Tuesday, January 15, 2008

These Songs Should Never Appear Together

I'm never on time, I've never been a trendsetter, and it usually takes me awhile to catch on. So it is only just with the universe that my "Top 10 of 2007" list would appear on this blog almost a month into 2008. Further missing the point, this list includes twelve songs that I discovered or re-discovered last year. They aren't in any order and they aren't supposed to be the "best" of anything. So take it as a guide, more of a soundtrack than a list of must haves.

1. "This Year's Love," David Gray
A song so sweet you might go into insulin shock. Gray's tune from 2005's White Ladder is vaguely reminiscent of Nick Drake. The piano makes you cry but the lyrics make you hope. This is a great song for people falling in love, looking for love, or unknowingly being taken hold of by love (in a far less violent manner than I've just laid out).

2. "Fidelity," Regina Spektor
There aren't enough good poppy piano songs on the radio. This track is the genre's rare beauty that surpasses expectations. Beyond its catchy skipping tempo and Spektor's class-shattering voice, the lyrics read like a diary entry you didn't know you wrote. Who knew heartbreak could keep even the most hardened cynics' feet tapping?

3. "1234," Feist
Apparently the entire Arts staff fell in love with this song, so I won't go on too long about it. I will say that girl pop made a huge comeback this year and Feist was captain of the ship, with this song as its fuel. "1234" takes me back to the beginning of every crush I've ever had, the palm sweat, stuttering and all. Handclaps+puppy love+jaunty rhythm=1234.

4. "The Difficult Kind," Sheryl Crow
If you've never had your heart broken, this song is the ultimate crib sheet. Crow outlines every emotion that follows an earth-shattering break up, and is resilient even at her most despondent. Whether you've been dumped or just cut down, underappreciated or left behind, this song will nurse you through it all and give you enough strength to know you'll get over it.

5. "How Many Hearts," Travis
I will never be able to figure out why this song wasn't a hit and why it isn't played under every sad "Grey's Anatomy" or "One Tree Hill" montage. This song is often overshadowed by the Scottish quartet's "Love Will Come Through." Both tracks can be found on 2003's 12 Memories. I promise you, this is the better track. The song drips with confusion, anger and frustration about a lovers' quarrel. Hit repeat because there's no way you can get the song's full meaning in one listen, and the guitar part is unforgettable.

(I can't find video, which is too bad, but I'll burn you a disc if you ask nicely)

6. "Work That," Mary J. Blige
This song is for every unconventional beauty. Many have come down on Mary J. for being "too happy" and sacrificing the heartbreak that made her the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Screw 'em. This song bounces higher and jams harder than "Family Affair," "Real Love" or any of Miss Blige's past dance tracks. And the message of beauty being universal in definition and expression scores points with every girl who wasn't voted prom queen.

7. "Ex-Factor," Lauryn Hill
It's too bad Lauryn Hill went crazy. She shepherded the neo-soul movement with her Grammy goldmine release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This single from that album is the R&B version of "The Difficult Kind." A bad breakup, articulated flawlessly by Ms. Hill, complete with a heartbreaking bridge and the kind of honesty that's a needle in the current music landscape's haystack. I challenge anyone to find a single thing wrong with this song. If you succeed, it's because you've never been hurt.

8. "Got 'Til It's Gone," Janet Jackson Featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell
There was a time, before she bared her nipple and her music was disposable, when Janet Jackson was at the forefront of R&B. After a long time being considered a pop and dance artist, her 1997 release The Velvet Rope changed all of that. She settled into slow grooves and embraced her Afrocentricity (and I don't want any crap for using that possibly made-up word). She experimented musically, and also explored previously uncharted emotional depths but still kept the hits coming. This track joins blues, rap, and R&B into a low-key jam full of regret.

9. "Everybody Knows," Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams can rock. The version of this song found on his 2007 triumph Easy Tiger is slow, acoustic, and good, but the rocking version found on the single crushes it like a grape. Adams' alt-country twang is perfectly supplemented by backing band The Cardinals, transforming this tune into a boulder about an uneven relationship circling the drain. If this is the new face of country, I'll throw on a straw hat and a belt with an oversized buckle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVVB2Xq65xQ (You can't embed this version and it's so good I'm just leaving it as a link)

10. "Can't Tell Me Nothing," Kanye West
This was the year of Kanye, but isn't every year? "Stronger" may have been the hit, and "The Good Life" had what's his face (T-Pain?), but this is the single that should have been a hit. Kanye's shout-outs to sitcom "A Different World" and biblical couple Adam and Eve may not have screamed chart success but those rhymes separate him from the superficial flashes in the pan he feuds with.

11. "Lake Michigan," Rogue Wave
2007 was also a year of catchy handclaps, and Rogue Wave may take Feist's crown for best use of the device. The guitar, handclaps, and harmonies join on this track to make an awesome lead single for the band's current release Asleep at Heaven's Gate. This track is pure fun and you'll be singing it all day. It sounds like nothing else that came out this year.

12. "15 Step," Radiohead
Radiohead spent 2007 playing the role of record label spoilsport and found time to craft one of the band's better albums, In Rainbows. Its leadoff track heralds the return of the '90s best (and most experimental) band, back and better than it has been in years. The beat is infectious, the bass line dominates and Thom Yorke's delivery is quantum. Simply quantum.

-Meryn, who thinks this post illustrates far more about her life than anyone could ever care to know.

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