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Playlist: Guitars and Machines

14 Dec

So I generally hate modern pop (guilty pleasures aside – here’s looking at you, ‘Since You Been Gone’). So i challenged myself to make an Electric Pop playlist. All the taste and half the sugar. I call it Guitars and Machines. Enjoy.


Timmy T’s Top 10 of 2017

3 Feb

Better late than never, our resident critic serves up his usual brilliant top 10 list, with plenty of extras for y’all!



Top 10 Albums

Ke$ha – Rainbow

Best Song: “Bastards”

  • From the get-go, you’re asking yourself, “Is this Ke$ha”? And, then you go, “This is freaking really good.” It’s crazy the range she delivers on this and the versatility. An album I think I will like for many years to come. Also, her use of the Dap Kings’ horns on the “Woman” track is a nod to another great artist (also on this list), and just shows she’s delivered a huge payload by going outside of her (probable) comfort zone. Well done, Ke$ha. Well done, indeed.

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

Best Song: “Rut”

  • Man, oh man. When The Killers are ready to do something cerebrally cutting edge, you get some wildly different stuff. Good thing for them, it’s pretty darn great.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Best Song: “Shiver and Shake”

  • Okay, so I admit, he makes a lot of my lists. But, when you do great stuff, you have some great stuff. The guy can write as many great songs as if he’s producing Halloween (pun partially intended, for those who know his catalog ;)) candy in a candy factory.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Best Song: “Pain”

  • Have to allow iTunes’ description of the album to stand here, which refers to War on Drugs as a combo reproduction of Dylan, Springsteen and Petty. After losing Petty, it’s pretty tough to avoid allowing this album to take a hold of you. It’s some trippy and psychedelic stuff in a rock n’ roll throwback kind of way.

HAIM – Something To Tell You

Best Song: “Want You Back”

  • Wilson Phillips. Reincarnated. And more than two songs that are good.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman

Best Song: “Come and Be a Winner”

  • They keep getting better, and better, and better. Every time I’m listening to them, I feel like I’m caught in a time warp with the best Motown musicians there ever were. But, their albums were produced like, yesterday!

Randy Newman – Dark Matter

Best Song: “Brothers”

  • If the soundtrack to Toy Story went a little darker, you’d get this. So, it’s a bit of a disconnect from both what and how you may be used to hearing Randy Newman sing, but he really delivers. It’s easy listening with some heavy topics.

Jack Johnson – All the Light Above It Too

Best Song: “My Mind Is For Sale”

  • So far, not one bad album. And counting. Formulaic? Perhaps. But when you’re the new and improved James Taylor, why try anything different? One of the few cases in music where I would recommend, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So many artists try to do something different, and the next best thing they’ve ever done. And, they don’t. So, we’ve got Jack being Jack here, and it’s just all kinds of fine with me.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

Best Song: Fortress

  • Geez! Pretty blown away by this album. It would not be for everyone, and it even pushes me outside of my easy listening comfort zone quite a bit, but it’s heavy on a new kind of rock, that I think will preserve the possibility that rock n’ roll is here to stay, and will eventually, be back someday in a big, big way!

Diana Krall – Turn Up the Quiet

Best Song:  “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)”

  • A truly great Canadian jazz treasure. There’s hardly ever an album I don’t like. And, this is just another one of those you can play from start-to-finish when you need to tune out, but turn up and relax.

Best Songs Not in the Top 10 Albums:

U2 – “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way

  • Can’t say a lot of great things about the album, but a great song is a great song, album aside.

U2 – “You’re the Best Thing About Me” (Acoustic Version)

  • Very important you get the acoustic version. I accidentally purchased this first, before the album and thought, “I should have gotten the deluxe version; it’s probably on it.” Then, I realized, U2 isn’t smart enough these days to put the better version of this track on its album, even as a bonus track, and even if it could have elevated the album. That’s just the way they are these days.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “If We Were Vampires

  • An excellent melancholy track.

Chris Stapleton – “Second One to Know

  • Wow! Great alt-country-rock tune! Kid Rock is jealous and Ryan Adams is trying to remake it into something depressing. Just kidding (maybe?).

Jens Lekman – “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?

  • Just a fun steel drummin’ kind of time!

Lorde – “Green Light

  • A great track, a great album. She’s got infinite potential & just starting out! Had to acknowledge it somehow!

Foo Fighters – “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)

  • I always prefer the Foo on the quieter & more contemplative side, which is hard to come by on most albums.

Kid Rock – “Raining Whiskey

  • The Kid at his alt-country-rockin’ best!

Chris Stapleton – “Without Your Love

  • Total opposite sound from “Second One to Know”. A Garth Brooks “Thunder Rolls” type of feel.

Arcade Fire – “Creature Comfort

  • Not sure if I like the lyrics more or the rhythm more, but it all works in a weird sort of sounding way. Didn’t like the album, but love this track.

Honourable Mention (Album & Song):

Kelela – Take Me Apart

Best Song: “LMK”

  • A guilty R&B-poppy pleasure. What else can I say? Will give Beyonce and Rhianna a run for their money pretty right quick.
That’s all folks! Thanks for listening!


The Unsung: Latest and Greatest

26 Jan

Hey Unsungers (yes, congratulations, you are now a noun, a Collective, a Hive, a Movement, a Way of Life):

Long time no speak. I’ve been busy just like i’m sure you have been. Life moves like a jet these days, past your field of view and gone. I’m now a father and enjoying everything that comes with it. In those fleeting moments, when i get a chance to think about music, i think about songs that evoke memories of youth, when life was free and easy.  Or I think about what songs my son should hear in his early days (admittedly this is an overthink, but if all the good willing western parents of the world can arrange for their newborns to fill their bellys with organic sugar free purees, shouldn’t they conspire to have the best of music for their souls? More on that in another post). Songs are always gateways to feelings for me – the happy, the sad, the nostalgic, the introspective. More than ever, i seek out songs to take me to a certain place when i have a minute to escape.

So we keep on moving forward. There are still soundtracks to our lives, songs that still grab hold. Here are my favorites at the moment and a few thoughts, all captured in a Latest and Greatest© playlist on spotify 

Michael Kiwanuka “Love and Hate” and “May This Be Love” The more I listen to Michael, the more i believe he is the true talent of our age. His album is so….deep. Get into him, please. 

Bahamas “Way With Words” A way with words is so important. A welcome return to the chillest man in rock. 

House of Pain “Top O’ the Morning to Ya” Retro throwback. My cousin Konrad and i use to roll around the mean streets of Calgary listening to white boy rap on our way to the courts to hoop it up. Yeah it doesn’t work with the rest of this playlist but…..Go Celtics.

The Vaccines “I Can’t Quit” I loved the first Vaccines album, ‘What Did You Expect From the Vaccines’. It was the perfect mix of the Strokes, stories about models, British classicism, and west coast cool. They have largely sucked since then, but this song seems like a return to form…

Ryan Adams “Where Will You Run” – A b-side to the excellent Prisoner. Here at Unsung, we’ve been long time fans of Ryan and he can do no wrong. Especially when he is doing his best Nirvana meets 80s power pop. When he starts yelping at 2:12, i believe in rock again.

Greta Van Fleet – “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune” shameless Led Zep guitar noodling and aping? Robert Plant howling? An album cover with allusions to mythical dark forest fires that summon the fellowship in your soul? Check, check and Triple Check. Should you care when it’s such a good rip-off? No. Let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate as Wolfmother.

The Sheepdogs “Nobody” The current Flagbearers of Canadian Classic Rock. Long live our shaggy friends. New album out now….this is an album track which i can picture drinking patio pilsners to. 

“Stardust” by Willie Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr. This song is my current earworm. I was a huge Harry Connick fan in the early 90s – i thought he was going to be the second coming of Frank Sinatra, with actual songwriting and instrumentation chops. Then he went and starred in a bad romcom with Sandra Bullock. But before the corruption, he recorded a cover album on his 25th birthday. Just him, a piano, a dark studio, and some of his favorite musicians. His version of Stardust, especially the piano at 3:50, haunts me. In my humble opinion, it is simply the saddest and the most soothing melody, a song about a song about love. And then we have Willie’s version, from the excellent 1978 album of the same name. It resurrected his career and offers a completely different interpretation, warm and fuzzy like only Willie can be. I mean, just check out the album backcover:

Kudos to my record store and whisky drinking sidekick Shaun for encouraging that vinyl purchase. I haven’t regretted one moment of listening to it with a bourbon in hand.

So, all in all, that’s the beauty of Stardust. An absolute classic, almost 100 years old.

The Weavers “Wimoweh” you should immediately recognize this rhythm if you are Lion King fan, a king of the Jungle, or a past guest at my wedding 🙂  The story behind this song is fascinating. This version, by Pete Seeger and the Weavers from the 50s, is considered the evolutionary bridge between the magnificent original, and the big hit The Tokens had in the 60s. (And the version my wife perfected live and in concert, in full marital bliss, in 2015)

Happy Weekend!

Listen (!) Your Weekend Journey Mini-Playlist

11 Mar

Just a couple of gems i have recently discovered and that you need to hear for the weekend:

For the first Friday drink:

“You Belong To Me” – Ryan Adams

Say what you will about this Canadian icon, but he’s still rockin’ it long after the summer of ’69 and this is fun little ditty that will start you on the party trail in 2o seconds flat.


When the buzz kicks in:

“Hymn for the Weekend” – Coldplay

Coldplay talkin’ about being drunk and high? That is cause for celebration. Soon to be inescapable.


For driving in the Saturday morning sun:

“Can you Come Over?” – Shooter Jennings

Taken from the new Dave Cobb compilation album ‘Southern Family’ which has a bunch of country music stars singing about home. But all we care about is Shooter, son of Waylon, brother of Sturgill.


For that Saturday night dance:

“Smooth Sailin'” – Leon Bridges

So you’re in a jazz club and there is a hot Chiquita across the bar. Finish your old fashioned and go talk to her already.


For the Sunday hangover:

“Just Like A Woman” – Jeff Buckley

Recently uncovered/cover album of demos from Jeff Buckley called ‘You and I’. This is just a staggeringly beautiful cover of Dylan, perfect for that quiet moment of introspection.


For the weekend chore session:

“I Can Help” – Billy Swan

Something about this rhythm lends itself to getting some serious putterin’ done.


Happy Weekend!

January Jonesing

23 Jan

With spring seemingly an eternity away, and the last playlist a lifetime behind, its time for another Unsung batch of songs. These are the tracks that have been looping in my mind’s jukebox as of late. Eclectic, rare, popular, populist, and full of linky links. Enjoy!

  1. Rodriguez “I Wonder” – Searching for Sugar Man is a must see documentary for anyone who appreciates the Unsung. It might be one of the greatest Unsung stories of all time actually. And this song should have been a massive hit for the humble and austere Rodriguez. I’m thankful it has seen the light of day.
  2. Hozier “Someone New” – this Irish folk rocker is having quite a year isn’t he? Going from strength to strength with each new release, and each song a natural extension of Take Me To Church (check out this fine tribute by his fans). I can’t get the hook of this one out of my head.
  3. Basia Bulat “Tall Tall Shadow” – for a song to be an absolute classic, it has to sound fresh and new, but also be timeless, and not get stale dated like funky cheese (see: everything by every pop artist since 2009). This could have been released anytime in the last 50 years and still make sense and sound good. Another bright shining Canadian star, channelling Joni Mitchell and Natalie Merchant, reminding us all that you can’t run from your actions. Time to face that shadow, you January groundhogs!
  4. The Killers “Shot At The Night” – unlike our friend Basia, our buddy Brandon Flowers is unabashedly of a time when synthesizers ruled the land. My friend Tim thinks this is the best song of 2014 (even if it was released for Christmas 2013) and he’s not afraid to tell you all about it, along with all his other great picks for the year that was. Check it out, exclusively here.
  5. Al Green “I’m A Ram” – I’ve already ranted and raved about the genius of Al Green. This is the point in the album “Al Green Gets Next To You” where you are baptized by the holy spirit of funka soul and your life as a heathen is behind you. Here comes 2015. Ram on.
  6. The Zutons “Valerie” –  Warning: you are soon to be inundated with all things Mark Ronson. This guy is a bit of a super producer who has ecelectic tastes and a famous bunch of friends. His Bruno Mars track is already dominating the charts, and there will be others that follow. But ‘Valerie’ is where he got his start. The excellent Amy Winehouse version made her famous, but I’m digging the earlier Zutons version, and particularly this live one from Glastonbury. Don’t they look like they are having fun, those Brits? Bucket list: Go to Glastonbury before I am too old to wave a flag.
  7. Mickey Newbury “Why You Been Gone So Long” – this song was a direct influence on Kris Kristofferson and led him to write Me And Bobby McGee. And thus concludes the geeky music trivia portion of this playlist.
  8. Sunday Valley – Never Go To Town Again” – as I celebrate Sturgill Simpson’s victorious signing with Altlantic Records (he’s in some good company), let’s take a visit to his first band, Sunday Valley. I think he may have just invented heavy metal country. Brilliant.
  9. JJ Shiplett “Darling Let’s Go Out Tonight” – If Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen grew up in Calgary…..this is what they would sound like.
  10. The Velvet Undergound “Foggy Notion” – Speaking of Atlantic Records, the Velvets were there once. This is a demo off of their debut record. Gawd could these guys swagger. A million light years ahead of their time. The Velvet were underrated, then overrated, and now forgotten or taken for granted. If you are into the Strokes or anything to do with being NYKool, for the love of Lou Reed, please go check out their discography!!!
  11. Robert Plant “Rainbow” – I like living in a world with the possibility of epic battles between dwarves, elves and orcs. And l like living in a world where Robert Plant still croons like a Tolkien mystic about things that we only dream to see. I think he is probably walking along a misty mountain countryside right now, singing to himself, and that gives me comfort.
  12. The Tallest Man on Earth “Graceland”- the spiritual inspiration for Unsung is my favourite album of all time. The reimagining of its title track is different/good….on occasion it gives rise to goosebumps. Enjoy this January journey, and here’s hoping that you find the reason that you can’t explain.

Listen: The Return of Ryan Adams

30 Jul

So I am really digging this set by Ryan Adams and his new band…. great mix of the old classics, new gems, acoustic and electric. He’s funny and all of the old depression and arrogance are long gone. Bodes well for his upcoming tour and new album in the fall. Enjoy!

Listen to the set, recorded live at Newport here.

Long Live Keef

5 May

My new patio drinking song. Have a great Summer everybaaahdy.

Listen (!): The Lion’s Roar

26 Feb

Here are some songs that are currently rocking my world. May they rock yours too.

1. Billy Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones “Long Time Gone” – when the lead singer of Green Day and a modern day jazz interpreter get together to record an album’s worth of largely forgotten Everly Brothers covers, we should all be skeptical. But gol’ darny it works. Billy Joe has never sounded better suited to something so many worlds away from his Dookie days; I love to hear unlikely influences come to life in an obvious labour of love.

2. Temples “Move With The Season” – the latest new British band obsessed with the spring of 1967, sounding and acting like the last 50 years never happened. Their debut album is a mix of Kula Shaker (RIP), early Pink Floyd, opium blossoms and apple cider. Groovy baby.

3. Cold War Kids “Audience” – my brother keeps trying to get me in the CWK….but I can never seem to grab hold because I don’t know where to start. Until he sends me a Gateway song….this will just have to do.

4. The Pharcyde “Runnin” – this takes me back to the mid 90’s, hoopin’ and ballin’. There was always a great hip hop track blastin’ on the ghetto blasta, while we made it rain on the asphalt. Yeah, I was that small town suburbanite white teen who dreamed of a better life in the ‘hood – sue me. Who’s got next?

5. Bob Marley & The Wailers “Concrete Jungle” – picture yourself sitting in an English living room in 1973. Disco, ska, alternative and rap haven’t been invented yet. You’re probably wearing terrible bell bottoms. Then this strange reggae band from Jamaica makes their telly debut and you pop your proverbial British buttons. This is the sound that launched a thousand trips.

6. Al Green “Love and Happiness” – one good soul turn deserves another. I think our generation doesn’t really understand Al Green, because he never had a big hit. But he’s a legend, right up there with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Marvin Gaye. Check out his greatest hits.

7. Paolo Nutini “Scream” – coming soon to an Unsung profile near you, the very intriguing and eccentric Paolo Nutini and his new single from forthcoming album ‘Caustic Love’. He seems to have abandoned his previous Van Morrison meets the aforementioned Otis brilliance for whatever this is. While there are moments of funky freshness, I’m not sold on that rap breakdown and his growing reliance on the ‘green stuff’. Stay tuned….

8. Bad Company “Bad Company” – you read that right. This band was so bad ass 70’s awesome that they named a song after themselves. Paul Rodgers is one of the all-time great rock singers and appears on so many of the classics you love and know. Because of their now universal sound, I dare you to pick a Bad Company song out of a lineup with Foreigner, Free and Black Crowes songs. You can’t do it, but that doesn’t mean all those bands aren’t awesome. Til the day they die.

9. Brody Dalle “Meet the Foetus – Oh The Joy” – I’ve had a soft spot for this punk vixen since her days with the Distillers, when she routinely scorched the earth with her captivating vocals. She’s the hardened edge natural evolution of Hole, if only Courtney Love had sobered up in time/done more debauchery (you decide).

10. First Aid Kit “Emmylou” – if you haven’t checked out our Unsung profile on this wholesome duo from Sweden, start there. Teenagers shouldn’t be this good!

11. Rose Cousins and Jordie Lane “LA Freeway” – it wouldn’t be an Unsung playlist without a cover song, and what a dandy from this Aussie dude and Canadian gal. He’s touring Canada this spring and if you are a friend of mine, you will be there with me at his Calgary stop in Inglewood. I will buy you a beer, promise.

12. Madison Violet “Come As You Are” – meeting our required CANCON for this playlist was a breeze thanks to this outfit from Toronto. I think when a certain one of my friends hears this, he’s going to have to add Madison Violet to the list of female folkies he stalks. Move over, Sarah Harmer.

13. Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac “Fare Thee Well” – I’ve previously been critical of Mumford and Sons and their well-worn shtick. However this is a genuine cracker  (a cover again – maybe they should just realize their manifest destiny already!) by lead singer Marcus from the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack, which is plumb full of nice traditional folk ditties.

As we sign off for another Unsung Playlist, remember that love is happiness, and don’t forget to have a little swagger this spring. Rawrr.

“Yes Virginia, there is a good Christmas Playlist”

3 Dec

Image15The snow is falling and Christmas season has begun! A few years ago, a similarly obsessed audiophile friend and I wanted to create a Christmas album that could be enjoyed by the young and old, of both sexes. After some spirited debate about what to include and exclude, and the merits of one version of a classic over another, the resulting playlist was a true collaborative effort, which, in the humble opinion of thy narrator, came pretty close to the mark.  The burnt CD has been on high demand since its very limited release to family and friends many years ago…..but now in the spirit of the season i think its only fair our greater UnSung audience gets a chance to listen. Below is the original excerpt from the disc:

The Christmas season is here all over again. In the spirit of giving and receiving, chestnuts and holly, hot totties and misteltoe, and ice and snow, a miracle brighter than the star of Bethelhem shines radiantly upon you – the gift of music. Two giant music labels (founded by two wise men) have come together to release a collection of Christmas songs that will be sure to leave you feeling more festive than the jolly fat man himself. From Sexsmith to Sinatra, the Boss to the Bing, this playlist is the soundtrack to our Christmases past, present and future. It is truly our Christmas wish that you sit down with those nearest and dearest, pour yourself a ‘lil rum and nog, close your eyes, and soak in the musical good tidings of comfort and joy” 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy holidays!

Listen to the playlist “>here.


August and Everything After

30 Aug

August is the dying days of summer – hold on to that feeling! This month’s playlist is all about memory, looking back, looking forward, and living life. Cliché, catchy, covers, new and old, wanting to be different, wanting to belong. So just do it!

  1. Grouplove  – “Itchin’ on Photograph”. Back during Xmas 2011, Unsung turned you onto this very special band via their breakthrough single, Tongue Tied….at the time they were “an entire house party in 3.5 min, including that little hint of melancholy as the room clears and people go home.“ Their second single is an edgier affair that showcases lead singer Christian Zucconi’s range and gusto. I’m a sucker for a clapping and a good mid song kick-in and this one has ‘em in spades. Just don’t ask me what it means to be a itchin’ on a photograph or scratchin’ on a thermostat. Also check out their latest single “Ways to Go”.
  2. Arctic Monkeys – “I Wanna Know”. A swaggering sexy confessional stomp from Sheffield’s finest about that age old issue – The Drunk Dial. It’s been fun to watch these lads grow up and embrace their place amongst rock’s finest. Could their new album AM be their breakthrough in the US? Stay tuned for an Unsung breakdown next week.
  3. Alkisti Protopsalti  – “How You Remind Me” (Greek Version) . 1o days ago, I heard this on a bus from Athens to Alonissos and it took me a second to place it. Greeks have this very weird affection for some things Canadian. I always find it interesting what songs translate to other parts of our globe, and Nickelback’s first (and undisputedly, their best) hit certainly has a universal appeal. But something about the Greek language provokes passion and anthem; maybe it’s the economy, the Balkan powder keg, or all that sweet sun. Chad Kroeger, remember when you weren’t Avril’s sk8r boi?
  4. Lorde – “Rulers”. Hype surrounds this New Zealand teen, groomed by the star maker machinery  since the age of 13 to be the next big thing. Enjoy her before the tweensters do, along with her novel take on the rap-pop game.
  5. Grimes – “Genesis”. If you are listening to this playlist on your headphones without watching the videos, do yourself a favour and switch over and get little visual pleasure. Grimes is from Vancouver and the hipsters have known about her for ages; she is their dancing synth-messiah. But the straight-up weirdness of this video, a fun romp with swords through California, belittles the tender soul and hypnotic rhythm of this track. For something brilliantly different, check out her major label debut, Visions.
  6. Janelle Monae  – “Primetime”. A solid R&B banger that recalls vintage Toni Braxton and Whitney.  If you’ve never heard of Monae, watch this first and be prepared to be electrified. Her ambitious major debut was a concept album about her turning into a robot in the future. Yeah. Who knows what her new album, out in September, will concoct?
  7.  David Gray – “Money (That’s What I Want)”. The annuls of time will record that the White Ladder album was one of the millenium’s classics, a rudimentary melding of machine beats and tender folk, since evolved and aped over and over again. If you’re like me, you’ve lost track of David Gray, the bobble-headed voice overshadowed by the eclipsing power of a colossal debut. But this cover has to be one of the all-time greats, far better than the Beatles’ version, because it interprets Chuck Berry in a different light and adds a whole lot of soul. Enjoy.
  8. T- Rex- “Buick McKane”. How awesome would this song sound live in concert, drinking, doing drugs, stealing money, having sex, or just walking down the street? Rock and fucking roll. What every Oasis song aspires to be.
  9. Beady Eye – “In The Bubble With A Bullet”. Speaking of Oasis, unless you are an Oasis freak like me, you may not know that they broke up for good after one final back stage dust up involving insults about wives and busted guitars. In the fallout, brother Noel went onto a successful solo career, and brother Liam took the rest of the band and formed the oddly named Beady Eye. The rest is history. Beady Eye are mostly middle of the road and middling Brit-pop, struggling to remain relevant, still trading on the legacy of their forbearers. But this song, hidden and obscured as a UK only b-side, is an absolute gem (like most Oasis b-sides used to be), a folked-out romp that would have been at home on Rod Stewart’s classic ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’. Gawd, I miss Oasis.
  10. Kings of Leon – “Wait For Me”. Yeah, I know, you’re probably sick of Kings of Leon and are ready to lump them into the Nickelback / Bon Jovi bucket of overplayed and obvious ever since “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire”. But don’t, as Unsung will argue next week. This is gonna be their next single, and their next album is gonna be massive. If you haven’t pledged and pleaded to a loved one to be straight and honest and true, to be open and intimate, no more messing around, no more pain in the rain, next time, this time –  just like the messed-up self-professed drinker Caleb promises on this Downbound Train, you probably aren’t living life. Isn’t that all we can ask from a song? Til next time. Winter is coming, get ready.