From Revising History to Guilty Pleasures to Brushes With Greatness, the Bad Penny has had no shortage of new features as of late. But in deciding to blaze a less-traveled path, Lily Chapin of the Chapin Sisters – who have been performing live as part of She & Him’s ensemble, and opening for them too – has come up with an impressive one of her own: “Best Songs to Get Dressed To.” Here’s the list she compiled; fans of Scott Walker, the Zombies and Nico, look no further.
Arthur Russell: “Keepin Up” (from The World of Arthur Russell)
I love this song. The harmonies are so interesting and fresh, and no matter how many times I listen to it, it keeps “keeping up.” Also, lyrically, the idea of keeping up with something, anything, a feeling even, is something I relate to. My feelings are much like the weather …
The Zombies – “Care of Cell 44” (from Odyssey and Oracle)
This song is so, so pretty! And it’s a love song to a girl in prison. How can you beat that? Will she come home? A compelling and unusual subject, and yet the song could be about anything and I’d still love it because the melody is so damn good.
Nina Simone – “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” (from multiple albums)
This is a song that I knew as a folk song when I was a kid. So many people have sung it, but Nina Simone’s version is the best I’ve heard. It is beauty and tragedy. Turn out all the lights and close your eyes. I first heard it at night in the back of a car on a dark East Coast highway. I was very intoxicated.
Julee Cruise – “The Nightingale” (from Floating Into the Night)
A sweet, sad, strange tune, think of a cloudy Irish seaside and strange, windy moans, sirens calling through a November storm to sailors fainting with fatigue and hallucinating … and Twin Peaks.
Jimmy Scott – “Imagination” (from Mood Indigo)
Though the lyrics are bittersweet, this song is dripping with sunshine. He imagines his lover (sort of like “Just my Imagination,” etc.), but she’s not really there. It’s got a light groove and a beauty that only his insane silky musk of a voice can pull off.
Tim Buckley – “Strange Feeling” (from Happy Sad)
This song does not so much talk about the weather as create weather, sonically. It pretty long for an opening track of a record, and goes on some quiet psychedelic tangents.
Cocteau Twins – “Fluffy Tufts” (from Victorialand)
This whole album is almost better to listen to altogether, but this song is a good one if you have to pick one out. Watery, shimmery vocals, layers of wet purple and pink sounds, a song for sunset at the beach lying in the wet sand with your lover.
Sinéad O’Connor – “John, I Love You” (from Universal Mother)
This song makes me want to cry and smile and dance and sing. It’s just ridiculously amazing. And she tore up a picture of the Pope, which may have been the biggest story of the ’90s. How does it relate to the weather? “There’s light outside your mother’s garden …”
Nico – “It Was a Pleasure Then” (from Chelsea Girl)
Nico at her most cryptic and chantey, she is always amazing. This is one rambles down a NY City street on a cloudy day. I love this whole album. It is one of my top 10 albums ever.
Scott Walker – “It’s Raining Today” (from Scott 3)
This song is (finally) really about the weather! (sort of)
Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Happy House” (from Kaleidoscope)
This song is very strange and happy and sad and confusingly amazing. No one ever made the word “happy” sound so warped and wacky.
Link Wray – “La Di Da” (from Wray’s Three Track Shack)
This song starts out talking about a revival and it feels very wild and warm and it is something wonderful that Link Wray (the “Rumble” man himself) had this period in the early ’70s of country-blues jams.
Jerry Jeff Walker – “Like a Coat From the Cold” (from Ridin’ High)
This song was written by Guy Clark, who wrote many of Jerry Jeff Walker’s hits (“Desperado Waiting for a Train,” “LA Freeway,” etc.). His songs are great and this one is a classic. It’s somewhat sentimental, but in a good way. I think anyone who likes Tim Hardin would like this song. It kind of has that vibe to me.
Ann Peebles – “I Can’t Stand the Rain” (from I Can’t Stand the Rain)
Most songs about the weather are about rain. But really, it’s such a compelling subject. She just can’t stand it! And I sometimes agree. But I live in LA, so I actually like the rain.
Bill Fay – “I Hear You Calling” (from Time of the Last Persecution)
This whole record is dark and magical and strange. It’s hard to separate one song out, but this one is always stuck in my head, so it won this round. It is deliciously packed with esoteric lyrics (about messiahs and factory floors). I always start to think I know what it’s about, but then, maybe not.
Martha Reeves – “Jimmy Mack” (from Dancing in the Streets)
Had to end with something lighter than Bill Fay. Martha Reeves is just straight-up great, and this song is a classic.
With Two, the Chapin Sisters make no secret of their affinity for music ranging from blues to folk to pop. Get a taste of their mellifluous, already-timeless new record, which materialized a few weeks ago on Lake Bottom:
• Bad Penny download: the Chapin Sisters’ “Palm Tree”
Other Bad Penny features:
• Guilty Pleasures: Young Marble Giants’ Stuart Moxham On Sex, Procrastination – And Fish And Chips
• Revising History: Mike Watt On John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, More
• Revising History: Kathryn Williams On Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, Björk’s Homogenic, More
• Bad Penny Exclusive: An Expo Download – And John Lane’s Brushes With Greatness
• Cover Me: Cassorla
• What You Readin’ For?: Climber On ‘Moby Dick’
• Great Debate: TV Buddhas On Supermarket Lunches Vs. Eating Out
• Memento: Winterlings’ Autumn Harvest