Friday, August 28, 2009

Favorite Moments in Music: Final (10-1)

You may have noticed that after four days, the current series just sort of....stopped. The reason for this is simple - I didn't actually prepare for this. Nothing was pre-written. As usual, it worked out okay for the lower entries, but by the upper entries, everything sounded the same ('yeah, i like this song because it builds up and then crescendos'). I took a break to recharge, and plot a better list that the top ten deserves.

...and here....we......GO.

10. Oasis - Wonderwall
"I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now"

I seriously love this song. I know it's more than a little cheesy, and that it's 'not the band's best song' (though I'd argue it is). I'm well aware that Oasis' lead singer is kind of a jerk, and the the relationship this song was written about didn't exactly end well. Still, when Liam sings the above line, it warms my soul. It just has a certain authenticity in its feel, a certain rawness and honesty - no matter if they meant it or not, it certainly has a sentiment to it that goes beyond ordinary - which is probably why it's still their most popular song. Oasis has made 'better' songs, but they've never made a more real song.

Note: "Saviour of My Universe" by All Star United rips this song off hardcore. That could easily be why I enjoyed it so much when I first heard it years ago, and why I have such a hard time listening to it now that my mind has made the connection.

9. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Relative Ways
"It's okay… I'm a saint"

Conrad Keely has one of the more distinctive (and, of we're being honest, bad) voices in rock music. When he gets to the end of the second verse in "Relative Ways", though, he starts half-screaming "it's okay, i'm a saint - i forgave your mistake" with such abandon that it really doesn't matter that he's only in the vague area of most of the notes that he's attempting. Trail of Dead has tried to recapture the "epic-ness" of Source Tags and Codes (and I've enjoyed pretty much all of their albums), but in doing so, they've kind of missed the point. What was so gripping about Source Tags was its raw emotion, and I'm not sure that the level they show in this song could ever be replicated.

8. The Hold Steady - Slapped Actress
"Man, we make our own movies"

This one hit number one on my 2008 list (although at the time, I called it the "best way to close out a CD that I've ever heard", which, as you'll soon see isn't entirely acurate). There's just something about rock music that makes simple a "oh-OH!" chant sound absolutely epic. It's hard to imagine better driving music that the band rocking out, the backgound singers "oh-oh"ing and Craig Finn singing "man, we make our own movies".

7. Mr. Bungle - Goodbye Sober Day

Never accuse Mr. Bungle of making 'normal' music. 'Goodbye Sober Day' jumps back and forth between more genres (lounge, metal, rap-rock, bizzarely operatic rock, and even a section that sounds like elevator music) in just the one song than most bands experiment with in their careers. Undoubtably the most memorable portion of the song is the kecac section. It begins with a very creepy tribal sounding chant, punctuated by a single cry of "CHAAC!", which soon gives way to a rhythmic (and initially, sort of terrifying) chant. More than any other entry on the list, this has to be heard to be believed - mere words don't adaquately describe it.

6. The New Pornographers - Bleeding Heart Show
"The ending"

It's kind of strange that most people will forever associate this song (and specifically the part I'm talking about) with the commercials for a certain (somewhat dubious) "online university". The "Hey la" section takes up the entire last third of "Bleeding Heart Show", and while it's going, I could easily stand another full minute or two of it. Everything feels so alive - the drums, the guitars, the myriad of singers. When Neko Case starts singing "we have arrived too late to play the bleeding heart show" over the top of it, it gels into a musical experience that you don't want to end.

5. TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
"The first hook and the bridge"

This is the best song about werewolf sex (or... something like that...) ever made. I'm fairly confident in that supposition. The first time the hook plays hints at the energy the song is capable of, but the part right after the bridge is where it all lets loose. Guitars fuzzed out to the point where they barely even sound like guitars and an ultra-insistant drumbeat fuel an orgy of sound. The lyrical content veers between creepy and barely-sensical, but the beat has you singing along in no time. Whatever the song is actually about (and it well could be about horny werewolves), it hardly matters. The full moon is out, and it's time to get wild.

Really, just about any portion of this song would work just fine. The "howlin' forever" ending, the "mongrel mind", anything. It's just a fantastic song.

4. Radiohead - Lucky
"It's going to be a glorious day………I feel my luck could change"

I've never understood why 'Lucky' ng isn't considered to be one of Radiohead's best. Its sense of forboding, the guitar line in the chorus - just about everything about this song is perfect. In my opinion, Thom Yorke's finest moment is the entire second verse to this song. The way his voice soars - yet stays in complete control - when he sings "it's going to be a glorious day" is only matched by the resigned (but still almost defiant) way he sings "I feel my luck could change". Years later, it still makes my blood run cold.

3. Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not a Movie Or Maybe

I'm not a big Okkervil River fan (which is a nice way of saying that this song is basically the only song I listen to by them). This song, however, is just unbelieveable. The "life as a movie" metaphor is averted by the knowledge that the whole thing is not a movie. There's no particularly happy ending in sight, and when the narrator sees the object of his affection, there's no way of doing anything but watching - which he states in a sublimely awesome way. What follows is about as close as this band comes to rocking out.

Note: I've linked to the music video, because it's one of my favorites, and also because it accentuates the theme really well.

2. Arcade Fire - Intervention
"Who's gonna throw the very first stone?"

Full disclosure: I wasn't blown away by Funeral the first time I heard it (I've since done a fairly substantial 180 on my opinion.) For whatever reason, I watched SNL one night in early 2007 (something I generally try to actively avoid). The instant the organ blast opened this song, I took notice... by the time the second verse shifted the song into high gear (with accompanying organ blast, of course), I was frantically looking for my copy of Funeral - trying to figure out exactly what I missed the first time. I bought Neon Bible the day it came out. It turned out to be my favorite CD of 2007, and remains - along with Funeral - one of my favorite CDs. I probably would have come around on Arcade Fire either way, but more than any other, this song still represents discovering a favorite band.

1. Sigur Ros - Popplagið ('Untitled 8')
"The climax to end all climaxes"

Almost all of '( )' seemed like a buildup toward something. The slow pace (which it's been heavily criticized for), the dirges that didn't seem to make any progress on their own; after the catharsic blasts of Ágætis Byrjun, they couldn't really make a full CD without letting loose...... could they?

The short answer is 'no'. The long answer is the final * minutes of the final track on the CD (technically called 'Untitled 8', but generally refered to as 'Popplagið'). The song starts out similarly to all the other tracks on the CD, but around 6:30 in, symbal crashes and a to this point unseen sense of urgency creep in. The feeling simmers for a full three minutes......

Then it all breaks loose, finally exploding full force ten (!) minutes in, and somehow it keeps building and building... until just when you think it can't build any more, Jonsi's voice goes up and echoes across the track as the rest of the song explodes. It is truly the musical climax to end all climaxes.

So, there you have it. Sorry again for the delay, regular posting resumes... well... sometime. You know me.

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