Top 10 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Songs

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard never fail to surprise.

Even before their almost impossibly productive 2017, they were renowned for their superhuman work ethic, genre-hopping tendencies, and unmissable live shows. Add the 5 albums of last year into the mix and you’re left with 13 full-length records containing everything from jazz to psychedelic rock to prog and back again, a truly unique discography befitting of a truly unique band.

But this year they’re taking a break from recording, so it seems like a good time to take stock. That’s right, today we will be ranking (see: attempt to) the top 10 songs from Melbourne’s finest. This has been a tough task, but please, sit back, relax, and get ready to be slightly irritated that your favourite didn’t make it.

10. The River

With each of its 4 tracks clocking in at exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds in length, 2015’s Quarters is a bit of a mixed bag. Half of the album feels like padding to reach the necessary track lengths, full of endless jamming around ideas that would have been better served as much shorter songs. The same cannot be said for its opener though, that being the hazy bliss of The River. Gizzard have ventured into jazzy territory a couple of times, but this track is undoubtedly the greatest of those experiments.

The combination of the 5/4 time signature and production that has the band sounding as if they’re playing through thick smoke is a winning one, lending the track a lo-fi ambiance that’s as catchy as it is intoxicating. Spiraling riffs eventually ebb and flow towards a climactic and potent time signature shift, welcoming in slinky reworked versions of the main guitar lines that cement this as a stone cold classic.

9. Crumbling Castle

This one knocked about in various forms before it’s final incarnation appeared on last year’s Polygondwanaland as its opening track. First, there was a short, 3-minute version played live a few times, then a leaked instrumental demo recording, and finally the proggy behemoth that takes the number 9 spot on this list. The whole 11 minutes are essentially just the band flexing every muscle they have, and it works to awe-inspiring effect.

The main vocals and lyrics are fairly standard, but it’s the instrumentation that really lifts this track. The intricacy of the interlocking guitar parts is pretty much unparalleled in their discography, combining with bubbling synths to create an almost overwhelming experience. Add in some chant-like sections and a ferociously heavy epilogue, and you’ve got an album opener for the ages.

8. The Lord of Lightning

Murder of the Universe is a pretty polarising album. Some love the overtly mystical themes and the narration, but many dismiss it as a self-indulgent misfire lacking in any real substance. There is one thing that most agree on though, and that’s the fact that The Lord of Lightning goes hard. The ominous riff that hangs over the entire song combines with the propulsive drums and frequent freakouts to leave the track feeling like it’s going to blow apart at any moment.

And then it does! Towards the end, off the back of a signature Stu Mackenzie yowl, the guitars grind down to a sludgy crawl, transforming the song into something infinitely more intimidating. It’s perhaps the finest individual moment on any Gizzard record, and more than its earns the song its place on this list.

7. Sense

Paper Mache Dream Balloon is a bit of an outlier, with the manic, conceptual ambition of most releases absent in favour of a breezy psychedelic pop approach. This big a change in sound could have been a disaster, but thankfully it resulted in both an album that still stands as a high point of the band’s career, and yet another stellar opening track. Sense is a relatively simple song, with a repetitive acoustic guitar providing the backing for some sumptuous clarinet, but it’s this simplicity that gives it its charm.

Mackenzie drops his usual staccato delivery in favour of a delicate vocal that floats over the song instead of dictating its direction. The result is a short but instantly memorable track that more than matches up to its flashier, louder siblings.

6. The Bitter Boogie

While Sense, and most of the rest of PMDB, sound as if they were written specifically to be sung around a campfire in the middle of a commune, The Bitter Boogie wouldn’t sound out of place on a western soundtrack. The guitars and harmonica lean heavily on blues influences, while the looping bass and repeating vocal of ‘bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter…’ mixes in a more psychedelic edge.

These elements create a swirling, almost hypnotic groove that’s fantastic even by itself, but towards the end of the track, the vocals of Ambrose Kenny-Smith come in and lift things to another level. His abrasive, almost sleazy style dials the blues up to 11 and the whole thing instantly clicks, with his absence from the rest of the song only serving to heighten the satisfaction when he eventually arrives. The result is an often overlooked classic that only misses out on the top 5 by a hair.

5. Sleep Drifter

Top 5 time! That’s right we’ve reached the big time, and what better way to enter the final straight than with the finest cut from the 2017 microtonal masterpiece Flying Microtonal Banana? Seemingly inspired by a piece entitled Kara Toprak by Turkish poet Asik Veysel, Sleep Drifter showcases the band at their most confident and musically accomplished. Fittingly, the track floats along like a lullaby, with simple, childlike lyrics, ‘I can see you next to me / And it is lovely’ acting as the perfect accompaniment to the gentle yet groovy guitar melodies. The microtones keep you from drifting off though, keeping things intriguingly offbeat and adding in a distinctive and unique flavour that pushes this one into the realm of greatness.

4. Am I In Heaven?

Until it was usurped by Nonagon Infinity, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz was the best example of King Gizzard’s signature brand of frantic, tightly wound psychedelia. Despite opening with a deceptively chilled acoustic section, it’s best track, Am I In Heaven, soon descends into beautiful madness. The Aussies have never again sounded this jacked up, with the rhythm section and guitars galloping along at a thousand miles an hour creating a disorientating wall of noise in the process. Mackenzie’s vocals sit distorted in the mix, screaming nonsense and employing his signature ‘WOOOOOOOOOO’ to electrifying effect. By the time the chorus rolls around he sounds 50 ft. tall, as the chords rise with him. This is perhaps the best example of the band just throwing everything they have at a song and just seeing what happens, and it’s fucking glorious.

3. Head On/Pill

Great debate rages over which album of the 13 is the best. There’s no definitive answer of course, but at the same time, it’s definitely Float Along-Fill Your Lungs. The band’s third record is the most psychedelic they have ever produced, featuring sitars, trippy lyrical imagery and some beautiful kaleidoscopic artwork. The recent vinyl reissue of the album called its opener the ‘Gizzhead national anthem’, and a description has never been so apt.

Whenever this song starts appearing on setlists, fans across the world start talking in hushed tones on internet forums about the possibility of the band playing it when they come to their city, and its not hard to see why. From the euphoric twang of the opening riff through the wild, shimmering ride of the next 16 minutes, this is a song good enough to get you hooked on Gizzard forever. For such a long song, its remarkably catchy, and although it can get repetitive, you soon lose count of the endless cries of ‘PILL’ and just get lost in the psychedelic soup.

2. Robot Stop

As the opening/closing/anywhere in between song on the infinitely looping masterpiece Nonagon Infinity, Robot Stop never fails to get the loudest cheer when played live. It packs in enough ideas to fill an entire album, and even features the return of a motif from I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’ Hot Water, a moment that somehow feels like a natural fit instead of a cheap trick.

It’s got a totally unique energy befitting of its punk-style pacing, bursting out of the traps and quite literally never letting up. But for a track of this rapid a pace, it packs one hell of a melodic wallop, and as far as riffs and solos go this song is an absolute embarrassment of riches, with them all piling up on one another before cascading seamlessly into Big Fig Wasp.

It may well be the band’s defining song, but it’s not quite their best…

1. Float Along-Fill Your Lungs

So here we are, at the summit of Mount Gizzard. It’s been tough whittling down 13 albums to just 10 songs, but there was never really too much doubt about what sits at the top of the pile. The title track from Float Along-Fill Your Lungs isn’t just the band’s greatest song, it’s one of the best psychedelic rock tracks of the last 10 years, and yes you can quote us on that.

The central mantra of, ’Just float along, and fill your lungs / Just float along, and breathe a deep breath’, doesn’t just function as an appropriately hippy-sounding refrain, it encapsulates the vibe of this entire genre of music and of the band themselves. Mackenzie repeats it over a soundscape alive with a million colours, with guitars exploding and reversing back again amidst throbbing synth gurgles; it couldn’t fit together any better.

The result is something that’s somehow both relaxing and thrilling at the same time, with multiple listens revealing new melodies hidden under the layers upon layers of shimmer. Who knows if they’ll ever top it, and we suspect we’ll see them try soon enough, but until then, stay safe, and remember: rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattlesnake… – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

Advertisements

Top 10 Car Seat Headrest Songs

Will Toledo’s Car Seat Headrest project is an anomaly in modern rock music, and a much-needed one at that; with one eye on the past, and the other on the present, the Bandcamp-bred singer-songwriter has offered listeners an overwhelming plethora of ambitious, consistent, and downright moving albums since the group’s inception at the beginning of the decade. 

It has been thoroughly exciting to see Car  Seat Headrest grow, not just in members, but from cult Internet darlings to one of the larger festival-crowd gatherings in recent years – and as they plough on through a tour supporting a remake of  Twin Fantasy, arguably their best record, we thought it only right to celebrate Toledo’s discography with a classic top 10 songs list!  Remember though: we are just teens of style, so don’t take this too seriously.

10. Cute Thing (Face to Face)

It’s important to differentiate between the two existing versions of Twin Fantasy (Toledo’s aforementioned magnum opus), because whilst the similarities may be obvious, the divergences are even more vast.  Take “Cute Thing” as an example: what was once a scuzzy, yelp-y, Who-referencing anthem for young, messy love is now cleaned up, dressed in its best leather jacket and taken out on the town for a banger more akin to Cheap Trick than Teen Suicide.  The structure is overhauled, the dynamics are tweaked, and the harmonies are layered in such a way that would bring a tear of beauty to Brian Wilson’s eye, whilst still retaining the wild spirit of the original in a balance that is easier in theory than it is on wax.  And plus those James Brown and Frank Ocean shoutouts never get any less awesome.

9. Misheard Lyrics (feat. Nora Knight)

And here’s the curveball.  Indie rock bedroom producer abandons guitars for electronic instrumentation” could be the most overused headline in digital media from the past decade, but here on Monomania‘s “Misheard Lyrics,” Toledo shows off his mastery of the laptop in a track that combines crisp handclaps with dreamy piano and a bouncy bassline in a duet with Nora Knight, who adds extra depth to the witty lyrics about a crumbling relationship coming slowly undone due to the writer’s own words being misinterpreted.  A seriously underrated cut on from an overlooked Headrest record.

8. I Want You To Know I’m Awake (I Hope That You’re Asleep)

Whilst Car Seat Headrest are appreciated for their unique style of dry, confessional humour, there is an underlying mark of depression that they are commonly associated with. And it doesn’t get any darker than this How To Leave Town track, which is approximately seven minutes of a person beating themselves up synthesised into chords, melody, rhythm and harmony.  The chugging acoustic guitars and driving rhythm section contrast nicely with the mumbled lyrics, as Toledo murmurs about being “a stupid, ugly, stuttering asshole,” whose lover “said it was a mistake to every try and help.  Resentment never sounded so bittersweet, especially when the song’s narrator starts to convince not only the listener but himself that he and his partner are nothing like John and Yoko, Sinatra and Gardner, or even their own parents.

7. Vincent

Two notes.  That’s all the first two minutes of “Vincent” are based on, trilling seemingly endlessly as ambient noise twirls around them.  Piece by piece everything enters until a raggedy, distorted guitar threatens to rip the whole thing in two–saved only by a funky backbeat the likes of which Toledo has never experimented with before.  Surprisingly groovy, darkly comic and typically epic, this highlight from Teens of Denial proves that even with a wider cast of collaborators, Car Seat Headrest could remain an engaging and interesting project well throughout the decade.  The inclusion of brass only adds to the journey of the song, leaving you thoroughly breathless as the final vocal rings out in its own defiance in the face of teen angst.

6. Famous Prophets (Mirror to Mirror)

The only real misstep of this year’s Twin Fantasy remake (subtitled “Face to Face”) was the group’s handling of the truly monstrous “Famous Prophets,” but at least it served to highlight the staggering ambition of the 2011 original.  Essentially in two parts, the penultimate song on “Mirror to Mirror” acts as the final chapter to the title track’s epilogue, and boy does it ramp up the pressure.  A constant game of cat-and-mouse between tension-and-release, the lyrics find Toledo musing on his favourite topic: a romance on its last legs and the anxiety and sadness that come with it. Only this time it’s even more personal than usual.  Apologies to future mes and yous, but I can’t help feeling like we’re through” he drawls over a numb, descending bassline, before things get biblical, with crashing drums, thrashing guitars and Hebrew screams.  It is often argued that Car Seat Headrest’s work is hampered by the lo-fi nature of its production, yet with this track, it only emphasises the intimacy of the performances – so that when Toledo finally yells in a cracked pain, “Why did you tell me?” over and over again, you feel like you’ve been granted an exclusive insight into catharsis in real time.  Utterly stunning.

5. Destroyed By Hippie Powers

No song in the Car Seat Headrest catalogue rocks harder with a supplementary “W” than this hilarious and touching Pixies-influenced number about the dangers of taking too many hallucinatory drugs at a party to impress your peers and then having to walk the effects off on your way back home.  Whilst the power chords will hit you in the face first, it’s the details that keep you coming back for more: the subtle clock of a cowbell, the lyrical nods to teenage clique culture, the shoebox vocals that shred Toledo’s vocal cords before the big crescendo – it all just adds to such a visceral listening experience, almost as sweeping as the trip that the song’s author found himself on.  All together now: “Tell my mother I am going home…”

4. Something Soon

If “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” is the band’s best rock song, “Something Soon” is by far their best pop song.  Toledo recognises the extraordinary lengths of some of his tracks, often preferring a formidable collection of minutes to a lean cut, stating that it gives him room to breathe and build up the music, yet something must be said for his ability to fit such a complex set of feelings into four minutes of near-perfection so irresistible that Smash Mouth (yes, that Smash Mouth) even covered it.  Opening on a twinkling Rhodes piano and pulsating hi-hats, every melody that comes from Toledo’s mouth is devised to the nth degree to be ironically screamed back at him by adoring fans across the globe, especially when the song roars into life at the chorus: “Heavy boots on my throat, I need/ I need something soon/ […] I can’t talk to my folks, I need something soon.”  When another trademark Headrest crescendo bursts open a kaleidoscope of sound, you can’t help but think the thing you need is more songs like this.

3. The Ending of Dramamine

Here is where it gets difficult.  Depending on what day of the week it is, any of the top three tracks here could have been number one – they all, in their own way, represent what is best about Car Seat Headrest: the ambitious song structures, the tightrope-balancing-act of humour and sentiment in their lyrics, the arresting ear for melody, the willingness to experiment and prescribe patience to their listeners.  But someone has to win bronze, and it’s up to How To Leave Town highlight “The Ending of Dramamine” to take that place.  Clocking in at nearly fifteen minutes, with a particularly trying five minute intro, this song is not for the feint of heart.  It patiently unfurls through its run time, the tick-tock of that ever present drumbeat backing a lonely drive through America in the night, its dark organs, reverberating synthesisers, and metronomic bass keeping that anxious groove locked in.  As more elements keep piling into the mix, the claustrophobia creeps in until the listener is left in solitude, with nothing but echoing guitar feedback for company.  Never fails to be breathtaking in its gloominess.

2. Bodys (Face to Face)

Everyone likes “Bodys.”  It’s the Car Seat Headrest song to the bleachers, a ’90s indie rock song indebted to The Beach Boys and realised for the modern age with a four-to-the-floor beat stretched out to over six minutes– a tune so heartfelt and witty that it is irresistible in every sense of the word.  The newer version of it only highlights the impact that those hooks(!), those guitars(!), that drumbeat(!) can have on a human, as it bounds its way carefree and sexy to the finish line with the kind of exuberance that only the young, thin, and alive can muster.  It’s the sound of a really good day, it’s the sound of telling your crush that you love them, it’s the sound of acing an exam, it’s the sound of getting a promotion at work, it’s the sound of the best night of your life with your best friends.  It’s really, really good – and that’s saying something considering its competition.  Everyone likes Bodys.  I really like Bodys.

1. Beach Life-In-Death (Face to Face)

I’ve been staring at this Word document for nearly twenty minutes trying to come up with a good enough reason as to why “Beach Life-In-Death” is the best Car Seat Headrest song, and I simply can’t.  It’s not for lack of quality on the track’s part; otherwise, it wouldn’t even be in contention with the rest of these fabulous numbers.  But it’s a fault on my part: it was the first song I ever heard from Toledo’s magical brain, and it’s the first song I think of when I wonder what sums up the group best.  It’s sort of like trying to describe why a certain parent is your favourite – I could list all these attributes as to why I admire it, but at the end of the day they’re not the exact reason why I love it so much.  It’s long, fast, loud, dynamic, funny, sad, heart-on-its-sleeve proud, huddled-up-in-bed anxious, and, above all else, defiantly human. 

The “Face to Face” version, in particular, offers a refreshingly adult perspective on the awkward, messy side to late teens and early 20s romance, where you’re old enough to know better but too young to truly commit. It’s a maturity that the “Mirror to Mirror” edition lacks, indulging itself in a slice of self-pity that hasn’t aged as well.  And the final scream that glitches and overwhelms the entire recording is pure bliss, a sweet release from all the pent-up angst derived from the confusion of not understanding people who are never meant to be understood in the first place. They’re living beings, and trying to figure them out like a puzzle is weird, but you can’t help it.  Enough of my pretentious ramblings – go listen to it, experience it, come back, and then we’ll talk about all those dog metaphors, eh? – josh adams (@jxshadams)

Top 10 Tyler The Creator Tracks

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Who exactly Tyler the Creator is, has always been up for debate. He started as the driving force behind hip-hop collective Odd Future that made superstars out of Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and more recently, The Internet.

The group’s aggressive image attracted the media’s attention instantly and Tyler’s bizarre antics, as well as interviews, helped land him a show on Adult Swim with his buddies joining him on Loiter Squad. Tyler’s music reflected his behavior in the public’s eye when he released Goblin in 2011: critics pointed out the absurd number of times Tyler uses homophobic slurs throughout the album but failed to mention the immensely dark and troubled tone of the album itself. There is a track near the end of the album where Tyler metaphorically kills his friends, and the album itself deals with Tyler talking to a therapist named Dr. TC (Tyler’s Consciousness.)

Following up Goblin was Wolf, the second effort from the face of Odd Future still retained the jagged edges from Goblin but featured much more tender production and a theme centered around summer camp, love, and jealousy. It would be the last album Tyler would put together while Odd Future was still active. Cherry Bomb followed almost exactly two years later and contained some of Tyler’s messiest and most beautiful tracks he has ever released. Altogether, it made for a cluttered release that most die-hard fans will defend but the public has forgotten.

A little over two years later, Tyler emerges as a confidently bloomed bud. He releases Flower Boy, a personal album that references his sexuality for the first time and his relationship with friends and family. Long gone are the jagged edges of Goblin, in its place rests a perfectly crafted album with memorable tracks, excellent production, and amazing features from the likes of up-and-comers Rex Orange County, Kali Uchis and Steve Lacy, in addition to established acts like Frank Ocean and Lil Wayne. Now proving himself as a creative genius after fashion shows, a successful collaboration with Converse’s One-Star, grammy nominations for Flower Boy, we wonder where he will go from here.

Revisiting Tyler’s old discography can be fairly nostalgic despite being less than a decade old, memories of watching him evolve being particularly rose-tinted but it’s difficult to argue that a good chunk of his early material hasn’t stood the test of time. It took a bit for Tyler to find his footing as a musical artist and though he may have had a certain vision for all of those albums, it doesn’t mean that every song in its own way fits or is actually good at all. There is quite a number of duds on his first 4 albums (if you include mixtape Bastard). With that being said, where there is darkness there is light and Tyler is responsible for some of the best rap music of this decade. He should not be viewed as anything but a monumental inspiration to this generation and an artist to watch for years to come so, without further ado, here’s the cream of the crop when it comes to Wolf Haley’s list of tracks.

10. Treehome95

Treehome95 is just a taste of the potential Tyler had in jazz when it was released. While the cut may have been off-putting to a lot of fans when it showed up on Wolf, it still shows a connection to his current work. The gentle side of Tyler that didn’t often come out was a change of pace that much desired and this cut was only something that amplified it. Erykah Badu and Coco Owino lend gorgeous vocals to help fill out the track. By the time it ends at its 3-minute mark, it’s too soon.

9. Answer


Tyler speaks bluntly to his father on Answer with a fiery flow that resembles early Eminem.  The production on this track is easy to love: the drums sound incredible paired with the guitar tone and sure, Syd could have done really well with a bigger role than background vocals on this cut, but there’s a reason why it’s appearing on this list regardless.

8. Where This Flower Blooms


The ‘proper’ introduction to Flower Boy, Tyler sounds fearless on this track with Frank; like they have both come into their own. Tyler brings the listener into his world with great production and even better verses. 

7. She

She doesn’t really seem like it’s a stand-alone Tyler track. Frank Ocean takes such big strides at the beginning of the track that Tyler quickly falls behind. With that being said, the hook is something most Tyler fans will never forget. Infectious, unsettling, and oddly beautiful. The unfortunate part about revisiting this track is thinking about how Tyler’s early lyrics will affect the replayability of his music in the already-quick pace our culture is moving at.

6. IFHY

When the music video for this came out, it was hard not to be blown away. Tyler standing in an enormous doll-house plastered is prosthetics captured the creepy vibe that this song gives off. Released during a peak in Tyler’s aggressiveness, this cut also came off Wolf, which is also the first time we are able to see any vulnerability from Tyler. It’s an excellent blend of the two in this song especially, the brash opening lines compared to the exquisite performance from Pharrell to end things off.

5. November

This beat can really fuck you up on first listen, featuring some of the best production on the album. The theme of the song and the features from his friends that lead into the beat switch up make it an easy one to adore, seeing Tyler deliver one of his best performances in the first verse with an incredible flow.

4. OKRA

A standout cut after the release of Tyler’s most popular album, Flower Boy. Tyler unexpectedly dropped OKRA with a fantastic music video in 2018 after staying relatively quiet, retaining the lyrical elements of Flower Boy by keeping it real and bluntly rapping from a personal perspective. The production elements are very thick with a quick tempo, making it one of Tyler’s most hard-hitting songs ever.

3. Smuckers

A fan favorite, Smuckers was a huge standout on Tyler’s most polarizing effort, Cherry Bomb. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Tyler all bring their writing chops to extreme highs and pays off in one of the best posse cuts of this generation. For die-hard Kanye fans, his verse is one of the best he has dropped this decade. Lil Wayne is able to bring the song to a satisfying close with his verse towards the back end of the song. Smuckers is a song so well put together that it will age like wine.

2. See You Again

See You Again is the prime example of the current Tyler era and the best way to be able to pin down his current sound. Kali Uchis takes a chance to really shine on this track and even though she and Tyler have collaborated, nothing they’ve done has ever sounded this grand. The hook is infectious, and the flow of Tyler’s verses is something we come to expect from him. It could very well be debated that See You Again helped break down the doors for stars like Rex Orange County and Steve Lacy to bring this “anti-pop” sound into an underground mainstream audience.

1. 911/Mr. Lonely

This is one of Tyler’s best examples of when everything comes perfectly together in his head. Steve Lacy’s vocals, the Frank feature, the seamless transition into Mr. Lonely, the energy that flows from the funk of the first track into the bangin’ second. The grasp this track has you is scary, making itself an immediate favourite for many fans and a welcoming update to any listeners or critics that had written Tyler off early in his career.

Top Ten Vampire Weekend Tracks

words fae sean hannah (@Shun_Handsome)

I think… there’s something inherently interesting [about preppiness],” Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig confesses to Anthony Mason, responding to the flak the group caught for their sartorially-obsessed image. For haters who are still hung up on the band’s appearance, Vampire Weekend’s unassailably straight-laced wardrobe is a constant point of derision, as it calls into question the matter of the band’s authenticity in rock circles. But authenticity is a moot point in most rock music anyway, and image is the most superficial of its signifiers.

Spawned from the dorms of Columbia University, Vampire Weekend compounded their belletristic interests with a democratic passion for music that spans the entirety of the globe. Koenig provided thoughtful, reference-heavy lyrics to their songs, while producer/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij condensed his appreciation for classical, experimental, and world music into concise pop sonatas. Bassist Chris Baio plays stoically, capable of delicate melody as well as pithy foundation. Drummer Chris Tomson often favors an African-inspired floor-tom drum arrangement, recalling experimentalists like Mo Tucker as well as the rhythms of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

Despite eliciting such strong reactions from anti-Weekenders, Vampire Weekend have proven themselves an indelible phenomenon in this current iteration of indie rock. Their clean, poppy sound, understated sense of humor, and alacrity to explore new styles and genres with each album combine to form an inimitable aesthetic with an astounding consistency. And as the band’s forthcoming album moves at a glacial pace, with the band giving sporadic updates that quantify the album’s completion by tenths of a percent, it seems appropriate to look back at one of pop music’s most inventive bands of the last decade and evaluate their top ten songs.

10. Mansard Roof

Beginning with a hyper-specific reference to the architectural style of the same name, Mansard Roof is a treatise, an entrée into the world of Vampire Weekend. A sprightly 1-2-3 drum and organ pump heralds its opening line. “I see a mansard roof through the trees,” Koenig cheerily declares, “I see a salty message written in the eaves.” Even without the accompanying music video, it’s hard not to imagine Koenig and company dressed in Oxford shirts and Sperry’s as they contemplate the sloping roof of a nearby building while they themselves stand bayside. Mansard Roof, like the rest of Vampire Weekend’s debut album, said to the world, “We’re preppy, we’re smart, but we’re not too uptight about it.”

9. Arrows

It sounds like a song Wes Anderson would co-opt for a critical scene in one of his films, but Arrows is, in fact, one of Vampire Weekend’s most elusive and celebrated rarities. Recorded around the time of their 2008 debut, Arrows combines the energy of their live shows with the studio craft that would come to define the band. Tight, Billy Ficca-inspired drumming abounds, a rich, cello-led string section bookends the song, and effusive Afrobeat guitar runs punctuate the verses. Arrows could well have replaced nearly any song on Vampire Weekend, but part of its charm rests in its obscurity. For Vampire obsessives, it remains a well-kept secret, one that rewards those willing to dig deeper than the picayune three albums.

8.  Step

Its opening line is borrowed from a Souls of Mischief rarity, its chord progression from Pachelbel’s Canon, its chorus from Bread’s Aubrey. Vampire Weekend pulled out all the stops for their third single on Modern Vampires of the City. Serving partly as a trenchant self-examination as well as an affirmation of personal growth, Step finds Koenig at odds with his opulent past: “Home in New York was champagne and disco” while recognizing his own oncoming maturity: “I’m stronger now, I’m ready for the house.” In the song’s chorus are nods to Modest Mouse and outsider artist Jandek, both of which seem arbitrary in the context of the lyrics, but that’s sort of the point. For all of Vampire Weekend’s incessant name checking and bookish tendencies, there exists some modicum of profundity in their lyrical encyclopedia.

7. Ya Hey

Arguably the centerpiece of Modern Vampires of the City, Ya Hey is part indictment, part paean to its mysterious second-person subject. “Oh, sweet thing, America don’t love you/ So I could never love you/ In spite of everything,” pronounces Koenig in a mellifluous, Chet Baker-channeling coo. Ya Hey is partly about failing institutions, with Koenig running through a catalogue of people and things that have taken leave of this ambiguous “you.” Like a cynical take on the wish list of GirlsLust for Life, Ezra reminds her that the Motherland, the Zion, and religious zealots will never requite her adoration. The song’s climax arrives at the 4:40 mark as the chorus repeats and Koenig is joined by full band and choir. He confidently reassures, “Through the fire and through the flames/ You won’t even say your name/ Only, “I am that I am.” Those lines manage to fit in allusions to the eternally uncool DragonForce, the venerable Peter Tosh, and the confounding Hebrew expression Yahweh puts to Moses. Each referent is given without a hint of hierarchy, as is Vampire Weekend’s m.o., which is to be expected from a man who “swoons” upon hearing a DJ transition from Israelites to 19th Nervous Breakdown.

6. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

You criticize the practice by murdering their plants.” Vampire Weekend weren’t great at penning sensationalistic lyrics on their first album. They were acutely aware of this, however, which is why so many of the images in that record’s lyrics are impressionistic rather than explosive. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance, which closes the band’s extraordinary debut, doubles down on the imagery VW knew they’d be chided for by detractors. Shiny cufflinks, pinstripe-clad men of distinction, and a hoard of money ($40 million, to be precise) populate Kids, all of which are sung about with a self-aware smirk by Koenig. With an instrumental track just as jaunty as anything else on Vampire Weekend, The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance closes out the album with poise, refinement, and an admirable amount of care and dedication.

5. California English Pt. 2

A B-side in the Vampire Weekend catalogue, California English Pt. 2 ultimately lost a spot on Contra to its more energetic predecessor. But the song meets or exceeds nearly any track on that album in terms of songcraft. Featuring a collection of slowly building keyboard lines that reside somewhere between dream pop and electronica, Pt. 2 finds the group at a lyrical and musical high water mark. As always, Ezra’s libretto considers the social and spiritual implications of growing up well-off with humor and tact. “Are our parents actually Buddhist? Is the pool below me the bluest?” he wonders to himself, fully aware of the contradiction between those two thoughts. The chorus is simple enough: an exultant “Oh, California!” sung with the reverence of any one of those great Golden State artists, be they The Mamas and The Papas or Katy Perry or whoever.

4. I Think Ur a Contra

Never mind the text message spelling in its title, I Think Ur a Contra is a song of enormous breadth and depth. Parlaying a more-or-less civil break up into a meditation on the superficiality of romanticized wealth and poverty, the Contra closer showcases Vampire Weekend’s greatest asset: their ability to transmute petty angst into sweeping societal critiques. “When you turn away from me/ It’s not right,” Koenig croons over an amorphous pillow of synthesizers and fidgeting guitar effects. It’s an overly simple summation of a failed romance, one that rock and pop music employ out of fear of nuance. But at I Think’s bridge comes a dramatic change: Rostam’s sky-clearing string arrangement brings out the philosopher in Koenig as he cuts down his ex’s hypocrisies. She wants “good schools and friends with pools,” but she also wants “rock and roll, complete control.” On one end are the attractions of pedigree, on the other, the promises of populism. Koenig himself is wary of both, demurring, “Well, I don’t know.” I Think Ur a Contra is as much a scathing breakup song as it is a self-conscious swipe at the lifestyle the band had been touting for their first two albums.

3. M79

For all their enthrallment with African guitar pop and European Chamber music, Vampire Weekend are first and foremost a New York band. They sing about Washington Heights and Taqueria y Fonda as if they were the cruxes of the world, and on M79, their ode to the NYC bus route of the same name, the band limn the city as the hub of cultural eclecticism it’s known to be as well as a site of personal disillusionment familiar to natives and non-locals alike. Touchstones of the Upper West Side are mentioned casually, like the taxis and rickshaws perambulating up and down the streets and the sights in Central Park (abbreviated to “The Park”). Still, though, there’s something universal to these lyrics: as the girl in the song passes her French and Buddhist classmates at Columbia, she’s cautioned not to think anything racist or jingoistic. It’s the common dilemma of being faced with other cultures, other ways of life, and wondering just how valid they really are. Or how valid our own is.

2. Hannah Hunt

Travel has long been a staple of Vampire Weekend’s lyrics, but it was often underscored with the lightheartedness of a vicenarian viewing the world’s wonders from a safe distance. The trips to Spain, Cape Cod, and Darjeeling were just perks of the privilege the band would spend much of their career trying to shake off. But on Hannah Hunt, the desultory couple driving to Santa Barbara from Rhode Island discover a malaise in themselves that vacationing can’t allay. The song’s breezy, twinkling piano and guileless rhythm section betray its despondent subject matter, often submitting graciously to Koenig’s weary vocals. That is, until the song reaches its infamous bridge. “If I can’t trust you, then dammit, Hannah!/ There’s no future, there’s no answer,” he cries, the music swelling under him in a pained climax. On Hannah Hunt, Vampire Weekend perfect the musical travelogue, stealing it away from hackneyed Springsteen wannabes and reclaiming it for the indie crowd.

1. Diplomat’s Son

The penultimate song on Contra, Diplomat’s Son synthesizes every trick the band employed on their sophomore record into a six-minute mini-concerto. Delicate synths (more refined than the simple keyboards on Vampire Weekend), expansive, varied percussion, and lush orchestral dalliances comprise this experimental Afro-pop melodrama. Co-writers Koenig and Batmanglij construct the scene with stark lyrical economy, penning lines like, “It’s not right/ but it’s now or never/ And if I wait/ Could I ever forgive myself?Diplomat’s Son describes the turmoil of a man questioning his sexuality as the trappings of his privileged upbringing begin to fail him. Buzzing TVs are left unattended at home, car keys are hidden at a party, white shoes are strewn inside a bathtub. In a moment of hasty abandon, he gets high and sleeps with a close friend, who departs before morning. Like Contra on the whole, Son finds Vampire Weekend moving away from the faux-existential crises of post-collegiate life and stepping into the real world, one of frustration, confusion, and desertion.

TRANSISTOR’S 10 Best Albums of 2018 (Mid-Year Update)

intro and thumbnail fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro)

While we could start this off with some drivel about how 2018 has been fraught with political debate, general discourse and a shaky quality in memes, we know what you’re here for: a ranking of subjective apart, decided by people you don’t know and/or care about. We might not be in the same league as Pitchfork and the likes but we feel our contribution to the discussion is… somewhat worthy, plus, we’ve got some solid patter so why not get into the list season spirit early?

10 Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

Josh Tillman is a man on a hot streak. Since leaving the Fleet Foxes in 2012, he has reinvented himself as folk rockstar Father John Misty – releasing 3 critically acclaimed records, 2012’s psychedelic Fear Fun, 2015’s wildly romantic I Love You, Honeybear and 2017’s world-weary Pure Comedy – which topped many end of year lists. However – Pure Comedy also proved somewhat divisive – with many criticising its 75-minute run time, filled mostly by less-than-energetic instrumentation.

Tillman’s response? He’s returned just over a year later with God’s Favorite Customer – his shortest record yet at just 39 minutes. GFC feels like more of a sequel to Honeybear than Pure Comedy, detailing a rough patch in Tillman and his wife Emma’s relationship when he was living in a hotel –hilariously depicted on lead single Mr. Tillman, with the lyrics coming from the perspective of a hotel receptionist concerned for Tillman’s welfare.

However, things get considerably darker on other tracks, like Please Don’t Die, where he details “pointless benders with reptilian strangers” and the chorus comes from the perspective of Tillman’s wife, begging him not to take his own life. Remarkably, on the darkest moments of this incredibly personal record, Tillman keeps up his absurd sense of humour which has been a staple of his FJM records. On the solemn The Palace, Tillman undercuts his confessional to declare “last night I wrote a poem/man I must have been in the poem zone” and perhaps even references the internet’s favourite Jeff meme. In a sentence – God’s Favorite Customer is hilarious, heartbreaking and incredibly catchy – all at the same time. It’s just what we expect of Father John Misty now. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

HEAR THE ALBUM

9Jeff Rosenstock – POST

POST- is an album rife with conflict, vacillating between furtive political references and forthright internal turmoil. Yr Throat questions the efficacy of self-expression as the narrator’s body and mind lock into a stalemate: “What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?!” All This Useless Energy stages a contentious dialogue between under-informed neurotypicals and frustrated depressives: “You’re not fooling anyone when you say you tried your best.”  I’m worried of abandoning the joys that framed my life, but all this useless energy won’t hold me through the night.

Whatever the meaning you choose to ascribe to the term “post” (Post-Obama, Post-Trauma, or for the overdramatic, Post-America) POST- refers to the end of an era. Every generation grapples with its social and political conventions, and now the Millennials have been called to action. A daunting task, to be sure, for a throng of young people consistently written off as thin-skinned, lazy, and disinterested. But with Jeff Rosenstock at the forefront of punk’s socially-inclined philosophes, we’re sure not to be tired and bored with the fight. May we never be again. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

8Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.

According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.

This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good. – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

HEAR THE ALBUM | READ THE REVIEW

7 A.A.L – 2012-2017

Returning with a surprise album under his Against All Logic (A.A.L) moniker, leading electronic producer Nicholas Jaar ditches most of the experimentation for what could be pretty much summed up as a deep house album. Now, as this Jaar, this isn’t your chart-ready, sanitised house. Here, Jaar again samples with aplomb, but unlike other releases where the samples are manipulated into something totally new, here Jaar lets these groove-laden samples sit by themselves, letting the samples play out, with expert flourishes of percussion and electronic trickery to flesh out the instrumentation.

It might be contentious to some to include what is essentially a compilation album of previous songs onto this list, but it is for good reason. Here, Nicholas Jaar has arguably made a house album that will transcend normal genre barriers; this is an album that will go down in the history books as one of the best house albums ever made. Funk and soul samples are paired with some of the smoothest percussion heard this year, to make an album that is oozing style, charisma, and panache. – Charlie Leach (@yungbuchan)

HEAR THE ALBUM 

6UMO – Sex & Food

On their newest release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hone in on the best aspects from each of their previous projects and produce some of their best work yet. The album swings from 80s pop to the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s so effortlessly and constantly applies a modern spin to each song, whether it be from the lyrics or production. On ‘Sex and Food’ an excellent mix between a vintage sound and modern ideas if found, as UMO refine their sound and deliver a cleaner than usual selection tracks that may be some of their best yet.

The brilliant songwriting and interesting production of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sounding as good as ever with this latest project. Sex and Food sees new inspirations emerge and blend with the signature sound of UMO to continue the great track record that the band have formed since 2011. The album also finds more of a cohesive and clean sound than some of the distortion-heavy releases prior to this, which works well with the grooving baselines and beautiful melodies that can be heard throughout the project. Overall, it seems that Unknown Mortal Orchestra have matched, if not exceeded, the quality of Multi-Love, and continue to add to their already intricate and unique sound with a great album that continues to impress. – Ewan Blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

HEAR THE ALBUM | READ THE REVIEW

5Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People

When Australian dance-pop four piece Confidence Man burst onto the scene amidst a flurry of Triple J hype and YouTube comment section detractors with a stunning live rendition of their first single, “Boyfriend”, few expected them to capitalise on that potential and become 2018’s most surprising success story.  It goes without saying that a key component to this sudden rush in popularity is down to their near-flawless debut LP, which is in itself the most fun you’ll have with an album all year.  It kicks off the party with “Try Your Luck”‘s earworm of a melody and doesn’t let go until the final echoes of “Fascination” fade out into the night as you stumble out, breathless and hungry for more.

In the rest of its forty minute runtime, Confidence Man cover a lot of ground for a band who could have been a one trick pony, taking the best bits of house, techno and disco and repackaging them in a contemporary format that recalls the best of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and Fatboy Slim.  Along the way, they will make you dance, laugh, sing, dance some more, and be oh so grateful that they exist in such dour times like this. – Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

HEAR THE ALBUM

4Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

After 2013’s still-quite-good-but-underwhelming AM, you’d be forgiven for writing ArcticMonkeys off for good, god knows I did. But now the naysayers as a collective have egg on their ruddy faces! The Sheffield 4 piece are back in town, and they are back with a vengeance. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the self-inflicted kick up the arse the band had simply to give themselves after the AM album cycle left them positively stagnant.

Gone are the grease and leather jackets from AM, replaced with a Hugh Hefner-esque robe, a stiff whiskey and a wee pipe. TBH+C is lounge music for the modern era. A trip through an astral Las Vegas through the eyes of an aging patron. It’s straight out of left field and it’s all the better for it.

Each song weaves into the last effortlessly. This isn’t an album you can put on shuffle, it’s as deliberate as it is sexy. There’s no banger single on here (bar maybe the album’s centerpiece Four Out of Five), but what you, dear listener, gets instead is an album from a band finally totally free from the shackles of indie rock, and finally comfortable in their own skin. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds, to me, like the album Alex Turner and the boys have wanted to make for a long, long time. It is truly out of this world. – Jake Cordiner (@j4keth)

HEAR THE ALBUM | READ THE REVIEW

3 Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Who would’ve thought that four white guys playing in a punk outfit in 2018 could sing about how “woke” they are and make it sound convincing? Parquet Courts have long played the role of rock and roll philosophers; co-songwriters Austin Brown and Andrew Savage often dive into popular rock fodder like relationships, travel, and technology, detailing each phenomenon with an enlightened, if blunt, sentiment. And on Wide Awake!, the group return with their trademark urban nervousness, this time with a wider musical palette, courtesy of guest producer Danger Mouse.

Removed from the context of the music, Brown, and Savage begin to sound like paranoiacs, their lyrics veering close to the basket cases spouting off outside of grocery stores and banks. “Lately I’ve been curious/ Do I pass the Turing test?” Savage sings on Normalization, his voice not so much panicked as it is angry, demanding. But for all the furor, the Brooklyn quartet remain woke, even if it’s the kind of social awareness that keeps you up at night: “Mind so woke cause my brain never pushes the brakes!” As always, Parquet Courts make anxiety catchy—to them, the human condition is a mix of mundanity and revulsion, terror and desensitisation, and on Wide Awake!, it’s never without a strong hook.

Oh, and fuck Tom Brady. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

HEAR THE ALBUM | READ THE REVIEW

2Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

One of the most exciting acts Scotland has seen in years, Young Fathers returned this year with the much anticipated Cocoa Sugar, an album which continues to showcase their ability to create an explosive collection of innovative and experimental tracks. On Cocoa Sugar, Young Fathers are catchier and poppier than before but sacrifice none of their talent for packing so much intricate detail into short but powerful blasts of music.

The Edinburgh hip-hop trio are as versatile as ever here as well, going from almost spiritual places on tracks such as In My View and Lord to the grit and sinister tones of Wow, Wire, and Toy. Cocoa Sugar gets more impressive with each listen and it’s most impressive aspect is just how layered each track is with its intertwining vocals, driving beats, backing choir and many minor details that you appreciate more and more with each listen. – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

HEAR THE ALBUM | WATCH THE REVIEW

1Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

What to say about Twin Fantasy that hasn’t already been said? Will Toledo’s lo-fi opus is a source of inspiration to all indie fans of this generation. Toledo’s enormous presence mixed with honest but cryptic storytelling led his diehard fans to pick and dissect every bit of truth behind the album. Usually, this kind of reaction would generate a pretty negative feeling towards the album from the musician’s standpoint, but the art Toledo created in 2011 stood the test of time.

Prompting him to redo the album completely; submerging himself in lyrics and feelings from years prior. This led him to create what is arguably his most grand record to date, labeled as (Face to Face). The structure from the original album is there but everything has been redone in the best possible way. There is enough for fans of the original to feel it has been done justice, but it also stands on its own enough to attract new fans. It’s the perfect love letter to what Car Seat Headrest used to be, written from where the band is now. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

HEAR THE ALBUM | READ THE REVIEW

The Ten Best Bombay Bicycle Club Tracks

words fae charlie leach (@YungBuchan)

For the best part of a decade, Bombay Bicycle Club were ever-present at every summer festival. A band known for their indie-rock sensibilities, their joyous hooks, and lush soundscapes, Bombay Bicycle Club cemented themselves in the every festival goer’s ear, becoming the go-to for that summer playlist. In spite of this, they are not a “summer mix” band. Their music contains hidden depths and complexities, and over their initial run of four albums, their sound developed into areas that would not have seemed possible on their debut. For anyone who hasn’t heard their work, or who wants to relive that picturesque festival day, here is a list of this writer’s top ten favourite Bombay Bicycle Club tracks.

10. Rinse Me Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkGpdVip4aw

Though scoffed at by many critics on its initial release, the band’s sophomore effort Flaws is an underappreciated indie folk gem. Album opener Rinse Me Down elatedly starts the album with a wonderfully bouncy rhythm, the acoustic guitars plucking together in sweet harmony. Lead singer Jack Steadman’s vocals swoon over the track, telling the story of a lover lost to another.

9. Evening/Morning

Like many standout singles from Bombay Bicycle Club, Evening/Morning has the melodies to contend with any indie band from the early 2010’s. Ed Nash’s contagious bass line punctuates the song, combined with guitar lines and vocal hooks that are reminiscent of one of their peers at the time, We Are Scientists. Like most Bombay Bicycle Club songs, Evening/Morning was a staple of their live shows, the bass line belted back to the band by their rapturous fans.

8. Carry Me

Carry Me marked the bands shift to synths, synths being an ever-present feature of their last album, So Long, See You Tomorrow. Synths here replace the typical guitar-lead hook of the song but are not missed. A hook that could be seen on an electronica album, the rest of the song is filled with chopped vocals, synthetic horns, and effects-laden guitars. Like many of their indie peers, Bombay Bicycle Club’s shift into the electronic was, on the whole, a successful one.

7. Lights Out, Words Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duBN7YZyIwU

Lights Out, Words Gone is a dream-pop song (emphasis on dream). A shuffling rhythm backs a walking-bass line, with guitars plucking away into the ever-lasting distance. Like many of the songs on the bands second and third album, it is lifted greatly by the angelic vocals of Lucy Rose, a frequent collaborator with the band, and an extremely talented singer-songwriter (also perfect for that Spotify picnic playlist, if so inclined).

6. Lamplight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1LrLEcrawc

This is the UK post-punk revival in a nutshell: intricate guitar hooks layered in fuzz and reverb; a bass line that provides the track firm foundation; continually pounding drums that move the track forward at every juncture; and a crooning lead vocal that moves about the track with a shaky tremolo. What separates this track from many of its contemporaries is its blaring breakdown in the latter third. Never really repeated in their discography, this breakdown blares a wall of sound onto the listener, with an almost screamed vocal filling the high end of the song. If the band does come back from their hiatus, the shoegaze-tinged direction could be something that could evolve the band again.

5. Leave It

Leave It is a song that is not immediately noticeable. During the runtime of the bands’ fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, Leave It arrives and leaves in a typical Bombay Bicycle Club fashion, instilling a catchy vocal hook and memorable guitar lines. Its inclusion on this top ten list is solely down to the band’s live shows. The vocal refrain of the hook is the greatest tension builder, leading to a crescendo of a chorus bemoaning the past discretions of a lover. For want of a better word, a true belter for a live show.

4. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgvBmEmtF-I

How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep is auditory journey that builds and builds. A typical opener for the band’s live sets, the blissful guitar refrain that begins the song grows and grows throughout the song, layer, and layer of instruments slowly building to a mystical soundscape filled with warm synths, skittering clicking samples and ghostly vocal harmonies. When this song first played at the start of their gig, the audience knew to be prepared for a glistening journey through indie rock’s finest.

3. Ivy And Gold

This top three will consist of some of the catchiest guitar melodies in indie rock. If Bombay Bicycle Club will be remembered for at least one thing, it will be some of the catchiest hooks released in a genre full of bands chasing that one hook that will make them overnight successes. Bombay Bicycle Club arguably did that several times over. Ivy And Gold is one such song that will seep into the listener’s brain, becoming the hard to forget ear-worm that will be whistled down the street a week later. Just a wonderfully cheerful tune, one that could never be hated (this writer’s Mom loves this song).

2. Shuffle

A precursor to the electronica-inspired Carry Me, Shuffle was an ever-present of the summer festival playlist, and with good reason. The chopped piano melody is an instant hit, providing the bait to envelop the listener with a tightly constructed song that oozes fun. Steadman and Rose sing with passion about sticking with a partner, this triumphant track begs to be sung with heart and vigour until the throat is run dry. It must also be said that Steadman’s remix of this track is vastly underappreciated, and is definitely worth a listen for those who like sliced and chopped music.

1. Always Like This

But don’t wear that throat out too much, there is one more riff to belt out to the heavens. The fun, staccato riff of Always Like This announced Bombay Bicycle Club to the public. This guitar line has stayed with the band, and for good reason. It is a joyous (there’s that word again), dopamine-inducing riff that never leaves. Coupled with the minor chorus that adds the spaced-out vibe, this track is the epitome of Bombay Bicycle Club.

Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins Tracks

by sarah hughes (@hollowcrown)

With a career spanning exactly 2 decades, numerous line-up changes, drama and a 6-year hiatus, Smashing Pumpkins were a key group during the birth of grunge in the 90s. This band has made a huge impact on music from the get-go with their caustic debut Gish (1991), right through their peaks and even their most recent release Monuments to an Elegy (2014) inspires peers and listeners alike. With a very special North American tour coming up later in the year, featuring 3/4ths of the original line up playing exclusively songs from the first 5 albums, there has never been a better time to really delve into the band’s discography and pick their best tracks to date.

10. Tiberius

Despite being on a critical decline from 2006 onwards, with an apparent shift to a darker, more obscure tone, Monuments to an Elegy surprised listeners with a return of the band’s signature sounds. Frontman and driving force William “Billy” Corgan once stated he liked the idea of creating his own alternative universe through sound – which is clearly a sentiment he has presented to all of SP’s material. The track Tiberius opens the record with a swirling, dreamlike hook and restored our faith in Smashing Pumpkins.

9. Ugly

There’s a plethora of versions of this Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1996) B-side circulating the internet. The true beauty of this songs falls on its ability to fit any applied style – the structure and lyricism are so powerful that it can be all or nothing and hit equally as hard. For Corgan especially, this track is brutally confessional. For someone so reserved, it’s refreshing to feel him open up this much; it really connects the audience with the artist.

8. Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Being one of the band’s most mainstream hits, it would be easy to assume that this song is a watered down version of their raw sound. However, Bullet With Butterfly Wings is totally deserving of the praise it receives. This track showcases Jimmy Chamberlin’s pure talent on drums, more so than any other SP song. Coming from Mellon Collie’s first half “Dawn to Dusk”, it gives affirmation that the band had matured from their debut LP, Gish.  

7. Zero

For all its cliched angst, Zero is an infectious track that serves as a fitting outlet for rage on all scales. The vocals are unfiltered and angry, and provide yet another surprising performance from Corgan, as this was perhaps his first expression of the darkness explored fully in later albums. Additionally, this is an example of ex-bassist D’arcy Wretzky’s talent. This song serves as an important experimentation for SP and dictated the direction of the band in the turn of the millennium.

6. Ava Adore

Arguably the turning point for SP, 1998’s Adore seen a shift from abrasive melodic to extremely gloomy tones. It’s hard to tell whether the band were pandering to the mainstream with this album, as goth was in vogue circa the late 90’s or if they were pushing their own boundaries – either way, it helped produce a moody LP that carried a lot of atmosphere with it. Although the Pumpkins have consistently intended to create an “alternative universe through sound”, Ava Adore is the best illustration of their writing characteristics.

5. Soma

Dawning from the sophomore LP, Siamese Dream, Soma is one of the band’s most delicate songs. There was a lot of experimentation on this record as they were investigating their own sound, and that is very clear in Soma. Interestingly, throughout recording, they played with techniques such as overdubbing, and this particular song was dubbed over 40 times to create atmospheric qualities in this gentle, yet intense, track. These qualities are what hold Soma in such high esteem, that and the confidence of the group to break away from their own mould.

4. Today

Elevating the band from underground to popular culture, Today was a pinnacle of the grunge movement in the mid-1990s. It held its character as a Smashing Pumpkins number while becoming a staple of the movement. It’s hard to believe that this came from their second studio album as it demonstrates so well how to balance a song.

3. Bodies

Technically, the execution of this track is the bands best; boasting relentless bass and guitar riffs, hollering vocals and impeccable drums. Though never released as a single, perhaps because of its metal influence throughout, it is unmistakably a complete summary of SP’ original sound. It’s satisfying that they held onto their rawness into the third LP, Mellon Collie, and that they actually carried that integrity in their entire discography; there is a carnal anger undertone throughout. Bodies is the point in their career where they appeased the mainstream fashions while protesting their right to remain rough and interesting.

2. Quiet

Quiet only just beats Bodies to the second spot, simply because it was the pioneer for that carnal anger – consider it the mothership for the latter. There is a fresh, playful tone to this track that triggers nostalgia, even if this song wasn’t part of your life growing up. Objectivism is sometimes difficult to implement in alternative music, especially from bands as cathartic as Smashing Pumpkins, yet this track gives you what you need and asks for no relations in return.

1. Tonight, Tonight

Unsurprisingly, the lead single from Smashing Pumpkins most critically acclaimed LP, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness lands at number one. Tonight, Tonight is an inexplicably emotive piece of music, that has classical influences and progressively builds in maturity throughout; and a track that was paramount in cementing SP’s place in rock history. On one hand, the band’s raw style is integral to their collective character, on the other, their angst is wholly suited to a theatrical production – and on Tonight, Tonight the audience is graced with the pleasure of both in one succinct song.

Additionally, the music video for this track was ahead of any other band within the scene and further proved Smashing Pumpkins as not only musicians but all round experience providers.

2018-03-08