Wednesday, January 31, 2007

2007: A Great Year for Music...So Far

January isn't even over yet and I may already have heard the two best albums of the year. We'll see how they hold up, but I have already listened to both albums several times over and I am still enthralled by them. For my money, my favorite album of the year will likely be...

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
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Bird's previous album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, was a quirky, off-kilter beauty that hinged upon swirling melodies and Bird's crystalline vocals and glorious whistling. Armchair Apocrypha is a less idiosyncratic work, but it is indubitably an album only Andrew Bird can make. Many of these songs have been floating around in various incarnations, released in EP's, performed at concerts before arriving in their current form on the album. The songs are sure to be reworked again when Bird goes on tour, but the versions that appear in Armchair Apocrypha are in perfect shape.

Bird is, if anything, a scholar of indie/pop music. He has taken apart these songs, figured out what works, and meticulously pieced them back together to arrive at their current state, and he does so without tampering with the heart and soul of each song. These songs have not been butchered into Frankenstein's monster but rather smoothed and polished, their best qualities highlighted before finally stringing them together into the gorgeous, graceful album I'm listening to now. It's hard to pin down which songs I like the most. The best thing about the album is that the songs work well together and on their own. If forced to identify favorites, though, I'll just say that the back to back pair of "Heretics" and "Dark Matter" are my most listened to tracks.

Grade: A

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
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I was worried that Arcade Fire's follow-up to Funeral would be disappointing. Thankfully it is not. In fact, in some ways, it is a more affecting work than Funeral. Neon Bible abounds in rousing, glorious songs and no band can do big, sweeping music like the passionate individuals that make up Arcade Fire. The songs in Neon Bible can sound dark and forbidding, but there is an element of hope in them. The album opens with "Black Mirror" with its portentous keyboard line and threatening strings that come on late in the song, and the lyrics talk about a mirror that can see through things to reveal the essential truth. But just when it looks like we're in for some heavy songs, the band brings on the clap-along rhythm of "Keep the Car Running." This may sound jarring, but it's not. They complement each other, as if to say that there's no hope without hopelessness. Now, I'm not sure if that's the central message, but that's what I get when I listen to these songs.

As in Funeral, not all the songs work here, but the ones that do can make you forget about the clunkers. The good news is that there are no god-awful songs on here. Even the song I've been skipping over, "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations," is serviceable. The title track sounds unfinished, but songs like "(Antichrist Television Blues)" and "Windowsill"--the beating heart of the album--are astounding creations. The album ends with an enigmatic song about transcendence called "My Body is a Cage." With the song's use of church-like organs as a centerpiece and a closing lyrical plea to "set my spirit free," Neon Bible ends on a note of uncertainty, sounding both jubilant and lamentable. The album leaves us with a sense of doubt and no sure answers, so we start the album over again hoping to glean a little more understanding.

Grade: A

Monday, January 22, 2007

18 Miles

Distance: 17.58 miles
Time: 2:48

What a difference a week makes. It was still a cold morning for our 18 miler but not as cold as last week. The news had made a big deal about how warm it would get during the weekend, so I took that as a sign that I can wear shorts. I did, and I was fine during the run, but as soon as I stopped running and the sun played peekaboo behind the clouds, I froze my ass off.

The run was tough not because of the weather. The weather was actually perfect. It was just one of those bad days where you start off tired and never improve. It was an ordeal just to get myself to the next walk break--and this was definitely a run where I appreciated a walk/run approach. There are times, especially now that I can confidently call myself an intermediate runner, when I feel like I don't need to take as many walk breaks as others. I still take them, of course. I'm a wuss and will welcome any excuse to be comfortable, but I think I can manage with fewer walk breaks. In fact, during my recent half marathons I've played around with not taking a walk break until four or five miles into a race. Even after that I only take them every mile, so it works to between a 7:1 and 8:1. But on Saturday, though, every walk break was welcome relief.

Our time was still under our recommended training pace of 10 minutes per mile, but compared to last week we slowed down some. And it wasn't even a full 18 miles (17.58 according to Sean's Garmin). My legs felt like they feel near the end of the marathon, when you just want to keep moving or else your muscles will cramp up. At that point there is no third or fourth gear, just neutral and you're coasting along hopefully on a downhill.

When I finished all I wanted to do was sit--actually, lie down--and have someone bring me a cup of coffee. Unfortunately I didn't get my coffee until three hours later, but boy, was it good. Later that evening Liz had her beer party and she raised an amazing $1,100. I had some mighty tasty beer but remained fairly sober. Good times.

This week ought to be a recovery week for me. I'll try to dial it down a little. My knee feels a little tweaked, and I need to massage my calves. They're mighty sore and can use some pampering or abuse. For Saturday we're scheduled for 8 miles and the following week is the half marathon. Goal time: 1:42.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

16 Miles

Distance: 16 miles
Time: 2:28

And just like that we're up to 16 miles. On Saturday we run 18. The marathon is six weeks away. Thus far it's been my smoothest training experience. No injuries. The only thing that slowed me down was getting sick just before Christmas, but other than that nothing has bothered me. Let's hope it stays that way.

The 16 miler actually turned out fairly well due to miserable conditions. California has been enduring a cold spell for the last few days and the morning of the 16 miler my car's thermometer read 30 degrees fahrenheit. That's below freezing, if you didn't know. Negative degrees in celsius. I was properly bundled before the run and during it. The only thing that bothered me at the start was the Powerade bottle I was carrying. I bought it just before the run at a convenience store, so it had been refrigerated. The morning was cold enough without having to hold a refrigerated bottle of Powerade. Even that wasn't so bad. Sean and I kept a good pace for the first seven miles, and by the time I got to the aid station near the dam I figured the temperature had risen enough and my body warmed up enough to divest myself of my jacket and gloves. Big mistake. As soon as I started running again I was met by strong, chilly winds. The temperature felt like it dropped eight degrees, and with my shirt somewhat soaked in sweat it felt like ice against my skin. I didn't think I would last. I told myself that I'll warm up soon enough when I get out in the sun. I tried drafting off Sean who was also freezing but he at least had a long sleeve shirt under a short sleeve shirt. That didn't work, and even when we got out in the sun the chilled winds negated any effect the sun had. I started running faster to warm up, but that still wasn't effective enough. By the time we got to the turnaround point, with only six miles left, my hands were red and wind-burned. They tingled with numbness. The run back, though, was a lot more comfortable. The wind died down a little and what wind there was was at our back.

The good thing about the miserable weather was that it made me run faster. The run up to "Elmer" usually is a tough slog, but I barely noticed or felt the distance. I was too preoccupied with how cold I was to worry about the distance. When I got up to Elmer I wondered how I got there so fast. I wound up completing the 16 miles in 2 hours and 28 minutes even with a bathroom break. Sean wasn't too far behind. I ran ahead of him in the latter stages, and as I was taking one last walk break he caught up to me and pushed for us to finish under 2:30. Never one to back down from a challenge, I started running and picked up the pace.

Another good sign from the run is that I was not sore at all the following day. I might have finally beaten my body into submission.

The last couple of days I've run inside the gym. I'm a wimp and I just don't want to run outside. Unfortunately the cold, dry weather has resulted in increased static activity, so while running on the treadmill I've given myself some startling jolts. This is no fun.

Speaking of treadmill running, Kiley asked me if I ever get competitive with others running next to me at the gym. Of course, I do. Everyone does. We all look at how fast another person is going or how far they've gone and try to show off by going faster, farther and longer. Not only that, but I also show off by feigning to look bored or unchallenged by my pace. It's a boost to the ego to see an otherwise fit guy next to you struggling to maintain their 5 mph pace while I'm coasting along on my "easy" 6.5 mph pace. That is until a guy running at 8.5 mph takes up the treadmill next to you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Top 25 Favorite Albums of 2006

1. Chad VanGaalen – Skelliconnection

Nothing has disappointed me more this year than the lack of adoration for VanGaalen’s album. I read the odd mention here and there on blogs, but the buzz never built and reviews—while appreciative—were mixed. What I love most about Skelliconnection and why I can’t stop listening to it is the creativity that is palpable in every single track. VanGaalen is renowned for his do-it-yourself ethos, playing all the instruments in this self-recorded album, drawing the album cover art, and animating his videos. While this is all admirable, VanGaalen’s first album, Infiniheart, suffered from a lack of focus and needed some pruning. The album’s brilliant tracks, like “After the Afterlife” and “Echo Train,” were just about drowned out by the lesser developed ones. Skelliconnection does not have this problem. The album is lean, exuberant, imaginative, and—most of all—moving. VanGaalen’s voice reminds one of Neil Young’s teeny squeal but VanGaalen has better control of his voice and uses it to goosebump-inducing effect like in his furious shriek in “Dead Ends.” The voice is showcased at its passionate best in the slower songs, especially “Graveyard” and “Sing Me 2 Sleep.” Everything about Skelliconnection, though, resonates as something made of the deepest creative passion.

Hear Ye: "Burn 2 Ash"; "Gubbbish"; "Graveyard"; "Dead Ends"; "Sing Me 2 Sleep"

2. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time

Released early in 2006, Everything All the Time is an album I have yet to get tired of. It has become a reliable album whenever I need to listen to something good but not exactly sure what. This always hit the spot in 2006. It doesn’t hurt that it also has the year’s best song in “The Funeral” along with other, equally great songs such as the closing duo of “Monsters” and “St. Augustine.” When other bands opt for a gimmick—a freaky sound, a gaggle of instruments—to differentiate themselves, Band of Horses admirably sticks to a simple formula: good songs. Everything All the Time might not be inventive, but it is a masterful rock album that reminds us that there is nothing wrong with a classic rock sound that a rapturous hook can’t make transcendent.

Hear Ye: "Wicked Gil"; "The Funeral"; "The Great Salt Lake"; "Monsters"; "St. Augustine"

3. Josh Ritter – The Animal Years

The Animal Years was my most anticipated release of 2006 based on the promise of Josh Ritter’s early albums. I was not disappointed. The album is more consistent, more mature, more intricate than anything Ritter has done before. In getting there, though, Ritter smartly did not abandon the youthful optimism and sense of joy that distinguished Hello Starling and Golden Age of Radio. It’s still in The Animal Years but this time complemented by a weary mournfulness that gives the album a compelling breadth of emotions. It all starts off brilliantly with the war lament “Girl in the War” where Ritter imagines a debate between St. Peter and St. Paul about the goings on in the world. Describing the song makes it sound like a highfalutin mess, but it’s not. It’s gorgeous and moving without being didactic. When Ritter gets to those lonesome sighs at the end, bring out the handkerchiefs. The album’s centerpiece—and masterpiece—is the Dylan-esque, nine-minute “Thin Blue Flame.” It’s an epic song yet with an intimacy that makes it seem like a much shorter song. Interspersed between these heavy, socially-aware songs are Ritter’s effortless love songs. Where most albums would close with “Thin Blue Flame,” Ritter instead brilliantly closes the album with the lovely “Here at the Right Time” as if to remind us that even in an ugly time and an ugly world as we have today, there is always love. Ritter is well on his way to a great career and The Animal Years certainly proves he has arrived at the right time.

Hear Ye: "Girl in the War"; "Wolves"; "One More Mouth"; "Thin Blue Flame"; "Here at the Right Time"

4. M. Ward - Post-War

M. Ward barely made my top 25 list last year at number 25 with Transistor Radio, a fine album with a concept and sound that made it feel too remote and distant. Post-War succeeds mostly because of how warm and sweet it all sounds, and couple that with Ward’s impeccable songwriting and expressive vocals, and what we have is one of the richest, most tuneful albums of the year. The exuberant cover of Daniel Johnston’s “To Go Home” with great backing vocals from Neko Case is a highlight, but the heart and soul of the album are Ward’s own compositions, weary tales of life and love, most notably “Chinese Translation”, “Requiem” and the title track.

Hear Ye: “To Go Home”; “Post-War”; “Requiem”; “Chinese Translation”; “Magic Trick”

5. The Format - Dog Problems

The most pleasant surprise of the year for me. The Format’s Dog Problems was just about the most entertaining, most ear-pleasing album of the year for me. Hooks upon hooks. And to think I was ready to dismiss them sound unheard as an emo band. If only most emo bands were as smart and confident. The album shares an inclination towards heartbreak and angst that has become the hallmark of emo acts, but then again, all of pop music is about heartbreak and angst. What Dog Problems has plenty of is an uncommon intelligence and wit that raise the material above merely listenable to reach rapturous heights. The Format also has the confidence and the courage to start the album with “Matches,” a slow, circus-like waltz. It’s a good song but not exactly a grabber. However, the band rewards the listener for his patience (what’s two minutes in a forty-five minute album?) with a slew of infectious ditties marked by bouts of lyrical logorrhea and passionate vocals. You’ll get hooked by “Dog Problems,” the title track, but you’ll also stay for other great songs like “She Doesn’t Get It” and “Oceans.” Also worth noting is that the Forrmat is the very definition of indie. They self-released this album after battling with their record company, something they refer to in the single “The Compromise.”

Hear Ye: “She Doesn’t Get It”; “Dog Problems”; “Dead End”; “Oceans”; “The Compromise”

6. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

I harbored some doubts and some weariness prior to hearing The Crane Wife when I read in an interview with Colin Meloy that the album’s centerpiece will be a song cycle based on an obscure Japanese myth. I have begun to weary of the band’s baroque preoccupation with sea shanties and folk tales that bordered on being too precious in the band’s previous album, Picaresque. Fortunately, the album turned out to be a rich, melodic treat, and the album’s folk tales about dead soldiers, crane wives, star-crossed lovers were truly moving and romantic. The album sags in the middle, especially with the redundant “The Perfect Crime 2,” but the album’s first half and conclusion made for some of the best songs of the year. Rather than drown in his own preoccupations, Meloy proves here that he is growing even more as a songwriter. Heck, I don’t remember a single use of “sinew” in any song here. That’s a start.

Hear Ye: “The Crane Wife 3”; “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)”; “O Valencia”; “The Crane Wife 1 and 2”; “Sons and Daughters”

7. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche

I’ll admit that my adoration of Sufjan Stevens may have now reached fanboy status. Still, I doubt I’m deaf to any problematic songs Stevens may write, but to my less than exacting ears, Stevens’s collection of outtakes from Illinois is every bit as good as and, in some instances, better than albums that came out in 2006. The album suffers from the songs that were rightfully excised from Illinois, but there are very few of them and they are certainly worth slogging through to get to brilliant gems like “Springfield, or Bobby Got a Shadfly Caught in His Hair” and “The Mistress Witch from McClure,” songs that rival the best from Illinois. There really ought to be two albums from Stevens in this list, but I decided to ignore Songs For Christmas.

Hear Ye: “The Avalanche”; “The Henney Buggy Band”; “Springfield or Bobby Got a Shadfly Caught in His Hair”; “The Mistress Witch From McClure (or The Mind that Knows Itself)”; “Pittsfield”

8. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

It’s a cliché, but it’s true in Neko Case’s case: she can sing the phonebook and it will sound great. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is a strange bird of an album with gothic country songs that are almost impenetrable in meaning. “Star Witness” opens with the intriguing statement “My true love drowned in a dirty old pan of oil.” Fox Confessor possesses less country twang than Case’s previous solo efforts, and it certainly is less effervescent than her work with the New Pornographers, but it is nonetheless a haunting album that conjures images of ghost-haunted rooms and lonely widows. And then there’s always that voice.

Hear Ye: “Margaret vs Pauline”; “Star Witness”; “Hold On, Hold On”; “John Saw That Number”; “At Last”

9. Teddy Thompson – Separate Ways

If there was a trend for me this year it would be that I have returned to favoring individual singer/songwriters and traditional songwriting over the more innovative sounds that came out this year. Teddy Thompson, son of Richard and Linda, is just about as traditional as they come. The striking songs from Separate Ways are angry songs about heartbreak, a staple of pop music. For a while I resisted ranking it so high because it’s so damn traditional, but I could not stop listening to it. It truly is one of my favorites of the year. Thompson has developed as a songwriter in the six years since his first—and previous—album. That self-titled debut was more of a pop-rock effort distinguished by Thompson’s lovely vocals. In Separate Ways, Thompson sheds any attempt at marketability and embraces his role as a troubadour. In the opening track, “Shine So Bright,” Thompson claims—with just the right amount of sarcasm—that he wants to be a huge star, followed around by crowds, and shine so bright it hurts. Most of the guitars in the album are acoustic, and even in the faster-paced tunes, Thompson remains resolutely bitter yet cunningly witty. “Everybody Move It” is Thompson’s idea of a party song, inviting the listener to “bump and grind have a good time,” but Thompson’s voice suggests a man who is dancing as fast as he can to escape loneliness and heartbreak. My love for this album was solidified when I saw Thompson open for Mason Jennings. Standing alone on stage with just a guitar, Thompson enraptured the audience with a committed performance that underscored what a talented songwriter and singer he is.

Hear Ye: “Shine So Bright”; “Everybody Move It”; “I Wish It Was Over”; “No Way To Be”; “Frontlines”

10. Joanna Newsom - Ys

Joanna Newsom’s squeaky voice won’t win her the title of American Idol, but it is the perfect instrument for her elliptical yet lush songwriting. A too pristine voice would wash out the five songs that make up Ys, but Newsom’s quirky voice provides the proper rough edges the songs need. Actually, Newsom’s voice does almost sound pretty in this album compared to The Milk-Eyed Mender. But as in that previous album, it’s Newsom’s vivid songwriting that rules the day. I can’t begin to explain what the songs are about, and they certainly demand a listener’s full attention, but the rewards are great.

Hear Ye: There are only five songs in the album, so I’ll recommend them all.

11. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

Old-world inflected songs from Zach Condon, a young, prodigally talented artist who is certainly someone to watch out for. The songs here are remarkable in their maturity and in their individuality. What could have been a cute pastiche of an album from a young upstart turns out to be a truly absorbing debut in Condon’s hands.

Hear Ye: “The Gulag Orkestar”; “Postcards from Italy”; “Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)”; “Rhineland (Heartland)”; “The Canals of Our City”

12. Bob Dylan - Modern Times

Yet another great album from Bob Dylan. It’s not as gripping and entertaining as Love and Theft, but as can be expected, Dylan’s lyrics are truly poetic. What’s most striking here is that Dylan seems to be having a good time again. Less doom and gloom, and more fond remembrances of love and youth, coupled with a dose of socially relevant observations about the modern world.

Hear Ye: "Thunder on the Mountain"; "Spirit on the Water"; "When the Deal Goes Down"; "Someday Baby"; "The Levee's Gonna Break"

13. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Spencer Krug has so many side projects that it’s hard to figure out what they are the sides to. Sunset Rubdown’s album is a collection of messy, obtuse songs that perfectly embody Krug’s suffocated wailing. The songs here are epic in their own shabby way and they have personality to spare.

Hear Ye: “Stadiums and Shrines II”; “They Took a Vote and Said No”; "Us Ones in Between"; “I’m Sorry I Sang on Your Hands That Have Been in the Grave”; “The Men Are Called Horsemen There”

14. The Thermals – The Body The Blood The Machine

I’m sure if I heard this album sooner and allowed it to be fully digested it will rank higher in my list. Alas, I’ve only listened to it in its entirety four to five times, and with each successive listen I find it to be an absurdly rapturous album. Essentially an apocalyptic album of biblical references applied to a fragmented modern world, The Body, the Blood, the Machine is all crunchy guitars and punk-rock hooks. It’s a leaner, meaner, sharper American Idiot for the indie rock set.

Hear Ye: “I Might Need You To Kill”; “A Pillar of Salt”; “Returning to the Fold”; "St. Rosa and the Swallows"; “Power Doesn’t Run on Nothing”

15. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer’s Block

Where Sunset Rubdown is a bit of a mess, Peter Bjorn and John are neat and crisp. The songs in Writer’s Block are pop ditties that orchestrated to please upon first hearing. Even songs that sound tossed off and gritty have within them a foundation of pop catchiness. PB and J are further proof that the best pop music is coming from Europe.

Hear Ye: “Objects of My Affection”; “Young Folks”; “Amsterdam”; “Paris 2004”; “Roll the Credits”

16. The Rapture – Pieces of the People We Love

The Rapture’s follow-up to Echoes is less insanely catchy, and so it suffers in comparison, but Pieces of the People We Love is still irresistible. It’s hard not to shake your booty with songs like “Get Myself Into It.” More cowbells!

Hear Ye: “Pieces of the People We Love”; “Get Myself Into It”; “First Gear”; “Whoo! Alright-Yeah…Uh Huh”; “Live in Sunshine”

17. Cold War Kids – Robbers and Cowards

There is something calculated about the Cold War Kids sound, but I just don’t care. They aim for a rapturous, bluesy sound that doesn’t quite get there but the hybrid that is formed is still mesmerizing. I have no doubt that Cold War Kids will grow into their sound, but for now the ambition and commitment evident in songs like “Hospital Beds” and “We Used to Vacation” are more than enough.

Hear Ye: “We Used to Vacation”; “Hang Me Up to Dry”; “Tell Me in the Morning”; “Hospital Beds”; “Red Wine, Success!”

18. Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon

A very promising debut that sounds even better performed live. The songs in the album are obtuse but the propulsive rhythm and guitarwork make for an entertaining listen.

Hear Ye: “Just Drums”; “Insistor”; “Manitoba”; “ Gallon Ascots”; “Omaha”

19. Jason Collett - Idols of Exile

Jason Collett’s album is a shimmery collection worthy of summertime listening, the period I listened to it most. He is well served by lazy vocals and songs that would make for the perfect soundtrack to a quiet amble down a country path.

Hear Ye: “Hangover Days”; “I’ll Bring the Sun”; "Feral Republic"; "Pavement Puddle Stars"; "Almost Summer"

20. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

Owen Pallett does not compromise his artistry, and while I miss the tuneful and often sweet sounds from Has a Good Home, He Poos Clouds is still an admirable and mesmerizing listen. It’s less accessible, with the post-modern, quirky storytelling taking centergate, but it is a more focused album, one that hints at further growth from this already remarkable artist.

Hear Ye: “Arctic Circle”; “This Lamb Sells Condos”; “He Poos Clouds”; “Song Song Song”; “The Pooka Sings”

21. The Submarines - Declare a New State!

The background story of this album is almost treacly, as are the songs, but ultimately they are just too sweet to not like. Essentially an album chronicling the break up and subsequent make up and marriage of the duo (John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard), Declare a New State! ‘s songs are perfect evocations of love gone right. Blessed with the breathy vocal swirls of Hazard, the Submarines overcome the tediousness of happy endings and come up with an album that is, in a word, sweet.

Hear Ye: “Clouds”; “Peace and Hate”; “The Good Night”; “This Conversation”; “Darkest Things”

22. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther

For a while there, I thought this album might just be my favorite of the year, but it quickly lost favor with me. I still hear what initially appealed to me, but the effects have been muted somewhat. It is undoubtedly a good album. Midlake’s album is a thoroughly concentrated and distilled effort that evokes the classic rock sound of the 1970s. “Roscoe,” the opening song, will fit in and rival any old Fleetwood Mac song. Ultimately what did the album in for me is that it is so self-contained and sure of itself that a bit of life and looseness is choked from it. It’s not so much that Midlake wrote awful songs, it’s just that they are almost too good for their own sake. Still, “Roscoe” and “Young Bride,” with its Asian-tinged strings, are two of the finest songs of the year.

Hear Ye: “Roscoe”; “Bandits”; “Young Bride”; “We Gathered in Spring”; “It Covers the Hillside”

23. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Bruce Springsteen and his crew turn Pete Seeger’s songs into a joyous and entertaining celebration of music. In turn, the songs take on renewed urgency, revitalized and freed from the prison of campfire singalongs. Springsteen sounds like he had a blast recording this and the results reflect this.

Hear Ye: “Jesse James”; “O Mary Don’t You Weep”; “Erie Canal”; “Eyes on the Prize”; “Shenandoah”

24. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

This captivating album is a supremely assured album. Inventive and unformulaic, Yellow House justly received glowing reviews this year and just about showed up in every top 10 list.

Hear Ye: “Lullabye”; “Knife”; “Little Brother”; “On a Neck, On a Spit”; “Colorado”

25. Oh No! Oh My! - Oh No! Oh My!

Oh No! Oh My! walk the thin line between irresistible and annoyingly precious songs, and come out on the better side. It’s a truly pleasing and unprepossessing album that refreshingly favors melodies over the increasingly drone-like sounds in vogue with today’s typical indie rock outfits. Hopefully the band will grow and come up with material rivaling the New Pornographers.

Hear Ye: “Skip the Foreplay”; “Walk in the Park”; “I Have No Sister”; “Lisa, Make Love! (It's Okay!)”; “The Backseat”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Favorite Songs

Favorite songs of the year! These aren't necessarily singles, some are choice cuts from some of the year's best albums. I limited myself to one song per artist because otherwise we'll have a long list of songs by a handful of artists like Sufjan Stevens, Band of Horses, etc. The rankings themselves are almost pointless since they can change based on how I'm feeling, but I like to rank, so here they go with some choice lyrics.

01 Band of Horses - "The Funeral"

And every occasion I am ready for a funeral

02 Amy Millan - "Skinny Boy"

You've got lips I could spend a day with

03 The Format - "Dog Problems"

I blame postmodern things I can't relate,
Like summer camp and coastal states.
Like alcohol and coffee beans.
Dance floors and magazines.
I think its safe to say I've only got myself to blame
But boys in swooping haircuts are bringing me down,
Taking pictures of themselves.

04 Sufjan Stevens - "Springfield, or Bobby Got a Shadfly Caught in His Hair"

So we took the room
with a view of the runaway
I took off my clothes,
and she took it for a holiday
I was taken for all the things
that I never had before
Running out of Springfield
she left me with a note saying:
"Bobby, don't look back."

05 Teddy Thompson - "Everybody Move It"

Sat in the corner you could pass for dead
get up on the floor and shake your head

06 The Walkmen - "Louisiana"

Come go away with me
Drinking our coffee
Under the canopy

07 Guillemots - "Trains to Brazil"

It's 5 o' clock on a Friday morning
One hundred telephones shake and ring
One of those was someone who knew you

08 Chad VanGaalen - "Graveyard"

Who are you?

09 Beirut - "Postcards from Italy"

And I will love to see that day
That day
is mine
When she will marry me outside with the willow

10 The Cardigans - "I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer"

Sometimes we talk over dinner like old friends
Till I go and kill the bottle,
I go off over any old thing,
Break your heart
and raise a glass or ten

11 Ferraby Lionheart - "The Ballad of Gus and Sam"

On the ouija board we were talking to Gus
He k-k-k-killed a girl named Sam
And now she's coming for us

12 Cold War Kids - "Hospital Beds"

Tell me the story of how you ended up here
I heard it all in the hospital
Nurses are fussing, doctors are on tour
Somewhere in India

13 Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - "Rise Up With Fists!"

But she will wake up wealthy
And you will wake up 45
And she will wake up with babies
There before the grace of God go hide!

14 Tapes 'n Tapes - "Insistor"

And when you rush I'll call your name
Like Harvard Square holds all inane
And don't you know I'll be your badger
And don't be terse and don't be shy
Just hug my lips and say good lies
And know that I will be your bail bond

15 Belle and Sebastian - "The Blues Are Still Blue"

I left my homework in the launderette
I got a letter from my mamma which my stupid dog has ate

16 The Submarines - "Clouds"

When I said I'm not in love
You made me count the ways
But I couldn't hope to be
Both cause and balm for pain
Well it breaks my heart
To break your heart
I know that means I'm still in love

17 The Futureheads - "Skip to the End"

If I could cheat,
I would skip to the end,
And decide if it's worth going through with,
Skip to the last, paragraph, just before we start,
To see the happy ending, or the broken heart.

18 The Dears - "You and I Are a Gang of Losers"

We, we've got the same heart

19 Arctic Monkeys - "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"

Well, I bet that you look good on the dancefloor
Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984

20 Midlake - "Young Bride"

My young bride, why are your shoulders like that of a tired old woman?
Like a tired old woman

21 Neko Case - "Star Witness"

My true love drowned in a dirty old pan of oil

22 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Cheated Hearts"

Well sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound

23 TV on the Radio - "Province"

Hold your heart courageously as we walk into this dark place
Stand, stare fast, erect and see that love is the province of the brave

24 The Changes - "On a String"

I'm not afraid of you no matter how hard you try
This is what's meant to be and you know why

25 Thao Nguyen - "Feet Asleep"

All these years, my feet asleep
Move them around that they might breathe

Other Notable Songs:
The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife 1 and 2"; Phoenix - "Long Distance Call"; Rhett Miller w/ Rachael Yamagata - "Fireflies"; Beyonce - "Irreplaceable"; Camera Obscura - "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken"; Cat Power - "The Greatest"; Final Fantasy - "Song Song Song"; Josh Ritter - "Girl in the War"; Justin Timberlake - "My Love"; Sleeping States - "Rivers"; Regina Spektor - "Fidelity"; The Little Ones - "Cha Cha Cha"; Damien Rice - "Grey Room"; Mat Kearney - "Nothing Left to Lose"; Snow Patrol - "Chasing Cars"