1. Fun. – Take Your Time (Coming Home)
Fun. is a band that seems intent on, and gifted in, creating those huge anthems that are as entertaining as the band’s name promises while carrying some deeper meaning along with those kinetic falsettos and that big-gun production. Take Your Time is an older song from the band’s quirky debut and clocking at over 6 minutes in length, it’s a true epic and gives you a taste of the band’s bombastic repertoire right from the start.
2. Joel Plaskett Emergency – Tough Love
Joel Plaskett is one of those hard-working Canadian musicians who’s done it all; bands, side projects, collaborations, production, and now he’s returned to a former band, the Emergency, and released a great collection of maritime-flavoured rock including this song, Tough Love, a catchy, edgy little number that boasts coy lines like “You’re a ghost, I’m hoping that you’ll haunt me/Freak me out baby, tell me that you want me”. There’s some stellar, simple, honest guitar work and rough-and-tumble production that make this song sound just as Canadian as it is.
3. Ben Folds – Zak and Sara
An old favourite song of mine, Zak and Sara tells an oddball story (as most of Folds’ songs do) about the lives of these two kids in 1984. It’s fast-paced and catchy, yet there are some truly sad and poignant lyrical moments amidst the song’s bouncy exterior. That’s the joy of Ben Folds; that he is able to unearth some truly unique human stories beneath a conventionally excellent pop song.
4. Ryan Adams –Star Signs
An outtake from Adams’ Ashes & Fire that sounds virtually nothing like the rest of the record, this is one of Adams’ by FAR best record bonus tracks. It’s sexy and sprawling and hits all the right tones of romance and loneliness. Adams said that he wanted Ashes to have a “hot” feel; ironically, the song that best gives off that particular vibe is the song that didn’t quite make the cut, but sounds just as great on a 7-inch as it does on your iPod.
5. Nicki Minaj – Starships
Minaj is as camp as they come; she has the outrageous-factor of Lady Gaga and Li’l Kim’s signature swagger and she throws out rhymes as if she’s not even trying to be a sex symbol but rather like a kooky, edgy, I-don’t-give-a-shit out-of-this-world dynamo. Her performance at the Grammys, as hideously overwrought and super cheesy as it was, encapsulated how Minaj wishes to be viewed as an artist and God love her for it. The reason I like Minaj though, isn’t so much the green wigs, sparkly bras and orange skin but because she produces jams like the catchy, disco-pop/hip-hop gem Starships which no club, running trek, road trip or block party should be without.
6. The Shins – Fall of ‘82
I’m hot off the heels of the Shins’ latest record (and a current obsession of mine, actually) and I can’t get enough of Fall of ’82; the song is clearly about a very specific incident and dedicated to a very specific person; as a listener I am able to piece together the story without knowing it in full and yet, I can relate such a story to my own experiences and think of people I’ve loved who have helped me through a crisis. It’s irresistibly catchy, trippy and heartfelt. I just can’t get enough.
7. Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
Jack White is the type of artist who gives us a taste of his first solo offering, first by dishing out a down-tempo, sexy bluesy song (“Love Interruption”) and then bombards our senses with balls-out hard rock n’ roll that sounds more like The White Stripes than anything he’s done with say, the Raconteurs. It’s a good move; especially since both songs are equally awesome and let me know that some good things just never change.
8. A Foot in Cold Water – Make Me Do Anything You Want
Ah, classic rock. There’s something about that is so nostalgic for a time when I wasn’t even alive, but that makes me feel alive simply through the songs from a time period that produced the best popular music in music’s recorded history. This track, by psychedelic rock outfit A Foot in Cold Water, is a true classic; romantic and warm with jams and bridges all in their rightful places.
9. Wilco – Venus, Stop the Train
Wilco’s bonus tracks are usually right on par, or just a teeny tiny cut below the most wonderful material on their official releases. It’s been said by many Wilco fans that the best of their outtakes are all featured on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Outtakes, a sort of ‘lost’ Wilco album in itself. Venus is a heartbreaker of a song; if more produced, it might be less so but hearing the recording hisses and Jeff’s soft tones over Bennett’s solitary keyboard make the song the musical equivalent of putty in one’s hands. “I kept my distance/Because she fell in love with everyone” Tweedy sings longingly; the song is haunting in a way few Wilco ‘ballads’ have ever been.
10. The Belle Brigade – Where Not to Look for Freedom
The Belle Brigade are lighthearted acoustic pop with a great deal of substance; they write autobiographical songs as well as songs like this one, that teach a valuable lesson about how to define, confine or search for ‘freedom’; “You cannot find your wisdom/in someone else’s story” sing the brother/sister duo in perfect, lovely harmonies; whether you prescribe to this advice or not is irrelevant to the fact that this is a perfect springtime jam; uplifting, fun and sweet.