Bitchtapes: Birds!

Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

On my way to the office I saw an honest-to-God hummingbird darting around a Northeast Portland front yard. In early November! It was all-too-apropos for this week’s Bitchtapes playlist, which features ten songs about our fine feathered friends.

1. Annie Lennox - Little Bird
Although Annie doesn’t have a bad set of pipes herself, she still can’t help but envy the songs of birds–and that whole flying thing.

2. Fleet Foxes - Meadowlarks
Fleet Foxes offer up a quiet ode to a couple birds of the field (“birds of the field” not being any sort of actual scientific classification).

3. Of Montreal - City Bird
An early Of Montreal track that harmoniously pleads for pigeons (and everyone else stuck in their own urban grind) to get some fresh air.

4. Erin McKeown - Blackbirds
According to Wikipedia, Righteous Babe and activist McKeown was originally an ornithology major at Brown (before you know, going down that music career path…)! Here’s her bluesy update on the nursery rhyme.

5. Sufjan Stevens - The Lord God Bird
Back when Sufjan Stevens had his ambitious 50 States projects, he still managed to get sidetracked by the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker of Illinois, and wrote a lovely song about it.

6. Guided By Voices - Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
Necessary evils are the subject of this in typically messy-as-carrion GbV song.

7. Neko Case - Maybe Sparrow
Only one of Neko Case’s fowl-themed songs, a cautionary tale of knowing what’s around the corner.

8. Badly Drawn Boy - Dead Duck
A short instrumental, but one of many gems off of the About a Boy soundtrack.

9. Mountain Man - Loon Song
Off this Vermont trio’s superb acoustic debut Made the Harbor, “Loon Song” is typical of their haunting but lovely style.

10. Josephine Foster - Birdo
You can’t cage some things! For example, Josephine Foster’s voice.

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8 Comments Have Been Posted

How did you leave off I Like

How did you leave off I Like Birds by the Eels?! Maybe there will be a volume two!

I'm surprised that you left

I'm surprised that you left off "She's Cuckoo" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. It's an entire song made up of bird puns.

Bird on a Wire

Leonard Cohen!

Some more favorites

Liz Phair - Waiting for the Bird and Canary

The Wallflowers - Bird Cage / Babybird (The last song and bonus song off Breach, which share a track, work as a set or alone.)

Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories - Birds

The Beatles - Blue Jay Way and Blackbird (Evan Rachel Wood's version of the latter from <i>Across the Universe</i> is great too.)

The Used - The Bird & The Worm (Angsty nu-metal is not to everyone's taste, I realize, but it can be fun.)


Just want you to know how much I always enjoy the Bitchtapes playlists. THANK YOU for being so awesome!

how about...

"For The Birds" - juliana hatfield!

classic '90s babe song. grew up with her. she is a fantastic woman/songwriter, and wow what a great, moving song.


Thanks for all the suggestions!

There are a lot of songs about birds out there! Maybe a second playlist is in order...

ivory-billed woodpecker

Love the theme and the mix! Track #5 reminds me of this poem:

"Song of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker"

Call me what you will, but never
Wilson's Ivory Bill. Even my ghost
won't answer to that. (Where did you
get that nasty habit -- naming species
after poisoners?) Part of what
they say is true: that he played
sad songs, poorly, on his lute, was
a minor poet, and yes, melancholy too.
What you wouldn't guess by what he wrote
is how it was he came to find me
"slightly wounded in the wing," clipped
enough so he could scoop me up
and secret me to Wilmington.
He left out details about his wreched
marksmanship, but mentioned
ladies laughing at my plight.
For three days -- the last three of my life --
he kept me chained in that hotel room,
documenting the hue and plumage
of my death. When he left briefly
to eat lightly of venison or get
perspective on my splendor,
I pecked as hard and fast as a woodpecker
could, through the plaster to the lathe.
I was halfway through when he returned
and what he wrote is true: that noble
as I am I cried nearly like a human child.
He said this tempted him to carry me
back home (he didn't), and that he witnessed
my death with regret. What an odd bird.
Would I have ever said
I observed a hole being bored into a trunk
and an aphid wrenched from it, free?
I do not regret the death
of my kind: we are gone
from swamps and bottomland
from the blasted branched of prodigious
cypress trees, gone from the West
and from East Texas,
from any forest where you'd find us.
Call it a refusal to adapt
to cruelty: marveling at my death mask
you do not mourn my passing,
but what you always lacked.

- Andrea Cohen, from long division

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