Name of iTunes Playlist: The Older Faves Rules: Rating is greater than *** (3 stars). Last played is in the last 12 months. Last played is not in the last 6 months. Date added is in the last 24 months. Play count is greater than 5 times. Skip count is zero. [See all lists.]

Top 10 From the List

1. "Sirena" by Calexico on "Convict Pool" Playcount: 8.

2. "Summersong" by The Decemberists on "The Crane Wife." Playcount: 8.

3. "Story of an Artist" performed by M. Ward on "The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered." Playcount: 8. 4. "Yawny At the Apocalypse" by Andrew Bird on "Armchair Apocrypha." Playcount: 7.

5. "Modern Age" by Eric Hutchinson on "...Before I Sold Out." Playcount: 7. 6. "Carballo" by The Essex Green on "Everything Is Green." Playcount: 7.

7. "Leisure Suite" by Feist on "Let It Die." Playcount: 7.


8. "The Angels Hung Around" by Rilo Kiley on "Under the Blacklight." Playcount: 7.

9. "My Body Is a Cage" by Arcade Fire on "Neon Bible." Playcount: 6.

10. "Click Click Click Click" by Bishop Allen on "The Broken String." Playcount: 6.


The purpose of this list is to identify newish songs that were in heavy rotation on my musical devices about six to eight months ago, but which I no longer play -- songs that I might want to reconsider. I was still in the heart of a Calexico phase, apparently, but it's a different album than has popped up on other lists. This track has a lilting country Grateful Dead-like feel, with a haunting chorus of women singing in Spanish near the end, followed by the inevitable end in the Greek myth of the sirens:

To save this sad, tragic soul Sorrow's worse than the tide's pull Sinking deeper, gasping for love Till desire navigates you Into the arms of sirena... Caught in the rip tide, smashed on the reef Joining the mass of bones underneath

Follow that up with The Decemberists, and phrases like "..slip into a watery grave," and I have to wonder what's up with the morbid nautical theme. "...swallowed by a wave." I was thinking about heading to the beach last spring. Whatever the words, both of these songs sound beautiful. A lot of Decemberist tunes are too otherworldly for repeated listening, but this is one of the exceptions, with some interesting instruments in the background. No idea what they are, but I like them.

I went through a serious M. Ward phase in 2006, bleeding into 2007. I bought everything I could find. No. 3 was a cover tune off a Daniel Johnston tribute album. Back in 1997 or 1998, I saw the schizophrenic Johnston perform live twice in Manhattan in separate clubs. For the second show, about 10 of us were in a circle around him about two feet away. He was obviously a painfully disturbed man. It was hard to watch, and while he writes beautiful songs, I have a hard time listening to him. Ward teases the beauty out of Johnston's song and his pain in this cover, the best on the album of covers. I recommend the 2005 documentary on Johnston, who, despite the title of this tribute, is still alive. And I also recommend you buy anything M. Ward does.

The Andrew Bird track is an instrumental off his followup to 2005's "The Mysterious Production of Eggs," and I am surprised to see it here. It's a great song, though, haunting and mysterious.

I don't know much about Eric Hutchinson. I think I downloaded his album on impulse one night on iTunes. There were songs I liked more than this one, but there's no arguing with the list. The track is live and ends with some chatter at the audience that grows old with repeated listens. His lyrics are a little political and funny:

How did we every get by before data was sent? I can’t believe I got around without electrical cars

The Essex Green, a Brooklyn-based neo-psychedelic pop band, has a sweet sound, and I like a lot of their songs, including this one. I would recommend the album "Cannibal Sea" over this one, but they're all great.

Feist, of course, had a breakout moment when her song "1 2 3 4" was featured in iPod ads in 2007. I had a few of her songs from somewhere before that, and I downloaded more after that. I like this earlier album from 2005 more than her breakout, and while I thought liked other songs on it, like "Mushaboom," I guess there's no arguing with the playlist.

I bought a bunch of Rilo Kiley albums in 2006 and 2007, and bought "Under the Blacklight" hoping it would be as good, but I'm not sure it was. Still, this was a pretty good song. Watch the video. Jenny Lewis is definitely the talented half of the duo, though her first solo effort struck me as a wee too precious.

Arcade Fire is another band that I started listening to a few years ago in my Canadian music phase, having no idea what they were about or who followed them. They had a breakout moment with "Neon Bible," which is indeed an awesome album. If you asked me to name a favorite track, I would say "No Cars Go," but the list thinks I like the far more emo "My Body Is a Cage." So be it. My body is a cage that keeps me dancing with the one I love? Untrue, but moving. I still remember what that used to feel like, to be so out of place:

I'm living in an age That calls darkness light Though my language is dead Still the shapes fill my head

I'm living in an age Whose name I don't know Though the fear keeps me moving Still my heart beats so slow

Oh, young Arcade Fire fans, your pain will never again be this sweet. But the old people might prefer "Funeral" (2004).

Bishop Allen first came to my attention in the so-called mumblecore films of Andrew Bujalski, "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation."

Rent them now. Watch them. I'll wait. Then read the latest N+1. Harvard was cool for 20 minutes around the turn of the decade, so what? It's already over.

I saw "Mutual Appreciation" with my friends Teresa and Brett in a small theater in the Village. Bujalski was there and answered questions from the audience about the kind of film stock he used and how he got non-actors (including his Harvard pals like Justin Rice, the lead singer of Bishop Allen).

Fast forward to August 2007. Teresa, Brett and I were on our way to a show featuring a number of bands including Bishop Allen, which was touring to promote "The Broken String." We had spent the afternoon at a barbecue. My boss called me about a fire at the the former Deutsche Bank Building downtown. Brett and Teresa went on to the show, as I stepped out of the cab in Times Square and walked to work and worked on live-blog coverage of the fire, which killed two firefighters.

By 11 p.m., we had put the first print edition to bed and there was nothing more to say on the blog. I hopped into a cab and reached the club just as Bishop Allen was taking the stage at midnight. It was a good show. I flipped a switch in my head and felt nothing about the sad story I had just been covered, because that is what I have learned to do.

The rest of the list after #10 is dominated by Bishop Allen tracks from the monthly EPs they were putting out in 2007, songs from Radiohead's "In Rainbows," (I paid $5 to download it) and more from the Decemberists and Feist albums, a snapshot of a year that now seems distant, another era.

The only anomaly lower on the list is R.E.M.'s 1987 hit "The End of the World as We Know It," which I listened to several times as I turned it into a ringtone on my then-new iPhone. It is the song that plays as my wake-up alarm. It is the song that plays when the newsroom calls. The choice is sardonic. This was only one day in my career that felt like the world ending, and nobody called. I just went.

Name of iTunes Playlist: Forgotten Favorites Rules: Rating is ***** (5 stars). Play count is greater than 5. Skip count is less than 4. Last played is not in the last 24 months. Date added is not in the last 24 months. [See all lists.]

Top 10 From the List

1. "Dreams" by TV on the Radio ("Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes"). Play Count: 22. Last played: Sept. 18, 2006.

2. "The Good Times Are Killing Me" by Modest Mouse ("Good News for People Who Love Bad News"). Play Count: 21. Last played: July 30, 2006.

3. "Keep on Breathing" by The Delgados ("Universal Audio"). Play Count: 20. Last Played: Aug. 27, 2006. 4. "Last Broadcast" by Doves ("The Last Broadcast"). Play Count: 20. Last Played: May 30, 2006.


5. "Dreaming of You" by The Coral ("The Coral"). Play Count: 19. Last Played: March 26, 2006.

6. "Silverscreen" by Jesca Hoop ("Silverscreen Demos"). Play Count: 18. Last Played: Aug. 27, 2006.

7. "Dear Catastrophe Waitress," by Belle & Sebastian ("Dear Catastrophe Waitress"). Play count: 17. Last Played: Sept. 18, 2006.

8. "There's Too Much Love," by Belle & Sebastian ("Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant"). Play Count: 16. Last Played: Aug. 16, 2005.

9. "The Wrong Girl," by Belle & Sebastian ("Fold Your Hands etc."). Play Count: 15. Last Played: Sept. 18, 2006.

10. "At the Bottom of Everything," by Bright Eyes ("I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning"). Play Count: 13. Last Played: May 28, 2005.

Annotation: Some favorite songs stay in rotation through the years, but others are forgotten for one reason or another. This smart playlist is intended to remind me of songs that I played heavily then forgot. Some were simply played out, overplayed. Or whatever drew me to them is no longer there, for one reason or another.

Some strike me as embarrassing: Modest Mouse?

Others surprise me: Is it really two years since I played the excellent "Dreams" by TV on the Radio? I'll play it right now, and restore it to the list of favorites I still play. I still remember the Delgados and Doves cuts as if they were yesterday, I'll probably play them now. What a pleasant surprise to see them again.

I am still fond of the Glasgow ensemble Belle & Sebastian, love their lyrics and their sound, but after burning through that oeuvre at warp speed I no longer play them obsessively, trying to figure out what they're getting at in those enigmatic lyrics about love and books and tragedy and disappointment. It was more clearly a phase, I guess. They were already pretty well established before they came to my attention, and most of their best stuff seems to have been written in the mid-90s. This title song is not the best of the cuts on "Catastrophe Waitress," so it's no surprise I haven't listened in a while, but "Wrong Girl" still resonates. I feel no need to play it, though. There is more, too much more, Belle and Sebastan further down the list, after #10, with a few brief infatuations like "Stacy's Mom" from Fountains of Wayne.

The Coral was a brief fling. I remember buying the CD at Tower Records on the Upper West Side, knowing nothing about them except what I could glean from the listening post setup in the store with their terrible headsets. It may have been the last time I was in that store, or any big record store, years ago now.

The Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes album "Wide Awake etc." is his best -- the histrionics and goofy digressions are kept to a minimum -- but this is not actually one of the better songs on that record. I still play some of the others, but this one dropped out of rotation. I remember it having a Buddhist flavor. It's starts with a monologue about a plane crash that gets old after a while.

I'm glad to see some strong female vocalists on here -- Jesca Hoop and half of The Delgados. Lower on the list (not shown here), some Rilo Kiley. I first heard Hoop on KCRW, a demo track, and it took some detective work to hunt it down.

The Delgados reached a high mark with "Universal Audio." The song "Keep on Breathing" has a meditative quality, and it can still give me chills. It also must have had some resonance that year, as I recovered from massive blood clots that nearly destroyed my lungs.

Am I still the person who listened to this music so much a couple of years ago? I am not sure, but I have kept breathing, at least.

See other playlists and related posts.

Name of iTunes Playlist: Emerging FavoritesRules: Rating is ***** (5 stars). Last played is in the last 2 months. Play count is in the range 3 to 5. Date added is in the last 12 months. Skip count is less than 4. [See all lists.]

Top 10 From the List

1. "Boy With a Coin" by Iron & Wine ("The Shepherd's Dog," 2007.) Play count: 6. Sample lyric: "A boy with a coin he found in the weeds, with bullets and pages of trade magazines."

2. "Fake Empire," by The National ("Boxer," 2007.) Play count: 6. Lyric: "It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky, we're half-awake in a fake empire."

3. "Candy Jail," by The Silver Jews ("Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea," 2008). Play count: 5. Lyric: "Pain works on a sliding scale." [youtube=]4. "Oxygen" by Willy Mason ("Where the Humans Eat," 2006). Play Count: 5. Lyric: "I want to speak louder than Ritalin, for all the children who think that they've got a disease. I want to be cooler than TV, for all the kids that are wondering what they are going to be."

5. "The News About William," by Calexico ("Carried to Dust," 2008). Play Count: 5. Lyric: "As her words fail and the sky grew dim, recalled how close to that exit l've been."

6. "Bend to the Road," by Calexico ("Carried to Dust," 2008). Play Count: 4. Lyric: "Holding back your tears, letting go of your heart... Until it all spills out on the side of the road."

7. "Wait Till You See Him (De-Phazz Remix)," by Ella Fitzgerald ("Verve Remixed," 2002). Play Count: 4. Lyric: "Painters of paintings, writers of books, never could tell the half."

8. "Sly," by The Cat Empire, ("Two Shoes," 2007). Play count: 4. Lyric: "It's a pleasure to meetcha, you look like one incredible creature."

9. "Pieces of You," by Islands ("Arm's Way," 2008). Play count: 4. Lyric: "It's madness."

10. "Papillon," by the Airborne Toxic Event ("Does This Mean You're Moving On?" EP, 2007) Play count: 4. Lyric: "And I wish I had the guts to scream. You know, things aren't always what they seem..."

Annotation: There are the songs you think are your favorites, and there are the songs that iTunes says you play the most. The iTunes smart playlists are valuable tools that can pull out a lot of trends about your listening habits.

This Emerging Favorites list is aimed at figuring out the fresh songs that could be come future favorites -- songs I have bought recently, listened to more than a few times and given a high rating.

I seem to be deep into a melancholy singer phase. Paradoxically, that means I'm in a pretty good mood. It's a more heavily male selection than usual, although the list could have just as easily included Rilo Kiley, Feist, Aimee Mann, Nina Simone or others among my recent purchases.

This list is also heavily "alternative" or "indie," what a friend of mine calls NPR music, songs by artists who were probably interviewed on public radio or are played in heavy rotation on KCRW in Los Angeles. And that's fine.

All of these songs are relatively recent releases. I don't listen to much music at all from the 60s, 70s and 80s, the oldies favored by many people in their 40s. I've always tried to stay current with music, and I think this decade has produced some of the best independent/alternative music I've heard in my life.

See other smart playlist posts..

Updated  Sept. 16, 2012.

When I started working on the metropolitan desk of The New York Times in 1997, the newsroom was using a publishing system known as Atex for text editing. Usernames were six characters long. The naming convention at the time was to take the first two letters of the staffer's given name and the first four letters of the surname. Patrick+LaForge=Palafo.

Not every Atex username had a mellifluous combination of consonants and vowels, but mine did. On a whim, I used it as a username on various sites in the early years of the Web and as an e-mail address with a succession of Internet service providers. The vaguely Italian-sounding but non-existent name was usually available, while my actual name was already being snapped up by my French-Canadian-Irish doppelgängers.

The Atex naming convention used by The Times was abandoned (along with Atex), but a few of us still use the naming convention in e-mail addresses.

I have been a computer nerd and geek since a time before there was a Web, and I was a bit of an early Web pioneer, but I did not use the name for a blog until I started the earliest version of this one in 2008. Here's hoping I don't besmirch it in the permanent record for all time.

Regarding the pronunciation: Some people have been known to say PAL-ah-foe, but I prefer to stress the syllable that is also the first syllable of my surname: puh-LAAF-oh. Sort of like palazzo.