In this episode I pay tribute to Omaha’s record store legend Dave Sinks, and check out new tracks from Cat Power, Django Django, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and Jens Lekman. I also play a track by my friend’s comedy band Sun Babies Inc, and of course, I close off with another classic from Bob Dylan.
Check it out here (or subscribe to it on iTunes – search “BDWPS”):
If you’ve had trouble playing the audio to the first 30 tracks posted, hopefully they will be more accessible now that I’ve updated the format of my blogs. Yes, I’m an idiot and just realized you can post excerpts leading to a page that is devoted solely to the one blog entry. I think you’ll find some pretty amazing songs in my top 30, and my hope is that someone out there discovers a song that will have the same affect on them that they’ve had on me. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! (Top 40 Albums coming next week…)
Last year I purchased Fresh & Only’s self-titled album and thought they were just another garage band from San Francisco (don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing). Boy was I wrong. With their 2010 release “Play It Strange”, Tim Cohen and his band of merry-makers have proven that with a little clean up and an emphasis on a 60s vibe, they are a band to be reckoned with. The songs are still youthful in spirit but they’ve gained a maturity with the addition of production that clears the air surrounding their surfer guitars and Cohen’s mumbling baritone. While other retro-outfits try to mimic a multitude of classic songs (Black Lips), Fresh & Onlys have made an album of songs that are completely original despite the fact that you swear you’ve heard them before on the local oldies station.
24. Male Bonding
It’s been a while since Sub-Pop has released an album filled with so many fast, fuzzy, frenetic songs (could it have been the early 90s?). Whatever the case, the combination of Male Bonding and SubPop is a match made in heaven. Male Bonding provide the label with that energetic noise that defined SubPop so long ago, and in return the label cleans the band’s grubby little punk songs up a bit. Don’t worry – the production isn’t heavy handed, but just enough to allow the listener to enjoy the rowdy 2-minute romps without having to strain. And “Nothing Hurts” isn’t all punk clamor all the time. After bouncing your head around for 24 minutes like a bobblehead, the band provides a nice cool down with the final track “Worse To Come”.
23. The Books
“The Way Out”
[Temporary Residence; 2010]
Usually with sampled music, there is a disconnect because humanity isn’t evident. We may take delight in the composition of the audio clips and the beats, but the enjoyment doesn’t go much beyond that. This is not true with “The Way Out”. On the album, The Books take samples of characters who either connect with the listener or expose their own weaknesses. Whether it be a little boy expressing his violent tendencies, a lonely man leaving a desperate phone message to a woman, or a creepy old man retelling the story of lil Hip-Hop. Several tracks use the sounds of a man speaking about the self-help program auto-genics, and even though I think they are used for the purpose of humor, I’ve found myself on several listens actually slipping “deeper and deeper” into a meditative state. And just when you think everything makes sense and that the music is really speaking to you, the band will throw in a joke like “The average human being only uses 5% of their brain. The other 95% is for…food.” And in an instant, you feel like a fool for having such a deep connection to their tomfoolery. There’s nothing quite like an album that mocks you, the listener.
22. The Roots
“How I Got Over”
[Def Jam; 2010]
A month ago I wrote of The Roots: “I worried that Jimmy Fallon had ruined The Roots like he’s done over the years to so many SNL skits and movies. Then I heard their 2010 release ‘How I Got Over’ and it all made sense. By playing nightly within the confines of a show that no one watches, the band was able to continue honing their craft through a medium that also provided them with the chance to meet a variety of artists. These two elements are evident on ‘How I Got Over’, where track after track features another guest appearance to go alongside the bands compelling jams. The difference with The Roots approach to the collective-style album is that there is never a question whose album this is: the band firmly has its fingerprints deeply pressed into every nook and cranny of ‘How I Got Over’. When The Monsters of Folk softly sing an opening prayer on ‘Dear God 2.0’, ?uest Love’s pin-point drumming responds like a voice from beyond; when John Legend soulfully croons on ‘The Fire’, Kamal Gray’s constant pulse on the piano is the fuel that keeps the flame burning; when the sample of Joanna Newsom’s ‘The Book of Right On’ appears on ‘Right On’, Black Thought plays the perfect anti-thesis to her distinctive voice, punctuating his point right on cue.”
21. Vampire Weekend
Earlier this year I wrote of this album: “When I first heard the title for Vampire Weekend’s latest release, ‘Contra’, I prepared myself for disappointment. An album named after the greatest video game ever? No chance of being good (okay, I’m pretty sure the Columbia graduates were referencing the counterrevolutionary guerrilla group, but stay with me here…). Fortunately, I was wrong. Not only is ‘Contra’ excellent, but it shares the same attributes that made ‘Contra’ a classic NES video game. What made ‘Contra’ such an essential Nintendo hit was how it moved from the side-scrolling levels that take place in exotic locations to a 3-D first person approach, with Bill Rizer and Lance Bean battling aliens and robots while running up a confined, futuristic hallway, laser barriers and all. The balance between these two environments is what makes the game so memorable and replayable. Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” followed the Konami video game’s formula to a T. The familiar tropical/classical/ska sound is still there, but amidst the bongos and African inspired melodies the band throws in a more futuristic approach. Every song features technological touches (sampling, drum machine, auto-tuner) but these modern sounds are added in sparingly, providing a refreshing new twist to the jumpy Vampire Weekend sound we grew to love a few years ago. Basically, it’s bringing a soundscape from out of this world to the jungle – the premise to ‘Contra’!”
20. Julian Lynch
[Olde English Spelling Bee; 2010]
In a glowing review from earlier this year I wrote: “Déjà vu is such a strange phenomenon. Is it just a series of circumstances that remind us of a past experience? Or is it a result of daily routines where it’s inevitable that events are bound to repeat themselves? Or could it truly be that memories are timeless, that they float aimlessly through our mind, seeping in from the past, present, and future, creating a psychic horizon where there is no end or beginning? Whatever the case, Julian Lynch’s ‘Mare’ is auditory déjà vu, bringing you back to memories that never existed. Something about Julian’s ambient psych-jazz resembles music you’ve heard before (maybe as a child, maybe on the ‘Finding Forester soundtrack’, or maybe in a dream). The songs on ‘Mare’ exist in some way within our psyche, a collection of vivid arrangements that whisk you from one memory to another, then vanish just as you find yourself nuzzling up to the warm feelings that arise. You would swear that ‘Mare’ is a used record store discovery from the 1970s. At the same time, I think you would be hard pressed to find an artist in the 70s accomplishing what Lynch does with this album, an atmosphere from another place, another time. At the risk of sounding cliche – it’s otherworldly while still being grounded in everything you know (or knew in another life).”
19. The Walkmen
[Fat Possom; 2010]
I don’t get how they do it. Essentially, every Walkmen album is based off the same three elements: a reverberating guitar, lyrics of heartbreak, and Hamilton Leithhauser’s incredible vocals (probably my favorite voice out there today). Yet with each album, they are able to create something distinctive from other releases, although I can’t quite place how they are different. If you were to shuffle all of their songs, it would be difficult to find any major disparity between the songs. But when the songs are separated by album and placed among their peers, they suddenly become something more. “Bows + Arrows” feels like a night in New York City, “A Hundred Miles Off” resembles Dylan when he first went electric, “You and Me” hearkens back to the 1950s age of courting, and with “Lisbon” the music somehow transports you to a romanticized Portugal where the sun always shines, even when you’ve just been dumped down in the Chiado.
18. Surfer Blood
An excerpt from my Summer Albums list: “Don’t let the youth of Surfer Blood fool you; these kids understand the power held within their six-strings. The guitars of Thomas Fekete and John Paul Pitts complement each other in the same way I imagine it may sound like if Doug Marsh and Dick Dale joined forces. The band succeeds at blending the surfer guitar licks of old with distorted riffs reminiscent of Pavement. Back in March, I’d been listening to ‘Astrocoast’ two weeks leading up to SXSW, but when I actually saw them perform, all thoughts of it simply being a happy rock album were erased. Watching the guitar work of these Florida youths had me in awe. At first glance, ‘Astrocoast’ is simply fun, but if you delve deeper there is a darker beast brooding beneath the surface; a creature that craves to devour your pop sensibilities and digest them whole.”
17. Sufjan Stevens
“Age of ADZ”
[Asthmatic Kitty; 2010]
From a review this fall: “The songs on ‘Age of ADZ’ remind me of a lot of the literature of Kurt Vonnegut, a strange declaration, I’m sure. Vonnegut is often referenced as a ‘science fiction’ author, but this label doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, Vonnegut often wrote of time travel, aliens, and life on other planets, but it’s not done in the same way a Phillip K. Dick or a Ray Bradbury would approach it. He isn’t writing of these places and events to entertain nor is he trying to convey them with realism. Instead, he’s using them as a vehicle for conveying a larger message about humanity. The songs on ‘ADZ’ are done in such an over-the-top space-age motif that it’s difficult to take them serious, which in the end is the point. On surface it’s an album of robot take-over and the arrival of Judgment Day, but any able-minded person knows that Sufjan is talking about the demons within his soul, battling it out, not of UFOs and killer volcanoes.”
16. Laura Veirs
[Bella Union/Raven Marching Band; 2010]
Some would like you to believe that the best album by a female singer/songwriter in 2010 was by Joanna Newsom, but they’d be wrong. That honor goes to Laura Veirs and her highly underrated “July Flame”. Veirs could easily depend on her more intimate tracks that showcase her and her guitar executing the songstress routine, but she understands that to keep the listener engaged you have to switch things up, and each song takes her unassuming voice from one northwest terrain to the next. “I Can See Your Tracks” resembles a jaunt through Fleet Foxes territories, “Little Deschutes” takes her depressingly down to the water’s edge, and “Summer is Champion” transports us down memory lane to the days when The Decemberists were still entertaining. And she does takes you through all of these fabulous faunas within one 13 track CD. Beat that Joanna.
15. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
I can still vividly remember the first time I listened to “Before Today”. I was alone in Iowa City, driving around aimlessly, trying to find the venue where Lightning Bolt was playing that night. Frustration is usually the emotion associated with the sensation of being lost, but instead Ariel Pink’s drugged out mix had me giggling to myself as I passed one strange street after the next. Was this guy for real? It wasn’t just simply a band trying to sound retro, it was a sound completely pulled from the 70s. Plus, the lyrics were over-the-top and completely self-aware. Yet, this isn’t a comedy album. In fact, “Before Today” features 12 of the most memorable pop songs you’ll hear in 2010 (or in 1978). Now, I can’t help but imagine Iowa Hawkeye football players Johnson Koulianos and Nate Robinson sharing a joint while listening to Ariel Pink’s “Before Today”. Oh, the crazy drug-town that is Iowa City, Iowa.
14. Quest For Fire
“Lights From Paradise”
[Tee Pee; 2010]
Quest For Fire is not a stoner rock band, despite what you may have heard. I struggle to believe that pot-heads can even keep up with this epic shoe-gaze-psych-fuzz. Stick to your simple Pink Floyd because “Lights From Paradise” may cause flashbacks. The opening track is called “The Greatest Hits By God” but the album might as well share this title because these songs will take you to a higher level of understanding of the world that surround us. The grungy guitars would suggest that this is an angry rock album, but Chad Ross’s calming voice shrouds you with positive energy, all held within the distant distortion. “Lights From Paradise” is tranquil and heavy, all at the same time. If anything, this music makes you feel stoned without any drug intake required (plus, there are no munchies).
13. Kanye West
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare”
[Def Jam, Rock-A-Fella; 2010]
I almost feel like I have to try explaining why “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare” isn’t in my top ten, or in the number one spot for that matter. It seems like every major music list is naming it the top album of 2010 (SPIN, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc). Let me first say that there are some great songs here: “POWER”, “Dark Fantasy”, “All of the Lights”, “Monster”, “So Apalled”, “Runaway”, “Blame Game”, “Lost in the World”. The fact that I just named seven kick-ass songs out of ten should say something about how solid this album is from start to finish. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself singing “All of the lights!” while shopping for groceries or “This shit’s ridiculous!” while cleaning my room. At times I get annoyed by how much these songs have rubbed their stamp into my brain like a comic strip on silly putty. There is no denying that Kanye has a gift for memorable choruses and rhymes. BUT, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare” is not the earth-shattering album that some have suggested. It’s not the in-depth psycho-analysis of a crazy man. The only thing insane about Kanye is that he’s insanely rich. And honestly, if you want an album of a man who is lost and depressed, check out Sufjan Steven’s “Age of ADZ”, but then again, it won’t be nearly as fun or memorable as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare”.
“My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky”
[Young God; 2010]
At first I was afraid of Swans; I was petrified. I read a few positive reviews of “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky” and decided to check it out. After listening to two songs I turned it off. I didn’t get it. Why was this band considered to be legendary? Then a few weeks later, while talking on the phone with fellow BDWPS contributor SongsSuck, he asked if I’d listened to “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky” yet. After getting off the phone, feeling like a fool, I downloaded the album and sat down to give it a good, honest listen. This time I wasn’t bored with the opening track “No Words/No Thoughts”; it literally pained me to listen to the echoing church bells, the ominous organs, and the black metal crackling of the guitars. I once again turned off the music; his name is SongsSuck for a reason. Then, only a few weeks ago, as I drove across the desolate plains of Kansas, something came over me. In that moment, that chaos that scared me months earlier seemed oddly intriguing. I quickly found The Swans on my iPod and commenced listening to what goes down as one of the most captivating hours of music I’ve ever experienced. Once the shroud of noise dissipates, Swans front man Michael Gira emerges with a pummeling series of doom- sludge-dirges, and then they suddenly come to a stop to allow room for the occasional brooding ballad. I guess SongsSucks may like songs after all.
11. The Tallest Man On Earth
“The Wild Hunt”
[Dead Oceans; 2010]
For Christmas my mom gave me Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series Vol. 9”, and I’ve been listening to the two disc collection of early recordings a lot the past few weeks. I’ve always preferred the bootleg releases of Dylan because they are so raw – the guitars squeak, the tape recorder occasionally slips into a muffled state, Bob’s voice cracks and he even forgets words. It’s as real as Bob as his music get. The Tallest Man On Earth’s “The Wild Hunt” gives me the same feeling of simplicity. His grisly voice speaks honestly, out in the open without any back-up singers or basslines to interrupt. The guitar thumps and crackles as Kristian Matsson nimbly fingerpicks and madly strums from one song to the next. There is no need to polish what Matsson has on “The Wild Hunt”: 10 great folk songs that will have your full attention from start to finish. But while Bob Dylan wrote propaganda songs about the ills of the world, Matsson simply writes great songs about what’s right.
On face value, this is just another punk rock song, but if you listen a little longer you’ll hear exactly what makes Eddy Current Suppression Ring different than others within the genre. While most bands would wrap this song up at the two minute mark, ECSR have just begun. The next four and a half minutes of “Tuning Out” Eddy Current takes front stage, manipulating his Stratocaster to its limit, making a gluttonous amount of squeaks and howls, showing exactly why this is his band.
24. “Crank Resolutions”
Back in Septemeber, I wrote of Meursault and this song: “While most bands are forced to rely on a more polished production value to push the sense of urgency to a higher level, Meursault rely solely on a strange mixture of popping beats and crunching piano riffs that are reminiscent of a CB radio broadcast. ‘Crank Resolutions’ features a beat that is beyond description (which is a good thing).”
23. “Don’t Look Back”
Usually, Kylesa are pretty damn scary, but on “Don’t Look Back” they sound strangely inspirational. Tony Robbins better watch his back (on second thought Tony, heed Kylesa’s advice and don’t look back).
22. “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: Innocent”
I saw Besnard Lakes perform this song at SXSW this past year, and since then, I haven’t been able to remove the soothing chorus of “Ooh, you’re like the ocean” out of my head. You can put your ear up to my cranium like it’s a seashell and hear the sounds of “Like the Ocean” softly echoing inside.
21. “Hey Cool Kid”
“Hey Cool Kid” is a story of an outsider, realizing that his idol is nothing but an asshole who will “beat me back into the ground”. Despite this, his insecurity pushes him to still keep asking for the cool kid “to come around”.
20. “Suburban War”
When I first heard this song I liked it because the guitar lick reminded me of The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”. Then of course I made the mistake of listening to the lyrics, and this once upbeat song spawned sorrow for those friends I’ve lost in their pursuit of adulthood:
My old friends
I can remember when
You cut your hair
We never saw you again
Now the cities we live in
Could be distant stars
And I search for you
In every passing car
19. “Sleepless in Silver Lake”
Les Savy Fav
As far as I’m concerned, there are way too many songs about Los Angeles. Where are the songs about Bozeman, Montana for Christ’s sake!? Despite the saturation of “I Love L.A.”s and “Under the Bridge”s, Les Savy Fav present a fresh take on the City of Angels with “Sleepless in Silver Lake”:
The walking wounded wrap their face in gauze.These kids’ll kill ya just because they can. Their teeth are bleached and their tits are tan.
18. “Black Bubblegum”
I’m 86% sure that this song is about Sherry Becker who chewed Black Jack bubblegum, wore an orange dress, and witnessed Jerry Seinfeld returning Tropic of Cancer to the library in 1972 (or was it Dentyne?).
17. “The Tree”
Blitzen Trapper (featuring Alela Diane)
Another highlight of 2010 for me was my last minute trip to Portland with my brother. The two of us rented a little Vibe and drove around the area, hiking whatever peaks we could fit in within our three-day stay. While hiking along the Cascade Ridge, we came upon 300-year-old Sitka trees – an army of menacing patriarchs, standing judicious and strong, looking down upon all that pass by. Whenever I listen to the 2010 release from Portland’s own Blitzen Trapper I can’t help but think back to that trip, more specifically this song with its lyrics of a tree that “grows never-ending”. Upon each listen, I’m brought back to that day, standing with my brother and looking up at the majestic beasts that surrounded us. The addition of Portland’s first lady Alela Diane to the song only sweetens the song’s enchantment.
16. “Take It Easy”
Starts off with a tropical feel, moves into an early 90s alternative chorus, and ends with an 80s U2 outro: this is what we call a song quilt.
15. “The Boys are Out”
Whenever I play this song I feel guilty. I bought the Hanoi Janes latest release, and after listening to it all the way through a couple times, I found myself continually going back to this song (ignoring the rest). There is just something about the little freak out that arrives at the 30 second mark- maybe it’s the drumstick cracks, or it could possibly the call-and-response guitars that reverberate from one speaker to the other- whatever it is, “The Boys are Out” is the most fun you’ll have in under a minute thirty.
14. “The Winner”
“Twistable, Turnable Man” was an album of Shel Silverstien covers that came out this past year, and despite an impressive list of bands featured on it (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Lucinda Williams) the best cover is performed by old reliable, Kris Kristofferson. His raspy baritone naturally works with Silverstein’s narrative songwriting. When I listen to this song, I imagine the narrator is LeBron James and Tiger Man the Cool is Michael Jordan. It just seems fitting after finding out this past summer that James doesn’t understand what it takes to be a winner.
13. “My Gap Feels Weird”
I would prefer if this song were about having a pain in your taint, but it ends up ol’ Mack wrote it about going to a show and realizing you’re the oldest one there. I hate to admit that I can relate. At least I can take comfort in knowing old folks are always welcome at a Superchunk show.
12. “Night, Night”
Big Boi (featuring B.o.B. and Joi)
“Night, Night” is one of the finest rap call-outs you’ll ever hear, not pointing out one specific MC, rather annihilating all the fools that can’t hold themselves up to Big Boi’s standard. To back up his flow built on intelligence rather than empty threats, Big Boi blends a funky bass with a spunky female choir that is completely devoid of auto-tune. It truly is “something new.”
11. “Marimba and Shit Drums”
Earlier this year, I wrote of this song/album: “There is only one 20-minute song on Moonface’s EP “Dreamland” and it is called “marimba and shit-drums”. The title is straight to the point because, in fact, the song is comprised of just that: a marimba and shit-drums. Of course, you also hear Spencer Krug’s voice, but otherwise it is simply a marimba and shit-drums; nothing more, nothing less. The constant pulse of the marimba gives the song imminence; a feeling that the echo of the wooden bars being struck by a mallet is building towards something, racing toward a culmination. Then, of course, the shit-drums kick in and it’s on. The crackling of the harsh rhythm plays as the perfect antithesis to the happy-go-lucky marimba. Krug has taken the joyful sounds of the African instrument and somehow given it tension, made it angrier, made it sound more, dare I say, hardcore. With only two simple instruments Krug creates music that is just as dramatic and heartfelt as anything by Explosions in the Sky. Creating explosions with only two instruments? In essence, Krug is the MacGyver of the music world.”
When Dean Spunt sings “I want you bad underneath my skin”, he’s encapsulating addiction. It could be a dependence to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or maybe even an abusive relationship; whatever it is, the speaker knows it will cause harm yet craves it. For me, the addiction is to the screeching distortion that lurks in the background of this song. To many, I’m sure this sounds like simply noise, but I keep coming back. Not because I enjoy pain, but because I’ve found beauty within that dissonance. I can’t get enough of that needling noise underneath my skin.
9. “Dance Yrself Clean”
I present to you an auditory cleansing. The first three minutes will help you relax, help raise your spirits. And then, well, then it’s time. James Murphy’s pumping beats and throbbing bass line burst through the speakers and spray you with an energy you didn’t have moments ago. Suddenly, without warning, you’re on your feet moving; washing away your worries; shaking away your negative energy; dancing yourself clean.
8. “Desire Lines”
If you asked me a year ago to name the top ten songs of the past decade, Deerhunter’s “Nothing Ever Happened” would have easily made the list. Its fluid movements from one riff to the next continues to leave me in awe. I didn’t think the band could ever top the song. Then along comes “Haclyon Digest” with the song “Desire Lines”, and I’m thrown for a loop. Not only does this song follow the same transformational model (three minutes in the madness is unleashed), but it also features an even catchier chorus to start things off. “Nothing Ever Happened” probably remains the quintessential Deerhunter song for me, but they are sure making things difficult.
7. “Post Acid”
Only a year ago, everyone hated Nathan Williams for his meltdown in Barcelona, even his drummer. But now it’s officially time to exonerate him of his past mistakes. Not only are his songs more instantaneously satisfying, but he’s also apologizing in “Post Acid” when he sings “I was just having fun with you.” Ah shucks Nathan; we forgive you.
6. “Wide Eyes”
The harmonizing voices, the machine gun drums, the twinkling guitar riffs: “Wide Eyes” is an example of a band finding their true potential. While much of “Gorilla Manor” is milk-toast mediocrity, this song proves that when all the pieces are put in the right place, Local Natives are capable of making extraordinary music.
5. “Round and Round”
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
All of the parts of “Round and Round” work together like a merry-go-round of melody, moving round and round, up and down, creating an experience that will have you begging for another ride through simpler times.
4. “Snakes for the Divine”
High On Fire
The metal anthem is not dead, despite what sports arenas around the country would suggest. They’d like you to believe that fist pumping and head banging died with AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Metallica. Wrong. Imagine if you will, your favorite sports team running onto the court/field/ice as the opening to “Snakes for the Divine” rumbles through the stadium, building a frothing mass of furious, energized fans, filled with bloodlust for a win, shaking, twitching, standing on the verge of a completely chaotic riot…. actually, it’s probably a good idea to keep High On Fire out of the stadiums (especially Detroit).
Kanye West (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nikki Manaj, and Bon Iver)
When Kanye West sang his song “Runaway” at the VMA’s, most thought it was an admission of guilt to Taylor Swift. Not so fast my friend. Soon after “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” came out and all thoughts of apologies disappeared. On “Monster” Kanye erases any suggestions of humility or guilt When he spouts, “I’m living in the future so my presence is my past. My presence is a present kiss my ass.” This is the musical version of Hulk Hogan joining the NWO; Kanye takes pride in his villainous portrayal. The scariest part of “Monster” is not the flows of Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z, or even the soothing vocals of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. That honor goes to Nicki Minaj’s venomous verse that electrifies and brings this monster of a song to life.
2. “A Cold Freezin’ Night”
Set to what resembles the theme music to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “A Cold Freezin’ Night” features samples of a little boy ranting about how he will kill you with a rifle, a shotgun, and cut your toes off. In response, a little girl admits that boys are better than girls, even going so far as to wish she was a boy. And somehow, all these chauvinist, psychotic threats are joyful due simply to a great dance beat (and a short harmonica solo never hurts). If only it was this easy to make little kids tolerable in real life.
Earlier this year I bought a record player and soon after found myself with a vinyl obsession. Most of my records were used purchases, but I also dabbled in buying the vinyl of new releases. With many labels including a free download code with a purchase, it just seems to make more sense to get the larger than life packaging/artwork. One of my earliest purchases was Ty Segall’s “Melted”, and it quickly became a mainstay on my turntable. Every time I listened to the album, I would get up and push the arm back to the beginning of “Caesar” to hear it one, two, maybe even three times in a row. A month ago as I was compiling this list I put “Melted” on again only to find that during “Caesar” my record now skips. While the loss of this song saddened me to no end, the scratch also symbolized my undying affection for this pop-punk gem. Fortunately for you, you can listen to the clip above as many times as you like without fear of a scratch (but you won’t get the full effect without it crackling out of a record player).
For a song that is supposed to be about “Real Love”, it sure has a bittersweet sound. The lyric “Will we ever meet again?” doesn’t help things.
49. “Bang Pop”
I had a summer love relationship with this song. I couldn’t get it out of my mind; I listened to it any chance I had. But now, I can’t stand the sound of it. I destroyed my adoration by loving it too much. It should probably be higher on this list, but my current feelings for it have hindered its position. Like the Delorean song “Real Love” discussed at #50, maybe this song and I will meet again five years from now and our love will be rekindled.
48. “I Used to Do”
The Clogs 2010 release “The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton” is all over the place. One song features what resembles a choir of whooping birds, another is a simple folk song featuring Sufjan Stevens, and others resemble baroque love serenades. Despite all these textures, my favorite song is the most unassuming. “I Used to Do”, an instrumental swell of sound, catches you when you least expect it and builds off of that emotion. Don’t be surprised if you hear this in an episode of “Friday Night Lights” next year.
47. “Heaven’s On Fire”
The Radio Dept
The introductory audio of Thurston Moore raging against “the bogus capitalist process” would lead you to believe you are about to hear either a passion-fueled punk rock song or an ambient build-up a la Mogwai. But neither happens. Instead, out of Thurston’s rant arises a happy-go-lucky love song about Heaven being on fire. This combination boggles my mind…yet I love it. Maybe it comes down to the fact that Thurston’s dream won’t happen until Hell freezes over, so we might as well love like Heaven’s on fire.
46. Joanna Newsom
“Good Intentions Paving Company”
While Joanna’s 2010 release was a little self-indulgent (3 CDs!), it has its moments with “Good Intentions Paving Company” being Joanna at her best: great lyrics about the journey of a broken relationship, Newsom’s endearing, warbling voice, and a melody that survives the eight minute journey unscathed.
45. “Who’s that? Brooown!”
A song dedicated to another song? It would have to be a pretty damn good tune to deserve such recognition. Well, it is. Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” to be more specific.
44. “It Happened Before Our Time”
“It happened before our time. They disguised themselves as pirate invaders. They set out to sea and threw their love lockets overboard, as the salty air sweeps their hair.” Now that’s a romance novel I’d read.
43. “Fot i hose”
When I was eight I would have liked this song because I would have thought the bass line sounded like a dwarf farting….wait – that’s why I like it now.
42. “Let Spirits Ride”
Somewhere Rob Halford is smiling.
41. “F Kenya RIP”
What? You think this song is simple and repetitive?
Then why are you still listening to it?
And now you’re singing along to it?!
40. “Texico Bitches”
Broken Social Scene
This would have been the #1 song in America if they’d only gone with “BP Bitches.”
39. “Younger Us”
I like to listen to Japandroids because their energetic punk rock anthems brings me back to my carefree youth. And now they’re singing about the yearning to be young again? Double whammy.
38. “I Walked”
“I Walked” is an auditory “choose your own adventure” book. You have two options: be happy or depressed. If you choose to be depressed, listen to the lyrics of a man walking away from a relationship knowing that without his lover he’ll be lost and won’t get very far. Or you can choose to be happy by listening to this sugary-sweet pop song and block out the lyrics by shouting, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening!”
37. “No Barrier Fun”
“No Barrier Fun” is about a man (or a beast), trapped (or hiding) in a basement (or a dungeon). He hears (or imagines) the footsteps of a girl (or a woman), which makes him decide to emerge (or escape) from his dark hell (or heaven) to meet (or murder) her.
36. “How I Got Over”
The Roots (featuring Dice Raw)
Over the past few years a lot of bands have been trying to recreate the funk/soul sound of the 70s, utilizing a variety of retro-recording techniques and employing large horn sections. Then in one full swoop The Roots come out with their own recreation of the classic sound with “How I Got Over”, and in the process they show everyone else up. If that won’t lead you to not giving a fuck, I don’t know what will.
35. “Let’s Go Surfing”
Having your song featured in a commercial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it gives you the opportunity to gain new listeners that you may not have reached otherwise. On the other, you alienate those who love your music by beating your melody over their head and cheapening their affection. For me, the endless loop of “Let’s Go Surfing”s whistling on car commercials has moved me to revulsion, when only months ago I couldn’t get enough of it.
My favorite documentary of the year was probably “180 Degrees South”, although I’m not sure how many other documentaries I actually saw in 2010. Throughout the film, glimpses of Mason Jenning’s “Machines” emerge, but the big pay-off comes when Doug Tompkins reaches Patagonia only to find that industrialization has scarred the majestic terrain. The lyrics support this message with Mason singing an outro of “The machines are gonna cut us down!”
33. “Butt-House Blondies”
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Of any song this year, “Butt-House Blondies” is the one I sang the most around my apartment. Not a day goes by that I don’t stroll around my humble abode singing, “Butt-house Blondies! She used to care!” For the first month, my roommate would always ask what song I was singing. Eventually, he figured out it was Ariel Pink and learned to ignore me. But one day he returned to his questioning ways asking, “What is a Butt-House Blondie anyway?” I hadn’t thought about it. Then, after reading the lyrics of “She used to be a square at 16; now all she knows is she can breed” I figured it out. This song is about Jodie Foster’s character in “Taxi Driver”!
“Excuses” has a dreamy, innocent 1950s sound, but I doubt Ricky Nelson ever sang about taping his “tongue to the southern tip of your body.”
31. “White Sky”
What if instead of Africa, Paul Simon recorded “Graceland” in Super Mario World?
30. “Answer To Yourself”
The Soft Pack
I recommended this album to you back in June, and I also included the same video clip below for the best song on the album “Answer To Yourself”. If you still haven’t bought The Soft Pack’s 2010 release, you can answer to yourself why you’re so lame.
29. “Pimpin’ Chipp”
Method Man, Ghostface, Raekwon
Me, me, me, me, me. These days, that’s all rap is about…that is except for the members of Wu Tang who still understand the art of the narrative. In “Pimpin’ Chipp” the three MCs create a comical story of a pimp, his hoes, and a run-in with Ray Charles.
28. “Real Life”
When Michael Vick wins the MVP this year, I’m hoping NFL films has the foresight to play “Real Life” over highlights of him. Just look at the lyrics and tell me this isn’t Vick’s swan song in 2010:
“For a minute I was lost,
I looked away
Trouble was, I was alone,
Trouble was, I was alone.
You might think I’m still that way.
It’s only natural
It was a past life thing-
It was a past life thing-
It wasn’t anything at all.”
27. “Castles in Snow”
“You’re my favorite daydream. I’m your famous nightmare. Everything I see looks like gold. Everything I touch turns cold.” So yeah, not only does it sound like a 1980s song, but its lyrics could have easily been pulled from the journal of “American Psycho’s” Patrick Bateman.
26. “King of the Beach”
I like to sing along to this song, but I change the chorus lyrics to “Bash at the Beach!” and giggle to myself, imagining this as a theme song to an old WCW pay-per-view.
It’s that time again to review the highlights and lowlights of the year. What better way to kick things off than with our annual “Worst Album Covers List”. I’m not sure if cover art has lost its importance due to the slow demise of physical media, but there was such an influx of horrific artwork and photography in 2010 that I was forced to double the list in size. I hope you don’t mind…
“No Guts, No Glory”
This cover should probably be #1, but I've convinced myself that it's intentionally over-the-top bad...it's the only way to explain it.
19. Michael Jackson
I appreciate that they've tried to include references to all the different periods Michael's life, but I find the images to the left of a rotting Michael corpse to be tasteless.
18. J King and Maximus
So Maximus can shoot flames and J. King is...a plumber?
17. Blake Shelton
“Loaded: The Best of Blake
The photographer told him to look "loaded", unfortunately Blake went "full-retard".
16. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
“Round and Round”
Don't you just hate it when you get peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth?
I knew Hurley had bad luck, but the Smoke Monster has nothing on the wrath of Weezer.
14. Sheek Louch
“Donnie G: Don Gorilla”
This cover set back race relations 500 years.
13. Neil Diamond
Based off this cover I've come to two beliefs: Neil Diamond uses Cialis, and the original title of the album was "Wet Dreams".
12. Mike Watt
You would think the most disturbing part of this cover would be the lizard-bird with He-Man legs cracking out of an egg-shell while standing on a plaque and being pierced by an arrow. But no. Once again, Comic Sans font wins.
11. Pastor Christy Davis
Tracy Morgan is also a cross-dressing pastor? Who knew!
10. Scissor Sisters
9. Hunx and his Punx
Battle of the gay album covers: Only one will come out on top...or bottom.
8. Ringo Starr
The question should be: Y?
7. Rascal Flatts
“Nothing Like This”
"Behold, my glorious glowing penis!"
6. Jeff Beck
“Emotion & Commotion”
It's a little known fact that eagle nests are made primarily out of Fender Stratocasters.
I've always had a crush on the girls from Cocorosie, and after seeing this cover, I've acquired a strange fetish for girls with cotton candy mustaches.
Ah! The age old act of rappers dressing like centaurs and holding up fencing swords in order to ignite lightning bolts! I remember when NWA did this same cover back in '87.
The needle says "No!" but the spoon says "Yes!"
“Babez for Breakfast”
The commonly over-looked Garbage Pail Kid "Ari Ohla"
1. Brian Ray
“This Way Up”
I've heard of a "chick magnet", but not until this album cover did I know of the "douche magnet".