28 December 2009

Music: Best Songs of the Decade, Part 2 (F-K)

Fall Out Boy – “What a Catch, Donnie”
From the album Folie à Deux (Decaydance, 2008)
All that stuff you probably hate about Fall Out Boy (I, for one, consistently enjoy their work and I will not apologize for it)? That's all put to death in this song. As a cavalcade of guest stars--Elvis Costello among them--sing snippets of past hits, the old band is fading away. What emerges is a band that could go any direction. I can't wait to see what that is.

The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”
From the album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner Bros, 2002)
The song that took the Oklahoma band from favorite of college-aged druggies to wedding staple.

Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
From their self-titled debut album (Sub Pop, 2008)
Walkin' in a winter wonderland, with a dark edge. Haunting.

Foo Fighters – “Best of You”
From the album In Your Honor (RCA, 2005)
Their fifth album (or at least this song) finds the Grohl-fronted band at their most focused. Their rage, the howl, the feeling of righteous indignation all culminates in this biting cut.

The Format – “The First Single”
From the album Interventions + Lullabies (Elektra, 2003)
It was basically a joke, spitting into the face of record labels who wanted to "format" them and demand the perfect first single. But Elektra records got what they wanted. This is about as great as pop songs get.

Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
From their self-titled debut album (Domino, 2004)
Back when they still had swagger, the Scottish band took wordplay to heights not seen since the heyday of the Smiths. Is it about hooking up or snipers caught in the crossfire?

The Fratellis – “Chelsea Dagger”
From the album Costello Music (Fallout, 2006)
Somewhere in the self-seriousness of the decade, bands forgot how to have fun. This Scottish trio is the grand foray back into enjoyable rock music.

The Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius” (2001)
The mash-up that made everyone want to do one. Edgy pop or glitzy indie-rock? Either way, it's one of the decade's essential party track.

Girl Talk – “Play Your Part (Parts 1 and 2)”
From the album Feed the Animals (Illegal Art, 2008)
The songs that bookend DJ Gregg Gillis's indispensable 2008 party album are the perfect complements. Things kick off with a foot-stomping mash-up of “Oh, Pretty Woman”, “Gimme Some Lovin’” and UGK's “International Player’s Anthem”. At the end, things close out with a reprise of “International Player’s Anthem”, beautifully spliced with Journey's “Faithfully”.

Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”
From the album St. Elsewhere (Atlantic, 2006)
The ultimate out-of-left-field hit single, obscure rappers Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo collaborated for a great song that transcended genres. Maybe they were crazy, but they got everyone's attention.

David Gray – “Please Forgive Me”
From the album White Ladder (IHT, 2000)
Originally released in 1999, but re-released after White Ladder finally hit it big thanks to “Babylon”, this is the Manchester singer-songwriter's finest hour. Unabashedly romantic without ever getting sappy.

Guillemots – “Trains to Brazil”
From the album Through the Windowpane (Polydor, 2006)
Perhaps the most joyous four minutes recorded this decade. It makes it all but impossible to sit down while listening to this song.

Joe Henry – “God Only Knows”
From the album Civilians (ANTI-, 2007)
Few artists deserve a Tom Waits comparison, but it's apt here. He deals in world-weary bar ballads, and none was more devastating than this 2007 cut, used to underscore a tribute to 2008's fallen filmmakers.

Hillsong United – “From the Inside Out”
From the album United We Stand (Hillsong, 2006)
After hundreds of uses in churches throughout the world, Joel Houston's 2006 praise & worship song still resonates.

The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations”
From the album Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant, 2006)
Sal Paradise was right: “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.” In just four short minutes, the Minneapolis band captures that essence of that phrase and kicks off an album that understood what it's like to be lost in the delirium of romance and alcohol.

Jay-Z – “99 Problems”
From The Black Album (Roc-a-Fella, 2004)
Had this really been Jigga's swan song, it would have been a fitting tribute to the unstoppable MC. Of course, he couldn't stay away from the game he loved so much. Regardless, this is the finest rap song of the decade, a sundown for an era ruled by boasting, which gave way to the modern era of goofiness.

Jet – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”
From the album Get Born (Elektra, 2003)
Before they self-destructed, the Australian band had the song everyone wanted. It also proved Apple could make any song a Top 10 hit, as long as it made it into an iPod ad. It's still my go-to karaoke song.

Jimmy Eat World – “Your House”
From the album Bleed American (DreamWorks, 2001)
The most earnest plea to stay since Lisa Loeb declared “I Miss You”. The band are experts at crafting deceptively upbeat pop songs that mask deep sadness and this is their best.

Scarlett Johansson – “Anywhere I Lay My Head”
From the album Anywhere I Lay My Head (Atco, 2008)
The song I know I'll have to most vehemently defend: the ingenue's cover of Tom Waits's seminal ballad sounds just as off-beat and world-weary. In her defense, Waits can't sing either.

Keane – “Is it Any Wonder?”
From the album Under the Iron Sea (Island, 2006)
If their debut album was Hopes and Fears, their sophomore effort was all about the latter. With everything that happened in the two-year gap between these albums, it's no wonder the band sounded more hopeless, but also more polished.

R. Kelly – “Ignition Remix”
From the album Chocolate Factory (Jive, 2003)
He's never sounded like he cared less. It's the epitome of effortless cool.

Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor – “Elephant Love Medley”
From the soundtrack album Moulin Rouge! (Interscope, 2001)
It begins with Sweet and ends with Elton John. In between it's the ultimate love song, because it cherry-picks the best love songs from decades past into a decadent smorgasbord of cheese. That Baz Luhrmann is really on to something.

The Killers – “All These Things That I’ve Done”
From the album Hot Fuss (Island, 2004)
Saddled with guilt from growing up in the excess of Las Vegas, Brandon Flowers' sorrowful track is a wringing-of-hands tune that feels like something more than catharsis.

Kings of Leon – “The Bucket”
From the album Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA, 2005)
Long before they became every college co-eds favorite indie band, the Southern rockers were trafficking heavily in the horrors of early on-set stardom. If it wasn't so earnest, it would come across as whiny. But the family act knew how to cultivate sorrow over grungy guitars. They changed the game for their next album, but the soul was still there, even if the songs lamented about how they might be losing theirs.

The Knife – “Heartbeats”
From the album Deep Cuts (Electropop, 2006)
Weird as weird gets, but there's a romantic layer underneath all that electronic pastiche.

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