Here’s a playlist (complete with links to the songs, as long as I can find them) for your enjoyment. I’ll arrange a few of the entries by artist, as several artists contribute more than one song to the playlist. Get ready, because it’s going to be epic. And let’s just get this out of the way now: if you can’t get these songs out of your head, I’m not paying for you to get therapy. So don’t ask. Even if it is my fault.
This song, which was originally performed by Vashti Bunyan, appeared on last year’s epic made-for-charity album, “Dark Was the Night.” It’s a really haunting, heartbreaking song that really reflects the spirit and feel of a train ride.
This is another track from the “Dark Was the Night” album. The Dirty Projectors pairing with David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) seems an obvious fit — he really paved the way for the type of music they’re creating. Plus, his voice fits right in with their harmonies. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this song is about, but it is catchy, I know that.
I believe this is the first (or at least one of) the singles from their most recent album, “Bitte Orca,” and it’s a pretty good representation of that album, if not a bit more “mainstream” sounding than some of the other tracks (but if you like it, check out the whole album, because it’s great). This one even tosses in a few, “ah, well said,” lyrical moments (“on top of every mountain/there was a great longing/for another even higher mountain” is my favorite). There was one whole week this summer where I had this song stuck in my head every day. And yeah, I think the video’s weird, too.
Spoon is definitely one of my favorite bands (and a great band to listen to while driving, by the way), so I flipped when I heard this song on our local “listener supported” radio station. It was a new Spoon song! And a really, really good one at that. I love when they spell the titles of their songs exactly how they’re said (“Got Nuffin” = got nothing, of course). See also: “Don’t You Evah.” This came from their EP of the same name, released this past summer.
Jack White’s newest side-project finds him manning the drums and pairing with The Kills’ singer, Alison Mosshart. The result: a solid set of down-and-dirty rock songs. White proves that he’s probably just as good on drums as he is on guitar, and they really put the percussion on display; Mosshart has a gritty and powerful voice. If this song doesn’t make you want to drum on the nearest flat surface, then you might be dead.
Footnote: I won’t officially add it to the playlist, because the write-up would be nearly identical to this one, but “Hang You From the Heavens” is equally as awesome and is perhaps a better example of White’s drumming.
The Gossip – fronted by the ridiculously fierce Beth Ditto – have a flair for upbeat dance rock (my knee-jerk reaction would be to call it borderline glam rock, but I’m not sure if I know enough about glam rock to make that distinction). Their songs are uber catchy, with solid beats and crunchy guitars, and Ditto’s awesome voice over top.
I knew I’d like this song from the first few moments: two quick beats, then, “Spent all week in a dusty library.” Any song that mentions libraries (and any person who’d spend a whole week in one) is fine by me. It’s a sunny song, and I think it sounds exactly like those mild days at the beginning of fall, when the breeze is blowing and you feel invincible. I love the jaunty orchestral part in the background. That’s right: jaunty.
Architecture in Helsinki
This is an intensely catchy song. It’s rather cutesy (it would be appropriate as the opening credits song for a quirky “indie” comedy, or as the background music in an iPod commercial), but I love it all the same. I love when a bunch of them shout the lyrics, and the part where the men sing in deep, silly operatic voices; their exuberance is on full display, and you’ll probably catch some of it.
The only real things this song has in common with “Wishbone” are the energy and catchiness. Otherwise, it’s pretty different, more in the vein of late 70s, early 80s pop, even disco (think “Funkytown” by Lipps, Inc.). The repeated “beep beep beep” singing is reminiscent of ABBA (the “take a chance” chant in “Take a Chance on Me”). The groove they establish really just gets in your bones.
Like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear is a current critic’s darling in the indie music world, and rightfully so. They churn out melodically complex songs with lots of layers and great vocal harmonies.
A bouncing piano beat and solid drum part set the foundation for this song, while the vocals float effervescently over top with wispy harmonies. I realize that’s a little purple, but I can think of no better way to describe the vocals than as a cloud. It’s something that could be said for most of their songs.
The harmonies really take center stage here, and it’s nice to hear the vocal dynamics go back and forth between soft and strong. There’s a nice progression to the song, which starts off purposefully slower, and builds to something a bit more intense. Pitchfork gave this track a perfect 10 in their song reviews, and that’s pretty much a massive compliment coming from the pickiest music reviewers on the net.
This song really takes its time in putting on layers and letting the listener get introduced to each one as it comes along. It starts out with a really melodic drum part (it truly does sound like the drums are playing notes at times, more so than just beats), then a rather high bass part, then bursts of guitar, and finally the voices. From there, it steadily creeps along. It’s haunting, but more like if you were to be haunted by a ghost you were happy to see.
With such a bouncy piano part, how could this song not be completely joyful sounding? Matt and Kim strike me as two people who just love playing music and want to send their happiness through their music and onto the listener. It’s fun, it’s sunny, it’s simple, and it’s harmless, but it’ll also stick with you. Literally, you might need a lobotomy to get it out of your head.
This one starts out at a whisper and turns into a shout rather quickly. By the time it strolls up to the chorus, there are handclaps and “la la las” (although that description makes it sound a bit sunnier than it is). It really sounds more like a night on the town – dark and a little dirty.
This is some straight-up, funky electronica type music. I’m really new to that whole scene, but it’s very pop sounding, so nothing too crazy. One of the reasons I’m not typically too fond of techno or electronica is that they don’t really feature vocals (I guess you could say that lyrics and singing aren’t really a priority). But Passion Pit does the singing thing, so I’m there. What they do best, though, is create noise. The songs are packed, wall-to-wall, with noises that are new and just plain cool. It’s music that’s fun to listen to with the volume on high.
There you have it. 20 songs (I think – I may have miscounted) to get you through the beginning of fall. From moi, pour vous.