You know the rules: hit shuffle on your music library and listen to the first five songs that come up, then write about them. You can’t skip tracks – keep it clean boys.
1. Cave In – ‘Flypaper’ – Beyond Hypothermia – Wow, what a great way to start this one off. This is probably my favorite song off Cave In’s first album. It is very melodic and has a fantastically memorable guitar line at about the 0:48 mark. Bear in mind that back in 1996 (when this song was originally released on a split 7″ with Gambit), this sound was revolutionary. It was the first time I had heard singing and screaming in the same song, a ridiculous notion in a day where it seems every screaming band has some clean choruses.
2. Alkaline Trio – ‘Emma’ – Good Mourning – I kind of love Matt Skiba’s voice, which is why I don’t really like this song all that much. Sure, Dan Andriano has a good voice too, but I frequently find myself skipping his tracks to get back to Skiba, whom I always think of as Alkaline Trio’s true singer. Also, it follows ‘All On Black,’ my favourite Alkaline Trio song of all time, so it always just showed up on my radar as filler. Upon re-listening now, out of the context of an album, it’s actually not a bad song at all.
3. The Album Leaf – ‘Over The Pond’ – In A Safe Place – This, and the following, are what happen when you let your indie rock loving friend (who is a horse wrangler at a dude ranch, and who has walked across the USA no less than three times) load up eight gigs of music on your computer, at your wife’s request. So yes, I am inundated with indie rock, some of which is very good, some of which is this song. Which would be good by the way if you subtracted that weird little voice out of it.
4. Devotchka – ‘100 Other Lovers’ – 100 Lovers – This is another case of the indie rocker horse wrangler hi-jacking my itunes but hey this song is really good. It combines elements of The Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend whom I love. Also its the first new indie rock that doesnt fall into that now very overplayed Indie-Folk genre. Also the songs in English but man it doesnt sound like it at times. Good discovery though.
5. New Found Glory – ‘The Goodbye Song’ – Nothing Gold Can Stay – Say what you want about this first full length from NFG, it has four really good songs. I guess you could say it’s a little….HIT OR MISS!!! This happens to be one of the good ones that hints at what they would unleash on their amazing self titled record. It needs better production but it shows the boys doing what they do best: some pop, some punk, all goodness.
1. Minus the Bear – ‘Cold Company’ – Infinity Overhead – Off of their latest album, this song is sounding amazing on my new Bose QC-15 head phones. After the mostly disappointing Omni, MTB came back with Infinity Overhead in 2012. It proved a much more enjoyable listen. I admitted that I didn’t give this album its due listens and ‘Cold Company’ is making me regret that. Minus the Bear ALWAYS sounds better on a set of nice head phones.
2. H2O – ‘Reputation Calls’ – F.T.T.W. – I gained a new appreciation for H2O when I saw them live for the first time a couple years ago. ‘Reputation Calls’ is a decent song but is not at all indicative of how fun an H2O song can be. If not for this experiment, I would probably have pressed skip.
3. Vacationer – ‘Everyone Knows’ – Gone – The opening song off my number three album of the year. I love how this album, and song in particular, sounds nothing like anything else going on in the indie scene right now. I would have never guessed that this was Kenny Vasoli, as it sounds nothing like The Starting Line.
4. Cloudkicker – ‘Making Will Mad’ – Fade – After the largely acoustic offering of Let Yourself Be Huge, Cloudkicker stepped back into full band sound on Fade, but still without the mathy-metal sound of Beacons, Portmateau, and The Map Is Not the Territory. ‘Making Will Mad’ is typical of the whole album, which is a good thing I suppose. I can’t help but yearn for the old, heavier sound of Cloudkicker though.
5. Mixtapes – ‘Indian Summer’ – Even On the Worst Nights – I really dug this album when it first came out and then I kind of forgot about it. Mixtapes plays a style of pop-punk that reminds me of a lot of the mid-late ’90s bands, like Home Grown. The dual vocalists make for a fun listen, especially when they layer over each other.
1. The Dear Hunter – ‘Tripping In Triplets’ – The Color Spectrum (Blue) – Well here’s a great song to get my portion of the list going. The first track of the sixth color of The Dear Hunter’s nine EP collection The Color Spectrum (it’s the 21st track in the 36 track project, is what you should take away from that). ‘Tripping In Triplets,’ with it’s waltzy, jazzy feel is just a damned smooth song. Highly recommended if you’re looking for something chill to drink to.
2. The Beatles – ‘All Together Now’ – Yellow Submarine – An interesting Beatles track to pop up, as it is probably one of their three or four simplest tunes…but all I can really think about when I hear it is the completely cracked out Yellow Submarine movie. It was one of my favorite movies as a child and it was also clearly written at a time and place where the nearest sober person was several thousand miles away (if you watch that whole clip, you’ll be treated to the insanity-indicating line, “I haven’t laughed this hard since Pompeii.” Because…well…yeah).
3. Citizen King – ‘Long Walk Home’ – Mobile Estates – This is a song I had completely forgotten about. The late ’90s were apparently a very strange time for me in music, as I appear to have purchased this 1999 record despite only marginally being aware of this track (which I actually like for it’s catchy grooviness) and the semi-big hit ‘Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out).’ I like both of those songs well enough, but buying the whole record? This is what happened before the Internet, I suppose.
4. Muse – ‘Time Is Running Out’ – Absolution – The first time I ever heard Muse was in high school when a good friend of mine claimed that he had heard a band that sounded like a ‘dancy Radiohead’ on the radio at 3am. The song that he had heard was ‘Time Is Running Out.’ His description was pretty accurate and it followed that the whole album (2003’s Absolution) dominated a huge portion of my senior year. Muse has moved all over the place since 2003 but this song – and that record – are still excellent listens in my mind.
5. Closure In Moscow – ‘A Night At the Spleen’ – First Temple – I really like Closure In Moscow. I’m just going to put that out there. I know that some fans of their phenomenal début EP (2008’s The Penance and the Patience), were not as crazy about 2009’s full length First Temple because it was significantly more poppy than what had preceded it – and this song is one of those extra poppy tracks – but I think it’s a sound that really works for them. This song, with its horn blasts, jazzy guitars and pounding outro, still rocks anyway.
1. Dot Allison – ‘We’re Only Science’ – Electro Klash – Back in high school , I browsed electronic compilations at the Triangle Square Virgin music store. Naturally, a neon green and pink album cover stood out among the rest. This $13.99, 2-disc compilation listed Peaches, Ladytron, Röyksopp, and Basement Jaxx among lesser known artists. I had faith in the above listed, but compilations improve your chance of finding a diamond in the rough. ‘We’re Only Science’ plays like the heroine soundtrack for a horror sci-fi flick, reminiscent of slow paced ’70’s French Disco. Just add ominous choir-like chanting and a stoic repetition of vocals and you have ‘We’re Only Science’.
2. G-Unit – ‘Stunt 101 (Ratatat Remix)’ – Ratatat Remixes Vol. 1 – Ratatat remixing every major rap or hip-hop artist you can imagine: Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Method Man, and even Kanye West. Most of the remixes maintain the original artists’ integrity, but I would’ve preferred it if Ratatat pushed a little more personal flavor into each mix. It could’ve been the difference between good and great.
3. Nirvana – ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – Nevermind – I hate you shuffle.
4. The Beastie Boys – ‘Shadrach’ – Paul’s Boutique – RIP Adam Yauch. The first CD I ever owned, License to Ill, tossed me into an experience of child-like wonderment. I have not looked back since. The Beastie Boys, believe it or not, are capable musicians. Paul’s Boutique marked their beginning efforts for serious composition. The album played around funk and soul roots, ‘Shadrach’ blasts horns over technical bass lines, and their rapping skills are incredibly tight. No one mistook their identity and no one dared emulate them. Beside it all, they branched out pulling unconventional music from around the world. Grand Royal Records, a personal label, opened in 1992 and distributed stateside releases of artists I likely wouldn’t have discovered otherwise: Atari Teenage Riot (among other Digital Hardcore Recordings artists); Bis; Buffalo Daughter; Butter 08 (Cibo Matto members); and even John Lennon’s son, Sean Lennon (Editor’s Note: And also my personal favorite, At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command). I can’t express enough gratitude for their influence in my musical life. The boys deserve to be in rotation until the end of time.
5. The Butthole Surfers – ‘Thermador’ – Electriclarryland – Austin, Texas homed grips of noise rock bands from the ’80s well into the ’90s. The BH Surfers jammed front and center of the scene, hellbent on destroying ear drums left and right. After a history of band member swapping and little mainstream attention, Electriclarryland received recognition with the single ‘Pepper,’ however the single flies from left field compared with the release’s other tracks. To be honest, Electriclarryland is their first solid album, containing more focus on conventional rock song structure yet keeping their identity intact. If you are in desperate need of thrashy rock-n-roll, you’ll satisfy your thirst while it tears out of your speakers.
Heatmiser – ‘See You Later’ – Mic City Sons – Excellent stuff. I love me some Elliott Smith, and the good ol’ rocking tones of ‘See You Later’ are a welcome way to start my day. It’s melancholy but catchy as hell, just like most everything he did. He was an excellent song writer, and I can’t honestly say I have ever heard a song of his that I don’t like.
Deftones – ‘Entombed’ – Koi No Yokan – Mmmmmmmm a little Album of The Year contending goodness. Such a strong album. It’s not my favourite song on the record, but it’s very indicative of what makes this one of the strongest outings from Deftones. The typically ethereal combination of guitar, keyboard and electronic drums is taken to fantastic heights by Chino’s vocals. My fiancée once told me that Chino Moreno’s voice is like sex in your ears. I have to say, she is right.
Stars – ‘Reunion’ – Set Yourself on Fire – Every time I listen to Stars, I like them a little bit more. This album in particular is fantastic indie goodness, and Amy Millan is all kinds of amazing. Along with Broken Social Scene (and to a lesser extent, Metric), Stars helped to form and define the surprisingly impressive indie rock scene in my native Toronto, and I thank them for it.
Dropkick Murphys – ‘The Green Fields of France’ – The Warrior’s Code – I’m going to level with you here, I have never heard this song. I downloaded a whole lot of Dropkick Murphys on a whim once and then never listened to any of it. So, here we go. It’s actually quite touching, and significantly less drunken-punky than anything else I have ever heard from them (see: not much). The Celtic instrumentation works amazingly well in the context of a dirge for fallen soldiers of the First World War. Perhaps I should get around to listening to those albums.
The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Ava Adore’ – Adore – I’m a big fan of The Smashing Pumpkins, and this single is no exception. Billy Corgan’s weird but perfect voice is as strong as ever, and the groovy bass line plays an interesting contrast to the smooth guitar parts. Actually the instrumentation gives it a kind of Gothic ’80s porno feel, which is fitting, considering the lyrics.