Archive for December 27th, 2007
1. Good To Me – The White Stripes
This is one of my favorite Stripes songs, and one of the only songs on my disc that is an actual b-side. This was released as a b-side on the “Seven Nation Army” single back in 2003. I love everything about this song, from the catchy riffs to the sweet message it conveys. I almost included it on the disc I gave away for the wedding, but I elected to instead have it lead off my bonus disc this year. I think I made the right decision.
2. Cheated Hearts – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This track is the first of many on my disc that qualify as a runner-up. See, I have a fairly strict one-track-per-artist rule on most of my discs. This poses a problem when there are two songs that deserve inclusion. Inevitably, one song loses out and gets the boot.1
This particular track lost out to “Gold Lion” on the 2006 disc. They both came off of the YYY’s amazing second disc, Show Your Bones. Both were fantastic songs, but in the end I chose not to include this track. In retrospect, I think this was a mistake. This is definitely the stronger track, if for no other reason than the line “sometimes I think that I’m bigger than the sound.” Karen O managed to sum up the band in one friggin’ line. Amazing.
3. Lost Angeles – Wired All Wrong
This track belongs to the other major category of songs on this disc: The ones I missed. No matter how hard I try I will never catch all of the good music that comes out in a year. Often I will be listening to some great music only to realize that it came out a year or two ago. A b-sides disc seems like the perfect place to include all of the good songs that I missed.This particular track was released without much fanfare in 2006. The band consists of former members of Self and God Lives Underwater. The latter were one of my favorite bands of the late nineties, and their influence is quite apparent on this album. Resident obscure music guru DavelyBob recommended WAW earlier this year, and I’ve been rocking out to their album ever since.
4. The Way It Is – The Strokes
It just wouldn’t be a Modern Rock disc without the Strokes. This track was on the Strokes’ vastly underrated second album, 2003’s Room On Fire. The song “12:51” was included on the 2003 disc, and “Reptilia” made it onto the 2004 disc. If I could do it over again, I would replace “12:51” with this song. This is a much stronger track that got shelved in favor of the albums first single. I guess that’s why this one is on the b-sides disc. Like most of their songs, the Strokes keep this one tight and right. After a disappointing third album, I’m hoping their fourth is a triumphant return to form.
5. Get Out Of The Way – The Vines
This track was a runner-up to “Get Free” from the 2002 disc. Both tracks were from the Vines blazing debut Highly Evolved. I’m a sucker for heavy guitars mixed with harmonized screaming, and this track has plenty of both. I really enjoyed this band, but I knew they wouldn’t last. They made a decent second album before frontman Craig Nicholls lost his grip on sanity. Their third album was terrible, and it only clocked in at 30 minutes. The group is said to be currently working on a fourth album, but I’m less than optimistic.
6. Up The Bracket – The Libertines
I discovered the Libertines back in 2004 thanks to my old neighbor Josh. However, this song is the title track off of their 2002 album. I rocked out their 2004 self-titled album for several months before realizing that it was their second album. I promptly downloaded their first album and felt foolish for missing out on this band band’s early days. See, the Libertines were fronted by Pete Doherty. By 2004 he had already started making headlines for stealing the band’s equipment and selling it for drugs. From there it’s been one long dating-kate-moss-and-doing-drugs-with-a-cat downhill plunge. I wish I could have enjoyed the band before Pete cast his junkie shadow over the band. As evidenced by this track, the band had a lot of potential that has since disappeared like a cloud of crack smoke from crazy Pete’s lungs.
7. 5 Times Out Of 100 – Hot Hot Heat
Hot Hot Heat were another band that had a ton of potential that was eventually squandered. Andy from Austin introduced HHH to me back in 2003, and I was instantly attracted to their poppy-dance shtick. “Bandages” from their major label debut Make Up The Breakdown was included on my 2003 disc. I downloaded all the stuff they put out on indie labels, and I found this gem on their 2002 EP Knock Knock Knock. At the time, I really dug vocal and keyboard stylings of frontman Steve Bays. This would be short lived. Since then, the band has released two more sub-par albums not worth mentioning. Another potential star that burnt out fast.
8. Unretrofied – The Dillinger Escape Plan
This track almost made it onto my 2004 disc, but was cut at the last minute due to its considerable length. I had to cut some of the intro and outro just to get it to fit on this disc. I listened to this song quite a bit back in 2004, and then promptly forgot about it once I cut it from Modern Rock. DavelyBob was kind enough to remind me of the greatness of this song when he included it in his Song of the Day mailing. Davely knows way more about the band than I do, so I will simply say that the synthesizers on this track are amazing. Great song.
9. Rifles – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
BRMC are another band that I discovered a bit late. My college roommate Eric had been championing the band for years before I gave them a serious listen in 2005. The title track from 2005’s Howl made it on my disc that year, but the real gem is the band’s self-titled 2002 debut. The whole album is equal parts beauty and darkness, which are both present in abundance on this particular track. They put out a solid disc this year, and the track “All You Do Is Talk” almost made it onto the 2007 disc before it was cut due to length.2
10. How Hard Is That – MC Paul Barman
I’ll never understand why Paul Barman never made it big. His rapid-fire-yet-easily-understandable rhymes combined with sample heavy tunes made for an instant classic in 2002’s Paullelujah!, yet no one heard the album. I hadn’t heard of him until Scottie recommended him in 2005. His witty, foul mouth instantly won me over. On this track he waxes poetic on so called artists over a sample from The Big Lebowski soundtrack. Pure genius. Why Paul wallowed in obscurity while Marshall Mathers ruled the chart is a mystery to me.
11. Push Things Forward – The Streets
While we are on the topic of white rappers who never got their due, what happened to Mike Skinner? This British geezer put out three albums under the pseudonym The Streets, and no one was listening. Hilarious rhymes delivered with a thick cockney accent seems like a winning combination to me. This track was runner-up to “The Irony Of It All” on the 2003 disc. As a side note, the track “When You Wasn’t Famous” was actually a runner-up to this track for the b-sides disc. I guess if I ever make a c-sides disc I will have to include it.
12. DARE – Gorillaz
What can I say about the Gorillaz that hasn’t already been said somewhere? I enjoyed their 2001 self-titled debut, mostly because I was a closet Blur fan in the nineties. Their sophomore effort was much better, mostly because Danger Mouse took control of the sound boards. There were so many good songs on Demon Days that I had a hard time picking two for my 2005 discs. I ended up selecting “Feel Good, Inc.” and “Last Living Souls” and cutting this fine track in the process. I guess since this track and “Feel Good, Inc.” were released as singles, they should have made the Modern Rock 2005 disc, and “Last Living Souls” should be here on the b-sides. Regardless, all three were great songs. Damon Albarn does a mean falsetto on this track, and the beat is full of ass-shaking goodness.
13. Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Similar to the Gorillaz track, I had three songs by CYHSY I wanted to include on the 2005 discs and only two slots. For various reasons I decided to cut this track, which I guess makes it the runner-up to the runner-up. I believe I originally cut this song due to the last half of the song where the singer repeats the same phrase roughly 60 bazillion times. Still a great track. I tried really hard to like their sophomore album, 2007’s Some Loud Thunder, but I never really was able to enjoy it. Hope their third album gets them back on track.
14, Holding Me Up – The Dandy Warhols
This track found me completely asleep at the wheel. The Dandy’s were one of my favorites of the “alternative” bands in the nineties. Then when this decade hit, they decided to put out a bunch of drivel. I gave several of their albums a try throughout this decade and finally gave up in 2004. So of course they put out a great album in 2005. I didn’t catch wind of this track until my college roommate Eric included it on his best of disc last year. This song reminded me of everything that I love about the Dandy’s sound. I hope they stick with the sound that made me love them for their next album.
15. Break Up The Ding Dong – Beta Band
Beta Band are probably more famous for having unlimited potential than their actual music. Their inclusion in the film High Fidelity sent them skyrocketing through the rock-nerd stratosphere, a jump from which they never recovered. After the phenomenal compilation The 3 EPs, they managed to put out two more mediocre albums before calling it quits in 2005. This particular track was a b-side from 2002 that wound up being released on the soundtrack to Igby Goes Down. Too much acclaim too early almost always ends up killing a band. ‘Tis a shame.
16. Gone Daddy Gone – Gnarls Barkley
I am convinced that there is no genre that Danger Mouse cannot conquer. His quirky eye for melody has resulted in genius in whatever he touches. This track is a perfect example. Normally I would look at a cover of one of my favorite Violent Femmes song that features a rapper from Atlanta with nothing but disdain. However, somehow Danger Mouse turns it into gold. This was a very close runner-up to “Crazy” on the 2006 disc, but ended up losing at the last minute. This was the exact moment that I decided to make a b-sides bonus disc for 2007. Thank you Danger Mouse.
17. Not About Love – Fiona Apple
I tried very hard to include this track on the first disc of my Modern Rock 2005 discs. In the end, it just didn’t work out with the aesthetic that I had planned. I designed the first disc to be the heavier of the set, and the second disc to be the mellower of the two. “Extraordinary Machine” fit perfectly on the second disc, but this track just didn’t work on the heavier disc. While this song is pretty heavy by Fiona Apple’s standards, it just didn’t sound right on the first disc. Which is a shame, because this is a fantastic track. Glad I was able to include this track here and still keep the Modern Rock 2005 discs as I had envisioned3
18. Sunset Soon Forgotten – Iron & Wine
As I mentioned countless time before, I am a huge fan of Sam Beam. The fact that this uber-talented fellow is still flies under the radar while a mediocre fellow like Dave Matthews flies high with a legion of fans is a great injustice to me. I discovered Iron and Wine with the 2004 masterpiece Our Endless Numbered Days. I loved all the tracks on this album so much that I was literally unable to pick just one to include on the 2004 disc. I still found it difficult to pick just one for my disc this time around. It just as easily could have been “Love and Some Verses,” “Passing Afternoon,” or “Each Coming Night.” The genius of this man needs to be heard by everyone.
19. Michigan – Ambulance LTD
This is the last of my runner-up tracks. It was the one that lost out for Modern Rock 2005, being beat by “Yoga Means Union” and “Stay Where You Are.” These guys put out one hell of an album in 2005, and put on one hell of a live show at Lollapalooza that year. They were due to put out an album at the end of this year, but no word on a release date has been given. I’m hoping they spent a couple of extra months perfecting things in the studio. This is my most anticipated album for 2008. I need this one to be good for my own sanity’s sake.
20. How It Ends – Devotchka
Seems like a good song to end the disc. This is another band that managed to get by me. They were recommended to me by my buddy Mike. Their 2004 album is on par with two of my favorite eclectic mix albums, Chocolate and Cheese by Ween and 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields. By this I mean that the album sounds like a mix tape, but is actually all the same artist. Devotchka’s sound is all over the map, but luckily they found the right places on the map to land. This track manages to take a synthesizer and a string section and capture a beauty seldom heard. The band released a well received EP in 2006, and is said to be hard at work on a new album. Hopefully they will be a prominent part of Modern Rock 2008!
And there you have it, the full list . I wish I could say that this will be my last list for awhile, but I’ll probably write a 2007 year in review list in the next couple of days. Until then, enjoy the music and the last remaining days of the year!
1 I had such a problem with this in 2005 that I decided to put out two discs of Modern Rock, thereby alleviating my one-track-per-artist rule.
2 Which means it will inevitably end up on the next b-sides disc I’ll make in another five years.
3 Well, mostly as I envisioned. How I was able to rationalize putting a Nine Inch Nails song on a mellow disc is beyond me now.
By this point I am assuming that all of the discs that were mailed a week ago have reached everyone. If I didn’t mail you a copy, feel free to use this complete track listing as a guide for downloading a version for yourself. As promised, I will now discuss the 2007 installment of Niks Piks Modern Rock. The 22 tracks I selected ended up becoming one of the popiest yet most enjoyable discs in the Modern Rock series. The sixth installment may end up replacing 2004 as my favorite disc of the bunch. Without further ado, here are the tracks.
1. Lazy Eye – Silversun Pickups
This is hands down my favorite song of the year. I downloaded the Silversun Pickups the day before I finished the Modern Rock 2006, and it almost made it onto that disc. Instead, I started out the year with this as the first song on the playlist, and there it has stayed. Usually I start out my discs with a quick and catchy song to grab the listener’s attention. However, the shear beauty of this song kept it firmly lodged at the top despite its length. Even though they are clearly borrowing a bit from Siamese Dream era Smashing Pumpkins, the song is still brilliant.
2. Hang Me Out To Dry – Cold War Kids
Another early selection, this one was based on the great video for the song that I saw on MTV2’s Subterranean. If you don’t watch this show, you should. It’s basically a re-imagined version of 120 Minutes, even has the same time slot at 11pm on Sundays. The Cold War Kids made it on last years disc with Saint John, but I think this song is much stronger. Much like the Silversun Pickups, I’m surprised that this band didn’t explode in 2007. They have a really unique, stripped down sound. And their singer has one hell of a set of pipes. What a great debut.
3. Flathead – The Fratellis
This song was courtesy of the Indie Rock Playlist that is released monthly on several torrent sites. Every month the same unknown rock fan with a disdain for copyright laws releases a playlist featuring 100 Indie and Alternative rock songs. While 75% – 90% of these songs are nonsense, there are some real hidden gems. I snagged this one back in March and immediately thought “This song is catchy as hell; I bet it ends up in an Ipod commercial.” Sure enough, two weeks later a black silhouette with white headphones was dancing to it on my television. Great song, great album, and great band name.1
4. Throw It On Me – Timbaland ft. The Hives
I’ve been a big fan of The Hives since I started Modern Rock back in 2002. Great look, great sound, great song titles, and great band members. The Hives have pushed three-minute garage rock song to its limit and come up with some brilliant songs in the process. This song is not on the quite solid Black And White Album they put out this year, but rather from Timbaland’s Shock Value album. The Hives sound mixed with Timbaland’s amazing production value created an undeniably catchy song that demanded to be placed on my disc. The beat of this song is irresistible.
5. Cobrastyle – Teddybears
And the pop just keeps on coming. Another pickup from Subterranean that just jumped off the screen. The video features men with gigantic teddy bears heads living the life of decadent rocks stars. Perfect image for a European dance group that know how to crank out the pop. I have now idea what half of the lyrics are in this song, and that’s the way I like it.
6. The Heinrich Maneuver – Interpol
This track is off of Interpol’s third album. On the whole, the album is pretty underwhelming. There were a couple of standout tracks, this one being my favorite. I’ve generally enjoyed most of the music that Interpol has released, mostly because they don’t really change their sound at all. They found a formula and they are sticking to it.
7. Bodysnatchers – Radiohead
Radiohead took the music biz by storm this year. While most of the press centered on their pay-what-you-want scheme, the real story should have been Radiohead putting out their best album since 2000’s Kid A. I can’t say enough good things about In Rainbows. Solid album all the way through, with this track barely beating out “15 Steps” for a place on my disc. Radiohead discovered the real way to keep people from downloading single tracks: Put out a good album.
8. Hunting For Witches – Bloc Party
This track surprised me for two reasons. First, I’ve never really liked Bloc Party. They seemed like one of a slew of British bands that were all hype and no hooks. After downloading this track from the Indie Rock Playlist back in April, I had to check twice to make sure this was actually Bloc Party. After giving their new album another try, I’m still not a fan. However, I still think this is a killer song so I had to include it. The other surprise is the political undertones of the songs. None of their other songs are remotely political. I guess it was a good year to release political music.
9. Capital G – Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor apparently thought it was a great year to release political music, considering he put out a whole album worth of protest songs. Most of NIN’s Year Zero is Trent angrily bitching about the state of the world, which wouldn’t be a problem if the beats were up to par. However, I think he spent way too much time with the lyrics and not enough time at the sound board. This is the only track on the album that I enjoyed. I much preferred the stellar sound of 2005’s With Teeth
10. Tarantula – The Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan caught a lot of flack this year for reforming Smashing Pumpkins without James on guitar or D’arcy on bass. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Billy recorded most of Siamese Dream by himself, so this should be no different. That being said, I think Zeitgeist is the best thing the Pumpkins have put out in years. While it true that the album definitely has some skipable tracks, on the whole it seemed to me like a triumphant return to the loud-soft-loud dynamic that helped define my teenage years. While I still think Billy is an egomaniacal asshole, I hope he continues to breathe life into one of my favorite bands.
11. Don’t Give Up – The Noisettes
The new British girl-group sound was beat to death this year by Amy Winehouse, which is unfortunate. There were several talented British women who received no recognition this year thanks to the constant coverage of the Winehouse trainwreck. I discovered them on the April Indie Rock Playlist. The Noisettes are a killer little British trio with a vocalist that can sing her ass of while beating her bass like mad. Aside from having some killer hooks, this song was also quite inspirational to me. In a year full of obstacles I enjoyed listening to this pint sized Brit telling me not to give up.
12. Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me – The Pipettes
I saw the video for this song on Subterranean back in July, and spent two weeks trying to get the song out of my head. As you can see, I was unsuccessful. The Pipettes are a trio of British songbirds that borrow liberally from the 60’s girl-group sound. Most of their songs are rather uninspired, but this little number is as catchy as can be. I usually try not to include groups on my discs that have more style than substance, but this song was irresistible.
13. (Antichrist Television Blues) – Arcade Fire
The Arcade Fire are a rarity in modern rock. After receiving universal praise from both critics and music lovers for their first album, the band carried that momentum into a triumphant second album. While Neon Bible is not quite a strong as Arcade Fire’s first offering, the group managed to expand their sound while staying true to their vision. I was duly impressed. Selecting a track was difficult; I considered placing several of these tracks on my disc. I eventually decided to include this track instead of my other favorite, “Keep The Car Running.” I hope that Arcade Fire help to reverse the curse of the second album that effects so many new bands.2
14. Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn – The White Stripes
2007 was a tough year for Meg White. Having to deal with fake sex tape rumors and tour cancellations must have been rough for a notoriously shy girl like Meg. It didn’t help that her brother Jack released the weakest album to date in the White Stripes catalog. While I still love the Stripes, Icky Thump left much to be desired. The album had some great songs, most notably this track and “Rag And Bone,” but it wasn’t solid from end to end like all of their previous efforts. The Stripes are famous for cranking out great albums while only spending three weeks in the studio. For the first time, it sound like Jack should have spent a little bit longer with this album. Jack has been included on all six of my Modern Rock discs. While I still a huge fan, I’m a little nervous about the direction the band is heading. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
15. The Devil Never Sleeps – Iron and Wine
While my faith in Jack White is starting to falter, my faith in Sam Beam continues to rise. Sam is the sole member of Iron and Wine. Each album he releases makes that fact harder and harder to believe. His early work has a beautiful, earthy feeling that instantly relaxes me. On this album he trades the laidback vibe for a much bigger sound that surprisingly fits him well. While there were many great tracks on The Shepard’s Dog, this little boogie number is by far the best. There is nothing on the radio indeed.
16. Back To The 101 – Albert Hammond Jr.
The Strokes contributed a track to each of the previous five Modern Rock discs. Despite a less than stellar last album, they are still one of my top five favorite bands. During their extended hiatus this year, Albert took a break from playing guitar in the group to record a pretty solid solo record. This song showcases the best of his guitar skills, and also features his surprisingly good singing voice. While I generally prefer the sound of the band’s other guitar player, Nick, I am glad that Albert made a great album all on his own. I have nothing but love for those five guys.
17. Is There A Ghost – Band Of Horses
Band Of Horses were a last minute addition to my 2006 pics that proved to be great addition. I saw the video to “The Great Salt Lake” on Subterranean about a week before I made my disc last year. I only had time to listen to that one song before sending out the 2006 discs. Afterwards, I downloaded the whole album and fell in love with the band. Like Arcade Fire, they bucked the second album curse this year with Cease To Begin. The album is much mellower than their first, but still manages to rock out on a few tracks like this one. Solid stuff from a solid band. I hope they continue to put out quality records like this for years to come
18. I’m Not There – Sonic Youth
This song was the centerpiece of the amazing soundtrack of the Dylan biopic I’m Not There. The soundtrack is two discs of Dylan covers by a slew of great artists. While many of the covers stand out, none do more than Sonic Youth’s cover of the title track. Sonic Youth have released more quality music in the last two years than they have in the previous ten years, in my opinion. It’s nice to see such a talented band return to their glory. Other stand out tracks that almost made my disc are “Fourth Time Around” by Yo La Tengo and “Highway 61 Revisited” by Karen O. Making a quality soundtrack of cover songs is difficult3, yet I’m Not There nailed it.
19. Just Like Honey – Guitar
I’m a sucker for a quirky cover song, and this one is about as quirky as it gets. I snagged this off of the May Indie Rock Playlist and immediately knew it would be going on my disc. I know nothing about the group, but I’m willing to guess that they hail from somewhere in Asia. Turning this depressing Jesus and Mary Chain song into an upbeat pop song is a brilliant idea. Well played, mysterious Asian group, well played.
20. Young Folks – Peter Bjorn and John
This is the last track that I added to the disc. It effectively replaced “Rehab” by the aforementioned Ms. Winehouse. Earlier in the year, I actually liked “Rehab.” After months of ridiculous headlines and constant complaints from my better half, I still was planning on putting “Rehab” on my disc. However, in the past few weeks I’ve really forgotten what it is that I liked about the song. When I listen to it now, all I seem to think is “I need to turn this crazy bitch off.” This sentiment was echoed in the Spin’s year in music review that I read last week while on the road. Also in this issue, they named this song by Peter Bjorn and John as a top pick for the year. I heard this song earlier in the year and really liked it, but I had no idea who recorded it. I took it as a sign, and gave Amy the boot in favor of “Young Folks.” Megan was happy, and now so am I.
21. Either Way – Wilco
I’ve been a big Wilco since way back in their Summer Teeth years. Their last album was decent but not remarkable. I was quite surprised this year to discover that their latest album was terrible. I gave it a few tries but just didn’t respond to it. While in St. Louis this summer, I mentioned to my buddy Eric that I was disappointed in Wilco. He agreed that most of the album was rubbish, but assured me that the first track on Sky Blue Sky was fantastic. When I returned to Florida, I gave this track a last try and discovered that he was correct. Even bad albums have good tracks, and here’s the proof.
22. Brother– Annuals
The last song on my disc is a real beauty. I saw the strange video for this song on Subterranean back in May. Didn’t really like the video, but loved the song. It has the perfect last song vibe. Turns out my buddy Scottie in New York is connected to them. We were discussing music on the way to drop Scottie off at the airport after my wedding, and he brought the band up. I told him that I was a big fan and he said in typical Scottie fashion, “You like them? I know the guy who signed them!” Too funny. He told me recently that they are working on a major label release for sometime next year. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from such a raw, young band.
And five pages later, I am finished. It was a great year for music. To those of you who are still reading, thanks for sticking with me. Hope you enjoy the music!
1 The Fratellis were bad guy family in The Goonies. The band denies the connection, but it’s probably just because they didn’t want to get sued.
2 In my book, the most noticeable second album curse in 2007 was Artic Monkeys. After last year’s fantastic debut, they raced back to the studio and cranked out a load of rubbish. Too bad, I thought they had great potential.
3 This difficulty was blatantly obvious while listening to the awful Beatles covers on the soundtrack to the terrible film Across the Universe. Monumentally terrible.