On this day a decade ago, my 13-year-old self registered an account on a little-known website that I had been lurking at for a while and what felt like a goldmine after having built up an obsession with music charts since I was a kid who’d religiously watch the Top 40 countdown. I gave myself a terrible moniker that was a combination of my 2 then-favourite rock bands and immersed myself with the depths of the archives of chart history that the site had to offer. That website was of course charts.org.nz and had just updated its archives to include the entire history of single and album charts in my country of New Zealand until the year 1975 when the RIANZ took over the compilations of NZ’s music charts. It was also a pretty lonely site with not much on it besides said archives but lucky for me the site was also part of a portal to a bunch of chart sites for a whole load of different countries, one of which was for my neighbours and creator of the TV show Neighbours Australia. Over here there was more of a community brewing as well as a less ugly colour scheme that made it much more visually appealing, plus the entries for songs and albums had their review sections filtered to show all the other English-language reviews on the portal and I got to see first-hand all the opinions I sharply disagreed with and began writing away hostile reviews about how the things other people liked sucked or why the things other people hated were good with the occasional ad hominem remark and a fair share of caps lock and exclamation points thrown in there. Granted, I was 13 and still very much at the age where nuance is impossible but was also in the middle of a really difficult year in my own personal life too. My tastes were just starting to reject the dodgy rockism that I had indoctrinated myself in and was still dominant of my male friends and classmates and it was quite cathartic in a way to be able to vent on a website that nobody had ever heard of to nobody who knew me personally about all the opinions I still couldn’t admit to the people in my social group for fear of ridicule.
In the 10 years since then I’ve gotten a degree in music from a polytechnic which I graduated from a year ago, played in bands, performed in barbershop chorus competitions in Las Vegas, came out as both bisexual and gender non-binary and exposed myself to an ever-increasing range of music and people to play and share music with. For a while I spent very little time on this particular site but found myself drawn back into the group of folks who post on here 2 years ago when I discovered half of them had Twitter accounts. I had already made one for myself to look at political news and post occasional opinions to about 5 people who followed me, but reconnecting with so many of the people I had seen on here (and occasionally fought with) as an adult in my early 20s has been a really enriching experience and I now consider many of the online community of this site to be lifelong friends.
Earlier this year I tweeted an announcement which may or may not have been influenced by some form of inebriation that I was going to deliver a complete list of my Top 500 songs of all time this year and picked this milestone of an anniversary as the deadline to start writing the list by. I’ve always been inspired by the commitment so many on here have towards making lists be it from all-timers to end-of-years to the regular updating of weekly personal charts (the latter is astonishing to me because I barely feel like I listen enough new music in a year to make a personal chart of reasonable length) so I’ve been compelled to give a list of my own. It’s a large project of course but one I’ve wanted to challenge myself to in order to show my own growth in understanding of what makes great music exceptional. Reading reviewers I admire (some of which will be quoted in my entries at times) and applying my own analysis of music I hold in regard has been an important part of my own growth as a musician myself, and I often find reviews that take a very thorough look at the way melody, rhythm, harmony, structure, production and performance contribute to the merit of a piece of music to be helpful in setting my own goals within those areas of music-making. The longlist of songs went well beyond 500, but I’ve kept the list to this length because I feel like anymore would take forever to complete, and any smaller number wouldn’t feel complete enough.
So ladies, gentlemen and non-binary folk, here it is: the 500 songs that I, Ben Evans from Wellington, New Zealand, 23 years of age, consider to be my personal top-rated of all time. In the future I may plan to do an albums list in a year or so that includes the great records whose tracks are not featured here because there’s still so much music not included simply because I haven’t yet gotten around to it, and I feel guilty for excluding at times, but this is what it is for now. Hope you enjoy.
In addition to it having been ten years since I first logged onto this site, it’s recently passed ten years since the incident that sparked the global debate on whether or not this song in fact had one of the best videos of all time. I mean it is a pretty good video, certainly a memorable one, but the real star of the show will always be the song’s hyperkinetic energy. Most of the best Beyoncė singles from before she made her official transition into an Album Artist in 2013 were defined by their physicality and “Single Ladies” is no exception. Every sound within it is designed to evoke movement within the listener from the fast-paced handclaps to the syncopated kick drum rhythm and those weird loops that sound like clockwork toys unwinding. There’s also the sparing use of snare which only comes in on the 8th beat and creates a lot of rhythmic suspension also helped by the synth swooshes and bass notes, also deployed sparingly in the verses so when they appear you notice them. It’s a rare case of a pop-R&B hit in the late 00s with remarkable, unusual production, arriving at a time when Timbaland had ran out of interesting ideas and pop as a whole was turning to much more homogenous synth sounds.
There’s also Beyoncé’s hooks of course, of which the song couldn’t have been a hit without. From the call-and-response of the opening that gains a new harmony with every repeat to the iconic chorus whose underlying synth chords later on take it into a different chord progression than what would normally be used and the wa-oh-ohs of the post-chorus (love telephone_junkie’s review on RYM that says “every one of those "whoa-oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh"s is like watching something you dislike being zapped out of existence forever”). Much like the beat, they’re also delivered to invoke as much kinetic movement as possible, and I can totally sympathise with those who’d find it annoying (It’s a song where it’s basically impossible to sit still when listening to it). If there’s one part of the song I find a wee bit flawed, it’s the bit at the end of the bridge where Beyoncé jumps back into the call-and-response hook from the opening a little too early where she could have waited just one more bar and released the tension from her backing harmonies a bit more naturally. Otherwise, the song remains a bop that’s graced us with some of the weirdest sounds to grace the upper ranks of the pop charts to this day.
499. Green Day - Basket Case
One of the best examples of Billie Joe Armstrong’s talent for making excellent melodies combined with the band’s ability to combine them with an energetic attack to match the tension and release in those melodies. Chugging through the Pachelbel's Canon-ite chord progression asking if we have the time to listen to him whine, he’s joined by a pulsing hi-hat and Mike Dirnt’s harmony for the chorus “sometimes I give myself the creeps, sometimes my mind plays tricks on me, it all keeps adding up” and then Tré Cool unleashes one of the wildest drum fills ever on “I think I’m cracking up!” and suddenly the whole band is in motion. Everytime that moment in the chorus arrives it creates an amazing accelerating rush (an article about this song’s recording from Sound On Sound remarked that Tré’s drums on this track were especially hard to record in time) but it’s not the only treat we get here. As the song continues we get Billie Joe’s bisexual frustrations (“I went to a whore, he said my life’s a bore, so quit my ‘cause it’s bringing her down”) a punchy riff the band lock on after the second chorus and more awesome drum moments from Tré (love the build-up-and-halt in “grasping to control… so I better hold on”). Songs like these make me wish I was even close to being a decent drummer in real life. Done well enough for myself on the guitar though.
498. The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin’ Beats
It may seem weird to those who would define the genre more strictly, but this song won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1998 (and therefore being one of the few songs to ever win that award that anyone’s ever heard of). But one of the main thrills of listening to this song and the big beat genre it epitomises is its very undeniably rock energy in there from the bassline and highly active drum beat that does, in fact, rock the block. Even the lead synth lines in the wail like sirens in the choruses have a guitar-like aggression to them and could find a way to be replicated by Tom Morello sooner or later. There’s also a hip-hop-equse vibe to the beats as well which is reflected in the main hook which is a sample of rapper Schooly D from his song “Gucci Again”. And those screams which aren’t so much genre indicators but add to the song’s already impressive amount of super-loud high-energy hooks. My favourite moment is from 3:00 - 3:08 where the drums play a chaotic fill that’d be too hard to play organically with the frantic snare and cymbal before dropping out for the main hook to declare itself again over a swelling synth about to enter another round of block rockin’.
497. Aly & AJ - Potential Breakup Song
One of the best and most underrated pop singles of the late 2000s. I’m still surprised that this was actually released by a then-Disney Channel-based artist because it’s so far ahead of all other pop music produced by the network’s acts at the time and has only become less of a guilty pleasure and more of a legit bop since. The synth production here is fantastic with the retro analog-circuit-sounding bass line that’s aged better than any other synth tone on the radio at the time, and the blippy runs in the treble range and in a alien-sounding vibrato line buried in the utterly fire choruses to colour things in. There’s some surprisingly energised drum fills in the song’s transitions suggesting the player had also studied a bit of Tré Cool before and some neat additions of guitar from the weirdly ska-influenced rhythm to the echoing chord stabs dropped in-between lines in the choruses perfectly and the pop-punkish solo in the bridge.
Although there’s a bit of the typical late 00s Auto-Tune effects in the verses that don’t really need to be there and it basically the only thing that dates it. The rest of this song is full of really good and creative singing that utilises the interplay between the 2 singers brilliantly. From the pre-chorus where Aly oscillates around a minor triad on “the-type-of-guy-who-doesn’t-see-what-he-has-until-he-leaves” followed by AJ interjecting “Don’t let me goooo!” afterwards and the choruses which I’ve already mentioned are fire and they are fucking fire: those runs at the end of “You’re not living ‘til you’re living! Living with meeeee-eeeeee” are thrilling. There’s also the playful taunting over the solo (“you can try, you can try, you know I know it’d be a lie”) and the cheeky shout-out in the bridge (“this is the potential break-up song our album needs just one”) and the “la la la la la la”’s that open and close the song. A potential breakup song, but a definite banger.
496. Madonna - Don’t Tell Me
One of the highlights of post-80s Madonna, with a production job that merges the acoustic and synthetic worlds brilliantly. I love how the opening guitar figure is both cut up to sound like a skipping CD but also forms a great rhythm and groove in its own right when matched up with the electronic drum beat which also makes some stuttering snare rolls throughout the track. The synths alternate between vocoded lines are woozy swells in the lower end. But my favourite part has to be the strings that sound like they’re from the score of an old movie where the camera pans across an open field with a clear blue sky. They really take the song outside and make a perfect accompaniment for Madonna’s vocal and melody which is one of her more relaxed, from those hums in the opening verse to the second chorus where she sings a-capella for a moment before those strings return to the mix carrying a real sense of peacefulness. Last edited:
OMG I totally forgot you were doing this! Looking forward to seeing how this will pan out. How often do you plan to post, btw? Hopefully I can make some great discoveries because I think I'm going to update my BOAT next year as well.
I'll endeavour to listen to each song and post my thoughts!
Single Ladies: I DID NOT notice that snare drum on the 8th beat! I couldn't resist waiting out for it throughout the rest of the song. That's cool. I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of this song, although my dislike of it 10 years ago stemmed from a negative reaction to its ubiquity and constant praise, which I did not understand. I still find the accompaniment a bit too sparse for my satisfaction but I did enjoy it enough in that last listen just then. At least, it's good enough that it won't kick me off the dancefloor (which is a criteria that not many songs pass, to be honest!).
Basket Case: Definitely enjoyed it more as it got going. The vocal melodies are definitely quite appealing.
Block Rockin’ Beats: And now I realise that Nicky Romero - Toulouse samples this. It's all coming together now! Admittedly, I haven't spent any time getting to know The Chemical Brothers but I hope this was a good introduction of them for me.
Potential Breakup Song: A very respectable offering. Those verses remind me of another song, though. I can't quite remember and it's going to frustrate me for a while.
Don't Tell Me: WAIT,IT'S THIS SONG?! ...At least, I'm fairly confident I've heard this before. Thanks to Logo, it's been fascinating tracking Madonna and Mariah's "transformations" with each era and I've been really impressed with how confidently they've triumphed each new musical style. This song, unmistakably late 1990s/early 2000s, is no exception yet it still feels authentically Madonna.
Thanks for the replies! I’m trying to post 5 entries every day or 2 in hope that this doesn’t take forever to complete. Hopefully my commitments to work/course/band/holidays don’t get too much. Always trying to write on the go, should have my next 5 tonight Last edited:
Perhaps the most well-known Deftones song and the highlight of their 2000 album White Pony, “Change” stands out as one of the most sinister rock hits of its day. The quietly-burning guitar, the eerie ambient notes from turntablist Frank Delgado and Chino Moreno’s menacingly breathy vocal set a disquieting atmosphere from the opening verse. The chorus hits and the guitars burst into thick walls of distortion and the melodic bend of “I watched a chaaaaaange in you!” establishing a truly ominous-yet-cathartic mood. The whipsery vocal of the verses take us into sadism in the second verse (“I pulled off your wings, then I laughed”) and receiving his retribution in the final verse (“give you the gu, blow me way”) almost perishing completely in the latter line. Those sensual sighs added into the later choruses are truly something else too. Best moment in the song, however, is just after the second chorus ends and all the distorted guitars drop out and the ambient echoes return like a disturbing yet unclear incident has happened in a horror film.
494. Pearl Jam - Alive
One of the big radio staples from Ten, and rightly so. With a great riff that slides between a chunky chord and a hummable melody, a neat little counterpart in the bass, lyrics that tackle all of the safest, least controversial topics of missing parents implied incest and trauma a chorus hook that finds some solace in still being, well, alive. What makes this just that more special of course is Eddie Vedder’s performance who sings the line in the second verse “I can’t remember anything to this very day, except the look… the look” like he’s still recovering from the shock and how that leads into entering the next chorus more emphatically with “now I can’t see I just stare”. Then in the thrilling coda he adds some wordless ad libs that builds the momentum while Dave Krusen ramps up the drums and Mike McCready plays one of the most iconic guitar solos of the 90s that’s just one awesome lick after another. Who knew a song with this subject matter could be so life-affirming musically?
493. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Otherside
I find it a bit difficult to enjoy Red Hot Chili Peppers these days. It’s partly a result of them being a sacred cow amongst the kind of every-dude white-male rock crowds I’ve spent much of my life socialising in and have endured hearing almost all their hits played to death around me for years (exactly how U2 get so much flak for being a dinosaur band with an annoying frontman and not the Chili Peppers is beyond me). “Otherside” however is the biggest exception to the rule, and an impressive example of pop-rock songcraft. It starts off rather unassumingly with just a simple guitar-bass counterpoint playing single notes over a 4-chord progression but in there lies a lot of room for the song to later grow into. Anthony Kiedis’ gives one of his best choruses (dig the way he wavers on “separate my sii-ii-ii-ii-ide) ending on an unfinished “slit my throat it’s all I ever-“ which creates anticipation for later development. That later development comes in the form of this song’s secret weapon - Fruciante’s backing vocals. They first enter the third verse doing long cries over Kiedis’ words but take gaps when he finishes them. They return to the final verse climaxing after the bridge holding notes constantly and combined with Fruciante’s continued high-pitched guitar line brought out of the brief solo, there’s also a great moment where is follows Kiedis on a harmony during “don’t believe it’s baaad”. It’s a great way of both sustaining interest but also depthening the mood.
The verses are also great. Flea and Frusciante’s have another sparse counterpoint for the verses and Kiedis delivers the finest lyrics I’ve heard from him, digging up the loss of his late friends (“I heard your voice through a photograph, I dug it up and brought up the past”) and painting his struggle with addiction in surreal images (“a cemetery where I marry the sea, and stranger things have never changed my mind”). Another noteworthy part mid-way through the second verse where the drums continue for a bit on their own, which also deepens and adds weight to the mood of the song. Their best song from their best album.
492. Madonna - Open Your Heart
The second part of the opening 1-2 punch of True Blue, bursting open with snare hits and a goofy yet charming kung-fu from Madonna herself. A bright, chiming keyboard riff announces itself backed by funk guitars and some punctuated synth brass. One of Madonna’s most rhythmically energised hits further helped by the gated synth bass keeping at a 16th note pace in the verses that’s balanced by some well-toned chord voicings in the upper ranges. There’s also some wonderfully crisp reverberated chord strikes that are placed perfectly in the verses as heard first at 0:42. The guitar then follows Madonna on a funk rhythm through the pre-chorus to the chorus which pinnacles with a glorious “open your heart to me-ee-ee, darling” and she’s joined again by the synth horns doing little chords and quick-runs. And then it’s back to that keyboard riff again.
Madonna’s performance is noteworthy for more than that hook, however. She begins with the lower range she starts exploring with this album and sings with a little dejection “See you on the street and you walk on by, you make me wanna hang my head down and cry” and gives a hint of sexual lust unrequited with “if you gave me half the chance you’d see my desire burning inside of me… but you choose to look the other way”. And then how she feels empowered and flirtatious with “don’t try to run I can keep up with you”. Oh and that lock/key innuendo in the chorus? Excellent. Her ad-libs in the outro are also a delight, with repeated kung-fu vocalising to everything from brief squeals to smooth humming. One of the highlights of arguably her best album.
This also has what is easily my favourite music video of hers.
491. Television - See No Evil
The opening track of Television’s 1977 post-punk classic Marquee Moon. An album that defined the genre and has defined the use of “interlocking guitars” for some people. And indeed the interplay between Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine is incredible, including here. The clash of 2 riffs - one stop-shart chord, one cyclic, self harmonising lick - over a driving rhythm section sets the stage for Verlaine’s vocals, another star of the show. He kind of gives the vibe of a geeky Mick Jagger with how he has the same snarl but with a more eccentric personality. He declares his wants to fly fountains and jump mountains in the first verse and claims “I understand all destructive urges” with the backing vocals repeating “I see no” with him and concluding with the lead guitar playing an arpeggio and the rhythm still doing its chords. Then the drums and bass stopping for all vocals to declare “I see no.... EVIIIIIIIIIL!”. As the pitch scoops up Verlaine’s guitar has started a wicked descending line. God that’s great, as is the fucking awesome guitar solo that some very knotty arpeggios some great melody lines and great for an air-guitar. And that outro, man, where they repeat the final hook of the chorus on repeat in the outro where the descending guitar line is playing with it and Verlaine “I’m runnin’ wild with the one I love, I’m runnin’ crazy with the one I love” over the top of it all, getting much darker shortly afterwards. An excellent track of one of the essential albums for understanding development of alternative rock music. Last edited:
There’s a weird irony for The Police’s catalogue for me that their worst album, Synchronicity, contains for me their best individual songs. One of them of course The Obvious One although it missed the cut for this list, another is this lesser-known follow-up single written during Sting’s first marital separation. This one gives a reflective, night-sky gazing mood from the start with a piano and Sting’s bass rocking back and forth between 2 chords a tone apart accompanied by some timekeeping xylophone and some ambient synth textures. Sting delivers one of his best melodies that captures the vibe of its musical backing perfectly, opening with the lyric “There’s a little black spot on the sun today, it’s the same old thing as yesterday” (and yes despite mentioning the sun I stand by the assertion that this is a great night-time song) followed in later verses by more bleak nature images from a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall to a butterfly trapped in a spiders web. Those later verses are joined by wistful backing vocals responding to every line with “that’s my soul up there” that’s melancholic but also creates a warm sense of processing personal pain through a sense of connection to the outside world.
Another great contribution to the song is Andy Summers’ guitar. In the verses he copies Sting’s melody in a upper-range riff in his signature crispy tone and gives an unexpectedly active chug to the chords in the chorus that push the rhythmic drive without disrupting the mood. One favourite moment in the song is after playing a solo of the verse melody after the bridge he quietens down to some gentle chord voicings in the same rhythm of the chorus while some pretty and melancholic piano lines fill in the mix like stars at night-time. Sting segues into his final verse ending with another magic moment where he repeats his opening line from the first verse with no accompaniment besides the moody ambient synths from the intro. A very calming, colourful tune great for personal contemplation.
489. Paramore - Part II
Even though Paramore were commercially lumped in with the 2000s pop-punk/emo scene, they often displayed a taste for the post-punk in their interplaying guitar work. This track from their 2013 self-titled masterpiece - named so as it is a sequel to Riot! album cut “Let The Flames Begin” but is such a drastically improved sequel that it feels like the other song never existed - brings those influences to the forefront by beginning with some icy guitar arpeggios and a lead line so perfectly Joy Division-esque Bernard Sumner is probably up at night wishing he came up with it. Echoes of their earlier song appear in William’s lyrics from the opening line “what a shame we all remain such fragile broken things” (as opposed to “became such fragile broken things”) and repeated somber refrains of “oh glory” in the calm-before-the-storm pre-chorus. This one however boats a stronger production from those guitar sounds to the tasteful use of synths in the background and an explosive chorus with a momentous melody and a fantastic lyric in “dancing all alone to the sound of an enemy’s song” to boot . Ilhan Rubin - the session drummer for the album due to Zack Farro’s departure from the band at the time - gives a tight post-punk beat for the verses before exploding in those choruses and delivers some powerful fills in the bridge while fragments Williams’ chorus vocals play over like echoes, leading into the outro. Williams sings “like the moon we borrow a light, I am nothing but a shadow in the night” over a synth pad glowing like a full moon, and her slightly sharp pitching on “If you ask me I will catch fire” leaves an oddly powerful bitterness to end the song on.
488. Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness
The musical equivalent to being tossed in one of those slingshot rides. You’re sent up in the air with the mammoth opening hook “IF YOU’RE LISTENING WA-OH-OH-OH-OH” before plummeting back down when the band crashes in with their distorted guitars. You’re swung back up again for the follow up “SING IT BACK WA-OH-OH-OH-OH” with Jim Adkins bringing a briskly strummed Fsus2 chord into the mix and back down it goes again. Adkins’s vocal hooks start overlapping with each other and the snare rhythm becomes increasingly prominent and as ear-grabbing as the vocals. It’s already more infectious than 90% of most bands’ best choruses and it’s only the first verse, and the song’s hooks just keep delivering after that. I love how in the bridge after a round of “ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh” lines they add in a pulsing piano track in there just for that moment, and how Adkins lyrics have words as energised as his melodies: “String from your tether unwinds”; “I was spinning free”; “what a dizzy dance”; and indeed I am doing and feeling all of those things every time I’m listening to this everytime I put this song on. Simple and absolutely collossial at the same time, and one of the thrilling rides in pop-punk.
487. Liz Phair - Fuck And Run
You might think a song with this kind of title would be a fierce riot-grrrl anthem in the vein of Bikini Kill or even early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but this highlight of Phairs 1993 debut Exile In Guyville is instead grounded in a steady groove of crips, clean-toned guitar chords. It’s a simple backing for Phair’s lyrics to take the stage, lamenting the singer’s struggle to find a genuine relationship in her adult life:
Whatever happened to a boyfriend The kind of guy who tries to win your over? and Whatever happened to a boyfriend The kind of guy who makes love ‘cause he’s in it? I want a boyfriend I want a boyfriend I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodasI
She sings “boyfriend” in a shy mutter as if feeling a sense of embarrassment at the admission of wanting one. And note the cuteness of that last line and the ringing chords that enter for that line in particular which add a perfect touch of longing to it. And listen to how the repetition of “whatever happened to a boyfriend” along with the “I didn’t think this would happen again” line from just before the quoted passage become memorable hooks without ever sounding like they’re trying to be and her turn towards desperation in the bridge with “I can feel it in my bones that I’m gonna spend my whole life alone”. That line leads into the infamous hook “It’s fuck and run, even when I was 17, fuck and run even when I was 12”, yet as disturbing as that line initially sounds, the context around it becomes more about her cognitive understanding of power dynamics than lived experience (Phair herself has clarified this).
486. D’Angelo & The Vanguard - The Charade
A highlight of D’Angelo’s long-awaited 2014 comeback album Black Messiah. “The Charade” emerges out of a lush mix of guitar noodles and keyboard chords with a steady backbeat provided by Questlove and vocals that out as hazy murmurs but progress to a sweet melody backed with the guitars forming a subtle but colourful chord pattern around it. The drum beat gets augmented by a reversed effect leading into a handclap, and an excellent bass line enters the mix 40 seconds in which establishes a light, breezy vibe for the song, though it’s still unclear what D’Angelo’s lyrics are. As one could imagine for a song with its title, masked behind the instrumental are some remarkably bleak lyrics about the state of system racism facing black Americans to this day: “Degradation so that you can’t hear the sound of our cries, all the dreamers have gone to the side of the road which we will lay on” for just a teaser. The song starts to sound darker in both the chords and melody for the chorus as the lyrics get more direct about how the reality of police shootings has exposed the perception of modern day racial equality as an illusion:
All we wanted was a chance to talk ‘Stead we only got outlined in chalk Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked Revealing at the end of the day… the charade
And yet despite the lyrical bleakness, the song turns towards empowerment and hope for emancipation in the bridge: “with the veil of our eyes we’ll truly see, and we’ll march on, and it really won’t take us long, and it really won’t take us very loooooooooong”. Questlove’s drums build tension with the band in the second half of that line until being released on that final line and the vocals scoop upwards into wavering falsetto. A dark song but not a despairing one, with the courage to still find hope that things will get better one day.
It was nice to read that little back story there to see how your taste in music and approach to life has changed over the last decade or so. I have to say that I'm probably in the same boat, and it is great to look at music and art from a fresh perspective as you evolve through time.
I'm really keen to see how the rest of this list plays out, but I'm loving the very detailed descriptions already!
The signature song and biggest radio staple of the favourite band of at least 20% of the heterosexual men I know in my life, this one stomps around in a swinging groove and an awesome riff with those little extensions to it that you first hear at 0:56 and 1:07 and those neat harmonics too. There’s the awesome melody which invokes a mood of suspicion and has some remarkably cool sounding falsetto. There’s Dave Grohl’s thrilling drum rolls through the choruses (“And I re… al… ise… you’re… mine!”) which end on a kick-ass chord thrashing; a little riff fest for the bridge and a kick-ass solo section with the guitars and drums soloing together and even some fills on the bass. So it’s got all the hallmarks of a great hard rock song, but there are some cooler minor details that make it a little extra special: the backing vocals both in the harmonies and those whispered overdubs throughout the whole track, they add a slight taste of sinister to the track that really comes alive on headphones. The addition of a backing string section behind the soloing build-up. That section leads up to a breakdown to just a grunting bass and Josh Homme begins a final verse with “heaven smiles above me” in a subtly menacing way, but sounds remarkably anxious on the closing like “gift that you give to me… no one knows”.
484. Justin Timberlake - Let the Groove Get In
The most successfully realised track of Timberlake’s 2013 comeback album The 20/20 Experience. Where most of the extended-length songs of that album are structured on having a conventional 4-5 minute pop song with an extended coda added at the end to take it to 7 or 8, “Let the Groove Get In” is focused on being a properly transportative piece of music making a journey from Part A to Part B through its rhythmic development. Building upon a repeated vocal chant with a melodic motif played on a guitar and horn section and a syncopated drum beat from Timbaland that synchs well with the vocal but leaves an ambiguity on where the starting beat of the bar is. Things build until 1:22 in when a minor breakdown happens and a foreshadowing hook “(let the… grooooooove get you!”) after another verse-chorus build there’s a great pre-chorus with a great melody and some great backing harmonies, synth loops and horn lines. That part is linked by some vocal harmonies to another breakdown with the low-sounding piano-chord groove giving more hints. By 3:54 the groove has built until it leaves its vocal chant behind and switches to a new percussion rhythm with a new 1 beat. Once it breakdown after that part, the piano groove emerges again and starts to build itself with gleaming synth chords and the transformation is complete at 5:31 where Timberlake unveils some irresistible hooks of “all night loooooong” that make for one of the finest outros to a pop song this decade.
483. R.E.M - Catapult
One of the most playful cuts of R.E.M.’s incredible 1983 debut Murmur, “Catapult” opens with a sturdy bass riff from Mike Mills and begins its verses with a classically confusing mantra of “ooooooh we were little boys, ooooooh we were little girls” with a little guitar riff following the bass. Then there’s MIchael Stipe declaring “It’s 9 o’clock don’t try to turn me off” afterwards and in the next verse “your mother remembers”; the build-up in the repetition of “Did we miss anything?” in the pre-chorus and the fantastic play of syllables as they sing the song’s title in the chorus: “Cat-a-PULT!” sings Stipe before Mills’ reply of “Caaaaaaa-ta-pult!”. Peter Buck plays some great guitar lines throughout all that, playing a riff of joyous release for the chorus. There’s a great rush in the bridge with Stipe’s “March could be darker” and the cyclic guitar arpeggios matched by 16th note hi-hats from Bill Berry. What does it all mean? I still haven’t figured it out, but I still wonder if I’ve missed anything.
482. Daft Punk - Get Lucky
The big hit song from 2013 that felt for a while that it had united the world. “Sound of the summer” they called and it has maintained the honorable title ever since. It’s hard not to see why - from a long-awaited comeback album from 2 of electronic music’s biggest icons, grandfathering themselves in the music pantheon by collaborating with other artists who achieved the same. In this song’s case it was with none other than Nile Rodgers giving his brilliant rhythm guitar work. I love his little flourishes before settling in the groove in the first 20 seconds and how he makes a simple 4-chord progression sound irresistible with his rhythmic scratch - individual fragments in each chord are scattered out so clearly as if they were planned to be at those specific moments in a way that’s mind-blowing yet so deceptively simple. The pocket groove of the bass is great too and I like how the drums maintain an ever-so-slight retaining of the clubby beats of Homework if you listen closely. And there’s the vocal from Pharrell Willaims, although a bit held back by a slightly lazy second verse, he still sings one of the best melody lines of the decade with “weee’ve come to faaaaar to give uuuuuup who we aaaare” and in the chorus somehow makes its core lyric about getting laid - “we’re up all night to get lucky” - into a communal mantra. I love the rhythmic build up in the electric piano at 3:18 during the transition into the bridge where Daft Punk bring back their trademark vocoders to the forefront in the classic Discovery sound and Rodgers’ guitar starts chugging tighter making higher chord voicings. And I love that closing synth line in the outro - it’s like watching the sunset on a long day of celebrating. The time they played this at the Grammy awards in 2014 alongside Stevie Wonder and hard the entire room singing and dancing together remains one of my favourite televised music performances ever.
481. Radiohead - Reckoner
One of the highpoints of Radiohead’s In Rainbows (warning: this list will contain a lot of Radiohead, I know, you’re shocked). With a spacious drum beat with syncopated touches of cymbal and reverberated clacks on the snare rim that feel like drops of rain splashing in a rainforest (and the shaker percussion being all the other raindrops in the distance), Thom Yorke plays a simple rhythmic chord pattern - note the way the top note occasional bends ever-so-slightly upward on the D chord - and delivers one of his truest and most direct melodies in his prettiest falsetto. He adds some great harmonies later on in the verse which fully blossom in the middle eight breakdown where he sings “because we separate like ripples on a blank shore” and a surrounding chorus of backing vocals sing the title of the album alongside the addition of strings to a haunting effect. The song returns to its main theme afterwards with an utterly breathtaking moment at 3:32 when the strings re-enter the song and Yorke sings “taaaaake me wiiiiith yooooou” in one of his most beautiful and longing moments of recorded singing ever. For all the talk of Radiohead’s weird or experimental leanings, the truth remains that they can also write super simple songs that are just as exceptional. Awfully kind of Thom Yorke to dedicate it to all human beings.
- ooh Single Ladies #500. Must admit I really didn't like it at the time but do find it a lot of fun when it comes on nowadays. - that Chemical Brothers song is good. Although not a favourite. - Don't Tell Me is a surprise! It's not a favourite of mine but I do also like the sound like a skipping CD + electronic drum beat too. - Otherside would be one of my favourites from Red Hot Chili Peppers so I'm glad it's one of your favourites too. - Open Your Heart is another unexpected Madonna choice but I like it a lot too, more than Don't Tell Me haha. - Get Lucky <3 <3 <3 I remember strongly the feeling of excitement when it first came out and when it became a #1. Love so much about it I imagine it would feature highly in a greatest of all time list of mine and an end of decade also
Opener of the band’s 1969 landmark of the same name, a joyous, celebratory groove punctured by group singing of the title and lingering wordless vocals following them (“Stand! -eeeeeeeee”) and empowering and hopeful lyrics for both personal struggles (“In the end you’ll still be you, one that’s done all the things you set out to do/There’s a cross for you to beat, things to go through if you’re going anywhere”) and the socio-political struggles that can be defeated (“For the things you know are right, it’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight”). These lines are married to a sturdy melody line leading through many effective chord changes and are joined by colours of background horns, electric pianos and distorted guitar riffing at the ends of the phrases. There’s the massive build-ups in the chorus chants of “Staaaand!... Staaaaand! STAAAAAAAAAAND!” joined by the drums, handclaps and some powerful vocal wails from Sly Stone. In the third and final chorus, however, things unexpectedly switch course to a totally new groove that even Emperor Kuzko could get down too, with a funky riff brought in from the guitar and bass, joined later by an organ. The vocals continue their chants with a new hook in “Stand! - na na na na na na na na na na!” followed by the trumpet filling in the gaps with some high-pitched accents. Abrupt transitions are a risky move in my book, but when they’re executed this well the effect is glorious. Suddenly all the radical optimism of the late 60s in spite of all the chaotic events unfolding at the time can be felt in an instant.
479. Pixies - Tame
One of the most intense and frightening rockers on Doolittle, this song employs a clever trick of using a 3-bar measure cadence. The way the chord progression returns to the first chord quicker than expected results in some increased tension that makes for an intense 1 minute and 55 seconds of this song. Frank Black whispering “got hips like Cinderella” over anxious picking of the bass from Kim Deal makes for an ominous mood ready to explode as Black’s whisper turns into a scream of “TAAAAAAAAAAAME!” and the guitars crash in with Joey Santiago’s one thrashing dissonant noise in the left channel. Note the way the hi-hat in the second verse alternates between 16th notes for the first bar of every measure to 8th notes in the other 2, until playing all 16th notes in the final measure before the chorus. Then there’s Frank breathing to the rhythm of the bass in a panicked wheeze joined by Kim Deal, turning it into sounding like a dead-sounding which turns into an alarm sound of sorts in the final exploding chorus topped by Frank’s screaming turned utterly maniacal and terrifying. Tame? Anything but.
478. R.E.M. - Harborcoat
Bursting open R.E.M.’s sophomore album Reckoning with a snare roll and a robust chord progression from Peter Buck who turns to the verses to make some smart chord rhythms interwoven with Michael Stipe’s ambiguous lines of “they crowded up to Lenin with the noses worn off” and “there’s a splinter in your eye and it reads ‘react’” among others (also dig the guitar figure Buck plays after each verse, one of my favourites from his). Bill Berry’s drums never let up their pace from that opening snare roll Stipe and Mill’s vocals overlay each other in the choruses so well they feel like two streams of water occasionally meeting and parting ways. The bridge picks up the pace with Buck’s guitar making some frenetic 16th note picking of guitar harmonics to compete with the pace of Berry’s drum alongside the addition of a harmonica to the mix for tonal colouring. There’s also the way Stipe’s phrasing becomes more playful through each succeeding verse from the spelling out of “react” in the third verse and the delivery of “then we ditched the books with the middle cuh-uh-ut out” and his descending “oooh-ooh-ohh” before each of those glorious choruses.
There’s a great clip of the band performing this song in their early years that I love. Michael Stipe making David Byrne-inspired moves in a sharp blazer with bleached blonde hair, keeping all his eccentric vocal mannerisms from the album recording intact. And there’s Peter Buck’s restless movement while playing all his guitar noodling (That twirl he does 18 seconds in!). As great an example of the kind of unique energy they had in the mid-80s as anything. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sehg7gEbgyU
477. Kanye West - Family Business
One of the best examples of the warmth and sweetness that runs throughout much of West’s 2004 debut The College Dropout. Not actually about Kanye’s family but instead of that of Terry Torae who sings the chorus here - and a wonderful chorus that is, helped by the “all that glitters is not gold” lines cut out of different samples and the wonderful gospel harmonies from the same family members discussed in the song. The song also conveys the vibe of being around your extended family for a special occasion by having a piano track that sounds like the old, slightly out-of-tune upright piano you’d play on at your elder’s house (well my elders had one like that), as well as the lyrics which recall memories of having to share a bed between 6 and mentions of favourite dishes (monkey bread) and digging out the photobooks. Most poignant however is the first verse dealing with having family members separated from you due to incarceration, and even the loss of those who have passed away in lines like “this is family business, and this is for the family that can’t be with us” and “as kids we used to laugh, who knew that life would move this fast? Who knew I had to look at you through a glass?” alongside the admission of wanting to cry in “somebody please say grace so I can save face and have a reason to cover my face”. The emotional sincerity of it all makes it such an incredibly comforting song, one I always get a teary smile when listening to and where moments that could feel cheesy like the “rain rain rain go away” interpolation for the bridge still sound beautiful.
476. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Halloween
It’s very fitting that I come across this entry on the list in the same month the occasion it’s named after takes place (Siouxsie and the Banshees are one of the best bands for halloween, along with The B-52’s). A dark post-punk rocker of the 1981 album Juju featuring a razor-sharp riff from guitarist Don McGeoch and a Joy Division-esque bass counterpoint, Peter Eric “Budgie” Clark plays an agile drum beat taken to new heights at 1:55 with some utterly frenetic tom-tom rolls. Siouxsie Sioux gives a captivating performance with urgent hooks of “trick or treat, trick or treat, the bitter and the sweet” with Budgie’s snare punching in-between the gaps and; singing “I wear my silence like a mask ad murmur like a ghooooooooooost” and the word “Halloween” as if she has been possessed and the rather grim delivery of “I wonder through your sadness”. Best of all though are the haunting “oooooooooooooh”’s whose building intensity is also matched by the band’s performance, from the tom-tom rolls mentioned earlier to the end of the song where the guitar and bass parts become so overloaded it turns chaotic. Gothic and totally badass. Last edited:
Love No One Knows and Stand! #476 is one I always have trouble remembering the tune but I think I like this one too. Hmm will check out Family Business, I really like The College Dropout and over time have warmed to this album far more. It's probably my favourite album from him aside from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (although admittedly, I haven't listened to his last four albums in their entirety - Yeezus, The Life of Pablo, Ye and whatever the new new one is called - is it out yet?).
Never felt the Daft Punk track unfortunately, and couldn't understand its popularity at the time (not rueful of it, just I normally like this sound - I think it was its ubiquity at the time).
Also yay for lots of Radiohead, although I don't know this track, I will know it shortly.
Deftones - Oooh this really is an eerie rock track. I mostly like it aside from the "creepy voice" sections. That detracts it a little for me.
I always had high regard for Alive but Logo recently ignited a lot of actual enjoyment when I listen to it.
Otherside - OH IT'S THIS SONG. It only peaked at #31? Wow, this sure gets heaps of radio airplay despite its chart performance. This is definitely one of their better ones, though, as it benefits from not being too over the top imo
Madonna - oh this is nice and groovy, and also solid and consistent without going for too much. I haven't heard it much before, although I do recognise the introduction being used in a Nekci Menij episode
See No Evil - Hmmm, this one didn't do much for me
The Police - Oh damn I really need to check out their discography. This is extremely impressive! I really like the mellow vibe and that marimba adds a nice touch. And I love how it continues to build without losing that initial mood. All round fantastic
Paramore - Another fantastic effort. They haven't really done much wrong, I wish I gave them more attention.
Jimmy Eat World - Another band that I've heard plenty about but don't actually know very well. This is decent, although I didn't find it particularly remarkable. I'm sure they'll have plenty that I'll really like.
Liz Phair - I do like the clean guitar work here and her vocals are also very pleasing, but lyrically this isn't for me.
D'Angelo - The stuff of his I have heard I've actually really been impressed by, and this is no exception. I need to get around to this album because there's definitely stuff in there that would make an updated EOY. *Adds this to 2014 EOY Spotify Playlist*
Oh definitely get Black Messiah, it's probably the second best album of 2014 that I've heard behind 1989. D'Angelo is admittedly one of my less-listened-to-in-private artsts here because neo-soul and his music was huge at the polytechnic I got my degree in (except "Untitled (How Does It Feel?) which I've always loved to play a lot). I'm still slowly discovering it in a way.
I wrote something but then I forgot to Ctrl-C my text and then I lost it when my account timed out
So from what I vaguely remember:
QOTSA - I'm pretty sure I haven't heard this before Good groove but there's nothing else in it for me.
JT - Oh this is cool, but it sounded really messy and chaotic at first - a case where the production is a little OTT and there's too many things happening. Was definitely enjoying it by the end, though.
Daft Punk - Nice.
Radiohead - I ashamedly haven't filled out probably my biggest blindspot in Radiohead, but if your countdown is going to help then I'm all for it! *Adds this to 2007 EOY Spotify Playlist*
My favourite kind of Roxy Music songs are the glam-stompers that pile-drive a massive groove throughout, such as my 2 favourite songs of their 1973 album For Your Pleasure. One we will meet later in the list, the other is this. Beginning with a sturdy chord progression from the electric piano chord progression followed by a charging snare and the whole band slamming along to it. Bryan Ferry gives a vocal so glamtastic you can basically hear his image. He playfully makes the one acceptable use of the phrase “boys will be boys” ever made with “boys will be boys will be boy-yoy-yoys” and some seriously smart wordplay:
They say love's a gamble, hard to win, easy lose And while sun shines you'd better make hay So if life is your table and fate is the wheel Then let the chips fall where they may In modern times, the modern way
His ends on a “way-ee-ay-ee-ay-ee” that leads into the complete madness of the solo section. Starting with a wild saxophone solo from Andy Mackay leading into an even wilder synth played by the one and only Brian Eno that screams and screeches all kind of frequencies but is absolutely thrilling to listen to. My favourite part is how Eno ends it on a final high screech and guitarist Phil Manzanera getting a squeal of feedback at the same pitch to complete the trade over.
Going into its next set of verses with more charging snare, Bryan Ferry returns to the spotlight to give an utterly fabulous “wooo” at 2:29 and then saying “this crazy music drives you insane, this way” leading into another brief solo from the organ that doesn’t overstay its welcome. And then Bryan Ferry does a brilliantly mocking affect of “love me, leave me, do what you will” and follows the remaining verses with some helpful yet bizarre advice, whilst sounding badass the whole time:
Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Learn from your mistakes is my only advice And staying cool is still the main rule
Don’t play yourself for a fool Too much cheesecake too soon Old money’s better than you No mention in the latest Tribune And don’t let this happen to youuu-uu-uu
The band charges into a suspenseful chord whilst sax and guitar play their final lead lines before finishing on the root chord. After the song ends it feels like a whole night of wild dancing has transpired, and it is often the case for me when I listen to this song.
474. Radiohead - Just
The first Radiohead song I fell in love with. In a way that will no doubt make me a pariah to some fans, it was the song that grabbed my attention in the TV commercials for their greatest hits in 2008 when I was all about loud guitars bro. Seeing the video on YouTube later made my commit to growing my hair long and imitating Jonny Greenwood’s untamed guitar moves from his headshakes to his arm-snaps. And indeed “Just” was practically the best introduction to him as a rock guitarist from the moment tremolo-picked line rises upwards like a chainsaw (Fun Fact: the intervals in that guitar riff make up the Diminished Scale in C, very important for when you may solo over diminished chords which in my degree was a lot). The writing process of the song was described by the band as “a competition between Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood about how many chords they could fit into a song” which resulted in a lot of chords (C, Eb, D, F, Am, Ab, Bb, G, Gb, E, Dbm in order of first appearance) but also lots of awesome moments of guitar playing: The stop-start opening chords; clean fills in-between Yorke’s phrases in the verses; those picked notes in the chorus chord progression; the wobbling chords from Ed O’Brien in the second verse; Greenwood’s solo in the bridge which switches from being aggression to a clean harmony with Yorke in a return to the soft chord progression leading into those roaring descending chords afterwards (It’s like those moments in comedy-action movies when 2 people are having a violent fight in a building but stay calm and collected for a few minutes when they both enter the elevator but go back to attacking each other). It’s also noteworthy how Yorke’s vocals in those choruses get increasingly snarly on the world “seeeeelf” by the final chorus adding a hiss at the beginning and adding a wild shriek at 2:57. He starts belting the word higher as Greenwood’s riff climbs higher and higher beyond the fretboard with the use of a Whammy pedal, ending on a gloriously high-pitched squeal of a final note, held for an almost implausibly long time. And just when you’d think he’s run out of ideas, he and the boys bring the song out to a concluding solo that’s a twisted mix of harsh bends (on an album called The Bends, no less. A damn awesome song to this day.
473. LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous!
Kickstarting LCD’s 2007 classic Sound of Silver with a dance groove for the ages. That beat made up of little electronic circuits and a gated synth pulse slowly emerging in the mix revealing a riff similar to that of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” and a repeated keyboard chord hitting every 2nd beat following shortly afterward. The groove gets taken to a higher being joined by a live drum kit and suddenly there’s so much forward movement in the song it feels like I could embark on an endless walk with it still playing in my ears and I wouldn’t get tired of it (seriously, this song is great for long walks). 2 minutes and 10 seconds in, we’re finally treated to the verses where James Murphy sings murky lines in low harmonies like they’ve been transmitted from a weird dream (“away in the half life” indeed). Yet they gain some clarity for a moment when the keyboard changes to the IV chord and he sings “when once you have believed it, now you see it sucking you in!” as you continue to get more immersed in the still-building groove thanks to Murphy’s drums (love the hi-hat at 3:38, and his kinetic snare riffs). After Murphy’s second verse ends Nancy Whang repeats a playful hook of “you can normalise, don’t it make you feel alive?” in a robotic chant before dropping the song’s title which leads into the sweeping build-up of the outro. A chugging electric guitar enters the mix while the synth bass begins bubbling up again yet as it continues it frequencies shift into the treble-region, eventually abandoning the bass altogether and sounding like ray-gun effects. As they fade we discover what the weird unease underneath all that was - ominous, dissonant strings! A banger and a half.
472. Kraftwerk - Europe Endless
The opening of Kraftwerk’s 1977 landmark Trans Europe Express. A nine minute journey into a new, optimistic day in a futuristic city in musical form. All the component synthesisers are used so colourfully and tunefully that the long length feels like an afterthought. Starting with an incredibly pretty line of echoing staccato notes that tinker like LED’s and even have charming moments when the echoing goes a bit off key but doesn’t dissonante. 40 seconds later we are given a like swell in the bass region and 1:10 in to some choir synth though still obviously synthetic still sound appealing, and will become more warm sounding later on as chords change. The glorious melody of the lead synth finally makes its presence known at 1:42 and it is a glorious melody, so incredibly happy like its a past self having their best day of summer, and with a timbre that feels like it was being bowed yet still obviously an old synthesiser. Ralf Hütter starts singing the title and is echoed by robotic voices repeating the word “endless” afterwards, and then repeat the full title after every line in later verses. He makes observations of “parks, hotels and palaces”, “promenades and avenues” and “real life and postcard use”, declares that “life is timeless” and seeing beyond the materialistic world to see simply “decadence and elegance” all while sounding human in timbre but machine-like in delivery. The song also changes its keys as it goes on, from G to F# (or Gb depending on your preference) and B. The tinkering echoes from the beginning continue to spark as ever and the choir synths make lush chords and the lead synth continues it’s sky-gazing pieces of melody lines, some blue-skied, some night-skied. A great start to my favourite Krafterk album (I’ve heard Autobahn and The Man-Machine but not the others), makes me want to have an eventual long-distance rail trip someday.
471. System of a Down - Chop Suey!
Man I used to love these guys in my early adolescence, and I mean early adolescence like before I ever registered on here. They initially seemed a bit silly to me, and the absurdly brash and un-subtle vocals of official New Zealand resident (and guy who’s appeared in the photos with a few friends of mine on Facebook, also a Green party member) Serj Tankian and the chaotic thrashing of the band was a bit amusing at first but also oddly intriguing and eventually compelling. I don’t revisit them often but their albums are still fun to listen to on the off, and this - their signature song - probably remains the definitive summary of their strengths as a band.
Beginning with unusually sombre acoustic guitars strumming a minor-keyed chord progression, it’s joined by crispy electric guitar from Daron Malankian and later a tom-rolling drum beat and slowly-rising electric mandolins, building a perfect amount of tension of relentless metal riffing combining the low-slung tunings of nü-etal with the rhythm of trash. The chords oscillate rapidly back-and-forth between semitones to make it feel almost atonal, yet stuck to a conventional-enough chord progression at the same time. And of course we get Tankian’s iconic verses of screaming a morning routine in unusual phrasing: “WAKE UP! GRABABRUSHANDPUTALITTLE MAKE-UP!” with added details like the whisper repeating “hidethescartofadeawaytheshakeup” and call backs of “YOU WANTED TO!” from the other band members. Then suddenly it goes back to the sombre chord progression and instruments of the opening for its chorus he is joined by Malankian for a surprisingly compelling melody despite the bombastic word-choices, switching back to the chaos in the verses on “I cry when angels deserve to DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEE!!!”. Even better is after the second chorus Tankian sings the last word softly on a paused chord but the band then start to thrash even wilder than before (note how Malankian is no longer muting his guitar) and then the 2 vocalists both make anguished cries of “FAAAAATHERRRRRR!”. This all leads into the wonderfully high-drama final chorus where the chord progression is being blasted by loud electric chords and Tankian begs said father “why have you forsaken me” emphasising those last words melodically until a glorious fourth and final one (“FOR-SAAAY-KEEEEN! MEEEEEE-OH!”). They sing the chorus main mantras blaring out those slow chords with stadium-level bomast while being joined by strings, the acoustic guitars, mandolins and a piano that adds an extra sense of gothic pathos to the song’s mood. It’s a rare moment of high melodrama in rock pulled off to be a bit charmingly ridiculous but also remaining artistically tasteful at the same time. Last edited:
470. Sly & The Family Stone - I Wanna Take You Higher
Another highlight of “Stand!” and an awesome funk-soul jam with hooks for days. Opening with the massive riff from the guitar and bass, re-entering after every chorus and ending with those chants of “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” each time. Listen to how the verses see each non-Sly vocalist sing a line each of the lead melody in their own unique vocalising (Freddie: “feeling’s getting stroooonger!” Larry: “music’s letting longer toooo-oo-hoooo” Rose: ”music is flashing meeeee!”) then Sly builds into those huge harmonised “HIIIIIIGHER”s in the chorus, and how dirty the fuzz distortion on that bass sounds in the choruses as it continues its vamp from the verses. To say nothing of the “boom laka-laka-laka”s that bridge the chorus to the main riff, or the awesome-as-expected horn riffs organ and guitar chording, (the countering note during the verses also noteworthy). There’s also one of the most awesome uses of harmonica I’ve ever heard on this track, howling over the top of the main riff and getting its own wicked solo from 1:38 to 1:56. For the last third of the song it becomes an all-out jam of solos from the guitar and trumpet and vocals repeating the “boom laka-laka-laka” and “HIIIIIIGHER” hooks from the chorus and keeping the momentum continue.
469. Dionne Warwick - Walk On By
Few songs articulate the pain of seeing one’s ex in public post-breakup as elegantly as this. Over a very andante minor-key piano progression and muted guitar accents, Wariwick sings “If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry each time me meet, walk on by” leading to a trumpet line played in a rather unusual staccato instead of holding the notes for longer, and a subtle addition of a vibraphone in the backing chords for that part. The contrast to how the music invokes a sense of composure while the lyrics are unable to even muster a brave face is a very moving one. In the next verse she briefly sings “foolish pride!” with a flash of confidence only to undermine it immediately afterwards with “that’s all that I have left so let me hide the tears and the sadness you gave me when you said goodbye” drawing the last syllable effortlessly into the simultaneously pretty and weirdly doomy piano arpeggios of the chorus and the staccato backing vocals (“Don’t!... Stop!”) underpinning her as she sings the title. There’s also some wonderful string arrangements here, notably the poignant melody line they play in the bridge after the release of the vocals continuing the final “byyyyy” of the second chorus, and the beautiful way they’re quietened down after that moment to allow the song to comfortably return to the initial “walk on by” hook of the verses. I’m not yet familiar with many Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs as of now (kudos to The White Stripes for introducing me to “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”) but the quality of songwriting here definitely demonstrates why they remain some of the most beloved songwriters of the 60s.
468. The Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand
The one that knocked the door down on the Hot 100 in 1964 and led the charge for the British Invasion to follow. The melodic sophistication and compositional smarts were all there from the revving-up of the opening chords. Listen to the little counterpoint in the middle of the verse chord progression between the little chromatic figure from the low end and the higher-pitched guitar twang that follows it, and the tension in the final B chord while Lennon and McCartney’s harmonies fly up on the word “haaaaand”, preparing us for the chorus’ delightful fluttering of “I wanna hold your ha-aa-aa-aa-a-a-and”. Listen to Harrison’s delicate arpeggios during the bridges (“and when I touch you I feel happy inside”) and how the band return to the revv-up from the opening repeating “I can’t hide! I can’t hide! I can’t hiiiiiiiiiide”. One confused Bob Dylan heard that moment and thought they were saying “I get high!” only to meet them for the first time and discover none of them had done any drugs (yet) (he said of this track “They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies just made it all valid”). Oh and the way the final chorus sees them falling back on the B chord from the verses to deliver the penultimate “haaaaaand” before the big triplet hits for the finale. I’m admittedly not that much of a Beatles expert on the whole and am yet to digest the entirety of their discography. But I think the quality of landmark singles like this one show that although some find the fact that so many books still name The Beatles as “the greatest or most significant or most influential” rock band ever as evidence of how far rock music is from becoming a serious art (well at least one infamous Itallian critic does), they really were pretty damn important in the evolution of pop music in the 20th century on the whole.
467. Elton John - Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
An 11 minute-9 second long opening to 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. An unexpectedly proggy rocker from the man who may be considered more a part of pop than rock today. Out of some misty, windy noises to indicate a chilly night comes a synthesiser imitating a churn organ playing at a funeral ceremony, with treble-range chords coming later that sound like they’re imitating trumpets though their similar in timbre to the faux-organ. It dies down to a slow, softly played piano figure with some guitar swells and picks up with the drums and arpeggiated synthesisers (you can hear Muse taking notes at this point to use these more often). The guitar continues to play a dramatic but poignant melody for a solo before another breakdown (Davey Johnstone, the guitarist for this album, is all over the show on this track). John starts a new fast-paced piano riff, and the band starts charging along with him, and synths that feel like a light flashing through the sky (you can hear Muse take more notes here), and even some nice use of clicking percussion! The melody raises its tension to the E chord and slows down for more guitar noodling (you can even hear Metallica take notes by this point). That stops again for a small bit and then the fast piano is back at it again playing an ascending chord progression and then a really cool and complex riff from Johnstone’s guitar joins it along with the drums. Now at halfway we make it to the “Love Lies Bleeding” side of the song, and it’s a more conventional glam-rock song but got a great tune and awesome riff from both the piano and guitar. Elton John delivers some witty lines like “I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan, but my guitar couldn’t hold you so I split the band!” and some great backing vocals. There’s another breakdown to just the piano riff in the new major-keyed chord progression being joined with some damn beautiful twinkles of echoing synths that sound like birds, and the guitar solo immediately after it. And I also love the wordless vocals in the outro from the “waaaooooooooh”s to the falsetto’d “oooh-ooh”s with the band rocking into the distance at the end. I still haven’t completed my driving lessons, but I tell you this would be awesome as hell to play on a road trip.
466. Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness
I still haven’t dipped into the actual albums of the Manics that much, but I’ve taken note of individual songs, this early single from 1992 being the pick of the bunch so far. It’s got one of the most robustly tuneful guitar lines in 90s rock that keeps climbing higher and benting those key notes beautifully. There’s the sunny chord progression from the rhythm section (important fact: even really common chord progressions can be truly great and even exceptional depending on the way it’s played). The melody sounds effortless yet achieves the seemingly impossible task of working around word combinations of “under neon loneliness, motorcycle emptiness” and that’s not even getting to the verses! A poetic polemic of capitalism’s oppressive nature in a way that plays like a more detailed version of the iconic Bittersweet Symphony lyric “you’re a slave to money then you die”, it starts with “Culture sucks down words, itemise loathing and feed yourself smiles” which could have sounded so “we live in a society” if it weren’t for the sweetness and flexibility of that melody. I love the verse-chorus transition where James Dean Bradfield sings “life sole cheaply forever” repeating the “ever” into the evening sky, and the bridge’s change into more contrasting chords and another great melody in “all we want from you is the kicks you’ve given us” joined by plucked strings and pianos. A song with some of the most uplifting musical surroundings for some of the bleakest lyrics: “drive away and it’s the same, everywhere death row everyone’s a victim”.
I was a bit late for this one because I had a pretty busy weekend but I am gonna get back into the habit of dropping them more regularly. Hope y'all had a good weekend Last edited:
Oh wow some real bangers here - although they're kinda the opposite of bangers due to being supremely sad but I love them all the same! Love a little Roxy Music, grew up on their first two albums (my mum had a mad crush on Bryan Ferry which I found ... jarring, but nonetheless, the music is good. LOVE Just! Walk On By is a right jam - and lovely to see some Dionne Warwick in the list. It's amazing seeing her breadth of hits both in terms of time and style. An underrated hit-maker in my eyes for sure. I Want To Hold Your Hand is just a jam. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is probably my favourite Elton John album (I've listened to about exactly half of them thus far and it's my favourite - well either this one of Captain Fantastic...) and Motorcycle Emptiness is one I've only discovered recently and it's such a good track.
Like an idiot, I had never actually listened to Rumours until this year despite the constant exposure of the big singles and the obvious melodic excellence on display in those songs. This opener, however was also just as captivating with its galloping acoustic guitar strum underpinning its building rhythmic drive matched by the way the drums become subtly more prominent throughout the track. Another acoustic guitar colours in the chords with chiming higher-pitched voicings and Lindsey Buckingham sings an absolutely ace melody, joined by a harmony from Stevie Nicks for a rhythmically hooky line in “when times go bad, when times get rough, won’t you let me in on the tall grass and let me do my stuff”. This leads into the addictively catchy “bam bam bam” hook of the chorus. The song’s crescendo builds in the second chorus with the addition of an electric guitar ringing over the top of the band and the fantastic outro climax of “I’m just second hand news I’m just second hand newwwwwws yeeeah!” with ascending backing vocals and being topped off by a soaring electric guitar solo. A fantastic opener to a fantastic album.
464. Tiki Taane - Tangaroa
Although I am a New Zealander, I’ll admit I’ve been fairly slack at listening to much music made by artists from my own country. This year however I started to buck the habit a bit and give a lot of well-known NZ albums that I’ve slept on their final due. One of them was Tiki Taane’s Past, Present and Future and although it is most well-known for the acoustic-guitar driven NZ megahit “Always on My Mind”, the album is home to a load tracks in different styles with this one being perhaps the most unique. A haka performed by Taane’s father accompanied by forboeding electronic sounds from an eerie vocal sample to the trickling echoed synths. The haka for “Tangaroa” is about the Māori god of the sea, one of the children of the parents of the earth Ranginui (the sky) and Papatūānuku (the earth) and gives the commands of “Tu mai te ihi, Tu mai te wehiwehi, Tu mai te wanawana e” ordering us to stand and be amazed, trembled and frightened before his forces. I love the way the percussion and bass build throughout the track in a way that gives the feeling of something moving closer towards us, the and the glitchy synths that arrive midway through the song that sound like the cries of native birds. It all invokes an atmosphere of being there before Tangaroa himself and immersed in the nature surrounding you.
463. Kraftwerk - The Robots
The opener to their 1978 album The Man-Machine and perhaps the definitive example of the Kraftwerk aesthetic. An intro that sounds like electric signals being transmitted to the robots to turn them on, and a bubbling synth line setting the groove for the song immediately afterwards. Kraftwerk’s skill for perfectly-composed countermelodies is also intact with the staccato line that starts 45 seconds in, and the synthesised vocals here are the most, well, robotic they have ever sounded, and somehow turn the “we are the robots” hook into something effortlessly catchy (like how the line gets lower in the second half of each chorus). The bridges see them revert to the signal-sounds of the opening and to their native language of German for “ja tvol sluga, ja tvol rabotnik” (“I’m your servant, I’m your worker”) but perhaps the definitive lyric is the second verse’s “we’re functioning automatic, and we are dancing mechanic” both a cool rhyme and also what the song succeeds at - being both consciously mechanical yet undeniably danceable. The song continues its bubbling synth groove and sparse beat for 6 minutes, and yet it feels like it continue over the horizon forever if it wanted to.
462. Aphex Twin - To Cure a Walking Child
“My, feet, my, arms, and, my, ears, and, your, feet” repeats the single line in this highlight of 1996’s Richard D. James - the gentlemen behind the Aphex Twin moniker’s name, y’see. Each word it cut from a sample of Jame’s own voice and pitched to sound like a child and sequenced in a slightly jumpy way. It sets the mood for the track which both has a sense of childlike wonder in its melodic components and is but is also a journey into some truly bizarre sonic territory of which Aphex Twin was an unparalleled creator of at the time. The drums stutter and twitch everywhere and makes all sorts of bizarre timbres, being both unbelievably detailed and complex but still incredibly ear-catching and memorable (listen to how wild they get from 2:09-2:40 and how warped the vocal line sounds afterwards). And yet the melody lines from the vocal line and the surrounding synthesizers are all remarkably pretty and colourful and invoke the sense of discovering what magical sounds can be made on all the digital technology that was arriving in the 90s. I particularly love the shimmering line first heard at 1:08 and the lead melody line that forms at 1:22 until the percussion solo at 2:09.
461. Nirvana - Come As You Are
This one probably doesn’t need much explanation as it’s the second single of the game-changing milestone album Nevermind. But it bears one of my favourite guitar sounds in Nirvana’s discography in the murky underwater-sounding guitar riff. Cobain gives a poignant melody adding a longing to lines like “as a friend as an old memory” and the repeats of that last line that follow (also worth noticing Dave Grohl’s drum rolls in-between those repeats). I love how the guitars maintain their underwatery tone even as they go into overdrive in the latter half of the song, especially during the rendition of the verse melody in the guitar solo. I also love the distant echo of the harmony line for “and no I doooon’t have a gun” appearing at the end of the chorus as Cobain sings his final “memory”. As great a second most well known song of a classic album as any.
The third track Elvis Costello’s 1978 classic This Year’s Model and as good a display of Costello’s lyrical wit and the instrumental talents of The Attractions as any of that album. Bruce Thomas plays some neat bass lines through the guitar chord progressions and Steve Nieve adds whislty keyboard lines over the top of them while Costello references the opening line of “Summer Holiday” only to rhyme it with “vigilantes coming out to follow me”. There’s the catchy call-and-response of “on the beat” from Elvis and his Attractions then Pete Thomas sends the song charging down the chorus with his drums matching Bruce’s descending bass in G major through Costello’s chorus line of “have you been a good boy, never played with your toy? Though you never enjoy such a pleasure to employ” leading out on an E chord and yet another great hook in the repeated chants of “see your friends!” finishing a chorus with 3 major distinct hooks and sections within it. The bridge is also a delight with Steve Nieve’s nifty keyboard line and Costello’s lyrics go further down the sexual frustration in the barely-hidden innuendo from the chorus, getting to its most masochistic with the classic-Costello line “I don’t wanna be your lover, I just wanna be your victim”. The band’s energy builds up again after that and Costello draws out “Did you think you were the only one who was waiting for a caaaaallll? On the beat!” leading into another round of the chorus. Not just one of my favourites from Elvis Costello, but also one of his most quintessentially Elvis Costello-y songs.
459. Taylor Swift - Fearless
“There’s something ‘bout the way the street looks like when it’s just rained, there’s a glow off the pavement, you walk me to the car, and you know I wanna ask you to dance right there in the middle of a parking lot, yeah!”
That’s the opening line for both the song “Fearless” and its album of the same name. The way it seeks to find the romantic in the everyday shows that there was an ambition to Taylor Swift’s songwriting even when she was still in her late teens, and has of course gone on to extend those ambitions further on later albums. While musically it sits comfortably in the album’s pop-country style the little electric guitar figure, mandolins and acoustic guitar all gleam as if they were that glow from the pavement. The rain and dancing return in the chorus with “and I don’t know why but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dressed, fearless” viewing the rain as something enlivening rather than melancholic. Listen to how excited and almost blushy she sounds in the verse line “run your hands through your hair, absent-mindedly making me want you!” or in the bridge’s “my hands shake… no I’m not… usually this… waaayyyy but” while the backing band intensify. I also love the drum fills made from the second verse-chorus transition (“capture it! remember it!”) to the aforementioned bridge and another touches like the chord hits in the final chorus and even the snare that kicks the whole song off. An exciting early show of talent for what would become one of the biggest forces in pop history.
458. Alice In Chains - Rooster
A highlight of Alice In Chain’s 1992 classic Dirt, written as a tribute to guitarist and core songwriter Jerry Cantrell’s father who served in the Vietnam War and gained the nickname that makes the song’s title. The opening with its lush guitar chords, neat little bass counterpart and falsetto harmonies oohing a gorgeous little melody line create an image of witnessing a setting sun on a hot day out in the desert. Layne Stayley sings of enduring the pain and exhaustion in “ain’t found a way to kill me yet, eyes burn with stinging sweat” in a weary voice, rising up to an anguished vibrato in “the bullets screeeaaaaam to me from somewhere”. That leads into the chorus’ harmonic build-up of “heeeere they come to snuff the roosterrrrrrrr” getting released on a particularly badass “YEEEAAAAAAAH!!!” and a surge of heavy guitars to crash in afterwards and Stayley unleashing a cathartic “YOU KNOW HE AIN’T GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!!!”. It’s a thrilling moment, one that goes against the dread and despair of much of Alice In Chains material, and that chorus only continues to kick in harder each time with the thunderous build-up of the drums appearing in the later ones under the looming chord changes. Also dig the military-sounding snare during the second verse and the way the song calmly ends in a similar way to its sunsetty opening, like it’s nearing its end and about to go into the night.
457. Deafheaven - Dream House
Kicking of Dearheaven’s 2013 landmark album Sunbather of the ever-so-broadly-known subgenre of blackgaze, a combination of shoegaze and black metal. With dreamy night-sky washes of guitar chords which sound louch even when strummed at a thrash-level speed. And the absolutely fucking relentless stampede of the drums that never lets up besides a few breakdowns. It’s music that makes you feel transported through space when you listen to it (apologies for the questionable sobriety of this entry). I understand that some will be put off by the screaming from vocalist George Clarke, but I like how it’s mixed a lot lower and in an airy pitch so it sounds more like a scrape across the colours of the guitar chords and lead lines reminiscent of post-punk. It’s difficult to make out by ear and the lyrics in print seem more like typical metal overuse of metaphorical language that comes off at high minded, but I don’t care when I listen to it. I just feel empowered by the sound of the distant screams themselves. 5 minutes there’s a brief moment of calm with some delicate and slyly intricate guitar arpeggios. Then the band comes crashing in at a slower, heavier tempo and the most audible line is screamed as “I’m dying! Is it blissful?”) (I know I normally illustrate the vocal feel using bold and italics, but it would be ridiculously long here!). Unexpectedly, he turns to the more optimistic half by finishing it off with repeats of “I want to dream!” and the guitar line ascends to the stars and the chord changes increase in tension until the final ring-out of the guitars after 9 minutes. Of the album Sunbather but in my mind equally as much of a stargazer.
456. Queen - Killer Queen
I admit that I have a bit of a difficult relationship with Queen at this point in life. The way they’re treated as a sacred cow by so much of the general public helped me love their hits as a kid but make me a bit uncomfortable as an adult now. As someone who’s grown out of their rockist shell from adolescence, the way they’re treated as unquestionable musical messiahs and also weapons against almost all modern day pop music by some people became made their appeal more troubling. It was like them being campy and poppy but still a rock band made them the example people could use to show that they were open minded to pop while still hating it. And by “it” usually “everything modern, moreso if it’s effeminate (e.g. boybands), female sung, or black”. Plus there’s just way too much overplaying of almost all their hits for me to possibly want to listen to them in private anymore. Yes objectively “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fantastic song, but subjectively it’s been praised by enough people with pretty vulgar music opinions and sung by too many groups of White People At Parties for me to want to include it in this list (although there are still come obvious White People At Parties songs on this list that I still personally love).
“Killer Queen” is a rare exception in that it well-known but a bit less overplayed than most Queen songs in my experience, but is just such a well-crafted presentation of their talents that I find it hard to deny. Lyrically it’s easily the smartest Queen song with its clever wordplay and rhymes from the chorus’ “She’s a killer queeee-eeeen! Gunpowder gelatine! Dynamite with a laserbeam!” (dig the flange effect added to the last line and to the “wanna tryyyyy” parts after that) to the verse’s alliteration of “Khrushchev and Kennedy” and rhyming of “cigarette and etiquette” among many others. The melody is absolutely ace as are the bouncing piano chord progression. There’s some fantastic bass runs from John Deacon, and some great drum rolls from Roger Taylor in the second verse and the chord hits after the choruses with Brian May’s guitar bends over the top of them. I absolutely love the part near the end where the harmonies get extra animated singing “drive you wiiiiiiiillllllld! Wiiiiiiiiilllld!” with more great drum rolls from Taylor underneath. It covers an awful lot of compositional ideas in only 3 minutes up to and including its final seconds where Brian May plays a cyclic solo lick panning in the left and right.
Come As You Are and Fearless. Loooove! Don't like Killer Queen as much as I should, fantastically weird but just something I struggle to listen through tbh. And I haven't heard that Tiki Taane track in FOREVER! Wow!
455. Everything But The Girl - Missing (Todd Terry Mix)
You can thank the Logo game for giving me a late reminder of this song’s greatness before I finalised this list (speaking of, I’d be keen to see its return to the forums). The single mix that we voted for remains the definitive version for me - it’s one of the best examples of how adding dance elements can actually increase the melancholy of a song rather than counter it. The moment the house beat starts it already feels like you’re outside late at night walking past the clubs on the street. The synth chords have a danceable rhythm to them whilst still being incredibly sad sounding. The floating synth line that shifts between sounding like a violin and ambient swells only makes the song feel all the more darker and lonelier. At the centre of it all is Tracey Thorn’s vocal which carries so much emotional weight almost effortlessly. The chorus hook of “I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain” is one of the most devastating expressions of loss in a pop chorus, but just as harrowing are the verse’s detailed of the subject’s absence that barely need any poetic devices added to them: “I look up at your house and I can almost hear you shout down to me where I always used to be” is a real gut-puncher, as is the confession to “hanging around your old address” and the conclusion of the first and final verses that “you’ve found some better place” left with the perfect amount of heartbreaking ambiguity. “I miss you, like the forum’s missed The New ARIA Logo”.
454. Aaliyah - We Need A Resolution
Aaliyah’s is, for me, one of the most tragic deaths in music history, not least because of how young she was at the time - I’m already a year older than she was on the day of the fatal plane crash on August 25th, 2001. But beyond her age, she had just released a fantastic self-titled album mere months before, and had already recorded some of the best and most innovative R&B music of its era, in no small part to her creatively fruitful relationships to some of the most cutting-edge producers of the day, most famously of course being Timbaland. Although he was less of a creative force on her final album, he still contributed 3 excellent tracks to it, including this fantastic opener. Like a lot of Timbaland productions, this track draws from Middle Eastern motifs for its melodic and instrumental components in the string loop that climbs up the harmonic minor scale; and a beat constructed of beat boxed vocals that are mixed so well with the hi-hat and snare they become almost indistinguishable from each other without close listening, and pings of bell noise here and there. Aaliyah however remains the star of the show with her vocal performance that conveys the lyric’s uneasy sense of romantic distrust and uncertainty with endless memorable hooks to boot that respond to each other much like the contrasting instrumentation, from the opening accusation of “Did you sleep on the wrong side? I’m catching a bad vibe” to the brilliant self-interplay in the chorus. Harmonised lines of “Am I supposed to change? Are you supposed to change?” are responded with wavering lines of “Who should be hurt? Who should be blamed?” and closed by quick eighth-note runs of “We need a resolution, we have so much confusion”. There’s also the brilliant melody lines in the 2nd verse (“I want to know, where were you last night?”) backed by a swelling synth riff that comes to the surface in the song’s outro after Timbaland’s admittedly filler-y rap verse. The brilliant use of the harmonic minor scale throughout all these melody lines is that there’s a constant air of tension throughout that never gets the resolution the lyrics so desperately seek out.
453. Michael Jackson - Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
One of the most beloved hits from Off The Wall, bursting into a joyous disco jam 14 seconds after the syncopated bassline and that iconic “you make me feel like… oooooooh!!!”. Those up-and-down runs of violins that are responded to in the lower ranges by cellos and the triumphant swells of horns announcing themselves over irresistibly danceable cowbell-laden beat and a chicken scratch guitar. Jackson’s high-as-helium melody soars atop it all, counterbalanced by adding some wonderful lower-register responses you first hear at 0:50. The instrumental keeps finding new things to add along the way whilst still sticking to the groove, from the trumpet lines in the chorus, the zippy guitar solo in the bridge that flashes like disco lights, the smooth legato string lines in the second verse, the fluid bass runs and how the trumpets start mimicking and accentuating the guitar riff in the third verse creating a sense of triumph to the whole thing. The funky guitar scratch starts to develop a harmonised counterpoint of its own building up as the rest of the track fades out, ensuring the dancing won’t stop after the song does.
452. The White Stripes - Ball and Biscuit
One of (and/or arguably) the last of its kind - the track of a big-selling rock album that’s a showcase for a revered guitarist to demonstrate their chops to the fullest extent. This 7-minute deep basement blues-rock jam on Elephant remains the definitive recording of Jack White’s guitar work. From the crispy riff and wobbly fills in the quieter parts to the explosive, screaming leads in the soloing sections that sear like a blowtorch thanks to White distortion-on-distortion crunch and pitch-bends from the Whammy pedal. But “Ball and Biscuit” is great for more than just its guitar playing, it’s also home to some of White’s smartest, funniest lyrics which see him flirting to a woman in some rather unusual one-liners: “It’s quite possible that I’m your third man girl, but it’s a fact that I’m the seventh son!”; “Right now you could care less about me, but soon enough you will care by the time I’m done!”; “Tell everybody in the place to just get out, and we’ll get clean together and then I’ll find a soapbox where I can shout ‘em”; the latter perhaps having the dirtiest use of the word “clean” I’ve ever heard. There’s also Meg White’s minimal backbeat who’s simplicity creates loads of space for Jack to fill in while steadily stomping forward in a powerful and rather, uh, Elephant-like way.
451. LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum
Not the first song of Sound of Silver that I’ve written about already, but it’s the first of an absolutely astonishing 3-song stretch on that album with few contenders. “North American Scum” is LCD Soundsystem at their most goofy with lyrics that poke fun at the weird aspects of (North) American life and culture, although a lot of it is fairly specific to LCD’s home city New York (he claims in the third verse “New York’s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent! And it’s the furthest you can live from the government!”). Many lines are interjected by a ridiculous emphasise-all-syllables hook of “North! A! Meri! Ca!” and the lines that don’t sound even funnier with the way James Murphy awkwardly concludes them (“And for those of you who still think we’re from England, we’re not... no”). Meanwhile the backing music is a constant 3-chord build with scratches of muted guitar and a sharp hi-hat groove and a nimble bassline, eventually exploding in the choruses where the aforementioned 4-syllable hook transitions into the wicked backing vocals dragging a high-pitched “aaaaaah!” over the top and Murphy wails in fastello on lead. I particularly love his lines at the end of the final verse (“Yeah I love this place that I’ve grown to know, alright North America! And yeah I know you wouldn’t touch us with a ten foot pole, ‘cause we’re NORTH A-MERI-CAAAANS!” and the brief shout of “don’t blame the Canadians!” just before the song ends. Bandit Keith’s favourite song, probably. Last edited:
Thriller’s list of reasons for why it’s so beloved by so many are so obvious that it almost seems silly to even mention them - that it crossed over to so many different audiences by incorporating different genres (rock, adult contemporary, dance, r&b) and was exceptional at doing so almost every time, spinning off 7 singles (all of which made the US top 10) and earning its crown of the best-selling album of all time. One discovery I got to make on my own about this album, however, is that it’s production is perfect to listen to at night time, with “Human Nature” being perhaps the best track for the occasion (side note: a lot of early-to-mid 80s pop is also great for the night-time including Thriller’s rival Purple Rain, though Madonna’s self-titled opus is the antithesis of this and is perfect on a hot sunny day). As soon as that opening synth melody that sounds like a bunch of distant streetlights starts over those chords and the neatly-placed guitar counterpoint buried underneath and Jackson sings “reaching out across the night-time” it feels like you’re there witnessing the evening glow of a city and thinking about your past and future. The vocal melodies synth pads and crisp guitar keep the mood continuing with lyrics of wanting to explore (“If this town is just an apple, then let me take a bite”) and connect to people and a wistful chorus who’s descending line is so pretty Jackson starts singing it wordlessly by the end with it sounding just as wonderful. With the longing, nocturnal mood this song evokes, it’s no wonder it remains one of MJ’s most sampled songs. Stay tuned if a song that samples it appears later on.
449. Taylor Swift - Style
Another song great for commuting through the city late at night. With a squiggly guitar line to open the song showing you who listened intently to “Get Lucky” the year before. Glammy neon-light synths radiate and drive a rather, well, stylish beat. Taylor Swift’s however is still worried and uncertain in the verse’s melody and lyric:
Midnight, you come and pick me up, no headlights, Long drive, could end in burning flames or paradise Fade into view, it’s been a while since I had even heard from you
And yet as the song’s pre-chorus breakdown to sparse chords and the riff, she somehow manages to being conflicted about her partner (“And I should just tell you to leave ‘cause I, know exactly where it leads but I, watch it go round and round each time”) and the guitar line ascends to a higher, happier note pivoting the song into its radiant chorus where the synths glow again and Swift describes her love for the image or their relationship, the aesthetic in a way.
You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye And I got that red lip, classic thing that you like And when we go crashing down, we come back every time 'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style You've got that long hair slick back, white t-shirt And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt And when we go crashing down, we come back every time 'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style
There’s one of the trademark production tricks from 1989 of using heavily-reverberated and high-pitched backing vocals to colour in songs like a synth would for the last 3 words at the end. The second verse returns to the minor-key uncertainty and balances attraction to his appearance (hear that “mmmm yeah” after witnessing him take his coat off) with the shock of hearing rumours of infidelity (“some ooother girl?”). And yet somehow even then, the pair depicted in the chorus are too hot to abandon each other. (“Hey says “what you’ve heard is true but I can’t stop thinking ‘bout you and I” I said “I’ve been there too a few times”). Riding that glorious chorus again to the glorious bridge (the catharsis in those “take me home!”s!) and beyond. One of the best songs of 1989 and what made such a milestone in pop music.
448. Amerie - 1 Thing
“”1 Thing” is a song without a center, without a floor or ceiling; it seems to hover in midair for four minutes” wrote Pitchfork writer Douglas Wolk for its #32 entry on their top songs of the 2000s list, back in 2009. That pretty much nails the essence of this song for me. Produced by Rich Harrison of “Crazy In Love” fame, and like that song it exploits a funk sample - in this case a rollicking drum riff from The Meters’ “Oh Calcutta!” (the part from 1:41-1:50 if you’re curious) - and stretches it enough to substantiate a 4-minute pop song to it, going back-and-forth between the lighter cymbal-riding groove and the tumbling tom-heavy fills; and spiked with bongo and cowbell. The only harmonic content to anchor the song are some sparse chanks of guitar chords, leaving the melody suspended and left to dance around the drum beat and doing so in a stunning way, with some excellent wordless hooks like opening “na-na-na-na-na-oh”, the oscillating “uh-oh-uh-oh-ohhh!” and “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”s. There’s also the unusual syllable emphasis in the chorus’ “it’s-THIS-one-THING that caught me slipping” creating the hyperkinetic sense of movement like in Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”. More harmonic content is eventually added after the second chorus with the gorgeous burst of backing vocals and stirring, strings that leave the harmonies ever-so-slightly uncertain. One of the best R&B hits of the 2000s and one I feel has become underrated.
447. Kylie Minogue - Confide In Me
I was aware that Kylie Minogue’s career arc involved starting as a typical teen-pop star and transitioning into a more “serious” pop star later on, but I was actually a bit unprepared for the pivoting to occur as early as 1994 with a grandiose trip-hop song (trip-hop was perhaps one of the easiest ways to be read as “serious” music in the 90s). Of course that made sense later - pop music of the early 90s teen pop kind was pretty rare by 1994, and she was already a bit older than she was on her last record. After a dramatic intro with orchestral backing and nylon guitar, the strings make a brooding melody and the busy trip-hop beat finally arrives. Kylie Minogue’s vocals are the real show-stealer, however, and exude a wise and ethereal presence that’s very enchanting. Assuring us that “we all get hurt by love, and we all have a cross to bear” and shooting into the night sky with “but in the name of understanding now, our problems should be shaaaaaaarrred” soaring the choruses’ “confiiiiiiiiiide iiiiiiiiiin meeeeeee!” as the strings rise again and the sitar and electric guitar add their touches. There’s a wonderful violin solo at the 3:37 mark played over faint flickers of keyboard, the song ends as a fade out as the chorus continues its journey to the end while the sitar becomes more elaborate and Minogue’s voice becomes even higher and more angelic.
446. The White Stripes - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Kicking open The White Stripes’ 2001 mainstream breakthrough White Blood Cells with a squall of feedback and an utter sledgehammer of a guitar riff backed by a stomping drum beat shortly afterwards. The guitar quietens down for some gentle chords and arpeggios and Jack White delivers one of his best vocal melodies (I love the way he repeats the last line with a darker chord progression for the final measure). His lyrics are also at their quirkiest and emotionally sincere simultaneously with “thirty notes in the mail box will tell you that I’m coming home” and “every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me”. Each verse in intersect with a chorus of chord blasting and over the pounding thump of the bridge Jack gives a heartfelt yearn of “I didn’t feel so bad ‘til the sun went dooooown, then I come hooome, no-one to wrap my arms around!”. The song turns to its final verse and he becomes self-effacing about his own proclamations of love (“well any man with a microphone can tell you what he loves the most”) and quietly ends. The band’s roots in DIY punk, blues, classic rock and folk all present in this definitive hit of the band.
Opening their 1986 classic Master of Puppets with an ominous acoustic chord progression, met by a lead melody that becomes unusually prettier each time it gains a new harmony. It establishes both a dread-heavy mood and builds enough melodic content for the explosion into electric guitars to arrive perfectly, continuing the chords and harmonised melody in searing distortion. We are then taken to James Hetfield’s relentless thrash riff and the band charge behind it at full force through the verses to the chorus where Hetfield shows his development of melody-making in “slashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, cannot stop the BA-TTE-RY!” and “cannot kill the family battery is found in me” without breaking from the song’s pummelling attack. My favourite moment in the song however comes later on after Kirk Hammet’s frenetic second guitar solo and the band hammer on those gnarly chromatic power chords, a terrific increase in tension.
444. D’Angelo & The Vanguard - Ain’t That Easy
Opener of Black Messiah and one of D’Angelo’s most rock-influenced and funkiest songs, from the oscillating feedback at the beginning giving way to the low-slung funk-rock guitar riff that maintains D’Angelo’s taste for weird chord progressions, and the thwack of the synthesised handclap on the eighth beat augments the funkiness of Questlove’s drum beat. There’s an ominous guitar chug in the verses appropriate for the lyrical temptations of “Take a toke of smoke of me as you dream inside, let your days slip away come with me and ride”. Meanwhile the choruses contain some excellent countering bass lines, backing vocals that make great interplay with D’angelo’s lead melody (“give yourself a chaaaaance (you can’t leave me!) No waaaaay (it ain’t that easy!)”) and a funky as hell “ow ow ow” hook to finish it. Although the lyrics don’t contain the political overtones of many other songs on Black Messiah, they’re still hinted at in lines like “Ever hit with a choice that you can’t decide? Which direction left or right?” and help set the kind of mood for the later songs to explore further.
443. U2 - Until the End of the World
One of the many highlights of one of the albums I’ve loved the longest, Achtung Baby. Starting off with some weird kind of synthesised screams before Adam Clayton starts a nifty groove with Larry Mullen’s congas and drum kit. The Edge’s guitar makes some murky swipes across the strings that sound like something swimming underwater before surging into the bright flashy riff. Bono sings in a lower register than usual with a conversational tone while still holding a memorable melody. His lyrics retell the betrayal of Jesus from Judas in the character of the latter, with some modernised lines (“I took the money, I spiked your drink, you miss too much these days if you stop to think”) among references to the original story (“In the garden I was playing the tart, I kissed your lips and broke your heart”). There isn’t a chorus, yet Bono paraphrases the title in the final line of each verse in a way that turns it into a memorable hook (from the first verse: “everybody was having a good time, except you, you were talking about the end of the world” - god it’s easy to feel like that guy at times!) with Edge’s riff returning to drive the song onwards. His chord changes and textures here create almost as many colours as there are on the Achtung Baby cover, and like in the intro continues to sound like it’s swimming through water, rising to the surface for the flashy and melodic solo before plunging back in with a filter effect on the riff; eventually taking us to the thrilling coda where it sounds like it’s forming a whirlpool around Larry Mullen’s seismic drum riff. He starts circling a “na na na na” hook over the top of it which only makes the coda sound more cathartic. The end result is a song that sounds very much like the end of the world as it plays.
442. Car Seat Headrest - Destroyed By Hippie Powers
The best euphemism for getting stoned ever? Probably, but beyond that this song is also perhaps the most straight-up rocking song from the band’s excellent 2016 album Teens of Denial. From the get go this song just explodes with the kind of gloriously loud guitar chords that are played with such physical power, reignited again to back the wordless melody lines in the pre-chorus and for the massive riff in the chorus. Will Toledo starts of sounding reserved and anxious in the verses but cuts loose mid-way through the second (“The guy I kinda hate is here, should not have had that last… woo! Hit of DMT!” leading into a glorious “Laaaaa la la laaaaaa” hook for the second pre-chorus backed with both a vocal harmony and a jangly guitar counteracting the power chords; and then to just one of the most flat-out-fucking cathartic moments in recent rock history in “WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT CHUBBY LITTLE KID WHO SMILED SO MUCH AND LOVED THE BEACH BOYS? WHAT HAPPENED IS I KILLED THAT FUCKER AND TOOK HIS NAME AND GOT NEW GLASSES!!!!” yelled from the top of his lungs, with the chorus after that hitting just as hard. Then there’s the awesome treble-range riff introduced in the breakdown that takes the song through to its coda with the band exploding beneath it. I love the way the rhythm guitar plunges into the low E chord for the first part of the coda riff but then just copies the rest of it, making for both the most air-guitar-worthy moment in the song, but possibly for the whole Teens of Denial album.
441. Wolf Alice - Heavenward
As soon as the opener of Wolf Alice’s 2017 sophomore and Mercury Prize winner for the following year Visions of a Life comes in after 30 seconds of ambient feedback, its like diving deep into a waterfall lake in the middle of a rainforest. Suddenly immersed in the pools of Joff Odie’s shoegazed guitar chords and the trickling of water from Joel Amy’s drum beat while vocalist Ellie Rowsell adds dreamy “ooooh”s over the top creating a mistiness to the atmosphere. A tribute to passed-away friend of the band, Rowsell completely sells the majestic chorus (“Go heaaaaavenwaaaaard, like all Earrrrrrth angels should”) and in the second verse as the band quietens down sings “I’m gonna celebrate you forever” with a beautifully understated wistfulness like she’s gazing upwards at the stars at that moment. Odie’s guitar textures continue to shine in the latter half of the song from the hazy sustain of his notes in the solo while still carrying a pretty melody, to the chiming pings of high notes over the outro as Roswell repeats “I see you dancing on”. A beautifully crafted piece of modern shoegaze and my favourite Wolf Alice song so far.
My favourite of the mega-hits spawned off of The Fat of the Land. Like a lot of big beat hits, this one brings a clear rock influence to the forefront with the guitar-like synth line and build up in the intro and breakdown sections and the wah-wah guitar sample from The Breeder’s “S.O.S” (not an Abba or Rihanna cover sadly). What’s also remarkable is how that sample, along with the “hey hey hey” (sampled from Art of Noise’s “Close (to Edit)”) and the sinister synth tones placed each of Keith Flint’s lines in the verses all contribute to an eerie atmosphere in the song as much as they add to the momentum carried by the frantic breakbeat. Notice how the first beat of the breakbeat always sounds like something’s bursting, how the dotted synth pulse in the breakdowns helps build up so much tension to be released when the beat hits again, and the synth squelch in the outro that plays like a stab of power chords. But on top of all that, what’s also crucial to bringing the uniquely punk rock energy to the song is the vocal from the late Keith Flint, with the irreverent snarl of “I’m the bitch you hated, filth infatuated! yeaaaah!” and even turning a bit paranoid and unhinged on “I’m the self-inflicted, mind detonator!”.
439. The Avalanches - Since I Left You
A wonderful walk through a sunny day where the end of spring and start of summer merge (so definitely a great one to play at the time of writing this!). The string sections and wordless vocal harmonies - mixed subtly with a bit of vinyl static to accentuate the vintageness of the samples - and the bits of dialogue create so much scenery in the first minute, like walking through a park in a busy city with trees blossoming, sparse clouds in the sky and people meeting up with friends (and the opening flamenco guitar being a street busker you’ve just passed by on the away). That’s before we get to the absolutely beautiful flute melody and the vocal hook that evokes such a content and peaceful state of mind, and the tinkering of xylophone added just to add more blissfulness to the hook. There’s the keyboard riff that accentuates the danceability of the beat along with the subtle but groovy bassline that enters alongside it, but my favourite moment of all is the bird-like whistle noise at 3:16 which by that point I feel completely lost in the blissfulness of it all.
438. The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored
The opener of The Stone Roses self-titled 1989 debut begins like someone arriving towards you from the horizon on the dawn of a cold day. Foggy clouds of reverberated amp static passing like chilly winds and an immortal bassline slowly getting louder in the mix. Some glimmers of pretty guitar noodling peek through like early glimpses of sunlight, and the kick drum and hi-hat start pulsing, bringing the whole thing nearer to you until finally arriving 1:30 where the song finally comes to life and plays its iconic, enigmatic guitar riff. Ian Brown sings “I don’t need to sell my soul, he’s already in me” and barely needs any more lyrics than that besides singing the title for a chorus (love how he reaches a higher note for “a-doooored” in the later choruses). There’s enough presence in his delivery of those few lines to almost carry the remaining 3 minutes on their own, though the rhythm section and John Squire’s icy jangle-pop inspired guitar lines continue to drive the song just as well, driving out the song with a breakdown that builds up to a tremendous finale.
437. Primal Scream - Loaded
“Just what is it that you want to do?” “We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we wanna do! And we wanna get loaded and we’re wanna have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do! We’re gonna have a good time! We’re gonna have a party!”
That’s the dialogue sampled from the movie The Wild Angles that opens the centrepiece track of Primal Scream’s 1991 dance-rock landmark Screamadelica and also gets spat out of the mouth of a drunk Simon Pegg in the climax of The World’s End. It basically sums up the whole mood of the early 90s rave scene that was thriving in the UK in the early 90s with an awesome 7-minute jam perfect for any party. Constructed out of samples from their previous album’s cut “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” with a beat augmented by (according to the song’s Wikipedia page) an Italian bootleg remix of Edie Brickwell’s “What I Am” and a gospel hook sampled from The Emotions’ “I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love”. Everything falls into place effortlessly: the beat; the bassline setting the I-bVII-IV progression; the rock-soul piano chords who’s bouncing rhythm fit perfectly in the framing of an early 90s dance track; the slide guitar that’s reverberated in a way that brings a lot of space to the mix; the chunky electric guitar riffing (especially the big chord strikes during the breakdown; the string line used in the first half and most importantly the triumphant and trumpets that turn it all into a glorious fanfare. Also dig that one moment at 4:51 when Bobby Gillespie turns up to give one “Ahhhhh yeah!” just for that moment.
436. Kraftwerk - Showroom Dummies
Although Trans Europe Express is bookended with optimistic, blue-skied tracks in the aforementioned opener “Europe Endless” and closer “Franz Schubert/Endless Endless” (not on the list but still great), the interior of the album is easily the darkest Kraftwerk I’ve heard thus far, perhaps best represented by this closing track on side A. It’s minor-key synth melody is backed by a choppy drum track and backing synth pulse that are almost sinisterly mechanical (also listen to how the latter’s frequencies get higher towards the end as the lead melody becomes more elaborate), and choir synth that gives a far more ominous mood than it had on the album’s opener. Then there’s the vocal track which although human-sung have an almost unsettlingly uncanny-valley delivery to them, in both the central “we are showroom dummies” hook and the lyrical hints at sentience in the verses: “we’re being watched, and we feel our pulse”. The most unsettling moment however may be after the lines “we start to move and we break the glass” followed by an actual sound of glass shattering. One of the best examples of electronic music’s exploration of the human/machine dichotomy, of which Kraftwerk - the first fully electronic band no less - practically invented.
Ooh missed a few here - never been big on Missing although I think it's because I feel like it's a song I should like more but just can't get into. A lot of mid nineties dance is like that for me - but can certainly see the appeal! Great to see Aaliyah, loved We Need A Resolution when it came out, she had some real bangers. Great MJ tracks, strangely not tiresome for me despite being so long. Human Nature is fantastic, a really pretty backing tune and not as done to death as some of the other Thriller tracks. Nice to see TS in here, Style is not one of my faves from 1989, although I do like the driving beat and the pre-chorus refrain - I do love all the singles from 1989 though (besides Bad Blood, inexplicably frustrating). 1 Thing! Whew! What a jam! Still sounds so fresh and her voice just works. Confide In Me is an absolute highlight in Kylie's career something a bit different for her and one that really gives substance to Kylie's timeline imo (well the whole mid-90's Kylie era I think). Not huge on the next five, #440 and #439 are fantastic though, and I do enjoy the abridged version of Loaded. Good stuff thus far!
The definitive track of Metallica’s album of the same name, exploding on impact with the iconic “DUN! DUT-DUT-DUUUUN!” in the opening and leading into one of James Hetfield’s most intricate riffs with its subtle chromatic climb. He also gives one of his best performances as a frontman here, with lyrics depicting drug addiction as a villain by the same name of the song and album’s title (“Master of Puppets I’m pulling your strings, twisting your mind and smashing your dreams”) and some of his best melody and hook writing ever from the iconic “Master! Master!” to his delivery of “how I’m killing youuuuuuuu!” before the chorus. Then three-and-a-half minutes in the band’s thrashing comes to a temporary halt and a slowed-down, mellow instrumental of guitar arpeggios forms and Kirk Hammet plays some of his most beautiful and mournful lead playing with the harmonised line and brief solo. The melodic beauty of the instrumental passage segues into the menacing bridge as the guitars get loud again, then transitioning back to the thrash riffing to drive the song to its final third (note the way Lars Ulrich’s drum frill at 5:35 matches the original tempo of the song, allowing the transition to occur naturally without feeling forced). A fantastic showcase of Metallica’s talents from their peak period.
434. Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
The title track of the most beloved cult-classic of indie rock, and a song that exemplifies many of the key components to its belovedness. Grounded by a super-simple acoustic guitar strum of 4-chords that’s probably caused it to become a couple of RYM users personal “Wonderwall”. Joined later by the drums, fuzzy bass and various horn lines, the song also deploys perhaps the most unusual instrumentation on this list so far in the form of a singing saw played by band member Julian Koster that creates a bunch of whistle-y tones over the top of the track. Jeff Magnum’s lyrics tackle an existential contemplation of life and death while still relishing the romance he’s experiencing in the present, articulated perhaps most eloquently in the second verse:
And one day we will die and our ashes will fly From the aeroplane over the sea But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun And count every beautiful thing we can see
The lyrics turn to more disturbing imagery in the bridge with “now how I remember you, how I would push my fingers through your mouth to make those muscles move” which could be interpreted in a variety of ways, to say nothing of the Anne Frank reference (of which the album is infamous for) made in the verse before. Yet even that moment is balanced by the section’s later lyric “All secrets sleep in winter clothes with the one you loved so long ago” and the final verse’s “and when we meet on a cloud I’ll be laughing out loud, I’ll be laughing with everyone I see”. Magnum’s singing is an equally powerful force too, unabashedly belting the chorus melody (“soft aaaaaand sweeeet!”), drawing out the “me” at the end of the second one into a remarkable melodic cadence. Romantic, tragic and ultimately a testament to the need we have to find meaning in our human lives: “can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all”.
433. Crowded House - Don’t Dream It’s Over
One of the most beloved musical creations from both sides of the Tasman, and a song that tons of people have turned to for comfort during their bleakest moments. I found myself turning to this song a lot this year after one of the most shocking and devastating acts of violence in my country’s history happened, which had lasting effects on my own state of mind for many months afterwards. Hearing those warm, delicate guitar chords and that indelible melody with the rousing “hey now hey now” refrain in the chorus, and lyrics with one of the most touching expressions of solidarity in “there’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost, but you’ll never see the end of the road while you’re travelling with me” helped me cope with the grief, and I’ve become very grateful for this song’s existence since then. Even now after having processed most of it, it still remains a treat to listen to on its own terms with other details like the organ that enters the second chorus bringing a smile to my face. “They’ll come, they’ll come to build a wall between us, you know they won’t win” is something a lot of us need to hear in this point of history.
432. Daft Punk - Da Funk
The best track of Homework and the best summation of the late-night street-life vibe of the album. The iconic synth riff is of course untouchable, with a uniquely elastic tone and melody that is indeed funky as hell. The beat behind it is a perfect blend of their house and hip-hop sensibilities with its crisp hi-hat, punchy snare, staccato synth chord stabs and the kick and bass that keep lurching forward like their coming from outside a club you’re waiting in line to enter. The momentum continues with the addition of another kickass synth riff morphing through the squelchy tones and frequencies (note the little zippy slide in the middle of it too), becoming an amazing counterpoint when the opening riff returns to overlap it. And the shimmering upper-range synth note that carries out the last 2 minutes is the perfect finishing touch. Like walking through the streets with all the bars and clubs during the peak hours of the night, but with better music to soundtrack it.
431. Fatboy Slim - The Rockafeller Skank
Many scholars have pondered the meanings behind the rivetingly poetic lyric “right about now, the funk soul brother, check it out now, the funk soul brother”. One Dylan Moran interpreted it as “There was someone to arrive and everyone was terribly excited, maybe he was bringing cake or something, but he hasn’t arrived yet” and described the accompanying song as “It sounded like a million fire engines chasing ten million ambulances through a war zone” but coldly reviewed it as “I’m not saying it’s a bad song at all, all I’m saying is you could get a broom and dip it in some brake fluid, put the other end up my arse, stick me on a trampoline in a moving lift, and I would write a better song on the walls, that’s all I’m saying”. He’s wrong about the latter point, of course, but he is right in that this is an absolutely fucking chaotically energising track even for big beat. That vocal sample set to that amount of motion to the big beat and the surge synth, surf guitars, and that other “RockRockRockRock” vocal sample. I love the bit about 2:30 in when the guitars get chopped up and then they disappear to leave the beat to continue on its own for a bit, that’s a minor hint to the later turning point when it slows down to an absurdly digtal way and turns in to a siren (when Tom Ewing described it as “the sound equivalent of a stuck keyboard keyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” I could hear the sound in his typing). It gets back to the beat, but with a slower tempo and a shorter guitar part. A loopy atonal synth swirl is played just to add more to the weirdness of this song at this point and then the “‘bout now”s start to loop on themselves as the song gets faster and faster until it’s just the “right about now ‘bow” samples. It hurls back into the beat with a big made even more physical by the addition of bright cymbal hits for a return to the chorus, and that beat and chopped vocal sample charge us out to the end with the latter getting even shorter and loop around the the filter frequencies. It’s one of the songs that when they come on in a party I dance so intensely I become absolutely exhausted by the end (think Will Butler on stage levels of energy). One of the hardest bangers ever. Last edited:
I think it shows how divorced I’ve been from popular homegrown music that I actually don’t find DDIO that overplayed in my public life. I’m not as bad my boyfriend though (he didn’t even know who Six60 were!)
Announcing the arrival of Kanye’s heavy stylistic shift as the lead single of 808s & Heartbreak. While that album’s shift away from rapping to singing about the grief from his mother’s passing and break-up through Auto-Tuned vocals over sparse 808-generated production is well-documented, it was a big stepping stone in expanding Kanye’s talent for melody writing, using vocal timbres in creative ways, and approaching music through the lens of different genres that would pave the way to the ambitions of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. This song builds from a slow-beating heart of the drum machine with a piano chord progression that comes out of West’s vocal melody into the crescendos of tribal percussion in the chorus, ending with West making anguished, pitched-up cries over the outro that sound like distant bird screams. Another noteworthy effect applied to West’s voice is the distortion in the first verse on “‘till we lose control, system overload, screaming no-no-no-no-no” combining with the Auto-Tune to make an almost Kraftwerkian moment of invoking machine malfunctioning to express human emotion. That sense of fear about loss of sanity in his relationship is reflected in other lyrics like “I can’t keep myself and still keep you too”, and his concluding lines to the second verse (“no more wasting time, you can’t wait for life, we’re just wasting time, where’s the finish line?”) are some of my personal favourites from him.
429. MGMT - Time To Pretend
Few things make me feel as nostalgic for my early adolescence in the late 00s the hits of Oracular Spectacular. Although “Kids” and “Electric Feel” got and continued to receive more airplay, it’s this one that stands out as the best of the bunch. It captures the same kind of childlike wonder in its synthesiser tones and arrangements, from the bubbling opening sounds to the chirping main riff; the heavily buzzing synth bass in the verses, the alien-high frequencies over it; the dreamy little arpeggios you can spot in the choruses, the insect-like trickling of synths in the second verse’s breakdown. Also wonderful for the arrangements (and made also synth) are the subtle backings of horns in the track (love the little trumpet line that peeks through the mix in the second chorus at 3:08, and the way the build up the chords in those choruses), as well as a massive, propulsive drumbeat with a very forceful snare, hit hat and crash cymbal and some great build-ups in those choruses. Like the naïve nature of the music, the lyrics sing of aspiring the classic young musicians dream of superstars, the love affair we were all caught up in until Lorde’s “Royals” came along. I particularly relate to the line “Yeah it’s overwhelming but what else can we do? Get jobs at offices and wake up for the evening news?” as someone who’s pursued a degree in music and still aims to get a career in it. Then of course the second half is all the self-destructive consequences of those dreams, even forseeing something that could kill them in “We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end”. Yet the song is so fantastical (and fantastic obviously) with such a wonderfully happy melody that even that lyric doesn’t sink the mood, and they carry out into the sunset with those “yeah yeah yeah” hooks.
428. Kanye West - Gorgeous
It seems like every Kanye super fan goes through a period where this song becomes their favourite of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and I think I have an understanding as to why. On initial listen it feels like one of the more unassuming productions on the album when compared to the extravagance of “Power” or “All of the Lights”. Its musical components are still worthy of praise of course with the organ, that guitar riff and the muted crunches on every other beat that play like a ticking clock, the slightly melancholic strings and the way the percussion builds a kind of marching pace in Raekwon’s final verse. However, it’s gained most of its adulation in fan circles for Kanye’s own performance as a rapper, with lyrics that have become a quick reference point to win an online argument with someone trying to starwman Kanye’s lyrical content with his silly one-liners. He opens his first verse with some of his most sophisticated rhyming and wordplay ever with “Penitentiary chances, the devil dances and eventually answers to the call of Autumn, all them falling for the love of balling, got caught with 30 rocks the cop looked like Alec Baldwin” and continues to fire off endlessly quotable lines throughout the verses: “Is hip-hop just a euphemism for a new religion? The soul music for the slaves that the youth is missin’?”; “But this pimp is at the top of Mount Olympus, ready for the world’s games this is my Olympics”; “‘Cause like a Crip said, I’ve got way too many blues for any more bad news”; “they re-write history, I don’t believe in yesterday and what’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach?”; and the always-useful “It’s not funny anymore, try different jokes”. And then there’s Kid Cudi’s hypnotic little chorus meloy throughout it all. An excellent track, and not even in the top 5 songs of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy!
427. Tame Impala - Let It Happen
Quite easily my favourite Tame Impala song. I heard Lonerism and enjoyed it a few times but it was a bit too retro for my tastes even though I wore a lot of tie dye at the time, but hearing this on my country’s alt-rock-ish station in 2015 as the lead single off Currents and it stuck out as easily the best new song on their playlist. A trippy transient groove with a flickering light of a guitar rhythm and a three-bar chord progression like the one used in the Pixies’ “Tame” at #479 on this list. With the song’s title making a great hook in the verses, an effective mood-capturing lyric in the second verse (“I heard about a whirlwind that’s coming round, it’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound”) and a remarkably lush melody and chord progression for the choruses (“All this running around, I can’t fight it much longer”). The song then unleashes a kickass synth riff that bridges us to the coda by repeating itself with little skips in the long notes until it almost sounds like a broken record and fades out to a backing pulse to reveal a low, sombre string line (note the little arpeggio formed by the looping at around 4:45). Then the coda of vocoded harmonies from Kevin Parker arrive singing words that listed incomprehensible on lyric sites until recently (I always could parse out “try to get through it, try to bounce to it” and “take the next ticket, take the next train” however). Then the absolutely badass guitar enters the groove that just impossible not to move to. The way the song overlaps its vocoded harmonies with another lead melody from Parker and the return of that guitar riff make for an absolutely magical final 45 seconds. A psychedelic, summer-skied jam for the ages, even when you’re not high!
426. Oasis - Live Forever
I admit I do kind of hate Oasis a lot of the time (a stance that becomes easier to have the more asinine quotes from the Gallagher brothers you read). I’d quite easily declare one of the five most overrated bands in the rock canon. But I will concede that they did manage to write some excellent songs, with this staple from debut Definitely Maybe being my favourite of them. Backed by a spacious drum beat and guitars with an unusual amount of clarity to their tone as opposed to being amped up for the sake of loudness, Liam sings a glorious melody that conveys the proud defiance of the lyrics while also being unexpectedly graceful in how it leaps from the crack in “we’ll see things they’ll never see” to the falsettoed “you and I are gonna live for-evaaaaah”. The little guitar figure added in the second verse is a delight, as is the solo’s melody that’s just as wonderfully tuneful as the vocal. The song starts to sound darker towards the end changing to a minor-key chord progression and Liam’s “forevaaaaah”s turn from a falsetto to a more anguished belt, with a melancholic guitar line to close the song. The defiance and passion of the song still remains, however, making “Live Forever” perhaps the best representation of Oasis’ brand of brash confidence. Last edited:
The hardest-rocking song of The Strokes’ 2001 indie-garage-rock game changer Is This It. The opening crescendos of guitar feedback and drum hits build anticipation from the opening seconds before rushing into the most aggressive riff on the album matched by the frenetic pace from Fabrizio Moretti’s drums while Julian Casablancas gives a warm-up vocal adlib that’s both energising and humorous (“OH!... I meant… aaaaaah! No I meant nothing at all… oooooooh”. His playful delivery continues in the verses (“even though it was only one night it was… fucking strange”) and Nikolai Fraiture provides some neat counterpoint to Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. guitars in the pre-chorus (this band had the coolest names for their memebers ever) and the band charges through the chorus while Casablancas sings the hook “New York City Cops, they ain’t too smart”. Sadly this song had the misfortune or seeing US release on an album after the September 11 attacks, aka the least acceptable time to knock the NYPD in history (just ask Shihad’s Jon Toogood) and so was left off the tracklisting in the States by the band for that reason. After that chorus we get a classic pissed-off-Tom-Verlaine solo from Nick and the fantastic release of energy in the second verse where the band stopped for just the drums which continue to pound away for a few bars and then come back even harder than before while Julian belts “YES I’M LEAVIIIIIING! CAUSE IT JUST WON’T WOOOORK!”. An absolutely ace moment of rock’n’roll energy.
424. Björk - Army of Me
Time for some fun facts about music theory. Those of you reading this may already be familiar with scales, and some of you may also be familiar with the types of scales known as “modes”. Separate from more recent modes of the Depeche or Sicko kind, they’re basically variations of the major scale with select notes altered (usually flattened except for Lydian which has a sharpened 4th note - used in the Simpsons theme song (doo-do-do-do-doo…) as an example), have a fancy sounding Greek name like Dorian or Aeolian and create a range of tonality with the major/minor dichotomy. They become quite handy if you’ve ever been tasked with playing Jazz, which during my degree was a lot.
Anyway, the weirdest and most uncommon of them all is the Locrian mode in which all but the 1st and 4th notes are flattened, going beyond minor-key sounding into diminished territory with its flat 5th. As a result, it’s a very difficult mode to use in the context of a pop song, and as one YouTuber found in his attempt to find a hit song that uses the mode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6JBsOzOFaQ) the closest example he could find was the verses to this song by Björk, a fitting result for one of the weirdest musicians in pop music. And yeah that unusual tonality to the driving industrial bassline and her vocal melody really adds to the looming nature of the music and lyrics that see her ending her draining support for a self-pitying individual (“stand up, you’ve got to manage, I won’t sympathise anymore”). The militant stride of the drums combined with that distorted bassline turn it into one of the most rocking solo Björk songs in her discography, only strengthening its attack in the guitar-like descending line and the accented hits on the snare as she belts “and iiiiiiiif you complain o-o-once more, you’ll meet an army of me!… *!*”. When you have a song that goes as hard as this, you barely even need an army.
423. Radiohead - Pyramid Song
Continuing the theory nerdery of this part of the list, here’s a song that exemplifies Radiohead’s unique sense of timing. The piano chord progression rests on unconventional beats that’s lead to a lot of speculation about the song’s time signature, yet still manages to sync in 4/4 or “common time” but with an unusually symmetrical rhythm (like a pyramid!). This observation was made by the same YouTuber in the link in Björk’s entry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdZSOoOF5Ms). Its rhythm and top note that slowly wavers between 2 semitones over the chords create a sense of drifting enhanced by the way they're mixed with the background strings that invoke being at sea with a beach in the distance I think there’s a bit of field recording mixed in). Thom Yorke coos a mystical melody line and sings about swimming in a fantastical river:
I jumped in the river, what did I see? Black-eyed angels swam with me A moon full of stars and astral cars And all the figures I used to see All my lovers were there with me All my past and futures And we all went to heaven in a little row boat There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt
He hums the wordless melody line now joined by the string section and Phil Selway makes some jazzy triplets to announce himself in the song and turning it to a swingy groove. He repeats the verse joined by more strings and bubbling electronic effects that sound like they’re underwater. One of Radiohead’s most easing songs sung from a place of contentment rather than the fear and sadness many people associate with Radiohead.
422. U2 - The Unforgettable Fire
The title track of U2’s 4th album and first with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as producers. The album sees them pivot from the post-punk of their first 3 albums to building the sonic landscapes that defined The Joshua Tree, with this track being their most sonically immersive song at that point. Opening with tinkering keyboard arpeggios and distant guitar echoes. Some very ambient synths colour in the chords as Adam Clayon and Larry Mullen Jr. set in into a driving and slightly dancey groove. Edge icy guitar plinkering is matched by his breathy backing vocals that sound the way breath steam on a chilly day looks. Bono sings “Ice, your only rivers run cold, these city lights, they shine of silver and gold, dug from the night, your eyes as black as coal” and it’s like you can picture the images with him. A gliding major-keyed piano chord progression carriers the chorus with Bono’s “walk on by, walk on through, walk till you run and don’t look back for here I am” soaring over it. I love the joyous way he sings “Staaaaay this time! Stay the night!” in an unexpected falsetto. The string arrangements in the bridge enhance the mysterious atmosphere on the track’s instrumental, with a cello line helping the song darken in mood after the second chorus ends on a tenser chord progression, then building up to the loud and bombastic orchestral hits to come later. And note the uncertain tension they leave at the end of the song. If you’re ever around those goons who are daft enough to try to write U2 out of the canon (of which there are an alarming amount of in my experience) this is one of the best songs to pull out to shut down their argument.
421. Weezer - Say It Ain’t So
One of the mega hits of Weezer’s self-titled debut (more famously known as The Blue Album to most people) that’s been a staple of parties and social events since my teen years. It may be the alt-rock soft-verse-loud-chorus dynamic structure at its most karaoke-able, and arguably its most air-guitarable as well. The gentle guitar figure for the opening, the steady bass line and guitar chords that flicker like an LED the “oh yeah alright” hook that’s effortlessly catchy, the hint-at-getting-loud “wrestle with Jimmy!” line in the first verse. Suddenly the song explodes into the lunging power chords and belted vocals of the chorus that make the rhyme “heart breaker/life taker” sound better than it has any right to be in print, and of course there’s those awesome guitar bends made between the lunging power chords in the later choruses! The song is also one of Cuomo’s most intimate songs, being quite a raw and vulnerable struggle with his father’s alcoholism. In the second verse he goes from nervously uttering “I can’t confront you, I never could do” to belting “THIS WOOORLD! Is a waterslide away from me that takes me further every day!” making for yet another karaoke-able moment. And that bridge that carries the power-chord lunging through a diminished progression ending on the “LIKE FATHER! STEP FATHER! THE SON IN DROWNING IN THE FLOOOOOOOD! YEAH YEAH YEAH! YEAH YEAH!” making it the second song after “Chop Suey” to have dramatic and passionate belting of “Father!”. A kick-ass guitar solo follows (love the lay that lick near the end has its own overdub to sound like an echo) leading into a smashing final chorus with extra special final-chorus added harmonies and vocalisations (like the last time they sing “soooo-oh-oh”) and the gentle guitar from the opening concluding in the rubble of decaying guitar chords and feedback. Last edited:
Whereas the previous Pixies (and by extension Doolittle - I haven’t heard the other albums, don’t @ me) entry “Tame” showed the band’s visceral rock dynamics at their most terrifying, “Here Comes Your Man” plays to the opposite end of the band’s strengths and sticks out as the album’s sweetest piece of pop pleasure. From the almost jangle-pop guitar line to its breezy backing guitar strum. Frank Black delivers a melody that utilises his vocal eccentricities while also being very cheery and positive while being backed by tuneful guitar arpeggios. There’s the wonderful way he and Kim Deal overlap their voices on a line that ends with a harmony “there is a wait so love (so long so long) you never wait so loooooooong!” to the high-range guitar line. I love how the band gains in momentum for the bridge with Black’s wordless “aaah-ooooooooh”s leading the way. And the galloping snare rolls in the outro as Black and Deal stretch out there harmonies on “here comes your maaaaaaaa-aa-an”. As great an example of the infectious hookiness of the Pixies’ material as anything off of Doolittle.
419. Taylor Swift - Clean
The final track of 1989 (the standard tracklisting, anyway), making for a perfect closing for an album that completed Swift’s journey from teenage countrygirl to the defining pop songwriter of her time as a young adult. The synth chords feel like the neon-light bliss that defined the album have decayed and are now only giving dim low-range woozes. The treble-range keyboard line songs like a synthesised thumb piano and hits like raindrops (fitting for the song’s chorus) the digital percussion hits and the fatigued “ah ah” vocals in the lead and backing throughout. What’s really striking about this song however is how the lyrics sound like bleaker versions of the lyrics she might have penned on Fearless.
The drought was the very worst When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst It was months and months back and forth You’re still over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear no more Hung my head as I lost the war And the sky turned black like a perfect storm
Note how much has changed in her use of flowers and dresses since the days of “Love Story”. What’s still stayed however is her use of the rain for cathartic effect, much like she was doing on “Forever and Always”, though this time it’s not to describe her pain from the relationship but the alleviation from it: “The rain came pouring down when I was drowning that’s when I could finally breathe, and by morning gone was any trace of you I think I am finally clean”. The water imagery expands to a flood in the second verse which peaks with “the water filled my lungs, I screamed so loud but no-one heard a thing”. Closer or no closer, it’s still one of the best examples of 1989’s excellence and proof of her indelible lyrical ability
418. Azealia Banks - 212
The fierce, expletive-ridden banger that’s just as thrilling now as it was as I saw it named the best song of 2012 be New Zealand’s most infamously hard-to-please music critic: Simon Sweetman. That guy has a pretty bad reputation for being a cynic with lots of unnecessarily hostile reviews of artists, but even he couldn’t deny this song’s brilliance. That galloping hip-house beat sounds sounds like all of the best bits about club beats at the start of this decade and builds to hint at a climax before breaking back down again by the end of Banks’ verse. That verse is already ear-grabbing from the opening “hey, I can be the answer” all the way to the profane “I get that c****s getting eatin’” delivered and repeated with an almost-audible devilish grin on her face. She remains commanding in her explicitness through the second verse (“I’m a rude bitch, n**** what are you made up of?”) succeeding at getting through 2 verses without a chorus thanks to her sheer presence. And at that moment a surprisingly excellent low-sung melody (“Ayyyyo”) builds up to give us the thrilling shouted hook for the chorus (“BITCH THE END OF YOUR LIVES ARE NEAR! THIS SHIT BEEN MINE! MINE!”). Bravado at its most badass, and its most filthy too.
417. Kimbra - Settle Down
It’s been nearly 10 years since I first heard this song premiere on my country’s now-defunct music TV channel in its last full year (RIP C4, much love) and felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air in mostly-uninspired sea of commercial homegrown music getting rotation at the time. Heavily influenced by vocal jazz with a plethora of layered backing vocals building from the opening “boom b-boom-ba” to support Kimbra’s sinuous lead melody. Listen to the way she draws out the word “knows” at the end of the first verse and the building of tension in the second verse with the backing vocals as her lead vocal gets more animated and muscular on “she’s got a fancy car, she wants to take you far, from the city lights and sounds deep in-tooo the daaaark!”. This leads into the girl-group-esque chorus hook (“star so light, star so bright”) with its descending “aaaaah” counterpoint. And I haven’t even gotten to the instrumental which is also remarkable with the subtle bouncy swing of the drum beat; the brassy swell in the bass after the first verse; the plucked strings buried in the chorus and the quick runs they make in-between Kimbra’s phrasing; and the accented piano notes that play off the “hey, oh oh” hook in the bridge. Totally unlike anything on mainstream airplay either at home or abroad, and the start of the career of one of our most eccentric artists.
416. New Order - Regret
This later-period 1993 hit for the band carries an air of regained hope after enduring a life of Blue Mondays. Opening with a back-and-forth between clear-skied synth chords from Gillian Gilbert and Bernard Sumner’s crisp guitar riff, Stephen Morris sets a danceable 16th-note groove on the hi-hat and Peter Hook plays one of his trademark upper-range countermelodies on his bass, and a remarkably tuneful one at that. Sumner continues to use the modesty of his voice to sell the newfound sense of contentment in the lyrics (“maybe I’ve forgotten the name and the address of everyone I’ve ever known it’s nothing I regret”) perhaps most succinctly put in the chorus:
I would like a place I could call my own Have a conversation on the telephone Wake up everyday that would be a start I will not complain of my wounded heart I was upset you see almost all the time You used to be a stranger now you are mine
The sheer simplicity of the desires expressed in the first 3 lines are all turned into achievable goals worthy of treasuring, all sung in such a casually friendly way that feels effortless. The band’s highest charting single in the US, cracking the top 30 which itself made for a small triumph at the end of the band’s zenith.
Making up half of the title of Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 masterpiece good kid, m.A.A.d city and one of the hardest-hitting songs off of it. As soon as the “YAWK YAWK YAWK YAWK” jolts out of the ominous intro we’re taken to that unstoppable beat with the stirring string-line, vocal samples that sound like they’re echoing and perhaps the most gripping verse on the entire album, one that Kendrick Lamar delivered on the stage of the 2014 Grammy Awards in a performance that managed to achieve the impossible by making me like Imagine Dragons for 5 and a half minutes. Lamar retells the horrors of being exposed to the world of gang violence at a young age straight down to a real-life murder he witnessed (“seen a light-skinned n**** with his brains blown out, at the same burger stand where *beep* hang out” - that name is censored for a reason, also check out the hi-hat behind him during that line) while also utilising an astonishing amount of alliteration (“You f*cking punk, picking up the f*cking pump, picking off you suckers, suck a d*ck or die or sucker punch”) and internal rhyme (“Bodies on top of bodies, IV’s on top of IV’s, obviously the coroner between the streets and the Isleys”).
And that’s just the first verse! Suddenly after the chorus hook and another “YAWK YAWK YAWK YAWK” we get a beat switch using TV static like someone was changing station and going to a slower, stylish, and with a self-consciously classic West Coast feel. You’ve got good light distortion on the drums, the bass with the tiniest hint of funkiness and the dramatic strings and the guitar parts from the little melody line to the watery sounding muted glissandos. Despite the retro vibe the song the lyrics feel like they’ve moved forward in time and find Lamar within the gang culture that like many moments on good kid m.A.A.d city make you wonder how much of the story is autobiographical. The use of police sirens and gunshots as MC Eiht starts his verse adds to the cinematic atmosphere as if you could imagine this playing as a movie. Kendrick’s following and final verse sees him in the present and starting confessionalyl with admissions of the terrible things he has done in the past, but then flips it around in an optimistic way about the chance to redeem yourself out of it:
If I told you I killed a n**** at 16, would you believe me? Or see me to be innocent Kendrick that you seen in the street With a basketball and some Now & Laters to eat If I mentioned all of my skeletons, would you jump in the seat? Would you say my intelligence now is great relief? And it's safe to say that our next generation maybe can sleep With dreams of being a lawyer or doctor Instead of boy with a chopper that hold the cul de sac hostage Kill 'em all if they gossip, the Children of the Corn They realizing the option of living a lie, drown their body with toxins Constantly drinking and drive, hit the powder then watch this flame That arrive in his eye, listen coward, the concept is aim and They bang it and slide out that bitch with deposits And the price on his head, the tithes probably go to the projects I live inside the belly of the rough Compton, U.S.A. made me an angel on angel dust, what
I absolutely love the way the pitch of his voice is artificially lowered to sound like a recording of a historical speech and then back up to slightly higher than his normal voice. Lamar then gives himself a mini-fanfare of some classic G-Funk synth lines complete with samples of “Compton!” used on The Chronic just to accentuate the homage to Dre.
414. Smashing Pumpkins - Today
Arguably the biggest radio staple of the Pumpkins’ 1993 alt-rock touchstone Siamese Dream. The blissful clean guitar line gives way to the major-keyed chord progression and Billy Corgan declaring “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”. But of course this song is famous for contrasting its dark, ironic lyrics of depression and suicide with a deceptively happy tune, and the lyrics that follow that first line reveal just that: “can’t live for tomorrow, tomorrow’s much too long, I’ll burn my eyes out before I get out”. In those last 2 words the melody rises in tension with the chord progression to lead into the more outwardly grim verses with some excellently-placed note bends from the guitar in between the lines (“I wanted more *!~~~~* than life could ever grant me”). This goes back and forth between soft faux-happy choruses and loud angsty verses for 2 rounds but surprisingly the later choruses actually genuinely feel happier and not even ironically! From the way he sings “daaay-oooooooooooooh” at 2:19 in the third chorus or how the final minor-key verse is simply an A Day In The Life reference (“I want to turn you on *!~~~~*” - also awesome guitar lick in the transition) delivered with more determination and the way he interplays with his lead guitar lines in the final chorus that actually feels genuinely triumphant. Like his awful day actually did get better for him. Sometimes the world isn’t a vampire after all?
413. Prince - Kiss
One of the most beloved Prince hits and probably the most likely one to be played at dance parties. It’s also one of his most unique pieces of pop production (and that’s saying a lot) most notably how the synth chords and drum beat invoke the feeling of warm air being compressed in a machine. There’s also the sparse but intriguing use of synthesised marimba in both the upper and lower ranges, making nice little counterpoints. And the funk guitar adds a few touches like the D6/9 chord played at the end of the chorus before Prince sings the title, and the solo that utilises his chicken scratch abilities to lead lines. But most striking in the song is Prince’s arrestingly high falsetto in the song, something Matthew Bellamy was 100% listening to when coming up with “Supermassive Black Hole” (though not as effective sadly). His melody is irresistible and his extra-high but delicate lead vocal in the second verse and chorus riding over the backing vocals carrying the main tune and the wild histrionics in the final chorus are both great treats. Another one of the endless gems from the best musician of the 80s.
412. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Although I had been aware of Arcade Fire for their acclaim and comparisons to U2 and Radiohead and their unexpected Album of the Year win at the Grammys, it wasn’t until Reflektor that I actually finally started paying attention to their music and they became my favourite band as I left high school. I still remember seeing the bobble-head video in the TV at a McDonald’s that I had been to at a lunch stop on a school trip. I had already loved Achtung Baby but yet to hear Remain In Light but this release was a perfect way to discover the latter. With a disco-ey conga-laden beat and nocturnal-sounding synths it sounded like right in the disco-revival of 2013 but also like nothing else around.
I discovered the billingual beauty of Regine Chassange (“Entre la nuit, la nuit et l'aurore Entre les royaumes, des vivants et des morts - between the night, night and dawn, between the kingdoms, of the living and of the dead.) and the band’s ability to climax, which they pull off here twice! So past the treats of the chorus and the weight of guest horn player Colin Stention (check out the haunting background rasp at 1:44!) and the guitar line in the catchy choruses. Will Butler makes squelches that sound like satellite transmissions over bursts of guitar reverb and the chords get louder and switch to a major I chord and Win Butler starts urgently repeating “just a reflection of a reflection or a reflection… but I see you on the other side”. Then once died down again after another verse and chorus (featuring the lovely lyric “our song it skips on little silver discs” which makes for the best image of breaking up using technology in the song, which has a few admittedly on-the-nose-lines the “staring at a screen” one has a whiff of “we live in a society” to it), we make our way to the David Bowie cameo (“thought you were praying to the resurrector, turns out it was just a reflektor”) over the descending horn line. An awesome keyboard riff declares itself and before we realise it we’re in the second climax, with the piano line changing to 90s-house style chords, the strings getting higher and Win Butler’s vocals getting even more urgent than before. Listen to how he draws out the title’s last syllable between 2 notes and the way he ends the final “but I see you on the other side!” before the band pushes through to its end with Jeremy Gara’s snare run. The song quietens down in a rather eerie way with the tink of the cymbal and the conga that’s been there from the beginning and the strings going dissonant and left to decay when the percussion stops.
411. Beastie Boys - Sabotage
It may be just because of that iconic video that’s earned itself a Sesame Street parody on YouTube made out of footage from the Follow That Bird movie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNomhZFaWWI), but that intro with those drum hits and harmonic-laden guitar strikes invokes the image of witnessing a wild police chase so perfectly in a rock song that it comes to mind when I listen to later rock hits like Shihad’s “Comfort Me” and Royal Blood’s “Out of the Black” which have similar openings. This song blows those 2 out of the water though, and keeps the momentum coming with that wild, unrestrained vocal from Ad-Rock (“IIIIIIIIIIIIIII CAN’T STAND IT! I KNOW YOU PLANNED IT!” to say nothing of how he and the boys deliver the title) the turntable sounds that feel like a warning siren and even that gloriously amateurish guitar solo in the middle of the second verse. And the build-up after the brief breakdown after that verse with the distorted bass gives way to one of the hugest moods ever in Ad-Rock’s scream of “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” god-damn that’s just exhilarating. One of the most high-energy-at-parties songs in rock.