Friday, February 22, 2008

The Top Ten Tracks On Elbo.Ws Reviewed In 50 Words Or Less: Extra Super Bonus Edition

Bi-monthly, MFR reviews the Top Ten tracks on music-blog aggregator Elbo.WS in 50 words or less. For the weeks of February 1st through February 18th (plus a few more songs due to the fact that it's been a while - when you're unemployed, job search takes precedence over everything else), here are the ten most popular songs:

1. Tapes N Tapes - "Hang Them All"

Download: Tapes N Tapes - "Hang Them All"

A funky, yet mournful, minor-seventh guitar riff propels "Hang Them All" to an almost impossibly energetic start. An uncomfortable anxiety permeates the song but thank goodness we have the organ-fueled chorus to relieve our stress. By the time it’s done, one can't help but feel the experience was a little anti-climatic. Please don’t hang me.

Grade: B-

2. Amp Live - "Video Tapez" (ft. Del The Funky Homosapien)

Download: Amp Live - "Video Tapez" (ft. Del The Funky Homosapien)"

By directly sampling, and syncopating, both the piano and vocal line from "Videotapes", the AmpLive remix doesn't really do anything completely new or unexpected with Thom's favorite track, but, once again, Del's singular flow proves to be irresistible.

Grade: B

3. The Grand Archive - "Torn Blue Foam Coach"

Download: The Grand Archives - "Tom Blue Foam Couch"

Like Broken Social Scene (or Matt Brooke's previous ensemble, Band of Horses) playing a 50s themed prom night, The Grand Archives bring layers of ethereal guitar tones and brass to give texture to what is otherwise just another classic pop chord progression. It's by no means revelatory, but there's a reason why this stuff is, to a degree, infectious.

Grade: B-

4. Man Man - "Top Drawer"

Download: Man Man - "Top Drawer"

Man Man never struck me as a band that would strut its stuff down the musical catwalk, but "Top Drawer" proves us all wrong. That said, the slinkly, sultry Tom Waits-esque groove remains too stagnant and thus becomes a little monotonous. Still, one can't help but sing along to the howls and calls.

Grade: B

5. British Sea Power - "Waving Flags"

Download: British Sea Power - "Waving Flags"

When you, as a band, start out at ten, it's hard to be able to build to an anthemic exultation, but somehow British Sea Power manage to accomplish that feat quite nicely, using a whole lot of reverb-and-chorus heavy guitars in the process. The title may sound nationalistic, but intoxication is a nation-state ruled equally by almost everyone. "Welcome in", the band says. Don't mind if I do.

Grade: A-

6. The Dodos - "Fools"

If Visiter, the upcoming second album from San Franciscans The Dodos, isn't one of the best albums of the year, I will eat my own hat. "Fools" is so great that it inevitably makes one out of the listener. Try not to dance around in blissed-out merriment. It simply cannot be done.

Grade: A

7. Throw Me The Statue - "About To Walk"

Download: Throw Me The Statue - "About To Walk"

MFR's very own soothsayer April Wright posted this back in November, but it's only now, with the release of their album, Moonbeams, that the band has started to receive attention. And rightfully so. The band's brand of folk-tronica is dreamy, but also grounded in bouncy, effervescent melodies.

Grade: B+

8. Basia Bulat - "In The Night"

Download: Basia Bulat - "In The Night"

While there's a hint of gospel influence in Basia Bulat's brand of folk-pop, there's precious little to rejoice about in her song "In The Night." Part of the reason is that while the song moves at a nice clip, the brisk tempo also prevents any sort of lasting enjoyment. The night's young. Why such a rush?

Grade: C

9. American Music Club - "All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco"

Download: American Music Club - "All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco"

Lying somewhere between vintage Al Green and Nashville Skyline-era Bob Dylan, the first track from AMC's second reunion LP is a perfectly pleasent, mellow bit of blue-eyed soul (though the bridge toward the end gives “Souls” some needed edge). Now that the lost souls have welcomed us, can we hang out at Cafe Du Nord?

Grade: B

10. The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"

Download: The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"

One of the many dreamy highlights from their best record yet, The Raveonettes don't really re-invent their sound with this second single from Lust Lust Lust. Instead, they perfect the boy-girl harmonies, white-noise, and fuzzed out guitars. No longer beholden to artificial constraints, the band has finally learned to use simplicity in a smart, compelling way.

Grade: A-

Bonus Tracks Galore

Here's some stuff we missed, in no real order:

1. Megafaun - "Lazy Suicide"

Download: Megafaun - "Lazy Suicide"

The bluegrass flavor is a nice foundation with which to work, particularly since so little bluegrass flavored tracks show up on charts. But ultimately, this is more of an intriguing experiment than an actually enjoyable song. Still, there are a lot of provocative elements, particularly toward the song's country-cum-post-rock conclusion.

Grade: B-

2. Vampire Weekend - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"

Download: Vampire Weekend - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"

Like the motion picture Juno, Vampire Weekend often confuses cute with cloying ("Kwassa" beats you over the head with its own West-Afro indie-pop precociousness) but also manages to partly win over its audience by being genuinely clever and charming. That said, I roll my eyes every time I hear that Peter Gabriel couplet.

Grade: B-

3. Say Hi - "Northwestern Girls"

Download: Say Hi - "Northwestern Girls"

It goes without saying that any group who writes concept albums about vampires probably needs some desperate gains in the maturity department. It also goes without saying that, with its tasteful electronics, slow-burn dynamics and subdued vocals, Say Hi''s "Northwestern Girls" does the trick and then some.

Grade: B+

4. MGMT - "Time To Pretend"

Download: MGMT - "Time To Pretend"

MGMT's breezy, sunny, satirical blast of psychedelic synth-pop starts out with a ringing keyboard line before another, more sweet sounding line compliments. And thus begins the immaculately layering of "Time To Pretend", a track which combines New Wave and Rentals-style bass buzz to create a ridiculously hummable tune.

Grade: A-

5. The Helio Sequence - "Keep Your Eyes Ahead"

Download: The Helio Sequence - "Keep Your Eyes Ahead"

The Helio Sequence mine the same territory as fellow early post-punk spelunkors Interpol. The minor-key arpeggios and haunting keyboard lines seem to indicate a similar doom-and-gloom atmosphere as that New York band. However, the band also adds showgazer ambience and Beatles-esque vocals for much needed warmth. Sounds pretty average, but at least the ending is nicely warped.

Grade: C+

(Jonathan Graef)

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