10. The National – “Fake Empire”
The song opens with a rolling piano line that is just mesmerizing and that tentative march forward underlies everything that comes after. Boxer has been rightly hailed as one of the best albums of the year, and for me, all the tracks kind of blend into each other. But, this one stands out, the overture to the entire piece and a wonderful song on its own, particularly during the majestic interplay of trumpet and guitar at the song’s conclusion.
9. The New Pornographers – “Unguided”
A departure from their usual modus operandi, this song stretches over six minutes and has more of a build than their usual concise power pop songs. However, the song is just as emotional as anything they’ve done. Backed by a beautiful tinkling percussion line, the interplay of male and female vocals all builds into the ecstatic, driving chorus. Some songs just beg to be used in a movie, and listening to this one, I can see the scene in my head. It’s the ecstatic reunion of our heroes, hard fought and well earned, a happy ending after all kinds of trouble.
8. Kanye West – “Flashing Lights”
“Stronger” got all the attention as Kanye’s move toward techno and dance, but it’s this track that impressed me the most. The keyboard line is incredible, both danceable and emotional. The strings are haunting, and Kanye’s delivery is strong as well. Much like “My Love” last year, the song would work just as well in a club as it would in a silent, introspective moment. I first heard the song on the radio and was instantly impressed, I didn’t even realize it was Kanye at first, I just knew it was great. This song should have been a massive hit, I’d still like to see it get a big single push.
7. Rilo Kiley – “The Moneymaker”
Huge controversial upon its release, I loved this thing from the first listen. The video perfectly captures the sleazy funk vibe of the song. I could image the band playing this song in the Canadian club from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, accompanying the decadent drinking and drugging of a bunch of dirty people. The riff underlying this song is fantastic, and Lewis’s vocals are among her best. The whole album was great, but it’s this opening salvo that really sticks with me.
6. Timbaland – “Way I Are”
I know a lot of people have gotten a bit tired of Timbaland, but I thought Shock Value stands up well with his two fantastic albums from last year. This song is probably the most typical Timbaland song on the album, but it’s also a flawless pop song. Fusing elements of “My Love,” “Sexy Back” and “Promiscuous,” he creates a kind of uber-Timbaland song. This is the equivalent of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., it might not innovate as much as his other work, but it fuses much of his previous work into a singularly successful work.
5. Amy Winehouse – “Back to Black”
The greatness of this album has been largely overshadowed by her tabloid antics, and that’s unfortunate. The whole album is great, but this is the high point, a perfect example of the way she makes 60s sounds relevant for today. The song builds on the percussion line before taking off into the swirling surf guitar backed chorus. I love those tambourines in the background, and this is her most emotional vocal on the album.
4. !!! – “Must Be the Moon”
One of the greatest dancerock songs of all time, this track does not stop bringing it. The bassline is relentless and I love the robotically heavy drumming. I love the rap-style vocal on the chorus, the stripped down nature of that makes the return of the entire band even more powerful. Back at college, when I was responsible for dropping music for our pre-parties, this track was a fixture. It’s one of those tracks you just can’t not like.
3. Daft Punk “Around the World/Harder Better Faster Stronger”
The best moment I’ve ever experienced at any concert is commemorated at 2:48 in the live recording of this song. Both these songs are already colossal hook machines that would have killed live, combined, they become a mutant pop song that just destroys everything in its path. Listening to the track, I’ll sometimes latch onto the “Around the World” bassline and ride that, sometimes hook onto the “Harder Better” vocal, and other times just stick to that crazy synth line. The song just keeps building as it goes on, even during the b-section, which drops some of the heaviest bass I’ve ever heard. This is a track that’s exponentially better the louder it is, only the live experience can do it justice, but put that record up high and you’ll get close. If this wasn’t based off two existing songs, it would easily rank number one on this list, and be a strong contender for the greatest song all time.
2. Justice – “D.A.N.C.E”
While Daft Punk made a resurgence, their protégées at Justice dropped a track that rivals their best. “D.A.N.C.E” is an insane fusion of Jackson 5 and house music, one of the most exuberant pop songs I’ve ever heard. Odds are strong that this track was played at every single party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this year, and it just never gets old. This was another one that was omnipresent on my college DJ mix, and it never failed to go over. I love the disco style bassline and Goblins sounding synths. It’s a flawless pop song, and should survive on dance floors for a long time.
1. Arcade Fire – “No Cars Go”
This song is extremely special for me, an absolutely exuberant rallying cry, it’s just bursting with energy and dreams, a desire to break free and become something else. The Arcade Fire have a lot of might behind their sound, and no song showcases it better than this. It sounds like there’s a hundred trilling instruments underlying the chorus, and it only builds as it goes into the crazy breakdown in the middle of the song. Win’s shout fo “No Go!” is amazing, but the real highlight of the song for me is the segue between “Well we know!” and the instrumental solo that follows. The song is all about those transitions, taking things down to nothing, then building again to an ecstatic pace. The song’s majesterial finale is like very few things I’ve heard in music. I think the people who lived with me last year hate this song. There were a bunch of nights when I was like “I need to hear ‘No Cars Go’,” and at 2 AM, I’d play this thing real loud, and just get lost in it. It might have woken them up, and I’m sorry about that, but the final minute of this song just left me feeling cleansed and renewed, and maybe that’s worth a wake up.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
10. The National – “Fake Empire”