You might be wondering whether this list is meant to be objective, a list of the most influential songs of the decade, or just my personal favourite. The answer is the latter with a sprinkle of the former. I've tried keeping it to just 1 song per artist, and not to have many songs there simply for the fact that I enjoy them, but in the end, it's just the songs from this decade that I've fallen in love with, and what more can you really expect? Think of it as a "songs you really should check out", if you will. As a result, most of what I've actually written about the songs is purely my experience with it, but yeah. On with the show:
Lisa Hannigan is a puzzling woman, in that I can't decide whether she's amazing or just good. I love her only album "Sea Sew", and seeing her live in a church was probably my favourite gig I've been to.
Yet, I find it very hard to exactly get across why she's relevant or anything special to other people. I still don't have an answer except that, well, just listen. It's instantly accesible, and incredibly sweet, pop. It's the kind of song you'd sing to someone who you are in love with, but already knows you love them. A love song without sadness, longing, regret, questions. An invitation to get lost together, and nothing more. What a way to start an album.
The sounds of abandonment, of a memory you can't quite remember. Samples are perfectly used to create a soundscape of thought. Ending the song on a ghostly "you look different", which still sounds the most like it's actually been said and isn't an echo (possibly to imply that it isn't just a memory) is perfect.
I admit to not being a huge fan of Burial's "Untrue" album. The textures and the atmosphere created were near perfect, but I felt like every song never really escaped his formula, often feeling like simply backbones. In McDonalds was the exception.
I first came across this band (properly) while listening to my reccommended music station on last.fm, and on came this song. I was happy as fuck. The repetetive bassline going on entirely through the right channel, like you're trapped in a machine fully in motion with the different parts all going on at once, that bass being the heartbeat. And then, without even noticing, it flourishes into a beautiful and organic symphony at the end, fully realising the theme of it being something more than a machine, something with emotions. It does what it does perfectly.
7. Animal Collective - In the Flowers
I got into Animal Collective for pretty shallow reasons. I'm pretty sure my only justification was "lots of Radiohead fans like them" (talking about the atease message boards). I'd heard "My Girls" once before on youtube out of interest, and it didn't really do anything for me (my opinion has since changed on this matter.) I was at HMV when I saw this album. It was mainly the optical illusion cover that grabbed my eye, and I quickly thought to myself "Oh yeah, this is that band that's apparently really great. Checking it out won't kill me, I guess".
Sat home listening to it, and was a few minutes into the first track. I thought it sounded pretty cool, then BOOM. In comes the loud, incredible wake up call, sounding similar to a futuristic irish folk song (at least to me), in addition to a fun polyrhythm. I actually wanted to get up and dance. Probably one of the most perfect album openers ever recorded.
6. Portishead - The Rip
Are the sounds a contrast of old and new? It starts with a "worble" reminding us of the sound of a 40s science fiction movie. You then wonder if those guitar notes of the first half are played in that half muted "I wasn't holding the strings down on the fret hard enough" way on purpose, or for some kind of confusing effect... or just to contrast the pristine computerized synthy second half of this near perfect song. Then you realise it doesn't matter, because it sounds so good anyway.
5. Radiohead - How to Disappear Completely
Ah, How to Disappear Completely and never be found, a guide on how to fade into obscurity. Thank god Thom Yorke didn't follow his own advice (or Michael Stipe's) when making this record.
Listening to this song while on the go is always an experience. If, for whatever reason, you want to feel secluded, like you're not at one with the world, like it's happening to everyone else but you, then listen to this song while in a crowded place. You'll get that crippling alienation that you are just looking at people through glass. A pointless endeavour unless you're in a bad situation and feel like you need to get away from your fellow man and your life, which this song was designed for. It'll probably just end up depressing you to hell, though.
4. Arcade Fire - In the Back Seat
Oh man. This song hits you, it really does. The rest of the album to me, almost feels like a triumphant escape, a rush of euphoria from that feeling of "we're actually going to do this". You know what I mean, I'm sure.
But this song, it's like a memory. The childish piano melody. In a car at night, driving on a highway with heavy rain outside. You're safe, you're being taken care of. Then, at around the "Alice died" line, the regret crashes into you. You long for the days of being able to not worry, to not be as independent as you've just battled for. The strings are pretty, while also being eery and frightening. They're a reminder of happiness and past times, and also regret. Not the regret that lingers in your mind, the regret you get from being a coward. When the song kicks off, this regret is screaming "what have I done?", and screaming it loud.
3. Sigur Rós - Svo Hljótt
I'll be honest, I put another Sigur Rós song here at first, Viðrar vel til loftárása from the album Ágætis byrjun. I only removed it when remembering that it was infact originally released in 1999, with only it's American and UK releases in 2000 (which is why so many other music publications include it). However, this isn't to say that this song isn't just as deserving for this list.
The first time hearing this song was one of the best of my life. I remember a friend being round while I just played this song to him, while all we did was sit and listen, in silence (well, besides the music playing). I'm not sure if I've ever done this with another song, especially strange considering it's over 7 minutes long.
I always find it hard to talk about songs that aren't in english. Do I just talk about the imagery I see? Doing that makes me thing of the type of thing a psychiatrist would practice, as if it's more of an exploration of me than the song. So I'll just say this: It's pure euphoria, and I wanted to tell everyone about it. I'd never heard a song like this, the progression is similar to a build up of going up on a rollercoaster and getting excited, and then falling into the ride of your life.
2. Elliott Smith - A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free
Oh man. Probably the saddest song I've ever come across; the ultimate anthem for helplessness. I think the title itself pretty much conveys the meaning of the song perfectly, but the song says more than this. There's a sense of disappointment with the world, asking why it's gotten this way. What's even sadder, which is uncommon for Smith's sad songs, is that rather than focusing on seclusion, it's asking for help. "Shine on me". It's helpless because he can't do a thing to stop it besides attempt to make reality seem different.
When it gets to that ending. Oh, that ending. The choir of Smith's vocals, fading out one by one until it's left with that one, frail "mmm" which also cracks off, as if defeated, only followed by a 10 or so more seconds of fading guitar and piano. It's sad because it's real. It makes me want to sit in silence, just thinking. The "mmm" is the single most evocative thing I've heard. How'd he do that?
I know, I said I had to limit it to one song per artist, but I realised I had to make an exception during the middle of my list. I remember when I was only really just getting into Radiohead, and I'd ordered the albums Kid A and Amnesiac online. After neither of them arriving for a week, I spent an ICT lesson pretty much solely listening to this song on repeat via youtube, with the worst earphones ever.
I remember for the first 5 listens or so, this song meant only one thing to me; the song with the funny time signature (which turns out to be just 4/4). I paid so much attention to the timing itself that the song always flew by me. I always wondered if this was intentional, to make this song feel like a puzzle.
Eventually, every part of the song managed to hit me simultaneously. I imagined myself floating down a river on my back, not knowing where I'm going. It's all a bit hazy, like a dream. Images of a sandy pink come to mind. Then, somehow without noticing the transition, I'm in space, floating past nebulas and stars and planets and I'm not alone, even though I don't see anyone else. I'm there, I'm where I want to be, and there's nothing that can ruin it.
Imagine my surprise when I got home to find the album it's on, waiting for me in my room, telling me to listen to it. It's very convincing. This is more than the best song of the decade.