Friday, December 11, 2009

Top 40 Songs of the Decade -- Part 4 -- The Top Ten

Boy, this Lala has some neat features. I discovered that I can upload my own music, so now the playlist at the top will have Every Single Song on it! Yay technology and yay Larry not having to watch any more tsunami video! Now if I can manage to have the formatting look the same we'll be all set.

PREVIOUSLY: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

10) Pelz Komet -- The Kingsbury Manx (2003)

This is a perfect example of a song that would never have been heard until this decade. There have always been local bands doing their own thing, but getting the word out was next to impossible. I don't think they are a great band (the other few songs I've tried sound pretty lackluster), but this song just flat out knocks it out of the park -- and the style change at the end is about as well done as it gets.

9) Rebellion (Lies) -- The Arcade Fire (2004)

The Austin City Limits Festival in 2005 followed a month after Katrina, and in the days leading up to the event Hurricane Rita was bearing down on Austin; so the atmosphere as Deb, Marcy, Gina Munar and I headed out there was somewhat uncertain. As it happens Rita took a sharp turn to the northeast, leaving a huge still mass of very hot air over Zilker Park (which is huge and has exactly two shade trees). It was around 105 degrees each of the three days of the festival, and as you might imagine the beer tent saw quite a bit of use, as well as two dollar bottles of water that instead of drinking were used to pour over our heads in futile attempts to stay cool.

So it was in this midafternoon heat on day 2 that The Arcade Fire came on stage for their set, dressed from head to toe in long sleeve black formal outfits and proceeded to tear it up. At the climax of the set during an extended solo part of Rebellion*, one of the percussionists, dripping sweat and looking exhausted, held a cymbal in the air that he hit in a deliberate, slow rhythm......and then collapsed. After a moment he raised his arm with the cymbal and kept hitting it while laying on stage. It was my live show moment of the decade.

*Truth be told, the song could have been Haiti. But it sounds better this way, and Rebellion is the better song regardless.

8) Kissing Families -- Silversun Pickups (2005)

How is it that Lazy Eye (a great song) and Well Thought Out Twinkles (a good song) are available on Rock Band but Kissing Families (a superlative song) is not? It's an OUTRAGE! I want to scream that last verse so much. By the way, I thought the first line of that last verse was "Sure as shit I made a mistake". Apparently it actually is "Well someone said I made a mistake". I like my version better but isn't that always the case when you have a lyric wrong?

7) Take, Take, Take -- The White Stripes (2005)

I didn't get it at first. Like every hipster worth their salt I picked up White Blood Cells in 2001 based off of Fell In Love With A Girl, liked a song or two but after getting through the disc once filed it away only to be used to put either that or Hotel Yorba on a mixtape (yes, I was still doing mixtapes at the beginning of this decade). About a year and a half later Doc and I are driving from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg and he brings up the White Stripes. I brush them off and he spends the next 40 minutes telling me why I need to give them another shot when I get home. I didn't, but a year or two after that remembered the conversation and decided to give it another listen. And then I did get it. And then I got Elephant. And then Get Behind Me Satan came out and I got that as well, and you get where I'm going here. As it turns out, I think this decade belongs to two bands, and this is one of them.

I'm also going to say that although the consensus appears to be around White Blood Cells and Elephant, in my mind Get Behind Me Satan is their best and most challenging disc. Honorable mentions for the list: Seven Nation Army and Hotel Yorba.

Based on this song, I would never approach Jack White if I ran into him in public. Not that I would ever acknowledge a celebrity anyway, but as you hear this song about a fanboy never quite getting enough from his chance encounter with Rita Hayworth it seems an experience he is familiar with. Plus it's hilarious.

My saddest concert moment of the decade? Deb and I having tickets to the White Stripes aftershow at Stubbs during ACL in 2007 that was cancelled at the last minute due to Meg's nervous breakdown or whatever the hell it was. It would have been all that I needed.

6) My Mathematical Mind -- Spoon (2005)

Although I understand we have detractors right here in our very own Music Club (I'm lookin' at you, Barrett), this is the other band of the decade. I have to admit that I don't get not loving these guys, but to paraphrase my old boss, that's why they put different color jellybeans in the jar. What I love best about Spoon is how damn challenging they are, and how varied their approach yet every album is consistent as can be, from Girls Don't Tell to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and I cannot overstate how much I am looking forward to the new release in January. As I'm putting this installment together it becomes apparent that it's harder for me to talk about the stuff I love the best because, well, I just do.

Honorable mentions: The Fitted Shirt, I Turn My Camera On, Don't You Evah

5) Rondo Acapricio -- Tosca (2005)

Where to start, where to start. This is my favorite song of the decade, but favorite doesn't always equal best, and I'm well aware that for the most part this will be a "should have listened to Deb" pick. She is not a fan.

First, the Lala list shows this album as Essential Lounge so they got it off a compilation, but the original disc this comes off is called J.A.C. and is well worth checking out if you like or are curious about electronic and/or downtempo. Genres confuse me.

The song opens with a typical synthesizer burst, but as the sample introduces us to Lynsington from Singapore the feel becomes very short wave radio. Lynsington is introducing us to her readings over an insistent bassline and a listener who interjects words and calls throughout (I assume it's in German but who knows). And what readings! A poem in Mandarin, one in French and finally the kicker -- "one of my original compositions, composed entirely without musical instruments -- and without a soundcard!". As you may have guessed, it is Rondo Acapricio, in G, Opus 129. I love absurdity.

Reading the above, it sounds really weird. And I suppose it is, but man, it gets played at least twice every time it comes up on the ol' iPod, and I can' t say that about much else. Besides, it's all about controversy these days.

4) 2080 -- Yeasayer (2007)

If it were possible for a song to twirl, this would be that song.

3) Pocketful of Money -- Jens Lekman (2005)

I wrote an email to the radioio "DJ" that played this to thank her for turning me onto it. That is the kind of dork I am. Honorable mention: Black Cab.

2) Last Night -- The Strokes (2001)

So. Sometime in late 2000 my Divorce Year began (who am I kidding, it began on Friday, December 6th 2000 at around 7:15PM). It was a complete surprise, and it was evident very quickly that someone else was in the picture so there was no hope for reconciliation. Although I had no idea yet of how bad 2001 would suck for national reasons I had a pretty clear idea it was going to suck for me right off the bat.

An anecdote to illustrate both the value of family and the year in general: I moved out of my house and into an apartment the day after Valentines Day. Over the next month I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and given a CPAP machine, and a couple of weeks after that my car broke down. My brother Wren picked me up at the mechanic and drove me to my apartment, which he hadn't seen yet. I gave him the quick tour and when he poked his head into the bedroom he asked what the hell that thing on the nightstand was. I explained it and showed him the mask, and he just stood there quietly for about a full minute before saying, "Wow. So, you've lost your family, lost your house, your car is broken and now you're never going to get laid again. This is pretty much rock bottom for you, isn't it?".

There were three albums that got me through my Divorce Year and that sometime I'll write about in more detail: Hitchhike to Rhome by Old 97's; the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, and Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams. I was The Man Of Constant Sorrow.

So how does this relate to the Strokes? In the midst of the Divorce Year there were nearly a dozen times where I would play this as loud as I could and pogo around my apartment with happy abandon. That is how good this song is.

1) I Am Trying To Break Your Heart -- Wilco (2002)

It annoys me that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in some minds is looked at and valued more by the drama with the release and the record company than by the songs. For me YHF is at least a full order of magnitude above anything Wilco has done before or since and as such is fully deserving of acclaim for the quality of songs like Jesus, Etc. and Ashes of American Flags and Heavy Metal Drummer.

And then there is this, this choreographed cacophony that, coming off the Divorce Year and 9/11 and meeting the love of my life sounded exactly like the chaos of my decade to that point.

I was 99% sure from the very beginning that this was going to be number one, with only Last Night as an option. Hope you enjoyed the list.

EDIT: Regarding the formatting -- sigh. I'll fix it at some point, just not right now.


  1. That was beautiful. I have not listened to every single song yet, but I couldn't resist reading the descriptions. It was like reading the script for a movie I'll watch tomorrow. I'm curious if the characters will be the same as I pictured in my mind.

    Formatting can suck it, this was awesome. You totally met the challenge. Congrats.

    I see now I need to start paying better attention to lyrics, I think. Or maybe just more willing to access the Google to fill in my lyrics gaps.

  2. I agree! A heart-broken guy pogo-ing around the living room to The Strokes is cinematic indeed. I'm casting Joe Hamm cuz he can do ANYTHING!

  3. Okay. I just did the Google on Jon Hamm and either I don't think he is who you say he is or he isn't who you thought he was and/or is. But if we're casting for the feel good hit of the decade I will go with Ryan Gosling. I know, I know, he's a little young and I'm supposed to be straight, but my god, did you see Lars and The Real Girl. So Good. Seriously.
    Or perhaps, Penelope Cruz. Still a little young, but I've often thought she could probably pogo pretty well.

  4. Music Music Music !
    This is awesome, Pat H. Thanks for the outstanding Christmas present.

  5. Pat, I just started reading and I'm RIVETED. Can't wait to start listening!
    And I'm thinking this casting deserves the mad acting skillz of... Russell Crowe!!!

  6. I have to say it's far easier to imagine Russell Crowe than casting either Penelope Cruz or Jon Hamm as me.

    But what we'd really need is a younger Charles Durning.

  7. So you put your favorite song at #5, because favorite doesn't equal best. So how far down on the favorite list does Wilco show? Anything high on the favorite list that didn't come near making a best of list?

    Also, I think we can all agree that one part Charles Durning + one part Penelope Cruz + a splash of Russell Crowe and a twist of that Hamm guy = Nicolas Cage. I was gonna have him play me, but why don't you take him.

  8. My favorite song that didn't make the list was Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis, mainly because it seemed covered elsewhere.

    Wilco would have been #2 going strictly by 'favorite'.

    I loved Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona. I don't know that I have since then. If we could resurrect Marty Feldman I'd gladly take him and you could have Cage.

  9. Look at what I missed by not checking in with the BLOG for a month or so. I thought I had the RSS feeds figured correctly - guess not.

    Pat - what an amazing job you did! I've thoroughly enjoyed the reading. Now it's time to listen! I can't wait.

    I vote for Paul Giamatti for the role. He was robbed for not being nominated for Sideways. Maybe your story will be just the vehicle to propel him into Oscar Glory.


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