As touted in this week's Backbeat, music editors from across the country asked luminaries from our respective towns to tell us what music they loved this year. Their picks appear below and on the subsequent pages.
Christian Jacobs lives in a world of boldfaced, DayGlo images, a realm in which all sentences end in exclamation marks and fun is as common as oxygen. A founding member of the Huntington Beach, California, synth-pop-punk-ska band the Aquabats! and co-creator (with Scott Schultz) of new children's television show Yo Gabba Gabba!, Jacobs (a.k.a. the MC Bat Commander) assumes a cartoonish personae with earnestness, and revels in goofiness with as much gusto as Jay-Z and 50 Cent luxuriate in their self-perpetuated, overblown mythologies.
As frontman for the Aquabats!, Jacobs and his bandmates don superhero garb as they act out a comic-book-style storyline in which the group combats evil through its damnably catchy and ludicrously peppy songs that fall somewhere between Oingo Boingo and Devo at their most accessible. They've been doing so since 1994, over four studio albums and several international tours.
Weathering several personnel changes since then, the Aquabats! continue to soldier on in their quest to subdue nefarious nemeses; to that end, they're currently recording a new album and touring sporadically.
Recently, however, Jacobs's time and creative energy also have been channeled into Yo Gabba Gabba!, which debuted on Nick Jr. in August and will be aired on the Noggin cable channel starting New Year's Eve. One of those rare kids' shows that appeal to adults, it's become a cult favorite, garnering much YouTube synergy. YGG! appears destined to launch its on-air talent, including DJ Lance Rock, Ricky Fitness, the toy monsters Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee, and Jacobs himself, reprising his MC Bat Commander character into something verging on mainstream stardom.
The show has drawn comparisons to such programs as H.R. Pufnstuf, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, The Muppet Show and Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The regular appearance of celebrities and music groups — including the Shins, the Aggrolites, Mya, Supernova, Rah-Zel of the Roots, Tony Hawk, Elijah Wood and Biz Markie — also harks back to MTV's golden age. If that weren't enough, Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh provides graphics for the show.
Alternadad author Neal Pollack has declared his love for Yo Gabba Gabba! on his blog: "This will be the TV show around which our movement rallies. Not that we have a movement, mind you, but if we did, this would be the TV show around which it...you get the idea."
On top of all this Yo Gabba Gabba! success, the Aquabats! finally secured a production deal for their long-germinating superhero show. Amid increasing time constraints in his life, Jacobs (a father himself) miraculously found a few minutes to share "the songs I listened to the most, over and over this past year."
Jerry Reed, "East Bound and Down"
"C'mon! Haven't you ever been under the gun and had to drop the hammer down! I know I was all year. We would play this super-loud in the office when things were getting pretty bleak. And, you know, when Smokey's got his ears on, and he's hot on yer trail, he ain't gonna rest till yer in jail! So, bring it, Jerry, bring it!! I'm not at all a country fan, but this song brings the goods...literally!"
The Killers, "When You Were Young (Jaques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Radio Edit)"
"I thought the album cut was okay, but this remix is way better. It is real good. Say what you want about the Killers, but I think they are real good. And with a little help, they are way better."
M.I.A., "XR2" and "Jimmy"
"This whole album [Kala] is crazy, and I love it. Wow! 'Where were you in '92?' This song is such a mind-blower. It is so frantic and slamming, but somehow so super-smooth, like a ninja knife hit at the 1985 Video Game Olympics. The beat is insane. It pumps so many crazy feelings, it goes off like bomb. I guess Maya being no stranger to bombs going off, [she] really has a knack for blowing things apart while still somehow looking fresh in pink '80s stretch pants. Then, her track 'Jimmy' takes us to a sixth-grade Bollywood disco-party love-song and doesn't disappoint. M.I.A is way more gangsta than anything on MTV. Sorry, all ya Fergie dawgs."
Futureheads, "Worry About It Later"
"I know that this came out last summer, but I listened to it so much this year that it may as well have come out this year...again. It's so simple but super-good. It's what I say to my fellow coworkers every day, so why wouldn't it be my favorite song? Catchy and punchy: two great tastes that taste great together."
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Arcade Fire, "Antichrist Television Blues"
"This song is so gnarly. I can't really explain it, but as lead singer Win [Butler] sings on in the guise of a down-on-his-luck Dad praying for a child so he can raise her up to put on television and sing the gospel, so that he can make money...Well, it's complex, layered with all these weird emotions and so very American that you can't help but get swept away by it. When he sings, "My lips are near / My heart is far away / Now the war is won / How come nothing tastes good?" and then the "angel bird" background singers start to sing, "WAAAA AAOOOO WAAAA AHHAOO!", I get the chills every time. This song is about as anti-American Idol as it gets and it's about time! Brilliant."
-- Dave Segal