July 27, 2007
  1. Towa Tei — “Son of Bambi (Walk Tuff)”
    Kind of a hodgepodge, really: a simple looped ostinato on the bass, a vocalist excitedly shouting reggae-inspired nonsense, and a sitar. So I guess this could sort of be a harbinger for Thievery Corporation’s entire career: combining Jamaica with the mystical East through a filter of samplers and synths.
  2. Rush — “2112”
    It takes a certain kind of conceit to make a 20-minute rock song, and it takes an extra-special kind of conceit to concoct a grand science-fiction mythology for your 20-minute rock song, and to include a lengthy segment consisting of a guitar being tuned. I get it: ‘guitars in space’ was a hugely popular theme (or ‘concept’) in the 1970s, but come on.
  3. The Shins — “The Celibate Life”
    As with a lot of other Shins songs, the vocals are so thin and so far down in the mix that they serve almost as more of another instrument than as a vocal, and as with a lot of other Shins songs, it works.
  4. Rodrigo — Concierto madrigal: Pastoral
    “A literary or artistic work that portrays idealized rural life.” That sounds about right. If you’re ever scoring a film and need to convey “idyllic”, you can’t go wrong with this piece.
  5. Cake — “I Will Survive”
    If you’re going to cover a song, you should make it your own; and that goes double for songs that are incredibly well-known. The Cardigans, for example, did a cover of “Iron Man” that was amazing because it was nothing like the original. A cover like that shows that the original composition has legs of its own, and a particular innate beauty above and beyond the original performance. This is one of those covers. Incidentally, it also has one of the best basslines in recorded history.
  6. The New Pornographers — “From Blown Speakers”
    This is really an exquisitely crafted song. Among other great things is the way it tiptoes around and teases you, building up the pressure until it turns what would have been a rather ordinary chorus into a magnificent climax.
  7. Violent Femmes — “Add It Up”
    This song is so anthemic because it’s so straightforwardly and guilelessly human. That, and it’s a musical Catcher in the Rye—an ode and a paean to the Platonic ideal of adolescence.
  8. In Flames — “Another Day in Quicksand”
    A good bridge can completely transform a song and make it vastly better and more interesting. See, for example, the bridge in this song.
  9. Blur — “Song 2”
    Apparently the self-parody in this song was too subtle for us in America, since this was Blur’s only hit here and we seemed disappointed that nothing else of their sounded remotely like it. Fuck it. It’s a great song, and if its greatness stems from its tongue-in-cheek nature, so much the better. I can enjoy Spinal Tap’s music unironically, so why not this?
  10. Radiohead — “Scatterbrain (acoustic)”
    My immediate reaction upon hearing Hail to the Thief for the first time was jubilation that Radiohead were using guitars again. I can’t play this song, but it’s reassuring to know that I at least play the right instrument for it. (Yeah, John Mayer can play “Kid A” on guitar, but he doesn’t count—he’s the exception that proves the rule.)
  11. Wolf Parade — “I’ll Believe in Anything”
    Wolf Parade are like a house of cards with a trainwreck on top. They sound like they could fall apart at any moment, and while the slapdash/lo-fi vibe can get overbearing at times, it’s also the source of their power. If they were stable, they wouldn’t be interesting; if they collapsed, they’d be a perfectly ordinary disaster. As it is, their disaster is still waiting to happen.
  12. The Esquires — “Mustalainen”
    The CD of 1960s-era Finnish surf music this is on is one of my prize possessions.

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