Monday, January 04, 2010

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #20-1

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.

[Previously: #100-81; 80-61; 60-41; 40-21]

#20. Dashboard Confessional -- "Hands Down"
Once again, my teenage dreamer side emerges, and there was just no song that captured the small-moments-writ-LARGE sense of young love like Dashboard Confessional. I don't care if they've become shorthand for everybody who wanted to hold emo upside down and give it a swirlie, their lyrics hit a truth, and Chris Carrabba's whispers and wails carried them off. What never fails to knock me out on "Hands Down" is the bridge that starts at 1:55 and just keeps going, breathlessly anticipating the moment when she kissed him like she meant it.

#19. Damian Rice -- "The Blower's Daughter"
It almost makes me laugh, how sad Damian Rice sounds. Like his melancholy is weighing him down so much, he can barely sing. That starting/stopping, breathless quality rises above simple dirge, though. Rice repeatedly picks himself up off the floor, finally musters himself up enough to give us that title line before fading to black and hopefully having one seriously good cry.

#18. The White Stripes -- "Seven Nation Army"
I read somewhere recently that the opening thumping on this song is White himself on guitar, rather than a borrowed bass line. If that's true, a) coulda fooled me, and b) all the more reason to hand Jack the title of Musical Genius of the Decade. In the meantime, I'll keep playing air bass to this haard-drivingly awesome tune anyway.

Click below for #s 16-1...

#17. Gorillaz -- "Feel Good Inc."
So many little nooks and crannies to crawl into and love in this song. The trance-inducing "feel good..." trilling in the background; the "windmill, windmill" breakdown; the moment the drums kick in ON the "windmill, windmill" breakdown; the "HA HA HA HA-HA!" cackling. Everything gets thrown in the same funky pot here, to thrilling and cool effect.

#16. Coldplay -- "Clocks"
Coldplay haters are a dime a dozen, but I really do hope they allowed themselves to enjoy "Clocks" before they decided Chris Martin was the embodiment of everything that sucks about popular music. Because from those first piano plinkings, it is a soaring trip through the thinnest air. It's almost unnerving, how Martin's voice gets more delicate while the music gets more strident.

#15. Regina Spektor -- "Us"
Wow, I guess plinky pianos are just a really prominent part of my musical taste, because here I am again in praise of a song that makes me plunk my fingers on my desk like I know what to do with them. I love that there's someone like Regina Spektor, repping for everybody who was desperate for a cross between Bjork and Extraordinary Machine-era Fiona Apple. "Us" is a happy little runaway train, where even Regina's vocals ("li-i-i-i-iving in a den of thieves...") seem to be speeding ahead faster than we can keep up. I watched 500 Days of Summer again the other night, and I'd forgotten how much of a charge I get from this song emerging right at the opening credits. Joy.

#14. Arcade Fire -- "Intervention"
Forgive me for coming to Arcade Fire late, but I'm no longer able to ignore the beautiful cacophony the band brings on their best songs. None better than "Intervention," which blends church organ blaring with Win Butler's mournful, urgent wail. As sonically and lyrically complex as any song on this countdown.

#13. Madonna -- "Hung Up"
Okay, remember back when I said Kanye's use of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" was the decade's second-hardest working sample? Meet the hardest-working one. Whatever mad genius decided to use Abba's "Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie (A Man After Midnight)" in order to herald Madge's return to the dance floor deserves a Nobel Prize, and if Obama is as cool as I suspect he is, I guarantee you he'd volunteer his. In a decade full of low points and semi-sad attempts to recapture the zeitgeist, Madonna at least got one thing tremendously right.

#12. The Killers -- "Mr. Brightside"
It's not really hyperbole when I say that I fell in love with Brandon Flowers on this song. Truth is truth. Preening and posturing and fusing high drama, power pop, and rock gravitas into one perfectly transcendent song, I was totally helpless from my very first listen.

#11. MGMT -- "Time to Pretend"
In a serendipitous quirk of fate, so much of what made me love The Killers also made me love MGMT. In a landscape full of same-sounding downers, they're just such a gleaming, shiny penny. "Time to Pretend" has virtues to spare, from the hilarious, kidding-or-are-they lyrics, to that squealing hook, to the harmonic vocals.

#10. Eminem -- "Lose Yourself"
Not a fan of Eminem, but I couldn't possibly have ignored the one unambiguous triumph of his career. For a guy who was so celebrated for the "sense of humor" he brought to his rapping, but who knew his greatest virtues lay in bald earnestness. That "mom's spaghetti" line was a clunker, but everything else felt perfectly nestled between "real" and "Rocky," and by the time the chorus kicked in, everyone you know was bouncing on the inside.

#9. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -- "Falling Slowly"
Not that I have to prove anything, but I did know this song before Once came out, and I fell in love with it on its own terms. That said, once I discovered that it was going to be the centerpiece song in Once, I knew it was going to be a smash success. Unbelievably beautiful.

#8. Outkast -- "Hey Ya"
It's been great fun listening to "Hey Ya" again these last few months. Like many of you, I had to take an official and very real break from all those Andre 3000s after it reached pop culture saturation and pretty much stayed there for a full year. But now that enough time has passed, I get to bop along like a Peanuts character and do the claps and remember when this was seriously the greatest song in the universe.

#7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- "Maps"
Karen O has a good cry over ambient guitars and a persistent drumbeat, and so was created one of the most exquisite pieces of melancholy I've ever heard.

#6. Snow Patrol -- "Run"
I tend to poke fun at Snow Patrol for making Grey's Anatomy music, but honestly, a) I have absolutely no leg to stand on where that's concerned, and b) while "Chasing Cars" really isn't my jam, I like a whole lot of Snow Patrol's stuff. None better than "Run," an object lesson in crescendo-building that results in something transcendently epic.

#5. Rihanna -- "Umbrella"
Yes, it was 2007's Song of the Summer -- weird how everybody seems to remember it for that. But the fact that we haven't had a satisfying summer song since then maybe says something about just how valuable Rihanna's hot-hot hit was. Jay Z's guiding hand couldn't hurt either, but I'll stand by my assertion that RiRi brings something singular to that charmed string of hits she's got.

#4. Ryan Adams -- "Come Pick Me Up"
Oh, Ryan Adams. Be as much of a prick as you like. You still gave me this perfectly written song about bitterness and breakups and longing to do it all again. Featuring the decade's finest chorus ("Come pick me up / Take me out / Fuck me up / Steal my records..."), Ryan makes you feel it from the first sad harmonica.

#3. Kelly Clarkson -- "Since U Been Gone"
While I cheered Kelly C on to her American Idol win, I was extremely dubious as to her professional prospects. This wasn't the song that turned that opinion around (that'd be "Miss Independent"), but it's the one that blew those meager prospects right out of the water. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is a perfect pop song. Perfect.

#2. The Killers -- "When You Were Young"
To each their own, I suppose, but I really don't understand the shit that The Killers' Sam's Town continues to get, from critics and fans. The lyrics are bombastic and it sounds like it wants to be Springsteen? These are the great sins? I don't understand how you could hold that against a song this wonderful. It's a jailbreak. A song that makes me feel like I could sprint into the wide-open American landscape. And it's one that opened up the Killers' sound to something grander.

#1. Beyonce -- "Crazy in Love"
I love every song on this list with a crazed fierceness, but there was never a question what would be my #1. There's a half-second before the horns crash onto the soundscape at the very beginning. That half-second makes me jealous every time I hear this song, because that half-second has no fucking idea what it's in for. And then there are horns! Glorious horns! And Beyonce going "oh-oh-oh-oh," and then eventually Jay Z and the chinchillas! If we can cram enough good shit into this next decade as Beyonce crammed into this song, we'll be damned fortunate.


JAM said...

You know, "Crazy In Love" really is the perfect #1 -- it was *utterly inescapable* the summer I finished law school and moved home to start my first "real job" and move into my first "real house" and it takes me back to that crazy-ass time in an instant.

JenInBoston said...

This list is the embodiment of why I read your blog - because you are clearly in my head and have the balls to be putting it out there for the world. Whereas I just sit here and read you blog and think, Exactly! all the time. Thank you for everything you write!

Scott said...

I'm more a Kids and Spitting Games guy, but it's nice to see MGMT and Snow Patrol in the top 20 (the latter's Grey's Anatomy tendenices - great description - notwithstanding). Feel Good Inc, Hung Up, Umbrella, Clocks, and Mr. Brightside are all great picks.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Total delight from beginning to end. I will never listen to "Family Affair" again and not think of the Space Thesaurus... and I listen to that song a lot.

Joe Reid said...

I'm so glad, Nick! Especially since I feel bad I didn't throw any Mariah your way. If I'd stretched it to 200, she'd have had a couple on there.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Nice! When You Were Young is a crazy, crazy good song, as is Mr. Brightside. The Killers frustrate me so! How can they write such great individual songs, but such weirdly hollow albums? They are like Las Vegas personified in band-form. Go visit, but don't move there.

Someday I will try to articulate it better than that.

I am horribly embarrassed to admit that I, too, love "Hands Down." It sets my cred back, like, nine years.

Every time I admit to liking a Dashboard song, a jazz record loses its wings. But it's just so good! Aak. Let's never speak of it again.

Debi said...

Since I have over 3/4 of these songs on my i-pod and love them, I am going to check out the remaining songs on your list for possible downloads. Thanks for doing the work!

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always

Roommate Mark said...

Especially nice call with "The Blower's Daughter" there, Joe. I was glad to be reminded of that song.

Kris McN said...

Really excellent top 100. Squeeze Amanda Palmer "Leeds United" in at 19.5 and you'd have a pretty perfect top 20. I have to say I hadn't really considered Madonna in this decade, but I'm going to now.