Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Other Musical Stuff From 2006

10) Bright Eyes - Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) (Saddle Creek)
Ever since I became a fan of Bright Eyes, lo those 18 months ago or so, I’ve slowly been building up my collection of recordings by Conor Oberst and company. I’ve discovered that while the “genius” (or annoying whiner, take your pick) from Nebraska made some good albums before 2005’s double dose of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, Oberst’s best work was saved for EPs, compilations and singles. Many of the rarities I downloaded over the past year quickly became my favorite songs in the Bright Eyes catalog. Now a good chunk of that rare material is all in one place on Noise Floor. Tracks 2 through 5 on this disc (“I Will Be Grateful for This Day,” “The Trees Get Wheeled Away” “Drunk Kid Catholic” and “Spent On Rainy Days”) are as good a lineup of four songs as there are in the entire Bright Eyes catalog. “Spent on Rainy Days,” drawn from a collaborative EP with Spoon frontman Britt Daniel, is tremendous and makes me wish these two would record an entire album together. My only complaint about this compilation is that isn’t enough tracks. There’s at least two more albums worth of material floating out there that deserves to be placed under one umbrella, if for nothing else to save me the pain in the ass of looking for some limited compilation that came out in 2002 only in New Zealand. Or something like that, not that I’m a bitter collector or anything…

9) The Replacements - Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? (Sire/Reprise/Rhino)
Most Replacements fans I know didn’t buy this compilation. That’s because they already own all the Mats albums and the 1997 Sire/Reprise era collection All For Nothing/Nothing For All, which was chock full of an entire disc of rarities. Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? serves as a fine introduction for someone who’s never heard The Replacements. Most of their best songs—“I Will Dare,” “Unsatisfied,” “Bastards of Young,” “Alex Chilton,” etc.—are here, just waiting to blow someone else’s mind like mine was in 1988 when I first heard Paul Westerberg and crew. And hopefully this compilation did that trick for a few folks. But for long-term fans of the band, all we need are the two new “Replacements” songs. Now I used those air quotes around the band’s name because “Message to the Boys” and “Pool and Dive” aren’t really Replacements songs. They’re solo Paul Westerberg tunes that just happen to feature his former bandmates Tommy Stinson on bass and drummer-turned-artist Chris Mars on backing vocals. Is it really fair to call these new songs “Replacements” songs when the drum seat is being filled by the man pictured next to ubiquitous in the dictionary, Josh Freese, and Slim Dunlap (who logged four years on guitar) isn’t involved at all? You know, I’m not sure. I suppose if Westerberg, Stinson and Freese toured under the Replacements name, I would sell off body parts (mine and someone else’s) to go. And as much as I enjoy “Message to the Boys,” it sounds like a Westerberg song. A really damn good Westerberg song. And nowadays that is more than enough good news for my ears.

8) The Pretenders - The Pretenders (Sire/Real/Rhino)
Years of Chrissie Hynde making crazy statements on behalf of PETA, cranking out subpar album after subpar album with a rotating cast of lead guitarists and bassists and being as cranky as Lindsay Lohan gets without her special Strawberry Quik powder in almost every public appearance I’ve seen pretty much dimmed my enthusiasm for The Pretenders. This jam packed two-disc reissue of their 1980 debut blew away all those negative thoughts. Damn I forgot how sexy Hynde sounded when she was pissed (“Precious,” “Tattooed Love Boys”) about boys, not about the Chicken McNuggets I just ate. And could I have gone so long without having “Mystery Achievement” on CD? Wow, I had forgotten how smoking James Honeyman-Scott’s solo is on that song until I cranked it at my office when everyone else had left for the day. Like most Rhino reissues the bonus disc is packed with great rarities, demos and some scintillating live material recorded at the BBC. Now I can understand how The Pretenders made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now when are The Go-Gos getting in?

7) The Monkees - The Monkees: Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
Who knew that the songs that weren’t Monkees singles could be so good? I had no idea. I think that in my entire life I’ve seen parts of three episodes and half of that trippy movie Head once on cable, so I never knew the depth of quality to their albums. “Last Train to Clarksville” is the best known song here, but “This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day” or “Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day” could have been smash hits as well by my ears. Even the obvious throwaway track “Gonna Buy Me a Dog”—with its bordering on laughter lead vocal by Mickey Dolenz—rocks pretty damn hard for 1967 pop. And once again Rhino outdoes themselves in the reissue department, packing this double disc set with stereo and mono versions of the albums, 17 rare and previously unreleased tracks and some thoroughly researched liners notes about the creation of the “Pre-Fab Four” and their debut album. Hey hey, I’m a Monkees fan!

6) Feist - Open Season (Remixes and Collabs) (Interscope)
French-Canadian singer-songwriter Feist left me unimpressed with her debut album Let It Die. Listening to Open Season, I do believe that when I first listened to that album I must have a) been in a pissy mood, b) hadn’t gotten my ears cleaned at that point in 2005 c) thought the title of Let it Die was her comment on my latest relationship or d) all of the above. Hmm, I’m gonna guess d). What a fantastic voice she has, and all of these remixes of her songs put the focus squarely on her pipes. Her cover of the Bee Gees “Love You Inside and Out,” a stripped down version recorded at the BBC, is quite possibly one of the best covers recorded in the past five years. I had listened to Open Season at least four times before I realized that she was covering the same song. Even when I read that it was a Bee Gees cover, I had to Google the lyrics just to triple check. Now that’s the sign of a cover that works. Other highlights include a great Postal Service remix of “Mushaboom” with gloriously wimpy vocals from Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and the lovely French ditty “Tout Doucement.” My love of Open Season is just another shining example of why I shouldn’t always listen to new albums while I’m cranky. Sorry Feist—I promise to give your next album my full and undivided attention.

5) Open Season featuring the Songs of Paul Westerberg (Lost Highway)
As much as I liked the new “Replacements” song, I like these songs Paul Westerberg wrote for this animated film even more. And since Josh Freese and Tommy Stinson play on a few of them, it makes almost as much sense to call this soundtrack the new Replacements album. (Well, except a new Replacements album wouldn’t have Talking Heads’ “Wild Wild Life” dropped in the middle for no discernable reason.) Considering my favorite solo song Westerberg ever did is “Waiting for Somebody” from Cameron Crowe’s Singles, it makes me think he should write for films 100% of the time. If watching an animated bear helps him pen a song as goofy as “Right to Arm Bears,” then let’s send this guy a bunch of kids DVDs and lock him in a studio. It’s also rather strange to see “Good Day,” Westerberg’s tribute to his late bandmate Bob Stinson, on this soundtrack. I haven’t seen the film (maybe when it comes to one of the 178 HBOs I subscribe to I’ll find the time) so I’m rather afraid to see where it’s placed in the film. I can’t imagine a bear in the film dies after a lonely life in Minneapolis, but who knows?

4) Bee Gees - The Studio Albums 1967-1968 (Rhino)
This six disc box set took me by surprise just as much as the Monkees reissue on the previous page. Who knew these first three Bee Gees albums contained so many great pop songs? (Well, my co-worker Michael did, but I never would have believed him.) The hits like “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody” and “I’ve Got to Get a Message to You” are all here (in mono and stereo form), as well as quirkier tunes like “Harry Braff,” “Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts,” “Cucumber Castle” (get your mind out of the gutter on that one) and a song that could perhaps be a country hit today on its title alone—“I Have Decided to Join the Airforce.” And the loads of bonus tracks feature some genuinely weird material. “Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator” is pretty damn psychedelic for a three minute pop song, while “Come Some Christmas Eve or Halloween” prefaced the whole consolidation of the holiday season by a couple of decades. (And somehow I still like Thanksgiving in the midst of that calendar shift.) I don’t know if I could in good conscience recommend this box anyone expect a huge Bee Gees fan (that $74.98 list price is a bit much to pay) but who knows—you might become a big fan after giving it one spin.

3) Graham Parker & The Figgs - 103 Degrees in June: Live in Chicago (Bloodshot Records) In last year’s Top 20 I wrote this about the second Graham Parker and The Figgs show I saw on their Songs of No Consequence tour. “[The Figgs] opening set (with guest guitarist Brett Rosenberg) was just about as perfect a 45 minutes as you’ll ever see in music. That pace didn’t let up when they came back out with GP. Every note was in the right place, all the harmonies soared, the solos were immaculate and their enthusiasm on stage was met with an ecstatic response from a packed venue.” Two weeks later Parker and the Figgs played at the Double Door in Chicago, and they were still in that groove where a band and its material mesh perfectly—and the crowd knows it. Throughout 103 Degrees in June you can people yelling at certain parts, just screaming because they are having a great time and know they are witnessing a great performance. I think guitarist Mike Gent (whose enthusiasm for Parker’s work is evident throughout the entire set) summed it up best when I emailed him to say that 103 Degrees was smoking hot—“It’s our finest work with him yet.” Indeed. We can only hope for more work between these two artists down the road.

2) Neil Young - Live at Fillmore East (Reprise)
The June 2nd, 1988 issue of Rolling Stone featured Neil Young on the cover. Young is pictured in his bluesman’s grab for the album he had recently released with The Bluenotes, This Note’s For You. I was a subscriber to Rolling Stone at the time (hey, who knew that it would start sucking later on) and had spent an entire year immersing myself in as much Neil Young music as I could during my post-high school summer and first two semesters at college. So I read and reread that entire Neil Young interview the very day it showed up at my house. One thing that struck me in the piece was when Young mentioned that he was working on another compilation called Decade II that would features songs since the first Decade was released in 1977 and a bunch more unreleased tracks. This excited me to no end, since the unreleased songs on Decade (like “Love Is a Rose” and “Winterlong”) were some of my favorites in his catalog. So I waited, figuring that within the next year we would have another multiple disc set to enjoy. And waited. And waited some more. Every couple of years Young would mention this project, which in the 90s changed to the Neil Young Archives. And then I waited some more. I WAITED FOR HALF OF MY LIFE FOR THIS. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, the first release from the Neil Young Archives appeared, with more promised soon. And the only reason I can see for it coming out now is that Young’s health scare last year made him less inclined to keep tinkering with this project. So I guess the question is this: was the wait worth it to get Live at Fillmore East, a six song live disc that features a tune (“Come On Baby Let’s Go Dowtown”) that already appeared on 1975’s Tonight’s the Night? Well yeah...I mean, fuck yeah, it was worth it. What else did you expect me to say? Words escape me while listening to these powerful performances. As a matter of fact, I’m going to end this entry here and just air guitar to the 16 minute and 9 second version of “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

1) eels - With Strings-Live at Town Hall (Vagrant)
Ever said to a friend, “yeah, I really wanted to go see _____ at _____, but I couldn’t because something came up. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll be back?” Fill in the first blank with eels and the second with Town Hall, and that’s the exact line I said to a friend back in mid-July 2005. I missed this eels show because I was going to Philadelphia to help out with our coverage of the Live 8 concert. (Yeah, I don’t remember what it was about either.) I had three friends tell me in no uncertain terms that the gig was amazing because it wasn’t a standard rock show—the strings supplied a bulk of the instrumentation. I though that as much as I liked the eels and their latest album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, I wasn’t sold on a show dominated by strings being that good. And then I downloaded With Strings, and proceeded to curse Bob Geldolf and Bono quite loudly for their damn good intentions on my train ride home. I interviewed that dude from Linkin Park and missed this concert? I will now slam my keyboard against my ears. This stunning document of eels mastermind E’s inventive idea to shun a proper rock band for his 2005 tour is one of the best live albums I have ever heard. Simply put, it’s a must have for any fan of good pop songs that lay life’s emotions bare. (And for those downloaders, the iTunes version features three bonus tracks, including a great cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.”)

10) Marah
- Austin City Limits Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX 9/16
I’ve got two commandments about rock shows—I should be able to grab a cheap beer at the venue and they shouldn’t happen anytime before lunch. Marah’s set at the second day of ACL violated one those rules—they went on at 11:45 a.m. My friend Stacy and I remarked that the guys in Marah looked like they hadn’t bothered to go to sleep the night before. Singer-guitarist Serge Bielanko confirmed just as much for us, saying “I guess you had two choices this morning—it was either go get a coffee and a breakfast burrito or come see the Marah. We appreciate you coming out this early here in the morning. To me, this is the equivalent of 4:30 in the morning. Me personally, I would have been having the breakfast fucking burrito.” Of course, this being Austin, Serge would have been having a breakfast fucking taco, not burrito. Yet even with all the talk of yummy Tex-Mex food, Serge and singer-guitarist-brother David Bielanko sure didn’t act as if was before noon. Their energy crackled off the stage and into the crowd at the start of the set and didn’t let up for 45 minutes. They ran around as if it wasn’t 90 degrees, jumped off the stage into the photo pit to get closer to the fans and even busted out a crowd-pleasing, fist-pumping verse of “Baba O’Riley” in the middle of one of their Springsteen-like tales of life in blue collar Philly. Next year I think Marah should kick off the festival at 9:00 a.m., and I’ll bring breakfast tacos enough for everyone.

9) The Minus 5 - Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY, 3/26
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and I’ll write it in this paragraph right now: Scott McCaughey writes some of the catchiest songs ever. Any time I get to see him play in either of his bands, the Minus 5 or the rarely- ever-touring-outside-Seattle Young Fresh Fellows, I know that 90 minutes to 2 hours later I will have laughed a whole lot, bobbed my head and sung along to a bunch of songs. McCaughey is also one of the few people that I would go see perform on a Sunday night when there are new episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy to be had. This first Minus 5 show out of two in New York was the most fun I had on a Sunday night in 2006. McCaughey joked about all the new songs with guns (which made me think about how the area where Southpaw is located used to be dangerous years ago) and made some very odd crack about being stalked by a woman. Alas, I was the only person that laughed at the joke, which caused everyone around me to sort of give me a look like I should be put in jail. After the show my odd sense of humor was appreciated by none other that the Minus 5’s bassist, Peter Buck, who also plays in some other big band whose name I can’t quite recall. Buck said to me, “Thanks for coming. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And I especially liked the fact you enjoyed the stalker comments.” Somehow I felt just a tiny bit better after that.

8) Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 - Hiro Ballroom, New York, NY 11/17
I’m not the only person who appreciates the greatness that is the Minus 5—Robyn Hitchcock likes them so much he used them as his backup band. The Venus 3 configuration sees Peter Buck back on the Rickenbacker guitar (and it sounded oh so good), Scott McCaughey on bass and harmony vocals and Bill Reiflin on drums. This trio formed a rock solid foundation for Hitchcock to explore his entire catalog of quirky pop songs. It might be blasphemy to say this, but I believe that the Soft Boys songs Hitchcock and the Venus 3 did this night (“Queen of Eyes,” “I Wanna Destroy You”) were even better than when I saw the Soft Boys reunion tour a few years ago. And to hear Buck’s classic chiming 12-string on cuts like “Flesh Number One” and “Madonna of the Wasps,” well, it brings out the old “reminiscing about his college radio days” guy in me. Another highlight of any Hitchcock show is his ability to go on these extended soliloquies that can be puzzling and painfully funny—usually at the same time. He was his talkative self this night, spinning tales about Mick Jagger, elephants, God, Jesus and what seemed to be hundreds of other topics. I anxiously look forward to the day when someone finally releases a Hitchcock version of Having Fun on Stage with Elvis.

7) Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY 6/22
I must admit, I didn’t expect much from this show, as Knopfler and Harris’s collaborative album All the Roadrunning didn’t do too much for me. It did start out a little rough (especially vocal mix-wise) but settled down after a few tunes. And then Knopfler pulled out the Dire Straits classic “Romeo and Juliet” and it was, in a word, breathtaking, and somehow much, much better than the previous Knopfler solo tour I saw back in the late ’90s. When Knopfler and Harris started singing “This is Us” something clicked—between them, between their band, between themselves and us in the audience. It was that tangible feeling in the air when you just know that the moment you’re in is pretty damn good and you want to bottle it up for future reference. The song clocked in at probably at a little over five minutes, and I wished that it could have gone for another 10. The set closer “Why Worry” was a great surprise, and showed just how well Knopfler and Harris’s distinctive voices work together. Hopefully their brief tour will encourage them to work together in the not too distant future.

6) Nada Surf - Hiro Ballroom, New York, NY 11/27
In scoring tickets for this show I felt like part of the...well, what is this Generation of 20 year olds who text message all the time and make sentences that look like Prince song titles called anyways? Generation Y? Z? AA? Whatever they’re called, I was one of them for a night. I text messaged some number I saw on Nada Surf’s website for what they called a “Flash Concert.” That’s apparently a play on “flash mob,” where those Generation AA’s get together at a public place after getting a text message. Usually it’s done as some sort of civil disobedience or some crap like that, I’m not sure. All I know is that I had to show up at the Hiro Ballroom, show the text message saying I was on the list and I got in. I wasn’t sure if the band would give it their all for a free private show, especially after they’ve been off the road for a while. But they flat out rocked. At one point drummer Ira Elliot kept having a problem with the snare. During “Popular” Elliot hit his snapping point—he started hitting the drums so hard it looked like he wanted to break all of them in half. Afterwards singer-guitarist Matthew Caws said, “Wow dude, you went all Tommy Lee at the end of that.” It was awesome. (And yes, I did yell out for “Shout at the Devil.”) They did every single song in their catalog that I love. I could haven’t been happier singing along with “Killian’s Red,” “Inside of Love” and especially “Blankest Year” and “Do It Again.” During the latter track I started really pogoing and screaming the words to the last refrain: “Maybe this weight was a gift/Like I had to see what I could lift/I spend all my energy/Walking upright.” All those 20-somethings quickly cleared out so the old man could act like a kid again. Again, it was awesome. (And thankfully my new New Balance sneakers did the job and saved me from walking like an 80 year-old man the next day.)

5) The Figgs - Maxwells, Hoboken, NJ 6/16
With all The Figgs shows I’ve seen over the past decade (60 plus now), I’ve discovered one thing that never fails to kick the intensity up a notch—when guitarist Mike Gent is ticked, they rock harder. Now Gent might dispute this claim (and I’m sure he’ll tell me one way or another if I’m wrong), but I’ve seen it a few times and believe it to be true. The event this evening that got his annoyance level up a bit was when the act on before them went well past when The Figgs were supposed to hit the stage. We’re talking at least an hour later than it was supposed to be. Heck, Mike had to be getting ticked, because I certainly know I was. So indeed, the rock was brought when they finally got on the stage. They played seven songs that ended up on the great Follow Jean Through the Sea, did my favorite unreleased track (“Who’s Your Mother Out With Tonight”) and blasted through the venomous true story that is “Fucks Off.” All in all, it was well worth getting back to Brooklyn after 3 a.m.

4) World Party - Irving Plaza, New York, NY 9/9
I must publicly thank my co-worker Dave Schulps, for if he hadn’t raved about the World Party gig he saw in Los Angeles, I never would have finagled myself a spot on the guest list. I’d been a big fan of the band since I first heard “Ship of Fools” yet had only seen them once before back in 1993 when it seemed Karl Wallinger was going through the motions while opening for 10,000 Maniacs. This jaunt was much different, as it was Wallinger’s first full band tour since he had a brain aneurysm over five years ago. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to get a second chance after staring down death, but I can say I’ve seen how it can impact a person’s take on their own songs. Wallinger had a grin etched on his face for 90 minutes straight. The pure joy the man got from playing with what is a kick ass band came through in every song he sang. Wallinger's vocals on the studio versions of his songs such as set opener “Put the Message in the Box” and “Is It Like Today” always seemed to me a little bit detached, as if he needed to put some distance between himself and his words. Not on this night. Wallinger's passion for these songs rang through loud and clear. The set went deep on Goodbye Jumbo songs, with seven cuts played. And with many lyrics in those songs about not letting life pass you by ("See the world in just one grain of sand/You better take a closer look/Don't let it slip right through your hand") it was obvious that the meanings to many of his own words had changed for Wallinger. Even "Way Down Now," which is not the most uplifting song, came across now as anthem of carrying on. And damn, this audience was glad Wallinger carried on. Irving Plaza wasn’t sold out, but the rapturous ovation Wallinger and company got throughout the evening was so loud I thought I was at the Garden. And it was obvious that Wallinger was touched by all of it. Someone left him a bouquet of flowers at his feet, and I could have sworn that he looked a little choked up when he went to the mic to thank the anonymous fan who had left them. Overall, it was stirring example of the healing power of music. Wait, did I just write something that New Age-y? Fuck, I am going soft…

3) Gnarls Barkley - Austin City Limits Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX 9/15
I thought I had seen some sweaty people in clubs before, but nothing could compare to the oceanic waves of perspiration coming off of Cee-Lo’s head during this late afternoon set. Even though we were pretty far away from the stage, the video screen left no doubt as to the hotness up there. Whew, I’m starting to wipe my own forehead thinking about it. Somehow that didn’t stop Cee-Lo and company from delivering the most surprising performance of 2006. Sure, I loved “Crazy,” but after a couple of listens St. Elsewhere seemed to pale in comparison to that gem. Heck, my friend Stacy and I half-heartedly went to that stage with very low expectations. I figured we’d bag it after a couple of tunes. Yet we stayed all the way through, becoming more and more impressed with each tune. Live, all of those moody songs take on a much bigger life. The claustrophobic and paranoid tone that carries through the album is replaced by one of pure exhilaration on stage. The band that Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse put together stick to the basic arrangements yet add enough, well, let’s call it ooompf, that 40-thousand people in 97 degree heat can jump around and dance. Somehow I don’t think Nickel Creek (our other option) would have given me the energy to stand for an hour on that day.

2) The Minus 5 - Mercury Lounge, New York, NY 3/28
The Minus 5 show I mentioned at number-nine was just as much fun as this show, which came two nights later. But that show didn’t have a smoking guest appearance by Lenny Kaye on guitar, and it didn’t have the surprise performance of one of my favorite songs ever. Singer-guitarist Scott McCaughey walked up to the mic at one point and said, “This next song is a cover. It’s by one of the best bands you'll ever see, and this song is probably one of the best you’ll hear this year.” Then McCaughey kicked off that killer riff that starts off the Young Fresh Fellows’ “Hillbilly Drummer Girl.” I started jumping up and down, screaming “yeah, YEAH!” All of the people around me at the front of the stage gave me some extra space for the rest of the show after that little display. And then two people came up and asked me, “Who does that song originally?” “Ugh,” I thought, “How could these people not one of the best Fellows songs ever?” After the show was over I went up to Scott, gave him a hug and thanked him for breaking out that song, telling him he had no idea what it meant to me. The Minus 5 have covered a Fellows track before—“I’m Not Bitter” from 2003’s Down With Wilco was first released on a rare Fellows LP—but I never expected this song to ever make a Minus 5 set. Hey, the Fellows have played New York only three times in the past 12 years, so I'll take what I can get. And for it to be this song, well, it was almost too much.

1) Soul Asylum - Irving Plaza, New York, NY 8/3
I can’t exactly explain why this Soul Asylum show was slightly better than the gig I raved about in last year’s list. Perhaps it was that I knew every single one of their new songs this time around. Or the fact I was able to drink copious amount of Rolling Rock. Or that when my friend Eric said to me, “Do they ever do that ‘Summer of Drugs’ song anymore,” and then a couple of songs later they did it, completely blowing our minds. Or that each gig seems like a New Orleans style funeral/celebration of their late bassist Karl Mueller. Or that “Cartoon” is still one of the best co-lead vocal songs ever. Or that approximately 18 guitarists joined them on stage to do this year’s anthem “Stand Up and Be Strong.” I just don’t know and I can’t explain it. All I know is that I never felt better coming out of a show this year than I did that night.

The Long Winters

How was I to know that cleaning my desk one fateful Friday would lead to one of my favorite new quirky pop bands? Frontman John Roderick’s creative wordplay and knack for memorable melodies sucked me in on Putting The Days to Bed and inspired me to buy the entire catalog and then write an entry for Trouser Press. Think about it—I liked this guy’s music so much I spent my own money on it and volunteered to do extra work for no pay. What am I, an asshole? (Don’t answer that, we all already know what the correct response is to that rhetorical question.) I spent a couple of weeks listening to only their three albums and one EP on my commutes back and forth to work. I was amazed by the interesting characters I found throughout Roderick’s lyrics. The debut Worst You Can Do Is Harm captures people on the seedier side of life: common thieves, murderers (“Government Loans”), drunks and junkies (“Medicine Cabinet Pirate”). The follow-up When I Pretend to Fall features insanely catchy songs that border on the nonsensical at times (“Shapes” opens with the line “Rice won’t grow at home and the Moon doesn’t favor girls”—huh?) The only problem about discovering a band’s entire catalog at once? The wait for their next album seems to take fooooorever.

Nada Surf

I’m not sure that this technically counts as a rediscovery, since I only discovered how much I truly liked this band in 2005. But it’s my list and I’ll do whatever the hell I want. I did like Nada’s 2003 album Let Go when I initially played it, but I had no idea how much I loved it until I put it on the iPod and was dumbstruck one night at the Clean Rite (the name of my local laundry joint) by the power of “Inside of Love.” I won’t rehash what I wrote about the song earlier this year (because it’s too damn long). However, I will say that seeing the band play it twice in two months and encouraging people to two-step while they performed it somehow turned “Inside of Love” from a “feeling sorry for yourself” song into a “c’mon, smile and have a laugh about yourself and your pathetic life and maybe grab a drink” song. And that’s a lot more fun than being depressed for four minutes and 58 seconds. At least I hope it is.

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