Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010 Best Moments in Song

2010 Song of the Year

Free Energy - "Free Energy" (0:00 - 0:30)

"Making out with the wind" might be the lyric of the year (this is 1978, right?), and does a nice job of quickly summing up Free Energy on their titular song.

LCD Soundsystem - "Dance Yrslf Clean" (3:07 - 3:08)

I assume James Murphy mixed the beginning of this song especially low so when these drums finally kick in, you'd wake the fuck up. Mission accomplished.

Fang Island - "Sideswiper" (2:19 - 2:28)

If there's ever a Megaman movie, these guys should do the score.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "Bottled in Cork" (0:24 - 0:31)

After opening with 20 seconds of straight ahead punk rock, out of nowhere, Ted Leo drops into one of his classic pop grooves.

Yeasayer - "ONE" (0:49 - 0:58)

The best pre-chorus to chorus anticipation of the year. You just wait and wait for that drum to kick in so you can start drunk dancing like a maniac.

Ariel Pink - "Round and Round" (1:58 - 2:13)


SALEM - "King Night" (1:21 - 1:39)

I don't know whether I'm on board with witch house, but embedding a sample of my favorite Christmas melody in this chorus certainly peaked my interest.

Nana Grizol - "Cynicism" (0:56 - 1:03)

I'm a sucker for a cheesy line sung by a nasally folk singer.

Joanna Newsom - "Baby Birch" (6:45 - 6:51)

Some songs on Newsom's Have One on Me show too much restraint, but "Baby Birch" executes the slow build so perfectly that this small uptick in energy (backing vocals) and instrumentation (drums) makes this moment feel like the anthem of the year.

Kanye West - "Monster" (4:03 - 4:54)

Combine the schizo, the over-the-top inflections on "sign it" and "climate" and the scream of "monster" at the end, and you get a perfect verse from Nicki Minaj. Oh, I also like the stereo Left/Right flip-flopping.

Titus Andronicus - "Four Score and Seven" (7:43 - 8:08)

As a whole, this record is my favorite of the year. This is also 15-year-old me's favorite record of the year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2009 Best Moments in Song

Well, here we are again. Later than ever. The last week of January? I was traveling, and you were sick of lists anyway. Now you've gone all of three weeks without reading a list and I pop in to satisfy your withdrawal.

These are my favorite moments (read: best) in song from the year of 2009, a really great year for music. As always, these don't necessarily come from my favorite albums or favorite songs, but just something that grabbed me, an instant or a riff or a bridge or a chorus, an intro or an outro. The moments that make you rewind (read: click, scroll counter-clockwise, click again) to catch another brief glimpse of sonic perfection. Or imperfection.

The following is not in any ranked order, but the order in which they appear in the mash-up track, which you should download
here. And all the tracks are collected here.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - "And the Hazy Sea", 00:00-00:12,
Why There Are Mountains

The best intro of the year and quite a way to kick off your debut album. "Wake the fuck up kids. We're here and we're new. I mean, we're familiar, too. Don't be too scared. We'll definitely quiet down after this bit."

Dan Deacon - "Of the Mountains", 02:40-02:47,

I ruin a lot of tracks for myself by choosing to edit videos to them. I did that with this song on the
2010 Trollb├Ąck Montage.

Destroyer - "Bay of Pigs", 01:47-01:52, Bay of Pigs EP

Dan Bejar dropped a 14-minute track on his two-song EP this year, and it's fantastic. This is the first line after a minute and a half of outer space ambience. Maybe it's over the top, but prefacing a song with, "Listen, I've been drinking," sounds earnest coming from Dan Bejar.

Mountain Goats - "1 John 4:16", 02:20-02:27, Life of the World to Come

I say basically the same thing about John Darnielle every year. A total badass and a total pussy, all wrapped up into a perfect human being. This is the reprise of this line in the track, but it's 10-15% better than the first reading.

Animal Collective - "In the Flowers", 02:26-03:07, Merriweather Post-Pavillion

Probably the best moment in any song this year, when it kicks in I knew I was being swept away on some sort of twisted pop mind-fuck of a ride. And I ended up taking the same ride every morning into Manhattan for three cold months.

Cass McCombs - "You Saved My Life", 01:07-01:26, Catacombs

Jasper and Adam always talk about the time-signature in this song, and how strange it is. "7/4"? "But then it switches"? I just think it's catchy!

Grizzly Bear - "Fine for Now", 04:56-05:09, Veckatimest

"Two Weeks" is great. "While You Wait for the Others" is my favorite. But this moment single-handedly saves the album. Lush can only last so long before it becomes a snoozer. Sometimes you gotta play big guitar riffs. I don't think that Ed Droste believes this, but Dan Rossen know what's up.

Why? - "Into the Shadows of My Embrace", 02:26-02:40, Eskimo Snow

Yoni Wolf delivers a classic monologue on getting caught masturbating by neighbors and kissing his therapist before basically bringing the song to a screeching halt here, a brief pause before busting into a catchy bridge. It's the scream. It's the kick drum right at the end that announces the tempo will be turning up a notch.

Clues - "Ledmonton", 03:26-03:36, Clues

The Clues album is basically the soft-loud dynamic album of the year. It's filled with equal parts whispers and smashes. This is the best smash.

Jay-Z - "Run This Town", 03:05-03:08, The Blueprint 3

Kanye gets the dopest verse on the entire album, and it's unfortunate that I have to list the artist as Jay-Z. This line cracks me up, as does "Have you ever worn shoes without shoestrings?"

Dirty Projectors - "Useful Chamber", 02:42-02:54, Bitte Orca

These are the best Dirty Projectors lyrics!

Julian Casablancas - "11th Dimension", 01:25-01:42, Phrazes for the Young

Best Strokes chorus since Room on Fire.

Sleigh Bells - "Crown on the Ground", 00:23-00:34, Unreleased

This is some dirty, dirty Brooklyn shit.

North Highlands - "Collar Bones", 03:44-03:50, Sugar Lips EP

This is some clean, clean Brooklyn shit. (I know the drummer!)

Bill Callahan - "Too Many Birds", 03:11-04:26, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

"Let's just pause for a moment to consider the ongoing magnitude of Bill Callahan's accomplishment. Someday you will brag that you were around when stuff this good was being written."
- John Darnielle on "Too Many Birds"

Kid Cudi - "Day N Nite", 00:15-00:16, Man on the Moon

Whoa, whoa.

Phoenix - "Love Like a Sunset, pt. 2", 00:32-01:24, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I had my
Wolfgang tracklist ordered incorrectly, so Jasper and I would talk a lot about how this was such a perfect way to end a record; what with the dramatic, sweeping guitar strums. (So fun for air guitaring!) And then I found out it was supposed to be smack dab in the middle. But, it should be at the end, and I'll keep my album ordered the way it was. Once you create art, don't tell me how to interpret it, you pretentious French pop douchebags.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Best Moments in Song

For the fourth year in a row, I've gotten more specific than any other publication, narrowing down the best musical moments of the year to chords, lyrics, melodies and drum fills.

Together, they make the Best Song of 2008. Suck one, Girl Talk. Zipped Originals.

Human Highway - "The Sound", 0:00 - 0:28
Islands - "The Arm", 0:35 - 0:54

Nick Thorburn (Islands, Human Highway, formerly Unicorns) was certainly productive this year, but perhaps that was to his bands' detriment. Ultimately, the HH and Islands' albums turned out mediocre, but had exciting starts with these opening tracks. "The Sound" is immediate, infectious pop. Starting with lonely palm muted guitars and hand claps, then filling in voice, and, finally, kicking in a groove. "The Arm" opens with atmosphere, before the scream lets the guitar line out of its cage, along with some perfect violin callbacks. (FunNote: this riff makes a neat ring tone!)

Why? - "The Hollows", 1:48 - 2:10

It was difficult to find just one moment from my favorite album of 2008, Alopecia, to highlight, but these lyrics pretty much sum up what Why? is all about. Yoni Wolf does not write in generalities. He's sarcastic, he's got a great band behind him and, even though this is hip-hop, he always puts melody first.

The Gaslight Anthem - "The '59 Sound", 2:28 - 2:38

This isn't my favorite Gaslight Anthem song off their great album of the same name. But it marked a comeback in my musical life ...when I decided that I could start listening to punk music again. Because it's fun. Because it's big and loud. Because it doesn't make me think too much.

TV on the Radio - "DLZ", 2:22 - 2:44

So much 'tude. So much cool. How rad would it be to take a class from this "Death Professor" fellow???

Marnie Stern - "The Crippled Jazzer", 0:00 - 0:29

The coolest guitar playing of the year is all over Marnie Stern's album, but this is my favorite bit. The tapping freakout is great, but when she shifts into that anthemic riff (with drum help from Hella's Zach Hill), I feel like I could wrestle a bear.

The Mountain Goats - "Lovecraft in Brooklyn", 2:15 - 2:28

Whenever John Darnielle wants to really belt it out, I will be there. Whenever John Darnielle wants to show that he is completely vulnerable and a total badass in one line, I will be there.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "You Want that Picture", 0:53 - 1:11

To not use Will Oldham's voice as my best moment from Lie in the Light could be a controversial move if anyone actually wanted to argue about this list with me. But, no one will. I like the idea that relationship problems are temporary, and everything will be "alright" when you perish.

Fleet Foxes - "Your Protector", 0:54 - 1:15

This movement always transports me directly to a magical forest, and, yes, I am on mushrooms.

Weezer - "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived", 3:33 - 4:06

You could write a thesis paper on the failure of this song and the 10 disparate sections that lack any cohesion whatsoever, but that doesn't mean this melody isn't Weezer's most Weezer in 10 years. For that, I love it. And then right after this part, it's back to the suck. Rivers decides to inflict another spoken-word monologue on the follies of fame. Choice line: "Someone once said, 'All the world's a stage.'" Yeah, Riv. Someone totally did said that.

Native Korean Rock - "OOO", 0:03 - 0:36

Karen O sounds so fucking sexy here it's unreal.

Les Phoques - "Zenith", 4:24 - 4:58

Friend and songwriter Ben Turner finds just the right words. I can't think of a phrase that better reflects seriously crushing on someone than, "let's find a bar or let's find that dance floor," while "gyrate" and "freak" become the sweetest, most heartfelt verbs in the English language.

Mt. Eerie - "A Sentimental Song", 1:43 - 2:05

Using artist David Shrigley's words as lyrics, Phil Elverum finds the right balance between silly and somber. I, for one, trust the tone.

Air France - "Collapsing at Your Doorstep", 3:53 - 4:34

The best outro of the year samples voices from old children's television shows. "Sorta like a dream, isn't it?"

2007 List
2006 List
2005 List

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Karen OMFG!

Took in a show Monday night from Native Korean Rock and the Fishnets, the recently announced side-project from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Billed as "a body of love songs written over the last two years," the "short and sweet" (Ms. O's words, but I concur) set was beautiful, both musically and aesthetically. While the stage and players were decked out nautically, the music was sincere, delicate folk songs - at times sing-song and simple, at others startlingly avant-garde.

Several times during the set I felt like I was experiencing something unique and magical, as Karen's Cheshire Cat smile exposed that she was simultaneously nervous and overjoyed about wearing these songs on her sleeve for the first time.

I hope she found the reception warm enough to continue this project of hers, and perform again very soon. At the most, Native Korean Rock will be a huge success, on par with (or surpassing) Cat Power, Feist and Joanna Newsom in the current crop of great female singer-songwriters. At the very least, it was an announcement for me that Karen O had a lot more talent and, dare I say, heart than I had ever given her credit for.

Native Korean Rock - OOO

Here's a couple decent YouTube vids from the show:

And, bizarrely, here is a cover of a Native Korean Rock song that was recorded last November:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Superest Tuesday Ever!

NEW YORK, NY - Calling him a "beacon of hope", "the only candidate who is looking to make real changes" and a "relief of our collective white guilt", the influential pop-culture blog Scattershot has endorsed Democratic nominee Barack Obama for President.

Scattershot had also met with fellow Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in the last week but thought she seemed "too willing to bend her ideas for mass appeal", "a poor general election candidate against John McCain" and "a little dike-y."

Get out and vote friends!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Joanna Newsom at BAM - Concert Review

With the drama endured, and my own tickets ensured, it was finally time to take in a show: the first night of Joanna Newsom's two-night stint at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, accompanied by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.

I arrived to find that my tickets in the third row of the Orchestra were indeed fantastic, but, since they were stage left, offered a less than full view of Newsom on her enormous harp. Leaning to the right, practically on the shoulder of my neighbor, I had a 3/4 view of her face. Luckily, there were plenty of other people to watch.

An orchestra of 30 or so sat behind her, and two smartly dressed chaps sat to her left and right, close to the front of the stage. One switched between banjo and something similar to a mandolin, the other handled drums and backup vocals.

The first Act of the night was Ys in order, in its entirety. "Emily" has never sounded better, and toward the climax of the song I found myself smiling broadly, audibly gasping, as delirious as a child on Christmas morning (0r a Jewish kid on the first night of Yom Kippur).

"Monkey and Bear" was catchy as all-hell. "Sawdust and Diamonds", performed solo and showcasing Newsom's deft digits, was perfect, although it was rather odd to see the entire orchestra sitting on their hands for 10 minutes.

"Only Skin" and "Cosmia" are my two favorite tracks off Ys, and, of course, they didn't disappoint with such a force lifting them up. "Only Skin" will never sound as good without Bill Callahan's dark baritone backing the climax, but the live drums certainly add a tremendous bass. "Cosmia" didn't hit move into its sharp chorus as gracefully and cleanly as it does on the album, but it was still a beautiful closing to the first half, with added instrumentation making it that more intricate.

Completely blown away, I needed fresh air. As I walked out, I spotted a row of SNL members that included Andy Samberg, Amy Poehler and Seth Myers.

The second half was more casual, more fun and equally stupefying. Full band versions of "The Book of Right On", "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" and "Peach, Plum, Pear" were highlights, but the relatively new "Colleen" was the standout track. Also a standout? Newsom's outrageously short pink dress that made her look like some kind of angelic gypsy Barbie. There was also an awkward 3-minute Obama endorsement disguised as band banter that didn't seem to sway much of the audience. (Perhaps Park Slope is Clinton country?)

The second-standing ovation of the night drew Newsom and friend Kevin Barker for a short encore that didn't fully pacify me, but it would be greedy to ask for more than she had already given me during the evening.

In short, this was the best musical performance I have ever seen. The venue, the seats, the orchestra, the artist. My friend Derekh, who accompanied me to the concert, called it "transcendent." That's about right.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Dean Reinford, who I found on Flickr

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Overread and Understood #2

Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Train: L

Spot: Between Lorimer and Union Square

Time: 2:00 p.m.

(Spoilers ahead, obviously)

I couldn't believe my luck. I had sat down right next to a man who was not only reading my 2nd favorite Harry Potter book, but reading the last few foreboding, bad-ass pages of it. And he was holding the book pretty low, meaning I could read it without being caught.

As I looked down at the jacket-less novel (was he embarrassed to be reading this?), I could recall running the full spectrum of emotion in these final pages, knowing I would have to wait at least two years before I would read any new HP.

Harry plays the hero and lets his dame (Ginny) know that it's about to get down-right dangerous up in here, and he can't risk her life in the same way he risks his own. Plus, Ginny was getting a bit too "clingy" for his freewheelin' ways, and maybe he wants to dip his wand in a few more cauldrons before settling down.

In a chapter called "The White Tomb", things are obviously going to get a little sad, though. And I knew the exact passage that did it for me, the one that might make me tear up right now in this train full of hipsters.

Scrimgeour takes Harry aside and asks for his help again. The Ministry needs him, he says. Harry doesn't have to consider. He repeats his earlier declaration of loyalty for his fallen teacher, that he's "Dumbledore's man, through and through."

The book owner, in his late 20s, reaches up to briefly wipe his eye. Is it an itch? Is breaking down and balling in the subway not an option for this man's man? Is he trying to be brave like Harry?

We finished the book and he closed it. I wanted to speak to him and find out where he stands on Snape. Find out where he stands on everything.

But, alas, this was my stop and I was already three hours late to work.