of my favourite musicians in all of the Great White North (Canada for you foreigners). He actually has been for a few years now. So when he offered to guest post his list of the 10 tracks that really did something for him this year, it was exciting and I was very interested into what make Woods tick.
Well I have to say I was surprised on a few of them but then sat back and thought to myself that while I might still be “Mr. Slowcoustic” that isn’t my only side, hell, I’m multi-faceted damn it! Turns out, so is Mr. Woods. If nothing else I think I want to know him more now. I mean, look/listen to this guy…don’t you want to know more?
*above image stolen from Tympanogram, just because.
“Put on Cologne” – Donovan Woods
(from his upcoming EP ‘Don’t Get Too Grand’)
((…and if you don’t “get” the song title, you aren’t smart enough for Donovan Woods’ Twitter feed))
Find more of his most recent release, The Widowmaker on his bandcamp page HERE.
Eleven Songs I Got Big-Time Into This Year (in no meaningful order)
10. We Owned The Night – Lady Antebellum
This song is completely perfect. I heard it in a coffee shop then sang it to a person I know who likes new country radio stations and they told me what it was. That is not to say that I don’t like new country radio stations; I do, very much. I just hadn’t heard this song yet. Country music stations are one of the most efficient ways to learn about songwriting. Popular country songs are formed perfectly for mass human enjoyment. Their pre-choruses hit and you brain goes, “oh man, here comes the chorus!” It’s like watching American football. Suddenly you care intensely but you have no idea why. I mean, say what you want about “country” content, their delivery is second to none. This song excels beyond most. The verse melody is stupid good, there’s a guitar riff that you can’t possibly not hum, a guy and a girl sing in perfect harmony, and the words aren’t dumb. Don’t be greedy; what more do you want in your life?
9. Crew Love – Drake
The guy says “Cause they’re lovin’ the crew” so much that it starts to not sound like actual words. But I got into that! This song is formed so dumb it’s amazing. Listen to it in good headphones and it feels like you’re having inner-ear problems. I can’t relate to one word in this song. I don’t fly girls in from Poland because they want to hang out with my group of friends. I can’t think of any active haters who’re affecting my life. But it makes me feel cool as hell. It also feels extraordinarily modern and I like that in my ears while I’m leaving work or while riding the subway, pretending I’m too good to be riding the subway.
8. Change the Sheets – Kathleen Edwards
This is what I’m currently big-time into. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a songs person. I will listen to a song over and over on repeat until I can’t stand it. Then I don’t listen to it for months. Then it comes back. That is what my brain asks me to do and that’s what I’m presently doing with this song. I love her singing. I love what she does at the end of lines. She’s tough. She is just the best. I’ve loved all her records and I’m certain I’ll love her new one. I know someone who is in her family and they told me she’s heard my records and thought they were OK. If this is true, I am happy.
7. Behave – Robyn Dell’Unto
This song has been stuck in my head for many months. (side-note: I’ve also had The Odd Couple theme song stuck in my head for a decade, so it’s in good company). This is the only person on this list that I know and can email and I did email her when I first got into this song. She is just an absolute pleasure to listen to. Robyn’s voice is so reassuring and personal and always in a register that my brain likes. The beginning of the 2ndverse is when it becomes my jam. It’s kind of indifferent and wistful and sad, but so sweet sounding. The chorus is so satisfying, the way it trails out. This is a good song.
6. Here and Heaven – Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile
This shit is ridiculous. My Favourite song of the year, hands down. It’s devastating in content and delivery. It’s also devastating in that I’ll never achieve anything quite like it even if I try and try and try… I’ll die and never do it.
5. A Man Don’t Have to Die – Brad Paisley
I read a profile of Brad Paisley in The New Yorker and if you’ve ever read their profiles you know there’s always a point where you learn something vile and hideous about the subject’s life. It turned out though, to just be about how awesome Brad Paisley is. I could not agree more. Not all of his songs do it for me (sometimes the narrative is too sappy or patriarchal or alcohol soaked) but the good ones do it real good. This is a good one. It’s about as close as country radio can get to playing a protest song. That’s my opinion!
4. Rainbow in the Dark – Das Racist
I run on the treadmill to this song and it always refreshes me when it comes on. It’s not especially inspiring or anthemic (which I don’t think is actually a word). There’s just something about it that traps my brain in a good way. I’ve done so much thinking about the lyrics to this song and that’s really something because most of them are near nonsense: “Peep us at the Grammy’s we’d like to thank G-chat, we’d like to thank weed rap. The best rapper is b-real – jokes, it’s us, come on, be real.” About 2 minutes in, the song really plateaus right when the guy raps, “you couldn’t see me like a Cuban playin‘ hockey. Cracker into chocolate, that’s human Pocky”. He gets into a rhythm that’s right on the beat and incredibly satisfying. Songs “plateauing” and becoming suddenly, momentarily, blissfully perfect is one of my favourite subjects to discuss. A great example of a song hitting a perfection plateau is The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag” when Levon sings, “Hail stones beating on the roof, the bourbon is a hundred proof…”. Give that a listen and see what I’m getting at.
3. Anti-Pioneer – Feist
This is the type of song that Feist seems to be able to write at her leisure. I cannot get enough of it. The chorus melody and the way she drags it out even though we know where it’s headed? Come on. It’s beautiful and wistful and sad and reassuring. This woman is the best there is. You hear guitar parts all over her record and think “that’s so awesome, who’s playing that?” Then you see her on TV and she plays them all. All the riffs you were interested in, she plays while singing and being cool as hell. Her new record is just full of great songs, recorded and arranged greatly. Song after song, she is extraordinary.
2. Murder to Excellence – Jay-Z and Kanye West
This is the type of confident, swaggering production that makes Kanye the best. It’s not even really in tune. It doesn’t matter. Try not to nod your head with purpose when this comes on. So many of his tracks are completely undeniable. “Lucifer” off Jay-Z’s Black Album is another of myriad examples. Put them on and boom – you’re into it. They change your mind. He understands what makes people feel cool.
1. Johnny Cash – Fred Eaglesmith
This is a song off Fred Eaglesmith’s forthcoming record “6 Volts”. I’ve only heard it live, once, in Guelph Ontario. It’s essentially just Fred admonishing us for getting so into Johnny Cash while he was dying, then dead. “The radio station plays him all the time, too bad they never played him when he was alive, oh you sure do like Johnny Cash now.” It’s angry, almost uncomfortable and it’s rad. Fred is, I give you my word, one of the best songwriters in the world. His songs have been recorded by huge country stars like Alan Jackson and by whiny folk losers like me. If you’ve never seen him, do so if you can. His band is how I dream my non-existent band will one day sound.