The Wednesday Countdown: A Spineless Laugh


Oh dear. Two Wednesday Countdowns in two posts means only one thing. I have gone a whole week without writing anything, which is a shame, because I seem to have been enjoying more music recently than for a long while. Unfortunately, it has coincided with exams, so I don’t write while I listen. But there are many plans in my mind for future posts, starting with reviews of the new Owen Pallett, Beach House and Vampire Weekend albums, leading into my next Great Year In Music (2005) and culminating in a post observing how well the anticipated releases in 2010 have been received, with updates on news for future releases.

For now, however, I have a list designed to unnerve, to be spine-chilling. My top 20 most unsettling songs ever, maximum one per artist (its worth noting that clearly I enjoy this music particularly, as I have managed to get 20 as opposed to the usual 10). These are not the best songs that happen to carry the air of tension necessary for inclusion, but the songs that do that particular job the best. Emotion is always important in music, and a track that can, on its own, create an atmosphere of unease, is probably one of the most challenging types of song to create.

Not all of the songs I have selected are necessarily based on the tone of the music, they do not all carry the same eeriness that an “unsettling song” might infer. It may be down to the lyrics, or just a personal attachment to the song. In one case, it is not the song itself, but the connection between the song and the death of its writer that creates the necessary shivers. In another, there is no music, but the spectral arpeggiated backing vocals and the heart-breaking lyrics make up for it totally.

Anyway, the point is, this list is personal, and therefore you cannot argue with it. But please leave your own favourite unsettling songs in the comment box below.

Top 20 Unsettling Songs:

20. Frightened Rabbit – My Backwards Walk

19. Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps

18. The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?

17. REM – Daysleeper

16. My Morning Jacket – Dondante

15. Mumford & Sons – Thistle & Weeds

14. Blur – No Distance Left To Run

13. Bright Eyes – Lua

12. Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit

11. Modest Mouse – 3rd Planet

10. Grizzly Bear – Knife

9. Jeff Buckley – Mojo Pin

8. Neutral Milk Hotel – Two Headed Boy

7. Hope Of The States – Me Ves Y Sufres

6. The National – Lucky You

5. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

4. Pink Floyd – Brain Damage

3. TV On The Radio – Ambulance

2. Portishead – Threads

1. Radiohead – Exit Music (For A Film)

If you know me, then you probably could have guessed the number 1. I was a wafer away from handing the same son two Wednesday Countdowns in a row, but, inevitably, the beautifully melodramatic lyrics coupled with a near-silence slowly builds into a cacophony of hatred, directed at the unknown “You” won the day in the end. The point where the fuzz bass first hits in still gives me the creeps (pun intended), but Radiohead could easily have made up a top 20 unsettling songs list all on their own. Placing Exit Music above How To Disappear Completely was a tough choice for me, but although HTDC is better, it remains too beautiful, a pearly apparition. Climbing Up The Walls, Street Spirit (Fade Out), Fog and 4 Minute Warning are all worthy of note in this category, but somehow it is possible for me to overlook their unnerving effect by appreciating their quality. With Exit Music I can’t even go a whole listen through without shivering at the sentiment.

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About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

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