Thursday, June 18, 2009

100 Songs for 2009: Contenders (and the Summer Jam leaderboard)

I have no way to verify this, but apparently it's "summer" out there in America. It's a word that means very little to me here in the Richmond district, where it's cloudy and 55 every day anyway. And really, this is for the best, as I spend no more than 15 minutes outside in a given day regardless.

All bitching aside however, summer is a time for summer jams, whether you're listening to them at the beach or in the same stupid coffee shop it feels like you never leave. I've got a handful of awesome new songs to talk about, some of which are summer jam material, some of which are merely wonderful in their own, non-seasonally-dependent ways. So I'm gonna talk about those for awhile, then rank my summer jams so far. Everybody ready? ... Great.

1) Free Energy - Dream City
Summer Jam Worthy: YES

This is the one right here. Any other answer to the question "What is the summer jam of 2009 so far?" is a wrong answer. It's got the handclaps and the horns and that kind of a swagger that hasn't really existed since T-Rex 30 years ago. It is really a thing to behold. And they're on DFA, so they're Pitchfork-approved. It's not often music elitists are willing to get behind something this blatantly, unpretentiously joyous. It's not symoblic, it's not a metaphor for anything ... it just is.

2) BBU - Chi Don't Dance
3) Brother Ali - Talkin' My S***
Summer Jam Worthy: YES and YES

Every few months or so, I tell a bunch of people who largely don't care that hip hop is dead to me. I'm white, I'm 27, I'm about to become a lawyer ... I tell them it's okay, hip hop and I had a good run, it's just time to move on. I went through this again recently when I listened to Eminem's mostly awful new album, which somehow was largely well reviewed. I figured rap music was just something I didn't get anymore.

Then these two songs came along: one by a quasi-anarchist group whose acronymic name is short for "Bin Laden Blowin' Up," the other by an albino dude (no, seriously) from Minneapolis. And they're both so fresh and unexpectedly awesome, and ... summer needs some hip hop. It always will. At least we've got these two tunes.

4) Discovery - Swing Tree
Summer Jam Worthy: YES

Some of you (mainly Curt) like to stereotype the music I listen to, defining it as (and I'm not quoting here, but something like this) mostly happy, a little glitchy, with a high-voiced singer. And ... I guess that's probably true. It certainly applies here. I've mentioned Discovery here before, talking about their awesome "Osaka Loop Line" single. Well, now the LP is out, and it has more awesome songs like this one. Turns out, when you take one guy from Vampire Weekend, and one guy from Ra Ra Riot, you get ... a more R&B version of Passion Pit. I'm gonna have to double-check that math.

5) Deer Tick - Easy
Summer Jam Worthy: NO

It still freaks me out that CCR was from California. I mean, they wrote a song called "Born on the Bayou," and all their songs are about Cajuns and swamps and ... shouldn't they be from Baton Rouge or something? Deer Tick is the same way - band's from Providence, Rhode Island, but their music practically waves a Confederate flag as you listen to it. Not a summer jam, but a dirty, whiskey-soaked good time anyway. And Brett approves - he's my expert for music that sounds like this.

6) Lightning Dust- I Knew
Summer Jam Worthy: NO

And now I realize I have absolutely nothing to say about this song, except that I find it enjoyable. Maybe you could write your own capsule summary here.

7) I Was a King - Step Aside
8) I Was a King - Norman Bleik
Summer Jam Worthy: NO and NO

Norwegians who sound just like Teenage Fanclub, only with fuzzier guitars. Again, sometimes it seems like music exists just for me. This sounds like something I would have included in a Top Ten Bands That Should Exist But Never Will list.

9) Little Boots - New in Town
10) Little Boots - Earthquake
Summer Jam Worthy: YES and NO

I have a lot of guilty pleasures in music. I mean, I've seen Good Charlotte in concert. Still, I think my biggest guilty pleasure is British girl pop. Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Natasha Bedingfield ... doesn't matter how cheesy, I think it's all great. Little Boots is more like that. I can't really explain why I think these songs are incredible and yet Katy Perry makes me want to punch myself in the ears. Maybe you can't tell the difference. Maybe you feel the opposite. But you'd be wrong. Because Little Boots is great. And I won't listen to anyone put her down.

11) Silversun Pickups - Panic Switch
12) Green Day - Viva La Gloria (Little Girl)
13) Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
Summer Jam Worthy: NO, NO, and NO

I usually focus on obscure blogger-and-Pitchfork stuff here, but it's worth noting that alt-rock radio has some solid songs right now. Silversun Pickups keep making all the songs we wish the Smashing Pumpkins would make. Green Day's album isn't nearly as good as Ferrario may tell you it is, but it's got some moments, and nearly all the songs sound good on their own (taken together, though, it becomes more of a slab of bumper-sticker catchphrases and sameness). Kings of Leon's album came out in 2008, so this is kind of cheating, but this song hit the radio in 2009, and I just realized how great it was recently (and here I have to give Elliot credit for being first to recognize its greatness ... though he's still wrong about just how terrible John Mayer's "No Such Thing" is).

And finally ...


1) Free Energy - Dream City
2) Passion Pit - Little Secrets
3) Phoenix - 1901
4) BBU - Chi Don't Dance
5) Brother Ali - Talkin' My S***
6) Cam'Ron - I Hate My Job
7) Little Boots - New in Town
8) Matt and Kim - Lessons Learned
9) Discovery - Swing Tree
10) Clipse f/ Kanye West - Kinda Like a Big Deal


  1. Ferrario speaks:

    21st Century Breakdown is every bit as good as advertised. I am, however, willing to admit that perhaps I am awarding it bonus points for being such a good complete album. It seems that more and more artists are releasing albums with 1 or 2 good songs 1 or 2 average songs and 6-10 terrible songs just to fill album space. Not only is 21st Century Breakdown an album filled with great track after great track, it is a cohesive musical statement about life in America drawing not only Armstrong's own life experience (the lyric "Born into Nixon I was raised in hell" comes to mind) but also about how someone in our age group deals with "the mess our 43rd president left behind."

    I really think you should go back and listen to this album again -- it has been truly rewarding with repeated listens. While I understand where you're coming from on the "bumper sticker" comment, I think you may not respect Green Day enough as artists to accept this album as a serious social commentary -- kind of like how people refuse to acknowledge Jim Carrey as a good actor (even after The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he still gets pigeon-holed as a slapstick goof off).

  2. 1. Jim Carrey isn't a good actor. He was good in a few scripts, but he's not an actor that directors say,"I need Carrey to give this role the depth it needs." Will Ferrell was in Stranger than Fiction. He is also, NOT a good actor, despite that movie being quality flick.

    2. Green Day can't be respected as artists because of how much guy-liner they go through. If they start acting like their age, people wouldn't listen anymore. That's not an artist.

    3. I didn't intend to attack the previous post. Just kinda happened.

    4. Really love the Discovery album. Not sure about a lot of the rest. Dream City is a bad song; very hard to listen to. I pick Green Day over Free Energy, which, frankly, lacks energy in general.

    5. AB totally likes his lead singers to be high-pitched whiners. It's just a fact. Even Colbert knows it. Oh, and 5 1/2. I like to be angry apparently.