Q: Why make a half decade list this early? Is it because everyone else is doing it?
A: It looks like fun and I love these tracks.
Here we go...
A wheel turning guitar riff thumping away to Kurt Wagner's perfectly sharpened lyrics. Hope, distain, and introspection smash together to compose this seven minute epic that finds itself slipping away to instrumental orchestral movements mid-song to end. "Gone Tomorrow" also gives me one of my favorite lyrics of the decade: "The wine tasted like sunshine...in the basement".
"swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)"
Like all great folk music, Olsen's voice is the focus as her electrifying crooning wraps around the spine of her softly strummed acoustic guitar. What's impressive is how Olsen is just as moving in her moments of whispering as she is when all out singing. Olsen has a deep understanding of who she is as a singer, songwriter, and artists. Her music, while drenched with emoting, is steady and cleared headed with a distinct vision.
Musically speaking, there are three Leonard Cohens. There is the 1967-1974 folk Cohen, the 1977-1992 jazz, synth, band Cohen, and the "he's a legend and he's doing his victory laps" 2000s Cohen. I'm in the minority being just as obsessed with the second Cohen albums like I'm Your Man and The Future as I am with the first Cohen releases like Songs From Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room. The real problem for me was the third Cohen. Since 1992, maybe with the exception of "In My Secret Life," Cohen hadn't written a single song that felt like the artist I considered my #1 of all time since The Future.
Then comes Old Ideas, and one of the best Cohen tracks ever written in "The Darkness." The first thirty seconds of this song are what separate casual and obsessed fans of Cohen's work. The first time I heard "The Darkness," my eyes started watering and a huge smile grew on my face. Cohen's playful wink in the opening is blending the two Cohens I mentioned before in the opening of the song. He starts with that iconic rolling plucked guitar (see "The Stranger Song") and then incorporates lower guitar plucks that simulate the bass heavy world of the second Cohen. It's a wonderful nod and just as nostalgia creeps in, the song stutters and launches into a brand new, fourth Cohen. He's embracing his age, and yet the "man with the golden voice" can still capture every ear that will lend him a listen.
Originally written in 2003 and made available for download for a short period, "Wall Street" was Park's examination of greed and brief moments from 9/11. In 2011, Parks re-tinkered with the song, adding lush orchestration and giving the entire song a musical show-tune feeling with Parks' lounge act vocal styling. This song is the ultimate juxtaposition as a casual listener can hear the beautiful arrangements if they want to, or if they dig in they discover the root of the song: greed, anger, the most violent moments from 9/11, and Parks' famous word play that made him one of the great songwriters of our time.
The song slowly dissolves into the most heartbreaking moment of 2011 when Parks recounts a real life moment from 9/11 where a couple fall from a building, clutching each other until their death. Parks examines this moment with a poetic touch that marries itself to the music playing behind his vocals in such a way that my own notions of what is possible in music has changed. It will be easy for many to scoff at this choice because the melody is so sugary grandiose and Parks' approach as a singer isn't fashioned off the mainstream idea of a lead singer, but Parks achieves the highest levels of storytelling, composition, and thematic exploration in one song than many bands or artists can in their whole career.