In a new My Spilt Milk feature, John Shirley from indie rock band Cardinal Sons charts his musical universe.

Cardinal Sons photo
Cardinal Sons

"The Milky Way" is a new My Spilt Milk recurring feature. Today John Shirley of Cardinal Sons shares the eight songs that chart his musical universe. This once would have been a nine-song feature, but science 86'ed Pluto as a planet, so we shortened up accordingly. 

Cardinal Sons play Jazz Fest Friday at 2:30 p.m. on the Lagniappe Stage, and Saturday night at the Freret Street Publiq House with Coyotes and The Kid Carsons.

It's tough to pick 8 songs that are important to Cardinal Sons because we're all pretty different individuals, musically speaking. Giving my brothers and I the challenge to agree on eight songs would likely end in a fist fight, so I'll just make this list more personal. It's certainly not a list of my favorite eight songs, just a few that I think have been really important for our band.

1. Nirvana - "Lithium": 

They were the reason I became a fan of music and the reason I wanted to play guitar. Let it be known: I was the first of my brothers to pick up an instrument, even though they each surpassed me in technical ability in no time. I suppose I was too busy playing power chords. "Lithium" has always been my favorite Nirvana song, and I remember not knowing what "horny" meant as a kid, but I knew it was dirty. When I was in first grade, I came home with this CD and my dad looked at the artwork and told me to throw it away. But I convinced him to listen to the whole album because I was pretty sure there weren't any f-words. Since he couldn't understand any of the lyrics, he let me keep it, but I had to toss out the liner notes.

2. The Beatles - "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" 
I'm adding this one because it's a staple at our family's annual Thanksgiving jam. This is where my brothers and I first started playing together, drunkenly, for our extended family. I won't go into the influence of the Beatles, but I will say that I've listened to Abbey Road more than any album. For me, it's their best.

3. Owen Beverly - "Dixie"
I took guitar lessons from the same guy as Owen growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. I was the session right after him, and sometimes we would play together really quickly before I started. My older brother, Daniel, played bass with his band for a while. As far as his influence goes, he's been somewhat of a role model. He had a decent solo career going for a while, but now has a band in Brooklyn called French Camp, who have 2 great albums out. This is one of his more well-known solo songs.

4. Wilco - "A Shot in the Arm" 
I got Summerteeth in high school and listened to it all the time but never really got it. Recently, it has become one of my favorite albums and probably the most influential on the sound Cardinal Sons is trying to achieve. Wilco is easily our favorite band. And even though it's pretty unfair to say, I tend to prefer artist's work during times of their substance abuse. I don't know if Jeff Tweedy ever actually got into heroin, but this song is too good for it to matter.

5. e.company - "Rain"
As soon as Joe and Dave's band, e.company, began to part ways, we decided to start playing together. I admit that I started taking music seriously way too late, but it seemed like a good idea to motivate each of us creatively. And we decided that we would play succinct songs, not take a bunch of solos, which was a departure from the funk influence that e.company had. Either way, they were an amazing live band. This is the best video they have online, filmed by the guys (Flatland, LLC) that have done all of the Cardinal Sons' videos. They actually did this guerrilla-style - just hopped on a streetcar and started playing.  Joe and Dave look like children. Also featuring Sam and Jack Craft from Sweet Crude on strings.

6. Father John Misty - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" 
I haven't listened to another album as much as this one in the past few years. It was very fateful the way I stumbled across this record. It just seemed like it was exactly the music I was looking for at the time. Dave and I met him recently. Apparently he lives in the Bywater now. But I was shocked that he was completely normal and approachable, not the lunatic he is on stage. Anyway, this is the type of album I would like to make (soon). It's a complete piece of art, not just a collection of songs that sound alike.

7. Generationals - "Put a Light On"
It's safe to say that they were a big influence on Joe to ditch his organ and get an analog synth. I think that decision alone has made us much more interesting of a band. I'm a big fan of using simple melody lines as hooks. And our goal in recording is to create harmony between electric & acoustic instruments, rather than swaying one way or the other. Generationals are great for the textures they use, which we've become much more conscious of in our recordings.  (See: "Solo")

8. Beck - "Profanity Prayers" 
I took a long break from playing guitar after college, but I know this song played a big part in getting me back into it. I've always been a huge Beck fan and I loved Modern Guilt when it came out, this song in particular. A few years ago, I finally decided to try and figure this one out without looking at any stupid guitar tabs online. I'm not sure if I completely learned it, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't lead me to write the first song I've ever written ("Underdressed"