"You know what this song's about?" — that was a question my father would routinely ask me during daily drives. Because of this, I was the only second grader who knew that "Lola" was Ray Davies' pun-filled tall-tale about a chance trans encounter, and that "Smoke On the Water" is why I should always find out where the exits are at concert venues.
My dad had an immense impact on my taste in music; hell, he had an influence on my taste in pretty much everything. The dude, known affectionately by my small community of friends as Papa Den, attended the original Woodstock (that's him on its first day in the studly white-tee in the photo above) and spent his formative years catching shows in Philly during his short-lived college tenure at UPenn in the late 60s — this guy's mental library of musical experiences is worthy of its own Smithsonian exhibit. But like the relics of a museum, the salience of his memories have waned in his later years, as has the sound quality of the burned Ten Years After CD that's lived in his car for the past two decades. Luckily, the massive music consumption that comes with this job has allowed me to introduce him to new sounds... sounds that, although from a modern era, will often have a flux capacitor's effect, kicking his memory over at 88 for a musical trip down memory lane... or maybe it's just all the mescaline coming back to haunt him.
Either way, I've had a lot of fun sharing music with my dad, as he did with me when I was just a wee lad. And it's also proven to be a great way of striking up conversation that doesn't involve the frequency of his old folks community's recycling pickups. Since it's Father's Day this weekend, I thought I'd share a bit of these experiences with our readers. If you're looking for a new way to reconnect with your own pops, or you think a new playlist might help make this Sunday a little more special for the old guy (if so: you'll want to burn it and/or put it on his iPod for him), I sorted through some of the new stuff my dad has enjoyed the most lately, tunes that yours might savor in as well.
1. Father John Misty
Telling my dad about the enigmatic Mr. Misty's wild conception was almost as fun as actually listening to his bizarre tales of debauchery together. His entire debut album Fear Fun is filled with magnificent stories of over-indulgence, all sang in J. Tillman's beguiling croon that looms over the retro Laurel Canyon and country western melodies. Get a copy of Fear Funhere.
2. Charles Bradley
I doubt there's an artist on Daptone Records that my dad wouldn't appreciate. Charles Bradley, however, who didn't gain notoriety until his early 60s stuck out as his story gave my own old man a glimmer of late-life hope. Did I mention that every one of his songs would totally suit a Scorsese flashback montage with a Ray Liotta voiceover... Dads love Scorsese. Get Bradley's latest record Victim of Lovehere.
Like the aforementioned Father John Misty, this retro rock four-piece embodies the Laurel Canyon sound. Tell your dad they were cut from the same cloth as CSNY, and see if he doesn't crank the volume and listen closer. Check out "From a Window Seat" below, a single off their latest LP Stories Don't End.
4. The War On Drugs
Arguably the best album of 2014 (so far) came from this Philly four-piece. It's lush, easy-flowing tones of Petty-meets-Dire Straits guitar grooves is absorbed as easy as your pop's favorite canned brew. Hear "Red Eye" below and check out Lost in the Dream.
5. The Wild Feathers
Although their nostalgic sound stems from a more recent era than my dad's own heyday, he's always been a sucker for the rough n tumble, smoke-saturated country-western schtick that this Nashville five-piece embodies. We caught them in a packed bar down at SXSW in 2013 — a more than ideal setting for their reinvigorated brand of blues. Grab their self-titled debut.
Foxygen's debut LP We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was actually the catalyst record that led to this little project with my dad. Listening to it for the first time, all I could hear were echoes of the countless artists from his generation that he had burrowed into my brain throughout my youth. Even though Den was never that into Lou Reed (I know right?!), I was still given an informative lesson on "Walk on the Wild Side", and perhaps that's why he liked this song so much. And if you're feeling it, try the rest of the mystical treats offered on their latest LP.
7. Willy Mason
This 29-year-old Martha's Vineyard-bred singer-songwriter offers sincere country charm with his soul-crippling voice. And "Take Me Down", a single off his 2012 LP Carry On, carried a cooling sense of Southern psychedelia that neither Den nor I could shake.
8. A.C. Newman
Another early add to our father-son experiment, A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers fame provided us with a refreshing, easy-listening blast of brightness. There's little to be dissected when it comes to Newman's solo work, especially the stellar single "I'm Not Talking" off his most recent LP Shut Down the Streets.
9. Shakey Graves
With a howl like Cobain and the temperament of a back-alley bourbon bar, this Austin-based solo artist boasted a sound and style that brought my pops back to the days when he had his own handful of motorcycles in the garage — all of which were sold per my mother's demand prior to my arrival. Check out his ultimate one-man-band performance at the Good Music Club below, and explore his material here.
10. Water Liars
If you haven't noticed yet, my dad has a taste for Southern spice; he claims it's because he was born in Miami, but he doesn't seem to understand that Miami is socially north of the Mason Dixon. These two Mississippi boys have a bit more Southern street cred than my dear old dad, but then again, does Paula Deen. Check out the bluesy duo's latest LP Carry On.
Thanks dad, for being my dad. Maybe next year I'll tell everyone how we still sneak into movies whenever we hang.
He's one handsome sonofagun isn't he? As is that familiar looking, fly little dude in the front.
Here's the entire playlist of the artists and songs listed above: