22 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 82. dogs die in hot cars - "i love you 'cause i have to"

Ska music came from Jamaica in the 1950s. In the late 1990s, it found its way into the US alternative rock scene, and by the early aughties, it was a full-blown revival.

The US blend of ska was characterized by short, cutting songs that were often insulting or self-deprecating in nature, with a backbeat hammered out behind three-chord guitar riffs.

There's some great wordplay at work here, and I think in the end we -- like the singer -- aren't really sure if he's better off with or without whoever he's singing about.

20 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 83. mstrkrft - "easy love"

Disco made a huge comeback in the mid-aughties. Electronic music producers realized that they could produce the kind of dance music that they listened to as kids, but do it on modern equipment and give it a more current sheen. I actually found most of it pretty boring, but every now and then you'd get something awesome like this.

Really, the most surprising thing about this track is that it only has four lines of lyrics, but still manages to flesh out into a complete (or at least complete-feeling) pop song. This is something that it took Daft Punk four studio albums to figure out how to do.

MSTRKRFT is releasing a new album next month, so fingers crossed that they can deliver us more of this awesomeness!

18 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 84. stereophonics - "dakota"

Memories are weird. Scientists barely understand how they work. You have virtually no control over them, whether it's retaining pleasant ones, erasing unpleasant ones, or recalling them when you need them.

Most memories aren't crystal clear. They're fractured, fuzzy images, sights, sounds, smells, and textures -- small details that we cling to because they happened to stand out at a particular moment in time. Sometimes even grand, important details are lost when minutia remains in our brain.

This track taps into that hazy nature of memories. Our singer is fondly recalling moments spent with someone lying in the grass, sleeping in his car, chewing gum -- but he notes that he isn't quite sure what month it was. Staccato images -- a wake up call, coffee and juice -- remain vivid, but we get the impression that the memories are either unclear, or perhaps too painful to engage.

I'm quite certain that there will be a time far later in my life when I will have a similar ordeal trying to recall this track.

14 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 85. the bran flakes - "stumble out of bed"

Built mostly around a sample of Dolly Parton's "9 To 5" and ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down," (with a little bit of The Osmonds dropped in there too), this goofy cut-up track just works.

You're hooked from Dolly's first vocals, instantly bouncing and singing along. It builds up with a struggle quite similar to the one we face when getting out of our own beds: At first a little rickety, but once we hit the kitchen, it's all good.

The Bran Flakes have been at it since the late '90s and have actually maintained a pretty consistent sound. There isn't too much biographical information available about them, but I get the sense that there are a lot of them and that cut-up music is their passion project, and they release an album every several years when they finally have enough tracks.

13 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 86. tegan & sara - "walking with a ghost"

The soprano songstress duo Tegan & Sara could easily be argued the faces of 2000s indie rock: Personal and touching lyrics, a grungy image, and production that is mostly traditional but doesn't shy away from electronics.

Though they were three albums deep with the 2004 release of So Jealous, it was this single that got them noticed by American college radio and subsequently a much larger audience. Indie rock mavens The White Stripes liked it enough to release a cover.

I like the idea of dealing with hurtful past memories by pretending that the involved parties are no longer alive. It's an interesting coping mechanism, a way to remove the power that someone no longer in your life may still have over you.

11 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 87. the b-52's - "funplex"

There is no band on Earth that has had a career as long and consistent as The B-52's. Since their self-titled debut in 1979, they have been the world's greatest party band. Perhaps more impressive, though, they have maintained a signature look that is undoubtedly their own: Swirling, curly-q letters; bright, backyard garden party color schemes; and various other kitsch.

Released 30 years after their debut single, this track has the exact same quirky pizzazz. Both the guitar riff and the call-and-return between Fred and the ladies is reminiscent of "Private Idaho."

This is their way of saying, "fuck you, we will NEVER stop partying," without any blatant lyrical references to aging (except maybe "it's time for a pill," but he never mentions what kind of pill). It was the last track I ever played during my last shift as a college radio DJ, because I hope that when I'm in my golden years I'll still be meeting my weird friends at the mall and freaking everyone out around us.

10 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 88. the killers - "somebody told me"

Indie rock's popularity skyrocketed in the early aughties, and within a few years it started to splinter into a few blends and flavors. The Killers were one of the first bands to combine the staple sounds of indie rock with the sensibilities of new wave music, peppering in synth sounds and singing like Joe Strummer.

Does anyone actually know what the hell this song means? Lead singer Brandon Flowers willingly admits that it's a dumb song, but a fun one nonetheless.

I guess it doesn't really matter, though, does it? Everyone remembers that hook, despite it not making a lick of sense.

08 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 89. s3rl - "pretty rave girl"

Happy hardcore music was invented in Europe in the early '90s, but it had a surge in popularity in some U.S. subcultures in the '00s, probably due at least in part to the popularity of rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution. It has sonic similarities to trance, jungle, and drum n bass music, but is characterized by high BPMs and melodic riffs.

This particular track encapsulates everything that I like about happy hardcore music. It's insanely fast, it's happy, and it makes you want to move. Listening to it actually increases my heart rate. A friend once told me that this played when he was at a rave at age 16, and someone wrote the word "BROTHERHOOD" on his arm in a highlighter. I think about that every time I hear it.

S3RL is an Australian DJ. He built this track around a late-'90s French eurohouse track called "Daddy DJ" -- the same one that Basshunter later turned into "All I Ever Wanted."

07 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 90. paramore - "misery business"

The whole "I like him but he doesn't like me back" story has been told in every way humanly possible. This is not one of those stories.

This goes to a new level: I like him, and the girl he's dating knows it, and she is actively aggressive to me.

It's a cocksure reply to an insecure lover who's in over her head. She probably spends a lot of time shooting catty glances, starting rumors, engaging in PDA in front of the right people, etc., but the singer just doesn't give a shit, because she knows she's got the dude in the bag.

And that's a great feeling.

06 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 91. blu cantrell - "hit 'em up style (oops!)"

R&B of this era was really big on mixing in electric guitar motifs (see also: "Let Me Blow Ya Mind") and themes of female empowerment, and this fabulous track features both prominently.

I suppose thievery is the best kind of revenge? I mean, you're still stealing things but at least no one's getting hurt. Plus, if your dude didn't want to buy you stuff for the crib and the car, then he shouldn't have messed up. Typing it out like that actually does cause it to make a frightening amount of sense.

This was Cantrell's debut single and earned her two Grammy nominations (!). She had one more hit everywhere but the U.S. with the song "Breathe" after she cut a duet version with Sean Paul, but faded into obscurity shortly thereafter.

04 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 92. nine days - "absolutely (story of a girl)"

2016 Max realizes that this is a douchey, problematic song that is dismissive of the titular girl's feelings and finds the singer asking for a cookie for "staying" and "putting up with this shit day after day" (yikes -- he really says that??). He knows that it is lyrically reductive and repugnant. Just getting that out of the way.

2000 Max loved this song for being a perfect alt-pop-rock crossover from a band that was so obviously doomed to one-hit wonder status from the opening chords.

2016 Max holds this song in fond memory despite its awful lyrics because he recognizes that, musically, it is a culmination of everything that pop rock got right in the '90s.

2016 Max also promises that in tomorrow's post he'll go back to referring to himself in the first person.

03 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 93. zeigeist - "dawn/night"

Swedish music/art project Zeigest formed in 2006. They started out as a menagerie of musicians, artists, and fashionistas, focusing on sharp, dark electronic music and elaborate live performances. The following year, they released their only album, The Jade Motel.

My favorite expression for this kind of music is "hard candy" -- light on the ears, but having some quality that is gruesome, grotesque, or macabre. I love the juxtaposition of airy synth motifs over lyrics like "your dead meat taste like piss."

I wish I could have seen one of their notoriously extravagant live performances before they called it off, but Sweden certainly wasn't in my college student budget. Thus is life.

Also of note: Check out their unusual yet excellent cover of Kylie Minogue's "Giving You Up."

02 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 94. andrew thompson - "we're in business"

Summer 2005: I check my school e-mail one day, and a friend I have made during my just-completed freshman year of college has sent me a song and says I need to check it out immediately. I click the link he's sent me to this indie label's website and am quickly grinning ear to ear listening to it.

During my first visit back to campus, I head up to the campus radio station, where I spent most of my time. Our newly hired music director was hanging out in a production booth adding new music: Perfect. I tell him I have a song for him. He skeptically begins to listen, but as soon as the robot growls, "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU," he leaps out of his seat and says "GET THIS IN ON THE AIR NOW!"

We went into the on-air booth and, after I gave it a brief introduction and explanation, he played it. From that one play, it became the most-requested song throughout my five-year tenure at the station. I'm pretty sure it was never even officially added to the rotation logs; people were just nuts about it and called to request it all the time. Each new semester, at least one freshman would re-discover it, play it during their shift, and the cycle would begin again.

It's really hard not to love this song. It's irreverent, it's cute, and it's pretty funny. It's just an electronic drum kit, one keyboard, and his voice (though the live version is performed with a full band, and it's pretty awesome).

After the song took off, I tracked Thompson down and did a phone interview with him. He told me that he wrote this simply out of a fear of technology that he was being forced to use but didn't want to (computers, cell phones, etc.).

01 May 2016

top 100 of the '00s | 95. the jezabels - "disco biscuit love"

Everybody knows someone who makes bad decisions when they're intoxicated. It's that friend that you always feel obligated to keep one eye on even when engaged with others at the bar, lest they do something they'll regret later.

The hushed opening lines of the song refer to a girl named Trudy in the past tense. Our singer begrudgingly says that her friend "is in self-destruct mode," in search of "one big night to end it all." We get the sense that she's had this conversation with Trudy before. We can't tell if she's annoyed, worried, or both.

"He only loves you when he's on pills," the singer pleads with her friend. A "disco biscuit" is (slightly outdated) slang for ecstasy, after all.

The singer refers to Trudy in both the present and past tense throughout the song, but the closing remarks about "falling asleep at the disco" suggest that her fate was not a good one. It's a great lyrical device, because after you've just lost someone it can be incredibly difficult to refer to them as if they are no longer there.

Just a really nice piano-driven, heartfelt track that is very relatable if you've ever loved someone who never learned to love themselves. It touches all of the exhausting emotions involved.