50 States of Song Part 3: Massachusetts to New Jersey

When I was in third grade I learned all 50 states in alphabetical order thanks to a catchy tune. Now I'm hoping to stick that bit of trivia just in time for the new school year by celebrating each state with an appropriate song all this week.

Massachusetts: Dropkick Murphys, "State of Massachusetts" I hate to start off on a down note, but it's the Dropkick Murphys and I don't pass up chances like that. The song is not a condemnation of the state, but a call out to broken families left behind in the wave of substance abuse. It found new life on the radio in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, though I'm not entirely sure what the connection is.

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Michigan: Milk Carton Kids, "Michigan" It's hard to find a song about anyone going to Michigan these days. Everything seems to be about running away and looking at the state in the rearview mirror. Milk Carton Kids are no different. It's a broken place in the wake of so much hardship, and I guess I can't blame people that just up and leave.

Minnesota: Weird Al, "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota" Anyone who is a serious Weird Al fan will tell you that the best work he does is not the parodies, but the long, rambling surreal tunes like "Albuquerque" and this one. It's a folksong about a family vacation to visit a giant ball of twine. Incidentally, there really is a big-ass ball of twine in the state. Made of baler's twine and rolled by Francis A. Johnson all by himself, the ball measures 12 feet in diameter and weighs 17,400 pounds.

Mississippi: King's X, "Mississippi Moon" Most songs about Mississippi all go for that river song vibe, so it was nice to hear from King's X. Granted, it's not the deepest song in the world, and it really just kind of a reboot from "If I Could Fly," but it's catchy as all get out.

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Missouri: Low, "Missouri": Though the center of the Mormon religion is Utah, before they settled there the original Mormon movement headed to Missouri hoping to set up their new Eden. Instead, mobs drove them from the state, and Low did a low, haunting tune inspired by the journey on their album Secret Name. The song uses a clever play on words between the name of the state and the word "misery," or at least it's more clever than when Ringo tried to do it with "Missouri Loves Company."

Montana: Youth Lagoon, "Montana" Youth Lagoon is one of those bands that I only listen to once every couple of months, because I'm pretty sure that each time you play a Youth Lagoon song some sort of lock holding back the end of the world comes undone. There's just something so damned spooky about their music, and Montana is way up on the sinister meter. There's no taking away the track's beauty though. With Youth Lagoon, it's always beautiful, even if it is unsettling.

Nebraska: Fighting Aurora, "Nebraska Winds" Okay, yes. Fighting Aurora is kind of brotastic and douchey. I can't argue against that. However, if you commit to the lyric experience in the song, I promise that you will find some real poetry about heartbreak. I always got the impression that the song was secretly about small town mentality pushing apart two people who were somehow different. A gay couple, or mixed religions, something like that. It's an interpretation that gives it depth.

Nevada: Mark Knopfler, "Sands of Nevada" It pains me to pick a tune about gambling and ghosts for the state that's best-known for Las Vegas, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show off one of Mark Knopfler's most amazing deep cuts. It's an eerie track about the fleeting nature of fortune and the ghost of disappointment that can follow you. Dark as red wine, and with twice the kick.

List continues on the next page.

New Hampshire: Wild Lights, "New Hampshire" Former Arcade Fire member Tim Kyle went on to found Wild Light, and if you ask me it's the better band if you like that sort of thing. They haven't set quite as much of the world on fire (indeed, they seem to have more or less disappeared since 2009), but there's a more hurting and poetic nature to the music. "New Hampshire" is a perfect example of that, full of car crashes and regret, and it stays with you.

New Jersey: Bloodhound Gang, "The Ten Coolest Things About New Jersey" How many times did you hit repeat until you got it? Don't worry, Jimmy Pop had to explain it to some of the rest of the band, too, according to the liner notes in Hooray For Boobies

Catch up on the other 50 States of Songs so far:

Part 1: Alabama to Georgia Part 2: Hawaii to Maryland

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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