2006: My Favorite Songs of the Year That I Could Draw
Yeah for da music!

Intro: I drew some songs this year. Good songs? Probably.
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Mogwai – "Auto Rock"

Mogwai have never lived up to the "truth" of the Mogwai I read about. Flip, flip through the magazine: Page 52 says they're sheer terror. Click, click on the computer: This link casts them as apocalyptic rock gods. Turn off the hyperbole beats and turn up the reality jams... Loud? Yes. Out of control? Uh... they drive the car fast, but they never veer off to catch a sweet ramp. Still, I like Mogwai. Good sit-in-the-fog rockers. But I secretly desire for more. I dream for Mogwai to crush me with something besides their song titles. Turning on Mr. Beast finally decimated me — not with volume or menace, but with a deep, slow spill of foreboding. "Auto Rock" is all synth shimmer, poked piano riffs, affected guitars, and one-drum whomp over and over. This is the apocolypse rock I have been promised. But instead of soundtracking the Big Death Time, they give us the prelude. This is Satan's hand rising from the ground, the fingers poking through the asphalt on a busy street. Each red claw feels the earth's air and knows soon that air will be steam. So evil. Evil evil evil. Proof of evil: as it progresses, it gets louder.
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Pissed Jeans – "Don't Need Smoke to Make Myself Disappear"

We are in the midst of a rock vocal renaissance, with passion and personality once again shattering the well-worn impersonations. I have a quartet of these all-stars in mind at all times, and while Elisa Ambrogio, Jess Goddard, and Mike Turner might be weirder, Pissed Jeans' Matt Korvette is the most immediately engaging of the bunch. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "Don't Need Smoke to Make Myself Disappear." Their first Sub Pop single — haha, right? — starts with dumb drums, my least favorite PJ bass riff, and Korvette delivering it all from the throat. Guitar feedback howls in the back, taking the back seat to the way he spouts "to disappear." The rest of PJ give him a minute-and-a-half to yell before truly beginning, and the track lasts five because Korvette never stops. I barely like the song, but with him at the mic, I think it rules.

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Comets on Fire – "Hatched Upon the Age"

Avatar put Comets On Fire's money where their mouths were. They rattled out the classic rock as straight as they could, while still maintaining the dynamic sonic curves that make them one of the most exciting rock bands around. Their sound works in waves, the beats bending with the strings, and that takes a lot of control. I interviewed Ethan Miller a few years back, and he talked about how Noel driving his guitar and vocal through the echoplex was good for the band — it let Miller stop being such a control freak. The band wrote the songs together on Blue Cathedral, and now drummer Utrillo Belcher has upped his piano game (showcased so well on "Pussyfoot the Duke" earlier) to full effect here. Miller becomes the preacher instead of the banshee, the noodles are warm instead of scorching... and when he says, "supremacy," he must be talking about his band.
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Impractical Cockpit – "Passion of a Cop"

To Be Treated was uneven. This trait is normally considered a weakness. But unevenness is Impractical Cockpit's game, and they used it to best effect on individual songs, especially by cranking up the tempo on "Passion of a Cop." The first 56 seconds are all haunted-house creeps and broken electronics (duh, it's IC). But when the positively disco beat kicks in and the bass starts, the haunted house speeds up too, crumbing in cartoon, fast-forward wackiness. The action gets so hectic they start to resemble Fat Worm Of Error in grayscale. And the vocals are the Neil Young/Residents hybrid my dad has always promised me. Until this year, my dad was lying about those kind of vocals existing. Can you believe my own dad would lie to me?
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Warmer Milks – "The Shark"

This was easily my favorite track of the year. I didn't rate the rest of these, but consider the Warmer Milks rated. Confident guitar plucks, effective bee-swarm dissonance, and sparse cymbal taps begin the journey into "The Shark." This song must loom at the start. "The Shark" is a trip that necessitates beginning brood. Mike Turner and friends take us to deep sea in the middle of the woods on this one, the water above the thick trees only obvious after the delayed bass kicks in two-and-a-half minutes into it. It's the beginning of the jam, a most primal rock stomp. Check the cascading guitar line out of The Walkmen fakebook, and then just as easily check your preconceptions about singing as a musical choice. Mike simply obliterates the idea of rock vocals with his gutteral howl. Seriously, if you haven't heard this track, you haven't heard the weirdest new male rock voice in ages. It's Tom Waits as a pissed-off teenager discovering his own puberty as it happens in oscillation. Or it's Nate Young singing karaoke to the entire Kinks catalog at once, at the bottom rung of hell. Actually, it's Turner singing with his whole head. When he wails "Let the shark take your life/ You tried to take it the other night," seven (feels like three) minutes in, through reverb and thick-rock smoke, the stakes are higher than suicide or Open Water-scenario murders. Jesus would listen to this jam if he was thinking about killing his dad. (Merry Christmas!)
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Fat Worm of Error – "Special Bonus Thing"

Fat Worm Of Error used to remind me of the '90s. Now, after Pregnant Babies Pregnant with Pregnant Babies — and especially this opening track to that album -- they have emerged in my mind as an alternate '00s. FWoE are the only type of band we would have if Y2K had lived up to the hype. These brain-enders are all malfunctioning instruments, pedals negating guitars, drums and machines and drum machines, and a hysterical post-computer crash woman losing her skin to mechanized sun rays over the whole jitter-business. There's a wonderfully warped sense of rhythm on this track, and the sheer ecstacy of Goddard releasing her lips — opening and flappin' around like cartoon blinds being drawn — at the minute and a half mark is truly one of the most underrated moments of my life. (You've been rating my life, right? 3/5?) I sing along with her while I drive sometimes, and it makes me feel understood, like… I'm just going to say it: Jess, will you marry me?
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Excepter – "If I Were You [Live]"

The opening line — "I'd like to introduce our machines to you/ But I forgot their names/ I'd like to shake hands with each and everyone of you / But I'm onstage" — would be the best line of vocal improvisation I've heard all year if Magik Markers hadn't released 10 records. There's something bizarrely Strokes about that moment of "If I Were You [Live]," with the vintage synth shimmer propping up the disaffected drawl. Then they take the Mainstream comparisons into even funnier territory, playing with the tempo on a Casio-inspired drum loop and John Fell Ryan muttering something about "down the avenue," street-walking being hilarious subject matter for these four. They pull it off, and the minimal aesthetics found everywhere else on Alternation fits best here, the cheese of the fake-guitar synths hitting the drum beat just right, and Ryan's mad mumble being put to expert use. And even though I've name-checked "hilarious" moments, please don't think there's irony here. Because once again, Excepter are working on a different plain. There's no irony, only cool fonts. (I love their fonts!)
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Oneida – "Thank Your Parents"

"Thank Your Parents" made me believe in the Oneida that cares enough to slow down — piano slams and Kid Millions' beautiful vocals giving fans of the group the sweats over what could come from the three-disc Thank Your Parents that Happy New Year replaced as the 2006 release. "We talked about your parents..." And the best part is, I bet they do talk about parents; these are some stand-up dudes.
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Magik Markers – "Untitled"

This song, the first track off the Road Pussey CD-R, crawled into my mouth when I first heard it. It could do that because my jaw was open. Until that point in June, I had never heard MM without the attack. I didn't think it was possible. But here, the confidence in vulnerability — a trademark of the way they play, the way Elisa sings, the way they do everything — is heavy in the foreground. Her lyrics wonderfully slide off the repeated piano, words like, "You came back alive/ When you should've been dead/ Ghosts and rocks and fingers/ Rattlin' in my head" covered in reverb. Then an abrupt ending, rendering the whole track some kind of mistake, some kind of blip, some kind of phantom feeling from America's Tear Down Music All-Stars.
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Bardo Pond – "Destroying Angel"

I saw them perform this song live at Terrastock in April. I was wearing earplugs and covering my ears, and I still got a headache. They projected a skull onto a screen, and mushrooms. So unnecessary... the music already screams it.

  

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