90. “Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys (Smiley Smile, 1967)
I recently began collecting vinyl, because why not? One of my first records was The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, and I admit I bought it on a whim. I’d never really been a fan of The Beach Boys, viewing them as a one-trick pony. And while I still don’t love Pet Sounds, it did open my palette to Brian Wilson and Co. Even if I have trouble getting into their music in non-summer months, there’s no denying their impact on pop music. They’ve written a lot of classics over the years. “Good Vibrations” just happens to be my favorite.
89. “Spanish Flea” – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (Going Places, 1965)
I mentioned in the last post how big of an influence my dad had on me when it came to my musical tastes. Sometimes he would play disco. Sometimes he would play classic rock. And sometimes he would play Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. I have absolutely no idea why he thought it pertinent to introduce them to me. But I’m glad he did. And out of all Alpert’s songs (besides “Whipped Cream”, maybe), is there one more recognizable than “Spanish Flea”? Even Homer Simpson likes it.
88. “Downtown Song” – Anberlin (Lost Songs, 2007)
Anberlin is one of those curious bands from my junior high years. You know, those bands that you spend 5 years of your life listening to, then spend the next 5 convincing yourself that they’re actually really good while not being sure of whether you’re just fooling yourself? Well, it’s my 11th year and I’ve made a decision: Anberlin is good. They’re really good. And they were great in their heyday. How do I know? Only a great band could’ve slipped an instant classic into an album of impeccably chosen covers and B-sides. This really is a lost song, and I feel sorry for any Anberlin fan who hasn’t discovered it.
87. “All My Days” – Alexi Murdoch (Time Without Consequence, 2006)
The “singer-songwriter with naught but an acoustic guitar” scene is starting to feel a little tired to me. Sure, there’s something to be said about intimacy in music. But folksy love songs and one-of-a-kind vocals feel like well-worn tropes. But Alexi Murdoch, one of the genre’s least-talked about artists, stands tall. “All My Days” is a terrific opener to his excellent Time Without Consequence. Murdoch does it with trademark simplicity; the narrative of the song isn’t anything groundbreaking. But the ambiguous nature of his song’s character draw the listener in while the woozy instrumentals lift the track to new heights. It’s a journey unto itself.
86. “Strawberry Swing” – Frank Ocean (Nostalgia, Ultra, 2011)
Frank Ocean made waves in 2012 with his major label debut Channel Orange. And there’s good reason for that; Channel Orange was a master work of spacious R&B. But Ocean’s debut-that-never-was is just as good. Nostalgia, Ultra was released as a free mix tape online and acts as a beautiful hip-hop compliment to its successor album. However, the record’s best track, Strawberry Swing, is a look ahead for Ocean. It’s a track that shows the vast depth in Ocean’s artistry (pun intended), as well as a healthy appreciation for his influences (in this case, Coldplay.) The song fits his sophomore effort better than it does his debut, but that makes it all the better.
85. “Time Stops” – Explosions In the Sky (How Strange, Innocence, 2000)
Ambient music is always incredibly difficult to write about. Lyrics play an vital role in the listening experience, but there’s something about an artist that can convey feeling with music alone that strikes me. I’ve always believed music is a language; it speaks to us in ways that we can’t speak to each other. And because of that, I just don’t see how it would be possible to explain my feelings for this song with my words. All I can encourage you to do is listen.
84. “Lift Up My Soul” – Judah & The Lion (First Fruits, 2012)
I’ve been a huge proponent of Judah & The Lion ever since I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with lead singer Judah Akers at a church retreat a few years back. And while some may call it unabashed homerism, I honestly believe the Nashville bluegrass trio is destined for big things. They just dropped their debut LP, but this song off their debut EP will always have sentimental value to me. The music is bright and youthful, and the lyrics are bursting with joy. It’s a beautiful combination, one of which I’ll never tire.
83. “Down On the Corner” – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Willy and the Poor Boys, 1969)
A few months ago, I asked a few friends of mine who they thought the most American band was. When they hear their music, they think, “FREEDOM.” I got a variety of answers. None of them matched up with mine. I will never hear John Fogerty’s raspy cries without pausing to contemplate how happy I am to be living in America. CCR’s music is infectious in a special way for me. I can never listen to just one song. And “Down On the Corner” always makes its way onto my playlist.
82. “The Greatest Actor Alive” – He Is Legend (I Am Hollywood, 2004)
This will be the first of ventures back into my hardcore phase. And it wouldn’t feel right to revisit those years without He Is Legend. I Am Hollywood was one of my first hard-rock albums, and it impacts me to this day. I Am Hollywood is a stunning exercise in the balance between brutality and intricacy. The melodies of He Is Legend’s debut album are more infectious than those of Top 40 hits today, but they always sit on the edge, ready to descend into madness and chaos. No song portrays that balancing act better that “The Greatest Actor Alive.”
81. “Your Love Is Strong” – Jon Foreman (Spring EP, 2008)
This won’t be the last of Jon Foreman you’ll see on this list. As a complete songwriter, he’s upper-echelon. And when he released a few EPs of solo work, it only solidified that legacy. Foreman’s seasonal releases contained his most personal music, by far. The Spring and Summer EPs were especially strong. As opposed to his heavy-handed work with Switchfoot, he stripped down his style, leaving nothing but the bare bones. The culmination of this period is “Your Love Is Strong”, a beautiful ballad echoing the Psalms of David. There’s a weight over this song, but it never intrudes on the private nature of the track. Instead, it carries heavy significance; it’s a look into Foreman’s soul. It doesn’t get any more personal, or impacting, than that.
Stay tuned for 80-71 next week. And thanks for reading!