Reeeeee-wind: this is where we scour our back catalogue and rate our favorite-of-favorites from the tracks we debuted this year. We've mixed in mp3-of-the-weeks with a bunch of the live sessions we recorded, and thrown a few videos into the mix . . . including at least a few that we forgot to mention. (Also check out the best of thephoenix.tv over at the Phlog.)
1. Drug Rug, "Tiny People" (mp3). In our neck of the office, these guys were the breakout Boston band of the year. Our new year's resolution is to get their unbelievable live show on tape before March.
2. Queens of the Stone Age, "In the Fade (Live)" (mp3 and video). Josh Homme, unplugged? You've got to see it to believe it.
3. Medicated Kisses, "Wolf Among Lilacs" (mp3). Our pick for the breakout Boston band of 2008: imagine Beth Ditto belting Paramore-sized emo-pop hooks and you've got an idea of what this grrrl-fronted R&B/punk group is capable of.
4. Tegan and Sara, "Back in Your Head (Live)" (mp3 and video). The sisters' acoustic session at First Act ruined The Con for us, since now we can't help but thinking of these arrangements as the "real" versions of the songs. Way better than the new-wave studio versions.
5. Peter Bjorn and John, "Young Folks (Live)" (mp3). Exclusive unplugged edition: awesome, but they need to get that whistle part on DAT or something.
6. Brand New, "Oh Comely (Live, Neutral Milk Hotel Cover)" (mp3). Definitely one of the highlights of the First Act sessions this year: Jesse Lacey stopped by and played for about 45 minutes, whipping out old shit, new shit, long stories, an Iron and Wine cover, and then this: a spot-on, note-for-note version of our all-time-favorite NMH song.
7. My Brightest Diamond, "It's Over (Roy Orbison Cover, Live at the Museum of Fine Arts)" (video). We just dragged this out of the vaults last week: from November, MBD's stunning MFA show. The power-trio format felt like early-80s post-punk -- jagged, scraping guitars; sick drummer; dub bassist. Way louder, and far more visceral, than you'd expect from her records -- and yes, she's still singing like some Martian opera queen.
8. Sprained Ankles, "Randy the Rock and Roll Pizza Wolf" (mp3). Fast food, B-movie monsters, and rock and roll: It's been too long since we had a band like this in town. All hail junk-food garage punk.
9. Rilo Kiley, "Close Call (Live)" (video). See Tegan & Sara: another case where the stripped-down versions came off way prettier than the studio recordings. We recorded these versions live at First Act on Boylston Street back in September.
10. Organ Beats, "Dan Gilbert" (mp3). Damone's Noelle LeBlanc finally got around to putting out her solo album -- and, not surprising to anyone who knows her but perhaps a bit of a shock to Damone fans, it's low-fi, psych-folkish, experimental, and morbidly beautiful in places. This was merely our favorite melody, but if you can dig up the CD-R, there's a lot more to it than pretty songs.
11. Spoon, "Black Like Me (Live)" (video). Britt and his dudes played a short, sweet three-song set for us live at First Act -- unplugged, but only barely.
12. Say Anything, "People Like You Are the Reason People Like Me Exist (Live)" (video). From last summer's Best Music Poll concert, when Mr. Bemis and co were already previewing tunes from their double-disc opus. Bonus track: from earlier this year, "Alive With the Glory Of Love (Unplugged at First Act)" (mp3)
13. Shepherdess, "Not Gonna Be There Now" (mp3). Former Fuzzy/Count Me Outs singer/guitarist Hilken Mancini stepping out as frontwoman: about time.
14. Come, "Hurricane (Live at the Middle East)" (video). Reunion of the year? We love Dinosaur, Sebadoh, Burma, and the Lemonheads as much as the next dude who graduated from college in the '90s, but this one-night-only surprise was kick-in-the-balls nasty. The pre-eminent shoulda-been-huge end-of-the-century indie-rock band, right here: if they'd re-released this song in 2007, Brokaw and Zedek would be king and queen of the Bitchfork prom.
15. Arctic Monkeys, "Bakery" (mp3). When the Monkeys stopped by Cambridge's New Alliance studios to play this exclusive acoustic set for us, this track hadn't even come out as a b-side yet. Before you consign them to the dustbin-of-NME-hype, check out what they sound like when they're not trying to out-clever themselves.
16. Tulsa, "Fill Her In" (mp3). Carter Tanton's ever-morphing solo project keeps transmogrifying into better and better incarnations, picking up blazing national acclaim with each iteration.
17. Deadly Sins, "Unpaid Bills" (mp3). Dropkick Murphys lass meets Black Flag-loving gutterpunx; candy-cane-sweet pop punk (in the manner of Crimpshrine and early Jawbreaker) ensues.
18. Noel Heroux, "I Don't Want To Get Over You (Magnetic Fields cover)" (mp3). By now you're surely on your eleventh or so listen to Mag Fields' leaked Distortion and fingering your tix to their Valentine's Day show at the Somerville Theater. Here, Hooray for Earth's frontman angled for pole position on the opening slot with a maximum-distortion run-through of one of our favorite Merritt classics.
19. Dead Trees, "Shelter" (mp3). That'd be shelter of the "gimme" variety, as former Pavement-worshipping Cape kids transmogrified into shambolic, Stones-signifying rockists . . . who then left town at the peak of their prowess. Damn, dudes.
20. Clouds, "New Amnesia" (mp3). The last time we saw these guys, they got so worked up that one of 'em puked onstage. We always had Adam McGrath pegged as the quiet one in Cave-In -- a position for which he had stiff competition -- but that got throroughly blown out the door when he came blitzkrieging out of the stocks with the balls-deepest, boogie-metalest album of any Cave In alumnus. Rock and roll, no control.
21. Matters & Dunaway, "Control the Night" (mp3). Micro-techno goes macro, and the drum machines take back seats to human rhythm sections -- the last people on earth we expected to join the stories ranks of Boston space-rockers would've been this niche-market duo, who were far better known in, say, Belgium than they were in the Back Bay. But this track had us reaching back for our old Lockgroove tapes in a search for the last time local dudes got this far gone.
22. Wheat, "Move=Move" (mp3). Severely slept on since they've gone innocuous, but we predict that eventually they'll have cult followings and message-board threads as long as Squeeze's. The only question is whether that'll be 20 years from now or in time for their next album.
23. Magic People, "Laundry Night" (mp3). That girl: the one in the basement you run into every week when you're Cloroxing the skid marks out of your boyshorts. She's almost as big a headcase as you, Magic Person.
24. UV Protection, "Space Elevator" (mp3). We were pretty sure that UV Pro couldn't get any more perfect than their last album, until we saw Karen getting apeshit at the DJ Assault show. C440r dudes: UV Pro Ghettotech remix, soon, plz. Thx. Until then: this.
25. Pet Genius, "Mother Fucker" (mp3). Steve Brodsky in grunge-outlaw mode, making some of his most weirdly accessible music since Cave In.
26. Brain Failure & Dicky Barrett, Coming Down To Beijing" (mp3). Answer song to Dropkick Murphys' "Coming Down To Boston" gets outsourced to mainland China, with once-and-future Bosstone playing figurative second fiddle.
27. Bloc Party, "I Still Remember (Live)" (mp3). The intimate-club version, as Mr. Collipark would call it.
28. Silversun Pickups, "Lazy Eye (Live)" (mp3). Similarity #1,094,236 between Silversun Pickups and Smashing Pumpkins: the acoustic versions are as good as the electric versions. And in this case, closer to the original version, since their hit started out as a much slower, longer affair.
29. Oxbow, "Down a Stair, Backward" (mp3). We just saw that Eugene is coming back to town to read from his fantastic Fight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked For Asking. In case you didn't read it, James Parker elaborated on Eug (the Norman Mailer of Bouncer Lit) here.
30. Plain White T's, "Hey There Delilah" (mp3). Actually, we were sick of this song before we even heard it. But there are 13 year olds who need this in their life. So here it is, quiet-like, from the exclusive live session they did for us at First Act.
31. Tanya Donnelly & Girl Authority, "This is My Day" (mp3). Also for the kids: Belly/Throwing Muses mama Tanya hooks up with Rounder's answer to Kidz Bop for grrrl-powered tweenpop goodness.
32. Hats and Glasses, "Andrew" (mp3). Oddly catchy, genre-agnostic rock song matches all the requisite indie talking points. Deadpan Lou Reed-ish singer? Check. Obliquely personal lyrics? Check. Ambitiously evasive hit-and-run backing band? Yezzir. All of the preceding signifying that we know next to nothing about them but wouldn't be surprised if they showed up opening for an Arcade Fire tour or something.
33. Cold War Kids, "Hospital Beds (Live)" (mp3). The hit, as it were, from the set they played for us at First Act.
33 1/3: Aberdeen City, "Moving In Stereo (Cars Cover)" (mp3). From a charity CD, a rare stream-only treat that we never got around to posting as a download.