Archive for January 2nd, 2009

The Captain Discusses Modern Rock 2008: Disc One Side One

The next four days are devoted to my favorite songs from 2008.  This year marks the 7th year I have distributed Modern Rock discs.  Interestingly enough it is only the second time that I created two full discs of music, with the first time being 2005.  I stuck with roughly the same format that I used in 2005, with the first discs being the heavier one and the second discs geared towards lighter fare.

I have broken each disc into two sides for a total of four entries.  For each track I included the cover of the album of origin.  So without further ado, here are the first 12 of the 46 tracks.

1.     Salute Your Solution – The Raconteurs

What better way to start off the discs than with the hardest working man in rock today, Mr. Jack White.  He had quite a busy year, which is reflected by the three songs included on my discs.  While all three songs are solid, his first entry is easily my favorite.  This blazing track is the second song from his side-band’s second album, Consolers Of The Lonely.  His work with The Raconteurs is really hit-or-miss, but this track is all hit.  It includes the best rock lyric of the year “I got what I got all in spite you, and I give what I give just to spite you.”  Take that nameless enemy!

2.     He’s A Rocker – The Vines

Last year I said that I was less than optimistic that The Vines would release an album in 2008.  I figured that the band’s notoriously loony frontman Craig Nicholls would have put a permanent end to the band after their disastrous last album.  I am happy to report that I was wrong.  The Vines came back from the brink of catastrophe in 2008 by returning to their heavy-guitar-and-harmonized-screaming signature sound.  While Melodia sounds a little more polished than previous efforts, it’s another solid album from one of my favorites from this decade.

3.     Supernatural Superserious – REM

Speaking of triumphant returns, how about REM!  It’s been ten years since they last put out a decent album.  Over the past decade they seemed content to put out a bunch of mopey and/or preachy crap, and simply rely on touring.  I’m not sure who kicked Michael Stipe off of his high/sad horse, but it certainly did the trick.  Every song on Accelerate has the vitality and urgency that made REM famous in the first place.  I think it’s great to see such a great band fight to reclaim their relevancy, and this is a great place to start.

4.     Pork And Beans – Weezer

Rivers Cuomo has figured out a winning formula and he’s sticking with it.  First, write an extremely catchy song with pop-metal riffs and a sing-songy chorus.  Second, surround this song with 10-12 mediocre songs and then pick a primary color to represent this self-titled album.  Third, put more work into filming the video for said song than you did on the rest of the album.  This year, the result is this quirky-yet-captivating song from Weezer (the red album) featuring the music video with all of the YouTube references.  I like this song, but I hope the band doesn’t continue to head in this direction.

5.     My Drive Thru – The Neptunes w/ Julian Casablancas & Santogold

Normally I shy away from songs written for advertising campaigns.  However, when a song is advertising one of my favorite brands and features one of my favorite singers I can make an exception.  This track was recorded for the Converse Century campaign celebrating 100 years of Converse All Stars and features two notable Converse enthusiasts: Julian, the frontman of The Strokes, singing over a beat by master-producer Pharrell Williams.  The result is a pure-infectious-groove-that-can’t-be-stopped.  This track was definitely the MVP of my summer spent in downtown St. Louis.

6.     Paper Planes – M.I.A.

This track has quite an interesting history.  It was released on the 2007 album

Kala and almost made it onto my Modern Rock disc last year.  Last December I saw the video for this song the week I was putting the final touches on my 2007 disc and I instantly loved it.  Not wanting to make any more adjustments to that disc, I decided to save it for the 2008 disc.  Six months later the song suddenly blew-up thanks to it’s prominence in the trailer for Pineapple Express.  To my surprise it managed to make it near the top of the charts in almost every category of music.  Much like Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy or Outkast’s Hey Ya, it managed to be universally liked by hipsters, popsters and hip-hopsters.  This is by far the most commercially successful song of 2008 to grace either of my discs this year.1

7.     Council Estate – Tricky

The year of amazing comebacks continues with this track by British trip-hop master Tricky.  After an amazing run of music in 90’s that included the watershed debut of Massive Attack and three fantastic solo albums, he largely sat out this decade.  His last album was five years ago and was wholly unremarkable.  This year saw a welcome return to his signature big-beats-whisper-rap sound with the release of Knowle West Boy. Over the years so many musicians have copied his sound that I figured he had simply abandoned it.  This track proves that the original is still the best.

8.     Bangers + Mash – Radiohead

After the tremendous success of last year’s digital only download In Rainbows, Radiohead upped the ante in January by releasing the album on compact disc complete with a bonus b-sides disc.  I’m not sure if this move was made to bolsters additional sales or to show off the band’s limitless talent, but the result is the same.  Radiohead managed to release an album of b-sides that is better than 95% of the a-sides released by other bands.  While all of the tracks are pretty remarkable, this song was the definite stand-out.  The fact that the band didn’t deem this incredible song worthy of making their album speaks volumes.

9.     1,000,000 – Nine Inch Nails

If Jack White is the hardest working man in rock today, then Trent Reznor is certainly the busiest.  Early this year Trent released a remarkable 36-track instrumental album titled Ghosts I-IV.  Then in April he somehow managed to write, record and distribute an entire album in less than one month’s time.  And while his breakneck speed does make The Slip sound a bit frantic at times, it mostly gives the album an urgent energy.  Trent has really hit a creative resurgence over the past few years.  I hope his well doesn’t run dry anytime soon.

10. Tight Pants – Eagles Of Death Metal

What started as a side project for Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age has grown to become better than the source material.  Josh tends to work better with a partner, and he has the ideal one in Jessie Hughes.  Josh’s tight ear for melody blends perfect with Jessie’s dirty-boogie style on the band’s third album, Heart On.  The disc is full of killer chops and sexy beats, yet it is clear that the band never takes itself too seriously.2 Full of moustaches and attitude, this song seems determined to put rock music back on the dance floor.  And it features my second favorite lyric of the year, “I don’t want to do what I’m supposed to, I just want someone to get close to.”

11.    Ready For The Floor – Hot Chip

For an electronic group, Hot Chip have been remarkably consistent and innovative since their first album, Coming On Strong.  Their third album, 2008’s Made In The Dark, could just as easily been named Staying Strong.  This group of dance-geeks really know how to mix-and-match melodies to beats.  I’ve listened to this track roughly 4 bazillion times since it was released in January, yet I’m still not the least bit tired of it.  Always a good sign.

12.    Hallelujah – The Helio Sequence

This song is the first of the two winners of my Suggest a Song Contest.  Bill suggested this wonderful song by a band that I was not familiar with, The Helio Sequence.  According to Helio’s Wikipedia page, this song comes from the band’s 4th album, and is a dramatic change from their early albums.  Apparently the lead singer damaged his vocal cords and had to relearn to sing.  How crazy it that?  I love the atmospheric quality to the singer’s voice, and I really love the minute-plus of extra jamming at the end of the track.  Good work Bill.


The Captain

1  And M.I.A. almost wasn’t around to enjoy the success.  During a set at this year’s Bonnaroo she announced she was pregnant and that she would be retiring from music after her performance at the festival.  Two months later she was suddenly the coolest chick on the planet.  Fortunately she reconsidered her retirement and has stated that she will start on a new album after the birth of her child.

2  This seems rather obvious considering the band decided to name their last album Death By Sexy.  Well done.

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