New Music for Old People: XTC, Eels, Nada Surf, and More

A weekly tip sheet for Boomers and Zoomers.

By , Columnist


This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD be!

In an effort to make this a more complete experience for our readers, you can now stream each individual song by clicking on the title, or you can stream the entire playlist via the widget at the end of the article. Please let us know how we're doin' in the comments section.

1. "The Smartest Monkeys" - XTC (4:18)

I was/am an avid fan of this recently disbanded band. Space does not permit me to proselytize any newbies out there but I think of XTC as what The Beatles might have morphed into if they stayed intact. This is as good an example as any of the many goodies they left behind.

2. "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" - Eels (5:22)

This is the outlet for Mark Oliver Everett, also known as E. The band members rotate often, but E remains in front, in charge. I like this track a great deal. E basically describes himself and there are enough similarities biographically with myself that I could have nearly written the lyric. Maybe there are more of us around...

3. "Question" - Nada Surf (5:19)

Trust a modern punky metal band to bring back a heavily played classic rock standard by (gulp) The Moody Blues. I will admit I hear a large dollop of a sense of humor embedded within, but I'd rather hear this than the overplayed Moodies track again. In fact, I'd rather hear it a few times.

4. "All The Way Down" - Etta James (5:34)

You can skip the first 1:30 on this cut and just get to the filet mignon. There is just an overlong instrumental intro with no Etta. But once she comes in, the orchestra makes sense and you have a rare, unique slice of Etta doin' all KINDS of thangs with a great arrangement behind her. If you're too lazy, don't edit it. It's not THAT bad, just a wee bit long and a little "Shaft"-ish.

5. "Roll On" - The Little Willies (3:06)

This band not a big favorite of Anthony Weiner's, but Norah Jones does sing lead quite effectively on this light bouncer. Anthony Weiner doesn't need a bouncer anymore. His wife is recording the follow-up, "Roll Off," hopefully released soon. Sorry, couldn't resist.

6. "Seasick Boogie" - Seasick Steve (8:25)

This grey-haired old timer has taken the UK by storm. His methodology involves two of the deceased members of the original Canned Heat group, Bob Hite and 'Blind Owl' Wilson. He has reproduced their white blues lurch inspired by John Lee Hooker and it's been so long since we heard all three of these blues greats that Steve has carved out a new niche for himself in today's market. Incredibly, this sounds like a breath of fresh air. Old Canned Heat fans will surely embrace gratefully.

7. "Pretty Mary K" - Elliot Smith (2:35)

He was a special artist who was able to sonically reproduce his high and low experiences realistically. He was the Emitt Rhodes of his time. Unlike Emitt, who still strolls the planet, Elliot left prematurely before the imagined height of his popularity. Here is one of the things that's great about him, captured forever.

8. "Alone" - Tommy Sims (3:21)

If you yearn for that missing Al Green thang from the 70's try this on for size. Sims, a very successful songwriter cut some sides in 2000 that have lasted quite awhile. Methinks he should be recording his own songs with the natural beauty of a voice like this. Perfect production as well.

9. "A Million People" - Birds & Batteries (4:00)

This band does not have a bio on their website or MySpace. The most I can get is they are from northern California. This track has some fine ear-catching moments in it. It is from their latest album Panorama, released in 2010. Great for headphones. Maybe they should be called Angry Birds & Batteries.

10. "Eveline" - Nickel Creek (3:11)

Of all their tracks, I kinda like this the best as there is a fresh musical surprise every few bars - a chord you would NEVER think would be played in that spot and then a harmony part you'd never imagined. Add their folky, unorthodox acoustic lineup and you've got refreshing barrier-bustin' tracks no matter where you turn in their repertoire. Sad they broke up - thank heaven for recorded music!

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