Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Sonic Parthenon Playlist: Spring 2010 Part 1

In continued proof that the album is dead, this period's playlist is almost exclusively singles. The two exceptions are almost unfair givens, especially considering I only listened to one of them in full for the first time today. That being said, the next playlist may very well be almost entirely made of albums as the Summer of 2010 promises to be a ridiculously productive LP season.

Against Me - "I Was A Teenage Anarchist"
I once dismissed band as a pop-punk throwaway with a take-it-or-leave-it social consciousness, but they got me. An anthem for every bitter, disappointed, idealistic, ideological lefty who remembers their youth of rage when they caught they could make a difference. Sigh. Old times.

Apples in Stereo - "Dance Floor"
Club-infused rock has become the almost dominant form of Indie rock, at least in terms of the screaming multitudes of bands (while more varied and more conventional Indie rock acts - the Spoons, the Animal Collectives, the Grizzzzzzzzzzzzly Bears - zzzz's for sleep) are considered the elite. The very cheery, sunny Apples in Stereo take a stab at the dance floor with "Dance Floor" and completely obliterate everyone else away. The record is probably good. I should listen to it. Soundtrack of the summer.

Birthday Suits - "Table Talk"
A loud, boisterous bit of speak-sing rock. Cute band name.

Julian Casablancas - "Out of the Blue"
Phrazes for the Young kind of loses its way but at least I gave it a try. This single from the Strokes singer's solo record is not only the best of the bunch, it is a killer. The opening verse is some of the most amazing lyrics I've heard in a long, long time:

Somewhere along the way
My hopefulness turned to sadness
Somewhere along the way
My sadness turned to bitterness
Somewhere along the way
My bitterness turned to anger
Somewhere along the way
My anger turned to vengeance
And the ones that I make pay
But never the ones who deserve it
And the ones who deserve it
They'll never understand it.
Yes, I know I'm going to hell in a purple basket
At least I'll be in another world
But you'll be pissing on my casket

Goldfrapp - "Rocket"
So this Lady Gaga. Everyone seems to be making a big deal of this Lady Gaga. Thing is, someone out there kind of has all that same magnetism, and that penchant for catchy, Euro club hooks & melodies, without making a fool of herself. Her name is Alison Goldfrapp. And yes that is her real name. I guess.

John Hiatt - "The Open Road"
Johh Hiatt is more of a respected songwriter than anything else which is a damn shame because he has some of the most thoroughly lasting recording work of any of his peers. From "Sure As I'm Sitting Here" to Slow Turning and Bring The Family to "Perfectly Good Guitar" and "Everybody Went Low", he has never stopped making great music. He didn't break with "My Baby Blue" a few years ago and he's done it again "The Open Road". He has always been one of my favorite artists if only because he makes a hit, it's a grand slam.

The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
You know I like it. But seriously - "The Weekenders" - should be a big hit putting the boys in stadiums. And maybe it just will. Or not. Either way, it's not Separation Sunday or Boys & Girls in America but it is good. Very very good. It is equal parts blatant pop-rock and total classic rock throwback. But there is still the deference to the bar band and hardcore punk that are the combined roots of Craig Finn's lyrics and musical preferences. It's not the Kirby Puckett-style home run of their two big documents, but it's a triple if not an in-the-park play-at-the-plate, like Stay Positive (like the end of the Twins-Braves World Series). Think I'm done with the baseball analogies?

Jaguar Love - "I Started A Fire"
I will never forget how I saw all of 15 seconds of this band at Siren Festival to walk away. It was that bad that fast. Yet, back then they also had "Highways of Gold" which was a catchy rocker once you got passed the grating high pitched vocals of Johnny Whitney (formerly of the terrible Blood Brothers). Now in "I Started a Fire", Whitney has tempered the vocals some and it makes for another hit song. I am almost sorry I hated those 15 seconds. Almost.

Damien Jurado - "Arkansas"
It took a couple of weeks after listening to this song to realize I've seen this guy. He opened for Okkervil River on The Stage Names tour. He was so serene and Indie (big I) as to fade away but that laid back style has found its footing. This almost doo-wop-ish memory is serene in the right way.

Lonelady - "Intuition"
I know nothing much except that I like this song. That goes for knowledge of the artist and life in general. The Internet gives me knowledge. Of the artist. Not necessarily life in general. Are we understood?

The National - High Violet
Upon initial listen of the whole LP, it seems "Blood Buzz Ohio" may be the true highlight. But by no means have the National struck out. "Terrible Love" - which comes off gleaming in that Pitchfork film - is exactly the National as we know them, before a few tracks establish a bit of a more inward, less dramatic affair (not so much a return to the first couple records as a new way of looking at old things). "Afraid of Everyone" represents the real new approach to this record: Matt Berninger has forsaken those Alligator screams seemingly for good. After the bass-voiced Boxer, Matt seems to have discovered a steady higher pitch for large swaths of song. It's good. But the bass in that lurking, menacingly disarming voice is the gravity of the band. To say nothing of the continued swells of symphonic fury the Dessners and Devendorffs do so well. The National's most "Chamber Pop" sounding record yet, (a label I never quite liked but maybe finally understand), High Violet ends with an incredible back-half. It looked the National were going down early in the 5th but leave it to the regional relatives of the Big Red Machine to come from behind and win in the bottom of the 9th. I told you I wasn't done with baseball analogies.

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