Friday, March 20, 2009

Top Ten Tracks on Reviewed in 50 Words or Less: March 1st-March 15th

Note: This is a few days late, so what you see here may not reflect entirely what's currently on the charts.

1. St. Vincent - "The Strangers"

Download: St. Vincent - "The Strangers"

After an elegaic harmonies from a chorus of haunting singers, St. Vincent parlays the melodic beauty into a ticking-clock beat and sturdy orch-pop. But "The Strangers" becomes much more intriguing when it ventures into borderline post-rock territory. The end result is both pleasingly familiar and promising.

Grade: B+

2. Phoenix - "1901"

*MP3: Phoenix - "1901"

It's really the pre-chorus and refrain, that lifts up this track from the French alt-rock band from decent new millennial garage-rock reminiscent of the "The" bands to swooning, romantic power-pop. Kind of amazing how buoyant Moog synth-sounds and clean guitar tones can be.

Grade: B-

3. Cursive - "From The Hips"

Download: Cursive - "From The Hips"

A propulsive, guitar-driven song from the Omaha-based veterans gets bogged down by lyrical melodrama (in Emo? Whaaaaa?) and pseudo-clever dichotomy. But those guitars could puncture an artery.

Grade: B-

4. Say Hi - "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh"

Download: Say Hi - "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh"

The title of prolific rockers Say Hi's latest suggests an uber-enthusiastic pep rally, and the horn at the beginning doesn't entirely dismiss that impression. As the arrangement materializes, acoustic guitar and synth conveys a more subdued, mature sense of songcraft. Not as memorable as "Northwestern Girls," but still a reasonably listenable song.

Grade: B-

5. Handsome Furs - "I'm Confused"

*MP3: Handsome Furs - "I'm Confused"

Though I'm not quite as kookoo for Alexei Perry and Dan Boeckner electro-pop cocoa puffs as others are, the new-wave-esque energy and arena-rock sized chorus ultimately ingratiate themselves to the listener. Let the duo's love open the door to your ears at least, if not necessarily your heart.

Grade: B

6. Crystal Antlers - "Andrew"

Download: Crystal Antlers - "Andrew"

The fact that "Andrew" comes from Touch and Go's last new release ever is enough to warrant a passing grade, but the fact that this amiably shuffling song wins over the listener with adept instrumental interplay doesn't hurt either.

Grade: B+

7. The National - "So Far Around The Bend"

Download: The National - "So Far Around The Bend"

A little more honky-tonk than anything found on their last two records, but with "So Far Around The Bend," The National continue to mine their expert combination of world-weary heartbreak and bleary-eyed optimism to disconcertingly great effect.

Grade: A-

8. Crystal Stilts - "Love is a Wave"

Download: Crystal Stilts - "Love is a Wave"

Like The Pains of Being Pure of Heart, "Love is a Wave" arrives like one, with a wind sea of a driving bass line, keyboards, and guitar setting down the foundation of a melodic tsunami. Like "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" without the punk.

Grade: A-

9. Camera Obscura - "My Maudlin Career"

Download: Camera Obscura - "My Maudlin Career"

If Camera Obscura write songs that expertly combine Phil Spector's wall-of-sound production approach with preciously cute melancholy, they they'll be easily able to make it a career that's more than maudlin. Utterly irresistible.

Grade: A-

10. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - "Shampoo"

Download: Elvis Perkins in Dearland - "Shampoo"

No matter how many times I hear this, I still have the same reaction: Thinking man's Jack Johnson. My sincerest apologies, awesome Dylan-esque Hammond organ sound.

Grade: C+

(Jon Graef)

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