Saturday, December 10, 2005

We Both Pull the Tricks Out of Our Sleeves

For almost a year, my friends and loved ones have been putting up with me shoving Wolf Parade down their throats, into their ears and up their asses, but they don't mind anymore. Every single one of them is a fan now.

Last February, I tracked down Wolf Parade's two self-released EPs after seeing high praises for them from Isaac Brock and Win Butler (yeah, I know I'm such a sheep). I was immediately enamored with the 2 EPs. The music seemed to spontaneously reference so many bands I loved. I also loved the fact that the band was comprised of two different singer/songwriters with two distinct styles. Dan, the lead guitarist with the barky Iggy Pop-sounding voice, writes songs that rattle along with spunk and swagger. Spencer, the lead keyboardist (there are two in the band) with the yelpy croon somewhere between Tom Verlaine and Bowie, writes songs that jerk and jitter around winding melodies.

The impact of their first EP is somewhat blunted by murky, lo-fi production. Two of the four songs on ("Modern World" and "Dinner Bells") ended up on the band's debut album Apologies To The Queen Mary. In their original incarnations, both songs have a heavy, hazy air to them. The shody, fuzzed-out production makes the band's keyboard-thick music sound like Devo covering the Stooges' Fun House. Coincidentally, both Dan and Spencer sound remarkably like a young Iggy on this first EP.

On the second EP, the band crystallized their unique blend of technicolor keyboards leading and interweaving with jagged guitars to form indelible corkscrew melodies. Four of the six songs on this EP were included on Apologies: "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts", "We Built Another World", "It's A Curse", and "Grounds For Divorce". The other two songs are of the same caliber. For the most part, these songs ended up sounding the same on the debut, but the original recording of "Dear Sons and Daughters" is a much more passionate version in comparison.

Unfortunately, these two EPs cannot be bought in stores, but, if you can, burn them off a friend or download them somewhere. They are highly recommended.

Top Ten Mixtape Killers Pt. 2: Sex Edition

Inspired by Ben's Top Ten Mixtape Killers list.

Sometimes a little music is necessary while making love, having sex, and/or fucking. For one, you don't have to hear those squishy penis-in-vagina noises. Or the sensual sounds of stomach slapping. Volume is key-- you don't want to drown out your lover's ooohs and ahhhs with thumping bass, but you also want it loud enough so that she doesn't catch you straining to hear it during your favorite part of a particular song. Without further ado, here are ten songs best kept out of the bedroom:

1. Nine Inch Nails - Closer
This is so obvious that I'm embarrassed I have to include it. "I want to fuck you like an animal" might be a nice thing to whisper in your lover's ear, depending on what you're into. Hearing Trent Reznor do it, on the otherhand, isn't arousing in the least.

2. Nirvana - Rape Me
Okay, so this is obvious as well. However, you just know some grunge loving couples were fucking to their new copy of In Utero in 1993 and then this song came on. Kind of takes all the fun out of it, no? Speaking from experience, rape jokes are never funny when alone with a girl.

3. Ying Yang Twins - Wait (The Whisper Song)
"Hey bitch, wait'll you see my dick/ I'm a beat that pussy up."

4. Art Brut - Rusted Guns of Milan
As far as I can tell, this song is about the inability to maintain an erection during sex. Happens to the best of us. But you don't need her-- or you, for that matter-- thinking about that in the heat of the moment. "It doesn't mean that I don't love you/ One more try with me above you/ It's got nothing to do with anything I've had to drink/ It's more to do with the way I think."

5. Tenacious D - Fuck Her Gently
Because you'll be laughing. "I think I've got something in my teeth/ Could you get it out for me?/ That's fucking teamwork!" The other problem with this song is that you have to picture Jack Black and Kyle Gass naked. And that's not a pleasant image.

6. Fiona Apple - Criminal
No man wants to be emasculated in bed. Sure, sometimes it's hot to have your woman take control, but you don't want her to be in this much control. Plus, the video for this song just makes me feel like a dirty old man. And I'm only 23.

7. Bright Eyes - Lover I Don't Have to Love
This is especially true for one night stands or casual flings. It's about being drunk, taking someone home, and that's that. Conor manages to sound as sleazy as he can in this song. Sure, you both know this isn't the start of a serious relationship, but come on, don't make her feel like a piece of meat. "I want a lover I don't have to love/ I want a girl who's just out to give a fuck".

8. Britney Spears - Toxic
There's no denying how hot this song is, but it's too hot for the sex you're likely to be having. While Brit has certainly lost much of her sex appeal recently, that doesn't mean that you'll stop thinking about how hot she was in the video for this song. You'll be thinking about that damn flight attendant outfit, and then open your eyes and see the regular girl in front of you.

9. The Darkness - Growing On Me
Popular belief is that this song is about genital warts or herpes. Whether or not that's true (and come on, listen to it), I'm gonna go ahead and suggest that STDs aren't what you want floating through either of your minds while having sex.

10. Any Marvin Gaye/Barry White song
I'm not even concerned with the cliche/lame factor-- taste is taste. My problem with hearing Marvin and Barry during sex is that you will never live up to being the kind of lover that their songs suggest. Sorry, but no man is capable of providing orgasms even worthy of discussion on the same level as "Sexual Healing".

The Man Who Fell To Earth

By 1975, David Bowie had become a qualified commercial and critical success in both America and Britain. However, he was beginning to crack under the strain of the fame he had once craved. Bowie was an articulate and sensitive artist slowly morphing into a paranoid, manic depressive. Aided, in no small part, by a diet heavy on cocaine and amphetamines. In a lot of ways, Bowie was the Thom Yorke of the 70s: cynical and paranoid about the world around him, obsessed with privacy, and constantly experimenting with his music.

In early 1976, Bowie began recording Station To Station in Hollywood. He was at the height of his coke addiction/paranoia; and, to this day, he still claims that he has barely any memory of the recording sessions for Station To Station. Regardless, it still stands as one of his greatest musical achievements. Bowie's previous album Young Americans was a pastiche of American soul/R&B music, and also netted Bowie his first #1 single, "Fame", as well as another huge hit with the title track. In less than a year, Bowie was dismissing Young Americans as "the squashed remains of ethnic music. . .written and sung by a white limey." While Station To Station retained some of Young Americans' soul and funk rhythms, it also seamlessly incorporated the rhythms and textures of German progressive music like Kraftwerk and Neu (he would use these influences to greater effect on the subsequent album Low). At its core, Station To Station is a cerebral funk/avant-rock album. I always like to note that this album definitely laid the groundwork for a lot of the music that the Talking Heads would create during their career.

This new amalgam of funk/soul music, German motorik rhythms, and Bowie's patented dramatic art-rock boils to a froth on the epic title track. In fact, the title track is the most blatant example of Bowie's new musical interests. It shifts gears several times and builds to a breathtaking climax. "Golden Years" is a relatively straightforward and incredibly infectious funk-rock song like "Fame" and became an equally popular single. "Word On A Wing" is one of Bowie's best, if not greatest, ballads. In my book, it's on par with "Heroes." It contains one of Bowie's most heartfelt and passionate vocal performances and a serpentine melody that writhes and glides under the vocals. It's the kind of song that the Arcade Fire built their reputation on. "TVC 15" starts off innocently enough with a jaunty piano part reminiscent of Hunky Dory's aesthetic, but, the choruses quickly give way to an unstoppable ascending guitar riff accentuated an equally glorious piano line. "Stay" is another funk-rock song in the vein of "Golden Years" but with a more complex structure and some incendiary guitar solos courtesy of Carlos Alomar. I have to add that Carlos Alomar is a very worthy successor to Mick Ronson. Alomar's style was unique and innovative, and, always served Bowie's songs appropriately. Carlos was Bowie's lead guitarist from '75 to '79 -covering Station To Station, Low, 'Heroes', and Lodger. "Wild Is the Wind" is the final song of Station To Station and another beautiful ballad. It closes the album on a hymn-like note with another perfect vocal performance. Cat Power did a wonderful rendition of this song on her Covers Record.

Station To Station was a brilliant transitional album bridging the gap between Bowie's funk/soul fixations and his experimental Brian Eno-produced Berlin trilogy. However, unlike most transitional albums, Station To Station contains a sound and style all its own.

* Trivial Fun Fact: Bowie's girlfriend at the time was Slash's mom, Ola Hudson, and he would sometimes sing baby Slash to sleep at night.

Top Ten Mixtape Killers Pt. 1

I want to preface my list with the disclaimer that I actually love all the songs on my list. However, for various reasons, I feel that these songs should never be put on a mixtape for a girl - be it a girl you're trying to be more than friends with, a girl you're dating, or even your wife. Some songs were chosen because they might make you look like a creepy loser, or, because you'll appear weak, or, maybe you'll just look like a prick. Without further ado:

1. Harry Nilsson - Without You
Harry's version of this song is heartbreakingly gorgeous, but, the borderline sacchrine and string-soaked chorus of "I can't live, if living is without you" tends to be a little cloying for me. To add insult to injury, this song was used in a pivotal moment of "Rules of Attraction" when a young girl, heartbroken over an unrequited crush on James Van Der Beek, successfully commits suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathtub. I don't think I'll ever be able to disassociate that intensely morose image from this song.

2. Cheap Trick - I Want You To Want Me
Sure, it's a great anthemic song that everyone sings along to when it plays on the radio, but, have you ever realized how pathetic this song really is? I couldn't imagine giving this song to a girl and expecting her to take me seriously. It's kinda like saying "Hey, I'm pretty pathetic, but, could I get a pity fuck?"

3. Arcade Fire - Crown of Love
Upon first glance, you'd think this was a sweet love song, but, it's actually the nicest possible way of saying "Sorry, I've lost that loving feeling." On a positive note, I love the song for the fact that it urges you not to "settle" and find the person whose name is the "only word that I can say!"

4. Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Put A Spell On You
This isn't a CCR original, but their cover is probably the most sinister version I've heard. A twisted tale of controlling a woman with black magic and not putting up with any of her "fooling around" probably won't earn you an invite into a girl's bed anytime soon.

5. Bob Dylan - It Ain't Me, Babe
You'd be hard pressed to find another song that so eloquently sends the message: "Don't bother me anymore." The gentle, lulling melody tends to blunt some rather crushing lines: "Go away from my window/ go at your own chosen speed."

6. Bob Dylan - Just Like A Woman
It is very difficult to pick just one Dylan song for this list, so I had to include this back-handed lovesong. The song is simultaneously full of praise and bitterness. The song is best summed up by the line: "When we meet again/ introduced as friends/ please don't let on that you knew me when/ I was hungry and it was your world."

7. Wilco - We're Just Friends
This is one of my favorite Wilco songs. Mainly, because it hits too close to home. Jeff Tweedy's voice is so full of resignation in this song that it just crushes your heart. You get the definite impression that his feelings are not being reciprocated and he's basically giving up and convincing himself that "sure, we're just friends."

8. Weezer - No One Else
Wow, where to start with this one? First of all, this song is probably the birth of "emo" music. Secondly, Rivers is expressing a desire to have a girlfriend that will be a sad, little hermit when he's not around. Lastly, any girl that would actually give in to his demands would have to be pretty pathetic herself.

9. Walkmen - The Rat
As much as I (and every other guy for that matter) love this song , it makes a strong case for the use of restraining orders. Although a man's anger and frustration with a woman can be validated at times, you could just as easily give off a creepy stalker vibe.

10. Any Bright Eyes song
This would be the ultimate way of showing a girl that, deep down, you have no balls. The only girls you could possibly impress with a Bright Eyes song are jailbait.

Little Johnny Jewel

"Little Johnny Jewel/ He's real cool/ He had no decisions/ He tried to tell a vision." - "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television

One of Television's greatest songs was the epic "Little Johnny Jewel" - a tribute to James Jewel Osterberg A.K.A. Iggy Pop. LJJ is a sprawling guitar duel like "Marquee Moon" but it was never properly recorded in the studio. It exists in stellar live versions on "The Blow Up" and "Live at the Old Waldorf." Songs like this are the reason I'll defend "jamming" til the day I die.

Download here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why I Love Pete Doherty

I don't intend to make fun of Pete, he's got problems. But when you're a celebrity, you ought to watch yourself. Dating Kate Moss is obviously going to draw more attention. Frankly, if it weren't for Pete, I don't know what the NME would ever have to talk about. For the last few years, they've lived and died by him. After breaking up his first band, the Libertines, several times, he finally started a new group, Babyshambles. I like that album a lot, even though it seems fairly half-assed. And that's the tragedy with Pete Doherty. Wasted talent.

These days, it just seems like he shows up and does what he has to do. I question whether he even wants to be in music anymore. The video for Babyshambles' "Fuck Forever". He almost looks bored, like, "Yeah, I'll come by and sing this pretty good song, I guess.

Finally, dude's such a party animal that Kate Moss had to dump him. If you're too fun lovin' and crazy for Kate Moss...I mean, wow. Just wow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Most Mediocre in 2005

"Best of" lists are cool with me, I'm a whore for that sort of thing, but I've never really cared for "worst of" lists. I don't think you should kick someone when they're down-- most of the time.

You know what's worse than shit? Mediocrity. There are two types of mediocrity in music. One is when a band is capable of more and just plays it safe, resulting in an average album. The other is when something is just neither gold nor shit. At least shit gets me talking about it. And the winner of the 2005 Mediocrity In Music Award goes to...

Coldplay - X&Y

I'm afraid to even talk about this for five minutes because I might fall asleep in the middle of it. This is the type of thing I expect to hear (and have heard) in the dentist's office. Mothers in denial of their age like Coldplay. Frat dudes like Coldplay (no offense, frat dudes, some of y'all are alright).

People (myself included) have dismissed this band from time to time as Radiohead hacks. I don't know if that's accurate. What's more likely is that Chris Martin is a savvy businessman. He's seen the U2 model. Bono has made an outstanding business out of his band, and I'm sure Chris Martin would like to do the same thing with Coldplay. But Bono might not be the right guy to idolize.

Speaking of U2.

If I don't like this band, why am I going on and on about them? Didn't I say I don't like kicking people when they're down? Well, Coldplay aren't down. Chris Martin isn't down. They came off an extremely successful and popular album that had some pretty decent songs, and went into the studio with all the resources and time necessary to deliver not only the album of their short careers, but something just generally outstanding.

My favorite Coldplay song, believe it or not, is Royksopp's remix of "Clocks". I have a feeling that Coldplay wish they sounded like this remix. Free download!

But X&Y is so average. I know they can do better than this. I don't have a problem with them sampling Kraftwerk, or just using the melody or whatever it was, on "Talk". But why even do this? Either cover the actual song, or write your own song. Or do this is as a B-side. As for "Speed of Sound", this is just an average version of "Clocks". "Fix You" fails on being too melodramatic.

And the lyrics, man! Does he just go into Gwynny's teenage diaries?

I know, it's too easy these days for people like me to hate on Coldplay but ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Worst Dude of All Time

I mean look at this guy. LOOK AT THIS FUCKING GUY!

If ever there was someone who deserved to be crucified...

Ian Curtis Is Lazy

Dialogue from the 1993 documentary New Order Story:

Interviewer: Who's the laziest member of the group?
Peter Hook: Ian Curtis. I haven't seen him do anything for years.

At any rate, I bought this thing a month or so ago and hadn't watched it until the other day. It was bundled with another DVD of all of New Order's videos, together for $15 (should've been $20, but Best Buy mismarked it).

I'm a much bigger fan of early New Order (and of course Joy Division) than later New Order, so it makes sense that I prefer the first half of the doc. The first 25-30 minutes of this thing (it's over two hours) are amazing. Two full-length Joy Division clips (TV show apperance of "Transmission" and the music video for "Love Will Tear Us Apart"), of which there are very few, and some early New Order clips. I lose interest in some of the music after that, but the story is still interesting because these guys are sensationally dry (with the humor, not dull-- although they aren't that exciting either for that matter).

Also, Bono shows up a couple times to essentially fellate Ian Curtis.

A movie about Ian Curtis is currently in pre-production.

Who should play him? Say so in the comments section. Let's make this shit interactive.

This is what he looked like:

Okay, this is more than enough about Ian Curtis for one week. Y'all are going to start getting worried about me.

Album of the Week (12.04.05)

Artist: Seu Jorge
Album: The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions

I've been waiting for this for a long time. I thought The Life Aquatic was a movie that was going to grow on me with repeated viewings. It hasn't. It isn't a bad movie by any means, I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Maybe it's too somber for the sake of being somber. I don't know. But for me, the best parts remain Seu Jorge's acoustic, Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs. There are a handful through the movie, and the original soundtrack featured five versions from within the movie.

Well, now they've released a full album of studio versions of these songs. Thirteen of 'em, plus a song about Team Zissou. Still just Jorge and his guitar. His other album released this year, Cru, has more instrumentation, but more or less the same feel. That album probably fell just shy of my top 50 for the year.

What's so great about these Bowie covers is that they have become their own songs. Some are pretty obviously Bowie songs from the get go, you can hear it in the guitar and the melody. Others, though, are slightly different and it's more difficult to figure out which song it is. Almost everything is in Portuguese, but some of the choruses are sung in English. I can't figure out why Jorge chose to do that. But I ain't complaining.

What I do know is that these songs are 100% enjoyable, regardless of whether or not you like David Bowie.

Personal favorite: "Life On Mars?"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Watch Me

Artist: Kraftwerk
DVD: Minimum-Maximum

I saw Kraftwerk live at the Riviera in Chicago this past June. Awesome. Their live show is basically just the four of them at podiums (see image below), doing whatever it is they do with keyboards, knobs, etc. I really have no idea if they're actually doing anything. Although, the DVD does show some buttons being pushed and what not. The best and most important thing about the Kraftwerk live show, however, is the giant video display behind them. Many of the still images and videos look like they've been using them since the early 80s, and that's part of the joy. The images match the music perfectly, and despite being of a certain period, they somehow make the show feel timeless. This is a band that doesn't really age. Their show might not be much different than it was 20 years ago. And because all of their current shows being more or less the same, this DVD might as well be from the show I went to, even though it's from the 2004 world tour. It's really more of a theatrical experience than a concert.

If you saw Coldplay perform at Live 8, you'd notice that their drummer was wearing a Kraftwerk shirt. That was the right thing to do, considering one of their new songs ("Talk") borrows/steals/whatever the melody from Kraftwerk's "Computer Love", which you can download here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Misc. Monday Song (12.05.05)

Artist: New Order
Song: Ceremony (4:23)
Album: Substance

Download here.

Briefly: Manchester post-punk legends Joy Division lost their lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis when he killed himself in 1980. You probably know them for "Love Will Tear Us Apart". The surviving members of the band became New Order, whose "Blue Monday" remains one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Why?: Joy Division and New Order are probably my most listened to bands of 2005. I was familiar with most of their surface work before, but had never gone too deep until earlier this year when I bought Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures. "Ceremony" is one of the last songs the band was working on before Curtis' death. A live version with his vocals appears on the odds'n'ends compilation Still, but New Order completed it and released it shortly thereafter as their first single. It serves as the best bridge between the sound of the two bands, with Bernard Sumner's vocals still trying to sound like Curtis. This trend continued on the band's debut album, Movement. It wasn't until their second album, Power, Corruption & Lies, that they found their own sound. Interestingly, the last few Joy Division songs seemed to indicate the band was heading in a more upbeat direction, "Ceremony" being the best example.

Further listening:
Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division ("Disorder")
Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order ("Age of Consent")

this is why events unnerve me
they find it all a different story
notice whom for wheels are turning
turn again and turn towards this time
all she asks is the strength to hold me
then again the same old story
world will travel oh so quickly
travel first and lean towards this time

oh, i'll break them down, no mercy shown
heaven knows it's got to be this time
watching her, these things she said
the times she cried, too frail to wake this time

oh i'll break them down, no mercy shown
heaven knows it's got to be this time
avenues all lined with trees
picture me and then you start watching
watching forever, forever
watching love grow, forever

Top 50 in 05 (Songs)

Some of these are singles, some are just album cuts, and some are from albums that came out in 2004 but the song was released as a single in 2005. Songs I listened to, overplayed, and/or obsessed over in 2005, more or less. Let me know if you'd like to hear any of them.

1. M83 - Don’t Save Us From the Flames (Superpitcher remix) - 10:26
You might know the original mix from the neon/crazy Pontiac spots running lately, but the two versions are hardly recognizable as the same song. Superpitcher manages to take out the heightened sense of desperation of the original and fill his remix with a steady flow of nervous energy.

Favorite lyric: "Out of the flames/ A piece of brain in my hair/ The wheels are melting/ A ghost is screaming your name"

2. R. Kelly - Trapped In the Closet - 3:15
Kells can pee on all the [legal] girls he wants if he keeps doing shit like this. Stretched out beyond the original five parts, it's admittedly losing steam with what, 12 chapters and counting? But for a time this spring, I was hooked, waiting weeks to hear each new part. I'm not sure I more eagerly anticipated any other release all year than the next chapter in the series. It's completely ridiculous, to be sure. But so what? R&B is too serious these days and R. Kelly seems to be the only one doing anything different.

Most tense moment: The end of Chapter 2, where you realize the pastor's partner is a man.

3. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone - 3:09
This song makes me wish I was a girl. For some reason, dude singers can't get away with songs that essentially say, "Fuck you bitch, I don't need you!" So this song isn't that harsh, but the power chorus that sounds like a dozen Kellys certainly makes the most of the material. Her voice even sounds exasperated with her man during the first verse. I don't know about you, but I want to meet this guy and kick his ass.

Perfect listening environment: Summertime, singing your hearts out in the car with your best girl friends.

4. Kanye West - Gone - 6:02
A relatively unaltered sample of Otis Redding's "It's Too Late" is enough to drive this song up until Jon Brion's massively simple strings'n'drums that bring about Kanye's final verse, which ends the album with authority. Maybe not as strong as "Jesus Walks", but he's certainly at his self-promoting, check-my-roots best. In fact, all three MCs (Kanye, Cam'ron, Consequence) all sound like they couldn't be happier to be rapping on this track.

Steal this idea: "I'm a open up a store for aspirin' MCs"

5. Young Jeezy (ft. Jay-Z & Fat Joe) - Go Crazy (Remix) - 6:13
Jay-Z stops by your studio and makes your hott traxx even hotter. But he does do a good job of picking his projects, lending a voice and a tone that's almost like a lesson for the kids (in this case, Young Jeezy). Some need it for dancing, but I like rap songs I can shout along with: "When they play that new Jeezy all the dope boys go crazy!" I wish this came out at the start of the summer, the lazy horns and claps are perfect for a hot, humid Saturday.

Awesome rhyme: "My favorite hue is Jay-Z blue"

6. Ciara (ft. Ludacris) - Oh - 4:22
If riding around in my car was a hobby of mine, this sound would accompany it. Ciara's vocals are somewhat understated, which is nice because they act is a slowly building bridge to the opposite: Luda's bounce-bounce-bounce guest spot. The song itself is pretty simple, and pretty much any word can and is somehow rhymed with "Oh". But at the same time, I want to rock out. How can such a casual beat do that?

Don't call it a remix: Cadence Weapon's Smart Bomb Remix is so entirely different it's hard to believe that's the same vocal track.

7. Art Brut - Emily Kane - 2:41
The Art Brut song for people who find Eddie Argos' vocals difficult at first. They're not difficult-- they're just very, very British, and he speaks more than sings. But the song is as hilarious and cute as any other Art Brut song. It's catchy and after a few listens, you'll be singing along. It's difficult to understand why songs like this aren't more popular. The great thing about Argos' vocals is that he's very easy to sympathize with. But "Emily Kane" is more endearing and sweet than the band's other songs about relationships, like "Good Weekend" and "Rusted Guns of Milan".

Favorite lyric: "I hope this song finds you fame/ I want school kids on buses singing your name"

8. Juelz Santana - There It Go (The Whistle Song) - 3:00
The first of two hip-hop tracks on this list that proves dense and/or ultra-complicated beats aren't necessary. Aside from the vocals, all you really hear is some click-clack percussion and a cat-call whistle sample. Santana does a nice job of matching his cadence to the whistles. Next time he's in Chicago, maybe Andrew Bird can provide live whistling.

Little known fact: I can't whistle.

9. My Morning Jacket - Off the Record - 5:25
Jim James' vocals carry this thing. Hell, they're really what carry the band. But for maybe the first time, MMJ have found a way to include guitar parts that aren't forgettable. This is the song for drinking beers with your buds at the pool. The one bad thing about the track is that it's twice as long as it needs to be. About halfway through the vocals are gone and the band reminds us that they're still a favorite of the jam band scene. However, the first half is so great that it doesn't matter.

Curious: Is Jim James' real name James James?

10. Babyshambles - Fuck Forever - 4:37
What does Pete Doherty mean when he sings "fuck forever"? I've heard people say it's a response to Oasis' "Live Forever". But I think it alludes to the last song on the second Libertines' album, "What Became of the Likely Lads", which contains this lyric: "What became of forever?" That song seems to suggest that the Libtertines, Doherty and Carl Barat, have reconciled. I don't think Pete gives a shit. I mean, what does it say about a dude when Kate Moss leaves you because you're too out of control?

Favorite lyric: "I'm so clever/ But clever ain't wise"

11. The Killers - Mr. Brightside - 3:42
Seeing a live performance of "Mr. Brightside" was the highlight of my Lollapalooza experience. Didn't hurt that I was watching from the VIP viewing platform and enjoying the Wolfgang Puck-catered buffet.

12. The Game (ft. 50 Cent)- Hate It or Love It - 3:26
The G-Unit flavored remix on 50's The Massacre foolishly replaces some Game verses with other members of G-Unit. 50 may be better than Game, but Game's better than the rest of G-Unit.

13. Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl - 3:19
The "bananas" part sounds awfully like a track on the M.I.A. album, but I imagine there are no hard feelings because they just toured together.

14. Gorillaz - DARE / DARE (DFA remix)- 3:41 / 12:02
The DFA remix is neither better nor worse than the original. It is equally awesome.

15. Animal Collective - Did You See The Words? - 5:17
Good to hear these guys singing about something intelligible: love.

16. Fall Out Boy - Sugar We’re Going Down - 3:36
Fuck it, this song is catchy as hell.

17. Lady Sovereign - Random - 3:41
I'd like to see her diss these American rappers to their faces.

18. Kanye West - Heard ‘Em Say - 3:23
Maybe dude from Maroon 5 should stick to guest vocals; he does a great job here.

19. LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House - 5:16
I want LCD Soundsytem to play at my house.

20. The MFA - The Difference It Makes - 7:02
Soundtrack to your European adventures.

21. Mike Jones - Back Then - 4:05
Call 281-330-8004 for more information.

22. Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To - 3:38
The video makes this song even more hilarious. Turns out these guys aren't as pretentious as you'd think.

23. Lil' Wayne - Shooter - 4:35
Southern rap that's the opposite of Mike Jones.

24. Kano - Typical Me - 4:35
The starting point for those who want to like grime but find the Streets and Dizzee Rascal too abrasive.

25. Ying Yang Twins - Wait (The Whisper Song) - 2:59
The whispering is genius, misogyny notwithstanding. Just make sure you don't find yourself saying "beat the pussy up" in public.

26. Bloc Party - Like Eating Glass - 4:21
Technically speaking, Bloc Party are probably the best of all the new 80s-loving bands. Shit's so clean sounding.

27. Caribou - Yeti - 5:00
The songs ends but it could probably go on forever.

28. Robyn - Konichiwa Bitches - 2:38
Don't fuck with this woman, she owns.

29. Common - The Corner - 3:45
The video for this song perfectly captures the Chicago winter.

30. The Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot - 3:54
This could be by any number of non-descript British bands, but this song is different because it's actually interesting.

31. Architecture In Helsinki - Do the Whirlwind - 4:39
I dare you not to dance.

32. R. Kelly - In The Kitchen (Remix) - 5:17
If only I could have sex to this song with a straight face.

33. Panda Bear - Comfy In Nautica - 4:00
Panda Bear can do so much with so little.

34. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy - 3:01
Can't wait to hear the whole album from this Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo project.

35. The Futureheads - Hounds of Love - 3:02
One of the new New Wave bands that sounds most authentically of the period.

36. Okkervil River - For Real - 4:42
Pretty dark stuff, if you listen to the lyrics: "Some nights I thirst for real blood"
(Also, song reminds me of Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said")

37. The Juan Maclean - Tito’s Way - 3:43
More songs need party/coach whistles.

38. Jens Lekman - I Saw Her In the Anti-War Demonstration - 3:11
Phil Spector meets Morrissey?

39. King Biscuit Time - C I AM 15 - 3:19
New project from the Beta Band lead singer, which basically just sounds like a Beta Band song. CIA/MI-5, get it?

40. Hot Chip - Down With Prince - 3:19
"I'm sick of mothefuckers trying to tell me that they're down with Prince." Shit rules, obviously.

41. Kanye West - Gold Digger - 3:28
Oh Kanye, you can do no wrong.

42. Wolf Parade - Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts - 3:39
It'd be way too easy to just say that Wolf Parade = Arcade Fire + Modest Mouse + Bowie + Iggy Pop.

43. The Bravery - Honest Mistake - 3:41
The Killers' Brandon Flowers thinks the Bravery are a rip-off of his band. You be the judge.

44. The White Stripes - My Doorbell - 4:01
The White Stripes are best when they keep it simple.

45. Beck - E-Pro - 3:23
The rest of this album is painfully mediocre, but he still had one great track in him.

46. Amadou & Mariam - Coulibaly - 3:18
Mopey indie rock types could learn a few things from African music.

47. T.I. - Bring 'Em Out - 3:36
SpRiNg BrEaK '05 WHAT?!??!

48. Antony & the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone - 4:21
Find me a more heartbreaking voice.

49. Sigur Ros - Glosoli - 6:15
I don't know how these guys can continue to make songs that sound as epic and breathtaking as they do.

50. !!! - Take Ecstasy With Me - 7:41
Who knew that this Magnetic Fields song could benefit from a dance-infused cover?

Top 50 in 05 (Albums)

1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Rob Recommends: "Jacksonville"

2. Animal Collective - Feels
Rob Recommends: "Did You See the Words?"

3. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Rob Recommends: "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts"

4. Kanye West - Late Registration
Rob Recommends: "Gone"

5. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll
Rob Recommends: "Emily Kane"

6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Rob Recommends: "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"

7. M.I.A. - Arular
Rob Recommends: "Sunshowers"

8. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
Rob Recommends: "Tribulations"

9. The Clientele - Strange Geometry
Rob Recommends: "Since K Got Over Me"

10. Ryan Adams - Jacksonville City Nights
Rob Recommends: "A Kiss Before I Go"

11. Jens Lekman - Oh You’re So Silent Jens
Rob Recommends: "I Saw Her At the Anti-War Demonstration"

12. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
Rob Recommends: "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

13. M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us
Rob Recommends: "Don't Save Us From the Flames"

14. Common - Be
Rob Recommends: "The Corner"

15. Sigur Ros - Takk
Rob Recommends: "Glosoli"

16. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Rob Recommends: "Like Eating Glass"

17. Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako
Rob Recommends: "Coulibaly"

18. Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow
Rob Recommends: "I Feel Like a Child"

19. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
Rob Recommends: "My Doorbell"

20. Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die
Rob Recommends: "Do the Whirlwind"

21. DangerDoom - The Mouse and the Mask
Rob Recommends: "Sofa King"

22. The Decemberists - Picaresque
Rob Recommends: "Sixteen Military Wives"

23. The Fiery Furnaces - Rehearsing My Choir
Rob Recommends: "The Garfield El"

24. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
Rob Recommends: "The Fallen"

25. Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness
Rob Recommends: "Yeti"

26. Ryan Adams - Cold Roses
Rob Recommends: "Magnolia Mountain"

27. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
Rob Recommends: "Extraordinary Machine"

28. The Kallikak Family - May 23rd 2007
Rob Recommends: Portland, Oregon Parts 1-4

29. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
Rob Recommends: "Road to Joy"

30. Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
Rob Recommends: "Hope There's Someone"

31. The Juan Maclean - Less Than Human
Rob Recommends: "Tito's Way"

32. The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Party Ever
Rob Recommends: "Be Gentle With Me"

33. Shugo Tokumaru - L.S.T.
Rob Recommends: "Mushina"

34. Kano - Home Sweet Home
Rob Recommends: "Typical Me"

35. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
Rob Recommends: "Trance Manual"

36. Jason Forrest - Shamelessly Exciting
Rob Recommends: "War Photographer"

37. My Morning Jacket - Z
Rob Recommends: "Off the Record"

38. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
Rob Recommends: "For Real"

39. Gorillaz - Demon Days
Rob Recommends: "DARE"

40. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
Rob Recommends: "Apply Some Pressure"

41. Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower
Rob Recommends: "Words For Two"

42. Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic
Rob Recommends: "Smile Around the Face"

43. Babyshambles - Down In Albion
Rob Recommends: "Fuck Forever"

44. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
Rob Recommends: "Use It"

45. The Darkness - One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back
Rob Recommends: "Hazel Eyes"

46. Out Hud - Let Us Never Speak of It Again
Rob Recommends: "It's For You"

47. Brian Eno - Another Day On Earth
Rob Recommends: "Just Another Day"

48. Wilderness - Wilderness
Rob Recommends: "Marginal Over"

49. Vitalic - OK Cowboy
Rob Recommends: "My Friend Dario"

50. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Rob Recommends: "I Turn My Camera On"