10. (tie) Viceburgh - Lifter Puller (2000)
The last minute of this song is more alive than the aggregate life on all of the life form-inhabited non-Earth planets in every universe there is, in all directions. A slow drowsy dirge is propelled by the slightest of chord changes to an icily beautiful close.
10. (tie) Ana Ng - They Might be Giants (1988)
The saddest happiest childhood memory song ever. I almost wrote a movie based on this song before I got sidetracked into trying to write a doomed sci-fi vehicle. My fault. I'll get back to you some day Ana.
10. (tie) Add It Up - Violent Femmes (1983)
As far as I was concerned, the Femmes invented punk. Yes, 1984 seems late for an invention that had been perfected and destroyed long before then. But this is my history.
There is no Number 9
8. Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen (1971)
"It's four in the morning. The end of December." And from there it just got better. The only song on this list for which I wrote a sequel
7. (tie) Summer Guest - Sigmund Snopek III (1987)
A beautiful instrumental written by a man from Milwaukee. The only song on this for which I once tried to write lyrics. When it's time to score my first film, this will play over the opening credits. Unless the film begins with a violent death scene, for which this song would not be appropriate (I'd substitute the other Milwaukee song on this list.)
7. (tie) Sunset City - Magnetic Fields (1995)
The first time I heard this song, I was sprawled out on my living room floor in North Hollywood, California, in the throes of the the worst back pain in my life. I would remain on this floor for much of the next few weeks before I spontaneously healed. In the interim, I kept listening to this synth-folk masterpiece about seeing the world and falling in love. This song cured my pain.
6. Summer Flesh - Lock Up Your Daughters (1999)
This is the apotheosis of their well-crafted sound: cool beautiful lyrics, hot silky guitars, and temperate congealing keyboards. When they played it at the Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis '00, the thrust of the awe in the room was impenetrable. Whatever happened to Coco in the attic? Whatever happened to LUYD?
5. Deacon Blues - Steely Dan (1977 yo)
No explanation necessary.
4. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman (1988)
What this song meant to me in the summer of 1988 will be the subject of a future entry. I'll say this: the first time I moved away from a city on my own accord, this song provided a little bit of the impulse. When I hear the opening chords, I immediately think of driving a Hyundai out of the parking lot in the ugliest apartment building in south Minneapolis, heading west so the three of us (me and two people who could barely contain their love) could have bad Vietnamese food. Plus, the way Tracy slightly changes the words and delivery in each incarnation of the chorus to further propel the song's sad story is amazing.
3. I'm Waking Up To Us - Belle & Sebastian (2001)
Not the sweet brooding mopery of their lovely early years, nor the bright sunny pop of their equally important later years... no this is just a perfect song, relegated to a between-albums single that no one noticed because the world started falling apart. Though musically brilliant, this song's appeal lies in the lyrics and vocal delivery - a perfect combination of comedy and tragedy in just about every line - the Boogie Nights of music.
2. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen (1975)
Is it coincidence that 3 songs on this list (#7, #4, #2) are purely about escape. This is the only song on the list that I can sing from start to finish if asked (and no I won't do it karaoke night unless someone accompanies me on the harmonica.) A full 75% of this song's appeal to me might be nostalgia but what better reason is there to love a song?
1. Freight Train Rain - The Reivers (1985)
Now the writer's block kicks in. I can't concisely explain why I love this song. Maybe it's simple. It's just the words and the music. And the jangly guitars and the urgency in the singer's voice. Not even the ill-advised decision to have one of the band members inexcplicably do an improvisational jazz-scat scream in the background throughout the entire song can detract from its eternal appeal.