Superchunk - "Trees of Barcelona" (I Hate Music, 2013)
So far 2013 has been a pretty good year for music as far as I’m concerned, albeit a weird one. Most of my 2013 release purchases have been fan-funded projects through PledgeMusic, Kickstarter, and Indigogo—Eureka Machines, Ginger’s Hey! Hello! project, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Dave Elkins of Mae with his Schematic release. But albums released through traditional means have been good, too—Black Sabbath, Dave Grohl’s Sound City project, QOTSA. But Superchunk’s latest is among the best front-to-back and has been one of my favorites of the year. This track is one of the 11 reasons why.
Foo Fighters - "Hey, Johnny Park!" (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
And speaking of Dave Grohl, The Colour and the Shape contains some of my favorite Foos material. While this one isn’t one of those tracks, it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "Nothing Is Alone" (Pale, 1990)
Again, not a favorite of mine, which is odd, because I tend to really like the songs Todd Nichols sings on the albums. But again, not a bad song by any means, and it ends up being a relatively upbeat end to an album that mostly feels dark and foreboding.
Arcade Fire - "Empty Room" (The Suburbs, 2010)
I don’t know why I just haven’t been able to get into this band. This song in particular tends to suffer from too much sameness from start to finish.
Coheed and Cambria - "Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow)" (Live at Starland Ballroom, 2005)
I love the energy of this track and how the audience gets into it with the singalong sections. I love how completely weird Claudio is. I love the melodies he comes up with and how complicated some of his songs are. But you know what I love most about Coheed?! I love that Claudio plays a Gibson Explorer. There aren’t enough guitarists these days rocking that guitar.
Mae - "Sun (Live)" (Destination: B-Sides, 2004)
Like it says on the tin, Destination: B-Sides is a collection of b-sides, remixes, rarities, live performances, and otherwise previously unreleased material from the era of Mae’s excellent Desitination: Beautiful album. This version of “Sun” has an extended piano intro, and being a live cut, has a drier mix.
KISS - "Rock Bottom" (Alive, 1975)
“You wanted the best, and you got the best!” Rocking “live” cut of one of my favorite tunes off Dressed to Kill.
Arcade Fire - "Half Light I" (The Suburbs, 2010)
I really tried to get into this album, and I actually liked quite a bit of it, but for some reason it just didn’t grab me. Songs like this one may be why since it never seems to go anywhere.
Schematic - "Where’s the Soul?" (Color (n.) Inside the Lines, 2013)
One of the better tracks on the new crowd-funded album from Mae co-founder and frontman Dave Elkins. The sound is a bit of a departure from Mae, opting for a more experimental feel with drum loops and electronic elements, and it works for the most part, but there are times that it seems a little awkward and forced. On this one the new approach serves to add an interesting touch to the funky groove and slippery time signature.
Phil Keaggy - "Passing Thought" (Acoustic Sketches, 1996)
I end this Five just like I started it—with a track from an album with an overly literal title. This album has popped up here before, and this particular track was part of a Five Five back in the Ick Music days. Even the song name is somewhat literal, acting as a segue between two longer more-fleshed out tunes. Keaggy is an amazing guitarist, and while this track doesn’t necessarily express that fact, the rest of the album certainly does.
Sixpence None the Richer - "I’ve Been Waiting" (Divine Discontent, 2002)
Known more for the hit “Kiss Me” and their cover of “There She Goes,” you’ll have to trust me when I say there’s much more to Sixpence than that. This song is—as is much of the album—soft, quiet, lush, introspective, and beautiful. While I miss the loud-indie-rock-guitar moments from This Beautiful Mess, I’m just fine with this version of Sixpence.
Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs" (The Suburbs, 2010)
I’ve already admitted in other Friday Fives to having missed the Suburbs train when it first rolled by, and this album opener might be one of the reasons why. It’s not that it’s a bad song, it’s just that it doesn’t go anywhere until Win Butler’s falsetto parts in the chorus. It’s odd that I don’t like this more as it reminds me quite a bit of The Hold Steady’s “A Slight Discomfort,” which I do like. Weird.
Foo Fighters - "Let It Die" (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, 2007)
This one’s a slow builder from the arpeggiated acoustic intro and main theme to the bombastic end section with Grohl screaming “Why’d you have to go and let it die?”
Cake - "Mahna Mahna" (For the Kids, 2002)
Written by an Italian composer for an Italian film about sexual practices in Sweden, made popular by TV in the U.S. shows Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and British comedy The Benny Hill Show, and covered in true Cake style and fashion for a compilation of new renditions of “children’s songs.”
Caedmon’s Call - "Prove Me Wrong" (Long Line of Leavers, 2000)
One of a handful of songs written or co-written by former (and along with Derek Webb, primary) lyricist (though never full band member) Aaron Tate. This was the last Caedmon’s album to feature Tate’s songs, seeing them transition to collaborating with quite a few professional CCM songwriters before Andrew Osenga from The Normals joined the band as one of the primary songwriters. Long Line of Leavers sees Caedmon’s Call move further in a pop-oriented direction started with 40 Acres, and while the album as a whole is fairly strong, actually containing a couple of my all-time favorites from the group, this particular song has never really grabbed me.
The Friday Five over at Popdose is the one, it’s the one, yeah you know it’s the one, it’s the one (yeah, you know it’s the one).
Torche - "Amnesian" (Meanderthal, 2008)
I (ahem) acquired this album from a friend, and while I like the sludgy, Soundgarden-y, stoner-rock riffage, I wish I liked the actual songs as much as I like the album title. Now that’s pure genius.
Ginger Wildheart - “You’re the One, You’re the One, Yeah, I Know You’re the One, You’re the One (Yeah, I Know You’re the One)” (555%, 2012)
The (former? current? future, hopefully?) Wildhearts frontman’s PledgeMusic experiment to create a new triple-album solo release was wildly (maybe insanely?) successful, far exceeding his pledge goal and reaching 100% of the target in less than 6 hours. The album’s title reflects the point at which Ginger chose to cut off availability of hard-copy versions of packages that include CDs or vinyl, with all pledges beyond that receiving digital-only versions (and because 5 is Ginger’s favorite number). With 16 days remaining to pledge, the project stands at 581% of target with 6010 pledges. Impressive. But what about the music? 30 songs, most of them top-notch, none of them throw-aways, and in true Ginger fashion, stylistically all over the map. This particular song is one of the best of the bunch.
The Beautiful Mistake - "Stabbing Backwards" (Light a Match, For I Deserve to Burn, 2002)
OK, so this is an emo/screamo band, and as the album title suggests, they take themselves a little too seriously. I only wish other emo bands took their musicianship as seriously as these guys did on this release—tight performances with great production and good songs, for the most part. “Stabbing Backwards” is one of the best tracks on the album. I could do with a little less of the screaming, though. I like my screaming with a little dose of metal, crazy guitar solos, more attitude, and less whining.
Glen Phillip - “Dam Would Break” (Live at Atlanta’s Red Light Cafe with Nickel Creek, 2003)
Excellent cut from an excellent bootleg of an excellent show the former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman performed with special guests Nickel Creek appearing for the second half of the show. The bootleg is available at the Internet Archive and is definitely worth the download if you like Glen, Toad, Nickel Creek, or good muscianship.
Arcade Fire - "Deep Blue" (The Suburbs, 2010)
Another acquisition from the aforementioned friend. It seems I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to this album as it is often hit or miss with me. This particular song leans toward miss today.
The Police - "Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86" (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
Ugh. An absolutely horrible remake of the original. ‘Nuff said. Next.
U2 - "Promenade" (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
For some reason I seldom reach for The Unforgettable Fire when I want to satisfy an itch to listen to U2, and I’m not really sure why. It may be that I’m not as familiar with this disc as I am their others. Or it may be the lack of big “hits” on it, although these days I would count that as an advantage over having to wade through track after track that corporate radio has played into the ground. Weighing in at only 2:34, “Promenade” is a segue track of sorts, of which there are several on this very short album. As such, I don’t really have much of an opinion on it one way or the other, although Bono’s soaring vocals mix well with the ethereal instrumentation.
Arcade Fire - "Modern Man" (The Suburbs, 2010)
I acquired this album from a friend, and after having only listened to it once—and only half-heartedly then, I must admit—I promptly forgot that it was in my collection. That’s unfortunate since if the rest of the album is like “Modern Man,” I really need to dig it out and give it a good honest listen. Simple and catchy, this song is exactly how I like my pop tunes.
The Cure - "Untitled" (Disintegration, 1989)
“Untitled” suffers from a different fate than that of “Promenade.” At one point I had very nearly worn Disintegration out, but coming in at 72 minutes long, by the time I made my way to this final track on the album, I hardly ever made it all the way through its repetitive droning. And although it feels happy and hopeful in light of the somberness of the majority of the tracks, I never really felt that it measured up to rest of the album.
King’s X - "Move" (Live Love in London, 2010)
Excellent live version of one of my favorite tracks off the 2008 XV album. I only regret that I didn’t get to see these guys on tour for the two opportunities that I’ve had in the last decade. Here’s hoping I get another chance soon.