Jason’s picks: Top 15 songs from Listen In

Published 5:14 pm Saturday, May 12, 2012

It’s tough to make a good job better, but writing weekly columns about your passion helps. That’s what we’ve done here in the Austin Daily Herald Spotlight section every week since October 2010. We’ve had a lot of fun with the Spotlight section over the past year and a half, whether it’s talking to hyper tech gurus or chilling with Ray Manzcerek. As such, we hoped to share some of our top games and songs with you, to remind you of how many extraordinary works of art make it into Austin’s No. 1 paper and to remind us how much fun our jobs are.
— By Trey Mewes and Jason Schoonover

1. “Montezuma” by Fleet Foxes

“Helplessness Blues” may rightly be the title track of the album, but the reflective and harmonious “Montezuma” opens what has quickly became one of my new favorite albums and sets the tone both musically and thematically. The song, like the album, is a stunner.

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2. “Separator” by Radiohead

The “Flying Lotus” video caught the attention for singer Thom Yorke’s dance moves, but “Separator” left listeners wanting more. The song spurred many Internet junkies to theorize the band was planning a part II to the short, but precise “King of Limbs.” Regardless, it’s one of the brightest songs Radiohead has ever released.


3. “Amen” by Leonard Cohen

“Amen” leisurely moves along through Cohen’s sparse instrumentation and poignant lyrics, proving again that Cohen is one of the chief song-writers of the last 50 years.


4. “Dazzling Blue” by Paul Simon

It was a tossup between this and “Rewrite,” but “Dazzling Blue” is a beautiful song with a serious, contemplative Simon mixing in the Afro-Cuban drums and styles that have often defined his post-Simon & Garfunkel years.


5. “Amongster” by Polica

“Wandering Star” was the key single from the Minneapolis-based Polica’s debut “Give Up the Ghost,” But “Amongster” opens the album with the group’s distinctive electronics-based sound.

6. “Taken For a Fool” by The Strokes

The high-pitched guitars, distortion and hoarse vocals of Julian Casablancas blend The Strokes garage sound with the 1980s vibe of “Angles.”


7. “Hey Jane” by Spiritualized

This sprawling eight-plus minute punk-tinged tune off space-rock band Spiritualized’s “Sweet Heart Sweet Light” plays lightning-fast and never stops building until the last chord.

8. “Killer Crane” TV On The Radio

This slow, but soaring song off the art-rock group’s “Nine Types of Light” is a melancholy, beautiful tune that sounds more like it should close the album, rather than be in the middle at Track 5.

9. “Danse Caribe” by Andrew Bird

Bird uses his violin to create many seemingly simple effects that sound like beach drums on this tune off “Break It Yourself.”


10. “Rise to the Sun” by Alabama Shakes

This soulful single helps put Alabama Shakes on the map with their debut album “Boys & Girls.” Brittany Howard’s booming vocals shine on this track and the entire album.


11. “Especially Me” by Low

Guitarist-vocalist Alan Sparhawk shares vocal duties with wife and drummer-vocalist Mimi Parker. Parker shines as brightly as she ever has in the band on “Especially Me.”

12. “That’ll be the day” by Modest Mouse

This track off of the all-star compilation “Rave On” — a collection of Buddy Holly covers — was a stunning surprise.

13. “Wild Goose” by M. Ward

This ethereal track about lost love off M. Ward’s “A Wasteland Companion” is one of the many highlights off the vocalist and guitarist’s pleasant return to his solo career and roots-rock.

14. “Holocene” by Bon Iver

Even though the self-titled “Bon Iver” earned the Wisconsin-native a Grammy for best new album, Bon Iver’s second album blends in more diverse instrumentation with Justin Vernon’s the style of the vocal-based debut “For Emma, Forever Ago.” “Holocene” best represents the blending of styles.

15. “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit

“The Lion’s Roar” is truly one of my surprise albums of the last year, and the Swedish sisters seamlessly blend together in their sparse county-folk that thrives in the duo’s harmonies.

Honorable mention: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, “New Year’s Eve” by Tom Waits, “My Valentine” by Paul McCartney, “Born Alone” by Wilco “Gold on the Ceiling” by The Black Keys, “Discover” by R.E.M., “Outta My System” by My Morning Jacket, “Meyrin Fields” by Broken Bells, “Lucky One” by Ryan Adams, “The Circle Married the Line” by Feist, “The Parish of Space Dust” by Gorillaz