* “Day is long and nothing is wasted” – Sugar Ray
10 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
There’s something supremely run-of-the-mill about the Pains, and there’s something supremely perfect about them. Their self-titled debut is the type of living organism that exists and exudes with tentacles, besting Best Coast, jibing with the Vaselines’ collection Enter the Vaselines and preceding the hey day of Real Estate, making unbridled a ready pocket of sugary indie pop that would go on to forge the mold for half a decade.
9 Jane’s Addiction
We’re talking slow, deliberate, meaningful and memorable chord progressions. Not even Perry Farrell can screw this up. If “Up the Beach” lasted for the whole album Nothing’s Shocking, and morphed into some sort of prog opus, what band would that most closely emulate? If Lou Reed had a son, maybe.
8 High Places
Someday, the universe might enter a black hole, which is a celestial body whose mass has become so great that it sucks up all matter, rendering it into obsolescence. Until then, there is the equal and opposite reaction of the band High Places, a gravitational force of their own of unquestionable uniqueness, rhythmic sense and musical integrity, but also craftsmanship and the will to do the whole thing. One pride and joy of the strong Chicago record label Thrill Jockey.
7 David Bowie
Ever the chameleonic dramatist, David Bowie did have an especial knack for phallic humor (see Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane), and indeed for slipping into breaches of melodic integrity. When his rock and roll bone grit really shone through, the chord progressions were simple, and the vocals attitude-ridden: “Rebel Rebel,” “Modern Love.” And then if he learned anything from Lou Reed on disco expeditions like “Fame,” it’s just not to care what other people think.
6 Lower Dens
“Lion in Winter, Pt. 2” can be pointed to in particular for fawning over Reed’s sense of “Sister Ray”-like hypnotic simplicity. This song hails from the underrated 2012 effort Nootropics, dubbed by some detractors as “experimental.” Sometimes frankly I’d like to “experiment” with producing better music critics in some test tube lab.
5 Beach House
Wow… if you want your heart to emerge up into your esophagus like on a roller coaster, just watch the “Gila” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFxdDE0k1_Q&list=RDpFxdDE0k1_Q… I know there are probably some other ’80’s and ’90’s, ’70’s too, pop influences here, but they’re hard to exactly pinpoint, because what stands out is the song’s feel of cool surety, as if being inarguably the product of a crisp, undeniable redolent vision.
4 Yo La Tengo
“Swing for Life” may be the closest subsequent approximation to “Venus in Furs.” And I must confess, I am a “greatest hits” guy with this band, Prisoners of Love / A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs was one of my best Best Buy purchases ever, back in I think 2005. And then of course the band go and screw it up, making three great albums since then. “From a Motel 6” and “Barnaby, Hardly Working” are a couple other great Velvets prototypes.
3 White Rabbits
I could forge this band’s logo onto someone’s bare skull with a hot iron and still not make a strong enough point about them. And apropos of that, all of these last top three bands on the list are New York indie rockers which gained us just a little more hard-won real estate (no pun intended) in pop understanding. “Everyone Can’t Be Confused” and “Danny Come inside” are standouts from the band’s last album, 2012’s Milk Famous.
2 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
I’ve heard people bash the opening, dissonant and screechy track on this band’s debut album, and I’ve seen a critic bash the band as a whole (in favor of, of all things, Devotchka, excuse me while I gag). My favorite song on this album tended to change with each year, first being the epic, “What Goes on”-esque “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” to the idyllic resignation of “Details of the War,” to the infectious hook of “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood,” to the cool effortlessness of “Over and Over again.”
1 The Strokes
I was in high school when Is This it? came out, and I still remember this dude for our paper writing something like that it was “pretty much exactly like a Velvet Underground record.” And while I doubt Julian Casablancas would too vehemently object to this statement, I must nonetheless be a stick-in-the-mud and disagree. Because, plain and simple, you can TELL in life when someone is copying, just like you can tell when someone talks about you behind your back. They don’t leave it all on the table. Casablancas brought everything and more to the table, and one of my favorite aspects of how this music has aged is that the lyrics seem imbedded, “phrases for the young,” like “He want it easy / He want it relaxed / Said I can do a lot of things but I can’t do that,” “It’s not the secrets of the government that’s keepin’ you down / Well it’s the other way around / Hey what’s that sound,” or those who just remember being young, and know that that’s the only thing really worth living for, anyway.