Tag Archives: animal collective

Deakin, “Sleep Cycle”

Deakin

Sleep Cycle

[My Animal House; 2016]

Rating: 9

Animal Collective’s 2016 release Painting With feels a bit like a final effort for the band. It’s a palatable album but lacks the spirit of adventure found in early AC works. After a 16-year span where they’ve released 11 albums, you can’t blame the boys for going through the motions at this point. It’s not that they’ve lost their muse – Panda Bear continues to create his melodic atmospheres on critically acclaimed solo albums, and Avey Tare’s boundary pushing solo work has reached incomprehensible levels (in a good way). Much like The Beatle’s near the end of their run, AC seem more comfortable and willing to take risks as solo artists. In 2016, the underappreciated and mysterious Deakin has emerged as AC’s biggest secret with his first solo album, Sleep Cycle. Continue reading

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BDWPS Podcast #44

I apologize for the delay on this month’s podcast, but I have a legitimate excuse – influenza. It’s been a rough week, but I powered through and recorded episode #44 of the BDWPS Podcast. In this episode we check out new tracks from Animal Collective, Jesu & Sun Kil Moon, David Bowie, Allan Kingdom, and Eleanor Friedberger. I also discuss the Oscar nominated documentaries and what I thought should have won the Academy Award. You can subscribe the the BDWPS Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Podomatic (search: BDWPS).

Listen to Episode #44 HERE. 

Tracklist:
Animal Collective “Golden Gal”
Jesu & Sun Kil Moon “Fragile”
David Bowie “Lazarus”
Allan Kingdom “Fables”
Eleanor Friedberger “He Didn’t Mention His Mother”
Nina Simone “Backlash Blues”
Bob Dylan “Neighborhood Bully”

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Top 40 Albums of 2012 (40-21)

2

It’s that time again – time to look back on all the great albums released this past year. 2012 has been filled with fantastic albums, and as a result, I’ve come up with a doozy of a list.  You’ll find a variety of genres here ranging from rap to folk to metal to punk.  No matter what type of music you enjoy (minus country) you’ll find something on here that you’ve either already been enjoying or music you should be enjoying. Whatever the case, enjoy!

Honorable Mention:

The Amazing “Gentle Stream”

Bison B.C. “Lovelessness”

Crystal Castles “(III)”

The Evens “The Odds”

Lambchop “Mr. M”

Metz “S/T”

Mind Spiders “Meltdown”

Pilgrim “Misery Wizard”

Lee Renaldo “Between the Times & the Tides”

Twin Shadow “Confess”

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Animal Collective “Centipede Hz”

 Animal Collective

Centipede HZ

[Domino; 2012]

Rating: 8.4

Animal Collective have had a pretty good run when it comes to the critics. All of their albums have been greeted with open-arms, regardless of how belligerent they may get. Their success reached beyond the insulated critical realm with their last album, “Meariweather Post Pavillion,” becoming a mainstream success (a label no one would have ever given to AC with their mix of overtly artistic/abrasive music).  But after finally earning worldwide acceptance, filling outdoor arenas on their current tour, the band has fallen from graces within the critic’s sect with their latest album, Centipede Hz.

While some publications have printed lukewarm reviews, many have not been kind in the least. The Independent called the album “…a fatiguing experience,” NOW Magazine labeled it “…obnoxious chaos,” and Paste described it as “…dense ugliness…”.  The New York Times review paints a picture where Avey Tare has taken charge, in turn destroying all of Panda Bear’s confidence, while the self-proclaimed “world’s busiest music nerd” over at The Needle Drops suggests that the return of Deakin to the band has had a negative effect on their sound.

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4. Road Trip 2008, Day 3: Home of the Brave

Somewhere in between this ocean and mountainside
I have this dream I think of it still sometimes
I know it’s just the season
I sense no time or reason
The sky falls down; it’s evening
The feeling goes; it’s leaving

The Dodos “The Season”

We returned to downtown Spearfish around 8 a.m. and headed to Alpine Coffee. As I was ordering up a grande Mocha, the girl behind the counter commented, “I love your shirt. Two Gallants are awesome.” The cute little red head in horn-rimmed glasses smiled and went off to make my drink. While waiting, I decided Spearfish would be a great place to live: a great micro-brew, the limitless possibilities the canyon offered, and beautiful women who appreciate quality beer and good music. My July 4th was off to a great start, and I knew it would only get better with The Dodos playing at the end of our day’s journey.

Once I had my coffee and Paul his bagel, we returned to the road, heading north toward Montana. We thought about backtracking for a couple hours to see Mount Rushmore, but we knew Bozeman sat 500 miles away. With Paul at the wheel, I began perusing our collection of Black Hills brochures. While reading a short article about Mount Rushmore’s construction, it mentioned that many questioned the addition of Theodore Roosevelt. It made sense; Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington are legendary presidents while Roosevelt was just some dude who had a moustache. Teddy is like the Ringo Starr of Rushmore – the untalented guy lucky to be standing awkwardly behind the rest of the other three geniuses.

Mount Fab-Four

With Paul being a history major, I decided to bring this point up to him. He of course disagreed with me. “Roosevelt is probably my favorite president.”

Figuring he had the wrong Roosevelt, I responded, “You mean FDR right?” (My favorite president).

“No! Teddy was the man. He used to have boxing matches in the White House. When McKinley died, a lot of people hated him because he was this uncivilized cowboy. He didn’t give a shit what anybody said.”

“Like Bush…”

Paul went on to explain how Teddy was nothing “like Bush.” He talked about how Teddy was a huge conservationist, setting aside 16 million acres of land for national parks, which also pissed people off. He was in charge of the Panama Canal, was the first president to ride in a submarine, and often took expeditions to Africa to hunt elephant. Paul continued rambling off strange tidbits about Roosevelt, and after 10 minutes, I was questioning whether FDR was even my favorite Roosevelt.

I decided I wasn’t going to give up on my argument just yet. “Okay, okay, Roosevelt sounds like a rebel, but he still doesn’t deserve to be on Rushmore. The other three are legends.” Paul then spent another 10 minutes discrediting the American mythology of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. I tried to defend Lincoln, but my lack of knowledge left me with little to shield the bearded fellow. I had to give it to Paul; I hated history in school, but his unique perspective on these presidents’ legacies had my full attention. I could tell he was fascinated by the subject matter, and for the first time I got a glimpse of the great teacher Paul would be in the classroom.

This oldey time cartoon forgot to include "Bad Ass".

As we rolled into Belle Fourche, South Dakota, we noticed people in lawn chairs lining the sidewalks. We deducted that we had just beat the start of the Belle Fourche 4th of July Parade. Paul slowed the vehicle, rolled the windows down, and commenced waving to the perplexed Belle Fourch-ians. I grabbed our plastic American hats (bought during our shopping spree) and threw them on our heads, giving our float a patriotic flair. The looks we received were a combination of annoyance, disgust, and confusion. They must have been wondering, “Who are these Texans riding in a strange orange box car?” I would have felt like more of an ass if it weren’t for the little kids waving back; they thought we were the start of the parade – the grand marshals.

"Look kids! They let the special kids drive the short bus this year!"

After getting us through Wyoming and into Montana, Paul seceded his driving duty so he could take a nap. Despite my 5 a.m. cow wake up call, I was full of energy from either the excitement of seeing The Dodos or the mocha I slurped down in 15 minutes. With Mission of Burma’s “Vs.” blaring, I flew through the endless green hills of Eastern Montana, crossing multiple Indian reservations. I actually had the opportunity to see Mission of Burma in Denver with Paul – it was one of his many failed attempts at getting me to head west. I don’t regret missing the elderly band, who are pushing 60. They are still releasing great albums 25 years after “Vs.”, but I’ve already had bad experiences with seeing great artists in the twilight of their career. (Paul and I saw Bob Dylan mumble through an hour set at the 2001 Iowa State Fair. The night would have been a complete wash if it weren’t for us spending the majority of the show trying to sneak past the security guards.)

Seeing Mission of  Burma back in 83′ is a different story:

When “Vs.” finally finished, we pulled over for a quick roadside lunch of cold ham sandwiches and Doritos. It was a nice relaxing meal, out in the middle of Montana without a house in sight, just miles and miles of hills and mountains. We cut our lunch short when a swarm of bees decided to join us. Paul took over driving. My two hours of rest in the land of screaming monkeys had finally caught up with me. I instantly fell into a deep sleep, but it lasted about 10 minutes. This was due to Paul’s music choice, Albert Ayler, a guy he claims is jazz music. The honking saxophone over the endless drum roll sounded nothing like the smooth jazz of Charlie Parker that I grew up on. The album contained two 20 minutes songs, both lacking any semblance of a melody. I have no doubt that my four year old niece could sit down with a saxophone and sound better than this garbage. I tried blocking out the music, but the racket continued jolting me from the brink of slumber.

"Hello Mr. Ayler. I challenge you to a saxophone duel!"

Here’s one of Albert’s “short” songs:

Being both grumpy and exhausted, I finally spoke up. “This has to be the worst excuse for jazz I’ve ever heard.” Paul ignored my comment, although he seemed irritated, and continued listening to what resembled a 5th grade marching band. Paul has always preferred noise over harmony. He likes early Animal Collective – I like their newer, more melodic stuff. When he heard the new Deerhoof, which I adore, he commented, “Why’d they have to start writing songs?”

Here’s the era of Animal Collective that I enjoy most:

…and here’s the era of Animal Collective Paul enjoys most:

With Ayler blaring away, I remained sleepless all the way to Billings. We pulled into downtown to check out our first brewery of the day, Billings Brewing Company. The city streets resembled a ghost town, with only an occasional homeless person stumbling down the street. By the time we found the brewery, we already knew it would be closed. We were right. Disappointed by our first failure of the day, and with both of us thirsty for a 4th of July beer, we decided to take a southern detour to Red Lodge so we could visit Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company. The scenic drive lightened my spirits. The curving, hilly path led us along the edge of The Big Slide Mountain. What I thought were mountains earlier in the drive didn’t compare to the peaks surrounding Red Lodge. The contrast of the gray mountains and the bright green hills encapsulated us with the kind of vivid colors that would give a kid epileptic seizures.

Nature's version of the NES game "Monster in My Pocket"

Red Lodge reminded me of any small town you see in Iowa, only that it was surrounded by mountains instead of corn fields. We drove down one of the few paved roads in town, leading us directly to a faded yellow machine shed with a sign reading “Red Lodge Ales”. It didn’t look like much, but we decided to check it out. Inside, we found a bar packed with people of all ages, ranchers in cowboy hats, elderly in their 4th of July best, and young hippies in hemp gear. I couldn’t believe how many people were in this little brewery. Red Lodge is only a town of 2,500. In Billings, population 90,000, not a creature was stirring, but in this little village everyone came out to enjoy a locally brewed beer for the holiday. After waiting in line to get our first brews of the day, we sat on the back patio and enjoyed the view of hazy mountains in the distance, Yellowstone stood right before us.

Machine shed or brewery?

I came to the conclusion that the quality of their beers hadn’t drawn all the business. Not that they tasted horrible, but they also didn’t have anything spectacular on tap (their best beer had to be the 10 year aged bock with a surprisingly sweet finish). I began to think about whether my hometown could support a brewery. Currently, if you want a tap beer in Estherville your choices are Bud Light and Bud Light. Would these Midwesterners break away from their light beer disillusionment and enjoy a lager packed with flavor (and alcohol content)? I doubted it. Regardless, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be here with these small town folk celebrating the 4th of July in their local brewery.

Walking back to the car, Paul was already feeling a bit tipsy, so I took up the driving once again. When I noticed him trying to sleep, I decided it was time for a little revenge. No, I wasn’t going to find noise to play – he’d enjoy it too much. I scoured my i-POD for an album jam-packed with infectious melodies. And there it was, the perfect poison to piss off Paul: Vampire Weekend.

Paul’s poison:

30 seconds into “Mansford Roof” Paul’s eyes popped open. “What the hell is this?”

I ignored him, singing along to “I see a Mansford roof through the trees, I see a salty message written in the eaves.”

“Damn it, what the hell is this?”

“The ground beneath my feet, The hot garbage and concrete, and now the tops of buildings, I can see them too!” I sang at the top of my lungs.

“This is Vampire Weekend isn’t it?…Isn’t it!?” He grabbed the i-POD and looked in disgust.

I slyly smiled at him and continued singing along to the upbeat music. He laid back down for a bit, but by album’s end, he was sitting up at full attention. I wasn’t sure if he enjoyed the music or not. As “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” came to an end, he gave his final diagnosis. “Tracks two and three were amazing…the rest of the album sounds too much like Paul Simon’s African crap.” I agreed with him, although I’ve never found fault in Simon’s “African crap”.

Next we stopped in Livingston to check out Neptune’s Brewery. When we pulled up, it looked nothing like a brewery but more like a townie bar. The same vibe continued as we walked through the door. Maybe we were at the wrong place?

“Uh, is this the brewery?” I asked the girl behind the bar.

“Well, it’s just a bar first, but we do serve Neptune Beers.” I was confused. Is it a brewery or not? She went on to explain that a brew master rents out the back room to brew his beers. The bar serves his creations on tap, although not exclusively. We ordered a couple burgers and began sampling the drinks they had to offer. We were disappointed to say the least: the Bavarian was unusually dark and strange tasting, the Belgian resembled cheap rum, and the IPA was a mix of Pine Sol and gin. We had one beer left to sample: Toad’s Back Boch.

“This is Neptune’s most popular beer,” she said handing me my pint. I lifted the brown concoction to my nose and quickly pulled away due to the pond water stank wafting from the glass. I held my breath and took a swig. The name was fitting. It tasted exactly like a toad’s back, or at least what I would suspect. The syrupy texture hit my palette like a nuke, overpowering my taste buds with its mixture of rotted corpse and old people’s homes, finishing off with a bitter, dusty dry aftertaste. I couldn’t help but squint my eyes and wrinkle my brow at what, to this day, is the worst beer I’ve ever tasted.

When the bartender saw my sour look, she giggled and said,” I never said it was my favorite beer. I don’t like any of the beers he makes.”

Like licking a toad's back, minus the hallucinations.

We put the horrible Neptune experience behind us and drove the final leg of our day’s drive. Once in Bozeman, we zig-zagged through the streets for 20 minutes searching for both the VFW and a possible camping spot. We didn’t find any place to set up the tent, but we did finally come upon the VFW – a tin red garage, set back 20 feet from the road.

When we entered the bar it was pretty empty, except a girl sitting at the bar and a group of guys playing pool. While I made a bathroom run, Paul asked the bartender if he knew a place we could camp for free. The pony tailed metal band reject told Paul we were more than welcome to set up our tent behind his house. Upon hearing this option I felt uneasy. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in a serial killer’s backyard. We decided to wait and see what the night would bring, keeping in mind we always had the scary looking bartender’s lawn as an option.

We sat down at the bar next to one of the only other patrons, a middle aged woman dressed like an orphan flower child. Her freckled face smiled at Paul, and she jumped straight into a conversation. She definitely wasn’t shy. I became instantly annoyed. When she found out we were from out of town, she began regaling stories of all her run-ins with the Bozeman police force, with each story ending in the statement, “You don’t mess with a Montana woman.” When I noticed the long-haired bartender glaring at her, I knew I wasn’t alone in my disdain. I couldn’t stand her yapping any longer, so I stood up, hoping Paul would catch my drift to escape from the rambling wreck. But Paul didn’t budge; he actually seemed to be enjoying her company (or he was trying to score some old lady ass).

Paul taking a moment to appreciate our freedom in front of the Bozeman VFW.

With people starting to arrive, I strolled casually around the VFW trying to entertain myself. I’d glance over at the bar occasionally to find the woman’s mouth still chattering endlessly. When th opening act started – some fat sweaty dude playing Elliot Smith covers – I made the conscious decision to get shit-faced in order to enjoy my seclusion/boredom. I chugged one Olympia beer after another, occasionally rejoining Paul and his new friend, the yammering mess. The conversation had moved on from the Bozeman police to the local tourist destinations we should check out. Her new catch-phrase was, “I should know, I’ve lived here for 25 years.” When I heard her say this for the third time, I echoed drunkenly,” How long have you lived here?” Followed by, “So would you describe yourself as a Montana woman?” She didn’t get my sarcasm, nor did she sense how much I loathed her.

I filed outside with the other patrons to check the fireworks being shot off at the local rodeo. I sat down at a picnic table behind the bar and watched the bursting colors in the Montana night sky. I began thinking about how exactly a year ago I watched fireworks in Lake Havasu, Arizona with my buddy Justin LeSieuer. I hadn’t talked to him for a couple months, but he seemed to be doing fine, still living with his girlfriend and her daughter. The year before he dreamed of getting out of the place he referred to as hell, but now it seemed like those aspirations had settled like the firework ashes falling from the sky.

Midway through the fireworks, Paul came out and sat next to me. He joked about the annoying woman as we looked on at the night sky.  When the display came to a close, the crowd began scattering back into the bar to hear another local artist do his best Tom Waits impression. All that remained outside were the three pool playing guys, now sitting in the grass, and Paul and I on the picnic table. While Paul was lighting up a cigar, the three guys stood and began screaming the National Anthem, waving their arms around maniacally at the mountains silhouetted by the moon. When they reached the line “which so proudly we hail” Paul joined in on their mini-drunken choir. Soon the five of us were howling the anthem up toward the starry sky, feeling the cool Montana breeze wash over us. After screaming, “AND THE HOOOOOME OF THAAAAAAA BRAAAAAAVE!” the three guys fell to the grass in laughter.

One of them turned back toward us and yelled,” Nice singing boys!”

It was then that I realized, who our choirmates had been: The Dodos. The same band we’d driven two days straight to see.  Instead of being a fanboy, lauding them with my love of their music, I calmly replied, “Thanks!” and then turned to Paul whispering, “That’s the Dodos.” He nodded his head and smiled as cigar smoke rolled out of his mouth and upward, congealing with the settling firework smoke. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my 4th of July: watching fireworks behind a VFW in Montana, and singing the national anthem with the Dodos. Teddy Roosevelt would be proud.

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The Drums “The Drums”

The Drums
“The Drums”
[Moshi Moshi 2010]

Rating: 7.5

I spent last weekend in Portland with my brother, and while driving about the Mount Hood wilderness we noticed that all the rock stations played primarily grunge.  My guess is that this Northwestern oasis latched onto neighboring Seattle’s aura back in the 90s and still hasn’t let go.  I’m not arguing that there aren’t some incredible musicians in Portland (Joanna Newsom, Blitzen Trapper, M. Ward, Laura Veirs) but it seems the popular rock music in the area remains the music of the 90s.  This led to a discussion between the two of us about the 2000s.  Looking back through history, ever era had a distinct musical style, yet the past ten years didn’t yield anything definitive. Some may argue that it’s too soon to analyze the 2000s in general, but I guarantee that by the year 1999 anyone would define the 90s as a decade of grunge and gangsta rap.

My brother argued that all music anymore is recycled recreations of the past, that all avenues have been explored and now musicians are just driving up and down the driveway on their dirt bikes.  I thought about arguing his point by bringing up artists who continued to push the musical stratosphere into unexplored territories (Animal Collective, Deerhoof, Battles) but in terms of mainstream music, he had a point. Even in indie music the art of imitation has become popular with many bands utilizing retro recording techniques to try and capture the sound of an era long ago.

I would like to contend that I stand against the idea of sound theft, yet I can’t get enough of throwback bands like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Black Lips, and The Dutchess and the Duke.  But the artist I have the most difficult time with enjoying is the latest release from the Florida band The Drums.  It reeks of rip-off.  To be more exact, it virtually duplicates The Smiths, almost verbatim:

simple 80s drum track- CHECK

jaunty indie guitar riffs- CHECK

irresistible pop sensibility- CHECK

The only thing missing is the distinctive crooning voice of Morrissey.  Smiths without Morrissey equals crap, right?  Here in lies the dilemma.  Not only is a Morrissey-less Smiths listenable, it’s downright charming. The playful back-and-forth between Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham of The Drums will have you feeling warm-fuzzies from one lovable song to the next.  After the first track “Best Friend” you may try convincing yourself that the magic you just witnessed was a cute little stroke of luck. You’ll tell yourself, “When you emulate The Smiths, of course you’ll have at least one decent song.”

Even the lyrics about a dead friend in “Best Friend” resemble something Morrissey would have come up with:

But just when you think the duo has run out of pop-petroleum, the next song revs up and you’re continuing your joyous hike down happy trails.  The band doesn’t stray from the Smith’s/Cure/New Order style though; it’s all 80s, all the time. Can you imagine witnessing a mugging and being filled with joy?  Now just imagine if the person being robbed is Johnny Marr. Do you see why this album makes me feel dirty?  Only on “Down By the Water” does the band stray from the indie 80s vibe, yet even this song is a grave robbing of Buddy Holly’s mangled corpse.

I listen to “Down By the Water” while taking a bath to wash away my shame:

I read somewhere on the internet (so it has to be true!) that the band claims to have recorded this album in a bedroom with only a guitar, an old keyboard, a microphone, a tambourine, and a reverb machine. Although I doubt this mythology is true, I want to believe it SO badly because if it were true, in a strange way it would validate my addiction to their album.  Unfortunately, I struggle to accept this story. This album sounds too polished, too perfectly premeditated to have been an organic creation.

I love this album too damn much to accept that it is a total stylistic hold-up.  When I listen to “Let’s Go Surfing” I try to convince myself that they’ve taken the 80s sound and made it a hybrid of surfer rock, 50s pop, and modern rock, but I know in the end that I’m fooling myself. Whistling, bleeping keyboards, and short doo-wop chant interludes don’t mask the fact that this album isn’t trying to change the world. It’s simply fun. Crap. I hate fun.

“Let’s Go Surfing”, a nominee for both “Best Song of 2010” and “Worst Video of 2010”:

I finally had to concede that, yes, this album is grand theft audio and that’s okay. Not everything has to be completely original, or in this case, remotely original.  My brother may be right about the 2000s lack of an original sound, but imitation is happening everywhere.  With the likes of “Hawaii Five-O” on TV and “The Karate Kid” in theaters, I like to believe that at least in the music world bands aren’t simply remaking classic albums; they are harnessing the essence of the greats, and I guess in the case of The Drums, I’m okay with that.

Speaking of movies, The Drums even rip-off the opening drum track to “Footloose” for “Me and the Moon”. Where’s a Chris Penn dance sequence in a barn when you need one?:

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Top 50 Songs of 2009 (1-25)

25. Akron/Family
“River”

In the 90s, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy scored a hit with “You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three”, a title Marilyn Manson jump off from with “You and Me and the Devil Makes Three”. I prefer Akron/Family’s approach in “River” singing “You and me and the fire makes three”, warm imagery of what it’s like to be out in nature with your two companions being a river and a campfire. Oh, but I know there is much more going on here. Could the fire be symbolic of the feelings felt between two lovers, with the female being hard to get a grasp of much like a river? Or maybe I’m just an English teacher in search of symbolism…

24. Wavves
“Beach Demon”

Yes, I know Nathan Williams, the genius behind Wavves, is a dick, but I’m sure John Lennon could be an asshole at times too.

23. Wilco
“You Never Know”

Speaking of the Beatles, is it just me or does this song sound like the spawn of George Harrison? Don’t hear it? Get two minutes and 55 seconds in and maybe you’ll know what I’m talking about – the answers hidden within the sliding guitar solo. Even if you don’t hear the ghost of George, at least take joy in Jeff Tweedy dropping all his worries and singing a happy song for a change.

22. Alela Diane
“White as Diamonds”

There is nothing quite as hypnotic as the sound of Alela’s voice jumping into falsetto throughout this song. Just when you are falling in a dreamlike sleep, the notes shoot out at you, surprising you and casting an irresistable spell like Cupid’s arrow.

21. Bill Callahan
“All Thoughts are Prey to Some Beast”

If you saw “The Hangover”, you may recall the moment where Mike Tyson is enthralled by the pounding drum fill of Phil Collin’s “In the Air Tonight”. “All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast” has the same rumbling drums, although they don’t attack you like Tyson in the boxing ring. Instead, like a musical Lennox Lewis, the drums slowly overtake you, building and building and building throughout the six-minute opus. This song is larger than life with lyrics to match (I included them all; they’re that damn good):

The leafless tree looked like a brain
The birds within were all the thoughts and desires within me
Hoppin’ around from branch to branch, or snug in their nests listenin’ in

An eagle came over the horizon and shook the branches with its sight
The softer thoughts: starlings, finches, and wrens
The softer thoughts, they all took flight

The eagle looked clear through the brain tree, emptying thoughts saved for me
Maybe I’ll make this one my home, consolidate the nests of the tiny
Raise a family of might like me

Then something struck him, wings of bone
Sweet desires and soft thoughts were all gone
The eagle shrieked, “I’m alone”

Well it was time to flee the tree
The eagle snuck up on the wind one talon at a time
Being sky king of the sky, what did he have to fear
All thoughts are prey to some beast
All thoughts are prey to some beast

Sweet desire and soft thoughts, return to me
Sweet desire and soft thoughts, return to me

20. Mirah
“Generosity”

This song was featured as the intro-music to E!’s “Live From the Red Carpet” show for the Oscars (don’t make fun of me; my girlfriend was watching it). The choice seems fitting for a night where actors and actresses dress to impress. Mirah usually records music that is bare-bones and personal, but her song “Generosity” shows her dressing up her music with an elegant string section and a verbose presentation that fit perfectly amidst Hollywood’s self-congratulatory pomp and circumstance.

19. Cam’ron
“(I Hate) My Job”

It’s too bad this song wasn’t released back in 1999. It would have worked great alongside “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” on the “Office Space” soundtrack. Actually, 2009 might have been the worst year to release this song. How can you complain about your job when a large portion of our country is jobless? Despite this fact, I still feel this song is an instant classic due to the fact that most people, at some point, hate their job. I love my profession, but at times, the people in power make it very difficult to enjoy what I do. On days filled with frustration at work, there is no better tune to help release the stress on your commute home.

18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Skeletons”

There are many facets to Karen O. She can be bratty, loud, sexy, and even at times, psychotic. She is at her best though when she lets down her guard, exposing her vulnerability. “Skeletons” may not be the most upbeat song on “It’s Blitz”, nor is it the catchiest track, but in my humble opinion, it is the album’s high-point. Karen is no longer hiding behind a drum machine or slashing synth riff. Her heart is exposed for all to see, hidden only by the uncoiling back-bone of orchestra and clicking drum sticks, always on the verge of breaking yet somehow staying steady throughout.

17. Future of the Left
“Arming Eritrea”

Fuck Rick. Who ever he is, he must be quite the douche to get such an angry tirade from Future of the Left’s Andy Falkous. We’ve heard Falco get pissed about many things with his influential band Mclusky, but never have I heard him pinpoint one mother fucker this directly. Sure, the title suggests the song has deeper meaning, but I like to believe that the song is primarily about that shit-dick Rick.

16. Dananananaykroyd
“Black Wax”

Speaking of Mclusky,Dananananaykroyd has obviously listened to “Do Dallas” a few times. Although they do a nice job of trying to fill the classic band’s void, their best song is actually a simple pop song that doesn’t follow the Mclusky formula. “Black Wax” shows the band being able to level out their cheeky behavior with just a dash of charm. Cheers to melodies!

15. Eat Skull
“Stick to the Formula”

While on the subject of formulas (damn, I’m getting good at this whole transition thing), Eat Skull want you to “do to the formula!”. Somehow, with all the clang and clamor they create, Eat Skull found a plum of a chorus. Unlike geometry formulas, the chorus of this song will stick in your head for infinity. If I were a math teacher I would use this song in my class daily. Unfortunately, we don’t do formulas in English (I do teach transitions though!).

14. Built to Spill
“Good Ol’ Boredom”

It’s kind of ironic that the best song on Built to Spill’s ho-hum 2009 release “There is No Enemy” is a song with the word “boredom” in the title. There is too much going on in this song to make it boring. The guitars are piled on top of each other cautiously like a seven layer dip, each part adding its own zest to the final product. There is one guitar line that stands out above all the rest, swooping and momentous like a 21st Century “Free Bird”.

13. BLK JKS
“Lakeside”

This song is a lot like “Weekend at Bernie’s” (in a good way). It opens up sounding dreadful, with spooky harmonizing and a menacing guitar line (there is nothing spookier than dragging a dead guy around a beach). Then of course, the band breaks into the chorus, an upbeat, African-ska-energy infused celebration that would even get life-less Bernie to join in on a conga line.

12. Volcano Choir
“Island, IS”

“Unmap” is a strange album. It is made up of “songs” where awkward instruments squawk clumsily, never really taking shape. It is definitely miles away from the melodic folk music we’ve grown accustomed to with Justin Vernon. “Island, IS” plays as the saviour to the album. It’s almost as if Vernon wanted to throw us off with one master work that delves into environs he’s never visited, to remind us there is still more to come from Bon Iver (plus, any song that mentions “the old tits on your hard drive” is a winner in my book).

11. Nadja
“Needle in the Hay”

Who would have thought an Elliot Smith song could be made more depressing? Nadja does just that, injecting the once intimate song with an eery dose of ambient-doom. The voice is buried beneath the bedlam, a ghostly whisper of “needle in the hay” that will send chills up your spine if you ever grew to know Elliot personally through his music.

10. Mountain Goats
“Drug Life”

What happened to the Mountain Goats of old? They were lo-fi before lo-fi was cool. Using his trusty four-track recorder, John Darnielle used to write hilarious songs with titles like “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” and “I Love You. Let’s Light Ourselves on Fire”. A lot has changed. In 2009, the Mountain Goats released “The Life of the World to Come”, a highly polished album of 12 songs about 12 verses from the bible. I may be mistaken, but I don’t remember the bible having any punch lines (unless you count the burning bush). Fortunately, Merge Records released “Score! 20 Years of Merge Records”, a compilation of indie artists covering classic songs by Merge bands from the past. Darnielle is matched up with “Drug Life” by East River Pipe (a band I definitely need to check out after hearing this song and the Okkervil River cover of “All You Little Suckers”). It ended up being a perfect match due to its hilarious lyrics, something Darnielle abandoned years ago. And just to make us nostalgic, Darnielle records it in his familiar lo-fi style. What a tease.

9. Neko Case
“People Got A Lotta Nerve”

You mean to tell me Neko Case wrote a song with the chorus “I’m a man-eater” and it’s better than Hall & Oates classic? I’ll leave that up for to debate, but her “man-eater” is a killer whale while Hall & Oates are afraid of some chick. What pussies.

8. Passion Pit
“Moth’s Wings”

Can you believe this band is on Frenchkiss Records, home of Les Savy Fav, Plastic Constellations, and the Fatal Flying Guilloteens? It seems like a strange fit, but I can’t blame label head Syd Butler for signing them. Their songs are scrumptious treats, frosted in sugary synths and Michael Angelako’s sacchariferous falsetto. Of all their tasty tunes, “Moth’s Wings” would be the cheese cake, with its complex, creamy textures and its rich, fulfilling melody.

7. HEALTH
“Die Slow”

Industrial music died with the 90s, right? Not according to HEALTH. On “Die Slow”, the band explores new territories in the genre, combining metalic synths with BJ Miller’s insane drumming and the hellacious scream of guitars, all of which seems to be traveling through some type of black-hole-vortex. Taking a nod from Nine Inch Nail’s underrated “The Fragile”, the band sees how live and digital instruments can live together in perfect harmony (or in this case, perfect dissonance).

6. Mos Def
“Supermagic”

While most rappers gave up on sampling years ago, Mos Def realizes there is still some magic hidden on the shelves of the local record store. On “Supermagic”, Mos Def pulled an LP out the Turkish Folk section, sampling “Ince Ince”, a song by the 1970s protest singer Selda. To make an already tight song tighter, he rewords Mary Poppin’s classic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with his cooler, darker version “Super magic black origin freshly out of dopeness”. Selda meets Mary Poppins? Now that would be one magic woman.

5. Cymbals Eat Guitars
“And the Hazy Sea”

Cymbals Eat Guitars set their listeners up for a major disappointment by putting “And the Hazy Sea” at the start of their 2009 release “Why There Are Mountains”. Nothing can stand up to the climatic nature of this song, yet you listen to the remainder of the album hoping those feelings will return. Like a 12 hour sex romp with Sting, “And the Hazy Sea” jams orgasm after orgasm into six minutes, leaving you sweaty and incapacitated.

4. Matt and Kim
“Daylight”

Matt and Kim are “the little band that could”. I’ve been enjoying their music for a couple years now, thinking of them as my little pop-secret. Never did I expect to hear their boisterous ditty “Daylight” on TV shows (“Community”), advertisements (an ad for “Bacardi”), and video games (“NBA Live 2010, FIFA 2010”, and “Sims 3”). “Daylight’s” success proves that with a great melody, any band can break through that glass ceiling (although, I suspect that Matt blackmailed EA Games at some point in the past year).

3. Animal Collective
“Girls”

There is something childlike to “Girls”, yet the lyrics speak of what it means to grow up and be a father. Commonly, the music of artists begins to wane with age and the added stress of wife, kids, etc. As usual, Animal Collective break the mold, managing to sound better than ever, even making parenthood sound fun…sleep loss, screaming babies, and poopy diapers –fun? Why must you fuck with my head A.C.?

2. The Very Best
“Warm Heart of Africa (featuring Ezra Koenig”

Last year The Very Best took Vampire Weekend’s song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and put the Columbia alums back in their place, bringing authenticity to the African inspired song. In 2009, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend decided to join forces with his tormentors to lend his vocals to “Warm Heart of Africa”. With their powers combined – The Very Best’s African beats and Ezra’s s tender voice -these musical Avengers berate you until you are up on your feet dancing and singing along to African words that you don’t understand.

1. Phoenix
“Love Like a Sunset Part I and II”

Phoenix is a simple pop band that creates great hooks, right? Yes, and no. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me present to you evidence: “Love is a Sunset pt. I & II”, a sprawling, atmospheric journey of astronomical proportions. Like a ride through “It’s a Small World After All”, the song takes you through all of the regions music can provide your brain – it baffles and broadens, it pacifies and presses, it’s simple yet cinematic, it penetrates and motivates- simply put, this song will change your life, if you can only lend it a moment of your time.

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