XPN Essential Songs

I’ve been waiting for this list, for a while. Or a list just like it.

For the past 4 years, the radio station in Philadelphia, WXPN comes up with a list of the best somethings in music.  The first year it was songs, the second year it was albums, the third year it was artists, the fourth year it was moments. 

And each time (except for the first year), the answer was obvious (and dominated by the 60’s and 70’s, which is normal given their demographics).

Song: Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road

Album: The Beatles – Abbey Road

Artist – The Beatles

Moment – Woodstock (1969)

This year, they are counting down the 885 essential WXPN songs.  Now, to a degree, voters probably can choose the same old songs that whey would choose any year.  But, somehow I think not.  I mean, the station has only been really in it’s current format since the mid 80s. 

But that’s the thing. If people follow the essence of this countdown, then the songs in this list will be devoid of all of the songs usually associated with a modern countdown. At least that’s my hope. And, this might actually be a countdown in which there is no guessing what the #1 is going to be.

My selections come from songs that I discovered from listening to WXPN (other than 1 song).  There are plenty of songs that WXPN plays that I’ve heard elsewhere or discovered on my own.  Essential WXPN songs are those songs that I didn’t or maybe even would not have discovered elsewhere, and are some of my favorite songs.

1. Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
One of the best ballads, I’ve ever heard. To a degree I heard this in concert before I heard it on WXPN. But I went to the concert just to hear Richard Thompson (the Fleadh festival in New York), because I heard Beeswing on Live at the World Cafe, Volume 1. And fell in love with the song (as have hundreds of others). Easy top pick.
2. Marc Broussard – Home
Ever have a song that stopped you in your tracks the first time that you heard it? I don’t remember whether I heard this on Funky Friday, or whether I just heard it. But I remember hearing it in the car and saying, “Oh my God, what is THAT!!!!!!!” in pure joy for this song. Bluesy, funky, rhythmically, great song. My goodness, the song still gives me goosebumps.
3. Duncan Sheik – Barely Breathing
Okay, this is my one cheat. This song got play on the alternative radio stations of the early 90s, and I knew it. However, it wasn’t until I heard the accoustic, slowed-down version of this song on Live at the World Cafe, Volume 5, that I really took notice. It’s a wonderfully smooth, sultry song that is perfectly tailored to the accoustic singer/songwriter artist. I’ve seen Duncan Sheik live twice because of this song, once at the (back then) Singer/Songwriter Festival (now the All About the Music Festival), and then live performance at The North Star bar. Great stuff!
4. Nikka Costa – Till I Get To You
I love funky music. Especially modern twist funk. Wonderful Stuff. And I definately heard this song on Funky Friday, and was captivated. It’s a wonderful dance song, amazingly enough about a girl having over 20 or so lovers, looking for the right one. But it’s really good stuff.
5. Richard Thompson – Cooksferry Queen
I could have made this list 10 Richard Thompson songs… Without difficulty… This one captivates me with really interesting song rhythms and strange mesmerizing lyrics. Like it’s an interesting modern fantasy tale of Mulvaney who is able to do whatever he wants, have whatever he wants, except have the love of this one girl. It’s really cool.
6. Raul Malo – Every Little Thing About You
If you are not familiar with Raul Malo, then I strongly suggest that you learn about him. He is one of the lead singers of the band, The Mavericks, who has done more solo work in recent years. This song I heard while volunteering for XPN’s fundraisers. And just the haunting quality of his song, makes a breakup song, so very sweet.
7. Trout Fishing in America – What I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee
A few years ago, I fell in love with the program on XPN called Kids Corner, and one of the reasons is the band called Trout Fishing in America. While I think “The Window” is the first Trout song that I heard, I really think that “What I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee” is their best song. Just hysterical. And I don’t even drink coffee. Regardless, it’s time to perk up.
8. Robert Randolph and the Family Band – Ted’s Jam
Another one of the great XPN shows that highlights music you don’t hear on the radio is Jamnation, devoted to long album and live jam sets that you aren’t going to hear on commercial radio, as they are 15-20 minutes long. One of these songs that I heard one night, while driving home was Ted’s Jam by Robert Randolph. Just a wonderful, old school, bluesy, rock, jam. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It’s a great song.
9. David Sanborn – Bang Bang
David Sanborn is one of those smooth jazz guys who has been around and known to be since before Kenny G started to be the new age/smooth jazz guy du jour. So when I first heard this song, which is a modern cover, but is still really good. It’s fun and funky and kindof mindless. Just great rhythms in this.
10. The Hold Steady – Sequestered in Memphis
I wanted to put something more modern on the list. I heard this song on Y-Rock, their modern rock evening show. And it was really good. A very modern Bruce Springsteen like song, even my wife thought it was Bruce. Just a great barroom rock song, that I just don’t hear much anymore. A great great song.

So, that’s my list. Check it out when they do their countdown.


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