Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs Ever. Part 2: 90-81

March 22, 2010

I know you’ve all been sitting there for 7 1/2 months, listening to your Only Ones download, obsessively hitting refresh, waiting for this series’ next installment.  So here it is, the next ten songs you should discover, or re-discover:

90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances

Any Johnston song has been made at least as much about the biographical parentheses as the music.  Such myth-making may be a creative art of its own, but when thinking of the 100 songs I most want to hear, I get a bit more selfish.  Yes, at first I listened to this song simply as a supplement to his story.  I listened again and again because it was, like all great 3-minute pop songs, a supplement to my own – it described, with appropriate humor and horror, a piece of my own experience in 29 years on planet Earth.  As usual, he chooses two topics – insecurity and jealousy – of which pop musicians have mostly been scared shitless (i.e., he does not translate them into impersonal platitudes about ‘love’, or protect himself with elaborate, over-literate metaphors).  My own diagnosis is that Johnston is completely batshit – not for thinking weird things, but for saying them, and saying them exactly as he thinks them.  From Songs Of Pain (1981).

89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off

The first song, on the most acclaimed album, of one of the Top Two Rock Bands of All Time (according to public consensus).  Somehow, it’s never on the radio.  I’m picky with Stones material – I crave melody more than anything else, and they often seem to neglect it, substituting rhythm and swagger.  Here, you get all three, plus a shitstorm of a chorus wrapped in some of the filthiest horns in rock, perfect for a late Saturday night at a crap-hole-in-the-wall.  And come on, classic rock radio!  Isn’t everyone beyond sick of “Start Me Up”? From Exile On Main St. (1972). The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St

88. Wipers ~ Youth of America

Perfect for speeding through the Mojave Desert in July with the a/c off, the windows rolled down, and the thermometer creeping toward 116 degrees.  The guitar work here was always impressive to me, but never seemed to transcend itself until the listen that clinched it.  It’s 10 1/2 minutes of swirling debris as you head straight into hell’s furnace.  From Youth of America (1981).

87. Heart ~ Alone

When I first became conscious of pop music, I figured this is just how it’s supposed to be: dramatic piano opening, and tension building until the humongous chorus that goes for it all.  Here, Heart nails the landing.  Not five years later, stuff like this was laughed at, replaced by Alterna-rock’s dishwater melodies and post-Eddie Vedder blustery singing.  I mean, who wants to read “I’m half the man I used to be” at karaoke night?  So what I thought was the blueprint for all music, all time, actually just turned out to be 1987.  (See Cher’s “I Found SomeoneCher - Cher - I Found Someone and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A PrayerBon Jovi - Slippery When Wet - Livin' on a Prayer as other contenders for most exhilarating, bombastic chorus of all time).  From Bad Animals (1987). Heart - Bad Animals

86. The Stone Roses ~ (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister

Getting ambient or shoegazer pop right is all about attaching the right amount of weight.  Too much heaviness sticks to itself and sits in your stomach like bad bar food.  Not enough, and the thing floats away without a trace.  The Stone Roses got it just right throughout their debut album, the Greatest Album of All Time if you asked me in 2002.  From The Stone Roses (1989). The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (Remastered)

85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg

The Pernice Brothers’ songs are a little too whispery and perfectly combed for me, like the sweater-vested kid whose hair you can’t resist mussing up.  This one, however, has broken glass, swear words, a Calexico-ish southwestern ghost town vibe, a hard-edged, driving folk riff, and at times, the most sandpapery voice that Pernice can muster.  Probably the most likely song from this list to make it on to your next compilation for someone else.  From Big Tobacco (2000). Joe Pernice - Big Tobacco

84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When

Either the best song you’ve ever heard or the worst – a love song beamed in from another planet, scrambled and static-laced.  Either the noise coalesces into perfection, or it just stays noise – like if the Sistine Chapel was a ‘Magic Eye’ 3-D image only certain people could see.  At one point as high as #2 on this list – hundreds of listens have, finally, exhausted the many surprising melodies buried in the ether.  But, it’s still a transporting experience, and a good litmus test when I put it on a mix for someone.  From Loveless (1991) My Bloody Valentine - Loveless ; a slightly different version appears on the Tremolo EP. My Bloody Valentine - Tremolo - EP

83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding

The other choir voice (besides David Crosby) that sang “Mr. Tambourine Man” for the Byrds, here, has turned haggard and cobwebbed, with hypnotic results.  The only prog-country album I know of, with a shimmering, dusky feel throughout.  This is its weary anti-climax.  From No Other (1974). Gene Clark - No Other

82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get it Out of my Head

First appeared on my ‘favorite songs’ cassette when I was 9 – after having discovered Detroit’s WCSX – but this is no lifetime achievement award.  One of those songs that I always rewind and listen to again. And it’s by one of the most critically underrated bands out there (the public, on the other hand, got it right) – probably because to them the insistent strings and background (barely!) choir vocals violate the precedent of the critics’ Let it Be ruling.  In dissenting opinion, I say that here they offer nice contrast to a beautifully spare opening.  It works on its own terms, over and over again; besides, I’m not waiting for “Can’t Get it Out of my Head…Naked.”  From Eldorado (1974). Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado

81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail

Even as a fan – to unhealthy levels – of circa-1990 British shoegaze, “Vapour Trail” is really the only Ride song I need.  Not that the rest of the album here is weak.  It’s just that “Vapour Trail” is so good, I find myself constantly scrolling ahead to it.  And since it’s the last song on the album, and it’s the one where all the washes of feedback and splashes of cymbals finally fall away, leaving a single, perfect violin hook – nothing can follow it.  From Nowhere (1990). Ride - Nowhere

Honorable Mention:

King Missile ~ Sensitive Artist King Missile - Mystical Shit / Fluting On the Hump - Sensitive Artist

I don’t remember the exact quote, but to paraphrase the founder of,
“LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL!  I can’t stop laughing long enough to type a review.”
The song is a joke.  And it’s a joke that still funny, even after the 20th time you hear it.

List so far ~

100. Elton John ~ Funeral For A Friend (Love Lies Bleeding) Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
99. Dave Schramm ~ Hammer and nails
98. The Bob Seger System ~ 2 + 2 = ?
97. The Young Generation ~ The Hideaway
96. Belle & Sebastian ~ Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie Belle and Sebastian - Push Barman to Open Old Wounds - Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie
95. The Cars ~ Drive The Cars - Heartbeat City - Drive
94. Moose ~ The Only Man In Town Moose - High Ball Me - The Only Man In Town
93. Wire ~ French Film Blurred Wire - Chairs Missing - French Film Blurred
92. King Crimson ~ Starless
91. The Only Ones ~ The Whole Of The Law The Only Ones - Special View - The Whole of the Law
90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances
89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St - Rocks Off
88. Wipers ~ Youth of America
87. Heart ~ Alone Heart - Bad Animals - Alone
86. The Stone Roses ~ (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] - (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg Joe Pernice - Big Tobacco - Bum Leg
84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When My Bloody Valentine - Loveless - To Here Knows When
83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding Gene Clark - No Other - Some Misunderstanding
82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get It Out Of My Head Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado - Can't Get It Out of My Head
81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail Ride - Nowhere - Vapour Trail

TwitterFacebookDeliciousDiggGoogle ReaderGoogle GmailGoogle BookmarksFriendFeedLinkedInMySpaceStumbleUponYahoo MailPosterousTechnorati FavoritesAIMBlogger PostShare

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shop Fan Follow Contact Subscribe


One Response to “ Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs Ever. Part 2: 90-81 ”

  1. revisingproust on March 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I love sensitive artist. even after the 1020th time.

Leave a Reply