Oh, Ill break them down, no mercy shown,
Heaven knows, it's got to be this time,
Watching her, these things she said,
The times she cried,
Too frail to wake this time.
From stage to stage we flew
A drink in every hand
My hand on your heart had been replaced
And i thought it was you that i had chased...
Driveway to driveway drunk
I don't remember this too well
Glad i have the scrapes to prove
Prove it was me who fell
And the names were all we knew
And the names were all erased
I still can't figure out how Archers of Loaf didn't make it bigger in the indie rock/alternative world. Their songs are just ridiculously catchy and filled with heavy guitars and drums a la The Hold Steady or The Thermals, but with more hooks than any of them ever achieved. Oh, and they're from Chapel Hill, same as the band just ahead of them on the list (and 4 of the top 23 when you count all Superchunk and Portastatic collection). Here's a review from Stylus magazine:
This song is properly recognized as a classic indie rock anthem, and in my mind is as near to perfection as rock music gets, but there’s one line that makes “Web in Front” truly extraordinary to me: “All I ever wanted was to be your spine.”
Song: "Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone"
Artist: Neutral Milk Hotel
Album: On Avery Island
Label: Merge Records
Album Rating: 4 Stars (All Music Guide)
A song decidedly in two parts, the first part quirky and brilliant and the second part simply amazing. This song and album came out two years before the masterpiece that was In the Aeroplane over the Sea but there's every bit of that magical beauty in this track, showing that his masterpiece second album was far from a fluke and more a continuation of output for one of the greatest songwriters in musical history, even only for a way too-brief time (these were the only two albums Jeff Mangum released).
Leave me alone, for you know this isn't the first time
In fact this is twice in a row!
That the angels have slipped through our landslide
And filled up our garden with snow
And I don't wish to taste of your insides
Or to call out your name through my phone
For the glory boys at your bedside will love you
As long as you're something to own.
Song: "Carry the Zero"
Album: Keep it Like a Secret
Artist: Built to Spill
Running Length: 5:44
Label: Warner Brothers
Album Rating: 9.3 (out of 10) on Pitchfork
Another song on this chart that kind of starts slow, meandering, quietly beautiful and then explodes about halfway through into one of the most magical pop gems ever recorded. I definitely have a favorite type of music and the combination of jangly guitars, perfect lyrics, and the slow build to roaring conclusion in this song epitomizes what I love about listening.
Song: "Gold Soundz"
Album: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Label: Matador Records
Rating: 10 (out of 10) on Pitchfork
so drunk in the august sun
and you're the kind of girl I like
because you're empty, and I'm empty too
and we can never quarantine the past
There's a way I feel right now
Wish you'd help me, don't know how
We're all nuts, so who helps who
Some help when no one's got a clue
Baby, why don't we
Baby, why don't we
There's a place I'd like to go
When you get there then I'll know
There's a place I know you've been
Here's a wagon, get on in
Song: "Night on the Sun"
Artist: Modest Mouse
Album: Everywhere and his Nasty Parlour Tricks (EP)
I think maybe I was wrong when I talked in the opening to this updated countdown how much my music interest has changed in the past 3 years, because this song is only the second that didn't appear in the top 40 of the last chart I did (where I devoted an entire post to each of the top 40). Admittedly, the order has changed for most of the songs above but when the #45 song from last time is the first new one in the top 40 (at 29), we're not talking changing the world type stuff here. Of course, the reason I chose most of these songs in the first place is because they were timeless classics (to me at least), so it's not a surprise to find not many of them have faded. And Modest Mouse just scored its 4th top 30 song, which ties them with Pavement.
Here's the first truly "new" song on the countdown -- didn't appear at all on the chart from 3 years ago and I'm still shocked that I didn't know this song and the music of this "side project" from members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, including leader Efrim Menuck. The band took over for the influential Canadian post-rockers after they broke up in 2003 (reuniting this winter for their first concerts in 6 years!!!) and their controversial politics are front and center in the amazing lyrics of this song: a call for protest, a call for anarchy, a call for an attempt at humanity in the face of unrelenting war and torment and hatred and rage in the world around us. This song was written at the start of the last decade and many equally amazing protest songs were written by the band in subsequent years (the anti-war protest "God Bless Our Dead Marines" possibly the best) but nothing quite captures the spirit of music as a higher cause than this song, which laments the inability of mere musicians to rise to rally against the evils of the world, but ends with a call to return "to the barricades again" to keep fighting, to keep rallying. There is beauty in this world.
The soldiers with their specialists,
And the pigs with their guns cannot stop,
The lost ones and the desperate ones and the driven ones.
The soldiers with their cigarettes,
And the police with their guns cannot stop,
The lonesome ones and the desperate ones and the smart ones.
So come on friends,
To the barricades again.
I didn't plan to list a song about Anne Frank after an anti-war protest song but that's just the way the countdown rounded out, and although each song moves me in different ways, there's something beautiful in the connection between music and the world and the way that some music -- not popular music, not common music, but this type of music -- can truly inspire, if not quite change the world.
"The only girl I ever loved was born with roses in her eyes. But then they buried her alive, one evening 1945, with just her sister at her side, and only weeks before the guns all came and rained on everyone."
Song: "Summer Here Kids"
Album: Under the Western Freeway
Rating: 9.6 (out of 10) for the album via Pitchfork
Japanese post-rockers Mono have had a long, outstanding career of making anthemic music simply from their three guitars and drums (and sometimes a backing orchestra) but they have never made anything better than this track off their debut album, and really, very few bands of any kind have made music that sounds this absolutely perfect.
Song: "For Real"
Album: Black Sheep Boy
Artist: Okkervil River
Rating: 8.5 (out of 10) on Pitchfork
Song: "Bankrupt on Selling"
Artist: Modest Mouse
Album: The Lonesome Crowded West
The video below includes the band's entire performance from 2002 or so, live from Reckless Records. The first song is "Yasmin the Light," the masterpiece from their first album, and still their greatest from a spectacular career as post-rock legends. You've probably heard their music on soundtracks to movies (Friday Night Lights), TV shows (Friday Night Lights), and the odd inspiring commercial but if you haven't or you don't know them, just watch this performance, or at least the "Yasmin the Light" part, because never before or since have 3 guitars and 1 drum kit sounded so good in the corner of a goddamn record store. This is not just music. This is pure beauty.
This 3rd track off the polarizing untitled third album from Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros is heavy on a repetitive piano key combination that plays throughout, backed by ethereal, swirling sounds made by other instruments, and it takes its time to reach a fantastic climax highlighted by higher-pitched piano keys that "explode" into sonic delight. I'm not sure what else I can say. No words can do it justice. And no words appear on the song.
The Vague Space record of the year in 2008 was released by a relative unknown Canadian band who'd only put out an EP before, but from the opening line "What's gonna happen to you?" I was absolutely blown away by this song and have become a huge fan of the band (whose second album is in the running for 2010 awards). "Bye Bye Bye" is an almost perfect song, with an ongoing explosion from about 1:30 in to the end of the song that you just have to bob your head and shake your leg to if not outright dance and scream for the beauty of this music. Just listen. And enjoy.
Song: "Friend of the Night"
Album: Mr. Beast
The Vague Space record of the year of 2006.
when i was a kid, they fucked me in the ass
but i took my pen to paper and i passed you
no i love the shit cause the shit it tastes so good,
i got pastures waiting in the woods.........
its all gonna break
treat me like a sign, sounds like so/oh well
i know times like these are the hell
and when you do the tricks, the tricks look so good
i got buried rumors waiting in the woods,
and they try to climb awake
and call me over,
skies they rape and skies are sober.
minds they fake and minds rolled over
it's good, it's good, it's good.
Song: "July, July!"
Artist: The Decemberists
Album: Castaways and Cutouts
That's five Pavement tracks in the top 43, if you're keeping track at home.
Artist: Sunny Day Real Estate
Label: Sub Pop
I wrote about this song in my original countdown (it dropped 20 slots in 3 years, sorry SDRE!) and about how I remember watching them play it live during the old Jon Stewart show that was on MTV for about a year and in syndication for a year after that (and unceremoniously dismissed afterwards). I said I was blown away by the performance and became an instant and long-time fan of the band. Well someone on YouTube managed to find that performance and post it. Thank you to whoever you are. This was amazing seeing it again some 16 years later.
Song: "Another Radio Song"
Artist: Okkervil River
Album: Black Sheep Boy Appendix
this infection gets stronger every year.
This song is awfully infectious and in part 2 of the track (with the lyrics below), Will Sheff rips off just the most amazing singing/screaming/exploding that I've heard in any song ever.
Bless this tiny alley
we have fallen from tall buildings
we have fallen through the air
Into a garden sweetly smelling
Of the softest sleeping flowers
Now they sit under the sidewalk
Now they’re waiting for the shining
of some future sun to show us.
All that is your beauty oh
And all that brings you pleasure.
I could sigh into your heart
And say I hope I'm here forever
but black sheep boy with your lovers
with your list of favorite pillows
with your favorite list of missing children
with the wall where you drew windows
overlooking hidden gardens
cut apart by jagged mountains
Climbing up into the air
Crumbling down into a fountain
where the water waits forever
like a quiet distant treasure
when you rise up to recover
when you leave this tiny alley
when you meet me in the garden
with your arms all hung with cedar
every spirit brushing past me
brushing past me in the ether
scream "all this is window dressing
all you are is flimsy curtains
watch you flame up with a word from us
you won't know that you're burning."
Pretty much every post-rock artist and song that appears on this list either before or after this song owes something to this record and the type of music that Godspeed either created or at least assisted in creating, in the process developing an entire genre where rock music could sound like an orchestra, where guitars could revel in chaos, and where anthems are formed without lyrics or singing, a pure "post-rock" statement that achieves simple wonder through magical compositions.
Song: "How Soon is Now?"
Artist: The Smiths
Album: Meat is Murder
Label: Rough Trade
That's five Modest Mouse tracks in the top 50, to go along with Pavement, if you're keeping track at home, and I hope you are.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned next week (hopefully) for songs 51-100.