Quarterly report: My favorite songs of the past three months

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The end of June means it's time to run down my favorite music of the past three months. I'll start with the songs list today, followed by the albums tomorrow.

Also, for posterity's sake: Q1 singles / Q1 albums

(1) Eat Skull, "Stick to the Formula" I didn't fully understand the appeal of Eat Skull until their in-store performance at a tiny Austin record shop during SXSW. That epiphany had a lot to do with "Stick to the Formula," a standout that day and on the Portland band's solid sophomore LP, Wild and Inside. A non-stop punk stomp through Kiwi pop and Guided by Voices' basement-ready booze tunes, it blends high-octane power with low-spirited melancholia better than anything I've heard this year. I dropped it on a spring-summer mix CD with some of the other tracks on this list, and the shitgaze anthem quickly supplanted them all as my go-to song of the season. Don't sleep on it.

(2) Phoenix, "Lisztomania" I'm tipping my hand for tomorrow's albums list by saying this, but pretty much any track from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix could have made the cut here. (Except "Love Like a Sunset." Sometimes I despise that song.) "Lisztomania" gets the nod because it's the official single, the lead-off track and as good as anything from the album at capturing that sleek, metropolitan pop vibe that Phoenix has mastered. Do I understand what Thomas Mars is carrying on about? Definitely not, but his every pretentious syllable sounds fabulous anyway.

(3) Grizzly Bear, "Two Weeks" This is the kind of song that can force you to reevaluate a band's entire catalog. When I first heard "Two Weeks" at Lollapalooza last summer (the song's live debut, I think), my immediate thought was, "Wow, Grizzly Bear's not boring anymore." For a band whose sonic textures had always failed to connect with me, they were being quite direct with that staccato piano part and those snappy drums. Finally, a framework for appreciating the stellar vocal harmonies these four have been busting out since Yellow House! The studio version is glossier and more studious but just as emphatic a statement of pop-minded purpose and a safe gateway into their glacial Beach Boys-inspired back catalog.

(4) Rick Ross feat. Kanye West and Lil Wayne, "Maybach Music 2" If Jay-Z is intent on killing autotune, at least T-Pain turned in his finest hip-hop hook before the guillotine fell. Meanwhile, Kanye volleys between goofy and self-serious as usual with his hilarious, so-bad-it's-good bit about exploding commodes. Ross proves himself worthy of collaborating with the titans of the game, while Weezy sounds better than 99 percent of MCs even on autopilot. Realest s--- they ever wrote? Not quite, but close.

(5) Dirty Projectors, "Stillness Is the Move" Like many of the songs on this list, my appreciation for "Stillness is the Move" vaulted up when I saw the band perform it live. Despite Amber Coffman's Mariah Carey screams, I was skeptical of this song's pop bona fides until I witnessed Coffman stalking the stage in full diva mode at Bonnaroo. I could almost imagine Timbaland grooving at the back of the stage. But Tim ain't responsible for this genre-melding anomaly; it's Dave Longstreth, whose willingness to curb his restless muse this time out pays big dividends here.