Each Tuesday here at Mixed Signals HQ, we try to bring you some cool music. I've spent most of my day watching old videos, but NPR music producer Stephen Thompson sent a few new tunes that are worth checking out. They're pretty good... especially Stars' "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead."
When NPR.org launched its Song of the Day feature in March, we opted to keep the column as current as possible, sticking primarily to material with some sort of news peg: Each choice is new, or it's just been re-issued, or the artist recording it has just done something newsworthy, such as shuffle off this mortal coil. But that also meant excluding a few brilliant songs from 2005, so here's a quick round of catch-up:
Harvey Danger, "Little Round Mirrors" (audio): Harvey Danger remains best known as the one-hit outfit behind the snide mid-'90s radio smash "Flagpole Sitta," but its leader, Sean Nelson, is an outrageously underrated songwriter. "Little Round Mirrors," from last year's self-released Little By Little…, is his masterpiece: a complex, empathetic and beautifully rendered look at obsessive music fandom. The song romanticizes a fan's intense one-sided love, but it also recognizes the loneliness and vanity inherent therein.
Troubled Hubble, "I'm Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules" (audio): One of 2005's best albums, Troubled Hubble's Making Beds in a Burning House, went virtually unheard: The wry, witty power-pop band broke up within moments of the disc's release, which didn't help. "I'm Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules" ranks among its many highlights, as gifted singer-songwriter Chris Otepka dispenses a thought-provoking science lesson before closing with a note of infectious optimism.
Stars, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" (audio): The Canadian band Stars knows its way around fizzy pop, but last year's Set Yourself on Fire digs deeper, examining messy conflicts between lovers (and ex-lovers) with a he-said/she-said approach that illuminates a relationship's gray areas. The string-swept "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" opens the album as long-lost exes reconnect, embarking on an awkward cab ride before looking back with a mixture of false bravado and poignant resignation ("I'm not sorry I met you / I'm not sorry it's over"). They've progressed emotionally to varying degrees, but they agree on a mantra that's useful for a lot more than getting over a breakup: "Live through this, and you won't look back."