Welcome to the NINTH edition of the Compilation Champs South by Southwest CD. Forget panels and keynotes and films and bands and schmoozing. Just lock yourself in your high-priced hotel room and crank this CD.
It was great to be with you this year in Austin. Some of you are old friends by now, and some I've just met. But I hope that you enjoy at least some of these songs, all of which have meant something to me in the past year. Canadian content is marked with a maple leaf. Feel free to get in touch with your comments (jamesATconsolationchampsDOTcom). Oh, or follow me on Twitter where I'm jmcnally
Max Webster - Hangover (1976, from Max Webster)
"Alka-Seltzer, Tang, and I feel that it's all over, got a hangover."
Not that any of us this week will know what a hangover is. I've always loved Max Webster because as a band they were half what I like to call "hoser rock" and half more arty rock. This first song is definitely for hosers.
The National - Mistaken for Strangers (2006, from Boxer)
"You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends."
The National have become one of my favourite bands recently, and I love the way the drum parts are really unique and essential to their music. When I first heard this song, though, I kept thinking of another song from my youth. There was something in the music, but it was also there in the lyrics somehow. So, I give you…
Andrew Gold - Lonely Boy (1976, from What's Wrong With This Picture?)
"Well he ran down the hall and cried, how could his parents have lied?"
Mistaken for Strangers' chorus reminded me a lot of this song, and because there is 30 years between them, I'd be surprised if the association was intentional but it's pretty uncanny. There is a lonely boy at the centre of both of these songs. When I was a kid, I thought this song had some horrible tragedy at its heart, but listening to it now, I realize it's just some spoiled kid who didn't want a sister. Bah.
Frightened Rabbit - The Twist (2008, from The Midnight Organ Fight)
"Twist yourself around me, I need company, I need human heat."
I picked The Midnight Organ Fight as my album of the year for 2008, and I've been really impressed with all the great bands coming out of Scotland these days. The lyrics are smart, but they're also pretty raw and emotionally needy. Sometimes you just need to listen to a song like this.
Justice - Phantom (2007, from Cross)
There's just something about the French. Much like Daft Punk before them, Justice seem to be able to make electronic music as funky as possible. There's a lot of instrumental stuff on the compilation this year, and more dancy stuff, which I find great to work to.
Spoon - Towner (1996, from Telephono)
"Did you feel good, well it felt good, and it looked like maybe you could settle in."
Just an oldie from my still-favourite band.
Apparat Organ Quartet - Romantika (2007, from Apparat Organ Quartet)
Just as their name describes, the band is four organists playing in concert (ie. no looping). I found out about this Icelandic band in the excellent documentary Screaming Masterpiece (review), which made me realize just how incredibly rich the Icelandic music scene is. My wife and I travelled there in September 2008, so you'll be hearing a bunch of Icelandic stuff this year.
Múm - Green Grass of Tunnel (2002, from Finally We Are No One)
"Down from my ceiling drips great noise."
There's something that sounds like sewing machines in Múm's music that I just find comforting. Another Icelandic treasure, and although this is from a few years back, they're still making music.
Crystal Castles - Untrust Us (2008, from Crystal Castles)
"La cocaina no es buena para su salud."
To be honest, I had no idea what the lyrics were until just now, when I looked them up on the Internets. So are we supposed to not trust them when they tell us that cocaine is not good for us? I just like the whole video game sound of this music. Cocaine wouldn't improve that, would it?
Reykjavik! - Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2007, from Glacial Landscapes, Religion, Oppression and Alcohol)
"You laugh at fairytales but then theres's bound to be some witches and some dragons and some demons around. And goblins. And goblins. And goblins."
Another Icelandic discovery, how could I leave such nerdbait off the compilation?
Max Webster - Gravity (1977, from High Class In Borrowed Shoes)
"Forget that fear of gravity. Get a little savagery in your life."
And here's the weird art rock side of Max. Sometimes I miss the 70s. :)
Jakobínarína - Sleeping In Seattle (2007, from The First Crusade)
"If I keep up this life routine the next ten years, I'll look like Paul Giamatti."
Snotty rock from snotty-nosed kids. Sadly, this Icelandic band of teenagers has broken up already but I'm sure they'll end up forming two or three good bands.
Of Montreal - Id Engager (2008, from Skeletal Lamping)
"Can't help it if it's true, don't wanna be your man, just wanna play with you."
Kevin Barnes is like our era's Bowie, dressing up and oozing polymorphous perversity.
Love Is All - New Beginnings (2008, from A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night)
"I'm all dressed up and messed up, broke down in my finest gown, no need to disagree, I made a fool of me."
Sometimes we all need a second chance. Or a third, or a fourth. Love Is All is a very exciting band from Sweden, where an absolute musical revolution seems to be taking place. There, and Iceland, I guess. Oh, and Scotland. And Montréal…
Feist - I Feel It All (2007, from The Reminder)
"I know more than I knew before."
A jaunty song but the lyrics are about learning through bad experience. I'm sure many of us have been here. Feist is from Montréal and I had the chance to see her perform at Toronto's Massey Hall last year, and it was truly one of the best shows I've seen in years.
Modest Mouse - People As Places As People (2007, from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)
"I hardly have people that I needed to know,'cause you're the people that I wanted to know."
This album may have been overlooked a little just because Good News for People Who Love Bad News was so good, but over the past decade, Modest Mouse have consistently created great music. This song fits the end of compilation "benediction" mood nicely.
Patrick Watson - Luscious Life (2006, from Close To Paradise)
"My sweet oh luscious life, you taste so sweet, when you are so free. My sweet oh luscious life you taste so sweet to me."
I really got into Patrick Watson's music when I saw an excellent film from Québec, C'est pas moi je le jure! (review) for which he'd written some pieces. This is just a beautiful song celebrating the gift that is life. Glad I could share some of mine with you this week, friends!