Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 20 Favorite Songs of the
First Decade of the 2000s
(Part One)

Hey, look at the calendar! Just a couple days left in the last year of the first decade of the century! (Before we go any further - peace to all of you who insist that the new decade doesn't start until 2011, and that the century didn't start until 2001, because there was no year "0", yadda yadda yadda...I hear you, and I follow your logic, but I gotta go with aesthetics. Plus, I'm ready to do this post NOW - don't make me wait another year!)

Anyway, seems like everyone loves to make year-end and decade-end lists, and I'm no exception. So I put together a list of the best songs of the past ten years. It was tough to pare it down to just the top 20, but I managed, and now I count them down for you, Casey Kasem-style, in two posts. Today we'll cover songs 20 through 11; tomorrow, Part Two will count down from 10 to 1.

Lists like this, subjective as they are, are always fodder for rousing debate. Feel free to comment accordingly. Here we go kids!

#20 - "Goodnight, Goodnight" by Hot Hot Heat (2005)
Bursting out of Victoria, British Columbia as part of the mid-decade New Wave "revival" scene, Hot Hot Heat offered this wickedly chirpy little break-up song. They seldom stray far from this sound, which is a good thing. From the album Elevator.

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#19 - "On the Radio" by Regina Spektor (2006)
The self-described "Bronx girl by way of Moscow who writes songs for piano, voice, drum stick and guitar," wrote a particularly nifty one here, with some wonderfully brilliant lyrics: "And on the radio you'll hear 'November Rain'/That solo's awfully long, but it's a good refrain/You'll listen to it twice, because the DJ is asleep..." The song can be found on Regina's excellent Begin to Hope album.

#18 - "It's Not Right" by DEVA (2007)
The only non-officially-released song in the countdown, but so very deserving of being here, for concept as much as for execution. "NYC's femme-fronted Devo cover band," DEVA (think about how that's pronounced for a moment...genius!) has been playing live for several years and getting their music out through YouTube and their MySpace page. Their take on the Spudboy's "It's Not Right" blurs the line wonderfully between tribute and parody.

#17 - "Ocean Breathes Salty" by Modest Mouse (2004)
Cross The Pixies with Talking Heads, and the result would not be far from Modest Mouse. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine either Frank Black or David Byrne singing this one, although neither would imbue it with quite the level of visceral emotion Isaac Brock manages. This was the second single from the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

#16 - "Lights Out" by Santogold (2008)
It's not often when I discover a song thanks to a beer commercial, but when Santogold's ethereal bop turned up in a series of Bud Light commercials last year, I was hooked. Those who are old enough to remember the campy late '70s Santo Gold jewelry infomercials will smile at the name Santi White chose for herself; those same jewelers sued, and she had to change it to the current Santigold. The album was self-titled, and can be found under both names as well.

#15 - "Donut Man" by The Dickies (2001)
The Dickies will always be one of my all-time favorite bands. They're hyperspeed California cartoon punk is always fun stuff. Still going strong after three decades! Find this one on their 2001 release, All This and Puppet Stew.

#14 - "Eight Easy Steps" by Alanis Morissette (2004)
There are those who don't understand how Alanis Morissette fits into my musical universe, while others who know me well say it makes perfect sense that she would be one of my three favorite artists of all time (along with Bow Wow Wow and Sparks - twist your head around THAT triumverate!) Her more recent material has been hit and miss, but she never hit as dead on as she did with this one. From the otherwise disappointing So-Called Chaos album.

#13 - "I Love You 'Cause I Have To" by Dogs Die in Hot Cars (2004)
Great band name, funny lyrics, insistently catchy hooks - how can you go wrong? Scotland's Dogs Die in Hot Cars may come across sounding like they nicked it all from their collection of XTC records (close your eyes and you'll swear that's Andy Partridge singing the chorus), but at least they chose their source material well. From the album Please Describe Yourself.

#12 - "Relator" by Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn (2009)
This song is so much better than it has any right to be. Pete Yorn is from the cookie-cutter school of sensitive indie guys with guitars, and Scarlett Johannson is a whole lot easier on the eyes than she is on the ears, but together they made this incredibly wonderful song. Johannson purrs over top of a chug-a-chug melody that just brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. From the album Break Up.

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#11 - "Miss Take" by HorrorPops (2004)
Tattoos, piercings, B-movie shock make-up, punky psychobilly sounds, go-go dancers and a girl with a stand up bass. That describes the wonderful world of the Danish band HorrorPops, whose Hell Yeah! may have been the most criminally unsung album of the year back in 2004. Go out and buy it now!

Stay tuned for Part Two...

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