WVAU Top Music of 2011: #7

Maxwell Tani, Maeve McDermott

#7 Album: Yuck – Yuck

The main complaint against Yuck, as written by bloggers or lamented by WVAU executive board members (past and present), goes something like this: “I don‰’t know man, if I wanted to listen to music from the nineties, I‰’d listen to (insert Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Guided By Voices, Teenaged Fanclub here).‰”

But while its true that Yuck‰’s sound closely resembles that of most of the 90s most formidable indie rock bands, the key to the band‰’s success is how they skillfully appropriate of the best moments of the decade as well as the best elements of the bands listed above, and imbue them with something that some of these bands may not have specialized in or cared about: irresistible pop-melodies. While the album masquerades as a shameless tribute to the greatest apathetic guitar players ever seen by rock n roll, behind “the wall” of fuzzy, distorted power chords is a record filled with genuinely catchy and interesting hooks.

Sure, all ten songs on the album could most likely be directly attributed to different influences and bands that the cast and crew of Clerks probably listened to/discussed regularly on set. Sure, incorporating/ripping off the 90s is trendy. But unlike Wavves‰’s Blink-182 pop-punk fetishism or Widowspeak‰’s Mazzy Star revivalism, Yuck‰’s debut is more than simply an homage to a certain set of sounds. Because once you get beyond arguing over which of the ballads sounds like R.E.M., or which of the up-tempo cuts best channels J. Mascis, you have a record thats hook-laden, melody-filled and succeeds not only because its song-writing style is in fact “trendy,” but because the songs themselves are well-crafted pop masterpieces.

And as a sidenote, any record that allows the phrases “I‰’ve got a choice now, I‰’ve got a voice now,‰” to come off as earnest rather than naive has done its job.

By Maxwell Tani

#7 Song: Girls – “Vomit”

In an album full of masterfully crafted songs, from the surf-rock perfection of opener “Honey Bunny‰” to the heartwrenching organ outro of “Jamie Marie,‰” Girls‰’ stunning Father, Son, Holy Ghost reaches an emotional climax with “Vomit,‰” one of the best tracks of the year and Girls‰’ strongest to date.

Christopher Owens has written a handful of other songs that run past the 6-minute mark, but most of them don‰’t actually feel it ‰ÛÒthe lazily wistful “Summertime‰” and the woeful sing-along at the end of “Hellhole Ratrace‰” meander on until they become almost an afterthought. But Girls‰’ excellent 2010 EP Broken Dreams Club gave us a hint that Owens was capable of more than Album‰’s basic song structures and self-deprecating vocals on “Carolina,‰” a six-and-a-half minute, slow-burning masterpiece that crests from a two-minute meandering guitar line into Owens‰’ pristine vocals. Sonically, “Carolina‰” is the immediate predecessor of “Vomit,‰” and even the narrative picks up where “Carolina‰” left off; Owens‰’ promises to transport his beloved back home have since been forgotten, and in “Vomit‰” we see him wandering the streets in some altered chemical state, chasing something that‰’s long gone.

No matter how many times I‰’ve listened to “Vomit,‰” the song always maintains its element of surprise. I forget how big the song is until the sound crashes down a minute in, or about the snarling guitar solo that bashes you over the head, or about the sublime moment when Owens sings “I need your love‰” and the song‰’s storm finally breaks, as a yearning guitar motif emerges from the reverb and ushers in the year‰’s best use of a gospel choir. The secret weapon in “Vomit‰” is the classic-rock organ, which reaches “Like a Rolling Stone‰Û‰ÛÒ level perfection at the song‰’s climax as it punctuates the gospel choir‰’s swelling vocals and lingers just a little longer at the song‰’s end.

The sophistication and scope of “Vomit‰” is a far cry from Owens‰’ early wails of “I don‰’t wanna cry-y-y-y-y-y-yy the whole night through‰” but Owens is still the same fool chasing his folly, whether he‰’s begging a girl for a dance or chasing her shadow through a city‰’s empty streets. Owens‰’ strength as a musician lies in repurposing, in crafting what‰’s old, familiar, simple and oft-repeated into music that‰’s honest, emotional and wholly his own. And “Vomit‰” is the most stunning chapter in Owens‰’ story we’ve heard yet.

By Maeve McDermott