Ah! A lesser writer would include the phrase listomania in his introductory paragraph. A true hack would allude to it while pretending he is taking a more respectable stance and get all Charlie Kaufman. But seriously, during this time of year you can’t toss a rolled up magazine without hitting a list of someone’s favourite whatever and hey, chances are if that rolled up magazine was published in December, it contains some kind of list too! Since this is the end of the decade, there is a lot of list double dipping (Best of decade! Best of ’09!). It’s like throwing a rolled up magazine chock full of lists at another item which also contains lists. Complete listomania! Full circle!
A few things: I worked way harder on this list of songs than was necessary and a lot harder than I did the opening paragraph. The fact that there are so many lists didn’t really stop me from making another list, nor did it encourage me to make mine shorter. I do really hope you enjoy reading my list and feel free to argue/agree/disagree with any of the choices. But don’t argue about Grizzly Bear, because you will lose. If you argue with me about Grizzly Bear I will take your contact information and call you in ten years and it will be embarrassing because you will have long forgotten them and also because I will have followed through on something you thought was a joke on the internet from ten years ago. So let’s all spare each other that mortifying experience and admit they have three great songs if we’re meeting them halfway! Great!
(Songs downloadable in .ZIP format here.)
60) Grizzly Bear- “Two Weeks” (from Veckatimest)
Come for: The hype. The ridiculous, unjustifiable hype.
Stay for: The only Grizzly Bear song that won’t have you waiting/wondering when the song is going to get started.
59) Islands- “Vapours” (from Vapours)
Come for: Your periodic check in with the guy from the Unicorns. You remember them, right?
Stay for: The sparse, crystal clean production and Thin Lizzy-esque bounce; their best song in years.
58) Bibio- “Lovers’ Carvings” (from Ambivalence Avenue)
Come for: The perfect summer mixtape interlude song, a description that fits most of the songs on Ambivalence Avenue!
Stay for: The warm-as-a-car-trunk-during-summer production and simplistically sing song outro.
57) Obits- “Widow of My Dreams” (from I Blame You)
Come for: The bad- ass Tom Petty gone metal intro.
Stay for: The chorus. It’s exactly what you think it’ll be.
56) Fuck Buttons- “Surf Solar” (from Tarot Sport)
Come for: The noise, textures and crescendo building you’ve come to love and expect of (a band that would call themselves) Fuck Buttons.
Stay for: Now with techno beats and cinematic passages to entertain you during seizures!
55) Cold Cave- “Love Comes Close” (from Love Comes Close)
Come for: A clear musical homage to early New Order!
Stay for: A clear lyrical/vocal homage to Joy Division!
54) Bon Iver- “Blood Bank” (from Blood Bank)
Come for: The not-as-great-as- For Emma – but-still-damn-good winter pop that Justin Vernon is revered for.
Stay for: All the things that make Bon Iver the best singer/songwriter in the biz: the soft strumming, the relentless melancholy punctured by moments of melodic hope and his otherworldly voice. Also, his first ever cuss in-song.
53) Washed Out- “You’ll See It” (from Life of Leisure)
Come for: A dance song that intentionally sounds like music coming from a neighbor’s party down the hall.
Stay for: A rare example of a song both drenched in nostalgia and futurism. Also: boogie!
52) Javelin- “Vibrationz” (from Jamz n Jemz)
Come for: The sunny 80’s synth R&B pastiche that Javelin excels at.
Stay for: The audacious catchiness of repeating the same word for two gleeful minutes.
51) Doom- “Gazzillion Ear” (from Born Like This)
Come for: The classic Dilla alarm that sounds as the song kicks off.
Stay for: The dark middle section that has DOOM commenting that wearing a mask is like being on the Gong Show.
50) YACHT- “Psychic City” (from See Mystery Lights)
Come for: A song so exuberant that I don’t doubt the narrator’s credibility when she tells me she has made me a birthday cake.
Stay for: A song so optimistic that it will inevitably be featured over the credits of an episode of Entourage after E calls “his boy” Vince and convinces him to do another soul sucking project to appease Ari.
49) jj- “Masterplan” (from jj n° 2)
Come for: A guitar riff that tips its hat to the theme from Top Gun while dreamy vocals coo/warn you to fear her masterplan.
Stay for: The out-of-left-field clip from this viral video.
48) The Thermals- “I Let It Go” (from Now We Can See)
Come for: the reliable/taken for granted punk rock that the Thermals provide on a bi- yearly basis.
Stay for: The triumphant “woo!” after Hutch Harris belts out “Four on the Floor! Two in the air! Out of the sand, out of the sky! Into the flow!”
47) The Flaming Lips- “The Sparrow Looks Up At the Machine” (from Embryonic)
Come for: The thick, bass heavy dread that creeps up like a rash and infests nearly all of the surprise LP of the year, Embryonic.
Stay for: The oh-shit-they-did-not moment where the song sounds like someone made a phone call next to your stereo speakers causing static interference.
46) Akron/Family- “Everyone is Guilty” (from Set ‘em Wild, Set ‘em Free)
Come for: The slippery coke bottle tapping intro and the now to be expected vocal chanting.
Stay for: The unexpected prog-guitar riffage, off-tune horns, and strings that encompass the second side of this mini-epic.
45) Neko Case- “This Tornado Loves You” (from Middle Cyclone)
Come for: The most confident female vocalist in the indie rock game singing a song that begs to be mashed up with footage from the movie Twister. Someone get on it!
Stay for: Neko’s bold declaration, “My love, I am the speed of sound/I left that motherless, fatherless/Their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths but it’s never enough.”
44) Yeasayer- “Ambling Alp” (from Odd Blood)/”Ambling Alp (Memory Tapes remix)”
Come for: The water drippy, blippy, squishy mutant pop single that will appear on 2010’s Odd Blood.
Stay for: The pitch perfect Memory Tapes remix, which takes the chorus of the original and stretches it into a total space pop disco jam that unlike most remixes, is just as vital and exciting as the source material.
[Paul also wrote about “Ambling Alp” over at StereoSubversion.]
43) Sunset Rubdown- “You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)” (from Dragonslayer)
Come for: The frighteningly consistent dementia pop of wunderkid Spencer Krug that has him and the boys killing butterflies and eating them.
Stay for: The halfway mark where the guitar and keyboard play off each other, Krug wails “you’ve got to wait for me” a few times before the song turns into a proto-punk song with female back-up vocals and mediations on the passing of time.
42) Future of the Left- “Throwing Bricks at Trains” (from Travels With Myself and Another)
Come for: Proper-noun laden sing along punk rock from former Mclusky songwriter Andy Falkous with enough back-up vocals to satiate even the Situation’s fist- pumping desires.
Stay for: The bubbling synth that lingers under the snarling outro in which the song’s narrator admits, “Reginald, I cannot love you/I cannot love a man who cannot learn to love himself.”
41) Dirty Projectors- “Stillness is the Move” (from Bitte Orca)
Come for: The oft mentioned by still outstanding r & b inflected harmonies and afro-inflected guitar trills.
Stay for: The oft overlooked but still mesmerizing strings that close the song out.
(Check back Wednesday for part 2: 40-21)