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This post originally appeared at Reveille Magazine in spring of 2008.

Who would win in a fight between a Band of Horses and a Band of Bees? How would a Birdmonster stand up to a pair of Wolf Eyes? Wonder no more.

It’s a question even older than Animal Collective: Given the menagerie of animal band names out there, who’s got the will to be a champion? Since judgment of music is subjective, the only real way to determine the winner from 24 challengers for the crown of Animal Band Name to Rule Them All is to pair them off and fight to the death. With extreme prejudice, here is how I ranked the field.

1. Eagles of Death Metal
2. Wolf Parade
3. Mastodon
4. Grizzly Bear
5. Phoenix
6. Birdmonster
7. We Are Wolves
8. Band of Horses
9. Band of Bees
10. AIDS Wolf
11. Frog Eyes
12. Foals
13. Fleet Foxes 
14. rinôçérôse
15. Caribou
16. The Eagles
17. The Wrens
18. The Cows
19. Tortoise
20. Panda Bear
21. The Ponys
22. Wolf Eyes
23. Modest Mouse
24. Eels

The top eight seeds are all getting byes for the first round. The top four were really no-brainers: Whether because of size or ferocity, they all deserve to be up there, and The Eagles of Death Metal have death metal on their side. Phoenix and Birdmonster? Well, the phoenix is a mythical creature, and who knows what the fuck a Birdmonster is, so they’re up there for potential. We Are Wolves only trails Wolf Parade because of what seem to be some self-esteem issues; Wolf Parade don’t need a press release to tell us who they are—they’re putting on a goddamn parade! Band of Horses—well, there’s just a lot of them.

A few notes about the rest of the field: AIDS Wolf is just one wolf, and it has AIDS, so clearly not up there with the Elite Eight, but also still a wolf. Wolf Eyes went in heavily favored over Frog Eyes because, hey, frog vs. wolf is no contest, but instead they ended up at 22 while Frog Eyes leaped to 11. Strength of schedule played a heavy part in seeding. Modest Mouse could have won a higher seed, but too modest. rinôçérôse was a heavy favorite going into seeding, but French, so, no. And watch out for Band of Bees; they’re looking like a favorite to upset a higher seed or two.

There were also some band names that couldn’t make it: The Hawks (disqualified from the NABNA (National Animal Band Name Association) for changing their name to The Band), Emmet Otter’s Jug Band (actually otters), The Frogs (season-ending eye injury), Swans (previous commitment to an Akron/Family picnic and reunion with Ugly Duckling), The Jayhawks (still celebrating their win in the NCAA Tournament), and Cannibal Ox (cannibalism will not be tolerated).

THE FIRST ROUND

9. Band of Bees vs. 24. Eels — As always, home field advantage played a huge advantage here, with the Band of Bees squaring off against some Eels in a flower-filled meadow. The bees mostly made honey while waiting for the eels to expire.

10. AIDS Wolf vs. 23. Modest Mouse — This one was over before it began, AIDS or no.

11. Frog Eyes vs. 22. Wolf Eyes — Both these teams actually had to win play-in games against “Hungry Eyes” and “Private Eyes,” respectively. Momentum favored Wolf Eyes, who rode it into the second round.

12. Foals vs. 21. The Ponys — The Ponys were too undersized to match up in the post, plus the Foals had youth on their side.

13. Fleet Foxes vs. 20. Panda Bear — Fleet, but not fleet enough. In the first upset of the tournament, Panda Bear moves on to the second round.

14. rinôçérôse vs. 19. Tortoise — Playing with some hunger (perhaps to avenge a low seed), rinôçérôse handled Tortoise with little difficulty.

15. Caribou vs. 18. The Cows — It’s pretty hard to get a bunch of herbivores to fight, but numbers won the day as The Cows beat out the undermanned Caribou.

16. The Eagles vs. 17. The Wrens — The Wrens were probably seeded too high here, taken easily by The Eagles. Hey, at least it’s not the BCS.

THE SECOND ROUND

1. The Eagles of Death Metal vs. 16. The Eagles — Once again, in a fight between some eagles and some eagles powered by death metal, who are you going to pick? Also, there was apparently some trouble with transportation from the hotel for The Eagles, resulting in their late arrival and a lack of warm-up time. Something about checking in but not being able to leave.

2. Wolf Parade vs. 18. The Cows — Was this ever in question? Wolf Parade decimated The Cows, drubbing them even more soundly than they did The Little Red Riding Hoods earlier in the season.

3. Mastodon vs. 14. rinôçérôse
— A close one, but ultimately, rinôçérôse couldn’t handle Mastodon’s size, not to mention a lack of advance scouting, since no one’s seen a mastodon for millions of years. Also, cold weather played a factor.

4. Grizzly Bear vs. 20. Panda Bear — The match-up everyone was looking forward to this season. Not as close as you might have expected, either, since Panda Bear mostly just ate bamboo and acted cute, while Grizzly Bear got down to business.

5. Phoenix vs. 12. Foals — It was hard to know how to call this one, but Phoenix basically just outlasted Foals. Never underestimate your opponent when they can rise from their own ashes.

6. Birdmonster vs. 22. Wolf Eyes — I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what a Birdmonster is. A gryphon? One of those roosters that turn people to stone? Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it could kick the shit out of a pair of eyes from a wolf.

7. We Are Wolves vs. 10. AIDS Wolf — In the most heroic game to feature an HIV-positive athlete since Magic Johnson suited up for the All-Star Game in 1992, AIDS Wolf trounced We Are Wolves singlehandedly.

8. Band of Horses vs. 9. Band of Bees — Another much-anticipated match-up here, with heavy favorite Band of Horses falling to Band of Bees. Bees can sting, you know, whereas horses can’t really do much other than run and chew.

THE THIRD ROUND

1. The Eagles of Death Metal vs. 9. Band of Bees — Once again, bees have the stingers, but these eagles have death metal. No contest. E of DM advances.

4. Grizzly Bear vs. 5. Phoenix — Grizzly Bear showed a lot of heart in this one, but each time they had the bird on the ropes, it would just burst into flames, light the bear on fire, and come back to life. You just can’t teach that kind of heart. Phoenix FTW.

2. Wolf Parade vs. 10. AIDS Wolf
— AIDS Wolf was really the Cinderella story of this tournament, but the ride couldn’t last forever. Wolf Parade advances in a close one.

3. Mastodon vs. 6. Birdmonster — With no one still really sure just what a Birdmonster is, Mastodon rolls to victory handily. If you haven’t got a solid team identity going into a tournament like this, you’re not going to go all the way.

THE SEMIFINALS


1. The Eagles of Death Metal vs. 5. Phoenix — A titanic clash of mystical powers. On one side, the mythical phoenix, endowed with the ability to come back from the dead. On the other, death metal-powered birds of prey. I’m sorry, but magical fire is no match for leather jackets, chains, flying Vs, and mullets. Eagles of Death Metal advance to the championship.

2. Wolf Parade vs. 3. Mastodon — Wolves were practically born to hunt Mastodon, and once again, it comes down to sheer numbers. One wolf? Not a chance, and certainly not one with AIDS. It took the whole pack and the floats from their parade, but Wolf Parade take down Mastodon to advance.

THE FINALS

1. The Eagles of Death Metal vs. 2. Wolf Parade — It always seems to come down to the one and two seed, doesn’t it? Perhaps drained by their effort in the previous round against Phoenix, The Eagles of Death Metal came out flat in this one, and once a parade of wolves has a grip on your throat, they’re going for the kill.

YOUR CHAMPION … WOLF PARADE

Don’t expect a dynasty though; some of the wolves are declaring early for the draft. 

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… this is what I mean. Just taking a quick scan down the Wikipedia page for the year 2000 in music, here are the albums that stand out to me:

D’AngeloVoodoo
Ghostface KillahSupreme Clientele
Elliott SmithFigure 8
Death Cab for CutieWe Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes
Yo La TengoAnd Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Aimee MannThe Bachelor No. 2
EminemMarshall Mathers LP
Modest MouseThe Moon and Antarctica
Slum VillageThe Fantastic, Vol. 2
DeftonesWhite Pony
ColdplayParachutes
At the Drive-InRelationship of Command
RadioheadKid A
OutkastStankonia
The New PornographersMass Romantic

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Warp + Weft: The Black Crowes :: Amorica

The Black Crowes
Amorica
American Recordings
1994

If a band’s albums are to be judged against a yardstick that measures, somehow, how perfect an expression a given album is of what that band represents at their best, then Amorica is certainly not The Black Crowes’ best album. Taken at a glance, The Black Crowes, as a band, seem to embody a kind of modern rock extension of the tradition of The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They are distinctly southern, but bluesy and rootsy. They seem enamored of the trappings of the rock lifestyle: the excess, the drunken romance of it, and most definitely the weed. If their debut record, Shake Your Moneymaker, came in wearing a leather jacket and strutting across the floor, the follow-up, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, shed that jacket to show off a ragged button-down and a string of beads around its neck. They toured with a lighting rig composed entirely of Christmas lights, Chris Robinson danced around barefoot on the Persian rugs the band toted to every venue, and the record’s sepia-tinted cover laid claim to a broader pallette than Southern Rock as envisioned by Skynyrd and the Allmans.

The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion distinctly echoes the cover of The Band’s self-titled debut album, and on it, The Black Crowes deepened their sound with gospel choirs, Hammond B-3 organs, and positioned themselves as more than simply “The Most Rock and Roll Rock and Roll Band in the World,” a title bestowed upon them by Melody Maker magazine. They were the heirs to the “Southern thing” as Drive-By Truckers would dub it some ten years later. If The Black Crowes, as a band, could be taken as a simulacrum that combined elements of Southern rock, blues, gospel, hippie idealism, and a kind of Faulknerian drama and grandness, then The Southern Harmony and Music Companion is that idea’s most perfect expression.

But Amorica's much more interesting, especially when placed into the arc of the Crowes' career. If their debut set the formula, and their sophomore release represented the ultimate realization of that formula, the rest of their career has more or less represented a fall from grace. After the increased experimentation and diminishing sales of Amorica and Three Snakes and One Charm, the band attempted to revisit their earlier success with stripped-down rock and roll on By Your Side, but with middling success. Their collaboration with Jimmy Page playing Led Zeppelin songs was more successful, but only served to point out how tired their own material had become. Lions was an unmitigated disaster—a terrible album. And there the story peters out. Their lineup has been terribly unstable since By Your Side, although most of the original lineup has reunited and apparently, they have a new album—entitled Warpaint—in the can and ready for release. The issue of whether they can recapture some of their former magic is really immaterial, because we already have Amorica.

Like the parties in The Hold Steady’s “How a Resurrection Really Feels,” the Crowes started out lovely, but then they got druggy. For a band that was always more about the appearance of lawlessness than its pursuit, the cover image—a close-up shot of a woman’s nether regions barely concealed beneath an American flag bikini bottom—seems like a calculated stab at controversy. The music contained within is nothing half so shocking as the cover, since the Crowes were always more diehard romantics than predators and singer Chris Robinson is forever falling for hard luck cases who wouldn’t be out of place in an Atmosphere song (cf. “Nonfiction” and “She Gave Good Sunflower” here and “Girl from a Pawnshop” on Three Snakes or “Sometimes Salvation” from Southern Harmony).

The music is not so much aggressive or hard as overripe and thick. Even taut, rhythm-driven numbers like “Gone” or “High Head Blues” are giant-sounding. On “Gone,” for instance, the song already sounds fully arrived by the time the bass slides in at the 1:10 mark, driving it even further into the groove. Both “Gone” and “High Head Blues” show a burgeoning interest in the influence that funk had on rock in the ’70s, like on War’s “Low Rider.” The band stretches in other ways as well. “P.25 London” is probably the heaviest track the band have ever recorded, and it features a truly stunning slide solo, plus some of Rich Robinson’s most inventive rhythm playing. If you listen closely on the left channel in the verses, you can hear him slice and dice the gaps in his part with obvious relish.

“Nonfiction” shows how modest they can go with a ballad, while “Descending” shows just how bombastic they can get with the same format. The latter’s beautifully baroque piano intro (if you listen on headphones you can hear the snare drum rattling in the background—a testament to the band’s live approach in the studio) is a truly majestic rock moment, and Chris Robinson actually manages a well-thought-out metaphor in the second verse: “But I will let it slide. / Slide, like mercury. / All silver and quick, baby / Poisonous and deadly.” “Descending” is proof of how far you can go with style over substance when you really believe in it.

Robinson’s lyrics are, essentially, not about anything at all. He mostly relies on stock imagery and his brother Rich’s ability to drive the band forward so dizzyingly that you barely notice how little sense he makes. Take, for instance, this gem from “A Conspiracy”: “So now you got a question about your answer, yeah, yeah, yeah / Say try your Adam’s Apple / Oh, you talk it try it like it right / Say, do you want to fight? / Well all right, say, let’s step outside.” In the context of the song, though, it sounds right: cocky, brash, confrontational, perhaps a little drunk. Recently, the band re-issued the long lost album, Tall, that was supposed to follow Southern Harmony but was scrapped before Amorica was recorded. The same string of lyrics on the version of “A Conspiracy” from Tall is much the worse because they simply don’t fall right. It sounds like Robinson can’t quite believe in them there, and attitude makes all the difference when it comes to The Black Crowes.

Listening to Tall is instructive in other ways as well. It shares seven tracks with Amorica, and the ones that it does not share are almost all not only weaker than the songs that would make up Amorica, they’re weaker in a very specific way. They all show symptoms of what would eventually turn the Crowes back towards their roots: dissolution and lack of focus. Throughout their career, The Black Crowes have fought against battling impulses to, on the one hand, play good old fashioned rock and roll and, on the other, to strive for something grander and more majestic. On their debut, the split was roughly 8/2 in favor of straight-ahead rock; on Southern Harmony it’s more like 2/8 the other way around; on Amorica it’s 1/9 (throwaway track “Downtown Money Waster” being the exception). Three Snakes and One Charm begins to tilt the other way with a 3/9 ratio, and then By Your Side tips the balance firmly back in favor of straight-ahead rock at around 8/3.

Obviously, this isn’t a simple math equation, though, because one of the odd things that starts happening with Three Snakes is that the stuff that pushes the band further out begins to push them almost too far out. “Bring On, Bring On” and “How Much for Your Wings” reach mighty far out in terms of structure and instrumentation and, while not total failures, don’t manage to live up to the grandeur of earlier efforts like “Descending” and “Cursed Diamond” from Amorica. At the same time, their straight-ahead rockers begin to feel much more like placeholders, like just marking time. “Let Me Share the Ride” from Three Snakes is a prime example; it’s a chugging road tune that’s been beefed up with some horns, but nothing more.

Following Amorica, they basically became victims of their own success. They had pushed their abilities to the limit on Southern Harmony and then pushed them even a bit further on Amorica, but by then they’d gone too far to really come back to the bare bones approach of Shake Your Money Maker. They’re hardly alone in this problem. Both Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins experienced similar problems when they reached a kind of idealized version of their band’s own image. Weezer peaked in their Platonic ideal with The Blue Album, although artistically with Pinkerton, and Smashing Pumpkins peaked with Siamese Dream, although time has made Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness look like a much better follow-up than it initially appeared. In each case, the band in question seemed to be an expression of a kind of idea: Weezer was the ultimate combination of hook-centric pop, frustrated teenage desire, and buzzsaw guitars while Smashing Pumpkins held forth the promise of marrying the gigantic sound of ’70s arena- and prog-rock to that same kind of teen angst.

In fact, bands are ideas to the people who listen to them. How a band deals with this can become more and more problematic with success and time. It’s this phenomenon that leads to the “sophomore slump.” If a band has one album, the arithmetic is pretty simple: that record is who that band is. But when a band goes to record its second record, it’s already a far different group from the one that created a successful debut. In The Black Crowes’ case, they somehow managed to become even more the band that they seemed to be on their first record with their second record. “She Talks to Angels” might still be their enduring hit, but Southern Harmony is their ultimate statement.

Amorica is where they begin to lose their grip on that idea of who they are, but we’re ever so lucky they made an album while it was happening. Sprawling, decadent, overreaching, but tremendously self-assured, it’s an album that any band should be proud to have created. The general public, though, didn’t so much feel that way, and, faced with diminishing sales, the band attempted to strike a balance on Three Snakes and One Charm. That record’s failure found them trying to return to their initial success with By Your Side, but that record had the lowest sales of their career.

To put it simply, they lost the thread. But who can blame them? Belief is hard to hold on to, and as a band they were at their best when they were teetering on the edge of losing that sense of who they were. With every record since Amorica, there have been a round of interviews where Chris Robinson has said, essentially, this is the real Black Crowes. Before the release of Lions, he told Billboard Magazine, “For the first time since we started this whole thing, there are people looking ahead, as opposed to looking at what we’ve done.” The thing is, it’s hard enough to know yourself, and much harder to know exactly how a group of people create something so much bigger than themselves. Sometimes, the best things about a band are unknowable to the band itself, and when that’s the case, it’s usually wise to look neither back nor forward, but simply to go, and go as big, broad, and wild as you can.

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"Pry, To" by Pearl Jam from Vitalogy reversed: “Hey, Mr. Townshend, how you saved my life.”

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<snore>

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So here I am just watching a re-run of last night’s Daily Show while trying to motivate to finish grading my students’ final papers, and on comes an ad for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of “The Town.” As has become the custom now, the ad not only enjoins you to purchase said movie on the digital format of your choice, but also goes to great pains to point out that it’s not yet available on Netflix or Red Box. Which all just seems fascinating because it points out there’s really only two desires we as Americans have when it comes to our consumption: getting it faster or not having to do any work to get it. Netflix lets us open a webpage and click a box and then get a DVD in the mail without even really realizing we’ve done anything. But if you want to get “The Town,” that’s just not going to cut it. You have to go to a different webpage (Amazon, say) and pay more money but with the promise of getting it before other people who are lazy in a different way.

So pick your poison. Do you want things fast, or do you want things lazy?

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Rereading Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has me thinking about this. I love a good kiss.

3.

"He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips, as though they were the vehicle of vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour."

—James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist

2.

'Above,' she said. This was one of the words we had been asked to practice for our preposition exam. 'The pine cone,' she said, 'is above the leaves.'

'Are you ready for that?' I asked.

'I think so,' said Allison. 'I'll study some more tonight.'

The sun slipped briefly behind behind a cloud, and a blackbird shot past us with a sudden vabap of its wings.

I aimed my finger at the leaf arrangement. ‘Beneath,’ I said. ‘The leaves are beneath the pine cone.’

Her voice gave a trill. ‘Pretty clever.’ She folded her arms around me, clasping her hands at my shoulder.

'And this,' she said, 'is around.'

A little hm of surprise escaped my throat. ‘About,’ I said—and holding tight, I repeated her gesture.

'Toward,' she said.

'Beside,' I said.

'Across.'

'Near.'

'Against.'

The far side of the school hummed with the voices of parents and idling cars. My temple was pressed to Allison’s, my arms to her back, the turn of my face to the turn of her own. She shifted her weight, and her jackt rucked together at my side. She brought her teeth together, and I felt the motion of them against the pad of her cheek. When she blinked and drew toward me, parting her lips, my heart tumbled over inside me like an hourglass.

'Betwixt,' she said. 

—Kevin Brockmeier, “Apples”

1.

But now, waiting in the chair, and why worry about time, the meaning of her kissed had become all things to me. In the variety of the tone of her words, moods, hugs, kisses, brushes of the lips, and this night the upside-down kiss over the back of the chair with her dark eyes heavy hanging and her blushing cheeks full of sweet blood and sudden tenderness brooding like a hawk over the boy over the back, holding the chair on both sides, just an instant, the startling sudden sweet fall of all her hair over my face and the soft downward brush of her lips, a moment’s penetration of sweet lip flesh, a moment’s drowned in thinking and kissing in it and praying and hoping and in the mouth of life when life is young to burn cool skin eye-blinking joy—I held her captured upside down, also just for a second, and savored the kiss which first had surprised me like blind man’s bluff so I didn’t know really who was kissing me for the very first instant but now I knew and knew everything more than ever, as, grace-wise, she descended to me from the upper dark where I’d thought only cold could be and with all her heavy lips and breast in my neck and on my head and sudden fragrance of the night brought with her from the porch, of some 5 & 10 cheap perfumes of herself the little hungry scent of perspiration warm in her flesh like preciousness.

—Jack Kerouac, Maggie Cassidy

Seriously. That second sentence of the Kerouac is also one of my top ten favorite giant sentences ever.

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Talking to some students at Woodbury High School yesterday, I got asked what kind of music I listen to when I’m writing. Here are my top five albums/artists to listen to when I’m really trying to get something done:

5. Mogwai :: Come On Die Young and Young Team


4. Sigur Ros :: Agaetis Byrjun

3. Miles Davis :: Bitches Brew

2. Fennesz :: Endless Summer Black Sea

1. Tarentel :: Ghetto Beats on the Surface of the Sun

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To celebrate the Fourth of July, Calley and I spent more time than was strictly necessary putting together this mix of 50 songs (well, 51 with Washington, D.C.) about the 50 states. Or rather, related to the 50 states. You get the point.

Alabama: “Stars Fell On Alabama” :: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Alaska: “Alaska” :: Dr. Dog
Arizona: “Hotel Arizona” :: Wilco
Arkansas: “Home” :: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (“Alabama, Arkansas, I do love my ma and pa …”)
California: “California Stars” :: Billy Bragg & Wilco
Colorado: “Colorado” :: Grizzly Bear
Connecticut: “Peace Frog” :: The Doors (“Blood in the streets / of the town of New Haven …”)
Delaware: “Is This Thing On?” :: The Promise Ring (“Delaware: Are you aware of Air Supply and Television …”)
District of Columbia: “Washington, D.C.” :: Magnetic Fields
Florida: “Florida” :: The Push Kings
Georgia: “Midnight Train to Georgia” :: Gladys Knight
Hawaii: “Hawaii” :: Haley Bonar
Idaho: “Private Idaho” :: The B-52s
Illinois: “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!” :: Sufjan Stevens (“I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S …”)
Indiana: “Indiana Jones” :: Vermont
Iowa: “Iowa” :: Dar Williams
Kansas: “Train from Kansas City” :: Neko Case (We know, it’s probably Kansas City, MO)
Kentucky: “Bowling Green” :: The Everly Brothers
Louisiana: “Going Back to Louisiana” :: Bruce Channel
Maine: “Pink Chimneys” :: The Promise Ring (“Pink chimneys in Maine / couldn’t keep me away …”)
Maryland: “Baltimore” :: The Tamlins
Massachusetts: “Mass Pike” :: The Get Up Kids
Michigan: “I’ve Got a Girl in Kalamazoo” :: Tex Beneke
Minnesota: “Minnesota” :: The Dandy Warhols
Mississippi: “Mississippi Goddam” :: Nina Simone
Missouri: “Missouri” :: Low
Montana: “Big Sky Country” :: Chris Whitley
Nebraska: “Nebraska” :: Bruce Springsteen
Nevada: “Viva Las Vegas” :: Elvis Presley
New Hampshire: “New Hampshire” :: Matt Pond PA
New Jersey: “Jersey Shore” :: The Promise Ring
New Mexico: “New Mexico” :: Florida
New York: “New York, New York” :: Cat Power
North Carolina: “North Carolina” :: The Oranges Band
North Dakota: “Fargo” :: The Small Cities
Ohio: “Ohio” :: Damien Jurado
Oklahoma: “Oklahoma” :: Scud Mountain Boys
Oregon: “Oregon Girl” :: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Pennsylvania: “Freedom of ‘76” :: Ween
Rhode Island: “Rhode Island Is Famous For You” :: Blossom Dearie
South Carolina: “Oh Carolina” :: Shaggy
South Dakota: “Reno Dakota” :: Magnetic Fields
Tennessee: “Tennessee” :: Arrested Development
Texas: “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” :: The Mountain Goats
Utah: “The Great Salt Lake” :: Band of Horses
Vermont: “Moonlight In Vermont” :: Ella Fitzgerald
Virginia: “Virginia” :: Jeremy Messersmith
Washington: “Thrice All American” :: Neko Case (“Life goes by slow in Tacoma …”)
West Virginia: “Country Roads” :: John Denver
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin” :: Jamie Ness
Wyoming: “Wyoming and Me” :: The Black Crowes

Yes, some of these are a bigger reach than others. And some are a huge reach. Suggestions for improvements welcomed.