Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top 40 songs of the Decade – Part 1 – 40 through 31

As envisioned, I would discuss the criteria used in selecting songs, toss in some witty and erudite digressions, have a reasoned and incisive paragraph or two about each individual song and why it belongs in the Top 40 and generally put any other list to shame.

That was charmingly optimistic and is not going to happen.

We can talk about the main point to resolve in the process: One song per artist or multiple songs? I ended up sticking with one per artist, despite the very reasonable argument that the best songs should be the best songs regardless of who did them, right? That’s where one needs to acknowledge ones biases – I could put five Spoon songs, a couple Arctic Monkeys, two Band of Horses, a few by Lemon Jelly and an untold number of Decemberists songs but don’t think that is representative enough of the decade as a whole, which has been one of the best I can remember.

The other bias is – where am I at musically this decade? It started with unexpected divorce and its aftermath, shifted to national trauma and disaster, rebounded again with a new life with entirely new friends and an upward trajectory for the future that frankly is not something I ever expected to happen. There’s a lot of room there for genres.

This list in the 90’s would be heavily skewed toward alt-country and grunge. This list in the 80’s would be New Wave and college rock. This list in the 70’s would have been FM radio-centric with multiple Pink Floyd selections. I think this list is pretty wide-ranging in respect to what those would have been, though you shouldn’t expect top 40, new country or jazz. It’s slightly heavy on electronic because that has been my obsession for the past few years – though I listen to a LOT more of it than made this list simply because the genre doesn’t readily lend itself to a great “song”. The songs I had to be most ruthless about pruning were mid-tempo indie bands – there were a ton of them in my initial mix, so that’s a bias as well.

I tried to be representative of each year and for the most part am really happy about how that turned out…..the one year that got somewhat shafted is 2009 (only one song), mainly because I don’t know the new stuff enough to have it outrank the songs I’m more familiar with. This time next year it is very possible I’ll regret not having Dirty Projectors or Grizzly Bear but for now this is where the oughts were at.

One more housekeeping note – I’ve been able to find all but five songs on Lala and will be putting lists on the right side of the blog here as we post. The songs not on Lala I’ll post links for as we go along.

Funny thing about a list like this. The last five songs were by far the hardest to settle upon and changed at least seven times. To reflect that process and because it is my list I’m putting in an honorable mention for the song that it hurt me the most to leave out of the main list.

Christmas Song – Joy Zipper (2003) – A big, lush, romantic sound coupled with lyrics that sound like how you would profess your love before you knew how to put something like that into words. “I love you more than a thousand Christmases/I want you more than any gift I could think of”

Now, for songs 40-31:

40) Ballad of Human Kindness – The Dears (2006)

I believe that is a French Horn solo but am not familiar enough with my brass to be certain. Not usually a fan of earnestness in my lyrics but it works for me here.

39) Plasticities – Andrew Bird (2007)

He seems like he’d be a fun guy to hang out with, as long as he didn’t show off with the whistling too much. One of my favorite live shows of the decade was seeing him at the Zoo of all places. Anyone who rhymes ‘music halls’ with ‘neural walls’ is OK in my book.

38) Buy A Dog – Luce (2005?) (there are some years I’m not certain about though it is this decade)

Indie band out of San Francisco. The first song on the list that Lala didn’t have – the video can be seen here:


This one is for Norm, who although technically free is easily our best purchase of the decade. Even more than Rock Band.

37) Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend (2008)

Catchy as all hell and the day I can’t love a lyric about advanced literature will be a sad day indeed.

36) Buttons – The Weeks (2008)

An alt band out of Jackson, Mississippi of all places. Wiki says they’ve been compared to Kings of Leon, though I don’t get that from this song. What I do get is a cool hook and a line “She said/smoke your cigarette/I hope you choke” that sticks in my head for days.

35) This Boy is Exhausted – The Wrens (2003)

A decidedly non-prolific band (three albums in 15ish years) and a song that profiles the ups and downs of being part of an aging group you love but know is never going to quite get over the top. He just sounds exhausted…….I think this would be an awesome song to drum on RB.

34) Station Approach – Elbow (2005)

I really miss not being able to stream music at work. I found so much stuff through radioio.com, but never seem to listen the same way at home. Elbow was one of my favorite finds from there. This would be an example of the mid-tempo songs that dominated my initial song pool.

33) Sometimes In The Fall – Phoenix (2006)

Thomas Mars’ voice reminds me of someone but I cannot place it for the life of me. Did you know that Phoenix was a backing band for Air’s song Kelly Watch The Stars? Me either. (what would we do without Wiki?) Wheels within wheels, man.

32) Bhindi Bhagee – Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (2001)

So anyways, I told him I was in a band/he said ‘yeah, oh yeah? What’s your music like?/I said it’s um, um…..well, it’s kinda like……and it’s got a bit of…….

This should also rank quite high in any list regarding songs and food.

31) Frontier Psychiatrist – The Avalanches (2000)

It is the opinion of the entire staff that Dexter is criminally insane.

But you knew that.

Next time: 30 – 21. Shocking, I know.

EDIT: I have no idea about the weird text thing, I just copied my word document into Blogger and this is what came out. Also, maybe Marcy can help with having the widget at the side instead of the top -- every time I tried it on the side it got cutoff.


  1. You made me so...very happy
    I'm so glad you
    Came into my life!

  2. On the one hand) I like the format. The whole 4 part series thing reminds me of being a kid and watching ROOTS or something. Oh, the anticipation.
    2) You are totally witty and erudite and reasonable and charming and if the first 10 of the 40 is any indication, all the other lists are quivering in their list making boots or Uggs or whatever it is they wear.
    C) I have a feeling I will know 20% or less of the 40. I read the name of the song and then the band and then I make this face where I kind of push my lips tight into each other and push my chin up and squint my eyes a little. Not my most attractive face, that would be the one I'm doing now. Too bad you can't see it.
    Lastly) I can't listen to these at work unfortunately, but I will eagerly listen to them at home and I will take notes and make footnotes and drink my beers and say things like, "Hmmm" and "Controversial choice" and "Should have listened to Deb on that one."

  3. Thank you both.

    Jim, on one hand 20% makes me go "yay, stuff he doesn't know!". But I promise you that percentage will go way up as the list progresses. These bottom 10 are a perfect place to put those songs one really likes that nobody else has heard of......

    I also would be willing to bet a fair amount that "Should have listened to Deb on that one" will be a common refrain.

    So, is that a French Horn on the Dears song? I'll eagerly await the answer.


Strongly disagree

http://www.vulture.com/2018/05/rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-artists-ranked-from-best-to-worst.html I have many issues with this ranking but...