Yes, I do have an unhealthy obsession with Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. In our second installment of A to Z (See Sufjan here), we take a look at Ted Leo and his fantastic crew, from Me and Mia to Kelly Clarkson.
Note: Due to the large volume of songs in this post, I am only making the songs available for download for 1 week. Please go buy the albums if you haven’t already.
A is for “Army Bound“, a demo track that Ted made available for download on the band website back in late February. This song, along with “Some Beginners Mind”, was reviewed here in February.
B is for “Biomusicology“, off of The Tyranny of Distance. This is possibly my favorite song by my favorite artist off my favorite album, and it was featured on the All Things Go Night Drive Mixtape Two.
C is for Concerts. Ted Leo is widely renowned for his incredible, passionate live performances. I am lucky enough to have seen him 6 times in person, and each show reaffirms my feeling that nobody puts on a show like Ted and his merry band of Pharmacists. C is also for “Counting Down the Hours” and “Criminal Piece”, both off of Shake the Sheets (but I didn’t make them available for download because I’m trying to let Ted sell some records.)
D is for Washington, DC (the Dirty District), Ted’s hometown, and the hometown of yours truly. Ted worked at a Potomac Video near my house and lived in Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood only five minutes from me. My brother actually met Ted in the bathroom of Spices, a thai-fusion restaurant in DC. If Ted reads this, he might be a bit creeped out.
E is for EP’s. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists have released 3 EP’s; Treble in Trouble, Tell Balgeary, Bulgary is Dead, and Sharkbite Sessions.
F is for Fort Reno. For those of you unfamiliar with Washington, DC, Fort Reno is a park right next to Wilson High School where local artists play free shows every Monday and Thursday during the summer. Artists such as Q and not U and Ris Paul Ric have played at Fort Reno, and Ted Leo has blessed the stage with his presence a handful of times.
G is for “The Gold Finch and the Red Oak“, off of The Tyranny of Distance, and also featured on the All Things Go Night Drive Mixtape.
H is for Hearts of Oak, the Pharmacists 2003 LP, and also one of the best songs on that album.
I is for Intelligent, Insightful, and Intellectual, all words used to describe Ted’s lyrics. Many of his songs (My Vein Ilin, The One Who Got Us Out) have strong political messages. Others (Heart Problems, Me and Mia) discuss social and societal issues. All of his songs have some sort of message, and all the lyrics to the songs are well thought out and meaningful, something that is rare in today’s music.
J is for teJ leo(?) Rx/Pharmacists. This was the band’s first official album, although Chris Wilson (drummer) and Dave Lerner (guitar) were not on the album.
K is for Kelly Clarkson. Ted Leo has made an acoustic cover of Kelly’s breakthrough hit “Since U Been Gone“, which turns into a cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps”. Download the song here.
L is for “Looking Through You“, a cover of The Beatles hit, which was featured on This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles Rubber Soul. L is also for “Little Dawn”, another of my select few favorite Ted songs. AND, L is for Lookout! Records, the label that TL/Rx now release their music on.
M is for “Me and Mia“, the first single off of Ted’s 2004 release, Shake the Sheets, and also probably the most popular and well-known TL/Rx song to date. The song sounds upbeat and dancy, but the lyrics are quite disparaging, as Ted addresses the controversial issues surrounding eating disorders.
N is for Notre Dame. Ted graduated from the prestigious university in 1993 with a degree in English. That’s right, Ted was, and still is, a Fighting Irish.
O is for Octaves. Ted has the ability to sing in octaves so high I am completely humiliated when I try to sing along to his music in front of anyone. Ted has the amazing ability to prevent this high, at times falsetto, voice from sounding whiny, something that many artists these days fail to do.
P is for “Parallel or Together“, one of my favorite songs off of The Tyranny of Distance. I know I keep saying that every song is my favorite, but I truly feel that all of Ted’s music is worth listening to and I really truly am in love with all of it. Every time I listen to a TL/Rx song, I feel as though that particular song is my favorite, until I put another TL/Rx song, which then becomes my favorite (does that make sense?).
Q is for “sQueaky Fingers“, off of The Tyranny of Distance, which features as gorgeous guitar line that takes the song out (ok ok, it’s a stretch. You try finding something relevant with the letter Q).
R is for Rx, the abbreviation for Pharmacy/ist/s. Hence Ted Leo & the Pharmacists becomes TL/Rx.
S is for Shake the Sheets, Ted’s most recent full-length release (2004), which is, in my opinion, his most upbeat and refined work to date.
T is for “Timorous Me“, off of Tyranny of Distance. “Timorous Me” features one of the coolest breakdowns in a song. EVER. Also, Timorous Me is the name of the fanblog for TL/Rx. (T is also for Ted Leo, but I figured you guys were smart enough to make that connection without me).
U is for Updates. Ted constantly updates the band’s website with his thoughts and critiques of contemporary issues (such as My Super Sweet Sixteen).
V is for “My Vein Ilin“, off of The Tyranny of Distance. This song has a very strong political message, and also is structured very interestingly, featuring only one long verse and building guitars and drums until an instrumental climax at the end.
W is for “Walking to Do“, by far Ted’s most upbeat and positive track. This song also features a DC shoutout (“Rock Creek Park to the Ave., and on past the Zoo…”), making this song a favorite of me and my fellow chocolate city compatriots (alliteration!).
X is for X-treme, an awesome adjective used to describe Ted in any situation.
Y is for “You Could Die (Or This Might End)“, off of The Tyranny of Distance. This song sounds like a demo, but to me it truly displays Ted’s passion and emotion in a quick one minute and thirty seconds.
Z is “Yo Zack! Love, Ted”, which was what Mr. Leo wrote on the back of my t-shirt after a concert at the 9:30 club in DC.
As you can see from this incredibly long post, I love pretty much everything about Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. I hope you enjoyed this mini-anthology. Again, due to the large volume of songs I’m putting up, I am only making these songs available for download for one week. Please please go out and buy all of Ted’s albums. If anyone deserves the money, it’s these guys.
Here are the links to buy all the albums:
Buy Shake the Sheets here
Buy Tell Balgeary, Bulgary is Dead here
Buy Hearts of Oak here
Buy The Tyranny of Distance here