Friday, June 5, 2009

11. Mates of State vs. The Anniversary vs. nine inch nails

vs. vs.
by Mates of State
from My Solo Project
  "All Things Ordinary"
by The Anniversary
from Designing a Nervous Breakdown
  "Dead Souls"
by nine inch nails
from The Crow

"Proofs" (1 play at, unranked): I don't know if any debut album has had a more style-encapsulating first song than this one. You can hear where Mates of State will go over their first three albums in this song, and yet even now it feels much more unique than derivative. The recording is still a bit lo-fi and the basic song structure is wonderfully natal -- plain organ and drums, vocal back-and-forth with occasional harmony. And it's so happy! Kori Gardner's "Yea-eah!" near the end is just blissful, coming on the heels of two and a half minutes of "It doesn't matter what might come true/It's simple enough to try." It's a triumph of the boy-girl indie pop genre and a testament to track sequencing; I don't think anyone could listen to this song and not want to hear more, more, more.

"All Things Ordinary" (6 plays, unranked): Between My Solo Project and the album this song comes from, 2000 seemed to herald a new age of poppy, keyboard-driven harmonies. This one, too, is a bit of archetype for the band, and it's one that was followed-up on much more by other bands (like the Hush Sound and 1997) than the Anniversary, who produced one more, quite different album, then broke up. What I like about these guys more than the rest, though, is that they're not ashamed to let the synth lines be out in front. That bouncy line along with the yearning vocals -- nicely split between male and female parts -- creates a danceable setting that's still recognizably within the late 90s/early 00s emo landscape. It's too bad that there's nobody really putting all those elements together anymore.

"Dead Souls" (1 play, unranked): In the middle of 1994, a crazy year musically and the first summer of my college years, The Crow was released with what's turned out to be a relatively seminal soundtrack. What I remember most from the movie and from the ads are Stone Temple Pilots' "Big Empty" and this superb Joy Division cover by NIN. I had no idea it was a cover at the time, I was just getting into the band and thought, hey, awesome new song that's not on my copy of the downward spiral for some reason. Now I know it's heresy in some circles to admit this, but I don't care for Joy Division at all, and as a result I find this cover vastly superior to the original. Trent Reznor pulls back some of the explosive energy he had on broken and combines it with the atmospherics of some of the remixes that were being made from the downward spiral at the time. The result is both a great soundtrack tune and a terrifically listenable song that fits flush within the NIN canon, even presaging the thick drums of 1997's "the perfect drug" a little bit.

VERDICT: All these songs are pretty evenly matched and it's tough to say one is any greater than the others. But, "All Things Ordinary" is the one that I get the itch to listen to the most, so that gets the win.

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