Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Ranking Lorde’s Lyrics

Queen Bee

Queen Bee

Lorde was 2013’s biggest new pop sensation, sending her single “Royals” to #1 in August and releasing her album Pure Heroine in September. Both were NPI favorites. We were particularly taken with her voice and her lyrics so, as we are wont to do here, we decided to rank our favorite lyrics from her songs. Here are our 18 favorite lyrics of hers:

18) “All work and no play / Keeps me on the new shit, yeah” Still Sane 

(Tim’s rank: 17/John’s rank: 18/Josh’s rank: 18)

17) “Let me in the ring, I’ll show you what that big word means” Glory and Gore 

(Tim: 16/John: 15/Josh: 17) 

16) “But this is summer, playing dumber than fall” Still Sane 

(11/19/16)

15) “In all chaos there is calculation” Glory and Gore 

(10/16/15)

14) “I won’t be smiling but the notes from my admirers fill the dashboard just the same” White Teeth Teens 

(15/7/14)

T12) “And you can watch from your window” Tennis Court 

(18/14/2)

T12) “I’m sitting pretty on the throne / There’s nothing more I want, except to be alone” The Love Club 

(14/5/13)

T10) “I don’t ever think about death / It’s alright if you do, that’s fine” Glory and Gore 

(13/11/8)

T10) “The way they are, the way they seem is something else” White Teeth Teens 

(12/6/12) Continue reading

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Mere Anachrony: When The President Talks To God

With the ten year anniversary of the Iraq War coming up this month, I’ve been thinking some about the war’s legacy and specifically asking one question: Given the sizable opposition to the war, why were there no real notable protest songs about Iraq?

Of course, there were some protest songs, mainly from the traditionally political acts you’d expect to release antiwar songs: Neil Young, Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys, etc. But all these acts were long passed the peak of their relevance, and the songs were so predictable that they were greeted with little more than a shrug. There were some attempts by mainstream acts, like “Mosh” by Eminem, but nothing commensurate with controversy the war generated. Sadly, the most substantial political moment of the last decade in pop music probably involved the Dixie Chicks…

There are certainly a lot of reasons for this: the political apathy of the post-Baby Boomer generations, the corporatization of the music industry, the blandness of pop music in general, etc. But it’s also worth pointing out a simpler explanation: It’s hard to write a good protest song. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #44: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Hey, remember the Bob Dylan Rankings? I haven’t done one in over a year and a half, but now it’s back (at least, for today). I’m abandoning my old self-imposed chronology, and I’m going back to writing about whatever song strikes my fancy. Today’s song: “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” 

(Also, YouTube has really cracked down on Bob Dylan songs, so most of the videos will have to be covers or live versions.)

“I revere Bob Dylan, but is that an awful line, or what? Who in the hell philosophizes disgrace? Who does this speak to? Do you think there is anyone in the world who gets up in the morning and says to himself, ‘I think I’ll go and philosophize some disgrace today?’ What does that even mean? It’s not that it’s vague in the sense that Dylan is so often marvelously vague and evocative. It is more like it is specific but clumsy. It doesn’t sound good… It’s awful. It’s not a particularly good song, although Dylan’s admirers will soberly insist that it is a great song, and I suppose they are entitled to their opinion.” —Bill James

Yes, Bill James, I am entitled to that opinion. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is a great song—though not one of Bob Dylan’s best—and the clumsiness that James identifies is part of what makes it great.

“Hattie Carroll” is a remarkably literal song. It starts with the simple, matter-of-fact line, “William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll” (and by “starts” I mean it really starts with that line—the first sound, before any music, is Dylan’s nasally voice spewing out that clunky name), and proceeds to tell the story through a bunch of meandering, rhyme-less clauses strung together somewhat artlessly—the word “and” is sung 31 times. All the stretched out sentences and nested clauses make it somewhat hard to follow, but the gist is clear: William Zanzinger, a rich young Maryland landowner killed Hattie Carroll, a black servant, by hitting her in the head with his cane at a white tie function where he was a guest and she a servant. Though he was convicted of the crime, he was sentenced to only six months in prison. Continue reading

‘Twas 2012: Top Ten Songs of 2012

 10. “Octopus” — Bloc Party:  Four was a disappointing album, but, happily, the wiry “Octopus” was an exception.


 9. “Argonauts” — Hospitality:  Hospitality’s self-titled album was my favorite of 2012, and “Argonauts” is the album’s most layered, sophisticated track.

Continue reading

Going To ’11: Songs of the Year

Which Adele song makes the list?

Last year, my “Best Of” music post didn’t come out until January 27th. Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen again. Hopefully, you’re not sick of reviews of 2011 music yet.

Here are the best songs of 2011 (with a limit of one song per artist):

25) “The Merry Barracks” – Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil

I love the way this song moves from simple to complex.

Continue reading

Going To ’11: Albums of the Year

Best Cover Art of 2011?

At the start of the 2010, I made a goal for myself to read one book a week—a goal I ended up abandoning by, I believe, the end of January. (Do you realize how much reading that entails?) In 2011, I tried to keep it more manageable: I made a plan to listen to one new album per week. While I once again fell short of my attempted goal, this time I came a lot closer to completing it and, as a result, I ended up listening to far more new music this year than any year since high school.

You would think that this would make compiling a Best Of list easier, but it did not. Unlike last year, when my number one album was never in doubt, 2011 lacked a standout record. This is not to say there weren’t great albums released, but there were none that had the impact of The Suburbs, or This Is Happening. Over at The A.V. Club, Steven Hyden called this year “The year of no Important Albums,” and while I don’t really like the term “Important Album” (important to whom?), I pretty much agree: This was a year of a lot of Very Good albums, but few Great ones. Continue reading

Going To ’11: Music Videos of 2011

I always think that nobody watches music videos anymore, but then I remember that like 75% of the “Most Viewed” videos on YouTube are music videos that have, collectively, been viewed over five billion times. Nevertheless, it still seems like the cultural importance of music videos have waned. It seems like they exist now for people who want to listen to music on their computer without using iTunes, Spotify, or Pandora.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool videos that come out every year. This is a brief overview of the most inspired videos of 2011 (that we saw):

Best Use of Abstract Shapes in a Music Video

“Second Song” — TV On The Radio (Dir: Michael Please)

This is what geometry is for. Continue reading