The Captain Discusses Modern Rock

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 WitchesBloc 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 ThereSonic 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!

Ciao,

The Captain

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. 

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