!!!, Airwaves, Chicago, Freedom (Motherless Child), Heart of Hearts, Jai Paul, Moonraker, Rebellion (Lies), Richie Havens, Shirley Bassey, Stereolab, Sufjan Stevens, The Arcade Fire, Thomas Dolby, Velvet Water, Zion Wolf
16. Freedom (Motherless Child) – Richie Havens
His trademark song, an intense experience that somehow combines Gospel with folk music, a nearly impossible hybrid. His wild strumming and percussive slapping fills the entire song, with his ragged voice, little other accompaniment is needed, in fact, it would be intrusive. It is my belief that he performed the song better over time as his voice entered a lower register.
The most unbelievable part is that his first performed the song at Woodstock and it was a pure improvisation, since most of the other artists were stuck in traffic and couldn’t get to the venue in time.
17. Velvet Water – Stereolab
Sometimes I like really weird songs, just because they feel fresh.
Velvet Water starts out incomprehensible, and then after a minute and a half, comes in a jazzy off kilter keyboard riff, and then the vocals of Laetitia Sadier. The hook is a natural extension of the verse and by the time Mary Hansen’s backup vocals kick in, it starts to hit you how pretty this song really is.
18. Zion Wolf – Jai Paul
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the music business and have to deal with Jai Paul. Since he’s been signed he’s only produced two singles, he’s a musician who doesn’t actually release any material. In 2013, there was a leak of his older material apparently. Mixed so poorly most of the lyrics are indecipherable, it is still jaw-droppingly brilliant.
From the first second of his music, his melodies are incredibly addictive, and he seems to be able to appropriately insert more polyrhythms and world music flourishes then anyone I’ve ever seen. I cannot get this song (or any of them) out of my head.
19. Airwaves – Thomas Dolby
Some of the best music I know comes from so-called ‘one hit wonders.’ Airwaves is one of those songs that I find extremely visual. In a logical sense, I don’t understand what the song is about, but it gives a me very distinct impression sort of like a Jack Kerouac poem and when that hook hits this song goes into overdrive.
Dolby’s music is dismissed as synth pop, but he had quite a bit of really impressive material. Like many of the people I like, he deserved better than he got.
20. Moonraker – Shirley Bassey
I never saw Moonraker, as I refuse to see any more Bond films with Roger Moore in them, so I don’t know what a Moonraker actually is. What I do know is that Shirley Bassey killed this thing.
The human voice is supposed to exceed every other instrument. Moonraker proves it. I actually wince in the middle of the verse at the sheer power and range of her voice. A lot of us think that we can carry a tune, but this is a humbling vocal display.
21. Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
Stevens is a genius. This list could quite easily be top twenty songs of Sufjan Stevens but then we would be on the island without any good fight songs and we’d be overrun by cannibals.
So then you’re forced to pick a song, and if you have to, it would be Chicago.
22. Rebellion (Lies) – The Arcade Fire
Very few songs build this well, and very few songs have such strong call and response melodies that sort of bleed into each other. The moment you hear this, you won’t be able to not think about it.
Go ahead. Try not to hum it now.
23. Heart of Hearts – !!!
A particularly infectious song, from a great band that infects their music with a very authentic joy. Even better live, so I’m linking to one of those versions, even though it doesn’t have that jaw dropping guitar solo/instrumental breakdown of the studio version.
I have like, another 10 songs. This was a terrible idea.