Here comes the Top 40!#40: “THE HIGH ROAD” by BROKEN BELLS.
“The dawn to end all nights. That’s all we hoped it was…” For whatever reason, that line always gives me a shiver. I’m not even sure I know what it means, but it sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The video’s pretty amazing too… a sort of dream-walking odyssey perfectly tuned to the song’s dark, mysterious atmosphere.
#39: “WRITTEN IN REVERSE” by SPOON.
I’ve had a love/indifference thing going with Spoon for about the last 10 years. It’s been about 90% indifference and 10% love. But when it’s love, it’s really really big love. For example: this song. I love singing along with this song. I love the primal disregard of pitch. I love yelling at drivers in my rear view mirror at clogged intersections: “I’m not standing here! No, I’m! Not standing here!”
#38 (TIE): “PARACHUTE” by CHERYL COLE / “PARACHUTE” by INGRID MICHAELSON.
Formerly of the British girl-group Girls Aloud, Cheryl Cole released her debut solo album late last year. This dramatic take on a track Ingrid Michaelson wrote (but didn’t record) became a hit in the UK earlier this year.
And then Ingrid put out her own version of the song. Sorta like Michael Bolton did with that Laura Branigan song in the 80s. Only not disgusting. “How am I supposed to live without you…” Oh my gawd. We should have known Michael Bolton would be nothing but trouble when we saw his writing credit on that Laura Branigan 45. What were we thinking?
#37. “WHITE NIGHT” by THE POSTELLES.
Not that I wish the band ill, but this is one of those debut singles that comes so close to pop perfection that you (almost) know they will only disappoint you in the future. I (almost) want them to be a one-hit-wonder, because I know they’d be awesome at that. This song also features my favorite call-and-response moment of the year. Oh, and I think you can probably still download this for free directly from the Postelles.
#36: “I’M A PILOT” by FANFARLO.
I imagine Fanfarlo is what Arcade Fire would sound like if Arcade Fire were as obsessed with Tigermilk as they are with The River. They write songs that sound simultaneously huge and modest – sweeping and, at the same time, specific. Also, even though albums are sort of on the wane these days and so such things are becoming less relevant, “I’m a Pilot” is a great album opener in the tradition of great album openers.
#35: “O.N.E.” by YEASAYER.
What I like most about this video is that the dancing is exactly what I would like to believe I look like when I’m dancing to this in my basement and nobody can see. What I like second most is that the fictional musical instruments the band plays in the video look exactly like what I imagine the real musical instruments would look like based on the sounds they make. What I like least about this song is that it will be forever linked in my brain as the song I was listening to when someone rear-ended my brand new car two weeks after I’d bought it. Urgh.
#34: “A MORE PERFECT UNION” by TITUS ANDRONICUS.
I would like to believe that this is the stuff of Chris Christie’s nightmares. A little bit of Bruce Springsteen. A little Billy Bragg. A little Bright Eyes, a little Replacements, a little Thin Lizzy. A little Abraham Lincoln, a little William Lloyd Garrison. And a great big joyful noise. This video edits the song down significantly from its 7 minute album version. That version is well worth hearing, but you get the gist of it here.
#33: “DANCE FLOOR” by THE APPLES IN STEREO.
Probably the most adorably unpretty band in the world right now (and yes, I do have a small crush on Robert Schneider – I mean, come on, who wouldn’t?), The Apples in stereo take us on a journey through space, time, analog synth technology and aging hipster fashion. Elijah Wood isn’t just making a cameo here. He has his own record label, and The Apples in Stereo were the first band he signed to it.
#32: “WE, MYSELF, AND I” by SHAD.
Of Rwandan descent, born in Kenya, straight outta London, Ontario comes Mr. Shadrach Kabango (just call him Shad), who financed his first album with money he won the old fashioned way – at a radio station talent contest. On his first two albums, Shad delivers rhymes that go from goofy to poignant over old school R&B samples, but this song, from his latest record TSOL is a stormy, confrontational rocker. And the award for the Best Use of the Word “Yes” in Song goes to…
#31: “MY BEST THEORY” by JIMMY EAT WORLD.
This band generally releases new albums about three years apart, and those long intervals give us time to forget why they were ever a big deal. And then the new album comes, with a single like this – all sweat-drenched urgency – and you remember: Oh yeah, they’re just a great band. As far as the video goes, well who knows what’s going on there, and the lyrics are vague enough to be either profound or banal. It doesn’t matter though. Whatever it’s all supposed to be about, that part where you “feel the air rush out!” sounds exactly like what it’s saying.
In the next installment: A dance diva on motherhood and a rapper on puberty.