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Archive for August, 2009

10 Years, 100 Songs: #48. “Last Night, I Had a Dream About You…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 31, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

One of the important things to remember about Daft Punk is that before they became the de facto dance crush of indie kids who couldn’t tell Autechre from Paul Oakenfold, nobody in this country seemed to have any fucking clue what to make of Discovery. It got lukewarm reviews from publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, sold unimpressively, and generally just confused stateside fans used to the growling, often caustic funk of 1997 debut full-length Homework, by then an established classic. Personally, I had trouble just getting through the album my first time out, put off by the obvious pop structuring, the cheesily emphatic (and robotized) vocals, and just the general lack of exhilerating menace to be found among these light, almost retro-sounding party songs. It was jarring, it was disappointing, and it seemed like an absolute career-killer.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #49. “I Try But You See, My Heart is Saying No”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 27, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I still love mashups. Just as much as I ever did, really. Few things about the Naughty Oughties disappointed me as much as the apparent death of the mashup, at least in terms of buzz or relevancy. Yeah, yeah, you can tell me all about how the mashup’s actually been around forever and continues to survive in DJ culture, where it’s just not as cute or gimmicky. Fair enough, but I still miss the days when these things circulated like e-mail forwards, when they actually caught the attention of critics and radio programmers and made the whole world (or at least certain pockets of the internet) smile just a little bit wider for four minutes at a time. And I don’t buy that they were fleeting flights of fancy, either, that they were novel for a couple listens but rarely after–the bad, awkward ones, sure, but the best of ’em will certainly age just as well, if not better, than any number of other ephemeral 00s musical subgenres.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #50. “Trust Me…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 26, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

It’s tough to imagine that any band will be able to use the music video to propel themselves to mainstream success quite as effectively as My Chemical Romance did in the mid-00s. Oh, sure, there’ll be the YouTube phenoms–vids riding a cute gimmick or two that can become briefly fad-worthy–but it’s doubtful that they’ll be enough to launch an entire career out of. MCR used the video medium in the old school, Duran Duran sort of way to not just show the world what they looked like, but to craft an identity for the band through the video medium. Like LeBon and company, they just looked to be having so much fun making these videos–playing dress-up, inviting their friends, crafting elaborate storylines and choreographing big dance numbers. Director and regular collaborator Marc Webb did for MCR what Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris did for the Smashing Pumpkins a decade earlier–take an essentially weird band with an occasionally uncommercial sound and make them accessible and lovable to the masses, to the very brink of superstardom.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #51. “So Here’s Your Holiday…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 26, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

You don’t need me to tell you about what a great band Blink-182 are/were, do you? Nothing used to get me madder than critics or other music listeners with no sense of perspective citing Blink-182 as Part of the Problem–there was never a stage of their career that they weren’t head and shoulders above their peers in just about every respect. The playing, the songcraft, the production, the harmonies, the humor, the videos (well, some of the time…)–there were but a handful of bands around the turn of the millennium that could be relied on for quality as consistently as Blink. Song-for-song, Enema of the State is just as good as the first Ramones album, and the band’s greatest hits can level-peg with Singles Going Steady any day of the week. Hopefully this is already something of a given with rock radio listeners by now, and hopefully it will be only further purveyed in future years, but it’s an important distinction to make just in case you still haven’t figured out the difference between them and SR-71.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #52. “For Me, It Didn’t Go Wrong, We Just Made Another Song…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 22, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

It took me a long, long time to get this song. It didn’t help that I always found (and still find) Vocalcity, Luomo’s dance-aficianado-adored 2000 LP, to be somewhat obscenely overrated. Six songs long, Vocalcity stretched over nearly 77 minutes of minimally adorned house music, light on hooks and more than a little bit heavy on repetition. It was hypnotic in a way, but in another, more accurate way, it was unbearably dull. It was probably somewhat innovative at the time in its minimalism, but listening to it today, most of it just sounds like unremarkable chic-restaurant background music. It’s almost worth listening to, though, just to get to “Tessio,” the album’s climax and centerpiece, a song gorgeous, brilliant and heart-rending enough to make the ridiculous tension of sitting through the previous 52 minutes of tedium feel just like one virtually endless buildup to the song’s grandeur.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #53. “I Never….”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 20, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I hate to start off an entry on a list generally devoted to non-stop reverence and love, but I’m afraid I have to lead with this: Shame on The Killers for me ranking this song so low. If things had gone the way they should have, or the way I thought they should have back in 2004-05, “Mr. Brightside” would have been a lock for the top ten. It’s hard to explain, even to myself now, just how exciting this song was as it was becoming popular–rocketing up the pop charts and winning VMAs, hot off the unexpected modern rock breakthroughs of the similarly unexpected Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand, as well as their own “Somebody Told Me”. But unlike with those bands, where you knew pretty much right away that the hits were flukes of time and circumstance, highly unlikely to ever be repeated, The Killers seemed to have loftier goals in mind. They seemed like they just might have been destined for true greatness–to maybe, just maybe, breathe down the necks of Coldplay and Linkin Park as the Biggest Band in the world.

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Red Letter Day: 1K, Bitches

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 19, 2009

1000

It was certainly down to the wire, but just before midnight, we here at Intensities in Ten Suburbs reached a true milestone: Our first ever 1,000-hit day on the blog, at least since WordPress started tracking these things at the beginning of 2008. We’ve come close a couple times over the last month, but could never quite crack the millennium mark until yesterday (up to 1050, in fact!) This may not sound like a lot to some of you–hell, it isn’t a lot–but it’s leaps and bounds from our humble, 200-on-a-good-day beginnings, and it keeps our juices flowing to deliver more endless diatribes about teen drama vixens and forgotten nu-metal ballads.

Thanks to everyone who’s continued to visit IITS since Stylus shut down, who’s let us know you’re out there in the comments section, or who’s helped spread the word about the recent 00s countdown. In the words of Drake, we would fuck with all of y’all, all of y’all are beautiful.

In the meantime, keep on coming: The best is yet to come. Technically speaking.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #54. “We Were Both Sixteen and It Felt So Right…” h

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 19, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

As I’ve no doubt referred to earlier on this blog, my favorite song of the 90s was the Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy.” The reasons why are innumerous–certain lyrical phrases, vocal inflections, guitar sounds, associated memories, etc. But if I had to pinpoint the main explanation for my love, it’d have to be the song’s overall sense of urgency. The song was basically about a bleary-eyed booty call, and with a different tone and delivery, it could’ve sounded sarcastic and sleazy. But writer Doug Hopkins and lead singer Robin Wilson gave the song such passion and vulnerability, that it ended up seeming like a matter of absolute life and death–like either the girl in question gives Hopkins/Wilson one last chance at this very second, or both will be destined to live the rest of their lives loveless and alone. And from the reved-up intro to the shambolic ending, every second of “Hey Jealousy” is imbued with that gigantic sense of feeling. (Do I need to link to the video? Yeah, sure, why not. Watch it again, please.)

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Listeria: The Ten Levels of Avoiding Sports Media

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 19, 2009

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One of the weird functions of working at night means that the amount of sports news I watch is vastly disproportional to the amount of actual sports I watch, since I’m away for when all the events actually happen and can only see what I deem important enough to tape and watch when I get home at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. But home all day in the afternoon, I invariably end up watching an unhealthy amount of after-the-fact sports news coverage, just because it’s often the only thing on that’s at all worth watching (at least when SOAP and A&E are cycling through re-runs of The O.C. and The Sopranos that I’ve already re-watched recently). Naturally, in the eight hours between the start of First Take and the end of Pardon the Interruption, things can get a little bit repetitive.

All I can hope for during this time period is that certain topics don’t happen to pop up. I can handle endless replays of the same game highlights, or different commentators’ lame jokes about the same blooper reels, but there are certain news stories that have recurred so often over the last year or two, and have become so mundane or asinine over that time, that when they happen, it can force me to actually make the effort to find something better on TV, or turn the TV off altogether (well, usually nothing that extreme, but you know). The mere sight of these buzzwords in headlines fills me with dread and positively ruins my Wednesday afternoon. If you’ve read this far, you can probably already guess most of ’em off the top of your head. But just in case…

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #55. [Ringtone]

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 18, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

There once was a place for instrumental dance music in American pop culture. In the 70s, the charts were filled with funk instrumentals from the likes of Billy Preston and Dennis Coffey, and then with voxless disco smashes from Herb Alpert, Walter Murphy and countless others. Even in the 80s, Jan Hammer still got a #1 hit out of his pulsating theme to Miami Vice. By the 90s, though, as club music became more and more foreign to mainstream America, it all but died out completely. I’m still not really sure why–yeah, Americans like words to sing along to, but do we really have no room in our hearts for dance remixes of TV themes anymore, or tranceified classical themes, or anything of the sort?

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