Here are numbers 60-51 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.
60. Death Cab For Cutie- Steadier Footing
“This is the chance I never got/ To make a move, but we just talk about/ The people we’ve met in the last five years/ And will we remember them in ten more.”
A really short and pretty song by Death Cab from earlier in their career, “Steadier Footing” captures Gibbard people watching from his porch late night after a party. He was looking for some isolation, but he found himself in a conversation which was incredibly genuine and capped off the night well for him. I always loved the talking point about if the people who you’re currently friends with will still be friends of yours in ten years because it’s a very real fear for myself, in an ever-changing world you have to wonder if the good things will stay constant.
59. Bright Eyes- Amy in the White Coat
“You see, we’re all trying to endure/ You could easily go and make your own life somewhere/ Couldn’t you?”
I dug into Noise Floor after hearing the more popular Bright Eyes albums and loving them, and I remember that on the first listen I enjoyed it, but the only songs that really jumped out at me were the Daniel Johnston cover of “Devil Town”, the piano-lead “Drunk Kid Catholic”, and “Amy in the White Coat”(in hindsight, “Blue Angels Air Show” should have been in this grouping). At the point though I hadn’t followed the storyline to “Amy in the White Coat”, I just remembered it as a good song that I wanted to re-visit, and on that second listen I was stunned and saddened. The entire track is about a girl, Amy, who is in an incredibly bad living situation with her father (I don’t feel fully comfortable typing out how so). The horrible part is that Amy’s just found a way to deal with it because she needs to be there to survive, so she doesn’t really see an alternative. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.
58. Radiohead- The National Anthem
“Everyone/ Everyone is so near/ Everyone has got the fear/ It’s holding on.”
I respect Radiohead a lot but I don’t obsess over them, in fact the only real Radiohead song that I feel a strong connection to is “The National Anthem”. I like how this song attacks you as new instruments get introduced to the chaos in response to Thom Yorke’s messages to the masses. Everything seems like it really belongs in the track, as Radiohead creates a national anthem where the nation doesn’t get rid of the ugly, where it isn’t meant to be sung by kids in school, and where there are just long segments of chaotic noise occurring.
57. Sufjan Stevens- Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother
“Appreciate her/ Stand up and thank her.”
Just for cheap starters, this song is very fun to listen to and melodic as Stevens impresses you with his rhyming scheme and references. I take a bit of a personal note to the song though because it reminds me of my stepmother and the experience that she had with my brother when she first arrived. It was really challenging for us but in hindsight it must have been damn near impossible for her, and she did a hell of a job in helping us to develop given the circumstances. Hats off to you for the job you’ve done, I probably don’t express my gratitude for you enough and I’m sorry for that.
56. The Mountain Goats- The Recognition Scene
“I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone.”
There was a cool moment earlier this year where I was able to play Sweden to some guys who were playing Andrew Jackson Jihad and had never heard the album before. It is a fantastic folk album, and seeing their faces as that became clear on the very first track with “The Recognition Scene” was something special. The song tells the tale about criminals who have fallen for each other, but the narrator knows that “the only love (he)’s ever known” won’t last just because of the nature of their life style. It’s sweet, but in a kind of weird way.
55. The Magnetic Fields- I Don’t Want to Get Over You
“Or I could make a career of being blue/ I could dress in black and read Camus/ Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth/ Like I was 17/ That would be a scream/ But I don’t want to get over you”
I love the mentality of 69 Love Songs in covering love in aspects where it’s far from perfect, and “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” does a brilliant job of displaying the confusion of the post-break. It hurts to not be with the one that you love anymore, and everyone offers you cheap ways to feel better like sleeping pills and going to the bar with friends, but he doesn’t want that. What he felt for the girl was legitimate and isn’t something he’s trying to forget about even if it does hurt him, because when you really do love a person you can’t bring yourself to not think about them even after they leave you. A lot of that pain is still present in this track, and I like the fact that Merritt didn’t try to tell clean love stories like so many other artists do.
54. Belle & Sebastian- Piazza, New York Catcher
“You’ll take care of her, I know it/ You will do a better job/ Maybe, but not what she deserves.”
Another very pretty song that has terrific references in it (“The statue’s crying to and well he may(Willie Mays)”. This one is seemingly about the struggles of a baseball player who is homosexual, inspired by the media’s treating of former Mets catcher Mike Piazza. It’s told in a very light tone and it makes you sympathize a lot for the plethora of athletes that are out there who are forced to hide parts of their personality in order to hide it from becoming national news. It’s sad because the narrator of this song is basically searching for the same thing as everybody else is, but for him he has to do it in secret and with great effort expended. Eventually, playing baseball becomes the only thing capable of relaxing him as “life outside the diamond is a wrench”.
53. Bright Eyes- At the Bottom of Everything
“And he looks at her and he says we’re going to a party/ It’s a birthday party/ It’s your birthday party/ Happy Birthday darling, we love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much”
Nobody writes a better album opener than Conor Oberst. Nearly all of his album openers set the mood perfectly, and the story at the beginning of “At the Bottom of Everything” places you into a plane crash where inevitable death has just re-introduced itself. A worried woman, desperate and confused about what’s happening, turns to the man next to her and asks him “Where are we going?”. He responds to her with the quote above, one of my favorite Bright Eyes lines out there. In this song we’re all individualized but that doesn’t really matter, because we really just belong to a part of a system which is trying to distract ourselves from imminent death. The man in this story keeps this illusion going up until their death in a similar way to how Sisyphus believes that he can get the rock to the top of the hill, and it makes you think that it may not be such a bad thing to live a life in illusion.
52. Animal Collective- For Reverend Green
“I think it’s all right we’re together/ Now, I think that’s a riot.”
I’ve never had a track attack me in the same way that “For Reverend Green” does. It’s so much louder than it’s predecessors on the album, and someone on the internet found out that the speaking during the intro of the song is introducing the song as the following: “Whether or not you believe it, you are listening to true recordings of bigfoot creatures in their natural environment. We know these are naturally–“. It’s a fun song to lose your mind to, whether it’s for reverend green or forever in green.
51. Pavement- Gold Soundz
“So drunk in the August sun/ And you’re the kind of girl I like/ Because you’re empty, and I’m empty/ And you can never quarantine the past.”
It’s such a classic sound to capture why Malkmus was a very good frontman. It’s a bit hard to pin the meaning down on this song but there’s a lot of relatable lines present in there about having difficulty being open with other people, presumably in a relationship, and the last verse covers the need to still find an outlet. This song ends up being the cleanest and prettiest Pavement song that I can think of but I don’t think there are many Pavement fans out there who would mind the band being represented by it, and why would you when it’s as good as it is?
Check Airwaves next Monday for 50-41