Spider Bags- “Quatzalcoatl Love Song”

Winged serpent gods typically do not get a lot of name checks in scuzzy garage rock love songs, but Spider Bags eschew the typical in an awesome fashion.

From the opening lyrics, “When I’m walking on the sidewalk, and I’m chewing lorazepam,” are accompanied by a slinky bass line this song’s charms are pretty evident.Eventually, everything builds to a soaring, accordion backed chorus, and it’s time to hit replay.

5 Songs about Spider-Man

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For more than five decades Spider-Man has been a prominent figure in print, film and television. He’s brought joy to millions, and his likeness earns truckloads of money. To paraphrase Jay Z: he’s not just a Spider-Man, he’s a business, man. Spider-Man has also made some notable appearances in music. Everyone’s favorite web slinger may be an unlikely muse, but Spidey has inspired some exceptional, or at least interesting, music.

Disclaimer: The actual Spider-Man musical is still bad.

1. The Ramones- “Spider-Man”: This is a faithful cover of the iconic 1967 Spider-Man cartoon’s theme song. It’s performed with The Ramones’ trademark sneer and relentless speed. It rules.

2. Black Lips- “Spidey’s Curse”: This song from the raucous Atlanta lo-fi rockers draws its inspiration from a dark Spider-Man story about molestation. It’s a perversely funny song and catchy to boot.

3. Los Campesinos!- “Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Break Beats”:  A standout cut from the amazing, unapologetically twee album “Hold On Now Youngster”. The song’s chorus contains an admonishment from the female half of a dysfunctional couple, “You know he’s so much more like Spiderman[sic] than you will ever, ever be.”If high-energy, twee-pop-punk sounds appealing this is worth a listen.

4. Weird Al- “Ode to a Superhero”: This song is a straightforward parody of Billy Joel’s piano man, and it details the plot of the first Spider-Man film. It’s a joke song built around the punchline, “Sling us a web, you’re the Spider-Man.”

5.Wu-Tang Clan- “Protect Ya Neck”: Calling this classic off of “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” a song about Spider-Man might be a stretch, but the song does give him a shout out. Peter Parker is a New York resident, and has probably spent some time in the Shaolin Land.

Five (awesome) songs about heroin

Heroin is a devastating, deadly drug, and addiction to it is usually described as absolutely Hellish. However, it has inspired some great music, and the following are five excellent odes to smack.

1. Velvet Underground- “Heroin”

One of the most frank songs ever written about drugs. The Velvet Underground recorded songs about other topics, but heroin was a notable muse. It alternates from a charging gallop to a spaced out drone, and it contains some awesome spastic guitar freakouts.

2. Iggy Pop- “Lust for Life”

“Lust for Life” was recorded in Berlin with a major assist from Iggy Pop’s former drug mule, David Bowie.

Although it’s now used to hock cruises, “Lust for Life” is one of the biggest, wildest songs recorded by one of rock’n’roll’s wildest personalities. Addiction, euphoria and general debauchery are the song’s principal lyrical themes.

3. Jay Z- “I Know”

Rapping about drugs is nothing new to Shawn Carter, but this is probably his most inventive drug track. It’s a tale of addiction told from heroin’s point of view under the guise of a gentle R&B track.

4. John Lennon- “Cold Turkey”

OK, so technically this is a song about quitting heroin and not the drug itself. Still, it’s one of Lennon’s best solo tracks. Filthy guitar licks and primal shouting always make for an excellent John Lennon track.

5. Spiritualized- “Cop Shoot Cop”

With an opening couplet, “There’s a hole in my arm where the money goes/ Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose”, the song’s subject matter is laid bare from the beginning. Clocking in at more than 17-minutes long “Cop Shoot Cop” is a shambling musical journey in all the right ways. Of course there are some psychotic breaks from reality completely drowned out in noise along the way, but anyone with some free time should check out this amazing, drug-inspired track.

Dishonorable mention: Guns N Roses- “Mr. Brownstone”

Some of Axl Rose’s least appealing vocals and an opening guitar lick completely derivative of Bo Diddley are just two of the reasons this song is utterly devoid of redemption. Who knew members of GNR did drugs?

My favorite albums of 2013

I had a hard time putting this together. I don’t think I’ve thoroughly blasted my brain with this much electropop since Goldfrapp released Supernature .Also, there was a lot of good music released this year, but only a few albums that absolutely gripped me. Still, there were definitely some outstanding albums released this year, and one anticlimactic choice for album of the year.

Also, unlike the list of songs of the year I put together, I’m pretty confident these are the best albums released in 2013.

5. My Bloody Valentine- “m b v

Before “m b v” was released it was assumed the successor to the genre-defining “Loveless” would join “Chinese Democracy” and “Duke Nukem Forever” as long-gestating disappointments. Instead, after more than two decades Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher and company delivered an excellent album.

The guitars still sound like power tools and the vocals still have a glass armonica’s ethereal fragility.

4. Chance the Rapper- “Acid Rap

At 20, Chancelor Bennet is responsible for one of the best releases of the year. Vibrant beats, excellent guest spots, memorable hooks and occasional bouts of intense introspection make “Acid Rap” truly excellent.

3. Disclosure- “Settle

In a year when EDM and disco influence were everywhere two British brothers mined minimal acid house for all it;s worth. Every song on “Settle” seems like the album’s highlight until you hear the next song. Even with about half of the album featuring guests things never feel crowded.

This is a dance album for rock kids.

2. CHVRCHES- “The Bones of What You Believe”

CHVRCHES finally delivered on the promise of the singles they’ve had floating around online, and the result was better than anyone could expected. A full album of synth-driven pop songs was one the year’s best albums. Everything sounds fresh and dithyrambic. Listening to “The Bones of What You Believe” is one of the most purely enjoyable ways to spend the better part of an hour I could imagine.

1. Kanye West- “Yeezus”

There is so much to love about this album. It’s an album which draws more from the music of Death Grips than anything from Kanye’s own discography. It’s a dark, actively aggressive statement meant to burn off all the goodwill West earned with the impeccable “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.

The album opener “On Sight” lays down the album’s mission statement of brutality while it subverts a past Daft Punk collaboration and one of Yeezy’s biggest radio hits.

What follows is a visceral gut-punch disguised as music.

2013’s best album concludes with the wonderful throwback jam “Bound 2” which serves to show Kanye West is an artist fully capable of delivering pleasant, moving music, but chose not to. After hearing the seething anger in the previous 9 tracks it’s not surprising West chose to be withholding.

Honorable Mentions: “Reflektor“, “Random Access Memory“, “Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze“, “Old“, “Night time, My Time“, “No Blues

My favorite songs of 2013

This list comes with the obvious caveat that these are my favorite songs of the year and not necessarily the 10 best songs of the year.

I spent entirely too much time listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers this year and not enough time listening to Sky Ferreirra to be a good barometer of taste.

Still below are the 10 tracks I couldn’t get enough of this year. They are in no particular order.

1. HAIM-“Don’t Save Me”

Hercules is the demi-god with the strength of 10 ordinary men, and HAIM is mom-rock with the strength of 3 Stevie Nickses. Just one of several earthy, hooky jams from this year’s thoroughly praised “Days Are Gone”.

2. Ex Cops- “Separator”

The most accurate approximation of ’90s shoe gaze outside of “m b v”. A pleasantly throbbing bass line, a healthy coat of reverb varnish and a build to a triumphant jangle crescendo kept this song firmly entrenched in my head all year long.

3. Black Joe Lewis- “Skulldiggin”

This crunchy slice of blooze rock would be the hardest The Black Keys have rocked in a couple of albums. In a year when indie-pop and Yeezus reigned supreme this unapologetic throwback was a counter-intuitive breath of fresh air.

4. CHVRCHES- “Gun”

Chvrches were the Scottish-indie-synth-pop triumph of the year.  “Gun” is my favorite song off of the excellent “The Bones of What You Believe”. After hearing this song, running away with everything you own probably won’t keep it out of your head.

5. King Khan & the Shrines- “Pray for Lil”

“Idle No More” is an exceptional garage rock album from King Khan & the Shrines. Its standout track is the “Little Wing” and Dusty Springfield indebted “Pray for Lil”.

6. Charli XCX- “Take My Hand”

“Take My Hand” is equal parts energetic, addictive and sweet. It’s audible cocaine cut with pixie sticks. It’s the biggest ear worm on, “True Romance” , an album with so many pop gems even its bonus tracks bump.

7. Los Campesinos!- “Avocado Baby”

I am an unabashedly huge LC! fan, and this is maybe the perfect culmination of the different musical directions the band has pursued. Gareth yelping his sardonic lyrics, twee backing vocals, a muscular rhythm section and a fruit-based metaphor no other band would attempt all make this an instant classic in the LC! catalog.

8. Chance the Rapper- “Juice”

“Acid Rap” is one of my favorite albums of the year, and this track epitomizes what Chano was up to on his excellent mix tape. It has a ragtime sample, Tupac references, plenty of vocal ad libs and some great double-time rapping.

9.  Kanye West- “I Am a God”

“Yeezus” was an intense car-bomb of an album, and no song on it was as incendiary as “I Am a God”. West’s palpable anger is somehow on display next to moments of genuine humor in one iconoclastic statement. Hurry up with his damn croissants!

10. Disclosure- “F for You”

I’ve been infected with the restless urge to listen to this song on repeat. A great, slinky piece of house music.

Honorable Mentions: Get Lucky, Reflektor, Pepe Lopez, Demon Dance, My Number, Rattlesnake

Seven Awesome Of Montreal songs.

Of Montreal’s “Lousy with Sylvianbriar” is the band’s 12th studio album and the best received  of their last few efforts.

However, even in the releases between the nearly flawless “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” and Of Montreal’s latest record there have been gems among the aggro-feedback-psych-freakouts.

For more than a decade Of Montreal have been responsible for some incredible songs ranging from stereotypical indie pop to Bowie-esque glam rock. This is a career-spanning list of some of their absolute best work.

1. “It’s Just So”

A sweet, gentle piano ballad which sounds equally influenced by Jiminy Cricket and Brian Wilson.

2. “My British Tour Diary”

This song is bouncy, funny and strange in the way some of the best Of Montreal songs are. It also features unexpected dalliances into bloozey guitar riffs complete with backing cowbell.

3.”Eros’ Entropic Tundra”

As great as funny, quirky Of Montreal songs can be, Kevin Barnes has a penchant for writing songs that perfectly express darker, cynical emotions.”Eros’ Entropic Tundra” is the catchiest representation of the frustrations of unrequited love and the sense of being slowly left behind imaginable.

4. “So Begins Our Alabee”

A self-loathing space-operatic welcoming Barnes’ daughter into the world. The lyrics dedicated to Alabee are saccharine while those concerning Barns are cutting. He just wants to be her, “friendly little abject failure.”

5. “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?” the entire album.

This album is amazing. Pain induced from marital hardships inspired the most poignant, self-aware, well-crafted material in all of Of Montreal’s discography. It is also the introduction of Barnes’ alter-ego Georgie Fruit. The entire album flows together as a cohesive piece. Anyone with a spare hour should give it a listen.

6. “Our Riotous Defects”

Fittingly, this song is riotously funny. It chronicles a romance started at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting doomed by insanity.

7. “We Will Commit Wolf Murder”

As tuneful as a jumble of funk, psych-rock and harmonic vocals could possibly be.

Dead Gaze- “Yuppies Are Flowers”

The first song off of Dead Gaze’s recent  and pretty good album “Brain Holiday”  previews all the best tricks in the band’s arsenal. The tight, tuneful song structure and decidedly outsider view point recall vintage Weezer in the best possible way.

A power pop song with lyrics that gleefully subvert yuppie culture might not be the most novel concept, but Dead Gaze execute it to perfection. An ear worm synthesizer hook is offset by crunchy guitars, completely sincere hand claps help keep time and the vocals have just the right amount of  whine. create a slice of guitar-driven pop heaven.

For fans of power pop this is a song that demands to be put on repeat.

A deep cut from Wilco

Before they were the American Radiohead or supposedly Dad Rock cliches Wilco were an alternative country band. Their debut album “A.M.” even allowed Wilco the opportunity to dip their toes into the waters of the Bluegrass swimmin’ hole.

The track is all frolicking strings and wistful lyrics. Although Jeff Tweedy never tries any high, lonesome pining, and instead opts for a modern take on the fatal maladies affecting a modern relationship “That’s Not the Issue” is an unmistakably Bluegrass-inspired song. 

It’s also one of the highlights of an important band’s first album.

Plastic Ono Band- “Well Well Well”

John Lennon is remembered by many as the peace-loving auteur of songs which championed love and social progress. Similar sentiments can be found in his solo-debut “John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band,” released under the Plastic Ono Band monicker, but they are also accompanied by hard-charging, Rock’n’Roll. “Well Well Well” starts with a Spartan arrangement of swaggering guitar, booming kick drum and vocals that would not be out of place  in a White Stripes song. The song then saunters on to speedier guitar licks and the sort of throat-shredding screaming which provides all the proof necessary for the catharsis Lennon found in primal therapy before returning to the chords that opened the track.”Well Well Well” is an awesome albeit atypical John Lennon solo-track.