Back in the day, it was tapes.
We would listen to hours of radio, Bryce and I, waiting for an elusive “Love Rollercoaster” or “Letting the Cables Sleep”. We would tune to MTV, a channel that my parents had taken care to hide from us, tape deck balanced against the TV speakers, volume loud enough to distort, and add a little hip-hop or hard rock for flavor. When we were older, we’d meet Nick Brotzel, and, from him, we’d learn about rap music. I’d take care to generate “clean” versions of “Gin and Juice” and “Cartoon Ghetto”, though the effort was hardly worthwhile. My thinking was that this could help exonerate me, should any of my mixtapes fall into the wrong hands. Thus, hours were spent; days were devoted. We collected songs like lepidopterologists collect butterflies.
This is the art and passion of the mixtape. Tapes gave way to CDs which have given way to mix playlists (mps). Lengths have increased, though I keep my playlists to CD length. One thing hasn’t changed: the passion. This mp, (2008) Best of Last Year, which you can listen to in the sidebar or on Grooveshark, is comprised of the best songs that I’ve come across in the year of 2008.
Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
Sigur Rós has, as a band, managed to capture and re-capture my imagination. They released a new album this year, and it had two tracks that I wanted to place on this mp. I knew I had a decision to make. How should I deal with albums? Do I place any songs that I like into the playlist, regardless of album? I felt, to increase variety (chaos), I should limit it to one song per album. This guy won out, and it also makes a great opening track. Mallots burst like stars over driving percussion, piano, and other orchestral instruments. And, of course, I have no idea what’s being said, so it’s appropriate for any audience, unlike some songs that will be coming up.
To be fair, I was first introduced to this song in 2007, but I didn’t embrace this Coheed & Cambria song until we got Rock Band. Sometimes a song just needs a wall of guitar distortion, and that’s what this is. The chords built in a slightly chromatic fashion, building tension, laid over a string section, which gives it an epic feeling. Plus the solo is pretty fierce. There might be cursing in this song, but even when I read along with the lyrics, I can’t figure out what they’re saying. Kids these days!
Another album; another gut-check. Death Cab for Cutie really impressed me when their second track on this new album, Narrow Stairs, had an album version that boasted over eight and half minutes. It was a song that I’d loved instensly since I’d heard it. But, when I checked the album over for other contenders, I was shocked to see that this song had a greater play count. “Cath…” is a vivid short story featuring some creative wordplay. The numbers don’t lie – I love this song more.
I don’t think it can be called “love-hate”, but I’ve certainly had a “love-indifferent” relationship with Smashing Pumpkins. This song, though a new-comer to my music library, has stuck out for me. Its introduction is related to Rock Band, Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Weezer. The other two might be quasi-obvious if you’ve played either, but the Weezer connection is a bit more obscure. One day, at work, I was craving Weezer. I started up my trusty Pandora, and I let her take me away. To my surprise, this song came up in the rotation. It had the faint echos of being a song I’d heard somewhere else, and the strong pangs of being a song I had to listen to at will.
Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head) (Album Version)
Another album. This one, by Ben Folds, I got mere days before the end of 2008, and so it barely made my “best of last year” list. Truthfully, there is another song on this album that I love more, but this song came to me sooner; Ben played this song at his concert that we attended in Mankato. Thus, this song pulled rank and ended up on the ‘list. It’s not his greatest lyric writing, but it does have a funny story to accompany it. Also, it has strings and a nice driving melody. And then there’s the quirky ending.
This is another Rock Band refuge by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (or The Triple Affirmatives, as I call them). This song doesn’t really have the passion that I’ve come to associate with songs I love. Yet, for many months, this song held the highest play count in my entire music library. What certainly helped it was that it was fun to play, both as guitarist and percussionist. I love how the guitar part seems to blend to/into a mallet part. Like a bird, it soars up and down, back and forth, before the grunge-colored distortion hides it from view. Don’t worry, though; it sticks with you through the end.
It seems only fitting that my second-highest play count song is followed by my highest play count song. This piano ballad by Damien Rice, featuring the voice of Lisa Hannigan, appeared on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s power and brilliance made a mark on me. I bought it; and then I listened to it 90 times.
I had never heard of Akeboshi before I’d seen the show Naruto on Hulu. I’d been reading the manga, and once we saw that the anime was available on Hulu, I made the decison to get my Naruto that way. This song is the closing credits song. Once you can get past the Japanese accent, it makes for a pretty catchy little song. We’ve discovered that a fair amount of Japanese artists will often do English language songs. Likewise, they will sometimes mix English and Japanese in the same song. Get used to it.
Oh, boy. My face is red. This isn’t usually the kind of song I’d be caught listening to, let alone putting in a blog post. One has only a certain redheaded blogger‘s younger sister to blame for this. I don’t have many friends on YouTube, so when they post videos, I watch. Thus, this song came into my head and into my playlist.
Foreplay / Long Time
Oh, Boston. We only thought you were good for “More Than A Feeling”, but here you are penning a two-part, seven-minute opera of rock. The instrumental, frantic “Foreplay” eventually dies and gives way to the longer, more melodic “Long Time”. Also, you can sing along with “Long Time”. Boston’s vocalist is, in my opinion, one of their greatest assets, and it’s what makes me unashamed of declaring that I listen to “More Than A Feeling”. This song, too, came from Rock Band. Are you seeing a pattern here?
The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance
The jury’s still out on Vampire Weekend. Certainly, I’ve enjoyed the songs of theirs that I’ve been introduced to this year, but I don’t know if they have staying power. Their sound is interesting and eclectic. It’s offbeat enough to be “indie”, but it sounds pop enough to make them BFFs with MTV. So, we’ll see. This song was one from their album that I hadn’t put on other mps, and I wanted it to get a chance, as it’s the one I know I like by name.
Gojam Province 1968 (not pictured)
This track, which has been made available by the band for a nominal price at a special website, is a perfect example of the storytelling and musicianship of the Mountain Goats. It seems to tell a poignant story of growing up in a difficult era. The sparse piano part coupled with a strong vocal line give this song an indelible starkness and frankness that you can only get in the most honest of documentary films. It stands out.
B****** A**** S***
(Ain’t isn’t a word, so it got stared, also). Ben Folds had two albums that I acquired this past year. This song, a cover, made a big splash when he dropped it. This song, a cover of a rap song, seems at home on the piano, with Ben’s voice singing its dangerous melody. This song, a bridge between two favorite musics of my childhood, stands as a brilliant, calico example of my generation has grown up in. Dog lovers will tell you that they love mutts as much as purebreds.
I can’t ignore a good mixed time signature. Rush has represented, for me, odd melodies and strange syncopations. This song falls in line with that. It’s a song that I’ve come to love and hate. Especially when I’m playing the guitar part in Rock Band. Yet, it all seems to fit perfectly into my collection. After all, a certain trio of processed food products had their own Rush adventure, and I can now feel more as a part of that fraternity.
Feist didn’t put in a comma, and neither did I. This song’s title should be read “one-two-three-four”, not “one thousand, two hundred and thirty-four” as one my be inclined. Apple used the song to show off their new iPods nano, of which Holli has one. The song was catchy, and further listens point toward a deeper back story to the song. It sounded deeply personal and intimiate. Of course, then she did a parody of it for Sesame Street, so I don’t know what to think anymore.
Regina Spektor has equal parts beautiful music as she does harsh and crude-sounding music. This song, however, is all beautiful. It’s a love story, perhaps set (and featuring) the Biblical hero of the same name, or maybe it’s just that grand of a love. It was hard to pick just one Regina song, but this one was a good pick for duration and for content. It brings the mood to a sentimental whisper.
“Cha!” Said The Kitty
For a long time, all I knew of Local H was that they made hoodies. Or, at least one hoodie. However, while editing the wedding video of Holly (Smith) and Bob Davidson, I wanted a fun “Receiving Line” song. I’d already included songs for her during the “Reception” video, and I wanted to include something for Bob. So, I found this song. While it’s not exactly a “wedding video song”, it made for a perfect backing track for what I’d done to the footage.
Fulcrum and Lever
I don’t know what it is, but this band loves their “womb” and “spinal injury” themes. This is one of the latter. It’s about a young kid who tries to fly off his roof and ends up, well, on “another planet”. One can only assume that his fall resulted in an injury that permanently disfigured him. What I really love about this song is the sonic manipulation of the vocals and instruments. Some day soon, The Faint will only need a laptop for their concerts. I think, some time ages ago, they used to use guitars…
This is another anime theme song. This one comes from the show Bleach, which I talked about previously. This is some sort of Japanese rap song. Parts of it seems to start to sound like English, but I can’t be certain. As the first track on this playlist shows, I’m no stranger to enjoying songs of which not a word is intelligible. This song was a great match for the anime. It had the a great pace, excitement, and energy, of which the show exudes in droves. Unfortunately, they don’t use this song anymore.
J*** In My Pants (not pictured)
What started as a hilarious digital short soon found a spot in my heart. And as I can’t continue writing without thinking of thousands of inappropriate innuendos and metaphors, I’ll just say that this song is probably not appropriate for the elderly or the youthful. A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t figure out why the “j” has three “*” after it, you shouldn’t listen to the song.