Let me run it into the ground - this has been a great year for music, but in a decade where digital singles and iPod playlists have taken over the traditional album - to an extent - there are some songs that top all others. This year, no exception. So here are my five favorite songs of the year, regardless of their album's worth.
1) Silversun Pickups - "Panic Switch" --- Talk about a power-house song. The guitars drive on fuzzed tracks while the vocals of Brian Aubert are quiet but blunt. When the vocal harmonies come in at the end...it's just a blistering single and one of the finest of the year.
2) Portugal. The Man - "Mornings" --- I remember the first time I got through The Satanic Satanist, I was feeling indifferent about it as a whole, but must have listened to the closer well around 20 times within the following 12 hours - obsessive much? The guitar twangs matched to John Gourley's amazing vocals aren't the topping that is the chorus line of this true gem.
3) Thrice - "Beggars" --- Like my following choice, upon the first listen of Beggars I was a bit indifferent, and it took a few listens. I was returned to the title track, and brilliant closer. The song itself may just be some of the best lyrics Dustin Kensrue has ever penned, and instrumentally the band has crafted one of their best works and the true definition of progression by an artist.
4) St. Vincent - "Actor Out of Work" --- What a majestic album Actor is! It's elegant, and brings more depth than 2007's Marry Me. The first single off the album is shining and heavy at the same time. Annie Clark is just as beautiful as her music.
5) Grizzly Bear + Feist - "Service Bell" --- Sure, it didn't sound as full as this on Grizzly Bear's debut Horn of Plenty, but add a new orchestration and Leslie Feist's voice matched to Ed Droste and the this short collaboration engulffed these ears for many a repeat listen.
On Tuesday I posted my review for the New Moon soundtrack and later had my interview with Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. At the end of the interview, I asked Taylor what he thought about his band being on the soundtrack. That led into a five minute conversation/bout about how effective lending one song to something mainstream would be for a lesser known band to the casual, every day listener.
I will have that interview up next week along with my thoughts on the subject, "indie" soundtracks and Guitar Hero track lists.
For now, I get Taylor's point of exposure, and with that, here are five singles that led me to five great albums that I may have otherwise not have checked out.
1) St. Vincent - "Actor Out of Work" (Actor) --- This upbeat guitar drive is catchy as hell. Annie Clark's voice sounds so elegant over the noise that accompanies it. The rest of the album is even more stellar and is definitely one of the best of the year.
2) Wolf Parade - "I'll Believe in Anything" (Apologies to the Queen Mary) --- This may be one of the best songs of all time. It may sound repetitive, but I just can't help but get into it every time it comes on. I blame my roommate and MTV's Subterranean, but the album goes down as one of my favorites of all time now.
3) TV on the Radio - "Wolf Like Me" (Return to Cookie Mountain) --- I remember hearing these guys while working at the radio station for my first few years, but like everyone, their single really got me enthralled into the album. Let's just say, the rest of the album doesn't disappoint, and certainly showcases quite a talented band.
4) Silversun Pickups - "Panic Switch" (Swoon) --- One of my favorite songs of the year. It drives (not like Jehu) and is catchy as fuck. The vocal layer at the end is what brings this one home. Kudos to Silversun Pickups for restoring my faith in good guitar driven rock again.
5) Spoon - "The Underdog" (Ga Ga Ga Ga) --- No, it wasn't the Stranger Than Fiction soundtrack, but this single that got me into one of the best pop albums out there. It's got horns, a hell of a vocal hook and a salsa feel that makes you wonder where you left that bag of chips. It got me to check out the back catalog, and I am now hooked on this band.
Forget the Justice Department backing the $1.92 millions dollar verdict this past week, all eyes are now on Radiohead, but honestly, should we care?
The band that broke the mold, and asked its audience to choose their pricing for their last album In Rainbows, is now giving away a new song for free, days after it had leaked across the Web.
Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon yet again, is the band doing anything that hasn't already been done? Well, at least they're doing it at a high bit rate this time.
One major question remains, did Radiohead intentionally leak their song to underground wires with encryption matching that of the artwork and .txt files given away yesterday with the song's download on their website? Doesn't the band know that Trent Reznor has already done that before?
Will this be the only song released as a digital preview, or leak for that matter? Will the band keep the rest of their new material under wraps until the EP or digital single "plan" Yorke admitted to a few days ago is executed?
Like the center of a Tootsie Roll pop, the world may never know.
With Radiohead obviously making a shift to shorter documents of work, is this another nail in the LP coffin that some of us fear?
Now match that with something Jason called out today on one of the forums, and I would have to ask yet another question: Are we ready to even move backwards to a single format matched to listener judgment? It would make us critical of bands based on just a handful of singles, as opposed to those who put together grand records of killer.
There are a lot of records I like that have two or three songs that are worth skipping over and around, which brings me to a feature that Pitchfork is running this week. The site is running (arguably) the top 500 tracks of the past decade. While there are a multitude of indie jams, the list also features some popular singles by mainstream artists.
The format for releasing music is changing into the next level, and could possibly mean doing away with the LP format for some artists. Is this good? For some bands, maybe. Maybe we need the mainstream to produce singles for mass, and camp, value. On the other side, I would never want to see great bands like Radiohead and Brand New stop releasing full features.
Inevitably, it is up to those who create. We, as listeners and consumers, have to just sit back and take in what is given to us. Is the new Radiohead song even good? Well, it is. But Kid A wouldn't have worked well if apart, and I'd like to see where this new song ends up in its eventual whole, if there is one.
"...sub-question: is it better to die out, or to fade away?"
I write this, mind you, while an infomercial for Monster Ballads is on the television. Maybe we just don't know what we've got, until it's gone.
Remember the entry where I shed some details on my conversation with ex-Refused drummer David Sandström? We had a small tangent of a conversation concerning the "death of the album."
Well, it would seem appropriate that the band we all love to hate to love may be putting that idea into play. Brand New, rumored, are about to take this idea into play.
But let's face it. We brought this upon ourselves. Case and point: Drew's entry that the new Thrice album has leaked three months prior to its release. This shows that the majority no longer longs for the days where we waited in anticipation for new releases, rushed to the store to grab it and flipped through the pages of the album's booklet while the first song off said album blasted out of our car stereo.
No, no...those days are gone.
Back to Sandström and mine's conversation. He believes that single will possibly make it's way back into the system. Get rid of filler, and constantly spin the killer, right?
Well, that's good and bad for artists and listeners. Artists will be able to release music instantly. Record a song, or two, release them digitally, and boom, instant gratification! Listeners will no longer have to beat the system, never have to wait impatiently again, constantly updating their MP3 players daily with new music from their favorite artists.
Win-win, or not?
Some of the best music is a full album. Ranging from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. These records work best as a whole, argueably containing great stand-alone tracks though. The shape of music would change, and I would bet the major's would lose more money because they are shelling out less of a product. If the market is flooded already, can you imagine an increase in songs, since the new way to create art is in singles, not in albums. Well, I guess someone like Ryan Adams or Sufjan Stevens would like this idea, but there are exceptions to every rule.
To see music being created one block at a time would be tragic. By producing a full product, artists create something on a full scale to be judged as a whole, instead of incriments. Singles and demos are fine when it comes to selling and creating interest, but the idea of creating songs at a time in an already flooded market seems too much of a bad thing.
Two incredible albums are released today: Portugal. The Man's The Satanic Satanist and Rx Bandits' Mandala. Both these records would not work as separate tracks, and I'm stoked that they came together as a whole.
To Brand New, you may mean something along the lines of what I'm speaking of above, or possibly moving to a completely digital medium, since it would seem the public doesn't care about money put into tangible products of your art.
Whatever the case be me, I hope that your band and Sandström are wrong in the end.
It's 10 years ago, well not today exactly, but an early 10 year anniversary of Tom Green's smash single "Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)."
Yes, we remember well. The video. The ironic line of, "If I get lucky, I'll get a disease." Who could forget that ridiculous super hero costume he wore.
The song was available in two formats, a free download off of MTV.com and a CD single. And while I'm unsure how many copies were actually pushed, it was probably less than the impact of legal free downloads.
How much money do you think it cost to make the "I'm on a Boat" SNL Digital Short? Under full rap video quality, it seems like it cost a pretty penny.
Sunday, I purchased the track off of iTunes to help out that cost. It sounds like a legitimate rap single, just digital, with what I don't believe to be a physical copy anytime soon.
"I'm on a Boat" brings up questions like: "Is T-Pain like the funny man's Pharrell Williams now?" or "Who are those other two guys in these digital shorts?" But the real question here is the idea of the advancement of the single by digital means as opposed to the old CD standard.
Really? How many singles did you buy when they were on CD's? Did the number increase with iTunes and Amazon? More importantly, with the ability to take a single anywhere, instead of waiting for it to hit the radio waves, does it create a less or greater hype surrounding an anticipated record?
The examples I'll use presently are Thursday's "Resuscitation of a Dead Man" and Manchester Orchestra's "I've Got Friends." Both are highly anticipated records with singles that accurately portray what is to come, but I know, myself, that without the single on my iPod, I would be more hyped in hearing the record once purchased at the store, than having something tide me over until the full length's release.
I'm not saying that the digital single has changed anticipation, but it is something to latch onto with a calmer head of it's parent's release. Is a Lonely Island debut in the works, if so, "I'm on a Boat" will hold me over, and I can't wait to hear the single in the club.