Today, Curtis brings you the 4th installment of his 5-part series, Top 25 Songs of the Decade. We’re finally into the top ten. Just one more week until we see who’s number one. Missed anything? Catch up. #25-21, #20-16, #15-11. (And #5-1, when you’re done reading this, that is.)
So onto the top 10. We’re getting to the real deal here, so get ready for revelations the likes of which you’ve never seen. It’s safe to say that if you’ve never heard the following songs, you haven’t lived. It’s that simple.
10. Panda Bear – Bros
Panda Bear’s third solo album stands as one of the must surprising masterpieces of the decade. He proved on Person Pitch that, without a doubt, he is the premier genius in Animal Collective, and contrasted with Avey Tare-led and almost uniformly meh Strawberry Jam, it seemed like a breath of fresh air, a deviation from the wild sounds of Animal Collective to a more earthy, sunshine-filled sound. “Bros,” the fifteen minute, three-part monster centerpiece of Person Pitch seems at first a deviation from the sound of the album. The lyrics start off a little downbeat (“Hey man what’s your problem, don’t you know that I don’t belong to you.” Slavery?) and the music more rock than pop oriented. But once we arrive at the five (or so) point mark in the song, it really begins to take shape. Owl hoots, lovely harmonies, and pop rhythms: all a testament that Panda Bear may be the next Brian Wilson. Certainly he’s the Brian Wilson of Animal Collective.
9. Modest Mouse – 3rd Planet
“The universe is shaped exactly like the Earth.” Isaac Brock as a modern day Sartre or at least a modern day Camus with a hint of Galileo, I suppose. “Your heart felt good.” And now some Shakespeare, a bit of “Sonnet #124,” not the one about the little boy of course, but touching none the less. Can you see the universe yet? Here’s a little guitar dissonance to help you along. Mr. Green’s on point with the drums. “That’s how the world began.” He was there. Adam, Eve, Isaac, it’s all the same to me, listening to “3rd Planet,” the indie rock Bible, the hipster’s Qur’an, the stoner’s Veda, might as well be the voice of God. “If you go straight along enough, you’ll end up where you were.” A little more guitar dissonance, yeah, there we go. Now that’s Modest Mouse.
8. Ghostface Killah – One
Just how Ghostface became the best rapper in the history of music starts with, of course, 36 Chambers, but people began to realize it by Supreme Clientele. It’s almost like he knew Bush was gonna be president, bending over young ladies, “dunkin’ high monument cakes,” grabbin’ ravioli bags, the two super soakers in the Rover. Go ahead, Ghost, get all that fun out while Clinton still runs the show. Maybe he did know about 9/11 before it happened, about the Patriot Act. He sure was in a hurry to snatch the skirt off of his woman. And since when does he smoke one joint at a time? He was paranoid about something. “One” may be the greatest testament to people’s feelings right before Bush took office, or it could just be Ghost being Ghost (“dickin’ down Oprah”). Whatever, you decide.
7. Broken Social Scene – Stars and Sons
Breathy vocals? Check. Driving beat? Check. About a hundred different instruments and sounds? Check. Sounds like a Broken Social Scene song. So what makes this one different from all the others? Maybe it’s just the lyrics, true to the heart, but not corny like “Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl” or melodramatic like “Almost Crimes.” And of course it’s got the handclaps, people go wild for the handclaps, and I go insane, more than wild, for handclaps in songs. But still, this doesn’t do it, no, the reason this song is so great is because, unlike most BSS songs, this one shows restraint. Yeah, it has a bunch of different sounds, but it’s controlled, like they want to go crazy, but they’re restraining themselves, allowing the music to speak for itself. The emotion seeps through regardless. Bravo.
6. J Dilla – Two Can Win
Only one can win, huh? That’s what the song insists it’s whole length, repeating the loop. “Only one can win, only one can win, oooooonly.” Should we take the song, the masterful bottling of euphoria into 1:45, at face value? Should we ignore the immense amount of pleasure Dilla gave to this world in his short 31 years, and the immense amount of pleasure it gave him to do this for us? The perfectly structured beats, the masterful choice of samples, always knowing his audience and the stable of rappers who would come to him looking for beats, should we ignore this relationship? Donuts will remain the prime testament this decade for how an artist was able to emotionally connect with his audience without using one goddamn lyric, the only never-ending album ever made. Two can win.
#5 – #1 didn’t happen ’til late December. But here it is.