Jan 042008

Well, 2007 has come and gone and it left a lot of music in its wake. For me 2007 was a great musical year, in which I acquired a lot of great new albums, got turned on to some awesome bands (new and established), and yes, finally got around to starting my own music blog. To celebrate the passing of the old year, I’ve decided to go back through and point out what were, for me, some of the highlights of the past year in music. In this installment, my top five singles for 2007.

Honorable Mentions:
“Grace Kelly”, by Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion)
“Intervention”, by Arcade Fire (Neon Bible)

5. “Empty Walls” by Serj Tankian (Elect the Dead)

Serj Tankian’s manic melodic style, intriguing vocals, and sense-optional lyrics turned what would have been just yet another war protest song and turned it a great first solo singer for this Armenian genius. It’s one of the first tunes in a long time that manages to be both catchy and mosh-inducing, which totally counts as a win in my book.

4. “Survivalism” by Nine Inch Nails (Year Zero)

When I heard Trent Reznor was doing a dystopian theme-album, I was cautiously optimistic. When I heard “Survivalism”, my attitude got immediately upgraded to “OMG NEED ALBUM NOW”. It’s Reznor at his dark, industrial best. Between insulting mother nature and taking solid, full-fisted swipes at a self-serving society, he still finds time to pack in tons of grungy feedback and pounding drum loops. Hell, even Reznor manages to even make his asthmatic gasps between lines sound badass. This song kicks enough ass all on its own to make me hope Reznor makes good on his promises of two more albums in the Year Zero universe.

3. “Radio Nowhere” by Bruce Springsteen (Magic)

So after all these years the Boss can still rock. What’s more he can still craft songs that will make everyone within earshot get up and dance, regardless of generation, musical taste, or level of disaffection. From the opening guitar hook to the triumphant fade out, this song will have you dancing and singing along at the top of your lungs. Simply a brilliant, well-crafted rock tune from one of the best in the business.

2. “Four Winds” by Bright Eyes (Cassadaga)

Conor Oberst and the crew have drifted towards the country end of things lately, and “Four Winds” proves conclusively that Oberst can still pack the same punch as a songwriter, even with a western twang. Engaging lyrics, rich song writing, and social commentary that’s clear without being ham-handed. So not only is it a great song, but it’s actually got some depth to it. Once again, Oberst shows us how good modern songwriting can get.

1. “3’s and 7’s” by Queens of the Stone Age (Era Vulgaris)

Okay, I have to admit, this song could really just be a 3 minute loop of the opening guitar solo and it would have stolen my number one spot. Guitar hooks like that just do it for me. In fact this is one of those songs that makes me go pick up my own guitar just about every time I hear it because it hits some very powerful “god DAMN do I want to be able to do that” trigger in my brain. But beyond having the best guitar lines of the year (the whole of Era Vulgaris is a veritable treasure trove of badass guitar work), it’s got some great lyrics and vocals and awesome thudding bass lines. Easily one of the best tracks of the year, and if you’re a fan of rock and/or good guitar playing, it’s a fair shoe-in for single of the year.

Mar 262007

I’d totally missed the fact that the new Bright Eyes single was released a couple of weeks ago. It’s gratifying to see that it’s a real, proper single, with a healthy chunk of B-Side material to make buying it a good idea. In addition to “Four Winds,” the single off of the forth-coming Cassadaga album, it’s got 5 other tracks not found on the album, making it more of a single EP than a conventional American single.

This is something I’ve complained about elsewhere and to many people, but most American record labels and/or bands either don’t know how to craft a good single or simply refuse to do so. I’ll pay 8 bucks for the radio single plus a few other songs that won’t be on the album. I won’t, however, pay that much for the radio single and two shitty remixes thereof.

So props to Conor Oberst and his Saddle Creek Records label for putting out a single record worth buying.

Info here on Cassadaga and the Four Winds single, as well as a few .mp3 dowloads. I highly recommend “Four Winds” and the brilliantly-named “No One Would Riot for Less.”

In other news: The lineup credited on the new album is impressively all-star. Ben Kweller, M. Ward, Janet Weiss, and Jason Boesel, amongst others.