Winner: "Shoot Out the Lights"
Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime" vs. Arcade Fire, "Ready to Start"
Winner: "Once in a Lifetime"
The La's, "I Can't Sleep" vs. The Who, "Behind Blue Eyes"
Winner: "Behind Blue Eyes"
Props to all of our quarter-finalists. These three matches were easy and tough: easy because the winners were all bona fide classics with reputations and legacies to back them up, tough because the opponents are all recent favourites that have gained familiarity for me through this blog. After reading an article about the top albums of the past 25 years, near the beginning of my run writing this blog, I listened to the La's "I Can't Sleep" (and "Timeless Melody" and of course "There She Goes") over and over on YouTube for nights on end until my copy ofthe album finally arrived. Fittingly, the sound of that song related to my own enthusiasm to be listening to and enjoying music for the first time. But that joy is best shown, perhaps even made possible, by the Whos of the world, the "Behind Blue Eyes," the sometimes indulgent but ultimately epic and affecting versions of rock and roll that rip us out of reality and place us somewhere huge.
Tokyo Police Club's chilled over closing number put up a good fight, with its precision drumbeat and impeccable engineered sound, with every element just properly applied, those synths and guitars never fighting against each other but still moving in unison. And to Arcade Fire, of course. Both bands created modern classics that demonstrate exactly how good music can be in the 2010s, when made by people that care about what goes onto a record. Tokyo was a scrappy underdog here, known mainly in Canada as a fun band to see when they're in town. Arcade Fire is rightly hailed by most critics (and rightly disliked by people who don't like them because nothing's for everybody.) I love how "Ready to Start" captures the restlessness of youth, with its droning riff that seems to pace the floor like a nervous wreck, pondering questions that seem deep from the inside, like every teen and suburbanite.
Can a song that's been recorded in the last ten years stand up to decades of a legacy? I didn't hear "Shoot Out the Lights" very long before I started this blog and heard those songs, and while "Once In A Lifetime" seems always to have been around, it's not like I was there when it was first out. So it could be that I'm just bowing to the weight that the years have lent them. Or it could just be that all the pieces to fall into place in these great songs. The simple, vague, distant lyrics of "Shoot Out The Lights" tell you everything you need to know, but it's already been suggested by the opening two notes of that Link Wray like riff. I could swerve myself and everyone by putting AF over TH, but I don't even think Win Butler would. I could do it, if I didn't listen to "Once in a Lifetime" and went solely on what I think I remember about that song, but those sounds, those drums, that Tina Weymouth bass, that David Byrne delivery. There's not another song like it in existence and I hope someday a better writer than me pairs these two songs together and unpacks their true similarities: not only their moody sonic backdrops, but their alienated lyrics about growing mature and comfortable.
my bloody valentine, "only tomorrow" vs. Joel Plaskett Emergency, "Written All Over Me"
But then there was one really tough call. Both are songs I heard for the first time in the last year or so. You have to be of a certain perspective to even appreciate My Bloody Valentine, with its rough, hazy, unpredictable sound, but anyone can love Joel Plaskett, a master of pop songcraft who always manages to seem inventive anyway. He and his band are objectively great at what they do.
"Only Tomorrow" was a song I singled out on MBV, basically the moment I realized I was truly listening to another great work from this band, that their wild, freewheeling yet immaculately assembled music - every odd tangent and impulse is in fact worked over and carefully considered - is still alive and well.
And while I thought that was a done deal, that MBV's essence was so transcendent that they would be carried to the next round, I listened again, really listened to the relatively compact, uncomplicated pop rock song Plaskett had written, as it reached a transcendent quality of its own with a guitar solo that lets you know: This Is Joel Plaskett. And hearing him in those six strings, nonverbally pouring himself into your headphones, you just can't help but feel good. I'm calling this one an upset.
Winner: "Written All Over Me"