Music That Makes Me Happy

I talk about music a lot, exploring distinctions between art and craft, talent versus popularity, emotion versus complexity, etc. This is some of the music that makes me happy. Some of these cuts are actually “good” (i.e. they required real talent to create and perform) while others are just fun things that I like.

A Note of Advice: Don’t listen to these tracks on a phone or PC speakers. You need headphones with good bass response to appreciate many of these pieces.

“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, I said this was music that makes me happy, so I have to start with this

“Pra Não Parar De Sambar” by Aleh, c’mon, just sing along folks

“Sho Z-Pod Duba” by DakhaBrakha, a cool folk group from the Ukraine

“Nicotine & Gravy” by Beck, it’s the multiple, slightly out of sync vocal tracks, and the crazy, discordant bridge that transitions into the cool alternate verse about 2 minutes in

“The Biggest Lie I Ever Told” by The Beautiful Girls, I’m not sure how to place this in a genre, but I always liked it

“Lautarium” by Shukar Collective, it’s like a funky prayer… seriously, use headphones

“Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground, a radio hit at the time, but I always liked it

“Satellite” by Nine Inch Nails, yes, Nine Inch Nails makes me happy too, and please tell me you’re not listening to this on a cheap device. You need to feel the bass line.

“No One Loves Me & Neither Do I” by Them Crooked Vultures, because I like the plodding, mixed-meter form that starts at about 2:45

“Closure” by Jill Scott, I like a singer that delivers, and don’t be expecting no breakfast

“Silent Ganges” by Maneesh De Moor, Indian groove by a Dutch guy, what?

“I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Cassandra Wilson, because it’s incredibly simple and wonderful

“The Nearness of You” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, because they were just the best

“Ten Cents a Dance” by Anita O’Day, my enjoyment of this horn arrangement reminds me I am still my music-professor-father’s son

“Phantom (Redux)” by Shirt, most hip hop and rap seems musically facile to me, but I love this, maybe it’s the rapid-fire lyrics and the nearly Herbie Hancock-style arrangement… FAIR WARNING: Lyrics are really filthy.

“Lemon” by N.E.R.D. & Rihanna, Oh what the hell, I’ll admit to liking other hip hop cuts, like this one.

“Stir Fry” by Migos, and this one.

“Sari Sky” by Naked Rhythm, something about this just gets to me

“For Your Attention” by Boxing Ghandis, funky, lots of bass, sax solo, gets me every time

“Triad” by David Crosby, a simple, emotional song, almost a tone poem

Chopin’s “Ballade No.1 in G Minor Op. 23” by Nikolai Demidenko, I know, but just close your eyes, slow your breathing, and listen

“Adagio for Strings, 2nd mvt. Opus 11, wait for the exquisite silence, play it loud, close eyes

“In the Still of the Night” by Betty Carter, the album is called “It’s Not About the Melody,” and it’s also not about the lyrics. vocals are just another instrument

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by Carla Bley, this is what real musicians do with a simple tune… turn it up and go along for the ride

“Stormy Monday” by Barbara Morrison, she just rocks

“Roforofo” by Fela Kuti, I find it kind of meditative

“Trinkit” by Beats Antique, I’m not sure but it might be the creaky door sound and the fact that the drums song like an old trash can, plus the general funkness

“Kidda” by Natacha Atlas, from Egypt via Belgium, Middle Eastern/Western blend

“In These Shoes?” by Kirsty MacColl, shut up, I like it

“No Wow” by The Kills, another good test of your headphones

“The Big Come Down” by Nine Inch Nails, if this isn’t industrial rock, I wonder what would be

“Big Bad Wolf” by In this Moment, because I’m a sucker for loud tracks with heavy bass, and exquisite silences in between sections

“Battle Flag” by Pigeonhead, because it’s a solid funk tune with complicated counter melodies. This one gets a LYRICS WARNING too. They think that M-Fer is an all-purpose adjective… (and c’mon, you need headphones to hear the detail)

“Better Strangers” by Royal Blood, like much of my favorite music, a slow, heavy rock song meant to be played loud

“Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” by Jeff Beck, because hey, it’s Jeff Beck, and then add Imogen Heap vocals

“Left Hand Free” by alt-J, I know it’s silly but I like it

“Augas de Marco” by Rosa Passos, because what’s more satisfying than a little light, vocal jazz from Brazil?

“Pannonica” by Tommy Flanagan, so nice, so simple

“Ellington’s Stay Horn” by the Art Farmer Quintet, I once said that listening to this is as close as I get to religion

“Crazy” by The Kidneythieves, because I love the way they explode the old country classic

“Can’t Truss It” by Public Enemy, again, not a hip hop fan in in general, but always loved old school Public Enemy

“Equal Rights” by Peter Tosh, always loved the political validation in the verse about crime

“Your Sister Cried” by Mary Gauthier, a great sing-in-the-car song

“Call Me” by Fat Kid Wednesdays (the last 90 seconds, when it seems like the vocals become the background for the sax)

“Itche Koutche” by Angelique Kidjo (the instrumental ending, starting about 4:30)

“Baby it’s You” by Smith, that scream at 2:30 just did something to my nascent, childhood awareness in 1969

“On the Road Again” by Canned Heat, growing up in the Midwest in the 1970s, we spent a lot of our teenage years riding around in cars, and this song always made us yell, “turn it up!”

“Jack You’re Dead” by Louis Jordan, a classic

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