Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013

1. Frightened Rabbit-Acts of Man

Look, okay, I'm not posting a lyric to this song. I'm not even going to talk about how amazing/special this song is or how much I love it. But I love it so very, very much. I think this song shaped my entire 2013.

2. Arcade Fire-Afterlife
Have I shocked you with this one? Look, I still maintain that Arcade Fire is greatly overrated, especially this last record but I can't deny how good "Afterlife" is. The horns! Regine's backing vocals! The fact it makes me want to dance every time I hear it! The fact I want to listen to it sixty times before I'm satisfied and can move to another song! 

(Confession: One of the first times I heard it, I broke down and cried. Not sure if I cried from how good this song is or because it was the morning after seeing Frightened Rabbit twice that week. I'd like to think it was a mix of both.)

I'm not posting a lyric from this one either because they're all pretty bad.

3. Volcano Choir-Acetate
Shout, say it louder now.
The apple on the oranges ground.
No longer feeling tepid now.
Shout, say it louder now

I love shouty vocals, I love Justin Vernon's vocals, I love shouty Justin Vernon.

4. Phosphorescent-Song for Zula
See, honey, I saw love,
You see it came to me
It puts its face up to my face so I could see
Yeah then I saw love disfigure me
Into something I am not recognizing

5. Laura Marling-I Was an Eagle
When we were in love
If we were
When we were in love
I was an eagle
And you were a dove

6. Frightened Rabbit-The Woodpile
Yes, another Frabbits song. I swear, this list won't be just FR songs. I promise. This song is ridiculously good, and the fact that it wasn't a bigger deal this year makes me sad. But dammit, it is great.

(This is an alternate version of the song, which I am not sure I've ever heard but the vocals are too good. Then again, I've never heard a bad version of this song.)

7. Tegan and Sara-Now I'm All Messed Up

My heart
You'll cut it out you never liked me anyway

I don't think a song has ever perfectly expressed heartbreak as much as this song does.

8. Jim James-Dear One
Daily, every minute your possession of my mind
Ticking synchronicity of time
Your life synced to mine, on a dime
Dear one 

9. Neko Case-Man
And if I'm dipshit drunk on pink perfume
Then I'm the man in the fucking moon
'Cause you didn''t know what a man was
Until I showed you 

10. The National-Pink Rabbits
You didn't see me I was falling apart
I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park
You didn't see me I was falling apart
I was a television version of a person with a broken heart

11. Akron/Family-Until the Morning

I came to you an orphan, but I'm leaving here a thief
If I can only find the door I'll go tonight
My life, my identity, I lay them at your feet
In just the hope that you'll let me come inside
'till the morning

12. Chvrches-Recover
I'll give you one more chance
To say we can change our old ways
And you take what you need
And you know you don't need me
13. Bell x1-Motorcades
Now before you start
I'm not making fun
People cry at the
Strangest things
Mine is the Venezuelan national anthem

14. Rhye-Open
I'm a fool for that shake in your thighs
I'm a fool for that sound in your sighs

15. Baths-No Eyes

And it is not a matter of
If you need it
But it is only a matter of
Come and fuck me
And it is not a matter of
If you love me
But it is only a matter of
My fix 

16. Frank Turner-The Way I Tend to Be
'Cause I've said I love you so many times that the words kinda die in my mouth.
And I meant it each time with each beautiful woman but somehow it never works out.
But you stood apart in my calloused heart, and you taught me and here's what I learned:
That love is about all the changes you make and not just three small words.

And then I catch myself
Catching your scent on someone else
In a crowded space
And it takes me somewhere I cannot quite place.

17. Editors-Nothing
Every conversation within you
Starts a celebration in me
Till I got nothing left
I got nothing left
18. Ellie Goulding-Burn
We can light it up, up, up
So they can't put it out, out, out

19. Haim-Forever
Forever I try to make it right,
Together we suck, end in sight,
I'm tired of fighting the good fight,
If you say the word then I'll say goodbye 

20. Okkervil River-Down Down the Deep River

I'll be your fighter and you'll be my mirror.
And you'll be all right because I'll be right here.
Oh kid, now I'm not going anywhere.
I swear I'll try to not be going anywhere

21. Oh Land-Renaissance Girls
I can be your darling cooking you dinner and soothing your heartache
Having three kids and still remain a virgin
It’s my version of a renaissance girl

22. Vampire Weekend-Ya Hey
Through the fire and through the flames
You won't even say your name
Only "I am that I am"
But who could ever live that way?

23. James Blake-Overgrown
I don't wanna be a star
But a stone on the shore
Long door, frame the wall
When everything's overgrown

24. The National-I Should Live in Salt
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

I swear, every time I hear Matt sing this, I get chills.
25. Frightened Rabbit and Manchester Orchestra-Architect

you shave bits of spine from a novelist to help you write

No, this is definitely not my twenty-fifth favorite song of 2013 (considering, you know, I got the lyric above tattooed on my body back in May) but I just wanted to end the list with it. Jesus Christ, the ache in the vocals in this song. The whole thing is perfection.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Favorite Lyricists

1. Joanna Newsom

then the system of strings tugs on the tip of my wings
(cut from cardboard and old magazines)
makes me warble and rise like a sparrow
and in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood
a cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow

it is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed
as I crash through the rafters
and the ropes and pulleys trail after
and the holiest belfry burns sky-high

then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
while, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
and in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
doubled over with the hunger of lions
"hold me close," cooed the dove
who was stuffed now with sawdust and diamonds

-Sawdust and Diamonds

(Alright, really, how do I pick ONE verse from a Joanna Newsom song to showcase?)

2. Dan Bejar

You were on the side of good
I was inside of the sea's guts,
A crumbling beauty trapped in a river of ice
A crumbling beauty trapped in paradise,
Oh yes, it was Paradise 

-Bay of Pigs

(Each line in "Bay of Pigs" is better than the next.)

3. Colin Meloy

In bathrooms and barrooms,
On dumpsters and heirlooms,
We bit our tongues.
Sucked our lips into our lungs
'Til we were falling.
Such was our calling.  

-On The Bus Mall

4. Josh Ritter

Galahad took off his boots and he watched the ground quite closely and the Angel smiled to himself again.
He said, "I can't believe I'm asking, but Sir Galahad please tell me - what is it that makes you want to go to Heaven?"

"In Heaven there's no lamb chops, Queen Guineveres for hand jobs, marijuana, Kenny Rogers or ecstasy."
"No pillaging, no rape, perhaps you've come by some mistake to me, this seems more error than knight errantry."  


5. Shane MacGowan

A curse on the judges, the coppers and screws
Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused
For the price of promotion
And justice to sell
May the judged by their judges when they rot down in hell

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head 

-Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six

6. Neko Case

Hey little girl, would you like to be the king's pet or the king?
I'd choose odorless and invisible, but otherwise, I would choose the king
Even though it sounds the loneliest
And my brother's hands would poison me

-Wild Creatures

7. Scott Hutchison

I have never wanted more, to be your man
And build a house around you
I am just like all the rest of them
Sorry, selfish, trying to improve

I'm here, I'm here, not heroic but I try

-Acts of Man

8. Matt Berninger

We'll take ourselves out in the street
And wear the blood in our cheeks
Like red roses
We'll go from car to sleeping car
And whisper in their sleeping ears
We were here, we were here
We'll set off the geese of Beverly Road

-The Geese of Beverly Road

9. St. Vincent

Do you have change or a button or cash?
Oh, my pockets hang out like two surrender flags
Oh, but I'd pay anything to keep my conscience clean
Keeping my eye on the exits, I'm steady now

-The Party

10. Ani DiFranco

When I say, "You sucked my brain out" the English translation is,
"I am in love with you." And it is no fun.
But I don't use words like love 'cause words like that don't matter.
But don't look so offended.
You know, you should be flattered. 


11. Fiona Apple

I could liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead
And I could liken you to a shark the way you bit off my head
But then again I was waving around a bleeding open wound
12. Patrick Stickles

But I admit that I provided a full moon
Because these humans treat humans like humans treat hogs,
They get used up, carved up, and fried in a pan.
But I wasn't born to die like a dog, I was born to die just like a man.
I was born to die just like a man!
-Four Score and Seven

13. Paul Noonan

He said 'They're like headlights
In the rear view mirror
They're closer that they seem
And from this gutter we're still staring at the stars'
She said 'Would ya go away and shite
Last night all you did was curse those stars
You said they sang to you of hope'

He said 'The sun gives life, and it takes it away
But like all the greats, it'll burn out someday'
She said 'I don't mind, I don't want to get bored
I don't want to end up beached on this shore
I want to be that star'

-Rocky Took a Lover

14. Frank Turner

Justin is the last of the great romantic poets,
and he's the only one among us who is ever going to make it.
We planned a revolution from a cheap Southampton bistro.
I don't remember details but there were English boys with banjos.
Jay is our St George, and he's standing on a wooden chair,
and he sings songs and he slays dragons, and he's losing all his hair.
Adam is the resurrected spirit of Gram Parsons,
in plaid instead of rhinestone and living in South London.
And no one's really clear about Tommy's job description,
but it's pretty clear he's vital to the whole damn operation.
Dave Danger smiles at strangers, Tre's the safest girl I know,
Zo and Harps will skamper up to victory in the city we call home.

-I Knew Prufrock Before He was Famous

15. Conor Oberst

Now a mother takes loans out, sends her kids off to colleges
Her family's reduced to names on a shopping list
While a coroner kneels beneath a great wooden crucifix
He knows there's worse things than being alone
And so I've learned to retreat at the first sign of danger
I mean, why wait around, if it's just to surrender?
And ambition, I've found, can lead only to failure
I do not read the reviews
No, I am not singing for you

-Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)

16. Damien Rice

And what I am to you is not real
What I am to you, you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
And I'll ask for the sea


17. Tori Amos

So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts
What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon
How's that thought for you?
-Silent All These Years

18. Sufjan Stevens

(I couldn't figure out what my favorite Sufjan Stevens' lyric is, or which one I would post to display how great he is. But he is great.)

19. Laura Marling

I am from Salinas where the women go forever
And they never ever stop to ask why
My mother, she's a saviour of six foot of bad behaviour
With long, blond curly hair down to her thigh


20. Jeff Mangum

Your father made fetuses with flesh licking ladies
While you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park
Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums
The music and medicine you needed for comforting
So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving
And pluck all your silly strings and bend all your notes for me
Soft silly music is meaningful magical
The movements were beautiful all in your ovaries
All of them milking with green fleshy flowers
While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines
Smelling of semen all under the garden was all you were needing
When you still believed in me
Say what you want to say and hang for your hollow ways
Moving your mouth to pull out all your miracle for me
-Oh, Comely  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I am a breathing time machine.

Are we not allowed to complain when bands we like change their sound and perhaps "sell out?"

I do. Constantly.

It's a slippery slope; I'm not saying I want every band/artist I like to keep putting out records that sound exactly the same. My problem is when it's clear that the change of sound is not an artistic choice but one made to pander to a larger, more mainstream audience. I'm talking specifically about The Avett Brothers.

Look, I totally buy the idea that they are growing up and maturing and won't be thrashing around with their banjos as they head into their forties. I get it. I'm not against growing up and maturing and I'm clearly not against being on a major label. What is a major label anyway? (I mean that rhetorically; Frightened Rabbit are on a major label and their music is still pretty great and they aren't obnoxious.) I really, really liked I and Love and You. And then they blew up (along with The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons and all of those other nu-folk bands), which was fine but something clearly started to change about them. In the beginning of their career, they just happened to be a band from the South who used southern musical traditions and fused them with rock. And it worked beautifully. They didn't need fancy production because they wrote such great songs that shined with just a few instruments and their glorious voices. But suddenly they really embraced this adult contemporary alt-country bullshit, and it would've been fine if the music was still good. Neko Case does it brilliantly, right? (God, her new record is amazing.) But I found The Carpenter completely unlistenable. I heard "February Seven" and could not believe how overproduced and phony it sounded. Wanna make money? That's fine. I have no problem with that. Wanna play arenas? Fine. I just won't go. (Really, why are The Avett Brothers playing the Barclays? How will that be enjoyable? Are they going to overinflate their sound even more?) But don't sacrifice the music. All of their songs are such overemotional sap, as though they're trying to be everybody's yearbook quote. They became indistinguishable from so many other bands, and that's the real pity.

Whenever I complain about The Avett Brothers, people tend to get really angry for some reason. But as a fan (of any band really), don't you have the right to criticize a band you once really, really liked? It's not about a lot of people suddenly liking them; I still love The National and they're playing arenas too. I saw both fun. and Mumford and Sons live this year (yeah, I did) and Tegan and Sara will always own a piece of my heart, no matter how many times they're played on the radio. And actually, they're a great example because they really changed their sound, and they've gradually become poppier since 2004's So Jealous, and yet...they're still fantastic. Heartthrob (a major label release) is not only one of my favorite records of the year but one of Tegan and Sara's best. For me, music is the most personal art form because it's very, very easy to develop an emotional connection to it. There is nothing better than a new record from your favorite band or going to see your favorite band live. So when one of them suddenly starts to disappoint you over and over again, it's only natural to feel almost betrayed. Like how can a band whose music you enjoyed so so much suddenly release such a load of crap? What's worse is when loads of people start enjoying it and telling you how amazing it is. All you want to do is say, "No! Haven't you ever heard their early records? Those were good!" Aren't we allowed to complain? Yes! Complain! But have good reason to! Don't say Bon Iver/Justin Vernon is crap because he suddenly won two Grammys. Justin Vernon has a boatload of talent. (Have you heard the new Volcano Choir record? Perfection.) I don't care if he sings with Kanye West or wins Grammys or sells out Radio City six times because the music is there. Patrick Wolf proved himself time and time again that he's kind of an asshole but I ignored it because the music was still good. Until it wasn't. I still adore Death Cab for Cutie, regardless of their Twilight association because I still enjoy their music.

Mainstream attention doesn't factor into things, especially since there's really no such thing as the mainstream anymore. The internet makes everything available to everyone. I want people to listen to the bands I like (for nothing other than being able to talk about music with, not at, more people) and I want them to be successful. But don't sacrifice the music. And that's what really bothers me about the success of The Avett Brothers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Favorite Voices

1. Glen Hansard
I could never even consider putting anyone else above Hansard when it comes to my favorite voices. Other than the fact that it is just gorgeous, it is the soundtrack of so many of my favorite musical memories, and the soundtrack to a lot of happiness in my life. It's warm and masculine and he sings with such ache and emotion sometimes that it truly makes your knees weak.

2. Justin Vernon
You will come to realize that most of this list will include men with what I like to refer to as "husky" voices. Masculine, warm, emotional voices that hit you right in the gut and hurt in the best way possible. No, I do not like falsetto (yeah, I know, Justin Vernon, right) but when Vernon sings in his lower register, Jesus Christ. If you give a listen to the new Volcano Choir record Repave, you will actually think that Vernon sounds like the angels in heaven, I mean it. 

3. Robin Pecknold
When I saw Fleet Foxes for the first time back in 2008, Pecknold sang "Oliver James" completely acoustic without a microphone and blew the entire audience away. Stunning.

4. Damien Rice
It all begins with Damien Rice. (WHY WON'T YOU MAKE NEW MUSIC, DAMIEN!?) Such a beautiful voice with just a hint of brogue, and definitely the sound that shaped my high school years. I don't listen to him much anymore but whenever I do hear his voice these days, it still makes me melt.

5. Gary Lightbody

If cuddling had a voice, it would sound like Gary Lightbody. 

6. Jim James

7. Josh Tillman
Was I the only one who was shocked by Josh Tillman's voice? Who knew this voice existed? I had listened to his work as J. Tillman and I wasn't impressed with his vocals but then I heard Fear Fun and I was like, "whoa, this is amazing!" 

8. Marcus Mumford  
Look, whatever, judge all you want. No, I do not think he sounds like Dave Matthews (nothing against Dave Matthews, I've liked a good deal of his songs throughout the years) and maybe sometimes Mumford does seem to be putting it on at times but I just adore the grittiness of his voice.

9. Scott Avett
I don't listen to The Avett Brothers much anymore but Lord, Scott Avett's voice is stunning and powerful.

10. Patrick Wolf
I have no idea what is going on with Patrick Wolf anymore (I sort of lost track of him after The Bachelor) but it's undeniable that he is filled to the brim with talent. His voice is a bit different from the others on this list but it still has a warm yet pure quality to it. 

11. Hamilton Leithauser 
This fella can waillllllllll. Jesus, it is beautiful. If you don't go weak in the knees when he sings, "and I'm stranded and I'm starry-eyed," you are incredibly unfeeling.

12. Peter Silberman

I always think that Silberman has a jazzy sort of quality to his voice, filled to the brim with pain and ache.

13. David Longstreth

Really, is there a better frontman around right now? If anyone is going to take the torch from David Byrne, it's this man.

14. Paul Noonan

15. James Blake

He did this as his encore when I saw him back in 2011 and I was blown away. Spectacular voice.

16. Daniel Rossen 

Also, Ed Droste. But Rossen gets the slot because I think Rossen can sometimes get a bit whiny. I still love him, though.

17. Nick Urata

Hearing this voice live and in person will blow you away. It is a powerful, powerful instrument with a ton of nuance. 

18. Torquil Campbell

19. Jeff Buckley

Because really, REALLY. 

20. Scott Hutchison
I wasn't sure where to stick this guy on this list. I certainly love his voice a lot more than most of this list but it feels premature to stick him in my top five or top ten. His voice isn't necessarily as appealing as the other people on the list, and to tell you the truth, the first time I heard him sing I was like, "whoa, that is way too Scottish" and it took a bit of time to like it, much less love it. And boy, do I love it. I've read it described as "handsome" and "husky" with a "muscular ache" and all of those describe it perfectly. I think he's one of the most emotional singers in indie No, his voice isn't necessarily pretty, and no, he's not a great vocalist but the way he sings certain words and lines makes his songs. (I think the only reason I grew to like "The Wrestle" is the way he sings the word "man-eater.") 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013 (So Far)

1. Frightened Rabbit-Acts of Man
I have never wanted more to be your man and build a house around you
I am just like all the rest of them: sorry, selfish, trying to improve

2. Phosphorescent-Song For Zula
See honey I am not some broken thing
I do not lay in the dark waiting for thee
No my heart is gold, my feet are light
And I am racing out on the desert plains all night

3. Laura Marling-I Was An Eagle
When we were in love
I was an eagle
And you were a dove

4. Chvrches-Recover
I'll give you one more chance
To say we can change our old ways
And you take what you need
And you know you don't need me

5. Tegan and Sara-Now I'm All Messed Up
Now I'm all messed up
I'm sick inside, wondering where
Where you're leaving your makeup

6. Jim James-Dear One
For this mission we were chosen you and me
One egg that split in two we came to be
The dawn of humanity
We were there
Dear one

7. Rhye-Open
Hmm, but stay, don't close your hands

8. Frightened Rabbit & Manchester Orchestra-Architect
Don't waste your time on me
I'm just an architect; I have built nothing

9. The National-Pink Rabbits
It wasn't like a rain it was more like a sea
I didn't ask for this pain it just came over me
I love a storm, but I don't love lightning
All the waters coming up so fast, that's frightening

10. Frank Turner-Recovery
And on the first night we met you said "Well darling, let's make a deal.
If anybody ever asks us, let's just tell them that we met in jail."
And that's the story that I'm sticking to like a stony-faced accomplice
But tonight I need to hear some truth if I'm ever getting through this.
Yeah you once sent me a letter that said "If you're lost at sea,
Close your eyes and catch the tide my dear and only think of me."
Well darling now I'm sinking and I'm as lost as lost can be
And I was hoping you could drag me up from down here towards my recovery

11. Akron/Family-Until the Morning
I had always wondered how you carried all that grief
I know it wasn't right to saddle you with mine
My life, my identity, I lay them at your feet
And stand here broken in the mirror of your eyes
Until the morning

12. James Blake-Overgrown
I don't wanna be a star
But a stone on the shore
Long door, frame the wall
When everything's overgrown

13. Majical Cloudz-This is Magic
apparently this track isn't on YouTube so enjoy this other great Majical Cloudz track

14. Capital Cities-Safe and Sound
I could fill your cup
You know my river won't evaporate
This world we still appreciate

15. Vampire Weekend-Ya Hey
Through the fire and through the flames
You won't even say your name
Only "I am that I am"
But who could ever live that way?

16. Frightened Rabbit-The Woodpile
Come find me now, where I hide and
We’ll speak in our secret tongues
Will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come and brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile, aye

(Okay, look, the album version is perfect, really, but...I've actually grown to enjoy acoustic versions of this song more. Scott Hutchison sings with such an ache and so much emotion that a lot of times, stripped down versions of his songs work better for me.)

17. Phosphorescent-The Quotidian Beasts
I said, "It’s you took your claws you slipped em under my skin"

18. The National-I Should Live in Salt
I should live in salt for leaving you behind

19. Cloud Cult-Good Friend
All I need is a good, good friend
To help me out when I’m burning down
When I’m all stretched out
Thank you for being around 

20. Bell x1-The End is Nigh

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Favorite Records of 2013 (So Far)

Oh, 2013, what am I supposed to do with you? You have been full of disappointment. SO MANY UNDERWHELMING RECORDS!

But I think, or I hope, I can come up with ten records that I have been loving this year. Let's see...

1. Frightened Rabbit-Pedestrian Verse
I'm not going to waste anyone else's time by explaining, once again, how good I think this record is. Go back and read every post I've written this year if you want to know why. Bottom line: it's a well-written, well-produced, enjoyable, dynamic pop-rock record from a band who really gets it.

Favorite Tracks: Acts of Man, The Woodpile, State Hospital.

2. Phosphorescent-Muchacho
Has a more beautiful record been released this year? Lord, this record is stunning. It doesn't seem like much at first but the more you listen, the more these tracks sneak up on you. And then you realize how intricate and detailed it all is.   

Favorite Tracks: Song for Zula, The Quotidian Beasts,  Sun, Arise!.

3. Majical Cloudz-Imposter
Just like the first two records on this list, this one came out of nowhere. But at least I knew of Phosphorescent and was technically already a FR fan but I hadn't heard of Majical Cloudz until a few days before this record was released. And I was hooked from the start. Devon Walsh's voice is magnificent, the lyrics are great, and it's yet another record whose intricacies slowly reveal themselves and eventually blow you away.

Favorite Tracks: This Is Magic, Mister, Chilhood Endz.

4. Laura Marling-Once I Was an Eagle
This is only a few weeks old but I can't stop listening to it. I've been a fan of Laura Marling's since her first record and although I find her a bit hit or miss since Alas, I Cannot Swim, this record is a return to form. Dare I say, it's her best. Back in February when I wrote about The Midnight Organ Fight, I mentioned that I had to keep restarting tracks because it was the only way to absorb the great lyrics. I have this problem with this record too. It takes me awhile to listen to one track because I stop and start songs at least three times. Laura Marling's music has always been far more mature than her years but on Once I Was An Eagle, her songwriting is so strong and confident.

Favorite Tracks: I Was An Eagle, You Know, Breathe.

5. James Blake-Overgrown
Jame Blake has the voice of an angel.

Favorite Tracks: Overgrown, Retrograde, DLM.

6. Jim James-Regions of Light and Sound of God
Oh, Jim James. Like I asked previously, is there a more talented, more hard-working, cooler man in indie music? Doubtful. And this record only further proves it.

Favorite Tracks: Dear One, A New Life, Know Til Now.

7. Tegan and Sara-Heartthrob
Like Laura Marling's record, Heartthrob was a return to form for Tegan and Sara. They released the perfect pop record this year and while I was a bit wary at first, it turned out to be a real winner. Sara Quin proved herself to be a fantastic songwriter on this record.

Favorite Tracks: Closer, Now I'm All Messed Up, I'm Not Your Hero.

Huh, I guess I only really love seven records this year. Oh well. But if I had to round it out, I'd put Frank Turner's Tape Deck Heart, The National's Trouble Will Find Me, and Baths' Obsidian. I also liked Cloud Cult's Love. But we have six more months to go; perhaps this year can redeem itself.

Truth be told, I don't think anything is going to top Pedestrian Verse.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

You said it would be painless. It wasn't that at all.

Internet, what do you do when you're underwhelmed by one of your favorite band's new records?

I've listened to Trouble Will Find Me in its entirety twice. The first time I was incredibly underwhelmed but then again, I need to listen to music by myself with headphones on to really fall in love. Since buying it on Tuesday, I've listened to parts of it (I really think the first half of the record is strong, especially "I Should Live In Salt" and "Demons") and upon finishing a second listen, it's not as disappointing as I initially thought. Sure, it's not incredibly dynamic musically, and I think it's Matt Berninger's weakest records lyrically but it's pretty good. I am not blown away. Yet.

I think I can remember feeling this way about High Violet. The first few listens were met with a shrug but it was also released at the height of my love for The National (I saw them three times on their High Violet tour, and thanks to internet streams, watched a lot of their performances) so I kept trying. I was determined to love that record. And I did. I still listen to it. But this time around, I'm a lot less inclined to keep trying. And it makes me feel like a stick in the mud. Because everyone else LOVES it. Because the band is at the height of its popularity and Trouble Will Find Me is going to sell a boatload of records. Because my best friend clearly loves it already. I don't want to seem like I'm being contrary for the sake of being contrary. I've liked a lot of popular records in my day (see my top five from 2012, for example). The problem is that I think I have to retrain myself in how to listen to The National.

Does this make any sense to you?

I've been thinking about why I love The National. What is it about them that makes them one of my top five favorite bands? It's a mix of the urgency in the music and the no-holds-barred, not holding anything back, heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics. Matt Berninger's words always painted a picture of a man who was a mess but had enough charm for me to understand why someone would put him in a chair, fuck him, and make him a drink. I loved the anthemic quality of "Terrible Love" and "Fake Empire" and "England." I wanted to see Matt Berninger lose his shit on stage.

Trouble Will Find Me isn't anthemic at all (immediate? visceral? what was Aaron Dessner talking about?). There are some intricacies in the music, that's for sure but I want these songs to build and they don't. And they don't sneak up on you the way the tracks on Muchacho do. (At least not yet.) The problem is they all feel like they're going to build but they just crash and burn. I need a track or two to break up the musical monotony. Every song has the same mood (it's even worse than Boxer). It's not boring per say, I just need a mood changer or two. I need that "Squalor Victoria" or that "Brainy." And lyrically, this is a different National. I wondered if they had anything else to sing about (they seem pretty content in life) and after listening to the record, I'm not sure of the answer to that. I know this is a terrible reference but I keep thinking about the Pitchfork review of the latest Avett Brother record. I'm paraphrasing but they said something about how at this point in the band's lives, why would fans expect them to write a song like "Talk on Indolence" or "Paranoia in Bb Major?" And that's fine; you want your musicians to grow, right? And you want them to do well. And you can't fault them finding success and getting their shit together. But at this point in my life maybe I can't relate to five straight white dudes in or approaching their forties. I'm not saying you have to relate to musicians and their situations to enjoy their music but as music is so personal (for both the creators and the listeners), it certainly helps. Ask those Taylor Swift fans.

(Side Note: I'm over hating Taylor Swift. Do your thing, girl.)

Or this is all a consequence of listening to the extremely dynamic, incredibly anthemic, and the kings of no-holds-barred, not holding anything back, heart-on-their-sleeves lyrics, Frightened Rabbit. They do exactly what I want The National to do, just with more brogue.

Look, I'm not writing the record off yet. Maybe the songs come off better live? (I'll find out in about ten days.) Maybe they just have to grow on me. Maybe, come December, it'll end up on my list of my favorite records of the year.

Know which records I am loving this week? Jim James' Regions of Light and Sounds of God (is there a cooler, more talented, harder working man in music than Jim James? and a better voice?) and Majical Cloudz's Imposter. Devon Walsh's voice is magnificent, his lyrics are so strong, and it's minimalism done perfectly. Again, I'm referencing Pitchfork but I couldn't help but beam while reading the review of that record this week. Yes, it is gorgeous.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Songs by The National

Did you read this list? Look, Stereogum, I tend to respect your content, and I think you're a great site. But what were you thinking with this list? (And as evident by the comments, a lot of people seem to agree with me.) I know these lists are subjective but I couldn't help but feel like this one was way, way off the mark. And it got me thinking about my favorite songs by The National. I've compiled my own list...

1. City Middle 
 I have weird memories of you
Wearing long red socks and red shoes
I have weird memories
I have weird memories of you
Pissing in a sink, I think
I have weird memories of you

2. The Geese of Beverly Road
We'll take ourselves out in the street
And wear the blood in our cheeks
Like red roses
We'll go from car to sleeping car
And whisper in their sleeping ears
We were here, we were here
We'll set off the geese of Beverly Road

3. Karen
Karen put me in a chair
Fuck me and make me a drink
I've lost direction and I'm past my peak 
I'm telling you this isn't me
No, this isn't me
Karen believe me you just haven't seen my good side yet

4. Fake Empire 
It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky  

5. Slow Show
You know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you

6. England
Afraid of the house, stay the night with the cynics

7. Terrible Love 
It takes an ocean not to break

8. Runaway 
But I won't be no runaway
Cause I won't run
No, I won't be no runaway
What makes you think I'm enjoying being led to the flood?
We've got another thing coming undone
And it's taking us over

9. Cherry Tree 
Don't look at me
I'm only breathing
Don't look at me I'm indiscreet
Don't look at me
I'm only breathing
Don't look at me I'm indiscreet

10. All the Wine
I'm put together beautifully
Big wet bottle in my fist, big wet rose in my teeth
I'm perfect piece of ass
Like every Californian
So tall I take over the street, with high beams shining on my back
A wingspan unbelievable
I'm a festival, I'm a parade

This was pretty difficult to compile because I could've also added "Ada," "You've Done it Again, Virginia," and "Afraid of Everyone." Not to mention, I already love "Demons." And in a month, we'll have new songs that are going to come and fuck up this list.

And I hope they do.