In this episode we check out new tracks from Steve Gunn, Serengeti, Run the Jewels, Jason Isbell, and Pharmakon. As always, we check out a Bob Dylan track, this time from his underrated religious album, “Slow Train Coming.” Check it out HERE or subscribe on iTunes (keyword: BDWPS).
Steve Gunn “Water Wheel” Serengeti “Lazer Tag” and “Crush ‘Em” Run the Jewels “Christmas Fucking Miracle” Jason Isbell “Elephant” Pharmakon “Pitted” Pussy Riot “Like a Red Prison” Bob Dylan “Slow Train”
I told myself all year that I wouldn’t create a “Top Songs” list for 2012. In years past, I’ve invested massive amounts of time to create what had over the years turned into a list of the Top 100 (!) songs, a list that pretty much no one every read or cared about (here’s last year’s list!). I decided this year that my time was better spent focusing solely on my albums list. Then again, as the month of January has crept forward, I kept getting the itchy typing finger to still throw a list of songs together. I’m not quite sure why I ever made a song list considering I’ve always been an “album” kind of guy. Then again, there are always those tracks that stand out and get revisited when I’m not listening to an album in its entirety. Most commonly my favorite songs from the year are found on mediocre albums that I’m not interested in revisiting in their entirety, but you will also find familiar tracks that can be found on my definitive “Top 40 Albums of 2012” list. What you read below is far from definitive. Simply put – it’s a collection of songs that you may enjoy as sweet little morsels of dessert to follow my 40-course meal of albums.
In the latest Podcast I go through some 2012 albums that won’t be seen in my mid-year best of list, but I felt I still wanted to share with the listeners. On this episode you’ll hear Guided By Voices, Tanlines, Alex Winston, Chromatics, El-P, The Cribs, and of course, Bob Dylan.
To open the final track on “R.A.P. Music,” Killer Mike lays out his mission statement: “I’ve never had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music. Rap music is my religion.” The song goes on to pay tribute to the history and power of hip-hop, and while it makes for an epic finish, it could easily serve as a prologue to an album that is from start to finish a sermon on how rap music could (and should) be an influential force, enlightening the listener rather than promoting ones self. Mike follows this statement with a flow that reveals the care put into each and every word he spouts: “What I say might save a life / what I speak might save a street.”
Over his ten-year career that began via collaborations with Outkast, Killer Mike has always approached his lyrics with a vicious drive that is fueled by both passion and intellect (a style he describes as “elegance in the form of a black elephant”), but on “R.A.P. Music” his diatribes take on an even more menacing shape. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed his album “Pl3dge,” but whenever I listened to it, I always felt it just needed a little something more to make it really pop. It seems that Mike has found that secret ingredient in the form of producer El-P. On this full-length collaboration, the duo combine their talents to create an album that is packed with emotional hills and valleys that will take you through the landscape of rap music over the past three decades.
I always thought Carrie Brownstein was the more punk rock of the ladies in Sleater Kinney. I always thought she had the fire, the anger, and the edge that counteracted Corrin Tucker’s more feminine approach. I was wrong. So wrong.
I’m a sucker for trumpets, especially when they sound this damn dreamy.
73. “Theme From ‘Cheers””
Looking back on my year, one memory that stands out the most is when me and BDWPS contributer PtheStudP visited Cheers in downtown Boston. After a two-hour marathon at a beer festival, our tour guide Steph led us to Cheers where her friend Justin was bartending. What I thought was going to a quick tourist visit turned into hours of drunken splendor. Soon the variety of beers and shots somehow turned into a night of boisterous chanting of “U-S-A!”, “Lord-By-ron!”, and “Tom Arn-old!” This song brings me back to that night, not necessarily because of the reference to Cheers in the title, but the chorus that could have easily been one of our chants that night: “So let’s get fucked up, and let’s pretend we’re all okay, and if you’ve got something you can’t live with, save it for another day. Save it for another day.”
72. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
After carrying The National’s Matt Berninger to Ohio, I’d like that same swarm of bees to visit Jim Tressel’s house.
71. “Tame On the Prowl”
In most cases, my adoration of The Medications stems from trying to untangle the vine of intertwined guitar licks in each song. “Tame On the Prowl” continues this tradition, but also features a melody that will quickly wrap around your Hippocampus.
70. “Whores; The Movie”
Not only is “Whores; The Movie” a stellar song, but it would also make a great movie (preferably in 3-D).
69. “Leave You Forever”
I could never leave this song forever.
68. “Apartment Wrestling”
Maximum Balloon (featuring David Byrne)
If you’ve ever wondered what TV On the Radio would sound like if they joined forces with The Talking Heads, it’s as amazing as you expected.
67. “Grief Point”
This is not really a song, rather an audio-short-film, or an audio-psycho analysis, or maybe just the ramblings of a confused artist. Whatever the case, this eight minute insight into the mind of Dan Bejar and his view of music at this point in his career is fascinating. Earlier this year, Bejar discussed ending his recording career altogether (fortunately he didn’t with a new album coming out soon), and this B-side to his “Archer on the Beach” EP captures him in the midst of this confusion of what role his music plays in both his life and his listeners. Plus, I just like the imagery of “picnic baskets filled with blood”. Call me a hopeless romantic!
66. “Fresh Hex”
Tobacco (featuring Beck)
“Maniac Meat” is such a fun fucking album and on “Fresh Hex” Beck joins the party, giving the album his own fresh take on their energetic sound.
65. “Pop Culture (revisited)”
The Ponys originally formed in Chicago back in 2001, and one of their earliest songs was “Pop Culture”. For whatever reason, this song never made it onto a major record, only being heard during live performance. I can still remember them playing this song when I first saw them live four years ago. But in 2010, with the release of their song EP “Deathbed Plus 4”, “Pop Culture (revisited)” was finally released from captivity, and it sounds as lively as ever.
64. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”
Water has always represented rebirth, and on “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” singer Scott Hutchison swims not only for a renewal, but also to feel alive again.
63. “You Must Be Out of Your Mind”
The Magnetic Fields
This past year I’ve had to learn how to forgive others, and also tried to gain forgiveness for those I’ve hurt. In both cases this isn’t the easiest of tasks. As the person who was wronged, there is some agitation with the idea that by simply saying “I’m sorry” that everything goes back to the way they were. They don’t and they never will. But as the person asking for forgiveness, you can’t “simply press rewind” and things will be they way they once were no matter how bad you would like them to. Stephin Merritt’s snarky lyrics take on the persona of the one burned, and his stance can be either an anthem for moving on or a eulogy for a relationship (depending one what side of the forgiveness fault-line you stand).
Fresh & Onlys
The Fresh & Onlys are time travelers, but instead of going to the past, they’ve come to us from the 60s, bringing with them a sound that has been long forgotten. Amazingly, a song like “Waterfall” grows out of the oldies, yet sounds like nothing else on the radio. This is the type of song that would lead Marty McFly to say, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your grandparents loved it.”
61. “Below the Hurricane”
At first this seems like a beautiful little folk song, but halfway through the band kicks it up a notch with Doobie Brother’s persona that is sweetened with a couple drops of harmonica.
60. “I Learned the Hard Way”
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
The only thing I don’t like about this song is the fact that she never defines exactly what this guy did to turn her into such a bitter old maid.
59. “Mr. Peterson”
This eerie song tells the story of a teacher, Mr. Peterson, leaving a note on a student’s paper telling them to meet him at a certain time and place. For some reason, the narrator meets up with the teacher, smokes weed with him, and possibly has sex with him (although this event is only inferred). When the teacher goes on to kill himself, the narrator doesn’t necessarily hold a grudge toward him. Instead, the speaker hopes that Mr. Peterson can find a place where he’s wanted, even if that place be hell.
So yeah, this songs kinda depressing.
The New Pornographers
After their lackluster 2007 release “Challengers”, I’d kinda written The New Pornographers off. It just seemed like their sound had run its course and had no where else to go. But on their latest release, “Together”, the band has found new ways to eek a little more life out of their collective, especially on a song like “Moves” that amps up their classic sound with a driving orchestral addition.
57. “Suffering Season”
I made the mistake this summer of defining Woods as the next Neil Young. The falsetto vocals do conjure up images of Sir Neil, but a song like “Suffering Season” shows the band is influenced by many other voices of the past (possibly the Mamas and the Papas?).
In just two minutes, Ty Segall will have you singing along. That has to be some type of record.
55. “Favourite Food”
Tokyo Police Club
Getting old stinks, a point this song pounds into the ground. Not only have I had to face the facts that I’m no longer young, but my parent’s aging has become apparent, a notion that scares me. When the lyrics say “cause it’s sweet getting old” followed by “Let the hospital be your home”, I can’t help but feel that Tokyo Police Club are being morbidly ironic. I would like to believe that there is some hope hidden within the metaphors of this riveting song, but I can’t seem to find them.
54. “Written in Reverse”
With all that screaming and punching of piano keys, something must have really pissed Britt Daniels off. But unlike the Incredible Hulk, you’ll like Britt when he’s angry.
I really should start listening to some R Kelly. A couple of years ago I couldn’t quit listening to Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s cover of R. Kelly’s “The Word’s Greatest”. This year Sam Amidon, who is known for his modern interpretations of classic folk songs, switched his routine by taking R. Kelly’s “Relief” and giving it a more classic ambience. On second thought, I’ll just stick to people covering R. Kelly.
Even though it’s the third track on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, “POWER” is the introduction to the Shakespearan tale found on this album. In it, Kanye portrays a man dealing with the struggles of being in power. At times he seems arrogant and aloof, but near the end of the song the listener begins hearing a man realizing that the one thing he doesn’t have power over is himself. By the time the outro arrives, the speaker is standing on a ledge envisioning himself jumping, saying, “This would be a beautiful death”.
Oh, and did I mention it samples King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”?
51. “He Would Have Laughed”
A lot of great musicians died in 2010 (Captain Beefheart, Ronnie James Dio, Mark Linkous), but the most devastating loss in my view was the death of Jay Reatard simply because Jay had so much left to create, so must potential. Being friends with Jay, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox wrote “He Would Have Laughed” in dedication to the lost genius. I’m not sure if the song is necessarily about Jay with its abstract lyrics, although there is something there within the lyrics “Where do all my friends go?” and “What did you want to be?”. I think the connection to Jay’s life is found within the music its self, with the slow progression that eventually goes into a euphoric swell, but then, just like Jay’s life, the song just suddenly stops. Fuck.