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Don's Crosstown Bus Playlist No. 1

The traditional thing here on Playlist is for me to hunt down someone's song playlist so I can tell you what people who know more about music than me are pushing out there to their listeners, usually on podcasts or Web-based radio shows. But this time, I'm going to let you know what has made my own latest indie-rock mix CD, which is coming with me on my next cross-town bus trip. Everything I list here has recently been freely available on the Internet as promo MP3s from the artists themselves or their labels. Remember, NO file-sharing, you artist-dissing greedheads.

1. The Whore Moans, "White Noise Melody." The singer sounds like a young Paul Westerberg, all spitty and snotty. He's singing "Hello from the radio wasteland," which is the name of their new album. Rolling Stone: "Eighties-hardcore stripped-throat vocals, the angular art-riff assault, with prominent treble-ized bass." Seattle bike culture. Punk. Rawk. Great.

2. Thievery Corporation, "Sound the Alarm." Starts off with an air raid siren, then segues into a hypnotic dub from new album Radio Retaliation. I'm still a sucker for political bands. TC's Rob Garza: "Radio Retaliation is definitely a more overt political statement. There's no excuse for not speaking out at this point, with the suspension of habeas corpus, outsourced torture, illegal wars of aggression, fuel, food, and economic crises. It's hard to close your eyes and sleep while the world is burning around you. If you are an artist, this is the most essential time to speak up." Amen.

3. The Swills, "Goin' Back On the Bottle." Jus' like Uncle Tupelo used to do. Bodacious. "One man's swill is another man's nectar." So says singer Rob Stimson.

4. Alice Russell, "Got the Hunger?" "Something's going on, something's going wrong." But it's not Alice, who's got a hunger . . . for great modern soul music! (Hi-yuk!) Please do not let Amy Winehouse define and refine your tastes in latter-day British female blue-eyed soul singers. Alice is fun-kay.

5. Romance, "Face On the Sun." Did you stop believing in music when Echo & the Bunnymen broke up? If so, for you there is Romance. This Seattle band post-punks its way into the first division of Joy Division wanna-bes. Debut CD is called The Divide. It conquers.

6. The Rollo Treadway, "Kidnapped." Mighty strange but sweet harmonies and jangly guitars that sound like Roger McGuinn had just moved to L.A. from the Old Town School of Music. It's strange because it's part of a concept album telling the tale of someone's kids being abducted. Shimmery lusciousness about crime. It works for me.

7. Past Lives, "Strange Symmetry." Another Seattle band that takes post-punk and shakes it by the neck until it's on life support. Singer Jordan Billie, formerly of Blood Brothers, has vocal cords that are bionic. No other way to describe the intensity of this guy's screech.

8. Parts and Labor, "Nowheres Nigh." This is one cool-ass new band. Sounds like what REM would be doing nowadays if they were still hungry. Soaring. Beautiful. Check it out:

Parts and Labor/Nowheres Nigh

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9. The Lucksmiths, "Good Light." Twee Aussies. I just love saying that. "Twee Aussies." Gentle and jangly, as if every day of your life were a Diablo Cody movie. You know, kinda sad but really more smart and funny.

10. Los Campesinos! "Ways To Make It Through the Wall." Frantic, loud, baroque pop-rock, with British-accented vocals, from their new album We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. From the Nashville Scene: "Abrasive bursts of guitar that never stop nodding to Pavement, choppy beats, handclaps and gleefully petulant boy-girl vocals offset by darkly cynical lyrics about love gone bad." Exactly. Sometimes petulance works.

11. Leopold and His Fiction, "Sun's Only Promise." An outfit that isn't afraid to take classic rock guitar riffs and marry them to the moody, ultra-minimalist garage rock thing. They get compared to the White Stripes a lot, because they basically play kind of the same kind of music and because front man Daniel James is from Detroit (now living in San Francisco). But his dangerous-sounding lyrics and their delivery to me seem more like a cross between The Kings of Leon and Jim Morrison than Jack White, although there is definitely a common thread.

Leopold and His Fiction/Virginia

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12. King Khan & the Shrines, "Welfare Bread." "You don't have to pay your bills anymore, now/You just have to eat my welfare bread." This is what full-bodied soul music means in 2009. Complete with farfisa organ. From the Calgary Herald: "The psychedelic soul rocker's cult following instantly makes sense. Think James Brown, George Clinton, The Kingsmen and Iggy and The Stooges playing a gig in your garage, high on the fumes."

13. K'Naan, "ABCs." Somali-Canadian rap poetry at its finest. This one features Chubb Rock saying he's "not a fan of the ganja," and rhyming that with Somalia. Genius. K'Naan's "ABCs" swings as it tells the tale of life growing up in Mogadishu: he calls his hometown the "risky zone," full of pistols and Russian revolvers, with a children's chorus saying, "They don't teach us the ABCs / We play on the hard concrete."

14. Frida Hyvonen, "Enemy Within." Lush, organ-drenched rock ballad from the "stern Swedish indie chanteuse." Her song bears slight homages to the girl-harmonies of ABBA at a few points, but mostly it's just a dizzying walk along the High Street of emotive power balladry, sort of taking the lack-of-irony hard rock of the current Scandinavian vintage and marrying it to smart songwriting.

15. The Hopefuls, "Virgin Wood." Minneapolis' The Hopefuls (who used to be called The Olympic Hopefuls, which I liked better) is also on the twee/power/pop tip, and this song is one of the best examples of that particular style of dancy-trancy, clever-by-half style, with a nice fuzz rock guitar fill and hand-claps to die for.

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From the Beachwood jukebox to Marfa Public Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen of the Rock and Roll Nation.



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Posted on January 23, 2009


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