A Much Delayed Top 5 Songs of 2013

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2014 is over a month old now, the Grammys have finally aired, and it’s high time for me to compose this before the moment passes and 2014′s release schedule starts to heat up as the year pushes into spring. And what better time is there to catch up on music than a rainy Nashville February?

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Reflections on Christmas Music

There’s a golden rule that it’s generally impermissible to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s to contain everyone’s excitement; maybe — as my girlfriend likes to remind me — it’s to preserve the sanctity of Thanksgiving, the best holiday. My mom, in the past a proponent of this rule, announced with guilt that she’s been sneaking Christmas music: “I’m usually able to hold off until Thanksgiving but I was weak this year.”

In the past, I would’ve groaned; I was, like her, a staunch proponent of the Thanksgiving Rule. But this year even I find myself slipping into a Christmas mood earlier than usual. So I broke. I listened to Barry Manilow’s Christmas album, then all of my Christmas favorites. And I feel phenomenal. Christmas is the itch, and its music is the salve.

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8 Songs to Play at a Halloween Party That You Might Not Have Thought Of

My fellow staff writer Lucas Kunsman recently wrote a very good list of songs that are hauntingly beautiful. A few of my favorites — “Oh Comely” and “Kasimir Pulaski Day” — made the list. But it got me curious: what are 8 songs that are actually appropriate for a Halloween party? Now, these aren’t all Halloween songs, I know, and a lot of them aren’t really thatĀ dark or scary; I didn’t want to give you a list filled with horror-film scores and industrial metal. I also didn’t want to give you a list of songs like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller”, so I tried to pick songs you haven’t thought of.

So here are a few songs that are vaguely sinister and festive, but still fun enough to justify playing at a party. No one wants to hear the theme fromĀ Psycho while they’re sipping a beer and trying to hit on the girl in the inappropriately revealing costume.

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Pluck All Your Silly Strings: Neutral Milk Hotel, in Chattanooga, TN (10/19/13)

Neutral Milk Hotel in 1998. From left to right: Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes.

 

This is covert stuff. I’ve been waiting in line for 45 minutes to attend a show for which their are no real tickets — it’s all electronic, so as to prevent reselling and scalping. Now, the throng of diehards here to see a band that died 15 years ago, is herded into single-file lines. Women’s bags are checked. Men are given full-body pat downs. We’re all warned several times: no cameras, no video recorders, no audio recorders, no cell phone videos or pictures. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to file for Level 3 Security Clearance. People talk in hushed tones. What is inside Track 29, in Chattanooga, isn’t meant to get out. Inside is an experience, ephemeral, to be stored in one’s mind and not one’s computer. It’s like the nineties. Entering this venue is entering a time machine. This is not surprising, considering that the band we’re all here to see famously sang “I wish’d I could save her in some sort of time machine.” Everyone thought Neutral Milk Hotel was dead; perhaps they were saved in that very same time machine.

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