1. Arthur Russell | That's Us/Wild Combination
I think this song more or less started Kisses as a band. After College I had a band called Princeton with my closest friends and brother. We moved into a home in Eagle Rock to be close and work on Music. My brother has always been more adventurous with his listening habits and one day I woke up and in the room next door I could make out some beautiful Wurlitzer type chords and a low vocal that reminded me of the way I sang. I went in and listened to That's Us/Wild Combination and was mesmerized. I fell in love with Arthur's Music and feel, his knack for melody and using his low voice in a way that was still emotional. I still think it is a perfect song and whenever I put it on it transports me. What Arthur does that nobody else does quite as well is blend the beautiful with the ordinary moments of Life and living. We're leaving at 5 in the morning... We could get better mileage... It reminds me of an early road trip I would do with my family growing up, but sung in such a way that really hits. The love and care you feel while half awake and while your family and loved ones wake you and push you towards the car to start a journey into the Unknown.
2. Electric Light Orchestra | Livin' Thing
I really could pick 4 or 5 other ELO songs that do a similar thing for me, but I think Livin' Thing really has everything I love about this band in one song. To me what is timeless about the band is that the arrangements are excessive but somehow not over the top. Part of me feels that is a result of the recording of the time, making strings sound thinner and drums smaller which allows those ornate melodies to flow perfectly into Jeff Lynne's musical tapestries. Lynne's vocal instincts to me are distinct. They fall at times into the Disco, almost Bee Gees falsetto that makes this Music have a time period, but there is something totally classic about Lynne's songwriting. Something in the realm of Lennon or McCartney, he writes timeless iconic songs that have heart but are also grandiose and ambitious. I drew a lot from Lynne on this most recent Kisses record Rest in Paradise.
3. Air France | No Excuses
Air France have always transported me into a time and place. In many ways, coming from a Folk and Alternative background they were my first Electronic obsession. Sure I liked other songs and singles, but the two Air France EP's were a total mystery to me. I listened to them on endless repeat and was enamored with Sincerely Yours as a label and what kind of fun and mystery they brought to Music. I still listen to these EP's all the time (they are in Zinzi's car) and I never feel the need to turn them off. Once they are on, I listen through and think they are perfect, evocative and breezy in all the ways I like my Music to be. I think it was wrong of Air France to break up, but I get why they wanted to leave their perfect statements intact. Ultimately though, if one good song could have been found on that album they never released, I would have taken it. As an artist, I think you need to be willing to make a bad album, to put out an imperfect statement to get to the next chapter. It was a shame they didn't continue on, but we will always have France.
4. Kings Of Convenience | Homesick
I don't care if it is cool or not to say that a contemporary band is your favorite band, but Kings Of Convenience have always been my favorite band (not always, but for many years). Homesick reminds me of my Freshman Year of College, I would listen to this song a lot and feel like someone understood me, someone understood the place I was in as a teenager. I love Erlend and Erik's effortlessness and always have. Homesick is probably the closest song to a Simon And Garfunkel tune and, since it was the lead track on Riot On An Empty Street, lazy journalists have been comparing the two ever since. Actually the comparison was there prior because it was two white guys harmonizing, which, again, lazy journalism likes to push people into certain corners. In fact, I am constantly amazed at how lazy journalism has gotten. We had a song premiered the other day on a site and the site announced the song as if it was the first single we had put out in years. In truth we had put a single out two weeks before and in the embed of the Soundcloud link it said "2nd single"... Mind-blowing and we wonder why people are not interested in paying for Music anymore. It's not because of the Music, it's because journalists create no intrigue, they are simple aggregators at this point, nothing more.
5. Feist | One Evening
I love Feist, her vocals are beautiful and her first LP is fantastic. The production on One Evening taps into the 70's smooth and rubbery production that I love. Minimal but perfect synth lines matched with a really clean and dull sounding drum kit. In fact, vocally this song is pretty basic for Feist, but the hook gets me every time. I have tried on tons of songs to match the feel of this song, but it is really hard to do. In fact, Feist has never done another song like this, it stands alone in a forgotten era. I know Feist has not put out a ton of records and I actually first heard of her from those early KOC records, but I hope she continues to perform and put out new Music. Also, my friend Simone Rubi put out an awesome song with her on her first album under the group name Rubies.
6. Neil Young | Out On The Weekend
This song reminds me of San Diego. I would listen to Harvest and drive to Lou's Records in SD. That was where I bought John Phillips 1st solo record and that became another lifer album for me (should have put a song from that on here as well). Neil's voice in this era really gets me because it is high and vulnerable and I rarely like vocals like that, but somehow he makes it all OK.
7. Wilco | At Least That's What You Said
When I first had a crush on Zinzi, my brother and I went to see Wilco at the Newport Folk Festival. A Ghost Is Born had come out and that whole album colored that trip as I went to hang out and try to spend time getting to know Zinzi in Rhode Island. Watching Wilco on the water was magic and this song brings me back there.
8. Matt Kivel | Insignificance
My favorite song by my brother, timeless lyrics and strong chord progressions. I have all of his records in my car CD changer (they are taking up a lot of room right now!), but they are all great in their own way, this particular song though got me and I think lyrically is something you can hold onto for a long time.
9. Sufjan Stevens | Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid)
This song kicked off my initial exploration into Sufjan. While all of his more ornate stuff is beautiful, something about that melody when he sings even if I died alone gets me every time. I buy tickets to maybe 1 show a year and this year I got tickets to see Sufjan in SB. He always brings it and it is fun to have an artist continue to grow and evolve and watch that evolution.
10. Jens Lekman | At The Dept. Of Forgotten Songs
While I always draw Jens comparisons, there are a couple songs of his I really love. I recently put on Oh You're So Silent Jens... Having not heard it in years and was floored by a couple tracks. This was one of them. I love the sound of the keys on this song, it is hard to tell if it is a piano or Rhodes, but it is fantastic and muddy. This album was fun to listen back to because it reminds me of studying abroad in London and being deeply affected by Jens' Music. This song ties into the simplicity of a piano ballad opener like the Sujfan song and need nothing more.