Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"She was living in her car. I was living on the road": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part 12, #18 - #15

I have time. I have a lot of time until January 4. Time to write. So yeah - FOUR days in a row with blog entries is just the beginning.

By the way.... yesterday's bizarre entry about Rolling Stone magazine and Los Angeles and softball WILL make more sense in the future, when part 2 is posted. In retrospect, I should have just finished the whole thing first and then shared it with you as one large concise thorough piece..

18. This Blackest Purse - Why? (2009)
You know what's badass? What's badass is doing something that is seemingly the total opposite of badass.... where you lay yourself bare for the world to judge/criticize/hate/love. If you asked me a few months ago, what is the badassest badass moment in recent musical memory.... what is the moment that proves that the singer doesn't care what you think of him/her, when the singer says "yeah that's what was going on when that thing went down and here I am singing about it to you... so what are you going to do now? You're gonna listen that's what"? If you asked me that, I would have told you that the moment took place on the first song on the first Lifter Puller album released back in 1996. The song was Double Straps. Lead singer Craig Finn, likely unaware back then that 13 years in the future he would be over-written-about by a half-Egyptian half-Swedish dude with a Ph.D. and two cats on something called a blog, sings the following line: "She climbed into my bunk bed." Now, think about that for a second: a young man who wants to present himself as a rocker, someone who ostensibly wants the ladies to love him, admits to the world - debut album, track one, that he sleeps in a bunk bed. Can you comprehend the density of the balls that it took to sing - autobiographically - about having a bunk bed? No context is needed; you don't need to know what came before or after "She climbed into my bunk bed." With those six words, Craig Finn basically ensured that he had no inner censor holding him down, no limits to his songwriting breadth/depth. He would be going places. Too bad it took me 13 years to hear that song. Lessons could have been learned so much sooner.

But...this list is about the 2000s, not the 1990s. And if you ask me today "what is the badassest badass moment in your musical memory, Ali?" I might initially choose when Yoni Wolf (great name!) of the band Why? (terrible name) announces in his emoticons-get-embodied anthem This Blackest Purse that he's wearing "his ex-girlfriend's dead ex-boyfriend's boxers." Now THAT'S a place I don't ever want to sink into. I say that not because he's wearing another man's underwear; it's the "ex" and the "dead" that get to me. But wait - that would just be my first answer. I would then think about that moment in this particular song and we'd move on to the chorus in which Yoni Wolf asks "Mom, am I failing or worse?" First of all, no one says "mom" in music (any era, any genre). Plenty of people say "mama" and "mother." But "mom"? I don't know why no one says it but it is a word that is wholly unmusical. Next, he's admitting to failure. Or worse. And while admitting failure to a current or lost love is difficult and therefore super-badass (and wearing your ex's dead ex's boxers is such an admission), admitting it to your mother is the pinnacle. Once you've done that, you can do anything. You can do magic. You can build mountains. You can make an eggplant handsome.

17. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight - The Postal Service (2003)
If singing about weakness and failure is badass, then building an epic synth-pop love song on the loneliness one feels being stuck in the glassy entryways and antiseptic hallways of the "gaudy apartment complex" that houses a love that was painfully (and recently) lost is just a little shy of badass, the bar of difficulty that is set with this subject matter and this genre is high enough that very few people would try to write such a song. Also, the lyrical details one would insert into such a song are strange enough that very few people would even think about such a song. If you created a Venn diagram of the very few who would write and the very few who would think about... you'd get Ben Gibbard who surpasses his entire Death Cab For Cutie output (and future output) with this one awesome song. This is the millennial generation's Bohemian Rhapsody. Its Freebird is coming up soon. Its Smells Like Teen Spirit didn't make the list. Its Maggie May made it to 93. Its Stars of Track and Field made it to 55. And its Stairway to Heaven made it to 34.

16. Out of the Blue - Julian Casablancas (2009)
You may have noticed many songs from 2009 on this list. Is this because I'm listening to more music? Or has it just been a good year? Will I regret putting this song so high when I re-read this list in 2016? I don't know. I just love this song. I just love this year for music. Actually, this is only the 11th song from the current year to make the list. There will be two more. 100 songs... 10 years... that would be an expected value of 10 per year. 11 + 2 = 13.. 13 - 10 = 3. That's merely three songs...just 30% more songs than expected. So yeah it's a good year but let's not start erecting statues of mp3-wielding ne'er-do-wells in the town square just yet.

By the way, this song's opening quatrain is cool and all:
Somewhere along the way my hopefulness turned to sadness
Somewhere along the way my sadness turned to bitterness
Somewhere along the way my bitterness turned to anger
Somewhere along the way my anger turned to vengeance

  ...but it doesn't describe me. For one, I was never overly hopeful and yeah I was sad (am sad? sometimes) but bitterness is a rare emotion for me (or it's one that I can skillfully hide). Anger is fun sometimes and it can easily lead to memorable events in one's life (assuming no real violence accompanies it). Vengeance is something I have never ever known.

15. Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins (2006)

I forgot her. It was at about the 2/3 point of the list that I realized there was no Jenny Lewis on the list. I regrouped the judges (me, myself, and other me) and it was determined that while her two albums are about as good as any full-length genre exercise by a brilliant comely former child star could ever get, only the title track from her debut soared into the zone of true best-of-decade beauty. Slow, subtle, funny, weird.... this song always has at least a couple lines that get me every time. This last time, it was the line that comprises this post's title and the line that two people I know insist is about them: "A lady says to my ma you treat your girl as your spouse." If you have a chance to see Jenny Lewis live, do it - she's got a presence, swagger, denim, and talent. Here's an example, albeit a downbeat solo example:

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