LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
If you're looking for the perfect song or any occasion, then Nic Harcourt is your man. He's the author of "Music Lust: Recommended Listening for Every Mood, Moment and Reason." Mr. Harcourt is also host of KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic." He joins us to talk about his book as well as some of the best music we may have missed this past year.
Thanks for being with us.
Mr. NIC HARCOURT (Author, "Music Lust"): Thank you so much for asking. Pleasure to talk to you.
WERTHEIMER: The book you've written is basically a big list, a list of what you consider some of the best music ever, right?
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, it's a book of some lists. You know, when the publishers actually came to me--and I was in the very fortunate position of somebody asking me if I would like to write a book, so I figured I probably should; they might not ask again--I basically started to put together lists and categories of music that I found interesting, and that I hoped that other people might find interesting, as well. And it runs the gamut, really, from talking about the Rat Pack and the important records that those guys made to perhaps albums you might have missed. For example, there's an album that I loved that came out probably around about 15 years ago by a group called the Liberty Horses. Never put out another record, just this one album.
WERTHEIMER: How do you--how'd you pick them?
Mr. HARCOURT: Basically albums that I felt that perhaps a lot of people were not aware of. I mean, Patti Smith is somebody that you know, that I know, and perhaps people know the name, but how many people really know Patti Smith's music, especially if you're perhaps 25 years old? You know, "Horses" came out 30 years ago now. If you're a younger person just getting into music, you might not know Patti Smith's music or the importance of Patti Smith, so that's why that album is in there.
WERTHEIMER: So let's talk about overlooked music from this year. What's on your list?
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, there's a couple of things. You know, one of the brightest moments for me, watching television this past year, was at the Academy Awards, when Jorge Drexler, who's an artist from Uruguay, won the Oscar for the best song, original song in a movie. His song was included in the movie soundtrack for "The Motorcycle Diaries." And any of your listeners who were watching that will remember that he actually wasn't allowed to perform his song. They actually had Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas perform this song. When he won the award, he got up on stage and instead of giving an acceptance speech and thanking everybody he could think of, he just sang his song a cappella. That was so touching to me. We had Jorge on our program just a couple of weeks after that and he performed a song for us which we ended up putting on a compilation CD that we've released of Latin alternative artists called "Sounds Eclectico," and we're going to play you a track from it right now. It's Jorge Drexler.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. JORGE DREXLER (Recording Artist): (Singing in Spanish)
WERTHEIMER: Very tender, that music. Let's keep going down the list.
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, up next is a band called The Magic Numbers. This is from a CD that I fell in love with at the beginning of this year when I got a copy of it as an import from the UK. My favorite album of the year--it's self-titled--and we're going to listen to a song called "Love's A Game."
(Soundbite of "Love's A Game")
THE MAGIC NUMBERS (Band): (Singing) Maybe I've walking in line. And maybe you should try to make this time. I'm an honest mistake that you made. Could you make time? Oh, did you mean, oh, did you mean love is just a game, broken all the same? Hey now, I will get over you. Love is just a laugh, happens all the time. Swear I know this much is true.
WERTHEIMER: That is straight out of seventh-grade, that one.
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, you're beginning to get where I'm coming from, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: I like the name of the group Joy Zipper that's on your list. Here's a track which is called "Out of the Sun."
(Soundbite of "Out of the Sun")
JOY ZIPPER (Band): (Singing) Sun. Then it came to me from another place. So I buried it. So I buried it. Sun. It came to me the other day, so unreal, so mannequin.
WERTHEIMER: Nic, this also, this track is very poppy and it kind of reminds me of The Beatles. Are you back in another decade? Is that the deal?
Mr. HARCOURT: Yeah, I'm still in the '60s. I'm four years old right now. I'm still back in the '60s. You know, something about this song just caught my attention. I can't really explain it. Joy Zipper, it's an independent band that's a couple who write music together from Long Island, New York. They put out this record called "American Whip." And that song I just loved.
WERTHEIMER: Let's hear another one of your picks. This is from your list. This is from the hip-hop artist called M.I.A.
(Soundbite of song)
M.I.A. (Hip-hop Artist): (Singing) People pollute. Let the pull out. Let the people pollute. Let the pull out. Let the pollute. Pull out the pull out. Let the pull out. Let the pull out. Sometime, at the MIA time, I get the bones to make a (censored). I get the business, make you blind. Sometime, at the MIA time, I get the bones to make you blow. I get the biz to make you blind.
WERTHEIMER: So, Nic, tell us about this one.
Mr. HARCOURT: M.I.A. is nom de plume from an artist out of Sri Lanka who actually resides in London right now, also spent a little bit of time in New York. And what she's done with this debut record called "Arula," which came out a little bit earlier on this year, is really mix up a lot of different things, some hip-hop beats. There's a little bit of raga from the South Asian continent, and a lot of slang in there as well. Lyrically, it very much addresses what's going on in the world now, and this girl's father, actually, is a rebel leader in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. He's still there, apparently. So she's got an interesting take on life.
WERTHEIMER: Now a number of your picks are British-born or British-based. Are you promoting the old country?
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, you know, it's hard to escape where you come from. As I said a little bit earlier, I grew up listening to The Beatles. That's the music that my parents played. And as a young teen-ager, the music I listened to was pop music over in the UK. And I'm always going to be drawn to that sensibility. So invariably on my end-of-year lists there's always a number of British artists.
WERTHEIMER: OK, we have time for one more song. And let's make it the best, or at least one of the best of the year.
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, this last song is actually a song from a Los Angeles-based group called She Wants Revenge. And I'm currently working on a television program called "Love Monkey" as a music supervisor, and this is a group that we actually put into the program performing live in the show. And this song is called "Monologue."
(Soundbite of "Monologue")
SHE WANTS REVENGE (Band): (Singing) We will take love and swear upon the things that we just can't keep. And this is the time of night when the moonlight shines down and we can reveal who we truly are within the darkest, most depraved of joys.
WERTHEIMER: Nic, I think you're doing it again. This one is kind of David Bowie?
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, they just sound English. You know, interestingly enough, they get compared with Interpol, who are actually a band from New York...
Mr. HARCOURT: ...who also sound English...
Mr. HARCOURT: ...and all of--all of these bands...
WERTHEIMER: And dress English.
Mr. HARCOURT: Well, exactly, in black and the skinny ties. And all of these bands, I think, have one thing in common, which is they look back to that early '80s type of music that was coming out of the UK like, I guess, Bowie to a certain extent and the Cure and other groups, as well, like Joy Division, in particular, I think.
WERTHEIMER: Well, Nic, thanks very much.
Mr. HARCOURT: My pleasure. Thanks for asking. Happy New Year.
WERTHEIMER: Nic Harcourt is the host of "Morning Becomes Eclectic" on KCRW in Santa Monica and he's the author of a new book, "Music Lust: Recommended Listening for Every Mood, Moment and Reason." For a list of the music you heard today and to find out how to listen to Nic Harcourt's show on the Internet, come to our Web site, npr.org.
(Soundbite of "Monotonous")
SHE WANTS REVENGE: (Singing) ...darkest, most depraved of joys. Into the (unintelligible) and she'd like to try. Just give me the safe word and take your hand and slap me in the mouth, my...
WERTHEIMER: This is WEEKEND EDITION. Scott Simon is back next week. I'm Linda Wertheimer.