Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Playlist Week Day 1 -- Hawksley Workman

[This weekend, I got the new issue of Rolling Stone, which included a bunch of specific playlists like Bono's David Bowie playlist or Ozzy Osbourne's Beatles playlist. So, for this week, I'll be doing five playlists of ten songs per artist/band each day with some brief comments on the song. All songs in chronological order.]

I'm beginning with Hawksley Workman, a Canadian singer/songerwriter/rock and roller/whatever else you call a guy like that. He's eclectic, energetic, funky, sad, fantastic, and other adjectives. I've seen him twice in concert and enjoyed both times quite a bit.

1. "Tarantulove" (1999) from For Him and the Girls: I love the slow, drum-heavy pace of this song. He almost seems to be slurring his words without actual slurring them. A very offbeat, weird feeling in this song. "Well, I'm no doctor, baby, but I know what's good for me" is a great line.

2. "Safe and Sound" (1999) from For Him and the Girls: A sweet, soft song. One of the sweetest and softest I know. This is a song that I didn't really get until my current relationship with Michelle. It's about love and assuring the person you're with that they can trust you completely and just feel safe... and damned if that isn't a great feeling.

3. "Striptease" (2001) from (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves: Funky and loud and rude and crude... this is my favourite song to get dressed to, ironically. If I were a stripper, this would be the song I stripped to. It's not exactly a strip club song, but whatever. Hawksley doing pure rock and roll.

4. "Anger as Beauty" (2003) from lover/fighter: This song has one of my favourite lines of all time: "Fighter soul alive in a whiskey-fueled rage." I wrote a comic script about that line once. This was the single that made me pick up lover/fighter and get into Workman's music.

5. "Autumn's Here" (2003) from lover/fighter: A song I play every year in the fall. Just Workman and a piano (a trumpet comes in later) totally describing the feeling of a windy, cloudly, chilly autumn day. He captures the feeling of the season so well. It's sad and melancholy. There's a line where he says "It's okay if you want to cry" and I remember waiting for the bus in the fall one day in my second year of university and being damn near tears for no good reason as this song played. A moment of beauty and sadness... So, this gets played every year in the fall.

6. "God Decides" (2004) from My Little Toothless Beauties: From one of his 'lost' albums, this song begins and ends My Little Toothless Beauties. This album is Workman's Tonight's the Night or 29 for me. This song is epic as Workman with a thumping death march of a beat and a piano runs down what 'god decides.' It's a nihilistic, angry song.

7. "You Are Too Beautiful" (2006) from Treeful of Starling: Another soft, sweet song. The chorus of "You are too beautiful to be in bed with me" always hit something in me. Because every guy worth a damn knows it's true about the woman he loves. Especially when he follows that line up with "If you could see the thoughts I see, if you could see my thoughts, baby, you'd agree." Sweet and lovely, but also hinting at the horribly perverted and fucked up shit guys think about. I like the subtle humour. Plus, Workman nails a wicked high note.

8. "It's a Drug" (2008) from Los Manlicious: A big heavy guitar begins this one. I'm a sucker for songs about how great music is and this song is just such a thing.

9. "Prettier Face" (2008) from Los Manlicious: Los Manlicious was the second album Workman released in 2008, paired with Between the Beautifuls and this song was on both. I prefer this version as it comes closer to capturing the stunning live performance of it that I saw at the second Workman show I attended. A depressing song of self-loathing that descends into the repetition of "And I can't hide these uncried tears no more" after some good lines like "Drinking just to empty the cup" and "Oh, baby, I've had enough." The live version was positively apocalyptic when he got to the repetition. One of the best live performances I've ever seen.

10. "You Don’t Just Want to Break Me" (2010) from Meat: Another song that descends into repetition with a similar tone, but I think he captures the empty sadness better here. This one has a little funkier of a beat and isn't as obviously self-loathing. This is more angry and accusatory than "Prettier Face." The repeating lines of "You don't just want to break me, you want to tear me apart" come after a shift in the music... it's almost like two songs smashed together after a slowing drum beat that suddenly switches. The repetition starts calmly but gains emotion as it progresses. I played this song over and over on the CBC Radio 3 website before the album was out.

Tomorrow: The Tragically Hip

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