I've been pleased by the response to my Listful Thinking series by friends and readers. I've gotten more comments on these than many other pieces I've written and I'm getting suggestions on bands and themes to consider for future editions, such as Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Ahh, Toad, we do go back a long time and have traveled many, many miles. We traveled many miles in the city of Atlanta to see one of your reunion shows. Oh, Atlanta is not far from Huntsville but we spent untold hours lost trying to find the venue and again trying to find our way home. Like many my age, I was introduced to Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols, Randy Guss, and Dean Dinning with the single "All I Want" and I've collected the records and made the songs part of the soundtrack of my life. As you are about to read, some of these songs were chosen not just because of their greatness but because they are sonic time capsules to different times in my life. One of their more recent songs even made a connection to my current state. As usual, this was tough to compile and made more difficult by the fact that nearly every song I listen to as I wrote this made me want to add it instead but I will stand on these five... for today.
- "Windmills" - Quite simply one of the prettiest, gentlest songs I've ever. Take a gorgeous acoustic guitar figure and wrap it around a lovely melody. Lay a delicate vocal and tender harmonies. The lyrics are opaque but evocative and affecting. It's magical.
- "Something's Always Wrong" - I loved this song upon the release of the great, great Dulcinea record but I will always remember driving across country with this song on repeat, trying to learn the harmonies, striving for proper air guitar technique while still occasionally trying to steer (except for when I had to mimic a few of Guss' excellent drum fills). It was my first attempt to leave the nest, leaving Alabama to return to Seattle. There were car breakdowns, boring flatlands, majestic mountains, blue skies, rain clouds, hopes, dreams, and fears. It all went down in flames and I'd listen to this song on a second ill-fated cross country trip, this one ending in Colorado and, once again, in disaster but it's the Seattle trek I always conjure when I hear this song. Fittingly symbolic.
- "Dam Would Break" - Fast forward just a few years and I set my course for college at UNA in Florence, AL. I am reasonably sure I listened to nothing but THIS song the entire 90 minute drive to fill out financial aid and admissions paperwork and did the same on the way home. There's something hypnotic that demands this be played on repeat. The conflict and struggle in the lyrics, the deceptively active bass line, Nicholls' guitar tones, and the harmonies in the chorus captivate me all these years later.
- "Little Heaven" -This is another TTWS song that hypnotizes me for hours at a time and it also has a story for me. The first time I heard this song was when I worked at Blockbuster Video (look it up on Google, kids) in college. They played trailers for the movies in the store all day, every day. The guitar intro of "Little Heaven" features prominently in the trailer for Buffy The Vampire Slayer (film, not TV show. I didn't watch the movie to hear if more of it got used so I didn't know this was Toad until I bought In Light Syrup, their rarities collection. Love. This. Song. I still don't know all the words but I sing my approximation of them, badly, and try and sing the harmonies. Great harmonies on this. The other story goes back a couple years ago when the great Glen Phillips played Folk Mission at Straight To Ale. Someone requested this song. He said the band never really figured out how to do this one live and that was about to be a problem because they were going to play an event for friends and this was one their friends requested.
- "I'll Bet On You" - This song began as "See You Again" by Nicholls' post-TTWS band Lapdog. I love that song. Imagine my shock when it was rebranded with new lyrics for New Constellation, Toad's reunion album. I love both versions and either one of them would have been a hit if released when they were still being played on the radio. Hits don't matter as far as artistic value but there is something undeniably catchy, undeniably Toad about this song.