Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Made this list a little while back in response to an RTE Guide request for Culture File’s favourite tunes. Surely it’s time to put it up here

1   Don Rendell & Ian Carr Quintet – Blue Mosque - Shades of Blue

Rather than wondering what my favourite tunes were, I looked them up on last.fm, which is a great service for telling you what you really like, ie, keeping track of which songs you actually play the most. And apparently, best of all I like this piece of 1960s British jazz, originally crate-crawled by Giles Peterson.

2   Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten - Our Endless Numbered Days

What these songs mostly have in common is that they are slow and easy enough to be on my random go-to-sleep playlist. Actually that playlist often turns up some possibly unsetting tunes, like this one, which seems to be about death and grief. But is lovely for all that.

3 The Innocence Mission – The Lakes of Canada - Birds of My Neighbourhood

Amazingly visual bit of landscape songwriting, with an vocal that glistens like bright, clear water. And not the last big of Canada to show up in the list. This band, however, are from Pennsylvania.

4   Neil Young – Helpless - Decade

See! What did i tell you? Another Canadian! It is mysterious that a man who can write songs like this would rather jam with Pearl Jam.

5 Rufus Wainwright – Harvester Of Hearts - Want One

Eeek! Isn’t Rufus a Canadian too? His best songwriting — like this — has a nice, rare quality of being melodramatic, cute and goofy all at the same time, which is pretty clever.

6 Joanna Newsom – En Gallop - The Milk-Eyed Mender

What’s so funny about a harpist with a squeaky voice singing things like “Never get so attached to a poem / you forget that truth lacks lyricism”? Nothing.

7   Sufjan Stevens – Alanson, Crooked River - (Greetings from) Michigan (The Great Lake State)

Rather like Neil Young (only not at all Canadian) these days Sufjan likes to be a little more abrasive/electro. But this twinkling instrumental is still my favourite. Apparently.

8   Lisa Ekdahl & the Peter Nordahl Trio – When Did You Leave Heaven – When Did You Leave Heaven

This leaning-over-backwards version of the jazz standard turned up in what is probably Pina Bausch’s funniest/happiest show, Masurca Fogo. It’s not a tight contest. But it works pretty well even when you can’t see the choreography. Imagine a bendy woman in a slip dress being carried aloft by a troupe of men in doubled-breasted suits.

9 Jackson Browne – Jamaica Say You Will - Jackson Browne

Frankly, i can’t imagine how this got in the list. It’s way too fast to sleep too and Jackson Brown is incurably naff. But there he sits. Guess I must have played it some of those 50 odd times in the last couple of years. The Internet never lies.

10   Emilíana Torrini – Nothing Brings Me Down - Fisherman’s Woman

If you’re in search of an Icelandic-Italian singer-songwriter to whisper in your ear as you drop off…then look no further. She’s very cheerful too.

11   A Man Called Adam – Barefoot Acoustic - All My Favourite…

A staple of many a chillout compilation, AMCA took the title from a not-terribly-good scifi novel (Barefoot in the Head) which this song inspired made me buy. Meh, the song’s much better. And shorter.

12   Tom Waits – Alice – Alice

Dozens of Tom Waits songs could fit the bill, he seems to be able to churn out little masterpieces like other people make cups of tea. I love the image here of someone repeatedly skating the letter ‘A’ and then discovering it’s a bad idea on ice. That could seed a dream or two.

13   Bob Dylan – Girl From The North Country - Nashville Skyline

So many times in his career when Bob could just have stopped and still be regarded as the greatest of popular music artists. But he will just keep on keeping on. Here, for good measure, you get a bit of Johnny Cash.

14 Sleepy Town Manufacture – Latatoo (Sense remix) - Latatoo

This could provide a rude awakening, or at least a sudden one, when the sleepy electro washes of the intro end and it all kicks off and gets quite beaty. But still, they do have sleep in the title.

15   Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns

I read someone say recently that Joni is one of the most unpleasant people a journalist could ever interview. Which is a little sad. It’s a song about the fatal dangers of boredom, I think.

16   Elvis Perkins – Sleep Sandwich - Ash Wednesday

A man with a very strange biography (he’s related to the world’s most famous Perkins, though not to the world’s most famous Elvis) with a song that is actually about waking up. And going to the pictures.

17   Björk – Gotham Lullaby - Live at Union Chapel

It says something about Björk that when she wants to do a cover, she picks a vocal by a performance artist with no actual words. Apparently Meredith Monk (the performance artist) likes this version.

18 Lionel Hampton – A Taste Of Honey - Flying Home

The vibes just don’t get the attention they used to. Maybe because they sometimes play tunes other than this one.

19 Erroll Garner – Misty - Immotal Concerts

I suspect this piece of piano magic would be much higher up the list except for the fact that i regularly play about seven different versions of Misty. I’m surprised the Ella vocal version isn’t near the top. Which reminds me, where the hell is her version of April In Paris?

20 Djivan Gasparyan – A Cool Wind is Blowing - I Will Not Be Sad In This World

This one is surviving on past glories. I had to remove it from my go-to-sleep list because i played it too often. Don’t believe them when they say you can’t have too much ambient duduk.

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