We're counting down our 100 favorite songs of the year. Today, 36-40. Check out previous posts here.
40) Delays - "Unsung"
You just don’t find un-ironic falsetto very often in the indie rock world. Cherish it when you do. For me, the Delays are one of a very small number of bands that don’t really signify anything. As far as I’m concerned, this song is completely unconnected to anything else in the world. They exist in a vacuum, and as a result listening to them is a very clean, unencumbered experience.*
* Note: If it turns out these guys are all ironic-post-something or a performance- art commentary on the inherent contradictions of something else, or a conceptual … thing … please just don’t tell me.
Delays - "Hey Girl"
Delays - "Nearer than Heaven"
39) Decemberists - "Down by the Water"
Gillian Welch is my generation’s Emmylou Harris, which is to say that, if she’s singing backing vocals on your song, it is by definition a good song.
Decemberists - "July, July!"
Decemberists - "16 Military Wives"
38) Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Heart in Your Heartbreak"
If I had one piece of advice for all the adorable little indie twee bands out there, it would be this: SELL OUT!
I know people were up in arms about the fact that Pains of Being Pure at Heart are now working with a producer whose credits include U2 and Smashing Pumpkins, but honestly … where else were they going to go? Their lo-fi debut album was brilliant, of course, but by the end of it they were already recycling elements. No one wanted them to make the same album over and over again for their entire career.
So they took a chance, filled out their sound, and the results are undeniable. Selling out as the artistically-responsible thing to do … we are through the looking glass here, people.
Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Come Saturday"
Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Young Adult Friction"
37) Gaslight Anthem - "The Queen of Lower Chelsea"
Here’s an attempt to explain just how captivating Gaslight Anthem is as a live band. This summer, a bunch of us trekked down to San Jose to see them play a free show as part of the annual “Music in the Park” series. As with any trip to San Jose for any reason, I mostly talked people into coming along with a promise of delicious Mexican food from La Victoria Taqueria, home of the World Famous Orange Sauce. If I had to pick a last meal, this might be it. It’s that good. So we made plans to grab burritos after the show.
I worked at "Music in the Park" for the two years I lived in San Jose, and I was pretty sure nobody played encores. So we all danced and sang along through an enjoyable Gaslight Anthem set, then, when the band left the stage, we started making our way toward La Vic’s. People were excited. I can admit that at least a few people in our group were there for the Orange Sauce first, and the concert second.
Then, unexpectedly, the band came out for an encore. And then they played a second song. And then a third. And the encore stretched on and on.
I’d like to tell you that we stayed until the very end, that we put our burrito dreams aside for as long as was necessary to fully enjoy the show. If we’re being honest, though … we didn’t quite make it all the way through the encore. But we made it most of the way through the encore. And, if you don’t think that’s an incredibly high compliment, then you’ve never been to La Victoria. If I was in Gaslight Anthem, I’d put this up in bold letters on the band’s official website.
Gaslight Anthem: A bunch of people put off getting La Victoria burritos (with Orange Sauce) for like twenty minutes longer than expected because our live show is so good.
Gaslight Anthem - "Film Noir"
Gaslight Anthem - "Old White Lincoln"
36) The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
In which we capture the intensity.
High Violet was almost universally loved this year, but for some reason it didn't stick with me. It’s not quite a simple as saying, “It’s too sad,” because I still listen to sad music, and I don’t think I’m somehow too constantly happy to relate to a band like The National. That’s not it at all. It’s more than I really don’t relate to their specific brand of depression. The songs all seem to come from a very claustrophobic place, hemmed in by the city, trapped by almost everything ... and I just don’t think that’s one of my issues. Sorry. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is a great, though, full of wonderful little moments when all that weight lifts.
The National - "Mistaken for Strangers"
The National - "Lit Up"