Despite being a contemporary artist, I struggle to keep up with contemporary music. Most years, my pals start passing around “best of” lists that utterly baffle me. “What is a Fleet Fox?”, I’m left to wonder. For 2011, I made a concerted effort to keep up with my contemporaries, and was pleasantly surprised. Did you know music has consistently been produced after 1975?Click to Stream:
“The Afterlife” – from So Beautiful or So What by Paul Simon
A rare reminder that classic artists can still crank out quality material long after their period of relevance is over. As an avid listener of 60s and 70s pop, I shudder to think of most material recorded by the greats since John Lennon’s death in 1980. Post S&G Paul Simon has consistently produced beautiful music. This is just the latest example. Where is G-Funk I wonder?
“Unrequited Love” – from Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li
Aside from having a voice that can vacillate between pure velvet and Psycho screeching violins, Lykke Li seems to be comfortable being both earnest and sexually playful (a la I’m Your Prostitute). This song is just damn gorgeous. I’ve got mad songwriter envy for this one. She makes doowops seem contemporary and grave.
“Green Aisles” – from Days by Real Estate
Real Estate is easily one of my favorite new bands. Their carefree jangle jams seem to carry some existential weight to them. The tone, timbre, and mood set by their recordings is utterly in synch and capitivating, plus they make guitar phasers cool again. They’re a rare group that are able to sound homogenous and focused without sounding samey from song to song.
“Senator” – from Mirror Traffic by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Only Malkmus can drop “blow job” into a song and make it a catchy, seemless pop hook. He’s still one of the great masters of pop-modern pop. Frankly, I think he’s gotten better with age. (No disrespect to Pavement).
“Drug” – from D by White Denim
Brass Bed producer Danny Reisch tracked this record. This is one helluva catchy psych bomb. The song is only surpassed by the video. Do yourself a favor and look it up on youtube.
“I Might” – from The Whole Love by Wilco
Wilco has been a touchstone artist for me since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. While The Whole Love really isn’t a return to form, this track kills. Jeff Tweedy wrote easily the best dad rock lyric of all time “It’s alright/You won’t the set kids on fire/Oh but I might”. Killer.
“Ten-Twenty-Ten” – from Actor/Caster by Generationals
Our dear buds and label mates, Generationals, constantly put out pop music that shames me. Some of the most clever, erudite, and instantly gratifying pop I’ve heard. They’d be comfortable in 1967 or a John Hughs movie, or a John Hughs movie set in 1967.
“My Ma” – from Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls
I was initially unimpressed by Girls. Their first record (imaginatively titled Album) was OK, but it always seemed like the band’s back story was more interesting than the work they’ve produced. While “My Ma” sounds a lot like a Wallflowers song, I’m impressed by the band’s ability to be grounded in organically, vintage tones and still sound fresh and vital.
“Amplifers” – from Parallax by Atlas Sound
This is the first Atlas Sound record that measured up to his Deerhunter output.
Bradford Cox is one of those artists that makes you feel like everything you write, create, or do is utterly trite and meaningless. Oh and he’ll always be more prolific than you. Fuck you, Bradford Cox.
“Some Ordinary Vision” – from Stranger Ballet by Poison Control Center
PCC is the best live band in America. This song captures it. I can actually hear Joe Terry’s overalls on this track.
Christiaan Mader is a singer/guitarist/songwriter with the Lafayette, LA based psych pop outfit Brass Bed. He’s an avid collector of cardigans, a fantasy football newbie in his first playoff, and a lover of all things old and made by Fender. Brass Bed are currently finishing their 3rd LP to be released in 2012.