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Deep Cuts: Forgotten gems from one-hit wonders

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Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Artist: Warren Zevon

Album: Excitable Boy

Released: January 18, 1978

Though you probably don’t know who Warren Zevon was, you’ve probably heard “Werewolves of London” before—though it’s likely more often associated with Halloween or being one of the samples on Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” than it is with Zevon. “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” is off Excitable Boy, which ended up being Zevon’s most successful album. Zevon was known for his dark, humorous and occasionally ridiculous lyricism, and that’s certainly at play in this song. The instrumentation isn’t particularly unique—a couple guitars, drums, and bass—but Zevon’s words make him special. As a musician he may not be unique, but as a songwriter there’s no one else like him.

Mexican Wine

Artist: Fountains of Wayne

Album: Welcome Interstate Managers

Released: June 10, 2003

It took me a long time to accept that Fountains of Wayne was going to end up being a one-hit wonder. Its catalogue is filled with great songs, but “Stacy’s Mom” is the only one by the four-piece power-pop group to ever get mainstream recognition. Welcome Interstate Managers is jam-packed with catchy riffs and quirky imagined characters in its songs. I still go back to listen to it now and then, and when I do, it’s “Mexican Wine” that stands out for me. It’s fun, slightly bittersweet, and, perhaps most importantly, very satisfying pop music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTYASJQNtA0&feature=youtu.be

Tiny Little Bows

Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen

Album: Kiss

Released: September 14, 2012

The sheer magnitude of “Call Me Maybe” meant that any other Jepsen track would likely be a disappointment—and this ended up being the case. Her album Kiss did sell fairly well, but it was largely on the back of that one megahit. “Tiny Little Bows,” the album’s opening track, is solid candy pop built on layered synths and a funky, slapped bass part. The sample of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” also adds a nice touch. Though the lyricism is not all that strong—rarely deviating from the structure used in the first verse and chorus—it’s hard to get the words out of your head once they’re caught there.

White Houses

Artist: Vanessa Carlton

Album: Harmonium

Released: October 21, 2004

Like Jepsen, Vanessa Carlton’s rise was due largely to a single massively popular song that ultimately overshadowed any of her later releases. “White Houses” was the only single off of her second album, Harmonium, that was considered a commercial failure. Musically, “White Houses” follows a similar formula to her hit “A Thousand Miles”—piano laying the foundation with strings swelling and drums pushing things along. But in “White Houses,” Carlton is reflecting on mistakes, not yearning for love. While her sophomore album may have been a disappointment, this song remains a bright spot.

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