August 17, 2007
  1. The Stooges — “Gimme Danger”
    I can’t help thinking how hard this song would be to do well as karaoke. Over the course of the song, Iggy goes from ‘regular’ singing (as regular as he gets, anyway) to a full-bodied howl, to gentle crooning just above a whisper. (Of course, I also can’t help thinking I’d really like to see the karaoke parlor that has this song as a selection.) The beginning is dark, but still almost mellow, since the acoustic guitar is so prominent. You know where it’s going, but it’s not there yet. As soon as the electric kicks in after the first verse, though, it brings with it a tremendous sense of inevitability—you know it’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
  2. The Traveling Wilburys — “Handle With Care”
    It’s hard to imagine a collaboration between George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty (I know I’m forgetting someone…) being any less amazing than this. I assume they each had a hook or a verse or whatever lying around unused, and they decided just to toss ’em all together and see what came out. And thank god they did so. Unfortunately the George parts are a bit flat compared to the rest, but the bridges (both of them, but especially Roy’s) are just sublime.
  3. Sublime — “Caress Me Down”
    For years, this song’s lyrics constituted the bulk of my Spanish-language vocabulary. (Nowadays I have some Manu Chao lyrics as well.)
  4. Hawksley Workman — “Dirty and True”
    This is the point where Hawksley goes from ‘charming’ to ‘excessive’. The constant changes in the song are less ‘clever’ than ‘jarring’, and the extended spoken passage in radio-announcer-voice just sounds ‘trite’.
  5. Beethoven — Piano Sonata No. 15, 2nd Movement ‘Andante’
    I can’t say enough good things about this piece—it (and to a lesser extent, the 2nd movement of his sonata no. 13) is the composition I’d consider selling my soul to be able to play. I love the minor-key opening, and the steady and staccato left-hand part that makes it feel almost like a march. I love the upbeat, major-key interlude, happy and free, with the quiet-quiet-LOUD dynamic reminiscent of Haydn’s ‘Surprise Symphony’, and the floating and lyrical right-hand part that sounds as gay and unburdened as laughter on a summer afternoon. And above all, I love the return to the minor key, and the way the ‘laughter’ motif returns, recast in a decidedly more sinister tone.
  6. Teppo & Kõrre — Garmoshka popurii
    Whoever came up with the idea of combining Russian and Latin-American songs into the same medley was a goddamn genius.
  7. The Beatles — “I Want to Tell You”
    As with essentially every Beatles song, it’s absolutely unfair how good this is. Of course, it’s hard to tell how much of that is a result of the songwriting itself, and how much is due to having John and Paul on backup vocals and magnificent production values. After all George, despite his many talents, was never the greatest of melodists (cf. “Handle With Care” above). Compare, for example, the next track on Revolver, “Got to Get You Into My Life”. Both songs have similar vibes, similar tempos, but Paul can get away with nothing more than [double-tracked] lead vocals, since the melody is so much stronger. That’s not to say one song is better than the other, just pointing out a difference in songwriting styles. In any case, though, whoever is responsible for the piano part in “I Want to Tell You” deserves a goddamn gold medal.
  8. Giant Robot — “Petro’s Bells”
    It’s only a minute long, a throwaway track between ‘actual’ songs, but it almost sounds like it could have been the basis for a Flaming Lips song.
  9. The Rolling Stones — “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (live,

    They sound like they’re playing for a bunch of housewives, and it’s because they are.
  10. Dire Straits — “Setting Me Up”
    This song doesn’t seem to do anything all that original—and I’m convinced there’s a crank somewhere on Mark Knopfler that you turn if you want a solo—but Dire Straits are masters of this form.
  11. Robert Johnson — “Malted Milk”
    It really is impressive just how different from one another he could make his various songs.
  12. CMX — “Kuolemattomuuden ääni”
    Don’t get me wrong, I like their early stuff fine, but CMX got a lot better when they moved away from hardcore, if for no other reason than that A.W. Yrjänä sings a lot better than he growls.

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