Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"And the birds that were crushed... once had air in their bones... as oil was refined in her honor": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part 10: #29 - #23

The numbers fall and the songs get bigger, better. These are 7 of my alone songs, the songs I listen(ed) to sitting alone on apartment couches and driving alone in cars somewhere between 5 and 7 years old.

(Clarification: The cars were between 5 and 7 years old. Not me.)

29. Blind - Hercules and Love Affair (featuring Antony) (2008)
Upon first hearing the vocal brilliance of Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, I feared something would happen. Something very particular. I feared that the perfect alien humanity of his voice would eventually be used for commercial and covert purposes by the producers and overlords of that most secretive and sinister of music genres: gay disco. I have nothing (much) against dance music and I am generally neutral toward the repetitive emotionality of its gay branch, its beats made 30% faster because the night doesn't last long enough or because of drugs or both. No, my protective older-brother-to-a-younger-androgynius-sister-I-never-had feelings toward Antony were based on the fact that his tragedies were laid bare purest in the slow stark songs he clearly loved writing. But then I heard his guest vocal on this dance track and yeah the spangled clutchers got him for this one song. This one amazing song. But he was just slumming - in 2009, Antony put out some more lovely slow songs, one of which is still to come on this list.

28. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (2005)
Was it the spare sane touching lyrics about insanity that did it?
No, but they were nice.

Was it the cover versions by everyone from The Raconteurs to Lil Wayne to Pink to David Gilmour to Violent Femmes to Of Montreal to Adam Lambert?
No, though I appreciate the effort.

Was it the four separate "who do you"s before the "think you are" in verse 4?
No but you're getting closer.

Was it the "ha ha ha bless your soul" in the next line?

Link here.

27. Easy Beat - Dr. Dog (2005)
You will either laugh uncontrollably OR groove unobtrusively as you listen to this song. Did I say OR? I meant AND/OR. Dr. Dog is still the only band that I started listening to solely on the basis of an NPR story.

26. Joan Jett of Arc - Clem Snide (2001)
Look, I know it's a strained pun there in the title. And I know that if each precious lyric was worth a nickel, Eef Barzelay would be rich enough to buy a new white suit every week. But this song makes me happy. And happy is... happy.

25. Black Cowboys - Bruce Springsteen (2005)
If back in 1987, you had told me that Bruce Springsteen would put out 78 original songs in the next 22 years and that my favorite of these 78 would be a spare but intense acoustic tale of a boy named Raney William seeking out televised Westerns and then books about the old west and then eventually books about black cowboys, to fill the void left by an absent father, or perhaps silence the already too-low volume of the man his mom found to take dad's place but then the books opened Raney's eyes and he left his eastern city with its own cowboy dead, their street tributes of flowers and photographs not quite as exciting as the Seminoles and their legends and truths he would eventually find during a cross-America train ride.

If you had told me that in 2009, I would be writing 133-word sentence fragments, I would apologize and move on.

(Listening to this song again - nearly 24 hours after writing this entry - I realize that it may also be about the wreck that crack left in its wake, a severely underwritten topic in songs of any genre, surprising considering the toll it took in many cities.)

24. Hot Soft Light - The Hold Steady (2006) 
The national music press calls Craig Finn a Minneapolis rocker. And yes his teenage freedom songs - most prevalent on 2006's Boys and Girls in America - namecheck plenty of places in that great badass nerd of a city...landmarks like First Avenue, the Grain Belt Bridge (not its real name), the Washington Avenue Bridge (its real name), etc. But what Craig - can I call you Craig? - really nails is the great flat suburban vastness that surrounds Minneapolis and its bratty little sister city St. Paul.

Craig grew up in Edina and has apparently partied in Osseo, Richfield, and Bloomington, among others. I lived in Eden Prairie for a spell from 18 to 22 and a few months at 31 so I knew the suburbs. I can't say that the Hold Steady's tales of suburban (and urban) Minnesota squalor are necessarily accurate but I will say this: If there really is this much criminal mischief and and nudge-wink-knowing-smile goings-on in the winding lake woods and blank prairie of-highways-now-avenues of the suburban Twin Cities, then Craig and his buddies knew where to find it.

I didn't know where to find it. But I've got this song, don't I? This is where the band decides that a chorus isn't such a bad thing and writes one of the best in recent memory.

23. Barely In Love - Q-Tip (2002, 2009)
I heard this song for the first time last week despite it being "released" in some similar form seven years ago. Apparently, everyone heard the leaked form in 2002. And if "everyone" truly meant "everyone" and not just a handful of lost people, then I'd really be looking bad right about now.

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