In Random Rules, The A.V. Club asks some of its favorite people to set their MP3 players to shuffle and comment on the first few tracks that come up—no cheating or skipping embarrassing tracks allowed.
The shuffler: Murray Lightburn is the singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter for Canadian band The Dears, whose recent Gang Of Losers is one of 2006's finest albums. His laptop contains lots of his own music.
The Dears, "Money"
Murray Lightburn: The title written here is "Money," but it's obviously not the Floyd song. It's a demo with no vocals, of basically one chord progression played over and over with about seven guitar tracks on it.
The A.V. Club: Why do you put it on your computer? So you can listen to it and write lyrics?
ML: Sort of. Right now, I'm just tweaking the tail-end. This is the main tune, and out of this process, there'll be, like… Oh, there's the chorus, here it comes, boom. I've written some lyrics, and it's about—um, actually, I don't know what it's about.
The Dears, "Lost In The Plot"
ML: Aw, goddamn, see, this is what I'm talking about. I should've erased all of the Dears-y stuff, because it's gonna come up so often. I actually downloaded this because I didn't have a copy of the album. I wanted to put it in my phone as a ringtone.
AVC: So when your phone rings, you hear your own song?
ML: Yeah, basically when anyone from The Dears calls me, that song comes up so I know not to answer it.
Carpenters, "Superstar (1991 Remix)"
ML: The Carpenters blow my mind, just everything about them, their whole story, Karen Carpenter and her geeky brother. The songs are also really weird, and the recordings and the production are really weird, and they fascinate me. "Superstar" is one of my favorite songs, and it's funny to see it covered by everyone from Sonic Youth to Ruben Studdard from American Idol.
The Dears, "Whites Only Party"
ML: We just came back from a UK/European tour, and at the beginning of it, we did two radio sessions, one for the BBC and one for XFM. So this is the XFM session of "Whites Only Party." It's all live-to-tape, two-track business.
The Carpenters, "Hurting Each Other"
ML: And now we're back to the Carpenters.
AVC: Only two bands on your computer?
ML: It's pathetic, dude. Pathetic. "Why do we go on hurting each other?" Which is something I can really get into, because I ask myself that question every day.
AVC: Have you found an answer?
ML: Well, as long as we're asking that question, that's half the battle. Think about it, as goofy as it sounds.
Carpenters, "Only Yesterday"
ML: We used that as walk-off music during our August run in Scandinavia. We usually have walk-on and walk-off music just to set the tone of the night, rather than just have Guns N' Roses playing on the PA, and then us.
Mahalia Jackson, "Have Thine Own Way, Lord"
ML: Here we go, our walk-on music on this tour. So that's convenient that it worked out that way.
AVC: What kind of vibe do you hope that sets for the show?
ML: A pensive vibe. The thing about Mahalia Jackson's voice is, it's just so utterly powerful. "Have Thine Own Way, Lord" is sort of about letting the chips fall where they may and not trying to control anything, and I can dig that. But it sounds like at one point in the song, she forgets the words, and I hear it every night and I'm trying to determine what's going on. We hear it in our ears because we have wireless in-ear things, which is cool because we can really get into the vibe, and then you get up there and start feeding back and making noise.
AVC: Well, that sounds perfect.
ML: I should have you know that I also have Teddy Pendergrass' "Love T.K.O." on this fucking list, man. The other night, we were on the bus, me and George [Donoso, Dears drummer]. I was playing him that song, and he was just freaking out because it's so good. You know what Teddy did? He scared the bitches into submission.
AVC: Do you hope to do the same with your music?
ML: Oh no, no. It's not my vibe. We're lot more innocent than that.