This week's soundtrack begins and ends in the '80s.
1. "I'm Affected" - The Ramones: When The Ramones played Toronto on the End of the Century tour, I was doing campus radio in Hamilton and had 10-15 minutes with Johnny Ramone after the show. He was reputed to be a hard-ass, so I was surprised when he was asking college radio guys very sincerely and with a very troubled tone of voice if we heard any guitar on the album because he didn't. Then, I was amazed by this question because I rarely hear fewer than three guitars on the album, and "Baby, I Love You" aside, it's an album I thought he would have liked - The Ramones on steroids. Now it seems pretty clear that he heard a very specific guitar sound as the Ramones guitar sound, and if that wasn't present, then he didn't hear guitar. When I thought it was album he'd like, I now know I was projecting. As a guy who started with '70s hard rock, the fuller, thicker, less dogmatic guitar sound of End of the Century seemed like the perfect translation of Ramones musical ideas into a more mainstream-friendly music, but that doesn't mean it was Johnny's.
That tension is at the core of When the Wall of Sound Met the New York Underground: The Ramones, Phil Spector and End of the Century by Frank Meyer of The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, a new entry in Rhino's budget-priced, Kindle-friendly "Single Notes" series. Ultimately, it doesn't shine as much light as I'd hoped for on the relationship between The Ramones and Spector, but it does address an important moment in The Ramones' career when they and those around them thought mainstream success was possible for them. Meyer's better when tracking the slow process of eking box office success out of the movie Rock and Roll High School.
2. "Missing Pieces" - Jack White: I'm enjoying Blunderbuss in my car right now, which seems like the perfect place to listen to it.
3. "Right Side of My Brain" - Veronica Falls: Writer Mitchell Cohen wrote about Vernonica Falls' cover of "Under My Thumb" on Facebook's RockCritics.com group page, resolving the version with The Rolling Stones' hostility toward women. He started by writing, "Of course I didn't know Veronica Falls. Who can keep up?" I didn't know them either, but decided to catch up.
4. "The Soft Approach" - Blackbird Hour: On Thursday, I interviewed Blackbird Hour at the Ogden and shot a short video with them that incorporated a live version of this with a little "get to know singer Brad Hayden" talk.
5. "Gun Has No Trigger" - Dirty Projectors: From their new album, Swing Lo Magellan. They'll play the House of Blues August 4 with Wye Oak. Tickets are on sale now.
6. "Big Station" - Alejandro Escovedo: The title track from his new album, and he sounds more at home in his rock 'n' roll skin than he has on any of his recent albums.
7. "Fourth of July" - The Memories: I'm fascinated by this new self-titled album (in number of songs, not length) that quick-sketches a song idea, then moves on to the next song. Not all of the ideas merit their time in the spotlight, but since few last longer than a minute and a half, they don't overstay their welcome.
8. "What's Happening Brother" - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: The cabaret theatricality that has become her default mode serves Bettye LaVette is perfect on this track from the What's Going On album. Here's my story on the making of that album in No Depression.
9. "Thinking of You" - Frank Ocean: What does it mean that so many news outlets took Frank Ocean's tumblr post about his love for another man to mean that he's gay? Is bi- thought to indicate a lack of commitment or a hedging of bets? Does the most recent statement undo all others, including "Novacane," about a relationship with a dental student who moonlighted as a stripper? Whatever, the questions Ocean poses by implication are all interesting, and thankfully, so is his music, as this lead track from the new Channel Orange demonstrates. The album will be officially released Tuesday, but it's available now through iTunes, and you can stream it at his tumblr site. You can download "Pyramids" from the album here.
10. "Give Me the Chance" - Donnie & Joe Emerson: The story behind this reissue takes paragraphs, but go check it out. Short version: Dad supports sons and pays for an album that goes predictably nowhere in 1979, but it finds a cult too late to be of any use to the family.
11. "We Need Some Money" - Chuck Brown: This past May, go-go pioneer Chuck Brown died. DJ Soul Sister has been a long-time local proponent of Brown and go-go, and she is part of a tribute to Brown Thursday night at Tipitina's with Brass-a-Holics.
12. "Super Stupid" - Funkadelic: It just sounds right here.
13. "Love's a Real Thing" - Super Eagles: This does too.
14. "504" - The Soul Rebels: I took this song from Unlock Your Mind for granted at first as post-K cheerleading. It is that, but the arrangement is also a smart evocation of the group's marching band roots.
15. "Akale Wube" - Debo Band: During this year's Jazz Fest, photographer Skip Bolen and I were walking and talking about what we were going to see. He went one way and I went to see Boston's Debo Band, who played Ethiopian groove music. Before a song was over, I texted him that he really should see this - a band that looked like indie rock kids with the very charismatic and energetic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye working the audience from the stage and, eventually, from among them after climbing over the rail. They recently released their debut album on Sub Pop.
16. "Ball So Hard" - K. Gates: In honor of Drew Brees signing his contract, I had to go for Saints music this week. Last week, I interviewed K. Gates about his new documentary; here's his musical response to Bountygate.
17. "One Touch" - LCD Soundsystem: I'm bummed that the nearest screening of the LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits is in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, which means I probably won't go.
18. "M-Train" - Pylon: LCD's James Murphy is one of the people behind DFA Records' which reissued both of the albums by Athens, Georgia's great dance rock band, Pylon. I felt really badly this spring when former Pylon vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay reached out to me to write about her current band, Supercluster, and despite my best intentions and assurances that I would do something, I couldn't get around to it. Next time.
19. "Danseparc" - Martha and the Muffins: "Echo Beach" is this Toronto post-punk band's classic, but I remember liking this song as early '80s dance rock. I also tried to find on Spotify "Black Stations/White Stations" from its reinvent-yourself phase as M+M and instead found a version by The Boogaloos from the album Breakdance, Vol. 2. Does anybody know anything about The Boogaloos?
20. "Midnight City" - M83: Modern '80s electropop.
21. "Five Seconds" - Twin Shadow: And more, this from the new album Confess.
22. "Love Action" - Human League: I was disappointed to return to Dare a few years ago and find it so woefully unfunky, but when I get around that, I still find a handful of good pop songs.