Zach's Ten Favorite Tracks Of The Decade (So Far)

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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...

"Gone Tomorrow"

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 the basement".   


The only track from 2014 on this list because great tracks need time to make a decade list. This is a testament to "Parade" which is an instant classic and will probably be higher in a few years as the brilliance of this track develops in my mind.  It's smooth and like the entire "Familiers" album, truthfully optimistic.  Nothing is smiles and cheers, rather, the music and lyrics are powerful in making the listener accept the beauty behind the inevitable despair, tragedy, and struggles with life.

"High Hawk Season"

Listening to The Mountain Goats is like entering a different world. All the places have the same names and you recognize some of the people, but somehow everything is different. And you like it, but you may not be sure why. It takes a while for the thought to bubble up. You follow the interstates and escape routes, the foibles and festers, the birth of evil and the fall from grace like a winding path somehow near your own but distant. You stare into the face of your own evil twin only to realize that he's you and you're him. - HANK on All Eternals Deck

"swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)"

An all out assault on the current state of rap music, "Swerve" makes the proclamation: "If you talking about's for show / if you move about's a go." Heed Shabazz's advice Kanye, Tyler, and all other egotistical rappers: filling your entire record with self-imposed titles and compliments a great rap album does not make...letting the album speak for itself does. And it did for Shabazz Palaces.

"Ghost On A Canvas"
Glen Campbell turned to Paul Westerberg (yeah, The Replacements) to craft a nearly impossible song. The song tackles art and its relationship with immortality, what we leave behind, and the unknown next step. The power of this track and the whole album is that Campbell and his songwriters remain optimistic, much more concerned with showing off the beauty of life rather then dwelling in the future of Campbell's disease. It will be easy for a lot of indie music fans to shrug off this song and album, but if you enter this album with an open mind and care less about what is buzzing, you will find what Hank and I both strongly agree on: Ghost On The Canvas is one of most important albums from 2011.

Pick any song on Have One On Me and place it in this spot.  More about this record tomorrow when I do the top ten albums of the decade (so far).  

"Creator / Destroyer"
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.

"The Darkness"

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.

"Wall Street"
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.

So much, so simply.  
This is not a song, it's life presented through sound and my favorite of the far.


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