Wednesday, February 18, 2009

100 Songs for 2009: Contenders

No posts for three weeks, two posts in two days ... it must be a very tumultuous time for my millions of blog faithful.

Anyway, two reasons for today's post:

1) Talk about awesome new songs
2) Explain how to find new music online

Let's do #2 first.

I don't really have all that much to say about the legality/morality of downloading music. I think the law is archaic and draconian (and there are your SAT words of the day), but I'm not one of those people who try to convince you that what they're doing is somehow NOT illegal. Going to BitTorrent and downloading the entire Rolling Stones discography is illegal (and yet, strangely fulfilling). This is not a post about how to pirate full albums. It's about discovering new artists, and that means we're here to talk about blog aggregators.

There are thousands of music blogs out there, and most, unlike mine, link to MP3s. I don't do this because (1) I don't really understand computers (2) I don't want to have to pay for bandwidth, and (3) Since the only people who read this site are current and former roommates of mine, it's easier if you just ask me to burn you a CD.

Anyway, back to the blogging community. These sites host MP3s for a short time, usually songs approved by the bands for dissemination. MP3s are removed on request, and most obscure indie bands are happy to get any exposure at all. From the looks of it, the whole thing is a quasi-legal symbiotic relationship. I'm confident you won't get sued downloading sample MP3s from a music blog.

The problem, though, is that there are (as I said before) literally thousands of these blogs, each one eager to discover the Next Big Thing, each one hyping dozens of obscure bands each month. Maybe you read a few of them daily (my personal favorite is Pop Tarts Suck Toasted), but who has the time to be more comprehensive?

That's why we have The Hype Machine. The Hype Machine is a wonderful invention that catalogs every MP3 posted on every music blog. It allows users to stream the MP3s from the Hype Machine site itself or (by clicking on the image next to the song name) download the song from the blog in question. It's also fully searchable, though it keeps links for songs no longer available - make sure the song you're looking for still has the "Play" triangle to the right of it before trying to play/download.

So, from now on, when I reference a new/obscure song on this blog, assume that it can be found via Hype Machine.

That being said ... let's reference some new/obscure songs! Here are a handful of songs you'll probably be seeing on my Best of 2009 list.

1) Fever Ray - "Dry and Dusty"

Fever Ray is the side project from the girl half of The Knife, a Swedish electro-pop group that writes some of the most coldly haunting songs you'll ever hear. Some people are scared of death metal. I'm scared of "You Make Me Like Charity." Fever Ray isn't too much of a departure from the standard Knife blueprint, though "Dry and Dusty" comes off as even more fragile, like the most beautiful love song ever written on an inhospitable planet.

2) The Thermals - "Now We Can See"

The new U2 album leaked today. I haven't listened to it yet. However, when the new Thermals album leaks, I will probably drop whatever I'm doing to listen to it at least three times in a row with no distractions. These guys are a slightly more punk version of the Hold Steady (which, as you all know, is pretty much the highest compliment I can give a band), and no one handles dissonant religious imagery better. If you're not terrified of the possibility of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America, one listen to their previous album (The Body, The Blood, The Machine) will change your mind. Or maybe that's just me.

3) N.A.S.A. - "Strange Enough" (f/ Karen O and the ODB)

Hey, everybody, it's the latest victim of the Pitchfork Hype Spiral! After months of breathless news reports anticipating the album, everybody's favorite taste-makers gave The Gift of Apollo a 1.8. 1.8? That's just mean. And you guys were so excited about it ... Anyway, this album is the project of two DJs, one from North America, one from South America (that's where N.A.S.A. comes from), and it's basically a grab bag of hipster icons. Kanye West, Santogold, and Lykke Li on one song? Check. David Byrne and Chuck D together? Sure. Kool Keith and Tom Waits? Absolutely (Tangent: I'm not a huge Tom Waits fan, but Ilana's visceral, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard hatred of Tom Waits is not to be missed. I don't think I hate ANYTHING as much as she hates Tom Waits).

Anyway, most bloggers loved this album when it leaked. If you've been coming to Taco Tuesdays recently, I've been playing it. "Strange Enough" is my favorite track. Karen O's vocals make me wish I liked the Yeah Yeah Yeahs more, and ODB's verses make me wish he wasn't dead. Also, it freaks me out that he references N.A.S.A. over and over again, yelling out things like "It's Dirt Dog and N.A.S.A. ..." This guy died in 2004! How does he have old verses referencing a DJ collective whose debut album was released TODAY?!? Is he referencing NASA the astronauts? Is there an unreleased hip hop concept album where the ODB travels through space and time? If so, why hasn't THAT leaked? I know it's an old joke (MadTV did a sketch where they played unreleased Tupac tapes and he was talking about stuff going on in the room at the time, etc.), but I really need some answers on this one.

4) Bishop Allen - The Ancient Commonsense of Things

My buddy Curt is a big Bishop Allen fan. I'm not quite there yet, but their new album (Grrr...) is slowly winning me over. Another one that's been in recent Taco Tuesday rotation, it's more consistent then their two previous records, and not quite as cutesy (on the other hand, it is called Grrr..., which is about as cutesy as you can be, so who knows). Some bands need a tower of Marshall amps to sound good. Some need a backing orchestra. I'm pretty sure you could play Bishop Allen's whole catalog on a Fischer-Price xylephone and not lose that much, and that's a compliment to the band. These are good, simple songs.

1 comment:

  1. aaron, i need some kind of visual identification of what song is playing during taco tuesday. can we get a marquee board or something? it'll save the trouble of always asking you "who sings this one?"