Friday, August 29, 2008

Top Ten Songs on Elbo.Ws Reviewed in 50 Words or Less: 8/15/08-8/31/08

1. Peter, Bjorn and John - "Inland Empire"

Download: Peter Bjorn and John - "Inland Empire"

In stark contrast to their past material's hook-saturated ebullience, "Inland Empire" is a noir instrumental driven by hi-hat hits, atmospheric sound, and quirky instrumentation. The guitar and horn cliches strain a bit, but those brief mistakes don't take away from a fascinating departure that shows PB&J are more than effervescent pop-smiths.

Grade: B+

2. School of Seven Bells - "Conjur"

Download: School of Seven Bells - "Conjur"

Two-parts On!Air!Library!, one-part Secret Machines, this newly formed trio recalls the airy vocals of High Places, and the ethereal, but still beat-heavy, shoegazer of Blonde Redhead. "Conjur" does exactly that: listeners will be reminded of greats past and present, while they float on a cloud of feelings evoking content, loveliness and transcendence.

Grade: A-

3. Ra Ra Riot - "Dying is Fine"

Download: Ra Ra Riot - "Dying is Fine"

The latest line in New York-based blog favorites, the quintet contemplate life's big questions (Sadly, they've credibility on the subject) while playing competent indie-rock that touches on many pop-heavy references (Death Cab guitar riff here, Billy Joel-style chorus there). Catchy, certainly, but there's a time and place for this kind of thing. It's called college.

Grade: C+

4. The Broken West - "Auctioneer"

Download: The Broken West - "Auctioneer"

Again, fine musicianship, and catchy melodies. But listeners have heard this particular brand of modern power-pop before. And they'll hopefully hear it done with more inspiration later (possibly by this very band).

Grade: C

5. Los Campesinos - "How I Taught Myself To Scream"

Download: Los Campesinos - "How I Taught Myself To Scream"

The international tweexcore underground writes another joyously extroverted pop song, with slight orchestral touches, and some nods Irish folk and the melodic noise usually coming from multi-instrumentalist collectives in Canada. Familiar, yes, but Los Campesinos also show how much you can do with infectious energy and a triumphant sense of youthful optimism.

Grade: B+

6. The Chemical Brothers - "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" (Soulwax Remix)

Download: The Chemical Brothers - "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" (Soulwax Remix)

Did a spaceship just land in my apartment? Well, at least their tunes are alright.

Grade: B

7. Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You"

Download: Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You"

3/4ths of shimmering indie harmonists Grizzly Bear can't be wrong, can they? Not when they repeat the successful formulas of past songs (doo-wop-tinged melodies, soaking the production in reverb, brisket-style). The problem? Why don't listeners simply go back and listen to "Knife"?

Grade: B-

8. Of Montreal - "Nonpariel of Favor"

Download: Of Montreal - "Nonpariel of Favor"

Beginning with classical motifs that briefly quote classic-rock camp, "Nonpariel of Favor" delivers on its creators' promise to make pop music that's unpredictable, let logical. By borrowing from pop's great psychedelic progenitors, and by evoking its contemporaries, Of Montreal given us a glance at what is sure to be another masterful album.

Grade: A

9. TV On The Radio - "Golden Age"

Download: TV On The Radio - "Golden Age"

With a bass line tuning into Michael Jackson, these famous experimentalists don't so much flip the script of the ghostly, horn-driven Cookie Mountain, as creak it open more to see what's there. Turns out, it makes a brother wanna dance. Also, a whole hell of a lot of great music.

Grade: A-

10. The Walkmen - "In The New Year"

Download: The Walkmen - "In The New Year"

The vocal Dylan-isms hit the nail on the head way too much, but The Walkmen successfully create a punch-drunk atmosphere conducive to the most warm and open of sing-alongs. That echo-heavy guitar sound certainly helps a lot. With any luck, "In The New Year" will be the anthem of yours.

Grade: A-

(Jonathan Graef)

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Blogger Bashmaster General said...

The top ten on is always hit or miss. Have to agree with the "Knife" comparison on the D of E track, nothing really new although the formula seems to work. The best has to be "Conjur" and "In the New Year."

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, they both have the same kind of emphasis on heavenly reverb and doo-wop harmonies. And is definitely hit-and-miss, but once in a while, the set of songs is really, really good. I can't recall another time where I've given four grades above B+.

What do you think about the Of Montreal song?


12:23 PM  

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