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.
5. Paul V – “Tequila Lip Gloss” (Lil’ Mama vs. The Champs) (mp3 from thesmashmix.com)
So Mysterious D puts this on the decks, and I’m like, “who’s already on the Lil’ Mama track, which is so new you can’t even buy it on iTunes without buying the video, with a mashup that retains the original’s charm while adding some campy fun?” And she goes “Paul V,” who’s our buddy from LA who does “Neon Nights” on Indie 103.1, and I go, “cool!” We might have even high-fived.
4. Overhearing this conversation in a convenience store on the way to see Arcade Fire at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, on Friday 6/1
Older Dude Buying 12-Pack of Light Beer: Hey, who’s playing up there tonight?
Younger Bro Buying Hard Liquor: Umm, Arcade Fire?
Dude: Okay… what’s their deal?
Bro: Ummm, I don’t really know? I’m just going cause people say they’re good live.
Dude: So are they, like, rock?
Bro: Ummm, I dunno? I guess there’s like ten people on stage, and they have like an organ and stuff…
Dude: An organ? So it’s like, New Orleans style?
Bro: Ummm, I don’t really know.
Dude: So would you say it’s more rock, or more, you know, creative?
Bro: Ummm, well, I guess more creative? But still rock?
3. Swizz Beatz – “Money in the Bank” (from the forthcoming album One Man Band Man on Full Surface/Universal) (explicit lyrics)
I know I said I like the pitched-down vocal in hip-hop songs, but hey, it turns out I also like the pitched-up vocal, and not just when cartoon spiders do it. This minimal track from New York’s Swizz (otherwise known as Kasseem Dean) has an accessible, party vibe, but echoes his experimental past with strange, fuzzy production. And while the theme of the gold-digging woman is perhaps a bit overdone in hip-hop these days, I’m willing to overlook that, if it’s this much fun.
2. Franz Ferdinand – “All My Friends” (LCD Soundsystem cover)
Kind of makes you feel like you just can’t keep up, when bands are doing covers of songs that just came out like 7 minutes ago. Actually the Scottish 4-piece contributed their version of “Friends” for the deluxe LCD single release, and as Stereogum points out, they really emphasize the New Order influence. Is that “Love Vigilantes” I hear?
1. Montag – “Safe in Sound” (from Going Places, out 6/5 on Carpark) (mp3 via Audiversity)
If there’s a Quebecois indie-rock hegemony, Montreal’s Antoine Bedard is bucking it with his ethereal synth-pop. Check the guestlist on this, his second album: M83, Beach House, Au Revoir Simone, etc. All established artists, but on each guest-featuring track, Montag retains his own unique sound — somewhere to the left of Beta Band, and around the corner from Junior Boys. “Answers will come / If you don’t believe it, just pretend,” he sings here, and for a few minutes, that seems easy to do.