Here we are again. I’ve been writing this lists for so long that I can’t recall the first year I did it (2002?). At first it started as just being one album of the year, then it moved to 10 per year. It jumped to 20 once I moved my blogs over here to BDWPS.com, and of course last year it peaked at 40, the number I’m going with again this year. Although this may seem like a bit much, I can promise you that if it weren’t 40, I’d feel guilty for all the great albums that were left out. It’s a strange obsession, obviously, but I love music. If I can spread that love to others, it’s worth all the effort. And so it begins…
Julianna Barwick “The Magic Place”
Havok “Time is Up”
Paul Simon “So Beautiful Or So What”
Six Organs of Admittance “Asleep On the Floodplain”
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…)
About a month back I took a trip to Portland with my brother and his wife. After a week of hiking and visiting breweries, I decided I needed to take in the local music scene, and fortunately, none other than Beirut were in town performing at the legendary Crystal Ballroom (supposedly this is the venue where Little Richard fired Jimi Hendrix). The show was as spectacular as you’d imagine, although the fact that the over 21 crowd was barricaded about 20 feet away from the stage so that the teeny-boppers could be up front annoyed me. I suppose I could have set down my beer and joined them, but what’s the fun in that?
At the show I realized I’d forgotten my Flip-Cam, which isn’t a big deal although I do enjoy posting show clips on here. I figured someone else had to be capturing the performance and that I’d just post their clip. Wrong. A month later, a YouTube search for the show (that was sold-out) results in a list of a dozen videos, most of which are 45 second clips.
This leads to so many questions: why did they only film for 45 seconds? Or if they are fans of 45 second excerpts, why did they choose to post it online? Is there a big following for 45 second clips of performances? Is this the new hipster trend? It also made me think about video taping etiquette. Someone needs to set down the ground rules since ever person now has a camera of some sort in their phone. Here are just a few rules I came up with.
1. Don’t ever raise your camera above your head
No one wants to see your video footage live; they want to see the band live. So quit obstructing my view you hipster douche! When I record a band, which is always self-consciously, I try to keep my camera close to my body/face so as not disturb those around me with the glare of the video screen. I’m blessed to be a taller gentleman, but I don’t know why anyone can’t simply keep their camera down while still capturing the show.
2. If you post a song online, it better be the entire song (or be a clip of the singer punching women in the crowd)
This goes back to the sea of 45 second clips for the Beirut show which floors me. And even if you are filming for your own viewing, what joy do you get out of a 45 second clip? It boggles the mind. I imagine them sitting at home, showing friends, “Look! This the first 45 seconds of Beirut performing that one prostitute song!'”
I stand corrected; it’s 52 seconds:
3. Don’t film if your camera came out before 2007
A week after my trip to Portland I bought a flip phone that has to be over 10 years old (I went through four phones this summer, an entirely different story). It has a camera, but photos turn out like pixel images from a Nintendo game. I’ve seen video footage from phones like mine, and I don’t get what the videographer is trying to accomplish. Do they think they will later enjoy the garbled quality? Or is it just a way of showing off to their friends that they did indeed get to see Def Leppard in person?
This video should be called “Pour Some Acid On Me”:
4. If you have to video tape the big screen to actually see the performer, you’re probably too far away
I don’t get what people enjoy about watching a concert in the upper deck (or lower deck for that matter) at an arena, yet the majority of Americans who say they love going to concerts are referring to the act of watching a video screen located almost a mile away as you listen to the performer lip sync (if you can’t see their lips, are they really lip syncing?). But even worse than enjoying this experience is filming it and posting it on YouTube.
This girl can’t even see the big screens at this Lady GaGa show. For all they know it could be Madonna performing “Express Yourself”:
5. Only film one song
It’s okay to film one song as a keepsake. Filming more than one song makes your video into a movie. Put the camera down and enjoy the show.
6. Quit zooming; you aren’t Coppola
And I will end on a guilty note; I am the KING of zooming. The day after a show I’ll watch my video clip only to find that I’ve zoomed in and out throughout a song, making the video more about me being a drunken cameraman and less about the band actually doing the performance. Despite this mistake, I continue to make it. No matter how much you want to add your Spielberg touch to the show, resist the voices in your head and just hold the cam steady. Let the band do the work.
The harmonizing voices on this song perfectly capture the heartbreak of the narrator. Despite being near his lover, he still feels miles apart. A few weeks ago I was playing this song in my classroom during journal time, and one of my students commented that it sounded like something from “Juno”. I agreed, although I don’t remember Moldy Peaches ever sounding this damn beautiful.
“Best God in Show”
Despite releasing a couple lackluster albums in the past few years, NOFX still have a gift for catching you off-guard. On the surface, “Best God in Show” is a happy-hippy jam, but when you get past the joyful ska riff and cheery organ, NOFX is once again questioning religion in a way that is both humorous and thought-provoking.
48. M. Ward
“Never Had Nobody Like You”
Once you get past the use of a double negative in the title, you will find M. Ward has written another hum-able gem that would fit perfectly alongside other classics on “Transfiguration of Vincent”. It’s just too bad he had to let Budweiser throw it into a comercial about guys hi-fiving…who okays these things and deems them as funny?
“DOA (Death to Auto-Tune)
Jay-Z is the godfather of the rap world. When the Hova says auto-tune is dead, you better take notice. Like a modern-day Biz Markie, Jay-Z howls “Na, na, na, na! Hey, hey, hey! Goodbye!” off-key throughout the song, along with the use of live instrumentation, ranging from a squealing saxophone to a sultry guitar line. While most of the rap world has become a caricature of their former selves, Jay-Z continues to sing his own song, even if it is out of tune.
46. Bon Iver
Wait just one second Jay-Z…like a musical zombie, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon breathed new life into the auto-tuner with this captivating new approach to the played-out device. Somehow the old timey lyrics of “I’m building a still” work perfectly through the 21st century lens, sounding like a robotic barbershop quartet. And somehow, Vernon is still able to convey the loneliness and solitude of being alone in the woods.
In a year where we got a glimpse of the stock market’s dirty under-belly and the corruption of American big business, it’s nice to see Slayer take a break from wreaking havoc on Christianity and focusing on the sick fucks who have preyed upon the middle class of this country for too long. There is something poetic about such an “evil” band taking on the true evil of this “land of deceit”.
44. Ty Segall
Ty Segall is often banging away at his guitar from start to finish, but on “Lovely One” he takes a break from his distortion pedal, starting off with a calming little guitar strum, eventually leading into the infectious chorus that would fit perfectly alongside The Animals and The Loving Spoonful on a classic oldies station.
43. Lightning Dust
This song seems pressing despite the lack of a real drum track. The pulsing undertone continues from start to finish while the piano and organ truly take shape as percussion instruments, driving the two-minute romp through its existential path. How can something sound aged and cutting edge at the same time?
42. Pissed Jeans
Historically, hardcore punk songs are about several defined topics: criticizing the government, criticizing the use of drugs/alcohol, or conveying how horrible it is to be a teenager. Pissed Jeans like to take a different stance. On past albums they’ve lamented the difficulties of being a stalker, the shame felt when cumming, and the perils of scrapbooking. On their 2009 release “King of Jeans” they even present the misery felt during the process of losing your hair:
I still can’t believe this is happening. I’m not fifty years old. I consider myself a young adult and want others to see me this way. If my looks deteriorate, it’ll wreak havoc on my self-esteem. Is that what I have to look forward to?
Although humorous (and hitting a little close to home for a bald fella like myself) the song also conveys the anguish and frustration that is associated with growing old and losing your youth, one hair at a time.
I know what you’re thinking: “How could he put this song so low on his list?!” Yes, I will admit that when I first heard this song during the spring, I played it endlessly. It’s catchy as hell and is even capable of getting a white boy like myself on his feet dancing (after a few beers mind you). Unfortunately, my love has turned to loathing due to the Cadillac ads played in heavy rotation during the commercial break of every football game. Despite this hatred, I still can’t deny what a great song it is, or was (don’t worry, Phoenix gets more cred on this list…)
40. The Love Language
You’ve heard this song before, but in actuality you haven’t. Weird? That is the power of The Love Language my friends. Quit trying to remember where you heard it and just sit back and enjoy the tune you’ve never heard before but swear you have.
“Something’s Squeezing My Skull”
When Morrissey expresses that he is “doing fine”, you know he’s lying. Despite being an older gentleman, he still seems to be dealing with his demons, some of which take pleasure in squeezing his skull. Drugs? The perils of relationships? Insanity? Who cares really. At least musically Morrissey sounds better than ever, with a Gang of Four, angular riff and the closing chant of “Don’t give me anymore!” that you just can’t get enough of.
38. The Thermals
“Now We Can See”
The fact that you are hooked on this song within 10 seconds says it all.
37. Sonic Youth
“Thunderclaps for Pyn”
When I lived in Omaha I liked to go to the Old Country Buffet on barbeque night. I’d skip over the salad bar, the fried foods section, and even noodle salad row in search of one thing: BBQ ribs. I’d fill my plate with ribs, and ribs only. When all that remained was a plate with meat-less bones I’d go back for seconds, engulfing a pig’s entire rib cage by the end of my visit. Sonic Youth’s “The Eternal” is much like a buffet line, featuring a wide range of Sonic sounds from over the years, ranging from the art noise of early days to the sparser atmospheres of recent albums. But, like a plate of short ribs, this past year I often found myself skipping over the other tunes in search of a nice earful of “Thunderclaps for Pyn”. Yummy!
36. Lightning Bolt
How do you make a Lightning Bolt song more chaotic? Add bongos. But there is so much more going on in this song; there is actually a chorus! YES FOLKS! A CHORUS! And if you listen close enough, it almost sounds like a 1960s surfer tune. I can see the beach blanket gogo dancers now…
“The Boys are Leaving Town”
Sure, this song has sentimental value for me, reminding me of my road trip this past summer where Paul and I listened to this at the beginning of our trip and later saw the band perform in Boise, Idaho. But this song made its way on this list for more reasons than the memories associated with it. Simply put, it kicks ass. Being the anti-thesis to Cheap Trick’s “Boys are Back in Town”, Japandroids have taken the classic teenage angst of leaving town and given it a jolt with rolling, jumpy drum fills and passionate, lo-fi vocals.
34. Andrew Bird
“Fitz and the Dizzyspells”
Every interview/review I read about Andrew Bird’s 2009 release “Noble Beast” focused heavily on the album’s use of whistling. This is for good reason. Every song on the album features whistling at some point, an aspect that becomes annoying pretty quickly. Only on “Fitz and Dizzyspells” does Andrew find a happy medium between his violin and pierced lips, creating a joyful romp that begs you to put a smile on your face.
33. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O singing about leather? I’m sold.
32. Animal Collective
In the past few years the tribal sounds of bands like MIA and El Guincho have become more and more popular. How soon we forget that Animal Collective brought this sound to the forefront years ago. On “Merriwether Post Pavillion” the boys finish the album off with “Brother Sport”, a tropical rumpus that works perfectly as a final track due to its celebratory tone. It also serves as a reminder that the Collective can still make you shake your ass off if they really want to.
31. Lou Barlow
“The One I Call”
I know, I know. I hate love songs too. And I’ll admit, Lou Barlow’s “One I Call” would probably work great on a John Cusack chick flick. But you can’t resist its earnest lyrics nor can you deny the comfort of the combination of Lou’s voice and his guitar. If I saw Lou on the street, I’d probably yell to him, “Great song Lou!” to which he’d glare at me in disgust (inside joke).
30. Blank Dogs
Guided By Voices meets The Cure circa 1980s? Oh, what a sweet combination, like peanut butter and jelly.
“Dear Coach’s Corner”
Propagandhi usually rage against racism, government, and of course the fact that “Meat is murder”. But never before have I heard them write about such unique subjects as they do on “Supporting Caste”. The best has to be “Dear Coach’s Corner”, a vial criticism of the Canadian hockey show “Coach’s Corner” (I guess with Bush out of office, their song material got cut in half). The ranting tune basically states an annoyance with announcers conveying their own agendas when in the end, it’s just a game. Shut the fuck up:
Dear Ron McLane, I wouldn’t bother with these questions
if I didn’t sense some spiritual connection.
We may not be the same, but it’s not like we’re from different planets.
We both love this game so much we can hardly fucking stand it.
There is something admirable in Propagandhi’s approach; no one is free from being criticized. Who wouldn’t like to hear a song ripping into Bill Walton, Bob Davie, or Joe Buck?
28. Jay Reatard
Everything in this song has its function. The “lade-da-da” that starts the song leads into a sweet little acoustic guitar lick, jumping straight into Jay’s yelling anthem, and finally kicking into the fist pumping chorus. And then, when you think you’ve figured it all out, the song finishes off with a killer closer that would put “Hey Jude” to shame. Jay Reatard is a master songwriter; it’s about time we all accept his God-liness.
27. Matt and Kim
“Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare”
Matt and Kim songs are so simple. A plinking piano over a pounding drum beat and Matt’s nasally whine. Yet, with only these few elements they are able to write irresistable pop hits. While “Daylight” may be considered their breakout hit in 2009, “Good Ol Fashion Nightmare” is just as charming and replay-able.
“My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille”
When I heard Beirut was releasing a double CD (one disc of them performing with a mexican mariachi band and another of Zach Condon singing over electronic music), I expected the first CD to be the better of the two but was disappointed by his Mexican offering. Instead, I fell in love with the second disc of five dance songs, devoid of trumpets and accordians. While two of the songs are about hookers, “My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille” is the obvious stand-out of the album.