Mar 7, 2007

Is Sunken Treasure The Greatest Song Ever Written?; Or 99 Other Contenders

Is it easy to compile a list of your 100 favourite songs of all time. No of course it isn't. That's why I did it. Of course the first obvious thing to consider is that it is impossible to hear every song ever recorded. Also how do you compare songs of different eras. Songs that you love now and songs that came before your time. How do you compare a Public Enemy song to a Carter Family song. How about lining up The Clash versus Animal Collective.
Its not easy! However I did it and I'm happy with it. This exercise allowed me to include classic songs by artists that I don't necessarily have their entire collection but love one song in particular. I could also include lesser known and much loved album tracks over the sometimes more obvious singles. Sometimes I find it's a not as hyped album track that you grow to love. Also I find anomalies, like where my favourite Wilco record is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but my favourite Wilco songs appear on their other records. I pondered whether to inundate this list with Pavement and Built to Spill tunes which I could easily have done, but I thought it more interesting to put a song limit on those wonders of modern music. Unfair for some songs I love but I think it makes for better reading. Whilst talking about Built to Spill, I have been listening to Keep It Like A Secret a lot lately and although I have always rated it extremely highly I forgot how seriously great it is. Also upon reflection I think Broken Chairs is now my favourite song from that wonderful record, so it appears on this list.

I worked on this list, on and off, for the better part of a month.
I discarded about 100 songs that I love but didn't make the cut.
This list is fluid and could change with time.
This is a personal list and is not meant to be definitive.
This might have been a useless exercise, But I enjoyed doing it.
Enough rambling. As to number one...

Sunken Treasure-Wilco

There's rows and rows of house, with windows painted blue.
With the light from the t.v. running parallel to you.
But there is no sunken treasure, rumored to be.
Wrapped inside my ribs in a sea black with ink.
I am so out of tune with you, I am so out of tune with you.
If I had a mountain, I'd try to fold it over.
If I had a boat, you know I'd probably roll over.
And I leave it on the shore, I'd leave it for somebody.
Surely there's somebody who needs it more than me.
I am so out of tune with you, I am so out of tune with you.
All the leaves will burn and autumn fires then return.
All the fires we burn, all will return.
Music is my savior, and I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was tamed by rock and roll.
I got my name from rock and roll.

This song has everything I want from a song. A great singer effortlessly garnering every drop of emotion in every line but not over reaching in anyway. A beautiful image is burned into your mind with the first line. The lyrics are poetic but very touching. Then the song builds to the line "I am so out of tune with you" which just breaks my heart. Finally an epic climax is delivered with the plantive cry to the spirit of rock and roll. A beautiful, elegiac song full of emotion, poetry and spirit.

Listen here to this wondrous song, or all of "Being There", for that matter.

....or maybe it's...

A Baby for Pree-Neutral Milk Hotel

Blistering Pree, all smiling and swollen
Makes babies to breathe
With their hearts hanging open all over the sheets
As soft as beets in some brown dresser drawer
And with bees in her breath and the rest of her ringing
They'll sting through her chest with a force hard and beating
Till wonderfully wet she will get
Until she's soaked inside her clothes
And there is no sorry to be sorry for
For a roll around the floor some afternoon so sound and soft
It made her swallow all her sweat
With every bit of breath she coughs
And when the day it came to pour all her babies
All across the bathroom floor
She will be swimming in them all forever more


The most perfect one minute twenty one seconds in music history.
Jeff Mangum exhales this song in one breath. Is it about a beautiful
birth or the tragedy of miscarriage? All I know is this song
is an amazing creation from a genius songwriter.

Here is a live version recorded in San Francisco, circa 1998.

These two top my list. So to the songs that make me feel good
in every possible way-

1-Sunken Treasure-Wilco
2-A Baby for Pree-Neutral Milk Hotel
3-Car-Built to Spill
4-Wake Up-Arcade Fire
5-New Partner-Palace Music
6-The Bear-My Morning Jacket
7-Two-Headed Boy Part 2-Neutral Milk Hotel
8-Everything Flows-Teenage Fanclub
9-Temptation-New Order
10-I'll Believe In Anything-Wolf Parade
11-Misunderstood-Wilco
12-Oh Comely-Neutral Milk Hotel
13-Like A Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
14-Mogwai Fear Satan-Mogwai
15-God Only Knows-The Beach Boys
16-The Weight-The Band
17-Wrecking Ball-Gillian Welch
18-Cattle and Cane-Go Betweens
19-A Day in the Life-The Beatles
20-Atlantic City-Bruce Springsteen
21-It's All Gonna Break-Broken Social Scene
22-I See A Darkness-Bonnie "Prince" Billy
23-Banshee Beat-Animal Collective
24-Rubies-Destroyer
25-Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings-Sunset Rubdown
26-Nashville To Kentucky-My Morning Jacket
27-So Come Back, I Am Waiting-Okkervil River
28-Debaser-Pixies
29-Everything's Fucked-Dirty Three
30-Teen Age Riot-Sonic Youth
31-Trudy Dies-Palace Music
32-Let It Be-The Beatles
33-Fillmore Jive-Pavement
34-Bankrupt On Selling-Modest Mouse
35-Made-Up Dreams-Built To Spill
36-The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-The Band
37-The Funeral-Band of Horses
38-Moya-Godspeed You! Black Emperor
39-Zurich Is Stained-Pavement
40-That's Entertainment-The Jam
41-Baba O'Riley-The Who
42-Do You Realize?-The Flaming Lips
43-Echos Myron-Guided by Voices
44-Mahgeeta-My Morning Jacket
45-Sister Jack-Spoon
46-The Empty Threats of Little Lord-Sunset Rubdown
47-Revelator-Gillian Welch
48-The Concept-Teenage Fanclub
49-Acuff-Rose-Uncle Tupelo
50-What's Going On-Marvin Gaye
51-Fools Gold-The Stone Roses
52-Tailights Fade-Buffalo Tom
53-The Center of the World-Bright Eyes
54-Auberge Le Mouton Noir-Do Make Say Think
55-Twenty-Four Hours-Joy Division
56-Goddess On A Hiway-Mercury Rev
57-Game of Pricks-Guided by Voices
58-Cause=Time-Broken Social Scene
59-Westfall-Okkervil River
60-A Poor Man's Memory-Explosions In The Sky
61-The Beast and Dragon, Adored-Spoon
62-The Singer's A Liar-Gaslight Radio
63-No One Knows-Queens of the Stone Age
64-Broken Chairs-Built To Spill
65-The Crane Wife 1 & 2-The Decemberists
66-Expo '86-Death Cab For Cutie
67-Obstacle 1-Interpol
68-Trani-Kings of Leon
69-Cuyahoga-R.E.M.
70-Ever Fallen in Love?-Buzzcocks
71-Emily-Joanna Newsom
72-Jackson-Lucinda Williams
73-I Want Wind To Blow-The Microphones
74-Broke-Modest Mouse
75-Come On! Feel the Illinoise!-Sufjan Stevens
76-Fake Plastic Trees-Radiohead
77-Berlin Chair-You Am I
78-A Shot In The Arm-Wilco
79-Boys, You Won't-The Wrens
80-Farewell Transmission-Songs:Ohia
81-The Bad Arts-Destroyer
82-Broom People-The Mountain Goats
83-Favorite-Neko Case
84-The Laws Have Changed-The New Pornographers
85-I Will Be There When You Die-My Morning Jacket
86-Reach Out (I'll Be There)-The Four Tops
87-So. Central Rain-R.E.M.
88-Smells Like Teen Spirit-Nirvana
89-Freak Scene-Dinosaur Jr
90-This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)-Talking Heads
91-Winters Love-Animal Collective
92-Gigantic-Pixies
93-Blind-TV On The Radio
94-Details of the War-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
95-Rebellion (Lies)-Arcade Fire
96-Levi Stubbs' Tears-Billy Bragg
97-So Says I-The Shins
98-Makin' Angels-Destroyer
99-On To You-The Constantines
100-Oh My Sweet Carolina-Ryan Adams

11 Comments:

  • At March 08, 2007 , Anonymous geoff said...

    just wow.

    i would like to see the 100 that you discarded!

     
  • At March 08, 2007 , Anonymous Political.Asylum said...

    Dannielynn's true father is a regular poster at the Sarcastic Idiocy Forum.

    http://www.thesif.net/SIF/index.php?

     
  • At March 08, 2007 , Anonymous Jeff said...

    wow, ambitious project. These are all good songs though! Nice work.

     
  • At March 08, 2007 , Anonymous Sean said...

    great work wayne! i know how hard it is so i appreciate your effort. i've been working on a top 300 songs for about a year now and i can't finish it. maybe this will push me!

     
  • At March 08, 2007 , Anonymous Karen said...

    Massive props to you for doing this - it's something I can't even comprehend doing. I'm always terrified I'll leave something out, and every time I hear a song on the list I always change my mind about where it should be. Still, I think it would be a fun exercise.

    Your number 1 and 2 are awesome :) I agree with you completely about A Baby for Pree - even in its ambiguity it's sublimely beautiful. Wake Up at number 4 also made me smile. I like that there's a good balance of old and new stuff too - I think when a lot of people write these sorts of lists they feel like they have to pay some sort of homage to 'classic' artists, when really it's such a personal thing.

    These lists of yours also give me so much new stuff to check out :)

     
  • At March 09, 2007 , Blogger Ally said...

    wake up is my funeral song! i definitely agree with you about the neon bible/weekend in the city thing. i can stand weekend but it's nowhere near as good. although i enjoy uniform quite a bit. also, i don't think the prayer was very good for a first single.

     
  • At March 09, 2007 , Anonymous dave g said...

    wow, that's a good effort! i can picture you tossing up whether 'mogwai fear satan' is just marginally better than 'god only knows'. totally impossible! but that shouldn't stop you - & hasn't. 'goddess on the highway' brings back memories. quite a few i'd like to check out. nice work.

     
  • At March 12, 2007 , Blogger Bill said...

    Cool, really cool. I did this exercise about a year ago, so I can certainly attest to how time consuming and difficult it is. Really like the list. Just a quick perusal finds a few songs that made mine - "Mogwai Fear Satan", "Teenage Riot", "Two Headed Boy Part 2", "Fillmore Jive", "Center of the World", "I See a Darkness" - I'm sure there's others.

    And your #3 song has what I find to be the best opening to any song ever...

    "You get the car, I'll get the night off, you'll get the chance to take the world apart and figure out how it works. Don't let me know what you find out."

     
  • At March 12, 2007 , Blogger Wayne said...

    Bill, I nearly had Car at number one, I agree with your statement about the opening line. Also the line "I wanna see movies of my dreams" has stayed with me from the very first day I heard the song.

     
  • At March 13, 2007 , Anonymous dave g said...

    i've never even heard of built to spill. is that bad?

    that said, "debaser" & "fillmore jive" each had periods in my life of being my favourite songs (the latter being when writing my masters - "i need to sleep"), so interesting to see the overlap.

    "so come back i'm waiting" would also definitely make my list.

     
  • At March 13, 2007 , Blogger Wayne said...

    Ha, I wouldn't say its bad, but you are missing out on my favourite band of all time. Keep It Like A Secret is a good introduction if you want to investigate...

     

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