Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Playlist: Ben Kweller

[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of ____, I would give them this collection.]

S'been a while since the last playlist, kiddos. After a few aborted playlist attempts (Yeah Yeah Yeahs only have like two hours of music out right now), I figured I'd whip something up in honor of my old flame, Benjamin Thaddeus Marjorie Kweller [note: some parts of that name are not accurate]. BK is playing the TLA this Friday, which I'm juiced on, and he's touring on a pretty dang excellent new album to boot. Kweller is part of a subset of artists whom I've always felt were "mine" (see also New Found Glory and Against Me!). That is, I got into them in my youth, near the start of their careers, and, like an old friend, been through some good and bad patches. I've actively disliked BK at times, as I was bitterly disappointed by his self-titled third LP (I got over it). But I've never been able to completely quit him, as of opposed to, say, Alien Ant Farm.

Kweller's professional music career began in the '90s with Radish, a grunge act from Texas that pretty much got signed because they sorta sounded like Nirvana and Kweller was a teen (prodigy marketing angle! Yes!). Radish did some touring, recorded some decent songs, and then broke up after their label, Mercurcy, ate shit and died. Kweller some heat at the time since he was supposed to be a savior of rock or whatever, but the fade from spotlight suited his upcoming musical growth. Dude start self-releasing anti-folk EPs like Bromeo and Freak Out It's... Ben Kweller and in the new millenium, put out the Weezer-y alt-rock gem Sha Sha.

Sha Sha came out in 2002. I was 16 or so, I believe. Sam Goody had it for $9.99. The night I bought, my friend Tim and Steph, his girlfriend an the time, got into a fight and drove out to a park in Conshohocken, with me in tow, to sort out their issues. Three things teens are good at: Driving aimlessly, trespassing, and having stupid fights. Tim and the soon-to-be-dubbed "Crazy Ex-Steph" left the car to sort out their issues while I sat in the passenger seat and played Sha Sha on the stereo. A lot of people from my given demographic (r.e. - the angsty] think about Pinkerton as the penultimate emo record. I always think about how I started my love for Ben Kweller with a car stereo, by myself, while my best friend had anger sex in the woods.

BK release another excellent album during my high school years, 2004's On My Way, which geared more towards indie rock. As it turns out, each BK album has its own genre. 2006's Ben Kweller honored sunny '60s pop rock, while this year's Changing Horses is a country/bluegrass album on par with Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline. I've tried to respect each era of Kweller's songwriting with this playlist while also tossing in some rarities. As a die-hard, I think there's some missing spots: On My Way deserves way more face time, I really wanted to fit in BK's duet with Adam Green on "Kokomo," there's no Bens songs (side project with Ben Folds and Ben Lee), and I had to cut BK's spastic/psychedelic side when I took "Launch Ramp" and "Tylenol" off the list. Oh well; here's "Little Pink Stars."

Little Pink Stars
1. Ben Kweller - "How It Should Be (Sha Sha)," Sha Sha
2. Ben Kweller - "Wasted & Ready," Sha Sha [How could I not open with the first two songs from Sha Sha, in sequence?]
3. Radish - "Little Pink Stars," Restraining Bolt [BK still gets requests for this one. I'm sure it still annoys him, but to be fair, this is the best pre-solo song he ever released.]
4. Ben Kweller - "I Need You Back," On My Way
5. Ben Kweller - "The Rules," On My Way
6. Ben Kweller - "Jerry Falwell Destroyed the Earth," Future Soundtrack for America
7. Ben Kweller - "Commerce, TX," Sha Sha
8. Ben Kweller - "On Her Own," Changing Horses
9. Ben Kweller - "Sundress," Ben Kweller
10. Ben Kweller, "Penny on the Train Track," Ben Kweller
11. Ben Kweller - "Gypsy Rose," Changing Horses
12. Ben Kweller - "BK Baby," Freak Out It's... Ben Kweller [ This Vanilla Ice reimagining also gets requested at shows a lot. It's kind of awesome.]
13. Ben Kweller - "On My Way," On My Way
14. Ben Kweller - "Family Tree," Sha Sha
15. Ben Kweller - "In Other Words," Sha Sha
16. Ben Kweller - "Thirteen," Ben Kweller
17. Ben Kweller - "Different But the Same," On My Way
18. Ben Kweller - "Undone (The Sweater Song)," bootleg [Kweller's got some great covers; I also dig his version of Lemonheads' "Buddy."]
19. Ben Kweller - "Harriet's Got a Song," Sha Sha
20. Ben Kweller - "Falling," Sha Sha [Gotta close with the same ending from Sha Sha... almost]
21. Guster w/ Ben Kweller - "I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today," Keep It Together [This bittersweet gem got some face time in the hit summer comedy Wedding Crashers. Guster and BK did not play this song when I saw them play together at Penn's Landing. Weak sauce!]

I'll be the first to admit that I rely too much on Sha Sha at seven songs (out of a possible 11), but I did the best I could to "find a box to put BK insides," as some might say.

No comments: