10. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen (A Night At The Opera, 1975)
It’s hard to imagine being where I am as a music lover without the massive influence of Queen during my childhood. And if you’re a fan of Queen, you’re a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody. Not only does the epic make its mark on Queen’s best LP, but it highlights the one thing that always set them apart from other glam rock outfits of the 70’s and 80’s: Freddie Mercury. Somewhere down the line, as it sprawled over waves of melancholy and eccentricity, “Bohemian Rhapsody” became a cultural phenomenon, something we could all use to channel our inner rock god/goddess.
9. “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” – Regina Spektor (Far, 2009)
Firmly rooted in the eccentric and quirky, Regina Spektor’s music always swings behind broodingly introspective and blissfully carefree. Far could have taught a class on that scale, containing some of Spektor’s deepest and richest songs as well as some of her most fun. “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” falls into the latter category, obviously. But I like the balance Spektor always seems to strike as a picture of life itself. Heavy, thoughtful music is good for the soul, yes. But life is also about the short (or long) moments of happiness, the moments where you feel light as air. Spektor finds that place perfectly in “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”, a quaint and catchy love song dedicated to love itself.
8. “You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates (Voices, 1981)
I really shouldn’t have to explain why this song found its way into my Top 10. Words escape me when I try to explain my reasoning behind this choice. Maybe it’s because I’ve written about 92 songs now, and I’m running out of things to say, but probably not. But when I say what I’m about to say, I say it with 100% honesty: I’ve never met a person who didn’t like this song. And I think that’s about all the analysis this ray of sunshine needs.
7. “Writing On the Walls” – Underøath (Define The Great Line, 2006)
I always refer to Underøath as one of my “bridge” bands, a band that allowed me to expand my musical horizons by ushering me into a new style that I hadn’t previously explored. Without Underøath, I can’t say I’d have named half of the songs on this list as some of my favorite songs. Define The Great Line was a masterpiece in melody and balance, a hardcore album so bare with its emotions that, oddly enough, you could decipher the loneliness and longing underneath the aggression. “Writing On the Walls” is the album’s climax. It’s a tale of desperation and resignation, of clinging onto a thought or dream as it slips from your grasp.
6. “Casimir Pulaski Day” – Sufjan Stevens (Illinois, 2005)
Sometimes it’s hard to see who Sufjan Stevens is behind his orchestral arrangements and jangly personality. We know who he is as a musician, but we don’t know much about the man writing the songs. It’s almost easy to pass over “Casimir Pulaski Day” in the scope of Illinois; it’s barely more than a whisper. But in this whisper, we get a glimpse of Stevens the man as opposed to Stevens the composer. “Casimir Pulaski Day” is deeply invested the dichotomies of love and loss, faith and doubt. Maybe that’s why I can relate so well, struggling with the latter myself. Or maybe it’s because there’s a beautiful tenderness behind choosing to remember gutting pain as an expression of self.