CJ's Best Of The 00s Volume 3: Come On, Chemicals!
21. Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse-Of Montreal(2007)
Of Montreal's appeal has always been that the sole recording member, Kevin Barnes, is an absolute shithead, and that he somehow manages to make you like him because of it. We can't give him too much credit, though, as it's pretty hard to dislike the hideously titled "Hei"-no, fuck that, I'm not typing that whole thing out again. The song displays just about the happiest brand of frustration you'll ever encounter, detailing what it's like to not be able to write due to bipolar mood swings. It's fun in a kind of painful way to hear Barnes plead "Come on mood shift, shift back to good again" throughout the song, because of course that's the exact sort of problem an asshole like him would have. Writer's block has never been quite this danceable, and Kevin Barnes has never been quite this likable. I almost feel bad about calling him an asshole earlier. Almost.
22. Little Time Bomb-Kind Of Like Spitting(2002)
This is a song about a guy with anger problems, mood swing problems to be more specific, who feels betrayed by a girl he loves. It's preformed by one guy who can't sing very well, playing an acoustic guitar. It's also a cover. Most songs that can be described like that suck total ass in a big way, but if you can't relate to the line "He holds your letters but he can't read them/As he fights this loneliness that you call freedom", as sung by that guy who doesn't really know what he's doing, than what the fuck are you even doing here?
23. M79-Vampire Weekend(2008)
Vampire Weekend has made plenty of snide, snotty, bourgeoisie, ironic, entitled, pandering pigshit in their day, but "M79" isn't really one of those songs. Yeah, the line "Racist dreams you should not have" still makes me want to smash a window, but the song is so charming that you can practically forgive them of their retarded twee fancies. The string section recalls early Genesis, and the whole thing is very playful. It's a pleasant song, but not in the sense that it overwhelms you with it's happiness like Passion Pit-it's just kind of glad to be with you. Plus, it's got an almost Victorian feel to it a lot of the time, and being a fan of prog rock I'm basically crazy for that shit. It's not really a good song by any means, but it sure is fun to listen to, and when I have to write something lighthearted and fanciful, this is always the first song I jump to.
24. Ashes of American Flags-Wilco(2001)
Truthfully, in opposition to the majority of people who enjoy indie music, I regard Wilco as being, in general, utterly toothless, conservative and uninteresting in a scene filled with far more notable acts. That said, "Ashes Of American Flags" gets just about everything right. Yeah, the lyrics are still the same kind of "We don't know what this means, but just assume it works on a few levels" thing, but it's done so artfully that it doesn't come off as blather, as it tends to do with Wilco. As a matter of fact, "I wonder why we listen to poets and nobody gives a fuck" is one of my single favorite lines of the decade. The guitar line practically floats above the rest of the song and, unlike elsewhere on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the use of sound effects doesn't come off as obnoxious. If every song on that album achieved the same goal that "Ashes of American Flags" did-being a ghostly musing that sounds hurt almost to the point of being indifferent-maybe the word "overrated" wouldn't be hurled around so much when it comes up in conversation.
25. The Last Baron-Mastodon(2009)
Q: Was a more epic song released this decade?
26. Fake Empire-The National(2007)
Ready for a bold proclamation? Matt Berringer is the best singer in music today. He's definitely not the most technical and he doesn't have the best range, but nobody else can drive a point home in quite the way he does, using such a singular style. "Crooning" isn't exactly the right word for it-it's soft, in a certain way, but it's a little too distant to be romantic, a little too loose to be elegant. He almost comes across as ghostly, in that it seems like he's watching his own songs more than he is participating in them. Of course, his voice isn't the only thing that makes "Fake Empire" a wholly unique listening experience. Brian Devendorf is something of a genius when it comes to catching, gripping drumwork, and even though he doesn't even appear until the last half of the song, he makes that segment uniquely his own. The soft, pondering piano drives the song, though, make no mistake, and when you couple an incredibly capable horn section with Devendorf's drums, you've got a song that is not only beautiful sounding, but also oddly professional. That's the best thing about The National-not another indie group this decade sounded more in control of their own sound, and none of the sounds produced were more confident than "Fake Empire".
For all the bullshit metal has to put up in terms of claims of being derivative and boring, the first group to have the nuts to make a song about the 9/11 attacks from the perspective of the terrorists was a thrash metal band, and not only that, but those most elder of metal statesmen, Slayer. Let's be honest-if someone had told you in the mid '90s that Slayer would still be relevant in 2006, you would've been like "What, you mean the 'tards that just put out Diabolus In Musica??" and laughed your ass off. And while it's true that much of Christ Illusion's lyrics read like the enraged spittle of a student fresh out of his first World Affairs class, "Jihad" hits the nail right on the head. Metal works best when it's vicious and uncompromising, and "Jihad" gets that down in terms of everything from the lyrics to the musicianship-after a brief warm up a practical gale storm of righteous fury hits the listener, as well it should, coming from the perspective of someone who's murdering in the name of his God. Lines like "I will see you burn to death screaming for your god" and "Slit the throat of heathen man/Let his blood dilute the water" are in many ways par for the course when it comes to metal lyrics, but in the context of being sang from the viewpoint of an Islamist extremist they become very real and extremely potent. Combine that with Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's best riffs in decades and Tom Araya's throat-ripping barks and you have a truly ruthless song on your hands. Relevancy is all well and good, but it wouldn't be much of a metal song if you couldn't fucking lose your mind to it. This spirit was what metal was created to represent.
28. I Woke Up Today-Port O'Brien(2007)
This edition of this feature is pretty fucking twee, isn't it? I apologize for that, it probably won't be as egregious in the future. Still, what's fun is fun and "I Woke Up Today" is a fun fucking song. It's rhythm section is based on hand claps and stomps, which is generally something that makes me furious, but Port O'Brien fit in at a music festival as well as they do on the set of a Sesame Street episode, so it basically works. If there was one thing this decade was good for, it was producing music that was happy almost to the point of embarrassment. It's not an amazing development for upping your cred, but anyone who listens to music for that reason to begin with can get fucked. The bottom line is, "I Woke Up Today" is going to make you smile, and you're just going to have to deal with that however you can.
29. When We Rock-PROkid(2006)
It's a big Goddamn shame that African hip-hop is almost universally ignored in the West, because that's where some of the best rappers from this or any musical age are coming from. "When We Rock" explains the situation pretty well by itself: "'Cause when we rock we rock, when we pop we pop, when we drop we drop that hot shit nonstop". That's practically all that needs to be said, but in case it wasn't enough, PROkid's fierce flow, rapid-fire delivery and slitheringly raspy voice drive the point home. With his manic energy, intelligent manipulation of music found outside of the rap canon(can you remember the last time you heard a rap song with a memorable guitar line?) and lyrical prowess, PROkid deserves to be picked up by the mainstream as soon as possible. Real intensity is a rare commodity in hip hop today.
30. The Outsider-A Perfect Circle(2003)
Few songs, if any, are quite as unsympathetic to suicide cases as A Perfect Circle's "The Outsider". Consider the final lines of the song: "Should you choose to pull the trigger, should your drama prove sincere/Do it somewhere far away from here". Yowch. Still, there are plenty of songs about being fed up with someone's crap. What makes this song unique is that it cuts through a very specific type of bullshit that many other songs refuse to go anywhere near-the big crybaby, the guy or girl who claims that they'll push the knife down "any day now". Certainly, the person who has crafted the art of "picture perfect numb belligerence", as Maynard James Keenan puts it, is a hard subject to tackle in media and in real life. For that reason, this song is pretty remarkable-no, not every little thing is worth throwing a fit over, and while you're at it put the pills back in the cabinet, you big baby. A Perfect Circle may not be as experimental as Keenan's parent band(Tool), but "The Outsider" proves that they don't exactly pull their punches, either.