I love lists.
This year has already produced a staggering amount of tremendous music. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably missed out on 75%+ of it. So, let me list some of my top picks, and I’ll let you either buy ‘em here or suggest that you seek ‘em out somewhere else.
So with that in mind (and hey, when's the last time you made yourself a mixtape?):
1. “Rubies” by Destroyer.
*** If nine-minute-plus songs aren’t quite your thing, if New Pornographers alumnus Dan Bejar’s voice isn’t quite your style, at first, then please— just be patient. Trust me. If it is your speed, however, you’ll be even more stunned. One other caveat— you might need the lyric sheet for this one.
2. “Rise Up With Fists!,” by Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins.
*** I first heard this one (Jenny Lewis already being a known commodity with Rilo Kiley and the Postal Service) via its Hee Haw-inspired, Sarah Silverman-co-starring video, but now it stands alone. An instant classic on every level, even though (especially) it’s laden with more country flavor than the rest of my collection put together.
3. “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley.
*** You noticed the name, I’m sure— Gnarls Barkley is the name under which Cee-Lo has chosen to collaborate with Danger Mouse. And this… this is an easy contender for single of the year. Or, it would have been, had Destroyer not taken claim to the title a few months back. Still, this will get in your head, in the very best of ways.
4. “The Sound of Failure / It’s Dark… Is It Always This Dark?,” by the Flaming Lips.
*** Once again, the name… I know. Anyhow, this is (arguably) the Flaming Lips at their very best, regardless of the long-ass song title—meditative and transcendent, reaching for the proverbial stars, all while Wayne is standing knee deep amongst the very Britneys and Gwens he name-checks throughout.
5. “Roscoe,” by Midlake.
*** One of the many new bands this year that are getting music nerds all overheated and such, Midlake has chosen to emulate the sounds of 70s FM radio, rather than taking the so-very-2005 Sonic Youth/Wire/Pixies path. This particular song sounds both lost and found, like a 45 you might have stumbled across in a dusty attic somewhere. A 45 that happens to have Lindsey Buckingham’s name on side A, and the theme from M*A*S*H on the bottom.
6. “All Truth Now,” by the Vorstand Circus.
*** All together now—who??? Um, the Vorstand Circus is one guy, one lonely Australian guy who found himself in a foreign country with nothing but instruments and a computer to pass the time. And he put together a whole bunch of songs that sound really, really good. To say more would be to spoil the fun.
7. “Promiscuous Girl,” by Nelly Furtado w/ Timberland.
*** If I’ve learned nothing from listening to other music nerds, it’s that every year, a handful of pop songs are somehow magically transformed (knighted, really) from drivel into indie-sanctioned gold. Last year, this was Annie’s place in the countdown. Now, it’s Nelly Furtado’s turn, though most would agree that she’s always been pretty great.
8. “The Champ,” by Ghostface Killah.
*** Or, how Pretty Toney Got His Groove Back, with the help of Burgess Meredith and Mr. T.
9. “Bush War Blues,” by Billy Bragg.
*** Token (overt) protest song. It’s got a good beat, though, and you can whinge to it.
10. “When You Wasn’t Famous,” by the Streets.
*** I will defend Mike Skinner to the death, even if a lot of people have long since given up on The Streets. This track is a hysterical whine about the difficulties of picking up famous women, even when you happen to be famous yourself.
11. “The View from the Afternoon,” by the Arctic Monkeys.
*** I’m not completely sold on these guys… I think they’ll be gone fairly quickly, chewed up and spit out by the NME beast. But this, the lead track from their debut CD, is not bad… not bad at all.
12. “The Funeral,” by Band of Horses.
*** Another up-and-coming band for 2006, and another slow burner. Slightly reminiscent of Okkervil River, this tune contains what is either the best or the most horrifying line of the year so far.
13. “Just,” by Mark Ronson, featuring Alex Greenwald.
*** Again, I hear you ask, “who???” Well, Mark is a DJ, and Alex sings for Phantom Planet, and this song comes from a Radiohead tribute album. And it is one of roughly… well, the entire album’s worth of songs, really, that is downright fantastic. You’ll love it, if you have any soul whatsoever.
14. “Jen, Nothing Matters to Me,” by Irving.
*** If you’re a fan of the Killers, you will love, love, LOVE this song. If not, you’ll merely love it.
15. “I Was a Lover,” by TV on the Radio.
*** Cheating, here, as this hasn’t technically come out yet… but this is an absolutely ridiculous song. Again, I don’t want to spoil your virgin ears if you haven’t heard this yet.
16. “Another Sunny Day,” by Belle & Sebastian.
*** I could have chosen any song from The Life Pursuit, just about… but this one is so damned happy and up-tempo that it’s pretty much irresistible. If you have preconceptions about Belle & Sebastian, abandon them, listen, and fall in love.
17. “Steady as She Goes,” by the Raconteurs.
*** Otherwise known as Jack White’s new band, though many of you will already know all about that. More blues-rock, but even better (in my opinion) than the White Stripes’ output. Like the young Rolling Stones… hungry and drooling and messy and great.
18. “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me,” by the Pipettes.
*** Somewhere, your parents are smiling. This song is much more their speed than anything else I’ve listed here… but don’t be dissuaded. Three hot chicks (go ahead, sue me) singing 50s/60s girlpop, as Jed noted. Terrific.
19. “Life is a Pigsty,” by Morrissey.
*** Reason enough to find Ringleader of the Tormentors and buy, buy, buy.
20. “World Wide Suicide,” by Pearl Jam.
*** Just because this song makes you feel like it’s 1993 all over again. You’re standing outside the store at midnight (with about 150 other fraternity guys and sorority dolls), waiting to get your copy of Vs. And when you listen for the first time, it’s better than you could have ever imagined. It’s like you’d hoped it would be.