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#Playlist: The power of beautiful songwriting

Posted by Glenn Yoder  May 9, 2013 01:22 PM

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It's Thursday. We're all anxious for the weekend. But take a breath and let these soothing sounds slow that heartbeat a bit. All these tunes are gorgeous in their own ways.

After probably a five-year hiatus, I've been on a massive Red House Painters/Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon kick lately. (Oddly, after a day spent catching up on "Old Ramen," someone randomly asked if I was fan of Kozelek. Just meant to be.) This song isn't the Painters' signature moment, though it may be one of their better known tunes since it was on the excellent "Vanilla Sky" soundtrack, but the wide open pedal steel at the end gets me every time. It's also Kozelek at perhaps his most simple -- he's one of the most underrated guitarists around -- but here, simple equals stunning.

Local legends Morphine were known for their unusual lineup of slide bass, growling saxophone, and jazzy drums. But here, they open things up with no drums, a beautifully picked mandolin, and most importantly, the late Mark Sandman's whispered lyrics. Absolutely stunning.

One of the things that makes Drive-By Truckers one of my favorite bands going is the competitive songwriting between (usually) Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. That inner-band tension oftentimes leads to amazing results (see: McCartney, Paul and Lennon, John). In DBT, Hood has the prolific pen, but Cooley's songs tend to cut the deepest. This is my all-time favorite Cooley tune, which takes away the Truckers' manic energy and substitutes richly-layered acoustic guitars, a gentle vibe, and an ascending chorus.

Not all bands sound their best live, unfortunately, but those that can really play usually kick it up a notch onstage. The album cut of this TV on the Radio single "Will Do" doesn't do much for me, but all the live versions I've heard have a cool swagger to them. Here's the band on "Letterman," making magic.

What are you listening to today? Share your playlist in the comments.

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