December 29, 2006

In Alphabetical Order

The 1900s-“Bring the Good Boys Home”
It’s fitting that a group called the 1900s would write a song called “Bring the Good Boys Home” as the title makes it seem like a song written by a WWI pacifist. The sound however is perfect light-hearted pop, full of pounding drums, synths and a few fluttering Pro Tools strings. Relentlessly upbeat, the 4 and a half minute song talks about tea and licorice and yes, bringing the good boys home. Rumor has it, it was co-written by Cam’ron.

The Arctic Monkeys-“Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys”
Released off the EP of the same name, “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys” gives me hope that Alex Turner will continue writing great songs in spite of the pressures of the British hype machine. Hilarious and packed with trademark dry British humor, “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys” soars atop an elastic bass line and sneering lyrics to effectively quash any one-hit wonder notions. At the end of the song, Turner mocks critics by shouting at them: “Bring on the Backlash.” But you won’t hear it from me.

The Cold War Kids-“Hang Me Up to Dry”
The Cold War Kids must’ve learned something from touring all year with Tapes N’ Tapes because this sound is just drums. Matt Aveiro, the group’s drummer is this song’s star, contributing crashing hip-hop sounding sticks that turn this song into an anthem.

Daniel Hutchens-“Blood From the Rock”
I don’t know if its technically possible for blood to come out of rocks and quite frankly, I’m not sure if I want to know. Instead, I’ll just listen to this song from Hutchens Autumn Tone Records’ Debut. With crunching Crazy Horse-esque guitars and bluesy vocals, Hutchens’ lament is surprisingly head-nodding. Plus, the title of the album (Love Songs For Losers) is easily one of the year’s best.

El Perro Del Mar-“God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)”
I have a lot of respect for Sarah Assbring, the Swedish singer behind El Perro Del Mar. Namely, that she got out of elementary school in one-piece despite having the last name, Assbring. That’s perhaps the second worst name I’ve ever heard (only behind a friend of a friend named no-joke, Dick Dangles). Despite her bizarre nomenclature, listening to Assbring’s light and airy lilt on “God Knows” is one of the most pleasurable four minutes I heard all year.

Elvis Perkins-“While You Were Sleeping”
It’s too bad Elvis Perkins didn’t write this song a decade ago so that it could’ve been featured in the Bill Pullman/Sandra Bullock romantic comedy of the same name. Dude could’ve made a fortune. But the bottom line is we should just be thankful that it was written at all. A gorgeous and simple acoustic melody that picks up steam across its six minute length, “While You Were Sleeping” was my #2 pick for Best Song on my Stylus Singles Ballot. Download it. You won’t get it out of your head for weeks. I promise.

Franz Ferdinand-“L. Wells”
A B-Side from “The Fallen” single, “L. Wells” is a stomping Newcastle drinking anthem about “Lindsay Wells” and “Western Wind Catching in Your Celtic Hair.” It is awesome and proves that dashed off-Alex Kapronos B-Sides are better than almost anything made this year. It might not be “cool” to like Franz now that they’re MTV darlings, but forget about all that stuff. These guys are one of the 10 Best Bands working today.

Head Like a Kite-“Noisy at the Circus”
The title itself seems redundant. Of course, it’s noisy at the circus. There are lots of lions, tigers and bears. And clowns. I hate clowns. I don’t hate this song though. In fact, I kind of love it.

The Hold Steady-“Stuck Between Stations”
I could try to write something about this song, but why bother when Crime Notes over at The Cole Slaw Blog could do it better.

“Somewhere in the ether, there is an ideal platonic Bruce Springsteen song, and somewhere else, there is an ideal platonic Billy Joel song, neither of which exist in real life. On their new album, The Hold Steady will have a song called “Stuck Between Stations” that is one of those songs — the Springsteen and Billy Joel that never existed, but should. It’s a story about the poet John Berryman. Any song that pays tribute to On the Road, the Golden Gophers, and a celebrated American poet is going to be intriguing; what I can’t do justice is the sweep and the sweetness of the sound.” (Read the Entire Post Here)”

Islands-“Where There’s a Will There’s a Whalebone”
Let’s just say you’re in the mood to take a couple tabs of acid. This is your soundtrack. Backbones sliding into Ether. Laying low in Tropical Hideouts. Busdriver and Subtitle unleashing frantic helter-skelter raps into the belly of the song. Then it stops on a dime, as the Islands let loose, anvil drums and off-kilter harmony. This is psychedelia for the new millenium.

The Little Ones-“Cha Cha Cha”
This song isn’t deep. It doesn’t need to be. It’s pop at its best. There was a reason why The Little Ones blew up this year. This is it. Nearly 5 minutes of sing-a-long melodies, a danceable bridge and harmony that would make the Shins proud.

M. Ward-“Right in the Head”

To me the greatness in this song is revealed at about the minute and 45 second mark, when Ward lets off an fuzzy crackling electric guitar riff that winnows through the track’s spin. Then he starts bellowing about how he lived with many ghosts when he was younger and how he’ll live with many ghosts until he’s old. And it gets me every single time.

If every song on The Trials of Van Occupanther could’ve been as good as the first single “Roscoe,” it would’ve been the best album made this year. The album wasn’t bad or anything but it failed to capture the power and majesty of this song. It’s made practically every single year end list of the best songs. It’s not hard to see why, all washed out synthesizers and weird meditations on what it would’ve been like to have been born Roscoe in 1891.

Monkey Swallows The Universe-“Sheffield Shanty”
Not to be an asshole or anything, but if you aren’t at least a little moved by “Sheffield Shanty” than you probably have no soul. A simple folk melody, this song’s shimmering acoustic cords frame lead singer Nat Johnson’s beautiful voice. Seriously, treat this song with caution. Play it at the wrong time and you might be reduced to a basket case. It’s that strong.

The Parson Red Heads-“Punctual As Usual”
The Parson Red Heads are one of those bands that you can’t help but like. You might not love them, but you can’t deny their infectious rhythms, hand-clapping melodies and good-natured warm stage demeanor. Live, this song is one of the highlights of the set. It’s is so catchy it could make Gerald Ford rise from the dead and start dancing. What? Too soon?

Peter, Bjorn & John-“Let’s Call It Off”
Forget “Young Folks.” It’s a great song and all, but for my money, this is the highlight of Writer’s Bloc. When after hearing seven straight gems, you come to track 8, “Let’s Call it Off,” Starting with its so-simple-its-genius bassline, the song confirms exactly how good these guys are. At that moment you start to wonder if an album can really be this good, this fun, this simultaneously heart-breaking and life-affirming. But it can and this is the proof.

The Raconteurs-“Steady As She Goes”
2006 was not a good year for guitar rock. Sure, you got a lot of pop rock gems that predominate this list, but there were few great RAWK songs. This is one of them. The rare song that feels at home on both KROQ and NPR. Jack White proves his genius once again. Even the haters can’t deny that he sounds pretty damned great behind Patrick Keeler’s gorilla snare hits.

Sound Team-“Your Eyes are Liars”
So what if their debut didn’t live up to the hype? “Your Eyes are Liars” proves that Sound Team has talent. Even if the bassline on this song does sound like it was written by Carlos D., this isn’t a straight up Interpol rip-off (that would be She Wants Revenge). This song merits inclusion if nothing else for the goose-bump inducing crescendo when the icy synths build and build against the tense relentless drums and then finally let loose gracefully on a descent so smooth that United Airlines would ask for tips.

Sparrow House-“When I Am Gone”
With its deceptively complex acoustic chords, this song sounds like something Bob Dylan would’ve written in 1963. In the process, Jared Van Fleet proves that Ramesh Srinastava isn’t the only one worth checking for in Voxtrot. As Gorilla Vs. Bear so aptly put it about this record: “The best compliment I can pay Falls is that everyone I played it for ended up falling in love with it. And I do mean everyone.”

The Strokes-“You Only Live Once
If this had been released as the first single instead of the abominable “Juicebox”, First Impressions of Earth might’ve sold a million copies. Somebody at RCA should be fired. This song is evidence that The Strokes are far from finished, as it shows them in top form, Casablancas’ Lou Reed whine, Albert Hammond running circles around the track, Fab whipping the melody forward.

Swan Lake-“All Fires”
Is it possible not to get chills whenever you hear this song? I’m not sure. Haunting and reverb-soaked, the first single from Beast Moans is the best track on the record. Spencer Krug again proves that he doesn’t know how to write a bad song. This song has a timeless record that few records can ever match. Just listen and you’ll see why the Wolf Parade album is my most anticipated in 07.
Sunset Rubdown-“Shut Up I am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings”
As far as I see it, there is no point to describe this song. You just have to listen. As Oceans Never Listen put it: This song is a journey of incredible depth, I think it will have the ability to resonate in 20 years.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s easily my favorite song of this year. Of any year. If you download one song from this list, this is the one.

TV On the Radio-“I Was a Lover”
I might not have been a fan of the album, but I’m certainly a fan of its first track, the woozy hip-hop stomp of “I Was A Lover.” Listen to the piano bridge at the 2 and a half minute mark, as Tunde’s voice washes over the track like a heavy hail storm and you realize that even though this band might be overrated, there is no denying their prodigious talents.

Voxtrot-“Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
This is the best tribute to someone’s mom since “Dear Mama.” While I’m not exactly sure if this was at all written for Ramesh Srinastava’s mom (probably not), I’ll stick with that statement. All crisp transitions, Smiths homage, and shimmering guitar melody, even if this song doesn’t make Mama Srinastava proud, it would bring a smile to Morrisey’s face at the very least.

Wolfmother-“Joker and the Thief”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like this band. That song “Woman” is one of the most abominable things I’ve ever heard, but “Joker and the Thief” kicks ass. It might be a blatant Jack White rip-off, but I’m willing to let it slide. It’s that damned catchy and it makes you understand why this is the song playing on a thousand 13-year old boys’ Myspace pages. Truth be told, I can’t blame ’em.

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