Monday, December 7, 2009

100 Songs Week: 81-100

81) Donkeyboy – Sometimes

Norway strikes again with this retro synth-pop anthem. Ilana’s take: “Where have I heard this before? Have you been playing this a lot, or does it just remind me of every eighties song ever put together?”

82) Lightning Dust – I Knew

I like this song quite a bit on its own merits, but I’m fascinated that Pitchfork called it “an especially appropriate track to explore now, since both lyrics and melody pretty precisely capture the ephemeral nature of summer (and its accompanying flings), making ‘I Knew’ a welcome addition to any mixtape chronicling a proggy mid-year romance.”

Has anyone ever had a relationship they would consider “proggy”? What could that possibly mean? Here, in a sense, proggy is short for progressive, so are they talking about a same-sex relationship? A mixed-race relationship? I know they mean “prog” like the prog-rock of the 70s and 80s, but has anyone ever had a relationship primarily characterized by the fact that you both love Yes? This is why I love Pitchfork so very much. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m sure the writer of that passage really HAS had all kinds of proggy romances, and it makes me happy that people like that exist out there in the world.

83) I Was a King – Step Aside

From the blog (6/18):

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.

84) jj – Masterplan

Fun fact I learned while researching this: the vocal sample on this song ("I'm dyin' in this fucking country-ass fucked-up town") is from a YouTube video where an on-location reporter freaks out when a bug flies into his mouth (search for “Reporter Turns Ghetto in 3 Seconds”). The video has been posted at least ten times, and one of them has been viewed over five million times. I will never understand how viral media works.

85) Little Boots – New in Town

From the blog (6/18):

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.

86) Internet Forever – Break Bones

I called their band name stupid back in April, but, really … it’s possible that it’s brilliant. There is no middle ground, though.

From the blog (4/26):

Ignore stupid band name. Enjoy excellent twee-fuzz single.

87) Dreamdate – How Low are You?

I’m not sure I fully understand the blogosphere’s obsession with retro-Motown-type girl groups. The must-read blog Pop Tarts Suck Toasted gushes: “Basically this is the best of both worlds, definitively garage rock yet also super cutesy pop music. I guess it makes sense and it definitely makes me happy listening to this kind of upbeat pop rock.” I say: Eh, this is pretty good. And they’re from Oakland. So they come in at number 87.

88) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Young Adult Friction

The one where they sound exactly like The Stone Roses. Fine with me.

89) Discovery – So Insane

The twenty-first century “Electric Slide.” “Gonna teach you, teach you …”

90) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

From the blog (4/1):

Though it's obviously kinda played out, I will always believe that "Maps" is a Top 20 all-time love song. Past that, though, I never really got into the YYY's. This album is supposedly dance-ier than previous albums, and I have no real frame of reference for evaluating that statement. Anyway, this came on the radio one time in Nate's car, and he said "This sounds like the kind of thing you'd be into." Either because of or in spite of that statement, I DO like this song.

91) Shout Out Louds – Walls

One last representative from Sweden, and one last “Song I heard for the first time this week, and probably should have ranked higher on this list.” The band’s last album, 2007’s Our Ill Wills, was incredible, and, if this song is any indication, their 2010 follow-up will be just as good.

92) XX – Crystalised

The last song to be added to the list. I really enjoyed the album, but could never pick a standout track. Then, a couple days ago, sitting at Grace and Ben’s, this song came on some internet radio station, and I thought, “Yes, this song IS very good. It should be on the list.” So, sorry Grizzly Bear’s “While You Wait for the Others.” It could have been you.

93) Voxtrot – Berlin, Without Return

While Pitchfork called “Trepanation Party” (#99 on our list) “a moribund comeback wallowing in production tics,” they still conceded that Voxtrot had “miles of potential.” This song is a hopeful return to that potential, back to the more immediate sound that characterized their first three EPs. I worry that this list has become nothing more than a “Bands Who Have Albums Coming Out in 2010” primer, but I have to add one last plug here: New Voxtrot next year. I still believe.

94) Junior Boys – Parallel Lines

Maybe the best song for headphones on this list. When people talk about the “textures of sound,” I’m pretty sure they’re talking about music like this.

95) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Everything with You

This is the one where they sound exactly like The Smiths. Again, fine with me.

96) Girls – Lust for Life

The biggest local hit of the year, which isn’t that bold a statement, unless you’re a big fan of My First Earthquake’s “Cool in the Cool Way.” As much as San Francisco is lauded for being artistic and cutting-edge, the list of breakthrough rock bands the Bay Area has produced in my lifetime is basically: Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows, Train, Trapt, Smash Mouth. So it’s nice to see Girls get some love on a national stage, though I think most people expect this song to be an Iggy Pop cover (it’s not).

97) Camera Obscura – French Navy

I like a band with a sense of humor, and Camera Obscura has an album called “Underachievers Please Try Harder.” I also like bands that write airtight hooks, and this song’s “I wanted to control it / But love, I couldn't hold it” chorus is as good as any.

98) Amos the Transparent – Lemons (aka Big Fish, Little Pond)

From the blog (4/1):

I have no idea who Amos the Transparent is. I've never heard anything else he's done. This song sounds like a lost Elliott Smith single, and it's just a study in songwriting. The genius of it is this: the first transition doesn't really work for me. It's too sparse, it feels like an attempt at a key change that doesn't happen, the song barely hangs on. But when they do it the second time, with more instruments and a backing vocal and more powerful drums ... it's perfect. I think the high point of this song (the line "Maybe in a month or two you'll count this as a blessing / Or maybe you'll spend years second-guessing") is like the last piece locking into a puzzle.

99) Voxtrot – Trepanation Party

From the blog (4/1):

Another band going the dance-influenced route (Ilana thinks this sounds kinda like Depeche Mode, and I agree), Voxtrot is a band that, honestly, I never thought I'd hear from again. They came out with three awesome EPs in 2004-2006, then released a full-length in 2007 that sounded like overproduced Grey's Anatomy soundtrack rejects, then disappeared. This song is not without its flaws: It's too long, and some of the lyrics (especially "I will always be an outlaw for your love") are a little clichéd, but I'm just so excited to have these guys making music again. Their songs got me through a tough time in my life (those wonderful Caltrain commutes from San Jose to the city), and seeing them live at Great American Music Hall in 2007 was one of my first great "I can survive in San Francisco" moments (plus, Krunal was there - always a bonus). Here's hoping for a full return to greatness from the boys.

100) Young Dro – On Fire

From the blog (7/22):

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have one change to the program this summer. If you’ll turn to page four … playing the part of T.I. for this summer’s “Southern Rap Hit” will be Young Dro. That’s Young Dro in T.I.’s role. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. And now, “Southern Rap Hit” …"

Also, there’s a swine flu reference in this one. Topical!


  1. two comments:

    1) Break through bay area rock bands in our lifetime include Green Day and AFI. I am not sure if this makes your point from #96 more or less strong, but glaring omissions none the less.

    2) I felt the same way as you about the Yeah Yeah Yeah's until a couple months ago when I got Y Control stuck in my head and had to listen to it 20 times in the span of a day to rectify the situation. They all of a sudden clicked in my brain as being brilliant rather than super anoyying with a couple good songs. Give it a try though I am not sure it will work equally well.

  2. Yeah, I'm kinda cherry-picking here by excluding the punk scene. Besides Green Day and AFI, you could mention Rancid, NOFX, Op Ivy, and probably a few more I'm forgetting.

    Not sure why I'm making the differentiation between "punk" and "rock" here, but, basically, I just think there should be more good indie bands from the area. It seems like every band I listen to comes from about five cities: London, Brooklyn, Austin, Portland ... and maybe one I'm forgetting. Why not San Francisco?

    I mean, we have Rogue Wave ...

  3. First of all the three cities you are forgetting are Seattle, Los Angeles (personal musical bias that I am forcing upon you), and Omaha (I am almost certain that you are a sucker for all Saddle Creek realeases). Relating to your Punk/ Rock dichotomy I stated Green Day b/c they really havn't made a punk album since Niomrod (pushing it) and AFI hasn't since The Art of Drowning.

    Does this dilute your argument re: indie music? Not really.

  4. (1) Yeah, you're gonna win this argument. Green Day and AFI are both pretty clearly in the "rock" category at this point. Basically, I just found out that Train was from SF and kinda went off the deep end with "Wait ... does our music actually suck?" ideas.

    (2) Re: Omaha. I mean, I do love Bright Eyes and most of Conor's side projects, but as far as my next favorite Saddle Creek act ... Two Gallants? The Good Life? I dunno ... Cursive never really did anything for me, and The Rural Alberta Advantage would definitely be on my Most Overhyped of 2009 list.

    Although Tilly and the Wall are from Omaha, and I do like them quite a bit. Probably not enough to put Omaha on my personal map, though.