Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Honest Top Ten Songs List

My good pal Mike Oliveri threw something interesting onto his blog today. Based on the number of times something has been played on your personal music system, what are your genuine top ten songs. I mean, you must like them if you play them that often, no?

So here they are, in classic countdown style. Where I've been able to find embeddable/playable links, I have included them, but in some cases YouTube/Blip/etc are letting me down.

 I'm less embarrassed by the results than I thought I would be, but I think I'm revealing that at heart I'm a bit of a sentimental sap.

10. Yell,  by Robin Danar (feat. Jesca Hoop)

This is a nice, spaced out bit of electronica with rather a sexy beat to it, and then the lyrics start sinking in. What it really is, is a crie de cour against injustice that just gets more relevant with each passing year, protest break-up or Republican debate. All delivered in Jesca Hoop's unique, soft and funky vocals. I can't follow every word when she launches into the odd bit of Indian raga-style, but it sure sounds good.

9. Manic Moonlight, by King's X

This is a live version of the song. Wish I could have been there for it (I have seen King's X live and talked briefly with drummer Jerry Gaskill, who is exactly as kind and thoughtful a guy as I expected). I'm a big King's X fan from way back and listen to them a lot, but I was surprised that this, of all their amazing tunes, was in my top most played. I think I like stuff like "We Were Born to be Loved" more, but maybe all of those dazzling time signature changes exhaust my brain too much? And maybe most of their other songs are just too passionate for me sometimes, while this one is always ok when it comes up in the shuffle. It's still heavy as hell, both in terms of the meh-tal and the meaning, but it's one of the band's smoother and more reflective numbers.

8. He Doesn't Know Why, by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes' tagline is "we like to sing" and it really shows in songs like this one. Really just a series of long arpeggios sort of slapped together into a song, it's the vocals that sell it. In a lot of ways, what they're doing shouldn't work: Robin Pecknold breathes audibly and in the middle of lines, which should annoy the hell out of me but instead charms me: I think of a little kid singing his heart out but not planning ahead for when he should breathe (and now I'm thinking of Negativland's crazy "Over the Hiccups" in which a little kid struggles cutely to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" through an epic case of hiccups). And since I'm seeing this official video for the first time ever, LOOK! GOATS! Goats are cute.

7. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, by Fleet Foxes

So wow, yes, I listen to Fleet Foxes a lot. Especially when I'm writing, and especially when I'm writing sonnets (you do know I write sonnets, right?). Their poetic lines spill over like mine do, plus, their music is just pretty. Really pretty.

6. When Smokey Sings, by ABC

I like absolutely everything about this song, but funnily enough, I was largely indifferent to it when it was popular in the '80s. I liked "Be Near Me" better, and the video for "The Look of Love" with its faux Ren Faire and Punch and Judy puppets was more fun. This was a song I had to grow into. What I first noticed was the classic Motown bariton sax lines (I have always liked a good, goaty bari sax bit -- why my favorite David Bowie song, against all comers except maybe, sometimes, "Queen Bitch" is "Blue Jean"), and by around 2005 this was my default choice whenever it was my turn to feed the Jukebox of Everything at my local dive bar. I'm surprised its play number isn't a bit higher, actually!

5. All Over the World, by Electric Light Orchestra

There is comfort food, so why wouldn't there be comfort music? I grew up roller skating with my little sister round and round and round and round in my dad's garage, to a select few LP's playing on my portable record player. The skates were the metal kind you fit on over your shoes, the accoustics in the garage were awful and the speakers on the record player were, well, speakers on a kid's portable record player quality, but when you're ten years old, what do you care? And one of the records we loved best was the original soundtrack album to Xanadu. My sister liked the Olivia Newton John songs (because of her, we also had to skate a lot to Grease), while I preferred the ELO. It was a good compromise. And so, to this very day, the opening bars of this song make me smile, and never once to I hit "skip" to shuffle on to the next tune. (Oh, and do yourself a favor and click on the link I made above. YouTube wouldn't let me embed the film clip but you just have to go love on Gene Kelly being his smooth, fantastic self amidst all of the kitsch flash of 1980 crap culture).

4. Shake Your Hair, by Ditched by Kate

This song just freaking rocks and it shot way up in my number of plays when the EP was released last year. I just can't stop listening to it. It's only partly because the lead singer of Ditched by Kate (and no, I am not the Kate what ditched 'em, but when I finally make it to one of their gigs we're going to pretend) is a much-loved friend, Phil Rossi (who is quite a renaissance man. Check out his website and get a load of his books and other creative endeavors, all of which I recommend). This video is a stripped down version of the song, with, I think, not the entire band (but there's my friend Chooch on bass!), played at a science fiction convention because geeks like to get down, too.

3. Waterloo Sunset, by Ray Davies (feat. the Crouch End Festival Chorus)

Don't get me wrong, I love the original Kinks recording of this lovely, melancholy little ditty, but for some reason therecording Ray Davies made a few years ago with the Crouch End Festival Chorus is what halts me during shuffles. This live version is pretty nice but I have to say, the studio version is freaking exquisite.

2. We Are Going to Fuck Some Shit Up, by Gyrating Bhtch

This is one of the most gloriously ridiculous songs ever recorded by the most gloriously ridiculous band you've never heard of (unless you're a personal friend of mine or of one or more of the band members). I've listened to it hundreds of times and it still makes me laugh like a loon, but I have no idea if it will have that effect on other people. For me, it's the lyrical absurdity combined with the hilariously creative vulgarity combined with my dear friend Mark Delsing's totally deadpan delivery. How about you?

1. Sax and Violins, by The Talking Heads

This song was originally developed for the soundtrack of one of my favorite films of all time, Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World. It was the soundtrack I fell in love with first, though, and this song had a big part in that. It's totally typical Talking Heads, but it was new Talking Heads at a time when we weren't expecting anymore, and while it was in no way a departure from what they'd done before, it still felt like the future (the film came out in 1991 and imagined, among other things, New Year's Even 1999 in a wholly original and unforgettable way). It's danceable (I like to take dance breaks when I'm writing), it's smooth, it's emotional, and, obviously, I play it all the freaking time.

So there's mine. What are yours? List in comments (share with Mike Oliveri, too, since this post is his fault), or link back to a blog post like this that you write. This was fun and a little weird 8)

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