December 18, 2009
So a couple weeks ago, I started working through my iTunes collection and building a CD-length playlist featuring my personal picks for the best songs of the decade.Â Now, I did this because 1. I listen to a crazy amount of music and 2. I got a new MacBook Pro and was able to have a laptop that didn’t die after 10 minutes of use.Â Woo! Technology!
First the criteria: I started out thinking that I would have set criteria.Â This didn’t really work out, because, frankly, I’m not that rigid and this isn’t work.Â At work, I have to adhere to criteria and to be objective…On music, not so much, because it’s ALL subjective.Â So this list is composed of songs judged on some loose criteria, including general enjoyability, longevity, uniqueness, innovation, and musical quality.Â Also, the first step to making the list is that I actually have to LIKE the song.Â So, I know there is a lot of music out there that I don’t love, and those songs aren’t on that list (Though I do have a broad taste, as you will see from this list).
I’m gonna do this is four parts.Â Three posts of five unordered songs, and then a final post with what I have judged to be the best 3 songs of the decade.Â Without further ado, I’m going to present to you the first five of my choices.
If you are familiar with my music taste, as some of you are, you’ll know that I am a huge Killers fan.Â Some people didn’t like Sam’s Town and more people didn’t like Day & Age…I’ve loved all of it.Â But it all started with Hot Fuss and Somebody Told Me (which did come out before the slightly over-rated Mr. Brightside…I looked).Â But this song, with it’s roaring guitar opening, driving beat, and slightly lo-fi vocals is an infectious piece of pop-rock music (and it even features the crowd-pleasing Wooho-Woooo in the bridge).Â This song was a powerful debut that catapulted the Killers to being undeniably one of the biggest bands of the decade.
Fleet Foxes quietly rolled out one of the best albums of the decade with their self-titled debut in 2008…And by quietly, I only mean literally, because this album rightly got a lot of hype after coming out (It was Pitchfork’s album of the year after all).Â And the finest work off of that album may be the shortest track.Â At just under two and a half minutes (and with just about 7 lines of lyrics), Fleet Foxes kick the song off in almost a round and then manage to turn in one of the finest vocal harmonies you’ll ever here in modern pop music.Â The lyrics themselves are almost inconsequential, almost as if they are just another instrument in this intricate and masterful track.
While intricate harmonies and mellowness that make White Winter Hymnal a fantastic song, Wolf Like Me takes the exact opposite approach.Â After just a few seconds of guitar intro,Â the heavy bass and drum combo take over from there, driving this song at full speed for most of the next 4 minutes and 30 seconds.Â This song–ostensibly about werewolves, but tooootally pre-twilight–thrives on pure intensity.Â Even as the bridge tries to slow you down, you can feel that the bass is going to bring back the fever pitch.Â And from there, the frenzy just takes over: “Hey hey my playmate/Let me lay waste to thee/ Burned down their hanging trees/ It’s hot here hot here hot here hot here”.
It was perhaps the decade of mash-up music.Â And perhaps the finest example (other than perhaps the entire Feed the Animals Album from Girltalk) comes in this unique pairing of Jay-Z’sÂ “Change Clothes” with the Beatles’ “Piggies” and “Dear Prudence”.Â As this song kicks off with the meandering guitar and Jay-Z shouts, you can feel that something special is about to follow…not something derivative of Jay-Z or the Beatles, but a piece of music that is a completely new and unique piece of music.Â Plus, there’s something that’s undeniably fun about Pharrell chanting “sexy, sexy” over the jaunty guitar.
The National’s 2007 release Boxer strikes me as another of the finest albums of this decade (honestly, who says the album is a dead format).Â And though songs like “Mistaken for Strangers” or “Fake Empire” are more hyped (and fantastic in their own right), “Guest Room” is a song that captures the album’s angst and unease perhaps better than any other track on this collection of songs about the pains of adulthood. The combination of Matt Berninger’s baritone lyrics (“We miss being ruffians/going wild and bright/in the corners of front yards/getting in and out of cars/we miss being deviants”) and the snare make this song a simple, yet fantastic piece of song-smithing.