1. “The First Single (You Know Me)” – The Format
God bless ’em, they probably sound a bit too Evan and Jaron here to really be taken seriously, but they’re actually a very, very good band with a lot to say. However, this song is so catchy it smells like sunblock and cocoanut, and you know what I’m talking about. Yes, you do. It’s also got a neat little message about finally figuring out that not fitting in is a perfectly worthwhile pursuit: “I’ve been waiting all this time to be/something I can’t define.” Well…. God bless ya!
2. “Peek-A-Boo”, Siouxie and the Banshees
“Peek-A-Boo”‘s been around for a long time (almost twenty years, I think) but it bears mentioning that the reason the song sounds all thwacky and fucked up is that they actually recorded it backwards. No word of a lie. You’ll note upon listening, for instance, that accordions aren’t supposed to do that. Also, the video is cool.
3. “The Point Of It All”, Amanda Palmer
At the moment, the only place you can hear this is at Amanda’s MySpace page, but her solo album (produced by Ben Folds himself) should be out sometime before President Obama takes the oath of office. The song writing is somewhat different here than most of her work as a Dresden Doll – it sounds like she’s unleashing her inner Wainwright, or at least her inner Conor Oberst, as she dissects a friends’ drug problem. It’s playful and unsettling, like most of her best stuff.
4. “Umbrella” – Rhiannon feat. Jay-Z
Okay, I’ll bite. It’s great. Mikey and Lesley love it, and I have them to thank for this tune. The aforementioned Amanda Palmer has actually been analyzing this wonderful little pop/r&b tune on her blog, and she says it’s “the synthesizers.
it is aimed to hit all the brainwashed children of today, PLUS everyone who loved Disintegration.” Which is totally true – the synth pad under the chorus feels like an old Cure song, while the “under my umbrella, eh eh eh..” sounds like one of the more decent Lilith Fair tunes from 10 years ago. The more I learn about audio production – how pop songs are recorded and built – the more I appreciate Jay-Z.
5. “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” – The Smiths
I’ve always liked this song, but I never looked at the lyrics. Which is how it came as such a shock to learn that Morrissey was actually singing the title at the beginning of the song. Which you all probably knew. I’m slow sometimes.
6. “Teenage FBI” – Guided By Voices
I am slowly, slowly diving into the vast amount of work that has been produced and recorded by Guided By Voices over the last two decades, and this seemed like as good place to start as any. It’s a brilliant, simple, two minute pop gem that reminds me of “Friends of P” by The Rentals (although I think this was recorded first).
7. “Worthless Ode”, HUMANWINE
If you’ve seen HUMANWINE live, this is the “houses of the bones got jumbled” song, with the skeletons of the lovers reaching out to hold hands after being separated by cruel families and fate. If you haven’t seen HUMANWINE live, then you really, really should. You will emerge a better, sweatier person.
8. “Vapour Trail”, Ride
I’m re-reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower (working with stroppy teens will lead you to do this, sometimes), so of course I’m re-listening to all the songs Charlie put on his various mix tapes in the book. This is still my favorite; it’s the only song that has ever made me wish it was an icy day in November, ever.
9. “The Pretender”, Foo Fighters
Look, it’s Dave Grohl’s world, we just live in it. It’s a strange first single for them, because it’s not just a grinding rock tune of the “All My Life” variety or a soaring anthem of the “Everlong” style, it’s sort of both at the same time. And yet, it rocks harder than most of the other tunes on your radio these days. Dave’s like 40, too. I know, right?
10. “Shutterbug”, Veruca Salt
Speaking of Dave Grohl, here’s Dave’s ex-girlfriend Louise’s band Veruca Salt from about ten years ago, when their sophomore record Eight Arms To Hold You exploded forth from the tape decks of a thousand used cars driven by a thousand Art Club girls with cool hair. I always sort of suspected that this song was about Dave and what it felt like being in the ex-Nirvana orbit (see lines like “she’s a fool for the last living rock king” and “there’s Love on the telly” and, well, “You monkey, you left me.” Monkey… wrench? Well, the Veruca Salt girls were obviously fans of Beatles-esque coded messages; the first single from that album, “Volcano Girls”, included a reference to “the walrus was Paul”; so maybe…) Anyway, I always liked that the song was a waltz built around a bad ass “dah-DAH-dah-DUHHHHHH!” riff, and that it was just slightly, achingly atonal, and that solo at the end is still one of my favorites.