Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2005 : 46 "Entertain" by Sleater-Kinney


You can always tell a song is amazing if you can hear it first during a live show and remember it years later when it actually hits the album. Sleater-Kinney had been throwing this gem around in live shows for a while before it showed up on their last album. I remember this song vividly, which is amazing considering when I saw them live I was tripping balls and the music was just a huge blur of awesomeness. Janet Weiss was doing her precise robotic drumming thing while Carrie Brownstein was windmilling her guitar like it ain't no thing. Fucking perfect.

This song is a perfect capstone to end a beautiful run. After a rager like this it is kind of hard to imagine where you go from here. No wonder Brownstein now works for NPR, after the war that is this song I'd want to work some place soft and quiet too.

James Specht

Listen: Sleater-Kinney >> "Entertain"

2005 : 45 "A Solitary Life" by Richard Thompson


If you ever had a period in your life when you can count your birthdays between relationships, this song will make sense to you. Richard Thompson really hits one of the feelings you have when your life is about yourself. The way he gets his guitar to fit the emotion of the lyrics shows his unassuming genius with the instrument.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Richard Thompson >> "A Solitary Life"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2005 : 43-44 Two tracks by Sufjan Stevens


"John Wayne Gacy. Jr."

No matter what year, I cannot think of any other song as beautiful and literally haunting. This brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Stevens crafts a look at a serial killer with none of the obvious expectations. He hints at Gacy's childhood, the accident that may have been one of the factors in his later killing spree, some of the personality traits that people admired in him, and his deadly legacy. The part that gets me the most is the look at his victims:

Even more, they were boys
With their cars, summer jobs
Oh my god.

I'm getting chills listening to this right now. There's no overt sympathy and no overt judgement. It's a painting of a distinct personality, one who killed twenty-seven people. Stevens' "fifty states project" is only two albums deep, but there's a wealth of history and meticulous detail. He takes the bad with the good in Illinois history, as evident with this track.


"Chicago"

This has an initial vote for one of my favorite songs of all time. This is a city anthem that doesn't mention any specifics of the area, and even mentions another state, New York. It's a reflection on youth, road trips, friendship, and coming to terms with past mishaps. These mishaps and mistakes are not mentioned specifically, but one can only imagine that they're the tyical blunders associated with being young. However, this the ultimate anthem to the city of Chicago, even though the emotions can be reflective of any major city. The vocal chorus towards the end of the song is achingly beautiful. Stevens is the ultimate musician, combining beautiful melodies and evocative lyrics, and this is one of the highlights of the decade. There is no hyberbole here; just listen.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Sufjan Stevens >> "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." | "Chicago"

2005 : 42 "TV Riot" by The Adored


I know that there are lots of people who use BitTorrent for nefarious reasons. Torrents and peer-to-peer network are synonymous with the death of the music industry and people stealing television shows. In many people's minds, BitTorrent is an evil thing. It is a technology that has changed the face of music as we know it.

That is why I love it when people use BitTorrent for something legal. In 2004, SXSW had mp3s promoting bands on their web site. In 2005, SXSW decided to take all the tracks and put them together in a BitTorrent. This was a great move. I might have downloaded five or six tracks from their website. In a torrent I downloaded over 700 tracks, listened to about 200 of them and bought about a dozen albums because of it. I spent much of 2005 listening to songs from SXSW. It was great. For a few years this was where I was getting a lot of my new music.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Adored >> "TV Riot"

2005 : 41 "Comsten" by Goto80


 

By the mid-Aughts, a lot of people were creating new interfaces that allowed nerdy musicians to easily manipulate the sound chips in obsolete technology like the GameBoy or the Commodore 64, flooding the Internet with tunes built around old-school video game noises. Both forward-thinking and backward-glancing, 8-bit music got a fair share of attention, with no less a figure than Malcolm McLaren (smelling money no doubt) publicly pronouncing that 8-bit music was "the new punk rock." I enjoyed a lot of this music for its ability to produce bursts of nostalgic feeling in me, but "Comsten" is the only "gamewave" track I've ever heard that has the ability to truly approach the sublime. This track is frantic even at its outset, but it occasionally "powers up" into something so dense and frenzied that it threatens the mind's ability to process it. Eventually it disintegrates into a whirling torrent of annihilatory pleasure, with only a vamping, increasingly deranged melodic line to remind us that we're still somewhere within the big tent that is pop music.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Goto80 >> "Comsten"

Monday, September 28, 2009

2005 : 40 "I Can See For Miles " by Petra Haden (covering The Who)


Petra Haden put together a project where ten women sang The Who Sell Out. They don't just sing the vocal parts, but they sing all the instrumental parts also. It seems like the revenge of the high school choir girls.

I had the same reaction to seeing them live as I did to listening to the album: a sense that this technique works really well as a way to adapt one song, but gets old when extended to a whole album, especially The Who Sell Out. Maybe I would have felt differently if they picked a better album, like Who's Next or Who Are You.

With that said, I like "I Can See For Miles." This version really breathes new life into the song. They show a connection to the orginal materal and make it new all at the same time. My advice is to listen to this song and forget the rest of the album.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Petra Haden >> "I Can See For Miles"

2005 : 39 "Blood on Our Hands (Justice Remix)" by Death From Above 1979


"Blood on our Hands" is an unfathomably sleazy track from Death From Above 1979's unfathomably sleazy album You're A Woman, I'm A Machine (2004). By "unfathomable," I mean something that's almost bordering on "incomprehensible": trying to parse the lyrics leaves you with fragmentary phrases ("But the things that I've done to you") that don't connect to anything else in the song, but which definitely sound disreputable.

With this 2005 remix, the two French dudes in Justice have done something amazing: they have taken the original, scummed it up with the electronic squelch and big beats of European house music, and somehow made it even sleazier. Put this on when you want to feel adolescent and evil.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Death From Above 1979 >> "Blood On Our Hands (Justice Remix)"

2005 : 38 "Here It Goes Again" by Ok Go


I want to say Ok Go was the first new band that used YouTube to break. At least they are the first band that I remember. The video with them dancing around on the treadmills was inventive. The song is pretty good, but it got more attention because of the video on YouTube. I thought that was pretty cool. I love it when bands figure out how to use technology to their advantage.

I know that YouTube has been important for bands, but not in the same way as MTV. Much of the music that gets attention on YouTube is accompanying user-created content. Either someone put someone else's song behind a catchy video, or a person is doing a personal cover of the song.

Rich Thomas

Listen: OK Go >> "Here It Goes Again"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2005 : 37 "The Sound of German Hip-Hop" by Clem Snide


I bought The End Of Love on a complete whim after hearing a co-worker talk enthusiastically about the merits of Clem Snide. After just one listen, I was in complete agreement, at least regarding this album. I love Eef Barzelay's voice, and the lyrics are almost begging for any kind of interpretation. They go all over the place, a sort of poetic stream of consciousness. There's really not much to add. It works perfectly, and it's just a beautiful song.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Clem Snide >> "The Sound of German Hip-Hop"

2005 : 36 "Loop Duplicate My Heart" by Suburban Kids With Biblical Names


Some days all you need is 3:07 of Low-fi, casiotone, electronic, home-recorded, over-sincere, cheesy charm. I think that is why this song always puts a smile on my face.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Suburban Kids With Biblical Names >> "Loop Duplicate My Heart"

2005 : 35 "Berlin" by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto


Insen is the second collaboration between the minimalist noise-sculptor Alva Noto and the airy pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto: a follow-up to Vrioon, from 2001. Taken together, these two albums stand far and away as the finest ambient electronic work to be released this decade: they are perhaps the only albums of the Aughts that serve as worthy successors to Brian Eno's canonical Music For Airports (1978). Like Eno's record, Insen is humanist and emotionally affecting without relying on music's traditional mechanisms for seizing attention: it is "as ignorable as it is interesting." But the album also distinguishes itself from the many Ambient clones that sprung up in Eno's wake, particularly through Noto's deployment of crisp, precise electronic micro-events. Noto superimposes mathematical grid-structures over the amorphous beauty of Sakamoto's piano lines, constraining them within structures of rationalist order, and preventing the album from drifting into the territory of toothless New Age music. Two collaborators operating at the top of their respective games, and yielding an absolutely perfect balance of elements.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto >> "Berlin"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

2005 : 34 "I Predict A Riot" by Kaiser Chiefs


I just loved this song. It is simple, straight ahead, and fun. It is a perfect pop-rock song. Put this song on, put the windows down, put your foot on the gas, and sing at the top of your lungs. This is a song that should be on a plastic guitar game. From me that is a total complement.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Kaiser Chiefs >> "I Predict A Riot"

Friday, September 25, 2009

2005 : 32 "Since U Been Gone" by Ted Leo (covering Kelly Clarkson)


 

This is why I love cover songs. I hate the Kelly Clarkson version of this song, but I love this version. When someone else sings the song it can show you how good it is. The performer can change the context, and get away from all the baggage left by the first person who performed the song.

I love the way he plays the guitar on this song. It keeps me coming back to it over and over again. On top of just performing the hell out of this song, Ted Leo takes the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs song "Maps" and uses it as a back bridge. It works so well that it would be easy to think the song was written that way. That is just amazing. You gotta love it.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Ted Leo >> "Since U Been Gone"

2005 : 29-31 Three tracks by Pete Bernhard


To me Pete Bernhard's Things I Left Behind is one of the most perfect albums in existence. Part of that, I'm sure, is due to the fact that the album was largely recorded live in the studio with the songs played all the way through. And part of it is that these songs tell the sort of stories that I think acoustic guitar was made for.

As often happens to me with things I love as much as I love this album, I have a terrible time articulating how and why I love it so much. But, really, I think the music speaks for itself. These are my three favorite tracks in the order which they appear.

April Walker

Listen: Pete Bernhard >> "Heaven" | "Straight Line" | "Left Behind"

2005 : 28 "Sister I'm A Poet " by Colin Meloy (covering Morrissey)


 

When I first heard that Colin Meloy did an ep of Morrissey songs I geeked out. This seemed to be an intersection that worked perfectly. I am a fan of Colin Meloy and I was a fan of Morrissey. From the Decemberists' music I could see how Colin Meloy also made his way through college listening to Morrissey. I love it when artists give you an example of what is in their record collection.

I was a little disappointed when I saw what songs he selected to record. My Morrissey fandom leans closer to the front of his career. This might suggest that Colin Meloy liked different aspects of Morrissey then I did.

I do think, however, that "Sister I'm A Poet" might have been the perfect song for Colin Meloy to cover. I think he captures what makes the song special. By calling yourself a poet, you create a sense of self-importance. That self-importance is pompous, but it is needed by a poet to have the confidence to write good poetry. What I like about the song is you do not know if the narrator is a good poet or someone who just thinks they are. I think Colin Meloy understands that in his rendition.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Colin Meloy >> "Sister I'm A Poet"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2005 : 27 "Losing My Edge" by LCD Soundsystem


I've already mentioned the fact that I thought a lot, in 2005, about being an aging music fan. And part of this may have been because 2005 marked the release of the best song ever written about being an aging music fan: LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge."

I'm losing my edge
To all the kids in Tokyo and Berlin
I'm losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets
and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties

The early portion of the song is a gauntlet of trenchant observation and self-lacerating humor: no music fan of my generation will pass through without it landing at least one palpable hit. But the song's best passage comes around the 5:45 mark, when James Murphy begins racing through a roll-call of "relevant" bands. It's as simple as a grocery list, but no other gesture this decade has more truly evoked what it feels like to be a music fan in the contemporary world: the terrifying sublimity that comes from having your very identity bound up in efforts to attain mastery over a spectrum of cultural material that is, for all practical purposes, infinite.

This Heat
Pere Ubu
Outsiders
Nation of Ulysses
Mars
The Trojans
The Black Dice
Todd Terry
the Germs
Section 25
Althea and Donna
Sexual Harrassment
a-ha
Pere Ubu
Dorothy Ashby
PIL
the Fania All-Stars
the Bar-Kays
the Human League
the Normal
Lou Reed
Scott Walker
Monks
Niagra
Joy Division
Lower 48
the Association
Sun Ra
Scientists
Royal Trux
10cc
Eric B. and Rakim
Index
Basic Channel
Soulsonic Force
Juan Atkins
David Axelrod
Electric Prunes
Gil! Scott! Heron!
the Slits
Faust
Mantronix
Pharaoh Sanders and the Fire Engines
the Swans
the Soft Cell
the Sonics
the Sonics
the Sonics
the Sonics....

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: LCD Soundsystem >> "Losing My Edge"

2005 : 26 "Vervain" by MF Doom


I know I will lose a whole bunch of hip-hop cred when I write this, but I would rather listen to MF Doom than Jay-Z. I know that this is blasphemy to much of the world. Jay-Z is widely seen as the best of the best. To be honest, I don't care. It is not the raps that make MF Doom special. It is the beats and the samples.

I first heard "Vervain" when I was sitting in a coffee house. At first I picked out some of the samples as the music from the old Spider-Man/Marvel Heroes cartoons. The sample was from the heroic theme from when the heroes needed to act to win the day. That moment of selfless action that turned them into heroes. Hearing this in a hip-hop sample made my ears just pop.

I know that I can be accused of being nostalgic by getting excited by this. It is not just that he uses music from an old cartoon, but it is how he uses it. It is not just a stunt, but a sincere artistic expression. He loops the sample, adds beats, and effects, and makes it into something more. He creates something hip-hop out of this piece of music.

Rich Thomas

Listen: MF Doom >> "Vervain"

2005 : 24-25 Two tracks by My Morning Jacket


"Anytime"

The opening strains of this song always excite me, no matter how many times I hear it, because I know what's coming. I cannot understand why Jim James isn't considered one of the best singers in music today. Is there any voice that could work better on this track? My favorite part is actually one that can be easily missed. Listen to the opening line—"Is this climbing up to the moon?" With both the studio recording and the live versions (the audio file is actually taken from the 2006 live disc Okonokos), James' voice always tends to crack and drag out the word 'to' for just a split second longer than normal, and for some reason, I always focus on that. His voice isn't perfect, it lilts a little, but he's obviously pouring himself into every word. That one little crack always makes me smile.


"Off the Record"

This song is phenomenal, because the focus is on the music and the emotion. As with "Anytime," James' voice isn't perfect, and at times, the lyrics are downright unintelligible. However, he doesn't dominate at all; the entire band is both in harmony yet distinct, from the bass to the drumming. I've also picked the live version for the audio file because it's a longer version than the studio one, and it combines the best of both worlds: it's definitely their song, but in the middle, it turns into what feels like a jam session or an improv experiment. However, this only adds to the beauty.

Jamie Yates

Listen: My Morning Jacket >> "Anytime" | "Off The Record"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2005 : 23 "Love Steals Us From Lonliness" by Idlewild


And you said something
You said something stupid like
Love steals us from loneliness
Happy birthday
Are you lonely yet?

I will admit that this is a totally cheezy song. It is cliche and says nothing original. I know it is just pop tripe, at best. All that said, this song captured me, like a bad kid's cereal. I know it is bad for me, but I cannot get away from it. It is a guilty pleasure, and the taste police are going to throw the book at me. Oh well, the best thing about music is that I do not need anyone to okay what I put on my iPod.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Idlewild >> "Love Steals Us From Loneliness"

2005 : 22 "At the Bottom Of Everything" by Bright Eyes


Conor Oberst is one of those artists whom, even though I love his music, I can totally appreciate and understand someone NOT liking him. The opening track off of I'm Wide Awake It's Morning represents Oberst at his best (or worst, if you share the opposing sentiment). First and foremost, he's a poet, and the lyrics following the spoken word introduction are beautiful and scary.

While my mother waters plants
My father loads his gun
Says "Death will give us back to God
Just like the setting sun"

The beauty of this song is that his lyrics cover such a vast scope of ideas and metaphor, everything from family to the "American Dream," yet everything fits comfortably under the same musical umbrella. As inventive as he is, nothing seems too far-fetched, and the music is so captivating that by the end, the idea of plunging into a metaphorical cavern feels entirely plausible.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Bright Eyes >> "At The Bottom of Everything"

2005 : 21 "Busting Up A Starbucks" by Mike Doughty


Does the man who makes the shoes own you, clown?

You can't even pry the nameplate off, now can you?

Fix it with your tiny fist there

James Van Der Beek and them sisters from Sister, Sister

The only one that's ever felt this is you

The force that's forcing you

To feel like busting up a Starbucks

There is a live version of this song where Mike Doughty said, "I have not heard myself on Hear Music in Starbucks since this song came out." I think that is a funny admission; you would think they would not let him into Starbucks anymore.

I like the song, but I feel sorry for Starbucks. They try to be good corporate citizens, treat their employees right, reduce their waste, and treat the environment right, but people still hate them. I know it has to do more with what Starbucks symbolizes more that what it is.

The song really hits that anger on the head.javascript:void(0) At least it hits my version of that anger on the head. I am sure that other people have a different kind of anger against Starbucks. My anger for Starbucks is much like my anger for James Van Der Beek, but I do not plan on busting up anything.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mike Doughty >> "Bustin Up A Starbucks"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2004 : 20 "Frances the Mute" by The Mars Volta


Klang! Splash! Klarg klarg klarg! beat ta gar samck smack tapp gar gar. pohh bong gah, ga. ba. bah! What is mine I never give. Her ash.... gape sin.... shining.... certitude... more and you'lln ever finda closet festered and secret...... ... .................. 'tiloneday..........

Justin Timberdrake

Listen: The Mars Volta >> "Frances the Mute"

2005 : 19 "If I'm Waiting" by Jason Anderson


I'm slowly embracing
The concept of you as a ghost

Wow. From the moment I heard these opening lines I had to know what this song was about. There are lots of people in my life that I have seen go from present to ghost. I love this opening because there are so many places to go from here.

Leaving the house
Has started to feel like
A fourth grader's Christmas Eve
Killing time at the thrift store
Returning on fire to
Tear through the caller ID
But my Houdini lover
You've escaped and vanished

Ah, this is something I have felt before. The feeling where you are just waiting to hear from the person again. You have exhausted the number of time you can contact them before they get back to you. Now you just have to wait. It is both hopeful and disparaging all at the same time.

I don't know if I'm waiting anymore
Or if it's over
It's probably over

I have been here, too. Do I wait or give up hope? If you give up hope and move on, the relationship will never be the same. If you wait too long, you get stuck in that place. It is a tough choice.

What I loved so much about Jason Anderson's The Wreath was how he totally captured the idea of being stuck. You get a real sense of being in a place where you don't know how to move on. This album reminded me of how I felt in my 20's. I kept on finding myself stuck in places. It is amazing to hear an album that sounds as lost as I felt.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Jason Anderson >> "If I'm Waiting"

2005 : 18
"Straight No Chaser / Epistrophy" by Alexander von Schlippenbach / Axel Dörner / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder / Uli Jennessen


The jazz world doesn't need another set of Monk covers. The world doesn't need another hospital or cop drama either. But we keep coming back to them. Every established and up-and-coming jazz artist (Bill Clinton said Monk was the jazz artist he most wanted to have jammed with) feels the need to prove his chops against the master by resurrecting such hoary chestnuts as "Off Minor" and "Ruby My Dear." Rarely do they ever shed any new light, or add any new perspectives on these scuffed geometrical gemstones. Nor do they match Monk's spirit of personal discovery when playing his own compositions, Exceptions are few: Giorgio Gaslini's album Gaslini Plays Monk, and lifelong acolyte Steve Lacy's Mondrian-like constructions.

So it might have come as some surprise that one of the pinnacles of live music in the last 10 years, is a collection of Monk covers by musicians who have, for the better part of 3 decades, pushed the boundaries of the jazz tradition. Not just a collection, though, the entire collected compositional output, which totals 69 songs, on three CDs. Some are taken at breakneck speed, some are enjambed, some are smeared with extended techniques, some are played "straight." It's not only a dazzling display of talent and arrangement, but of re-imagining what we've heard a million times over. Monk is rescued from the bin of soft clich├ęs, turned inside out, the edges sharpened to a blinding point.

Gurgling Rudi Mahall's bass clarinet is like the resurrection of Eric Dolphy, almost to the point of parody (which at times, the whole project feels like). On tunes like "Monk's Dream," the shambling New Orleans jalopy feels as loose as an Art Ensemble of Chicago record. Uli Jennessen (drums) and battery mate Jan Roder (bass), swing when the melody runs downhill, and when they get to the bottom, take the long way back up. Axel Dörner takes a page from Don Cherry's playbook, and scribbles on it. The whole box is boisterous, measured, respectful, irreverent, playful, and somber, beautiful and, yes, ugly. Like old friends getting together to tell stories of their childhood.

The set ends with a rousing huzzah, "Straight No Chaser / Epistrophy."

See also: Atomic – The Bikini Tapes (Jazzland)

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Alexander von Schlippenbach / Axel Dörner / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder / Uli Jennessen >> "Straight No Chaser / Epistrophy"

Monday, September 21, 2009

2005 : 16-17 Aught Music Roundtable: The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats


Roundtable Part One: "Dance Music"

Wow, this song really hit me. The first time I heard it, I listed to it ten times in a row. It expresses this idea in a way that totally made me take notice. Yes, I have drowned out fighting with music in my life. I guess it is something most of us have done.

Rich Thomas


Roundtable Part Two: "This Year"

I find "This Year" to be inspirational in a self-deprecating, defeatist sort of way. It's like that point when the pile-up of stressful and potentially terrible things one must deal with becomes so overwhelming it's suddenly laughable. And that's exactly the point when things start to get better.

April Walker

Listen: The Mountain Goats >> "Dance Music" | "This Year"

2005 : 15 "Just Ask the Lonely" by Omar-S


The sound of tomorrow is almost 30 years old.

Considering its future-minded name, techno has a deep and ironic obsession with vintage drum machines and synths. Techno artists have embraced every recent development in music technology, but Roland's TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, both introduced in the early 80's, are still widely considered the real thing, irreplaceable by even the best software emulations.

Omar-S is a traditionalist, a classic Detroit techno artist. Listening to his records, it's as if the past 20 years of increasing BPMs, club lifestyle and sub-genre balkanization hadn't happened. To me, "Just Ask the Lonely" is a short-circuit to what techno originally was before it was a soundtrack to drug use / teen vampire movies / import car commercials: Detroit soul music made with machines and free of Motown's shadow.

Neil Jendon

Listen: Omar-S >> "Just Ask The Lonely"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2005 : 14 "Someday You Will Be Loved" by Death Cab For Cutie


It was one of those phone calls. It seemed like we had a lot of those phone calls after we broke up. "You remember that time sitting in your car, listening to Death Cab for Cutie?"

"Yeah." I knew what song she was talking about.

"I thought that song was about JT singing it to me." When we were listening to that Death Cab song, she told me that I loved her like no one else before. "I realize now I am singing that song to you." There was a long silence. That kind of silence you only get on those kinds of post-break-up phone calls when you are trying not to just yell angry things at the other person. It was raining in June in San Jose. It was far from a normal day. "But I know your heart belongs to someone you've yet to meet."

This song has always been attached to her since then.

You may feel alone when you're falling asleep
And every time tears roll down your cheeks
But I know your heart belongs to someone you've yet to meet
And someday you will be loved
You'll be loved
You'll be loved
Like you never have known
And the memories of me will seem more like bad dreams
Just a series of blurs like I never occurred
Someday you will be loved
You'll be loved
You'll be loved
Like you never have known
And the memories of me will seem more like bad dreams
Just a series of blurs like I never occurred
Someday you will be loved
And someday you will be loved

Rich Thomas

Listen: Death Cab For Cutie >> "Someday You Will Be Loved"

2005 : 13 "The Guilt of Uncomplicated Thoughts" by Brian McBride


Brian McBride may be better known for his contributions as one half of the drone duo Stars of the Lid, a concern which produced some very excellent work this decade (perhaps most notably The Tired Sounds Of..., from 2002). Still, nothing in their discography adequately prepared me for an album with the impact, consistency, and emotional force of McBride's solo debut, When The Detail Lost Its Freedom. These songs are mostly instrumentals, but they convey a sense of grand sadness, profound yearning, and inconsolable loss more indelibly and expressively than the output of any number of the decade's mopey singer-songwriters. The lack of lyrical content invites speculation—was McBride coming out of a relationship? Was he leaving a place that he loved? Maybe both? Ultimately, however, not knowing gives the music a more universal appeal: it permits us to use these songs as soundtrack to our own woundedness, regardless of cause. This is potent stuff, however, so apply with the utmost caution.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Brian McBride >> "The Guilt of Uncomplicated Thoughts"

2005 : 12 "The Bagman's Gambit" by The Decemberist


My favorite device in literature is the unreliable narrator. I love the idea that the narrator is lying to me for some reason. I still meet people who find this idea unthinkable. They think the unreliable narrator makes fiction fall apart.

At some point I started to think that the narrator in "The Bagman's Gambit" might be unreliable. There is something about this story that is so fantastic, I could see it is all happening in the mind of the narrator. I like the song more because I am not sure if the narrator is lying to me or not.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Decemberists >> "The Bagman's Gambit"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

2005 : 11 "I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon


I turn my camera on
I cut my fingers on the way

Can any band claim to sound any sexier in a non-love song situation? Methinks not. The beat of the song makes for unavoidable strutting when listened to while walking, and while "I Turn My Camera On" was almost overplayed, it never loses its freshness.

This particular track comes off of an album that, from top to bottom, doesn't have a bad song available. However, it wins thanks to a special memory. A few years back, I was living with my best friend, and one evening after a rough day, he came into the apartment, wordless, and visibly tired and pissed off. He sat on the living room floor and began to re-string his guitar. On a whim, I put Gimme Fiction on, and by the time "I Turn My Camera On" played, he was bouncing his head to the music in much better spirits. Such is the power of a phenomenal track.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Spoon >> "I Turn My Camera On"

2005 : 10 "Cream and Bastards Rise" by Harvey Danger


Harvey Danger did an amazing thing in 2005. They gave the Little By Little album out for free as a digital download. You can still download it from their website. This is before Radiohead's In Rainbows was priced at whatever people were willing to pay and before or Nine Inch Nails gave away their album.

I was already a Harvey Danger fan. I was the only person I knew who had both of their albums before this, and I was happy that they tried a different approach. It took a lot of guts. They had a good idea of gamble they were taking. I wish it would have worked out better for them. They did not get another hit after this or even release another album. The album was good, but not great. It did not have the power or quickness of their other albums. Their songs had the weary nature that come along with trying to make something into a career. The album was not good enough to put them in a position where all they needed was attention.

Earlier this year Harvey Danger played their last show. They could not ride the Internet release back to the big times. I hope they learned enough that future projects will be rewarding for them.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Harvey Danger >> "Cream and Bastards Rise"

2005 : 09 "What's In Store?" by Architecture in Helsinki


Around age 14 or 15—when I was first developing an identity as a music listener and collector—I thought of music as a window into adulthood, and I enjoyed listening to albums that I believed might provide some insight into the adult world (Paul Simon's Graceland is the one that first comes to mind). By the time I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I was living in Chicago, performing in a band, and beginning to make friends with people in other bands: I had begun to think of music as being something made by my peers. But now I'm 36, almost 37, and increasingly I think of music—especially pop music—as something that's made by "kids." Architecture in Helsinki's 2005 album, In Case We Die, is a personal milestone for me in this department: it was the first album I ever loved even though I knew, knew in my bones, that it was made by people substantially younger than me. It's slightly alarming to have lived long enough to have experienced this shift, but it doesn't make me like In Case We Die any less. In fact, the album embodies everything there is to like about young people: it's ambitious, creative, energetic, earnest, charismatic and sweet. Occasionally they reach for something that they can't quite achieve but the enthusiasm evident in the reaching is in and of itself enough to make my heart swell with adoration.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Architecture in Helsinki >> "What's In Store?"

Friday, September 18, 2009

2005 : 08 "Second Option" by Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell


I don't wanna be your second option
I don't wanna be your afterthought
I don't wanna know the plans you make
If they're not with me then call 'em off

When you go through a breakup, breakup songs seem to find you. I know that this song popped off this album at me because of a breakup I had at the time. When I would be feeling bad about the breakup, I would listen to this song over and over again. It is not just the lyrics, but it is the whole package. It is the singing, the drum intro, the guitar playing—the whole thing sounds like trying get over a woman. Even now, long after the relationship and finding love again, I love listening to this song. It is a great song about trying to tell someone off, but not being over them.

I don't wanna hang on your pretty hook

I don't wanna wait another day

I'm the biggest fish in your shallow water

Always be the one who got away

Got away
I've been alone on Sunday, baby

I've been alone on a Monday

I've been alone too many days baby

Don't you ever doubt it

When I can learn to live without it

I'll be gone

Rich Thomas

Listen: Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell >> "Second Option"

2005 : 07 "You're Gonna Lose Us" by The Cribs


It's fitting I first heard this song on Philebrity, a blog about being a douche bag in Philly. This is a song in celebration of being a drunken asshole. Sometimes the worst thing in the world is talk about feelings. I used to be one of those "Are these people REALLY my friends?" kind of pussies. Alcohol and losing your virginity can do wonders for your ego, that’s why I'm late to the party of being "one of the dudes." Listening to this song makes me feel like I'm in a Guy Ritchie movie when people actually gave a shit about Guy Ritchie movies. This song is best heard on your music listening device while waiting for the Night Owl bus after the bar but before you get the spins.

James Specht

Listen: The Cribs >> "You're Gonna Lose Us"

2005 : 06 "Growing up with GNR" by Aquaduct


I was only 12
Damn it all to hell
I was feeling fine
Hearing Axl Rose on the radio
Singing "Sweet Child of Mine"

At a party I was asked to describe Philadelphia in one sentence. I said, It is the kind of town when I hear Guns N' Roses on the radio every time I visit. I understand that might not be totally accurate, it it has something to do with how I experience the area. Some of my friends there are still GNR fans.

I love this kind of song. I am right there with Aquaduct. There is part of me that still loves Guns N' Roses. They were not Motley Crew or Poison, they were a band that I could listen to and not feel like an idiot. They were something special about them that was better than the rest of the Glam Metal world.

I rarely hear Guns N' Roses in California. I bet I have heard them on every visit I have made back to PA in the last 10 years. GNR are part of the past, at least for me. I understand the idea that everyone you know who loves GNR are part of your past and not your present. I think that is where this song is a success.

Hearing Axl Rose on the radio
Remembering the good times with you

Rich Thomas

Listen: Aqueduct >> "Growing Up With GNR"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2005 : 05 "Daughters of the Soho Riots" by The National


I fell instantly in love with Matt Berninger's voice the first time I heard this song (which was, incidentally, the first song by The National I'd ever heard). It's the sort of song that makes me long for places I've never been, people I've never met, and things that never happened.

April Walker

Listen: The National >> "Daughters of the Soho Riots"

2005 : 04 For Today I Am A Boy - Antony & The Johnsons


One day I'll grow up, I'll feel the power in me
One day I'll grow up, of this I’m sure
One day I'll grow up, I know a womb within me
One day I'll grow up, feel it full and pure
But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy

I saw a video of a bunch of English soccer hooligans singing this song after losing a match. This is a strange song for a bunch of macho guys to sing. You would think that they would not be down with a song that is about a boy dreaming of becoming a transsexual.

This happens because this song is about something else than that. I think this song is about an inner strength, something that is needed when you are not what you want to be. He knows he is not a woman right now, and that he cannot be. I think there is something universal about this.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Antony and the Johnsons >> "For Today I Am A Boy"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2005 : 03 "Tymps (The Sick In the Head Song)" by Fiona Apple


Given the complexities and intelligence in Fiona Apple's lyrics, I'm sure that a thousand different people have interpreted this song in many different ways. I like my own spin on the song. In interviews, Apple has explained her fierce independence in relationships as well as her creativity. I don't have an exact quote available, but she commented on even maintaining two seperate houses if she ever got married. Here's a sample lyric:

So why did I kiss him so hard
late last Friday night
Keep on letting him change all my plans
I'm either sick in the head
I need to be bled dry to quit
Or I just really used to love him
I sure hope that's it.

For some reason, I find it comforting that anyone, especially someone as honest and authentic as Apple, can completely relapse on his/her independence based on a strong attraction for the wrong person. We've all pined for someone whom we knew wasn't right deep down, and we all have (or would have) kissed said person with just as much fervor. It doesn't matter how intelligent we are...lust wins sometimes.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Fiona Apple >> "Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song)"

2005 : 02 Two tracks by Art Brut


"Formed A Band"

Honey pie, I don't know when it started
Just stop buying your albums from the supermarkets
They only sell things that have charted
And Art Brut?
Well we've only just started
And yes, this is my singing voice
It's not irony
And it's not rock and roll
I'm just talking
To the kids

I love Rock & Roll. I love things that love Rock & Roll. I love music that pokes fun at that love of Rock & Roll. I think this is a great song because it loves Rock & Roll and understands how that is silly at the same time. I think every band should start thinking that they will change the world. If you form a band, they might just play your song on Top of the Pops. (This was before Top of the Pops was cancelled.)

Art Brut's straight-ahead, slimmed-down rock style makes this song work. I want to coin the term Post-Power-Pop when describing them. Their screaming guitars, bouncing bass, and driving beat are a perfect backdrop for their clever lyrics. I sing and drop the gas pedal to the floor when I hear this song.

What else can I say about a band that wants to write a song that causes world peace?

I want to be the boy
The man
Who writes the song
That makes Israel and Palestine
Get along

PS. If there is any one song that should be on Rock Band, it is this one.


"Emily Kane"

I was your boyfriend when we were fifteen
It's the happiest that I've ever been
Even though we didn't understand
How to do much more than just hold hands
There's so much about you I miss
The clumsy way we used to kiss
I wish I convinced you, you've made a mistake
If memory serves, we're still on a break
Other girls went and other girls came
I can't get over my old flame
I'm still in love with Emily Kane

As you might know by now, I love songs that describe something I have already been feeling, but ever put words to before. This song is right in that category. I think every single guy has that one woman who they still think back to. For many of us, like myself, it was the first real girlfriend we look back to. That first feeling of love is always powerful. I think this is part of what High Fidelity is about.

I wonder how Emily Kane feels about this song. Do schoolgirls call her name out of buses? Do her friends know about this song?

I real love the way Art Brut makes this song so loving and joyful. It is looking in the past in a fun way. He is not hung up about the mistakes. I think that is part of what makes this song cool.

Every girl that I've seen since
Looks just like you when I squint
I know you said it's for the best
I still don't understand why you left
So much about you I miss
Everytime I see a couple kiss
I hope this song finds you fame
I want school kids on buses singing your name
Other girls went and other girls came
I can't get over my old flame
I'm still in love with Emily Kane

Rich Thomas

Listen: Art Brut >> "Formed A Band" | "Emily Kane"

2005 : 01 "10 Dollar" by M.I.A.


Is M.I.A. the artist of the decade? She wasn't my favorite artist of the last ten years, but there's a couple of things about her that neatly embody any number of trends that were important to the Aughts.

A lot of ink and pixels have already been expended on discussing her personality / biography/ brand, and it's likely that most readers of this blog already have an opinion. I will say this: love it or hate it, M.I.A.'s diaspora-inflected polyglot mashup identity—part refugee, part resistance fighter, part art-school hipster —puts her in a pretty good position to create songs about militaries, terrorists, prostitutes, hostages, and markets: all highly relevant subject matter for the Aughts. The fact that songs with these heady, even grim topics almost uniformly work as sure-fire dance-floor igniters is a small miracle unto itself. (Exhibit A: "10 Dollar.")

None of this might have mattered very much if M.I.A. didn't also have a keen grip on the mutating systems of musical distribution, another reason why she stands for me as a key cultural figure from the decade. She was not the first person to understand the mash-up, the remix, the calculated leak, the MP3, the file-sharing network, and the blog as the new decade's prime mechanisms of musical transmission, but she exploited that understanding with unusual canniness. Recall that prior to Arular's release, she and Diplo built buzz by integrating her vocal tracks into a mix (Piracy Funds Terrorism) and circulated that mix via the Internet. This move ended up being a wildly successful end-run around the traditional apparatus of music production and distribution, a stunning implementation of strategies and technologies that were, at the time, novel. What this meant, in my experience as a listener, is this: Arular is the first album I bought on the strengths of tracks I had downloaded from blogs.

As I think back to that story, I remember that when I went into Tower Records to purchase it, I was thwarted: the album hadn't come out yet. Thanks to the Internet, I had a few tracks from the record literally in my pocket, but the actual physical album hadn't yet made its way into existence. I didn't understand that as a sea change at the time, but in retrospect, with Tower Records now vanished from the earth, it kind of looks that way, and M.I.A. will probably forever stand as the artist who best embodies that transition for me.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: M.I.A. >> "10 Dollar"

Monday, September 14, 2009

2004 Day of Rest


 

And thus we draw the curtain on another year. This blog will now come to rest momentarily, and will resume with write-ups of music from 2005 later this week (Wednesday?).

Note that older tracks continue to "age out"—tracks from 2002 and 2003 will be taken down soon, so get 'em while you still can.

Remember that parties interested in participating can e-mail me for an invite: "projects" at imaginaryyear.com.

Thanks to everyone who provided write-ups and tracks so far!

Friday, September 11, 2009

2004 : 47 "The Tain" by The Decemberists


I got to see the Decemberists play "The Tain" as their encore live. I already had the EP, and I was lukewarm about it before seeing them play it live. After seeing them play it, I loved it. It is almost a song that has to be experienced live. It is so large and massive it is hard to listen to on a recording, at least for me. In concert it showed me all sorts of things I had never noticed before, like the connection to Led Zeppelin in parts of the song. I could really see that whole Prog Rock aspect of the song. Seeing "The Tain" live showed me how the Decemeberists prided themselves on being performers. I am happy that I had the chance to see this.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Decemberists >> "The Tain"

2004 : 46 "Decay2 [Nihil's Maw]" by Sunn O)))


I wanted to end my 2004 write-ups with something big, and what could be "bigger" than the sound produced by drone-metal overlords Sunn O)))?

Their signature technique—play loud chords at dirge speed and through an unholy heap of amps—is nothing if not ably monolithic, but they're more interesting when they experiment with alternative routes to hugeness, as they do on their near-perfect 2004 album White 2. That album's closing track, "Decay2 [Nihil's Maw]," features some guitar, to be sure, but it's far more interested in the other sounds in its palette: the terrifying keenings, the yawning groans. In fact, the first sound identifiable as a guitar only arrives once the E-Bow kicks in around minute five, and by then we're well on our way, vertiginously descending into the vastest of hells.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Sunn O))) >> "Decay2 [Nihil's Maw]" (excerpt)

2004 : 45 "Company In My Back" by Wilco


Hide your soft skin, your sorrow is sunshine
Listen to my eyes
Hide your soft skin, your sorrow is sunshine
Listen to my eyes
They are hissing radiator tunes
I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back
I move so slow, a steady crushing hand
Holy shit there's a company in my back

I you ask me what "Company in My Back" is about, I cannot tell you. I cannot make sense of these lyrics for you. I cannot tell you a story that this song contains. I can tell you that this song reminds me of a specific moment in 2005. When I hear it I think about a date I got through Live Journal, a second date I got because of my CD collection, a baseball game in Oakland, a traffic jam on the way home, and taking a chance with a woman. This song played while I was with that woman.

That relationship is over, but I am changed because of it. I would say changed for the better. Without that moment, I doubt my life would be what it is today. I am at the point in my life when I can think of that relationship and see only the good things. I hope that when she looks back now she only sees the good things too.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Wilco >> "Company In My Back"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2004 : 44 "Rear Moth" by Psapp


Muppet calypso meets Stereolab—fun, inventive, a little silly and a little serious.

Amanda Doimas

Listen: Psapp >> "Rear Moth"

2004 : 43 "Burntwood" by Deathprod


2004 saw the release of a great four-album box set from Rune Grammofon producer Helge Sten, who records under the name "Deathprod." As the moniker suggests, this is music intended to be disquieting: it's mostly monochromatic Norwegian drone, made by grim electronic devices, raggedy violin, and some process of in-studio desecration that Sten refers to as the "audio virus" procedure. Even an adventurous listener might regard the prospect of four discs of this material with some degree of trepidation—but there are real rewards to be had here. Specifically, I'd point to the first four tracks on the Imaginary Songs From Tristan de Cunha disc, a suite of songs posing as field recordings from the remotest place on earth. Weathered and weird, the resulting tunes are finely imagined: they're recognizable as sounds produced by humans but they're alien enough that they can't be associated any existing genre of "music" ("world" or otherwise). Ultimately, they join the short list of great fake-ethnomusicology gags from this decade (a list that only contains one other item: the hilariously phony music that ran over the closing credits of Borat).

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Deathprod >> "Burntwood"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2004 : 42 "How We Know" by The Thermals


You spoon water like love and I will take it if you can take it...

"How We Know" is one of those infectious songs that can get stuck in your head very easily. Giving it a careful listen, however, I realize that it's probably not one of the greatest songs ever. The lyrics fill in as repetitive space holders for the throbbing beat, occasionally erupting into what feels like a jam session. There's nothing earth-shattering about this, but goddamn, it's a great song to rock out to from time to time. Hutch Harris' voice is perfect for this, and the rock-out parts sound much bigger than a trio would normally sound. One of the heavy criticisms of mainstream pop is that it's mindless and packaged to sound the same. A song like "How We Know" shows that indie rock can also have its share of mindless jams. Every genre has its share of music that simply boils down to "fun," and this song is no exception. The Thermals have written better songs, but this one always puts me in a good mood.

Jamie Yates

Listen: The Thermals >> "How We Know"

2004 : 41 "Zeplin Song" by Courtney Love


I'm a guitar
A les paul single cut away
Please don't play that song on me again
I'll explode
I'll break all my strings, start playing shit
Like the Sex Pistols or anything
(Sunhouse or the blues)

I will admit that buying Courtney Love's American Sweetheart was a little bit of schadenfreude. It had some bad reviews, so bad I just wanted to hear if they were telling the truth. After years of her life falling apart, I wanted to see if I could hear it in her album. I wanted to know how bad it could be.

I was disappointed. I was disappointed because it was not bad, but it was not good. I loved those Hole albums. Live Through This is one of my top ten albums of the 90s and I loved Celebrity Skin also. I wanted it to be better or worse than it was.

That being said, Courtney hit out of the park with "Zeplin Song." Yes, I am tried of Led Zeppelin. I am tired that I still get told how great they were. I just want it to stop. No More Led Zep Please. Yeah, she got this one right.

Why does he rain on my parade?
Why does the song remain the same?
I can't remember my own name
I work for minimum wage
Oh go sell it to Jimmy Page
At the crossroads with the deal he made
Cuz that song ain't goin' away
Oh God the Zeplin song
Nono the Zeplin song
Here comes the Zeplin song
Oh God the Zeplin song
SHUT UP!

Rich Thomas

Listen: Courtney Love >> "Zeplin Song"

2004 : 40 "America's Most Blunted" by Madvillain


"They" say that every album has a particular drug that serves as the perfect accompaniment, accenting certain elements of the music in the same way that wine embellishes certain elements of a good meal. It's not hard to imagine examples: the twinkling polygons evoked in the mind when one listens to Aphex Twin probably look more vivid on Ecstasy, and I might understand the appeal of classic Rolling Stones more thoroughly if I were loaded on cheap beer. The quintessential example, of course, is marijuana, which has been involved in the production of so much music that one might reasonably feel the need to smoke up occasionally just to figure out what the hell is going on. Madvillainy, a 2004 album produced by the duo of hip hop producer Madlib and rapper MF Doom, is a prime example of an album that might benefit from the completion of this prerequisite: its cluttered yet warm production, lyrical obtuseness, unpredictable samples (including pontifications on time from Sun Ra), even its juvenile digressions and unfinished quality, all speak clearest to the mindset of somebody who is nicely toasted. So by the time we reach track six, "America's Most Blunted," the Madvillain dudes are pretty much double underscoring something that is dead obvious to begin with. But I'll be damned if every single second of it isn't pure delight.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Madvillain >> "America's Most Blunted"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2004 : 39 "Game VI" by Motion Trio


 

In 2000, the announcer of Krakow's prestigious Penderecki International Competition of Contemporary Music asked the members of Motion Trio, jokingly, if they were on their way to perform at a wedding party. This makes perfect sense if you know that Motion Trio is an accordion trio. Well, this accordion trio proceeded to take the "Grand Prix" in the competition and, in the process, establish the accordion as a serious instrument for 21st century composition, one for much more than weddings, ethnic food festivals, and reliving the Eastern Europe of 65 years ago. As the group;s primary composer Janusz Wojtarowicz puts it, "Accordion traditionalists have run out of ideas, and it is our goal to extract notes from the accordion which have never been heard before...." Using the bellows, keys, and buttons in triplicate, Motion Trio does just that on Live in Vienna. Surprising sounds abound—from didgeridoo-ish lower register rumbling to sweet sustained notes reminiscent of the conch. The most engaging way the trio (the other members are Pawel Baranek and Marcin Galazyn) expands the possibilities for the accordion is by layering timbres and repeating motifs—much as we hear in contemporary electronic music—in pieces that consistently highlight the "in motion" properties of the bellows-propelled instrument. Imagine buzzing along in a slight European coupe through a countryside of winding, narrow roads, past picture-perfect little doppelganger towns, and you have a sense of the energy of this music. Great stuff for a Sunday drive, one a little on the dangerous side and with some fine vistas. And in Bavaria, of course! Occasionally, the trio builds tension in predictable ways—think of a jam band "surprising" you with yet another full-step rise on a terraced ascent, or a Hollywood movie's soundtrack kicking into overdrive (mostly by just getting louder) during some climactic battle. But this is a minor gripe. These guys are oddball and ambitious and a lot of fun. If you've ever looked at the zillion buttons and keys on an accordion and wondered what peculiar sounds might be squeezed out of that squeezebox, please check out Live in Vienna. The track here is "Game VI."

Eric Burger

Listen: Motion Trio >> "Game VI"

2004 : 38 "Giga Dance" by Deerhoof


I tend to see things in bad sci-fi terminology; so when I say this song would be great theme music for a villain, take it with a grain of salt. Deerhoof is very often loud and noisy, but rarely as HEAVY as this. This music makes me wanna walk around like a tornado, kicking garbage up and down the street, like I should go to a bar and poison the drinks. If I ever get the chance to tie damsels in distress to railroad tracks while twirling my mustache, this will be my exit music as I'm kicking the hero in the throat. Not music for a bad mood per se, but for a mood to act rotten accordingly.

James Specht

Listen: Deerhoof >> "Giga Dance"

2004 : 37 "Exeter Ending" by Food


I was introduced to this track by the poet (and Aught Music contributor) Eric Burger at one of our "listening parties," and I've been forever grateful. Eric and I both have an interest in the "moves" that pieces of artwork can make, especially those slippery artworks that change from one shape to another. Jazz and improvised musics are great for this purpose, and if asked to produce an example I might point to this piece from Norwegian quartet Food. For its first few minutes it sounds like a soundtrack to the Mesozoic Era: all primordial slime and calls from weird insects. But a few minutes in it's found its way into a strange metallic groove: it's as though a band of automata have emerged from the swamp to thrill the dawning world with funky robotic jazz. And then in its final moments it transforms again, into some kind of squawking contraption: the automata folding up and lifting off into space, perhaps. Watching this piece "move" from the uber-primal to the weirdly futuristic, makes it feel a little bit like you've just spent seven minutes looking out the window of a very nicely designed time machine.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Food >> "Exeter Ending"

Monday, September 7, 2009

2004 : 36 "Where Is the Line" by Bjork


Before Bjork released Medulla, I used to joke with my friends about starting a techo-pella band. The idea was that we would be creating all the sounds and loops with our voice. While we were joking about this, Bjork was doing it. I am happy that the idea was out in the world instead of just in my little world.

The song "Where Is the Line" is perfect for the project. The lyrics are simple, but this is a case of simplicity being the best. The song can be personal or it can be about an artist's ideas. Where is the line in music? Where do you put this song? Is genre important or not? What will you think of this song? What can be done with just a voice? There are lines all over the place and Bjork does a great job playing with those lines.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Bjork >> "Where Is The Line"

2004 : 35 "King's Crossing" by Elliott Smith


Is it afterlife with which we begin? A buzz to chords a-coming: manic, inexorable. In "King's Crossing" Elliott Smith tells us he took his own insides out; we know he died from two stab wounds. Getting to being carried away. A fuck you from the anyway I already have. I don't want to talk about it any more.

Justin Timberdrake

Listen: Elliott Smith >> "King's Crossing"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

2004 : 34 "Wake Up" by the Arcade Fire


This band reminds me of Radiohead, in that there was a time before I heard this album and it was very different from the times ever since then. I had been reading a lot about bands like Linkin Park and Korn and this was the reassurance I needed that music could still make sense to me. I didn't want to be old, prim and square; I wanted to rock out to Arcade Fire and let it fill me with what I think of as an upending nostalgia for the present.

Amanda Doimas

Listen: Arcade Fire >> "Wake Up"

2004 : 33 "27 Jennifers" by Mike Doughty


In the 80's, it seemed like every other girl I met was named Jennifer. They seemed to be all over my life, especially when I started dating. There was my next door neighbor, the second girl I dated, the girl with the locker next to mine, the girl who I tried out for the musical because I had a crush on her, the girl who thought I had no class, the girl who rejected me, the girl who took me to her senior prom, the girl who had a crush on me but wouldn't say anything to me, the girl who used to flirt with me to make my girlfriend mad, and the girl who I had a crush on because of letters she wrote. That list still seems to be light.

I remember telling Jeremy that we should write a song about all of them. The song "27 Jennifers" seems to be that song that Jeremy and I talked about. The first time I heard this song I was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge on my birthday. I was amazed how perfect this song was for me.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mike Doughty >> "27 Jennifers"

2004 : 32 "Soulful Shade Of Blue" by Neko Case (covering Buffy Saint-Marie)


Case is one of those rare artists who can blend original material and cover songs effortlessly, with said cover songs working more as homages than new interpretations. Given her status as one of the best live performers of today, "Soulful Shade Of Blue" works on all of these levels. It's a very simple, almost quaint tale of lost love and redemption.

Dressmaker, dressmaker,
I'm singing at the hall next saturday night and he'll be there.
He's been gone for so long, I want him back again,
Make me the sweetest dress you can.

Make it a soulful shade of blue with a ribbon at the hem,
A ribbon white for loyalty to show that I remember when
A soulful shade of blue looked into my eyes
And tell him I want him back again.

Originally recorded by Buffy Saint-Marie, Case sings "Soulful Shade Of Blue" in a virtually identical arrangement, albeit with backup vocals and at a faster pace. Case's own songs are complex, metaphor-laden looks at love and life in both urban and rural settings, and this cover feels like a minimalist version of her own material. It's intentionally old-fashioned, catchy, and highlights the amazing legacy of Canada's musical history. I've seen Case perform this song twice, and it has always been one of her best staples. Everything that she stands for can be found in these two and a half minutes.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Neko Case >> "Soulful Shade of Blue"

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2004 : 31 "The Barfruit Blues" by The Hold Steady


this was supposed to be a party
half the crowd is calling out for born to run and the other half is calling out for born to lose
baby we were born to choose
we got the last call bar band really big decision blues.
we were born to bruise.

When I heard the first Hold Steady album, Almost Killed Me, I could tell this guy was almost my age. It turns out that Craig Finn is 10 months older than me. It was strange, because by the age of 32, most of the new bands I was listening to were younger than me. So it was odd to here a new band that was older than me.

Maybe it is because the lead singer is my age, but the Hold Steady album really spoke to me. This made my ears ring right away. I could hear the Replacements, Husker Du, Bruce Springsteen, and Dinosaur Jr in the band's CD collection. I can imagine that their iTunes looks like my iTunes. The songs found their way to my headphones all the time.

There is part of me that things that the Hold Steady songs are describing an alternate universe version of my life. Maybe on Earth-17551 I am living out the lyrics of a the Hold Steady song. I am hanging in a bar every night knowing what the scene is all about.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Hold Steady >> "The Barfruit Blues"