Not only are these picks really late (SXSW was months ago) but unlike other years, none of the 700+ tracks grabbed me immediately. The overall tone felt like the ‘college rock’ of 20 years ago. Good, sometimes interesting, artistic even, but every song sounds um, the same.
As in previous years, these are track that are both new to me, struck me, and will keep me in the zone while working. This time around, inspired by J Wynia approach last year, I set up a smart playlist in iTunes that automatically removed tracks after 5 skips. The theory is that this would bias more long term listening enjoyment, rather than short term first impressions – a reverse Pepsi Challenge. I blame this approach and how iTunes counts ‘skips’1 as part of the reason this list took forever to compile.
- Obvious by Watershed
I haven’t heard this mixture of poppy, light-hearted post-punk and “I’d rather be at the bar with you than on stage” since Too Much Joy’s “Gods Make Love” or Ben Folds’ “One Down”.
- Toes by Zac Brown Band
Yes, it’s a blatant rip off of Jimmy Buffet’s “Five O’Clock Somewhere” with the working class country vibe turned to 11. The last couple lines make the song.
- Come On, Claire by Aberfeldy
The kid in Fountains of Wayne’s Stacy’s Mom is now in college…
- Juliet by Army of Freshman
…but he’s still hanging out at the mall.
- Set the Table by Screaming Cyn Cyn and The Pons
Screaming atop a very catchy, if simplistic riff. Makes Madison a much cooler town. This will either annoy you or get you dancing. Continues to do both for me.
- Everybody Knows by The Gougers
Catchy little Country tune in the vein of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.
- The Mountain by Lucero
I’m a Lucero junky.
- So Long to the Red River Valley by The Quebe Sisters Band
Every now and again, I’m in the mood for the Western in Country & Western. This is such a great example of modernizing that sound. Reminds me of listening to The Lone Ranger and old radio dramas.
- Mean Son of a Gun by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
The theme song to a old time radio drama about Calamity Jane
- Everyone’s Got’em by White Ghost Shivers
The jazz tune playing in a secret speakeasy right before the cops busted in.
- Cooler than Me by Ari Shine
A much hipper version of Billy Joe’s ‘Uptown Girl’
- I Wanna Be Ignored by Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy.
- Electric Bird by Sia
This song is a picnic blanket in sun-filled valley.
- How Lucky We Are by Meiko
Such an optimistic song about the day after tomorrow and the person you’ve committed to join you there.
- Fascination by Correatown
The break up side of ‘How Lucky We Are’
- See and Be Seen by The Hard Lessons
This is Facebook and MySpace…put to a beat far less than annoying than either.
- All My Love for You by The Emeralds
Another great track from a typical American 3-piece garage rock band. But from a garage in Yokohama, Japan.
- Fireflies by Search/Rescue
This is the lead track from John Hughes’ next teen romantic comedy.
- Clandestine by Brooklyn
Early Beatles with a French attitude.
- Shut Up by Shellshag
This is closest I’ll get to hardcore punk these days, there’s no way I can take these guys seriously. I imagine this is what it was like to deal with me as an angst-ridden teen.
- Champagne Girls I have known by Johnny Foreigner
Yelpy, like Tullycraft with undertones of Oasis
- Only Fooling Myself by Kate Voegele
Inclusion of this song betrays that I still enjoy listening to Wilson Philips’ ‘Hold On’.
- You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie by The Submarines
This reminds me a lot of Redd Kross, if it was fronted by Aimee Mann
- 1906 by Songs for Moms
An all-woman, 3-piece, folk-punk. Had me at folk-punk.
- Balboa by Cruiserweight
I’m a sucker for Stella Maxwell’s voice.
- Oh Man! by Sybris
and for whomever’s voice this is.
- So Down by Jen Lane
Jen’s a Canadian signer-songwriter. That’s a magic combination.
- Half My Kingdon by Alina Simone
A Ukranian April March. Except she’s really Ukranian.
- Blinkandyou’llmissit! by Bo Pepper
Highly dance-able smack-down dropped by some distorted female vocals.
- Smoking Gun by The Tennessee Boltsmokers
A finger-picking discussion on the dangers of following fashion trends.
- 4th of July by Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers
A stereotypical Country song about loss, patriotism, and vans. Includes the great line, “Ever think maybe if you’re not happy it’s because of you.”
- Blue Canoe by Blue Mountain
I’ve never heard a song about going fishing in a canoe. You have? With a distorted guitar?
- Secretary’s Day by TAB the band
A great example of the blues-based, guitar-driven rock I remember as a kid.
- Stand Up by Thurogood Wordsmith
I’m very critical about hip hop rhymes. This one made the list with: “I came to clean house, kick ass, and take names / Like white Anglo-Saxons across the Great Plains.”
- Do It Again by You, Me, and Everyone We Know
If Ben Folds was backed by Blink182
- Tu Boca Lo Quita by Alex Cuba
A rocking mash-up of electric guitar, ska, steel drums, and an amazing voice.
- No Matter How Bad It Gets by The Barker Band
A poppy little tune for eating buckets of shellfish.
- Hello Friend by Cheveu
Guitars and distorted vocals. Over before reaching a climax. Like a cheap midway ride.
- Inmovil (Wrong ID) by Le Baron
A solid early-90s rock track from a typical 4-piece American indie rock band. But from Mexico.
- International Flight by Le Concorde
The theme song to a fantastic new sitcom about an American girl falling in love with a London record store owner.
- Nono by Ze Dos Frangos
I keep expecting this to be that sappy, overexposed Moldy Peaches track. It’s not. It’s Portuguese. Just that makes it better.
- Exodus Honey by Honeycut
A softer, mellower Strawberry Fields.
- Mina do condominio by Pierre Aderne
For those days when your life is a walk on the beach.
- Negative Thinking by TheDeathSet
Vocals of a cheap punk band and a crisp, jumpy, electronica beat.
- Namida Vacuum Sound by Ketchup Mania
Love song by a very, very angry Manga character.
- Morningside Heights by The Strugglers
Dirt roads, melancholy, and violins
- American Hearts by A. A. Bondy
As honest and patriotic as any Dylan, but intelligible.
- Nickels and Dimes by Scissors for Lefty
“Hey, hey, nickels and dimes are all we need to rock tonight.” Yeah!, that lines earns automatic inclusion.
- Let’s Get Crazy by Limbeck
Finally, a song with clapping. Just not enough songs with clapping in them this year.
- Dirty Blonde by Greta Gaines
One of those tracks that feels like college rock from the late ’80s.
- Julia, we don’t live in the 60s by The Indelicates
- EXTINCTION by The Muslims
Here’s a punky third.
1. Play duration longer than 2 seconds but shorter than 20 seconds. Personally, I found it can take a solid minute to find a song distracting.