The List (cont.)
- “DARE” by Gorillaz from Demon Days
I don’t know what more I can say about this song. Just thinking about it makes me excited. It is, by far, the poppiest song that Gorillaz have done. There is very little hip-hop influence here. Before Demon Days was released, someone at work had the album on their iTunes share. This song hooked me then, and it hasn’t stopped pleasing me since.
- “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” by Kanye West from Late Registration
I love any song that samples, and since I am somewhat familiar with the Shirley Bassey original, I appreciate this song more. As for Kanye’s own touches, it contains his signature (I think?) brass orchestration. The only thing I could lose is the obvious rip-off of OutKast’s “forever-ever, and ever-ever,” which he obviously ganked from “Ms. Jackson.”
- “Hey Mama” by Kanye West from Late Registration
I can’t put my finger on what makes this song great, but I think it has to do with the fact that it just feels thoughtful and heartfelt. It’s nice to see that sometimes from musicians.
- “Destroy Everything You Touch” by Ladytron from The Witching Hour
I consider this to be Ladytron’s “dark” song. It has a bit of darkness to it that really isn’t present in their previous work — sure, “Seventeen” is sorta pedophilic and sexual and “Playgirl” contains a sense of longing, but “Destroy Everything You Touch” brings the group to new levels. Lyrics like, “Anything that may desert you / So it cannot hurt you” and “Everything you touch you don’t feel / Do not know what you steal” really pack some emotional bitterness and depth — it’s nice to see Ladytron evolve from one of the poster children for “electroclash” and move more toward musical maturity. I think “Destroy Everything You Touch” (which, thankfully, is a single — so hopefully more people will be exposed to it) is a great bridge to Ladytron’s new sound.
- “International Dateline” by Ladytron from The Witching Hour
The fact that this song follows “Destroy Everything You Touch” cannot be an accident. The two songs go perfect together, and if I were a DJ I would create a mix that combines the two songs somehow. Like “Destroy,” “International Dateline” showcases Ladytron’s new darkness. It’s a total breakup song — the International Date Line is where the breakup happens — an abstract idea about crossing time and mapping a relationship to the idea of travel. “Let’s end it here…”
- “All The Way…” by Ladytron from The Witching Hour
Initially, this was the song from The Witching Hour that I feel in love with. It reminded me of Slowdive or M83 with it’s dreaminess. Again, Ladytron is moving in a new direction and I love that fact.
- “Tribulations” by LCD Soundsystem from LCD Soundsystem
Forget about “Daft Punk” and the various versions of “Yeah,” this is a great (and engaging — not too long!) LCD Soundsystem song. As much as I love the group (and their DFA remixes), sometimes the songs are a little too abstract and go on a bit too long. Not “Tribulations” — this song (should) keeps your excitement the whole way through.
- “Hung Up” by Madonna from Confessions on a Dancefloor
What can I say about this song that I haven’t said before? Well, I can say that despite the fact that the song came out about two months ago, I still love it. That the remixes are great, too. That the song has not made me love ABBA (which is a good thing, right?). It’s a great, fun song. Enough said.
- “We Run This” by Missy Elliott from The Cookbook
I’m not sure what I like best about this track — the fact that it’s one of the faster tracks from The Cookbook or the old school-sounding background or the brass accompaniment a la “Crazy In Love.” Either way, Missy “runs this shit” on “We Run This,” and I’m all the more thankful.
- “Click Clack” by Missy Elliott from The Cookbook
I swear, the line “Click-Clack, cock back / Semi-automatic track / Drink a lot of Similac, Shorty better fall back” comes from something, but I cannot figure out what (50 Cent maybe??) — either via direct sampling or some sort of play on an original lyric. This song sounds like Missy trying to be all gangsta, which she doesn’t do all too often, and, I must say, she’s pretty damn convincing.
- “God Bless and Goodnight” by Morcheeba from The Antidote
Pretty much every review I’ve read about The Antidote mourns the departure of Skye Davis from the band. While the album is overall disappointing, “God Bless and Goodnight” is a stand-out track. It’s filled with such passion and energy and almost makes an atheist like me want to say my prayers before bed.
- “I Told You So” by New Order from Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
As I am listening to this song again to write a bit about it, I am realizing that there isn’t really anything all that extraordinary about this song — it’s just a great, catchy song. And I love the lyric, “I told you so / It’s a crazy world / For a mixed up guy / And a no good girl” — though, I wish on the second repetition of it, they switched the gender so that it read “mixed up girl / and a no good guy,” but oh well.
- “All The Love In the World” by Nine Inch Nails from With Teeth
This sure isn’t the Nine Inch Nails that I loved back in high school — it’s no “Last” or “Wish” or “March of the Pigs” or “Ruiner” (my favorite NIN song) — it’s mostly a quiet, contemplative piece, more along the lines of “Hurt” or (in my opinion) the entire The Fragile album. But then about 3:45 into the song, it starts picking up and rocks out for the last minute or so. I guess that makes it a good song?
- “Only This Moment” by RÃ¶yksopp from The Understanding
I wasn’t particularly fond of this song until I heard it remixed (particularly the “RÃ¶yksopp Forsiktige Massasje” remix) — then I started to hear the beauty of it. I cannot think of a time prior to “Only This Moment” when a remix of a song sort of retroactively made me appreciate the original more. It’s a cool phenomenon, and since I became obsessed with remixes within the past year (see my forthcoming “Top Remixes of 2005” post) it’s happened a lot more. I’m glad “Only This Moment” gave me the opportunity to realize this new aspect of remixes.
- “What Else Is There?” by RÃ¶yksopp from The Understanding
This is the only song from The Understanding that reminds me of RÃ¶yksopp’s masterpiece, break-through, killer, etc. etc. album Melody A.M. — and even “What Else Is There?” is a little fast for that comparison.
- “Someone Like Me” by RÃ¶yksopp from The Understanding
When I first picked up The Understanding, I was rather disappointed. It’s hard to follow-up and album like Melody A.M. And while, now that it’s been a while, I’ve learned to love The Understanding, it took some time. And it took some realization that this RÃ¶yksopp is different from the old RÃ¶yksopp. “Someone Like Me” was the first song that made me realize this and helped me ease into their latest work. The song has it’s slow, Melody A.M.-like moments, but it also has some faster, more lounge-like moments. It’s a great transition song and also gives us a chance to hear what those RÃ¶yksopp guys sound like (since all of the vocals, as far as I know, on Melody A.M. were other people — most notably Erlend Ã˜ye).
- “Just Like Me” (Will.I.Am Of Black Eyed Peas Mix) by Sarah McLachlan and Run DMC from Bloom
The thing is, there is something about the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin that is just amazing. It’s both melancholy and whimsical at the same time. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t love this song. I’m still a little unclear where this remake (retiled as “Just Like Me”) came from — did DMC (Run DMC) cover it, then Sarah and Will.I.Am remixed it? And where is the original? I guess there is mystery, for me, surrounding this version of the song, which probably makes it more enticing. It’s better than most covers since, via hip-hop, it reimagines the song.
- “Baby Boy” by Thea from the Unleashed soundtrack
I have no idea who Thea is and this song didn’t even appear in Unleashed, but it makes a great contribution (as a bonus track to the U.S. edition) to the soundtrack. The song is soothing and serves as a perfect coda to a moody and at-times violent soundtrack. My favorite part is when the strange underwater-sounding singing comes in, about a minute before the song ends. “Baby Boy” brings hope to an otherwise depressing soundtrack.
Songs I Found Out About After I Started This List
- “Beautiful” by Goldfrapp from the “Number 1” single
I have no idea why this is a B-side and isn’t on the Supernature album (out now in the U.K., coming out in the states in March). It’s far better than “Number 1” (of which it is a B-side to). Prior to purchasing the single, I only knew of Goldfrapp via the song “Horse Tears” from Felt Mountain — I didn’t know about Black Cherry and their turn to glam and glitz. This track shocked me, and I fell in love with it. Not quite as catchy as “Strict Machine,” but it’s close!
- “Give Me Every Little Thing” by The Juan Maclean from Less Than Human
I first heard two versions of this song on the November-released DFA Records Holiday Mix 2005 (of which I am one of the few lucky owners of an actual physical copy of — mostly it was available online only via iTunes or whatever). Between the thumping and the synths and the grunting of “give me every little thing,” this song hooks you and doesn’t let go. Even when it isn’t remixed, it’s great.
- “Avalon” by Juliet from Random Order
Leading up to Madonna’s Hung Up album, I went through a bit of an obsession with producer/co-writer Stuart Price a.k.a. Thin White Duke a.k.a. Jacques Lu Cont. I downloaded or hunted down nearly every remix he did (my favorites: “The Conductor” by The Faint and “It’s My Life” by Gwen Stefani), including “Avalon” by some chick named Juliet. I did some more research and found out that Hung Up wasn’t the first album that he co-created, but that earlier in the year he had collaborated with this Juliet person on an album called Random Order. I eventually came across it (after buying the single at Tower Records), and while the album itself isn’t a masterpiece, “Avalon” is great.
- “Don’t Save Us From The Flames” by M83 from Before the Dawn Heals Us
This song takes the best of My Bloody Valentine (“wall of guitar”) and blends it with banshee-like screaming, drums, and electronic beats. While everyone (i.e. critics) seem to think the Superpitcher remix is better than the original (it may be?), the source material is worth coming back to, here. The remixes don’t fix a broken song, they build on an already great song.
- “Starts Off With a Bang” by the Mobius Band from City vs. Country
The was a Salon.com Audiofile download of the week on May 5, 2005 and I just happened to download it at work without really listening to it. Then one day my coworker and I were playing a game where whenever a song played on the iTunes party shuffle, whoever managed to guess the name and artist got a point. (Considering the fact that it was my mp3 collection, the game was a little unfair — but fun nonetheless.) When “Starts off With a Bang” by Mobius Band came on, I had no idea who sang it, but I knew I loved it. That’s how it came into my music collection.
So since this post is mostly just an elaborate list, I feel the need to make some sense of it. Pretend these are awards or something and I have created arbitrary categories as such:
This is also somewhat of a prediction (for Pitchfork and other places), but I really cannot see how Madonna’s “Hung Up” isn’t hands-down the best single of the year. It’s so damn catchy, there was a huge amount of hype preceding it, it was release don iTunes way before physical album release… if the mysterious “best single” award isn’t made for Madonna, then I don’t know what deserves such a title.
Best Single #2
Since Madonna’s “Hung Up” really makes this category unfair, I had to add a #2 so that Gorillaz’s “Feel Good, Inc.” could get some recognition, too. The song is catchy and cross-genre (electronic + hip-hop + rock) and, as I recall, did pretty well on the radio, MTV, etc. It’s not quite the blitz that “Hung Up” is, but it’s probably a better song and more technically advanced.
My Favorite Song
A few years ago back when I was a freshman in college, I found the Chemical Brother’s song “Out of Control.” I created my AOL Instant Messenger name based on the song titled, tracked down rare remixes of the song, and even named my previous web site/blog after it. Needless to say, “Out of Control” was my favorite song. Key word: was. Now Gorillaz’s “DARE” takes that title. So, of course, since it came out in 2005, it’s also my favorite song from 2005. I love the falsetto parts of the song (which seem to be sung by Noodle, according to the “DARE” music video. As an added bonus (and maybe I can elaborate on this if I do indeed do a “Top Remixes of 2005” list), the DFA did an awesome remix of “DARE” that I managed to hunt down with LimeWire. I wish I could say that the lyrics really meant something to me or that it samples some really obscure and hip old record from the 70s, but neither is the case. This is just one of those songs that catches your ear for whatever reason and gets you hooked.
I felt the need to mention these four-star songs that were really good, too:
- “Positive Tension” by the Bloc Party from Silent Alarm
- “Chromakey Dreamcoat” by Boards of Canada from The Campfire Headphase
- “Dirty Harry” by Gorillaz from Demon Days
- “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott from The Cookbook
- “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens from Come On Feel the Illinoise
The Biggest Surprise
Although I have been a fan of Ladytron for a few years (and really like “Playgirl” and “Ladybird”), I was surprised that three of the songs from their latest album, The Witching Hour, made it into my top songs. I will discuss the album in much more detail on the “Top Albums of 2005” post, but the group went in a somewhat new direction with The Witching Hour and the results really paid off. “Destroy Everything You Touch” and “International Dateline” are more poppy-electro-type songs, while “All The Way…” is a slow, ambient number. I just didn’t expect to fall this hard for Ladytron songs, and was quite surprised.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t love The Pussycat Girls‘ song “Don’t Cha,” but I do love it and that is what this “Guiltiest Pleasure” section is for. I will admit, however, that if I hadn’t gone out clubbing as much as I did during the past year, I probably wouldn’t love the song quite as much. But there is something about hearing the lyrics “Don’t cha wish your boyfriend was hot like me?” at a gay club that creates a perfect marriage (or threesome, rather) of lyrical brilliance (or simplicity?), irony, and situation/environment that forces me to laugh and smile and feel a little devious every time I hear this song. Image a bunch of gay boys singing this to each other on the dancefloor or thinking about it whenever we encounter a really hot guy with his girlfriend. It’s totally awesome.
In the same vein of guilty pleasures, if I had to pick a runner-up to “Don’t Cha,” it would definitely be Kelly Clarkson‘s “Since U Been Gone.” Although I like “SUBG” (as my friend Troy has called it on occasion) better than “Don’t Cha,” it lacks the irony and fun so it’s not as “acceptable” of a guilty pleasure.