As a sign of me getting old, I didn’t really get into any new bands this year, but some old bands made some good new music.
10. “Wilco (The Song)” Wilco
This song sounds like Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, doesn’t it.
“Are you under the impression / this isn’t your life? / Do you dabble in depression? / Is someone twisting a knife in your back? /Are you being attacked? / Oh, this is a fact / that you need to know / Wilco, Wilco will love you, Baby.”
Yes, Wilco will love me. Baby. All I need to do is buy the album, the t-shirt and the overpriced concert tickets. Bankcard, MasterCard, Visa, Cash, Cheque, Electronic Funds Transfer or Direct Debit.
9. “Pig Will Not” PJ Harvey & John Parish
Erotic Fantasy #1: Claudia Karvan, dressed as a milk maid, milking a cow – check (thanks, Micallef). Erotic Fantasy #2: PJ Harvey barking like a dog – check. This is hilarious and crazy except for those who are already hilarious and crazy in which case it is totally normal.
8. “Must Be Santa” Bob Dylan
If you look up WTF? in the dictionary the entry will lead to this song (with this video), but it’s the moment towards the end when he shouts a list of U.S. presidents that the incomprehensible insanity really goes up to that next genius level.
7. “I Am Lost” Jason Lytle
The ballads of Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle are always heavy in sadness and melancholy. But it’s the knack they have of lifting you off the ground closer towards the place where the song is dreaming of that makes them special.
Is being lost good or bad?
6. “Antenna” Sonic Youth
The awesomeness of Sonic Youth’s 16th album, The Eternal, is unusual and surprising and this kind of longevity and consistency puts them up there as one of the greatest American bands of all time. Up there with R.E.M.
Sorry, Kim. You know I love you. But having the guy from Pavement on board i.e. someone who can play bass well, makes a world of difference.
5. “Sea” Grand Salvo
This is a graceful and ethereal song by a Melbourne artist that is destined to be criminally underrated and underexposed.
“Paddy Mann seems to be staring out a window, half-awake, singing to himself…I imagine a wheel, tumbling down a hill; a spool of cotton, trailing off out of sight…as if the song goes on forever. How long is a piece of string? How long can one person strum?” the indistinct judgement.
4. “I Don’t Wanna Go There” Dinosaur Jr.
When it comes to bands reuniting after years apart I’m usually cynical about it doing any good, particularly when they try to record new stuff. Call me a purist, but it can often ruin a band’s history – “Oh, they were great for a period, quit while they were ahead and then…the reunion.” But Farm is their best album since Where You Been and that was released in 1993. J and Lou still seem to hate each other as much as ever but, musically speaking, being in the same band brings out the best of them.
There’s a great live version of this on PitchforkTV and the video clip to Over It is brilliant. But for the greatest guitar solo of the year and maybe the decade you’ve got to go to the outro of this recorded version (you shouldn’t mind gazing at the best album cover of the year). There are times when the solo almost goes over the edge and off the rails but he pulls it back just enough to get to it’s destination. What a ride.
3. “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” Bill Callahan
In the first half of this song, Bill is having trouble sleeping. He is tossing and turning with heartache (“You left me for Andy Samberg?!”). In the second half he gets back to sleep and dreams the perfect song. He scribbles it down in the middle of the night, discovering in his notebook the next morning the nonsense words of the song’s title. Every line of this song is gold but I particularly like “Love is the king of the beasts / and when it gets hungry it must kill to eat / yeah, love is the king of the beasts / a lion walking down city streets.”
2. “Romeo & Juliet” Lisa Mitchell
Yes, that’s right. I’m including an Australian Idol contestant in my top songs of the year. Most contestants on this show ruin songs (that are usually crap to begin with) by over-singing with distracting and self-indulgent vocal gymnastics. Lisa’s vocals are understated which, in this case anyway, increases the emotional punch. This version sheds new light on the original Dire Straits tune, which is something all good covers should do. More rewarding than being able to do a nice cover is that some of her original songs are very impressive too (having a beautiful voice has no value if the songs you’re singing aren’t good). Here’s three great songs (and three great videos) by Lisa Mitchell:
1. “Hysteric (Acoustic)” Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Despite my praise, I’m actually not overly in favour of the direction the YYYs have taken with the It’s Blitz! Album i.e. 80s disco beats and poppy synths. I don’t really understand why anyone would want to return to the 80s (I’m looking at you, Ladyhawke, Passion Pit, Julian Casablancas and La Roux). I still think it’s a great album, however, because the songs are good and at the end of the day that’s what counts. The acoustic versions, however, (4 appear on the bonus disc) wonderfully bare the songs down to their core.
I like how Karen sings “steps”.