There’s no denying that the Strokes have swagger, and never was it more evident than on “Someday.” When I first heard this song it was clear to me that it was made by guys wearing three-piece suits. When that glassy riff kicks in over the ever-present Fabrizio Moretti groove, it’s clear that these guys are for real. They were—and are – the epitomy of ‘cool’ in an era so fixated on detached irony.
– Colin Joyce
“To Hell With Good Intentions”
[Too Pure; 2002]
It’s true – who knows how many good intentions that Mclusky ever had? They certainly sounded like an angry bunch of fuckers, and on every single track they ever recorded – even when they turned down the volume for tender balladry like “Fuck This Band.” But most of the time it was all hellfire and brimstone and lots and lots of other bad things, as on “To Hell With Good Intentions,” with it’s endlessly quotable aspersions like “Our love is bigger than your love / we take more drugs than a touring funk band // SING IT!” It was the wit and absolute insanity fueling Mclusky’s assault that made the band indispensable. We’re all going to straight to hell, indeed.
– Bill Delaney
Americans Passion Pit were subject to insufferable hype following the release of their debut EP Chunk Of Change. Originally made by lead singer Michael Angelakos on a laptop in his bedroom as a Valentine’s gift, it soon paved the way toward dollopings of hyperactive blog natterings and, eventually, a fully-formed LP on Frenchkiss Records. The EP’s first five tracks were charming enough – despite Angelakos’ occasionally maddening tendency to resort to chipmunk-style wailing – but it was “Sleepyhead” that really set the hipsters a-buzzing; a doe-eyed, candy-filled extravaganza that seems to be all over before it’s even begun. I guess there are probably some lyrics to this song, but frankly it’s hard to foster any sort of concern for poetry or meaning when there are energetic drum thuds and an irresistible series of post-MGMT dayglo synth whoops punching you in the face post-chorus as there are here. Expansive and bracing – for Angelakos does indeed get shrill – this is jubilant synthpop, propelled by an unwavering euphoria.
– Will Monotti
“America’s Most Blunted”
[Stones Throw; 2004]
As the title suggests, this standout track from the stoney collaboration between Madlib and MF DOOM find the team at their most, well, blunted. The Steve Reich sample in the intro recalls the many smoke sessions spent listening to the phrase “come out to show them” and provides the soundtrack to countless more. The track features a guest appearance from Madlib’s astro-traveling alter ego Quasimoto, who only appears on the trippiest of beats. DOOM drops complicated rhymes we’ve come to expect from him like, “Some day pray that he will grow a farm barn full // recent research show it’s not so darn harmful // sometimes you might need to detox // it can help you with your rhyme flow and your beat box” over a barrage of left field samples and bumping bassline. Both producer and MC are in top form, and this song may be best enjoyed while twirling an L, but the sober listener will enjoy it just as much.
– Matthew McCune
“House of Jealous Lovers”
Forget LCD Soundsystem – this is the track that really got those indie rockers dancing. Hell, if it makes you feel better, this is basically an LCD Soundsystem song with Robert Smith on ecstacy screaming his heart out, anyway. It’s really the dream dance track for hipsters; it floats on a unforgettable fat disco bassline, features copious amounts of cowbell, angular Gang of Four guitars, and a vocalist who can’t really sing. It feels like the archetypal dancepunk/indie-dance track, engineered and manufactured solely to its one-dimensional end; but is it merely a product or is it more nobly a prototype? Should it even matter when the song is “House of Jealous Lovers,” that throbbing, sweaty thing that sounds like if it ever stops moving it’s going to explode?
– Andrew Ryce
It’s odd considering this song’s beginnings as a 10-minute chunk of James Murphy’s marathon disco workout 45:33. Odd because the iTunes-only track was marketed as something to inspire people to lace up their Nikes, and “Someone Great”’s gloomy overcast is completely at odds with wanting to go out for a jog. I suppose that juxtaposition is somewhat fitting though, since the lyrics’ specific detailing in lines like “I miss the way we used to argue, locked in your basement” never quite congeal into specific conclusion. Sure, it seems to signal toward a break-up, but Murphy obscures that interpretation with eerie phrases like “You’re smaller than my wife imagined / surprised you were human.” In the elusive nature of the subject matter at hand, “Someone Great” becomes all the more affecting, and if not Murphy’s best song yet, at least his most mature. Me, I’m hoping for the disco Blood on the Tracks in the follow-up to Sound of Silver.
– Bill Delaney
“(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan”
[Plug Research; 2001]
“It was familiar to me…” In a way, given the torrent of sound-alikes that followed in its wake, a prophetic opening line. However, back in 2001, hearing this song for the first time, it was the title of it’s parent album that seemed most appropriate: Life Is Full Of Possibilities. We had already had plenty of indie/dance crossovers, but Jimmy Tamborello, aka Dntel, coupled electronica as complex as that found on labels like Warp and Planet Mu with minor league indie band vocalists and made it sound as natural as Robert Johnson playing the blues. Distorted, scattershot beats and fuzzy ambient synths pull away from each other, leaving Death Cab For Cutie singer Ben Gibbard to (barely) hold things together. This track worked so well that it led to a proper – if short-lived – collaborative project, the Postal Service, which was extremely popular and inspired, among others, Owl City. Er… thanks…?
– Michael Dix
“Haunting” is a superlative that could be assigned to dozens of songs in Radiohead’s oeuvre, but “Pyramid Song” is the aural definition of the word. Yorke’s warbles about the “black-eyed angels” taking him to the afterlife are paired perfectly with syncopated piano chords as well as Jonny Greenwood’s eerie whooshes. At the climax of the song, as the strings take over, you can perfectly imagine yourself floating along with Yorke and the angels through the gates of Heaven, and you realise that “there was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt” after all.
– Rob Hakimian
From song to song on The Glow, Pt. 2, Elverum (or Elvrum, as he was back then) pulls himself in a ton of opposite directions at once – from electric explosions and maxed out cymbal crashes to single guitars and lonely fog horns, from frantic self-doubt to assuring realizations, he spends the better part of 66 minutes wandering back and forth, trying to figure himself out and make his mind up as to what he wants. However, in “The Moon,” he lays it all out on the table, like a summary of the entire album surrounding it. There’s a whole mudslide of horns, rattling pianos, and other noisemakers, and buried underneath it is Phil, murmuring quietly and wistfully about cherished memories and lost loves. There’s an audible tension between the two that the listener can’t help but buy into. “What the hell is he singing? Those horns are so beautiful but dammit they make the rest of it so hard to understand!” There’s something incredibly powerful and meaningful going on under the surface here, but hell if we can figure it out, and hell if Elvrum can figure out if he wants us to.
– Benjamin Lovell
“Digital Love” found Guy-Manuel de Homem-Cristo and Thomas Bangalter turning to an unlikely influence: Yes. This song, an uncharacteristically pretty electro ballad, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Fragile, right down to the Wakeman-esque synth squiggles. Daft Punk as a recording act may be known best with the house movement, but “Digital Love” suggests that they may have been up to making a great prog album if they were so inclined.