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Showing posts from 2021

12 from 2021

Every year since 2003 (coincidentally, the year I started this blog), I've made a compilation of some of my favorite songs of the year. I didn't realize it until just now, but working on all of the "12 by..." and "12 More by..." features clearly influenced me to choose exactly 12 songs for 2021's mix.  Here they are... 1. Tuns: "Words and Music" 2. Weezer: "All My Favorite Songs" 3. They Might Be Giants: "I Can't Remember the Dream" 4. Kings of Convenience: "Angel" 5. ISLA: "12 Bars" 6. Citrine: "Feelings Change" 7. The Suburbs: "Found a Place" 8. Foo Fighters: "Medicine at Midnight" 9. The Killers: "The Getting By" 10. John Mayer: "Last Train Home" 11. Justin Courtney Pierre: "Illumination" 12. Green Day: "Pollyanna"

12 More By Weezer

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... Weezer have released nine new albums in the past twelve years, including four in the last three, which is just insane. They haven't all been great, or even good ( Hurley , I'm looking at you), but cherry-picking some of the best tunes from each record creates a picture of a band that's just as fascinating as they were in 1994. Speaking of that, take a gander at the revised 12 By Weezer , which covers the band's first 14 years. 1. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" (from Raditude , 2009) Like many of Weezer's best songs, this one finds Cuomo casting back to the past using very specific details. It's also in the conversation for the catchiest song they've ever done. 2. "Ruling Me" (from Hurley , 2010)  This one was co-written with Dan Wilson, and the widescreen harmony-laden chorus is exactly what you'd expect when two of t

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 More By Ben Folds

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... You should check out the original 12 By Ben Folds . 1. "Free Coffee" (from Way to Normal , 2008) Ben Folds is far from ultra-famous, but he's prominent and successful enough to receive the perks of celebrity. Here he points out the irony of it, "When I was broke / I needed it more / but now that I'm rich / I get free coffee." 2. "You Don't Know Me" (from Way to Normal , 2008) Ben Folds and Regina Spektor are such a perfect pairing. They need to make a whole album together. 3. "Brainwascht" (from Way to Normal , 2008) This "diss track" was written in response to the Fleming & John song "Wrong," which was obliquely directed toward Ben in the aftermath of his divorce from his third wife (Fleming & John once opened for Ben Folds Five, and John Mark Painter had worked with Ben for several years). Ben gets some good jabs in

12 More by Aimee Mann

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... For a good number of years in the late '90s and early '00s Aimee Mann was one of my favorite musical artists. But circa 2008 I started to lose interest in her new work, and stopped paying attention. It's been fun to catch up on what I missed. Well, maybe "fun" isn't the right word to describe delving into Mann's often pain-centered worldview. Take a look at the  12 by Aimee Mann  list to revisit the first part of her career. 1. "Freeway" (from  @#%&*! Smilers , 2008) There are few who do "fuck you" songs quite as effectively as Mann. "You got a lot of money, but you cannot keep your bills paid." 2. "Thirty One Today" (from  @#%&*! Smilers , 2008) True story, this album was released two days before my 31st birthday. "Thirty One Today" is about a person taking stock of their life and their choices, and despairin

12 More by Nada Surf

Sometimes an artist just needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point... In the second half of the 2000s and throughout the 2010's, Nada Surf have continued to create thoughtful indie pop that often doubles as a cathartic therapy session. You don't want to miss the 12 by Nada Surf  list that covers the first part of their career. 1. " Whose Authority"  (from  Lucky , 2008)  Holy cow, had they been listening to Teenage Fanclub, or what?!  2. " Beautiful Beat"  (from  Lucky , 2008)  An an ode to the power of song, but is also the exact kind of song it's about. Just like the snake eating its own tail. 3. "Love Goes On" (from If I Had a Hi-Fi , 2010) A swiftly-moving cover of a great 1988 tune by the Australian band The Go-Betweens. The Nada Surf version replaces the original's flamenco guitar with horns, making it more Stax than Spanish. 4. "The Agony of Lafitte" (from If I Had a Hi-Fi , 2010) When you can make a cove

12 More By Old 97's

  Sometimes and artist needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point... Old 97's kept chugging along through the 2010s, and show no signs of slowing down. Thank goodness for that. Why not check out the original 12 by Old 97's so you have the whole story? 1. "Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)"   (from  The Grand Theatre, Volume One , 2010) This album found the band returning to a purer, rawer country rock sound, and this barn-burner is one of the finest examples of that. 2. "Champaign, Illinois" (from  The Grand Theatre, Volume One , 2010) How could I not include a song that references a place about 45 minutes from where I live (and where I've spent quite a bit of time)? That said, its pretty clear Rhett Miller chose the name for its syllabic and phonetic qualities, and not much else. Fun fact: The song is actually a rewrite of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row," thus Dylan shares 50% songwriting credit. 3. "How Lovely

12 More by Death Cab for Cutie

Sometimes and artist needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point...  If you stopped paying attention to Death Cab for Cutie around the same time The O.C. went off the air, you should do yourself a favor and take some time to catch up. Before you go on, you might want to check out the original 12 by Death Cab for Cutie . 1. "Little Bribes" (from the  Open Door EP , 2009) A tune exploring the fact that there's a depressing side to "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." 2. "Doors Unlocked and Open" (from  Codes & Keys , 2011) Hypnotic, driving, mysterious. 3. "You Are a Tourist" (from  Codes & Keys , 2011) Melodically rich song full of wisdom about listening to what your heart is telling you. 4. "Unobstructed Views" (from  Codes & Keys , 2011) There are two atheist anthems on Codes & Keys , this and "St. Peter's Cathedral." But while that song focuses on a downer death-is-the-end message,

12 More By Wilco

  Sometimes and artist needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... The Wilco of the '10s was pretty befuddling, honestly. While on one hand the line-up that has been together since 2007's Sky Blue Sky contains the best and most stable group of musicians the band has ever had, their albums have swung wildly in style, from pop traditionalism to experimental maximalism to hushed minimalism. Once again, I've avoided any tracks which were on What's Your 20? (1994 - 2014) , which kept "You and I," "Wilco (The Song)," "You Never Know," and "I Might" off this list.  Before diving in, give a look at the original 12 by Wilco .  1. "Bull Black Nova" (from Wilco (The Album) , 2009) Why not start off with a weird one? When I saw them in concert recently, the band played this song, and a fan in the front row held up a handwritten sign with the song's title on it and showed it to the audience. I hadn't se

12 by Wilco

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This week features... When I first took a crack at creating a 12 by Wilco (see the end of this post), I said they were overdue for a "best of." Well, they rectified that in 2014 with What's Your 20? (1994-2014) . And it's pretty darn comprehensive and well-curated.  So instead of replicating that work, I've chosen 12 songs that are not on that complication but that still provide a good picture of who Wilco are as a band. 1. "Pick Up the Change" (from  A.M. , 1995)  This one is pretty, but inscrutable. I like the use of "pick up the change" as referencing the changes we go through in life, and that the narrator is asking for his honey to stick with him through that. 2. " That's Not the Issue"  (from  A.M. , 1995)  The banjo-driven first half is as purely country as Wilco gets, but in the middle some downbeat shifts throw things o

12 More by Beck

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... Nearly 30 years into his career, Beck continues to be a chameleon, though I will say since 2008 he's pretty much made records that were stylistically consistent within themselves, if not with what came before and after. It seems to me he's due for another "anything goes" album like Odelay , Guero , and  The Information . You might want to check out the original  12 by Beck to relive the first part of his career. 1. "Think I'm In Love" (from The Information , 2006)  Here's the culmination, a stylistically diverse Beck song with straight-forward lyrics. Strange how when you've made off-kilter your status quo, conventionality is it's own form of rebellion and innovation! 2. "Cellphone's Dead" (from The Information , 2006) Beck in full hip-hop mode. Worth it just for the "one by one I'll knock ya out" sample. 3. "Profanity

12 More by Foo Fighters

Sometimes an artist just needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point... One of the most consistent and enduring bands of the 1990s, you can count on the Foo Fighters for a sturdy new album every three-to-four years. Their 2021 release, Medicine at Midnight , shows they've still got the ability to surprise us, too. You might want to check out the 12 by Foo Fighters list to relive the first part of their career. 1. " The Pretender"  ( Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace , 2007)  Nothing like the Jackson Browne song of the same name, and it doesn't sound like The Pretenders, either. It's just a quiet/loud screamer with a great chorus. 2. "But, Honestly" (from Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace , 2007) Starts out as a pleasant strummer, then gradually gathers intensity until it becomes a full-on head-banger. 3. "Wheels" (from Greatest Hits , 2009) So, yeah, I'm not supposed to do "12 by..." features on bands with

12 More by Jimmy Eat World

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... Sometimes your favorite band sneaks up on you. I'd been a Jimmy Eat World fan since the late 1990s, and have never missed one of their albums. But they didn't become my favorite band until a 2013 concert at First Avenue, where I found myself singing along with every single song by heart. It was then that I realized that for every phase of my adult life, Jimmy Eat World has been there to soundtrack it. You'll definitely want to check out the  12 by Jimmy Eat World  list to relive the first part of their career. 1. "Big Casino" (from Chase This Light , 2007) A highly caffeinated tune that contains one of my top ten all-time Jimmy Eat World lyrics: "Well there's lots of smart ideas in books I've never read / When the girls come talk to me I wish to hell I had." 2. "Always Be" (from  Chase This Light , 2007) Chase This Light came out when I was 30 yea

The Return of 12 By...

  If you were to time travel back to 2008, I'm sure one of the first things you'd do, besides voting for Obama again, is to visit your favorite blog, 3 Minutes and 49 Seconds . And what you'd find there are a bunch of entries in a feature called " 12 by... ".  The idea behind "12 by..." was to distill a musical artist's career into 12 songs. Usually these were artists who had released a few albums but hadn't yet put out a greatest hits. And why did it have to be 12 songs, specifically? Well, James Taylor's 1976 Greatest Hits album, which so perfectly captured his career to that point, had exactly 12 songs.   I wrote 26 "12 by" entries in 2008, and three more at various times since. It recently struck me just how out-of-date many of those lists are. It's been 13 years, after all, and as you might guess, in that time, most of the artists I wrote about have released more music. In fact, on average they've released around 4 new

Why Weezer is the Definitive Gen X Band

I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation.   One of the more fascinating side effects of the ever-intensifying culture wars is the emergence of generational mud-slinging battle between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Social media has played the role of both venue and promoter, and news outlets have done their best to cheer it on. As a member of the cohort that's situated between the two factions - Generation X - and thus removed from the fray, I've regarded this as an amusing sideshow in the never-ending circus of nauseating Internet discourse. The most illuminating part to me is how the conflict, and various reports about it, consistently omits the existence the generation between these two, and how very appropriate that is.   Now I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm well aware that no group of people is homogeneous. Generation X encompasses many different personality types, cultural experiences, economic realities, and a possible 15-year age difference (Gen Xers