June: It All Makes Sense To Me

First, the confession: I've been writing in this blog for a long time without telling any friends, family, colleagues or clients. Why keep it a secret? At first, I wasn't sure what this would be - a daily diary of songs, a place to wax poetic, a home for rants about the music industry, something I'd start and promptly forget about... Then, I just kept writing and never told anyone. But, I'm coming out of the blogger closet. And for the record, I despise the word 'blog.' I called this blog Song Folly because I wanted to focus, simply, on whatever music caught my fancy. I did not want to take myself too seriously or turn this it into a research project or a job or another blog about the industry that employs me. It has evolved into a loose and lighthearted record of music I've consumed, liked, disliked, worked on, thought about and compiled. No reason to keep that a secret.

Now, the mix.

I promised an upbeat mix for June, and here it is, in all its easy-listening sunny California glory. (Minus the Beach Boys).

1) I'm So Happy by Rainbow Ffolly

Rainbow Ffolly - the inspiration for the name of this blog - was formed by a couple of British art school lads in 60s, who recorded this demo (which was never properly mixed, I suspect) and wound up releasing it as-is on Parlophone. I shouldn't be surprised to read that they were influenced by the Everly Brothers (who didn't quite make the cut for this mix). Besides being a sunshiney pick to kick off the mix, I am utterly in love with the playfulness of this whole record. With all the posturing, grooming and editing that goes into creating one's rock band brand these days, it's just really nice to hear a bunch of guys singing "doo wacka doo" and "chug-a-lug" in loose harmonies. If I had had a wedding, this song might have been my recessional.

As a mastering and restoration engineer, I can't let this go: the remastering of this album for the CD release is agonizingly bad. I have worked with a lot of vinyl source materials - scratched, warped, poorly pressed to begin with - and I know it's possible to get a cleaner transfer. The audible distortion and artifacts from noise reduction are a dark cloud over Rainbow Ffolly. I'd buy a copy of the original LP to redo it myself, but when they do turn up, they go for a fair chunk of change on ebay.

2) I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City by Sagittarius

This song is the antidote to the opening track on my November mix, "My World Fell Down," also by Sagittarius. The better known version of this pop song is by Nilsson, but this version just gets me in the gut. I should have played it in the car as my husband and I left Boston to move back to New York City. We wouldn't have been able to stop smiling.

3) Hide Your Heart Away by Lewis Taylor

Guess what decade this song is from. Lewis Taylor could be an accolade of Michael MacDonald. He could have his own episode of Yacht Rock. (Case in point, his album cover). He nails the luxurious harmonies and arrangements of the best 70s lite rock but transcends datedness.

4) If Silence Means That Much To You by Emma Pollock

The singer from the Delgados released a solo album last fall, which I purchased on a whim. I blogged about it, lamenting the fact that CDs cost $18 and debating whether I got $18 worth of pleasure from her CD. I did. She has a stunning, crystal-clear voice and a knack for melodies.

5) Me Plus One by Annie

I am not afraid to rock the ultra-sweet Norwegian pop. Annie gets played frequently on my iPod gym mix because she sounds like she's having so much fun!

6) Oh My God by Mark Ronson with Lily Allen

This is a cover of a song by the Kaiser Chiefs, whose version is a trifle more angsty and guitar-driven. You gotta hand it to Mark Ronson. He has a great ear for reinterpretation and a fabulous corral of musicians.

7) He Can Only Hold Her (Instrumental) by Amy Winehouse

Really, the artist should be listed as Mark Ronson and the Dap-Kings, because without her vocals, there's not much Amy Winehouse in here. (Though it is partly her composition). I don't really have a problem with Amy's vocals, but I love the instrumental version for the way it makes me groove. It's the sly hip bump, without being upstaged by the bouffanted drug-addled singer.

8) If You And I Could Be As Two by Them

I used to go to this diner in Boston with a friend, and every time we were there without exception, we heard "Brown Eyed Girl" on the oldies radio. It's a shame that's what most people think of Van Morrison, because this (Them) is Van at his most soulful. I first heard this song while shuffling a mix my husband had made for a friend's wedding, and, damn, I thought, Van makes me yearn! He makes me want to slow-dance in a dark high school gym.

9) I Like London In The Rain by Blossom Dearie

For a track off jazz record from 1970 - That's Just the Way I Want to Be - by a pianist and vocalist named Blossom (whoa!), this song has stellar beats.

10) Otherwise (Instrumental) by Morcheeba

Another instrumental because, often, I like to hear the backbone of the song without lyrics getting in the way. (This is a luxury I have in working as a mastering engineer). I first heard this in a CD store in a train station in Switzerland, which is completely incidental, except that that's my gut memory of Morcheeba.

11) Shilo by Neil Diamond

From his album Velvet Gloves and Spit, which, if you set aside any prejudices you may have about Mr. Forever In Blue Jeans, is a really lovely album. I dare you to not enjoy this song. Even though, nowadays, it usually reminds me of Angelina Jolie. McSweeney's ponders whether Shilo is a girl, dog or demon.

12) I'm The Loneliest Fool by Jack Nitzsche

The wild card in this mix, and also the first track I picked. It has this uplifting spirit which is contradicted by the lyrics, and I love the way it descends into a piano mess.

13) Sad K. by All Night Radio

This song followed the previous track so beautifully I was able to keep that tricky Jack Nitzsche track in the mix. All Night Radio is one of those bands that spreads by word of mouth. Someone told my husband about them, my husband told me, and suddenly, there they are on my iPod. Like Lewis Taylor (in spirit, not in tone), they sound somewhat timeless, a little psychedelic, a little atmospheric, a little melodic.

14) See Emily Play by Martha Wainwright

One of my favorite contemporary artists, Martha Wainwright is a hell of a singer and hell of a songwriter. She captivates me. I saw her perform songs of Edith Piaf last fall at a tiny club in New York that was so packed, I had to sit cross-legged on the floor right next to the piano and look up at her. If she was a lefty, she would have whacked me in the head with her guitar. I could have picked any of the songs off her new album, but I just love what she does to this Pink Floyd song.

15) Seasons In The Sun by Black Box Recorder

Another cover. In keeping with my sunny summer vibe, I threw on this sultry version of the song that Terry Jacks made famous and which never fails to remind me of AM Gold infomercials.

16) Har Du Vart' I Stockholm by Dungen

Pronounced Doon-yen (as I learned after a year of calling them Dun-jen), these guys are total pros, and they have the hair to prove it. Go see them live. Gustav Ejstes can pick up any instrument and rock it, tame it, manipulate it, and then add seven layers of vocals and a little fuzz, and wow! I heard rumors that their lyrics are actually rather banal, but since they're in Swedish, I never have to know for sure and I can just enjoy the epic rock.

17) What's It For by Blossom Toes

No relation to Blossom Dearie, these foppish gents from psychedelic England have not one but two songs explicitly about tea on their album We Are Ever So Clean. I love the way this song moves. Also, I am a sucker for anything that hints of mariachi horns.

18) Surprise, Surprise by Lulu

The surprise is the voice of "To Sir, With Love" knocking us all on our asses with her raunchy, raspy, unhinged vocals in this soul-ripping cover of a Rolling Stones song.

19) Comfort In Nautica by Panda Bear

Everyone raved about Panda Bear's Person Pitch. Pitchfork even named it the #1 album of 2007. That's high praise! Since I'm a fan of Animal Collective, I followed the herd and bought the CD, and this time, the people are right on. It's loaded with beautiful textures that never stray too far into ambiance or avant-garde, or too far from the groove.

20) Time Was Leading Us Home by Peter Sarstedt

Remember Hotel Chevalier, the short film starring Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman that played in theaters prior to The Darjeeling Limited? The gorgeous, Parisian-sounding song that played over the end credits, "Where Do You Go To, (My Lovely)," was by Peter Sarstedt. This is another gem of a track which I snagged from his Best Of album.

21) California Nights by Lesley Gore

The closing slot belongs to Lesley Gore. Wistful and sweet, this song sounds like something you might listen to while driving home after a really great week of surfing. Caleb once gave me a Lesley Gore record; he knows how much I adore her voice. Forget "It's My Party" and listen to everything else she recorded.