Monday, January 5, 2015

Guest List Week 2014: Carl's Top 20

It's the triumphant return of Guest List Week!  Every day from now until I run out of lists, we'll take a look at 2014 through the eyes of people who are not me.  (My list, if you missed it, is here).  I'm lucky that my friends have such uniformly exquisite taste in music. 

Kicking off Guest List Week Three, it's Carl Anderson!  Carl's 2013 Guest List is here, his 2014 Guest List is below.

(1) Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”

This could be the college rock track of the decade, if college rock was still a thing, which it isn’t because everyone in this band is younger than college rock itself.  I love them for carrying forward the banner of write-it-record-it-release-it albums, and for doing it so well.  Lyrics with just the right amount of pretense to crush it once in a while: “So honey take me by the hand and we can sign some papers. Forget the invitations, floral arrangements, and breadmaker.”  The first time I heard that I knew I was hooked. 

(2) Colony House – “Silhouettes”

As much as I like bands who take the necessity of low budget recording and somehow turn it into a virtue, I’m in awe of the sound these guys achieved.  I guess it shows what you can do if you grow up in a musical household learning to play on incredible instruments (their dad is a Christian music star).  And never listening to anything that suggests a need to improve on the music of the 50s?  I bet they know some of the most talented engineers in Nashville.  This makes me wish everybody recorded there.        

(3) MisterWives – “Reflections”

A perfect match of Mandy Lee’s on-the-edge-of-crazy delivery with a narrative of being on-the-edge-of-crazy.  Right from the opening: “You didn't close the door/Left a crack open, I couldn't ignore the/Faint possibility/Of having hope in this insanity that/We still could be.”

(4) Parquet Courts – “Black and White”

These guys put out a lot of music and spend a lot of time trying be the reincarnation of the Velvet Underground.  This track strikes 70s gold (in the VU sense). 

(5) Cathedrals – “Harlem”

Every San Francisco band with ambition takes a similar arc: we’re on bandcamp, we got a record deal, Hype Machine loves us, and now we only play here at music festivals.  These two kids did the whole thing in like six months.  Listening to this, you can hear how they did it. 

(6) Generationals – “Black Lemon”

Generationals is back on stride, consistently writing pop songs that you swear you heard in commercials even in the rare case that you really didn’t.  Just don’t go see them live.

(7) Zola Jesus – “Dangerous Days”

Don’t know much about this except that it is possible to enjoy it for months without feeling any need to find out who Zola Jesus is.  It’s that kind of thing, the music you want in the background all the time.

(8) Lake Street Dive – “You Go Down Smooth”

If you didn’t hear this in 2014, you must have been living in a cave.  At the bottom of the ocean.  And dead.  Basically, you were Osama Bin Laden.  Easier to respect than to love, you can forget how good their new songs are. 

(9) Emma Blackery – “Perfect”

Emma Blackery is not the music industry.  She’s just a musician, which is pretty much synonymous with being a victim of the music industry.  She is also a YouTuber.  That means her day job is posting her thoughts and then coping with torrents of bile that flood back at her.  She is fighting the good fight, and we should pay more attention to people like her and less to the extremely boring people who are the music industry. 

(10) Grimes, Blood Diamonds – “Go”

I aspire not to care what the Internet says, but when the Internet says trite and stupid things about a new song I like, I probably listen to the song more.  That happened here. 

(11) Röyksopp – “Something in my Heart”

Röyksopp takes over the charts. There will never be a more Röyksoppian hit than this.

(12) St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”

This year’s CD from St. Vincent broke through for me.  The earlier stuff was just over the line of trying too hard to be different, and I’m kind of over that.  This is just on the right side of the line.

(13) Bilderbuch – “Maschin”

Here’s this year’s most anticipated Austrian electro-prog rock single, and it is also the best.  I know you are thinking: I did not know that.  And also: because why would I care?  Bear with me.  One cool thing about listening to euro music is that some concepts that would be instantly fatal here are viable there.  In Vienna, everyone listens to electronica and apparently there’s a lot of respect for progressive rock, so combining the two doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  No label in the U.S. would buy studio time for this, but it works. 

(14) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Coming Down”

Apparently Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is now just Alec Ounsworth and everyone else is a replacement. What a huge improvement.

(15) Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out”

This track is my bandcamp find of the year. Although the sound hints at Sweden, the video suggests something a little different.  It just goes to show, anyone you meet could be spending weekends playing synth and xylophone in an indie band. 

(16) Bleached – “For the Feel”

Girls who like the Ramones, there can never be enough.  This sounds like a Santa Monica bar.  Or rather a movie version thereof.  If you could really expect to hear this in a Santa Monica bar, I would move there.

(17) Broods – “L.A.F”

I only heard this CD recently.  I'm not sure this is the best track on the album but so far it is my favorite.

(18) Lykke Li – “Heart of Steel”

Lykki Li the contrarian.  She made a long playing record.  There really is no single.  The whole is better than any particular track.  I picked this one to represent because it comes near the end, and we are nearing the end of this list.

(19) Foxygen – “How Can You Really”

I was listening to this when I read that Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 reached number one on the Billboard album chart.  It made me think that if these guys could find a way to try on a whole album’s worth of material, they could be number one too.

(20) Nick Mulvey – “Fever to the Form”

A singer and his acoustic guitar make a natural final entry.  Happy new year, everybody.

1 comment:

  1. Typically excellent year-end list from Carl. The range of the choices is amazing. Thanks for putting it together.