Thursday, September 3, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (30-21)

Sorry for missing a day or two but now is the time to start getting excited cuz we're starting to get into some songs I really, REALLY like a lot. Once we start getting into the top 20 I'm gonna start really gushing uncontrollably about some of these songs. Well let's get started already...

30. Mono - 16.12

A few years ago a friend of mine told me there was this band from Japan who were kind of in the same style as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai and that I should check out their (at the time) newest album entitled--brace yourself--"Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined." I'm always up for some good epic ambient post-rock type stuff so I checked out the album. This is the first song on that album. It's a long journey, clocking in at over 10 minutes, but when the 10 minutes are over it will seem all too soon and you'll be anxiously awaiting the rest of the album. It starts with the soothing sound of waves crashing on a shore, soon joined by some solemn violin harmonies, both of which eventually give way to the quiet first of many layers of sound that lay one on top of the other gradually as the song progresses. The driving force of the song soon becomes apparent in a perpetually ascending delay-soaked tremolo-picked guitar line climbing to towering heights before exploding into a beautiful climax which eventually trails off back into the subtle tones of the intro of the song.

29. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Another fantastic opening track of an album that really impressed me when I heard it. The Arcade Fire has a really great sense for making music that is at once memorable, accessible, unique, compelling, dramatic, and interesting, something exceedingly hard to do. This song is such a joyful explosion from the very first note, it's no wonder they made it track 1 on their breakthrough "Funeral" album. At times this band actually tends to remind me a little bit of Jimmy Eat World with their use of sweet, twinkly indie rock moments, however Win Butler's wild wailing vocals lend the music a captivating, almost At-the-Drive-In-esque exuberance and does so much to make their sound truly their own.

28. The Weakerthans - Aside

If you've ever seen the movie Wedding Crashers, chances are you've heard this song without even knowing it--it's the song that plays over the closing credits. I can remember walking out of the theater after seeing the movie and being taken by complete surprise when I heard John K. Sampson's unmistakable voice over the end credits of a "Frat Pack" movie. Sampson is undoubtedly one of the least well-known great songwriters of this generation and you don't have to listen to very many Weakerthans songs to figure out why. His undeniable wit and charm shine through not only in his brilliant lyrics but in the songs themselves. This is probably one of the more simple but also more powerful songs in The Weakerthans' catalog and is, of course, chock full of amazing lines including a fantastic bridge--"Circumnavigate this body of wonder and uncertainty armed with every precious failure; an amateur cartography. I breathe in deep before I spread those maps out on my bedroom floor"--and an unforgettable chorus--"and I'm leaning on this broken fence between past and present tense...and I'm losing all those stupid games that I swore I'd never play...but it almost feels OK."

27. Outkast – B.O.B.

In the Pitchfork Media feature I cited as my inspiration for this little article of mine, this song was given the honor of being the #1 song of the decade. The reasoning is sound enough, specifically when you factor in popularity and social relevance more heavily. As Pitchfork says, "'B.O.B.' is not just the song of the decade--it is the decade" going on to note that with Bombs Over Baghdad, Outkast "effectively craft[ed] a fast-forwarded highlight-reel prophecy of what the next 10 years held in store." It's hard to argue considering that the very title of the song was eerily prophetic but the power of this song goes so far beyond its title and subject matter. It's such a glorious onslaught of danceable but incendiary bombast that its universal appeal should be no surprise and the soulful choir makes this song almost a religious experience.

26. Envy - Color of Fetters

The first (and certainly not the last) Envy song on my countdown. Envy is an epic screamo band from Japan and when I say epic I mean...EPIC. The great thing about this song is that it doesn't waste any time, it grabs you right from the get-go and doesn't let go. Characteristically of Envy, this 7 minute ride is wrought with dynamic contrast and powerful moments from the swirling opening to the desolate middle refrain and so, so much more. I can't do much to describe the roller coaster ride you embark on when listening to an Envy song, you're just going to have to take the ride for yourself.

25. Tool - The Grudge

As much as I love everything Tool has ever done, I've always felt like Tool was capable of much more with the "Lateralus" album. It's still an incredible record but I felt like it was a bit weighted down by its own self-conscious arty-ness and that a few of the tracks were weak by Tool standards ("Schism", "Parabol"/"Parabola", "Ticks and Leeches"). Still it did offer some typically brilliant moments that Tool can always be counted on for, such as "The Patient", the epic prog-driven suite of "Disposition"/"Reflection"/"Triad", and this immensely powerful opening track. Set in the challenging time signature of 5/4 with a sort of 3ish feel to it, this song features some of the best songwriting Tool is capable of such as the fleeting pounding riff with the bass drum doubling in speed under it every measure and then giving way to a beautifully desolate bass line which builds (with the help of the drums) and carries over into the verse. It also features one of the great ending climaxes of any song in Tool's catalog and that's a major compliment because that's really Tool's modus operandi.

24. Baroness - Rays On Pinion

I vividly remember the first time I heard Baroness's "Red Album"--of which this is the opening track. I smoked a huge bowl and put on this record as I packed another one. When those opening guitar tones hit my stoned ears it was like biting into a filet mignon you can cut with a butter knife...and it was only going to get better. The lead-off track of "Red Album" is a much more raucous one than "Wailing Wintry Wind", much heavier on the heavy stoner riffage and classic rock guitar noodling with the exception of the intro, however there is no shortage of Baroness's impeccable sense of melody.

23. Converge - Thaw

This may be one of the hardest songs for most people reading this to get into for many of the same reasons I named it one of my top 50. This song is just one serious mindfuck--sonically it just sounds to me like a person in the depths of a serious mental breakdown. And you'll know when they snap as this is one of the most powerful moments on the entire "Jane Doe" album--very lofty praise, well deserved. If you're one of the few who is actually interested in checking out the songs I'm talking about on this list, definitely keep a very open mind when going into this one (and also make sure to listen to it all the way to the end or you might miss the best part).

22. Bright Eyes - From a Balance Beam

Another one of the Bright Eyes catalog that is overflowing with potent imagery and powerful lyrical lines. This song became something of a rallying cry for me personally in the months leading up to last year's election and with lines like "so I wait for the day when I hear the key as it turns in the lock and the guard will say to me 'oh, my patient prisoner you've waited for this day and finally you are free...you are free...you are freezing." One of the more powerful Bright Eyes songs in Oberst's catalog with some scathing but beautiful songwriting and absolutely incredible lyrics.

21. Thrice - Daedalus

On Thrice's "The Artist in the Ambulance" album they had a song called "The Melting Point of Wax" that was written from the point of view of Icarus. Icarus was the son of Daedalus and they were both imprisoned by the Minotaur in the Labyrinth so Daedalus constructed wings for the two of them to escape using wax, string, and feathers from nearby birds. Where "The Melting Point of Wax" is full of the youthful exuberance of Icarus wanting to "touch the sun" flying on "secondhand wings", "Daedalus" has a mournful tone of a loving father worrying for his son, a very potent metaphor for fatherhood. Singer Dustin Kensrue soars on a desperate bridge: "Oh Gods, why is this happening to me? All I wanted was a new life, for my son to grow up free. Now you took the only thing that meant anything to me. I will never fly again. I'll hang up my wings." When I say this is one of the most powerful and one of the best songs Thrice has ever written, you should know I'm not fucking around here.