Unlike my year end album chart where the rankings were based solely on my personal reactions from listening to albums, there’s more to the year end single chart than simply playing a song on the stereo then deciding whether it was hot or not. For one, a good video helps. Kevin Drew’s “Backed Out On The…” is a top jam in its own right, and it has some great guitar work by guest shredder J Mascis, but what really makes the song is the video where Drew and a whole mess of his closest friends get totally stoopid rockin’ out. Bonus points were also rewarded for live performances. I probably saw The Dreadful Yawns, four, maybe five times this past year, and over the course of the year, “Don’t Know What I’ve Been On,” became their signature number. There’s a break down near the middle of the song where The Yawns jam — sometimes it’s a lovely feedback laced racket, other times, it’s decidedly more subtle, and in perhaps my favorite performance, guitarist Ben Gmetro went so abstract that members of the crowd around me were convinced he was experiencing gear issues. Lastly, in the case of Fucked Up’s “Year of the Pig”, bonus points were awarded for having the mega balls to record and release an 18 minute post-hardcore opus. Would “Year of the Pig” been a better song if it was only 12 or 13 minutes long? Perhaps. Then again, if it was only 12 or 13 minutes long, they would have only gotten bonus points for having big balls, and not mega balls.

1. Grinderman – No Pussy Blues. I know this guy, and he has the “No Pussy Blues,” and he tells me that the reason Grinderman’s song of the same title is so funny is because it’s true. He’s tried the gentleman route. He’s done poetry and flowers. He pretended to like her revolting pets. He’s fixed stuff at her apartment. And, when none of those things worked, he tried boozing and being an a**hole. After all that, I, err…I mean that I guy know, still didn’t get any. [download]

2. Electrelane – To the East One of my favorite moments on the version of “Capital Radio One” from The Story of The Clash, is when Joe Strummer is being interviewed on a train, and he’s talking about his musical epiphany, “When I saw the Pistols, right, I realized I wasn’t alone in the fact I couldn’t play too well…and when I saw the Pistols that’s what struck me as great. It suddenly struck me, that it didn’t have to matter that much.” And for one song, it doesn’t matter. Everything comes together perfectly on “To The East:” a simple bass line, some tick-tick thump from the drums, a sparse, repetitive melody from the guitar, then add a little background noise from the organ, and a loving lament. It builds slowly, and graciously, and when the pain gets nearly unbearable, they hit the effects pedals. [download] [youtube]

3. Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma Paul Simon? Peter Gabriel? Ska? Are you kidding me? Don’t Vampire Weekend know everyone’s doing Springsteen these days?[stream]

4. Wilco – The Thanks I Get Someone explain to me how the best track from Sky Blue Sky wasn’t even on Sky Blue Sky, but was first released as the soundtrack to a VW commercial, and later included on a bonus EP? [youtube]

5. Jay Reatard – I Know a Place Like the first wave of punk some thirty years ago, Jay Reatard’s back to basics approach resonates at a time when many artists have become convinced that bigger is better, and bigger than Springsteen is even better than bigger. [download]

6. Gowns – White Like Heaven It’s not quite freak. Nor is it ambient, noise, or drone. Imprecise tags like “art rock” or “experimental” are an injustice. It’s hard to state where “White Like Heaven” comes from, and it is precisely that inability to peg it down, that makes it so compelling. Static percolates just below the surface, easing the song along on a steady pace as vocalist Erika Anderson is engulfed in a twisted, uncontrollable view of the future. Whenever she punctuates a line like “I saw the world break open” or “I saw thirty seconds turn into 10,000 years” that steady flow of static rises to a crescendo of crashing organs and imprecise rumbles of drums, perfectly capturing the awe, wonder, and fear of the songs reoccurring theme, “Is it white like heaven or dark like space/Is it bright like god or ace black spades.” [download]

7. The Very Knees Pour Poor Moi In a perfect world, The Very Knees’ “Pour Poor Moi” would join MSB’s “My Town” and Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks” as our city’s unofficial anthems. I can’t be the only one who kicks this jam after Cleveland Browns touchdowns, can I? Ok, maybe I am the only one who scores sports triumphs with underground art-punk, but still, if there’s any song from Cleveland in 07 that proves our town still rocks, it’s this one. [download] [youtube]

8. The Dreadful Yawns – Don’t Know What I’ve Been On [download]

9. Times New Viking – Teenage Lust The title is borrowed from a Jesus and Mary Chain track off of Honey’s Dead, and the first line is a play on the opening line from another track on Honey’s dead, “Reverence:” “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ” by the Brothers Reid vs. “I don’t wanna die in the city alone,” by Times New Viking. The rest is ragged, fuzzed out, lo-fi bliss. [download]

10. Fucked Up – Year of the Pig [stream via PTW]

11. BSS Pres Kevin Drew – Backed Out On The…[youtube]

12. Okkervil River – John Allyn Sets Sail The tragic life of poet John Berryman meets the Beach Boys “Sloop John B” on the closing number from Okkervil River’s The Stage Names. I hesitate to say this is a fun song, with Berryman determined to end his own life and all, but there’s a certain black humor about it, and the band’s playfulness belies the heaviness of its subject matter. [stream]

13. No Age – My Life’s Alright Without You Top jam from the year’s top album. Enough said. [download]

14. Dinosaur, Jr – Almost Ready If there was any question whether the new Dinosaur, Jr album would be any good, it was answered in the first five seconds of “Almost Ready.”[download] [youtube]

15. The Black Lips – Navajo Note to critics: Don’t encourage The Black Lips to be more mature. Review after review praised their baby steps towards adulthood and panned the more juvenile moments on Good, Bad, Not Evil. You won’t here that sentiment from me. My favorite tracks were the ones like “Bad Kids,” where they sang about bogarting grandma’s booze and painting giant penises on the walls, and “Navajo,” a song that uses a story line of romancing an Indian girl, as an excuse to rhyme names of Native American tribes in a tongue twisting chorus.

16. Psychedelic Horseshit – New Wave Hippies When Psychedelic Horseshit aren’t f*ckin’ around, they cut through the lo-fi racket with some killer tunes. Come to think of it, even when they are f*ckin’ around, they’ve got some killer tunes, too. Except, of course, that one tune where they play two tunes at once, one in each channel. That’s an example of Psychedelic Horseshit f*ckin’ around and not making a killer tune. “New Wave Hippies” isn’t that one. [download]

17. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights The anti-Winehouse delivers vintage soul without all the star studded trappings. And by star studded trappings I mean blow. [youtube]

18. The Cribs – Men’s Needs Take your pick. There’s one video that’s safe for the kids, one with the naughty bits blacked out, and one for those who prefer the naughty bits. Clean Version [youtube] Black Box Version [youtube] NSFW Verison [video stream]

19. Parts and Labor – The Gold We’re Digging If you ever saw Parts and Labor live with ex-drummer Christopher R. Weingarten, you’d know that they didn’t need the stop motion animation to make him look like a machine behind the kits. His drumming was intense before the video trickery. [youtube]

20. MIA – Paper Planes While it was the liberal sample of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” that initially drew me in, it’s MIA’s rugged, street tough smarts and the sound effects of gun fire and cash registers cha-chinging in the chorus that keep me coming back. [youtube]

21. Machine Go Boom – All the Way to PA Seventy seconds of sugar soaked awesome played at the speed of a seven year old’s sugar rush. [download]

22. Times New Viking – My Head I think you know how I feel about Times New Viking by now. Just download it and thank me later. [download]

23. Jay Reatard – All Over Again Had Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions come out in 07, it would have been in the top tier of my albums list. Instead, we have one single and one EP in the singles list. If you think this is too much Reatard for one list to handle, just wait ’til 08 when Matador Records will release six singles by Jay Reatard. [youtube]

24. Wussy – Jonah There’s this endearing line on Wussy’s “Jonah” that goes, “We could get to know each other in the backseat of your van tonight.” It’s sweet, really, it is. [stream]

25. Two Cow Garage – Should’ve California Columbus’ Two Cow Garage confront the self-doubt of a seemingly tireless touring band on one of the strongest tracks from III. [download]

26. Dolby Fuckers – Sharpshooter The third band in the singles list from the new lo-fi capital of the world, Columbus, Ohio. Along with Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit, The Dolby Fuckers are saving the world from sh*tty over produced indie one rickety, hissy record at a time. If Times New Viking are Batman, and Psychedelic Horseshit are their Robin, then that would make The Doly Fuckers, Aquaman? I may have to work on that analogy. The Dolby Fuckeres are way cooler than that dude who talks to dolphins while all the other Superfriends are using real super powers and way cool gadgets to fight evil. [download]

27. The Mae Shi – Run to your Grave and Yea Big and Kid Static – Run to the Facts. The original as performed by The Mae Shi: [download] [youtube] And the mash up as performed by Yea Big and Kid Static: [download]. When The Mae Shi’s summer tour with Yea Big and Kid Static came to The Tower in Cleveland, the bands rehearsed the mash up during a sound check, then performed the mash up together for the first time as an encore. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it had that certain 15 people on a sweaty summer night in a DIY venue kind of magic.

28. White Stripes – You Don’t Know What Love Is A classic Jack White love song, in that it really isn’t a love song, but one of those woman you better know your place songs that only he can get away with singing. [youtube]

29. Frightened Rabbit – The Greys I don’t think I can call “The Greys” an anthem, an un-anthem, maybe. It has guitars that want to rush skyward to a soaring chorus, like an anthem, but as Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson recounts staying in, sleeping his worries away, and generally avoiding contact at all costs, it’s hard to get all excited and anthemic. [download][youtube]

30. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists – CIA {Begin Sarcasm} Why does Ted Leo hate freedom? Doesn’t he know all the good things the CIA’s done for us. If the CIA didn’t prop up the dictators we liked and work to remove the dictators we didn’t like, then we’d be living in communism. Ted, is that what you really want? Or maybe you’d prefer that the CIA didn’t use harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects. Do want us all to be muslims? Is that what you want Ted? {End Sarcasm} Ted Leo knows exactly what he’s doing on “CIA,” when he adds human emotion to all of the questionable things our nation’s done in the name of national security. All those coups and all that deception comes with a cost.

31. Future of the Left – Manchasm Future of the Left’s Andrew Falkous has skewered many a Welshman with his harsh words. So, it was quite a surprise when the subject of the line “Colin is a pussy/A very pretty pussy,” in “Manchasm” was not some poor sod who found himself on the wrong side of Falko, but a very pretty pussy cat casting disapproving looks his way.

32. Radiohead – Bodysnatchers Not only did Radiohead give us the gift of the choose your own price album download, they gave us the gift of a guitar rager the likes of which they haven’t unleashed since The Bends. [download]

33. Coffinberry – Earthworms in the Sun A late addition to the top 40 tracks of 2007, Coffinberry’s “Earthworm in the Sun” earned its spot after their show Friday night at the Beachland Tavern reminded me why I’ve been calling them one of the premier rock bands in town. [download]

34. iLikeTrains – The Deception Unlike Okkervil River’s “John Allyn Sets Sail,” where the heavy subject of suicide gets a lighter treatment, there’s no disguising the inner turmoil of English yachtsman, Donald Crowhurst, in “The Deception” by iLikeTrains. From the first notes you know this one isn’t going to end well. [download]

35. Health – Crimewave With its fiercely pounding percussion, and sharp shrieking guitars, “Crimewave” isn’t as much of a crimewave, as it is a smash and grab.[download][youtube]

36. El Ten Eleven – Living on Credit Blues Not blues, in the traditional sense. Not really blues at all. El Ten Eleven’s instrumental jam, “Living on Credit Blues,” is way too grand and affirming, for its bummed out, broke as sh*t title. [download]

37. Mystery of Two – Desolate “Desolate” was both the last song played by Mystery of Two on the night of their release show, and the final number played at The Parish Hall, the venue where they staged the show. Although I would have preferred an all star jam to close down the joint, the squad car squawk and squalor of Ryan Weitzel’s six string left its own lasting impression. [download] [youtube]

38. Clockcleaner – New in Town Listener be warned. When Clockcleaner singer/guitarist John Sharkey shows up in your city proclaiming he’s new in town, he’s not looking for a bike partner, or a good latte. Sh*t’s going to get heavy, people are going to be offended, and if you’re not cool with that, you’re best off finding someone else to join your book club.

39. The Library is on Fire – New Corner for Kadinsky One of my favorite videos from 07 comes via the Akron, now Brooklyn based, band, The Library is on Fire. This clip for “New Corner for Kadinsky” was shot in the same location as Devo’s “Jocko Homo,” and it shares much of the original’s imagery. Oh, and the song’s pretty solid, too. [youtube]

40. The Saturday Knights – 45 Originally released in 06, Light in the Attic Records, re-released The Saturday Knights debut ep this past year. It’s rock and rap of the old school Aerosmith vs Run DMC variety, and not the nu metal soul suck variety. [download][youtube]

More from I Rock Cleveland’s Year End Extravaganza Bonanza:

Top 25 Albums
Top 10 Northeast Ohio Releases
Year End Awards
Rockers and Readers Respond