Band of Horses
[Sub Pop; 2006]
The debut single from Band of Horses is an anthem that is both somber and grandiose. The first minute lives up to the title, as it slowly creeps along with the chilling “oohs.” The song then climaxes into crashing guitars, as it switches to an almost celebratory sound. There really is no other way to describe the sound of this song without using “epic.” With lyrics like “I’m coming up only to hold you under,” it balances the songs dark themes with an almost sadistic sense of pleasure. It was a great debut single, and one of their best – if not the best – songs of theirs to date.
- Brent Koepp
“Nothing Ever Happened”
[Kranky / 4AD; 2008]
This is pretty much the only moment of excitement on the Atlanta band’s otherwise reserved Microcastle, and what a moment it is – chiming guitars, motorik rhythms, killer Nirvana bass riffs. It’s an indie rock wet dream and sounds like exactly what indie rock should have sounded like in 2008 without the Internet coming in and ruining everything, with electroclash and minimal techno and Animal Collective and poptimism. Sonic Youth mixed with Dinosaur Jr. mixed with Neu! and a little bit of Kraftwerk, just because. “Nothing Ever Happened” makes for a nice what-if period piece, then, but more than any of that contextual bullshit it’s just a great, accessible song. Halfway through it switches gears into full-out kraut mode, thundering forward oblivious to its own extreme repetition but never descending into ennui. Guitars foam, fuzz, and multiply until the song climaxes with a wheezing, bent synth line that eventually forcibly sets the song down. It’s one of those songs that could easily have gone on for double its length, but I’ll gladly take these five minutes of bliss.
- Andrew Ryce
“Anti-Matter” (feat. MF DOOM & Mr. Fantastik)
[Big Dada; 2003]
One of the many highlights from DOOM’s 2003 project Take Me To Your Leader under the name King Geedorah, “Anti-Matter” features the unfortunately little known rapper Mr. Fantastik, and is another notch in the DOOM’s bedpost of minds he’s fucked with in the past decade. In an album supposedly based around a thre- headed golden dragon from the Godzilla movies, we get a tune about egos and drug dealing, but we’ll let that slide because of the simple, restrained, brilliant production and playful rhymes. From an album that received almost universal praise but virtually no other press or attention, much like the rest of DOOM’s discography, this tune doesn’t get old – essential in the ’00s rap canon.
- Hamish Duncan
“Everything In Its Right Place”
[Parlophone / Capitol; 2000]
Most Radiohead fans will immediately understand what I mean when I talk about that sound those ambiguous keys make when they penetrate the air between the speakers and your head. It’s almost a recognizable sound in itself; those four notes can create an avid sense of trepidation. Once you know Kid A you know that those four notes begin the journey through the band’s hazy dream-like world where reality is vicious and unidentifiable and hearing the notes sends shivers down my spine because. Even though I might know the road well, I know the journey will be near ineffable. But the significance goes beyond those four notes and the unsettling introduction to the song because the voice to follow might as well be alien. But of course it’s Thom Yorke’s; strained, squeezed, put though effects pedals and machines until it’s almost non-human and lost any recognizable quality. He might be stripped of his natural ability through these effects but his yearning still bleeds through the noise, speaking lyrics that sound like the thoughts of someone drugged up beyond consideration, slowly taking in the rushing world around them. From that it sounds like a lot is going on but as I said, once you know this song and the album it begins, you know exactly what sound I’m talking about.
- Ray Finlayson
[Fat Cat; 2006]
Panda Bear’s (nee Noah Lennox) first album, Young Prayer, was a mournful acoustic tribute to his deceased father, but he seemed to be in better spirits when he made 2007’s Person Pitch; if anything, the album is a celebration of life. The third track, “Bro’s,” embodies this philosophy and could easily be considered the centerpiece of the album, which slowly merges from tropical surfer rock into a wickedly fast Cat Stevens guitar sample. The merge is so seamless that it almost goes undetected. All the while, Panda narrates the progression with his Beach Boys-esque vocals, distorting and layering them, all of which makes for a wild psychedelic yet futuristic ride.
- Arika Dean
“Poor Places” is probably the greatest summation of Jeff Tweedy as a songwriter. It shows his great lyrical dexterity and his love of taking traditional Americana and turning it on its head. The noisy bridge that samples a recording of CB radios could only be found in a Wilco song, and here it serves as the centerpiece of an album that would turn out to be one of the most important of the last decade.
- Colin Joyce
“Nutmeg” (feat. RZA)
[Razor Sharp / Epic / Sony; 2000]
At the start of the millennium, most rap fans would’ve grudgingly admitted that the Wu-Tang Clan’s time was done; following a classic debut and solid initial solo outings, subsequent efforts had yielded diminishing returns, with only Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard maintaining any real public profile. With Supreme Clientele, Ghostface turned all that around, resurrecting the Wu and establishing himself early on as the noughties’ most critically acclaimed rapper. “Nutmeg,” produced by Black Moses-Art, is fairly typical of that album’s overall sound; smooth soul samples (in this case Eddie Holman’s “It’s Over”) with the bass cranked up but otherwise served pretty straight. Ghost’s surrealist side is at the fore, seemingly throwing together any words that rhyme regardless of how little sense they make (“Dick made the cover now count, how many veins on it/ Scooby snack, jurassic plastic gas booby trap”), and peppering verses with random threats and sociopathic outbursts. RZA (literally) spits the last verse, but “Nutmeg” is pure Ghost; Dylan and Dali reborn as a hip-hop superhero action figure.
- Michael Dix
“We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”
[Saddle Creek; 2005]
Like much of the album from which it’s taken, “We Are Nowhere, And It’s Now” deals with Conor Oberst’s lamentations about constant travel and the sporadic feeling of the insignificance of being. Although probably written about being on tour, it is just as applicable to any journey that has been embarked upon. Accompanied by a simple mock waltz piano line and a gently plucked mandolin it’s perfect song for a long drive on a sunny day with the windows rolled down and the stereo turned up.
- Rob Hakimian
“Frontier Psychiatrist” is the essential track from Since I Left You by my own regards. It captures everything the album is famous for into one single quality – excessive sampling infused together to make it sound simultaneously weird ass and all perfectly fitting. Ghostly harmonies singing away in the background, stately strings, clips from old western films, horses crying out, a mariachi band, blasting horns and probably loads more I’ve still yet to pick up on all sound like they shouldn’t touch each other on paper. But, by Jove, it works so brilliantly and the final product is so entertaining it’ll bemuse you as much as entertain you. And if you think the track is zany, just watch the (brilliant) video.
- Ray Finlayson
“Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down”
With “Stella” being one of the longest songs Interpol has done, the song also twists and turns more than just about anything in their catalogue as well (excluding maybe “Specialist”). And in doing so, everything that is great about Interpol is on full display in “Stella”: it has the chiming guitar lines that soon turn into heavier, crunchier downstroked guitar chords, which in time lead to the amazing breakdown at the end, displaying their ridiculously talented rhythm section coupled with the simple yet intricate guitar play that Banks and Kessler do so well, all the while Paul Banks’ distinctively alienated sounding vocals are sometimes just barely able to scale the layers of music from which he is singing behind.
“Stella” also holds that intoxicating sense of dark isolation – and longing – while at the same time having an incredible feeling of romantic hope, which is so prevalent throughout all of Turn On the Bright Lights. And while many people (unfairly in my opinion) bash on Paul Banks’ lyrics, this song is masterfully written, shown by the fact that it emits all of those feelings mentioned above, but when you actually look into the lyrics, it turns out it’s a song about oral sex.
- Austin Nauert
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
We talk with Israeli rockers Vaadat Charigim about some of their favorite records.
We talk with Yvonne Ambree and Jesse Barnes of Take Berlin about some of the records which influenced the recording of their debut EP, Lionize.
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