Friday, January 29, 2010

Nick's Top 10 Songs of All-Time

10. “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” by Brand New “The Quiet Things…” sowed the seeds of my affinity for intensely emotional music, “emo” if you will. Maybe it’s the heartfelt verse, or the gang shouting in the chorus, or the intense bridge build-up that sees Lacey affirm “I lie for only you / I lie well, halleluh”, or possibly the nostalgia and adolescent angst associated with this song, but for whatever the reason “The Quiet Things…” simply appeals to me on a very emotional level. There’s no Dillinger-esque technicality, M83-like ethereal appeal, or even inventive song structure, however the implicit emotional significance of music doesn’t need to be justified through critical means.

09. “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie “Under Pressure” is quite simply amazing, the fruit of two artists who were at their imaginative peaks and collaborated to pen one of the most commercially successful songs of all time. The track is synonymous with the smooth opening bass line, but the androgynous vocal performances from Freddy Mercury and David Bowie steal the show. The lyrical content of the song deals with the notion of universal love, with Bowie eventually surmising that “Love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night / And love dares you to change the way of caring about ourselves.”

08. “Frequency Ass Bandit” by Botch Botch’s “Frequency Ass Bandit”, initially titled “Frequenting Mass Transit”, was my first foray into the wonderful world of math-core; a genre rooted as much in technicality and musicianship as brutality. The first half of “Frequency Ass Bandit” is good albeit unspectacular; however the auditory beatdown really begins at the 2:30 mark when guitarist Dave Knudsen (now in Minus the Bear) busts out a torrent of creative riffs before finishing with a breakdown that would make the likes of Ivan Drago quiver in fear.

07. “Planning a Prison Break” by The Receiving End of Sirens Although they disbanded in early 2008, The Receiving End of Sirens left an indelible mark on the alternative/post-hardcore scene with their 2005 debut ‘Between The Heart and the Synapse.’ “Planning a Prison Break”, the second track on the album, clocks in at over five minutes (although the music video release is shorter) and elicits thoughts of genre giants Thursday and Brand New, but distances itself by displaying an artistic ingenuity that those bands lack. “Planning a Prison Break” exhibits no identifiable structure, instead choosing to meander between different genres and arrangements before eventually concluding with an arresting chorus of voices belting “This is the last night in my body, yeah…” on seemingly infinite loop.

06. “Ode We Will Bury Ourselves” by Moving Mountains Westchester, NY-based Moving Mountains combine elements from Brand New and Explosions in the Sky to craft “post-emo” that tugs at the heart strings.” “Ode We Will Bury Ourselves” follows this formula and unites grandiose guitars, horn parts, and Gregory Dunn’s rangy vocals to shape one of the most epic songs of all-time. Dunn’s lyrics are evocative yet mysterious, as we’re left to wonder whether he’s referring to a lost lover, God, or a deceased friend through lines like “And I am in the earth and you’re in the sky / And nothing will change what you are.” The song concludes in dramatic fashion with a harmonized a cappella rendition of the above lyrics before fading out to nothingness.

05. “43% Burnt” by The Dillinger Escape Plan “43% Burnt”, the second track from 1999’s ‘Calculating Infinity’, is the most brutal, frenetic, and dynamic song of all time. The track opens at break-neck pace, immediately introducing the listener to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s use of mind-numbingly complex time signatures and guitar arrangements. Dmitri Minakakis’ patented bark complements the haphazard instrumentation very well and pushes the brutality meter to unprecedented levels. Everything before the three minute mark of “43% Burnt” is just gravy though, since the minute-long breakdown that closes the song serves as the apex of hardcore music.

04. “Nerdy” by Poison the Well Poison the Well’s milestone 1999 release ‘Opposite of December…A Season of Separation’ all but created the post-hardcore genre with its inclusion of timeless songs that juxtapose melodic and screaming vocals with ample guitar breakdowns and double-bass rolls. Admittedly, “Slice Paper Wrists” was the song off ‘Opposite of December…’ that first drew me in, however “Nerdy” has stood the test of time. The last minute of the song is pure hardcore bliss, interspersing one of the most brutal breakdowns of all time with the romantic yearning of singer Jeffrey Moreira: “Time slows down when / you look at me / I’m infatuated with this / Infatuated with you.”

03. “The Canyon Behind Her” by dredg Anyone who has seen Salvador Dali’s famous painting “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening” inadvertently knows the inspiration behind dredg’s 2002 land-mark album ‘El Cielo.’ The first minute of “The Canyon Behind Her” contains a sparse slide guitar amid Japanese whispers that instruct the listener to view Dali’s painting while listening to the song. From there the track utilizes a sonic wall of guitars to lay the foundation for Gavin Hayes’ incredibly emotional vocal performance. Hayes eventually croons “Though half of me gone / the lonesome part is there / I cannot find the other half” before yielding to a chorus of chants that slowly dissipate upon the song’s conclusion.

02. “Run into Flowers” by M83 “Run Into Flowers”, in contrast to songs like “43% Burnt”, garners its magnificence from subtlety and nuance rather than bombastic technicality. The third track off 2003’s ‘Dead Cities, Read Seas & Lost Ghosts’, “Run Into Flowers” is awash in multiple layers of warm synthesizers and digital strings. The track evolves seamlessly from beginning to end, managing to lull the listener into a transcendental state. A knee-buckling build-up around the two minute mark is the song’s high point as M83 brainchild Anthony Gonzalez murmurs “Give me peace and chemicals, I want to run into you” below the pulsating synthesizers and swooning electric violin.

01. “3 Libras” by A Perfect Circle Perhaps the most moving and utterly emotional song of all-time, A Perfect Circle’s “3 Libras” completely changed my perspective on music. A Perfect Circle was my “bridge band”, providing sophisticated yet accessible songs that opened the floodgates for my interest in progressive music. Off 2000’s ‘Mer De Noms’, “3 Libras” capitalizes on vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s earnest and vulnerable delivery as well as a beautiful strings section to create a truly tear-inducing experience. The last minute of the song, in which Maynard repetitiously belts “You don’t, you don’t, you don’t see me” above a swell of hazed out guitar licks and orchestral ensembles, is the most cathartic moment in the history of music.

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