I'm back, with the first Track-fu after the holiday break. We've got a little treat today -- a song picked by Eric of Raised By Swans. It's "Daughters of the Soho Riots" by The National. For our usual contributors, Dan's put in "" by Jens Lekman, and Brandon sent "" by Notorious B.I.G.
1. Alanis Morissette -- Wunderkind
This song is from the soundtrack to the first Narnia movie, featured in the most-recent Sabotage. Morissette has kind of fallen off a bit in the last few years -- too verbose, too obtuse, too earnest, maybe? I still think that she has a great voice, though. This song has a pretty melody, and Morissette keeps her voice well in check here. She's using it well but not letting it get all over the place; she can make it a bit histronic sometimes, I think.
I was kind of worried that this song would be all twee and fantasy-like, but fortunately it's not. Pretty good.
2. The National -- Daughters of the Soho Riots (Eric)
I'd heard of The National, but didn't really know anything about them; then they popped up on a ton of year-end lists, and I got more curious. Fortunately for me, Eric of Raised By Swans chose this song as his contribution for Track-fu, which he was nice enough to participate in. I still don't know much about the band, so I'm going in blind.
This song is very pretty and evocative; I like the little plunks of piano. I really love the lead singer's deep voice. Great atmosphere. I read a listener review on Amazon that compared The National to Antony and the Johnsons, and I can sort of see that. The music doesn't sound the same, but the mood is similar.
3. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin -- Pangea
Well, that's quite the band name.
This has a nice indie-pop vibe. Very catchy. The production sounds pretty stripped-down, especially on the vocals. The singer is a little muffled sometimes, but it kind of works since the song sounds a bit off-the-cuff. The infectious guitar also helps.
4. Jens Lekman -- Maple Leaves (Dan)
Amazon classifies Jens Lekman as Swedish Pop Rock, and I guess that's sort of fitting. There's a retro sound, but it also comes across as rather modern. Lekman's got a smooth voice, for sure. The backing beats are very attention-grabbing -- it all seems a bit weird, the beats and Lekman's crooner voice and the effects that pop in and out, but it works together pretty well.
Okay, hold up? Lekman is 22? That's pretty impressive.
5. Nellie McKay -- The Big One
I heard lots about Nellie McKay when she first came out, including the inevitible Fiona Apple comparisons that come whenever a girl plunks at a piano and sings. I never actually heard her songs, though. Whenever I tried to download something, it failed. There was a vast Internet conspiracy against me hearing McKay's music without having to buy it first, it seemed.
Then she started to sound like she might be a bit pretentious, and I gave up.
Now she's got a new album out, and this song is from it. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. It sounds kind of like Fiona Apple meets...hip-hop. I know that sounds weird, and Nellie McKay doesn't really rap -- although her singing voice sounds like talking pretty often here. It's more the mood of the song, I think, and the odd sound effects. So I'm not sure what I think yet. I'm interested enough to hear more of the album. Maybe it's just not what I expected, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
6. Notorious B.I.G. -- Wake Up Now (Brandon)
This song features Korn. I fucking hate Korn, so much.
Anyway, isn't Biggie dead? Didn't he die nearly ten years ago now? Don't we have new rappers out, ones that are currently living? Biggie had skills, but I hate this trotting out of the dead. It just seems cheap.
So far the song's pretty good -- Biggie's flow was certainly tight, and the beats are heavy. I'm sort of dreading when that douchebag from Korn shows up. Oh, here he is. It's not as bad as it could have been, actually. At least he's not screaming. This song's pretty good, but I have to hate on it a little for the Korn/trainwreck factor. You should be a little bit ashamed, P. Diddy.
7. Amadou and Mariam -- Senegal Fast Food
Apparently Amadou and Mariam have been around for quite some time. I have never heard of them; they met in Bamako in 1980 and have started to grown an audience outside of West Africa late in their career. I don't understand a word of this song other than "Senegal" -- it's in French -- but this is really catchy. The music and the vocals are great. It's got me dancing around in my chair. It's definitely accessible and worth downloading. I'd love to hear more of this album now.
8. Apollo Sunshine -- Phoney Marony
This sounds kind of like a combo of Jet and The Hives to me, with a bit of a Southern Rock vibe thrown in, albeit a more upbeat one than Kings of Leon generally work with. All that's to say is that they have the sort of garage rock sound that's been popular over the past few years. I like it, but it doesn't set me on fire. It does have good energy though.
Winner: I actually liked the song by Amadou and Mariam best, because it was so infectious and joyful. The National, Jens Lekman and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin also performed well.
Loser: I'm going to have to go with Biggie -- I kind of liked the song, but it lost points for the post-mortem cash-grab aspect, and the presence of Korn. I didn't hate any of the songs, so that knocked it to the bottom.