12.12.2009

The 55 most interesting songs of the decade

As we come up on the completion of the tenth year of the new century, there's been a glut of "best of the decade" lists -- music, film, what have you. I'm not so arrogant as to presume I could create a list of the best songs of the decade, but I do propose to list for you the most interesting songs of the aughts. The difference is subtle, but I hope my intention will become clear with the list; I'll lay out some general guidelines, though: songs that say something about the times in which we live, or the zeitgeist, are certainly interesting. Songs that redefine a genre, or take an old genre in a new direction, generally are more interesting (although not necessarily better!) than songs that simply excel in their genre. Songs by obscure acts that show a certain brilliance but are probably not more widely know move toward the top. But ultimately the choice was mine, and none of these general guidelines are firm rules.

55 - 45 are here, the top ten are after the jump with music videos and discussion:

55. Idlewild -- Little Discourage

54. Kings of Convenience -- Toxic Girl

53. Fleet Foxes -- White Winter Hymnal

52. Kanye West -- Jesus Walks

51. Raconteurs -- Steady, as She Goes

50. Mason Proper -- Fog

49.Cold War Kids -- The Wedding

48. Kings of Leon -- Soft

47. John Vanderslice -- Exodus Damage

46. Frightened Rabbit -- Old Old Fashioned

45. Coldplay -- Don't Panic

44. DeVotchKa -- Enemy Guns

43. Interpol -- NYC

42. Andrew Bird -- Imitosis

41. Ladytron -- Light and Magic

40. Girlsareshort -- Sunshine

39. Bon Iver -- Flume

38. The Hold Steady -- Stuck Between Stations

37. Gogol Bordello -- Avenue B

36. Neil Young -- Restless Consumer

35. Nouvelle Vague -- Guns of Brixton

34. Cloud Cult -- Happy Hippopotamus

33. Jay-Z/ DJ Danger Mouse -- Moment of Clarity

32. The Killers -- Mr Brightside

31. The National -- Ada

30. The Streets -- Turn the Page

29. M.I.A. -- Galang

28. Bloc Party -- Like Eating Glass

27. Chin Up Chin Up -- Get Me Off This Fucking Island

26. Camera Obscura -- Let's Get Out of This Country

25. British Sea Power -- The Lonely

24. Modest Mouse -- Education

23. My Brightest Diamond -- Something of an End

22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Y Control

21. Architecture in Helsinki -- The Cemetary

20. Gnarls Barkley -- Crazy

19. The Go! Team -- Feelgood by Numbers

18. Joanna Newsom -- Emily

17. The One AM Radio -- What You Gave Away

16. Constantines -- Lizavetta

15. Beirut -- Elephant Gun

14. William Elliott Whitmore -- One Man's Shame

13. Sufjan Stevens -- Chicago

12. Portishead -- Silence

11. Wilco -- Theologians


10. Machiavellian Machine --



You've never heard of Machiavellian Machine, unless you read us, really; and they broke up after a year of playing shows at the Orpheum to nobody but myself and a friend. But this was one of the best electronica acts out there, recalling Peter Gabriel, Portishead, and too many others to name. Truly a fine act.

9. Johnny Cash -- Hurt



The reinvention of a master, this was Johnny Cash back in the limelight. At the end of his life, Cash's American series was a masterwork, and this is one of the finest songs out of that project.

8. Man Man -- Engrish Bwudd



This song is absolute chaos. Wild and crashing and fierce, Man Man may not have staying power, but this song has something for me every time I listen.

7. Regina Spektor -- Sunshine



11:11 was Spektor's first album, and it presaged both the rock of Soviet Kitsch and the jazz of Begin to Hope, but with an experimental and out jazz style that goes beyond her two more popular albums. Perhaps not her best songs, but I would posit her most interesting.

6. Lady Gaga -- Poker Face



A synthesis of Andy Warhol pop-as-art/ art-as-pop art and early Madonna sexual politics updated to today's cultural milieu, that this song has gotten as big as it has is itself fascinating. The song strikes a blow for the remaining relevance of pop music. (Embedding the video is mostly disabled, so I had to scrounge this.)

5. Pale Young Gentlemen -- Saturday Night



A raggedy bunch of Madison types, Pale Young Gentlemen's Saturday Night is a great encapsulation of some of the experimentalism of the recent indie period -- nods to world music (especially Gypsy music) and raucous good times.

4. Sigur Ros -- Agaetis Byrjun



Sigur Ros is pure glory to listen to -- I don't think much more needs be said.

3. Yonderboi -- Ohne Chanteuse



An obscure Hungarian DJ going by the moniker Yonderboi put out an album of samples ranging from communist cartoons to Gypsy music to modern European samples, fusing it with rock and lounge sounds to create a really unique sound that hasn't gained much attention Stateside.

2. The Decemberists -- The Island: Come and See/ The Landlord's Daughter/ You'll Not Feel the Drowning



While not my favorite song of theirs (that would be Here I Dreamt I was an Architect) or even of this album (that would be Yankee Bayonets), this is The Decemberists' most interesting song, and fittingly one of the most interesting of the decade. It comes at a unique time for the band, as they transitioned from the quirky history nerds of their early albums into the rock stars they have become since. It presages the experiment of The Hazards of Love, building a dark story into an operatic vision. But the latter album was bloated, more a vanity project by Colin Meloy than a focused album; the Island succeeds in its focus.

1. TV on the Radio -- Blues from Down Here



TV on the Radio fused a fascinating number of elements into their sound -- the neo-soul-meets-rap of Gnarls Barkley, the updated '70s groove of The Go! Team, the grand rock'n'roll vision of the E Street Band, and more. The depth of Blues from Down Here astounds me every time I put it on.