Flaming Lips, "Fight Test" vs. Weezer, "Say It Ain't So"
Funny, how the Weezer song is a heavy examination of a son's relationship with his father, and the Flaming Lips song cribs from a Cat Stevens song called "Father and Son." The Lips do an admirable job, creating a dreamy soundscape on which top hang their lyrics, but this Weezer song shows a very particular skill at marrying a catchy, memorable pop tune to a sincere yet still skewed lyric.
Winner: "Say It Ain't So"
Fang Island, "Chompers" vs. Smashing Pumpkins, "Tonight Tonight"
This is more of a tossup than I would think, given the cred behind "Tonight Tonight." There are a lot of arguments against everything Billy Corgan's ever done, and "Chompers" is quite frankly and excellent exercise in Fang Island's transcendent riffage. But I do have a weak spot for the times when I believe Corgan got it right, and his sense of composition, of production, of putting every damn thing in the exact right place is in perfect work here.
Winner: "Tonight Tonight"
Temptations, "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" vs. Locksley, "One More Minute"
The easiest pick of this lot was the Temptations vs. Locksley. And I love Locksley, guys, they're a top-notch power pop band with old school leanings, but I think in future rounds, we will get a lot of opportunities to extol the virtues of this singular masterpiece that is "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
Winner: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
Robbie Williams, "Rock DJ" vs. Cage the Elephant, "Aberdeen"
I really like "Aberdeen," for a 2010s-era alt rock romper, but the gloriously to-the-limit production of this Robbie Williams song kind of reminds me why people listen to pop music to begin with. (Although to listen to it nowadays you'd mainly have to be a weirdo with a 90s obsession. Hi guys!)
Winner: "Rock DJ"
Stars, "Wasted Daylight" vs. No Doubt, "Hey Baby"
Some songs, man. Some songs transport you to a whole different time and place. "Wasted Daylight" brings me back to the very beginning of this blog, in January or February of 2011. I was slogging through the slush on the University campus, doing last-minute readings for English Lit courses between classes and napping at the library and living in the isolating fluorescent light of a train or the isolating mass of a University lecture hall. "Hey Baby," meanwhile, takes me back to Grade 9, and... man, that's just about all you need to know.
Winner: "Wasted Daylight"
Darkness, "I Believe In a Thing Called Love" vs. Hold Steady, "Lord I'm Discouraged"
It's not true that any vaguely sensitive tune will beat out any rock song. I want you to know that. But this is not just any song, honestly, I think "Lord I'm Discouraged" might be the dark horse favourite to win this whole damn thing, it's that good.
Winner: "Lord I'm Discouraged"
White Stripes, "Stop Breaking Down" vs. Deer Tick, "Electric"
Case in point - Deer Tick put up a really great tune that blends a softly-struck electric keyboard with strings, but I've got to give it up for Jack White's soul splintering Robert Johnson cover.
Winner: "Stop Breaking Down"
Stella Ella Ola, "Summerette" vs. Dan Mangan, "Post-War Blues"
While I appreciate what Dan Mangan does, I think there's such pure joy in Stella Ella Ola's music that they should at least pass through to round two.
Coral, "Precious Eyes" vs. Sloan, "The Answer Was You"
The Coral's Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker album is definitely something that's bigger than the sum of its parts, a bunch of ragged, hardly-produced, barely-even-written tunes that capture a lonely, haunted mood. Sloan's The Double Cross is also bigger than the sum of its parts, but its parts are so good.
Winner: "The Answer Was You"