Image: Michelle Caplan
Some songs that won't make my 2008 list, but are still pretty awesome.
Shitty Little Disco - Arms
Guitars stutter then slide, keys weep, bass pogos and someone rides cymbals into the night. Moods and manners are all so cleverly synthesized that you don't realize "Shitty Little Disco" is as miscegenated, and in almost the same way, as all that indie dance music that was popular this year. Yet you wouldn't call it disco; you wouldn't even call it shitty disco. And if it starts with a party gone horribly wrong in all kinds of predictable ways, it ends, surprisingly enough, with a plea for the healing power of the human touch: "Oh brother lay your hand on me/ Oh sister lay your hand on me." A physical balm that mends the mind--maybe it is disco after all.
From Kids Aflame (eMusic, Amazon), Myspace
Song for Man with Pica Syndrome - Let's Wrestle
It hasn't been a good year for music in general, but it's salad days with toasted walnuts and blue cheese dressing for noisy garage pop (Sic Alps, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Times New Viking, Cause co-Motion, among many many others). I think this is one of the few rock niches where it's actually pretty easy to record a decent song if you aren't particularly talented. Weak melody? Bury it in noise. Too noisy? No such thing. Not that I'm saying Let's Wrestle isn't talented. Their band-naming skills suck, but their music is worth hearing. Here, revving guitar and bopping bass--like Pica syndrome itself--are compulsive, unstoppable. But the singer's emotional swings, between helpless flail and assertive rant, sorrow and bravado ("Have you ever wondered what rust tastes like?/Well I know! It's all right.") are totally sympathetic.
From In Loving Memory Of (eMusic, Amazon), Myspace
The Most! The Best! The Greatest! - Blackblack
If you're one of the whiners complaining that Vivian Girls are spoiled, untalented, hipster amateurs, start sharpening your knives. Here come the girls of Blackblack (barely) singing lyrics you invented in the backseat of a station wagon when you were eight to a tune from that band you put together with kids on your block when you were 14. Punk has gotten so establishment (AARP ads, anyone?) that it needs to go back to square one and resurrect that original contrary spirit. In this case, square one is a chalked box on a hopscotch grid and contrary takes the form of bratty.
From Blackblack (eMusic), Myspace