You guys! The next batch of Best Song picks! Only two days late!
(Thom’s picks after the cut. Download a .ZIP of all songs here.)
40) Animal Collective- “My Girls” (from Merriweather Post Pavillion)
Come for: The hype. The indescribable, justifiable hype.
Stay for: The big bounce that hits at 2:10 and the exuberant “ohhhh!” that follows the chorus.
39) Washed Out- “Belong” (from High Times cassette)
Come for: The best 80’s melancholy synth balladry since Men At Work.
Stay for: The predictable given its source-but-awesome anyway tape hiss.
38) Fight Like Apes- “Do You Karate?” (from Fight Like Apes And the Mystery of the Golden Medallion)
Come for: The tremendous (to the point of ridiculous) production and execution.
Stay for: Vocalist MayKay’s meditations on the teenage-to-the-max adage that “it’s not what you’re like but you like” that manifests itself through the chorus of “He doesn’t even know you like stars! And you hate frogs! But you love stars!”
37) Superchunk- “Learned to Surf” (from Leaves in the Gutter EP)
Come for: The goosebump inducing dual one string guitar leads panned to the extreme left and right that simultaneously rocks me and breaks my heart.
Stay for: The slept-on awesomeness of indie rock’s buried treasure, a fact that might be is seeping into their music, like when singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan admits, “When I learned to walk, humans roamed the earth.”
36) Vampire Weekend- “Horchata” (from Contra)
Come for: The return of the Upper West Side’s hyper-literate, hyper-melodic, hyper-hyphenated quartet.
Stay for: The wink-and-nod pretentious rhyme scheme that singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig plays with throughout the song: horchata/balaclava/aranciata/masada.
35) Real Estate- “Beach Comber” (from Real Estate)
Come for: The hazy, sun-splashed guitar tones and simple, winding leads.
Stay for: The realization that after listening to the song a dozen times you will only know the gluey melodies and barely any of the lyrics.
34) Jay- Z (featuring Alicia Keys)- “Empire State of Mind” (from Blueprint III)
Come for: Jay’s return to form as an emcee. No, I’m kidding, his verses are pretty embarrassing (MDMA got you feeling like a champion/the city never sleeps better slip you a Ambien). When was the last time Jay did MDMA? Pssssh.
Stay for: The glorious, overwhelmingly catchy hook delivered with force by Miss Alicia Keys, though, technically the lyrics don’t make any sense. Who’s inspired by the lights of New York? And what about the streets of New York will make me feel brand new? Who says I want to feel brand new?
33) Fool’s Gold- “Surprise Hotel” (from Fool’s Gold)
Come for: The immediately evident rubbery guitar hook that wiggles through the entirety of the song.
Stay for: The joyous double-time coda and off-the-cuff ad-libbing by vocalist Luke Top.
32) Pains of Being Pure at Heart- “Higher Than the Stars” (from Higher Than the Stars)
Come for: The Johnny Marr on crack intro that fades into POBPAH’s Jesus and Mary Chain on pop-rocks loveliness.
Stay for: The gorgeous second half of the song, where the melody deceptively hides the fact that the lesson learned here is “you can’t think straight, because you’re not straight/in the back of her mother’s car.”
31) Phoenix- “Countdown” (from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)
Come for: The consistent, almost metronomic cymbal splashes, the energetic part where vocalist Thomas Mars bursts, “better than it looks!” and the fact that he interchanges “true and everlasting” and “cruel and everlasting” throughout the song. Also, the phrase “sick for the big sun” is pretty mint, brah.
Stay for: “Do you remember when 21 years was oooooooooooooold?”
30) Harlem Shakes- “Winter Water” (from Technicolor Health)
Come for: The psychedelic organ that dissipates into handclaps and the herky jerky saxophone peppered second verse.
Stay for: The crashing, spine tingling and sweet “ooooooo’s” that back up the chorus’ conflicting sentiments: “if we are leaving, we’re leaving together” and “if we are sleeping, we’re sleeping together.”
29) Neon Indian- “Deadbeat Summer” (from Psychic Chasms)
Come for: Glo-fi’s most strut-worthy amalgam of candy colored keyboard sounds and psychedelic vocal coos.
Stay for: The proud proclamation that “it’s just a deadbeat summer.”
28) Dirty Projectors- “Useful Chamber” (from Bitte Orca)
Come for: Dave Longstretch wailing, “whale please/please whale” in German.
Stay for: The pitch shifting goodness of the who-knows-how-many-part-wordless melody that comes between verses.
27) Bear in Heaven- “Lovesick Teenagers” (from Beast Rest Forth Mouth)
Come for: The pulsing keyboard/drum verse that makes way for the huge prog pop chorus.
Stay for: The tension and drama that inches up as the song goes on.
26) St. Vincent- “Actor Out of Work” (from Actor)
Come for: That beautiful, exhausted, sensual and audible breath that comes before the song starts.
Stay for: The frenzy this songs works up to with Annie Clark deciding, “I think I love you/I think I’m mad!” followed by a righteous cacophony.
25) The Very Best (featuring Ezra Koenig)- “Warm Heart of Africa” (from Warm Heart of Africa)
Come for: The familiar high pitched strain of Ezra Koenig’s voice over some sweet and dusty afro-beats.
Stay for: The hot-as-a-pool-desk voice of TVB’s Esau Mwamwaya and appropriate-for-a-pool-desk music.
24) Phoenix- “Rome” (from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)
Come for: The best double meaning word repeat since Malkmus’ “Korea! Career!”
Stay for: The moment the more-textured-than-it-needs-to-be synth cracks the song wide open, simultaneously packing an emotional wallop and sticking a big middle finger up to every rock band that misused a keyboard.
Bonus Stay For: The very end of the song where my “Come For” moment and “Stay For” moment are combined in an over the top pop crescendo and ends in Thomas Mars’ bumbling the “What could I Say?” part from earlier in the song (most of my Phoenix blurbs will resemble outtakes from the Chris Farley show.)
23) Camera Obscura- “French Navy” (from My Maudlin Career)
Come for: The most upbeat and show stopping song on an album full of string orchestra flourished dirges, by a band that by its 7th album should have taken a cue from fellow hot nerds Belle and Sebastian and gone pop by now.
Stay for: The sheer bliss of singing along to Gossip Girl type quotables such as “I’ll be criticized for lending out my art/I was criticized for letting you break my heart/Why would I stand for disappointed looks/Fooling all but I’m on tender hooks.”
22) Health- “Die Slow” (from Get Color)
Come for: The world’s first ever music nod to Stabbing Westward, 90’s recording artists most famous for being featured on the Crow Official Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Stay for: The sound of metal being shredded used rhythmically to make you feel both tough and dancey, like the thugs in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video (which I just found out was directed by Martin Scorcese, what the what?)
21) Memory Cassette- “Surfin’” (from Call and Response EP)
Come for: The sexy woman’s voice that is actually a man’s voice that opens the song, asking “Do you love the ocean?”
Stay for: The second half of the song that conveys the conflicting emotions of joy, wistfulness and regret into one sick melody, brah.