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.