Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Down the brain of my river": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part 13: #14 - #11

Back when I was writing part 6 of this beautifully rambling list, I announced that a decision has been made about the #1 song. I gave lyrical clues... genre clues and chronology clues. I sounded pretty sure of myself. But I knew and you knew that I would change my mind. In fact, I might change it back again or go in a completely different direction when I finish this list. Which could happen tomorrow. Or some time in mid January. No, it will happen tomorrow.

Who could it be? On whose temple could be bestowed the honor of "favorite song of the decade" by a strapping social scientist who spent the decade shambling between game show immortality and near-miss moments of clarity.... between great ideas rising to reality and bad ideas filling spaces between split atoms.... between engagement and marriage and divorce and the crazy 2006 and wacky 2009 sandwiching transitional 2007 and 2008.... between the great grand hall by the river and the small summer steps to the courthouse door.... between Seymour's slumpy shuffle and spry skittish heart and Ringo's rollicking roll and rough-hewn spirit. No change has been like this change. No past will be as meaningful as this past, as soon as it passes. I've never waited for such a thing.

Who could it be? The original choice, a street opera with lessons learned? That other song - the hit song - with its precise switches and its tailor-sewn metropolitan suits hiding continental courage? The song by the idol, the song my friend says will cause me great embarrassment if I put it at #1? The break-up song that breaks my heart even though neither one of them is me, not in that song? The friendship song? Have patience. First, some also rans:

14. Epilepsy is Dancing - Antony and the Johnsons (2009)
The second best song of 2009 is a beautifully quiet song that begins devastatingly:

Epilepsy is dancing
She’s the Christ now departing
And I’m finding my rhythm
As I twist in the snow

All the metal burned in me
Down the brain of my river
That fire was searching
For a waterway home
And in the end, a human voice cries out to be cut in quadrants. And the epilepsy has danced itself done spent itself, leaving the narrator to dance. Here's the fascinating video.

13. Your Little Hoodrat Friend - The Hold Steady (2005)
Of course I wasn't omitting this song, like I once threatened to. There were other candidates for deletion that raised their ordinary hands, allowing Finn, Kubler, Nicolay, Polivka, and Drake to rep-re-sent lucky 13. This is the first song I heard by them and the one I play first to people who've never heard them. The fact that I know all the locations cited in the song isn't the reason I like it. It isn't the Rick Springfield guitars. It's the rock and not the roll. It's the words and not the silence. It's just a damn sweet song.

12. Virginia - Vic Chesnutt (2005)
I'm sad that he took his life last week. I'm sad I only listened to a little of his music though I always admired the man. This is the Vic Chesnutt song I keep coming back to, the one that fills one void but leaves open another... I want more of his songs. It's a good thing many many of his songs will always be around. In this song, he loves his mother and maybe someone else. Virginia is the first of two songs on this video:


 11. You Were Right - Badly Drawn Boy (2002)
Earlier this year, I wrote about this song on my admittedly brilliant "Top 11 Chorus-less Songs of All Time" list.  I said "it's a song about choosing music over love and though I've never actually made that mistake, I sometimes I wish I would have." That sentence is full of lies. What I should have written is "it's a song about choosing music over love. I've done that. I sometimes wish I hadn't."


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