By: Kevin Rutherford, Editorial Director
1. "Low Tide" - O'Death
I saw a YouTube comment for one of O'Death's songs recently that stated that the Brooklyn alt-country act sounded almost like a "Mumford & Sons parody." While that isn't an entirely true description, it does say a lot about the seat-of-your-pants bluegrass rock the band puts forth. "Low Tide" is the best example of that; a breakneck hell-raiser with twangy vocals and backwoods fiddle. Plus, after watching the video, you can see how underground they are! Get it? GET IT?
2. "Sleep, Child" - Nick Jaina
Nick Jaina, a singer-songwriter/occasional writer from Portland, visited Columbus last October when he opened for Decemberists side project Black Prairie on their Burn Down the Organ tour. Jaina's penchant for melody and folk sensibilities struck me immediately when I saw him live, and an appreciation for his smart lyrics soon followed. Last year's A Bird in the Opera House is one of my favorite records from 2010, and "Sleep, Child" is one of its best. Feel free to look up "Theresa," "Another Kay Song" or "I Don't Believe You" if you find the sounds of Jaina and his band appealing. Frankly, I'll be surprised if you don't.
3. "This Train is Bound for Glory" (Woody Guthrie cover) - Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
British folk megastars Mumford & Sons announced the Railroad Revival tour a few months ago, bringing along with them Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Badass aspect of the tour 1: the bands traveled from tour stop to tour stop in a vintage railroad train.
Badass aspect 2: this cover of Woody Guthrie's classic song, which ended each show. Nearly every instrument gets a turn at the forefront, as does each vocalist. Plus, Alex Ebert goes sort of nuts onstage. As would be expected.
4. "Nothing But the Water" - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
I can dig the newer material put out by Vermont's Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, but give me this performance of "Nothing But the Water" at 2006's Boston Music Awards, and I'm completely satisfied. Potter sings the tune nearly a cappella for the first three minutes, with a tambourine as the only complement to her soulful vocals. After about three minutes, the music takes a turn, as The Nocturnals enter in and turn the song into a full-fledged jam.
Try not to enjoy it. I dare you.
5. "Avast Your Ass" - Kitsune^2
I spend way too much time on the Internet, one of my favorite things in the world being Internet memes (as long as they're not overused [they usually are]). "Avast Your Ass" is itself a meme, though it was not originally intended to be. The song ended up being remixed numerous times as YouTube users took other videos and messed with the pitches of different voices to create, essentially, a "cover" of the original.
That has been done with everything from the Nostalgia Critic's Chester A. Bum character to the My Little Pony character Fluttershy. Chances are the song/meme wouldn't be so popular if it weren't so damn catchy.
6. "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" - Colin Hay
I could never come up with the right words to explain how much this song--my favorite song ever--means to me, so I'll let the music do the talking.
7. "Musical Chairs" - Fair to Midland
My middle and high school years were spent listening predominantly to hard rock music, and occasionally I'll find a band which causes me to regress into old habits.
Fair to Midland, a Texas five-piece that was originally the first band signed to Serj Tankian's Serjical Strike label, has been a favorite since their 2007 record Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True. 2011 marks, at long last, the release of Fair to Midland's fourth effort, Arrows & Anchors, with the first single being this heavy-hitting tune. The demo for "Musical Chairs" was released over a year ago, and the finished product made a song that I didn't think could be improved upon that much better.
8. "Money is Such a Beautiful Word" - Tom and Jerry: The Movie
"We've got to have... moneeeey."
See how many sexual inflections you can find in Lickboot's vocals! Mainly at 1:22. So many lolz, all of the time.
9. "Folsom Prison Blues" - Paul McDonald
Yes, I watch American Idol. Yes, sometimes I'm ashamed of it. But this past season featured a contestant who was about as indie as the show may ever get--Paul McDonald, of the Bonnaroo-playing The Grand Magnolias. McDonald was so out-of-place it hurt sometimes, but the Bradley Cooper lookalike hit his stride with the Johnny Cash cover of "Folsom Prison Blues," which slayed that evening's competition. It's not the most inventive thing ever, but when you do it on a show such as Idol, it's very much miles away from the hundredth cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect."
10. "Forbidden Friendship" - John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
I've always been a huge fan of movie scores, and though Hans Zimmer's epic soundtrack to Inception and Trent Reznor's lauded The Social Network score did wonders, it was John Powell's How to Train Your Dragon that floored me. I'm sorry--Reznor's my dawg, but the fact that this score did not win in its category at the 2011 Academy Awards is pure blasphemy, and I'll be sore about it for years to come.