This Week's Spotify Soundtrack begins and ends with the great Glen Campbell.
1. "Wichita Lineman" - Glen Campbell: One of the most heartbreaking songs in modern American music, made more powerful by its lonely, arid yearning. Florid strings and keyboards can't stop the song from evoking the epic, empty landscapes the lineman inhabits.
2. "It All Feels Right" - Washed Out: From the new album, Paracosm.
3. "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead" - Final Fantasy: This weekend, I hooked up my turntable and listened to 45s, among them a punk track from Toronto, "CN Tower" by Michaele Jordana and The Poles. It's about throwing yourself off the then-tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, it's not on Spotify, but this track by Toronto's Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett is. The songs are nothing alike.
4. "Your Life is a Lie" - MGMT: From the upcoming album, MGMT, due out September 17.
5. "Bring the Noize" - M.I.A.: From her upcoming album, Matangi, due out this fall.
6. "Girlfriend" - Icona Pop: Not quite the undeniable pop pleasure "I Love It," but close. They play the House of Blues Tuesday.
7. "Jersey Girl" - Hank & Cupcakes: The electronic duo plays The Howlin' Wolf's Den Wednesday.
8. "Q.U.E.E.N." - Janelle Monae feat. Erykah Badu: From her upcoming album, The Electric Lady.
9. "I Be Goin' Hard" - Dam-Funk and Steve Arrington: Steve Arrington of Slave has been Dam-Funk's mentor, and they've paired up for Higher, an album of very cool electro-boogie (assuming you accept the premise that that is possible).
10. "Hold On, We're Going Home" - Drake feat. Majid Jordan: From Drake's upcoming album, Nothing Was the Same. He'll play the New Orleans Arena November 9.
11. "Upper Class" - The Poets of Rhythm: Daptone will soon reissue an anthology by this German funk band from the late '60 and early '70s.
12. "Hive" - Earl Sweatshirt feat. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies: From his album, Doris, due out Tuesday.
13. "Came Back Haunted" - Nine Inch Nails: From the upcoming album, Hesitation Marks. Nine Inch Nails will perform at this year's Voodoo Music Experience.
14. "Broken" - Tears for Fears: Susan Cowsill will re-start her "Covered in Vinyl" series Thursday night at its new home, One Eyed Jacks. This month, in addition to a set of her music, she'll cover Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair in its entirety.
15. "Squabs on the Forty Fab" - Squeeze: After Stars on 45 released "Stars on 45," the disco Beatles medley, Squeeze recorded a disco medley of its own songs and released on the B-side of "Is That Love" from East Side Story.
16. "Love Illumination" - Franz Ferdinand: Last week in The Guardian, Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand reflected on the damage inflicted on the band when it entered the American musical marketplace.
17. "My World is Round" - Alvin Youngblood Hart: Hart's Muscle Theory is a pretty persuasive power trio, and they'll play Tipitina's Saturday.
18. "Another Girl" - Missing Monuments: King Louie's power pop band adds some garage to challenge the genre's usual tightness but not its love of an immediate, engaging song that knows better than to overstay its welcome. From the new Missing Monuments.
19. "Holy Ghost Power" - The Mercy Brothers: The title track from the band's debut album. They'll play Chickie Wah Wah Saturday night.
20. "Wichita Lineman" - Glen Campbell: From Campbell's new album, See You There. Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and when he was in the studio cutting Ghost on the Canvas, he also sang some of his classics again with spare accompaniment. Those became See You There, and the versions can't help but be dramatic because of the circumstances.
Like Johnny Cash's American Recordings albums, it's tempting to overrate these because we're hearing a great singer dealing with infirmity - not nearly as ravaged by age as Cash was, but he's clearly an older man. As much as I admire critic Will Hermes, I can't agree with his assessment that "[w]hat could be a late-game throwaway instead has near-definitive versions of 'Wichita Lineman,' 'Galveston' and 'Gentle on My Mind,' conjuring the originals with a patina of age and minus the arrangement lard."
I've always considered that fact that I rarely notice the period-specific arrangement in the original a testament to the drama Jimmy Webb wrote and that Campbell embodied so beautifully. Musically, the song's bulletproof, and countless versions show that it doesn't need all the sweetening. But does benefit from the easy restraint the young Campbell brought to the song. This time, his age and phrasing add poignancy to the admission "I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time," but there are also moments late in the song when Campbell goes for drama and steps too hard, missing the stoic mix of duty and desperation that gives "Wichita Lineman" its power.
Those more pained, more fearful moments give the See You There version its own undeniable pathos and humanity, but that doesn't make the version an improvement.