Liner notes! As usual, the links are to mostly-representative versions of each song, which may not be the exact version in the mix. And the visuals may just be somebody's World of Warcraft interpretation of the song. Be forewarned.
HS = Horn section
HC = Hand claps
1. The Underdog – Spoon
I don't understand how this wasn't the opening track on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The pounding opening track demands that you batten down the goddamned hatches, because here comes the album. (HS, HC)
2. Après Moi – Regina Spektor
It doesn't feature any of her trademark glottal stops and has less vocal bending than some of her songs. But it starts with just her and the piano and adds instruments, to a chamber ensemble at midsong and a full orchestra at the climax. And it's in three languages (including a refrain in her native Russian)! Sold! The xylophone bits sound very Saint-Saëns/Danse Macabre. (HS)
3. Watching The Detectives – The New Standards
Elvis Costello's original version of this song was spooky in its own way (thanks mostly to the backup vocals), but this cover is darker and more menacing. I know that the song has a meta-narrative to it, that the "she" who is watching the detectives is doing so on TV, but this version makes it sound more like she is a character in Twin Peaks. Cellophane-wrapped, indeed. The New Standards are a Twin Cities jazz combo made up of Chan Poling of The Suburbs (and Mr. Eleanor Mondale), John Munson from Semisonic & Trip Shakespeare, and Steve Roehm on the vibes. They've released two albums of pop music covers that I stumbled upon in the last days of 2008. They are excellent. (HC)
4. Ulysses – Franz Ferdinand
Another fine, clockwork beat from Franz Ferdinand. Seems to be more James Joyce than The Odyssey, although of course the former was informed by the latter. (HC)
5. I Feel It All – Feist
After hearing her on The Current for a couple years, I finally listened to The Reminder, and really liked it, in particular this song and 1234. I think 1234 went into the mix cd penalty box at some point in the past year, so I went with I Feel It All. (HC)
6. It’s Not My Birthday – The Fluid Ounces
Easily the best song on a They Might Be Giants tribute album called Hello, Radio.
7. Behind Blue Eyes – The Who
I always liked this song, but I learned to love it playing the drums on it in Rock Band. Keith Moon gets to sit quietly for several minutes as the song slowly builds, and then has a minute-long frenzy, and then stops.
8. Five Years – David Bowie
My favorite Bowie songs, from before he went to Berlin and shouted at microphones from the other end of a concrete room, are cinematic and emotionally exhausting. Like this one. Here are two excellent live versions: Bowie on TV in 1972, and with the Arcade Fire in 2006.
9. Use Me – Bill Withers
This year I joined the horn section of an R&B band. The band played this song, but it was one of only a few in our repertoire without horns. So why pick this one? The riff and the drum rim knocks at each chorus would be enough, but what puts this song over the top is the hand claps. There are three of them, and they occur once. The only song I know of with more effectively restrained use of hand claps is Elvis Costello's "Welcome to the Working Week," which has two, right at the end of the song. (HC)
10. Boombox – The Lonely Island ft. Julian Casablancas
This is the only really funny song off the Lonely Island's album that hasn't already been an SNL Digital Short. My favorite line occurs at the end of the bridge. (Not counting the drum-machine hand claps on this one.)
11. For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder
The Robinson Caruso Organization rehearsed this song a couple times this summer. It may in fact now be in our repertoire (I've been on hiatus). I hope so, because it is amazing. (HS)
12. Flathead – The Fratellis
My friends Joe and Troy both repeatedly extolled the quality of the Fratellis. They're a Scottish band, practitioners of rock music that is fun and doesn't take itself too seriously (thanks, Allmusic!). I swear I'm not purposefully selecting songs that were in iPod commercials, and haven't even seen the one with this song. Honest. (HC)
13. Main Theme from Dark Of The Sun – Jacques Loussier
This was in Inglourious Basterds. It is good. (HS)
14. Reckoner – Radiohead
This song, especially the a capella break, stunned me into putting down the sandwich I was eating to give it my full attention. And I like sandwiches.
15. All My Friends – Franz Ferdinand
This summer, Pitchfork put together a list of the Top 500 songs of the '00s (with additions expected at the end of the year). The original of this song, by LCD Soundsystem, was #2 on the list (between Outkast's B.O.B. at #1 and M.I.A.'s Paper Planes at #3, both songs on past Beukemixes). I prefer the Franz Ferdinand cover, which was a b-side to the original's single.
16. Hey Bulldog – The Beatles
When The Beatles: Rock Band was released in September, this was the only song in the game I didn't know. It was also the first song the game selected for me to play. It's off of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, and one of only two songs original to that album that are worth a damn (the other is "All Together Now."). I actually like the edit that the game makers made to the song: near the end, when McCartney yells "Quiet! Quiet!" the song ends immediately instead of fading out.
17. I Cut Like A Buffalo – The Dead Weather
This is the third distinct band featuring Jack White whose songs I've put on Beukemixes. He could've gotten on last year's for his duet with Alicia Keys if their song from "Quantum of Solace" hadn't sucked.
18. While You Wait For The Others – Grizzly Bear
Heard this on the Current. It's bass-heavy and atmospheric, and thereby right up my alley.
19. You Don’t Have To Be A Prostitute – Flight of the Conchords
My favorite song from the second season of FOTC (although Too Many Dicks On The Dance Floor and Demon Woman come close, too). In an interview, Brett describes the song thusly: "It was just doing a song like 'Roxanne,' but it's got a judgmental—it makes a lot of assumptions about the profession. Singing a song about prostitution, like 'I'll stop you from being a prostitute with this song.'"
20. Heaven Can Wait – Charlotte Gainsbourg ft. Beck
I added this to the mix last night after seeing the video on Andrew Sullivan's blog. The lyrics sound like classic Beck, and come to think of it, the visual oddities, which I guess are all actually culled from internet art images, could have also been taken from lines crossed out in the margins of Beck's notebook ("pancake astronaut skating on burgers"?). (HS)
21. My Lover’s Prayer – Otis Redding
Being in Robinson Caruso has deepened my appreciation for the output of Stax Records in general and Otis Redding in particular. I first sought out this song after hearing it on the Sopranos years ago. Over Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law was spinning songs on his laptop, this one popped up, and I decided it would be a fine way to end the mix. (HS)
Horn Sections: 6
Hand Claps: 5