Friday, October 30, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (75-51)

I'm going to try and crank out the next 25 songs before I head out to engage in ghoulish behavior. At the risk of repeating myself, here are songs 75-51.

75. Animal Collective-Peacebone (2007)

Jarring from the start, disjointed lasers merge steadily with a drum beat before a series of stream-of-consciousness lyrics create an unsettling, prehistoric habitat punctuated with roars and screams. As much a trip to listen to as I'm sure it was to make. 

74. Sufjan Stevens-For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti (2003)

To call Sufjan Stevens a folk singer would be selling him short. He is an ambitious vagabond, having recorded electronic material and impeccable orchestral works in addition his more traditional folk work Now, allow me to contradict myself. This is song is pure folk through and through, featuring a meandering banjo part and Sufjan's delicate voice. Solemn trumpets and eerie backing vocals add to the ambience, making the song much more haunting than expected.

73. Rihanna-Umbrella (2008)

A lazy verse from Jay-Z, and a pretty lifeless beat, this song begins as any other faceless R&B crossover track, but as soon as Rihanna dives into the chorus, you can't help but be charmed. The chorus is slow, predictable and repetitive, but that is exactly what a good pop song should be. Once it clicks, it doesn't try and rock the boat. It simply gives you exactly what you want.

72. Dungen-Panda (2004)

From the Psych Rock capital of the World (Sweden?!?) come Dungen. They sound straight out of the 70's, featuring scratchy guitar solos and hyperactive drumming. The Swedish lyrics translate into some pretty bitter stuff, but I'll gladly take jaded Swedes over whiny Americans any day of the week.

71. The White Stripes-Fell in Love With a Girl (2002)

The White Stripes do not mince words. They do not mince anything. Or at least they don't here. They thrash through this track in less than two minutes, packing verses/chorus/verse/chorus so tightly they virtually overlap in places. This unabashed rock coupled with one their most innovative music videos (and that's saying something), make it quite a classic.

70. Kanye West-Flashing Lights (Ft. Dwele) (2007)

This is not Kanye's first song on this list, and (SPOILER) it's not his last either, but this song is definitely his hardest to peg. The beat sounds like a club banger, the orchestration sounds like a ballad, and the subject matter is somewhere between nostalgic and bitter. It's not Kanye's strongest rapping by any means, but the way he dances so deftly around his feelings, he leaves the interpretation completely up to us.

69. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (2005)

No one will dispute that Kelly Clarkson has one of the most powerful voices in music. She sings the first verse in startling reserved tones, muzzling her normal flourishes, before she can't keep a lid on it any longer and she belts the chorus in a controlled scream. From here on, what sneakily seduced you as a breakup ballad becomes bare-knuckle girl-power for the a new generation.

68. Diplo and Santogold-LES Artistes (XXXchange Mix) (2008)

A lot of people unfairly compare Santogold (now Santigold) to MIA, and that is a shame. While they both have their merits, Santogold has much better pipes and a better ear for melody. In the original version, a sleepy electric guitar part paints Santogold as too cutesy. In this Diplo version, the guitar are replaced with a tumbling fizzy horn and a Postal Service like twinkly synths, making Santogold sound infinitely stronger and more confident, and transforming the song entirely.

67. Outkast - B.O.B. (2000)

This song is completely unhinged. Andre 3000 and Big Boi rap like Busta Rhymes, marching band drums, hand claps and maracas are everywhere, but there's no time to even notice. This is the hip-hop version of the White Stripes song I review a couple songs back. Unadulterated rapping from some of the best in the game.

66. Modest Mouse- Float On (2004)

This is the first Modest Mouse song I ever heard. I remember stopping what I was doing and watching this music video when it came on MTVU my freshman year of college. Sure the guitar part is nifty, but what's with that guys voice? Does he know how he sounds? Why is he yelling? The years since have endeared me to Isaac Brock's yelp and Modest Mouse's jangling formula, but they still haven't produced a better foot-stomping, head-bobbing chorus than this one.

65. Burial- Archangel (2007)

Some people call this stuff dubstep, some people call it "hyperdub". I'm not sure if he does it with sample, or if this is his real voice. None of that really matters. It contains some of the most soulful R&B hooks I've heard in a long time looped and cut and spliced smoothly with the skill of a surgeon.

64. Panda Bear- Comfy in Nautica (2005)

Speaking of sampling, where do I start with someone like Panda Bear. Maybe I should preface it with the face that he's a member of Animal Collective. While that may explain the rickety train noises, and the indiscriminate roaring, Animal Collective does not write Beach Boy-level harmonies like this. Animal Collective would layer them under so many other sounds that they would never even reach your ear. I'm glad Panda Bear kept this track for himself. It's beautiful.

63. The Strokes-12h51 (2003)

While The Strokes do nothing to break new ground here, for those of us who understood they were at the top of their game here, why would you want them to? Julian's lazy vocals show a little life and a few well-timed handclaps and a follow-the-bouncing-ball guitar riff make for something pretty special. There are worse ways to spend 2.5 minutes of your time.

62. Justin Timberlake-My Love (feat. T.I) (2006)

Everyone, Male or Female, Republican or Democrat, Black or White, has one thing in common. They f-ing LOVE Justin Timberlake. I am no different. Timbaland throws in some "Are You That Somebody?" baby-giggles and a few beatbox breakdowns, but this song is completely Justin's. He sounds more like Michael Jackson here than he ever has, and that is probably the highest compliment I can pay him.

61. Lil' Wayne-Steady Mobbin (2009)

So what I only heard this song for the first time a couple weeks ago? So what if the chorus steals a line from "A Milli"? Just when I think Lil Wayne may be spreading himself a little too thin, and may need to reel himself in a little bit, he releases a song like this and makes me hold my tongue. I don't know what album this is on, I don't even know if it is out yet, but do yourself a favor and track this down. Even Gucci Mane, (someone I wasn't a fan of before) crushes his verse with a mushmouth delivery that would make Biggie proud. NSFW, obviously.

60. Jay-Z-99 Problems (2004)

I've never been a big Jay-Z fan. His delivery always sounds forced to me and his rhymes aren't especially innovative. None of that applies to 99 Problems. Brilliant premise, fantastic lyrics, a rap masterpiece.

59. The Go! Team-Huddle Formation (2004)

The Go! Team sounds like cheerleaders on a car chase. The whirring guitars, handclaps, the enthusiastic harmonies of the chorus give you no time to decide whether you want to be a part of this ride. You are on it, and whether you like it or not, you are going where they are going. I love it.

58. Coldplay-Shiver (2000)

Now THIS is Coldplay's best song. Chris Martin restrains his usual heavy-handed lyrics and lets the instruments carry the load for a little while, flitting in and out when appropriate. But when it's appropriate, he really excels. Angelic, if not a bit stalkerish, you get the feeling that he would do absolutely anything for the subject of this song, for better or worse.

57. Beyonce-Single Ladies (2009)

Even though we already knew it was one of the greatest videos of ALL TIME. ALL TIME. It's hard not to call it one of the best songs of the decade also. More infectious than influenza.

56. Beirut-Elephant Gun (2007)

Whether or not you buy into Beirut's kitschy, eastern European carnival ensemble, you simply cannot deny that Zach Condon has an absolutely pristine voice. I could eat it up I love it so. Like every Beirut song, there are accordians, trumpet solos, and if you aren't completely swept away, you may want to check your pulse.

55. Britney Spears-Toxic (2003)

I'm not going to expound on this song. You know you love it. As do I, that's why it's here. Nearly flawless from the violins to the Morricone guitars.

54. Hot Chip-Ready for the Floor (2008)

Hot Chip are almost certainly nerds. I'm sure they have horn-rimmed glasses and dance around their laptops when they made this song. They may have even had a wedgie. Whatever circumstances allowed them to make this incredible tune, they need to find them replicate them in a controlled setting.

53. Iron & Wine-Upward Over the Mountain (2002)

Iron and Wine make beautiful folk songs that sound like they were written and recorded 70 years ago. His voice has a smokey vibrado that brings to mind an old barn and a fireplace. I'll let his lyrics speak for themselves:

So may the sunrise bring hope 
Where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds 
Flying upward over the mountain

52. Marissa Nadler- Diamond Heart (2007)

Basic finger-picking sets the stage for Marissa, but the real focus here is her beautiful voice. Allowed to echo and carry freely, it is both haunting and captivating for the duration.

51. Radiohead- There There (2003)

One of Radiohead's more straightforward rock songs this decade, it's no coincidence that is probably their most beautiful. With refreshingly straightforward lyrics and some dizzying peaks, it really proves that in order to be the best, you must first completely master the basics. Radiohead flexes their mastery of melodies here.

More tomorrow!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (100-76)

I like how my post shook out yesterday. Sure it was a little time-consuming, but I've got oodles of it. I tried to spare you from drowning in video clips or slogging through Pitchforkian rambling reviews, and I think I was able to do that. This is where the list gets juicy and the gloves come off. Rankings! Hide the women and children! I'll try and keep things terse, but suffice to say I'll probably be going into a bit more detail from now on concerning what makes these songs so remarkable to me.

100. Bright Eyes-Lover I Don't Have to Love (2002)

Starting with a keyboard part that would make Raffi proud, a drum beat shakes you back to your senses and Conor's shaky voice pulls you down this Emo-before-Emo detailing of a night in the city. Conor is has always been a strong lyricist, but his best songs are those which showcase his voice, allowing it crack and yelp naturally, leaving the listener no doubt as to his sincerity.

99. Lady Gaga-Poker Face (2009)

Sounding like "Barbie Girl" reincarnated, Poker Face beats you down with its enthusiasm and endless hooks. The bassline is fantastic, heck, even the bridge gets stuck in your head, and don't get me started on the chorus. The only thing I could do without is the creepy man's voice in the background. Other than that, it is pure pop perfection.

98. Spoon-Paper Tiger (2002)

Spoon are masters of simplicity and repetition. Just as I Turn My Camera On was built on a kick drum and a bassline, Paper Tiger features clapping drumsticks, a flapping loop, and two electric guitar notes for most of the track, until other parts begin to flutter in and out to great effect. Scary sounds creeping behind Britt Daniels as he promises to "be there with you when you turn out the light"

97. Arctic Monkeys-Fluorescent Adolescent (2008)

While the other Arctic Monkeys song I reviewed (Mardy Bum) was quaint, delicate and resigned, Fluorescent Adolescent is what makes the Arctic Monkeys so fun and successful. While most bands which toy with breakneck songs and hooks struggle to impart any sort of lasting lyrical impression, the Arctic Monkeys excel at both. Vicious hooks, harsh lyrics, hearty riffs. I mean, these lyrics could bring you to tears in a folk-song, instead the Arctic Monkeys would rather just have some fun.

Everything's in order in a black hole
Nothing seems as pretty as the past though
That Bloody Mary's lacking in Tabasco
Remember when he used to be a rascal?

96. The Lonely Island-Lazy Sunday (Feat. Chris Parnell) (2006)

While The Lonely Island's other tracks may have a more lasting impact or cultural significance, this is the one that started the whole thing on SNL. Two white dudes, rapping about their trivial errands, and absolutely hysterical. They've certainly increased their budget since, but they've yet to write lines funnier than these gems:

You can call us Aaron Burr, 
From the way we're droppin' Hamiltons

Now quiet in the theater or it's gonna get tragic.
We're about to get taken to a dream world of magic

95. TTC-Dans Le Club (2005)

While French Hip-hop may sound like an oxymoron, TTC does some pretty darn innovative stuff. Granted, I have no idea what they are saying, but I can recognize a good chorus and some great deliveries in any language. No this is not a joke.

94. Das Racist- Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell (Wallpaper. RMX) (2009)

While I may come to loathe the song for the very reason I love it right now, Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell is the America's Funniest Home Videos of indie music. Stupid, derivative, but you can't. stop. watching.

93. Broken Social Scene-KC Accidental (2002)

Broken Social Scene has a lot of members/instruments, and they'll be damned if they don't use every single one of them in every song. What starts as a guitar howl becomes completely buried with noise and a frantic drumbeat. It briefly comes up for air with some beautiful strings and vocals before being dragged back down to the murky depths of noise.

92. Feist-The Park (2008)

A vulnerable soprano and a twangy guitar is all you need people. Feist hums her adorable hums, whispers her verses, and has no fear in holding a note until her voice cracks, and I am there with her, hanging on every single word. I get chills every single time she belts the last few notes. One of the saddest songs and saddest lyrics I've ever heard:

Sadness so real that it populates
The city and leaves you homeless again
Steam from a cup and snow on the path
The seasons have changed from the present to past

91. Clipse-Dirty Money (2006)

The best rap songs don't need gimmicky beats or guest verses. The best songs just have fantastic wordplay, a nice hook and a simple beat to hold it all together. Clipse excels at this.

We could trip tuition, you could be the vixen
You could front for ya girlfriends, I ain't trippin'
You done got you a rapper, I see ya vision
And one of the best too, that's ambition
You could tell me bout ya day, I pretend I listen
And you ain't gotta love me, just be convincin'

90. Gorillaz-Feel Good Inc. (2005)

As soon as you hear the maniacal laugh, you understand what you are in for. An irresistable bassline and some cutesy vocals are piped in and then, seeming out of nowhere, De La Soul hijacks the song and absolutely destroys it. What was once a lazy rock song, become a Hulk of a crossover hit that feels like riding a rollercoaster in the dark.

89. Daft Punk-One More Time (2001)

Sometimes I'm a little too hard on Daft Punk. I want them to be like Justice and leap frantically from sample to sample and change up the tempo to make the ride a little more fun. This is a symptom of my short attention span. Anyone who listens to One More Time and says that it needs a Justice-y breakdown or is too long is on drugs. It's pretty darn perfect.

88. Lil Wayne-We Takin' Over (Remix) (2007)

While some may argue otherwise, I think Lil Wayne is at his best on his Mixtapes. He doesn't worry about building to a chorus or some R&B background vocals, he just raps, and raps, and raps until the beat quits. This dancing beat is fantastic and Wayne is able to keep up with it and still drop unparalleled rhymes.

87. Blind Pilot-One Red Thread (2009)

I'm a sucker for songs of the acoustic disposition, and while this travels along a well-worn route, it's hard not to love. The way it builds slowly into energetic strumming only to break down completely at the chorus slays me every time.

86. The Arcade Fire - Intervention (2007)

Probably the best song to feature an organ on this list. The Arcade Fire write epic songs with incredible lyrics and incomparable orchestration without breaking a sweat.

Been working for the church
While your life falls apart,
Singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart,
Every spark of friendship and love
Will die without a home.   

85. Cat Power-The Greatest (2006)

The Anti-Feist, Cat Power has a smokey, dreamy, broken voice which I'll happily follow into any depths she wants to take me. This song in particular features some classy strings and a pretty piano part as Chan Marshall sings about overtly depressing stuff. It's deceptive because it's so beautiful.

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

84. The Von Bondies-C'mon C'mon (2004)

While Von Bondies' lead singer Jason Stollsteimer may be best known for getting into fisticuffs with Jack White, I hope people don't forget this stellar song. Barely clocking in over two minutes, when it's finished you're left wondering what hit you and you have no choice but to play it again. And then again. And again.

83. The Avalanches-Since I Left You (2000)

The masters of the sampling before most people even knew what it was they were doing, Since I Left You is a song that has only gotten better with time. Too many times these days artist layer samples upon samples for  no reason, and while it's exciting to pick out familiar diddys, the end product often sounds like a bloated, disjointed mess. The Avalanches made their songs fit the samples and not vice versa, and that's precisely why it holds up so well.

82. The Postal Service-The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (2003)

The Postal Service sounds like a joke on paper. And even sounds a little like a joke upon first listening. Techno snippets, emo-esque vocals, gurgling beats should not work. But it does. It works swimmingly. It sounds honest, it sounds pretty, and it sounds like nothing you've heard before. I wish I could listen to again for the first time.

81. Radiohead-Reckoner (2008)

By any measure, Radiohead had a pretty good decade. The recorded 4 critically acclaimed albums, revolutionized the way music is distributed and applied unprecedented pressure on the British Government in the topic of Climate Change.  Thom Yorke's falsetto, drowned out by techno-esque beats on Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief and his solo work, is placed front and center here. It's about time.

80. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning? (2007)

If you can get past Alec Ounsworth warbling David Byrne gasp, you'll find CYHSY to be incredibly rewarding. Some people can't do this. Sure the title doesn't make sense and the lyrics are confusing, but once it jumps into the chorus, there's no stopping it. Just enjoy the ride.

79. The Shins- New Slang (2001)

While this song may not change your life (as Natalie Portman professed in Garden State), she's not that far off. Before I heard this song, I thought of The Shins as a boring at worst, and innocuous at best. This song changed all that.

And if you'd have took to me like 
A gull takes to the wind. 
Well, i'd have jumped from my tree 
And i'd have danced like the kind of the eyesores 
And the rest of our lives would have fared well

78. Kanye West-RoboCop (2009)

For my money, Kanye West is the only one who rivals Lil' Wayne in the hip-hip community. An accomplished producer, an innovative risk-taker and an unrivaled lyricist. Wayne is surely a better rapper, but he could never write anything like RoboCop. Idiotic premise, hokey robotic noises, but Kanye sells it completely. Who knew repeating "OK" could make for such a great chorus?

77. The Hives- A Little More For Little You (2004)

The Hives are from Sweden. They all dress alike. And they kick ass. They write hooks that rival The Strokes but aren't afraid to yelp and screech when the song calls for it. This song calls for it and is all the better for it.

76. Junior Boys-In The Morning (2006)

I don't know a lot about Junior Boys. Frankly, I don't need to. This song starts with twinkly keyboards and shiny synthesizers, before breathy R&B vocals come in out of left field. The song twists and slides from new sound to new sound effortlessly, until they all fall away one by one, ending in one last gasp. Hard to put into words (obviously), but pretty neat.

That's all for today. I hope to wrap up the list by Monday, barring any complications (ie, me deleting an entire post accidentally as I did on Tuesday). Thanks for reading!

Google gets into the music game

Today Google announced an addition to their search algorithm that should make searching for music considerably faster/safer for everyone. Rather than offer links which simply match the search characters, Google has partnered with several music streaming websites (imeem, Lala, Myspace) to allow streaming audio within your search results. So, rather than having to sift through pages upon pages of dead end blogs or music forums, you can find the song/artist you are interested in effortlessly. In addition to helping you find music by artist/title, Google's new search feature can even track down songs from tiny snippets of lyrics if you only have a couple words stuck in your head. I don't think this is a revolutionary development on the music front, but removes a lot of the guesswork and frustration that used to go hand-in-hand with searching for music. Tiny steps towards instant, unlimited streaming. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (150-101)

I'm still toying with the format of this project, hoping to find a middle ground between the information overload associated with reviewing every song in my Top 200, while still aspiring to keep it easy to read and streamlined. My last posting seemed a bit too list-like, and didn't speak to the merits of the songs or what made them so special to me. To bridge that gap, I'm going to do a little something for each song, be it a picture, a snippet of the lyrics, a link to the video, or just a simple synopsis. It's a bit more work, but I think it will do the songs justice. I still don't intend to actually rank the songs until we dive into the Top 100, so they remain in alphabetical order for the time being. Without further adieu:

Animal Collective-Chores (2007)

Animal Collective is guilty as charged for those who paint them as unfocused and out-of-control, but sometimes it works to great effect. Chores is one of those times. They sample babbling brooks, outer-space sizzles, animal chirps, but they none of them distract from Panda Bears Brian Wilson-esque vocal and a drumbeat that challenges you not to tap your toes.

Arctic Monkeys-Mardy Bum (2007)

My favorite track off their debut album, the song starts with an exasperated boyfriend lamenting an edgy girlfriend, reminiscing about simpler times, until it bursts forward into this fantastic frustrated yelp:

You say I don't care,
But of course I do! Yeah I clearly do!

Basement Jaxx-Where's Your Head At (2001)

Never been a huge Basement Jaxx song, but this song is impossible to resist. The music video is stuck in my head also, but for entirely different reasons (shudder)

Bat For Lashes-Daniel (2009)

Beautiful song about Danny (yes, the Danny from Karate Kid) with breathy Feist-like vocals by the gorgeous Natasha Khan, whom I can't resist posting a photo of.

The Big Pink-Dominos (2009)

Not the strongest advertisement for monogamy, but catchy nonetheless.

As soon as I love her it's been too long.
And I really love breaking your heart.
These silver apples will shine on I was wrong.
The hardest love has the coldest end.

These girls fall like dominos, dominos
These girls fall like dominos, dominos

Black Kids-I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You (2008)

Goofy lyrics, saxophone part, snarky subject matter. The indie perfect storm. Sounds good to me!

Bowerbirds-Olive Hearts (2008)

Absolutely gorgeous song featuring some of the best lyrics in recent memory:

And you will know from this
That it's all to start.
Our glasses clink,
And our plastic swords stab our olive hearts

The Bravery-An Honest Mistake (2005)

From the opening notes that bring to mind New Order's Blue Monday, to the awesome Rube-Golbergian music video, it never overstays its welcome.

Bright Eyes-First Day of My Life (2005)

Arguably Conor Oberst's biggest hit with Bright Eyes, from his underrated alt-country I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. While Conor's warbling voice often brings a sad quality to his songs, this by-the-book love song goes from sappy to heartbreakingly earnest because of it. Music video makes me a bit misty too.

Broken Social Scene-Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (2005)

BSS immediately yank you into their songs with irrefutable guitar riffs that inevitably become engulfed in a wall of noise and something else entirely. Sometimes their songs can feel overfilled, but in this instance, it's really, really great.

Chad VanGaalen-Clinically Dead (2004)

Clinically he was dead,
But the motor inside his head was still working.
So they plugged him into a machine,
And let his brain dream 

The Cloud Room-Hey Now Now (2005)

A one-hit wonder certainly, but most bands spend their entire careers trying to capture something this awesome.

Coldplay-The Scientist (2002)

Arguably Coldplay's greatest song. Inarguably their best music video.

Dan Deacon-The Crystal Cat (2007)

This song sounds like cats in outer space. And then it turns into something that would probably turn any dance club into a riot.

Doves-Black and White Town (2005)

Great stuff from the supremely underrated Brits. Love what they do with echoes. Narrowly missed my favorite music videos of the decade also.

The Dream-Walkin On The Moon (Feat. Kanye West) (2009)

I'm sure you've heard this song. Hokey concept, stellar execution. Great verse from Kanye.

Elbow-Grounds for Divorce (2008)

Sounds like an angrier, older Chris Martin, features a chunky guitar lick for a chorus and hilarious  grammatically correct lines like the following:

There's a hole in my neighborhood, down which, of late, I cannot help but fall

Eminem-The Way I Am (2000)

Great stuff from Eminem, back when he was angry but less violent/disturbing. Some biting lyrics on the perils of celebrity.

Estelle - American Boy (feat. Kanye West) (2008)

Another song you probably know. Another song featuring Kanye West. Have you noticed a pattern? Kanye is awesome.

The Exploding Hearts-Modern Kicks (2003)

Retro-punks taken way too soon in a bus accident. You'd be hard-pressed to cram more into 3 minutes than these guys were able to do.

Feist-One Two Three Four (2008)

Yes its the song from the iPod commercial. While it borders on being too cutesy at times, Feist is irresistible.

Fleet Foxes-He Doesn't Know Why (2008)

Glorious song from the folk ensemble.

Hot Chip-Boys From School (2006)

No one really combines nifty little techno grooves, cymbals and a folky vocals like Hot Chip.

Interpol-Evil (2004)

More upbeat than typical Interpol fare, coupled with a playful video, it was refreshing proof that even the gloomy can have a little fun.

Justice- Stress (2007)

Herky-jerky strings roped into a techno-beat, steadily taken over by a deranged Jack-in-the-box. At least thats what it sounds like to me. If the sounds weren't scary enough, the controversial music video adds a whole new dimension:

Justin Timberlake-Cry Me a River (2002)

Yes you've heard this before. Yes you forgot all about it. Yes you love it. You're welcome.

Kanye West-Jesus Walks (2004)

The song that first convinced me that Kanye West was the real deal. Who else can rap about Jesus, quote bible verses, dealing cocaine and police interrogations all in the same breath? Not even Lil Wayne. Sorry Weezy.

Kate Nash-Foundations (2007)

Before you dismiss her as a Lily Allen britpop clone, give her a chance. Irresistable chorus, cheeky British lyrics, check it out.

The Killers-All These Things That I've Done (2004)

Not sure why The Killers get so much crap. They really write some stellar songs. Except that last album, that was complete shite. Very few people write catchier songs than Brandon Flowers. Also, this song is featured brilliantly in Southland Tales with Justin Timberlake no less!

Lil' Wayne-Let The Beat Build (2008)

Some of the best verses from THE BEST rapper alive. What more I can say.

Lily Allen-Ldn (2006)

The original Britpop sensation. And so, so, SO cute. Doesn't have the strongest voice, writes sappy lyrics, but my oh my, she has that certain je ne sais quoi in spades.

Los Campesinos!-You! Me! Dancing! (2007)

Another mind-blowing British band of youngsters that are able to make me feel unaccomplished and old at the same time.

M. Ward- I'll Be Yr Bird (2005)

M. Ward is one of the most reliable indie artists working today. Every other year he comes out with a brilliant collection of acoustic material that makes you wonder why you don't listen to him every day.

I'm not the tiger, he never had,
I'm not the first hit when you got it bad.
I'm not your second, I'm not your third but
I'll be your bird.

Justice\MGMT - Electric Feel (Justice Remix) (2008)

These days, if you want to launch your song into the strasosphere, the formula is as simple as getting Justice to remix it. This remix blows MGMT's version so far out of the water, that I can't bear listen to the original anymore. It's that good.

The National- Mr. November (2005)

Before The National got all depressed and introspective on Boxer, they could rock pretty hard. This song is proof.

The English are waiting
And I don't know what to do
In my best clothes

I'm the new blue blood,
I'm the great white hope

I won't fuck us over, I'm Mr. November
I'm Mr. November, I won't fuck us over

The Notwist-Gloomy Planets (2008)

Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Just a guitar and a dreamy voice. In the words of Levar Burton: but you don't have to take my word for it!

Peter Bjorn & John-Young Folks (2006)

This is that whistle-song that was popular a few years ago. Now it's stuck in your head all over again. Sorry!

Phoenix-1901 (2009)

A synth heavy gem and the best song to be featured in a Cadillac commercial, probably ever. If you've never heard of Phoenix, may god have mercy on your soul.

Radiohead-Myxomatosis (2003)

Another synth-heavy song, but this one is SCARY. Thom Yorke sings his standard cryptic, nonsensical lyrics in a lazy slur. The whole thing makes me very uneasy, but is completely captivating. Interesting fact: Myxomatosis is a disease affecting rabbits with localized skin tumors. All google images of this word were terrifying, so here is a cute bunny instead

The Roots-Seed 2.0 (2002)

A song I didn't completely understand until I looked up the lyrics a few years ago. Now I do and it's still awesome:

I push my seed in her push for life
It's gonna work because I'm pushin' it right
If Mary drops my baby girl tonight
I would name her Rock-N-Roll

The Shivers-Beauty (2004)

I don't know where I got this song. I'm not even sure that it's from this decade. But all I know is that I heard it this decade and it's absolutely gorgeous.
Note: not sure why the video with the song features Japanese underwear commercials. A thousand pardons.

Sigur Rós-Hoppipolla (2005)

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. I don't care what language you sing in, if you can write melodies and crescendos like this, you're a-ok in my book.

Spoon-I Turn My Camera On (2005)

Simple drum beat. Even simpler guitar chords. Amazing how Spoon can make something so catchy and spectacular with so little.

Stars-Your Ex-Lover Is Dead (2005)

One of my favorite break-up songs of the decade.

God, that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said, "Yes, I think we've met before"
In that instant it started to pour

Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of that time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name

The Streets- Dry Your Eyes (2004)

Just when I think The Streets are gimmicky and sophomoric, he writes an amazing song like this. I can scarcely remember the disbelief, panic and every bit of body language described in such heartbreaking detail. I take it all back Mike Skinner.

She pulls away my arms are tightly clamped round her waist
Gently pushes me back as she looks at me straight
Turns around so she's now got her back to my face
Takes one step forward, looks back and then walks away

The Strokes-Someday (2001)

You know the Stokes. You know their formula. This is them doing what they do best. Bouncy guitars, catchy hooks, Casablancas singing too close to the microphone. All in a days work.

Sufjan Stevens-John Wayne Gacy, Jr (2005)

A haunting portait of the deranged serial killer from the indie community's foremost biographer. He endears you to him, only to flip the entire song on it's head. Bastard.

Tap Tap-100,000 Thoughts (2005)

I pored over most of Youtube to try and find a link to share this fantastic song with ya'll but alas, it doesn't exist in that medium. If my praises aren't enough for you to seek out this song, you'll be happy to know that they have a fan in DAVID BOWIE as well.

Update: I found a link to the song for your downloading pleasure. Do yourself a favor and click here to get it. Don't forget to thank me.

The Unicorns-Jellybones (2003)

My favorite song from the now defunct Unicorns. From a band called The Unicorns, a song entitled Jellybones, from an album with this artwork:

You can't say I didn't warn you.

Vampire Weekend-Oxford Comma (2007)

Vampire Weekend reeks of pretension. They use words like Dharamsala, United Nations and reference Lil' Jon for chrissake. Heck, watch the high-falutin' shmoes waltz around in a white suit in this Wes Anderson knock-off music video. Yet despite all of these reasons, I. LOVE. THEM. Note that this video was done in a single take.

The White Stripes-I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (2003)

I'm just going to cut out the baloney and post this video because it features a scantily-clad Kate Moss. I will not apologize for being a man. It really is an awesome song though. I'm serious. Seriously.

Well that just about does it for this monstrous blog-post. Tune in next time when I'll countdown songs 100-76 and hopefully be a lot better at this!


This Is It

As reviews for the Michael Jackson concert documentary trickle in and its Rotten Tomatoes score ticks upward (currently at 81%, with nearly 70 reviews in), I can't help but become intrigued. What seemed like a frantically cobbled together cashgrab by the Michael Jackson estate is pulling in fantastic buzz from critics who regularly thumb their noses at this sort of thing. Sure, there's an inherent nostalgia in anything that references Michael Jackson at this point, but if anything that makes director Kenny Ortega's job that much more difficult. He is expected to produce an honest look behind his tour preparations, while at the same time honoring his memory and handling his drug addiction with kid gloves. He surely wanted Michael Jacksons actions to speak for him, but cannot simply turn a blind-eye to the elephant in the room. I hope he is able to strike a respectful balance between tabloid trash and syrupy tribute, because this really is it, from one of the greatest pop artists of all time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Makes sure to save your blog posts children.

Because I just lost my post I've been working on for oh....about 2 hours. Let this be a lesson to the lot of ya.


Halloween Gets A Little Spookier

If the video below is any indication, Lil Wayne will be releasing his No Ceilings Mixtape on Halloween, his first since the acclaimed Da Drought 3, and his first of 3 albums he appears to be releasing before the year is out and before he is sentenced in February. The video shows him rapping a few verses (not as impressive as I would have imagined), some tour footage, and him explaining why mixtapes don't feature original beats ("I liked the song, that's why I killed it"). One track off the mixtape has already leaked and has Weezy rapping over Jay-Z's Run This Town beat and features some of Lil Wayne's best rhymes since Steady Mobbin', including this gem:

Crown fit me good, I ain't even gotta try on
Pistol mean business, that bitch should have a tie on

Can't wait.

Monday, October 26, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (200-151)

The past few weeks I've been struggling with the mammoth task of aggregating my favorite songs into a manageable, easy-to-digest list. Not only is it difficult to try and remember songs almost ten years old, it is even harder still to pare down what was a massive list and achieve some semblance of order. Every song on this list has carved out a special space in the recesses of my mind and gave root to hundreds of memories, the flickers of which inevitably appear whenever I recognize the first few notes.

I'll spare you the critical analysis for a little while as I quickly learned that trying to rank the tracks in any fashion was both foolish and futile. Of the thousands of songs I listened to this decade and the hundreds of thousands more I never had a chance to, I realized that these songs are already the cream of the cream of the crop. By ranking them, I was effectively negating the compliment I was paying them by placing them on the list to begin with. That's not to say I am not ranking tracks at all (I am), and thats also not to say I'm not going to expound on individual tracks (I plan to), but for the first 100 songs I'm at peace with letting them just BE. I'll add links to some of the more obscure tracks so you can listen to them and they get a fair shake, but most of these songs should stir up enough for you without my hand in the mix.


Another disclaimer: Because I didn't completely dive into music until college, the list may be skewed disproportionately towards songs from 2003 onwards. You have been warned.

Without further adieu, here are tracks 200-151, in alphabetical order.

Amy Winehouse-Rehab (2007)
Beck-Lost Cause (2002)
Beirut-Nantes (2007)

Beyonce-Crazy In Love (2003)
The Black Keys-When the Lights Go Out (2004)
Bloc Party-Banquet (2005)
Cat Power-Werewolf (2003)

Clipse-Grindin (2000)
Damien Rice-Cannonball (2002)
DJ Danger Mouse-Change Clothes (2004)
Death Cab For Cutie-I Will Follow You into the Dark (2005)
The Decemberists-O Valencia (2006)
Does It Offend You, Yeah? -Dawn Of The Dead (2008)

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-Janglin (2009)
Eels - Fresh Blood (2009)
Elbow-Newborn (2001)
Eminem-Stan (2000)
The Flaming Lips-Do you Realize?? (2002)
Franz Ferdinand-No You Girls (2009)
Harlem Shakes-Sunlight (2009)

holy fuck -lovely allen (2007)
Hot Hot Heat-Bandages (2002)
Jens Lekman-A Postcard To Nina (2007)
Jesca Hoop-Summertime (2007)
The Killers-For Reasons Unknown (2008)
LCD Soundsystem-Daft Punk Is Playing At My House (2005)

The Lonely Island-I'm on a Boat (Featuring T-Pain) (2009)
Major Lazer-Keep It Goin' Louder (2009)
Mando Diao-God Knows (2004)
Missy Elliott-get ur freak on (2001)
The National-Abel (2005)

Neon Indian - Deadbeat Summer (2009)
The New Pornographers-The Bleeding Heart Show (2005)
Panda Bear-Take Pills (2007)
Petey Pablo - Raise Up (2001)
Queens of the Stone Age - No One Knows (2002)
Radiohead-Nude (2008)
Rich Boy-Throw Some D's (2006)
The Shins-Sleeping Lessons (2007)
Spoon-The Underdog (2007)
Sun Kil Moon-Glenn Tipton (2003)

Tapes n' Tapes-Insistor (2005)
T.I.-Hurt (2007)
T.I- What You Know (2006)
Timbaland-Way I Are (Feat. Keri Hilson) (2007)
The Veils-The Tide That Left and Never Came Back (2004)
Wale-The Cliche Lil Wayne Feature (2008)

The Walkmen-Little House Of Savages (2004)
The White Stripes-Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground (2001)
Wrens-13 Months In 6 Minutes (2003)

Morrissey Collapses On Stage

One song into a show in Swindon, England, Morrissey collapsed on stage Saturday evening and was subsequently helped off stage  by some band members and rushed to the hospital. After remaining overnight, Morrissey was released Sunday morning and is in "stable" condition. He has since cancelled tonights concert in Bournemouth, England, but the rest of the tour remains tentatively on schedule (he had already cancelled several dates prior to this episode). His world tour runs through December.

After hearing mixed reviews regarding his live shows I saw Morrissey a few months back at the House of Blues for the first time and was pretty much blown away. Being too young to have experienced The Smiths in all their glory, I was fully expecting a defanged Morrissey sulking around the stage. Instead, I saw one of the best rock shows and vocal performances I've enjoyed in a long time. Though a lot of if's surround Morrissey these days, I'll definitely take the risk whenever he comes around. Below is a picture I snapped from the House of Blues show.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are: A Review

Where The Wild Things Are is a strange, beautiful beast. Like its characters, it is delicate, fuzzy, and stronger than it knows. It is difficult to categorize, altogether fascinating and demands your attention. Many films attempt to capture the childhood experience by stitching together syrupy scenes of children playing and riding their bikes, that ring false and generic. I can scarcely remember a film that encapsulated every child-like emotion so perfectly. Boys are not the self-sustaining bundles of joy that they are often caricatured as, nor are they as deranged as they can be portrayed (see:KIDS). Boys are sensitive and frustrated creatures, or at least I was. I vividly remember desperately trying to get attention, or wanting to tear my room apart and run away when I was sent to my room. I recall fleeting bursts of uninhibited fun followed by feelings of confusion and helplessness. The fact that Spike Jonze was able to expand a ten-sentence story into a feature-film while retaining and in some ways enhancing the heart of the source material is the highest compliment I can bestow upon him.

After being sent to his room for an outburst with his mother, Max runs away and finds himself transported to another world where he stumbles upon the Wild Things, an unruly group of giant furry beasts. Max is able become their king, but while he gains the attention and the power he desires, he quickly finds that being in charge isn't as easy as it sounds. He has fun with the Wild Things at first, running through the forest and having dirt clod fights, but these scenes also underscore the danger he is in. The Wild Things play too rough with each other and narrowly avoid hitting Max and crushing him in a pig-pile. It quickly becomes apparent that Max needs to establish some semblance of order. However, as a 9 year old boy he has no sense of tact or the feelings of others as he promises to keep out the sadness and plays favorites in the same breath. Familiar feelings of jealousy emerge within the ranks and Max is forced to reconcile these or quite literally, be eaten up.

Cinematographer Lance Acord does a great job in capturing the kinetic energy of Max and the Wild Things, following Max into tunnels and through the forest smoothly and effortlessly. Likewise, Karen O's voice is the perfect accompaniment as she careens from invigorating to sobering and back again. Finally, the voice acting is top-notch, the most notable of which being James Gandolfini as Carrol. He is the perfect voice for the petulant Wild Thing. Catherine O'hara is also fantastic as the sarcastic, jealous Judith. All of this comes together beautifully, but those who are hoping for a more traditional narrative may be disappointed. This is not Pixar. It is scary and frustrating, but above all, real.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet Indie Band of the Week: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are a 10 piece LA folk-rock group which sound a bit like a hippie version of The Arcade Fire, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Their debut album Up From Below is filled with anthemic songs and a myriad of instruments, but never sounds overfilled or out of control like Broken Social Scene can. While a little cutesy in parts, it's hard not to be charmed by their enthusiasm. This is my favorite song off the record, entitled Janglin':

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Favorite Music Videos of the Decade (Top 12....ish)

Before I get started on my Favorite Tracks and Albums of the decade in the next few days, I wanted to aggregate a few of my favorite music videos into a post. Some of my favorite directors got their start in music videos. The best music videos are those that add to power of the song, rather than distract from it and are mesmerizing enough to transport you to another place for a couple of minutes. All of these videos fit those criteria perfectly. Unsurprisingly, a few of these songs will also find their way onto my favorite tracks of the Decade list, but I don't want to ruin the surprise. Here they are, in no particular order:

Let me know your favorites!

Kanye West - Can't Tell Me Nothin' (Zach Galifinakis/Will Oldham Version)

Kylie Minogue - Come Into My World

Justice- D.A.N.C.E.

Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar

Sigur Ros - Glosoli

Johnny Cash - Hurt

The White Stripes - Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground

Interpol - Evil

Justice vs Simian - We Are Your Friends

Gnarls Barkley - Who's Gonna Save My Soul?