Discovering Melody Gardot

Last week, I noticed that Apple Music had created an automatic playlist compiling my “most listened” songs from the past three years. I didn’t recognize one of the songs from 2018. (To be fair, I started using Apple Music at the end of December 2018, so it had very little data to go on.)

While the majority of my “most listened” songs (from all three years) were by Taylor Swift, of course, one piece from 2018 was “Worrisome Heart” by Melody Gardot. Curious about the song, I gave it a listen.

“Worrisome Heart” is a smoky, midnight-laced jazzy piano ballad that sounds as if it might have been written (and sung) in 1954. But it’s not an old song. It’s a new one. Gardot wrote this and released it on her first album in 2006.

I loved the song.

I mean, I really loved it.

So, I did what I always do in situations like this. I did an obsessive deep dive into Melody Gardot’s music. I read up on her. The more I read and the more I listened, the more I liked her.

Maybe everyone else has already heard of Gardot, but she’s new to me. And in a very short time, she’s won a permanent place in my musical world. I’m a fan of how she blends modern sensibilities with traditional jazz delivery. So, so good.

During my deep dive, I found this video for her song “From Paris with Love”:

This is such a wonderful piece. So joyful. So beautiful. So very 2020. I liked this video so much that I shared it on all of my social media outlets yesterday (although I could’t find a reason to post it at Get Rich Slowly).

Next December, when Melody Gardot joins Taylor Swift on my list of “most listened” in 2021, it won’t come as a surprise. Because just as I listen to Swift all of the time, I’ll be listening to Gardot on and off throughout the year too.

Yacht rock

Often during the summer, I find myself drawn to Yacht Rock. This is the smooth, breezy music of folks like Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, and Kenny Loggins. It’s the kind of stuff my parents used to listen to on AM radio during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But the term “yacht rock” — which, admittedly, is still relatively obscure — was never used to describe this music. It’s the silly invention of a guy named J.D. Ryznar (and his friends).

On 26 June 2005, Ryznar and company debuted the first episode of their Yacht Rock web series.

Funny, funny, low-production-value stuff that’s often deliberately bad and deliberately offensive. But it hooked me and many others. Plus, it led me to embrace this musical style that I used to hate! That first episode was followed by eleven more over the next few years.

And, as time went on, the Yacht Rock web series caught on with bigger and bigger names. Like Drew Carey.

And here we are at the end of 2020. What started as a joke project to make fun of a particularly dated style of music has actually helped to popularize that music! Reportedly, Daryl Hall (of Hall and Oates) has credited this video series with reviving his band’s career. Crazy.

Ryznar and friends have parlayed their yacht rock joke into a 15+ years of “work”. They have (or had) podcast, a blog, and an Instagram account. They even came up with a rating system to determine which songs qualify as yacht rock — and which do not.

As for me, on occasion I find myself in the mood to listen to yacht rock. And my favorite song of the genre? It’s gotta be “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty. So smooth. So cool. So awesome. According to the “Yachtski Scale”, “Baker Street” doesn’t actually qualify as yacht rock. I disagree. Regardless, it’s a great song — one of my favorites from the 1970s.

True story: I love to listen to “Baker Street” on repeat at full volume. And, also true story, I believe it sounds twice as good on vinyl.

Mexican Radio

One of my favorite parts about learning Spanish so far has been discovering a world of new music. Thanks to José (one of the employees at the box factory), I’ve been exploring the various Mexican music stations in Portland. (I say Mexican because that’s the audience the stations cater to and the source of most of their music. But Shakira, of course, is not from Mexico.)

In fact, I love one of these stations: 93.5 “éxitos“. (Éxitos means “successes” or, in English, “hits”.) Even if I weren’t trying to learn Spanish, I might listen to this music.

But since I am trying to learn Spanish, this station is even better. I don’t understand everything — not even close — but my comprehension is improving. I could catch maybe 5% of the songs and chatter when I started in June, but now it’s up to 25% (and I certainly get the gist of nearly every song).

My favorite songs are often those in which the singers enunciate. The more I’m able to understand, the better I like the song. For instance, here’s “Te Amo” from Makano.

Some songs, though, are beautiful even when I can’t understand them. “Insensible a Tí” by Alicia Villareal was tough to parse at first (though I know the lyrics now because Aly and I went through them), but I was still moved by it.

I’ve been playing this song over and over and over (una y otra vez) since I first heard it last week.

You may be wondering how I know the names of these songs and artists if I can’t understand everything that’s said. That’s where Shazam comes in. Shazam is an iPhone app that, after listening to a few seconds of a song, can usually identify it for you. (Not always, though.) And after it does, it lets you see lyrics, buy it from iTunes, or add it to a Spotify playlist. In short, it’s like magic.

I look forward to discovering more new Spanish-language music in the future. (And to having Aly help me translate it during our classes. That’s half the fun!)

Bonus! I just discovered that Spotify allows users to share playlists, so here’s a short Spanish playlist. I have a more robust playlist in iTunes at home, but this is a good sampling of the stuff I’m listening to right now.

Toto – Africa

I’ve had a rough 48 hours. Toto’s death has affected me more than you can probably guess. I knew it would. That cat was like a piece of me, and I feel her absence acutely. It hurts.

“It always amazes me how emotional you are,” Kris told me last night at dinner. “You’re so much more sentimental than I am about this stuff.”

“I know,” I said. “I can’t help it.”

I’ve always had a lot of empathy for those around me, whether human or animal, but especially for those who are close to me. In many ways, Toto was the creature I’ve been closest to in my entire life. Her death hurts me more than Paul’s did, and even more than my father’s.

On Friday, Jen (a trainer at my gym) wished me bon voyage by sending me a link to a music video: Africa by the group Toto.

“I felt so bad,” Jen said at the gym yesterday morning, after she learned I’d just had Toto put down. “I didn’t know your cat’s name was Toto, and there I sent you the video to that song.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I liked it.”

And I did. It’s a strange, strange coincidence, but now that song will forever remind me of this weekend. It forms a bridge between the bad — saying good-bye to Toto — and the good — my first trip to Africa. With its melancholy melody, it fits my mood perfectly.

I’ll do what I can to update this blog from the road, but no guarantees.

Dog Days Are Over

In early December, at the end of the Glee episode where the kids go to Sectionals, I was literally moved to tears by this song:

Glee – Dog Days Are Over

Some of my (very manly) tears came from all of the Glee soap opera that led up to this, but a lot of it was just the song. So frickin’ amazing!

I meant to check out the original song (from a group called Florence + The Machine, which I’d never heard of), but I forgot to do so. Today, Trent linked to the original version of the song above, and I suddenly remembered my mission to learn more about this band.

Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over

What can I say? It’s bean a long, long time since I’ve loved a band this much. I love Florence + The Machine more than The Decemberists. Maybe more than U2. These songs are glorious. If Sinead O’Connor — whom I used to believe had a musical window into my soul — is going to produce psuedo-mystical folk crap, I need somebody that can fill her boots. Florence + The Machine can do that. They’re like early Sinead: raw power and emotion.

Sinead O’Connor – Jackie

Sinead O’Connor – Troy

I mean, listen to these songs:

Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over

Florence + The Machine – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

Florence + The Machine – Kiss With a Fist

Florence + The Machine – Drumming Song

Florence + The Machine – Cosmic Love

Florence + The Machine – You’ve Got the Love

This music gets me deep inside. I can’t wait to hear more.

I’ve been watching Florence + The Machine videos all afternoon. It’s only fair that I order the CD from Amazon. Oh, and while I’m at it, the vinyl LP.

Bonus Videos! Some of you know that I love a capella covers of modern pop. A decade ago, I made a whole series of CDs filled with a capella covers. Anyhow, here are a couple of versions of “Dog Days Are Over”.

First up, The Virginia Belles:

Virginia Belles – Dog Days Are Over

Next, the Kenyon College Owl Creeks:

Kenyon College Owl Creeks – Dog Days Are Over

But wait! There’s more! Here’s Tulane’s Green Envy:

Green Envy – Dog Days Are Over

And, finally, the BC Dynamics with an amazing soloist:

BC Dynamics – Dog Days Are Over

Wow, I love the soloist in that last one. Hell, I just love that song.


Today marks the start of Blog Week in my life. I’m spending the next seven days focused on preparing Get Rich Slowly for my upcoming absence while Kris and I spend three weeks in Africa.

While editing guest posts this morning, I’m listening to my “angsty eighties” mix. By sheer chance, the song “Southern” by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark came up on random play. The song features excerpts from Martin Luther King’s speeches.

An OMD fan has created a video for the track and posted it to YouTube. I like it:

Powerful stuff.

DJ Earworm: United State of Pop 2010

Oh, how I look forward to the new year. Not because of resolutions or a fresh start or anything like that, but because that’s when DJ Earworm releases his annual mash-up of the year’s top 25 pop songs. I love it!

This year’s remix isn’t as good as the 2009 version (which was simply amazing), but it’s still a lot of fun. I know not everyone loves pop music as much as I do (and really, I just like the dance stuff), but I still think even you old fogies can enjoy these mash-ups.

United State of Pop 2010: Don’t Stop the Pop (B-)

United State of Pop 2009: Blame It on the Pop (A+)

Note: The 2009 mash-up is a perfect thing (especially the video). It’s a glorious celebration of what makes pop music great. The 2008 version is very good, but it never reaches the highs of the 2009 remix.

United State of Pop 2008: Viva la Pop (A-)

United State of Pop (B) — the 2007 version didn’t have a video

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

Okay, to counter my last post, which praised music that some might consider…well, a little girlie…here’s another song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s the polar opposite of “When I Grow Up“, and I hope it restores my reputation for manliness.

Actually, I’ve never been one for thrashy metal stuff, but I have to admit: It’s great music to work out to. I’m making a “Crossfit playlist” right now that’s packed with songs like this. And I like it.

Here’s something else I like: A yellow-naped Amazon (like the parrot we had when I was growing up) singing the song above. I think this is absolutely hilarious:

Let the bodies hit the flooooooooooooorrrrrrr!

When I Grow Up

How has this song been out for over two years and I only heard it for the first time last week? No worries, I suppose. I downloaded the song and have listened to it non-stop for the past few days. If I could wear out an mp3, this one would be toast.

I was oh-so-pleased to discover that I can dance to this song in Dance Dance Revolution 3. I’ve done so plenty recently. For good or ill, this is exactly my kind of music. In fact, I think this may be the perfect song.

Songburst: Playing to Win

While we were in Sunriver, the group played a marathon session of Songburst, the “name that tune” game. Steph read song titles and lyrics to us, and we tried to guess the next words. This was the “70s and 80s” edition, so it hit the sweetspot of our childhood years.

We were all surprised at how skilled Kristin was at Songburst. She nailed even the most obscure songs. It’s as if she’s spent her entire life curled up, listening to K103 on a transistor radio.

Part of the fun was singing the cheesy songs of our youth, and discovering who loves which artists. Kris stunned us all with her Stevie Wonder impersonation. Jenn is a big fan of Olivia Newton-John. Kristin can sing “Brand New Key”. And I like the Little River Band.

Because I was a little tipsy (though not nearly as tipsy as Jeff, who was very happy), I downloaded three albums during the game: Toto’s Greatest Hits, Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits, and Little River Band’s Greatest Hits.

This morning as I was working around the house (trying to recover from this damn cold), I was playing Little River Band at full blast, bellering, “Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts every time?” Then a song came on that I cannot recall having heard before. It was rocking. And then it wasn’t. And then it was.

“Oh my goodness,” I thought. “The video for this has got to be awesome.” I meant that ironically, of course. And yes, yes the video is awesome. Ironically.

My friends, I give you “Playing to Win” by the Little River Band, circa 1985. Enjoy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go download Dan Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits…