To check out these songs for yourself, click on the last word of each commentary. You’ll find a link to YouTube for a stream of the track. Here we go…
20. “I’m On a Boat” by The Lonely Island
It’s cheesy, stupid, childish, and clearly pandering to the college-jock type. Yet here writes an engineering student with no real affection toward rap, thoroughly enjoying this song. “Boat” is just so silly and fun, and you can’t help but love the premise. The whole thing is made even better by the brilliant self-parody offered by T-Pain. He is well aware of the setting, and lays down some fantastic fake-singing just for SNL. It’s made better (obviously) with the video. Watch it over and over on Lala or here.
19. “WIlco (The Song)” by Wilco
I’ve become a more devoted Wilco follower in recent days thanks to a great run with Summerteeth over the past year. However, the brilliance of modern-day Wilco shouldn’t be overlooked. “The Song” is a slight bit of parody, but manages to encapsulate most of what makes the band great in one place. I think the big bells in the last third of the song really bring it together for me. It’s the idea that, yes they’re more straightforward today, but they’ll still make magical music. Listen to it here.
18. “Young Adult Friction” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
For those not in the know, it’s about love in a library. I personally find the lyrics to be annoying and a bit overdone. This is all pushed aside by great guitars and a rhythm section that gives a sense of direction. Think of combining the jangle and drums of R.E.M. with a New Wave attitude and you’re nearly there. Lyrical delivery certainly counts for a lot here – enthusiasm is very present. The 80s would have loved this band, and I’m glad we have them.
17. “Send Him Away” by Franz Ferdinand
The Scots best know for the crazy rhythm change in “Take Me Out” are back with a fairly angry tune. This discussion of female infidelity fits in nicely with the whole “night out” theme within their latest album. The singer ultimately ends begging to stay the night. While he may be a tad pathetic, the music is tight, offering a nice guitar jangle that swings around a phenomenal bass line and a complex-yet-digestible drum part. I’d argue that this is the top highlight of the whole album.
16. “I am Leaving” by Blue Roses
Blue Roses was described by someone else as the sound of a rainy day repeated over a whole album. I think that’s a pretty apt feeling, but it sells the music short. “I am Leaving” is at its core a song about a breakup or exiting a family. But more important is the sheer beauty of the song. Aching guitars are placed with bright chimes. I’m a real sucker for great vocals, and this also propels this song. Laura Groves has an amazing voice, and after this song, you’re left sorry for her and yet entirely elated.
15. “These Are My Twisted Words” by Radiohead
When this was originally leaked, it seemed like an obvious Radiohead song. Perhaps that is because it sounds like a stereotypical Radiohead song. Tight drums, wandering guitars, Thom Yorke’s ever-present voice. But let me ask: isn’t that also what makes Radiohead so amazingly great? If they were to release an album full of songs like this, wouldn’t we all flip out and proclaim it one of the greatest in recent memory? Yeah, “Twisted Words” isn’t very special in the Radiohead cannon, but that it holds many Radiohead trademarks makes it better than 90% of music today.
14. “Pieces” by Dinosaur Jr.
I completely missed out on the first round of Dinosaur Jr, so I can’t really compare this song to anything that came before. Instead, I have the perspective of an outsider on this. Frankly, I’m disgusted. How did I not find this band earlier? Straightforward rock with the best guitars I may have heard from all of music… where has J Mascis been all my life? This is a great song on an album full of great songs and the band really deserves all the praise offered lately. A great first impression (the leadoff track from Farm) for this new fan.
13. “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear
There is a very puzzling blogosphere “general opinion” that “Two Weeks” is better than “While You Wait for the Others.” I really don’t agree with that view of things, and see “While You Wait” as an vastly superior track. However, that does not leave “Two Weeks” as a poor piece of music. Rather, the bright pop and fantastic arrangement of “Two Weeks” is a fantastic entry point to the music of Grizzly Bear. It’s very catchy, the vocal harmonies are splendid (even close to the power of Fleet Foxes) and the whole thing is just very pretty. It is sometimes difficult to accept a song for being essentially beautiful, but this track is fantastic.
12. “Convinced of the Hex” by The Flaming Lips
There are certainly more catchy songs on Embryonic, but there is nothing more attention-grabbing. The strange introduction only pulls you into a great blend of crazy rock. Superb funky guitars and a crashing set of drums manage to set up an amazing atmosphere for the whole album. Nothing since The Moon & Antarctica has set up such an otherworldly feel. It’s great, and you’ll be left thinking about that bass line for weeks.
11. “This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
Left just short of the top ten, but not because of Ms. Case’s pipes. Wow can she belt out some music. Of course her voice is pointless on a “traditional” album unless the music can keep up. Here, everything is great. Guitars, pianos, drums, all working in tandem to build the foundation of this song. Then Case fires on all cylinders to send everything into the stratosphere. “What will make you believe me?” she belts with all her might. The whole tornado-lover metaphor thing would seem a bit heavy-handed if not for the great holistic production. That, and her voice is big enough to be an F5.
Come back for the next 10 songs tomorrow night!