Friday, October 30, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (75-51)

I'm going to try and crank out the next 25 songs before I head out to engage in ghoulish behavior. At the risk of repeating myself, here are songs 75-51.

75. Animal Collective-Peacebone (2007)

Jarring from the start, disjointed lasers merge steadily with a drum beat before a series of stream-of-consciousness lyrics create an unsettling, prehistoric habitat punctuated with roars and screams. As much a trip to listen to as I'm sure it was to make. 

74. Sufjan Stevens-For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti (2003)

To call Sufjan Stevens a folk singer would be selling him short. He is an ambitious vagabond, having recorded electronic material and impeccable orchestral works in addition his more traditional folk work Now, allow me to contradict myself. This is song is pure folk through and through, featuring a meandering banjo part and Sufjan's delicate voice. Solemn trumpets and eerie backing vocals add to the ambience, making the song much more haunting than expected.

73. Rihanna-Umbrella (2008)

A lazy verse from Jay-Z, and a pretty lifeless beat, this song begins as any other faceless R&B crossover track, but as soon as Rihanna dives into the chorus, you can't help but be charmed. The chorus is slow, predictable and repetitive, but that is exactly what a good pop song should be. Once it clicks, it doesn't try and rock the boat. It simply gives you exactly what you want.

72. Dungen-Panda (2004)

From the Psych Rock capital of the World (Sweden?!?) come Dungen. They sound straight out of the 70's, featuring scratchy guitar solos and hyperactive drumming. The Swedish lyrics translate into some pretty bitter stuff, but I'll gladly take jaded Swedes over whiny Americans any day of the week.

71. The White Stripes-Fell in Love With a Girl (2002)

The White Stripes do not mince words. They do not mince anything. Or at least they don't here. They thrash through this track in less than two minutes, packing verses/chorus/verse/chorus so tightly they virtually overlap in places. This unabashed rock coupled with one their most innovative music videos (and that's saying something), make it quite a classic.

70. Kanye West-Flashing Lights (Ft. Dwele) (2007)

This is not Kanye's first song on this list, and (SPOILER) it's not his last either, but this song is definitely his hardest to peg. The beat sounds like a club banger, the orchestration sounds like a ballad, and the subject matter is somewhere between nostalgic and bitter. It's not Kanye's strongest rapping by any means, but the way he dances so deftly around his feelings, he leaves the interpretation completely up to us.

69. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (2005)

No one will dispute that Kelly Clarkson has one of the most powerful voices in music. She sings the first verse in startling reserved tones, muzzling her normal flourishes, before she can't keep a lid on it any longer and she belts the chorus in a controlled scream. From here on, what sneakily seduced you as a breakup ballad becomes bare-knuckle girl-power for the a new generation.

68. Diplo and Santogold-LES Artistes (XXXchange Mix) (2008)

A lot of people unfairly compare Santogold (now Santigold) to MIA, and that is a shame. While they both have their merits, Santogold has much better pipes and a better ear for melody. In the original version, a sleepy electric guitar part paints Santogold as too cutesy. In this Diplo version, the guitar are replaced with a tumbling fizzy horn and a Postal Service like twinkly synths, making Santogold sound infinitely stronger and more confident, and transforming the song entirely.

67. Outkast - B.O.B. (2000)

This song is completely unhinged. Andre 3000 and Big Boi rap like Busta Rhymes, marching band drums, hand claps and maracas are everywhere, but there's no time to even notice. This is the hip-hop version of the White Stripes song I review a couple songs back. Unadulterated rapping from some of the best in the game.

66. Modest Mouse- Float On (2004)

This is the first Modest Mouse song I ever heard. I remember stopping what I was doing and watching this music video when it came on MTVU my freshman year of college. Sure the guitar part is nifty, but what's with that guys voice? Does he know how he sounds? Why is he yelling? The years since have endeared me to Isaac Brock's yelp and Modest Mouse's jangling formula, but they still haven't produced a better foot-stomping, head-bobbing chorus than this one.

65. Burial- Archangel (2007)

Some people call this stuff dubstep, some people call it "hyperdub". I'm not sure if he does it with sample, or if this is his real voice. None of that really matters. It contains some of the most soulful R&B hooks I've heard in a long time looped and cut and spliced smoothly with the skill of a surgeon.

64. Panda Bear- Comfy in Nautica (2005)

Speaking of sampling, where do I start with someone like Panda Bear. Maybe I should preface it with the face that he's a member of Animal Collective. While that may explain the rickety train noises, and the indiscriminate roaring, Animal Collective does not write Beach Boy-level harmonies like this. Animal Collective would layer them under so many other sounds that they would never even reach your ear. I'm glad Panda Bear kept this track for himself. It's beautiful.

63. The Strokes-12h51 (2003)

While The Strokes do nothing to break new ground here, for those of us who understood they were at the top of their game here, why would you want them to? Julian's lazy vocals show a little life and a few well-timed handclaps and a follow-the-bouncing-ball guitar riff make for something pretty special. There are worse ways to spend 2.5 minutes of your time.

62. Justin Timberlake-My Love (feat. T.I) (2006)

Everyone, Male or Female, Republican or Democrat, Black or White, has one thing in common. They f-ing LOVE Justin Timberlake. I am no different. Timbaland throws in some "Are You That Somebody?" baby-giggles and a few beatbox breakdowns, but this song is completely Justin's. He sounds more like Michael Jackson here than he ever has, and that is probably the highest compliment I can pay him.

61. Lil' Wayne-Steady Mobbin (2009)

So what I only heard this song for the first time a couple weeks ago? So what if the chorus steals a line from "A Milli"? Just when I think Lil Wayne may be spreading himself a little too thin, and may need to reel himself in a little bit, he releases a song like this and makes me hold my tongue. I don't know what album this is on, I don't even know if it is out yet, but do yourself a favor and track this down. Even Gucci Mane, (someone I wasn't a fan of before) crushes his verse with a mushmouth delivery that would make Biggie proud. NSFW, obviously.

60. Jay-Z-99 Problems (2004)

I've never been a big Jay-Z fan. His delivery always sounds forced to me and his rhymes aren't especially innovative. None of that applies to 99 Problems. Brilliant premise, fantastic lyrics, a rap masterpiece.

59. The Go! Team-Huddle Formation (2004)

The Go! Team sounds like cheerleaders on a car chase. The whirring guitars, handclaps, the enthusiastic harmonies of the chorus give you no time to decide whether you want to be a part of this ride. You are on it, and whether you like it or not, you are going where they are going. I love it.

58. Coldplay-Shiver (2000)

Now THIS is Coldplay's best song. Chris Martin restrains his usual heavy-handed lyrics and lets the instruments carry the load for a little while, flitting in and out when appropriate. But when it's appropriate, he really excels. Angelic, if not a bit stalkerish, you get the feeling that he would do absolutely anything for the subject of this song, for better or worse.

57. Beyonce-Single Ladies (2009)

Even though we already knew it was one of the greatest videos of ALL TIME. ALL TIME. It's hard not to call it one of the best songs of the decade also. More infectious than influenza.

56. Beirut-Elephant Gun (2007)

Whether or not you buy into Beirut's kitschy, eastern European carnival ensemble, you simply cannot deny that Zach Condon has an absolutely pristine voice. I could eat it up I love it so. Like every Beirut song, there are accordians, trumpet solos, and if you aren't completely swept away, you may want to check your pulse.

55. Britney Spears-Toxic (2003)

I'm not going to expound on this song. You know you love it. As do I, that's why it's here. Nearly flawless from the violins to the Morricone guitars.

54. Hot Chip-Ready for the Floor (2008)

Hot Chip are almost certainly nerds. I'm sure they have horn-rimmed glasses and dance around their laptops when they made this song. They may have even had a wedgie. Whatever circumstances allowed them to make this incredible tune, they need to find them replicate them in a controlled setting.

53. Iron & Wine-Upward Over the Mountain (2002)

Iron and Wine make beautiful folk songs that sound like they were written and recorded 70 years ago. His voice has a smokey vibrado that brings to mind an old barn and a fireplace. I'll let his lyrics speak for themselves:

So may the sunrise bring hope 
Where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds 
Flying upward over the mountain

52. Marissa Nadler- Diamond Heart (2007)

Basic finger-picking sets the stage for Marissa, but the real focus here is her beautiful voice. Allowed to echo and carry freely, it is both haunting and captivating for the duration.

51. Radiohead- There There (2003)

One of Radiohead's more straightforward rock songs this decade, it's no coincidence that is probably their most beautiful. With refreshingly straightforward lyrics and some dizzying peaks, it really proves that in order to be the best, you must first completely master the basics. Radiohead flexes their mastery of melodies here.

More tomorrow!!

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