All entries for Monday 25 December 2006

December 25, 2006

Tracks of the Year

Seeing as the advent calendar has fallen to pieces in my absence, I’ll skip it entirely and write about 25 tracks from the year that apparently I put on repeat, and repeat, and repeat, thanks to the scary feature over at Last.fm. Holly has already posted hers here, so go there first. If you look at mine you can see I’ve completely cheated but meh, these ones stood out more (You’ll maybe also notice I listen to myself a lot. I’m only trying to get used to hearing my voice, it’s bloody awful). And MERRY CHRISTMAS!

In chart order:

1. Voxtrot – Soft & Warm
Man, I was so excited about this band after hearing the first EP and patiently, manually, scanning the music blogs for news of the new record, maybe even a snippet. I think I first heard this as a KEXP session and then I knew the record was going to be so much more fulfilling than the last. A tiptoeing keyboard line, gaining confidence with a dancing bridge to finally that swelling brass and that climbing melody that I can’t help but be physically lifted by every time I hear it.

One more ‘single’ in, the excitement has ebbed slightly, but the anticipation for what they can do with a new album in the new year is still very, very great.

[Buy Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives]

2. Phoenix – Second To None
My chart actually gives Long Distance Call as next in the list, but I thought this was a more apt title. I wrote about Phoenix not too long ago and the album has never been far from the play button.

I still can’t get over the fact he plays one note for half the song.

[Buy It’s Never Been Like That]

3. Beirut – Postcards From Italy [Download]
I didn’t like Beirut at first. Who wants to listen to one accordion/banjo/brass line looped over and over with little change over a whole album? It was thankfully this track that kept me going back to have another listen, and I do want to listen to those now hypnotic phrases and arrangements because it just wouldn’t work with the shifts of traditional pop music. That resigned tone of voice as he sighs ‘And I, will love to see that day, that day was mine’ the brass joins back in for another round and it just feels just right.

[Buy Gulag Orkestar]

4. Field Music – In Context [Listen]
I borrowed the first Field Music album before I left for New Zealand and in the hurry forgot to grab a copy before giving it back. I had to survive on the free tracks from the website and this little gem from the MySpace page and from the new album in the new year. I’ve written about it already here, and fortunately I also found both Field Music albums as a special Australian edition for a very sweet deal while wandering around Sydney.

[Pre-order Tones Of Town]

5. Guillemots – Trains To Brazil [Listen]
A bassline that pumps to the thump of the toms while Mr. Dangerfield just has to wail and how great this song is going to be. Superbly uplifting for its lyrical content (‘Can’t you live and be thankful you’re here? ‘Cause it could be you, tomorrow, next year’) and engaging throughout, definitely a worthy position on this here chart.

[Buy Through the Windowpane]

6. Okkervil River – Black [Download]
I wrote about this album only a fortnight ago, so I won’t dawdle about how great this track is. That opening snare rattle and the keyboards ring out and Will Sheff just gets more and more enraged/emotional/ecstatic as drums and guitars crash around him. Worthy of awe.

[Buy Black Sheep Boy]

7. Neko Case – That Teenage Feeling
It took me a while to buy Fox Confessor, living off scraps of what I could find, each taste actually building the expectation for the remaining tracks. Every time Neko delivered and every time she lets her voice soar you can’t help but get goosebumps. This track was a swift prime example of that.

[Buy Fox Confessor Brings The Flood]

8. Destroyer – Painter In Your Pocket [Download]
Dan Bejar doesn’t have the most pleasant voice in the world, and though it took me a while to accept the warbling intro to this song, when those pads warm you up with the tumbling drums and Dan ‘sings’ ‘I didn’t stand a chance, I couldn’t stand at all’ you kinda believe him. Then that little gem of a guitar riff appears and suddenly the drums really roll and even the vocals start to feel right over the smooth tones and it just works. Brilliant.

[Buy Destroyer’s Rubies]

9. Thom Yorke – Black Swan
No-one was expecting a Thom Yorke record, but when it came, you did kind of expect this sort of insular electronic collection of songs but nothing quite as groovy as the guitar line in Black Swan. A fitting credits closer to Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (‘This is fucked up’) and I could listen to that line, and have, all day.

[Buy The Eraser]

10. Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds [Download]
The piano line is so simple, the drums only barely too complex for Meg White (come on, hi-hat AND toms at the same time… woah) it takes the wild vocals to really lift this one from being a real funeral dirge, because you can hardly say it has a chorus. And great those cords of are too, offering a fine introduction to the band’s sound.

[Buy Robbers and Cowards]

11. The Futureheads – Skip To The End [Download]
This is a lot higher up the list than I expected it to be, a song I’ve kept clear of for some strange reason in recent time despite it being a great one. Area had been a staple of playlists earlier in the year, and the album it preceded was well anticipated. News and Tributes didn’t push all the right buttons but instead found some new ones to play with

[Buy News and Tributes]

12. The Walkmen – Another One Goes By
The bar door opens, you wander in, a piano chord, some guy crooning ‘I don’t know what to offer you, I’m only broke and lonely’, another day/month/year goes by and you can keep listening to this song and thinking back to the last time you did exactly the same thing, four minutes ago. Sure, it’s an almost carbon-copy cover of a song released by a friend of the Walkmen (Mazarin) only last year, but damn if it isn’t just the perfect end to an album, well, pretty much anything, ever.

[Buy A Hundred Miles Off]

13. Arctic Monkeys – Leave Before The Lights Come On
It’s a long time since January when the Arctic Monkeys tumbled the records down and tore opinions in two over the Northern four-piece. They’ve kept surprisingly busy since that period, releasing a stop-gap EP and this last single that doesn’t push forward in any way but goddamn if it ain’t at least on a par with anything else they’ve done. ‘Well this is a good idea, you wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t’, right on brother.

[Buy Leave Before The Lights Come On (single)]

14. The Hold Steady – Chips Ahoy! [Download]
I try not to be taken by any Pitchfork hype (or the seemingly growing Pitchfork-hate) but The Hold Steady worked for me. Well, for this song at least. Simple, air-guitar worthy, vocals not too in-your-face or annoying and a whirling organ breakdown, exactly what I expected, exactly what I got. And I could listen to it again just to make sure…

[Buy Boys and Girls in America]

15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cheated Hearts
It’s hard to remember that the YYYs actually released a new album this year, and even less so that it was actually quite good. For all the cries of it being too restrained you sure as hell can’t say it of this track, as Nick Zinner lets rip to drown out Karen’s yelp.

[Buy Show Your Bones]

16. The Dears – There Goes My Outfit
I was a huge fan of No Cities Left but was kinda frustrated at the long-winded jams of nothing and just the amount of effort required to get through the whole album despite it being full of pop numbers like Lost In The Plot. Gang Of Losers reigned in the song times, kept the bombast and filled the whole album with great tunes. An acoustic version of this song was released as a teaser and is a lot more heart-wrenching than the studio version, but the whole arrangement works so it keeps ahead.

[Buy Gang Of Losers]

17. Duels – What We Did Wrong
It doesn’t matter which versioin I listen to of this song (I posted the demo version a while back), it can’t stop it being such a perfect distillation of how to write an interesting and utterly fantastic pop song.

[Buy The Bright Lights and What We Should’ve Learned]

18. The Mountain Goats – Woke Up New [Download]
I think it was the fact that I found out that there was this band who’d had released tens of albums without me taking notice made me actually go and see what the fuss around The Mountain Goats was all about. I found there wasn’t much fuss at all, but just some very innocent and honest acoustic songs that are so strikingly heartfelt you can’t help but be drawn in to the world Darnielle creates in his albums. Then you realise this world is the real world and makes you feel a little strange, but that’s alright, because he’s there to sing you through it.

[Buy Get Lonely]

19. Lily Allen – Smile [Listen]
Another great pop song but this time from someone I expected to completely despise. Sure, I don’t think much of the other tracks I’ve heard, but this one is perfect.

[Buy Alright, Still]

20. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces
I never really took notice of Gnarls Barkley at first, not even noticing how big Crazy was or really recognising it. When I finally came around I was thankful, because St. Elsewhere really is a fucking cool album. This, the second single, is definitely a worthy follow-up to the blockbuster. That Motown beat, that voice, and I don’t get what some people have against Dangermouse because the production here is spot on, letting the song breathe in all the right places.

[Buy St. Elsewhere]

21. The Rapture – Get Myself Into It [Download]
I remember going to see The Rapture in Manchester years ago, and although I had to leave for work the next morning, my friends stayed around and had drinks with the band. During the conversation, it became apparent that the guy who plays the cowbell (and sax) was getting really fucking tired of hitting that metal thing on stage and the tour was definitely a drag. The rest of the band obviously never listened to him (much), cos this time he has a little wooden one to hit, along with the cowbell for this more upbeat take on their indie-dance-punk-funk thing found on Echoes. Well, I guess he gets to play the sax a lot more this time round…

[Buy Pieces of the People We Love]

22. Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch [Listen]
Finding Two Way Monologue on one of those magazine CD’s (‘Word’ if I recall correctly) was proof enough that this guy could write a tune. This song rocks out in a way only a guy hooked on nostagia for the oldies can, like it’s 1980. Sure, the animal sounds have no place on any record ever (apart from maybe Seen the Light by Supergrass) but this is a rollicking pop tune despite that.

23. The Stills – Destroyer
Without Feathers was a far cry from the dark, gloomy Logic Will Break Your Heart and in some ways, like this glorious horn-blaring stomp of a song, it was a good thing. In most cases, like most of the album I’ve come to realise, it wasn’t.

[Buy Without Feathers]

24. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country [Download]
An obvious soundtrack to me leaving the country, coming out at just the right time and being very pretty indeed. Despite all the frustrating, unavoidable last-minute preparations, this just about kept me relaxed enough to not go crazy over it. ‘What does this city have to offer me?’, I was about to find out…

[Buy Let’s Get Out Of This Country]

25. Sunset Rubdown – Stadiums and Shrines II [Download]
Whenever that guitar line comes spiralling down and the keyboards lifting up, I love that moment. And when at the breakdown when two notes are just pushing you and Krug just mentions ‘I’m sorry anybody dies at all these days’ and it all kicks back in, I love that moment. A great song.

[Buy Shut Up I’m Dreaming]

Bonus. Afterburner – Don’t Leave It Too Late [Download]
If there is one song I’ve listened more than anything else this year, it has to be this. Writing it, practising it so many times to get the arrangement right, recording it, working out levels, mixing it, performing it live and finally having a finished version to give away to friends. I joke that Pete (the guitarist) wanted me to write a song better than Don’t Look Back In Anger and I hopefully didn’t make too bad of an effort at it…

[Download Arrivals/Departures EP here]

Enjoy your holidays!


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