photo from curtistwins.net
So I was going to call this first edition of “What I’ve been listening to” “What I Listened to this week,” but I realized that’s not really possible since what I listen to tends to both overlap and change hour to hour, day to day, week to week and so on. So in the interest of not being a liar, I’ve compiled 22 songs that I’ve enjoyed lately. By no means is this a comprehensive list of what I’ve heard lately, but it’s some of the highlights of what I’ve discovered, downloaded or just revisited recently.
I’m calling this first one “Wounded Jukebox 1,” and perhaps will stick to that title or get more inventive later. So what follows is an extended playlist and then a link to download the mix, which is ordered as I saw fit. Hope you all enjoy!
1. Two Weeks 4:04 Grizzly Bear
I put this song first because no matter what point I pick the song up on the radio, I listen to it. It’s catchy, and it’s off of their new album Veckatimest, which coincidentally is just as awesome as this song. Here’s a link to some of the reviews, which are nearly all glowing.
2. Folding Chair 3:35 Regina Spektor
I heard this song on Sirius XMU the other day and was hooked. It’s off Spektor’s new album Far, which comes out June 23. She has a really unique ability to do incredibly silly songs (e.g. “That Time” off of her previous album Begin To Hope) as well as very serious ones (a good example is another one off of far called “Laughing With”… the title is misleading).
3. Help I’m Alive 4:47 Metric
This Canadian quartet can really rock, and they have a gift for melody. Both are on display here. Plus, lead singer Emily Haines is pretty cute.
4. Lasso 2:51 Phoenix
I have two songs on the mix by Phoenix, a french band who have recently been on Saturday Night Live and given a 4-star review in Rolling Stone, because I couldn’t put three. Also because I couldn’t eliminate this one or the other from the list. These guys are awesome, check em out.
5. Now We Can See 3:31 The Thermals
I was a casual fan of The Thermals until I got this album, which I think is solid from start to finish. The album, with this as the title track, features pounding, catchy and intelligent post-punk that’s truly fun to listen to.
6. In One Ear 4:02 Cage The Elephant
I’ve read a lot of reviews that call these guys “ballsy” and criticise them for claiming that they get no respect from (wait for it) critics, since this is their first album. The way I see it, if you put together tunes that rock this hard, I don’t care who you’re questioning. There are tracks on their self-titled album that sound to me like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and like Arctic Monkeys. There’s nothing really complicated about Cage The Elephant, and I dig that. I didn’t want to include the single, “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” because I hear it too much, and this song is pretty great.
7. 1901 3:19 Phoenix
The band held a remix contest for this song, and some of the results ended up being pretty cool. They periodically post their favorite ones on the group blog, found here.
8. Strictly Game 4:04 Harlem Shakes
I started smiling from the moment the beat picks up in this one from the Harlem Shakes, and the song only gets better from there. The chant “This will be a better year,” is sung in chorus and sounds so hopeful. The song melds Lexy Naim’s stilted vocals, a rhythmic drumbeat, sonic elements and random keyboard and horn sounds to make this tune an instantly loveable experience.
9. Dance Music 1:59 The Mountain Goats
John Darnielle sings in his scratchy but sweet timbre in such a way that turns the most troublesome human experience into instantly relatable situations. The upbeat instrumentation belies the subject matter here, a child witnessing a violent fight between his parents and finding refuge in an old record full of dance music. This song is really beautiful and painful at the same time, a mixture at which Darnielle has seemingly always been exceptional at pulling off. It’s no wonder that he has legions of fans that know every word to every one of his wonderful tunes.
10. Bag Of Hammers 2:51 Thao
I followed up the Mountain Goats with this song only because Thao has a very uncommon tone to her voice, and admits it in the lines of this very song: “And as sharp as I sting, as sharp as I sing, it still soothes you, doesn’t it? Like a lick of ice cream.” It certainly does.
11. Sink Into Me 3:05 Taking Back Sunday
I listened to this song about seven times in a row after I checked out TBS’ newest album, New Again. It’s a slickly produced, screaming gem of a pop punk song. The band held auditions for a new lead guitarist, and I think Matt Fazzi’s addition to the band has made them stronger. Taking Back Sunday is on tour with Blink-182 and Weezer this summer, which I’ll bet will be a nice trip down memory lane for a lot of punk rock fans. The string of dates began yesterday and runs through the middle of September.
12. Percussion Gun 3:09 White Rabbits
The title of this song is a perfect description of the opening drum sequence, a rolling, automatic-weapon like rhythm-section contribution that kicks off a really solid rock song. The song is off the band’s newest and self-titled album, which was produced by Brit Daniel. Truthfully, you can hear the Spoon frontman’s influence from the very first notes of White Rabbits. It’s got that structured, contained chaos with a hefty dose of attitude that made Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a gagagagaga-great album. Man that was lame.
13. Matrimony 2:51 The Avett Brothers
I first heard of the brothers Avett while working for WUSO 89.1 The Berg at Wittenberg University. When their album Four Thieves Gone: The Robinsville Sessions came to me in a listen-and-review group for the station, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a collection of fun, frantic songs about love had, lost and found again. I recently re-listened to this album after enjoying their more recent work like The Gleam EP and Emotionalism and stumbled upon this song, a jaunty tune about sticking with a hot-blooded marriage. I am seeing these guys live at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus in a little over a week, and I could not be more excited. Especially after seeing this video from Sasquatch on the awesome blog I Am Fuel You Are Friends.
14. Little Bribes 2:48 Death Cab for Cutie
This song is off the EP that Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla and co. released in March after Narrow Stairs. The group of songs that Little Bribes belong to were released because they didn’t fit on the band’s latest full-length studio release would’ve otherwise gathered dust in a dark room somewhere without ever being heard. As this fast-paced and funky tune proves, that would’ve been a shame.
15. Sultan 2:47 What Made Milwaukee Famous
WMMF remind me of one of my favorite bands, Dear and the Headlights, only with a little less angst and little more tradition to its sound. That’s not a knock on this group, who despite its name is actually based in Austin, TX. The bass riff that accompanies the chorus is too fun to ignore, and the song really draws you in in just under 3 minutes of rock goodness.
16. The Daredevil Christopher Wright 2:32 The Daredevil Christopher Wright
A friend of mine saw this band live in Chicago and recommended them to me without having heard their album (thanks Shiloh), which was subsequently released on May 19. There is lush orchestration and really original songwriting here, with a touch of whimsy thrown in for good measure. The album is called In Deference to a Broken Back and it runs the gamut of musical styles in a really daring but skillful way. Obviously, I highly recommend these guys (I mean I put them on here twice).
17. Anonanimal 4:48 Andrew Bird
I caught this song on XM Radio a couple weeks ago and tried to figure out how I could’ve overlooked it initially on Bird’s latest offering, Noble Beast. The breakdown and string-laced beat that follows it around the two-minute mark is just so beautiful. Bird always puts the pieces together for an eclectic and aurally exciting blend that can both surprise and satisfy. Oh, and he also used to be in the group Squirrel Nut Zippers, which really just makes his current success even cooler.
18. Hazel 6:14 Junior Boys
I feel like this duo’s third full-length studio album didn’t get much attention, and that’s a shame because it’s a really strong set of pulsing, airy electro-pop songs. I fell in love with this group when I heard their debut Last Exit, and I still like the more sophisticated, polished tunes they’re putting out now with albums like Begone Dull Care.
19. Orange Shirt 3:30 Discovery
This is a really cool collaboration between Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Botmanglij and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot. I thoroughly enjoyed both bands’ debut albums, and what we get here is a blippy, beat-filled concoction that’s delightful. I can’t wait for this record to come out. So, in short, VW + RRR = an awesome Discovery
20. The East Coast 5:09 The Daredevil Christopher Wright
As I said before, I really like this band. This song has some pretty awesome lyrics, a lot of stray sounds, some super-high vocal riffs. It’s great is what I’m saying.
21. The Only One 2:40 Manchester Orchestra
A song by a talented and conscientious group of youngsters releasing their second rock record. This one is in part about being a preacher’s son, and includes a really cool slide-guitar riff.
22. Mykonos 4:35 Fleet Foxes
As far as I’m concerned, Fleet Foxes sound like almost nothing else out there. The lines “Brother you don’t need to turn me away, I was waiting down at the ancient gate” are accompanied here by a steady guitar strum and some empty-cathedral-echoey vocal harmonizing. It’s just awesome. Four minutes and 35 seconds of awesome.
Download this 22-song compilation here (link fixed, for now).
So that’s the first of the Wounded Jukebox’s “What I’ve Been Listening To” mixes. Hope it’s an ear-pleasing experience for you. To quote Mykonos, “You go wherever you go today. You go today (while listening to TWJ’s mix).” Yeah, I added that last part in. But you should still listen. And comment!