Monday, December 20, 2010

100 Songs for 2010: 26-30


We're counting down our 100 favorite songs of the year.  Today, 26-30.  Check out previous posts here.


30) Drive By Truckers - "Birthday Boy"

In which we wondered if pretty girls from the smallest towns really do get remembered like storms and droughts (Curt says, “Yes!”)

In which we stood at the back of the Fillmore and debated the virtues of DBT frontmen (Brett and Meg say, “Patterson!”)

In which, at one point, these were my twenty favorite Drive By Truckers songs.

An irrefutable counterpoint to those who say they don’t make rock bands like they used to. A drunken, disorganized, wildly-careening live show. One of the very few bands on my “Never, NEVER Miss Them If They Come to Town” list.*

If I was making you a music-related bucket list** (and I will, gladly), “See Drive By Truckers perform an extended live version of 'Let There Be Rock'" would be near the top of that list.

* Hold Steady, Mountain Goats, Los Campesinos!, Drive By Truckers, Scissor Sisters, The Very Best, Architecture in Helsinki, and maybe TV on the Radio.

** Did this phrase originate with the movie? It couldn’t have, right? And yet I don’t remember ever hearing it before the movie.

Drive By Truckers - "One of These Days"
Drive By Truckers - "Let There Be Rock"

29) Broken Bells - "The High Road"

Broken Bells were everywhere in 2010, and I’m sure you all know “The High Road” by heart at this point. So here’s a tangential question:

Broken Bells is hip hop producer Danger Mouse and James Mercer, former lead singer of The Shins.

Here’s a short resume for Danger Mouse:
- produced a bunch of really good underground hip hop, most notably Ghetto Pop Life with rapper Jemini
- basically invented the mash-up with his Beatles-vs.-Jay-Z-themed The Grey Album, people who don’t actually like music start calling him a genius
- along with Cee-Lo, formed Gnarls Barkley, wrote “Crazy,” probably one of the ten biggest pop songs of the decade
- produced albums for Beck, Gorillaz, and others
- is producing the new U2 album

Here’s a short resume for Mercer:
- wrote three critically-acclaimed indie pop albums
- wrote one single that actually made the Hot 100 pop chart (“Phantom Limb,” landed somewhere in the 80s)
- basically invented the genre of music that exists to be played in the background of TV shows and movies
- took over the world after “This band will change your life” scene from Garden State
- have, seriously, been on the soundtrack albums for NINE movies/TV shows
- became pretty much the first indie band to sell serious amounts of records, with two certified gold albums and a #2 chart debut for Wincing the Night Away, all without much of anything in the way of promotion or radio play (with the exception of “New Slang” (the Garden State song) several years after its original release)

If you’re walking into a pitch meeting with a record label, and you’re trying to sell them on the idea of this Broken Bells collaboration ... whose name do you say first?

Danger Mouse and Jemini - "Getto Pop Life"
The Shins - "Gone For Good"
Broken Bells - "The Ghost Inside"

28) Hoosiers - "Choices"

In trademark law, there is a class of marks known as “geographically misdescriptive.” It’s a confusing area of the law, because some of these marks are legal and some aren’t, but the concept at the core of it is that there can be a benefit in associating your product with a place even if said product doesn’t actually originate there. You would want to label your produce line “California Gold” even if it were grown somewhere in South America.

And I understand this fascination with place names in the abstract. Growing up in rural Minnesota, it seemed like every Californian dot on the map had strong undertones of paradise. Santa Cruz. Big Sur. Santa Monica. Malibu. These were more than places. They were clothing companies, books, songs, terrible liqueurs. Every location evocative of a feeling, but a feeling that seemingly didn’t need a geographical reality to exist. After I moved here, it was a constantly surreal experience to actually see these places, especially when some (like clothing-company namesake Hollister) were anything but idyllic.

I say this because The Hoosiers are from England. Now, I have never thought of Indiana as being in any way cool. In fact, I would consider Indiana to be one of our least cool states. And yet, I would bet there are teenagers all over England for who the idea of Hoosiers (and the Hoosier state) has transcended all real-world meaning, become a purely imaginary construct where the streets are paved with impossibly catchy pop songs.

Language is weird.

Hoosiers - "Goodbye Mr. A"

27) Foxy Shazam - "Count Me Out"

Before we get to the main topic here, I’d just like to point out that this song, both in terms of lyrical phrasing and overall theme, is pretty much a double-time version of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” I approve of that.

More importantly, though … this was Ilana’s great musical epiphany of 2010. We saw these guys open for Free Energy at the Blank Club in San Jose. We showed up about halfway through their set, walked in while the lead singer was in the middle of a long, storefront-church preacher-style rant that ended with him screaming, “LADY … I’M FROM UNDER MY HAT!!!” From there, it got weirder. The keyboardist played while standing on his head and clapping his feet to the beat. The lead singer lit a cigarette, took one drag … then proceeded to eat the entire lit cigarette. He later offered a very sincere pre-apology before destroying a bunch of equipment. They did their last song acapella.

Before they were even off the stage, Ilana was at the merch table. Before I even knew she was gone, she had returned with a copy of their self-titled major label debut. In short, she acted exactly like I act about fifteen times a year, head over heels for some new musical discovery. And I don’t want this to sound patronizing, like “Oh, look, someone else likes a band. Isn’t that just the cutest thing ever?” Because I thought they were pretty great, too. I’m not telling a story about Ilana’s reaction because loving Foxy Shazam is somehow beneath me. I’m telling it because it is so incredibly life-affirming to watch someone unexpectedly fall in love with something completely random, be it a band or a song or even, I don’t know, a food. I would watch a new epiphany every day if I could.

TLC - "Waterfalls"
Foxy Shazam - "Bye Bye Symphony"

26) Wolf Parade - Yulia

In which things just get more and more likely until they become inevitable.

As I compiled this list, Wolf Parade announced they would be going on hiatus for at least a year. Well, that’s all well and good, guys, but who will write heartbreaking rock songs about doomed Russian cosmonauts now? Did you just think someone would step in and fill the void?

(Looks around.)

Does anyone want to start a 1960s space-race band with me?

Wolf Parade - "This Heart's On Fire"
Wolf Parade - "I'll Believe in Anything"


  1. I just listened to that Foxy Shazam song and all I can think of is, "Holy shit - that singer comes on like a young Ric Ocasek." I think that's a compliment? I always liked The Cars.

    Anyway, for the past few years you've talked a lot about the Drive By Truckers and it has never taken hold. I've checked out a few other songs that have been linked and I've been kinda meh. But "Birthday Boy" was really good - I really enjoyed that song and now I can see how the comparisons to the Hold Steady in terms of lyrical content and tastefully romanticizing being from the Midwest or South.

    (Comment that didn't fit anywhere else: It's a really good song about prostitution.)

  2. (1) Yeah, I think that's a compliment. JD and I decided that, if there was a Broadway musical about the life of Meat Loaf, it would sound like Foxy Shazam.

    (2) I think there's a lot of overlap between DBT and THS, even past the fact that they're friends, they tour together, Craig actually decided to start The Hold Steady because he had so much fun at a DBT show and realized he wanted to be in a band again.

    "Tastefully romanticizing" is close, but I think it's more like "realistically romanticizing," in that its obvious both bands love and identify with the place they come from ... now here are songs about drugs and poverty (and racism, for DBT) and just the dregs of society. But, lovingly, in a very empathetic way. That takes a LOT of touch.

    Also, this is a horrible-quality video in every respect, but probably one of my 5-10 all-time favorite live music moments.

  3. 1. Count me out is my favorite FS song.

    2. When it's looking like I will be at work until 2am I usually throw on the DBTs as I like one band to carry me through the night and for some reason I have their entire catalog. Based on these sessions I have begun to reevaluate my favorite lead singer. I think the other dudes on-stage personality and the fact that he didn't smoke enough cigarettes to hit the over on our bet my have caused me to be slightly myopic on choosing my favorite DBT lead singer.

    3. I am currently in the middle of a Breaking Band TV-on-DVD marathon. I will re-listen to the DBTs afterward. After watching the wire, I listened to Jay-z and B.I.G. again and appreciated new aspects to it. Wondering if the same will occur with the DBTs although they arent a band that sings entirely (or even at all?) about meth.