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Rounding Up The Best Singles Your Quarters Can Buy. If Only.


Posted 12/12/2007

The internet even fucked jukeboxes. It wasn't enough to take out our record stores, cause panic about the "death of the album," steal food from the mouths of starving orphans, er, money from the pockets of major music labels. No, the internet had to go and steal our jukeboxes, too.

You know what I'm talking about. They started showing up in the sluttiest of bars first, the ones without heart, where the jukebox was just a way to make the bar an extra buck and keep the music-licensing hawks off its back for playing "uncleared" tunes from behind the bar (usually part of the jukebox deal is that the contents of said box are cleared with ASCAP, BMI, et al., who would otherwise sue your ass). Then even the pubs that seemed to care about its juke-the ones that snuck in their own mix CDs of handpicked songs, that switched up the rotation every coupla weeks-started switching over to that monstrosity, that democratic beast (how dare bars assume that all musical taste is created equal!), that soulless fucking computer: the internet jukebox.

There was a time when you could pick a bar based on what was in the jukebox. You knew who was going to be there (Mezzanine? You might just get laid.), how much the drinks would be (Tom Waits? You're good and sloshed on $20. Old Tom Waits? Try $15.), and damned if you couldn't just make the night a game of jukeboxing. Whose turn issit with the quarters? Who's got the next songs? Don't let that fucker get in there with his: Hurry!

Now you get an ad vehicle. In between pages of major-label music and "select" independent music flash Miller and Bacardi advertisements. Those cheaper, preloaded, uniformly wretched songs that you don't have to "search" for? You can bet someone somewhere decided--nay, calculated--that you should see those first, placed so the odds are better that you'll go for saving 50 cents and advertise whatever new factory music garbage they're trying to push up the sales charts. It's called "featured placement" or "strategic placement." It means paying to be advertised to. And don't forget it means being "metered"; someone out there is counting how many times you press that button for "Gimme More."

We went ahead and stocked our own theoretical jukebox, snuck in a couple of our own unauthorized mix CDs. Why? Well, because we're jukebox snobs. We're that small cluster sitting in the corner knowing just what the whole bar needs to hear at any given moment. You'll miss us when we're gone. (Michael Byrne)

Pig Destroyer "Girl in the Slayer Jacket" (Relapse)
Everyone's favorite grindy Virginians appear to be verging on a Mastodon moment: new album much hyped in advance (you know, in metal terms), critical raves, the cover of Decibel, the best music magazine in America. Of course, it helps that the quartet continues to churn out an impressively ugly racket that still finds room for the occasional neck-whipping riff or five. Most startling of all, you feel something for the dead girl in this Pig Destroyer song ("They blamed her boyfriend and PCP/ But the truth is her eyes/ Had been dead since she was 5," singer J.R. Hayes howls), and for once it feels like the band does, too. (Lee Gardner)

Melodium "13" (Audio Dregs)
Melodium is a French gentleman named Laurent Girard with a devastating next-level understanding of melody-as in, record labels should study his brain--who releases rain-streaked, broke-up instrumentals perfect for either falling asleep or drowning-it-in-wine and then falling asleep, albeit not much else. The piano on this track-looped and stacked two deep-feels like someone grazing a finger along the base of your brain. (Michael Byrne)

All Saints "Chick Fit" (Paralphone)
The reunion bid single from this late-1990s British all-female quartet didn't crack the Top 40 in England (or here, for that matter), but it's still a rousing bout of cracked electronic pop. In fact, if you squint your ears, its squishy percussions and foggy synth lines recall some of the slicker moment on M.I.A.'s Kala--and then the pitch-corrected four-part harmonies come in and it's like Kylie Minogue and En Vogue had a baby and its time to head to the gym and do 10 million crunches before we even think about ripping off the shirt on the dance floor. (Bret McCabe)

Kelly Rowland "Like This"
Sorry, Rihanna. Along with Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss," this single was the defining vibe of summer singles 2007: gal jams that celebrate the self. "Boy Looka Here" producer Polow da Don packed three distinct-and bruising--beats and temperaments into this slice of cagy R&B. At first it feels like more post-Destiny's Child soul pop with the distracting keyboards and gently rising and falling synth lines. But the drums in the background pound out a pelvic taunt, and the bridge into Eve's rap is a gloriously symphonic swell that crashes into the final chorus' drums-only breakdown. It's a masterful show of pop dynamics slyly laced with libidinal glee. (BM)

Sarolta Zalatnay "Itt a Nyar" (Finders Keepers)
We spent waaaaay too much time on the internets in 2006 trying to track down anything by a female artist we'd heard/heard of only thanks to one extremely poor-quality MP3 of a funky foreign-language '70s git-down downloaded from some blog somewhere. Come 2007, boom, crate-digger specialist label Finders Keepers comes out with a whole album from Janis Joplin's long lost Hungarian little sister. (We were searching "Zalatnay Sarolta," duh.) Flare-wearing guitar/bass crunch over a cowbell-loving drummer, with Zalatnay's reedy rasp driving the whole thing into Quentin Tarantino fetish territory. Dig. (LG)

The Go Team "Doing It Right" (Memphis Industries)
This six-piece British pop/rock outfit makes music that sounds like it came with a totally obscure but really frigging cool 1970s children's program about fighting the bad guys of space with an army of kids and elephants and orangutans-or something like that. In that vein, "Doing It Right" would be the theme song, an up-with-everything ode to celebration of doing, well, alright. What Neutral Milk Hotel might have turned out if its members liked cotton candy and, you know, talked to girls. (BM)

Kia Shine "Krispy" (Universal)
Right now this is a minor, memorable snap-flavored hit by a middling Southern rapper who survives a few verses and choruses about male peacocking ("my jeans 900, shoes 850" he brags). In 20 years, this is gonna sound like the perfect time capsule of hip-hop 2007. (LG)

DJ C Feat. Zulu "Body Work" (Community Library)
Incredibly destructive in the right situation, DJ C drops heavy, fast riddum in this fit of skittering breakbeat dubstepped dancehall somethingorother. How Zulu manages to raga-flow fast enough to keep up is totally beyond us. (MB)

Panda Bear "Bros" (Paw Tracks)
The last thing the indie-rock world needs is another slavish Beach Boys fan trotting out Brian Wilson pastiches--just ask us, we'll tell you. That doesn't explain how Animal Collective member PB was able to get away with seemingly building his entire second solo release out of what appear to be actual pieces of Beach Boys songs--not samples, but mini-musical channelings. The epic "Bros" wafts along for more than 12 minutes on clouds of Wilsonian melody and harmony over a lightly clattering bed of percussion that wouldn't have sounded totally out on Pet Sounds, interrupted by the kind of whoops and noise breakdowns that make it clear what century this is. It could go on for another 12 minutes, easy. (LG)

Bonde Do Role "Marina Gasolina (Fake Blood Remix)" (Mad Decent)
What a ridiculous song this was in the first place. Frog noises, sex taunts, a tuba, lyrics in Brazilian Portuguese that may or may not have to do with setting yourself on fire, and all of it formed into some version of club music. Sub in an analog synth for the tuba, an air horn for the frog, and club music for "some version of club music," and here you are. (MB)

Holy Fuck "Safari" (Young Turks)
The sample-free live-band heir to DJ Shadow conjures up an atmospheric jam that doesn't forget to, uh, jam. (LG)

DJ Mehdi "Signatune" (Thomas Bangalter remix)
Daft Punk's Thomas Baghalter's remix of this DJ Mehdi slab compresses the skull-fucking bass line into distortion bombs that pound at the temples and ignite the ass to move. And moving is exactly what this turbocharged disco-house monolith inspires you to do for its entire six-minute duration, a 330 kilometers-per-hour bullet-train journey from Cologne to Paris trying to make it to the next party before the sun comes up. The fizzy, almost fried edges of the beats here are hypnotic, first rubbing the ears as if Brillo pads attached to an eggbeater and eventually becoming as caressing as a down comforter by the song's end. (BM)

White Rainbow "Pulses" (Kranky)
The least-tripped song of an album of hippy-Eno vibe trips, "Pulses"-all loops, groove, and bongo-wins because it tracks so well back to formative Yume Bitsu and Zome, before Adam Forkner went totally primordial on us. (MB)

Bodies of Water "Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn" (self-released)
However satisfying it is that one of the best years in music in this here millennium is also its weakest for indie rock-we're still not on the Justice bandwagon, but we're glad it hype-stomped the Shins-we have to tip our hats to the few that really did it right. Bodies of Water bobbed to the surface earlier this summer with its self-released debut, Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink, and hit a select few people of importance, gaining entry into the Secretly Canadian family and a proper international rerelease. "Our Friends'" brass section, giant orchestrations, and swollen three-part harmonies are all fine and good (and make the self-release thing all the more incredible), but the line-and, with it, the realization that something this grandiose can be tender-that goes "please touch my heart with your tongue" lingers. We think it's about God, and, to be honest, it kind of makes us want to get in on that. (MB)

Rihanna with Jay-Z "Umbrella" (Def Jam)
After ruling the summer of 2005 with "Pon de Replay," Rihanna shows herself shrewder than the average R&B poppet by getting summer-jam king Jigga to guest on this summer-ruling single. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the song is a slight but polished pop confection and that the stammering chorus gives the track the kind of nagging, irreproducible hook that singers wait a lifetime for, and then spend a career living down. (LG)

The Fixxers "Can U Werk Wid Dat" (Interscope)
This duo out of Compton, Calif., whittles booty-quake music down to a skeletal, elemental electronic blip and thunderous, echoing boom for this slice of top-down female ogling: "I see you baby keep bouncin' on your tippy toes/ When the beat drop dip and make the booty roll." But DJ Quik isn't just out on the prowl, he knows he's got to show a woman a little something-something if he hopes to win her attention: "You sick of lame dudes frontin' wit attitude/ Talking bout their rims and all they damn tennis shoes." The hip-hop flirtatious leer grows up a very little bit with this blast of addictive bounce. (BM)

Yeasayer "2080" (We Are Free)
One of the best indie-type pop songs this year, "2080" was also one of the most blogged MP3s of the year (it came out way before the band's fall debut), proving something-maybe, but probably not-about the possibilities of mass vetting. In any case, it was unavoidable. The song's huge: kids' choir, church bells, giant, swooping chorus harmony that has to be like four people. Not like "November Rain" huge, but a swell of an incredibly tight, carefully scripted gospel-bent song that could be Animal Collective on Adderall. (MB)

Matthew Dear "Deserter" (Ghostly International)
Off the album that will unfortunately go down as the one Matthew Dear (aka microhouse guru Audion) went "indie," this is a melancholic confessional of a song that hews to its name with a surprising grace and sadness. "I am all that I've been looking for," he sings Yeah, we've heard Dear's voice before, lusted after it actually, but we never could have imagined him penning a breakup song. (MB)

Magik Markers "Body Rot"
Don't think of the more song-oriented Boss as noise-scree outfit Magik Markers' bid for indie-rock acceptance. Think of it as a caterwauling Sonic Youth album full of nothing but Kim Gordon songs. Singer/guitarist Elisa Ambrogio has the same sort of hollow 4 a.m. dark-alley throat as Gordon, that ability to ooze deadpan scary and sexy--and maybe even a little undead--at the same time. And "Body Rot" is a two-minute explosion of pent-up anxiety that sounds very Confusion Is Sex-era Youth. (Bret McCabe)

Scout Niblett "Kiss" (Beggars)
Duet of the year. Where Scout Niblett yawls, Will Oldham sneaks underneath with an earnest tenderness that cuts indie folk's favorite spazzoid to a level of intimacy barely touched until now. (MB)

Electrelane "To the East" (Beggars)
By now, we're plenty groomed to Electrelane's indie-hosed Krautrock formula-basically streamlined, sung-from-the-mountaintop Neu!--and, by all rights, it should have worn itself down to a nub of an idea after four albums. Worn, yes. Exhausted, hardly. Electrelane's turned the hose up to pop levels on this, and the song wastes no time racing into the arcing, interlocking lady vocals-one half monotone disinterest, the other a wordless EKG map of a vocal register. It's a celebration of a song, but one that comes off as incidental. (MB)

Hadouken! "Tuning In (Re-rub)" (Kitsune)
Mike Skinner wrecked grime once, but that doesn't mean Hadouken! (you know, as in Street Fighter) can't do it again, which doesn't mean it won't be a good time. "Re-rub" apparently means smearing your face all in it; this is snotty and abrasive and has that mates-bullshitting-in-the-pub conversational Streets thing going. It's a classic take on the old boy-gets-bored-listening-to-girlfriend-talking-and-blahblahblah tale. No doubt we'll want a meteor to hit this band by spring, but until then . . . (MB)

Los Campesinos! "You! Me! Dancing!" (Wichita)
Think of this septet as the Welsh Godspeed You Black Emperor!, as dedicated to sweetly transcendent pop as the Montreal nonet is to subverting the military-industrial complex. Treble-kicking guitars introduce this overkill! of exclamation! points! song, the excitement in triplicate because once the drums start rattling over the guitar chug, the entire band erupts into a surging morass of jittery energy as Gareth (no last names for this Campesinos! crew) sings a dance-pop anthem for everybody who feels they can't really dance. Now adopt a posh, fey British accent and repeat after me: brilliant! (BM)

Dwizz - "Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, and Hot Sauce"
We can't believe someone from Philly got to this before someone from Baltimore. (If we missed any B-more versions, please enlighten us ASAP.) But Dwizz goes on record, so to speak, as the first producer to put a takeout condiment order over a kickin' club beat. Talk about hot sauce. (LG)

Burial "Distant Lights" (Hyperdub)
A haunt of industrialized dub, this is as much about the sounds as the mood, which is like having a foggy day injected into your spinal fluid. The "beat" sounds like someone very deliberately arranging their silverware drawer and the production is basically one big echo-y thrum with a likewise echoed, very eroticized fellow laying a verse in between metal-on-metal clanks and scrapes. Even more so than the odd could-possibly-be-cover of "Teardrops" on the album, this is the track that threatens the most to resurrect the spirit of Massive Attack. (MB)

Strategy "Future Rock" (Kranky)
How Paul Dickow (see also: Nudge, Smoke and Mirrors) held this many ideas in his head long enough to record the nine minutes of this song boggles. Freaky minimal space-cadet training material; microchipped, anti-gravity jungle funk; cosmonaut seduction groove; leftovers from the backroom of the backroom. Read the title-half smarm, half honesty-back to yourself: This is pure sci-fi. (MB)

Girls Aloud "Sexy! No No No..." (Fascination Records)
No idea why totally shameless and manufactured British pop groups are infinitely more appealing than their American counterparts-Pussycat Dolls? Just threw up in my mouth a little bit-but it helps when their singles are as pleasurably vapid as Girls Aloud's "Sexy! No No No . . . ," the sort of furiously up-tempo preset pop that Pink should be doling out in her sleep. "Did you tell him? No, no, no/ Give him kisses? No, no, no/ Whisper honey? No, no, no/ You're delicious? Hell no!" If Le Tigre sang that over music this skittish, somebody's MySpace page would be calling it feminist. (BM)

Pig and Dan "Oh Yeah" (Cocoon)
As the duo Pig and Dan, Germany's Igor Tchkotoua and Dan Duncan make old-school techno, with all its piston-perfect cadences and mechanic pulses, and then bend it in about 25 different directions until its house-fueled, glitched-up, fierce-ghetto-bitch techno picks up the BPMs as the track unspools. And "Oh Yeah" the P to the D completely reinvents Yello's throaty "Oh Yeah" as a dance-floor bump and grind-cum-Blade-worthy fight scene-cum-autobahn bliss-out. (BM)

OCDJ "The Milk's Gone Bad" (Wildfire Wildfire)
We can't honestly say this has shit on the original-the dark, barely there pseudo-organic production on the Kelis version ("Milkshake") is a very cool thing-but OCDJ's cover/remix/theft is fun like cotton candy, gin, and roller coasters: midlevel "thups," Casio, and Kelis herself, cut, looped, and stacked into a pop hologram. (MB)

Cool Kids "Black Mags" (self released download)
The most sneak-attacking single of the year. A woozy bass line, which sounds so subterranean it might be piped in from Middle-earth, traces the faintest beat over which a concussive percussive tone echoes like a bouncing ball. It's about as rushed as a falling leaf, and this Chicago duo uses that permafrost chill vibe as the spine for a wobbly celebration of pimped-out BMX bikes. Tight. (BM)

Chemical Brothers "Do It Again (Audion remix)" (Astralwerks)
In which Audion (aka Matthew Dear) swipes "electronica" for himself, making something both deafeningly cold slash empty and, of course, suitably sexy of the Chemical Brothers' original disco-y nod to Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, and the various others that picked up the Chems' pop-electronic slack in the interim. It feels like flashbacks of the original, little jerks and teases show up in twisted ways, most of them in kind of a slo-mo Audion daydream-rather than the original falsetto, the "do it again" of this version sounds like the ruffied voice of God-that ends up being an Audion average of about 10 minutes long. (MB)

Skream "Make Me"
We like Burial, honest, we do, but at a certain point there's only so much sad skittering we can take. That's when we whip out this Skream cut, a juddering, cabinet-rattling dubstep stomper with the minimum cheesy-synth hook allowable by genre law. Even better, it sounds like what people always told us dubstep sounded like before that first Burial album came out. (LG)

Eve "Tambourine" (Aftermath)
In another life we get to have the best job ever: being Eve's hairstylist. So a little part of us cried inside when Eve's fourth album Here I Am was pushed from October 2007 to January 2008; fortunately, the catty lead single had already been let out of the bag. Swizz Beats lays down a snapping beat that sounds like a showdown between a marching band and an extreme bass-happy DJ for Philly's finest to run through another ladies-doing-it-for-themselves anthem that defined summer 2007. Hot--and the remix with Missy Elliott and Fabolous is even hotter. (BM)

50 Cent "I Get Money" (Aftermath)
Kanye West may have beat 50 Cent in week-of-release unit-moving, but nothing on Graduation comes close to matching the bombastic, SUV-rattling swagger of "I Get Money." Little more than a levitating bass line sword-sliced with a siren's screams and percussive rustle, "Money" is what 50 Cent does better than anybody else right now: the dance-floor flooding, fist-pumping, and defiantly cocksure club banger. (BM)

Northern State "Sucka Mofo" (Ipecac)
On Can I Keep This Pen? the rhyming and squealing friends from Long Island outgrow the female Beastie Boys tag that's always beset them and mature into something even better: a group of smart, fun women having fun while making music for smart, fun women. And in "Sucker Mofo," Northern State threw its hat into the ring of gals telling men to shove off: "You might know a sucker who tries to hard/ charges big deals on his Visa card/ when it's time for rent all's the money's spent/ that is such a motherfucking indigent." And it gets better: "Sucker put down that 40-ounce beer/ you was shopping at Abercrombie just this year." Throw in a midsong challenge to the Democrats in 2008, and there's no bad here. (BM)

Devendra Banhart "Lover" (XL Recordings)
We understand the many reasons why Banhart remains an acquired taste. There's the reedy voice, the freakish vibrato, the oddball songs, and, well, the general unwashed vibe. We're sure he washes, but just sayin'. Still, that doesn't explain why thousands of hippie chicks weren't singing along with this dog-simple poppy R&B number at every large outdoor musical gathering this summer. You just don't get bass lines this snappy, handclaps this peppy, and vocals this charming that often--the tune might as well come bundled with some essential oils and a condom. Is it the line about "lov[ing] you till you're sore"? In any event, further proof that Banhart could have Dave Matthews' career if he wanted it. (LG)

Rich Boy "Boy Looka Here" (Interscope)
It's the guitar that slays here. And you barely even hear it. Producer Polow da Don hijacks a pretty standard crunk drum line for the high-stepping pulse of this snarling Southern jam, but at certain points, over the verses he drops in what sounds like nylon-string arpeggios. And then, during the bridge after the second chorus, Da Don strips the song down to nothing but a militaristic stomp and what sounds like a proggy guitar workout. (BM)

Beyonce - "Get Me Bodied (Extended Mix)" (Sony)
Two great pop gimmicks from two different great pop eras collide: the new "deluxe edition" gambit that the record labels have decided is the best way to get you to pay for something twice meets the old-school lotsa-very-specific-instructions dance tune. The transcendence-on-the-dance floor tune is as good as it was last year, and the extended dance-like-this break on the revamped version is adorable, plus more of that step-friendly track. Our favorites are "do the uh-oh" and "do a Naomi Campbell walk." (LG)

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