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“Dolby’s Top 50 Indie Rock Music Videos of All Time”

It should be noted upon intaking this list and invariably developing your own strong opinions about its components, or about the general entity of indie rock as a whole, that I am primarily a music lover, and not a cinematographer. I feel grateful for the ability to enjoy videos but at the same time, always in the back of my mind is the voice of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, one of my favorite bands, who, even with their major label status and likely endless budget, backed out of the video making business completely at their creative peak in the ’90s, to focus on the music itself. Women and Abe Vigoda, two very vital indie artists of the late ’00s, have never made a video in their careers, as far as I’ve observed (after the knowledge of which you might as well ransack this list to sh**, unless you just have an overly oppressive zeal for this stuff like I do). Also, you’d be hard pressed to find a better song, or a worse music video, than Yo La Tengo’s “Sugarcube.” As possibly a means of leniency toward the general boat these musicians are typically in, I judged these videos undoubtedly in terms of the holistic, multimedia viewing experience they provide, whereby two cuts with cinematography of an equal sharpness find the one with the better song ranking more highly.
All in all, anyway, it’s been a pleasant surprise to me how many of these bands actually had the means and the valor to get this stuff done. It certainly can’t be easy, coming up with the creative vision, getting all of the people and effects together and then just making it work, with the artists even going home happy and everything.
By the way, here’s a pencil note: when shooting your own homespun, cliched-lonely-protagonist video for Modest Mouse’s “Trailer Trash,” it might actually behoove you to get some shots of some actual TRAILERS in there somewhere. That’s just my expert advice.
One cool thing about this list is that I don’t see ANY director on here twice. Enjoy.

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50 Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix)” (director unknown)
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I would personally allot this as the top-notching BSS track of all time and this video certainly features some cheesy dancing, but also some dancing that is actually cool… hey, dance as if nobody’s watching, right?
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49 Beach House – “Astronaut” (director unknown)
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In this strange cut you get a bunch of young Chinese girls in a sort of rank and file all doing gymnastics competitions, the innocent vibe lending itself to the childish lyric “At the end of the day is a glass of lemonade”. “Astronaut” culls from the excellent 2008 album Devotion.
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48 St. Vincent – “Cruel” (Terry Timely)
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“Cruel” is an overall entertaining spot for a solid song on an excellent, standout album (Strange Mercy), probably my personal favorite St. Vincent album to date. Personally I can relate to listening to this song in this one workplace where these people 10 years younger would constantly talk about having sex with each other and the guys would all really hate me for no reason.
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47 Spoon – “Inside out” (Scott Cudmore, Michael LeBlanc)
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This tune has some of the founding band funk we enjoyed on “I Turn My Camera On,” et. al. and the dark, spooky cinematography makes for a tense experience but also one of a certain resignation, as if mourning a general loss in the world, something rock and roll should usually do, to an extent.
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46 Fleet Foxes – “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” (Ryan Heffington)
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This excellent, possibly career-defining cut here gets an average treatment of an impossibly metrosexual-looking dude out at a trendy lake cottage apparently struggling with identity amidst a gaggle of people who to a greater extent know who they are. “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” emanates from the band’s 2017 album Crack-up, for which they switched employers from Sub Pop Records to Warner subsidiary Nonesuch. Yeah, I know this makes it technically not indie. I cheated. Trust me, you won’t get mad at me.
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45 No Age – “Glitter” (director unknown)
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In a strange and bizarre spot here we have a random sequence of snow-bound imagery framing a young boy at school over what is the best song on Everything in Between that HAS words in it (to say nothing of “Dusted,” that is).
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44 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” (director unknown)
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To me this video sort of makes you realize how overwhelming this whole endeavor can be, when you put to visual life this music which explodes out of the speakers as so unencumbered by the corporate dollar: Leo treks in in this cold-weather gear and then the shots switch to these mannequin-looking people starving by a shoreline… struggle is bound up in these images but all the while hopefully encompassing some of the artist’s inner vision he weren’t otherwise able to portray.
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43 Liars – “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” (director unknown)
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Liars definitely play around with the pop structure on this song in an important way, in key indie form: constantly switching tempos, taking an obstinately simple chord progression and running with it toward an obstinately simple album closeur that none of us probably truly ever unpacked to enough of an extent (at least if I’m any indication).
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42 Dirty Projectors – “Break-Thru” (Sean Pecknold)
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Sean Pecknold, Robin Pecknold’s (Fleet Foxes) little brother directed this project and basically it’s a series of scenes depicting a parrot flying at and away from this dude in a suit who’s sitting in a colorful room and playing a guitar. Strikingly, from looking at it, it’s not a Grizzly Bear video, but Dirty Projectors are from New York and are by my Midwestern standards obnoxiously well-dressed, of course.
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41 Arcade Fire – “Intervention” (David James Lennon)
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Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and even a whiny fop like Win Butler sometimes comes across in his muse a song that’s listenable and a video that’s viewable, here I must admit laying down some strikingly prescient cinema covering the subject of totalitarian conformity and brutality.
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40 Spoon – “The Underdog” (Keven McAllester)
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What’s nice about this video is that, while I’m pretty sure we all love this song and most Spoon albums in general, you pretty much get the point of it within the first 15 seconds: it’s this well-dressed square-looking dude acting excessively boorish and confrontational to a noticeable extent. Then, elsewhere, he’s basically, amidst a bunch of ostensible nonsense, looking around for people to pin on something, but finds only a woman playing an amusingly and poignantly simple tambourine line, a guy pretending to jerk off, and a bunch of other stuff which to me is entertaining for its just taking place in Austin, Texas (I’ve always wanted to go there).
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39 Blitzen Trapper – “The Rebel” (Jon Meyer)
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Here is a crafty urban video in which the subject matter, in alignment with its city setting, is pretty much just about craziness — the craziness taking in this particular case on the inside, as Eric Earley is “A rebel to the one I love”. “The Rebel” opens up the Trapper’s strong most recent effort Wild & Reckless.
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38 Califone – “Spiders House” (director unknown)
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“Spiders House” marks the exact moment when I initially truly realized the brilliance of the band Califone — it was the amazingly textural and intricate mix of folk rock wielding this strong, pithy Beatles influence toward a sky-reaching mark of sheer indie rock beauty. The bare “Spiders House” video does excellent, austere justice to the gravity of the song.
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37 Grizzly Bear – “All We Ask” (Unofficial video/director unknown)
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On the strength of what without any question is a spooky, surreal tune, the “All We Ask” video seems to meaningfully project the utmost American mundane in the form of an outwardly conventional modern, or newly modernized, household featuring of all “necessary” luxuries and ensuing truncations from the outside world, as it were.
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36 Califone – “Magdalene” (Jesse Stein)
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“Magdalene” is the strongest tune on Califone’s most recent LP Stitches (which I found a success in general), particularly laudable for the band’s noticeable penchant for embedding a song title within an unusual spot in a song, in this case toward the beginning of the second verse, and nary in any chorus. The Leo Leoni style of illustration in this video behooves it as well.
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35 Pavement – “False Skorpion” (director unknown)
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This is kind of like Pavement’s “resident Nirvana song,” the way “Low Desert” is R.E.M.’s “resident Pearl Jam song”… well both tunes are excellent and the message is clear from the cinematography at play here, a spoof on he-males.
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34 Broken Social Scene – “Texico Bit**es” (director unkown)
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What I remember from this video was that it was strange, bizarre and beautiful, just like this whole album itself, and just like the funeral pyre of those douche bags Coke Machine Glow who attempted to rip on it (the only site to give Forgiveness Rock Record a bad review, as far as I know).
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33 Kevin Morby – “Aboard My Train” (Kevin Morby)
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The “Aboard My Train” collage features just the artist shooting himself writing a bunch of stuff on a mirror, sort of like a little kid would do, the song itself then featuring gripping lyrics of childhood innocence (“I once loved a boy so smart and true / We would walk home every day from the school”).
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32 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow” (Jack Ferry)
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I had to watch about three seconds of this video in order to know that I loved it: it was incredibly “simple and plain,” just like Art Alexakis of Everclear declares in the band’s lambasting 2015 album Black is the New Black, depicting just Ted Leo hauling off and unleashing some bare bones rock and roll on guitar and vox. “The Mighty Sparrow” leads off the brutal The Brutalist Bricks.
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31 Cat Power – “Lived in Bars” (Robert Gordon)
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In “Lived in Bars,” a precocious tune from CP’s heady 2006 album The Greatest, we have a dissociative phenomenon similar to what gets projected in Natural Born Killers: the completely lurid and unconscionable predicament of a particular woman facing constant untoward sexual advances and expected to keep a cheerful face before all of them, hence placing it in a rare class where the video actually provides a different mood from the one the song does, itself.
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30 Spoon – “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” (director unknown)
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Ah, you can’t beat a good crossdresser and those devils Spoon were just bound to throw one on you here: you know I envisioned a relatively manly figure nonetheless when I first heard the lyric “He makes love to the duke”, but still, they’re clearly city boys with a taste for this stuff and they pull it off phenomenally in this pictogram here.
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29 Speedy Ortiz – “My Dead Girl” (Elle Schneider)
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Elle Schneider, I think, is probably a makeup artist, and should be commended for dolling up Sadie Dupius in all these different looks, from that weird vaudeville curly-white-hair get-up to her normal one and back, this song then carrying a certain jazzy tension which is somewhat rare in the band but certainly most welcome and commendable.
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28 No Age – “Eraser” (Andy Bruntel)
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Here I’m just going to unabashedly say that I fu**ing love this song and that Dean Spunt has the absolute perfect kind of voice for spewing this apocalyptic and disarmingly simple noise-rock which somehow derives a vague Beatles influence (which is to say a Nirvana influence)… in the video I think they’re running around doing some crazy sh** or something.
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27 Cat Power – “He War” (Brett Vapneck)
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To me this was sort of a spooky and unexpectedly stark video from Cat Power, seeing as this was supposed to be the lead single off of You Are Free (while I don’t find it bad there are probably six or seven songs on this album I like better) but ultimately it’s not a failure for its similarity to certain Speedy Ortiz and Beach House spots in just showcasing the sexiness of the female lead singer and how she’s nonetheless trying to wield an artistic muse in the face of all of it.
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26 Mark Mulcahy – “Stuck on Something Else” (Jason Mazzotta)
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“Stuck on Something Else” is the peaceful and spare centerpiece from 2017’s The Possum in the Driveway, an energetic but mournful and textural slab of folk rock which should be a staple of any fan of Wilco or Kevin Morby.
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25 Broken Social Scene – “Stars and Sons” (Christopher Mills)
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This video had a canny way of shifting in and out of reality, displaying the band’s ethereal surreal aspect while still keeping things light and psychedelic in a traditional American sense.
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24 Kevin Morby – “City Music” (Christopher Good)
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There’s a lot to love about this spot here, from the literary and groundbreaking spoken-word intro, to the easy funk of the music itself, to, of course, Mr. Morby himself dancing around in that tacky leisure suit with the musical notes on it. I wonder if they sell one of those at The Men’s Warehouse these days!
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23 Dinosaur Jr. – “Almost Ready” (director unknown)
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The “Almost Ready” video gets its props for showcasing the great Fender-stack master J Mascis in action playing, but also juxtaposing shots of all this crazy sh** like a monkey and the Egyptian pyramids. Is it trying to be serious or trying to be funny? Well, it doesn’t have to tell you, now, does it? That’s the whole point.
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22 Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever” (Ricardo Rivera)
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I have to just say that Kurt Vile is the man on a musical level: he can cast off an orchestration of just footage of him walking around a city when the ground is snow-covered (that giant frock of hair probably helps him out with this) and have it somehow come off as poetic, that pristine guitar sound certainly not hindering matters in the meantime.
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21 Pinback – “Fortress” (director unknown)
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Pinback will always exist to me as a sort of model indie rock band which brought forth something pure and true and did things in entire blindness to the corporate dollar. “Fortress” is ARGUABLY their best song and probably their most high-profile one, here soundtracking a semi-animated segment of dark, cloudy and vaguely romantic matters which ultimately leave the meaning of the song refreshingly murky (like is he saying that a “fortress” is a good thing?)
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20 Aloha – “Boys in the Bathtub” (lucstanner)
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This video is composed of a lot of goofy sh** and compliments a song which is nothing short of astounding, off of the album Here Comes Everyone which I was lucky enough to score on CD at Tracks in Bloomington, Indiana at the recommended listening station in about 2004 or so. Aloha, despite their name, hail from Pittsburgh, and in my opinion do a pretty good job of detailing the city and the life of a real visionary lazy a** who refuses to leave his bed.
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19 No Age – “Send Me” (Jonn Herschend)
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“Send Me” had the obvious nice message of considering the plight of an upwardly mobile stuck in static office work, emaciated and disarmed in the corporate dormancy and wanting a way out (at which time she pulls an Office Space and starts messing up some electronic equipment out in nature, which is always pretty cool).
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18 Beach House – “Walk in the Park” (Allen Cordell)
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Uh, go Orioles?
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17 St. Vincent – “Pills” (Phillipa Price)
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I was pleased to see “Pills” given the best treatment off of MASSEDUCTION in terms of the video itself: not that it was FULLY ingenuous but I thought Miss… mm-hmm.. Vincent… er… girl with her butt in the air… there I said it… did a pretty commendable job of capturing a certain zeitgeist of static aspects and sameness within this medicable society we habitate. I’d just like to say in closing, though, Lorde is my hero for covering “New York” and unleashing a godlike, legendary bout of the word “motherfu**er.” It literally changed my life to hear her cursing like a giant douche bag.
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16 Mike Pace and the Child Actors – “Summer Lawns” (Angus Scrimm)
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Oh yeah, this was when post-Oxford Collapse-era Mike Pace was really swingin’ with the best of ‘em: I can just picture this guy having like one pleasurable experience in an entire Long Island summer, and it’s his muse which pumped out this Beach Boys-influenced march of American pop candor. The video does justice.
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15 Speedy Ortiz – “Tiger Tank” (director unknown)
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With a great voice somewhat like PJ Harvey, Sadie Dupius of Speedy Ortiz (whom I typically accuse of being pretty similar to The Breeders but can definitely wield some funk and come up with some original moments and tunes) belts out a great whopper of a plaint against the bilious masses with memorable tune and video, sure to leave your eardrums and your heart bleeding.
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14 Grizzly Bear – “gun-shy” (Kris Moyes)
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Wow, are you kidding me, this is only 14th on this list? This has got to be easily the sketchiest video ever, the work of true New York masters who will always be my heroes (somewhat like Interpol with “NYC”) framing these bewilderingly rapid shots of disfigurement in jarring adjacency to a pastoral scene typifying the overall folk-rock m.o. of the music itself. Remember, this stuff is steeped in Crosby, Stills & Nash, just more damaged and powerful.
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13 Dirty Projectors – “That’s a Lifestyle” (Kitty Faingold)
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Let’s hear it for that deformed butt! “It!” There, we heard “it” for that deformed butt! In all seriousness, I’m so glad David Longstreth stripped it back on this cut and album for some organic Neil Young-type acoustic guitar work and this is by far my favorite song on the album.
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12 Liars – “Cred Woes” (Yoonha Park)
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This was that new Liars album I was really impressed with last year: apparently Liars is just the solo project of Angus Andrew now, the Australian-American by way of Germany, which I never could have imagined before I actually heard it. Yeah, this stuff rocks. The song before this on the album “No Tree No Branch” is awesome too and nothing like this one.
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11 Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer” (Daniel Elkayam)
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As far as the cinematography went, per how fluid, natural and memorable this song itself is, I thought the video unfurled as just a little bit angular, but certainly viewable within the excellent song, the delicious-looking brunette Northwestern girl the presumed cause of it all and, what I found perhaps most haunting, the band’s seeming unwillingness to depict very much imagery from their home state of Oregon in the video.
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10 Battles – “The Yabba” (Roger Guardia)
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I don’t understand what a “Yabba” is and I don’t really understand very much at all, like how a governing indie rock album such as “La Di Da Di” could go so unnoticed and unheralded and why in general just saying “La Di Da Di” would be in any way commendable or necessary, in life. But then, that’s why we call on the yabba for answers, now, isn’t it?
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9 Sleater-Kinney – “Entertain” (Bernard Derriman)
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A couple of things I noticed while watching this video (by the way, anybody who names any album other than The Woods as the best S/K feast is a moron) were that a.) the “the woods” imagery is apparently that handiwork of Carrie Brownstein, which is ironic since she’s the Seattleite of the group and the remainder is from Olympia and (b.) that’s actually Corin Tucker singing my favorite part, the “Don’t wear me down / I’m not falling down”… hot da** if their voices don’t sound exactly alike… and is that Janet Weiss driving away in once scene in symbolism of a certain drumming power which somehow evaded the cameraman? Well, is it?
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8 Speedy Ortiz – “Raising the Skate” (Casey Herz)
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I think it’s safe to say that sexuality is always everybody’s favorite topic to discuss until it actually gets real, at which point it’s extremely painful and demoralizing… anyway, this is definitely not a song that’s about workplaces or “sexual harrassment”… bona fide rapes happen which are violent crimes and this is the statement of a potential victim thereof giving us a glimpse into her world… but more than anything it’s a great alt-rock track from a diva who I think sounds a lot like PJ Harvey.
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7 The Dandy Warhols – “Catcher in the Rye” (Mike Bruce)
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I sort of have a complicated relationship with The Dandy Warhols… k I’ll just take you through it from the top… Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia was probably one of my top 10 favorite CD’s in high school, then I heard Welcome to the Monkey House and decided they were by far the worst band on the planet, then I went bald and saw girls in yoga pants and thought This Machine wielded a certain Elliott Smith influence pretty tautly, blown away thoroughly by Distortland and all of its divine majesty… I think this is an ugly song about an ugly thing which is… the next moment you’re about to live, all of you.
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6 The New Pornographers – “Failsafe” (Casablanca video) (director unknown)
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Obviously, purely, this spot gets by on the strength of the song itself: you know I WANTED to like the other Pornos cuts ‘cause they’re definitely one of my favorite bands and they epitomize indie rock without any question but I just couldn’t get into ‘em and sometimes you’ve just got to appreciate this great music as what it is, in this case set to shots from Casablancas, a movie I’ve never actually seen. See, I told you this was an ironic blog! Er, I kinda told you that!
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5 Julia Holter – “Goddess Eyes II” (Yelena Zhelezov)
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Did she just call her eyes “goddess eyes”? Ok, I really hate this person… hey this song’s really great… I’m gonna hit her up on Facebook… hey she never wrote me back… I really want some licentious pleasure in my life… oh it’s a good thing I have these classic songs like “Fur Felix” and this “Goddess Eyes” sweet (suite) which channels Annie Lennox toward a textural bridge into the new century to beat tha band.
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4 Grizzly Bear – “Ready, Able” (Allison Schulnik)
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There is a MESSAGE behind this video, of course, the mad clay-mation creation of Allison Schulnik (that name sounds so Polish she might even almost fit in in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana), but it almost seems secondary to the fact that there WAS a dark message which is representative of life itself and now we can all get to our crazy lives knowing that there’s a clay-mation video out there that’s this crazy besides TOOL – “Schism,” and junk.
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3 Oxford Collapse – “John Blood” (director unknown)
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To me, this is undeniably the predicament of touring across the long, boring United States which is so filled with “blood” (the video depicts several bellicose images across its board by and large), the song itself being about a pro wrestler which… hey I’ll let you draw your own conclusions… I happened to personally enjoy that last Ronda Rousey bout, if I may.
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2 Califone – “3Legged Animals” (director unknown)
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It’s Lansing, Illinois, a gas stop. I get out of the car and there’s four Cubs fan douche bags glaring at me. It’s 75 degrees and sunny. I go into the store, buy my can of Grizzly or whatever it was I was buying and get the fu** out of there. I stare into the 45 year old female clerk’s eyes and they look like the sunset. Tonight there is everything going on in the city of Chicago. It is the year 2007. I’m moving out to Colorado, which I have no desire to do. I don’t think there’s anything going on in this video. With how cinematographic life is, there shouldn’t be.
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1 Kevin Morby – “Parade” (Elise Tyler)
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I have been sort of waiting for a while for a new folk-rock elder statesman to come in and take the reins in favor of Wilco and… I think he’s the one, this particular delicate, pliable rocker apparently being so “ready to die” (“If I were to die today / Slaughtered in that masquerade / The last thing you’d hear me day / Put my body on display in the parade”), a couple things jumping out being that a). he’s apparently been driven to this insane city as a homosexual unwelcome anywhere else and (b.) this song is of such stately pop perfection that it could probably soundtrack all of our lives were it not so depressing.

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