Due to a change of employment I have have had a 40 minute commute for the past 8 months. It’s pretty much the absolute worst except for the fact that it gives me time to listen to mass amounts of music. In no particular order, here are some songs that I grew to appreciate this last year:
10. Jason Lytle: Last Problem of the Alps
Jason Lytle makes a very specific kind of mopey melodic pop-rock that seems pretty normal at first listen, maybe even slightly boring. BUT THEN you notice how interesting that weird synth part is, or how orchestral parts will pop in and out of his songs like someone scanning through the AM dial. Then after a while, you can’t stop listening to his albums over and over and you start slowly absorbing all of their sad majestic energy until you write long run on sentences about it.
9. The Wave: Miike Snow
Try to ignore the bizarre and slightly disturbing video (or maybe you’re way into it, in that case go nuts I guess) and just listen to this song. Writing catchy pop music that isn’t the same trendy noises over and over (synth heavy dance-pop lately) is something that not many people do anymore for whatever reason, so major kudes to these Swedish producer weirdos.
8. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long: Otis Redding
I’ve been listening to a lot of Otis Redding lately and I think there’s not a more indelible Otis moment than on this track when he sings “You are TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRED and your love is growing cold…” The explosion of “tired” compared to the pathos of the rest of the phrase should be beaten into the head of every singer as proof that you don’t have to be trying to blow the doors off the barn with every word.
That being said, the thing about Otis that I love is that he just totally goes for it. He tried so HARD. In fact, I have this hanging on my wall at work and it provides more inspiration than a thousand photos of people climbing mountain peaks or whatever:
7. Wood Ox: Jeff the Brotherhood
Jeff the Brotherhood make such willfully DUMB music that it makes me laugh sometimes. Sample lyric:
I didn’t mean to make you mad
I didn’t mean to make you sad
I heard he’s gonna kill me soon
I need to hide out in your room
HAHAHAHA. I still really like this band because their particular brand of early-Weezer-meets-Motorhead-meets-lazy-stoners is just the thing to listen to on a Tuesday morning when you really need a Coke Zero but are still 20 minutes from your exit.
6. Do it Anyway: Ben Folds Five
It’s pretty weird that Ben Folds Five reunited and recorded a new album this year. I mean, I grew up sort of idolizing this band and I figured since they never made it out of the 90’s that the book was closed (similar sounding Ben Folds solo work notwithstanding).
I was not really even looking forward to the new album, but this song in particular really won me over. When Ben Folds plays with Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge the songs obtain a certain jazzy bounciness that is curiously absent in Ben Fold’s solo stuff, and this song is a good example of that. If you close your eyes when you listen to this, it almost feels like 1998 again.
5. 48 Roses: Mariachi El Bronx
I have a friend that kept telling me about some punk band called The Bronx that decided to start playing Mariachi music and that it was really good, and I was all like, “OK.” And then eventually I listened to it and it was super excellent.
I mean, if someone told me that you could successfully combine punk and mariachi and not have it sound like some kind of offensive Mexican minstrel show then I would have thought just the opposite! But I would have been wrong.
4. Just What I Needed: The Cars
I’m sure I’d heard this song before this year, probably lots of times. I think I saw a band cover this song and I realized how just really, really good it is. I then learned how to play it on the guitar (it’s super easy, FYI) and that thing happened where you gain a weird inside-out understanding of a song due to the fact that you’ve played it a bunch and you like it even more and it becomes your go-to karaoke song.
3. Plumage: Menomena
It’s all about the massive FART of the baritone sax (2:08). I live for that kind of stuff.
2. Soda Popinski: Javelin
Sometimes I get weirdly attached to songs (or things) that while I know are pretty dumb on an intellectual level, they get me right where it matters: in the GUT. This is a stupid little song that mostly just samples an old NES score but it speaks to my gut in unexplainable and possibly immoral ways.
1. Apocalypse Dreams: Tame Impala
AHHHHHHHHHH THIS IS GOOOOOOOD. Usually when I hear music, even really great music, I can at least sort of understand how it was created. You write some chords, come up with a melody and some lyrics and boom; song. Sometimes though, songs are just TOO GOOD, and you can’t even think of how a group of humans sequenced all these sounds in the first place.
Am I saying this song was written by super-advanced musical aliens? Probably.