27 December 2009

Music: Best Songs of the Decade, Part 1 (A-E)

Ryan Adams – “Come Pick Me Up”
From the album Heartbreaker (Bloodshot, 2000)
More than just a drunken lament, this is one of many tracks that live up to the album's title and heralded the debut of one of the decade's best songwriters.

Adele – “Chasing Pavements”
From the album 19 (XL, 2008)
She may have only been the age of her album when she wrote this song, but she showed a maturity and depth many singers twice her age have yet to grasp.

Animal Collective – “My Girls”
From the album Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino, 2009)
Really, any song from this late-decade masterwork could have made this list, but I went with this eternally sunny single. Think of it as the hipster equivalent of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
From the album Funeral (Merge, 2005)
Few songs elicit the emotional response of this single from the decade's best album. Brutally honest but honestly hopeful, this is a truly uplifting song.

Badly Drawn Boy – “The Shining”
From the album The Hour of Bewilderbeast (XL, 2000)
Could a song that takes its title from a terrifying novel and film be so beautiful? Only when Damon Gough is behind it.

Beck – “Lost Cause”
From the album Sea Change (Geffen, 2002)
His break-up album (the decade's best) saw Mr. Hansen doing a complete 180 from his sample-heavy irony-laden compositions. This is him stripped and raw. He needs to do more of this.

Beyoncé – “Crazy in Love”
From the album Dangerously in Love (Columbia, 2003)
Riding a sample from the O'Jays, Beyoncé announced her independence to the world with this No. 1 smash hit. Though she's been hit-or-miss since, this was the ultimate summer song in 2003, and still holds up today.

blink-182 – “I Miss You”
From their self-titled album (Geffen, 2004)
From the band the once called their life-on-the-road memoir Tales from Beneath Your Mom came a side we hadn't seen before: the honest, mature side. Too bad they broke up not long after this.

Bloc Party – “Always New Depths”
From the single “Helicopter” (Wichita, 2004)
Their "what-a-horrifying-present-we-live-in" debut was devastating, but on this B-side, they found a glimmer of hope. It would have helped them on their follow-ups.

Bon Iver – “Skinny Love”
From the album For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar, 2008)
Recorded in a cabin in the Wisconsin woods, this is the raw, unfiltered sound of a man whose life was in shambles and is slowly beginning to piece it back together.

Brand New – “Jesus”
From the album The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (Interscope, 2007)
Filled with doubt, listeners feel every ounce of Jesse Lacey's existential crisis. It's an ambiguous song with no easy answers.

Bright Eyes – “One Foot in Front of the Other”
From the compilation album Saddle Creek 50 (Saddle Creek, 2003)
Later re-recorded under the title “Landlocked Blues”, Conor Oberst's best song (and that's saying something) captures everything that sucked about this decade, but implores the listener to continue on and move like the title.

Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
From the album You Forgot it in People (Arts & Crafts, 2002)
So the song's pretty disgusting, but the Montreal band turned into something lovely. Just one of many glorious cuts from their 2002 album.

Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out of This Country”
From the album Let’s Get Out of This Country (Merge, 2006)
The title track makes you want to run away and forget your troubles. The perfect song for such an uneasy decade.

Johnny Cash – “Hurt”
From the album American IV: The Man Comes Around (American, 2003)
Going above and beyond what a cover song can do, this is a lifetime of pain recorded in four minutes. It still packs a wallop.

Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone”
From the album Breakaway (RCA, 2004)
When American Idol's first winner sang "I'm so movin' on," she wasn't just talking to that loser of an ex. She was kissing the old guard of pre-packaged, polished pop music goodbye.

Coldplay – “Swallowed in the Sea”
From the album X&Y (Capitol, 2005)
It was nearly impossible to find Coldplay's ultimate track from their first decade of recording. But I had to go with this earnest plea from their underrated 2005 album. This is them at their peak.

David Crowder*Band – “How He Loves”
From the album Church Music (sixsteps, 2009)
No one in Christian music was as innovative as the Waco native. Here, he re-tools the acoustic praise song into an electronic ballad that's even more emotional than the original.

Daft Punk – “One More Time”
From the album Discovery (Discovery, 2000)
As the decade draws to a close, the French band has made it clear that no matter how difficult the times have been, it's important to cherish those good times, because they might be gone tomorrow. But it would all come off as trite if it wasn't so danceable. Kudos to you, robots.

The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
From the album Permission to Land (Atlantic, 2003)
Hair metal for people who don't like hair metal, Justin Hawkins' falsetto cracked windows but also landed its way into listeners' hearts. It'll make a believer out of you, too.

Death Cab for Cutie – “I Was Once a Loyal Lover”
From the EP The Open Door (Atlantic, 2009)
Ben Gibbard's been displaying his heart on the record sleeve for years now, but this track from his 2009 EP may just be his best. He's trying to get his stuff together, but it might be easier said than done.

Eminem – “Stan”
From the album The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath, 2000)
Perhaps the most terrifying song of the decade, Shady's account of a fan on the edge hooks the listener in with that beautiful refrain from Dido (and later, Elton John) but its gripping details haunt you long afterward.

Explosions in the Sky – “Your Hand in Mine”
From the album The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (Temporary Residence Limited, 2003)
Without a single word, the Austin band says more about relationships than many artists do with the best writers at their disposal. Truly mesmerizing.

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