Top Five Songs by Related Folks


Wahoo! Soon exams will be but a bad dream and winter vacation commences. Besides using this as an excuse to immediately acquire a stiff one (drink that is, and only our 21+ readers, duh), this also means a sudden influx of forced family hangs. I know, I know, Thanksgiving JUST happened, what’s with the cruel joke? Perhaps instead of brooding in a corner and pretending to hold any interest regarding your aunt’s Barry Manilow obsession, bring up the idea of a family band. Hey, if the ultra-conservative Carpenters could get down, so can your family. Here I’ve mapped out a list of Top Five Songs by Related Folks to pique some interest within your clan. Should the family band plan not work out, well, there’s always Scrabble. Start sketching your family crest a la album cover style and read on:

“I Would Be Sad” by Avett Brothers
Bearded bros Scott and Seth Avett joined forces (plus a non-related bassist, psh) to release this killer track hidden 11-deep in their 2007 release “Emotionalism.” Scott plucks the banjo — and simultaneously heartstrings — in this depressing depiction of lost love. Who can’t relate to the line “Well my dad told me, ‘One day son, this girl will think of what she’s done and hurting you will be the first of many more regrets to come,'”? Feeling bummed yet? Good. Now call your pops.

“Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by the Shangri-Las
Comprised of both the (twin!) Sisters Ganser (Marge and Mary) and the Sisters Weiss (Betty and Mary), this quartet of girls pound out pure, poppy, girl-group goodness. And bonus, they were one of the first to do so, busting out onto the unsuspecting New York scene in 1963. It’s about some dude who ends a relationship from across the Atlantic via snail mail (although, I guess that’s really all that was available at the moment), not shockingly, another dude, Shadow Morton, wrote it. The sisters harmonize in defeated agony with a chorus of seagulls squawking. They aren’t really the best for pumping your fist in feminist camaraderie, but who doesn’t like smooching copies of Bop magazine now and again? Maybe I’ve said too much.

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
So I’ve begun to notice a break-up theme in this week’s Top Five. Apologies. Perhaps it simply, indirectly (or maybe directly?) implies that family members can really have a knack for assisting you in channeling fervent emotions in a creative way. And what family’s got more fervent emotions than those Jacksons? Back from the days when Michael Jackson caused only a mere blip on the cultural radar as compared to his late, creepster self, this song just makes you want to groove. A potent glissando on the ivories kicks off this lush masterpiece. Layered with bum-bum-bums, bongos and prepubescent boy-yells, you kinda can’t help but suspend your doubt to the legitimacy of 11-year-old Michael loss whilst screechin’, “Trying to live without your love/ Is one long, sleepless night.” But man, can that boy sing.

“Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959” by Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players
This song best exemplifies what families should do best: collecting obscure slideshow collections, writing/performing songs to the slides projected on a traveling screen and promoting non-smoking clubs and pigeons. OK, perhaps this trio from Brooklyn might be the only ones, but damn, do they do it well. Jason, the dad, plays guitar, piano and sings while the 15-year-old daughter (Rachel) drums and momma Tina mans the projector and slides. This track embarks on a jaunty account of well, a mountain trip to Japan circa 1959. The accompanying slides throughout the piano-drenched exploration display color-casty scenic waterfalls, hordes of cocker spaniel pups, fog-robbed buildings and a crowd of marching Japanese folks. Appropriate, huh?

“Mama Says” by The Beach Boys
Perhaps not the best Beach Boys song, but certainly the most fitting for this week’s theme, this ditty deserves top-notch honors for unbeatable barber-quartet-style a capella. Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson joined forces with their cousin Mike Love plus an extra (Al Jardine) to become perhaps the best (American) pop band ever. “Eat a lot/ Sleep a lot/ Brush ’em like crazy/ Run a lot/ Do a lot/ Never be lazy” gets repeated through the quad-pack of cherub vocals — you know, a laundry list of helpful reminders from Mom all recited sans musical instruments. Wonder what Mrs. Wilson thought of this one.