SIDE A | by Mandy O'Hara
1. Radiohead | Let Down
Still a great rock band after all these years, Radiohead have never released a bad album. This track from OK Computer remains my favorite. This album came out when I was in high school, and I would listen to it every night when I went to bed. I love Thom Yorke's vocals on this song, the lyrics, the harmonies, everything. I wish I had his voice.
2. David Bowie | Starman
If Thom Yorke is my favorite singer, David Bowie is a close second. A god, an alien, maybe both.
3. The Black Heart Procession | Waterfront (The Sinking Road)
I always imagine a sunken ship full of pirate ghosts when I listen to this song. It's the song that would be playing while I killed someone. Not that I'd ever kill someone...
4. The Promise Ring | Why Did Ever We Meet
This was my favorite band to see live, and I'm so glad we got to see them a few times before they broke up. They are a happy drug; Davey exudes this infectious energy on stage and their shows have such a friendly, intimate atmosphere.
5. Cocteau Twins | Circling Girl
Liz Fraser's voice is just inhuman, and she lets it soar and dance through a haze of guitars on this song. The Cocteau Twins had so many great songs, and they're obviously one of our bigger influences, so it was hard to narrow it down to just one.
6. The Isley Brothers | This Old Heart Of Mine
This is beach music, kind of music i grew up listening to on 8-track. It gets me thinking about being at the beach having a beer with family and friends, just complete happiness.
7. Paavoharju | Musta Katu
Another great Paavoharju song with Joose Keskitalo on vocals. Bouncy groove and a happy vibe on this track, a great way to close a spooky, haunted album.
8. The Pixies | River Euphrates
My favorite song to sing in a car. Frank Black is an evil genius, and we love him so much we named our cat after him (RIP Frank 2001-2008) :*(
9. Spiritualized | Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Though this song opens up an album about a breakup, it's the album we listened to when we were falling in love and it always reminds me of that time. The mix of emotions on this song is at times almost too much to bear.
10. Amanda Palmer | The Point Of It All
Just a great singer and songwriter. I love the lyrics and message in this song: no matter what happens in your life, you're the one in control of how you react.
SIDE B | by John O'Hara
1. Hum | Stars
I remember the first time I heard this song. I was about fifteen years old, sitting in a car one night waiting for someone to come out, passing the time scanning the radio dial. I stopped on this song and was hooked from the moment the drums kicked in, and fifteen years later I haven't heard a riff as good as the one in the middle of this song. Yeah, you know the one. That one riff, before the last chorus...They could play that one riff for a half hour and I wouldn't get tired of it. It's what the electric guitar and distortion pedal were invented for. I really don't spend a lot of time learning other people's songs, but I can play every song on You'd Prefer An Astronaut and Downward Is Heavenward.
2. Burial | Archangel
Like the Hum song above, I remember the first time I heard this. I played it endlessly. When I first heard Burial, I found myself lost in some bleak, decayed dystopia. But it soon dawned on me that Burial's music does not belong to the future, but to this moment, right now, when all possibilities for alternative futures seem less and less likely, and all we can do is mourn for a utopian past that never existed.
3. Paavoharju | Italialaisella Laivala
My favorite Paavoharju album is Yhä Hämärää, but Laula Laakson Kukista features my favorite song. Joose Keskitalo sings Italialaisella Laivala, and any time Joose Keskitalo and Paavoharju team up, it is a treat. His voice sounds like it's coming to us from some long-lost iskelmä of the 30s or 40s and it just meshes so well with the Ainala brothers' crackly, noisy musical hauntology. Paavoharju makes music that is at once frightening and beautiful, an aesthetic that places them closer to their northern black metal cousins than with the cutsey, twee artists one normally associates with the phrase indie folk. It's a shame that Paavoharju isn't on anybody's best of the decade lists. Their two LPs certainly deserve to be there.
4. Boards Of Canada | 1969
Yhä Hämärää and Boards Of Canada's Geogaddi came out around the time that Mandy was working the night shift at the hospital. I had trouble sleeping by myself, so I'd stay up all night with a pair of headphones listening to these two records. There is something at once deeply unsettling and strangely comforting about these two groups. Like Burial, their sounds look to the past because, paradoxically, the present offers no vision of the future.
5. Ariel Pink | Alisa
Who would have thought that Pink's faded memories of 80s radio and early MTV would spawn a genre? Seems like everyone is making this kind of music under the umbrella of hypnagogic pop, the American strain of hauntology.
6. Slowdive | When The Sun Hits
7. My Bloody Valentine | To Here Knows When
If someone asked me, what is shoegaze? or what is dream pop? I'd play them these songs. When The Sun Hits is the single best song of the shoegaze era, as far as I'm concerned, and To Here Knows When is a close second. These two songs redefined the guitar for me. As much as I try to escape it, I think Hum and My Bloody Valentine are the two most obvious influences our guitar playing.
8. Pyha | Song For The Elderly
It's not a huge leap from the more Gothic branch of shoegaze (early Slowdive, for instance) to black metal. The two genres share an aestethic sensibility: Loud guitars up front, drums and vocals low in the mix. Whether the rumors surrounding this enigmatic album by Pyha are true or not (he is supposedly a kid from South Korea who recorded this album in his bedroom when he was 12-14 years old), this album remains one of my favorites of the genre. Haunted House is the noisiest, nastiest, most crap-sounding, broken-down album I've ever heard (I mean all that in a good way). My relationship to black metal is much like my relationship to my favorite era in literature, the modernist era: black metal artists, like many modernist artists, reject bourgeois society; they correctly diagnosed the problems of capitalism and liberal democracy, but their conclusions were entirely wrong: they either looked back to an edenic past before humans ruined the world (your ecological black metallers) or they find a scapegoat for society's ills and see themselves as superior (your Nazi and fascist black metallers). I like the confrontational sound and the revolutionary anger; I would just like to see it harnessed for egalitarian purposes. Likewise, lots of modernists harbored abhorrent views; Lord Jim is one of my favorite novels, for instance, despite Joseph Conrad's personal views. Ezra Pound is still a great poet despite the fact that he made radio broadcasts for Mussolini.
9. Refused | New Noise
Can I scream? Yeah! The year before the Battle of Seattle, there was The Shape Of Punk To Come, with Refused invoking the spirit of '68. I first heard New Noise on some punk compilation, and it was so different and so much more brutal than the standard play-as-fast-as-you-can pop punk of the mid-90s. Refused, as well as the (International) Noise Conspiracy, truly were the shape of punk to come, influencing the sounds and styles of so many emo and indie bands of the first half of the 00s. Too bad their revolutionary politics weren't as influential.
10. Throwing Muses | Hate My Way
Here's a song that should be on a Women's Lit syllabus. Authors like Tillie Olsen and Virginia Woolf wrote about the everyday lives of women, and in Hate My Way we get a glimpse into the soul of a woman who is suffering, trapped: I'm caught in a jungle, vines tangle my hands...I have a gun in my head...I'm invisible... The way Kristin Hersch delivers these lines just kills me. The band is at their tightest here, and we get to see how accomplished of a band the Muses really were. They could really play, at once mechanical and groovy, but always in lockstep. This song sounds at once free-flowing and formless yet tightly-wound and robotic.