Another "new" holiday song that was sprung on me. My roommate left a cd with 150 holiday themed songs he had found for a mix by my door this morning, and the most unexpected gem on the disc was this track. I have always loved the Lindsey Buckingham original (best known as the theme song from National Lampoon's Vacation). This version, though, is something completely different. Matt Pond PA has managed to take an 80's summer anthem and turn it into a legitimate holiday track.
I love good cover songs, but especially ones where the covering artist finds something new to add to the track. Keeping the energy of the original, but adding a quality that makes the cover uniquely your own. This cover is the very definition of that formula. The song lends itself so well to a winter theme that I am amazed no one has done this before. It is a beautifully arranged and performed version, and I'll be damned if they didn't throw in a little pedal steel guitar just to completely reel me in. Yet another song that I didn't expect to to put on this list, but one that completely deserves it's place.
Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg's "Dick In A Box"
I had no intention of putting this up when I first heard it. This week was going to be about the songs I wanted to be new Christmas classics. But this damn song has been stuck in my head for 4 days straight now, and I still laugh out loud ever time I watch the video.
Sure, maybe I'm juvenile, but what's not to like about "Dick In A Box". It's a perfect spoof of those Color Me Bad-esque R&B tracks that ruled the radio in the mid 90's, and the joke is so perfectly written into the song that they don't wear it out. Just when you think hearing "dick in a box" would get old, they change it up by describing how to make a dick in a box. Genius.
Do I think that this will become a new classic? Who knows. But it was funny enough to hold my attention for 4 days here, and therefore it gets the nod. Way to go JT.
One of the best modern Christmas songs ever written. Many try to imitate, but none can come close. The hook, the old school flow, and the only song ever to point out the "illness of reindeer". It's a track that should go down in history with the likes of Rudolph, Frosty, and Jingle Bells.
As I get older Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Where as a kid it was more about presents, as an adult it's now about family. I spend more time trying to find the perfect gifts for my parents, sisters, and sweetheart than I do thinking about what I want, and the closer Christmas gets, the more and more excited I get to go home and see my family. It has gone from a somewhat material day to a peaceful and emotional one, and I look forward to the week I get to spend at home each year more that I look forward to just about anything. There is one thing about Christmas, however, that I have always hated... the music. Carols and standards and blah blah blah. There are very few that have ever stuck with me, and I tend to find most of the songs popular artists release during christmas as soul less. I could go into the origins my deep rooted distaste of holiday music, but that is not what this is about. Over the years I have found a few holiday songs that I enjoy. Even if they aren't about Christmas directly, they are seasonally themed in some way, and they are the things I want to hear while opening presents and playing games with my family. So, my good friends, I give to you The 5 Days Of Mojo! 5 holiday-ish songs to help start a new tradition of music.
I love this song. In fact, this may be my favorite Stars song. All synth and acoustic guitar and awesome. And yes, I realize that, "snowman" aside, this isn't much of a holiday song. But to me the music invokes pictures of snow covered hills. Trudging through the powder, holding hands. Sitting bundled up by the window watching the white drift from the sky to the ground. This makes me think of winter, and winter makes me think of home, and to me home and Christmas are one in the same. To me, this is a carol at it's best.
Like many of the wonderful things in my life, I was introduced to Death Cab by my lady, Heidi. She played "We Have The Facts We're Voting Yes" for me right after I moved to LA, and I fell in love with the sound immediately. Like I've said, I like the whiny, visual, rock your self to sleep brand of indie pop, so Death Cab shot to the top of my favorites list very quickly. Damn they can write a song! And damn they can whine! It's great.
The funny thing about Death Cab for me, however, is how long it take for an album to grow on me. I was quickly hooked by "We Have The Facts...", but not impressed by "The Photo Album". Then I started to listen to that more, and the more I listened the more it bonded with me. Same for Transatlantisicm. It's never that I don't like the album, just that I always found myself saying "Well, their last one was better". But then I would listen and listen and something new would click for me. Despite sharing a trademark sound, each of Death Cab's albums is very different, and each displays a progression in their music. "Plans" took the longest for me to get into. I had had the album for a year before it really started to grow on me, but when it did I was hooked.
"Your Heart Is An Empty Room" is the song that brought me back to Plans. It was featured in the trailer for The Science Of Sleep, a movie which I was very excited for this year. I started listening to the song on repeat, which led to listening to the songs around it, and eventually to the whole album. Had I discovered it last year when the album came out it probably would have made my top 10 songs of the year list. Instead it will have to be content to be on the list as one of my most played songs in 2006.
In an earlier post I mentioned that R.E.M. had been one of my favorite bands throughout high school and college. I, of course, knew all their standard radio play songs (Losing My Religion, End Of The World, etc.), but it was the "Automatic For The People" album that really cemented my interest in them. The lyrics and orchestration on that album made it one of my favorites, and it opened up the entire world of R.E.M. to me. I began to work my way backwards through their catalog, and with each album I found new songs and sounds to connect with. I think that my affinity for "alternative, college pop rock" can be directly attributed to the amount of R.E.M. that I listened to in high school.
For sentimental reasons, "Automatic" has always been my favorite R.E.M. album, but I think my favorite individual songs mostly come from their earlier albums. Don't get me wrong, there are a slew of later songs that I love, but there was just something so new about a lot of the old IRS stuff. Even now, after 2 decades of bands have copied and bastardized their sound, there is something fresh about tracks like "Driver 8". The poetry, the guitar lycs, the constant running bass line. It is a brilliantly crafted and infinitely listenable song.
During my last two years of high school and first year and a half of college I was pretty into electronic music. I remember telling my parents I was staying at a friends and instead going to some of the big traveling raves that were popular in the late 90's. Skylab, Thunderdome, Zeitgeist. It was like being part of some secret club. You would buy your ticket and get a phone number to call at 7:00. The message at the other end of the number would give you directions to a warehouse of farm, and the rave contained within would go until dawn. I was never into the drug scene at these raves (that phase came later in my life), but I loved the music and the people. At some point, however, the electronic music coming out just seemed to loose it's originality and power, and I moved on to different interests.
One of my roommates is kind of obsessive. He'll find something he likes and completely immerse himself in it until he either gets bored of it or finds something else to draw is attention. His current obsession is electronic music, and his level of commitment to the obsession is such that he went out and bought a full DJ setup so he could learn how to spin. The great thing about having an obsessive roommate is that he likes to share what he is into, and so I get to discover tons of new music, authors, movies, and distractions through him. Since he is into electronic music, I have been exposed to all kinds of new artists and forms that weren't around when I was into the scene 10 years ago. There is still some stuff I don't dig, but there is also a lot of it that reminds me why I liked the genre so much when I was younger.
Mylo is a great example of the things that got me excited about electronic music. The solid beat, pulsing rhythm, and hook that gets locked into your brain for days on end. There is a genuine energy to well produced electronic and dance music that is hard to duplicate in any other format, an energy that borders on euphoric if you really take the time to listen to it. Even though I'm not much of a dancer, it doesn't take a lot to see why so many people spend their saturday nights seeking out the clubs and DJs who spin great electronic and dance music. It is a fun, bold, and careless medium, and while there is a lot of room for error in a type of music build to strongly off of repetition and cycles, there is something about it in the hands of a great musical or DJ that gives it a life of it's own.
It is exciting to hear that something I enjoyed so much when I was younger has seemed to grow up and get better with me. And while I'm not going to replace my current playlists what all electronic music, it is cool that it has made it back into my listening rotation.
I was looking over an old Myspace time waster survey I had filled out, and one of the questions was "Favorite 80's one hit wonder song". The answer is absolutely "In A Big Country" by Big Country. I remember loving this song with as a kid. It was one of those tracks that stayed with me as I grew up. I don't know if it's the soaring guitar riffs, the perfectly simple vocals and harmonies, or the fact that it's the only song you can legitimately yell "Shaaa!" out while singing. The entire anthem is put together perfectly. Even the lyrics, while still displaying their mandatory "you can do it" 80's message, are poetically visual and skillfully crafted.
"I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert But I can live and breathe and see the sun in winter time"
And let us not forget that bonus points should be awarded any time the band name and their only hit song are eponymous.
There are certain songs that I wish with all my being I could have written. Songs that so perfectly express the sounds and instruments and progressions I hear in my head but am never able to achieve in my own music. Songs that I hear and connect with so fully that I feel it had to have come from me.
The Avalanche is epitome of that song.
Just listening to the introduction defines what I mean when I say "interplay of instruments". Each element an individual sound that perfectly compliments the whole of the sound. The guitars, banjos, and pianos set a lush stage, which is only further accented by Sufjan's delicate vocals and perfectly arranged horn section. The instruments feel as though they were approached more as a symphony than an alternative rock song, beautifully thought out and arranged. Every note is intentional, though it still manages to sound rough and alive. The music creates a depth and texture I think is rare in modern songwriting.
"The Avalanche" was easily my favorite song from last year, even though it was only a b-side from Sufjan's epic Illinoise album. It was first released as an i-Tunes exclusive, then later as a bonus track on the vinyl pressing of Illinoise. This year it was released as the title track on a collection of b-sides from the Illinoise sessions. As much as it surprises me that this was left off of the main album, it makes me happy to see how available the song has been made since the album's release.
Sufjan's music has become some of my absolute favorite over the last few years. From his albums to his live performances, his style as a musician is one that I greatly admire.