Tuesday, November 3, 2009

200 Greatest Tracks of the Decade (25-1!!!1111)

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, the wait is over. Hours of my time scouring Google Images and Youtube and very nearly an hour of your time has culminated in this monumental occasion. While I don't claim to be the authority on music, suffice to say that I listen to a LOT of music. I thumb my nose at lot of popular music, but as you already know from my earlier posts, when a song is GREAT (see Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, et al), I have no qualms about singing its praises. I'll stop with the disclaimers, but I wanted to thank you, whomever you are for taking the time to read the list, or simply to click through. I appreciate the support (attention). Enjoy songs 25-1.

25. The Decemberists-Red Right Ankle (2003)

Before The Decemberists wrote 9 minute songs or reached for epic every time they picked up their guitars, they wrote incredibly affecting songs like this. The hammer-ons and imagery Meloy emotes      describing the parts of a leg (sounds stupid, it isn't) or a gypsy uncle is a gift, especially when he wraps it in such a tender melody.

24. Patrick Wolf-The Magic Position (2007)

Foot stomps, hand claps, clarinet, vivacious violins, a xylophone and a freaking bell tower for good measure. All in a day's work for the likes of Patrick Wolf. The song careens like snowball down a mountain, gaining momentum and mass verse by verse until your only choice is to join in or get out of the way.

23. Animal Collective-My Girls (2009)

This is how good Animal Collective can be when they choose to. Completely immersive sounds coalesce and fall apart, verses cycle and overlap, sounding unquestionably like Animal Collective but fresh and accessible at the same time.

22. M.I.A.- Paper Planes (Remix)feat. Bun B and Rich Boy (2007)

Before it was featured in 345908390 movies trailers, Paper Planes was just the little song that could. The indie banger from Maya Arulparagasam was fantastic, but it was missing a little something. It's no surprise that verses from Bun B and Rich Boy would be the perfect compliment to a song already featuring fingersnaps and gunshots, two rap song staples.

21. Beirut-Postcards From Italy (2006)

The song that put 19-year-old wunderkind Zach Condon and his band Beirut on the map. How he is able to channel Balkan folk music from his New Mexico basement is astounding. The song simultaneously sounds familiar and foreign, ancient and contemporary and was only a glimmer of things to come.

20. The Strokes-Hard To Explain (2001)

This being the 3rd Strokes song on the countdown, I don't need to explain what this probably sounds like. What I do need to say is that this is the best song they've ever done.

I say the right things
But act the wrong way
I like it right here
But I cannot stay
I watch the tv
Forget what I'm told
Well I am too young
And they are too old

19. Lil' Wayne-A Milli (2008)

Lil' Wayne is the greatest rapper alive. On a hiccuping beat that would make Kanye and Jay-Z run for cover, Lil' Wayne rides it like a wave, never missing a beat, never hesitating, all the while unleashing some the best lyrics he has ever recorded. No chorus, no filler, just Wayne. It's no coincidence that every rapper in the game got on this beat last year, but none were able to capture what Wayne did with the original.

18. UGK-Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You) (2007)

It's always a mixed blessing when a rap song features 4 of the biggest stars in the game, as someone inevitably crushes it and everyone else falls flat. That does not happen in this song. Andre 3000 starts the song with the best verse he's ever done, setting the bar unreasonably high Pimp C, Bun B and Big Boi. Each come equipped with their own beat, allowing them to rise to the occasion, making this one of the first rap collaborations that amounts to more than the sum of it's parts.

17. LCD Soundsystem-All My Friends  (2007)

Amidst a frantic piano part and fizzy techno blips, James Murphy has some pretty profound things to say about life and youth. As the intensity and instrumentation grows, his delivery gets more and more sentimental, until he gives up on the verses, resigned to yelling "If I could see all my friends tonight" over and over, the track falling apart around him in the process. See the awesome video in my Favorite Videos of the Decade list here.

16. Outkast-Hey Ya! (2003)

Everyone on earth danced to this song at one point in time. Everyone has a memory associated with it and every memory inevitably involves them "shaking it" like a Polaroid picture. Such was the phenomenon of Hey Ya! in 2003. Sounding like an amalgam of everything awesome, this song should be beamed into outer space to facilitate interstellar contact.

15. Radiohead- Idioteque (2000)

I lied when I said Radiohead is best when Thom's voice is front and center. This is their crown jewel on their already gaudy throne. With muffled drums and an eerie sense of calm paranoia, it is a prophetic, apocalyptic vision of the 21st century.

14. Ratatat-Seventeen Years (2003)

If I had a nickel for every time I drunkenly hijacked someones speakers in the middle of a lame party to play this song, I'd probably have $18.

13. Dr. Dre-Forgot About Dre (2000)

I don't know why I love this song. I didn't know when I was 15 and I still don't know now almost 10 years later. Oodles of rap tracks before and since have featured strings, spastic delivery and kooky sound effects, but compared to this they all sound like uninspired knockoffs.

12. Bon Iver-Skinny Love (2007)

Bon Iver's debut album For Emma, Forever Ago is the stuff of legends. Suffering from mono and a recent breakup, Justin Vernon shacked up in his father's hunting cabin for the winter, finding solace in the remote wilderness. From this isolation, a hushed, beautiful record was born. Skinny Love finds Bon Iver strumming an ancient guitar and cooing in muffled distant tones, reliving the moments that precede the end of a relationship. His words convey the frustration and anguish associated with trying to hold together something falling apart at every seam.

11. Sigur Rós-Glósóli (2005)

It takes 15 seconds for it to become completely clear that this song is something special. The underwater electric guitar, the glistening bells, and Jonsi's breathy melodies march toward something unmistakably Sigur Ros. The repeated tease of the chorus offers some hints, but cannot prepare you for the elation and goosebumps to be felt at precisely 4 minutes and 34 seconds. It is as close to a religious experience as you are likely to find in a pair of headphones. Watch the music video here.

10. Iron & Wine-Jezebel (2005)

A completely intoxicating folk song from a master at the top of his game. While he has expanded his lo-fi sound from his humble beginnings on The Creek Drank the Cradle, this song speaks to the intimacy that he still retains while broadening the musical palate around him. Though surely housing religious themes, Sam Beam gracefully tells the biblical story of Jezebel as one about devotion and loyalty, allowing you to draw your own conclusions.

9. Kanye West-Can't Tell Me Nothing (2007)

Sounding like a joke but anything but, Kanye clearly lays out his vices and allows a fleeting glimpse into the perils of fame and trying to be good in a genre where bad is king. Without sacrificing his trademark swagger, Kanye's verses alternate between arrogance and humility, lashing out at himself and his critics in equal measure. While this song was released two years ago, his antics today still show him struggling with these demons, but it's quite a thrill watching him try to exorcise them in this song.

8. The Knife-Heartbeats (2003)

To call this song a love song would be a bit of a stretch, but it certainly houses some lustful sentiments. Steel drums and a lazer light show for a rhythm section, the song shrugs off any characterization you try to pin on it, which is perhaps why it has been covered so many times. There's something here for everyone.

7. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth (2005)

How to I love this song, let me count the ways:

1. The relentlessly snappy guitar part.
2. Alec's cracking, sighing, snively voice that he has no interest in hiding or smoothing.
3. The disappointment you feel when you fear the song isn't going anywhere, until it slaps you across the face with a wordless chorus after the fourth (FOURTH) verse.
4. The way the song slowly deconstructs itself thereafter.

6. The White Stripes-Seven Nation Army (2003)

Opening with one the catchiest riffs of all time, Jack White lets it all hang out here. Before he indulged his rock-side with side projects like The Raconteurs, he had songs like this to tinker with. Make no mistake about it, this song is a vehicle for his electric guitar, and boy does he bring it.

5. The Tallest Man On Earth-The Gardner (2008)

Though he is from Sweden, Kristian Matsson sounds uncannily like Bob Dylan with better pipes. With manic guitar strumming and finger-picking he belts out a depraved love song, detailing the suitors he has killed and buried in his beloved's garden to get to her. Disturbing to be sure, but his majestic delivery brings to mind an indomitable knight well before deranged serial killer.

4. TV On The Radio-Wolf Like Me (2006)

Buzzsaw guitars and thunderous drums make this song even more primal than it's sex-with-a-werewolf lyrics can muster. A brief breakdown offers a shred of relief, only to dive back in all over again, somehow conjuring even more vivacity and carnal energy, appropriately closing with a howl.

3. The Black Key-The Lengths (2004)

There aren't a lot of instruments that emote heartache like the despondent wail of a slide guitar. This, coupled with Dan Auerbach's smoky voice and lyrics that detail the futile lengths we go to for love never fail to make me a complete emotional wreck.

2. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Maps (2003)

I can't say anything about this song that hasn't already been mentioned. Beautiful, beautiful, beau-ti-ful song. Hearing a hurt Karen O is like seeing a limping puppy.

1. The Arcade Fire-Wake Up (2004)

I instinctively get goosebumps when I hear the opening chords of this song. And then my goosebumps get goosebumps. Profound and exhilarating, Win Butler sings of growing up and growing old, never feeling like an adult, only bigger, broken children, "turning every good thing to rust."

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