Saturday, January 27, 2007

I know it's late, but here goes.

1. "Modern Love" - The Changes. I hate to say it, but it's true: I'm finally sick of 80s music. At first it was fun to hear "Our House" playing every day during lunchtime on every radio station in town, but after a while, you realize that Madness got more airplay in the 90's and 00's than they ever did in the 80s, and that that has more to do with commerce than nostalgia. So it's a good thing there's music like this that evokes what was good about 80s music without, you know, being 80s music. It has a great, polished-but-not-overproduced, mid-period, never-gonna-cross-over-from-the-alternative-station New Wave sound to it.

2. "No Backbone" - The Lemonheads. What's great about this song is what's great about all the good Lemonheads songs (i.e., the ones that aren't about getting stoned): it leaves you wanting more. The hook is killer, but the song ends before it ever gets repetitive. (It's barely over 3 minutes.) It's full of lyrics that are literate but don't strain to impress you and rhymes so perfectly set up you can't believe you didn't see them coming. But most of all, it suggests a situation and characters you're dying to know more about. Something's wrong in the bedroom? Tell me more... Unfortunately, all you can do is listen again. And again and again and again.

3. "Knock 'Em Out" - Lily Allen. This sounds to me like the long-overdue female response to Young MC's "Bust a Move", wherein a tough chick in a bar tells off the annoying clown clumsily trying to pick her and her friends up by busting his lame-ass moves. And it's just as catchy and hilarious as the original. Maybe in 20 years, some guy will write a song in which a dude returns to his friends after a failed pick up and has to explain why he struck out.

4. "Never Be Lonely" - The Feeling. Such a perfect pop song, it would've been a smash hit 20 years ago. The only hope for it today is if "Grey's Anatomy" decides to give it a spin.

5. "Stuck Between Stations" - The Hold Steady. 2006 was the year indie bands finally discovered Springsteen. Or, at least, it was the year I finally discovered that indie bands had discovered Springsteen. And whether this was an homage, a rip-off or just a soundalike, it was the best one out there. I'm going to get around to doing my 2006 album list if I have time, but when I do (spoiler warning) this will be #1.

6. "Phantom Limb" - The Shins. This didn't get much attention in the year-end critics lists. (It only got three votes in the Idolator poll.) Maybe people just wanted to stick it to Zach Braff. I don't get it, though. It's one of their best songs.

7. "Sewn" - The Feeling. I don't like to put multiple songs by the same artist on these lists, but this was too good to leave off. How is it possible that people have been writing love songs as long as they have, and no one's come up with the lyric "You've got my heart in a headlock" until now?

8. "Quiet Town" - Josh Rouse. It takes you to another place, and even though Rouse clearly adores that place, it's the kind of place I'd only want to visit through song.

9. "Manchester" - The Beautiful South. The same goes for this song.

10. "Side Streets" - Saint Etienne. One of those bands I've always heard about but never really heard. If all their songs are this good, I should listen to them more.

11. "Did I Step On Your Trumpet?" - Danielson. One of the weirdest songs I've ever heard. Also very catchy, very clever and, I hate to repeat myself, but very very very weird. Reminds me of "One Night in Bangkok".

12. "From the Ritz to the Rubble" - Arctic Monkeys. Such a consistent album, I almost could've chosen any one of these songs for the list, but this is the one that sticks with me the most.

13. "Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)" - Beirut. A kid from New Mexico recording under the name of a Middle Eastern city and singing in an Eastern European style. But it works.

14. "Running the World" - Jarvis Cocker. I wish Jarvis were running the world.

15. "Another Sunny Day" - Belle and Sebastian. A little of this group goes a long way for me, which is actually a big compliment if you focus not on the little but on the long way. Seriously, this song is awesome.

16. "We're the Pet Shop Boys" - Robbie Williams. The ultimate proof that it doesn't really matter what someone is saying in a song. It can still be good even if it doesn't make total sense. I mean, he's not the Pet Shop Boys. He's not even a "we". But this is one of the classiest things he's ever done. (And besides, the Pet Shop Boys produced it.)

17. "Luna Park" - Pet Shop Boys. They're probably best known for their high energy dance songs -- or at least for "West End Girls", the only song of theirs most people still remember -- but the Boys also have plenty of songs like this lurking in the background of their albums: slow, moody, haunting. Perfect.

18. "Roscoe" - Midlake.

19. "Become the Enemy" - The Lemonheads.

20. "Breaking Free" - Garbriella & Troy. The fact that people are saying "High School Musical" is "Grease" for today's kids makes me realize how much better we had it. Not that I blame "High School Musical" for being kinda lame. It must've been hard for them to resist that extra 25 years of clichés they had to rip off. But the kids were all pretty talented, and some of the songs were lots of fun, especially this one.


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