Hey! Good to see you again! How are you? How’s the family? Make yourselves at home. :)
We’re still easing back into this blogging thing especially with two gigs this week in Biddeford, ME and Boston (plus Mary has solo gigs in Lowell and Somerville, the traitor), so while we’ll have a new playlist to share very soon, we decided to revisit one of our favorites from 2017, a collection of songs with cities in the title.
Sidenote that, like before, we‘ll be blogging about all kinds of things on here. Get ready for opinions. Get ready for stories. Get ready for deep thoughts. Get ready for feelings. And like, probably music stuff, too.
1. Shipping Up To Boston – The Dropkick Murphys
I have so many stories about this song.
Did I ever tell you how every March 17th I wake up super early and blast this song to wake everyone else up?
Did I ever tell you about the time when I saw the Dropkicks at Fenway? And then saw them at Fenway again (opening for the Foo Fighters that time?)
Did I ever tell you about the time I saw Frank Turner from two feet away at a bar owned by members of the band?
Did I ever tell you about the time when I did sound for the Dropkicks and then joined them on stage?
Did I ever tell you about how for the longest time this was the song which I sang to my kids at night before bed?
Did I ever tell you about right now as I’m typing this my 8 year old said “I LOVE THIS SONG” and started humming along with the riff?
This is a pretty fantastic song. — D
This song is not my usual cup of tea. But when it came out, I was hooked on it nevertheless. There is something about the driving rhythm of the chorus with those lyrics that makes it very easy for me to picture myself in the midst of sweeping dust and rock all moving in slow-motion as I try to take it in, or in the aftermath of the disaster trying to remember how things were before. — M
Still thinking of Vegas as it heals.
Every musician struggles with reaching that moment that makes them certain of their value on this planet. They’re waiting for that marker of achievement that will let them know that they’ve “made it”, that they are finally successful. It’s easy to get lost in that climb, that check list, that seems to never end. Try not to lose yourself in “the fortune you seek.”
(Also? My email address when I was a kid, long before the advent of Sara Bareilles’ career, had the phrase “cherry blue” in it, a phrase I felt quite certain I had come up with on my own, so it was delightfully unnerving to hear it sung by an artist people had compared me to for a few years before I ever heard this song.) — M
4. Cleopatra in Brooklyn – Frank Turner
Mary told me this one didn’t count, because Brooklyn isn’t a city. However, I told her, before 1905 it was one of the largest cities in the United States of America. Originally peopled by the Gowanus and Canarsie tribes of Native Americans, there seemed to have been some kind of symbiotic (as much as these kind of things can be symbiotic) relationship with the Dutch immigrants, involving trade and sharing of ideas and agricultural skills. Many of the sections of Brooklyn (Dutch for, literally, “land of brooks”) have Dutch names: New Utrecht, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Red Hook, Farragut, Bedford-Stuyvesant, etc.
I love this song because it mentions Brooklyn, and it’s by Frank Turner, but I also think it’s kind of a sweet love song, with a kind of longing. There’s a “this isn’t really what I want to do or what I want to be but I can handle it” theme to it, this “no one really GETS me” part that’s really sad. — D
I have to admit, I found this on a list of songs with cities in the title that I was using to jog my memory. I am not sure I have ever heard it before, but I am always thrilled to have an excuse to add to my knowledge of the Ben Folds canon. It is a very Ben-Folds-y song: having an entire section written around an ostinato, staying mostly but not entirely within the key, and that pure, almost spoken tone that his voice has. His voice has such a pure quality to it that allows him to deliver really simple lines with simple words that pack a wallop. It’s a skill I’m still working to master, all of the power with very little drama. — M
6. Goodnight Saigon – Billy Joel
At some point around 2002, a lot of people were crammed in a minivan (I think) and after there was a block of Billy Joel songs on the radio, my wife – kind of concerned/confused/befuddled – asked, “Does everyone who is from New York just know EVERY Billy Joel song?” and my brother-in-law very quickly answered, “It’s one of those things that we get when we’re born – we can breathe, eat, and sing Billy Joel.” So, naturally, when Mary and I got this idea about writing a SpotiFriday playlist about “cities” she immediately was joking that it wasn’t IF I was going to pick a Billy Joel song, but WHICH song I was going to pick. I love so many of them, and I like even more of them.
This song is so incredible. I actually wrote my sophomore year “American Studies” project on it. I did an exegesis of each and every line. It was a huge undertaking (oh how I wish I had the Google when I was in high school) and worth every minute. The details are incredible. The use of the first person plural (“we”) is both inviting and disarming in its invitation. There’s an incredible (literally “in” (not) and “credible” (able to be believed)) story of how young soldiers in war give so much and get so little, especially in Vietnam. I also LOVE how Rolling Stone magazine said the song was “obscene” because it “refuses to take a side.” That makes me love Billy Joel even more. It gives such an incredible insight into the life of a soldier in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, and possibly, sadly, the life of a soldier in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Niger, in 2017. :-( — D
7. Angel from Montgomery – Susan Tedeschi
I mean, does anyone hate this song? Probably someone. But they are wrong. And of course, there are bunches of great versions of it. But Susan Tedeschi has her origins a little closer to home, so let’s go with hers. The way she sings the word “rodeo” is the only way I ever hear that word sung in my head. Hers is, in some ways, my default version of this song (though I don’t mean to throw any shade at John Prine or Bonnie Raitt). I am envious of her ability to showcase her mastery and technique as a singer while maintaining an edge and sorrow not dissimilar to Janis Joplin. Gorgeous. — M
8. Sequestered in Memphis – The Hold Steady
It’s funny – for the longest time I liked songs because of the feeling. This song has it all – big guitars, amazing piano, sweet Hammond B3. Thirty seconds into listening to the song for the first time, I was in love. And then the horn section kicked in. And a horn section is the easiest way to go directly to my heart. The music would lift me up and take me to a different place. And when we get to the clap along chorus, it’s easy to get swept away.
But have you ever listened to these lyrics? They make the song complex and complicated and borderline creepy. It’s obviously a court case, and it’s not readily apparent what’s actually being judged. It makes one wonder. It’s not as feel-good as I originally thought. WHO exactly is the shady character in this story? hmmm… — D
9. Kansas City – The New Basement Tapes
First of all, some useful and important details about this tune’s origins here and here. (Especially watch that second one. Everything about that video captures life in rehearsal and in the studio as I have known it.)
This song stands up to my previous assessment that, while I might not love Bob Dylan as a musician, there is no denying his skills as a poet and lyricist. The music, written by Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), is perfect and passionate. That chorus destroys me every time. (Today is a day of choruses that wreck me, apparently.) Dann, weren’t we going to cover this thing? — M
10. Paris (Ooh La La) – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
I love Grace Potter. I think I’ve actually picked this song for a SpotiFriday in the past, and I love it I love it I love it.
She has power, she has Grace. She’s an inspiration. She writes amazing songs and plays a fantastic guitar and even better Hammond B3. On stage she is a captivating neutron star of energy.
This song has very little to do with Paris, from what I can tell. I love the confidence the narrator of this song exudes. The absolute “take charge” attitude of “I can do anything.” Coupled with the might of the Nocturnals, and it just blows me away. — D