See Part 1 of this post for more context.
You can follow the whole playlist on Spotify here. Bandcamp embeds are included in the list when available.
“China Beach”, Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers
This is pretty far away from the other LJG song on this playlist. Musically it’s on the harder-edge side of the kind of glam-punk the last couple of Against Me! albums featured, and Laura pairs some nice pacing-around-the-room-muttering-to-yourself verse lyrics with those screams in the chorus.
“Kkkitchens, What Were You Thinking?”, Mclusky
Apparently there was actually a kitchen supplies store with the unfortunate titular name, which is what the song’s about. The lyrics seem to imply the singer believes the naming convention to be a boneheaded coincidence, and while I do not know anything about this particular situation…it reads a lot different in 2020 than it does in 2004.
“Satan in the Wait”, Daughters
There’s a good portion of the music internet that would be quite happy with my Mclusky-to-Daughters transition here. I do think that You Won’t Get You Want and Daughters, without being uniquely transcendent modern rock albums or anything of the sort, are both exciting releases and they’re more deserving of an out-of-nowhere hype chain than most that end up with one. Oh, and this one’s seven minutes, too—although there’s no watch-checking until “the good part” kicks in here.
“Vocal Shrapnel”, Archers of Loaf
So, Icky Mettle is the instant-classic debut album, Vee Vee is the slightly darker follow-up, White Trash Heroes is the left-turn final album that embraces non-traditional rock instrumentation…where does All the Nations Airports fit into the Archers’ discography? Is it…the pop album? Part of me feels like that’s a disservice to “Web in Front” and “Harnessed in Slums”, but this song seems much less self-conscious and confident about how ear-pleasing it is—it’s not wild to imagine “I can’t run fast enough to beat you in a simple way” worming its way onto the radio in 1997.
“New Radio”, Bikini Kill
I’m not really tapped in well enough to know how Bikini Kill is perceived these days, if they’re perceived at all. They seem like the kind of band that’s in a cultural position that would put them in danger of becoming more of a brand than anything else, but man, does the singles compilation hold up. You can’t kill what’s fucking real.
“Dinosaur Dying”, Sioux Falls
The Sioux Falls album is so fucking good. For people who don’t know, they were a band from Montana who kicked around for awhile, made one ridiculously overstuffed album in 2016 that rightfully turned some heads, and then (some of?) the members resurfaced in Strange Ranger not soon after. The Rangers are frequently brilliant, and they’ll show up on other playlists, but they’ve (probably intentionally) never made another album like that one. Northwest indie rock at its finest, this wearily singable song reminds me of early Modest Mouse, while there are shades of Built to Spill, Lync, and plenty of others throughout the rest of the album.
“Me & My Dog”, Boygenius
I’ve never been fully on the Phoebe Bridgers train, and it effectively left the station without me this year, but for me every project she’s involved with usually has at least one “oh, wow” song. This is the one from the Boygenius EP. The spaceship taking off (2:11) is one of my favorite music moments of 2018. Also, WRT misheard lyrics, I hear (and prefer) “an impossible you” over “an impossible view”. I suppose that changes the meaning, though—or does it?
“For Olive”, Kindling
I’m not a shoegaze-head, so I’m not able to possess the knowledge as to why the same quarter-dozen bands in that genre routinely get overpraised and overhyped while really good stuff like this flies under the radar. Put down Souvlaki, kids, and listen to a band from this century! Although, maybe I like this because it’s more Swervedriver than Slowdive.
“Eureka Signs”, Guided by Voices
Post-Do the Collapse Guided by Voices is usually thought of as more user-friendly than Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes due to it not being “lo-fi”, but musically the songs are a lot less straightforward. Having a band of ringers let Bob Pollard indulge some of his prog fantasies and getting as something as immediate as “Game of Pricks” (or, god forbid, anything like a Tobin Sprout song) became rarer. This is to say that it took me awhile to fully come around to the non-singles on Universal Truths and Cycles, but I have, and I’m glad I have. “Eureka Signs” is a soar-er, GBV at their Who-cues best, and an all-time vocal performance from Pollard.
“Spirit FM”, Bad Moves
I cannot do this song justice with a couple of sentences. I can only really say that this song could’ve been drawn (much less elegantly) from a certain point in my own adolescence, and I know goddamn well I’m not alone in that. Cheers to you, fellow survivors of American Fundamentalism.
“Done Nothin’”, Dusk
Another song that could’ve drawn from my own life, I suppose, all too often in These Times™. When I saw Dusk live before the shit went down, Julia Blair killed it on this song and it was the highlight of the show. There are many layers to Dusk, like an onion.
“Kimmy”, Antarctigo Vespucci
This is maybe the most sweet-tooth songs on this playlist, and I make no apologies for this. It’s not like I listen to Love in the Time of E-Mail more often than Jeff Rosenstock’s 2010-20s string of solo albums, or even the other Antarctigo Vespucci stuff, but there’s nothing wrong with the sheen of “Kimmy”, unless of course you’re a grouch.
“Human Landmine”, J. Marinelli
Short little ditty about fantasizing about nuclear-grade destruction (both self- and otherwise) rather than having to live another second as a human being. Absolutely!
“Shame”, Spirit Night
This is not the first song on this playlist to come out of Morgantown, WV, nor is it the first to originally be released on Broken World Media—but I AM pretty sure that it’s the first song by a former member of The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. And boy, it’s a doozy. It wouldn’t be worthy of its title if it didn’t make us at least a little uncomfortable, no? It couples those a-bit-too-close-to-home lyrics with extreme hummability and I can see some sunshine if I squint.
“Dancing as the Boat Goes Down”, The Bats
Couple internet comments claim this song is about the 1985 sinking of the Rainbow Warrior—I wasn’t able to verify this, but it would make sense. Now there’s a “fun” rabbit hole to go down. Regardless of which boat when down amongst dancing, this is one of the highlights from Fear of God—it’s a bit more urgent and faster-paced than your average Bats song, and there’s even a prominent violin, but all your typical Bats hallmarks remain as well.
“When She Comes”, The Green Pajamas
I made a determination when I decided to go through these old playlists that I would always present them as-is, which will assuredly make for some uncomfortable moments if I keep doing this. Why I’m bringing this up here, in the middle of this seemingly innocuous and quite tuneful Beatlesy psych-pop tune? Well, there is one line (the one about how the singer “won’t say please” with regards to…well…) that I didn’t pick up on the time but I’ve since realized could be interpreted in an uncomfortable way (I believe the technical term is “rapey”). But it could be interpreted in other ways as well, perhaps in an ultimatum sense, so I’ll give the Green Pajamas the benefit of the doubt here for now.
“Funnelhead”, Archers of Loaf
It’s the Archers of Loaf covering Treepeople (Doug Martsch’s pre-Built to Spill band)—indie on indie violence! If the Archers are singing about something that seems vaguely metaphorical but whose meaning isn’t apparently clear, I usually just assume its about 90s indie rock politics and subtweeting. I can’t quite make out what the lyrics’ take on the Funnelhead character is (he’s got an open mind, but “narrow at the bottom / to make sure that it all fits”?), although I assume it’s different from both Cuphead and Jughead.
“The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls”, Tortoise
This playlist is almost over, so let’s now enjoy the home stretch with some nice smooth jaz—I mean post-rock!! Post-rock, sorry, not jazz. Two completely different things. Please ignore Jeff Parker’s vast jazz discography, Tortoise’s connection to the Chicago Underground Orchestra, and also all the jazz that’s on the Tortoise albums.
“Noid”, Yves Tumor
It seems inappropriate to make a joke about the Domino’s mascot given the heavy subject matter of the song, so I won’t. I am sitting here two years after its release, listening to this song about how Sean Bowie’s life is valued less than other people’s because of their race, right after I finished writing up my favorite releases from 2020, a lot of which contained songs about the same thing, because the police keep murdering black people in America for being black. “911 Is a Joke” by Public Enemy is somewhere in another one of these playlists, but the joke has long gone stale.
“For the Dishwasher”, Grandaddy
Ironically for Grandaddy, the dishwasher in the song seems to be a person rather than a machine. However, “Computers in the sun, not one with power on” is perhaps the most Grandaddy lyric to ever Grandaddy. This near-lullaby also appeared on Machines Are Not She, as well as being the B-side to the “A.M. 180” single.
“We Can’t Win”, The Goon Sax
This is a sad-ass Aussie indie pop song. Not sure where I was getting off putting such a sad song as the penultimate track here. The final song better put me in a good mood after this. Not that this song isn’t very well-done, mind you. I can’t say I was going through the situation described in the song at the time, but the concept of distant as a source of pain is juuuuuuuust universal enough.
“Kiss Only the Important Ones”, Guided by Voices
Nonetheless, do not turn back. Refuse to hear another thing. And so we end this long journey with Bob Pollard alone, singing into probably some sort of boombox accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and some feedback. We end with “You’ve always been a marionette, so go alone, cut your own strings”. Where else could we have ended? I stand by everything I said about “Eureka Signs”, but if I had to distill what Guided by Voices means to me into one song, it would be closer to this, if not this itself.