30 December 2009

Music: Best Songs of the Decade, Part 4 (S-Z)

Scissor Sisters – “Take Your Mama”
From their self-titled debut album (Universal, 2004)
Is it a good idea to get your mother drunk before you break bad news to her? Probably not, but when it's this much fun, you can worry about the consequences tomorrow.

Secret Machines – “Alone, Jealous and Stoned”
From the album Ten Silver Drops (Reprise, 2006)
The perfect anthem for “idle kids with idle hearts.”

William Shatner – “That’s Me Trying”
From the album Has Been (Shout! Factory, 2004)
This just in: Captain Kirk was a terrible father. This is his spoken-word account of his attempt to change that. Heartbreaking.

The Shins – “Kissing the Lipless”
From the album Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop, 2003)
Don't let the hand claps fool you. This is angry recollection of a friendship gone sour.

Sigur Rós – “Starálfur”
From the album Ágætis byrjun (PIAS, 2001)
The most spiritual song ever recorded by a secular band.

Snow Patrol – “Chocolate”
From the album Final Straw (Interscope, 2004)
Quarter-life crises are a dumb concept, but Gary Lightbody pulls off the angst of everything that comes with turning 25.

Spring Awakening original cast – “My Junk”
From the soundtrack album Spring Awakening (Decca, 2006)
Bryan Ferry would be proud of this love-as-drug metaphor. It's an intoxicating showtune. How's that for originality?

SR-71 – “Right Now”
From the album Now You See Inside (RCA, 2000)
They were just too soon. SR-71's brand power-pop with the slightest punk edge came too early for the success of all the bands that followed. Besides success, the only difference was that SR-71 was actually good.

St. Vincent – “Marry Me”
From the album Marry Me (Beggars Banquet, 2007)
Annie Clark is making you an offer you can't refuse. Just say yes.

Stars – “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”
From the album Set Yourself on Fire (Arts & Crafts, 2005)
It was an affair to remember. No regrets. It was quite a way to start off an album of lost memories.

Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”
From the album Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty, 2005)
If he ever decides to get out of music, he'd make an awesome travel agent. This song will make you want to book your tickets to the Windy City right away.

The Streets – “Dry Your Eyes”
From the album A Grand Don’t Come for Free (Atlantic, 2004)
This is the kind of confessional song rappers only write every once in a while. Are you surprised at my tears? Strong men also cry. Strong men also cry.

The Strokes – “Someday”
From the album Is This It (RCA, 2001)
Julian Casablancas and co. were perhaps too self-assure (even though all their songs were about self-doubt) on their debut. Perhaps that's why they haven't been able to measure up since. This is them at their peak.

The Swell Season – “Falling Slowly”
From their self-titled debut album (Overcoat, 2006)
Made popular through the lovely film Once--which won them an Oscar--the duo's 2006 love song grows more resonant after each listen.

The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition”
From the album Conditions (Glassnote, 2009)
Used to underscore the more touching moments of 500 Days of Summer, this is one of those songs that drifts back to you in your memory at the most unexpected times.

Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. – “My Love”
From the album FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive, 2006)
Coming hot off his quirky smash hit “SexyBack,” J.T. proved it was no fluke. Here was Male Pop Singer Version 2.0: sleek, stylish, armed with an arsenal of songs that could take the world by storm.

TV on the Radio – “Heroes”
From the compilation album War Child Presents: Heroes (Astralwerks, 2009)
A phantasmagorical cover of David Bowie's seminal ballad that was one of the band's only tolerable songs.

U2 – “Beautiful Day”
From the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Island, 2000)
Their first recording after the disaster that was Pop. If they can have one of the titular days, anyone can.

Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want”
From the album Everything You Want (RCA, 2000)
Perhaps the best of the one-hit wonders of the decade, this was the first CD I remember buying with my own money. There's nothing really unique about them, but when all the typical stuff comes together, they make it into something memorable.

Rufus Wainwright – “Vibrate”
From the album Want One (DreamWorks, 2003)
This is why he's so great: he takes an old style and modernizes, molding it into something original. This is the best of his torch songs: waiting for a lover to return his call, and feeling less and less human the longer he waits.

The Walkmen – “The Rat”
From the album Bows + Arrows (Record Collection, 2004)
Four-and-a-half minutes of pure rage. Why don't more bands bottle their anger like this? Or this well?

We are Scientists – “After Hours”
From the album Brain Thrust Mastery (Virgin, 2008)
The “Closing Time” of our generation.

Kanye West featuring Adam Levine – “Heard ’em Say”
From the album Late Registration (Roc-a-Fella, 2005)
Who knew the most superficial of bands (Maroon 5) could augment the most talented of rappers to make the most poigant hip-hop track of the decade?

Whiskeytown – “Crazy About You”
From the album Pneumonia (Lost Highway, 2001)
Before Ryan Adams went solo, this “lost album” of his old band made its way into the record stores long after it was recorded. Regardless of the release date, this was a precursor to all the greatness Adams had stored up.

White Lies – “Death”
From the album To Lose My Life… (Polydor, 2009)
Interpol. Editors. She Wants Revenge. None of these bands put out as good a Joy Division tribute as this London band did.

The White Stripes – “Little Acorns”
From the album Elephant (V2, 2003)
Part of what made the duo so great--aside from their complex guitar-simple drum dichotomy--was their unrelenting weirdness. And this track, featuring narration from Detroit broadcaster Mort Crim, is actually inspiring in its own bizarre way.

Phil Wickham – “Beautiful”
From the album Cannons (INO, 2007)
Picture the perfect wedding. Phil Wickham's description of the heavenly ceremony is even far beyond your wildest dreams.

Amy Winehouse – “Tears Dry on Their Own”
From the album Back to Black (Universal, 2007)
I never really got why people loved her so much. All she was doing was having Mark Ronson hijack Motown samples as she sang about her substance-abusing tragicomic life. That is until this song--which samples “Ain't No Mountain High Enough”--brought sadness to the forefront. From the first line, “All I can ever be to you/Is a darkness that we knew/And this regret I've got accustomed to,” it was clear this was a horse of a different color.

“Weird Al” Yankovic – “White & Nerdy”
From the album Straight Outta Lynnwood (Volcano, 2006)
His first Top 10 hit was a parody of Chamillionaire's “Ridin'” and anyone who can identify with the title knows it's scarily accurate. It also proved the 25-plus-year music biz veteran had some serious rhymin' skills.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
From the album Fever to Tell (Interscope, 2003)
Their debut was a hodgepodge of tributes to old CBGB stars, but this was the only song that caught on with more than Internet message board commenters. So universal, so sad, but so memorable. This song's gonna last for another 100 years.

Warren Zevon – “Keep Me in Your Heart”
From the album The Wind (Artemis, 2003)
The only good thing that came out of the singer-songwriter's death was this touching final album and this song in particular, which I hope replaces Sarah McLachlan's “I Will Remember You” as the go-to funeral song. It wouldn't cheapen the sentiment one bit. This is as heartbreaking as songs get.

29 December 2009

Music: Best Songs of the Decade, Part 3 (L-R)

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
From the album Sound of Silver (DFA, 2007)
James Murphy writes about regret the way great novelists do. But his point is this: what good is it to grow up and start making money if you're just going to want to reclaim your youth later on? Ponder that when you think about taking that desk job.

Lecrae – “Send Me/Represent”
From the compilation EP Amped (Reach, 2007)
Musically, Lecrae is something of a miracle worker: he's brought legit skills to the heretofor (understandably) maligned genre of Christian rap. Here, he disses not other MCs, but lazy listeners who'd rather watch MTV than do something that would impact the world.

Leeland – “Carried to the Table”
From the album Sound of Melodies (Essential, 2006)
The wee Mooring took an obscure psalm and turned it into a tear-jerking anthem. It's not an end-of-your-rope giving up, but a breakthrough giving up. Beautiful.

M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
From the album Kala (Interscope, 2008)
The kind of success story you can cheer for: she didn't have to change your sound to achieve fame. Most people heard it in that Pineapple Express trailer, but it made much more sense in the context of Slumdog Millionaire. For the gangsta in all of us.

M83 – “Kim & Jessie”
From the album Saturdays = Youth (Mute, 2008)
Wait, this isn't the theme song for the worst '80s movie ever made? Why isn't Andrew McCarthy in this video?

Mêlée – “She’s Gonna Find Me Here”
From the album Devils & Angels (Warner Bros, 2007)
The antithesis of emo. Lead singer Chris Cron doesn't think it'll never happen. It just hasn't happened yet.

MGMT – “Time to Pretend”
From the album Oracular Spectacular (Columbia, 2008)
Thirty years ago, your parents listened to Loverboy's “Working for the Weekend” when 5 o'clock Friday rolled around. Now, it's your turn.

Moby – “I’m Not Worried at All”
From the album 18 (V2, 2002)
Play may have been his big seller, but this song was the apex for the DJ. Combining all the things that made him so popular in the first place (universal themes, but mainly taking a good portion of his music from old spirituals) was on full display here.

Modest Mouse – “Float On”
From the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic, 2004)
Could anyone have guessed that people outside of college campuses and Pitchfork offices would know the name Modest Mouse before this year? I don't think they did either. But one listen to the sage advice of Isaac Brock, self-help guru, changed all that.

Morrissey – “The World is Full of Crashing Bores”
From the album You are the Quarry (Attack, 2004)
Don't call it a comeback; he'd been here for years. One of his most universal songs, even if we're not all wordsmiths.

Nas – “Made You Look”
From the album God’s Son (Ill Will, 2003)
With just one line--“Made you look/You're a slave to a page in my rhyme book”--Nasir Jones had us hooked.

New Order – “Crystal”
From the album Get Ready (London, 2001)
After years of middling with side projects, the seminal electronic band reunited for one of the decade's best club albums. Without this song, there would be no Killers (and not just because of the video).

Oasis – “Songbird”
From the album Heathen Chemistry (Big Brother, 2003)
So Noel finally deflated his ego enough to let Liam right a song, and the result is far better than when the Beatles let Ringo write a song.

OutKast – “Hey Ya!”
From the album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (LaFace, 2003)
There are many good arguments for “B.O.B.” to be on this list instead, but I still have to go with the infectious “where-do-we-go-from-here” hit. André 3000 knew how to traffic in heartbreak in addition to the regular hip-hop trappings.

Trey Parker & Matt Stone – “The End of an Act”
From the soundtrack album Team America: World Police (Atlantic, 2004)
What could be a more pure expression of love than comparing your affection to how much Pearl Harbor sucked? That's an awful lot, girl.

Pet Shop Boys – “I Get Along”
From the album Release (Parlophone, 2002)
With this song, Neil Tennant became the biggest liar since John Waite declared “I ain't missing you at all.”

Peter Bjorn and John – “Young Folks”
From the album Young Folks (Wichita, 2006)
Whistling came back into (hipster) fashion with this off-beat Dutch hit, and it's not hard to see why. It'll be stuck in your head for days, but the difference between this and most Top 40 songs is you'll actually want it there.

Phoenix – “Consolation Prizes”
From the album It’s Never Been Like That (Astralwerks, 2006)
They're just now gaining the popularity they deserve, but this song finds the French band at their peak, singing deceptively upbeat pop songs to hide the betrayal underneath.

The Postal Service – “Brand New Colony”
From the album Give Up (Sub Pop, 2003)
Should Ben Gibbard write your vows? If they're this good, you may want to ask him for some help.

The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – “Walmart Killed the Country Store”
From the album The Whole Fam Damnily (SideOneDummy, 2008)
AC/DC sold millions of copies of Black Ice by carrying it exclusively at Wal-mart. But I doubt the Rev. Peyton cares if his shamefully unheard 2008 album will ever be sold at the Evil Empire because, truthfully, they kill mom-and-pop business. A folky bit of righteous indignation.

Rilo Kiley – “Portions for Foxes”
From the album More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute, 2004)
A song that's all about the moment when you know you shouldn't do something but you debate whether you should do it anyway. You know you've been there.