Last year I split this list into 2 parts but this year it's only one. This is because I was less influenced by the top 40 than last year so the list of songs is much shorter. It's like an 11points list! Except it's not 11 items nor are they ranked, so it's not like an 11points list at all. I'm dumb.
"Wake Up Dead" - Mannequin Men
Here's a power pop band from the Chicago area that sounds a lot like the Replacements. I'm shocked that I like them! This is a catchy song with trashy music that's really short and sounds good when you're drunk. What more can you ask?
"Rider" by Okkervil River
The next band has been around since 1999 and has had enough success that I recently read someone who said, "I don't really listen to them anymore." I find this funny since most people have never listened to them to begin with. In any case, I've gone back and forth with this band in that I have a few of their songs but haven't committed to seeing them in concert. My friend Jimmer Jimmer's a big fan and enjoys their live shows. There's a bit of orchestration in this song to go along with the keyboard sound in the Mannequin Men song (replicated by a guitar in the live version linked.) I may be giving in to my ELO loving instincts.
"Deep Six Saturday" by Tommy Keene
Yes, this is the same Tommy Keene that's been tooling around since the 80s. This song is really good and should've been a much bigger hit. It's catchy with a vocal reminiscent of Elvis Costello or Graham Parker. It didn't even get played as much as an Elvis release would get played today. I was introduced to this song through Len Kasper's Twitter feed proving once again that Len has good taste in music. Watching the "Budweiser Fan Cam" breaks during the Cubs games one can hear some pretty good music. I think Len has some input into the songs chosen.
"Under Cover of Darkness" - The Strokes
While I've heard all kinds of bad things about The Strokes live show, I continue to like much of their studio work. This song was their first after a 5 year hiatus and I feel that it's strong. It's a nice mid-tempo low-key rocker which is a departure from their past songs. It definitely has their distinctive sound and is a good Saturday Afternoon song.
"My Mistakes" - Eleanor Friedberger
This one you may know if you're an 'XRT listener. Eleanor Friedberger was born in Oak Park, Illinois and released this solo album at the age of 35. There are a few songs that are catchy on it including this one which received the aforementioned airplay. I also like "I Won't Fall Apart On You Tonight." It's a low key vocal, which I often don't like, but in this case it matches the rhythm of the song so well that it works. It's a little reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde without the wail.
"We Found Love" - Rhianna
I almost didn't include this one just because it's so overplayed right now. But if I get just a little time off from it I very much enjoy it. Sure her judgment in men can be questioned but I've never known potheads to be good judges of character. The vocal on this is killer and I enjoy the arrangement starting sparse then building into a wall of sound. Her songs frequently avoid having a hip-hop interlude, a trend which seems to finally be dying out. Nothing against hip-hop but I like to keep my genres like I keep my girlfriends, separate.
//Thinks about number of times he's had more than one girlfriend. Wonders why there are so many synonyms to the number zero.
"I Dream Myself Awake" - Brigitte Aphrodite
I'm not sure what it is but I'm a sucker for the sassy British female singer. One of those, Kate Nash, introduced me to this song through Twitter. It's a quiet verse loud chorus song. It's a song about a lover, there are so few of those. Brigitte is on Kate's label. I wonder if Kate will only sign artists that remind her of her.
"I Dream of Chicago" - The Parlours
I found out about this song through Eric Zorn's blog where he linked to the video and Mary Schmich's article about it. It played at the end of "The Chicago Code" series. It's a haunting song. After a while, it just hung in my brain. You can read about the band in the Mary Schmich article. It's a neat story of an Iowa band and their big break. I like to imagine someone wrote the song about me but then I remember that I don't know anyone that rides the train except my brother. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like any song he wrote about me.
"Rivers and Roads" - The Head and the Heart
I wasn't going to include this one as I had added it too recently which means my judgment might be clouded. (Another song like that is "Second Song" by TV On The Radio.) I heard this on the "Chuck" finale and it caught my ear. They're a folk band out of Seattle and this song was included on the re-release of their debut album from 2009. It's another low key, wistful song about relationships that will stick in your head. It was just in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother." So, apparently, it's coming to a soundtrack near you.
"Gone Away" - Rich Robinson
Rich Robinson is a founding member of The Black Crowes and the brother of the more famous lead singer Chris Robinson. He wrote "She Talks to Angels" which sort of screwed up the band for a while since that song was so popular. This is from his second solo release. It's about traveling and the impermanence of things. It's also somewhat low key but it's a nice comfortable song driven by its drumbeat.
"Weekend" - Smith Westerns
The Smith Westerns are a Chicago band that's gotten some airplay on 'XRT which is where I heard this song. It's from their second release. This is a song that I don't care what the lyrics are. The vocal is even a little weak. I don't care, I just really like the guitar on this song. Also, the video was filmed in Chicago. If you're familiar with the NW side of the city you'll see a few landmarks.
"Shake Me Down" - Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant is a band out of Kentucky that released their second album in 2011. They had a song on their first record called "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" that people liked. I think this song is 100 times better than that one. While the song begins and ends quietly the middle is anything but quiet. The lyrics touch on depressing aspects of life alternating with some positive messages. Of course, we should all know better than to stare at the sun.
Look, it's an even dozen! That's a great number for a set of round deep-fried pastries with holes in them! Feel free to flame me in the comments or suggest your fave from last year.