La de da de dee...
Joanna Newsom "Monkey & Bear"
I downloaded a leaked copy of this album, so it felt like I had been listening to it at least a month before it came out. Of all the songs on Ys, this is the one that struck me the quickest and has stayed with me. Like most great albums, I have been obsessed with other tracks ("Cosmia" and "Sawdust and Diamonds") for periods of time, but this is really the track I listen to most. Quite simply, I think Joanna Newsom is the best lyricist in pop music. She keeps rolling over rhymes that slant against each other and vary in rhythm and line length:
My heart is a furnace
Full of love that's just, and earnest
Now; you know that we must unlearn this
Allegiance to a life of service
And no longer answer to that heartless
Hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
"Hay-monger" cracks me up because it shows she has humor too. "But still...they had got to pay the bills...hadn't they...that is what the monkey'd say" which is such a delightful turn and reveal on perspective. I saw her perform the entire album live with the Atlanta Symphony and the finale with its descending melody and long couplets was mesmerizing. Did I mention Van Dyke Park's arrangements? Subtle and effective on this track. I think this song works as an allegory for Newsom's own relationship to art (Newsom as bear possibly?), especially given this album's antiquated references, long songs, and general weirdness/lack of crossover potential.
Rogue Wave "Publish My Love"
Once the cool kids got off the Shins bandwagon, they smartly started liking Rogue Wave. This is the song I heard on WUSC that caused me to pick up the phone and find out who this band was. A rather simple alternative rock song with a terrific bridge and verse rather than a soaring chorus.
I think of Midlake as the indie version of Fleetwood Mac, and this song just bubbles with pathos and heartache. But it's all covered in this 70s shagginess that I really take to. I liked one other song from this album, so this song happens to be an anomaly. That's sad, because if they don't have a Rumours in them, they might have a Tusk.
Vampire Weekend "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
Perfect little guitar riff with really exquisite percussion/drums (love the sound of the ride symbol hit with the snare during the second verse). This song reminds of the beach and summers and songs with choruses that won't get out of your head and your feeling that that's perfectly ok because it's a great chorus.
Sun Kil Moon "Carry Me Ohio"
It's the glockenspiel that comes in at the song's end that seals the musical deal here. Kozelek can conjure up romantic pathos with the best of them, and this was my jam when I first heard the song in 2003 before the album came out. In between the almost kitschy reminiscences of the acoustic "Glenn Tipton" and the Neil Young/Crazy Horse fueled "Salvador Sanchez", this song mixed distorted guitars with Koz's penchant for memory-conjuring. The quintessential Kozelek line: "Can't count to all the lovers I've burned through / So why do I still burn for you...I can't say." Such articulation in a line that claims an inability to articulate. Love it.