The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows - Brand New
Deja Entendu (2003) marks the gradual shift from pop punk to more alt-rock and post-hardcore styles in New York band, Brand New's discography. Lead vocalist Jesse Lacey gives this track its maturity, lyrically moving past the break-up anthem sound of their 2001 debut studio album Your Favorite Weapon. Brand New was my first real experience with self-aware pop punk styles in music. Vocals lamenting heartbreak and the trials of touring the country rip across Vince Accardi's power chords throughout this track, making it a crowd-favorite during live performances.
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House - LCD Soundsystem
This 2005 single from LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy fully defines the concept of dance-punk. Inspired by sounds from the era of disco and funk, this track pays homage to world-class electronic group, Daft Punk. Murphy's sharp vocals slide across the synth/guitar riffs that beat on throughout the track. This track was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording.
Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
Taking the third place in this playlist is Murphy's hit track off his 2007 release Sound of Silver. Murphy's lyricism in LCD Soundsystem has a particular way of evoking emotion with simple language and discussion of prosaic life. This track maintains the notable dancy style, inherent to LCD, while still treating the concept of loss with appropriate respect.
Cadmium - Pingrove
This track holds a special consideration in my own experience. The entire album conveys a special sense of vibrancy that seems to come naturally to New Jersey vocalists Evan Hall and Zack Levine of Pinegrove. The controlled, gentle guitar spinoff morphs into a subdued garage rock anthem about the hesitation and difficulty of personal expression. If I remember correctly, this was the first song I heard from Pinegrove on a local student radio station in Austin.
Remind Me - Röyksopp
Röyksopp remains one of the first bands I listened to on a regular basis, and that continues today. This Norwegian electronica duo produces their downtempo hits on drum machines, synths and an assortment of other analog instruments. Remind Me, off their debut 2001 release Melody AM, incorporates a tonal, electronic beat and complementary vocals. This is a hit for the radio, topping off at #21 on the UK Singles Chart when it was released.
Campus - Vampire Weekend
This track off the debut, self-titled 2008 release is based on an short story by lead vocalist Ezra Koenig which was written during his time at Columbia University. The lead guitar riff ushers Koenig's smooth vocals lamenting his disconnect with a girl during his undergrad years. Endlessly inventive, Vampire Weekend has produced a trilogy of albums with their most recent release Modern Vampires of the CIty (2013).
John Wayne Gacy Jr. - Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens relates the story of the infamous Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy. What I find interesting in this song is the somewhat sympathetic tone that Stevens puts forward in his lyricism. There's definitely an introspective quality to his music in general. What matters most to me about his approach is his desire to see an connection through storytelling. During his live sets, one thing that sticks out his his ability to relate inconspicuous stories in a meaningful way. This is evident is most of his material; it's kind of a generous form of music making that actually gives to the listener.
England - The National
A hallmark of sad dad music, The National frontman Matt Berninger brings his baritone vocals to fruition on High Violet (2010). England relates the breakup anguish that resonates all too well with many. Berninger's deep vocal quality is matched by the gentle baselines and steady drums that echo throughout the track.
Caring Is Creepy - The Shins
The Shins represent another facet of musical nostalgia in my life. This track was also featured on the soundtrack to Zach Braff's 2004 film Garden State. Vocalist James Mercer sings about the process leading to a broken relationship in this track with a bright, funky melody and hazy guitar chords setting a distinctly cheerful tone for a relatively depressing subject.
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay
Colin Hay, the former lead vocalist for the Australian pop ensemble Men at Work, is an impressive storyteller. His ability to relate his musings through his contemporary singer-songwriter identity sets him apart from his peers, a group of washed-up wannabe rockers grasping for another hit. Hay's life following the 1986 dissolution of his band is recorded in Aaron Faulls' 2015 documentary Waiting for my Real Life.