Often when an indie phenomenon strikes me as notable and ripe for mass success, a polished major-label act reveals themself as a more commercially accessible version of the archetype and makes a mint with it. I love when it happens because it corrobates my belief that the underground act has some element that would resonate with a larger group of people. That's why I did a backflip and said "OMG these turds turned into the mainstream Desaparecidos!!!" when I first saw "Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous," made Travis Morrison-John Mayer comparisons any time I wrote about either and welcomed the Killers into my Interpol-addicted arms.
There are at least two songs that haven't been mentioned in any best-of-year context here who have a shooting chance of making my top ten. One is Vanessa Carlton's "White Houses," which I think I'd find very Kimya Dawson even if I didn't know Carlton sang on Hidden Vagenda. Her early singles were annoying Fiona-lite (as was the album title, Be Not Nobody) but the detail, insight and heart on this track is far too killer for me to hold anything against her. I'm not going to assume Stephan Jenkins' skeet is to credit for this upswing, since I like this more than anything Third Eye Blind ever did. I love reminders that artists we've dismissed continue to evolve and may one day whack us upside the head with something beautiful. I dig the slow burn success this song seems to be having - I'll be hearing it at Taco Bell for years. You were right about this one, TJ!
There's a smart review of "White Houses" at PopText, a terrific new blog. If you find yourself complaining that there are no mp3s of the songs being discussed, you know you're reading something good.
I'll write about the other song I'm debating wedging into my pazz'n'jop ballot once I buy the band's album.