Here are numbers 30-21 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.
30. Sufjan Stevens- Casimir Pulaski Day
“All the glory that the Lord has made/ And the complications when I see His face/ In the evening in the window.“
There is a fantastic breakdown of this song right here. Stevens makes it the most genuine and sad song that he’s ever made in my opinion, and the storyline proves to be absolutely tragic. Death takes on a whole new level of sadness when it takes the life of a young girl, and this song shows the scene unfurl from the perspective of a young boy who was experiencing his first love with her. The sadness hits everyone, and it makes what was once a devout christian boy question why a good christian girl hasn’t started to feel better yet, and he fully loses his faith once he realizes that she’s actually dead and looks for God for an explanation only to see his own reflection. Now for every year there will be a chance for the entire city to remember the girl that he lost tragically, but nobody will be aware of it’s significance as anything more than Casimir Pulaski Day with the exception of the narrator.
29. Guided By Voices- Tractor Rape Chain
“Parallel lines on a slow decline/ Tractor rape chain.”
“Tractor Rape Chain” is a song about a relationship, and it’s failures which are never going to end. The opening stanza shows that the couple can’t even trust each other anymore when they communicate, but they know that they’re still destined to spend the rest of their lives together. The song then moves into the bedroom of the couple where the husband struggles with the notion of divorce, but it’s something that he refuses to even consider, represented by a “ghost in [my] room and he says [he] better run”. The narrator can see the ghost, he can hear the ghost, but his entire life he’s told people he doesn’t believe in ghosts, so he just pleads for it to go away. Let him continue as his part of the “parallel lines on a slow decline” until his death arrives.
28. Okkervil River- Black
“You should wreck his life the way that he wrecked yours/ You want no part of his life anymore.”
Another incredibly sad plot line here as the narrator’s currently in a relationship with a girl who just revealed to him that something awful happened in her past (“Amy in the White Coat” style awful). Her father destroyed her life, and he didn’t get any repercussions for this. In fact he left to move on to a new wife, a new kid, and a new life where he trashes his old kid at any chance he gets (“You should say his name the way that he says yours”). The narrator gets furious at this story and what this man has done to her, and tells her that he’s going to rip this guy’s throat out, that he’s going to go to his new family and destroy his life by telling them what he’s done, but she tells him not to. In order to ruin his life she’d have to acknowledge him again, and she’s rather just have “no part of his life anymore”.
27. Pavement- Summer Babe (Winter Version)
The title sets the entire mood for this song of turning elation into bitterness. Summer loves are amazing things, but then winter comes around and they have a tendency to crush you. I think that this track is about Malkmus being with a girl that he genuinely did like a lot over the summer, but one that he couldn’t dedicate himself to because he started to see and hear things about her that scared him off. The weather gets colder and he stays alone, and he realizes that there wasn’t really anything wrong with the girl, he just sets up barriers to stop anyone from being more than a summer fling. Summer is for his summer babe, winter is for feeling miserable.
26. Modest Mouse- Dramamine
“We kiss on the mouth but still cough down our sleeves.”
There’s a lot of Modest Mouse on this list if you haven’t realized yet, but “Dramamine” is a favorite song by people who aren’t as obsessed with the band as me. It’s actually one of the few Modest Mouse songs which doesn’t say a whole lot in the lyrics, as all that happens in “Dramamine” is a bitter relationship coming to a close. Brock represents the male’s viewpoint well though, revealing that she has “killed the better part of [him]” and how they would “kiss on the mouth but still cough down their sleeves”. The song goes beyond the story though, because the guitars seem to represent their own story in the present with the drunken man quietly thinking and contemplating his life in a peaceful stage. Dramamine is a trip which feels right.
25. MGMT- Kids
“Control yourself/ Take only what you need from it/ A family of trees wanting to be haunted”
I get a bit amazed by how often I run into people that know every word to this song but never thought about what it might mean. MGMT is a legitimate band, and that makes the commercial success of Oracular Spectacular all the more of a triumph as there are so few popular songs with actually developed meanings. “Kids” looks into the viewpoint of a kid who up to this point has had an entire life of receiving positive reinforcement, whether it was for learning how to crawl or speak, and what happens the first time that he realizes something painful or unfair has happened to him. The kid cries, and the parents rush over to try to re-assure him that this is normal and they went through it too, and let him know that he can move past it by taking “only what [he] need[s] from it”. Rebound from this with our support, and don’t become a bitter soul like the trees which live wishing that they were haunted just so that they could be significant.
24. Belle & Sebastian- The Stars of Track and Field
“Make a new cult every day to suit your affairs.”
This one goes into a girl who runs track for her high school who all the innocent boys fall for, but what she’s been able to keep secret from them and everybody else is that she’s a lesbian. She goes on as their heartthrob and becomes an very good track runner for the school but she’s struggling academically, and decides that she has a way to still get what she wants: “But when she’s on her back she had the knowledge to get her into college”. It’s a bit of a mixture between being a really sad story because of what she had to pretend, while also being semi-happy because she got what she wanted, but the delicacy of the track especially in the opening line is something which makes me fall in love with it.
23. The Mountain Goats- Going to Georgia
“ The most remarkable thing about you standing in the door way is that it’s you/ And that you’re standing in the doorway.”
The line above is one of my favorite lyrics ever I’ve ever heard. He’s got the Colt .45 with the busted safety catch pressed against his head, and yet the song carries so much wonder and amazement over it as the figure in the doorway finds a way to ease the gun out of his hand. The world isn’t so bad anymore, as all of a sudden everything becomes beautiful leaving him “frozen with joy, right where I stand”. There was one source of hope for him, and (presumably) she came through to save his life, and now it’s like he sees everything for the first time again because of it. The world becomes beautiful because there’s a beautiful person within it.
22. Arcade Fire- (Antichrist Television Blues)
“Oh my little bird in a cage”
I love the desperation of “(Antichrist Television Blues)” as the narrator takes his own failed significance and the fact that he’s a good Christian man as justification for why his daughter is going to become a star. At the age of thirteen she gets brought to auditions where the father pleas for her to get on the stage and show everyone what a star she is, at first in a way where you think it might be what the girl wants, but then it takes the next step. She gets all the pressure on her as she gets told by her father that he wants her to be the next icon so the world can “see themselves inside my little girl” , but she knows that she’s not the symbol of perfection that her father is promising everyone she is. She’s a bird in a cage who has no free will in this situation, and the father ends the song by solidifying that after his non-significant life he’s “not going to let [her] throw it all away. Through being cute now, through being nice, oh tell me lord, am I the Antichrist?”. Sounds like it.
21. LCD Soundsystem- New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down
“But you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown.”
I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling even if it’s not about New York. There’s a lot of things in this world which I adore but I had to separate myself from or else they would have brought me down, and there’s others which I still grasp onto hopelessly while being aware that they might be the death of me. I don’t want to live in New York anymore, the people I’ve met are great and there are some amazing things that happen in this state, but if I stay here for my entire life I’ll just become a bitter person who settled. I’ve always wished that the song ended earlier than it did though, as the perfect end point in my mind would be placed softly with a piano outro after the “maybe I’m wrong, and maybe you’re right” segment. The next part doesn’t do much for me, but that line carries the fear that happens whenever you decide to part from anything in life where you don’t really know if you’ll actually be better off without it or not. Would be an even better end point for the song in my opinion.
Check Airwaves next Monday for 20-11