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    Monday, December 31, 2007

    The best 30 albums of 2007

    Photo by Jan Glas

    30) Rise Above – Dirty Projectors
    A shitty Xerox on a smudgy copier. A game of Telephone with deaf kids. History rewritten by the losers, translated into Esperanto. Trying to articulate the muck, matching words to the imperceptible. We settled for noise and approximation. We settled for the perimeters, the obtuse, the weird. We carved out corners of negative space, and listened to William Basinski or Decasia with the screen turned off. We cultivated our amnesia or just played dumb, so that we could rewrite our stories over and over. But we were also careful never to get them exactly right, never definitive, because the beauty was in coming up short. Sometimes, scuffing up our green Chuck Taylors or tearing jeans hems or worshiping the pops and coughs of vinyl, it was the only beauty we'd acknowledge.
    * MP3: "No More" - Dirty Projectors from Rise Above [Buy it]

    29) Desire – Pharoahe Monch
    At war with himself, he vacillated between competing philosophies. King and X, Washington and Du Bois. Change had to come, but so far, it'd been fatally slow. All the activists he'd met seemed exhausted now, the years of unmet rage and inaction taking their tolls. He insisted they all rush into the streets, lie down, block traffic, get arrested en masse. Stage massive die-ins, storm the financial centers, wreak havoc to cease havoc. When that didn't work, he tried one-man letter-writing campaigns, approaching councilmen, organizing community meetings that no one attended. By the end of the year, he'd lost his war too. Grim as a winter storm, jaded and cynical as the rest. Infatuated with instant gratification, sick of this never-ending failure.

    28) You, You’re A History In Rust – Do Make Say Think
    A song I swear I remember, coming back to me in fragments and chunks. Prickly and tart one moment, tender and pliant the next, always sinuous. It was archaeological almost, this tune, thick with smog but lying underfoot. It was drenched in reverb or else that's just an effect of time playing its usual tricks. How do I express it so that you'll understand, I wonder, but of course I know that I can't. It'd be like trying to tell a circumstantial joke days after the fact. But here's what I can say: it felt untraceable even before it was over, already a footnote in some alternative history, already on the edges of recollection. It was like a look you'd given me once, an expression somehow so crucial I'll never stop trying to recreate it.
    * MP3: "A Tender History In Rust" - Do Make Say Think from You, You're A History In Rust [Buy it]

    27) Drums and Guns - Low
    Her palm caressed her growing contours, heroically, majestically. In four months, she'd have a son. A son, that she knew without question. In four months, she'd do her part, raising him for the battle. She'd educate him on which causes to love and which to loathe, about the jagged, callous facts of the world today. By six, he'd venture into the woods, learning how to shoot Kalashnikovs and submachine guns. By nine, he'd make his first kills, small bears, large dogs, a wolf if he were lucky. By eleven, he'd go off and fulfill his fate, a body in the human barricade, another wall in the imperialists' way. Maybe he'd even survive this struggle to fight in the next one. But if not, she would still be deeply proud. She would still have eight or nine more to take his place.

    26) Spiderman of the Rings – Dan Deacon
    This is what our mid-twenties sounded like: dumb, frantic, euphoric, senseless, rudderless. Yeah, we made it up as we went along, the bricolage of sudden impulse and shruggy what-the-fucks. Sometimes, we wouldn't even do that much, observing our lunacy like spectators, as if we were Switzerland and our futures were under siege abroad. But shit, it worked out as much as it didn't, right? A loud, glorious, omnivorous mess if it was anything at all. It left lasting dents on us, bound us together in a mutual confusion, let us take the fun way out at all times. It convinced us we were important and cool and free when we weren't ever really.

    25) Aficionado! – Lee Bob Watson
    It was a dead-end job, but all of them were around here. Cataloguing pawned trinkets, rings from broken engagements, electronics that hardly functioned. Scale down the prices when the items had reached a certain birthday. Dust the shelves as if that made a difference. Haggle with the drop-ins over how much their least loved treasures cost. There were a few wonderful articles scattered among the garbage, sure, but those would never find a buyer. They rarely even got a second look. In time, he started taking them home, hosting them in the spare room like guests passing through. Among their history, their grimy ceramics or yellowed pages, he paid dutiful tribute. Buttressed by the old and undesired, he was ready to start creating something new.
    * MP3: "Landfill" - Lee Bob Watson from Aficionado! [Buy it]

    24) All Hours Cymbals - Yeasayer
    Six days in the woods, still no sign of the trail. Canteens running low, the rations downsized to crumbs. No reception for their cell phones, no whirring blades or megaphone calls of a search party. They drank brook water and ate any grasses or berries or mushrooms that looked remotely non-poisonous. They made their peace with their looming regrets; they scraped up their vilest truths from their chest cavities and passed them around like foodstuffs. They grasped the ungraspable meaning of existence and laughed heartily like they might actually be rescued. They stripped off their shirts and scribbled "HELP" on their faces with mud. Alive for the first and last time, they were unconcerned that the ranger they saw in front of them was just another mirage.
    * MP3: "Sunrise" - Yeasayer from All Hour Cymbals [Buy it]

    23) Manners Matter – Mancino
    When they rang the bell, I invited them in. They seemed innocuous, clean-cut and clean-shaven, with hair hard with pomade. They wore crisp navy suits and tossed out hundred-dollar words like "edification" and "erudite." They were pitching encyclopedias door-to-door, raising money for college. "A very respectable cause," I replied, dazzled by their moral fortitude. But once they crossed the threshold, something changed. Maybe in their posture, maybe in how boldly they would meet my eyes. Whatever it was, I could sense an undercurrent of danger and rebellion now. Adventure and id. I hastily informed them that my husband would be home soon. I realized that they weren't carrying any encyclopedias.

    22) Marry Me – St. Vincent
    Any given night, I'd come home to find her in a gold flapper dress, theatrically flicking ash from a cigarette holder. In my suit, still holding my briefcase, I'd dance to Duke Ellington at her behest. She'd call me her Bowery Boy in what I supposed was a James Cagney accent. She was a flower child, a smoky lounge chanteuse, Clara Bow at her peak, Marlene Dietrich at her nadir. She was a heiress, a debutante, a geisha, a feminist. She confided that she desperately needed some glamour in her life. She begged me to play along, to answer in character, to sway to whatever melody was emanating from the record player. She was a bride dressed in a Salvation Army gown, tearing up to Mendelssohn's Wedding March; I was her sympathetic groom, trying to find her face behind the veil.

    21) Tromatic Reflexxions – Von Südenfed
    On the bar, splattering cocktails, breaking glass. A jig of insane limbs, half-Riverdance, half-seizure. Thrusting out his pelvis like a punch. The shards were poking through his rubber soles, slicing up his feet. The police were called, but slow to come. It took the bartender, two patrons, and a passerby to bring him down finally. In their grip, he twitched and spat German obscenities. Afterwards, somehow mentioned how depressing it was that a fifty- or sixty-year-old man (he was forty-three actually, but looked like death in a microwave) could be so sick. Waking up hours later, in a dumpster a mile away, he thought that the gushing holes in his heels were probably stigmata.
    * MP3: "Fledermaus Can't Get It" - Von Südenfed from Tromatic Reflexxions [Buy it]

    20) Night Falls on Kortedala – Jens Lekman
    Cute as a snow globe, needy as a blizzard. All his girl friends fawned over him--pet names, ambiguous touching, a Facebook wall full of comments, searing confessions over two bottles of cheap Shiraz. Lyla said any girl would be lucky to have him, squeezing his fingertips over dinner. Emily kissed him on the cheek and said he was so terrific, it astounded her. But whenever he'd make his move, pouncing clumsily for their mouths, explaining how he felt in an overly revealing song, they just laughed and shook their hands in cheery shock. "Oh no, not me!" they marveled, as if he were a foreigner unaware of the local customs. "I meant any other girl!" Meanwhile, he watched them date imposing men who scowled more than they talked, assholes with cars and full-time jobs. He watched them accumulate new sorrows and he entertained their complaints over new supplies of wine.

    19) Plague Park – Handsome Furs
    No, I'd never fall asleep again. I'd just drift in this purgatorial half-wake for good, a zombie feeding on the dead of night. Blurry red digits of the alarm forming 3:43, boxy and obnoxious. Walking out in my pajamas, I wandered the outskirts of lifeless avenues. I tried to summon up an emotion to call this oblivion. I roamed, errant as a seedling, unworried if I never found my way home. I listened to the traffic lights ticking, the power lines crackling, the engines of distant cars chasing their drivers back to beds. I listened to the plainsong of silence, arrogant and aloof, and the choir of sleeping hearts. Madly, I pushed out my shaky voice and sang a few lines of song. I poured my longing into the canyon of sky before heading back to eye the ceiling again.

    18) The Foley Room – Amon Tobin
    Metal dragonflies, their pewter-veined wings glowing orange. They skitter at the footsteps, dripping rainwater from the vents. Sensors every hundred yards, retinal scans and fingerprint terminals that need to be hacked. Crows flush out of a pipe, inkwell-black, a whole murder's worth. Leeches, millipedes, miniaturized eels crawl up your legs; self-aware vines slither in your direction, setting another trap. Unleash a light show of laser beams, blast every enemy into a particle of hardware. Push forward and above ground, onto the tests of meaner, larger threats. Admire the jeweled metropolis in the distance, lit up like a cake. Re-up your health level by stepping on a medkit. Select the biggest gun in your inventory and keep shooting.
    * MP3: "Bloodstone" - Amon Tobin from The Foley Room [Buy it]

    17) North Star Deserter – Vic Chesnutt
    Back porch, watching the wind stir the weeds. Sun at full bleed, a quilt of red and blood oranges. A wild dog rustling through the grass, chasing squirrels or wayward phantoms. Strum a guitar to the backs of distant rowhouses. Sing of small, broken men in a voice resonant with knowledge. Memorize the color of the dirt, compare it to the copper of Indian head pennies. Sing louder and more needfully, as the wind moans over your verses. Remember lost heroes, lost evenings, lost years, but only as the parentheses around your memories. Curse your age and the localized damage, even as you remain awed by the rough wisdoms they bring.
    * MP3: "You Are Never Alone" - Vic Chesnutt from North Star Deserter [Buy it]

    16) Random Spirit Lover – Sunset Rubdown
    Wearing capes to class and boots with intricate laces. Eating lunch alone in the cafeteria's remotest corner. A complexion like a topographic map, his breath sulfurous and far-reaching.
    "I bet that guy shoots up the school before winter break," snickered the girl next to me. He was hunched behind a notebook, scribbling into it wildly. The marbled cover hiding his red face like a shield. Finally, in third period Math, I got close enough to look over his shoulder. He had drawn entire universes into the college-ruled lines: gnarled dwarves, griffins and chimeras, knights slaying dragons, fire-maned stallions. Portals to worlds so fantastically archaic that all I could do was hate this one with him for not measuring up.

    15) LP – Holy Fuck
    A symphony of sneaks, an aural ransom note. A fully furnished wormhole, with plasma TV and wall-to-wall carpeting. An aerobics routine for methheads, elevator music in the coolest office building in Tokyo. My psychosis transcribed by a thousand lie detectors. An orchestra being electrocuted, live wires jammed down their throats, fireworks of blue voltage and arpeggios frizzing out of their ears. None of these things at all, not even close.
    * MP3: "Frenchy's" - Holy Fuck from LP [Buy it]

    14) Boxer – The National
    World swishing past their van window, soft-edged and untethered. Trees, mailboxes, towns with generic names, states of cornfields and churches. They played cards across the backseat, plotted world tours, detailed the bony juts of their girlfriends' hips. They stayed with college friends or friends of college friends. They slept in infested motels or on the floor of the Dodge Ram, dulling the misery by lingering in nondescript bars till last call. They mailed back postcards to friends they suddenly loved, glossing over all the sad parts. Somehow, even the loneliness was implied, revealed only in a tilt in their handwriting, when in fact, it was the one constant in their lives, the sixth member of the band.

    13) Fur and Gold – Bats for Lashes
    She was honey and clover, a myth and a rumor. Twenty years old, in a hippie dress that whirled around her knees, the perfume of clove cigarettes, violet-flecked eyes that never settled on anything for long, flustered brown tresses. She was mystified by ordinary things like telephones and religion, but utterly enchanted by the idea of trees. She was the reason I believed in reincarnation, her soul easily millennia-old, the spirits of Persian queens and sylphs and sylvan nymphs surely still circulating within her.

    12) Attack Decay Sustain Release – Simian Mobile Disco
    That summer, we'd become obsessed with blowing bubbles. Sticking four or five pieces in our mouths at once. Chomping them up, mashing them into a thick, rubbery ball until our jaws ached. We'd even throw flavors together indiscriminately, cross-pollinating fruits. Bubble Yum Bananaberry Split with Bubblicious Lightning Lemonade and Savage Sour Apple. Our tongues would turn all sorts of weird, unnatural shades--the reddish pink of rare steak, the grapey blue-purple of varicose veins. But the greatest moment came when we'd puff out bubbles the size of our heads, giant orbs bulging from our lips. They'd grow bigger and fatter before finally
    bursting. They'd incite a sugar rush and the sound of the sweetest, juiciest pop you'd ever heard.
    * MP3: "Hustler" - Simian Mobile Disco from Attack Decay Sustain Release [Buy it]

    11) Curses – Future of the Left
    By the time we'd sold our souls to the devil, it was old hat. Mostly, he just nodded solemnly and handed us a boilerplate contract. No salivating and giggling rabidly like we'd been hoping. No licks of fire sizzling from his claws or a volcanic, cosmic cackle. We didn't even have to sign the dotted line in blood. A ballpoint pen was A-OK, he said, before handing the forms to the notary public for stamping. Back above ground, there was a new crunch to our music, the rough slap of chords more brutal and hellish now. You could hear it in our screams too, a genuine terror infecting our vocal cords. Dire urgency and need. We tried not to think about the terms of our deal, but we couldn't help reminding ourselves: After dying, we'd have to live an infinite number of lives without music.
    * MP3: "The Lord Hates A Coward" - Future of the Left from Curses [Buy it]

    10) Proud Sponsors of Pepsi – Mas y Mas
    The snarl of youth, flashing a sneer full of incisors. They'd stir up trouble on the bus and collect suspensions for talking back. Incorrigible, the principal called them, though they preferred the title of fuck-ups. Executing hardflips and boardslides at the skate park. Vandalizing the town plaza with Sharpies or pocketknives. Loitering next to signs that overtly forbade loitering. Taking lusty swigs from whiskey bottles at the junkyard. Slamming ferally on drum kits or milking electric guitars of their chaos. They never brought up a stomach raw with welts, a mom married to Jack Daniels, a deadbeat dad unseen since age four, what maybe was dyslexia. They never let on to the various hurts, finding shelter in insolence and second homes in loud sounds.
    * MP3: "You Can't Play Without Ice" - Mas y Mas from Proud Sponsors of Pepsi [Buy it]

    9) And Their Refinement of the Decline – Stars of the Lid
    Up he soared, sanctified and weightless. The others had struggled or flailed, but he gave in right away, grateful as a helium atom. In the blue tractor beam, scaling toward the matrix of lights, he felt a warmth like none he'd known on Earth. A cold warmth but a pure one too, all-knowing, a tactile flame. The gift of transcendence. Up he soared, up to the maw of the ship, up through the vapor. Suddenly, the forest was
    miniscule, the hoary firs shrinking to white asparagus spears. His village was a speck now, his planet an electron. Up to the gaseous hull, the cybernetic mainframe, the pulsating nucleus of the vessel. Up to the paws of his new master, their whole flesh radiant with epiphanies.

    8) A Celebration of Hunger – Spider Bags
    Packed up the pick-up, said my temporary goodbyes. Put on my cowboy hat, pulling it low over my eyes. Told Cyndy I'd call her once weekly, though I probably wouldn't. Crept out of the driveway, winding down a permutation of roads I knew as automatically as a lock combination. Listened to the classic country station, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams et cetera, till it faded from range. Chapel Hill was gone then, the familiar eaves of roadhouses and greasy spoon diners nullified. Spent four days in a New York hostel, continually awed by the Chrysler Building and the beer prices. Headed through Cleveland and Fort Wayne and Battle Creek. Danced a waltz with a middle-aged lady named Elga in Milwaukee. Dissolved my liver and my checking account among the frost of St. Paul. After that, I headed south, the direction I trusted most. In search of the real heartland, more eager than ever to swim through its ventricles.
    * MP3: "Waking Up Drunk" - Spider Bags from A Celebration of Hunger [Buy it]

    7) American Gangster – Jay-Z
    In front of the old projects, clay-red and squat. Apartment 2B, with the ragged blinds drawn. The site of hand-me-down Christmases and layaway birthdays. The gauntlet of adolescence, the crucible of manhood. Corner of Marcy and Division, slinging my first baggie ever. Knees knocking out threadbare beats, back against the brick. Shouting come-ons to the caramel-colored puertorriqueñas from stoops in cracking voices. Hotwiring jalopies and breathing in B-boy culture like the stink of dirty hot dog water. Watching friends get hooked or sent upstate, hearing updates like reading the obituary section.
    Trading rhymes between the shudder of the JMZ, refining my best flows. Moving up to middle management, already one foot off the block. Standing here twenty years later, still feeling the streets' imprint on my skin.

    6) Guns Babes Lemonade - Muscles
    When it kicked in, we were kings. The details became iotas, or maybe the most important notions we'd ever heard. Fingers braided into fingers were drawbridges over oceans, the panorama of waving arms was red-turquoise-purple coral reefs. Legs were vanilla gelatin, lips hardened into spoons. Our cells became speakers, our hearts transceivers of all the information in the area code. We'd burst into tears over nothing in unison, druggy romanticists, thin-skinned poets of pulse and glee. This was life writ large and ecstatic, spelled out in boldfaced, underlined Comic Sans. This was life as unending affirmation, and every body we touched turned into an exclamation point!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    * MP3: "The Lake" - Muscles from Guns Babes Lemonade [Buy it]

    5) Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? – of Montreal
    Petting the lace, retracing the rise and fall of the frills. Rubbing the chiffon to his cheek, pressing the shapelessness of teddies to his figure. So she'd been gone for over two weeks, decamping to a Kristiansand hotel, fleeing with one suitcase and a string of ultimata. She hadn't yet returned to sign the papers or explain her logic or pack up her clothes. So he started wearing just her T-shirts, as an easy way to inhabit her smells. But then it was her skirts and her underthings too, then it was full ensembles and make-up and press-on nails until he even somewhat resembled her. In the bed, feeling the silk clench firmly around his waist, he pretended it was her holding him that way. Forgiving him for everything.
    * MP3: "Suffer For Fashion" - of Montreal from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? [Buy it]

    4) Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem
    In the mirror, his nose pressing up to the glass. Examining every inch of skin, a private investigator of imperfections. He scanned his features again and again, isolating anything troublesome. Were the bags under his eyes puffier than yesterday? Was that a new wrinkle creasing his forehead? Most frightening was his hair, graying to the point of needing Just For Men. Under the harsh bulbs, the gray hairs looked phosphorescent and glaring. Just like his father who nodded off during movies. Just like his grandfather who told the same stale tales as reliably as a recording. Plucking out every defiant strand he could find, he reassured himself he was still young and vital as ever. But the more convincing evidence was the handful of silver swirling down the drain.

    3) Kala – M.I.A.
    It spread like a virus, liquid, porous. Passed through computer terminals and wireless routers, snaked into networks, leaked sloppily over operating systems. Dismantled arms in Australasia, pressed flesh in the Arctic Circle, beat on eardrums in the Americas. Wormed its way onto boomboxes in far corners of the world. Splashed through the atmosphere over satellite radio. Pumped from the tinny speakers of cell phones and bumped surreptitiously through the walls of repressed states. A little girl in Rwanda learning how to raise a sharp fist in the air. A little boy in the Torres Strait learning how to stand up and fight back.

    2) I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead – El-P
    The places I'd known were gone, boarded up, razed for condos. Some of my friends had moved on finally, shaking off the inertia that'd once defined them. Others had drank themselves dumb or stuck in the wrong needle or snorted one too many rails and never woke up. Yet others had vanished without a forwarding address, probably consumed by similar demons with different names. I was alone, sucking on painkillers like Tic-Tacs, jabbed by nightmares so grisly I pissed the sheets. I had killed men, collected a breast of medals, been redeemed by the great scam of patriotism. Generals had shaken my hand and I had shaken back. But now, embedded among my old streets, my hands still wouldn't quit shaking. I realized being a veteran is just as rough as being an addict or a ghost. The Army just has a better advertising budget.
    * MP3: "Smithereens (Stop Cryin') - El-P from I'll Sleep When You're Dead [Buy it]

    1) Friend and Foe - Menomena
    The blackouts lasted for years and years. The old people were the first to go, useless without feeding tubes or pacemakers. The very young faded quickly too, not resourceful enough to replenish their little bodies. The rest of us were slower to perish, adjusting any way we could to the eternal outage. We embraced the Second Amendment as the only law in the land. Our moods all turned gruffer and darker, growing as relentlessly black as the scenery swathing us. Now we scavenged from our neighbors and devoured our lifelong friends when we craved another meal. Now we saw other humans as only obstacles or meat. By year three, the official word was that the cause of the blackouts was still unknown. But we all knew that if you pressed your ear to the ground, you could hear the computers and light fixtures and refrigerators chuckling softly.
    * MP3: "Rotten Hell" - Menomena from Friend and Foe [Buy it]

    Friday, December 28, 2007

    Watch how it go down

    Good news, friends. After months of badgering letters and vindictive emails, Clean Guns and J-Direct, two of my favorite hip-hop groups not named Outkast or The Roots, have finally honored my request/ultimatum to do a show in New York. Plus as far as I know, this is gonna be Clean Guns' New York premiere and at least half of a hometown show for J-Direct. Plus Lola Johnson, Arthur Lewis and Jon Braman are gonna be there! (I've never heard of any of them, but if they're on this bill, I'm expecting good things.) Plus special guests! (I'll just go ahead and pretend that means me.) So in summary, if you're in Brooklyn tomorrow, this is one not to miss. Trust me, it's gonna be hotter than your girlfriend after fat camp.

    Clean Guns, J-Direct, et al. Don Pedro's, 90 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, Saturday, December 29th, 8 pm. $5.

    * MP3: "We Just Run Things" - Clean Guns from Clean Guns = World Domination [Download it]
    * MP3: "Dirty Deeds" - J-Direct [Buy Live and J-Direct]
    * MySpace: Clean Guns
    * MySpace: J-Direct

    P.S. In other hotness-related news, my Best Albums of 2007 list should be appearing this weekend. Check it out.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    The best 30 singles of 2007

    Photo by Jan Glas

    30) "Plaster Casts of Everything" - Liars
    The plan was to always keep moving. Flee this mousetrap of a town, get far from anybody who knew their real names. On the back of his bike, she pronounced them martyrs of velocity, exiles of the imagination. When they'd burned through her graduation present, he suggested holding up mini-marts and off-ramp drive-thrus. For a few months, they lived on adrenaline and stacks of twenties, ridiculous blonde wigs and newspaper clippings. Then one night, revving away from the crime scene, she realized that fifty thousand dollars divided by one more cleanly than two. Blonde again, she slipped the keys from his jeans. Back on the move before he was even awake.
    * MP3: "Plaster Casts of Everything" - Liars from Liars [Buy it]

    29) “The Babysitter’s Club” – Desmond Reed
    It would never ever be three o'clock. The eighth period bell would never ever ring, that much was clear. They'd grow into old, gray geezers listening to Mr. Wells mutter on about wavelengths and particles. He slumped in his chair, tore off a scrap, slipped Kelsey a note. "Kill me," it read. Finally, the bell did ring; he dumped his books into his locker and ran for his bike. Listened to Mom drone on about how she needed to find a new man till four. Then he pedaled over to the Petersons' house to babysit. He played hide and seek with the kids, had Oreos and played Warcraft, watched reruns of Saved by the Bell on TBS. Until ten p.m., when Mr. and Mrs. Peterson came back, he felt entirely at home. For once, he was the king of something tangible, the reigning monarch of 815 Stonecrest Road.

    28) “Take Pills” – Panda Bear

    Dad was never the same after '87. Sad as a veteran, quiet as the truth. He went from moping behind closed doors to lying on the inflatable raft in the backyard pool. For all to see: his pasty legs sticking out of his bathrobe, his tears liberally collecting on the Minnie Mouse-patterned plastic. Then one day the raft was gone, he'd just float on his back in the five-foot-deep water. We watched him from the deck, understanding but ashamed. Then he stopped floating, bobbing under the surface. Holding his breath for minutes, timing how long he could endure below. The durations extended; we stopped supervising because we couldn't bear it. Then he stopped coming back up for air altogether; after the wake, we decided to scatter his ashes by the lakeside. He'd left a note under my door that said, "I'm sorry, I really am, but depression is genetic."
    * MP3: "Take Pills" - Panda Bear from Person Pitch [Buy it]

    27) “No Pussy Blues” - Grinderman

    Grow that spaghetti-western mustache for twirling. Gather enough grease in your receded hairline to fry a hash brown. Fill your jade pipe with a private blend of Moroccan tobaccos. Subscribe to magazines about body modification just to fan across the coffee table. Initiate conversations with lascivious, blade-sharp grins and come-hither leers. Let them know you're hungry for it, that you'll pay, that they'll pay you, that you've been to Berlin and the Reeperbahn on two separate occasions. Occupy alleys with a desolation cologne and tufts of your chest hair protruding. Lift the skirts of passing women; look up "frotteur" in the dictionary; linger by the playground fence just to watch.
    * MP3: "No Pussy Blues" - Grinderman from Grinderman [Buy it]

    26) “Mistaken For Strangers” – The National
    It was just for the winter, I told myself. A Long Island City sublet, six hundred bucks a month for a fully furnished studio. It was just north North Brooklyn; I could see the constellations of Manhattan's skyline across the water whenever I wanted. But then Reggie never returned from Portland; by the time April had trickled in, I already had a bookcase and a coat rack and a hi-def TV on the wall. The 7 train wasn't so, so bad, I decided, just one measly stop into Queens. Besides, I couldn't give up the hanger steak at Tournesol; the dry cleaner on 44th Ave. had just learned my name; I could still go down to the city anytime I chose. By July though, I was browsing my cell phone directory like a thief. Who the hell were Matt and Matt F. and did I really ever know a Bridget?

    25) "Flex" - Dizzee Rascal
    House party over at Yauncey's. The kind where the only question is when the cops will arrive to bust it up. Guzzle scoopfuls of Chex Mix. Intercept the nubbin of a spliff. Puff, puff and do not pass. Cling to the grimy lungheat like a prejudice. Through the blanket of smoke, spy her shaking it across the room. Ridiculous, glorious, thigh-high boots and a silver lamé spacesuit. She throbbed to the bassline, doing spastic, extraterrestrial karate. Dance routines that spanned cultures and centuries. An ass that jiggled flirts in Morse code. It was either the weed talking or you would never love anything as much as you loved this girl. By the time the cops got there, she was gone and nobody knew who you were talking about.

    24) “No One” – Alicia Keys
    The unilateralism of love. The trembly exuberance of this-is-it-I've-made-it-finally. You sever your family name and stitch his on like a patch. You audition caterers and select magneta bridesmaid gowns and flip through fat books of napkin patterns. You puke and don't sleep much and spend whole weeks penning elaborate vows that, at their root, just want to say, Please be normal and sane and make me chicken soup when I'm sick and reciprocate this immeasurable love I have for you for the rest of our natural lives.

    23) "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" - Jens Lekman

    O64. We were aiming for a plus-shaped configuration, center row-center column. Rita had just confessed she'd be leaving for Bergen next month. We weren't talking about it, only because I didn't know how to yet. N33. Instead, I looked over to Mrs. Guterson, the fat moles peppering her jaw, the green sweater tight on her bosom. She was the mother of my best friend in primary school. B7. Marcus Sköle sitting with his three sisters. The town drunk by a mile, he'd tell jokes so fantastically dirty, you needed a Q-Tip afterward. I27. My maternal grandparents, prunefaced saints married fifty-three years, conspiratorially huddling over their gamepieces. N31. "But maybe this place, it's not so bad either," Rita whispered, covering the square. "Bingo!" I cried.
    * MP3: "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" - Jens Lekman from Night Falls Over Kortedala [Buy it]

    22) "2080" - Yeasayer
    Young and inevitable, they scaled the fence. Tiny flowers of panic bloomed in the pits of their stomaches. Second semester was on the horizon; the air had lost its chill, turning mild and balmy. They took off their clothes item by item, acting brave but suddenly shy. Breasts were still novelties. It still felt thrilling to be this reckless. Racing into the water, it rushed up to their necks. They felt stupid, impractical things like freedom and eternity but also the caress of cool liquid on skin. Six years later, Rick would cannonball through a windshield after too many Coors Lights. Twenty-one years later, Anne would get cervical cancer and not recover. Seventy-three years later, Mark would look up at the hospital ceiling and thank God it was over.
    * MP3: "2080" - Yeasayer from All Hour Cymbals [Buy it]

    21) “What’s A Girl To Do?” – Bat For Lashes
    A blue room in a stucco house, a vase with gladiolas, a pinewood table. We sit at opposite ends and slice up our breakfasts. We have a conversation of clinking silverware and swallowed Tropicana. The runny eggs look like abortions. The view outside is a muddled gray, bleary as an erase mark. "Are you all right?" he asks, planting his elbows on the table end. In a softer voice, he adds, "Are we all right?" I pick up the plates and rinse them in the sink. I let the gush of water and scraping sponge answer for me. He walks up behind me, scoops his arms around my shoulders, asks again more anxiously. Every muscle in my body tenses at his touch. Reflexively, I nod, but then I hear myself answering, "No... I don't think we are."

    20) “Bloodstone” – Amon Tobin featuring the Kronos Quartet

    A mechanized ballet, watch how they twirl and curl and demi-plié. In time to the twinkly piano, every gliding step is synchronized to an eighth note. In their spangled leotards and perfectly golden coifs, they dazzle every spectator. But in just a few years, the circuits in the music box have fried. Its gears have ground down and they click when they turn. The fifth ballerina can barely keep up with the first, her legs kicking out in furious, desperate thrusts. For the first time, the dancers feel individual and free and patently terrified. Now they never get visitors to the attic and no one ever hunches over them to marvel how beautiful they look.
    * MP3: "Bloodstone" - Amon Tobin from The Foley Room [Buy it]

    19) “Diamond Dancer” – Bill Callahan

    This was her moment to glisten. A twenty-four-karat beauty and she knew it, awash in sky-blue spotlight. Every arm in the crowd raised to catch her, just hoping to get to touch her. She executed the choreography exactly, every last pivot and shimmy mathematically precise. She launched into another verse-chorus-verse, feeling the heat of their adulation, feeling the lustrous religion of fame. Her sequined outfit was impregnating the light, birthing an endless population of rainbows. A solar system of adorers. Love as raw as ore. Then when she heard the downstairs door slam, she turned off the radio and put away the hairbrush microphone. She opened the nearest textbook and pretended to do her homework again.
    * MP3: "Diamond Dancer" - Bill Callahan from Woke on a Whaleheart [Buy it]

    18) "We Celebrate" - Ghostface Killah featuring Kid Capri

    Yeah, it's been a tough-ass year. A stone around your neck. A long, interminable slog. You've watched long-held plans fray at the last minute and the disappointments mount. You realized you weren't the person you long advertised you were. You had that breakdown in the bathroom stall of a Burger King after work. You renounced a dream or two, because it was easier than failing. But tonight is about shoving all that shit to the side for good. Popping cork after cork, smoking deep, macking on every girl up in the spot, living to the extreme. A hangover that will last all through January, a momentum that will spill over into the next twelve months.

    17) "Roc Boys (And the Winner is)..."- Jay-Z
    From the corner to the corner office, from the boarded-up tenement to the boardroom. The numbers had just arrived; it'd been another boom quarter. At the shareholder meeting, he gave a speech detailing his hardscrabble upbringing. He walked the cubicle halls and shook hands with his low-level employees. He supervised the signing of the holiday bonus checks. He reminded himself of his famously steep climb to success: the youngest CEO in company history, a doubling of the stock value since he took over. On the ride home, he basked in his achievements before noticing how irrelevant it felt. On Park Avenue, he told his driver to turn back toward the old hood. To its vial-dotted alleys and dead-end streets just this one time.

    16) “The Piano” – PJ Harvey

    Dusty Victorian gift-wrapped in cobwebs. She pushes past the creaking gate to take one last look. Tomorrow, the demolition crew will knock this house down. Floorboard by floorboard, wall by plaster wall, they’ll reduce it to uninhabitable debris. The parlor room where Mother hosted her bridge club, the bedroom case where John collected his shimmering athletics trophies, the cellar where Father stroked her hair and silently unbuckled her belt before his.
    * MP3: "The Piano" - PJ Harvey from White Chalk [Buy it]

    15) “Hustler” – Simian Mobile Disco
    Back in the day, we used to wear jeans drooping off our hips. JNCOs with flared pantlegs and patches featuring flaming crowns. We'd invade the Sam Goody aisles in packs, looming over the racks like stormclouds. When the cashier turned his back and the guards were busy looking bored, we'd stuff CDs into sidepockets. Usually hip-hop or punk, whatever was the freshest, angriest shit that week, but it didn't really matter. We just did it to reaffirm our might and our fearlessness, our staggering superiority over the law. Nowadays, we all sit at home alone, Googling the album title + "mediafire," "rapidshare," "megaupload" or "sharebee," thrill-less and wearing jeans that actually fit.
    * MP3: "Hustler" - Simian Mobile Disco from Attack Decay Sustain Release [Buy it]

    14) “Giddy Stratospheres” – The Long Blondes
    That fuck had started drinking tea. And not just any tea, but something organic with anti-fuckin-oxidants. Since her introduction, with her tight, pencil-pierced bun and sexless button-downs, he'd become as fascinating as the Dewey Decimal system. I tried to tell him, tried to subtly point out that he was forgoing whole weeks of earth-quaking parties. But he mumbled an excuse about seeing a Romanian film and a show at the Whitney. I stammered and punched him in the mouth and stormed out like the vixen I was. I seethed at the thought of him among all those pretentious pricks, admiring those postmodern splatters like he'd ever figure them out.

    * MP3: "Giddy Stratospheres" - The Long Blondes from Someone to Drive You Home [Buy it]

    13) “It’s The Beat” – Simian Mobile Disco

    Slippery and electric, synthetic and luxurious. Hidden under our gaudiest costume jewelry, our vintage-shop Halloween masks, our ballgowns and tutus, our nothing but our tattoos. We were orphans, freaks, maniacs, heartthrobs, closet accountants. Shadow figures consigned to somebody else's periphery. Here, we could invite the music to slither through our veins, to snake into our systems, to make us into something incredible and permanent. We could build towers out of every brick-like beat, construct nests and igloos and shelters for ourselves out of every sanctuary pulse.

    12) “Stronger” – Kanye West
    Bottle service, banquette behind a velvet rope, mononomial models from the Ivory Coast or the Eastern Bloc. Wearing shades in the darkest corners, Tokyo-imported kicks, an outfit sporting more designer labels than Fashion Week. Everyone knows you're here and feels cooler by association; you can hear the self-congratulatory whispers even over the impossibly loud bassline. One of your singles obviously, followed by two or three artists just signed to your label, followed by two more known to run in your coterie. The world is yours, as tangibly in your possession as a diamond record and a storeroom-new Lambo. Your phone--one of your phones--rings, and strictly as a lark, you decide to answer. Over the noise, a voice as cold as metal says he's sorry to bother you at this hour. He's sorry, but your mom has passed away.

    11) “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem

    It was lines on our faces now, not lines of blow in dive-bar backrooms. We were bald or fat or both or maybe somehow even neither. We had kids at home or we would never get to have kids. Careers instead of temp jobs, pensions instead of assembling the change from every set of pants pockets we owned. Our greatest affairs were behind us, the wild, wobbly rendezvouses with leggy brunettes in trenchcoats, vacationing in Bordeaux with the poet with the silk-soft skin, or else they never even happened. Now is dreary and painfully comfortable, a life with the texture of pudding. Now is getting voicemail message after voicemail message, and all our friends sound just like our real estate agents.

    10) "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles
    The bleep-blop-boop of climbing ladders in Donkey Kong, Pacman chasing pixels of Adderall, a Pong dot bopping frantically between funhouse mirrors, 8-bit Mario with a case of the hiccups disco-dancing with Koopa Troopas and Lakitu's spinies. A pinball epileptically flashing in the clutches of a bonus zone, the digits of scores skittering upwards, the whole machine pulsing with frantic stimuli. Deep Blue during his precocious teen years. The robot from "Fitter, Happier" before he suffered his midlife crisis.
    * MP3: "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles from "Crimewave" EP [Buy it]

    9) “Guinea Pigs” – Desmond Reed
    I cried in my room for days. Mom let me miss school or it was the weekend, I don't really remember. But I know that when I finally left the bed, I came out armed with smiles as sharp and reckless as U-turns. Ludicrous Joker grins, lips nudging my cheekbones up toward my eyesockets, chuckles and giggles and hearty guffaws at the most ordinary of comments. Publicly, I looked happier than Ronald McDonald. But deep down, I kept asking myself, if a guinea pig can die, what about my sister, my parents, my best friends Peter and Chris, or even me?
    * MP3: "Guinea Pigs" - Desmond Reed from "Guinea Pigs" EP [Buy it]

    8) “Set Fire to the Face on Fire” – The Blood Brothers
    Pink slips weren't actually pink, it turned out, they were your boss flatly telling you to pack up the crap on your desk and hand in your laminated ID card downstairs. Who would he be now, he wondered, without a barcode to swipe, without five weekdays to prostitute, without a place to locate his loathing? Driving off, he felt like a weapon unsheathed. His neck was a baseball bat, his legs gun barrels, his fists lit rags. Every pedestrian looked like a walking dare and the long road home was nothing but a firing range.
    * MP3: "Set Fire to the Face on Fire" - The Blood Brothers from Young Machetes [Buy it]

    7) “Jimmy” – M.I.A.
    There was something unmistakably erotic about sample-size soaps. Plastic-wrapped shower caps and daily changed towels. They stayed in three-star hotels and made love with the curtains open. After dinner in the lobby restaurant, they would venture out into the streets. They were immediately mobbed by beggars, by limbless combatants, by starving, hollow-eyed evacuees. The carnage seemed to bleed into every shack and every abandoned field. It was impossible to cross the road outside the hospital now, because the ropes of waiting, wailing victims had become unbreakable. Back in their room, they undressed again, either as a tribute to the horrors or an antidote to them. The chemical slaps of Clorox and Lysol washed over them, reassuring them that there'd be many more warzones to visit in the future.

    6) “To Go Home” – M. Ward

    He had neatly written his eulogy on index cards. The burial plot had been selected, a shady little rectangle under a cyprus grove. He had written apologetic letters to long-ago lovers, settled his outstanding debts, and updated his will generously. The house had been sold to a young couple, the four rooms swept and deodorized of its associations. He hugged his sons goodbye and kissed his grandchildren's foreheads. Oh, how he kissed their smooth, smooth foreheads! Most of all, he asked everyone he visited not to cry in his memory. To instead honor his legacy by recalling a life characterized by lush and incessantly wondrous joys.

    5) “D.A.N.C.E.” - Justice
    Sixth-grade dance, gross purple streamers and some indistinguishable theme they called "A Night Under The Stars." They splintered into clusters quickly, boys with boys, girls with girls naturally. They did their best impressions of coolly aloof, hoping that somebody would notice their brand-new Nikes or haircuts. They double-dipped chips in salsa, drank unhealthy amounts of colas, scooped handfuls from the M & M bowl to look preoccupied. Justin Regan of class 6-3 loudly proclaimed to his group how embarrassing this shit was, and for a while, he was exactly right. But about an hour in, some brave boy led some brave girl to the center of the gym floor. Everybody gawked, whispered, reluctantly joined in by the next song. By the end of the night, Justin was ready to concede that maybe that shit hadn't been so bad.

    4) “Wet and Rusting” - Menomena
    Go to parties in monstrously large sunglasses and a ketchup-red bowtie. Hang out on the fire escape, bullshitting about philosophy and whatever you think Keynesian economics means. Accuse Kierkegaard of being a dick just to do it; adamantly pontificate on the pleasures of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Tim Burton movies. Streak the neighborhood in your socks, play beer pong and foosball really badly, make up elaborate stories about your friendship with three members of Grizzly Bear. Laugh like a villain so everybody knows how terrific things are. Talk to every person in sight, including the Domino's guy and the upstairs neighbor who came to bitch out the host. Plan collages you'll never actually create, maybe feel up a girl in the basement, feel tremendous and tiny in equal measure. Be ceaselessly hilarious. When you come home and she asks how your night was, say in a convincing voice, "Nothing special."
    * MP3: "Wet and Rusting" - Menomena from Friend and Foe [Buy it]

    3) “North American Scum” – LCD Soundsystem
    They sewed maple-leaf patches onto their backpacks. They weaved "eh?" and "aboot" into their parlance, until the words fit as naturally as slippers. When the plane landed, when they were bombarded by some much otherness, it didn't feel like enough anymore. So they picked out new origins, adopted new, equally absurd accents. In every country, they were from somewhere even farther and less plausible--Hamburg, Bratislava, Vladivostok, Ulaanbaatar. At the Louvre, they cringed when the plump Midwesterner pronounced the painters' names "Mo-nette" and "Dee-gass." In the 1st arrondissement, they avoided eye contact with anyone they suspected was their countryman. But the truth, the dumb secret truth of it, was they weren't homesick for places that didn't exist as they liked to claim. No, even steeped among all this beauty and art, they were just homesick for home.
    * MP3: "North American Scum" - LCD Soundsystem from Sound of Silver [Buy it]

    2) "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)"- UGK ft. Outkast
    Yeah, you could practically hear them swooning to the floor, their alleycat wails of disappointment. A hundred women tearing open the seals on the save-the-date envelopes. Then furiously tearing them to meaningless shreds. Yeah, it was going be a historic event, right alongside the Beatles on Sullivan on the moon landing. The bachelor no one could tame finally setting down moorings, getting himself hitched. Yeah, they'd all come from distant zip codes to mourn and howl madly like Sicilian widows, maybe even barricading the altar so that no vows could be exchanged. Or else they'd all fly up when the priest asked for objections, yelling over each other like a talk show audience. Something like that would happen no doubt, something that would keep the event from actually happening. At least that's what he kept telling himself as he buttoned up his tux and wiped the flopsweat from his brow.

    1) “Ice Cream” - Muscles
    All I wanted to do was leave this town forever. Perching over the yellow line, willing the F train to drag its stocky ass through the tunnel, loathing the world for being the world. I was late for work again, late as always, as more and more people congregated around me. Usually, I found some solace in crowds, but today, they just felt like lead ballasts on my feet. Finally, by nine-forty, the subway's milky yellow beams were painting the walls. The silver eel of the F was asthmatically chugging into the station. But of course, each car was already clogged with bodies, stuffed as a clown car, so laughable it was tragic. By now, I didn't give a fuck though; I shoved my way in as did the fifty people behind me. This was what reasonable people like us had been reduced to: faces pressed into strangers' armpits, elbows in ears, a zoo of smells. The anarchy of our everyday lives. Then, on the verge of snapping, I slipped in my headphones and I shut my eyes. Suddenly, I felt ecstatic and singular, sprawling and giddy. I drunk up every sugary blip and electric burp that the song served up. I started bobbing my head and tapping my toes to the beat, feeling eloquent and halfway human again.
    * MP3: "Ice Cream" - Muscles from Guns Babes Lemonade [Buy it]