Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Songs of 2011 - Songs 1-10

And now the Top Ten. Happy New Year all!

1. Calamity Song by The Decemberists.

"Had a dream.
You and me and the war of the end-times.
And I believe; California succumbed to the fault line.
We heaved relief.
As scores of innocents died."

The second "new" song that I heard in 2011 (the second track on "The King is Dead") and still my favorite 11 1/2 months later. Only Colin Meloy (okay, and maybe Michael Stipe and Florence Welch) could write such a bouncy, upbeat song about the apocalypse.

2. Bushwick Blues by The Delta Spirit.

"So maybe I'm the fool
for feeling used.
Well, the way we kissed that night -
I thought you knew.
Because my love is strong.
And my heart is weak.
After all."

 Thanks to my brother Jeff for turning me on to them. I'm sorry I missed them at Mountain Stage last year.

3. Yer Spring by Hey Rosetta!

"Oh man I hate this part -
When the car sails off the bridge.
Am I the knuckles white inside?
Am I the water rushing in?"

 Probably my favorite lines from any song all year long.

4. Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars.

"Ain't going back to Barton Hollow;
Devil gonna follow me 'ere I go.
Won't do me no good washing in the river;
Can't no preacher man save my . . . soul."

The video HAD to be black and white, didn't it? I love the way the singers' voices blend.

5. We Will All be Changed by Seryn. 

"We can write with ink and pen,
But we will sow with seeds instead.
Starting with words we've said.
We will all be changed."

I think I first saw mention of this song this summer on someone's "Best Songs of 2011 So Far" list.

6. Smart by Girl in a Coma.

"Hold your head up though you're shaking.
I've never felt a rush like this; not quite like this.
You were never one to fake it.
I've never felt a lust like this; not quite like this."

Just love the vocals on this song.

7. 100 Other Lovers by Devotchka.

"I know it's coming;
I can feel it in my bones.
This is information you already know.
Even if it's only temporarily;
Give the illusion tonight you belong to me."

I saw them at Bonnaroo too, and while they were great, they, somewhat disappointingly, didn't play this song.

8. Under Cover of Darkness by The Strokes.

"Get dressed, jump out of bed and do it best.
Are you OK?
I’ve been out around this town
And everybody’s been singing the same song, ten years."

I wanna be Julian Casablancas when I grow up.

9. Too Dramatic by Ra Ra Riot.

"Don't listen when you're weary.
Oh, but I wanna talk about it.

You and me weren't made for that, I'm sure."

Love the strings; not crazy about the video.

10. Down in the Valley by The Head and the Heart.

"Call it one drink too many; call it pride of a man.
But it don't make no difference if you sit or you stand.
'Cause they both end in trouble and start with a grin.
Yeah they both end in trouble and start with a grin."

The only group with more than one song in the Top Thirty other than The Decemberists, The Head and the Heart is a must-see in concert if you get the chance. Even if it's under a tent in 95 degree heat in the middle of a dusty field in Tennessee.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Favorite Songs of 2011 - Songs 11-20

The middle ten of my favorite songs from this year (or, in some cases, last).

11. Down by the Water by The Decemberists.

"All dolled up in gabardine
The lash-flashing Leda of pier nineteen
Queen of the water and queen of the old main drag."

I don't pretend to understand what Colin Meloy's getting at here, but I like it just the same.

12. You Are a Tourist by Death Cab for Cutie.
"When you find yourself the villain
In the story you have written,
It's plain to see.
That sometimes the best intentions
Are in need of redemption
Would you agree?"

Saw them live this year too, at Merriweather Post Pavilion along with Frightened Rabbit.

13. Faster by Matt Nathanson.

"You bite my lip.
You spike my blood.
You make my heart

 A ridiculously sappy-sweet love song. But (every once in a while) there's nothing wrong with that.

14. California (Hustle and Flow) by Social Distortion.

"Well, I was born, babe, with nothing to lose
But the black man taught me how to sing the blues
Made a little life outta rock ‘n’ roll
And that crazy California hustle and flow."

Another ol' fashion rock 'n roll song.

15. Boeing 737 by The Low Anthem.

"I was in the air when the towers came down
In a bar on the 84th floor.
I bought Philippe Petit a round,
and asked what his high wire was for.
He said, 'I put one foot on the wire,
one foot straight into heaven.'
As the prophets entered boldly into the bar
on the Boeing 737; Lord, on the Boeing 737."

An angry, cacophonic (is that a word?) song about 9/11. But why a 737 when the planes were 767's?  There's an artsy video too, but I like this one better.

16. Heart in Your Heartbreak by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

"She was the heart in your heartbreak;
She was the miss in your mistake.
And no matter what you take,
you're never going to forget."

Sounds like '80's pop punk to me.

17. Walk by Foo Fighters.

"I'm dancing on my grave.
I'm running through the fire.
Forever, whatever;
I never wanna die."

If Kurt Cobain had lived, I have to think that musically he'd be more like Eddie Vedder than Dave Grohl these days. Not that there's anything wrong with Vedder's music, but thank goodness that Grohl's still rockin'.

18. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay.

"I turn the music up, I got my records on.
From underneath the rubble sing a rebel song.
Don't want to see another generation drop;
I'd rather be a comma than a full stop."

Yeah, they might rip off Radiohead (although this songs sounds more like U2 to me). Yeah, the lyrics may be "wussy" as the younger male member of my family insists. But I like it, and it's my list.

19. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People.

"Robert's got a quick hand.
He'll look around the room, won't tell you his plan.
He's got a rolled cigarette, hanging out his mouth he's a cowboy kid.
Yeah, found a six shooter gun
In his dad's closet hidden with a box of fun things, I don't even know what.
But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you."


The song of the summer -- a bouncy pop treat -- until you listen to the lyrics.

20. The Ballad of Mona Lisa by Panic! at the Disco.

"Say what you mean.
Tell me I'm right and let the sun rain down on me.
Give me a sign - I wanna believe."

While the lyrics say he wants to believe, the video says he's already written her off.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Favorite Songs of 2011 - Songs 21-30

The last few years in November and December I've posted a countdown of my favorite songs of the past year on Facebook. Given the readership for my Bonnaroo post this past summer, I thought I'd republish the list here this year. Each will start with some lyrics from the song, sometimes followed by a brief comment about it or why I like it.

These are my favorite songs; not the "best" songs according to me or some critic. Some you may know, others you may not. The only rules are that it must be a song released in 2010 or 2011 and that I like it. I hope you enjoy them (or at least some of them) too.

21. Electrified by Ben Sollee.

"If your heart is unsteady, they can make it beat in time.
If you mind is confused, it can be clarified.
If you're old-fashioned, you will be modernized.
Everything is electrified."

Just a man and his cello, making great music. In what will be a recurring theme, I saw him at Bonnaroo, although not at this impromptu concert.

22. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes.

"I was raised up believing I was somehow unique.
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see.
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be:
A functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me."

A beautiful song about . . . withdrawing from the rat race? Giving in and becoming a "functioning cog"? Discuss amongst yourselves.

23. Block After Block by Matt + Kim.

"Eat when you’re hungry and
Sleep when you’re slipping like
Tired dogs rest their paws
Today we show our flaws."

A get-up-and-jump-around song if ever there was one. The whole joint was jumpin' when they played at Bonnaroo.

24.  99 Problems by Hugo.

"Looking for the prize but I don’t want blood
I order one drink then I drink the flood
Well, you can come inside but your friends can’t come."

Pretty much the antithesis of the next song on the list. Since Hugo apparently is signed with Jay-Z's label, I guess we can assume that Jay-Z approved of Hugo's partial appropriation of his song.

25.   One and Only by Adele.

"I dare you to let me be your,
Your one and only.
Promise I'm worthy
To hold in your arms."

More than this summer's ubiquitous Rolling in the Deep, I think this song really shows off Adele's great voice. Just a good old fashioned soul ballad.

26.  We Used to Wait by Arcade Fire.

"I used to write.
I used to write letters;
I used to sign my name.
I used to sleep at night.
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain."

This song would be higher except that it's really a 2010 song, and even though my rules allow 2010 songs here, it should have been on last year's list. Great song, just the same. GO SEE THEM LIVE!

27.  My Body by Young the Giant.

"Stop the train is riding down to the station where I lived
When I was a cool kid.
Hey, is it my fault that the fallen embers burn down in a spiral
Round your crown of thieves?"

One of the few genuine rock 'n roll songs on this year's list.

28.  Zorbing by Stornoway.

"Lying in your attic;
I can feel the static;
The storm has broken, heavens open.
So electrifying, oh I'm nearly flying;
Lost my heart between the sheets of lightning."

I have no idea what "zorbing" is but I like the song . . .

29.  Mine Smell Like Honey by REM.

"If the end comes faster than we had expected;
And predictions lead us to the final fall.
If the flowers crack the grave and leave the patterns of the pavement;
I can hear you shouting over it all."

Thanks, boys, it was a great ride.

30.  Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart.

"A year from now we'll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they're goin' to better places
But our friends will be gone away."

One of my top five favorite performances at Bonnaroo this summer.