POTW #4: Save Up All These Songs

Hey everyone! It’s time once again for a new installment in my not-quite-weekly Picks Of The Week feature, as well as a teaser paragraph or two about what I’ve been up to lately or some sort of mini-rant which has little to nothing to do with any of the songs featured in this post. I just like to pretend that people care.

Here it is, the last week of summer, a season that appears to last a long time in the beginning and proves to be way way way too short. By this time next week, I will be back in College Park, Maryland, preparing to begin my final semester of college. You know that saying “time flies when you’re having fun”? Yeah, whoever made that up is full of crap. Time flies whether or not you’re having fun. That’s why it’s always been my belief that you should spend as much time having fun as you possibly can, which in turn explains why I put things off a lot. Now if I could just stop being so damn socially awkward, I would be able to more competently follow my own philosophy.

Anyway, I look forward to one more semester of bringing my favorite music to your ears. But for now, here’s a short list of songs I’ve really been digging lately… after the jump, of course.

Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”

All year long, there have been three albums that have received more praise than just about everything else released in 2009 put together on countless music blogs. Those three albums? Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective, Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors, and Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear, the guys featured here. I don’t have any of these three albums, and I haven’t heard them in full yet. But if the rest of Veckatimest is as good as its lead single “Two Weeks” then I NEED to get my hands on a copy. Its tinkling pianos, soaring vocal harmonies (I know it’s a cliched comparison, but think of the Beach Boys), and simple yet insanely catchy hooks add up to a perfect little slice of indie-pop. I mean, I can’t stop listening to this song. I’ve listened to it about four or five times today alone and I keep humming it to myself everywhere I go.

Plus, you have to love a band that portrays themselves as malfunctioning mechanical choirboys in their music videos. Even if it does lead to nightmare fuel images of their wide-eyed, grinning, burning faces…

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So, yeah… good luck getting that out of your head. The song, I mean. Not the melty faces. Why would I want you to get that stuck in your head?

Radiohead, “These Are My Twisted Words”

What’s this? A Radiohead song appearing on Picks Of The Week on this blog? Surely you jest!

You know, it’s pretty remarkable how crazy the Internet can be at times. Not long after this song leaked, people started spreading around rumors that this song would be part of a new EP called Wall Of Ice, named for a phrase in this XKCD comic. Due to a piece of text in the leak file that mentioned August 17, everyone figured Radiohead would be releasing something that day. The recurring phrase “wall of ice” led everyone to believe that would be the title of whatever was being released. As for me, I wasn’t expecting much of anything on August 17. However, knowing that this was the same band that announced their new album’s completion ten days before they planned to release it, I was ready for anything.

The title of the August 17 release turned out to be “These Are My Twisted Words,” which just so happens to be the title of the song up there, which kind of sounds like what “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” would have been had it been recorded during the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions. The song made its live debut on Friday, and though it’s not their best work — it’s not even the best new Radiohead song to surface this summer (that would be “The Present Tense”) — it’s still pretty cool stuff. And in the event there is a Wall Of Ice in our future… bring it on, I say.

Bloc Party, “Vision Of Heaven”

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before on this blog, but Bloc Party’s B-sides from the Weekend In The City sessions are really good. Frankly, it’s a damn shame that those songs were relegated to B-side status. “Vision Of Heaven” is one of those songs that somehow didn’t make the album. In fact, this song probably received the cruelest treatment out of all those songs — it wasn’t even released as a B-side. It was a PureVolume exclusive track.

Every once in a while I forget how good a guitarist Russell Lissack is. Then I hear a song like this and I’m reminded that this guy has skills (to borrow a phrase from my sister). I’ve said numerous times on my show and possibly on this blog that I’m a sucker for pretty songs, and the guitar lines in “Vision Of Heaven” are absolutely lovely. As interesting as the band’s experiments with electronic music have been, sometimes I wish they’d let this guy rip because he totally can. He gets some pretty cool sounds out of his guitar, too.

That said, one of those songs I just linked to up there will be explored more thoroughly in a future post… you’ve been warned.

Björk, “Hunter”

This song here isn’t the kind of music that I usually go for, but I like it. It’s very dark and moody, with haunting strings, unconventional vocal melodies, a simple Moog bass line, and the occasional burst of electronic machine-gun drums. My favorite part, though, is her emotional outburst after the first chorus (“I thought I could organize freedom/How Scandinavian of me!”). Her voice has been distorted and subdued through the whole thing, and then there’s a big climax right in the middle, and then she calms down again. When she really wants to belt it out, man oh man can she ever do it. Also, how in the hell did she not do any damage to her neck with all that head-shaking she did in the video? I get that you don’t want to turn into a computer-animated polar bear, but jeez.

I can’t even remember exactly why I started listening to this song this week. Like I said, I don’t usually listen to stuff like this. But really, whether this is my usual musical preference or not, I have to give the proper respect to the Icelandic siren. There isn’t really anyone else out there quite like Björk.

Sugarcult, “Underwear”

Back in the peak of my pop-punk phase (read: most of my teenage years — I turn 23 on September 27), I couldn’t get enough of the genre. Green Day, Blink-182, and Sum 41 all had regular rotations in my CD player back in the day. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of grown out of pop-punk, especially now that it’s basically taken over MTV and nearly all of the newer emo/pop-punk bands sound practically identical to one another. (I still love Green Day, though.)

So you can imagine my delight when one of these bands dares to step outside their comfort zone once in a while. For instance, the All-American Rejects recently released a song called “The Wind Blows.” It’s a very un-Reject-ish song, a song that sounds like it came straight out of the closing credits of a John Hughes movie circa 1985. I’m not about to rush out to grab the record, but this song works well. And a big part of the reason for that is because they tried something I wasn’t expecting them to try.

This brings us to Sugarcult. When I was about 16 or 17, I got a copy of Start Static primarily on the strength of its two singles, “Bouncing Off The Walls” (which features a short but sweet guitar solo from Chris Shiflett, now with the Foo Fighters) and “Pretty Girl.” It’s a pretty solid pop-punk record, though it’s been a long time since I last gave it a spin. Perhaps the coolest song on the album, though, is the one that deviates the most from their established sound. And naturally, it’s a hidden bonus track. “Underwear” is a very relaxed acoustic song with a jazzy saxophone soloing in the background, and it sounds nothing at all like anything else I’ve heard from these guys. I doubt they’ll write another song like this again (not that I’d know, because Start Static is the only Sugarcult album I have), but it’s still a pretty interesting listen.

And so the summer comes to a close, and with it so does this last POTW post before my last semester of college. It feels like only yesterday when I was moving into my dorm on the third floor of Easton Hall for the first time. Man, freshman year was fun.

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