Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2007 : Day of Rest


And so we draw the curtain on 2006. This blog will now rest until Monday, November 2, when we will begin posting tracks from 2007.

Friday, October 23, 2009

2006 : 52 "Gravity's Gone" by Drive-By Truckers

So I'll meet you at the bottom if there really is one
They always told me when you hit it you'll know it
But I've been falling so long it's like gravity's gone and I'm just floating

In 2006 I turned 34. Being 34 sucked, really, really sucked. The month I turned 34 my employee told me he wanted to work in another department, my boss told me he was leaving for a start-up, and my girlfriend broke up with me. Both my work life and my personal life seemed to be falling apart. It kept on getting worse for a long time. It did not get better until after I turned 35.

"Gravity's Gone" is what most of 2006 felt like for me. The album was released in April, more than enough time for it to be ready for my June swoon. At some point in that year it felt like I was never going to hit the bottom, so this song was perfect.

What I really love about this song is the tone. It is not sad or depressed. I would say it is resigned and accepting. There is a 'fuck it all if this is the way the world is going to treat me' attitude in this song. I think that is why the song put a smile on my face as everything was happening. I guess that is part of the country music tradition.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Drive-By Truckers >> "Gravity's Gone"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2006 : 51 "A Catalogue of Sounds" (excerpt) by Jakob Ullmann


A dry wind of fine dust particles. Hushed. A forgotten scientific textbook. Railroad clack. Motes. Indeterminate position. Upstairs neighbors rearranging furniture. Rust. Long discrete. Dull thump. Carved in wood. Scratch. Long continuous. Dry temp. A barely legible faded graph. A chart with no key. Flattened. Muffled conversation. Suspended solids. Table. Listen closely. Rustle. Rubbing produces static concentration. Smoke on the horizon. Relationships between unique elements. The bones of animals. Silence. Null columns. Erosion of stone and rock through slow processes. Etched in black. Motionless. A rock with blue scrapes. Sub-micron guest particles. The origin of language. Shutter click. A single index structure quickly degrades as time progresses. Location. Chair groan. Footfalls. Smudged stamp in a passport. Grit. Blurry sepia photographs. A bare branch. Relations between discrete objects. Fonts. Pitch tuning an instrument. Seed. A hierarchy of sounds. A joist where two lines meet. Fingers tapping. Silica. Dial tone. Shells and fossils. Minute. Chalk on your hands. An error in data. A broken fan. A thicket of trees. Boredom. Taking a longview. Decaying matters. Friction. Fallen branch. Amplify and multiply. Logos. Map of Clayoquot. Detrius. Resolution. Shadings of dark lantern shadows. Whimper. Creaky floorboards. Dead stars. Paint chips. Distant sigh. Oxidize. Wet bark. Peeling posters on a public wall. Frayed rope. Scribbled in the margins. A spade sliding in soft earth. Hissing desert wind. Hunger pangs. Grain. Curious buzzing. Bleached kite. Condensation. The outline of fog. Grey patterns in chipped metal. Hieroglyphs. Smell of cardamom. Fragments of brown glass. Calculations. Weeds never uprooted.

A violin whispering lost memories in your ear.

Darren DiMonsi

Listen: Jakob Ullmann >> "A Catalogue of Sounds" (excerpt)

2006 : 50 "The Greatest" by Cat Power

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars at night turned deep to dust

I was never a Cat Power fan before The Greatest. There was something about this album that just captured me. It was one of those albums I listed to for weeks. It was in my car CD player for almost a whole year before I took it out. Now it really sounds like 2006 to me.

There a resignation and loss to the song "The Greatest." You wanted to be the Greatest, but you know you will never be the Greatest now. In my head I can see a boxer coming to terms. If you do not want to be the Greatest, you cannot be a boxer; you cannot take that kind of beating without wanting that. Somewhere in me I know all these things to be true.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Cat Power >> "The Greatest"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2006 : 48 "Borneo" by The Fiery Furnaces

I admit that I do not entirely get the Fiery Furnaces. I feel like a lot of their songs are over my head. There is something there, but I am not getting it. They are the kind of band that reviewers love to gush over because no one can call them on their opinions. They are the kind of band that maybe we would get if we were smarter. Then again, maybe not.

I like "Borneo" because it has that feeling of wild adventure, all fit in 4:17. The pace and dissonance make the song hard to follow. I am not sure what it really means, but I am not sure anyone else does either.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Fiery Furnaces >> "Borneo"

2006 : 47 "Goin' Against Your Mind" by Built To Spill

When I was younger, certain songs would make me think about ways to shoot a music video for them. That stopped happening once I got out of college. This song makes me want to shoot a music video again. The music of this song makes me see something; makes me think about the song's visual aspect.

This song has a drive behind it that really makes my mind go into overdrive. It is a great feeling. If I was younger I would be moshing right now.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Built to Spill >> "Goin' Against Your Mind"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2006 : 45-46 Aught Music Roundtable: Remember That I Love You by Kimya Dawson

Roundtable Part One: "Loose Lips"

So if you wanna burn yourself, remember that I love you
And if you wanna cut yourself, remember that I love you
And if you wanna kill yourself, remember that I love you
Call me up before you're dead, we can make some plans instead
Send me an IM, I'll be your friend

I bought Remember That I Love You because in 2006 I was in the middle of my K Records buying frenzy. Yeah, at that time I would buy any album that K Records put out on eMusic. That is who I was for a while. I guess I was coming to the Kimya Dawson party late, but at least I got there before Juno.

Remember That I Love You is an amazing, heartfelt album with a lo-fi production that fits very well. Listening to the album, you feel like you are getting to know Kimya Dawson. There is a part of me that wants to draw comparisons Between Kimya Dawson with Daniel Johnson and John Darnielle, but I feel any comparison won't give Kimya her full due. She is making different music than either of them and she should be seen as such.

This album has little nuggets of happiness, pain, fear and optimism. Back in 2006 I could not stop talking to people about this album, but I am not sure anyone listened to me.

Rich Thomas

Roundtable Part Two: "I Like Giants"

In 2009, I learned every word of this song, as part of a plan to sing it from memory. Unaccompanied. In public. Memorizing it wasn't all that easy: the song has a lot of words. It also has an unusual verse structure, with a lot of irregular repetition that proved tricky. But let's set the diabolical aspects aside and look at what else this song contains: a fable, an autobiographical narrative, a vision of religious practice that is both attainable and open-ended, an injunction against suicide made by the suicidal, and a prescription for how to move in the world meaningfully. When I sang it successfully I got a standing ovation.

Listen: Kimya Dawson >> "Loose Lips" | "I Like Giants"

2006 : 44 "Warmer Climate" by Snow Patrol

A bonus track off the UK release of Eyes Open which, for me, outshines all of the other songs. The sentiment behind "Warmer Climate" is hardly new or revolutionary but the lyrics are just plain gorgeous, making it feel like something more, something bigger.

Maybe it's the warmer climate
Maybe I'm a smarter primate
Maybe it's the beer I'm drinking
Maybe I've stopped over-thinking
Baby you're the words and chapters
The sweetness in the morning after
You are the cry that turns to laughter
You're the hope that ends disaster

The universe just vanished out of sight
And all the stars collapsed behind the pitch black night
And I can barely see your face in front of mine
But it is knowing you are there that makes me fine

April Walker

Listen: Snow Patrol >> "Warmer Climate"

2006 : 43 "Binary Girl" by Mathematicans


I do not know what to call this song. I am not sure if it is geek-tronica, nouveau wave, lo-pro-tool-fi, or something else. I know it is enjoyable and makes me want to dance. That is all that is important. Let's have some fun and play this song again.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mathematicians >> "Binary Girl"

Monday, October 19, 2009

2006 : 42 "Get Lonely" by The Mountain Goats

I am not sure what else there is to say about the Mountain Goats. They are one of the best acts of the decade. Their songs are deep, dark, expensive, narrative and more than I ever expect. I feel like they have passed me somewhere and it is no use for me to try to keep up. I just listen and try to learn something. There is more there than I can say.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Mountain Goats >> "Get Lonely"

2006 : 41 "Once Again" by Girl Talk

I hesitate to say that 2006 was the year that mash-ups "grew up," because a youthful insouciance—even a brattiness—is really central to a good mash-up. It's not a form that can really be said to "mature." But 2006 was the year, it seems to me, that a few people began to realize that if they wanted to stand out they were going to need to do more than just line up a vocal track with a backing track that kinda fit with it in some kinda funny way. They were going to need to do much more. They were going to need to take it to a whole new level. Of the people who tried to complexify the form, the most impressive, for my money, was DJ Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, whose average track combines not two but dozens of culture's most memorable hooks, utterances and incantations. I wouldn't ever have thought that I'd buy an entire album of mash-ups, but Gillis' Night Ripper (2006) provides a pleasure-yield so concentrated that it easily qualifies as one of my favorites of the decade.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Girl Talk >> "Once Again"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2006 : 40 "Notion" by Karl Blau

Sometimes I think I love K Records bands because I mostly have them to myself. If I mention the name Karl Blau to most the people I know, they think I am talking about someone I work with. They have no idea I am talking about a musician I really like. No one else in my life has ever mentioned the Beneath Waves album. I am not afraid of other people finding out about Karl Blau, but I just think they never will.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Karl Blau >> "Notion"

2006 : 39 "Tall Green Grass" by Cory Branan

One of the things I love most about "Tall Green Grass" is the story that Cory tells when he plays the song live. A friend passed the live recording on to me about the same time that I got the album, so to me the story is as much a part of the song as the lyrics. The song feels like summer, those kind of wasted summer days that aren't wasted at all because doing nothing and lying about in fields with your friends is the best way to spend a summer day.

Warm molasses midnight on a Mississippi star
Candy apple moon on the hood of my car
Never could've told me you'd've gone this far
I can't even tell you where the fuck we are.

Must be off the radar, off the map
Stretched out in the tall green grass
It's only green, against the blue
It's only me, against you

April Walker

Listen: Cory Branan >> "Tall Green Grass" | "Tall Green Grass [Live]"

2006 : 37-38 Two tracks by Mates of State

"Fraud in the 80's"

See the glow up above
See it glow telling us it rained on the streets of London
Like it pours on other towns
But the glistening of make-up helps to construct a better clown
And you will surely find this news pleasing to your ears
You can surely try to be more alive

Every even year in the 2000's I took a trip to Portland. Even though I only lived there for one year, it is still one of my favorite places to go. It is a great place to get away from the life I am living for a few days. Because of all Portland's great record shops, of course I would always visit one while I was up there, and I would buy an album that had just come out. In 2006 the album was Mates of State's Bring It Back. I took the title as a sign that I should buy the album. I could not have been more lucky. It is one of my favorite albums of this decade.

I love angry music. Not music that is full of rage, but rather the anger of "Oh yeah? Well, I'll show you." The kind of anger that makes athletes want to win. "Fraud in the 80's" has that kind of anger. You can hear it in the keyboards, the drums, and singing. It is the kind of anger that makes me want to turn the stereo all the way up and speed on the freeway.

"Like U Crazy"

I saw Mates of State play as the first act before Death Cab For Cutie and Spoon. The last song they played was "Like U Crazy." When they play it live they use a section of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" as the bridge. When I heard it, I thought that it was even better than Cat Power playing "Crazy" as an encore. I thought it was a nice way to take a song that just came out and add it to their song that just came out. Somehow this made the song even better.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mates of State >> "Fraud In The 80s" | "Like U Crazy"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2006 : 36 "We Love You Michael Gira" by Ben Frost

I don't know anything about Ben Frost that can't be found in his Wikipedia entry, which isn't much. His 2006 album, Theory of Machines, is one of the most unabashedly beautiful things I've heard in a long time. This track has a regrettable title, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Neil Jendon

Listen: Ben Frost >> "We Love You Michael Gira"

2006 : 35 "Don't Fade On Me" by Magnolia Electric Co.

When someone breaks up with you, every song is a breakup song. You hear breakup songs every time music comes on. Even songs you might not have seen as breakup songs at other times are breakup songs now. It is even better if the song has some nice Country/Blues guitar riffs. A song like this gets stuck in the moment. Even when you get over the breakup the song is still a breakup song. It is one of those things you just need to leave in the past.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Magnolia Electric Co >> "Don't Fade On Me"

2006 : 34 "Book of Baby Names" by Bound Stems

She says my name. I say, "Julia." (knock) She understands? (enter) I say, "Sorry, Stacy." I say, "Just kidding, Tina." I say, "All right, Margaret." (wind through party) I say, "Come on, Wendy." (aside) How long can I go without saying her name? How long before I run out?

I enjoy this this song for some strange reason. There is a story here, but not really a story. It is a small clip of an interaction between two people. It is enough to make me want me to know more, but there is no more to know. There is something amazing in that. She doesn't know how recently I've been reading a book of baby names.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Bound Stems >> "Book of Baby Names"

Friday, October 16, 2009

2006 : 33 "(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me?" by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

With quite a few of my selections for this project, I've written about how some female singers can sound strong and fragile at the same time. Mark Lanegan does that perfectly on this track. He and Campbell sound amazing together on this disc, but I almost wish that this particular song was a solo for him.

I'm not saying I love you, I won't say I'll be true,
There's a crimson bird flying when I go down on you
I'm so weary and lonesome and it's cold in the night,
When the path to your doorway is a pathway of light.

There are very few songs that can be evocations of both masculinity, insecurity, and sensitivity. Lanegan sounds tough, but there's much more being painfully pushed down below the surface. Jeremy wrote about The National expressing masculinity in the 21st century on the track "All the Wine." While these are two vastly different songs, I think that "Come Walk With Me" is another chapter in intelligent musical looks at what it means to be a man, fraught with complexities and a myriad of emotions.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan >> "(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me?"

2006 : 32 "People Get Ready [Live at Lollapalooza 2006]" by The Frames

I know that live album banter has been done to death. I know that it has been played out to the end. I just the love version of this song. I love the way he asks the audience to sing along, the reference to the Bible, and how he calls his mother during the song. Some times you just need to give in to that indulgence.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Frames >> "People Get Ready"

2006 : 31 "Georgia...Bush" by DJ Drama and Lil Wayne


I still have a difficult time writing or even thinking coherently about Hurricane Katrina and its impact. I remember spending hours online in 2005, reading the news reports, my sensation of horror growing wider and deeper as the disaster unfolded. I strained to get a mental handle on the full scope of it, but never quite managed, certainly not enough to develop anything meaningful to say.

Fortunately, other people persevered where I quailed, and we now have our share of relevant statements on Katrina. If I were going to pick one song that "says something" lasting about the disaster, I'd choose Lil Wayne's "Georgia...Bush," a track that serves as quality evidence of Chuck D's famous assertion that hip-hop is the "CNN of Black America." In just under four minutes, Wayne discusses governmental incompetence at both the national and local levels, logistical difficulties for returning residents, conspiracy theories about the levees, and 1965’s Hurricane Benson. Wayne's political invective is satisfyingly inflammatory, but ultimately his verses provide no catharsis: he lingers on images of misery and death, leaving a lasting sensation only of irreperable harm, a thing that his anger—and ours—can't erase.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: DJ Drama and Lil Wayne >> "Georgia...Bush"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2006 : 30 "Crazy Logic" by Arty Fufkin


I was never a huge mash-up fan. Most them just sound like clever novelties and not something that I want to listen to over and over again. I find most of them unlistenable after two or three times. This one, though, is the exception. "Crazy" and "The Logical Song" together feels like a stroke of genius. There is just something so perfect with adding these songs together.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Arty Fufkin >> "Crazy Logic"

2006 : 28-29 Two tracks by Jeffrey Foucault

"Ghost Repeater"

"Ghost Repeater" was my introduction to Jeffrey Foucault and it was love at first listen. I subsequently fell in love with the entire album which, appropriately enough, the title track captures the feeling of quite nicely. It's a song I want to turn up all the way. I say that a lot about my favorite songs, but I guess that's an indication of just how much I love it, wanting to listen to it as loud as absolutely possible. It just makes me feel so free somehow, makes me want to drive around the west.

"Mesa, Arizona"

I love Jeffrey's imagery, his ability to turn the mundane and unnoticed into some of the most beautiful things.
You're the sky all full of starlings
And an ax blade shining in the sun
You're the angel touched a coal
Against my lips
You're my only one

Reel to reel
The country rolls
And the towns slide by
Like ghost repeaters
Of faded billboards & big-box stores
Like a movie of an empty theater
You look around and wonder
When the seams are going to fail
And how dear the cost of living
Where everything's for sale
Except you you're my one
You're my only one

April Walker

Listen: Jeffrey Foucault >> "Ghost Repeater" | "Mesa, Arizona"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2006 : 27 "Nailed To The Floor" by The Chambermaids

This song is a drag race. Go as hard as you can for 1:57 and see where you are when it is over. This song is the kind of song I could have used when I was 20 years old.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Chambermaids >> "Nailed To The Floor"

2006 : 26 "Where I'm From" by The Bottle Rockets

Where I'm from is never going to be my place

I love this song because it says something that I see in lots of my friends. We have left where we grew up to find our own place in the world. We knew that where we grew up did not fit who we were. We got away from those places, but those places stay with us. So there is a little Warminster, PA that is always part of me. I have connections there even if I go away. I feel that is the story of me and my friends.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Bottle Rockets >> "Where I'm From"

2006 : 25 "Queen of the Borrowed Light" by Wolves in the Throne Room

Black metal may be the only appropriate response to modernity. Wolves in the Throne Room marry ecological rage and loss with a return to what remains of nature. It's the only druid rock possible when one is aware that the polar cap is half the size it was in 1940, when congress is nattering about a cap and trade system with ambivalent results where implemented in the EU, and where faith in market solutions is offered as a "green revolution," our last best hope. We will lose. In this way, we arrive at "Queen of the Borrowed Light." We share borrowed time in the banal sense of our brief puking/bawling before the sun, but now also as a species. Have a nice day.

But don't protest. Stay home. Spin some records. Smoke a j. Cave. Tighten your belt. Take one for the team. Cower.

Justin Timberdrake

Listen: Wolves in the Throne Room >> "Queen of the Borrowed Light"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2006 : 24 "We are Sleepyheads" by Belle & Sebastian

I love the way this song starts. The first thirty seconds are almost perfect. I love the guitar, drums and vocals all working together. It is the kind of intro that makes me instantly pay attention to the rest of the song. The rest of the song does not let me down either.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Belle and Sebastian >> "We Are Sleepyheads"

2006 : 20-23 Aught Music Roundtable: The Crane Wife by The Decemberists

Roundtable Part One: "Sons & Daughters"

With this track, three simple adjectives sum it up quite well: moving, simple, and beautiful. Given the winding story arcs and characters featured on the rest of the album, it's amazing that it ends on such a small treasure.
When we arrive, sons & daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls with aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon.

Personally, I'll always hold this song very close. When The Crane Wife was released, my eldest brother was serving his second tour in the Iraq War. For varying reasons, I was much more scared and despondent during that second year, as if the reality of it all had truly hit me. Many a night, I was moved to tears by the closing lines:

Here all the bombs fade away,
Here all the bombs fade away.

He returned home safely, and that Christmas, I put "Sons & Daughters" as the final song on a mix CD that I made for him. I've never explained this significance to anyone until now.

Jamie Yates

Roundtable Part Two: "O Valencia!" (First Pass)

Yes, this story line has been done a million and one times, spanning every medium, and most well known from "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story." So on, so forth, etc. Two lovers find themselves carrying on a secret tryst under the noses of their warring families. However, as familiar as this is, it's hard to listen to it and not root for the lovers to live happily every after, even if it's an obvious lost cause.

All I heard was the shout
Of your brother calling me out
And you ran like a fool to my side.

Both in this song and the official music video (, the Decemberists do their usual job of taking a subject steeped in history and nostalgia and giving it a modern spin. It's not nearly as inventive as what they're capable of, but it's a great listen.

Jamie Yates

Roundtable Part Three: "O Valencia!" (Second Pass)

This is not my favorite Decemberists song, but I love the video. It is something truely worth watching. I know other people don't like it, but it is great. I love that they make Colin Meloy look so tough. The video makes the song better. That is what I am looking for.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Decemberists >> "Sons & Daughters | "O! Valencia"

2006 : 20 "No Space in This Realm" by Akron/Family

The Akron/Family songs give me a gentle, warmly loved feeling. They are a the warm bubbly spring of indie pop. The music washes over me and I feel better.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Akron/Family >> "No Space In This Realm"

Monday, October 12, 2009

2006 : 19 "Morning Tones" by M. Rösner


It's easier than ever to be a completist. The Internet makes it easy to track down a band's complete discography, and digital distribution hubs like the iTunes Music Store make it easy to cherry-pick far-flung tracks from B-sides, undesirable soundtracks, or weird compilations. But the completist bug never really bit me. There are lots of artists that I like, but no artist that I like with such intensity that I've felt compelled to track down everything they ever released.

I did, however, feel glimmers of that completist feeling in my relationship to a record label in the mid-Aughts, specifically Apestaartje, a Brooklyn-based electroacoustic label with an unweildy name (I'm still not sure how it's pronounced). Apestaartje's release history began in 1998, and by 2006 they were essentially my favorite label: I owned most (but not all) of their back catalog, and I would unquestioningly purchase any new record that they released.

M. Rösner's Morning Tones appears to be the label's final release (it came out in 2006 and nothing new has appeared since). Inasmuch as there can be a fitting way to close up shop, this album is it: it encapsulates everything that the label does well. Specifically: it arranges sounds that are clearly made by computers (sustained drones and busy chattering) next to sounds made by what I consider the most lovely of the acoustic instruments (acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and what may be an accordion). Specifically: it is minimalist, delicate, vaguely pastoral, a little bit sad. Even the title works as something of a small manifesto for the label, in the way that it uses the humble everyday beauty suggested by the adjective morning to humanize the slightly cerebral and abstract noun tones. I’m sad to see the label disappear, and sad to feel my nascent completist impulse come to an end, but every morning I wake to a playlist that contains most of the Apestaartje records, and I can confirm that they make a very satisfying set of morning tones indeed.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: M. Rösner >> "Morning Tones"

PS: As I wrote this post, I used time-lapse screen capturing software to record my writing process. It may entertain some of you to see the thing claw its way into sense:

2006 : 18 "E.N.Y. House" by Masta Killa

I guess you can file this under: "I would rather listen to M.F. Doom than Jay-Z." I love the MC style of Masta Killa and the production of M.F. Doom. You got to love the backing track taken from a Marvel Comics cartoon.

The whole Masta Killa album is good. I love the way he raps. It is relaxed and powerful at the same time. He does not have to say how great he is; it just comes through. This is the kind of rap album that keeps me coming back for more.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Masta Killa >> "E.N.Y. House"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2006 : 15-17 Aught Music Roundtable: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case

"Star Witness"

This has one of my votes for the best song of the decade, not just for 2006. As stunning as her voice is, Case earns major credit for her songwriting talent. This is a loose "homage" to the rough Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park, and it's staggering how she can take such haunting moments and turn a complex poem into a beautiful song.

Hey pretty baby, get high with me
We can go to my sister's if we say we'll watch the baby,
The look on your face yanks my neck on the chain.

The first time I heard this, I played that last line at least ten times in a row, rewinding my CD a few seconds back. Forgive my hyperbole, but it's a punch in the stomach everytime I hear it. Songs, poems, and books are full of metaphors, but that one is literally perfect, both in the delivery and the context of the track.

Jamie Yates

"Maybe Sparrow"

I'll be honest: I still don't really know what this song means, or even if it's supposed to mean anything. The album is laced with mythogical animal imagery, so this is appropriate. I love how Case's voice rises, along with the music, to create a stunning chorus:

Oh, my sparrow, it's too late
Your body limp beneath my feet.

I always get very reflective whenever I hear this track. It's so short, yet packs some dizzying arrangements and atmospheres. As I type this, I realize that this description could fit quite a few of Case's songs. It's very difficult to explain, but this track is the one I would use to explain to anyone why Case is my favorite female vocalist. I guess that's the beauty of great music: it moves me in definite ways that, as a writer, I'm at a loss to express.

Jamie Yates

"Fox Confessor Brings The Flood"

At some point in 2006, all of my friends were listening to this Neko Case album. Some how it turned into the soundtrack of San Jose. It was weird because it was not radio or television that was sharing it. I am not sure how other people found it, but we all found it. It was everywhere and it felt good.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Neko Case >> "Star Witness" | "Maybe Sparrow" | "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood"

2006 : 14 "Walkin' on Nails" by Mac Lethal


Here's a list of things that I love:
I love Twix bars, credit cards,
new socks, rainy days,
cold beer, shootin' pool, Tupac tapes;
I love little kids, givin' hugs, ladybugs,
Tarantino films, Amelie, and The Boondock Saints.
Readin' magazines backwards, wrinkle-free trousers,
Takin' percocet and masturbatin' in the shower;
I love my independence, my family, my life,
And everyone that came here tonight.

If I have to explain why I love this song, you have not been paying attention. Just listen to this song and you will know. You might not like rap, but give this one a chance. Just reading the lyrics should give you a good reason to like this song.

So I wrote him down a list of things I hate:
I hate Larry the Cable Guy, the way cucumbers taste,
People actin' tough and girls that invade my space.
I hate bill collectors, I hate bad news,
And people askin' me to talk about my tattoos;
I hate the person sittin' in your car talkin' shit about my songs,
Don't fight the urge, sing along.
I hate my songs,
I hate Mac Lethal,
I, hate, people.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mac Lethal >> "Walkin on Nails"

2006 : 13 "Once More With Feeling" by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

"Once More With Feeling" makes me smile in a way that's kind of infectious and I can't really help. It fills me with joy like the start of a journey. And it's not a smile so much as a grin; the sort of grin that can carry from one person to the next. It feels peaceful and content, but not a classic sort of content. Content to know that even if things aren't good they'll get better, that your friends make everything better just because they're out there even if you haven't talked to them in a while. It's the sort of song that feels like it could change your life. Or at least following it's advice could help get you moving in the right direction.

If you're a little off colour and
Out for the count
Don't let it get you down.
Don't let the people make you think
That just because you're young you're useless
You know it's not naive to think that you can change the things around
And that no man is an island.

April Walker

Listen: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. >> "Once More With Feeling"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2006 : 12 "True Affection" by The Blow

The simple beat of this song stays with me for days at a time after I hear it. I will be humming it for well into next week just for listening to it. I will be singing "You were out of my league / at a distance that I didn't wanna see" to myself for days to come. Now that is an ear-worm.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Blow >> "True Affection"

2006 : 11 "Red Clay Country" by Paul Brown

Bubbling banjo and honest, simple vocals define my choice for 2006. "Red Clay Country" is a traditional blues piece arranged and recorded by Paul Brown in 2006.

The recording makes it sound like Paul is playing in your living room and the repeating fragments of the lyrics lull me into imagining the story of what's going on in the song.

Why is the man leaving where he currently lives? Who is his long-haired buddy and why doesn't he tell her he's gone himself? What makes him avoid his aging papa?

Each and every time I listen I imagine a new slightly different story and that is one aspect that keeps me intrigued and coming back to a lot of old traditionals, especially this one.

The banjo playing in this song rolls excellently along and nicely riffs on the melody of the vocal line. It pulses back and forth between neat little slides and accelerating rolls that pause and resume in a pleasing fashion.

Dave Evans

Listen: Paul Brown >> "Red Clay Country"

2006 : 10 "Agony" by AWOL One

I don't want my radio without fresh batteries
and all the other radios are tryin'a battle me
But I throw on my pumas, and then I'm fine
No radio gets louder than mine!

I would not have heard this album without the SXSW BitTorrent. If you missed it, check it out. It is old-school hip-hop fun.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Awol One >> "Agony"

Friday, October 9, 2009

2006 : 09 "Growin' Old" by Pigeon John

Beastie Boys, Dana Dane and JJ Fad
Oh it kinda make me sad
Because oh we growin' old
Oh we growin' old oh we growin' old
Fats Boys, "Beat Street" and Kangol hats
Oh it kinda makes me sad
Because oh we growin' old
Oh we growin' old oh we growin' old

There are not many hip-hop songs that start with a violin solo. It is great when a song catches your attention from the first second. The laid-back beat and flow of this song make it very inviting. It feels like riding in a convertible with the top down, remembering days of summer long past. This is a great example a song where the music and the lyrics fit the same theme.

There is a strong element of nostalgia in hip-hop. There is a lot more looking back than there is in the rock world. It might be because the musical landscape changes a lot faster than the rest of popular music. When this song came out the nostalgia was very comforting to me. I guess I was feeling old at the time.

I once had the whole world
And all the time in the land
The mountains high and the valleys low
I never planned
That it would leak right through my hand
And I guess it's too late to know

Rich Thomas

Listen: Pigeon John >> "Growin' Old"

2006 : 07-08 Aught Music Roundtable: The Animal Years by Josh Ritter

"Girl In a War"

Peter said to Paul you know all those words we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go
But now talking to God is Laurel begging
Hardy for a gun I got a girl in the war man I wonder what it is we done

When I think about the rest of the world in 2006, outside of my self centered personal pain, I think about Josh Ritter's The Animal Years. This album is what I saw when I looked at the world outside my window. The world as a whole seemed very lost and confused. We were trying to figure out what we got ourselves into and want it meant to get out of it. This album seems to convey the zeitgeist perfectly.

Rich Thomas


A very sparse song. Just Josh Ritter's voice and barely audible acoustic guitar makes for a beautiful and haunting tune that brings to mind images of being out in the middle of the wilderness far from civilization.

April Walker

Listen: Josh Ritter >> "Girl In A War" | "Idaho"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2006 : 06 "It Wasn't Me" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

It's amazing how confident and sultry Jenny Lewis can sound, even when a given track is intended to sound lonely and depressing. Her voice barely rises above a forced whisper, and it creates a moody, echoing atmosphere, a sort of modern spin on the torch songs of the classic female vocalists of the early to mid 20th century. As depressed as she sounds, there's a hint of defiance in the lyrics, which are open to varying interpretations.

It wasn't me, I wasn't there
I was stone drunk, it isn't clear
And it doesn't count because I don't care.

The point of view can be interpreted as an intentional distance from any negative situation. Insert the situation of your choosing, and the song will more than likely fit perfectly.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins >> "It Wasn't Me"

2006 : 04-05 Two tracks by Mecca Normal

When I think of 2006, there are a couple of albums that really jump out to me. One of those albums is Mecca Normal's The Observer. The Observer is a great album, but it is not great the way other albums are great. It is great in the way a challenging novel or performance art is great. It is not pleasant or catchy, but it is challenging and introspective. It is something that makes you want to listen to the album over and over again not because you know the songs, but because you want to find out what you don't know about the songs yet.

"Attraction is Ephemeral"

He says, "We have time. Don't warn me. Don't warn me. Don't warn me about yourself."
"OK," I say.
Does that include not telling him that I'm too cheap to take the bus so I walk twenty minutes to get to the store and that I carry my groceries home in my packsack — which is fine with me — and I don't buy crackers and cheese and pickles and cookies because they are too expensive. I know the prices on almost everything in the little shops — if oranges are 59 cents a pound here and the same ones 49 cents a pound across the street. I will cross the street to save whatever it is on my 2 oranges — and brag about.

This song describes subtle sexual politics in a way that just amazes me. The narrator is trying to figure out what to think of this person who she is starting a relationship with. It is an amazing description of a relationship at the very start. It feels so real and fictional all at the same time. Like the song is getting to a truth that can only be achieved by art.

"Fallen Skier"

I know that "Fallen Skier" is over twelve minutes. I cannot guarantee that it will be worth your time. All I know is that this is the best description of being on a bad internet date that I have ever heard. I feel like I have been in this situation myself. I really feel like I have seen this situation from all sides. The length of this song only adds to the feeling this date would really have. Listening to it again confirms how good this song is.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mecca Normal >> "Attraction Is Ephemeral" | "Fallen Skier"

2006 : 03 "Pieces of the People We Love" by the Rapture

For a short time in the mid-Aughts, I read a blog called "Teaching The Indie Kids To Dance Again." I don't read that blog any longer (it's been defunct since 2006) but the phrase that the author used for his title struck me as nicely zeitgeist-y at the time, and has stuck with me as a useful little sense-making tool, one way to reveal a pattern in the ebbing and flowing of trends over the course of the decade. Viewed through its lens, the long-ago 90s began to seem like a period when "alternative" or "indie" music lost touch with the kinesthetic impulse, surrendering the domain of repetitive beats to rival genres (electronica, hip-hop). If we accept that, then the Aughts begin to seem like a period wherein indie musicians reclaimed these pleasures, all at once remembering hey, moving your body? It feels good!

As a sense-making narrative, this one, like all others, simplifies some things and leaves others out, but it's not without its share of explanatory power, helping to put early-decade developments like the "electroclash" movement and Peaches' embrace of the banging 808 into a context that also includes dance-punk acts like !!! and the Rapture.

The Rapture's most lasting contribution to this story may have come early, with the cowbell-happy "House of Jealous Lovers" (2003), but their 2006 album Pieces of the People We Love represents a very fine extension of the energies therein, and it blows off the torpor that afflicts your average hipster at least as well as any other full-length rock album from this decade.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: The Rapture >> "Pieces of the People We Love"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2006 : 02 "Rough Gem" by Islands

The world beat you for the something nice
You worked hard, died poor
You mined what you died for
Diamonds di di di di di uh

An amazing upbeat song about how horrible it is to mine diamonds. I was not expecting to hear a rock song about this. To start with, the musical track is just amazing. It is explosive. It is one of my favorite electronica tracks of the decade. It moves and makes me want to just go.

On top of that, the lyrics cover a really tough subject. Who expects a song about how bad diamonds are? Who expects it to be good and not didactic? I did not feel like I was listening to a protest song. That is pretty cool.

Dig deep but don't dig too deep
When it's late you'll see the hole is empty and oh so deadly
They want me raw but smooth like glass
They want it fast but they don't want flaws
I'm a girl's best friend
Can you cut, I can cut, 'cause I'm a rough gem

Rich Thomas

Listen: Islands >> "Rough Gem"

2006 : 01 "Sapphire Eyes" by Serena Maneesh

On paper it makes perfect sense: 80's new wave-isms found purchase in countless bands. Why, it's only a matter of time when shoegaze resurfaces. The problem is, there were thousands of bands in the 80's to rip off from; there's really only one shoegaze band. When that band reunites to tour and play exactly the same set they played nearly 20 years ago, why in the world would you care about some shoegaze revivalists from Norway?

Never mind Ride, Swervedriver, Lush, Medicine and Slowdive. My Bloody Valentine is the only shoegaze band that registers to this day. They have the best story: epic struggle to put out their second full-length, ends up costing $750,000 to produce, their shows were crushingly loud and described to this day in words usually reserved for moments like reaching the summit of K2, surviving the fall after your parachute fails, or massive drug intake. In other words: real accomplishments.

So, why should anyone care about Serena Maneesh? Their debut longplayer is basically a love letter to reverb, fuzz, and feminine whispers: ground not only well-covered but destroyed and left uninhabitable by MBV, Loveless, and the subsequent 91-92 tour.

Why? because MBV really weren't that good.

I was there. I saw MBV several times on the Loveless tour. I wanted to love it as much as I loved their first record and their ep's. I wanted to drown in it. I would have left early if Dinosaur Jr. wasn't headlining. Furthermore, Loveless didn't consist of songs so much as a bunch of rave-informed verse-chorus-verse-chorus fuzzscapes that, while good, certainly weren't worth bankrupting Creation Records.

At several moments, Serena Maneesh cashes the checks that MBV wrote. "Sapphire Eyes" is one of them. The song doesn't progress so much as congeal and dissolve around a cribbed Stooges riff. Then there's that moment of perfectly timed pop drama. Sure, we've heard it all before, but it's hard to resist when it's done this well.

Serena Maneesh is a tribute act, and like the best tribute acts they've done their homework. They make up for their lack of originality with a ton of meticulous craft and study. They are not without their flaws. Band leader Emil Nikolaisen has the annoying habit of wearing panchos, and there are some tedious extended freakout tracks on this album that were a great idea live and/or stoned, but fall flat when played back on earbuds while grocery shopping. All in all, though, Serena Maneesh is a pleasure. It borrows heavily, but it borrows from really good things: Spacemen 3, Velvet Underground, 4AD Records, and, of course, the Valentines.

Let's admit it, Kevin Shields is never going to make that follow-up album, Spiritualized will never return to the heights of their first two albums, and Cocteau Twins are never going to reunite. Consider Serena Maneesh a gift for those of us who weren't ready to call it a day with the last track of Loveless.

Neil Jendon

Listen: Serena Maneesh >> "Sapphire Eyes"

Monday, October 5, 2009

2005 Day of Rest


And thus we draw the curtain on 2005. This blog will now rest until Wednesday, October 7, when we will begin with tracks from 2006.

Jeremy Bushnell

Saturday, October 3, 2009

2005 : 57 "Feel Good Inc" by Gorillaz

My track contribution for 2005 is "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz from the album Demon Days. Gorillaz is a virtual band originally created in 1998 by Damon Albarn (of the band Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (of the comic Tank Girl.)

This song morphs and shifts excellently between three primary styles. Just when I start zoning out to the groove it alters in a way that snaps my brain back to attention.

There is the primary bass-driven groove with fictional lead singer "2-D" (Damon Albarn) repeating "Feel Good" and semi-rapping the song's lyrics followed by a transition to an acoustic based, light and airy chorus. This chorus is then cut through by an excellent rap breakdown by members from De La Soul. The impact of this track is multiplied beyond the sum of its parts by this awesomely tasty lyrical bridge.

The song revisits the three parts again before it ends and is quite a compelling ride throughout.

The Gorillaz have only released two albums so far but there is apparently a third in progress. Both have been well received and are quite good. Their music videos are also very enjoyable to watch, since they were created by Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett and are rendered in a high quality anime style that continues the fictional story of the band throughout the songs.

Dave Evans

Listen: Gorillaz >> "Feel Good Inc"

2005 : 56 "Gesine [Part IV]" by Giuseppe Ielasi

In his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, essayist and novelist David Foster Wallace presented the budding grownups with a question. How do you react when, in the context of a generally shitty day, you're at the supermarket and the place is packed with hideous shoppers, the muzak is denatured to the point that it shrivels your inner life on the spot, and the line is long, the injunction to have a nice day insincere, and your shopping cart has one super-cranky wheel that leaves black marks all over the floor? Most of us, of course, just get miserable and bitter. But DFW, in his wisdom, argues that this is where a real education comes into play. We all get to decide what has meaning and what doesn't. We don't have to be miserable in the checkout line. We all have the option of saying that everyday hellish moments are—in a very real way—not about us. In such situations, this enlightened approach can empower any of us to crack a joke or smile for real at the woman behind the counter.

But that isn't always so easy. So when I have a day that's just garbage and gets me feeling down and a little sinister (and, unfortunately, I've had a few recently) I often turn to art (music and poetry especially) that's open in form, open in content—art uninterested in pushing me into feeling sad about the dead horsey, or okay about my undying interest in having big sexy blue eyes trained in my direction. When an artist hasn't made easy assumptions about my inner life, recognizes that I often don't want an answer or an escape, I can be moved strangely, lifted, rejuvenated. Bring on the supermarket! This kind of art is my route to knowing, in my heart, that what DFW says about choice is true and it matters tremendously.

Guitarist and electronic musician Giuseppe Ielasi's 2005 album Gesine is one that brings me back into the realm of the emotionally capable. It's short (31 minutes long) but, in the vein of most instrumental electro-acoustic work, Gesine feels expansive. The album is also a study in contrasts: background versus foreground. The background, pretty much throughout, is composed of deliberately haphazard percussion and grinding static/feedback sounds, but the leading tone is that of Ielasi's acoustic guitar, front and center on most tracks. It's a complex tone, but mostly it's comforting. Ielasi draws on both the grounded blues-folk feel of John Fahey and Bert Jansch, and the silky, bright feel of Jim O'Rourke's playing on albums like Halfway to a Threeway and Eureka. Overall, Gesine does extremely well what a lot of electro-acoustic albums do pretty well: it allows the listener to get close to each piece as an aesthetic object/architecture. The stripped-down and roomy quality of the tracks, coupled with their self-possession, invites one to make genuine contact with their textures. Come on in. It's okay. You can let your guard down. Whitney Houston will not always love you here. Gesine, for me, is a good route back to generosity—so I can handle with dignity Sharon Stone's cellulite broadcast via tabloid cover. So I can chit-chat amicably with the bagger mashing my sesame seed rolls with the Drano.

Eric Burger

Listen: Giuseppe Ielasi >> "Gesine [Part IV]"

Friday, October 2, 2009

2005 : 55 "Finally" by the Frames

I was introduced to the Frames by someone telling me, "They are Ireland's favorite band; they kick U2's ass." This sentence alone was enough to get me to listen to this band. I can break this down to high-school logic. If U2 were the super cool kids that no one in my clique liked, The Frames were the misfits that all my friends wanted to be.

I know that I no longer need to explain the Frames to everyone I meet. Damn, Glen Hansard even has an Oscar now. People know about the band, but that does not make them any less cool. "Finally" is an example why the high schooler in me loves this band.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Frames >> "Finally"

2005 : 54 "Dirty Mind" by The Pipettes

I was the last person on Earth who figured out that apparently you get music for free on the internet. I missed the whole Blog thing, which I'm pretty sad about. I know a lot of people complained about the "flavor of the week" bands that popped up around that time. Who can complain about the music being disposable when it's a tribute to one of the most disposable genres of music (I mean this in a good way), the girl group. I wish more groups took advantage of being internet flotsam by just tossing out singles like messages in bottles.

I downloaded this song thinking it was going to be a girly cover of a Prince song, but I was wrong in a great way. This is a fucking amazing catchy tune. This is the best song to drink and bake cookies to. Did we need a full Pipettes album? Hell no, but that's not a bad thing.

James Specht

Listen: The Pipettes >> "Dirty Mind"

2005 : 51-53 Three tracks by Magnolia Electric Co.

In 2005, Magnolia Electric Co. had three releases: a studio album, a live album, and an EP. Jason Molina is known for putting out a lot of short albums close together. I know some of my friends would say this is a lack of editing. I think it is making the most out of his resources.

"Leave the City" (from What Comes After the Blues)

Broke my heart to leave the city

I mean it broke what wasn’t broken in there already

Thought of all my great reasons for leaving

Now I can't think of any

It's true it was a hard time that I've come through

It's made me thankful for the blues

I love the way that "Leave The City" melds the conflict of place and post-break-up emotion. Leaving a place with a broken heart. You leave because you have to and you need to. The lyrics of this song stay with me all day when I hear it.

What Comes After the Blues seems like the end of Alt-Country to me. I am not sure why, but the whole Alt-Country movement has seemed to die out. At some level this seems perfect to me. I cannot think of a better band to turn off the lights on Alt-Country than Magnolia Electric Co.

"North Star" (from Trials and Errors)

I heard the North Star saying

Kid you're so lost even I can't bring you home

I heard this album a few times before the lyric above jumped out at me. It had to be because of the live album nature of Trials and Errors. The song starts with a long guitar intro. It is just wonderful. Every song on the live album Trials and Errors is long. I think it gives a good sense of the live show and how much he just cuts it up with his guitar the whole time. I love the way the songs on this album flow together because of these long songs.

The idea of being that lost makes a lot of sense to me. There is a point in our lives when we all feel that lost. There is not much you can do about it.

"31 Seasons In the Minor Leagues" (from Hard To Love A Man [EP])

I've been in long enough to know I ain't even getting close

There is a connection between music and sports. There is the big time and the small time. "31 Seasons in the Minor Leagues" is about baseball, but it is easy to see how a musician could think this way. As a baseball fan and a fan of unknown artists, I can really understand this song.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Magnolia Electric Co. >> "Leave The City" | "North Star" | "31 Seasons In The Minor Leagues"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2005 : 50 "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" by the Hold Steady

A few years back, I did some writing on the Hold Steady, noting that while their 2005 album Separation Sunday rarely strives, on a sonic level, to provide anything more than old-fashioned bar rock, it lyrically functions at a very high standard, ultimately emerging as a song cycle that rivals The Mountain Goats' great All Hail West Texas.

The characters on Separation Sunday are born-again Christians or people struggling with drug addiction, or both, and all activity on the record is permeated by an air of dead-endedness, although one punctuated by moments of clutching, desperate hope. See, for instance, this moment in "Your Little Hoodrat Friend":

Your little hoodrat friend's been calling me again
and I can't stand all the things that she sticks into her skin
like sharpened ballpoint pens and steel guitar strings
she says it hurts but its worth it
tiny little text etched into her neck
says "Jesus Christ lived and died for all our sins"
she's got blue-black ink and it's scratched into her lower back
says "damn right he'll rise again"

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: The Hold Steady >> "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

2005 : 49 "Girl" by Beck

Even if Beck didn't reference "my summer girl," this would still be a great summer song. The production by the Dust Brothers is pitch-perfect, and Beck seems to be blending three very distinct genres—soul, electronica, and an atmosphere of 1960s beach songs—into one terrific track. It's also wonderfully evocative of late teens/early twenties love in any city on a sweltering summer day. However, just one thing might cause some confusion:

Walking crooked down the beach She spits on the sand...

In all honesty, he doesn't paint the picture of the most attractive girl in the world. However, this only adds some gritty realism to the song. Imperfect though she might be, she definitely doesn't give a fuck what anybody else thinks, and given the person and the situation, that can be pretty attractive.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Beck >> "Girl"

2005 : 47-48 Aught Music Roundtable: Tiny Cities by Sun Kil Moon

Roundtable Part One: "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"

When I first heard the album Tiny Cities I was totally floored. I already knew that Mark Kozelek was great at doing cover songs. A decade earlier I fell in love with the Red House Painters' version of Yes' "Long Distance Runaround." You would have thought Songs For A Blue Guitar was stuck in my CD player for how often I listed to it.

What took my breath away with this album was how Kozelek went past what a really good cover song does. He totally makes me forget the original version. I listen to these songs and think that this is the way the songs where meant to be in the first place. He took all the noise and discord away and found the truth. That is what amazed me so much.

I find myself listening to this album a lot, especially on road trips.

Rich Thomas

Roundtable Part Two: "Trucker's Atlas"

Mark Kozelek turns a song that was epic and wide like the open western road into something close and intimate like the inside of the car you're sharing with your best friend. Those moments of a road trip that you'll never really be able to explain to anyone else.

April Walker

Listen: Sun Kil Moon >> "Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes" | "Trucker's Atlas"