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October 27th, 2004 Mark Baumgarten, Kelly Clarke, Amy Mccullough | Album Reviews
 

The Magnificent Seven

Politics might be scary, but this month's best songs are all about the sweet, sultry and sweaty stuff.

     
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DIZZEE RASCAL
IMAGE: DEAN CHALKLEY
1. The Arcade Fire, "Wake Up"

This Montreal septet gently builds sweeping, shivering walls of voices, violins and guitars only to shatter them into hopped-up shards of indie rock and "Lust for Life" basslines at the very heights of their crystalline crescendos. Yes, folks, it's the stuff CMJ showcase buzz is made of.

Hear it on the Arcade Fire's Funeral.

2. Dizzee Rascal, "Stand Up Tall"

While our comprehension of Dizzee Rascal's thick-as-shepherd's-pie accent hasn't improved since his 2003 debut, Boy in da Corner, the U.K. garage scenester's ear for a killer track definitely has. On "Stand Up Tall," Rascal takes the raw lyricism and electro-tinged garage beats that sometimes clashed on his debut and syncs them up to a herky-jerky dance track worthy of both hipster posing and club shaking.

Find it on Dizzee Rascal's Showtime.

3. The Decemberists, "Everything I Try to Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right"

On a single that's totally about sex--make that juvenile masturbation--this tune offers startlingly human moments like "messed with your slacks, but ended up just holding your hand." Hell, just read the universally applicable title. Colin Meloy, you said a mouthful.

Hear it on the Decemberists' "Billy Liar" single.

4. The Features, "Blow It Out"

When indie pop and children's games meet, only goodness can result. Hence the pure joy provided here by Matt Pelham and his Tennessee band the Features, who co-opted "When You're Happy and You Know It" for the rock set: "If you're happy and you know it/ Turn the volume up and blow it out." So blow it out and save the hand-clapping until the final jangly chord.

Find it on the Features' Exhibit A.

5. Elliott Smith, "Fond Farewell to a Friend"

No one will ever know if this is true, but "Fond Farewell to a Friend," from Elliott Smith's posthumous release, sounds like the exact song the singer told friends toward the end of his life that he wanted to create. Anchored by a duplicit electric guitar line that manages to both smile and grimace, this is a song that features Smith's developed sense of production but is more humble in its display. Some of the songs' subtle flaws are left intact, while Smith's not-so-subtle personal flaws are as present as ever in his lyrics.

Find it on Elliott Smith's From a Basement on the Hill.

6. Cub Country, "The West"

We already knew he was a kick-ass bassist, but Jets to Brazil's Jeremy Chatelain showcases his songwriting talents on this Lennonesque singalong. The "la, la, la"s and alt-country guitar twang of this perfect country-pop tune brings to mind the Wilco of yore, before Jeff Tweedy went all bizarro-experimental on our asses.

Hear it on Cub Country's Stay Poor/Stay Happy.

7. The Killers, "Somebody Told Me"

Somebody shoot us. It's been months, and we still love this trashy synth-pop gem. This Vegas-born Brit-bop clone is as brain-sucking as a game of Vice City. But goddamn if the ol' ticker doesn't shudder out a meaty double pump when it encounters those strobe-lit Casio riffs and the jabberwocky of "a boyfriend that looked like a girlfriend I had in February."

Hear it on the Killers' Hot Fuss.

 
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