The Wednesday Countdown: 2010 Update

A nice relaxed return to my Wednesday Countdowns, this is my favourite twenty songs from albums released in 2010. As I’m sure you’re aware, this is a very important and noble endeavour. No limitations on number of tracks per artist/album, so expect a tad of High Violet appearing around the nether regions of this list (or, y’know, the top 12 tracks being High Violet. Whatever).

Tracks of 2010 (as of June):

20. LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean

19. Joanna Newsom – Easy

18. The Tallest Man On Earth – Love Is All

17. Beach House – Zebra

16. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

15. Owen Pallett – Midnight Directives

14. Frightened Rabbit – The Loneliness And The Scream

13. Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

12. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

11. Broken Social Scene – Forced To Love

10. The Tallest Man On Earth – King Of Spain

9. Broken Bells – October

8. The National – Afraid Of Everyone

7. Beach House – Silver Soul

6. Laura Marling – Goodbye England

5. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

4. Massive Attack – Atlas Air

3. LCD Soundsystem – All I Want

2. The National – Runaway

1. Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Co.

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The Wednesday Countdown: Anti-Valentine’s Day

As you have presumably noticed, the annual government-approved, socially-acceptable day to celebrate an invented emotion designed to provide a suitable excuse for the carnal desires of a supposedly advanced species occured on Sunday. And now, more than ever, the Anti-Valentine’s Day brigade is in full force to oppose this. Maybe in my younger years I would have jumped on this growing bandwagon, but right now it seems fruitless. For a start it smacks of jealousy, which I am not averse to, of course, but mostly it just seems to be another recepticle for the over-reaction of a group of people to anything that they deem as slightly wrong. God forbid your personal opinion is not properly represented in the angriest and least productive way possible!

Anyway, my point is, the best way to spend a proper Anti-Valentine’s Day is not to get in the way of your coupled friends, nor to join Facebook groups pronouncing your hatred of 14th February. Instead, the time should be spent wallowing in the best that the music world has to offer in anti-love, rejection, romanticized pain, etc. One song per artist, of course, these are my favourite sentimentality-deviod love tracks. Some of them aren’t even depressing!

Top 10 Anti-Love Songs:

10. Bright Eyes – Lua

9. Muse – Falling Away With You

8. Frightened Rabbit – My Backwards Walk

7. REM – The One I Love

6. Thom Yorke – Skip Divided

5. Blur – Beetlebum

4. Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter

3. The National – Available

2. Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees

1. Bon Iver – Skinny Love

Disclaimer: All these choices are anti-love songs IN MY OPINION. You may consider these songs to be truly sentimental and beautiful, but I often take the completely wrong meaning from songs based on my own experiences, and I plan on continuing to do so for many years to come. So don’t try and stop me.

(This will be the last post I make for some time, I imagine. I am taking a hiatus from using this blog, partly because I am aware it comprises almost entirely of lists, partly because I wanted an opportunity to use the word “hiatus”. I promise I will at least try and write a review of the Mumford & Sons gig which I am seeing on 12th March, but it seems unlikely that I will be doing much on here between now and then. Maybe posting a video bin or two. I don’t want to give up completely on this blog but I have accepted that I’m starting to run on empty.)

The Wednesday Countdown: 2005

In conjunction with my Great Years In Music: 2005, I have a 2005 Wednesday Countdown. Pretty much just my top ten albums from 2005.

That’s all you need to know.

Top 10 Albums Of 2005:

10. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm

9. Kasabian – Kasabian

8. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World

7. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production Of Eggs

6. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene

5. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

4. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

3. My Morning Jacket – Z

2. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning

1. The National – Alligator

~

Tell me better 2005 albums in the commenter below.

The Wednesday Countdown: I Saw Animals, And They Saw Me

Musicians are well-known for talking in metaphors (I have already covered colours and countries in Wednesday Countdown form, notable examples of one thing representing another), and this week we turn to the animal world for inspiration. It isn’t difficult to see why writers would use the kingdom of beasts to draw a parallel to the human condition. In our culture there has always been certain archetypes that writers can allude to, the lion looking for lost courage, the primal wolf that was once a man, the bird longing to stretch its wings and fly away.

Rules for this particular countdown are as follows, only one song for each animal (otherwise “A Wolf at the Door”, “The Wolves” would have also made appearances), one song per artist (thus re-igniting the Pigs vs Dogs debate) and ten songs in total.

Top 10 Songs with an Animal in the title:

10. The National – Theory Of The Crows

9. Damien Rice – Elephant

8. Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench

7. The Beatles – I Am The Walrus

6. Thom Yorke – Black Swan

5. REM – King Of Birds

4. Beach House – Zebra

3. Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man

2. TV On The Radio – Wolf Like Me

1. Pink Floyd – Pigs (Three Different Ones)

~

Pigs > Dogs

(The title of this post is taken from Dead Clown Society’s “I Saw Animals”, whose miscellaneous projects can be found here)

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.

The Wednesday Countdown: Post-Millennial Post-Party

The end of the end. A final track is always important, it can define whether an album starts well but falls into mediocrity, or whether it is consistent throughout. It also assists stepping an album up from being merely good to being great. The best closing tracks will offer a climax that makes the whole feel like an event, as well as working within their own right. They have to properly end the album, so as to make it the cohesive, accomplished whole many artists crave to create. A closing track that encourages the listener to go back to the start for another listen is always welcome.

My criteria here is that the song is a combination of three things, a good song in its own right, a track that sufficiently closes the album (thus the final 30 seconds are key) but it most also appear to raise the level of the rest of the album that has preceded it. I’ve decided that for starters I will make a list just of songs from 00s albums, and will maybe work my way backwards in the coming weeks. And, as ever, only one track per artist.

Top 10 Album Closers Of The 00’s

10. Fleet Foxes – Oliver James

9. My Morning Jacket – Dondante

8. My Brightest Diamond – Workhorse

7. Thom Yorke – Cymbal Rush

6. LCD Soundsystem – New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

5. Laura Marling – Your Only Doll (Dora)

4. Radiohead – A Wolf At The Door

3. The National – Mr. November

2. Bon Iver – RE: Stacks

1. Portishead – Threads

The Wednesday Countdown: Epic Win

In my mind I’m well aware of the definition of epic-rock. I can put on a song and be pretty sure whether or not it counts as epic-rock. But I cannot really explain it. So today’s list, best ever epic-rock songs, will be satisfying for me alone, as you will probably not understand the criteria for selection. I did decide, however, that an epic rock song needs to be over six minutes. And it needs to have at least one stomping riff, this can be a consistent, pace-keeping drone or a solo. But there needs to be that. And also… no, it is inexplicable. The criteria for inclusion is entirely in my mind.

However, that should not stop you from giving your own examples of epic-rock in the comments, or just help me to define exactly what sets these songs apart, apart from mere length. I could also do with some help with ideas for further Wednesday Countdowns. I ran out of material way earlier than I anticipated.

Top 10 Epic-Rock Songs:

10. Secret Machines – First Wave Intact
9. of Montreal – The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
8. Wilco – Spiders (Kidsmoke)
7. Muse – Citizen Erased
6. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile
5. Led Zeppelin – Kashmir
4. Yo La Tengo – Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind
3. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
2. The Beta Band – She’s The One
1. Radiohead – Paranoid Android

Stomping riff? Check

Awesome solos? Check

Funky 7/8 interlude complete with insanely tasty bass? Check

I think I have successfully defined epic-rock. It’s the feeling you get in your gut at 2:49 on the video when Ed comes in with the first stab of Paranoid Android’s epic central riff. Thats epic-rock.