When I caught the Mountain Goats at the Bottleneck earlier this week, John Darnielle played "The Day the Aliens Came," a song I'd never heard before. I went home and found it on the Come, Come the Sunset Tree demos thing. It was kind of more awesome live, but listening to it more, man, it's kind of amazing. Mostly, it's amazing because Darnielle is the kind of guy who can write a brilliant song and bury it somewhere in his massive discography. He's got too many other amazing songs that hog the spotlight. Digging up the little ones, discovering something I didn't know existed, that is one of my favorite things about liking music. Then I started thinking about how a lot of my favorite songs by some of my favorite bands are the songs that fly under the radar because finding them was such a special experience that I never wanted to let them go. So, in case you like these bands and haven't heard these songs, here they are.
5.) The Weakerthans - "Utilities"
I'm cheating here at number five. The Weakerthans don't really have any B-sides that aren't covers or reworkings of songs they've already recorded, but this one was a B-side for a long time until it ended up as the last song on Reunion Tour. I still prefer John K Samson's solo acoustic version, and I feel it best displays the sentiment that anyone can relate to: I want to be useful. There are a handful of videos of Samson playing this song, but they're all pretty much fantastic because it's just one of those songs that kinda always sounds good.
4.) The Hold Steady - "Girls Like Status"
My love for the Hold Steady is wide and far-reaching. It's so massive, when Jenny and I are hanging out in Minneapolis in a couple of days, one of the things we're planning on doing is visiting landmarks that pop up in Hold Steady songs. This song was apparently on the Aqua Team Hunger Force movie soundtrack, which is weird, because Superchunk had a song on that soundtrack and they're on this list. This is the perfect B-side. It's a fucking great song, highlights all of the band's strengths, but wouldn't have really fit on Boys and Girls and America. Plus, it references the Mountain Goats and Dillinger Four, two bands I love and adore. And the Mountain Goats are on this list too!
3.) The Mountain Goats - "Attention All Pickpockets"/ "New Chevrolet in Flames" / "The Day the Aliens Came"
Can't choose, and really, how can I? With such an epic discography, and with so many of those songs flying under the radar, well, it's pretty impossible to choose just ONE favorite Mountain Goats b-side. So, here are my three favorites. One from Tallahassee. One from We Shall All Be Healed. One from the Sunset Tree. All are spectacular, all hit a different. Well, as different as Mountain Goats songs can be. I like how "Attention All Pickpockets" is almost soaring despite being amazingly sad. I love how "New Chevrolet in Flames" almost has swagger and introduced me to the Colorado Bulldog, which if you haven't had one, well, make it yourself because no one at the bars in this town know how to make one (I DID however, order one in Austin a few years back, and I believe it was on the Utne Reader's account, but I can't swear by it. I just know it was at that little nook on Cedar Street and it was amazing and made with expensive vodka). "The Day the Aliens Came" is a new favorite that I just heard for the first time, uh, a few days ago, but I know it's gonna stick with me because goddamn, it should have been on the album. It seems to fit pretty perfectly, but I'm sure John had his reasons.
2.) Superchunk - "Home at Dawn"
I found a 7" of this at Love Garden months back and it was for some bizarre reason, marked down to some ridiculously cheap price given the quality of this song. Maybe it's because it's an A-Side only 7", but I listened to this song over and over again so many times I don't know when I would have had a chance to get to side B. The woozy bass line and the drifty guitar riff matches the post-night of drinking and bad decisions vibe of the lyrics and Mac MacCaughan sounds like he's screaming from the center of the earth. Well, screaming over the guitars at least, that said the mixing is great because it sounds like the song is about to fall apart at any second. I always put this song on mixes for the car and while the rest of the songs tend to get a little stale, I'm always ready to play this one over and over and over forever. Even if it is kind of emotionally devastating every single time.
1.) Guided by Voices - "Dodging Invisible Rays"
Guided by Voices is my favorite band. I will never get past thinking that. I'm the kind of person who immediately bought two tickets to their classic reunion tour in the closest city possible. In this case, Minneapolis, and at the time I didn't know WHO would go with me, but I figured I better jump on it just in case. Things worked out and Jenny is going with me, and we're headed there in...8 hours. Quite stoked, and since I'm obsessive I've been hounding reviews of the reunion shows and it looks like they're playing "Dodging Invisible Rays" and well fuck, that might complete my precious little life. This song gets the top spot because I once forced my bandmates to cover this at some Kite Tails show at the Replay a ways back. I think we covered Prince that night, too. But playing this one was one of the most fun things I ever did. Everyone's all Bob Pollard this and Bob Pollard that when it comes to GBV, but this is one of Tobin Sprout's shining moments and if you want to cast doubt on my opinion that he was the glue that held GBV together during their glory days, well, I'll most definitely disagree with you. Unless your answer is "Light Beer," and then in that case, I have no choice but to say "Well, that too."