70. “Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
According to Rolling Stone, this is the greatest song of all time. “Yeah, okay,” I thought sarcastically when I first read the list. And while I still don’t quite agree with their assessment (or mostly anything they write in terms of music critique), I can’t deny that this publicity encouraged me to take my first steps as a Bob Dylan fan. Dylan is good enough to not need melodies as memorable as this one. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.
69. “The Beginning” – Showbread (Nervosa, 2008)
While it won’t draw in new fans of Showbread’s signature “raw rock” style, “Anorexia/Nervosa” remains, in my humble opinion, one of the most ambitious and poetic pieces of hardcore music in existence. Even calling it hardcore doesn’t quite do it justice. Josh Dies writes Showbread’s masterpiece from a place of disparity and lowliness, but there’s a whole lot of sincerity here as well. Dies is a master storyteller, and the culmination of two albums’ worth of darkness, horror and frustration leads to one of the most powerful songs on this list. I’ll put it this way: if this was a list of songs that moved my emotions the most, it’d be a contender for the top spot.
68. “Octavarium” – Dream Theater (Octavarium, 2005)
I’m a defender of long songs. I’ve sat through conversations where I hear utterances along the lines of, “How can you listen to that song? It’s over 6 minutes long!” I guess that’s a reflection of the short-attention span of our culture. If it can’t fit into a 4-minute bubble, don’t listen. But enough of my curmudgeonly side. Dream Theater’s music is highly conceptual, so much so that I don’t even try to understand it. But I find it mysterious and alluring, especially when it comes to album closer “Octavarium.” Sitting through the 24-minute song takes some incredible endurance, but the rewards are high. See if you’re up to the challenge.
67. “Made Too Pretty” – As Cities Burn (Hell or High Water, 2009)
I’ll always regret not investigating As Cities Burn sooner than I did. One of the most creative outfits to ever carry the Tooth & Nail record label, As Cities Burn deftly transitioned from hardcore to post-rock to release Come Now Sleep and Hell or High Water, two masterpiece efforts that still exist at the creative forefront of “Christian” music. The band’s greatest strength showed itself in their willingness to tackle difficult issues. “Made Too Pretty” is a glaring critique of modern Christianity. Equal parts gloomy and insightful, it cuts to the heart of the listener, but never comes off as self-righteous.
66. “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder (Songs In the Key of Life, 1976)
I’ve already mentioned that I prefer early R&B to its modern descendants. A big reason for my older tastes stems from artists like Stevie Wonder. Whereas today’s rhythm and blues seems to concerned with ambiance, artists like Wonder seemed to be able to capture the joyful feeling of not only making music, but also listening to it. Take “Sir Duke” for instance. It’s an ode to Wonder’s influences and the feeling he gets when he enjoys their work. Not only does it make his music more personable; it’s like a music-sharing session with a star.
65. “Grapevine Fires” – Death Cab For Cutie (Narrow Stairs, 2008)
I wrote in the last post about Ben Gibbard’s “post-emo melancholy” being the driving force behind his best project. But Death Cab For Cutie had the bigger reach, and it’s understandable when you consider some of their biggest radio-friendly hits. “Grapevine Fires” isn’t necessarily one of those hits. Coming after Death Cab’s prime, “Grapevine Fires” hearkens back to the gloomy likes of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” without relying on a catchy melody or gothic sentiment to carry it through. Just as in “Nothing Better”, this is Gibbard’s songwriting at its best.
64. “Stories” – Bluefish (Shake The Dust, 2012)
I consider myself a realist when it comes to local music. Most music nerds have a profound appreciation for the local music scene, but I’ve never been one for it. Usually, local bands haven’t made it big for a key reason: they don’t have “it,” whatever “it” is. But Bluefish? They’ve got it. How do I know they’ve got it? Because I will go out of my way to see a Bluefish show whenever I can. I’ve never been that way with any other local band that I can remember. Bluefish’s music finds its roots in arena rock, but is intimate enough for a small bar show. It’s a cliche to say about any local band you support, but I really don’t understand how they haven’t made it big yet.
63. “World News” – Local Natives (Gorilla Manor, 2010)
Sometimes, you just need a few “do-do dodododo’s” in your life to make everything a little more sunshiney.
62. “Doe Deer” – Crystal Castles (II, 2011)
I love Crystal Castles more for what their music does than for what it actually is. In a saturated EDM culture, creative content is hard to find. If it has a bass drop, it’ll sell. Crystal Castles doesn’t adhere to this notion, at least not in “Doe Deer.” This wild single off Crystal Castles (II) acts as the antithesis of electronic music as a whole. It’s a minute and a half of pure chaos. It almost feels as if it went through the editing process without a single cut or tweak. It’s a gut-punch of raw creativity. And I love all 95 seconds of it.
61. “Hey Ya!” – Obadiah Parker (Obadiah Parker Live, 2007)
I’m sure this is some sort of musical blasphemy. “Hey Ya!” is, without a doubt, Outkast’s biggest commercial hit. And for good reason. It’s joyous, vibrant and fun. But lost within Andre 3000’s endless energy is the heart of the song, and it’s honestly pretty sad. Obadiah Parker uncovers the truth behind “Hey Ya!” and makes it the rich, complex offering it should be. Not often do I hold covers in higher standing than the original; this is a rare occurrence.