Well-known act, lesser-known songs

A Facebook post got me thinking about this a couple of months back: situations where there’s a great song that gets you every time–but it’s not one of their hits, or even one of their singles. I couldn’t think of any examples in the first discussion, but I’ve had a few thoughts since.

That’s the late, belated Kirsty McColl with a track off of 1989’s Kite. McColl had a solid career in the middle of the UK charts with occasional top 10 singles. She’s probably best known for writing “They Don’t Know” (a big hit for Tracey Ullman) and for her performance with the Pogues in “Fairytale of New York.” Personally, I love the narrator’s penetration and insight in this song. McColl did a lot of country music in her varied work, and I think this is her biggest success there.

Elvis Costello’s output is full of potential for an exercise like this. Not every song is a gem–no one could write albums for 35 years without making missteps–but Costello’s got as solid an output as anyone since Lennon/McCartney. I’ve chosen “Jacksons, Monk, & Rowe,” a poignant plea to divorce attorneys to help the narrator through a tough time.

Finally, a song that was never a single for the Style Council, but for my money it’s Paul Weller writing at his best.

. . . on I go down into the depths
turning things over that are better left
dredging up the past that has gone for good
trying to polish up what is rotting wood.

The ways we find to sabotage our lives have never been put better.

Regional playlist: Los Angeles

Fittingly for a world entertainment capitol, Los Angeles is way too big to pin down musically. There are identifiable traditions here and there–hardcore, beach music, West Coast rap–but the bright, sprawling metropolis contains multitudes. Whether it sounds like paradise, enjoy some music from La-La Land.

Playlist: Los Angeles