The Wednesday Countdown: The English are waiting and I don’t know what to do

Annoyingly, by the time this is posted, it will be after 11pm, which according to the Laws of Time is Thursday. I may be a physicist, but I’m afraid even I can’t change the Laws of Time without reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. So let me assure you that although it may appear to be a Thursday Countdown it is, and always will be, a Wednesday Countdown.

Right, after last week’s Radiohead-fest I thought it would only be fair (for reasons of balance) to offer up a National-fest. By way of comparison, and such and such. I mean, I’m sure nearly everybody will claim that there is no comparing the two bands but still, my list is an awesome collection of tunes, and they are three albums down on Radiohead. So I dunno. Give them time. LP5 is just round the corner ‘n’ all.

So yes, here are my 20 favourite tracks by The National, complete with Last.FM links for persuing, and with an awesome live video of my favourite.

20. Theory Of The Crows (The National)
19. Slipping Husband (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)
18. Gospel (Boxer)
17. Lucky You (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)
16. 90 Mile Water Wall (Sad Song For Dirty Lovers)
15. Fake Empire (Boxer)
14. Available (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)
13. Mr. November (Alligator)
12. Mistaken For Strangers (Boxer)
11. Karen (Alligator)
10. Bitters & Absolut (The National)
9. Cherry Tree (Cherry Tree EP)
8. Abel (Alligator)
7. So Far Around The Bend (Dark Was The Night Compilation)
6. Secret Meeting (Alligator)
5. Murder Me Rachael (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)
4. Apartment Story (Boxer)
3. Friend Of Mine (Alligator)
2. All The Wine (Aligator)
1. Brainy (Boxer)

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The Wednesday Countdown: The Beat Goes Round And Round

The year is coming to an end, and what that means to the people that matter, is that the popular Radiohead fan forum, Mortigi Tempo, are about to run the 5th of their annual polls to find the top 100 Radiohead songs of all time. This weeks Wednesday Countdown is dedicated to “Test Tones” Sam, who has gone through the great struggle of compiling all the lists from users on the forum and turning them into neat tables and graphs, and who we all hope will repeat these exertions this year. Here are my top 20 Radiohead songs, in order, with absolutely no shocks involved for anybody who knows me. Feel free to post your anger below. Oh, and make a note that for the title I used a lyric from a song that isn’t even on my list. I’m crazy, me!

20. The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy (Amnesiac B-Side)
19. No Surprises (OK Computer)
18. Bodysnatchers (In Rainbows)
17. True Love Waits (I Might Be Wrong Live)
16. Just (The Bends)
15. A Wolf At The Door (Hail To The Thief)
14. 2 + 2 = 5 (Hail To The Thief)
13. You And Whose Army? (Amnesiac)
12. Bangers & Mash (In Rainbows Disc 2)
11. Fake Plastic Trees (The Bends)
10. 15 Step (In Rainbows)
9. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi (In Rainbows)
8. Cuttooth (Amnesiac B-Side)
7. Airbag (OK Computer)
6. Idioteque (Kid A)
5. The National Anthem (Kid A)
4. Paranoid Android (OK Computer)
3. How To Disappear Completely (Kid A)
2. There There (Hail To The Thief)
1. Subterranean Homesick Alien (OK Computer)

This is the 42nd post I have made to this blog, interestingly. OK, it wasn’t that interesting. Anyway, leave angry comments below, and take a little time, if you will, to ponder the fact that there are more Amnesiac B-Sides on this list than actual Amnesiac tracks.

The Wednesday Countdown: Colourful Songs

I had quite the worries about this particular list, which contains the top 10 songs with a colour in the title. What criteria should I put upon it? Shall I reserve a maximum one place per colour, or let all colours have free reign? Over half of my short-list contained tracks with “black” in title (which I refuse to accept as a trend in my listening habits), but due to the finite amount of named colours, and more importantly the finite amount of named colours that sound good in a song title (“Maroon Haze”? “Mauve Haze”?), I eventually selected my top 10 songs that have either the word colour or a colour in the title without worrying about any further constraints.

In the end I was very strict with myself, removing all instances of songs with “blues” in their name, which is a shame, because the idea of a colour representing a mood is the only way I can get this particular topic to be in any way related to an overriding musical theme. Of course, colour is also useful for helping to visualise a purely audial medium.

Top 10 Songs of The Rainbow

1. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

2. Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea

3. Kings Of Leon – Black Thumbnail

4. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze

5. The White Stripes – Black Math

6. Mumford & Sons – White Blank Page

7. Wilco – Pot Kettle Black

8. Kid Harpoon – Colours

9. Thom Yorke – Black Swan

10. Hope Of The States – Black Dollar Bills

Fleet Foxes sure are masters of manipulating music to give a mood beyond sound. White Winter Hymnal glows with autumnal solemnity, evoking streaks of colour not just through the snowy title, but also through the gleefully disturbing line “turn the white snow red like strawberries in summertime”. Though this list contains a lot of black darkness the clash of red blood against winter snow is the most chilling visual imagery of all, and makes the top of my list.

The Wednesday Countdown: Short Songs

Here come list number two of my Wednesday Countdown series, concentrating this time on the songs that may be short in girth, but are large in impact. The criteria for this particular list is the following, tracks must be shorter than two minutes (it’s worth noting that Blur’s slight classic “Song 2” comes in at 2 minutes 1 second), maximum one per artist, and the selection is based around both the quality of the song as well as how it fits onto the album it occupies. That last point is there because short songs are often interludes, designed as a transition between tracks. Thus the movement into the next track is taken into account, as you can probably tell looking at the top few songs, if you are aware of the albums involved.

Anyway, here it is.

Top 10 Short Songs

1. Laura Marling – Crawled Out Of The Sea (Interlude) (1:16)

2. Pink Floyd – The Happiest Days of Our Lives (1:50)

3. Portishead – Deep Water (1:39)

4. The White Stripes – Hypnotize (1:48)

5. Modest Mouse – Wild Packs of Family Dogs (1:49)

6. Foo Fighters – Doll (1:23)

7. The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves (Reprise) (1:31)

8. Radiohead – You Never Wash Up After Yourself (1:44)

9. Iron & Wine – Die (1:07)

10. Elbow – Puncture Repair (1:48)

Laura Marling perfectly anticipated the question “can a 76 second song be anthemic?” with “Crawled Out Of The Sea”, an elegantly simple love ode that does both jobs, leading smartly into “My Manic & I” on the album, but sounding very well-rounded in its own right. I confess that its position at number one was finalized not by the track itself, but by quite how amazing it sounds live. The sound of a number of hip London folk artists coming together and crying the main refrain together is one that will not soon leave me.

As ever, let me know what songs are missing, I don’t mind being reminded how wrong I am sometimes!

(Side Note: Does this compensate for me missing out “Mexico” on the last list? Because on further listening, it really is good…)

The Wednesday Countdown: The National Anthems

This is my new idea. One new list, the conditions of which are utterly random and chosen by me some time during the week, posted every Wednesday. They will probably be top 10s, unless I am smothered by ideas, in which case it’ll be longer. Really, this weekly exercise is an attempt to start some passionate musical conversation a la High Fidelity (/filling quota of monthly High Fidelity references).

This week, I have decided not to do the top 10 National Anthems, despite the title of this post, but instead to do the top 10 songs with a country in the title. I then hope that some suggestions will be provided below that I have missed out, and I welcome anger at how I dare mis out so-and-so or whatever. Suggest whatever you like, and say whatever you like (unless anybody suggests Razorlight’s America, in which case I will forcibly and repeatedly ram their forehand against a doorknob until they resemble a Zombie Dr Manhatten).

This list is definitely restricted to countries, so there will be no room for REM’s “Radio Free Europe”, nor The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK” (God knows what the UK is, but in my head, it can never be A countries, it could be a collection of countries, but it is not a country). Those are my rules, and its my list. But please, contribute where necessary.

Top 10 Tracks With A Country In The Title

1. The Guillemots – Trains To Brazil

2. LCD Soundystem – North American Scum

3. Arcade Fire – Haiti

4. Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart

5. Wilco – Ashes Of American Flags

6. The Beatles – Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown)

7. Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945

8. Hugh Laurie – America

9. Dead Kennedys – Holiday In Cambodia

10. Matt Stone and Trey Parker – Blame Canada

Should I be more worried that two of these are comedy songs (three, depending on your interpretation of The Dead Kennedys)? Oh well, patriotism is a joke, so, whatever.

You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last legs

So I guess I should explain. I was going to give a detailed analysis of the purpose and importance of the opening track of a record. I then planned on giving my personal 20 favourite opening tracks. I did the latter, and not the former.

Also, only one per artist. Man it was difficult picking between Airbag and 15 Step.

Enjoy.

20. Kasabian – Club Foot

19. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

18. R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe

17. Damien Rice – Delicate

16. Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper

15. The Beatles – Help!

14. Jeff Buckley – Mojo Pin

13. Wilco – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

12. Blur – Beetlebum

11. The National – Secret Meeting

10. TV On The Radio – The Wrong Way

9. Modest Mouse – 3rd Planet

8. Bon Iver – Flume

7. Grizzly Bear – Southern Point

6. Bright Eyes – At The Bottom Of Everything

5. Portishead – Mysterons

4. Radiohead – Airbag

3. Arcade Fire – Tunnels

2. Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (pts. 1-5)

1. The Beta Band – Dry The Rain

I was gonna include links, but eh. You can find them on youtube, you’re computer literate.

But look at that top 10. Look at it! Ahh if it didn’t go against the whole “opening track” ethic I would totally make a compilation album from that.