The Year in Music – or Something

The best (and worst) songs of 2006

Well, I was all set to write a decent entry tomorrow – the last day of the year always makes me comtemplative – but it turns out that we’re (we being myself, Ryan, Fabian and maybe Matt) getting together to playtest Plyin’ the Black – instead of on Monday. So now I feel that I have to make an entry today, just to keep the side up πŸ™‚

Rather than stress myself out trying to be all profound and witty (not to mention the fact that I spent all morning writing out cards for the aforementioned game) I’ve decided to compile a list of the best (and a few of the worst) songs of the year. So prepare to be astonished as I present The Purple Wyrm’s Musical Round Up AD 2006!

(songs in alphabetical order by artist)

  • Love Like Winter – AFI As previously mentioned in this blog I seem to have gone slightly Emo recently, which is a bit of a worry. But as long as the tendancy limits itself to just two songs a year I reckon I should be OK. This cheery track starts with the sound of high heeled shoes on concrete, and then descendes into the depths of Emo power rock. What makes it stand out is the chorus, which has really cool duka-duka-duka electric guitar bits layered over all the Emo power chords, which actually sounds rather natty.
  • Mardy Bum – The Arctic Monkeys A reflective, semi-accoustic song that probably confused everyone in the world not from Leicestershire.
  • I Built This City – Baxendale An electro funk (or something like that) piece about a man building a city for the lady of his affections. What makes it entertaining are the cleverish rhymes, and the fact he seems to be obsessed with detailing every single infrastructure and utility. No simple “I built some streets”, he sings about the paving stones, the underground rail network, the airport and everything else a modern, vibrant city on the go needs. If music doesn’t work out Baxendale probably have a bright future in urban planning.
  • White Collar Boy – Belle and Sebastian Those Scottish folk do it again with another cheery, poppy song about decidely non-cheery poppy things. In this case corporate crime and going on the run from a chain gang. But it’s so cheery and poppy that you don’t really care.
  • Call Me Anytime – The Cops This song is so heavy on 80’s synth keyboards that they might as well be The Cars rather than The Cops. But then I like the Cars (or at least that one lone song of their’s that everyone remembers) so it’s not really a problem.
  • Swiming in the Darkness – The Custom Kings Have you ever sat on the verandah of your beach shack listening to the waves roll in on a warm summer night drinking beer with your mates while idly strumming your guitar? Me neither, but I think the Custom Kings must do it all the time because that’s what this song sounds like.
  • Soul Meets Body – Death Cab For Cutie This song manages the difficult feat of being spooky and soothing at the same time. Like a friendly ghost making you a cup of tea.
  • Only Wanna Love Ya – Expatriate This is not a great song by any measure and would not make this list except for it’s excellent use of synth flute. Or possibly synth pan pipes. Whatever they are, they make it really memorable despite being fairly tedious in almost every other respect.
  • Yeah Yeah Yeah Song – The Flaming Lips I am a great fan of any song involving silly voices. When the song also happens to be a scathing attack on the Bush White House you have a recipe for political karaoke bliss.
  • Yell Fire – Michael Franti and Spearhead Good old Michael Franti doing his own anti-Bush thing with clever wordplay and funky rythyms.
  • Elevate Myself – Grandaddy When a great and talented band decides to quit the industry it’s only polite that they say why. And if they can say why in a catchy song, so much the better. And if that song sounds a little like Kraftwork, well what more can you ask for?
  • Awoo – The Hidden Cameras If you decide to build an entire song around a ridiculous non-word then you could do a lot worse that the Hidden Cameras. Cryptic lines about money and reputations insterspaced with ‘awoo!’, and then a chorus consisting of nothing but ‘Awoo! Eee eye eye!’. This kind of songwriting is bordering on genius.
  • Stopping all Stations – The Hilltop Hoods There are many people out there who don’t like hip-hop because when you say ‘hip-hop’ to them they think ‘Nelly’. Someone should tie these people to a chair and make them listen to the Hilltop Hoods. Actually someone should tie Nelly to a chair and make him listen to the Hilltop Hoods because then he might quit. This song shows you what rap as storytelling can achieve, which is rather a lot really.
  • Your Little Hoodrat Friend – The Hold Steady I don’t know exactly how you’d describe this song. It’s basically a fellow with a really gravelly voice moaning and muttering for five minutes or so about how he’s never been with someone’s “little hoodrat friend”. It’s really rather incomprehensible, and he certainly can’t sing, but the final result is remarkably entertaining.
  • Over and Over – Hot Chip This song has a catchy beat, and the chorus mentions monkeys. What more could you ask from modern pop-rock?
  • Rise Up With Fists – Jenny Lewis This is a melancholy, but dreamy song, and that’s really all I can remember about it. There’s also a bit where Jenny Lewis stops singing, and the backing vocalists keep singing, resulting in one line saying two different things, which is rather clever.
  • You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve – Johnny Boy Usually when a band gives a song a title like this they’re trying to be clever, but in this case it’s actually a line from the song, so that makes it OK. Basically the song is a throwback to the lush production of the 1950’s, which doesn’t sound that bad.
  • 9 to 5 – Lady Sovereign I’m not quite sure what a Chav is, but apparently Lady Sovereign is one. That being so I’d say we maybe need more Chavs, but I suspect they’re usually far less musical and probably much more obnoxious that she is. In any case this is a pretty good tune with a catchy chorus that you can sing along to.
  • Love Me or Hate Me – Lady Sovereign Another pretty good tune with a catchy chorus from the musical Chav.
  • Alfie – Lily Allen I believe there are some pretty strict rules about entering songs in Eurovision, including one about them not being released commercially beforehand. Which is a shame, because this would make a great entry for the UK. It’s basically what you’d get if you got Nana Mouskouri drunk and asked her to write an happy, sing-along song about how smoking pot can ruin your life.
  • LDN – Lily Allen This was probably one of the larger songs of the year, which means most people are heartily sick of it. But if you listen to it with fresh ears it’s actually really good. Which is why it was so successful in the first place I guess.
  • When You Were Young – The Killers With their second album the Killers apparently decided to abandon the slightly edgy synth-alternative-rock scene, and turn into Bruce Springsteen. Which would be a bad thing if they hadn’t managed to out Springsteen Springsteen with this stunningly well constructed rock single. Strings, choirs, a driving beat, lyrics about Jesus and the Devil – this is the kind of music that makes you want to buy a pickup truck and power down Route 66 looking for America.
  • What Katie Said – The Matches This is a fairly middle of the road song, apart from the chorus which is somewhat plaintive and really catchy.
  • King Without a Crown – Matisyahu Which of us prior to 2006 would ever have thought a Rapping Rabbi could ever be anything but a joke? Well Matisyahu proved us all wrong with funky dub-rock beats about God, spirituality and kicking holes in ceilings. While he’s very good at what he does I hope his success doesn’t start a trend – no one wants to hear Pope Benedict singing reggae.
  • Download this Song – MC Lars 2006 may go down in history as the year when Nerdcore became mainstream. Or it may go down in history as the year plagued by Nerdcore novelty tracks. In any case this was one of the best ones, with its speed rapping and mockingly triumphant chorus thrown straight into the face of the RIAA.
  • Zookeepers Boy – Mew So you want a nonsensical song about zoo animals featuring high pitched wailing. Where else in the world would you even think about going than Denmark? I don’t know much about Mew but they do high pitched wailing very well, and know thier zoo animals from A to Z.
  • 45 and Rising – Midnight Juggernauts You know there are some songs that you wish video clips were never made for. This is clearly one of them. It’s a pumping synth-disco-rock-pop number brought low by a video clip that looks like something put together by a first semester film student. There’s so much mysterious imagery packed in that it stops being profund and just starts being silly. Less is More is an important philosophy that seems to have escaped the filmmakers and should be beaten into them at the first possible opportunity.
  • Welcome to the Black Parade – My Chemical Romance I still say this sounds like Queen! (of course now the Queen Army shall descend on me and tear me to shreds for my impudence πŸ™‚
  • Starlight – Muse One day Matthew Bellamy woke up, had a drink of scrumpy and said “You know, I’d quite like to be Chris Martin”. So he sat down and wrote a Coldplay song. Or at least that’s the best explanation I can think of to explain this track. Matthew Bellamy should try to be Chris Martin more often, because he’s obviously quite good at it.
  • Young Folk – Peter Bjorn and John This was possibly the novelty track of the year with its laconic vocals and mysterious whistling. But ignoring the novelty factor it’s actually a pretty good song.
  • Are you the One? – The Presets This song is on my list, but I really can’t remember much about it. So there you go.
  • Country Girls – Primal Scream Primal Scream apparently change their musical style like most people change shirts. This year they decided to do country-rock, and did it pretty well.
  • Hands Open – Snow Patrol Snow Patrol seem to be doing quite well for themselves recently. This a power rock track, the chorus of which makes you think you might be able to shoot lightning bolts from your hands if you just turned the volume up high enough.
  • Better – Regina Spektor Regina Spektor not only has an amazingly versatile voice, but she knows how to write a mean song to take full advantage of it. This track is wonderfully brilliant and exactly the kind of thing I get all excited and obsessed over. So I’ll stop writing about it right now!
  • Fidelity – Regina Spektor This is the track that got everyone interested in Regina Spektor, and is known both for skillfully skirting just shy of the edge of sacharine, and those ‘a a-a-a a-a-a a-a-a a a a’ bits in the chorus.
  • Konichiwa Bitches – Robyn Some years back Robyn was apparently the Swedish Britany Spears. Then she bought a mixing deck and turned bad. Or at least that’s the impression you get from this track which is a catchy, funky, electro-rap piece with lyrics not for the faint hearted.
  • Hey Bang Bang – Starsky Starsky are probably deperately in need of some prozac. This song is all moaning and whining, apart from the chorus which somehow manages to be a bit more uplifting while still fitting in with the moaning and whining.
  • TV – True Live Some people say that rap shouldn’t be done with an Australian accent. These people are wrong. Some people also say that rap shouldn’t be done with a string section. These people are also wrong. And anyone who says rap should be about nothing but ‘bitches and hos in the crib’ and ‘bling bling’ is three times wrong, as this song ably shows.
  • Harrowdown Hill – Thom Yorke Thom Yorke is a strange fellow isn’t he? But he manages to write really good, if somewhat depressing/terrifying/mysterious songs. This is a prime example, it’s moving, and menacing and melancholy all at the same time – like a friendly ghost making you a cup of tea and then performing ghost opera in your lounge room.

Whew! That took a while. I did say I was going to talk about some of the worst songs of 2006, but after that effort only one springs to mind. Happy to say it is not a song I’ve heard very much of – since I refuse to listen to commerical radio – but enough of it has slipped through into my awareness for me to roundly despise it. I am talking of course of “I wish I was a Punk Rocker” by Sandi Thom.

From the little I’ve gathered about this song it’s a whinging bag of nostalgia for the 1960s, with a repeated chorus of “I wish I was a punk rock girl with flowers in my hair”. Well I’m sorry Ms Thom but you’re completely mixing up your musical eras. Punk rock didn’t exist in the 1960s. Punk was a 70’s and 80’s phenomena and was in part a violent reaction to the worst excesses of the hippy era you seem so misty eyed about. Singing about how great the 60’s were and then wishing to be a punk rocker is like singing about how great WHAM! were and then wishing you were Kurt Cobain.

And on the concept of a punk rock girl with ‘flowers in her hair’ no self respecting punk rocker would ever put flowers in their hair. Punk was about nihilism – violent self destruction for no other reason that you can be violently self destructive. Flowers didn’t figure into it. “I wish I was a punk rock girl with vomit in my hair” is a more appropriate summing up of the punk ethos. In future Ms Thom may I suggest that you do some basic research as to the meaning of words, rather than just assuming you know what they mean?

(Of course Ms Thom probably thinks Avril Lavigne is punk. The Sex Pistols would probably make her pretty little hippy head explode)

OK, I’m all ranted out now. Happy new year everybody, and here’s hoping for a spectacularly wonderful 2007!

Funniest RPG Moment Ever! (A geeky interlude before we resume normal transmission)

Why arrows of slaying are generally a bad idea.

Many years back I was running a MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) campaign for some friends. I’d run them through the ‘dungeon/castle hack in the Trollshaws’ adventure that came with the boxed set, and they were headed south to sell their loot in the great port of Tharbad. This necessitated a trek westwards to meet the South Road at Bree, and along the way they were joined by a friendly mage who (unknowst to them) was actually the owner of the castle they’d just trashed, fully bent on getting his revenge.

They spent an uneventful night at Bree and headed south through the Barrow Downs. Around midday a thick fog rolled in (I was taking my cues fairly heavily from The Lord of the Rings) and they lost the road, eventually finding themselves in an ancient and ominous stone circle on the downs. It was this moment that the mage revealed himself, turning on the party with a sneering “So you would despoil my castle, kill my servants and steal my posessions!?” and summoning a fell beast to fight for him. I was all set for an epic multi-round battle royale!

Amongst the treasure the party had looted from the castle was an arrow of fell beast slaying which I’d placed there just to give them a hand in this encounter (a fully grown fell beast being a bit tough for a party of their level). The best archer in the party – a half elf ranger – had taken possession of it and naturally enough announced his intention to fire it as his first action of the combat. I called for initiatives…

Now, MERP ran under a cut down version of the Rolemaster rules, which had extremely detailed and complex critical tables which you got to roll on if you rolled high enough on your to hit roll. An arrow of slaying didn’t give you an increased chance to hit – but if you did hit with it you got a free roll on the critical tables. Additionally the game had an open ended skill roll system where if you rolled above about 95 (the game used percentile dice) you got to roll again and add the result to your initial roll. Finally, the higher your to hit roll the more damage you’d inflict on your target.

So, the initiatives came in. The intrepid half-elf ranger with his arrow of slaying was the first to act. He notched the arrow, drew the bow and let fly, making his to hit roll. The roll? A natural 97.

A cheer went up around the table. He picked up the dice to roll again, although we all knew the fell beast (with two criticals – one from the roll and one from the arrow) was probably already doomed. He rolled. The dice bounced around the table and came to rest on… 95!

At this point everyone pretty much lost it. The poor, innocent fell beast was now looking at three criticals and a totally ridiculous amount of damage (total to hit roll = 192) with more to come. The player rolled again, and got 54, for a total to hit roll of 246 out of 100.

The fell beast fell down dead and the players fell around in hysterics. Just for form I let the player roll his three criticals and described the results, although “the arrow plunges into the fell beast’s eye and its entire body spontaneously dissolves into a fine pink mist” would have been far more accurate. The battle royale was half over in the first turn of the first round, and all the evil mage (the majority of his magic points spent summoning a white-elephant fell beast) could do was throw around a few minor spells before fleeing for his life.

Moral of the story – arrows of slaying are bad news! πŸ˜€

I’m not an Emo! I promise!

Hey, *I* think it sounds like Queen. OK?

Oh dear, I seem to have quite upset Helen with my opinions about My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade. So much so that she suggests I’m diseased πŸ˜€

Well I stand by my opinion. To Me it sounds like Queen. Even in the bit that Helen reckons sounds like Busted (whatever or whoever that may be πŸ™‚ something in the guitar work still sounds like Queen! Or at least I think so, other people with greater knowledge of Queen’s oeuvre (ie: Helen) are of course free to completely disagree. And I at least won’t suggest that they’re ill ;P

And it’s not like I’m going to turn into a MCR fan. I did go out and buy the single the other day (Uh, let me clarify on that – I went out to buy some other stuff at a CD store and picked up the single as well, I didn’t go running down there howling out my love for Gerard Way – whose name I only know because I just looked it up on Wikipedia by the way – and beating on the doors until they let me in or anything) but of the three songs on it the only one worth listening to is Welcome – the others are awful, and that includes a live performace of Welcome. So my appreciation of the song can safely be classed as an abberation, and I’m in no danger of going Emo any time soon πŸ™‚

(That reminds me of a comment I read the other day on the Zompist Bulletin Board about how to tell Goths from Emos. Goths mosh, Emos don’t. Apparently this is because Emos can’t bear the thought of anyone hurting them except for themselves! Ouch! πŸ™‚

Anyway some other things that happened this week include the final episode of The Glass House on Wednesday. This was a brilliantly entertaining satirical news/chat show that the ABC axed on instructions from the Government because it was rating too highly. The Wikipedia article gives a good run down of what made the show so great and how it came to be axed, so I won’t carry on about it except to say that the axing sucks, and where I’m going to go for my weekly dose of Corinne Grant now? πŸ™

I also finally got around to launching the totally revised Purple WyrmPosted on Categories Old and UncategorisedLeave a comment on I’m not an Emo! I promise!

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