Friday, 6 February 2015

My 100 Favourite Song (50 - 41)

We're down to the top 50 so this is where it starts to get really good... though I already thought that it was really good so maybe I'm just being a bit redundant.
I thought I would take this time to share a few more artists that somehow didn't make the list, much to my surprise. I don't know how they got excluded, but for whatever reason there was no room on my list for one of their songs. And while I would love to incorporate them, I can't bring myself to nudge anything else off. Tricky situation. So this is an honourable mention area of sorts.
Franz Ferdinand are a band that I enjoy quite a lot and have a particular fondness for their first album. “Take Me Out” and “Matinee” are notable highlights, but for some reason didn't quite make my list. I did, for the longest time, consider fitting one in but again, I didn't feel like anything was expendable. They will just have to settle for this compromise.
Icelandic singer Bjork has an amazing discography and many songs that I enjoy thoroughly, but pinpointing a favourite track of her's proved to be quite difficult. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I recognized my favourite track of hers and this was well after I was already putting together these articles. Her duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke called “I've Seen It All” is a beautiful piece and I almost considered nudging something off to fit it in, but I just couldn't. Alas.
Then of course there are the Arena Rock legends Queen. No, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not my favourite song of theirs. I'm more of a “Seven Seas of Rhye” and “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” kinda guy, but they just didn't feel right for my list.
And lastly, I couldn't seem to fit in any songs by Belle and Sebastian, a great Scottish band who I've enjoyed for quite a few years. My favourite album of theirs is probably The Life Pursuit, but the song I find I can play over and over again is ten years older than that release from their debut album Tigermilk. "Electronic Renaissance" was the odd ball of that album, but is extremely compelling and a lot of fun. I still feel that I should make room for it on here somewhere, but I guess this will have to do.
Okay, back to the list...

50.) Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride (1968)
Ah, yes, sometimes the classics are classic for a reason and this hit song from rock band Steppenwolf is a great demonstration of the long, healthy life that good rock 'n roll can have. I was never that fond of their biggest hit “Born to Be Wild,” but “Magic Carpet Ride” is definitely a well deserved rock classic. Shall I say classic one more time? What you need to do when listening to this song is forget the over saturation this song has had in media. Forget every movie trailer and car commercial you've heard this in and just sit and listen to the song. And that's hard because music naturally triggers memories.
But it's a great song that's just fun and quotable, but not without a dramatic edge to it. And the blend of the organ and the guitar is very 1960's, but the really good, less hippie-esque music of the 60's. A big aspect of the song's charm comes from the long music solo near the end that just seems to take you on a meandering journey. It stays simple, but feels adventurous.
Like I need to sell you on “Magic Carpet Ride.” Seriously. You know the song and at this point you either like it or you don't. For me, I feel that it stands the test of time.

49.) U2 – Last Night On Earth (1997)
I remember the first time I heard this song. It was some time in 2002 when U2 released their Best of 1990 – 2000 compilation and DVD music video collection. “Last Night On Earth” was not a hit song of U2's but was included in the bonus songs section of the DVD because hey, why not? I hadn't heard their album Pop before because my dad never owned it as he, as well as quite a few other U2 fans, were not huge fans of the album. I was always curious to hear it despite the negative reviews, but didn't get the chance to hear any of the songs until that fateful evening. The music video played and the moment the chorus came on I sat up and said “What is this song?” or something to that effect. I was hooked at that very moment. “Last Night On Earth” blew me away. And I know that U2 themselves were never satisfied with the final product of this track, but it hits me every time I hear it so I don't know what they were hoping for from it. Maybe it had the potential in their minds to be the best rock song ever written?
This is the edgier harder rock sound of U2 that creeps up from time to time and that tends to be a side of them I really enjoy. Despite a lot of people overlooking the era, I really like the U2 of the 1990's. They were bold and adventurous, not letting expectations get in the way of them releasing albums. And while not everyone is happy with the work, I find Pop to be a grossly underrated album, beautiful in its imperfections. I was unsure at first, but my appreciation of the album grew and grew, but right from the start I knew that I loved “Last Night On Earth” and it would keep me coming back.
There will be another U2 song to come on this list. They are one of the bands that I had to have more than one song of.

48.) The Helio Sequence – Let It Fall Apart (2004)
I would definitely make the claim that the most overlooked album of 2004 was The Helio Sequence's Love and Distance. From start to finish it is an energetic and exciting collection of songs. It is an underrated masterpiece. Picking a favourite track wasn't too difficult though because, while I admire every song on that album and some are even much catchier than this track, this is one that has the most emotional draw. It's actually kind of impressive that a band that is so focused on interesting guitar effects and glitchy programmed rhythms, that they can still be affective song writers. There is a strong emotional core to the song and it all fits together once the chorus comes in. I just like the whole mood and feel of the song. It's accessible, but is unique in structure and style. I don't know what else to say about it really. It sounds great. It feels great. It makes me want to sing along to it. Every time the chorus plays I have to mouth the “whoa-oh” parts with a passionate look on my face. Can't be helped. I'm a slave to the music.

47.) Collective Soul – Run (1999)
Sometimes there is a song that escapes us, yet resonates in our heads, just waiting to be discovered again. This was a problem of the 90's. If a song played and you loved it and the DJ neglected to tell you what it was, there wasn't much you could do about it. Well, that was me and “Run” for a long time. It wasn't until years later when a friend of mine lent me a Collective Soul compilation that I found it again. There was literally a moment where it played and I exclaimed “This song!” and revelled in being reunited. And I think that the experience enhanced my enjoyment of this song to some degree. I guess I just came to appreciate it more as a result.
That being said, the song is amazing by its own merits also of course. I think it's an exceptionally well written rock song, with a great emotional edge to it. It successfully conveys a sense of yearning and searching. And I don't know about you, but I find that hook in the chorus is extremely compelling. There is something so genuine about the way the line “Have I got a long way to run?” is sung.
Their album Dosage, which “Run” comes from is a pretty solid pop rock album and Collective Soul have had a few pretty good songs over the years, but not much comes close to “Run”.

46.) Eels – Fresh Feeling (2001)
Eels are a great band and have made some pretty great albums over the years, but I think that one of their finest songs is one that isn't too typical for them. Most of their songs are more alternative rock, performed with the usual guitar, bass, and drums set up and that's fine. “Fresh Feeling” has a beautiful string arrangement leading the song. But the aspect of the song I enjoy the most might actually be the lyrics. They're wonderfully written, quotable, and undeniably romantic. In fact, the whole mood and vision of this song is unbelievable in how romantic it is. I wanna get married right here and right now just listening to it... but you know, can't do that by myself.
The swell of emotion that this song brings me shows just how affecting music can be. It stimulates memories of old crushes, creates stories in my head, and keeps my toe tapping the whole time. What a wonderful piece of music. It sweeps me off my feet. I have nothing but the utmost respect for E (Mark Everett)and the Eels band. To make a song with such relatively simple ideas into this beautiful masterpiece is something to be admired.

45.) Pet Shot Boys – Opportunities (1986)
After a whole lot of serious songs of reflection and longing, I think it's time for something a little different. So, let's go in the opposite direction and listen to a cheesy 80's tune about a couple of guys planning a heist of some sort. It's pure 80's camp, but it is marvellous.
I'm really not the biggest Pet Shop Boys fan, despite having a fleeting desire to be one (a fan, not a Pet Shop Boy). Just couldn't take the unfiltered corniness of their sound for the most part, but this track is just... too good. I even named a one act play I wrote after it and one day I hope to expand that into a feature film. One day...
But this song and its unusual tone were a source of inspiration for me. It balances a campy playfulness with a genuinely thrilling tone. Not just just anyone can mix those elements so well, in fact, I'm amazed anyone could. It's also something to be admired that they wrote a song on such an unusual subject matter. I mean, there are millions of love songs written, but how many about a mastermind planning some big heist? This is the only one I can think of, especially in the mainstream. Granted, it was the 80's and people were willing to take cheese in higher doses then. A song like this couldn't work today... or could it?

44.) Tom Vek – C-C (You Set The Fire In Me) (2005)
This one took me by surprise. It was one of the very last songs to make it into my list, but once it was in there, I knew I couldn't take it out. It suddenly became indispensable. Sometimes I don't know how much I love a song until I admitted to myself that I love it. And then I realize, yeah, I love it a lot. And hey, my iPod play count supports the claim.
While there isn't anything that obviously unusual about multi-instrumentalist Tom Vek's “C-C (You Set The Fire In Me),” in that it has a pretty typical structure and and tone, musically there are some really interesting things going. First thing to mention is that drum part. It is such a strange rhythm and it's one of those things that you'd notice if you were a drummer or a big music fan, but might not hear right away otherwise. Though it becomes a little more obvious during the drum solo in the last half of the song. The other thing that is strange in this song, but works really well, is Tom Vek's voice. He isn't a terrific singer, but he knows how to make it work. It's playful, earnest and truly his own. There is something so appealing about the way he sings “C-C” as the song fades out. He sounds so genuine.
Tom Vek is a talented guy and I think the album We Have Sound is a really overlooked treasure, but for sure he hit it out of the park with this song.

43.) Deltron 3030 – 3030 (2000)
Deltron 3030 are a hip-hop super group from the early 2000s containing rapper Del The Funky Homosapien (best known for rapping for Gorillaz in their big hit “Clint Eastwood”), Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator. They released a single self titled concept album telling the story of the world in the year 3030, and it was a huge success as far as underground rap groups are concerned, though it didn't gain too much mainstream attention. But critically it was praised for being innovative and for covering much more interesting subject matter than their peers. Social commentary through science fiction imagery was something not typical for the genre of hip-hop. As such, it gathered a following outside of the standard rap fan base.
The album is great, but by far and away the finest moment in the album is the song “3030,” the thunderous opening song that deserves the use of the word epic. In fact, I would dare make the bold statement that this is the best rap song ever composed. I'm not exaggerating. Just listen to it. Marvel at it. One of my complaints about hip-hop as a genre for the most part is that it seems to be lazy musically, with very little going on under the rapping. This is certainly not the case here with orchestral and choir compositions mixed in with glitchy synthesized loops and groovy base lines. And you know what, it's worth mentioning that Del himself sounds really cool. He's just got a voice made for hip-hop.
And now, over a decade later Deltron 3030 finally released their second album just over a year ago. It'll be hard to live up to the expectations that this album set and they would be hard pressed to make a song that's as good as “3030,” but hey, I'm willing to hear them try.

42.) Pink Floyd – The Trial (1979)
This was a very difficult decision to make and some might criticize me for my choice, but hear me out. The thing about Pink Floyd is that they're a band that makes stronger albums than they do specific songs. As an album I would have to say that Dark Side of the Moon is their masterpiece, but removing any song from it takes some of the impact out of them. Admittedly, I was very close to selecting “The Great Gig in the Sky” because it is marvellous. But what made “The Trial” so appealing to me for this list was that I feel that it is just as strong on its own as it is in The Wall. In fact, I don't even enjoy The Wall as much as some do. I often find the product as a whole a bit bloated and self indulgent, though I will not dispute that there are some amazing moments in it. I respect its vision and much of its execution, but there is just a bit too much in the final product. But whenever I hear it, it always seems worth the journey when “The Trial” comes on. It is the moment to boast about in The Wall and one of the finest moments in Pink Floyd's career.
It is the climax of the emotional story of a man losing his sanity, where a man's mind is being put on trial and his insecurities are the witnesses. They are portrayed through his old school master, his mother, and his ex-wife. But the finale of the song, when the judge is giving out his sentence is so intense it makes me really emotional every time I hear it. What this song successfully does it takes sounds that might be fun in other contexts and twists them so they are dark and hopeless. It is the music of madness, aided by Roger Waters' brilliant lyrics and quirky vocals which are extremely theatrical and add that dramatic credibility to the song.
It's interesting that my Pink Floyd pick is a song that's decidedly un-Pink Floydish, but it's hard to dispute that this is one of their most emotionally powerful pieces. The judge brings his hammer down and shouts “Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear, I sentence you to be exposed before your peers!” followed by the chanting of “tear down the wall” as the song fades out. It is a sound that doesn't leave you quickly.

41.) King Crimson – Starless (1974)
One of my two King Crimson picks is the legendary “Starless” from their highly influential album Red. To some this may be an obvious choice or a King Crimson fan, or a lover of progressive rock in general, but I actually almost didn't pick this one. My love for this song was one that blossomed slowly and it didn't sink it how brilliant it was until I was reviewing this album in my History of the Crimson King series.
“Starless” is a song in three movements. The first movement is the slow and dark lyrical portion lead by an eerie mellotron and John Wetton's passionate vocals. It's probably his best vocal performance of his career, but that's a somewhat uneducated statement. I just know he hits it out of the park here.
The second movement is dramatic build up, as it brings more and more tension between the three musicians. I don't know how they do it, but it just feels like it's swelling into something so big that it can't be contained. They essentially build up musical suspense, with the guitar notes climbing higher and higher and the drums smashing faster and more intense.
And then the third act explodes, breaking into a fast paced, jazz-like, free form musical conniption. While blasting a sonic assault at the listener, they also manage to tie it back to the original musical themes of the beginning of the song, giving it a sense of closure.
This song is a masterpiece and moves me every time I hear it, taking me on an incredible journey for 12 minutes. And after it plays, I often take the opportunity to listen to it again.
This live version shows an early version of the song, but all studio versions are pulled from Youtube regularly. But the album Red is amazing so you should just buy it. You won't regret it. 

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