Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Used To Be The Future, part 1 (50-36)



Andy Khouri has begun a blog-a-thon of sorts, inviting/daring his online friends and acquaintances to, per the graphic above, list, rank, and write about their favo(u)rite songs of the almost-completed decade.

Your proprietor's listening habits are less diverse and hungry than his cinematic ones, so I've opted to write about fifty songs, choosing a maximum of one song from an album (some albums would offer up to five compelling entries and a couple of also-rans for a top 100 list). Herewith is part one of the House of Sparrows' most precious play list, dated twenty-ought-ex.

50. Vagabondage, "Raise Your Glass"

Since this band is/are friends of mine, I’ll put this at the bottom of the list to dodge any complaints of a conflict of interest. Offering inherently singable choruses that are perfect for boozy pub shout-alongs, this song is absolutely timeless, and if there’s any justice it’ll survive its creators for generations.

49. Peaches, "I Feel Cream"

The airy vocals and minimal-disco synth riff make one long for the sexy grit of her earlier work, until the gorgeous rap over the bridge, with another synth swirling up under, shows us that she’s merely shifted gears.

48. Gwen Stefani, "Early Winter"

“Why do you act so stupid?/You know I’m always right” tells us that there are TWO reasons why this breakup’s happening, and the final chorus just nails us. A gorgeously produced and sung pop ballad.

47. Gorillaz, “5/4”

A triumphant, tricky, but danceable riff, with beautifully sarcastic Albarn vocals. And then “SHE TURNED MY DAD ON/SHE MADE ME KILL MYSELF!” just kills me.

46. Sparks, “Let the Monkey Drive”

It’s just good advice.

45. Von Iva, “Do It!

A drums/analog keys/voice trio from San Francisco, staffed entirely by bad girls. Bex’s FAT synth riffs make this one the keeper, with the always-gutsy vocalist Jillian Iva just pelting it out. Makes me proud to live where I do.

44. Loretta Lynn, “Women’s Prison”

I’m still not sure if the glorious instrumental finish is simply Lynn’s resigned heroine’s ascent to heaven, or Jack White and the boys busting into the joint to save her. A killer track either way, as the man used to say.

43. The Fall, “Theme from ‘Sparta F.C.’”

WE HAVE TO PAY FOR EVERYTHING BUT SOME THINGS ARE FOR FREE! (HEY!)
WE LIVE! ON! BLOOD! WE ARE SPARTA F.C.! (HEY!)
ENGLISH CHELSEA FAN THIS IS YOUR LAST GAME (HEY!)
WE’RE NOT GLATASARY WE’RE SPARTA F.C.! (HEY!)

42. Einstuerzende Neubauten, “Sabrina”

Since busting through the scene in 1980 with metal-on-metal schaben, the boys from Berlin have grown a bit quieter with each album. Their 2000 disc, entitled (aptly enough) Silence is Sexy, opens with this nicely slow-burning number, the ambiguous but infectious chorus of which I found myself singing fairly often in my quieter, darker moments.

41. Brian Wilson, “Surf’s Up”

The whole SMiLE reconstruct just pummels you with good spirits, but the last half of this quieter piece, busting out with full-tilt ethereality, is the disc’s most transcendent moment.

40. The Hives, “Hate To Say I Told You So”

As it turns out, rock’n’roll didn’t need saving in 2000 after all, but those monochrome-clad boys from Sweden were so nice to volunteer.

39. Johnny Cash, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

The first four tracks of AMERICAN IV: THE MAN COMES AROUND sound like an enclosed narrative to me, with the title track offering an apocalyptic, scene setting prologue; “Hurt” showing a man undone by his life; “Give My Love To Rose” redeeming him at least in part by a scintilla of his humanity remembered; and then finally this track, which finds him rising the fuck up to take action. Cash’s voice is nearly shot, but dammit, the impulse is still there.

38. Painkiller, “Your Inviolable Freedoms”

Yes, a slightly different lineup assembled for the ambient dark thrash trio during John Zorn’s 50th birthday celebration. But Zorn and Laswell remained tight, the replacement of Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris with Chicago jazz percussionist Hamid Drake opened the band to more fluid expressionism (while sacrificing none of the Painkiller mandated heaviness), and the addition of wild card Mike Patton on vocals and other noises loaned the still-heavy group an out-there, positively psychedelic edge that I hadn’t heard in any Zorn recording. This sixteen-minute jam is the real deal.

37. Radiohead, “There There”

Yorke’s never sounded smaller and more urgent to me, surrounded by drums but cutting through. Your conscience.

36. Coldplay, “Lost!”

The organs and drums jump out of the fucking radio, and announce plainly that the band isn’t simply rewriting “Clocks” again. Producer Brian Eno’s keyboard shimmers swell up during the choruses, and Chris Martin’s non-semantic yowling at the end seals the deal.

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