Wednesday, December 6, 2017

100 Songs for 2017: Outtakes Week (Day Three)

My 100 Songs for 2017 list comes out December 11! It’s … coming along nicely, I think. Regardless, between now and then, we’re shining the spotlight on some deserving songs that didn’t make the cut.

Today, we check in on some old friends, artists who have featured prominently on previous 100 Songs lists, but find themselves on the outside looking in this year. Every year, these kinds of cuts make me feel weirdly guilty for two reasons.

First, I feel like I'm being ungrateful to the artists themselves. Objectively I understand that it's not like Stuart Murdoch is going to read this and get offended that neither of the Belle and Sebastian singles released this year made the list, but I still feel like I need to include some kind of disclaimer: Stuart, I love you. B&S's entire catalog is incredible. Push Barman to Open Old Wounds could be some other band's entire career, and that's your b-sides compilation. Anyway, it starts to get too involved at that point.

Second, I feel like I owe a duty of disclosure to the readers of this site. It's not really important to me that you hear the specific songs we're discussing today, but it is important to me that you're aware of these artists. So yeah, if you don't love "Somewhere Up There," that's fine, but Gossamer is a really important album for me, and "Moth's Wings" and "Little Secret" and ... if hearing this song that I think is merely okay piques your interest in songs that I love, I feel like I'm obligated to spread the gospel.

As a compromise, then, let's talk about them in an Outtakes post. And let's shout out something awesome from the band's back catalog to offset the fact that most of these blurbs are kinda negative.

The Killers - "The Man"

I don't think we give The Killers enough credit for their versatility. They burst onto the scene as the Vegas chapter of the New York rock revival, in the cold Joy Division/Television mold of The Strokes and Interpol. Two years later, they returned with Sam's Town, which is nothing if not a Springsteen homage. If you Google "The Killers sound like" the first two auto-fill options are The Cure and The Cars, which is amazing because those bands sound nothing like each other and yet The Killers have, at various times, kinda sounded like both of them. In 2017, they're basically Duran Duran. I have no idea how that's possible.
The Shins - "Name for You"

It makes me sound like a crazy person, because I can't really explain it, but in the chorus, when the lead vocal sings "They've got a name for you, girl / What's in a name?" the backing vocal just sings "blah blah blah blah" and it just infuriates me in a really visceral way. I hate the way the line is delivered (too forceful, almost sarcastic), I hate the way the backing vocals are mixed (way too loud), it honestly ruins the entire song for me. And I really have no idea why.
Belle & Sebastian - "We Were Beautiful"

Seeing B&S at The Independent the night before their Outside Lands show was one of my favorite musical experiences of the year. Their live show has such a massive amount of energy and optimism and just flat-out happiness and it bothers me that every person I hung out with in college just knows them as "some old sad bastard music" because of that one line in High Fidelity.
Passion Pit - "Somewhere Up There"

I've called myself a huge Passion Pit fan before, but the facts kinda point in the other direction. Earlier this year, before the album was available on Spotify, Michael Angelakos offered free advance copies to fans who retweeted some science thing and, honestly, I couldn't be bothered. If I am a Passion Pit fan, I am a massively ungrateful Passion Pit fan. (Even now, I'm too lazy to find out what that science thing was all about.)
Purity Ring - "Asido"

I feel like reality has really caught up to Purity Ring's vision of a cold, terrifying future defined by formless but vaguely metallic unease, and I'm really interested to see how this impacts their artistic direction.
Cut Copy - "Standing in the Middle of the Field"

Played some of these songs for Ilana last night to get her opinion on them, and we got about five seconds into this one and she dismissively said, "It sounds like 'Under the Sea.'" Not sure I agree with that assessment, but I can't think of anything else to say about this one, so there you go.
Frank Turner - "There She Is"

Every artist who releases a greatest hits album (remember those?) feels the need to include one new song among the beloved classics. And that one new song is ... always disappointing.
Ryan Adams - "To Be Without You"

Heartbreaker and Gold were a massive part of the soundtrack of my life for my first two years of college, but now when I hear a Ryan Adams song, I just think, "I wonder if this is about Mandy Moore."
Conor Oberst - "Napalm"

This is Bob Dylan-y, even by Conor Oberst standards. So ... it's really Bob Dylan-y.
Shout Out Louds - "Porcelain"

Ilana said this sounds like "Don't Fear the Reaper," which might be giving it too much credit. It's "Don't Fear the Reaper" without the cowbell or the chorus.
San Fermin - "Asleep on the Train"

Even the recent past is a foreign country. "Sonsick" was my Song of the Year in 2013 - four years ago - and it already seems like a decision made by a complete stranger.
The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Beacon Hill"

Put on a great show at Bottom of the Hill earlier this year, including a stripped down encore performed from the middle of the audience. Unfairly penalized a little bit here because "White Lights," the clear standout from The Wild, already made my list as a single last year.

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