The Top 100 Songs (100-81)

Today the Top-100 begins.

It’s not easy to pick 100 songs – and 100 songs only – to represent your favorites. Do you choose more than one song from each band? Is it okay to leave a great Modest Mouse song off because I have to somehow represent The Polyphonic Spree? Should the picks be evened out – is it fair to have so many of the same artist in the top twenty?

There’s a fine line between the 10 best songs and my 10 favorite songs. My picks are not the best, but they are the songs that mean the most to me – they’ve helped shape my life, my tastes, my musical knowledge.

You’ll find a few themes throughout. Nick Hornby holds a huge influence: four songs come from movies based on his books (High Fidelity has three, while About A Boy brings one), and two more of my songs were reviewed as his favorites for his book Songbook. There’s a lot of “emo” songs – the genre I listened to nearly exclusively for the first three years of college – and they’re dispersed throughout the list. Many of them reside in the top twenty for purely sentimental reasons. Most of the rap songs are more recent, but they’ve made enough of an impact that they deserve to be included.

What was more surprising to me was what I left off. Many of my older favorite songs simply did not age well – they no longer hold the importance they did seven years ago. Less Than Jake, Sense Field, and Sunny Day Real Estate all dominated some portion of my musical library, but only two songs total from the three bands made it. Most of them ended up on the “almost” list, the songs that would have ranked 101-120.

Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis” still gets a rise out of me, but all of its effectiveness is from the fact that my old band used to cover it – all feelings I have are left over and slowly fading. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is a classic song, but unfortunately it doesn’t mean as much to me as it did during my first year away from the dorms. “Three Summers Strong,” by Hot Water Music, is a great song, but with three other HWM songs it got bumped from the list.

Jejune’s “Fixed on the One” could have easily been swapped for another song: Rainer Maria’s “Tinfoil” (which made the list) and “Song About an Angel,” my favorite song for a long time, didn’t even make the list. Tastes change, it’s apparent, and even nostalgia can wane.

A person’s top ten list just goes to shows how a great artist can be influential, but also how an average one can create one quintessential piece of music that can be more memorable than anything that influential group ever wrote. Sometimes the magic strikes for one song only, and that one song is so good that you’d swear it was written by someone else.

So with that, here’s the list – or at least songs 100-81.

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100. – “Killed For Less” — Sense Field
(Killed For Less, 1994)

Surprisingly, Sense Field was one of my favorites for a while, though their songs didn’t stick with me long after high school. Still, “KFL” was one of the less spiritual sounding, harder rocking Sense Field songs in their collection, and it was always more accessible to me during my “post-punk” period.

“Carry me across the burning bridge/Somehow I’ll help you to carry the weight of the world/Carry you.”

99. – “Sunday Morning Coming Down” — Johnny Cash
(The Johnny Cash Show, 1970)

Kris Kristopherson wrote it, but Cash made if famous. If there was any Cash song I would play from a bar jukebox, it would be this one – early drinking, lonesome heart, self-medication. This was the first song we listened to for Ryan’s birthday party: 10:00 am, over Bloody Marys and a bathtub full of cheap beer.

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk/I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned/’Cause there’s something in a Sunday/That makes a body feel alone.”

98. – “Headache” — Frank Black
(Teenager Of The Year, 1994)

Ah, a call back to my old CMJ subscribing days. Black gets a song on the list instead of The Pixies because, well, I heard him first — I bought the entire disc because the CMJ Sampler CD that month included his ode to old video games: “Whatever Happened to Pong.” However, “Headache” turned out to be the centerpiece of the album.

“Got me so down, I got me a headache/My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound.”

97. “City Of New Orleans” — Willie Nelson
(City of New Orleans, 1984)

I’ve never heard the Johnny Cash version, but this Willie Nelson song – a true patriotic favorite — is one of those rare “America Rules” pieces that doesn’t manage to choke on its own self-importance. Instead, it’s about the road, the hard life, and a little rustic pride.

“Good morning America how are you?/Don’t you know me I’m your native son/I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans/I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”

96. “Always Coming Back Home To You/Shhh” – Atmosphere
(Seven’s Travels, 2003)

A newer addition, “Always…” pays homage to the safe and comfortable streets of the Midwest. Not everyone would be proud to say they’ve come from Minnesota, but Slug is and he’s not afraid to tell everyone. I especially like the “hidden” track at the end; not every rap song has the balls to list the two towns I’ve spent most of my life in: Sioux Falls, SD, and St. Cloud, MN.

“This is for everyone around the planet/That wishes they were from somewhere other than where they standin’/Don’t take it for granted, instead take a look around/Quit complaining and build something on that ground/Plant something on that ground, dance and sleep on that ground.”

95. “The D in Detroit” — The Anniversary
(Designing a Nervous Breakdown, 2000)

The Anniversary presents a safe way to use the Moog synthesizer without sounding too out of date. Really, though, they’re just the Get Up Kids with a female voice. “D” was a song of great importance for a few months – I sure missed Kerrie a lot, with her being in England and everything, and so I identified with the idea of reuniting somewhere weird. Like Traitors Gate at the Tower of London, for example.

“I kept your picture just behind the eye/Those weeks when our distance grew/Drove north where I found you waiting in Des Moines/Thank God I’m not losing you.”

94. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” — The Who
(Who’s Next, 1971)

While many high school teens latched onto The Doors and Led Zeppelin, I (for whatever reason) chose The Who as my ‘60s/’70s band of choice. To be honest, though, the first time I heard “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was on Van Halen’s live Right Here, Right Now.

“And the world looks just the same/And history ain’t changed/’Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war.”

93. “Tinfoil” — Rainer Maria
(Past Worn Searching, 1997)

In an effort to make the greatest “emo” mix-tape ever, I sought out CDs from some of the less well known, but critically acclaimed, “emo” acts of the late ‘90s. Of the group, Jejune and Rainer Maria stood out, and this song – the first song on Rainer Maria’s first full album – set the tone for my mix tape by screaming “God damn it!” and thus erasing any assumptions I had for female singers.

“God damn it/I’m not talking about my heart/Like it’s a tinfoil valentine.”

92. “Heavy Metal Drummer” — Wilco
(Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

The album as a whole is too good to split apart, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s best individual song is “Heavy Metal Drummer,” an ode to summers past. We all remember going to shows at the park, hanging out with friends and (later on) drinking a little too much while you watch someone fawn over the band members that somehow wandered back to the party house. Don’t we?

“Shiny, shiny pants and bleach-blond hair/A double kick drum by the river in the summer/She fell in love with the drummer/Another and another/She fell in love.”

91. “Tie Up My Hands” — Starsailor
(Love Is Here, 2001)

This haunting song came at a time when I was testing the waters of Brit pop – when I had exhausted my Radiohead records and had moved on to Travis, Blur, and Pulp. While those three bands are better, none of them filled a song with such anguish and sorrow than Starsailor did, and “Tie Up My Hands” became a dirge upon which I would meditate.

“Take the disaffected life/Men who ran the company ran your life/You could have been his wife.”

90. “Let’s Get It On” — Jack Black
(High Fidelity Soundtrack, 2000)

Yes, Jack Black’s version. Not Marvin Gaye’s. Why? Because I don’t have a copy of the original and because I grew to love the song (and the irony of such a goofy guy singing it so smoothly) through watching High Fidelity. I also really enjoy the subtle mention of masturbation.

“I aint gonna worry, I aint gonna push/So come on, come on, come on, come on baby/Stop beatin round the bush.”

89. “The Mountain” — Mason Jennings
(Birds Flying Away, 2000)

I have to agree with Kerrie on this one: I like it because it was the best song Mason Jennings played when he opened for Modest Mouse. Even after hearing a couple of his albums I still have to hold it as my favorite.

“I was waken late the other night/There was a bird trapped in my heart/I tried to open up and let it out/Before it tore my chest apart.”

88. “Times They Are A-Changin’” — Bob Dylan
(Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964)

I decided that, since I was in college and considered myself a music fan, I’d better start liking Bob Dylan. I asked the clerk at Electric Fetus which disc was better – Times or some mid-70’s stink fest, and he rightfully pointed me to the older and wiser Times.

“If your time to you is worth savin’/Then you better start swimmin’/Or you’ll sink like a stone/For the times they are a-changin’.”

87. “Hurricane” — Ani DiFranco
(Swing Set, 2000)

Ryan will be so disappointed, but oh well – I truly like the Ani DiFranco version of “Hurricane” a lot more. It’s more tense, more turgid – it’s overflowing with angst and it caused my mind to scream “injustice!” more than Dylan’s more soothing, yet just as important, original.

“No one doubted that he pulled the trigger/And though they could not produce the gun/The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed/And the all-white jury agreed.”

86. “Bag” — Christie Front Drive
(Bread: The Edible Napkin, 1997)

When I bought this comp, I discovered Christie Front Drive. I loved the song – it sounded great, like the type of “emo” I’d grown to love – and I soon found that it was the best song Christie Front Drive ever wrote. Aside from this, the rest of their stuff was boring and sleepy.

“Climbed up a tree without a way to get down/On your own/Don’t stand too long/Wait for a way down.”

85. “Silver Anniversary” — Farside
(Rigged, 1994)

Farside had a few great songs and a few average songs. This was the greatest, a song of infidelity and lost trust. The thing that really got me about “Silver Anniversary” the apparent pain in K Murphy’s voice – a voice that becomes nearly raw with emotion as he’s screaming the last lines of the song. Awesome.

Does a vow means nothing more/Than the promise to stay with you?/’Cuz when the ship springs a leak/There’s nothing much you can do.”

84. “Writing To Reach You” — Travis
(The Man Who, 1999)

Travis is really nothing more than a nostalgic ride through London’s streets. During my short stay, Travis was riding the wave of popularity that came with it’s uber popular “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” and, because of this, I heard it nearly everywhere I went, record stores, grocery stores, etc. “Writing” is the best song on The Man Who – and it’s the first song, so I never have to go far into the disc.

“Because my inside is outside/My right side’s on the left side/’Cos I’m writing to reach you/But I might never reach you.”

83. “Trouble” — Coldplay
(Parachutes, 2000)

I used to be huge into Coldplay, a love that’s waned a little over the past year, but I still respect what they did on Parachutes. “Trouble” was a little less overplayed than “Yellow”; though I like both songs, I can listen to “Trouble” whenever I want, regardless of mood.

“Oh no, what’s this?/A spiderweb and I’m caught in the middle/So I turned to run/And thought of all the stupid things I’d done.”

82. “From A Balance Beam” — Bright Eyes
(Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground, 2003)

Some of the best written lyrics – a nearly Eggers-esque ramble of images that ultimately fuel a larger image of sorrow. Or pain. Or relationships. Whatever Conor decides to write about that day, really. I discovered this through my short stint as a radio jockey at oen of our local college stations – I don’t know why it took so long, to tell you the truth.

“It was in a foreign hotel’s bathtub I baptized myself in change/And one by one I drowned all of the people I had been/I emerged to find the parallels were fewer. I was cleansed. I looked in the mirror/And someone new was there.”

81. “Take Me Out” — Franz Ferdinand
(Franz Ferdinand, 2004)

I grew to love this song thanks to Madden 2005. I went out and bought the CD for this one song. It’s the best rock/dance song you could choose – well, really, it’s one of the only rock/dance songs I even know.

“I know I won’t be leaving here (with you)”

This was lovingly handwritten on March 27th, 2006