Since the office the Bullz-Eye staffers share is of the virtual variety, it is very easy for us to be in our own universes, musically speaking. Everyone spends their time listening to whatever they happen to be reviewing, creating little to no consensus as to which albums are the year's best. In the hope that our music editor might get a glimpse of what is actually going on in the minds of his minions ("and what lovely minions they are," he would like to add), he asked the staff to tell him what three songs they've been rocking out to lately. Surprise! Not a single artist received more than one mention. Perfect.
No, really, we mean it: perfect. What better way to demonstrate the many types of music that make the BE music writers all tingly? Behold, our list of ten songs that we recommend you stick in your iPod right this second. A word of caution: in an attempt to cover multiple genres, this list will read more like a grab bag than one of Nick and Nora's infinite playlists. Then again, we're not indie hipster snobs, nor do we aspire to be. We like what we like, and hopefully, you'll like what we like, too.
Click the headphone icons below to hear each song, and check out the featured song download of the month and more great tunes from Hugo Element!
As any ardent music lover knows, you can hear something that grabs you when you're least expecting it – like, for instance, while watching the eminently forgettable "Brick" ripoff "Assassination of a High School President." Not only does "Assassination" lift its most watchable bits from other films, it even takes its best music from past movies – specifically "Gotta Give It to 'Em," a cut from the "Ping Pong Playa" soundtrack that previously surfaced as "Rock to the Rhythm" in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" and "American Pie: The Naked Mile." Nothing about this four-minute hip-hop ditty suggests true greatness, but it's easy to see why soundtrack supervisors seem to dig it so much: riding a brass loop and rapid rhymes, the song is perfect for a house party scene – or a few minutes of volume-cranking levity while your iPod is on shuffle.
By Basement Jaxx
After the dizzying highs of the band's 2003 breakthrough Kish Kash, you'd forgive us if we found the band's follow-up Crazy Itch Radio to be a bit of a snooze. Perhaps sensing our fickle ways and the market's here-today-gone-yesterday nature, the Brixton duo hunkered down and delivered in a big way with this year's Scars, and its crown jewel is the rump shaker "Twerk," which blends an Auto-Tuned performance of Michael Sembello's "Maniac" with a freestyle rhyme from Yo Majesty. It's as busy a song as the band's ever made, but nobody does busy better than Basement Jaxx. And, in a Prince-style production twist, there is almost no snare drum in the entire track. Dig it.
If any band's second album deserved the title Version 2.0, it's Cosmic Egg, the Zeptastic sophomore effort from Aussie rockers Wolfmother. Following the departure of bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett – who either quit or were fired, depending on whom you ask – singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale decided to continue as Wolfmother, recruiting three new members and, well, doing pretty much exactly what the band did before. (We're still wondering what the "irreconcilable musical differences" could possibly have been.) "White Feather" is our personal favorite because Wolfmother's familiar Zeppelinisms (think "Dancing Days" and "D'yer Mak'er") receive a monster rhythm section makeover, resulting in the most upbeat, dance-friendly track the band has done to date, while rocking your socks off at the same time. They saved the best, though, for the bridge: cowbell!
By Jets Overhead
There is not nearly enough melodic alt-pop these days, but some of the bands that are doing it are doing it really well. Case in point: Canadian act Jets Overhead, who recently released their sophomore full length, No Nations. Falling somewhere between Snow Patrol and early Radiohead, Jets Overhead is that rare band that might appeal to those in search of the next big thing, or those who just like melodic rock. The best track on No Nations is "Weathervanes (In the Way)," which starts out with a very simple rhythm guitar and bass progression, then morphs into a dreamy number that makes you forget about everything else you're doing. In fact, go ahead, put "Weathervanes" on a mix so you can listen to it and just stare out the window and dream – it's the absolute perfect soundtrack for just that.
By The Noisettes
The one song on this list that you, your girlfriend and your mother can all agree on. The Amy Winehouse-ish "Never Forget You" is getting all the attention at the moment, but this is the crown jewel from the band's new album Wild Young Hearts, a Burt Bacharach-style ballad with a rather rockin' chorus. Singer Shingai Shoniwa has a voice from the heavens, but she's (thankfully) not a showoff: she only does what's best for the song here, and with that unforgettable climbing melody in the chorus, this is one of those moments where less is definitely more.
By The Happy Hollows
Once you get to know the sprightly Los Angeles trio the Happy Hollows, odds are "Lieutenant" will quickly become one of your first favorites. But how do you follow up the punky proggy five-minute blast of aural euphoria that defines this band every time they take the stage? Scaling back tends to be a good strategy, and "We Will Find You" goes that very route - two parts of squirrelly rock instead of four. What's more, HH leader Sarah Negahdari adds an earworm of a chant to the tune's stomping march. In more sinister hands, repeating "we're right beside you / we'll just reach out and touch you" could send you on a one-way journey to Creepsville. But coming from Sarah, originally from the hippie-fied San Francisco Bay Area, the effect is more comforting and reassuring. After all, it does come in handy to have someone reminding you that "nothing good has ever come from desperately / clinging to the things you crave." It's not just good listening, it's good for you.
By Derek Webb
Let's be honest: a singer as outspoken – not to mention, shhhhh! Christian – as Derek Webb is not going to be a Billboard Heatseeker anytime soon. (Which is a shame, because he's really good.) But if someone gave "Jena and Jimmy," from Webb's latest album Stockholm Syndrome, to Justin Timberlake, and tweaked the words a little bit, we are talking megasmash along the lines of "Umbrella." Of course, we have no problem with the song as it stands, a dance-happy track – think Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" crossed with "Sexyback" – about a party boy trying to score with an activist. But we're guessing that radio programmers would get hives upon hearing the opening line, "Jena and Jimmy they met at a rally to bring our boys back from the war." Holy shit, it's a political record! Um, not exactly. Webb doesn't take sides here, though in real life he's much more Jena than Jimmy. Still, it's fun to hear the deathly serious Webb take Jimmy's advice to Jena and "just lighten up." In the event that Timberlake covers this song down the road, we insist on receiving some kind of "associate producer" credit for coming up with the idea.
When the famously hyperbolic UK music press started talking about Editors back in 2005, you couldn't blame us for not buying it right away. After all, these were some of the same writers who had also showered questionable British groups like Dodgy and Menswear in the past. But then we heard The Back Room. Editors' debut album was stuffed to the gills with song after song with candy-sweetened choruses and anthemic guitar riffs that brought to mind Joy Division if they had been raised on Britpop. "Papillion" comes off of their just released album In This Light and On This Evening, and it's an absolute monster of a single. Their previous material was usually anchored by Chris Urbanowicz's driving guitar figures, but on "Papillion" Tom Smith's authoritative vocal performance and icy banks of synthesizer are the stars this time out. Depeche Mode's recent album desperately needed something this urgent, and the irony is that without Martin Gore's influence, it's doubtful Editors would have written this darkwave-inspired gem.
By Air Traffic
Air Traffic is a rather inconsequential Britpop band, and their debut album Fractured Life was pretty much forgettable, with the sole exception being "Charlotte," a perfect piece of classic power-pop by way of Oasis. Lead singer Chris Wall spends most of the song explaining to the titular character that he needs her and that she needs him. He's "wasted, face down on the floor" and "can't take anymore" without her. At the same time she needs him because she's uptight, "let go, you gotta lose control," he says. As the song builds, the lyrics slowly morph from those of love to those of lust. By the end he sets all pretenses aside, repeating the coda of "your face, my place." This is a love song, but it's a love song about having hot dirty sex, and from personal experience we can tell you that if you're making a mix for a potential mate, it's a hell of a track two.
Far be it from us to lavish praise on Stephenie Meyer's odes to undead chastity (we are firmly ensconced in Team Jacob's camp, thank you very much), but the soundtrack to "New Moon," the second installment in the "Twilight" series, is a dandy little collection of songs, and its finest moment is this punched up and trimmed down remix of the best song from Muse's good but underwhelming album The Resistance. Producing the album themselves, Muse couldn't, um, resist taking every single detour that presented itself, which often resulted in an otherwise tight song getting padded with an unnecessary interlude. No song suffered from this more than "I Belong to You"; it has the album's hookiest chorus, but did it really need a two-minute, French-spoken piano break in the dead center? No, and this mix wisely chops that out, and adds a little guitar in order to toughen it up a little. In short, this mix does exactly what we would have done with the song.