Tag Archives: TVOTR

The Singles, Part 3 — John Responds

by John Kuroski

I’m glad we were pretty different, which feels a little weird to say, because, in ten whole years, five of our picks (and three of our top six) were the same. Aside from those five, I had never heard six of your picks (“Grass,” “Seventeen Years,” “Everything Hits At Once,” “Hoppipolla,” “Stay Cool” and “Crying”). Which of mine hadn’t you heard, and were you compelled to listen? If so, I’d love to hear your reactions. You’ll find my reactions to yours below. But big picture, I’m not terribly surprised by either one of our lists. If I can be glib and reductive, mine seems definitely more mainstream and slightly more black. Like I said, I’m not surprised by either of those things, nor am I sure what to make of them, if anything. You notice any other big picture trends?

“Grass”
Since psychedelia, indie and Pitchfork make me hesitant, these guys are near the top of my didn’t give them a chance even though they probably deserved it list of the last decade. After a few listens, Merriweather is starting to take shape in my head. This is good too. Melodic and accessible in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’m not sure if either of those adjectives would/should be read as compliments. Either way, this is enough to keep me exploring.

“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
Again, Pitchfork. So I didn’t listen to the album until December 2010, six years or so after it came out and plenty far removed from the hype. I literally couldn’t get past this song for at least a dozen listens. I would sit down to listen to the whole album and be so blown away by this song, that I had to stop and turn it off. I still can only barely recall the second half of the album. It’s all swallowed up by this song. Vomit of praise aside, they aren’t my thing, but still, it only barely missed my list.

“Stan”
Like I once told you, Eminem is very high on the list of people I respect but don’t enjoy listening to. I love his brand of asshole, but mostly I just can’t get past the voice. The only song on your list I just can’t embrace.

“99 Problems”
Twenty years from now (or has it already begun?), when hip hop gets the full canonization treatment, I’m glad that Jay will probably be at the top of the mountain. I love him, and it could be so much worse. That said, I’ve got plenty of problems with him. And that doesn’t surprise me. Like Elvis or Sinatra or Ray Charles or any other monument/ambassador, he’s just too big to not have some gripes with. This isn’t exactly the song to pin my Jay-Z hating on (although clearly I’m having trouble resisting the urge), but it does bring to mind two of his (for my money) dirty little secrets: 1.) for someone as good as he is, a little too much of his aesthetic identity hinges on his producers, 2.) although I have no idea what it was like to grow up the way he did, and although he has brilliantly used his autobiography as source material, and although forgetting those two things shows a fundamental misunderstanding of hip hop, I have, to put it glibly, gotten a little tired of hearing his life story, especially by the time this album rolled around, not just because he was more dollars removed from his upbringing, but because The Blueprint felt like the culmination of his past as source. Anyway, this beat is, though not exactly my type, very well done, as is the autobiography, so, like I said, this isn’t exactly the song to pin my Jay-Z rant to.

“All Falls Down”
Good choice and very eloquently analyzed. Kanye, more than anyone else, suffered on my list because of the singles stipulation. How about you (Kanye or otherwise)?

“Seventeen Years”
Not quite the up I was expecting, probably because it wasn’t quite the rhythm machine I was expecting, but pretty good. And guitar tones like that can make you forget about rhythm anyway.

“Stay Cool”
You’re absolutely right about Black Thought. It’s indisputable.

“Hoppipolla”
Not my thing at all, but I have a vague, totally uninformed sense that they do it well. Also, fuck Vanilla Sky.

“Everything Hits At Once”
Very close to the top of my all time list of bands I should have listened to more of, for every possible reason, except that I just didn’t get around to it. This one confirms that well. And has there ever been an ugly, white dork with a voice as sexy as Britt Daniel’s?

“Crying”
Up there with Animal Collective among bands to whom I unfairly gave no chance. Unfairly. Yeah, this is a great song.

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The Singles, Part 2

Jack emailed me with no introduction, only a prompt: favorite 15 singles released from 2000 to 2009. It’s an interesting proposition, because it limits the list in time, and because he stipulated that the songs had to have been released as singles. This isn’t the same as favorite songs. It requires overlooking favorite tunes and even artists. I immediately assumed Radiohead would make my list, but none of my favorites from their ’00s albums are singles, and Kid A yielded precisely zero singles (not even “Idioteque”). This is one of those lists that I’d revise if I remade it, as I’ll explain in a future post. For now though, here are my singles, along with some words about each.

15.) “99 Problems” – Jay-Z
The Black Album wasn’t the end, but it was a turn. A song so simultaneously funny and serious can’t help but be proud of how clever it is. As with his best (and his trunk…har, har), there’s more to unpack than meets the eye.

14.) “Seventeen Years” – Ratatat
Rock, hip-hop, and dance in equal measure. Hookier than most songs with words, too. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, there’s something wrong with you.

13.) “Everything Hits At Once” – Spoon
So they’re the decade’s most consistent band. They’re so understated and modest in their growth and manner that few realized they’re also one of its best. Proof: this song’s mastery of rhythm, melody, and mood.

12.) “Stan” – Eminem
Other than his mom and Kim, nothing inflicts him with more pain than his own fame. Luckily for us, that pain is his inspiration.

11.) “Hoppipolla” – Sigur Ros
A hymn of such hope and beauty, it may just be my desert island song.

10.) “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” – Arcade Fire
The song that sold me. Devastating beauty: more than any other contemporary band, they capture it.

9.) “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley
Infectiously danceable confusion and pain, for you and your grandmother.

8.) “Grass” – Animal Collective
The most concise and powerful example of everything that’s great about them: visceral, entirely unique, and damn catchy.

7.) “Stay Cool” – The Roots
Black Thought may be his generation’s most underrated emcee. But who cares? With ?uestlove’s Miles/J.B. horns, globalized keys, and strutting drums, it kinda doesn’t matter what the rapper says.

6.) “All Falls Down” – Kanye West
Shoulda been Lauryn on the hook, but no matter; unstoppable beat and maybe the best rhymes of his debut. It foresees his decade of triumph, angst, and lost humor.

5.) “Hey Ya!” – Outkast
There’s nothing like it. Catchy as fuck doesn’t even begin to describe it, though it is. Ask yourself this: how far is this from something you could write? Spoiler: pretty funking far.

4.) “Paper Planes” – M.I.A.
I know, I know. But the fact is its swiped Clash chords and gun blasts grab you by the collar, throw you to Mumbai, and then laugh in your face for buying its swag. When I first heard it, I thought it was crack; when I’m 90, it’ll still have me shaking my ass.

3.) “Crying” – TV on the Radio
Tunde Adebimpe’s voice could melt most pants off; his coo is this straight-up tune’s sturdy spine. While the beat incites us to dance, the mournful lyrics urge movement to stop the titular tears. If someone is crying as we steer toward the ends of the Earth, the outro’s horns and keys provide a lovely descent.

2.) “Someday” – The Strokes
Another song that marries bright chords with glum lyrics, with that drum and bass breakdown that perfectly reiterates their plea. Overhyped? No. This gem and its brethren slew nu-metal. If anything, underhyped in retrospect.

1.) “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
The aging anthem. Perhaps, too, the decade’s most joyous melancholy. The real irony is that, ultimately, it’s timeless.

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