So, every year around Christmastime, I go on a binge and read as many "best songs of the year" lists as I can. Honestly, this is where the majority of my musical discoveries come from in a given year. It's like waiting for Oscar season, right? Because of this, I find a lot of songs that I would've included in my own list, had I heard them a long time ago. Here are some of those songs.
Also, yes, we will spend the rest of 2k9 discussing the best songs of 2k8. 2k9 songs will come in 2k10.
The Veronicas – Untouched
It's kind of creepy that The Veronicas seem to be exclusively marketed to tweens as a teen band, even though they're like 24 and this song is about fucking.
It's SO GOOD THOUGH
Ignore the verses. Most of the verses. "I go ooh-ooh you go ah-ah" might perhaps be the nadir of Australian civilization… but, admittedly, I love the moments in which both the girls harmonize the speak-singing and use full syllables, almost too quickly for the beat.
The point though, is that guitar. That beautiful, slimy guitar in the chorus, which barely even sounds like a guitar and I'm not sure if it's actually changing chords or what. What a strangely ballsy move for a song like this. You can tell it's a song that's trying to pop-ify the Evanescence sound for a "wider" market, but with that guitar juxtaposed with the Veronicas' vocals, it ends up being much heavier than anything any nu-metal band can ever write ever.
The vocals are the second-greatest thing about this, particularly when Veronica #1 joins Veronica #2 in the repetition of the chorus, and her voice piques up into a yelp during "right NOW" and "someHOW." And then there's the Young Turks synth and the gump-ass grimy synth and whatever more synth that I just haven't heard yet. And then there's the strings. And a million other things that make this song so unbelievably worth it if you have it in you to get past that first verse.
The Mae Shi – Run to Your Grave
The Mae Shi – Run to Your Grave
The Mae Shi is an "experimental punk" band according to Wikipedia, and I'll use that definition because I like them too much to call them indie. "Noise" fits too, even though they aren't really noise. They wrote a "religious album" called HLLLYH which is pretty much the most typical name you can expect for a religious album by an LA noise band.
I actually spent a tediously long time trying to figure out what "religious album" meant. Is it gospel or anti-religion or is it just about religion? Which begs the question of religion's place in the alternative world, whether the idea of a god is accepted or rejected in that environment. The lyrics here are, on the surface, extreme gospel. But it's the fact that The Mae Shi have been so warmly accepted by the hipster/alt community that made me wonder if the band is generally interpreted as being ironic. And every review would pretty much begin and end with "religious album about religion."
But I guess that's just it. The quality of these lyrics, what makes them so damn intriguing is the fact that it's ambiguous, that it seems to be simultaneously wary and celebratory, praising the great and despairing over the bad.
This song confronts death with the most serious of tenors, and the whole thing is sung with such gleeful choir sensibilities. The vocalizations of the verses have such consistency, and the weight of the lyrics is never really expressed. To someone who tends to gloss over lyrical content, this song probably just sounds really, really happy.
And emotion is a simple test to the synapse
Don't let it fool you into thinking that you got brains
The more you feel the more you will take with you
So cut the flesh and let your blood flow to the drain
It's all in the delivery. This song is happy, it is celebrating these ideas because goddamn, you just can't deny such a genuine glee. But instead of irony, it's painted with an undertone of fear and uncertainty. And it's one of the most emotionally-engaging songs I've heard this year.
This song also has many instruments; in this entry I will