The Selector playlist, Sept. 26, 2013

Here is the playlist of songs I programmed for the Sept. 26 edition of InterFM’s show, The Selector.

Defiance & Doubt: songs I think would sound good on the radio (2)

1. “New Wave,” Against Me!
When she recorded this song in 2007, Laura Jane Grace was Tom Gabel, the leader of a punk band whose political music is fist-pumping yet thought-provoking, verbose but incisive. Her “debut” album is tentatively titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues. [Live]

2. “Booster,” Hal From Apollo 69
Idols are never defiant, but Hal, the singer in this 90s industrial rock duo, took idol vocal mannerisms and made them sound both cute and intimidating, but not as intimidating as that guitar. [official video]

3. “Ven Hacia Mi,” The Mavericks
Raul Malo’s love of Roy Orbison is fully realized on the new reunion album by his old band, which made its fortunes as a country act. Some people think Orbison was a country act, but not me, which is why I chose to include the Spanish version of their song “Come Unto Me.” [English language version]

4. “Old Jim Crow,” Nina Simone
Probably the most ornery personality in the history of pop, Nina Simone was the perfect protest singer during the civil rights era: fearless, sardonic, soulful, and mad as hell. [Lizz Wright tribute]

5. “Boyz,” M.I.A.
Mathangi “Maya” Arulgragasam, the daughter of an alleged Tamil terrorist she has mixed feelings about, is today’s Nina Simone. “How many no-money boyz are rowdy,” she chants during the chorus. “How many start a war?” [Official video]

6. “Love Or Let Me Be Lonely,” Friends of Distinction
This 70s vocal group had bigger hits, but none as interesting. I count at least three distinct melodies here, each of which could have propelled a Top 40 song on its own. Is that wasteful or innovative? [TV lip-sync thing]

7. “Slut Like You,” P!nk
Early on, Alecia “P!nk” Moore defied show biz handlers who were grooming her to be the next Britney Spears. She’s now bigger than Spears, and she’s done it her way, in the process becoming a role model for teenage girls, though most parents probably don’t want their kids to hear this song. Actually, the sooner they find out the truth about sexual transactions, the better. Besides, it’s funny. [Live in L.A.]

8. “Man’s World,” Ice Cube & Yo-Yo
At one time Cube was the most hated man in pop, though I thought it was all an act. Sure enough, he’s now one of the most successful actors in Hollywood. On this song from his first solo album, the sexual bravado of his cartoon gangsta character is challenged by female rapper Yo-Yo. Every gangsta can learn something from the exchange. Besides, it’s funny. [Live in Rotterdam]

9. “I’m Against It,” The Ramones
The Ramones are acknowledged as the original punk band, but they weren’t by nature defiant the way punks are supposed to be defiant. They just wanted to be stars, but if success meant acting as if they were against everything, well, they could do that, too. [Live]

10. “A Long Jump,” Vladimir Vysotsky
Russian folk singers, even if they’re singing about the beloved Fatherland, sound defiant. It’s the aural quality of the language, and none sounded more Russian than Vladimir Vysotsky, a genuine thorn in the Soviet authorities’ side until he died in 1980 at the age of 42 from too much involvement in life.

11. “A Goodbye Rye,” Richard Buckner
A dreamy, poetic songwriter, this Northern California country troubador can get annoying with all the convoluted language. But he is also a gifted melody-maker who can turn emotional uncertainty into vivid romantic commentary. [“Lil Wallet Picture“]

12. “One in a Million,” The Brains
Tom Gray, the leader of this Atlanta New Wave band, will probably be able to retire on the royalties he’s earned for writing Cyndi Lauper’s hit “Money Changes Everything.” All his songs have the same pessimistic tone, though the use of the title phrase in this one points to something more ambiguous. Is that “one in a million” as in “someone special” or as in “just another loser”? [the song]

13. “High Pressure Days,” The Units
The premiere San Francisco synth-punk band, the Units offered a darker gloss on the dehumanizing theme that made their contemporaries, Devo, stars. The fact that the Units didn’t become stars only proves that a lot of music fans, not to mention record labels, prefer their dehumanization to be ironic. [the song]

14. “These Are the Things,” The Pale Fountains
I get nervous when I listen to Michael Head, who always sounds as if he’s about to run out of the room. This is one of his most agitated songs. The trick is to translate pure anxiety into something that’s musically appealing. [the song]

15. “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” Laura Nyro & Labelle
If I prefer Laura Nyro’s 1971 version of this soul classic to the Royalettes’ 1964 original or Deniece Williams’ hit 1980 remake it’s because Nyro sings as if she knows for sure she will never love anyone EVER AGAIN. It just tears me up, as it does Labelle, who would save her if they could, but they can’t. [the song]

16. “Where the Colors Don’t Go,” Sam Phillips
When she was singer-songwriter Leslie Phillips, she sang Christian pop songs of faith and longing. As singer-songwriter Sam Phillips she now sings conventional pop songs of doubt and longing. The difference is huge. [the song]

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