Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).
An underrated band if there ever was one. And, yeah, that's right, I'm leavin' Popular off. Sure, it's clever and all, but it just doesn't represent who they are.
1. Zen Brain (from High/Low, 1996)
The song from their debut that most predicts the band they'd eventually become. While still ensconced in the Weezer-esqe fuzz, the searching lyrics and strong melody are clear harbingers.
2. Hyperspace (from The Proximity Effect, 2000)
Wherein the band is revealed as the power-poppers they truly are. Hyperspace also shows a clear jump in polish - just listen to the bass and drums - despite the fact that The Proximity Effect was more DIY than their first album.
3. Amateur (from The Proximity Effect, 2000)
My favorite part is when Matthew Caws lyrical disco ball reference gets a disco beat response from drummer Ira Elliot.
4. Blizzard of '77 (from Let Go, 2003)
A swift acoustic barn-burner with great imagery, i.e. "the cars were just lumps in the snow."
5. Inside Of Love (from Let Go, 2003)
This used to be my theme song, pre-Wendy. You can really feel Caws when he sings: "I'm on the outside of love / always under or above / must be a different view / to be a me with a you."
6. The Way You Wear Your Head (from Let Go, 2003)
Great rocker with a Cheap Trick paraphrase and a car alarm rhythm.
7. Concrete Bed (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005)
It's rare to find a songwriter who can turn a philosophical phrase without coming off like a prick. Bono and James Taylor can do it, and so can Matthew Caws. "To find someone you love," he tells us, "you've gotta be someone you love."
8. Do It Again (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005)
In the midst of an on-again-off-again involvement with a girl (which was a bad idea all around), I found great solace in this song. I always tried to interpret the line "maybe this weight was a gift" as "maybe this wait was a gift."
9. Always Love (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005)
More philosophy: "always love / hate will get you everytime." Okay hippie, whatever, I guess it's kind of true. By the way, America covered this song. How weird is that?
10. Blankest Year (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005)
"Oh, fuck it!" Just like Miles (Curtis Armstrong) pointed in Risky Business, they can be very liberating words.
11. Whose Authority (from Lucky, 2008)
Holy cow, have they been listening to Teenage Fanclub or what?!
12. Beautiful Beat (from Lucky, 2008)
Used in How I Met Your Mother (a show you should be watching if you aren't already) a couple of weeks ago. It's an ode to the power of song and itself could be the kind of song that inspires. Just like the snake eating its own tail.