Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I posted before about Sufjan's incredible "Djohariah". 12 minutes of guitar solo (and deconstructed guitar solo at that) is not what we've come to expect from this soft and warbly man. But the instrumental section is a perfect compliment to the subject matter of the song, which is entirely melodic and tragic and touching, if you've got the patience to wait around for it. Djohariah (the person) is Sufjan's sister, and has clearly gone through a heartbreaking experience. Has clearly suffered. The lyrics are so personal and immediate, and real. This one is for all the ladies out there (and not in the same way that "I Swear" and "Down On Bended Knee" are for all the ladies out there).

Don’t be ashamed, don’t hide from me now
For the woman is, the woman is the glorious victorious
The mother of the heart of the world

There is a time when the lights will arise
For the mother is, the mother is the glorious victorious
The mother of the heart of the world

Go on! Little sister! Go on! Little sister!
For your world is yours, world is yours
All the wilderness of world is yours

Go on! Little sister! Go on!
For you’re beautiful, beautiful
All the fullness of the world is yours

Of course, I haven't listed "Djohariah" here as number one, although I liked it in certain ways as much as anything I've heard in a long time. The song that I'm here to talk about is "Impossible Soul". And, where to even begin? Probably with a disclaimer. This little ditty is over 25 minutes long, so if the thought of investing a half hour into one song is a bit daunting, you're not alone. My heart sank when I first saw the track length. Would it be some kind of jam-bandy noodle fest? (No. Be at peace. I would ask that you not close the window and move on, but to give it a listen. If you choose otherwise, I completely understand. But I assure you, this song is a masterpiece.) "Impossible Soul" is the most impressive piece of art Sufjan has created to date. It is divided into 5 sections, with lyrics in first, second, and third person points of view. It is a window into his creative process, the psyche of Sufjan Stevens. It is introspective, it is critical, it is self-effacing, but ultimately it is hopeful, and encouraging, and motivating, and entirely joyful. Watching him play this at Kingsbury Hall a few weeks ago is right up there with my most memorable of all concert going experiences, and I've had some good ones. There was a truly genuine feeling of community, and togetherness, and confidence, and affirmation. "It's not so impossible!"

Sufjan Stevens - Impossible Soul (mp3)

Monday, November 29, 2010

There probably aren't any lyricists out there that are as skilled as Joanna. She is ridiculously good. A genuine poet. Check out the final verse from "Baby Birch", a song I interpret to be an ode for all women who are denied motherhood in one form or another:

"There is a blacksmith, and there is a shepherd, and there is a butcher boy, and there is a barber who's cutting and cutting away at my only joy. I saw a rabbit as slick as a knife and as pale as a candlestick. And I had thought it'd be harder to do but I caught her and skinned her quick, held her there kicking and mewling, upended, unspooling, unsung, and blue; told her, 'Wherever you go, little runaway bunny, I will find you.' And then she ran, as they're liable to do. Be at peace baby. And be gone."

That's just one example of a an entire album full of stunning lyrics. "'81" (an amazing song about forgiveness and love), "Does Not Suffice" (One of the best breakup songs ever. That which is communicated in the "la la la" of the song's conclusion is remarkable), "Go Long" (an indictment against that thing in men that is violence and war and hardness and heartless and ruin), "Esme" (I remember reading it was written for the daughter of a friend) , "Jackrabbits"...etc., etc. Literally. Every. Song. Is. Nuts. Now some people don't like her voice. Get over it. Her voice is beautiful. There. That's settled. Perhaps (but only perhaps) my two favorite songs on the album are the following:

Joanna Newsom - Baby Birch (mp3)
Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company (mp3)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"This is Happening" is an amazing album. It blew me away. There has been much dancing in the kitchen from all members of the family. When the synth kicks in on "Dance Yrself Clean" it is pure joy. Movement is a given. And even though it clocks in at just under nine minutes, it isn't a second too short or long.

I could sit back and throw darts at the album cover and hit just about any song worthy of mention here. "You Wanted a Hit" is phenomenal, as is "All I Want" and "I Can Change". But I wanted to mention "Home", the record's final track. "This is the trick, forget a terrible year." James Murphy, I read, was referring to the death of a close friend in 2009. He closes the song with an amazing buildup by singing "If you're afraid of what you need. If you're afraid of what you need, look around you. You're surrounded. It won't get any better. Until the night."

These two tracks respectively set off and conclude the album, juxtaposing each other musically, and thematically. And he may be absolutely right about it not getting any better.

LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean (mp3)
LCD Soundsystem - Home (mp3)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Angela Surf City" is right up there with the best of anything the Walkmen have ever done. Supremely good. The drums are just nails, and Hamilton's vocals are crazy good (as usual). The chorus just kills me. When he sings "you kept your jaw wide and closed, I never noticed before" I thought yes, that is it, they've done it, that is the peak. But no. It doubles on itself and goes straight to 11, "I couldn't see the signs, now I dream of the time..." Whoa.

The first time I listened to "Blue As Your Blood" I wasn't particularly impressed. It thought it was okay. I thought it sounded like some song born to be in a Tarantino film. But after a second listen I found myself craving it. Repeat. Then I realized I was frustrated because he never repeats the chorus, "Black is the color of your eyes. Spanish is the language of your touch..." I found myself wanting more of it. So inevitably I would just play the song over and over and over. Now it is one of my favorites.

The Walkmen - Angela Surf City (mp3)
The Walkmen - Blue As Your Blood (mp3)

Friday, November 26, 2010

I don't know how many times I've played "Out Go The Lights" this year. I adore this song. One of my favorite lines: "...and when that light turns back again you will remember the way they fall for you like a brick. Oh, but nobody loves you or woos you when you're down or kicked. Out go the lights. Never see that counterpoint. You always looked good that way, you with the one-two punch."

"Goodnight Laura" is a modern lullabye. It's fascinating how lullabies take on new meaning once you find yourself singing them to your own children. I've grown to appreciate them not only as an art form, but for the peace they are born to bring.

Spoon - Out Go The Lights (mp3)
Spoon - Goodnight Laura (mp3)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I've probably played "Meet Me In the Basement" fifty times this year on my way to Jiu-Jitsu class to get pumped up for a roll. Great build. Here is a good fan made, and band approved, music video. "Sweetest Kill" is my other favorite from Forgiveness Rock Record.

Broken Social Scene - Meet Me In The Basement (mp3)
Broken Social Scene - Sweetest Kill (mp3)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The album "Teen Dream" was so good that picking the two songs I wanted to feature here was very difficult. Consistently good songs from top to bottom and Victoria Legrand's voice is featured better than it's ever been. So here you go, two songs which could just as well be any two others from the record.

Beach House - Zebra (mp3)
Beach House - Take Care (mp3)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Odessa" is totally infectious. Amazing. There will be dancing. And "Jamelia", I love how it starts out so soft, with little punches of dissonant strings, and then just builds and builds into a sonic plea that perfectly complements the lyrics.

Caribou - Odessa (mp3)
Caribou - Jamelia (mp3)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two amazing collaborations here from Damon Albarn. "Some Kind of Nature" featuring Lou Reed, and "Superfast Jellyfish" featuring De La Soul and Gruff Rhys.

Gorillaz - Some Kind of Nature (mp3)

Gorillaz - Superfast Jellyfish (mp3)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twin Shadow came out of nowhere this year and killed it with a beautiful marriage of 80's and post-alternative production. Both of these songs are so outstanding, I've been playing them non-stop! You'll see that each of the bands in my top ten get two songs. It is too difficult with these artists to choose one favorite.

Twin Shadow - Castles in the Snow (mp3)
Twin Shadow - Forget (mp3)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This song came out the first week of this year, and I thought then that it would be right up there with the best of the year. A treatise on Charles Darwin, plus opera, plus the Knife, equals pure win.

The Knife - Colouring of Pigeons (mp3)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perhaps this pick is kind of a cheat, since it's really just an 80's synth reimagining of one of my all-time favorites, "Else" by Built to Spill. The Electronic Anthology Project is just Doug Martsch taking some of his classics and looking at them through the eyes of M-M-M-Max Headroom, and renaming them in anagram. I've always loved "Else" and this genre is a perfect fit.

The Electronic Anthology Project - Eels (mp3)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The drums and the brass in this song are so fantastic! The breakdown in this song is pretty much the high point of all Vampire Weekend, for me.

Vampire Weekend - Run (mp3)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Luke Temple's solo work is amazing, and although I haven't loved his band Here We Go Magic, they nailed this one. "Where'd you find all that time? A place for everything in the house? ...a peice of wood from Noah's ark, a thing collected from the start. And if there is another flood, your house will float on Noah's wood." Perhaps I need to hear this as an ode to my wife. Love, I will eat my words if there is another flood. You will have saved us, since we'll be floating on all that extra furniture we have lying around the house.

Here We Go Magic - Collector (mp3)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From "July Flame." This is the closing track, which features Jim James (My Morning Jacket) on vocals. Sweet. Strong. Pure. Built to last. Good.

Laura Veirs - Make Something Good (mp3)

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Dad rock" yes I know. Generally I don't get too into The National, because all their songs sound pretty much the same, all sharing a tempo without too much variation in emotion one way or another. But, I absolutley love this song! And a beautiful (tragic?) elegy to a spendthrift culture: "I still owe money to the money to the money I owe."

The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (mp3)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A rumination on the apocolypse. Radioactive teeth falling out of the head, nature's early morning fog combining with the unnatural fog of a nuclear power plant, and that understandable commitment to want to go, ultimately, on your own terms.

Strand of Oaks - Last To Swim (mp3)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The idea is a good one, likening a relationship to a multi-decade arms race in which two countries amassed egregious amounts of nuclear weapons, where life as we knew it could have ended in a series of earth destroying concussions, or continued on in normalcy (that is, if you want to call the 60's and 70's normal).

The Morning Benders - Cold War (mp3)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Loved seeing them perform the Twilight Concert Series this year. They played this little rocker among many other perfect pop rock songs. Neko Case is pretty much amazing at everything she touches.

The New Pornographers - Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk (mp3)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The title sounds a bit morbid, I know. However, I have seen the pain of grandparents as they lay in a hospital bed trapped, quite literally, in a body that does not function anymore. Yet their spirits and minds yearn to move on. I have seen families, conflicted as they may be, want the same. It is in that context that I hear this song, which actually makes it really beautiful.

Wye Oak - I Hope You Die (mp3)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The bombast of the drums coupled with the minimalist piano is amazing here. Not much else to say. Enjoy!

These New Puritans - Hologram (mp3)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Consider the first line of this song, “One’s not enough” (O.N.E.). Then these other lines: “You don’t move me anymore. And I’m glad that you don’t, because I can’t take it anymore”. Many people might hear this song and think the singer is addressing alcohol and drug addictions. But I think he is like me, and is addressing his embarrassing ice cream addictions. Despite the last 45 five seconds (which get oddly Maroon Five-ey) this is a very fun song.

Yeasayer - O.N.E.(mp3)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Jamie Lidell is such a talent. Although I didn’t love his new album this song got a lot of playing time. Infectious vibe. A primal desire for synchronicity with another human being. In fact, I think that is what the original lyrics said, “My primal desire for synchronicity with another human being” but it was later shortened to “I long to slip into your rhythm and your boom”. :)

Jamie Lidell - Your Sweet Boom (mp3)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A departure, for sure, from gems like “Kids” and “Time to Pretend” on their previous album. But I really like the mellow, ethereal vibe on this song. I have no idea what it is about, however, other than the feeling that someone is missing.

MGMT - Someone's Missing (mp3)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

This is some serious mood music, and not for everyone. But I love it! The pacing of it is marvelous, the beat juxtaposed with silence. The samples. The single hand clap. This dude is an artist. Have you seen his cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love”? Also, probably we’re cousins. Probably.

James Blake - I Only Know (What I Know Now) (mp3)

Friday, November 05, 2010

It’s fun to see them bust out a synth. I’ve always maintained that Arcade Fire take themselves way too seriously, and they still do in this song (anyone with the will to move can solve the song’s central dilemma), but I still like them. This was my favorite off the album and the only one sung by Regine.

Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (mp3)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

With Damien Jurado we often get hopelessness, but here we get hopelessness coupled with a sort of unconditional love. The song addresses a character with blood on his hands, having lied, caused trouble, etc. There is no evidence he will change, yet at the end there is this loving plea: “Shake off your doubt, grab ahold. Sometimes the hardest part is letting you go. You can always come back when you need. I’ll leave the light on, leave the light on.”

Damien Jurado - Throwing Your Voice (mp3)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I can’t deny that I’ve got a certain weakness for existentialism. “What is, just is, I know, so we’re trapped by answers.” The idea of the song, I suppose, being that we can look about and see life’s evidence (answers), while mankind, the “citizens”, spend our days searching for the questions. A bizarre form of living Jeopardy! The question James Mercer asks at the end is, “From the moment that we’re born ‘til we’re old and tired, do we ever know people?” A question I asked myself not so long ago.

Broken Bells - Citizen (mp3)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

About as straightforward a rock song as you can get. Three chords. A borderline cheesy profession of love and devotion. And that sweet little syncopation of guitar and drum that comes at the end of each line.

The Black Keys - Everlasting Light (mp3)

Monday, November 01, 2010

In mourning for the loss of a loved one, comes this line, “It sounds like we would have had a great deal to say to each other. I bet when I leave my body for the sky the wait will be worth it.”

Local Natives - Airplanes (mp3)