Friday, November 9, 2007

The Favorite Bands 2007, part one.

So, a lot of people ask me, they say, "michael5000, what kind of rock music do you enjoy listening to?"

Well, not really of course. But the new mission statement says I need to write more about music, so my hands are kind of tied here. Today kicks off a two-part series on

My 20 Favorite Bands, 2007!

To be clear what I'm talking about -- and, just as a sidebar, it's a sad state of affairs to reach the age when "my favorite bands" is a phrase requiring clarification -- I'm not going to rehearse the long back-history of my historical favorite groups. (Briefly: They Might Be Giants in grad school, R.E.M. in college, U2/Talking Heads in high school, whoever did "Convoy" and "The Hustle" in early childhood.) Nor am I going to try to discuss the current bands that are breaking just this year. As I've discussed elsewhere, I'm waaay too old to work on that kind of time scale. These are just the bands that I happen to be listening to a lot this year, or more specifically this fall. To younger readers, most of the bands under discussion will seem "old," and you will just have to take my word for it that, considering my age, I am one groovy hepcat.

This Week: The Penultimate Ten!

The Arcade Fire -- Holy Freaking Cow, what a stunning first album! And what a... a... perfectly adequate second album! OK, I'm a little disappointed with the sophomore effort, but these spunky Montrealians (?) certainly know how to put together a song. Lamentably, I have not yet been able to score a ticket to one of their legendary live shows.

Andrew Bird -- This guy has been around for a while, but is a relatively new discovery for me. That's awesome, because it means I get to explore his back catalog at my leisure and won't have to wait around for a new record. He's dark, smart, funny, and probably a little nuts, all of which scores points with me. His music is energetic yet subdued, emotive yet distanced.... what is it that they say about writing about music?

Eels -- Genuinely pretty songs about how it sucks when everyone you love dies on you and you can't keep your shit together, interspersed with dark, disturbing ditties about hope and redemption. Mr. E has made speculation about his mental health part of the act, and good for him. We should all get so much mileage from our issues.

Felina's Arrow -- Two women (whom Mrs.5000 & I happen to know, not that this would in any way affect my judgment) who do a high-energy coffee shop sort of act. Poeina is operatically trained, Felicia multitasks between a scorching lead guitar and bass, and the harmonies are unconventional and niiiiice. They improv whole songs from audience cues, which sounds gimmicky but is actually very cool. They are currently wandering around the American West; go say hi if they come to your town.

Robyn Hitchcock -- The godfather of odd quirky pop songs that don't really make much sense, except they really do, except they don't, really. You either think he's a genius, or you don't get it at all. I think he's a genius, except I don't, really. Except I do, really.

Guided By Voices -- This legendary Ohio band's lyrics made no more sense than a Robyn Hitchcock song, except they did, except no. It's poetry, people! Kind of. The best thing about GBV was that they rocked. Hard. Hard rock by drunk smart people, for drunk smart people.

Mates of State -- Big juicy keyboards and big thumping drums and odd boy/girl harmonies, and that's all. Sounds kind of spare, but Mates of State are damned noisy, and that's the point. Their songs don't really make any sense, and I mean it this time. But didn't I just say that the noise is the point?

Math and Physics Club -- Five bright, dorky kids from Seattle make really pretty mid-tempo rock songs about how bittersweet it is being a bright, dorky kid, what with all of the love and stuff. The guitar sound is so warm you can heat your house with it.

Sprites -- Odd, peppy pop songs about everyday life as a shy 30ish slackerish indie rock sort of person. Lightweight, nerdy, and not exactly a showcase of raw musical talent, this stuff is nevertheless wildly infectious and fun.

Tulleycraft -- Upbeat, quirky pop songs by smart people with more musical imagination than musical talent, but in a good way. Very funny lyrics, largely about being an upbeat, quirky indie pop musician, with backup harmonies that are just pure sugar. Guilty pleasures are the best, no? Well, maybe not the best. But awfully nice.

Your Turn

You are encouraged to rebut with such traditional pleasantries as "I concur; Robyn Hitchcock (for instance) rocks!" Or, it is also acceptable to cut loose with a riposte along the lines of "au contraire, mon frere; Andrew Bird sucks!" Suggestions as to what I should be listening to instead are especially encouraged.

Next Friday: The Top Ten!


fingerstothebone said...

Nope, never heard of any of these people, but I want to point out that your FreeRice thing hit the BBC today:

You can say you were there first, hah!

(Oh yeah, as far as music goes, Rachid Halihal is where it's at. Nope, I haven't a clue what he's singing about, but someday I will!)

G said...

I've only heard of Arcade Fire, which I have but don't listen to that much because it makes me feel a bit slow and angsty if I listen to it too much. I'm clearly underqualified for this post--you need Blythe for this.

Rebel said...

Your music tastes are a bit more 'indie' than mine. I've been listening to Placebo a lot lately.


Love it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I know ALL these guys. I must be a hepcat-for-my-age once removed, since M5K is clearly the musical scout of the household. I've got a sealed ballot predicting his TOP 10 picks. I'm guessing I'll get 8 or 9 right.

Robyn Hitchcock would be in my top 5, easily. Of course that's because I think he's the graying dreamboat heir to Bob Dylan at his surrealist finest. Only English, with a pleasant voice and a sense of humor.

Andrew Bird has a back catalog? What are you waiting for? You might pry Armchair Apocrypha off my shelf if I had other alternatives.

Heatherbee said...

Felina's Arrow (formerly known simply as Felina) ARE lovely young women. And lovely musicians. I heard them at the farmer's market one Saturday, and was forever on their mailing list though not actually going to any shows. Good choice, Michael, of both friends and music.

d said...

mrsm5k: andrew bird has a back catalogue. i highly recommend 'the mysterious production of eggs'.

i could never get into robyn hitchcock for some reason, and mates of state can go suck it, even though they're from my home town.

my latest obsessions are: the cave singers, frightened rabbits and phosphorescent. oh and the new sunset rubdown - pure manna.

Jessica said...

Dear Mrs. Michael,


Anonymous said...

d and jessica: righteous! he's even more amazing than I realized.

fingerstothebone said...

Hey, you did it again. You beat NYT (or maybe you did it at the same time) on the piece on Arcade Fire:

And it's now 12:04am Monday morning, where's the Monday Quiz?

Michael5000 said...

@fingers: Mr. Halihal's site conspicuously lacks any opportunities to listen to his music. Dude doesn't have a MySpace. Are you sure he's a musician? Or have you just been assuming he's a musician because he has been photographed with that lute dealie?

@g: Well, that makes me feel better for not knowing who Amy Winehouse is.

@rebel: I don't know who Placebo is, either. But I like the line.

@Mrs.5000: I'll get us some more Andrew Bird soon. Never fear.

@Heatherbee: Cool! Didn't know you knew 'em!

@d: I like Phospherescent. I think I might have heard about them from your blog?

And, your hometown is Larry, Kansas? Home of Liberty Hall, the Free State Brewery, a large Midwestern University, and the late legendary slumlord Dick Lynch? You know, I allegedly engaged in some higher learning in that town. I was also in a band that was "Lawrence-based" -- by which I mean that we never played anywhere any further than, say, a mile from the Glass Onion. But we had some fun.

@Jessica: I love that he's on Righteous Babe. I hate that Righteous Babe isn't on Emusic.

@Mrs.5000: Let's put our heads together and make sure we aren't both buying the entire Andrew Bird catalog at the same time tomorrow.

@fingers, again: Hmm, also talks about this Amy Winehouse character. The Arcade Fire aren't exactly a breaking act, though; there was for instance a long piece on them in the New Yorker several months back now.

Happy New Week, everybody!

blythe said...

sovay! sovay! (old AB) vampire weekend! beirut! white rabbits! voxtrot! art brut!

fingerstothebone said...

It's an oud dealie to you, mister.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am just going to copy paste this one into a doc to go and research later. Probably should do the comments too.

I love finding out about music this way!

Thank you!