Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top Ten Songs on Elbo.ws Reviewed in 50 Words or Less (1/01/09--1/15/09)

I opted out of doing a Top Ten earlier this month because it mostly consisted of best-ofs from the various blogs--and I felt like I opined plenty about those tracks throughout 2008. So I waited til the chart was completely new. But to compensate you for the wait, I've added a couple of songs for review. Enjoy!

1) Bon Iver - "Blood Bank"

Download: Bon Iver - "Blood Bank"

Moving on the ghostly etherality of his debut LP, Bon Iver nonetheless continues to write post-folk serves as an ideal soundtrack for earthly reflection. But lest emotions resembling confidence come into fold, haunting harmonies emerge to supplant transcendent doubt in the mind of the listener. My generation’s Neil Young? Vernon’s yet to prove us otherwise.

Grade: A-

2) The Decemberists - "The Rake Song"

Download: The Decemberists - "The Rake Song"

Distorted guitar tones and a narrative concerning familial murder suggest Nirvana by way of Titus Andronicus (no, not that one, the other). With “The Rake Song,” The Decemberists ditch the operatic orchestrations of The Crane Wife for a dirtier, grimier sound; a darkly satisfactory take on The Decemberists’ stock in trade.

Grade: B

3) Dirty Projectors and David Byrne - "Knotty Pine"

Download: Dirty Projectors and David Byrne - "Knotty Pine"

The former Talking Heads frontman, along with his one of his many auditory progenies, create a song that sounds like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There’s a development that’s mind-meltingly bizarre, in a meta kind of way. If Byrne is doing CYHSY, and CYHSY is doing Byrne, is Byrne still doing Byrne? Help me out here.

Grade: B-

4) Elvis Perkins in Dreamland - "Shampoo"

Download: Elvis Perkins in Dreamland - "Shampoo"

There’s a little bit of reggae’s relaxed, unbothered shuffle, except that it’s by way of Bob Dylan and the spaghetti western, which allows for sadness pangs (indeed, how else to feel if your blood was the color of black). Elvis Perkins is basically a thinking man’s Jack Johnson, but the hook eventually ingratiates itself on the listener. Also, nice harmonica work.

Grade: C+

5) The Antlers - "Bear"

Download: The Antlers - "Bear"

Essentially, what starts off as any annoyingly conventional Euro-pop lounge ballad begins to nonetheless charm us all once the shambolic guitar-romanticism stumbles its way in from the bathroom (uh, musically speaking of course); one that improves upon multiple listens.

Grade: B-

6) Handsome Furs - "I'm Confused"

Download: Handsome Furs - "I'm Confused"

Pete Townshend's debut solo work (circa Empty Glass) is filtered through the modern-day indie-rock of Wolf Parade? I, too, am confused. But I can't argue with a catch noveau-wave chorus and a modestly insistent beat, can I?

Grade: B

7) Peter, Bjorn and John - "Nothing to Worry About"

Download: Peter, Bjorn and John - "Nothing to Worry About"

In spite of being known for uber-melodious Swedish pop, PB&J continue to take fascinating detours away from the sound that made them popular. In combining M.I.A's worldly hip-hop and hormonal funk of Prince, the trio stumble upon something bizarre, but maybe, just maybe, kind of awesome.

Grade: B+

8) Heartless Bastards - "The Mountain"

Download: Heartless Bastards - "The Mountain"

Like an alt-country Dinosaur Jr. (think "Sludgefest"), the Dayton, Ohio-based trio's "The Mountain" is a solid, somber ballad accentuated with pedal-steel guitar, which helps give the rock-steady songwriting a bit of a sad, canyon-sized grace. The unimaginative song-structure becomes repetitive, but an expansionist opening provides enough variety for a satisfactory listen.

Grade: B

9) Vetiver - "Everyday"

Download: Vetiver - "Everyday"

Sunny, warm and McCartney-esque, but, nonetheless, screamingly bland. Where's Devandra when you need him to weird it up a bit?

Grade: C

10) Au Revoir Simone - "Here is The News" (ELO Cover)

Download: Au Revoir Simone - "Here is The News" (ELO Cover)

One of the many, many MP3s released as part of Buffetlibre's latest covers project, Au Revoir Simone give ELO's early 80s ballad a modern-day dance sheen, but still retain its melancholic new-wave essence.

Grade: B

11) The Black Lips - "Starting Over"

Download: The Black Lips - "Starting Over"

Anthemic, sighing pub-rock and folk-rock's jingle-jangle mourning prove to listeners that they'd be pretty good drinking buddies, as Atlanta's anarchic garage-rockers continue to develop new, more mature methods of songwriting.

Grade: B+

12) Antony and the Johnsons - "Another World"

Download: Antony and the Johnsons - "Another World"

One of the more subdued tracks from Antony's latest album (which, after the glorious soulful warmth of his previous effort, is a bit of a grower, but of similarly excellent quality), "Another World" puts a profoundly austere focus on his voice and piano for another excellent treatise on hoping to face death not alone.

Grade: A-

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