Archive for December 29th, 2009

The Captain Discusses Modern Rock 2009 Part Zwei

11.  Treat Me Like Your Mother – The Dead Weather

It just wouldn’t be Modern Rock without a song by Jack White.  He’s managed to appear on all seven of my previous discs, and he goes eight for eight with this track from his newest band.  While it’s obvious I love Jack, I’m a little puzzled by this album.  For some reason Jack decided to steal Alison from The Kills to front this band and he gave up his guitar for a set of drums.  While it’s true that Jack started out as a drummer, and he does an above average job of keeping the beat on Whorehound, it still feels like a waste1.  I would much rather have a Kills album and a White Stripes album than a Dead Weather album.  Still, Jack at less than his best is still better than 95% of other bands, and this bluesy-rock track is still a keeper.

12.  Whores – Jane’s Addiction

As previously mentioned numerous times here at the Quarters before, my all-time favorite band reunited in 2009 for the first time in eighteen years.  The main focus of the reunion was the corresponding tour with Nine Inch Nails that I was lucky enough to catch earlier this year, as chronicled here.  But besides touring as NIN|JA, Jane’s Addiction also spent some time in Trent Reznor’s studio and recorded a couple of songs.  While I was thrilled to hear the first Jane’s material in almost two decades, I felt a bit conflicted as whether to include this track in Modern Rock.  This song was originally released as part of the live set of songs Jane’s Addiction’s self-titled first album, so it’s not exactly modern.  Ultimately, I decided to include the track because the band never sat down in a studio to record a proper version.  Well, that and I absolutely fucking love this song.  It’s my favorite band finally recording one of their best songs, like I wasn’t going to find a way to include it.

13.  Over It – Dinosaur Jr.

Speaking of surprising reunions, Dinosaur Jr. is two albums into their reunion and I’m still pretty surprised at all the wonderful new songs.  Prior to 2007, the words Dinosaur and Jr. together in a sentence usually made me think of the cow shirt that everyone seemed to have back in the mid-nineties.  Now I think of the long, silver hair of J. Mascis thrashing around to heavy sound I really used to dig.  It’s nice to see that the ten year hiatus didn’t slow them down in 2007 with Beyond, and it’s nice to see that they’re not planning on stopping in 2009 with Farm.  As a side note, the video for this song is brilliant; it’s the perfect bookend to their big Spike Jonze video from 1994.  At the time I remember thinking how strange it was for young guys to make a video about golf.  Fifteen year later they make a video about old guys doing bmx and skateboard tricks.  Well played, gentlemen.

14.  Headdress – Amazing Baby

In a year of awful band names, this one was by far the worst.  Luckily this track more than makes up for the band’s stupid name.  Another gem I picked up off of Subterranean, this song and the accompanying video were the best unabashedly dark things in 2009.  While this band is borrowing liberally from several great bands of the last few decades, they do so in a way that doesn’t offend me2.  They seem to say “If nothing’s new under the sun, then let’s go straight for the dark,” which is cool with me.  Fortunately they knew where to draw the line; any darker and they would be borderline parody.

15.  Stillness Is The Move – Dirty Projectors

All things being equal, this was probably my favorite song off of my favorite album this year.  Without a doubt Bitte Orca was the best album of the year start to finish.  And according to my iTunes, this track is definitely the song I listened to the most times in 2009.  That’s pretty amazing considering this is the first I’ve ever heard of the band and it’s their seventh album.  Then again, Bitte Orca has everything that usually attracts me to a band:  funky time signatures, lush orchestrations, female singers harmonizing.  I guess I never really stood a chance.  Thus far this looks to be a darling of the critics that no one I know has ever heard, so let me take this moment to encourage you to listen to this album.  For me it didn’t get any better than this in 2009.

16.  Never Forget You – Noisettes

“Whatcha drinkin’ rum or whiskey?  Well won’t ya have a double with me!” is probably my favorite lyric in 2009.  A great start to a great little song off of the sophomore effort by the Noisettes.  This trio went after a much bigger sound for their second album and the results paid off in kind.  They replaced their tightly-structured guitar base with a fuller, lush orchestral sound that I love.  The title track from Wild Young Hearts was a favorite of mine early in 2009, but I eventually decided on this song for an intangible reason:  Listening to this song always managed to put me in a good mood this year.  That’s music at its finest.

17.  Taller Children – Elizabeth & The Catapult

If this song wasn’t so catchy I could have easily ignored it.  The band’s name is stupid, the lyrics are cheesy and the accompanying music video was corny.  But damn if this song isn’t a toe-tapper.  I dismissed it the first time I saw it on Subterranean, but weeks later I still had the chorus stuck in my head.  I was hooked immediately after downloading it.  The mellow-loud-mellow progression always makes for a great song, and the crescendo towards the end is easily the best of 2009.   The mediocrity of the rest of their debut album makes me think that Elizabeth and her catapult are destined to fade away.  Still, they managed to make one good song, which is one more than most.

18.  Last Dance – The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes are the rarest type of modern band.  Much like Radiohead, they have consistently improved from album to album by expanding their sound.  This is extremely difficult to pull off; most bands tend to stay in the same familiar place or regress backwards.  The Raveonettes have managed to get better with each album; their fourth, In And Out Of Control, is my favorite yet.  While all of their albums sound uniquely different from one another, they all have the same distinctive feel.  But more about that tomorrow.  For now let’s discuss this twisted little love song.  The Raveonettes specialize in dark love songs, and it doesn’t get much better than lyrics like “Every time you overdose, I rush to intensive care.”  Even the video manages to capture that dark love feeling I can’t get enough of; this band needs to stay together forever.

19.  Lose You – Peaches

I’ve been a casual fan of Peaches since I first stumbled upon The Teaches Of Peaches.  Her debut album was an electro-filth masterpiece, but not exactly Modern Rock material.  Her next two albums toned down the sleaze a bit, but never enough to really be taken seriously.  So I was quite surprised that her latest raunchily-titled album3, I Feel Cream, was actually a serious attempt at songwriting.  While the results are definitely mixed, she managed to create this moody little song seemingly out of left-field.  Hearing the perpetual potty mouth sing earnestly about a relationship was a little surreal at first.  After repeated listening it became my go to slow-jam this summer.  I get the feeling that this was just a little detour for Peaches, but then again even dirty birds gotta grow up sometime.

20.  Daniel – Bat For Lashes

While Peaches may be faking her moodiness, I get the feeling that Natasha Khan is the real deal.  Her debut album, Two Suns, instantly crowned her the new Queen of Mope in my book.  Her vintage Kate Bush sound made it a real treat for the recovering 80s goth fan inside of me.  Natasha often walks the fine line between sincere and pretentious, but she seems fairly self-aware and manages to tone it down when necessary.  And she apparently has a decent amount of mass appeal; I heard this song in the background at a Lowes last month!   Natasha seems grounded enough to outlast the burnout that has seemed to plague many female singer-songwriters over the past few years.  Here’s hoping she does, the world needs more music like this to balance out the Katy Perry’s of the world!

21.  Sometimes – Rhett Miller

I usually ended my discs on a soft note, as is the case this year.  However, I never would’ve guessed it would be this unexpected acoustic track from a most unlikely source.  Rhett Miller is well known for his day job, as the front man for The Old 97s.  As a pioneer in the alternative country movement, his band generally steered clear of sentimental acoustic tracks.  I guess recording a solo album gave him confidence to go softer and closer to the heart.  Hearing a jaded rocker sing a sweet little love song gets me every time.  A surprising song to end a surprising year in Modern Rock.

Check back tomorrow for the first of two dedicated to my favorite cover songs of decade!

Ciao,

The Captain

1  I feel the same way when Dave Grohl plays the guitar instead of the drums.  Why would you want to be the Michael Jordan of baseball when you’re already the Michael Jordan of basketball?

2  Much like Interpol, they manage to become more than the sum of their influences instead of less, like The Killers.

3  Her last two albums were titled Fatherfucker and Impeach My Bush.  I’m a sucker for a good dirty pun.

4  Conor Oberst made a similar move with First Day Of My Life back in 2005, and damn did I love that song.

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