Friday, January 8, 2016

Alice's mega playlist on her first birthday

A year ago today my daughter Alice was born. I would say it was the most amazing day of my life, but there have now been 364 other days that could rival it. While my wife was pregnant she was reading these baby books that tracked the progress of the fetus. On one of the pages, on one of the dates, it said that ears were forming, and later that hearing was developing. I seized on those brief signs of growth and decided to make a playlist: one song for every day (starting from that point) she spent in the womb.

Now, someone could easily tell me that babies have no way of recognizing what they are hearing, or any way to process it, or even have a way discern what is happening acoustically outside of their little liquid bubbles. That is fine, because I am no doctor, but I did want to begin her relationship with music as soon as possible, even if the chances were low that she would even hear or absorb what I was playing.

The playlist developed on a calendar and an iTunes playlist. As important things happened on each day, tweaks were made to mark special occasions or historical moments. I also let my wife pick some songs, and we had several theme weeks. I tried to get a nice breakdown of new and old songs, but admittedly there are more old songs. Also lots of Paul Simon, Bowie and songs from movies, particularly Wes Anderson movies. I am also proud of the genres represented, from hip hop and blues to jazz and metal, and also proud of the many female singers who I hope will inspire our little girl once she starts figuring out her place in the world.

More serious music listeners could tear into this, and I welcome constructive criticism, but I really tried to stick to a formula: songs that were personal to me or my wife in some way, songs that will likely be remembered to a certain degree as she grows up, and songs that could be played for a child at any age. We hope to use this playlist, and add to it, as she gets older and begins to experiment with music on her own. I will admit, not every day is a perfect song. Some days had weird picks, but I stand by them now because this list is a historical record of Alices first musical sensations. Also, I take some songs out of their original contexts, but that is how music works — we bend it to fit our own life.

So here’s the list, with brief commentary by me. Enjoy!

July 15 — Paul Simon, “Kodachrome
This has always been, and always will be, a song about growing up. But I also love how its meaning has kinda flipped over the years. Kodachrome, is the brand of film that produces all those “nice bright colors,” but then I think of old pictures and they’re yellowed and aged, with an almost a sepia-tinted hue. Kodachrome might have been the stuff of the future back then, but today it’s strongly linked to the past. Our kid isn’t going to grow up with film, and that’s sad. But the song will live forever.

July 16 — Elton John, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
This is one of my favorite songs of all time. The lyrics are perfect, as is the song’s simplicity and John’s soulful voice. I hope Spanish Harlem still has some culture left when she’s old enough to go there and visit. 

July 17 — Aretha Franklin, “Respect
Three songs in and we’re already touching on one of our major themes: strong women voices. Honestly, when it all comes down to it we just want our child to grow up and have a voice, to be heard. And who better than to sing that to her than Aretha.

July 18 — The Beatles, “I Should Have Known Better
This is my favorite Beatles song, but also one of my favorite parts of A Hard Day’s Night as John, Paul, George and Ringo play this in a train car, quite literally a soundtrack to their journey (like this list).

July 19 — Guns ‘N Roses, “Patience
With still so many months in front of us, patience is really all we need. And I have a thing for whistling in songs.

July 20 — Chuck Berry, “Johnny B. Goode
A classic, and one of the first rock songs. Also, when Marty McFly tells the people at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance that they’re not ready for this “but your kids will be,” I’m not so sure that’s so true — this song is still ahead of its time.

July 21 — Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog
I knew I wanted an Elvis song on here, but I was never sure which one — I needed our dog to inspire this choice. In an effort to save some money in preparation for this baby, we agreed to stop getting Jack groomed. So for the price of half a single grooming session, we bought a pair of dog clippers online. Four hours into his first cut, I realized I might be a terrible dog groomer. (Update: I’m getting better.)

July 22 — Deftones, “Cherry Waves
I’m obsessed with the Deftones. Have been since their first album captivated me in high school. I think I’ve seen them 19 times, but honestly I’ve lost count. Most of the music is too heavy for wombs, so I ended up here, with this ethereal chorus and spacey instrumentation. 

July 23 — Adele, “Chasing Pavements
The video for this one is kinda bleak, but I love the idea of chasing your own destiny. I hope our daughter forges her own path through life, and that we don’t push her on that journey. 

July 24 — Radiohead, “Karma Police
Because Radiohead. This was the song that opened that door for me. I was a latecomer to that party.

July 25 — David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream
This is the first of many Bowie songs. That was not really intentional, but looking back on it I’m very happy about it. I picked this one because it had been in my head all week after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, in which classic rock plays a prominent role. 

July 26 — Grateful Dead, “Sugar Magnolia
My first Dead experience: my brother and I in a car with my mom. We were probably both under 10 or 12. Mom took us to Taco Bell, which happened to be near an amphitheater where the Dead were playing. The entire restaurant was swarming with Deadheads. They were laying out on the lawn, partying in the parking lot, huddled around the entrance. I remember one guy — and maybe this is just my memory exaggerating this image — but he was comically passed out against the drive-thru sign. For many years I thought the Grateful Dead were dirty hippies. Well, I was mostly right about that, but they also made great music. 

July 27 — The Strokes, “You Only Live Once
I’m a big Strokes fan, and I think they’re music is going to last forever. This is one of their later songs, but I’ve always enjoyed its upbeat snappiness.

July 28 — Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young
I grew up on Elton John, Hall & Oates, Neil Diamond and Billy Joel. My first concert ever was Billy Joel. My parents took me when I was probably too young. I had to stand on my seat to see. My brother fell asleep right in the middle of the whole thing. Some of his bad songs haunt me, but his good ones remind me of being a youngster and watching my parents cook in the kitchen with the hi-fi system blaring. 

July 29 — James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
James Brown’s music is all about love and sex, but I think if I had to fight someone I would play it right before. It’s just electric. I picked it for this particular night because Sara and I screened the new James Brown movie, Get On Up.

July 30 — Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone says it’s the greatest rock song ever created. I mostly agree with them. 

July 31 — The Smiths, “This Charming Man
This is another group I discovered later than everyone else. Such an interesting sound. It wasn’t always this way, but I love the ‘80s.

August 1 — Gene Kelly, “Singin’ in the Rain
It rained tonight, and when it rains in Arizona it’s worth celebrating. And this musical sequence might be the greatest in any musical.

August 2 — The Temptations, “My Girl
So up until this point we didn’t know we were having a girl. We had a little party and revealed to everyone, ourselves included, that we were having a girl. We both wanted a girl, but we thought the universe was going to give us a boy because the universe likes to do that to me. But we got what (or who) we wanted.

August 3 — Deftones, “Beauty School
I think I’m ready for girl stuff all around the house. Sara thinks she’ll be a tomboy, which might cancel out this song. We both agreed, though, that we’re already over pink. We’re leaning toward greens, yellows and purples, which is driving our friends and relatives a little bonkers. “You’re not buying anything pink?!?” No, we are, just not EVERYTHING pink. There’s a big difference. “Beauty School” is the title of the song, and it will most likely one day be the name of her bathroom. 

August 4 — Pink Floyd, “Money
I worry about money. This is likely because I’m a journalist, and destined to be poor (or near poor) forever, although things are looking up. This realization hit me (again) today as we prepare for this little bundle, hence one of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs. 

August 5 — The Dirty Projectors, “Stillness is the Move
This selection is about the movement we’re presently not feeling on Sara’s belly yet. Some people report feeling kicks and flutters this early. Just stillness so far. And by the way, the album this song comes from is pretty much perfect.

August 6 — The Band, “The Weight
This song will live forever. I hope our daughter will have it on one of her playlists in 20 years. It’s just a warm blanket of songwriting. Also, there is a dog named Jack in it, like our dog. He did not react when he heard his name in the song.

August 7 — Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit
I wasn’t feeling good tonight. And I’m awful with any kind of drugs, especially anything that causes drowsiness. But I was sick enough that I had to risk hallucinations, night sweats and incoherent babbling. And that’s how this song was chosen. Also, it’s about a certain girl with a certain name … (see August 11 entry).

August 8 — Kermit the Frog, “Rainbow Connection
I felt my first kick tonight! To celebrate we played a song that makes us both smile.

August 9 — Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together
No particular reason for this song tonight. Just because.

August 10 — Bob Marley, “Mellow Mood”; The Pioneers, “Long Shot Kick de Bucket
It’s reggae night. We picked a classic, although under-appreciated, Marley song and then this happy little jam from the Pioneers. 

August 11 — Jim Croce, “I Got a Name
We picked a name tonight. We had been going back and forth on several, but we pretty much firmed up Alice. We kept it a secret from everyone until the day she was born. My brother’s wife played a rather funny name joke later in the pregnancy: she told everyone she knew the name and said it was Sookie. Of course, everyone thought Sookie was awful, so no one said anything and the joke got bigger and bigger, all behind our backs. We found out later, long after everyone had been calling her Sookie, a name that still gets brought up even today.

August 12 — Animal Collective, “My Girls
I’m going to have a house full of girls. This is my tribute to them.

August 13 — Big Star, “Thirteen
Because today is August 13. And it’s a great song that needs no excuse to be played.

August 14 — Madonna, “Vogue
Madonna is a cultural force that every generation can appreciate. We picked this song because it’s one of her most famous, but also because it namedrops Lauren Bacall who died several days earlier. She was one of my cinematic heroes — I still call The Big Sleep my favorite film.

August 15 — Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks
I often select songs that I like, which is selfish, but I’m the curator of this list, so I can get away with this. Now, I like this song, but I also can’t help but think of what it sounds like surrounded by three or four inches of fluid. Those piano hammerings, that dreamy pop swoon, the chorus of oohs and aahs … I hope she tapped her little webbed toes.

August 16 — Gene Wilder, “Pure Imagination
Musically, this is a great song, but lyrically, it’s exactly what I want Alice to absorb: use your imagination, think positively, find joy in everything you do. It’s ironic that this song is followed by the most terrifying scene in the film, the scene in which Willy Wonka tries to Clockwork Orange the kids with that captain’s log footage from Event Horizon. 

August 17 — The Cure, “Lovesong
We started with “Lullaby,” but then we watched the video, which is a little scary (and not just because Robert Smith is in it). “Babies like lullabies, right?” And then spiders started crawling through the walls. We switched to “Lovesong,” which is just as good.

August 18 — Spencer Davis Group, “Gimme Some Lovin’
Listen, nothing beats this manic energy. It sounds like it was recorded on dollar-store instruments in a bowling alley, but it is so bonkers-fun that it hardly matters. (Update one year later: this is her favorite song and she bounces to it each time she hears it.)

August 19 — Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London
On my first trip to New York City, I wandered through the streets of SoHo in the rain. It was glorious. It took me something like 27 years to get to NYC, and I won’t let that happen to Alice — as soon as she’s old enough to appreciate it, we’re on a plane.

August 20 — Matt & Kim, “Lessons Learned
We listened to this and then “Daylight,” “Block After Block,” “It’s Alright” … pretty much a full playlist. Their videos are great. 

August 21 — Led Zeppelin, “Tangerine
This song has followed me around a lot. It reminds me of Arizona and the sun’s orange beams raking across the desert floor during our gorgeous sunsets. Sara and I don’t want to live in Arizona forever, and when we leave I think we’ll realize we always took our sunsets for granted.

August 22 — Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice
The Beach Boys are the gold standard when it comes to California surf-rock and whatnot, but I can’t hear them without thinking of really awful Full House cameos. This is the only song that, for me, seems to be immune to Uncle Jesse’s band-ruining taste. 

August 23 — Young MC, “Bust a Move
Today I had a really awful run-in with Marvin Young, aka Young MC. He’s a local filmmaker and frequent guest to all the movie press screenings. He knows all the veteran critics, and I’ve tried to interject myself in conversations with colleagues when he’s there. It always feels forced and awkward, but I knew I’d get other opportunities to chat. That opportunity came today and I crashed and burned … hard. I interrupted him, jumbled every syllable that came out of my mouth, and then retreated in embarrassment. I’ve been a fan since I was in grade school, so I always knew we’d play this song (especially since it’s clean hip-hop), but we played it today to honor my awful encounter. 

August 24 — Charlie Parker, “Blue for Alice
Not as many songs as you would think with Alice in the title. Fewer still when you add any sort of filter that eliminates bad songs. This turned out to be great, though, because you can’t go wrong with the Bird Man. 

August 25 — Rolling Stones, “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’
This is a reference to all the rocking and rolling going on in Sara’s belly right now. I reuse this theme over and over again later on in the playlist, but it’s really a marriage of convenience: rock and pop songs are all about moving and shaking, so of course they work for Alice and her in-utero dances. (Speaking of “in utero,” spoiler alert, I do play some Nirvana but nothing from In Utero.)

August 26 — The Who, “Baba O’Riley
I love the long build-up to this song, and how it has a huge payoff. That’s a metaphor for something probably. Also, Roger Daltrey’s vocals sound amazing — I wish music was recorded like this still.

August 27 — The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”; Phil Collins, “Sussudio
The decades fall in and out of fashion, but one of my constants is the 1980s. New wave, earlyish punk, glam, hair metal, synth-pop … and Phil Collins and Sting. 

August 28 — Ray Charles, “Mess Around
Authoritative piano playing. Ray didn’t mess it around with those notes. He played them like he was at that carnival game with the hammer and bell. 

August 29 — Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off
This was a charitable reprieve for Sara, who has been very patient with my music. And in all honesty, it’s kinda great. Also, we’re both terrible dancers.

August 30 — Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline
I mentioned above that I grew up on Billy, Elton and Neil, so of course I had to throw this one in. Today “Sweet Caroline” is some kind of ironic anthem for people who pretend to appreciate old music. And how did Boston adopt it?! I kinda wonder if they’re serious fans of the song, or if they’re cheering it on because it’s some kind of old relic. I grew up to this song when it wasnt an ironic joke. In related news, can I just admit that Saving Silverman, in which Neil Diamond plays a significant role, is comedy gold. 

August 31 — Neil Young, “Heart of Gold
My brother got me hooked on Neil Young at an age when I should have already been a fan. I’m ashamed it took so long to discover him. If we had more time in the evenings I would just put on the live 1971 Massey Hall show and let it play from beginning to end.

September 1 — Jackie Wilson, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher
I want to be as excited about things as Jackie Wilson is about singing. If I can attain even just a fraction of that, everything will be OK.

September 2 — Phantogram, “Mouthful of Diamonds
It’s fun trying to find intriguing female performers for our female child. We want her to see what strong women can do in the world, and that she can do anything she wants with no limits to her growth. That being said, we draw the line at Nicki Minaj, who is just awful.

September 3 — Dolly Parton, “9 to 5
Work kicked my butt today, which is why this work-themed song, with another strong female singer, was chosen. I’m not a huge Dolly fan, but I love her place within our culture — hair, boobs, singing, acting, and that bubbly little voice. She’s a treasure.

September 4 — Cat Stevens, “Here Comes My Baby
If we were having a son, we’d definitely play “Father and Son,” but this Cat alternative works rather nicely. I guess it would work better if we could time it for the exact moment of birth, but that’s a lot to ask of your delivery doctor, or wife. 

September 5 — Frank Sinatra, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin
This is a literal song title. Sara has someone under her skin. Just right up under there. Kicking. And wiggling. It’s so weird to think about. 

September 6 — Journey, “Don’t Stop Believing
It took us a long time, and several false starts, to get this far in a pregnancy. It still feels surreal, like maybe we have to pinch ourselves to make sure it’s still happening. And pinch, pinch, it is. “Don’t stop believing” … no kidding.

September 7 — A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?
Another kicking reference, but this is also another opportunity to inject some hip hop into this mix. I grew up on hip hop music, if only because that’s what the other kids listened to on the playground. But  when they went West Coast with Tupac and Dre, I went East Coast with Wu-Tang, De La Soul and one of my favorite groups of all time, A Tribe Called Quest. Added bonus: their music is mostly nice to women, which means Alice can hear it. 

September 8 — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Wooden Ships
Today it flooded in Phoenix. Like mega-flooded. Noah flooded. Cars were floating down the freeway. I didn’t even attempt to leave the house for work; just texted the boss and told him I was stuck at home for awhile. All the stranded motorists made me think of this song, and ships bobbing up and down on an endless ocean called Interstate 10.

September 9 — Feist, “1 2 3 4
We want the songs to run the gamut of human emotion, but happiness and joy are the ultimate destinations here on this journey. This song has both.

September 10 — Arcade Fire, “Wake Up
This song is special to me. Months before I quit my newspaper job, a job I had for nearly 15 years, I told myself I would play this song as I was walking out. Well, almost a year ago today I did exactly that. I didn’t really play it as I left, though; more just on my computer several times as I was packing up. The song has this cathartic payoff, a release. And when the hell that was the newspaper business let go of me, it felt liberating and beautiful.

September 11 — Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”; Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York
Two New York songs for September 11. “Empire State of Mind” came out the month that I first visited New York. I remember playing the song on my iPod as I was riding into Queens, and feeling the song’s energy as I rose out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel and saw Manhattan for the first time. It was exhilarating. Sara and I have been back many times since, including our honeymoon, and we plan to go back as soon as our baby can appreciate it. 

September 12 — Queens of the Stone Age, “Little Sister
We were talking about Shannon, Sara’s younger sister, tonight and this song seemed to fit. At the time, she was pregnant with her own child, a boy they later named Isaiah. We kept thinking how awesome it was going to be for the two cousins to grow up so close in age. 

September 13 — Johnny Cash, “Get Rhythm
This is such a simple song. The lyrics, that bassline, the guitar solo, but what really wins me over is Cash’s booming voice, which I imagine sounds really great amplified within the womb. 

September 14 — Jimi Hendrix, “Star-Spangled Banner
Two-hundred years ago today, Francis Scott Key came out alive from the the bombardment at Fort McHenry, where he wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner.” So tonight we play Hendrix at Woodstock, probably the most famous interpretation of our national anthem. Like that version, we want our child to step outside the rigid box that is history and tradition to see things from new and vibrant perspectives. And if she can play the guitar with her teeth, bonus points for us.

September 15 — Wilson Pickett, “Mustang Sally
Poor Sally, working so hard, running around town. Sally sounds exhausted. These are sex references, right? If they're not, and Sally is just exhausted from regular work, then this is a song about Sara who works harder than anyone I know. 

September 16 — She & Him, “I thought I Saw Your Face Today
Today is our third wedding anniversary, so we’re playing this lovely She & Him song, which is a song we danced to at our wedding. We weren’t really keeping track, but it was likely our first dance as husband and wife.

September 17 — The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup
This is just a happy song that makes us both smile. It has a little deeper meaning for me. I had worked at a movie theater as a projectionist in the late ’90s. Our theater had showed There’s Something About Mary the week of it’s release. But the movie nearly died on the vine. No one came to see it, so they moved it to a smaller theater and were prepared to dump it, until the movie took off in a big way. Anyway, we ended up showing that film for months, and this song played in the credits. I can still remember those late nights up in the projection booth, those clacking projectors all around me, with the monitor cranked up listening to this song. 

September 18 — The Isley Brothers, “It’s Your Thing
I hope our baby can dance better than her parents. That’s all I’m going to say here.

September 19 — Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Sara says I do a mean “The Dude” impression, but doesn’t everyone? Every time this song comes on I start quoting The Big Lebowski, particularly the parts about The Eagles. My dad played CCR for us as kids, never the Eagles, so I sympathize completely with The Duder.

September 20 — Hall & Oates, “You Make My Dreams
This is just silly. I remember my mom listening to pop/rock stations back in the ’80s and this song would come on. Or maybe she had the cassette. Anyway, I hear this song and I suddenly remember driving around Phoenix while strapped in a car seat in the back of a Ford Tempo.

September 21 — Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King, “Pride and Joy
They say babies are your pride and joy. I could have picked Stevie’s original version here, but his live recordings with Albert King are amazing. This song’s great, but if you want a blues mega-track, check out “Blues at Sunrise.” It’s 15 solid minutes of epic blues guitar.

September 22 — Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Springs
I hate liking Fleetwood Mac songs. But I do. And here we are appreciating something that Stevie Nicks has created. It’s so hard to not imagine that goat from the South Park episode, but then the chorus kicks in and “Silver Springs” just takes me away.

September 23 — John Coltrane, “Giant Steps
Looking back on this list, I wish I did more jazz. Maybe some Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis. I’m not a jazz expert, but I love the classics, including anything with a bounce to it like this magical Coltrane number.

September 24 — John Denver, “Leaving On a Jet Plane
Today we fly to Ohio for Sara’s Midwest baby shower with her family. I always forget that John Denver died in an airplane crash until after this song is over. 

September 25 — Neil Young, “Ohio
This is the only song I know that’s explicitly about Ohio, so here we are. I doubt the Ohio tourism board would be happy about this. 

September 26 — The Beatles, “I’m Only Sleeping”
Revolver might be a desert island record. That or maybe Rubber Soul. We listened to “I’m Only Sleeping” on a squeaky bed at Sara’s mom’s house. What’s funny about this song, is that neither of us sleeps very well on this bed. And the sleeping in this song is the only sleeping we get tonight.

September 27 — Charlie Feathers, “The Certain Female
I want country music to sound more like western music, not bro-country dude rock. This is a western song. And there are no passages about cold beer, dusty roads, tractors or short shorts. 

September 28 — Phoenix, “1901
A friend of mine introduced me to this band, and it seemed appropriate to play as we fly back into Phoenix. Sometimes I hate this city, but sometimes I love it. Flying back home from a trip … that’s when I love it. Home.

September 29 — Queen, “One Vision
Yeah, yeah, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is their big hit. But I like the ‘80s feel of this number. It feels so spontaneous and alive. 

September 30 — Cat Power, “The Greatest
My first assignment for my abbreviated run with SPIN magazine was to photograph Cat Power, who is this lovely singer named Chan Marshall. It was at a big outdoor festival in Las Vegas. She came out and blew me away. It was a really special concert moment. 

October 1 — Marty Robbins, “El Paso
Long before Breaking Bad made this song cool again, my dad would play it or sing it. He grew up in New Mexico, so I think this song was probably required listening in his childhood. I love the storytelling.

October 2 — Paul Simon, “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” and “America
“Julio” is a song about growing up, throwing dirt clods, letting go of the swing at the highest point, climbing trees and getting dirty. It also has a great verse done in a whistle, which I can do very well (and babies think whistling is magic). This is another song heavily influenced by my dad. I also remember him letting us watch that silly Paul Simon video with Chevy Chase, “You Can Call Me Al.” These are timeless songs. As for “America,” it’s likely my favorite Simon song and really needs no introduction.

October 3 — Smashing Pumpkins, “1979” and “Mayonaise
It’s fall and everyone is putting out their pumpkin stuff. Meanwhile, I’m playing Smashing Pumpkins songs on my wife’s belly. I had to pick two because I couldn’t really decide. And a side note, Siamese Dream is one of my favorite albums, even still today. Most ‘90s music doesn’t hold up very well, but this album has aged perfectly.

October 4 — The Monkees, “I’m a Believer
We’re playing this song for one reason: you can’t always be a Beatle, and when that’s the case be a Monkee. Because sometimes Monkees have more fun. 

October 5 — Dixie Chicks, “Lullaby” and “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)
I let Sara pick tonight, and she hit it out of the park with these two lovely Dixie Chicks songs. “Lullaby” is especially wonderful. You can tell she listens to lyrics more than me; these songs are aimed directly at us and our lives. 

October 6 — Mumford & Sons, “I Will Wait
The last five or six years I was writing at the newspaper I would get these annual emails from a reader who would beg and plead for me to include Mumford & Sons in my entertainment section. I just never understood the fascination. Then I heard this song, and I suddenly got it, if only for a minute or two. There is a hint of sadness in this song, and I love how it builds and builds into a crescendo of emotion and sound. I’m still not a huge fan, but this is a powerful song. 

October 7 — Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Tuesday’s Gone
It’s Tuesday and this might be the greatest song about Tuesday. I also like how it doesn’t really talk about the South, a subject I prefer sung by Neil Young. 

October 8 — The Clash, “Janie Jones” and “Rock the Casbah
These might be our first (and only) punk songs. Also, punk is dead. You know how I know? We went to church last Easter Sunday and there were like five babies and toddlers with mohawks. 

October 9 — Wild Belle, “Keep You
This is a super chill song with a cool vibe. It’s not really reggae, but it’s close. And it has one of those baritone saxophones, which just sounds awesome. 

October 10 — White Lies, “Bigger Than Us”; DUM, “On & On
This White Lies song was a Fossil find. When I was working part time at the leather and watch retailer last year, this song was on the rotation. I took me forever to actually track it down because I would have to take my phone out an Shazam it without anyone noticing. Since then it’s quickly risen through the ranks as one of my favorite songs. It’s just that epic chorus! The video, with its E.T. references, reminds me of being young. After that we played the David Unger song just for kicks, because it also had an ‘80s vibe and that video is something else too.

October 11 — The Killers, “All These Things I’ve Done
This was the biggest band on the planet for awhile. What happened? Remember my Cat Power story from earlier? Well, I photographed The Killers at the same show. After their press conference I jumped in an elevator real quick to beat the rush down. Before the door could close a hand shoots through the door and in steps the whole band. They were kinda awkward.

October 12 — The Mars Volta, “Since We’ve Been Wrong 
Metal Week, Day 1: I told Sara we couldn’t do this project without some metal — “It’s part of who I am,” I kept telling her. She relented, but I did promise I wouldn’t play anything too extreme. So I’m starting off real light. Like super light. So light it’s not even metal. But it’s still the Mars Volta, and they’re definitely out there.

October 13 — The Darkness, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Metal Week, Day 2: We’re getting a little heavier. This is definitely more metal, albeit a throwback to hair metal.

October 14 — Iron Maiden, “Aces High”; Motörhead, “Ace of Spades
Metal Week, Day 3: We’ve arrived at some legitimate metal for metal week! I started with my favorite Iron Maiden track and then I realized if we’re going to be talking about aces we have to add Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” (Update: RIP Lemmy.)

October 15 — Mastodon, “Oblivion
Metal Week, Day 4: I want to go on record by saying that I think Mastodon’s Crack the Skye is one of the greatest modern metal albums ever made. I think I’ve listened to it probably 120 times. I’ve been known to loop it for hours at my desk. It has a groove to it, and it puts me in the mood to write. 

October 16 — Black Sabbath, “Paranoid” 
Metal Week, Day 5: Going back to the original with some Sabbath, still to this day one of my favorites bands. And the father of heavy metal. 

October 17 — Sammy Hagar, “Heavy Metal
Metal Week, Day 6: Bringing it back down a little for Sara, who’s about had it with metal week. 

October 18 — Metallica, “Battery
Metal Week, Day 7: And we’re ending on a hard note. This reminds me of being a teenager. I had all the Metallica albums on cassette, and then I upgraded to CD when I eventually had a car with a CD player. I had a clunky Hyundai Excel with awful speakers, but something about the speakers and their lack of any bass made these albums shred even more. 

October 19 — Nena, “99 Luftballons
World Week, Day 1: Now we’re doing a week of music from other places. We’re starting in Germany because I have ancestors that are German. I have smelled their German food.

October 20 — Edith Piaf, “La Vie en Rose”; Louis Armstrong, “La Vie en Rose
World Week, Day 2: We started with the Edith Piaf version, but then Sara suggested we also hear Louis’ rendition. Wise move.

October 21 — Psy, “Gangnam Style
World Week, Day 3: Sara has never heard “Gangnam Stye,” which I think is just confounding on every level. It’s been watched by something like 2 billion people on YouTube. And now one view by Sara.

October 22 — Björk, “Joga”; PS 22, “Joga” 
World Week, Day 4: Off to Iceland with some Björk. And while we’re on it, I wanted to play that version by the Staten Island grade schoolers, who almost do it better.

October 23 — Tito Puente, Oye Come Va; Carlos Santana, “Oye Como Va
World Week, Day 5: I once saw a long version of this live, and it was hypnotic. 

October 24 — Seu Jorge, “Life on Mars?
World Week, Day 6: At this point I was struggling to come up with music that related to me, or us. I settled on Seu Jorge for several reasons: First, this is from Wes Anderson’s A Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou; second, it’s a David Bowie cover; and lastly, it’s on a Spanish guitar. 

October 25 — Boris, “Ibitsu
World Week, Day 7: Over to Japan to cap off world week. I’m still very much experimenting with drone, noise and ambient music, and Boris has explored all three, as well as stoner rock, pop and a variety of other genres. I love how each album they release is from a different genre.

October 26 — Stone Temple Pilots, “Plush” (acoustic version)
This week we’re going to see the new Mormon temple during its open house in north Phoenix. It’s a big deal for LDS families, so my whole family has arranged a night out to go see it. So of course, here’s some Stone Temple Pilots. 

October 27 — The Ad Libs, “The Boy From New York City
Sara wanted an oldie. Here you go. 

October 28 — Frank Sinatra, “Come Fly With Me
I’m flying to San Antonio today for a business trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. I’m not in town to play this song for Sara, so while I’m driving a rental minivan out of San Antonio I call her and ask her to load this tune up. 

October 29 — Gene Autry, “Deep in the Heart of Texas
Still in Texas. I’m here for the magazine I write for, Western Art Collector. Gene Autry is widely known as an art collector and enthusiast. And it’s about Texas, which is why this song is so perfect. 

October 30 — Bobby Fuller Four, “Let Her Dance
I Googled Texas artists and Bobby Fuller came up. I’ve always loved this song, even before Wes Anderson put it in The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

October 31 — The Doors, “People Are Strange
I flew back into town today from Texas, and it’s Halloween, which is why I picked this strange Doors tune. Sara and I sat out and gave candy to the trick-or-treaters, but no one really showed up. Maybe people aren’t as strange as we thought.

November 1 — Cream, “Sunshine of Your Love
Some music just needs no reason to be played. Just play it.

November 2 — The Jackson 5, “ABC
During an awful health scare that Sara was going through right after we were married, someone told us to ABC — Attitude. Believe. Courage. We don’t use self-helpy acronyms, but for whatever reason this stuck and we mention it to each other when times are rough. Also, this song is the only way I would let Michael Jackson into our list. He made great music. But he was also a world-class creep, and I would feel guilty letting an adult Michael Jackson interact with our unborn child, even if only musically. 

November 3 — Deftones, “No Ordinary Love
Covers Week, Day 1: We’re doing a solid week of cover songs, so we’re starting here with Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” as done by the Deftones, who have been on this list several other times. Also, you can see four of my photographs in the liner notes of the album this song appears on, B-Sides & Rarities.

November 4 — Jimi Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower
Covers Week, Day 2: This was the first Hendrix song I was aware of as a young music listener experimenting with his musical taste. It never gets old, and it’s even better than the Bob Dylan version.

November 5 — Joe Cocker, “With a Little Help From My Friends” 
Covers Week, Day 3: Sara and I grew up on Wonder Years. What a great show to have in your adolescence. I interviewed Fred Savage once, and nearly called him Kevin Arnold. 

November 6 — Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold the World” 
Covers Week, Day 4: Another Bowie song. After all these years, this live recording still hurts to listen to. 

November 7 — Gary Jules, “Mad World” 
Covers Week, Day 5: Ask me to think of the original Tears for Fears song and I can’t do it. I hear this version, and this version only. That must irk the original writers. 

November 8 — The Gypsy Kings, “Hotel California” 
Covers Week, Day 6: This is the only way an Eagles song gets played. The Dude abides.

November 9 — Ben Folds, “Tiny Dancer” 
Covers Week, Day 7: I like this version because Ben cuts out the weird interlude part before the chorus. Also, no slide guitar. The Elton John version is great, but the version that plays in my head always has fewer instruments and parts. 

November 10 — Alison Krauss, “Baby, Now that I’ve Found You” 
Sara’s Week: Sara’s is doing a whole week of music that reminds her of things. She’s picking this song for her mom. 

November 11 — Counting Crows, “Round Here
Sara’s Week: She picked this for her brother, who I have not yet met. He’s kind off the radar, so I may never meet him. 

November 12 — Judy Garland, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Sara’s Week: I’m putting words in my wife’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure we both want our kid to be able to look up into the sky and see her dreams, and then to one day attain those dreams. The original song is more sad, as in “why can’t I?”, but I see more hope and promise in the words.

November 13 — Bette Midler, “Under the Boardwalk
Sara’s Week: This reminds her of best friends.

November 14 — Fleetwood Mac, “Songbird
Sara’s Week: Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Stevie Nicks … I must love my wife very much to allow her to put this clutter in my list. 

November 15 — Evanescence, “My Immortal
Sara’s Week: This one reminds her of her younger sister Shannon. She’s not picking one for her older sister, because she “doesn’t listen to music.” I didn’t think that was possible. 

November 16 — Patsy Cline, “Walkin’ After Midnight
Sara’s Week: This one is for Mama Kathy, our daughter’s grandma and Sara’s mom. 

November 17 — Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge
This video, this song, this band, is how I discovered the greatness of MTV. The channel played music back then. Today it has none. 

November 18 — Lorde, “Royals
We haven’t picked too many semi-current songs. Mostly because new music sounds great, but none of it sounds classic, like we might be listening to it in 5, 10 or 50 years. “Royals” might not hit the 50-year mark, but I think it could be a song we look back on fondly in a decade. 

November 19 — Black Keys, “Tighten Up
This baby belly is tightening up, like a drum. It’s crazy to think this baby gets bigger. The only reprieve Sara has is that this is still a month or so away from popping. The closer it gets, though, the scarier it becomes. 

November 20 — Neil Diamond, “Coming to America
Today President Obama made an announcement indicating he would be making a number of executive orders on issues involving illegal immigrants and immigration. It was a big day for the country, and especially Arizona, where many Mexican and South American people live and work and are productive members of society. They came here for a better life, and they deserve just that. I want the best for our daughter, and they just want the same for their children. So here we are with this Neil Diamond song, which really should be experienced through the film Born in East LA

November 21 — Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World
This is an interesting song. On one hand it means exactly what it says, that the world we live in in is wonderful. But when Michael Moore used this song in Bowling for Columbine to show the wars, violence, political unrest and shady CIA intervention that lead to 9/11, the song took on an almost sarcastic tone. I think both versions apply. We should strive for the wonderful, but we should also be conscious of the cruel and unusual place we live in. Glass half full, glass half empty. I think it’s important to see both versions out of the same set of eyes. 

November 22 — Steve Earle, “Feel Alright
We feel alright right now. But a baby is on the way. And while that is amazing, it will also be quite tiring, stressful and who knows what else. But today, we’re feeling alright.

November 23 — John Lennon, “Imagine
If our baby listens to only one song, one set of lyrics, then it should be this one. The universe has never needed a song as much as it has needed this one. 

November 24 — Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”; Dooley Wilson, “As Time Goes By
Today a grand jury in Missouri decided to not indict a white cop who shot and killed Mike Brown, a black teen who committed the horrible crime of stealing cigarettes. Our child will never have to fear police the way her black and brown-skinned peers will. And that’s heartbreakingly unfair. Children should not be terrified to step into the world, even a world of cops with itchy trigger fingers. The only song that seemed appropriate for tonight was Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the song that gets Radio Raheem killed with an illegal NYPD chokehold in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. We want our child to be conscious of these types of issues, and to know that the world can be unfair when it comes to race, and she needs to rise above that in every way possible. (We also played “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca. This was our original song before news from Missouri broke. We picked it because Sam’s famous piano just sold at auction.)

November 25 — Cults, “Go Outside
This is a cheery, fun song. And then we watched the video. It’s about the Jonestown Massacre. Weird.

November 26 — Sam Cooke, “Twistin’ the Night Away
This baby be kickin’, so much that it feels like a dance party in there. 

November 27 — Led Zeppelin, “Thank You
We are thankful for so much. Friends, family, and this little baby on her way. These feelings are captured perfectly in this beautiful Zeppelin song, which is a love song from me to Sara. 

November 28 — Van Morrison, “Glad Tidings
It’s still November, but Thanksgiving is over, which means we’re into the Christmas season and that means a baby is around the corner. Glad tidings are coming our way. 

November 29 — Jimmy Eat World, “Futures
I liked the idea of our future being mysterious and strange. Yes, a baby is on the way, but what will she look like, be like, or how will she change us? The future is kinda scary, but also terrifically exciting. 

November 30 — Editors, “Munich
Sara and have been editors of one kind or another. I still am. That’s how we met. We’ve agreed that if our child wanted to go into newspapers or magazines, we would not push her away — she can do whatever she wants. But we also promised each other we would tell her about other promising careers, because we definitely love journalism more than journalism loves us. It’s a rough career to have.

December 1 — Jesu, “Brighteyes
I’ve been into Jesu for a couple years, and I really enjoy the chuggy repetition of the chords and the soaring, hopeful vocals. This song ties into a broader interest I have for experimental, drone, ambient, stoner, doom and other obscure metal genres. I also liked the title “Brighteyes,” which alludes to the blue eye color we’re hoping Alice has. (Update: she has blue eyes!)

December 2 — Joni Mitchell, “River
This is a great song, and also a great Christmas song, which I always forget. Joni Mitchell is a one-of-a-kind singer, and I hope our daughter discovers these old songs. 

December 3 — Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Hong Kong Garden
Because little girls can be punks. 

December 4 — The Creation, “Making Time
Sara is literally making time. Each day that kid is in her is another day she misses out on. 

December 5 — J. Geils Band, “Centerfold
Tonight and tomorrow night we’re picking hit songs from our birth years. Tonight is Sara’s turn, and for 1982 she chose “Centerfold,” which is a time capsule song for sure. How can you not smile at all this cheeseball music — the synthesizers, the hand clapping, the hilariously dated video. 

December 6 — REO Speedwagon, “Keep on Lovin’ You
For my birth year of 1981, I chose the classic “Keep on Loving’ You.” I photographed REO Speedwagon once and I think I was the youngest person in the audience by about 30 years, but it was a lot of fun. They did a double-bill with Styx, a band that does not get a song on this list. 

December 7 — Pharrell Williams, “Happy
As a small continuation of song from our birth years, we’re going to pick one for Alice, assuming she’s born in 2014 (spoiler: she’s not). We wanted something upbeat and positive, and “Happy” seems to work very well. 

December 8 — Paul Simon, “Father and Daughter
More Paul Simon, and this one had Sara in tears. She thought it was a very good pick, and I’m proud that I found it. Fathers and their daughters need songs like this. 

December 9 — Three Dog Night, “Mama Told Me Not to Come
We watched Inherent Vice tonight, and this song felt appropriate for all the right reasons, mostly its weird trippiness.

December 10 — Harry Nilsson, “Jump Into the Fire
Whenever I have a busy day, a day that requires me to make numerous trips from home and back, I always think of the scene in Goodfellas where Henry Hill’s brother is in town and they’re cooking the big meal during various criminal enterprises. Guns for Jimmy, coke for the babysitter, valium from the hospital, that damn helicopter … I love the energy of that scene. I had a day like that. It was go go go all afternoon. All day I had “Jump Into the Fire” playing in my head. 

December 11 — Foo Fighters, “Everlong
This is a timeless song. It’s also epic, with a great beginning, middle and end — so much to listen to, and so much building suspense. One of the best concerts I went to was a Foo Fighters show. They opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were having an off night. Dave Grohl raced out to the audience and performed on a small stage in the crowd. He was literally right in front of me, close enough for me to touch his guitar. 

December 12 — Carole King, “Every Day Feels Like a Holiday
I don’t like holiday songs, but this one is tolerable. 

December 13 — Elton John, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Today is Saturday, and we need a song to liven it up. 

December 14 — Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love” and “Stuck on You
Sara and I both have news backgrounds, and tonight we finished The Newsroom. I was generally hated by critics and people who hate-watch TV, but Sara and I enjoyed it. We liked talking about newsroom decisions as they were happening. A long time ago, on a smaller scale, that was us making those decisions. 

December 15 — Thoroughly Modern Millie, “Gimme Gimme” and “The Speed Test
I let Sara have Broadway night and this is what she picks. 

December 16 — Idina Menzel, “Let It Go
Every little girl in America knows this song, so we thought, why not ours. Thankfully, she will miss Frozen fever. 

December 17 — OK Go, “WTF?
WTF is pretty much what we’re thinking about this kid right now. We’re also really hoping that she’s not born on Christmas. Anything but Christmas. Birthdays will be impossible: Stores will be closed. Friends won’t be able to come over. Parties will have to be held on an entirely different day. Kid, WTF?!?! Hurry!

December 18 — Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer
We keep thinking something is going to happen because the kicks are getting harder and harder, like a sledgehammer, but nope. She’s still in there, teasing us with each passing day. 

December 19 — Rolling Stones, “I am Waiting
Waiting patiently still. 

December 20 — John Mellencamp, “Hurts So Good
We’ve been talking about labor a lot, and how Sara is going to cope with it all. She likes to think she’s ready, but doesn’t every mother, even the ones who flip out? Personally, I think she’s ready. It will be a good pain, I tell her. A pain that has a baby at the end. She’s not reassured by this. 

December 21 — No Doubt, “Sunday Morning
We’ve done several songs for days of the week, and here’s one. Honestly, we’re just running out of songs. We never thought we’d be pushing the December 25 due date this closely. 

December 22 — MGMT, “Kids
Music videos can be performance art, or theater, or high drama, or just surreal images set to a beat. But trying to make sense of any of it is a fruitless endeavor. Case in point, MGMT’s “Kids,” which reminds me of that Lewis Black line: “If you hear a song and the images in your head are the same images in the music video, take a sharpened pencil and jam it in your ear.” (BTW, “Kids” because we’re about to have one.)

December 23 — Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas is You
A Christmas song, and maybe Mariah’s high notes will scare this baby out. 

December 24 — Gayla Peevey, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”; Wham!, “Last Christmas
For Christmas Eve, we each picked our favorite Christmas song: Sara’s is the Hippo song and mine is “Last Christmas,” which is so bad it’s good. Want to know how to annoy Sara, let that Wham! earbug get in her ear and it will slowly drive her mad. She was not amused that I picked this song, but she was a sport when I played it. Also, the video is a great time capsule.

December 25 — Europe, “The Final Countdown
Due Date!!! And the final countdown commences. (Ugh, this is mostly an awful song, but the chorus and title work great for the phase we are in.)

December 26 — Simon & Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound
Come home to us baby. Her room is ready. 

December 27 — The Sounds, “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake”; The Naked and Famous, “Punching in a Dream
Lots of kicks and punches, enough that Sara can’t sleep. She’s been sleeping on the couch for weeks because that’s the only place where she can get comfortable. Apparently it’s pretty miserable.

December 28 — AC/DC, “You Shook Me All Night Long”; Death, “Keep on Knockin’
Lots more kicks. But nothing to report for it. 

December 29 — The Doors, “Break on Through
She still hasn’t broken through. The wait continues. 

December 30 — Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds
Don’t worry / about a thing / ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.

December 31 — Counting Crows, “A Long December
It was a very long December, one that our little bug will not get to see … because she’s coming in January. Great job, kid!

January 1 — U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name
2015. We’re in uncharted territory now, where the streets have no names. We always thought she’d be here by now. And here we are in a new year, and no baby yet. 

January 2 — The Beatles, “In My Life
This is a song about life and death, beginning and ends. It seems appropriate as we stand on the precipice that is parenthood.

January 3 — Rod Stewart, “Maggie May
We almost named her Maggie. Almost. 

January 4 — Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, You Really Got a Hold on Me”; The Beatles, You Really Got a Hold on Me”; and She & Him, “You Really Got a Hold on Me
This baby has a hold on Sara and won’t let go. “Kid, just relax a little and come out. It’s nice out here. We promise.”

January 5 — The Lumineers, “Ho Hey
Sara is thinking happy thoughts in preparations for what is to come, and this songs seems to be working at the moment. 

January 6 — Vampire Weekend, “A-Punk
Almost a week into January and she’s still in there. That punk. That bratty little punk.

January 7 — The Strokes, “Last Nite
Yeah, yeah, this song is not about the final night, but rather the previous night, but that doesn’t take away its meaning for me. Because tonight really is the last night! Last night of belly kicks, swollen feet, squished organs and short breaths. It’s the last night because tomorrow we’re scheduled for a C-section because this kid is overcooked.

January 8 — Etta James, “At Last
Finally. She’s here. And she’s perfect.