While Ian McKaye is the first name most people think of when Fugazi is brought up, it should be remembered that Guy Picciotto has sung on many a great Fugazi song, and lectured just as many annoying punks about how Fugazi does not condone abusive behavior. Guy also ruled in Rites Of Spring, making many contributions to punk and post-punk music. So, in his honor, wish him a happy birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first ten songs that come up.
Twelve Caesars — Out Of My Hands (Youth Is Wasted On The Young): In Sweden, this band is known as Caesars Palace. However, the Las Vegas casino isn’t hep to that. So for the band’s first American release, on the local Minty Fresh label, they took on this awkward moniker. Eventually, they just went with The Caesars, scoring an iPod ad fueled hit with their Farfisa organ drenched garage rocker “Jerk It Out”. That song was just a somewhat slicker take on the great garage rock songs on this album, which is filled with memorable riffs and catchy choruses and moody vocals that make ever song compelling. On this song, they sound like The Hives on downers.
The Arcade Fire — Rebellion (Lies) (Funeral): Though I really liked Neon Bible and The Suburbs has grown on me, I don’t know if The Arcade Fire will ever top their debut. Sure, the band was building on the old school rock anthem traditions of Bruce Springsteen and U2, spiked with upbeat indie goodness in the vein of Neutral Milk Hotel, so it wasn’t like it was wholly original. But the band did it with a panache and sincerity, like it was something they had to do. Nothing sounds contrived, and everything is so passionate. I still get a rush listening to this song, which just keeps building momentum.
They Might Be Giants — Hope That I Get Old Before I Die (They Might Be Giants): Now that They Might Be Giants are so well established, it’s easy to forget how genuinely weird they were when they just started. They were just the two Johns, one on guitar, the other on accordion, who would bring cue cards for an audience sing-a-long, or play percussion with a log. And the music was such a cool deconstruction of pop music, the avant garde at its most cuddly. Not only did they fool around with musical motifs, but they also twisted lyrical themes. This song is an odd shuffle taking The Who’s theme from “My Generation” and inverting it. This is a rare TMBG song where both John Flansburgh and John Linnell share the lead vocal duties.
Fretblanket — Abandon Ship (Home Truths From Abroad): In the wake of grunge, there were a bevy of guitar bands getting signed to major label deals. Fretblanket was kind of like a less obvious version of Bush, leavening any Nirvana wannabe tendencies with a bit of Catherine Wheel elan.
Radio Birdman — Breaks My Heart (More Fun) (Living Eyes): This is a typically sublime slice of Detroit inspired garage-punk from the second album by these Australian legends. What makes Birdman so great is that they play everything with molten hot intensity, whether it’s a serious rocker, or if it’s a more light hearted melodic tune, like this one.
Dana Gillespie — Souvenirs of Stefan (Foolish Seasons): Gillespie was a British ’60s girl pop singer who transitioned into singer-songwritery type stuff as the decade wore on. This has a bit of a French pop feel to it, which is fitting, since she’s singing to a French lover.
Doleful Lions — Here Come The Star Nations (7): The most recent Doleful Lions album found Jonathan Scott’s brother Robert playing a larger role, adding a lot of retro-‘80s keyboard sounds which gave Jonathan’s ethereal melodic folk songs a gloss akin to artists like OMD and New Order. This didn’t always work, but when it did, it gave an extra bounce to some of Jonathan’s sunnier material. This would have sounded fine with just an acoustic guitar, but instead it is a very unique synth-pop sound, topped by Jonathan’s angelic voice.
The Association — Don’t Blame It On Me (Just The Right Sound: The Association Anthology): This is folk-pop song that turns into sublime soft pop with those amazing Association harmonies. It’s not a top notch song, like their many classic hits, but the performance is indelible.
Nick Lowe — Long Limbed Girl (At My Age): Lowe’s career renaissance continued with the At My Age album. Lowe has pared down the pop song to its essence, mixing in R & B and country and traditional rock and roll into economical packages. No notes are wasted and his laid back approach and slightly weathered croon make these songs go down so easy. This loping tune has some nice soulful horns on this celebration on a former lover, who apparently was very tall.
The Who — Glow Girl (The Who Sell Out): This song is a bonus cut on the reissue of The Who’s first concept album. This is a song about woman who is on a plane that is crashing, and what is going through her mind. She starts by inventorying the contents of her purse. This obviously didn’t fit on the faux Top 40 radio theme of The Who Sell Out, but it showed the thoughtful literary dimension of Pete Townshend’s songwriting. Moreover, this song contains one of the musical themes that Townshend later used for one of the songs on Tommy.