Monday seems like a better day for the Top Ten, doesn't it? First of all, I have way more time to think about it, plus I can include fun stuff that happened over the weekend, maybe. More imporantly, the Top Ten can now be a kind of beacon of happiness, shining the sweet light of musical joy during your time of greatest darkness. Am I mixing sound and light metaphors here? Ah, well, screw it, it's Monday.
10. The National "Mistaken for Strangers" (from The Boxer on Beggars Banquet)
Are The National America's Pulp? No, that's not entirely right, but as Pitchfork put it, their music grows on you, and Pulp were kind of like that too: pulling in disparate influences, writing sometimes-obtuse lyrics that often dealt with class differences, and rewarding repeat listens. This track, a dark and driving moment on a none-too-bright album, is sung in the second person, but seems pretty sympathetic to "the unmagnificent lives of adults."
9. The New Pornographers "My Rights vs. Yours" (mp3 via The Yellow Stereo) (from Challengers, out 8/21 on Matador)
While some are calling it "boring," I think the Pornos are allowed to mellow out a bit, and just because a track doesn't end with a rousing chorus of "hey yas" doesn't mean it's bad, people! Plus, while the lyrics are as obtuse as usual, the theme appears to be a bit more sedate and complex, reflected in the song's unusual twists and turns.
8. Sa-Ra "Hollywood" (mp3 via me) (explicit lyrics)
I actually blogged about this track about a year ago after hearing it on Garth Trinidad's show on KCRW in LA; not to brag, but to lament that it's still not readily available, although a promo copy did show up in my inbox just the other day. Apparently there was some trouble with a label deal that's keeping "Hollywood" from seeing the light of day, which is too bad, since its 80s-style synth-R&B (reminiscent of, I dunno, Mtume or One Way), combined with a conflicted lament about the Sa-Ra "collective's" hometown, makes it seem like it could catch on.
7. Tie: Rihanna "Umbrella," Amy Winehouse "Rehab," (live at the MTV Movie Awards, Sunday 6/3)
While MTV's annual tribute to cinema has never really been anything but a series of promotional tie-ins and celebrity appearances (accompanied by deafening screams), there were three good things this year: 1) Sarah Silverman, who's always great; 2) Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen making out; and 3) the two bits of live music. First up was Rihanna, whose guitar-enhanced remix of "Umbrella" brought the crowd to their feet; then came Amy Winehouse, whose sped-up version of "Rehab" seemed lifted directly from another era. Winehouse especially seemed to kind of roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of the surroundings, giving a knockout performance while seemingly barely lifting a finger.
Amy Winehouse clip at MTV.com here
6. Ulrich Schnauss "Gone Forever" (Robin Guthrie version) (from the Quicksand Memory EP on Domino)
While we wait for the July 10th release of Goodbye, the new full-length from this German electronic artist, we can content ourselves with a new version of one of his old songs put together by a musical ancestor: Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. The processed guitar sound is instantly recognizable, and it makes swirly-pop fans like myself all the more sad that the Twins' planned reunion in 2005 never happened.