Here are numbers 20-11 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.
20. Daniel Johnston- True Love Will Find You in the End
“But how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light, the light?“
Daniel Johnston is a difficult musician to familiarize yourself with because, in honesty, there is a lot of bad music in his discography. The reason why he’s important is that Johnston, the manic depressive and schizophrenic, has moments in his music which reach absolute beauty. “True Love Will Find You in the End” is a song which begs it’s listener to not give up the belief that you will find the one…eventually. It’s a song to represent the hope that if you stay open and yourself for long enough, one day luck will turn your way and you’ll find the perfect person for you; and that’s the point of everything. You can build up barriers and try to send off a false message, but if you continue to be yourself and look for love then it will find you in the end. “True love is searching too, but how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light”? It’s a discouraging quest (“Don’t be sad, I know you will”), but he believes in the promise of the reward.
19. Bright Eyes- A Song to Pass the Time
“Now I have locked my actions in the grooves of routine/ So I may never be free of this apathy/ But I wait for a letter that is coming to me/ She sends me pictures of the ocean in an envelope”
It’s not a part of “A Song to Pass the Time”, but the interview that precedes this song at the end of “An Attempt to Tip The Scales” is a very good introduction to this track. “A Song to Pass The Time” is told in a manner similar to what Dylan would do, in that they wrote down their observations and described real human interactions rather then trying to conjure a story with a point in mind. The difference between Dylan and Oberst is that while Dylan would say what was there due to his confidence and experience, the younger and depressed Oberst seems to focus on what he thinks is missing. Why does he love the mexican children kicking rocks in the street? Why are all the businessmen and suburban mothers so emotionless and repetitive? Why isn’t my desperation to stay close to the people who I’ve formed a close relationship with shared? I love the verse above because it shows Oberst’s hope that at some point love will just save him from all of this, and she’ll be able to help him understand everything that tortured him before.
18. The Postal Service- We Will Become Silhouettes
“We become silhouettes when our bodies finally go.”
I love tragic songs that sound happy, and “We Will Become Silhouettes” is the poster boy for that category. Death is still a certainty, in fact it seems to tell the story of an explosion which will is going to kill us all, but it’s become a celebration because that’s when our bodies will finally become silhouettes! We shall become immortalized once “our shells simply cannot hold all our insides in and [then] explode”. Tamborello’s music is cheerful and stuffed with simple, melodic rhythms to represent the joy of the song in it’s own beautiful way, only one example of how well these two worked together on the album.
17. The Clash- Train in Vain (Stand By Me)
“Did you stand by me?/ No, not at all/ Did you stand by me?/ No way”
I love “Train in Vain” because it’s a very humanizing song for the punk rockers. It’s so easy to imagine them living lives of perfection, but this song shows you that they deal with the same type of people that we do. Rock stars are also capable of running into people who hurt them for no reason, and Mick Jones ran into a girl who he had to learn was lying to him the whole time once she decided to not stand by him. The song title comes because he used to ride the train to his girl’s house to beg to be let in, only to be turned down, leaving him to ask himself: “Did you stand by me? no, not at all…”
16. Animal Collective- What Would I Want? Sky
“Is everything alright? You feelin’ moany? You feelin’ lonely? You’re not the only/ Is everything alright? You feelin’ stormy? You feelin’ phony? You’re not the only”
Current WCDB General Manager Noah Bondy was the first one who ever played me this song, and it’s become a love of mine. Something that I say about Animal Collective a lot is that the music isn’t about trying to find out the song’s meaning, it’s about trying to adopt the mindset that the music is attempting to create. This is true in “Kids on Holiday”, this is true on “Guy’s Eyes”, and this is true on “What Would I Want? Sky” where a three minute long buildup occurs before the title shows up, and all of a sudden the phrase “What Would I Want? Sky” is the background track with a completely new outlook and hope. Everything is fascinating and new, and you don’t really know your place in any of it. The usual stuff is still happening outside of all of this wonder: there’s still the taxi man telling him to quit the day-dreaming and give him his money, but he has a hard time spending any attention on that. He just ends up staring at the point of horizon, hiding it’s blues, and in his head the only thing that he wants in the world at that moment is sky.
15. Bright Eyes- June on the West Coast
“And though spring, it did come slowly/ I guess it did it’s part/ My heart has thawed and continues to beat”
A look back onto your youth when you’re really not that far removed from it. You start to kind of understand why you did some things the way you did and realize how you actually felt and responded to some of the things that happened, but Oberst doesn’t want to get caught up in the past. There were things that did make him sad, but now he’s at a point where he can find a new place to go and leave those worse parts behind. It’s all a sad remembrance but the chance to get away from it and pursue something else brings hope, so the track becomes happy with Oberst walking along the beach drinking with someone who might just be the lover that he needs.
14. Modest Mouse- Edit the Sad Parts
“Why are you judging people so damn hard?/ You’re taking your point of views a bit too far.”
It’s odd, because while I absolutely love “Dramamine”, I hate when people mention it before the true masterpiece of the album in “Edit the Sad Parts”. It’s vintage Modest Mouse where Brock questions why we change ourselves to try and have people view us better when all that that leads to is a situation where “we’re all so funny, but he’s lost the joke now”. He goes on to suggest that we should all just go and stand in a gigantic circle so that we’ll have a back to bite while we’re at it, and says that the true issue in trying to make yourself something that you’re not to fit in is that then people won’t know when you’re being genuine and not. You turn into the “stand up comic and a rock musician, [whose] making so much noise you don’t know when to listen”.
13. The Beach Boys- Good Vibrations
“ I don’t know where but she sends me there”
I used to fall asleep as a kid to a Beach Boys cassette which was a ‘Best of’ of sorts, and I have fond memories of learning tracks like “Help Me Ronda” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, but I was never able to realize how well constructed “Good Vibrations” was as a kid. When I got back into their catalogue I was amazed at what I couldn’t hear back then, the sheer genius of the in-track transitions which Brian Wilson pulls off in three and a half minutes is a true testament to his talent. This track goes all over the place, but the pieces all still fit together perfectly to create a nearly perfect pop song.
12. Wilco- I am Trying to Break Your Heart
“I want to hold you in the bible black pre-dawn/ You’re quite a quiet, domino, bury me now”
This song has actually caused me a lot of awkward moments in my life, because I wear a shirt that reads “I Am An American Aquarium Drinker” on it and have people question what it means a lot. The opening lines of this song don’t say much, they just set the tone for a drunkard stumbling through the city as an assassin walking down the avenue, but the lines are a starting point. This song isn’t about the drunkard but the realization which is coming to him, as he notices his own cycle of allowing the same girl to come into his life again so that he can eventually choose to kick her out. Was he wrong when he said hello or goodbye? He lets something that he knows won’t last happen, and realizes that he’s just trying to break this innocent girl’s heart (“Sure I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy”). I like it for the openness and the uncertainness, but that’s a pretty big jump for me to explain why my shirt says “I am an American Aquarium Drinker”.
11. LCD Soundsystem- Dance Yrself Clean
“Every night’s a different story/ It’s a thirty car pile-up with you/ Everybody’s getting younger/ It’s the end of an era it’s true.”
“Dance Yrself Clean” takes place at a party where the narrator is knowingly out of place. Surrounded by the best company that he can find, James Murphy finds himself forced to justify the good aspects of what is going on through statements like “it’s better than it seems” and “it’s better than a bunch of others”. Still, he finds it difficult to not notice that these people willingly hang out with jerks, and that the younger the people he hung out with got the less that he enjoyed hanging out with them. “Dance Yrself Clean” isn’t a song about this misplacement though, it’s Murphy’s suggested solution to the problem: that once the music picks up you should just go and dance yourself clean. If you weren’t enjoying being there anyway then there’s nothing to lose, forget what’s troubling you and heal yourself on the dance floor (or perhaps by creating the dance floor!)
Check Airwaves next Sunday for the finale, numbers 10-1. The top 10 features 10 different artists, two of whom make their first (and obviously only) appearance on the list