Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Islands, "The Arm" ( #25)

It's that time of year again--or actually, for the first time, since this is the first December I've had this blog. Each year, I pick 25 songs (it used to be 20, but it's too hard to cut them out) as my favorites from the past 12 months. For the purposes of this list, 2008 started last Thanksgiving and ended the day before this Thanksgiving.

A word: My list, especially this year, is what people have taken to calling "rockist," meaning that it's composed mostly of rock music performed by greasy white kids. I'm ashamed, I suppose, but I find the older I get the less I care for rap music, and while there were some good radio-pop songs this year, I didn't happen to buy or download any of them. It's an admitted oversight.

So here we go:

"The Arm"
(Nick Thorburn)
The Islands
Arm's Way

The Canadian invasion continues with this Montreal-based (imagine that!) band and their second LP. On this quasi-title track, they hide an incredible amount of venom behind the strings and propulsive guitar of neo-psychedelica. But that's the Arm of fate or a vengeful God reaching down to break your neck, to cover your "lifeless carcass" with a body bag after a "bad-ass car crash."

I guess I've always been a sucker for songs that punch you in the mouth while they're smiling at you, which is to say songs with upbeat and cheerily layered music and lyrics about death and alcoholism. The pinnacle of the genre, as far as I'm concerned is The Minus 5's Let the War Against Music Begin, but The Islands make a pretty nice addition here--even if they warn you not to go to sleep at the end. No, the point is to go to sleep, to let the chipper music lull you into an altered state so that the lyrics can creep inside your head and show you how stuff really is.

That's the argument I used to hear at Bible camp about the purpose for Christian rock. The music gets their toes a-tappin', and then Jesus can sneak into their brains via the lyrics. I guess you never really get past that worldview, even when you're talking about Canadian indie-rock bands who sing songs about bloody corpses.

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