I ATE frogs Wednesday night. It was before the Ted Leo/Against Me! show and while it may have seemed to fit the rebellious mood of the night let me just put it this way, if you ever want to impress a girl or at least not make a fool of yourself when out in a public setting or context—do not order frogs, no matter how interesting or cool it may sound. Even if they are sautéed and appear on a bed of bamboo, you will be picking the small bones from your mouth all night long. For some reason, I don’t think women really get into watching that.

That being said …

In honor of five consecutive weeks in music, today every song will be assigned a numeric spot on the dial of Nigel’s amp. So, we’ll start with the quiet stuff and work our way up until you discover a good reason to go “one louder.”

 

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Tegan and Sara, “Call it Off”

Turn it to 1.5.

There’s that easily quotable line at the beginning of High Fidelity when the ever introspective Rob Gordon (John Cusack) muses, “Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” If you must wallow in some form of self-imposed “beautiful melancholy” you might as well flip on Tegan & Sara, because these girls do melancholy better than just about anybody.  

The Canadian twin’s latest offering from the Chris Wallis produced, The Con features the guitar picking, alternating lilting vocals that the duo does so well. Yes, it’s a breakup song, like those thousands of verses driving Gordon to the point of tobacco stained depression, but somehow, "Call it Off" contains a sense of genuine pretention-less morose that leaves the listener enraptured by the simplistic beauty. Be forwarned though, I’m a hopeless sucker for whispy voiced females, and when you combine two of them in a bittersweet duet, all pretense of artistic objectivity leave.

 

Download: "Call it Off" (Live on Letterman)

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The Republic Tigers, “Buildings and Mountains”

Spin it to 5.

Building the tempo just a tad, these iTunes-featured mood rockers have released the type of song that floats nicely in the background of whatever dramatic and emotional action you might be taking in the next four minutes and fifty seconds. With the gentle “ahh’s” and rolling electro guitars cushioning the echoing vocals pronouncement of life affirming lyrics like, We drink our wine and wonder/Why we're really here/What's the point of even asking? You take the good and bad/And make the best of it—this song is destined for the infinite playlist of sweater wearers everywhere. You know, right next to “Hide and Seek” and “The Funeral” as the type of songs that seem to inspire dramatic scan and pans of the camera; regardless of the situation or context.

Just turn on this song, and waiting for the metro, staring at your shoes or even picking up milk from the grocery store can become existential moments that will define your life as meaning arises with those buildings and mountains.

Oooh, I’m feeling clever today.

Download: "Buildings and Mountains"

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Massiv featuring Beirut, "Al Massiva"

You have now made it to 6.

This is my nomination for the “WTF” of a week in musical discovery. I honestly have no idea what these table cloth wearing gentlemen might be saying, but their dramatic gesturing and brilliant use of oh so original instrumentation leaves me no doubt that whatever they’re saying is something special and profound.

I talked to one of my numerous multi-lingual friends and apparently, this is a song about racial reconciliation and peace in the Middle East in the face of harsh violence and overwhelming odds. Apparently these individuals are so committed to the ideas of love and equality that they are pushing for the militant enforcement of said ideals; you might even refer to these gentlemen as “extremists.”

All I know is that it makes me want to nod my hand and throw a proud fist into the air as I support such a proud and noble endeavor.

For some strange reason, they disabled embedding on all videos of this video…

Watch: Al Massiva

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Everclear, “Jesus Was A Democrat”

Don’t turn it up, just unplug.

I’m a huge fan of protest songs. Whether it’s Dylan spitting on the idea that, “A world war can be won,” or Connor whispering, “When the president talks to God, does he ever think that maybe he’s not?”—music possesses a profound ability to speak to issues that don’t just involve heartbreak and raise legitimate questions about the status quo. But then to that proud tradition, Everclear, that perennial lighthouse for all that is most excellent about the 90’s MTV generation of rock bands, decides to throw in their two cents on the current state of American politics and religion.

It’s a nice idea, right? Reminding the world that Jesus Christ wasn’t a “white, middle-class republican” and that…oh forget it, I can’t sugar coat the absolute crap of this song. It almost doesn’t even deserve the title of “protest song” because that defames the legacy of those artists who tried to accurately paint the truth for a world that just didn’t want to see.

Yes, Jesus didn’t look like you and me, yes he didn’t have blue eyes and blonde hair, but outside of that, lead singer Art Alexakis does a better job of projecting his own preconceptions of Christ than any mega-church prostitutionary prophet. The view of Jesus is skewed. It’s the same problem that the Jews had when Jesus appeared on earth. They were looking for a rebel to lead them against Rome, but Jesus didn’t come as a “left wing radical Jew” in a “Che” shirt—he came as a suffering servant.  

Yes, Jesus loves the “Muslims and the Jews” and the “addicts and the porn stars” but “love” doesn’t mean that you let people continue down their own path without confrontation. For Jesus, love meant calling those people to repentance, love meant coming to seek and save those who were lost, and that repentance was preached to the brown skinned black haired Palestinian and the blue eyed blonde haired Anglo-saxon. 

The climax of Everclear’s “gospel” comes in the verse, You say Jesus died to save us all from a fiery hell/I say Jesus died to save us/Save us from ourselves—the real gospel tells us that its only by saving us from ourselves Jesus did save us from that fiery hell. If you’re going to provide an accurate critique of something, spend two seconds learning about it before you start talking. See Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ" for an example (or better yet, buy U2's cover of it).

My mom told me that even stupid people can seem smart if they keep their mouth shut, but unfortunately no one passed on the same advice to Art Alexakis and the rest of Everclear.

Oh, and the music’s just bad.

Download: "Jesus was a Democrat"

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Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, “Paranoia (Never Enough)”

This song is why they invented amps that go to eleven.

Punk had one of its births in D.C. and Ted Leo has done his absolute best to keep the memory and ideals of that attitude and sound alive. He played a killer set opening for Against Me! the other night at the Black Cat and this track from his Rapid Response EP, released in response to the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention, was the highlight of the night.

“Paranoia” is a stream of consciousness narrative written from the perspective of Leo, watching the RNC on T.V. At the show he talked about how there was this one girl at the protests who was holding flowers out towards the police and in response to her gesture—she got the pepper spray. Completely accurate or not, it makes for a powerful image and Leo’s swirling screaming guitars combine with some ridiculous couplets to make for a club destroying anthem.

“well its easy to hear what the stun guns say/ and billy clubs will always get the right of way/ but when your flowers get met by the pepper spray/ i say you have the right to go a little crazy….If you believe that you’re f— and your vote don’t mean a thing/ then I believe that they’ve got you exactly where they want you to be”

Download: Paranoia (Never Enough)

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Bonus Pick:

Keane's streaming their entire new album over on Last.fm, so click over and let the sweet melodies soundtrack your Friday. I'm still making up my mind about it, so let me know your thoughts

Stream: Perfect Symmetry 

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Nathan Martin is Patrol's Washington, D.C. music editor. 

 
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Nathan Martin

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