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Eccentric pop auteur Liam Hayes shares a non-algorithmic playlist

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Liam Hayes

Chicago-based musician Liam Hayes has been making soulful baroque pop for a couple decades now. His orchestral leanings and respect for the classical age of American pop have earned him plenty of comparisons to Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach, and have made him an icon in the small but fervent cult devoted to that sound. One of his better known fans is Roman Coppola, who had Hayes appear in his film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. In a few weeks Hayes will release a new album, Slurrup (out Jan. 13 on Fat Possum) that upholds his reputation for intricately crafted compositions and unshakeable hooks.

In preparation for Slurrup‘s release, Hayes has made EW a playlist. “This is not a desert island or deep cuts list,” he writes. “It’s not based on an algorithm and they are in no particular order. These are just some songs that I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy. Perhaps you will too.”

1) “You Are My Starship” – Norman Connors

Forecast: Light flurries of Jazz turning into a Quiet Storm by evening. Mr. Connors will be piloting “You” …….Departure time…undetermined. Please be punctual, but don’t arrive too soon.

2) “Govinda” – Radha Krishna Temple

One of George Harrison’s side projects: recording the London Hare Krishnas and taking it to the Top of the Pops. In 1972 he gave his manor in Watford to their organization. How’s that for non-attachment? When I last checked, they were still there, chanting away.

3) “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” – Helen Reddy

What a great voice and what a beautiful tune. Powerful yet feminine, she’s singing about love and liberation. She’s asking for R-E-S-P-E-C-T without screaming and shouting.

4) “No Other” – Gene Clark

Full of a heavy kind of beauty, no expense was spared in realizing Gene Clarke’s vision on “No Other” (the album on which this song appears). If you consider the title and think about it long enough, your mind just might get exhausted chasing its tail and stop its churning for a moment.

5) “Unconscious Power” – Iron Butterfly

For years, a kind of secularized church music had found its way into R&B and rock. The church music that largely informed Iron Butterfly was of a different variety: Lutheran. It’s the sound of a pipe organ played on a Farfisa and here they’re testifying about redemption of the mind. Once this process begins, “the unbelievable is going to happen.” In the meantime, play this on repeat.

6) “Moonlight Feels Right” – Starbuck

An updated dose of bubblegum; more adult and FM, with its own, wholly unique sound. It has back to back marimba and synthesizer solos and is lyrically ambiguous enough to raise a question or two. There’s a guy. There’s a girl, presumably. There’s moonlight. There’s dubious laughter before the chorus. Are they traveling to the oceanside in a convertible or by bus? Either way, the narrator is looking to “drop the top at Chesapeake Bay.”

7) “Make Your Own Kind of Music”- Cass Elliot

Mama Cass’ solo records are a kind of antidote to some of the darkness you find dwelling in “Papa” John Phillips’ songs. Cass Elliot was, at heart, a Broadway singer who brought her own version of “Flower Power” into the world of pop and show tunes. It’s hard for me to feel anything but happy when I hear her singing. “Make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along.”

8) “Future/Now” -MC5

There was a time, believe it or not, when music was seen by many, as a force for changing people’s lives. The MC5 were living “it” and were, for a moment, the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll as a force….. of nature. This tune is a highly effective solvent for cleaning dirty mirrors. Have a look. All it takes is a “five second decision.”

9) “Him” – Rupert Holmes

“Him” is not about tropical drinks, personal ads or answering machines being a novelty. Infidelity is an equal opportunity employer and here he sings, from the guy’s side, about this most unpleasant subject. A well written, beautifully strange combination of sadness, attenuated anger and high-gloss production.

10) “1984” – Spirit

Remember the Apple Computer commercial from that year? A rebellious subject runs into an auditorium full of zombified people and hurls a sledgehammer, shattering a giant screen from which they are being addressed by Big Brother. The liberating slogan “Why 1984 won’t be like 1984” follows. I’m happy to not have to sit in an auditorium. Coffee shops are nicer places to sit and watch a screen.

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