Tag Archives: Songs

Top 10 Songs of 2015 – The List Begins … Tomorrow

14 Dec

Best Of 2015 Banner

As we are about to say hello to 2016, it is once again time for The Music Court to countdown the best songs of 2015; And, yes, I did make an Adele pun. Her hit song will almost certainly end 2015 at the top of the Billboard charts (as her new LP is selling like hot cakes doused with maple syrup). It may even start 2016 at the top and pull an “Uptown Funk,” which ravaged the Billboard charts for around four months before giving way to the melancholic summer hit, “See You Again.” That said, let’s move beyond these introductory pleasantries and get to the nitty gritty of the list.

Last year, Zoe and I labored over several songs to choose a Top 10 list fit for the music kings and queens, and this year is no different. Thus, as always, some well-deserving songs were left off the Top 10. Thus, like each year we have done this list, on the eve of the list’s start we bring you a few songs that just missed the top 10 and found themselves on the environs, still excellent songs in their own right.

#12: “Ong Ong” by Blur

After a 12 years, the longest album gap in Britpop mainstay Blur’s illustrious career, Damon Albarn and the boys released The Magic Whip in April of 2015 and with it released track 11, “Ong Ong,” a jaunty, repetitive track that just might be one of the best songs ever released by the band. Why? It’s droning underbody hums like that of a dying car’s roar, which sounds awful, I know, but in reality it is infectious. The song carries from there in a tight, skilled manner only an organized, experienced band can create.

#11: “Stressed Out” by 21 Pilots

We go from sagacious songsters Blur to relatively new kids on the block Twenty One Pilots whose blend of alternative-rock hooks mixed with hip/hop make for a unique and exciting sound. “Stressed Out” is excellent for two reasons – lyrics and hook. I’m not a big rap fan (as the music selection on this blog may suggest); however, the rap in this piece is effective – the song’s message is that of nostalgia.

“It’d be to my brother, ‘cause we have the same nose,
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam,
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter”

21 Pilots does an effective job melding youthful memories with current mid-20s problems. The hook talks about turning back time and does so with an almost reserved vigor that is melodic and catchy.


Great songs and they missed the list! The top 10 starts tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Behind the Christmas Music: The History of Rankin/Bass Animated Specials

11 Dec


You know the holiday season has begun in earnest when you turn on the TV and one of the classic tunes from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman starts up. Years after their first broadcast in the 1960’s, these adorable “Animagic” creations are etched in our collective pop culture memory. Here’s a little bit about the history behind the stop-motion music, and why these movies still command our hearts at Christmastime.

Rankin/Bass enjoyed mild success as a production company when it began in 1960, but they didn’t hit their stride until they put together the stop-motion classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. This film, an adaptation of the popular holiday song by Johnny Marks, includes folk singer Burl Ives as the voice of a narrating snowman who does his best to support poor Rudolph through his trying adolescence. With cheerful, playful songs like “We’re a Couple of Misfits” and “We Are Santa’s Elves,” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer became the longest-running Christmas special to ever air on television.

After Rudolph, Rankin/Bass enjoyed modest success with The Cricket on the Hearth, which is based on Charles Dickens’ Christmas book of the same name, and a Thanksgiving special titled Mouse on the Mayflower. But their next big success came in 1968 with The Little Drummer Boy, another adaptation of a popular Christmas carol. This special tells the story of a young boy who played his drum for the birth of Jesus when he had no other gift. The program’s lyrics were written by producer Jules Bass, and the Vienna Boys’ Choir sang the titular song. The Little Drummer Boy furthered the tradition of Christmas specials based around popular holiday songs.


\Frosty the Snowman came to TV audiences in 1969. This was the first use of traditional cel animation rather than stop-motion animation for a Rankin/Bass special, and for that it may have lost a bit of the Christmas cheer and sweetness. Singer and pianist Jimmy Durante voiced the narrator, who also sang the titular song. Frosty is also featured in many Rankin/Bass sequels, including 1976’s Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and the 1979 crossover with Rudolph, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.


In 1970, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town featured the voice of actor and dancer Fred Astaire as the narrator. This film rolled out a larger soundtrack of original music numbers than previous features. Robie Lester, a Grammy-nominated vocalist, voices Miss Jessica, the schoolteacher in a town that has banned Christmas cheer, and renowned voice actor Paul Frees gives life to the miserly Burgermeister Meisterburger. The story is told through songs like “The First Toymakers to the King” and “One Foot in Front of the Other,” all sung by the talented voice cast.


After these hits, Rankin/Bass produced a steady stream of holiday classics, such as The Year Without a Santa Claus and several sequels to the previous Christmas favorites. While the company stopped production in 1987, they still actively worked on making sure audiences enjoyed their holiday specials for years to come.


Even after being aired for over 50 years, these Rankin/Bass specials remain a hallmark of the Christmas season for viewers young and old. Their upbeat music, important messages, and beautiful animation are sure to enchant audiences for years to come. To see some of these Rankin/Bass specials, tune into ABC (details here), Netflix (which has Rudolph), or DTV streaming (info here) to get your Christmas fix.


Plus, all of these specials have produced soundtracks to spread the Christmas cheer whenever it’s needed – check YouTube, where free versions abound. Happy Holidays!

Dog Songs – Vote for Your Favorite!

3 Jun



This is Tully. Say hi to the Music Court community, Tully. As I type this, Tully is nestled into a ball with his head on a soft, green pillow. He is adorable. The picture is worth more than my words.

As you might have deciphered from the opening to this post, I adopted a dog! Thus, I have been solely in a dog mood over the past few days. Musicians are often in dog moods. Whether it are songs about dogs or song titles/ideas that use “dog” in popular sayings or with different connotations, dogs often find their way into popular songs of all genres. Off the top of your head I’m sure you are already thinking of 1-2 songs you know that have the word dog in the title.

In line with my puppy mood, I bring you the first Music Court poll in months. There are a plethora of dog songs in the vast musical catalogue of life; what song is the best? First, let’s fetch some songs.


1. “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley

This is the version most are familiar with, and it is hard to argue that it is not the best recording of this Lieber and Stoller classic. Originally recorded in 1952 by “Big Mama” Thornton, “Hound Dog” has transcended decades and has garnered a long list of cover versions (included Elvis’ 1956 cover) and popular media references. Contrary to the lyrics though, I will certainly feed Tully!


2. (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window by Patti Page

I had to. Tell me you don’t think of this song when you walk by the window of a pet store! Written by Bob Merrill (also wrote “Mambo Italiano”), the song was most famously recorded by Patti Page, and I first heard it through Kidsongs (my pre-kinder source for all music).


3. “I Love My Dog” by Cat Stevens

Because the song includes lyrics like the following:

“I love my dog
As much as I love you
But you may fade
My dog will always come through”  (Note: I love Tully and my fiancé very much)

4. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges

Oh, Iggy and your Stooges. Recorded in 1969, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a quintessential example of the budding hard rock/punk movement that would sweep the music world for the next two decades (and beyond that if you count the 90s, 00s, and 10s). The song was produced by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame. The Velvet Underground is often cited as the grandfather of punk. No coincidence there folks.


5. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin 

Classic Zeppelin riff over lyrics inspired by a sexually promiscuous retriever that would amble around the recording studio. It also has the mark of a Zeppelin song that was not stolen. Haha. I kid. I kid. It’s a killer riff.


6. “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine 

Florence Welch, otherwise known as the goddess (according to my sister), took a commanding hold of the Indie/Art/Pop genre with the release of her first two albums (Lungs and Ceremonials). “Dog Days are Over” is featured on Lungs, which is a tremendous first release.


7. “Martha My Dear” by The Beatles

Wild Card! This jaunty Beatles tune was written by Paul McCartney and most likely inspired by his sheepdog (named Martha), although it was probably about an old love interest. It, like all Beatles songs, is excellent.



There you have it. What is the best bark – I mean, song! Vote below.

%d bloggers like this: