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The A+ List: 11-29-14

Howlin' Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf

Smokestack Lightnin’ – Howlin’ Wolf – Wolf had this number from the 1930s and recorded it in 1956. Influenced by blues that came before, it is a train song: Wolf isn’t howling, he sounds like the whistle on a train. The beat is a monotonic wheels on rails going on and on and on, it doesn’t move forward, it moves in place and Wolf is like he is observing, part of the trip, for a moment, part of the larger world surrounding the train.

Leave Your Lover – Sam Smith – Sam was such a disappointment at United Palace earlier this year, it affected my adoration of his debut album, In The Lonely Hour. I keep on referencing In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning when I write about it, but really that is the rallying place for the masterwork of heartache and melancholia… and this isn’t even the best song on the album . But it is close and that makes it one of the most tender and passionate unrequited love songs you will ever hear. Smith aches with need, with pleading, with hope and denial, as the strings (sounds like the real thing to me by the way… considering this guy’s work with Disclosure and Naughty Boy, that’s saying something) stay back and the acoustic guitar carries the melody, the song builds inside it the unsung rejection.

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) – Jay Z – when that hook comes in here, it is the end of rap and the birth of pop-hip-hop and world domination. Jay Z proved that anything was possible when it came to rap, the form was as protean as rock and roll, you could just keep adding stuff in and widening it till it appealed to everyone.

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! – Nick cave And The Bad Seeds – I am not a big Cave fan, but both this song and the album named after it, are the zenith of his career. This retelling of the Biblical story is a terrifying study of resurrection, fame, and death, it falls apart spectacularly on the streets of New York and concludes with an aphorism: “But what we do really know of the dead and who actually cares?”

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