Archive for the 'Opinions' Category

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End of the year playlist- #3- We Are Scientists- After Hours

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

The title’s a reference to the 1985 all-night Martin Scorsese flick; this song was featured in this year’s indie-rock version of said movie, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” I didn’t bother to see “Nick and Norah.” This song tells me everything I need to know: it’s an all night adventure of living in the moment. The rounds keep coming, “time means nothing” and the possibility (probability?) of love is in the air.

 

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End of the year playlist- #4- Beyoncé- Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Am I even allowed to like this song? Because I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I could write that I’m including this because I fell over laughing at the homoerotic Justin Timberlake/Paul Rudd send-up of this track on Saturday Night Live. But that’s only partially true — I liked this song before that, and I’m not even an R&B fan. The beat’s infectious, the hook’s solid and Beyoncé (or are we supposed to call her Sasha Fierce now?) sounds great.

 

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End of the year playlist- #5- Vampire Weekend- A-Punk

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Peel away all of the hype and Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut sounds like a bunch of Ivy League grads trying to impress their sociology professor. That’s not to begrudge this former-Columbia University quartet — their album is a solid first effort with a couple moments of brilliance, including this number. “A Punk” is a detached break up song, a short a blast of Afro-pop, clocking in at just over two minutes. Hit repeat — go back and catch all the textured instruments and lyrics you missed the first time around.

 

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End of the year playlist #6- The Hold Steady- Sequestered in Memphis

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Craig Finn’s a storyteller, not a singer. Factor in a group of accomplished, riff-happy musicians, The Hold Steady have been called “the best band in America.” “Sequestered in Memphis” follows a guy on trial after a barroom bathroom tryst. This isn’t a paint-by-numbers John Grisham tale. Finn peppers the story with dialog (“She said ‘I know I look tired/but everything’s fried here in Memphis”) and observation (“In bar light she looked all right/In daylight she looked desperate/that’s all right I looked desperate too”), all building toward an arena-ready, sing-along chorus. Seriously.

 

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End of the year playlist #7- Ben Folds- Cologne

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

2008’s “Way To Normal” was billed as a return to form for the wise-cracking piano man after 2005’s sad sack “Songs For Silverman.” The joke’s on us: as great as some of “Normal’s” rockers may be (“Effington” was a runner up for this slot), the best track is a break-up ballad. “Cologne” displays Folds’s knack for simplicity and emotional understatement. It’s about letting someone go, not wanting to get off the phone (counting down “4, 3, 2, 1” and hanging up together), or just imagining a discussion about a news item, a discussion thrice-divorced Folds knows he can’t have. Factor in layers of multiple pianos and some clever string work on the piano’s interior (see if you can track down the alternate take for the outro with the choir) and you’ve got a song that stands among Folds’ best.

 

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End of the year playlist #8- The Decemberists- Valerie Plame

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The first of six digital singles released as a stopgap before 2009’s concept album “Hazards of Love,” “Valerie Plame” is exactly what it sounds like: an ode to the outed CIA agent. Forget the “Hey Jude”-cribbed outro and just focus on what works: “Valerie Plame” is a silly love song with a strong hook, “Valerie Plame/If that really is your name/I would shout the same/to the world.” It’s also got everything you’d want in a good Decemberists song: lyrical wit, tight arrangements and a playful knowledge of history.