Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 - 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The most interesting trend that I came to realize when making this list is how important lyrics were. I have always considered myself not a lyrics person. I viewed the lyrics as some sort of afterthought. However, when I look at my top 50 and especially my top 5 this seems to not be the case. Sure there are songs where the lyrics couldn’t mean less (I’m looking at you “Beating Heart Baby”) but from what I see from looking over the list is that the songs that I really care about have lyrics I really care about.


10. “Fake Empire” – The National

Speaking of lyrics, The National win. They are the only band that I actively sight lyrics for the reason I care for the band. “Fake Empire” is no exception ("Let's not try to figure out everything at once" is a lyrical hug) however it is the music that places it here. It is subtle and comforting like any good National song. But then there is the big horn break down, which knocks me on my ass every time. I would say we are looking at a 70% success rate of aural goosebumps by song’s end. (“7/4 Shoreline” also features a similar closing – I apparently like big horn arrangements to end songs)


9. “Daydreamin’” – Lupe Fiasco ft Jill Scott

I can’t imagine liking a hip-hop song more than this. First, you have Lupe doing what he does best, rapping about the trappings of “the game.” Beyond being exceedingly clever, the track showcases the fact that he is one of the few rappers with actually understanding of melody. And then there is Jill Scott showing off her remarkable range as a singer. But fuck range, the song is about her being an absolute powerhouse for the last 80 seconds. This song remains a master-class in hook singing. More than anything you get a feeling that the two performers actually care about what they are talking about, which is pretty much a revelation in the world of modern day hip-hop.

8. “Extraordinary Machine” – Fiona Apple

Every single time I listened to this song I am surprised. From the first time to right this moment when I am listening this song while writing, I am taken aback. Amazed by how peculiarly it is, how remarkably executed it is, how idiosyncratic it is. It feels like some sort of future-past, both so classic and so contemporary concurrently. More than anything it is pretty. Very, very, very, very, very, very, very pretty.

7. “Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson

This is not a guilty pleasure. “Since U Been Gone” is a kickass song. I believe I started taking it seriously when she performed it on the MTV awards. During which a bunch of water fell on her and her in-ear monitor went out. Kelly responded by basically screaming her voice off. She went all over pitches but I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Only in the Aughts could a TV competition winner singing a song written by two hired gun Swedes result in the best rock song of the last 10 years.

6. “For Reverend Green” – Animal Collective

I signed up for last.fm about two years ago. Also about two years ago I heard “For Reverend Green” for the first time. If you go to my last.fm (http://www.last.fm/user/FOXFOXFOXFOX) you will notice there is no song I have played as much. To me this symbolizes that at this point in my life, it is exactly what I am looking for. At its core it is a straightforward rock song, however one filtered through the Animal Collective prism. The lyrics are mostly the silliness you would expect (I always somewhat related to the “A thousand wasted Brooklyners all depressed” line) and man, he is the best screamer I have ever heard. Basically, it’s a song I always, always want to listen to.

5. “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem

I somewhat like minimalist classical music. I don’t listen to it often but I definitely do enough to know that it is the first thing that attracted me to “All My Friends.” Musically, the song is deceptively simple and arrestingly beautiful. Still, what takes this possible Top 10 song and makes it a Top 5 are the lyrics. It is a song about getting older but also a lot more than that. If in the future they develop a solely aural dictionary and if you hypothetically looked up “bittersweet” in said dictionary, you would probably hear “All My Friends” (obviously depending on the hipness of the dictionary’s publisher). The fact is the song gets me every time.

4. “My Mathematical Mind” – Spoon

Most people reading this probably already know I am pretty OCD. Not in some Danny Tanner, need to clean things way, or that I need to turn the lights on-&-off 4 times before entering a room way, but its there. Generally, I am more compulsively obsessive than obsessively compulsive. I digress, “My Mathematical Mind” is the anthem of this part of me. A song about getting out of your head and just live for a second. “My mathematical mind can see the breaks/So I’m gonna stop riding the brakes” has become my mantra. Musically, it is what Spoon does best – acts really cool and throws in cool/rockin’ noises. In this case the song features a classic Brit Daniels anti-solo that has greatly influenced my guitar playing ever since. I need this song to exist, at least the OCD part of me does.

3. “The Rat” – The Walkmen

This song was my #1 for almost the entirety of the list’s existence. Though that didn’t work out, “The Rat” still remains securely in my top 3. This is mainly because if I was going to use one song to define my taste in the last 10 years “The Rat” would top the list. I first heard the song really by chance when they performed on Letterman (don’t worry, tis the attached link) and I was drawn to it immediately and still remain so ever since. The song is exceedingly immediate and undeniably brash. It is a song that defies you to try to listen to it passively – from the drum beat to the vocal ticks, the song confronts you. The song, like the character created by the lyrics, cannot be ignored.

2. “Skinny Love” – Bon Iver

I first saw Bon Iver when he was touring solo as an opener for Elvis Perkins in the winter of 2007. Completely unaware of his music, I went into it not really expecting much. Two songs in I was impressed and definitely interested, but than he took out his resonator guitar and started strumming the chords now burnt into my brain. By the end of the first verse I stood with mouth agape. And then there was the brief pause before he entered into the chorus…

“And I told you to patient...” he sung, with his voice cracking a little bit from trying to hit that note just out of his reach. I literally had a hard time breathing for a second and probably teared. This was the most genuine moment I have ever felt with an artist. Still there was another chorus and more strain on his voice. The second chorus ended with (and always ends with) “If all your love was wasted/Then who the hell was I?/And I am breaking at the britches/And at the end of all your lines,” which he sang like he really meant it (I wish it wasn’t so trite to say, but that night he did mean it). At that moment I was overtaken – I wanted to leave the show so I could go home and listen to the song again. I did make it through the whole show; however, I did rush home and listened to it again and again and again. About two years later and I still cannot stop. I am still overwhelmed, I am still affected, I am still taken aback every time his just misses the note when he sings “told.”


1. “Biomusicology” – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

I think it’s beautifully apt (maybe too so) to end my list with this song. Simply, “Biomusicology” is a song about how important songs are. I don’t have an elaborate story behind hearing this song for the first time. I heard it junior year of college and loved it. Time went on and I loved it more. More time - more love, etc. Still one thing holds true, no matter when I am listening to it, I always want to hear it a second time. Everything in the world seems right as long as the song is playing. The song ends…

“All in all we cannot stop singing
we cannot start sinking
We swim until it ends
They may kill and we may be parted
But we will ne'er be broken hearted”

Which cues my heart to pump its fist in agreement. It is not a definitive Ted Leo song but it is without a doubt my favorite. Still what it came down to is this, “What song could I not live without?” This song was at #3 at first but then when I tried to play the list in order it just didn’t feel right. If I am going to listen to music, I need to be able to listen to this song. So when it is all said and done, Ted Leo earned the top spot the old fashioned way, by writing a song I could not imagine not listening to.

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