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wonders never cease Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WEDNESDAY, JULY 28th, 2010{guest} play list of the week: jesse elliott's "sailing the seas

tUS_PromoSleeveCoverGentle readers, for this week’s play list, we turn over the reins to an expert in the field of music. We're honored to present a list composed by Jesse Elliott, lead singer & songwriter for DC’s own These United States, whose terrific fourth album, What Lasts, was released last week (and is available at a Proper Topper near you). In addition to being one of the nicest men we know, Jesse is a writer of great talent: Marquee Magazine recently declared his work "…a crowning achievement of sonic curiosity, and chief songwriter Jesse Elliott should now be considered amongst the best in the art of songcraft." We are humbled to have such a lauded talent gracing our blog with his craft, and we advise you all to gather up the new release and the back catalog so you, too, can say you knew him when. Now, in his own words, we give you the road warrior himself, Mr. Jesse Elliott:

I’m sitting on the waterfront, a loading dock, in Seattle, listening to the band we’re playing with tonight – Ships. I’ve eaten shrimp twice today, once in tacos, once in pho – a delicious Vietnamese soup. Soup. Shrimp. Seattle. Ships. Oh, yeah, there’s a sign across Shilshole Ave that reads “Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel.” Seriously. Sand? Salmon? A sign? It all looks a lot like water, and waves, and west. A summertime sea-stew for the occasion, perhaps?…


1. L.A. Rain - The Mynabirds
No better way to start a journey than getting lost, yeah? “I got lost today / out on the 101 / the exits came and they went away / but I kept driving on”

2. Surf Seven Seas - The New Rags
There is, to consider, first and foremost, the long, proud tradition of the summer surf song, from Dick Dale and the Beach Boys to Weezer and Surfer Blood. Some musicians sound like they're just piggybacking – others, you can really feel they’ve got the water on their brains and the sand in their trunks. When the New Rags’ belt out “we just arrived / in this surfing town / everything is ali-yyiiive!” I believe em. And I wanna be there, too.

3. Stranded - The Walkmen
This is the long late end of that first night out into the sea and summertime… “and I’m stranded / and I’m starry-eyed / oh, why, won’t she wash out of me” …an epic staggering (inebriated?) late-night drunken waltz down the beach, right fist flung defiantly into the clouds coming in off the water as your left fist clutches something, anything.

4. Summertime Blues - The Who
A summertime staple for everyone from Olivia Newton-John to T. Rex, Cheech Marin to Alan Jackson, I’ll probably err a little more towards Roger, Pete, John, and Keith’s version of this one, theatrical boss-impersonations and all. If this isn’t a song about navigating the choppy waters of teenage life in America (and presumably anywhere else in the world, though personally I’ve never been a teenager anywhere else in the world) – well, I don’t know what is.

5. Tamacun - Rodrigo y Gabriela
It’s just virtuosic. I mean, what else do you really need to say about Rodrigo y Gabriela? So much about summer is decidedly not virtuosic. Leans a little more towards the hazy and the lazy and the sun-burnt and wind-fried and beer-battered. R&G’ll knock ya back up into yr right mind quicker than a Mississippi River cliff-diving cannonball. And they don’t sting nearly so much.

6. Cool Yourself - Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Another beautiful brilliant slap in the face, perfect cold water. We toured with Thao this summer, and every night was just exactly like this.

7. When We Swam - Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
We also toured with Mirah – she and Thao put a super(mega/awesome)group together, called The Most of All. I only have two Mirah albums where I am right now, sadly, and though every song is brilliant, none right here have to do with summer or the sea. Another Thao tune, then, as a stand-in? Just too TOO many perfect summer lyrics in this one… “When we swam our love to pieces / We washed up on messy beaches / You cleaned dry, I would not drift yet / I should drink salt water to forget”

8. Susie at the Seashore - These United States
Full disclosure: this is my band. I actually would’ve likely forgot about this song completely, but I’ve been working on this video series lately, my bandmate Tom’s “The Bicycle Diaries,” and it brought ole Susie back to mind…
(Editor’s note: This terrific song was not available on our song providing service so we substituted the referenced Bicycle Diaries episode which has the song playing in the background and features the handsome and charming J Tom Hnatow giving a guided tour of Bridgeport, Connecticut.)

9. Summer Days - Bob Dylan
Put 515 words in a song, some are bound to sink, some’ll surely swim. Of the latter, the ones clattering round my brain long after Love & Theft has reached its end would have to include: “She says, ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ I say, ‘You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.’ …and, most certainly… “Yes, I’m leaving in the morning just as soon as the dark clouds lift / Gonna break the roof in—set fire to the place as a parting gift” You just can’t get away with that kind of beautiful smart-assery – unless you’re old, and Bob Dylan. Well, OK, maybe you can. But it’s better if yr old. And Bob Dylan.
(Editor’s note: One of the many things that Bob Dylan and Jesse Elliott have in common is the fact that not all of their songs can be found on our music providing service, so we replaced “Summer Days” with a performance of a Dylan classic that looks as if it may have been filmed at a concert that the editor and Mr. Elliott attended together, although we weren’t sitting close enough to tell if Bob’s face was covered in sunscreen to that extent.)

10. That Lucky Old Sun - Willie Nelson
Bring it home, Willie. “Show me that river / take me across / Wash all my troubles away”… Just like sitting on the dock in Seattle, dreaming of summers gone and summers to come. The sea, the back and forth, the ebb and flow, the life and death, is never easy, but I wouldn’t trade it all for anything else.

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