Saturday, October 31, 2009

39. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)

Of course, this Halloween the only song I could have picked for today was this one. I guarantee that more people will listen to this song today than have ever listened to one song on one day in the history of the world. This has been my favorite 'Halloween' song since I was a little kid, and even hearing it's perfect. Michael made this when he was in the prime of his career, when his voice was just amazing. It's hard to decide what my favorite part of the song is...whether it's Vincent Price's eerie reading at the end, the image of the dancing zombies from the music video, or just Michael's all-around performance. It's obviously very sad that he died earlier this year, but it sure does make for an excellent and very fitting Halloween costume: Zombie Michael Jackson.

Friday, October 30, 2009

38. Radiohead - Climbing Up the Walls (1997)

For edition #2 of my songs that relate to the feeling of Halloween in some way, I've chosen by far the creepiest song by my favorite band, Radiohead. One of the latter tracks on their magnificent album OK Computer, this song just has such a sense of dread that lasts throughout it's entire length. The lyrics about 15 blows to the back of your head, locking kids up safe, shutting eyes in the cupboard, and climbing up skulls are simply terrifying when set to the eerie strings and almost demonic sounding drumbeats. Then all of this is topped by one of the most dread-inspiring guitar solos around, which itself is topped by Thom Yorke's screaming at the end of the song that still gives me chills every time I hear it, even 12 years later.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

37. Throbbing Gristle - Hamburger Lady (1978)

With Halloween coming up, I thought that over the next 3 days I would post some songs that either remind me of Halloween, or in today's case just scare me to death. Throbbing Gristle have made a long career out of making frightening, industrial music such as this. However, this song about a burn victim (nice description of her, isn't it?) is quite possibly the most terrifying piece of music I've ever heard. With it's car engine revving, and the detached, chopped up vocals recounting the story of the woman's burning.....this is musical terror in it's purest form. Also, try to avoid watching videos accompanying this song.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

36. Madvillain - Accordion (2004)

- "Got more lyrics than the church got 'Ooh Lawds'"
- "Hey you, don't touch the mic like it's AIDS on it"
- "Get mo' cheese than Doritos, Cheetos or Fritos"

Mix these lines from one of my favorite lyrical rappers of all time (MF Doom) with a seemingly simple beat that never leaves your head from one of the best producers all time (Madlib), and you come up with something that's true and complete genius. Madvillainy as a whole is one of the greatest things I've ever heard, and the recent news that these two guys are working on a follow-up album is one of the most exciting things I've heard this year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

35. 2 Pac - California Love [Remix] (1996)

Possibly Tupac Shakur's most well known song (along with "How Do U Want It", of course), hearing this song earlier today reminded me of a time when the hip-hop world was in a completely different state. Rappers everywhere were at war with each other - including Pac and Dre themselves soon after this song - and your location actually meant a lot, not only as far as what "side" you represented, but also the style of music that you created. The East Coast was always more street-oriented (and in my opinion much better), and the West Side was more about girls and partying. Nowhere is this West Coast philosophy more evident than on this song, which extols the virtues of living in California....if you like to have a good time, of course. These days hip-hop is in a much different place, but hearing this song reminds me that the good old days aren't that far behind us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

34. The Clash - London Calling (1979)

This one is probably the greatest opening track to any album in the history of music. It sets the stage for the urgent feel of the rest of the album, and creates a sense of paranoia that can still be felt today....especially today, actually. This song is a call-to-arms for everyone, warning of a coming apocalypse fueled by the then-current fear of nuclear annihilation. The instrumentation fits Joe Strummer's vocals perfectly, with it's muscular bass line and the greatest punk guitar riff ever recorded. For the 3:20 seconds of this song, The Clash are the greatest band of all time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

33. Chromatics - Running Up That Hill (2007)

The original by Kate Bush was an eerie song that was sung in the typical over-the-top manner that Bush was known for throughout her career. While still remaining a good song, this cover by Chromatics off of their 2007 album Night Drive takes the eeriness of the original and adds a sense of melancholy and loneliness, as well. I feel like the updated electronics on this version do the song better justice, and make it all the more effective than the original from 1985 ever could have ever been. The lyrics are also amazing, but that credit definitely belongs to Kate Bush.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

32. Miles Davis - So What (1959)

Miles Davis was probably the coolest person to ever walk the face of the earth, and it's amazing that he was born just a couple of miles from where I live.....he's definitely the best thing to come out of my hometown. Anyway, this is most definitely my favorite jazz song on my favorite jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue. Miles' playing is so smooth and easy, and not only does this song feature the great Miles Davis, but it also has both Cannonball Adderley AND John Coltrane on saxophone. The lineup at this time might have been the greatest jazz group ever formed, and this record shows it clearly. This is one of the most influential pieces of music ever recorded by anyone period, regardless of genre.

Friday, October 23, 2009

31. Travis - Walking Down the Hill (2003)

As we wrap up Week 7 of our "Music Togetherness" project, it was interesting listening to Travis, a band which I hadn't heard anything from in quite a long time. While not being a great band by any means, they were able to craft a few very good songs, most of which were on their fourth album, 2003's 12 Memories. This song in particular was a standout, as it was fairly obvious that the band was strongly influenced by Radiohead in the writing of the song, with the glitchy drumbeat that propels the song forward. This song is, once again, very nice listening for a gloomy day.....which we seem to be having a lot of lately.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

30. Neon Indian - Should Have Taken Acid With You (2009)

The old 80's synth sounds that the band Neon Indian uses in their music may sound a little cheesy and may take quite a bit of getting used to, but once the sound sunk in for me I didn't want it to stop. At times sounding a little Daft Punk-ish, Neon Indian are part of a 2009 musical trend called glo-fi that features bands such as Washed Out and Ducktails which emphasizes sunny, 80's influenced electronic music. Although I'm usually one for darker sounds, this stuff is nice to listen to this time of year occasionally as it is almost like a brief glimpse of summer when the weather outside is anything but.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

29. The Velvet Underground - Sister Ray (1967)

This song is VU at their zenith. It has everything that the band did best.....the simple organ line, the driving and pounding drum beat, the wild screeching guitars, and Lou Reed's debauched, mad lyrics and vocals. This is also probably the shortest 17-minute song I've ever heard, as the drums just pound away giving you something to focus on while the organ, guitar and Lou just go to town. On the fairly strange (even in Velvet Underground terms) White Light/White Heat, this song makes up for all the only decently successful experiments on the rest of the album. Also, try to find a live version of this....the song never sounds the same on any recording, and it's great every time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

28. Bright Eyes - Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh (2000)

Bright Eyes is one of those bands that I can only take in small doses, for the most part. Conor Oberst's quavering voice can get a little annoying at times (especially in his younger days), and his lyrics were mostly like reading out of a teenager's diary. In some cases, however, everything came together and Oberst was able to make a truly great song. This song starts out just like any other Bright Eyes song, with just Conor's voice emoting away in front of a lone acoustic guitar....but then all of a sudden a steel guitar kicks in and everything is great. After another quiet close-up section, the steel guitar kicks in again, and his singing becomes more passionate. This song hints at Bright Eyes' album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning which was basically a full-fledged alt-country album, and easily Oberst's greatest album to date.

Monday, October 19, 2009

27. Nas - Represent (1994)

What do you get when you mix my favorite rapper with my favorite producer of all time? My favorite song on the greatest hip-hop album ever made. Nas' hunger is so apparent in every bar he spits, and every track on Illmatic just explodes from the speakers. The production on the entire album is top-notch, but it's the DJ Premier tracks that have stuck with me the most since I first listened to this album when my cousin let me borrow it 15 years ago. I had heard some hip-hop before (mostly the Beastie Boys and Run DMC), but I'd never heard anything like this in my entire life.....and I still haven't. The beat on this song especially is's so minimalistic and cold sounding, almost RZA'esque. It's the lyrics though, as always with Nas, that carried the day. It really was Nas' world in 1994.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

26. Sufjan Stevens - To Be Alone With You (2004)

The music on Sufjan Stevens' 2004 album Seven Swans is a much more quiet, introspective affair than his other releases. The instrumentation is more sparse, consisting typically just of an acoustic guitar, or banjo accompaniment. The songs are mostly based on religious themes, such as the transfiguration of Christ and Abraham. This song in particular, my favorite on the album, relates to the great sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Other parts could possibly be about the guilt that Judas felt for his betrayal of Jesus, or could also possibly be Sufjan admitting fault for sins he himself had committed, and expressing his gratefulness for Christ's death so that he could be saved. While not being a particularly religious person myself, this is still powerful stuff and Sufjan is able to portray his religious beliefs without sounding as if he's preaching to you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

25. Animal Collective - Brothersport (2009)

Ever since the beginning, each successive Animal Collective release has leaned a little more towards the pop world than the album before it. Finally with this years Merriweather Post Pavilion, the band fully went for it and the result was amazing. Injecting a deep bass groove and sharp electronics into each song, this album was a breath of fresh air to start this year after a fairly stale 2008. Each song on the album is it's own journey, and is the sound of the band changing from their old ways, while still remaining Animal Collective through and through. This song, the final track on the album, has a real summery, tropical groove, and might be the most like the previous albums by the band, with it's repetition and strange vocal noises.

Friday, October 16, 2009

24. Big Boi - Shine Blockas (2009)

When the Outkast/UGK collaboration "Int'l Players Anthem" was released around this time of the year in 2007, it quickly caused me to do some re-arranging on my best songs of the year list. Well, it looks like Big Boi has done it again in 2009. This song, which is quite similar to the track I just mentioned in regards to the old soul sample and life-affirming beat, has quickly become one of my favorites of the year, and is one of the only songs that I've heard all year that I just can't stop hitting repeat on. If Big Boi's new album Sir Lucious Leftfoot ever sees release, it could quite possibly be amazing with this song along with the great Andre 3k featuring "Royal Flush" that has already been leaked.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

23. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Nomadic Revery [All Around] (1999)

If you're ever in search of something to listen to that fits the mood on a cold and rainy day, look no further than the album I See A Darkness by Will Oldham, under his moniker Bonnie "Prince" Billy. This is some of the most spare, desolate music ever made, while at the same time creating a strange sort of warmth. Oldham has made a long career out of creating music such as this, but this album is the crown jewel of his collection. The part on this song in particular, where his singing gets louder, and more forceful gives me chills every single time I hear it. Strangely enough, this album also always makes me think of Christmas time.....maybe it's nice to add a little depression to what's typically such a happy season?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

22. Led Zeppelin - The Battle of Evermore (1971)

This is the real epic on Led Zeppelin IV. "Stairway to Heaven" may be good the first 100 times you hear it or so, but this song never gets old. It has everything that makes Led Zeppelin great, with it's lyrics about Dark Lords and it's minstrel-song feel, along with Robert Plant's typical impassioned vocals. Led Zeppelin may be one of the more over-hyped bands of all time, but sometimes the hype was deserved. This song is definitely one of those cases.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

21. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks (2009)

Grizzly Bear seem to come from another time period, but exactly which period that is can be hard to nail down. They're influenced by just about every time period, and it's amazing how well they're able to put all of those influences together to create something great. This song, which features Victoria Legrand (of yesterday's 'Song of the Day' band Beach House) in the chorus, is the pinnacle of those influences. With a piano sound straight out of the early 1900s, harmonizing out of the 60s, and a song structure that could only be modern, "Two Weeks" is one of the more beautiful songs I've ever heard. Only a few full-length albums into their career, this band just keeps getting better and better, and it's amazing to think of the music they might be making in a few years.

Monday, October 12, 2009

20. Beach House - Gila (2008)

Everything Beach House does is slow. From the dreamy, stretched out vocals of Victoria Legrand, to the languid, drugged out instrumental sections created by Alex Scally, the band is never in a hurry to get their point across. Every word Legrand sings, especially on this song with the word "Gila", seems to be about 10 syllables long and last about 10 seconds. This is some of the best cold, rainy day music there is, as the quiet and reflective songs just fit the mood perfectly. The band has released two albums thus far, and Legrand was featured on Grizzly Bear's great song "Two Weeks" from earlier this year, as well as featuring on another Grizzly Bear song for the New Moon soundtrack. Everything they've done is highly recommended.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

19. Gang Gang Dance - House Jam (2008)

At the start of their career, Gang Gang Dance made extremely difficult music. It was all a lot of art noise, which is all well and good, but sometimes you just need a beat or something to latch on to. With their last couple of albums, however, the band has done just what I hoped they would. They started to include more of a pop sensibility into their music while still remaining extremely artistic, and this song is the apex of that change. House Jam is where everything finally came together, and it sounds like a mix of sounds from the 80s with something that could only come from the present. You can find this song on their 2008 album Saint Dymphna, which is also very good.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

18. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa (2009)

The Very Best are a recently formed group consisting of Malawi-born singer Esau Mwamwaya and the production group known as Radioclit. Taking the African rhythms of Mwamwaya's homeland and mixing them with the heavy beats of Radioclit, The Very Best have created something fairly unique, while remaining true to the culture of African music. This song in particular, which features Ezra Koenig of the band Vampire Weekend, is one of the more upbeat, sunny indie-pop songs from a summer that was full of them. Vampire Weekend themselves delve into the African-influenced musical pool, so Koenig's vocal stylings are perfect for this sort of music. This song was the first single off of The Very Best's recently released Warm Heart of Africa album, which is also definitely worth checking out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

17. J Dilla - Time: The Donut of the Heart (2006)

This track off of Dilla's album Donuts always makes me sad. Released just a few days before the brilliant producer died of Lupus along with an incurable blood disease, the album was Jay's final major artistic statement and it was an incredible one at that. The beats he created have gone on to be widely used throughout the hip-hop community, and you can still hear his production on new songs even 3 years later. This song specifically just has a sort of nostalgic feel to it, while at the same time showing what a genius the man was. He is greatly missed by everyone interested in hip-hop as art, but his legacy will live on forever in those who choose to use his beats for something great.

The Roots also used this song as the basis of a song called "Can't Stop This", dedicated to J Dilla on their 2006 album Game Theory.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

16. Phoenix - If I Ever Feel Better (2000)

The first time I ever heard this song was on Erlend Oye's outstanding DJ Kicks album, which is probably my favorite mix album of the decade. It stood out among all the great songs on the record as the greatest, and led me to try and figure out more about the band that the song belonged to. As time has progressed, Phoenix has released better and better material, but no single song (in my opinion) has ever topped this one, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

15. Pavement - Rattled By The Rush (1995)

With the recent news that Pavement has reunited for at least four shows and are curating ATP next year, with the possibility of more festivals (Bonnaroo please?) as well, I felt like it was fitting to post a song by the band today. Clearly one of the most influential of all 90s indie rock bands, Pavement had a loose, sometimes silly sound that allowed them to have a basically flawless recording career. It's almost impossible for me to decide what my favorite song by the band is, but this one is definitely tied for first. It has the feel of a pop song, but of course Stephen Malkmus and the band added the weird flourishes that made Pavement so great.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

14. The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist (2000)

What do you get when you mix lines from old movies, a horse, old-western movie soundtracks, a parrot, dj-scratching, a choir of ghosts complete with orchestra, a mariachi band, and a hip-hop beat? The most amazing song off of one of the most strangely amazing records ever made. The Avalanches' 2000 album Since I Left You is an incredible album, comprised of seemingly a zillion samples, as disparate as John Cale and Raekwon with every genre of music known to man also thrown into the mix. It's like a mash-up of every great radio station from every time period into one 18-track album. Every track is great, but it's definitely the ghostly choir that does it for me on this song. Also, check out the music can literally see the song come to life, and it's wonderful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

13. The Flaming Lips - Silver Trembling Hands (2009)

The new Flaming Lips album Embryonic isn't so much a return to form as an almost complete change in the sound they've perfected for the past decade. Seemingly gone are the happy sounds that dominated the past few records, replaced by songs that sound as if they're being shouted up from some dark hole in the ground. While it may sound strange, it works better than just about anything I've heard all year, or in the past few years. The Lips have been one of the best bands going for several decades now, and it's amazing how they've re-invented themselves this late in the game. This song, one of the final tracks on the soon to be released double album, is currently my favorite, as the chorus breakdown is just incredible. As great as every song is, however, I'm sure my favorite will be changing almost daily.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

12. The National - City Middle (2005)

The National are possibly the most under-rated band in modern indie rock. Throughout their career they've made consistently great, elegant albums and their 2005 release Alligator was one of their best. This song, which is very slow and tense and features some recurring themes from earlier in the album, is a brilliant setup for the next track on the album, "Mr. November," which is one of the harder songs the band has ever written.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

11. Neutral Milk Hotel - Oh Comely (1998)

After yesterday's post describing The Decemberists' Colin Meloy as one of the greatest storytellers in contemporary music, I thought that it would be fitting to post a song for you today from what I consider to be THE greatest storyteller since Bob Dylan. Neutral Milk Hotel's second album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a concept album about the life and death of Anne Frank, who as everyone knows has been immortalized by the diary she left after dying in a German extermination camp. This album is one of the most beautiful, most imaginative things I've ever heard, and this song is THE epic. Recorded entirely in one take, it even amazed one of the band members at the time....listen for his exclamation at the end of the track.

Friday, October 2, 2009

10. The Decemberists - The Engine Driver (2005)

Colin Meloy is one of the greatest storytellers in contemporary music. The vast majority of Decemberist songs sound as if they were sung straight out of a novel written decades almost need a dictionary to understand some of the lyrics. This song breaks through all of the literary trappings though, and is all the more beautiful for it. Sitting right in the middle of the last non-prog Decemberists album Picaresque (also their best), it's also one of the more autobiographical songs in the Decemberists catalog. Instead of speaking about a peasant boy or some similar person as he so often does, Meloy seems to sing in the first-person, even describing himself as 'a writer of fictions'. Backed with accordion and glockenspiel, this is one of the best of all Decemberist songs.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

9. Radiohead - Videotape (2007)

As far as I'm concerned, the release of Radiohead's In Rainbows may be the last big release event of new music for an extremely long time. It already seems like ages ago that I would go to Vintage Vinyl to a midnight sale just waiting for a new album, what with the ease of obtaining music and the constant leakage of new music onto the internet. However, I'll never forget the night that I stayed up until 2AM just hoping to get the email saying that this album had been released for download, and then the idea of listening to it knowing that hundreds of thousands of others across the world were doing the exact same thing. This song itself is the perfect ending to this album. Like the album itself, just as you're waiting for the song to explode it almost wimpers to the finish. It's a perfect ending to one of the band's most elegantly perfect albums.