So Jeff listed and explained his Top Ten songs of the moment and encouraged his readership to do the same. I’m taking him up on it here. I’ve also included links to eMusic where applicable (check them out – highly worthwhile, DRM-free indie-label music of all genres). Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Little Man Tate, “European Lover”: As my UK readership (both of you) recuperates from the laughing fit this no doubt generated, I’ll stand up and take my medicine like a man. I like quite a bit of LMT’s stuff. Crap name, frequently juvenile subject matter, but some catchy tunes. I dare you to listen to this track and not cue it up for a replay (with singalong!).
2. Rick Henrickson, “Cool Dry Place”: Cross Marshall Crenshaw with Joe Jackson and distort the guitars a bit, and you’ve got Rick Henrickson. His whole album is fantastic, but “Cool Dry Place” and “Sonoma” stand out. If Elliott Smith ever pulled a Dylan and went electric, I could see him turning out something like this (not that that’s really a possibility now anyway…).
3. Ride, “Leave Them All Behind”: Swirling, whirling, fuzzed-out guitars and moany, ethereal lyrics make for the kind of song in which you can lose yourself – an almost Phil Spectorish Wall of Sound. I love the way the song builds from synth to drums to bass and guitar and eventually envelops the listener like a fog.
You’ll notice I haven’t touched upon the lyrics at all yet. I’ve found recently that in exploring new music, I’ve been less focused on the lyrics and more on the music, EXCEPT in the case of…
4. Del tha Funkee Homosapien, “Why You Wanna Get Funky with Me?”: Del’s the real deal, and a rapper I think any English teacher would appreciate, due to his dexterity with the language. Del would probably hate to be called old-school, but his rhymes come from a much more traditional place than much of the radio-ready hip-hop/R&B out there today. He gloats about his lyrical prowess in many of his tracks (rightly so), but demonstrates his self-deprecating sense of humor with this tale of his complete inability to get a girl – “Man, that fool got clowned AGAIN!” Guess he didn’t tell them his cousin is Ice Cube (Del’s crew Hieroglyphics is also a pretty strong collective, much in the same vein as Wu-Tang Clan).
5. Nada Surf, “Always Love”: Nice sentiment about letting go of grudges, semi-anthemic in its presentation. Trying to pick the one Nada Surf song to include here is almost an exercise in futility; their albums Let Go and The Weight is a Gift are near-perfect in their entirety – intelligent, reflective, and emotionally honest rock with nary a whine, whimper, or hint of self-pity.
6. Belle & Sebastian, “Sukie in the Graveyard”: No deep explanation here – I just love choppy Hammond organ.
7. Ivy, “Undertow”: Another heavily atmospheric song, mixing strings & horns with a trip-hoppy beat and Dominique Durand’s breathy vocals. Again, music trumps
vocals lyrics for me here. Dominique Durand could yodel the telephone book and I’d buy it. Ivy’s Adam Schlesinger is also in Fountains of Wayne and wrote the theme song to the film, That Thing You Do!
8. Irving, “The Gentle Preservation of Children’s Minds”: Lyrically, anecdotes about the need for it. Musically… The Cure meets The Church at a Velvet Underground reunion show – how about that? A baritone voice over a dutiful bassline (yes, I described a bassline as “dutiful” – you would too, if you heard this song).
9. Manic Street Preachers, “Suicide is Painless”: Rare is the occasion when I advocate for a cover over an original, but this is one of those times. James Dean Bradfield’s ragged voice builds to a scream by the final chorus, mirroring the mounting frustration in the lyrics. A relative oldie on this list (1992 – I was a sophomore in high school when this came out), but still a goodie. This version has teeth.
10. Noisia & Mayhem, “Moonway Renegade”: Though the majority of the songs on this list are guitar-oriented rock songs, I’ve been listening to a lot of hardcore drum n’ bass over the last 8-10 months. This track (from an awesome hardcore mix called Subwoofer Candy, Vol. 2) mixes dialogue from an old kung fu flick (no idea which one) with beats designed to sound like landed blows.
This certainly isn’t my all-time Top Ten, just a current snapshot. Honorable mention goes to Cold War Kids, The Cinematics, The Buckners, and Gridlok, none of whom sound remotely like any of the other three.
Thanks for the challenge, Jeff. This was just what I needed to unwind after the first day of school.