Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pour Another One: Choice Cuts Vol. 10

1. "What You Know" -- Two Door Cinema Club
You can't deny the catchy power pop of Northern Ireland indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club. "What You Know," which the group performed on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" last January, is the perfect pick-me=up to lead off this year's Choice Cuts compilation. (Two Door Cinema Club's track "This is the Life" also showed up on our November mix.)

2. "Helena Beat" -- Foster the People
While everyone was going nuts over "Pumped Up Kicks" -- which, let's face it, is awfully annoying -- I was drawn to the less cloying "Helena Beat." (Radio is now catching up and starting to play it as well.) Five years from now, you're going to quickly change the station if "Pumped Up Kicks" comes on, but you'll gladly stick around for a listen to "Helena Beat."

3. "Going And Going. And Going." -- Icebird (RJD2 & Aaron Livingston)
This was a tough one, as I had to choose between two excellent Icebird tracks (the other being "Charmed Life"). I went with the slightly more uptempo "Going And Going. And Going." I guess I'm a sucker for DJ/singer collaborations and Icebird -- a combo of RJD2 (Ramble John "RJ" Krohn) and Philadelphia crooner Aaron Livingston -- is this year's winner.

4. "Block After Block" -- Matt & Kim
Brooklyn-based Matt & Kim (Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino) hit it big in 2009 with "Daylight." "Block After Block," off their late 2010 album "Sidewalks," carries on their upbeat sound.

5. "Armistice (RAC Remix)" -- Phoenix
"Armistice" is actually an old track, off Phoenix's 2009 album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," so I considered not including it. But RAC's 2011 remix of the song gives it a fresh, dancy spin, and I just couldn't resist.

6. "Sweet Louise" -- Belle Brigade
L.A.-based siblings Barbara Gruska and Ethan Gruska come from music royalty: Their grandfather is Oscar-winning composer John Williams. (Their father is a film and TV composer as well.) The Belle Brigade's harmonies were one of the highlights of KCRW's recent Are Friends Eclectic? concert at the Orpheum.

7. "Paradise" -- Coldplay
Blogger Kid and Blogger Toddler can't get enough of "Paradise." They sing the song's chorus constantly. They re-enact the Coldplay video (watch above). They demand it in the car. Thankfully it's a good song.

8. "Eyes" -- Peter Bjorn and John
Damn you, "2 Broke Girls." I would have included Peter, Bjorn and John's "Second Chance" on this list, as potentially my favorite track on the group's recent album "Gimme Some." But then "2 Broke Girls" selected "Second Chance" its theme song... and hearing it so often, and connected to a sitcom, took away quite a bit of the song's allure in my mind. Thankfully Peter Bjorn and John's new CD contains several tracks worthy of our mix -- "Breaker, Breaker" and "May Seem Macabre" were two more contenders, before I settled on "Eyes."

9. "New Leaf" -- Alameda
What seems to be an unassuming tune by Portland trio Alameda winds up exuding power thanks to its use of drums. (Is that a tympani?)

10. "King Of The Beach" -- Wavves
Pitchfork named Wavves' "King of the Beach" album, which includes this title track, as number 50 on its list "The Top 50 Albums of 2010." I didn't discover it until 2011, but was immediately enchanted by the song's surf/low-fi/noise aesthetic.

11. "A Long Time (Chromeo Remix)" -- Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer Hawthorne (Andrew Mayer Cohen) boasts a soulful 60s sound; merge it with Chromeo's 80s vibe for the ultimate throwback mashup. I couldn't find a copy of the Chromeo version on YouTube, so here's the original mix.

12. "Sleeping at Night" -- Caught A Ghost
Catchy, soulful tune from Los Angeles band Caught A Ghost, fronted by songwriter/producer Jesse Nolan. It's so catchy, as a matter of fact, that every time "Sleeping at Night" comes on in the car I catch Blogger Kid and Blogger Toddler singing along to the chorus. (For that reason alone, I couldn't resist putting it on the Choice Cuts roundup.)

13. "Barton Hollow" -- The Civil Wars
It's been a big year for the Civil Wars, the Grammy-winning Nashville duo of singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White. The group rode the wave of this year's heavy folk trend (Mumford and Sons, obviously, leading the way as well) and were helped when iTunes promoted "Barton Hollow" as its "free single of the week" last February. Above, here they are on the UK's "Later with Jools Holland."

14. "Moment 4 Life" -- Nicki Minaj Feat. Drake
Going mainstream here. Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" wound up on a lot of top ten singles lists for 2011. But I kind of preferred "Moment 4 Life" and its simple drum beat. "Moment 4 Life" was one of my go-to songs when I wanted to pump in some energy on the long drive home.

15. "Ritual Union" -- Little Dragon
The smooth, silky music of Little Dragon sounds like the soundtrack to a late evening in some smoky, space age club. We've included Little Dragon in past end-of-year mixes, and this year I was enchanted by "Ritual Union." This is a video of them performing at KCRW.

16. "Catapult" -- Operator Please

I'm realizing that several of this year's Choice Cut picks were the catchy songs that I heard Blogger Kid and Blogger Toddler singing to in the back row of my car. Maybe that's what endeared me to the tracks even more. That's the case of "Catapult," a quick-paced, rockin' tune.

17. "Maps" -- The Front Bottoms
"Maps" wins for being the quirkiest song on this year's list. It sounds like an upbeat tune, but it's really a tragic treatise on failed dreams and missed opportunities.

18. "Midnight City" -- M83

C'mon, is there anything better than the opening synth chords of M83's "Midnight City"? I could hear it over and over again. And if that's not enough 80s deliciousness for you, "Midnight City" includes a saxophone! A SAXOPHONE. 1986 is back!

19. "Ffunny Ffriends" -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Whatta great hook. Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra's analog sound makes "Ffunny Ffriends" deceptively simple. But like the song title's strange spelling, "Ffunny Ffriends" surprises.

20. "Warm Heart of Africa (Featuring Ezra Koenig)" -- The Very Best
Another semi-cheat -- this track actually came out in 2009, but I only discovered it in 2011, while listening to newer music from The Very Best. But it's a good way to first meet the band, a mix of Afropop and Western sounds. Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend duets with Malawi-born Esau Mwamwaya of the band provide the vocals here.

21. "No One's Gonna Love You" -- Cee Lo Green
It was quite a year for Cee-Lo, between "F**k You" and his turn as a coach on NBC's "The Voice." My favorite output from Cee-Lo, however, was his soulful take on Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You."

22. "Helplessness Blues" -- Fleet Foxes
The title track from Fleet Foxes' second album, "Helplessness Blues" builds on the back of a drum cadence before ending on a quiet note. I thought it was the perfect way to end this year's Choice Cuts mix.

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