New Michael Penn Video: Count of Pennsylvania

Two years ago, we were all riding a wave a hope for the future. Michael Penn wrote a songlet (his words) for my blog series about the Presidential election that was perfect for the feelings of the day.

Today that wave has receded, and in its wake it has left anger, hate, and apathy – so Michael has updated the song to reflect this day.

What will Count of Pennsylvania 2012 sound like?

Find Michael Penn on Facebook.

Top Albums of Decade (2000-2009): 11-20

best-2000s-11-20By definition all of these albums here are classics. To fit into the top 20, an album needs to be a constant play on my ipod or iTunes. These all fit the bill and are great from beginning to end (another requirement).

11. A Rush of Blood to the Heart (2002) – Coldplay – This is the last Coldplay album I can fully recommend. Containing classic songs like “The Scientist” and “Clocks”, this is the one Coldplay album that works all the way through.
12. Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire – This album will probably rate higher on national magazines decade lists. Widely recognized as one of the best albums of the past 10 years – it’s worthy of all the acclaim. Another band following in the Neutral Milk Hotel path, this album has an epic feel to it.
13. The Woods (2005) – Sleater-Kinney – It’s crazy that this was the end of Sleater-Kinney. Each album they created was a masterpiece, and they saved their best for last. May not appeal to everyone – it’s loud and discordant, but in a way that works for this album.
14. MP4 (Days Since a Lost Time Accident) (2000) – Michael Penn – It’s criminal that Sony sat on this album, allowing it to slip into this decade. One amazing song after another. Songs such as “Trampoline”, “Whole Truth”, and “High Time” are among my all-time favorite Penn songs.
15. Delivery Man (2004) – Elvis Costello & the Imposters – This is the best of Costello’s most recent albums. Great duets, fantastic songwriting.
16. Plans (2005) – Death Cab for Cutie – From the opening notes of “Marching Bands of Manhattan” you know this will be a classic album. I’ve always loved non-traditional love songs, and this album includes the daddy of them all: “I Will Follow You into the Dark”.
17. Twin Cinema (2005) – The New Pornographers – A lot of the New Pornographers work has a similar sound – not in a bad way though. Very literate, fun, bouncy. This is my favorite of their albums – and more good stuff from Canada.
18. One Nil/One All (2001) – Neil Finn – This album is up there with anything that Finn recorded with Crowded House.
19. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2001) – U2 – Part of me regrets putting this as high as it is on this list; it’s not on par with albums like Achtung Baby or The Joshua Tree. Then I remember seeing U2 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden merely a month after 9/11. This album meant more than notes on a page can convey. At least to me it does.
20. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007) – Foo Fighters – As much as I like FF’s The Color and the Shape, this is their masterpiece. Includes all the fun songs, the hard rockers, and the epics.

The running list can be found here:  Top 100 Albums: 2000-2009

Top Albums of Decade (2000-2009): 21-30

best-of-2000s-21-30Radiohead and Michael Penn would have found their way onto my top albums of the 90’s, but the rest of this list is brand new to me this decade; a good sign.

21. Late Registration (2005) – Kanye West – People are going to forget Kanye due to his tabloid craziness and his VMA “Ima let you finish” rant – but no one produced as consistently great music as Kanye did. I don’t generally like entire rap albums – a lot of them tend to be 2 or 3 good songs and a lot of filler. Even the skits on this album work for me.
22. Picaresque (2005) – The Decemberists – Following in the footsteps of Neutral Milk Hotel, this is a geek band with lush production, varied instrumentation, and great lyrics.
23. Kid A (2000) – Radiohead – After O.K. Computer, Radiohead went in a totally different direction. This is what great bands do. More electronic in sound, it almost eschews guitars. As great as O.K. Computer is (my all-time favorite album), Kid A and Amnesiac are the two albums that cement Radiohead as a great concert act.
24. Post-War (2006) – M. Ward – Who knew? Quietly M. Ward has become a songwriter’s songwriter. His songs seem older than they are – almost whimsical. Not country; not folk; not pop – a little bit of everything.
25. 12 Memories (2003) – Travis – This is Travis’ response to 9/11 and near personal tragedy. It works in a different way than their other albums. It’s still poppy – but it just seems better than Coldplay generally is.
26. Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 (2007) – Michael Penn – There’s never any wasted space in a Michael Penn album. Power-pop brilliance from one of the masters of the form.
27. Asking for Flowers (2008) – Kathleen Edwards – I’ll say more about Edwards when we get to the top 10 (that would be foreshadowing). She is simply one of the best singers songwriters around.
28. Illinoise (2005) – Sufjan Stevens – This is an epic album with brilliant songs. Nothing else sounds like it – except for another Sufjan Stevens album.
29. Sam’s Town (2006) – The Killers – This album keeps moving up the list. Not their most popular – likely because it’s a concept album that rejected the overtly pop sound of their debut album. Rewards repeat listening, seriously – this album started in 60’s on this list. I’m not sure it shouldn’t be higher.
30. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) – Spoon – They never set the world on fire for me, but they are the most consistently very good band out there. Very catchy songs that doesn’t sound like everyone else.

The running list can be found here:  Top 100 Albums: 2000-2009

Not Spencer: Michael Penn Exclusive song – The Count of Pennsylvania

The Not Spencer political series is being extended by one for a special contribution by one of the best singer songwriters of our generation, Michael Penn.  Michael has provided the following song: “The Count of Pennsylvania”, exclusively to A Rubber Door. I think you’ll find the song a worthy end.

Michael and I have talked all through this election – all the way back to the very early primary days and here we are a day before we finally get to have our voice. You have one more day to make a difference – call your friends – volunteer to make calls – write something on your blog. Any or all of the above will help put an end to 8 years of mediocrity and start to recover from the damage done to our economy, our world standing, and the fabric of this country: the citizens of this great country.

When you get into the booth tomorrow – pull the lever for Barack Obama and Joe Biden and as Michael states: “Get in on the landslide”


[audio:The Count Of Pennsulvania.mp3]
the-count-of-pennsylvania (right click and "Save As" to save an MP3 to your computer)

The Count of Pennsylvania

by Michael Penn

The Count of Pennsylvania never left the commonwealth
he loiters in the alley like a shadow of his former self
cast against the brick and mortar
through smoke from pipes and stacks
one more for the listmakers
a statistician’s artifact
a victim of amphetamines,
of cogs and things that let off steam
a market for a cold machine that left him in-between
the customers and soldiers you divide
but it’s rising up, a high tide
stretching out so far and wide
the line is long but worth the ride
so get in on the landslide
get in on the landslide

Michael Penn’s best of can be found here: Palms & Runes, Tarot And Tea: A Michael Penn Collection
Links to the rest of the Not Spencer 2008 campaign series can be found here.

12 Questions with Michael Penn

michaelpenn.jpgWith acclaimed singer/songwriters Michael Penn currently touring (at the World Cafe on Friday, April 27) to support his new album Palms and Runes, Tarot and Tea: A Michael Penn Collection., Michael gladly answered a few of my silly questions.

What are you reading, listening to, and watching these days
I just re-read Alan Moore’s “From Hell”, listening to a lot of tango, watching Intervention.

Cat person or dog person?
Dogs are great pets. It’s as if they are programmed to show unconditional love, like they have little to no free will of their own. I’m a cat person.

What about the music industry excites you?

First is that the music industry is in such a massive tumble that I think it is bound to crush all the people doing it just for dough. No dough no more.

And the other thing is that some of the same technology that has contributed to the tumble is a godsend, the corporations don’t have the only printing press. So I am attracted to all the creative potential that provides.

A few years ago you said that any musician going into the music industry should learn HTML – care to revise?

Only to say that I would add Flash and any other protocol used on the internet. My point was “learn the tools”…that if you got creative with your website, or using mySpace or whatever…it was no different hat designing one’s own album cover.

But the main dilemma remains for people who do what I do for a living. We don’t make things anymore. We used to lock our waveforms inside something.

If I forced you to listen to one of your albums – which would you choose?
It will always be the last one.

Coffee or Tea?
One very large iced coffee in the morning. Black tea the rest of the day. Usually.

What should someone expect from seeing you live?
Me doing my best…getting along. Trying to stay out of trouble, trying to make a bit of a difference, quit smoking…oh…LIVE….

What’s it like being married to another musician/songwriter?

East coast or West coast?
Only one of those two choices is the home of The Museum Of Jurassic Technology

We win.

What’s the hardest thing for you to do or accept as a musician?
Hmmm. I’m not sure. I wish I was more prolific, I wish the things I hear in my head could translate to my fingers with less effort, but acceptance of the things I can’t change is getting easier.

Sushi or Pizza?


What should we expect from you next?
Another bunch of songs, probably another score this year. But in the shorter term I want to keep the new web site active and get out and play live as much as I can.

Michael Penn will be playing at World Cafe Live on Friday, April 27 with The Last Town Chorus.