As opposed to our favorite songs, or songs we'd like to think define our listening habits, taking a look at what a person actually listens to can be far more revealing. With that in mind, every Wednesday we ask an artist to take a look at the most-played songs in their iTunes libraries and share with us the results. We do this on the honor system, and we ask our subjects to share a few words about each song.
For someone who began his songwriting career at 8 (where a year later he was awarded an honorable mention in a Billboard songwriting contest), soft-spoken balladeer Ben Kweller's brand of indie rock was once as tender as his years, but his full-blooded ambitions and five studio albums have refined his pop sensibilities. His latest release, Go Fly A Kite, is a well-crafted, catchy spin rich with power chords, solid lyrics, and tight hooks that nod heavily to his influences (including Nirvana, who he even lists here--just check out the guitar riff "Time Will Save the Day"). His five iTunes picks--and how lovingly he elaborates on them--reveal the boy's natural attraction to music and the man's appetite to live the dream.
"Take The Money And Run," Steve Miller Band: This song reminds me of being a freshman in high school and getting high, and going camping with my friends. We used to ride around in John Kent's (Radish Drummer) Red Chevy S-10 pickup truck and sing harmonies to this album all summer long. Mr. Miller knows how to blend melody, harmony, upbeat energy, guitar-god shreddability, fun times, seriousness, heartache, rock 'n' roll, country and folk music, all in to one. Did I mention melody and harmony?
"Symphony of Destruction," Megadeth: Simply put, this is my favorite metal song of all time. When you listen closely and study this song and recording, you realize that it is actually a pop classic covered in amazing metal playing. I love Dave Mustaine and want to collaborate with him one day!
"Molly's Lips," Nirvana: I remember listening to this song at summer camp on my friend's Sony Walkman. remember those? Cassette is still one of the best musical formats ever to be mass-produced. Nevermind had recently come out and Nirvanamania had taken over the land. Us devout followers were jonesing for more, more, more! The various singles and Sub-Pop releases were in heavy rotation in my bedroom, and helped shape the sonic pallet of what Nirvana was. There were still other dimensions of the band we didn't know yet. Enter Incesticide. This 15-song jewel of mostly two-minute demos and outtakes was the exact remedy for snot-nosed punks like us. The album exposed this simpler pop-punk side of the band that could almost tap into the Green Day/Rancid movement that would follow 2-years later in the states. Like the t-shirts Nirvana wore, promoting other bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., Incesticide opened us up to a whole new world of underground music with covers from The Vaselines. My favorite being "Molly's Lips." I just loved the melody so much and the words, "kiss, kiss, molly's lips!" So simple, so awesome.
"Gold Soundz," Pavement: Amazing summer song. The whole album (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain) is a masterpiece. Nothing really more to say about that!
"Asshole," Beck: One summer, I met a kid at some weird south Texan beach resort. He was from a big city and knew a lot about music that hadn't made it to my neck of the woods. He told me about this guy called Beck and how he was an "anti-folk" singer. (This was pre-"Loser" of course.) "What the f*¢# is anti-folk?" I thought. I was intrigued. I exchanged addresses with the kid from the beach resort. He dubbed me a cassette and mailed it to my house a week or two later. It had some crazy stuff on it; cool tunes like "Ozzy," "Satan Gave Me A Taco," "Rowboat," "Cyanide Breath," "Mint," and my personal favorite "Asshole." All the songs eventually ended up on One Foot In The Grave and Stereopathetic Soulmanure. I was blown away. Especially by this song. Amazing songwriting. It gave me a lot of hope as a young writer, hearing these raggedy 4-track recordings of off-the-cuff songs.