Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Favorite 110 Songs of the 2000s - The Best of the 00's

Part I

December 15th, 2009
Tuesday Evening, 11:31 PM

Well, it has been awhile.

I have some ideas why I stopped posting and writing this blog last spring. It served a purpose for a time being as I dealt with a number of changes in my life. It was cathartic and at the same time, as a friend pointed out, VERY narcissist. Most of this wired world of Facebook and MySpace and Blogs are just that - "hey look at me, look what I am doing, and you are not." I buy into half of that for this blog, I see it, I get it, and that was the main reason why I shut it down. It served its purpose for the winter and spring of 2009 for me. But, a journal is something that should be private. I was exposing myself, friends, family and in my minds eye, it was time for that to stop.

So here I am writing again, for the last couple of times, right around the anniversary of when this blog started. In these next few post I am going to write about Entertainment, namely music and films, two of my great loves.

As many of my handful of readers know, I hand out some "Best of What's Around" music at the end of each year. This is something I have been doing for the past 15 years. It has always received some warm receptions and feedback. Most of all, it is a way to share music with friends that I know would enjoy it. Still, it will be impossible to add all 110 songs on a memory stick or on a CD. With that stated, I promise to post any of the tracks people are interested in on YouSendIt so you can download what you might like. Just right a comment and I will send it. For now here is a run down of my favorite "must have" tracks from the past 10 years.

Note - I have decided not to run them down in a 110 to 1 Billboard countdown fashion. One, because it would be very difficult to pick favorites as all of these tracks represent a moment in time or a feeling that resonated differently to me during the course of the past ten years. Two, I needed to incorporate the iPod on this list. Unlike any other device in the 00s (even you Mr Laptop), this tool has been the one constant since I purchased it in 2002. The iPod, Napster, then iTunes and most importantly the "shuffle" tool have changed the way I listen to music. Call it "the power of the shuffle". With over 4,000 songs currently on my iPod, the shuffle is the game changer. You never know what you are going to get and that little click never gets old. So here we go, time to go into Playlist, find "The Best of What's Around for the 00s" and hit shuffle songs....

B's Top 110 of the 00s by Song, Artist, Year and Album

- Heavy Metal Drummer - Wilco - 2002 - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Fitting that a song from my favorite album of the decade starts off the list. When Jeff Tweedy sings "I miss the innocence I've know, playing Kiss covers beautiful and stoned...." it takes me back to those sunny teenage days. Tweedy is a rock god.

- Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne - 2003 - Welcome Interstate Managers
It was hard to pick one track that meant the most to me from this LP. I still remember being at Maxwell's in Hoboken hearing many of these tracks for the first time (i.e. Hackensack, Mexican Wine) but it is this little haunting slice of New England winter that sticks with me the most.

- SexyBack - Justin Timberlake - 2006 - FutureSex/LoveSounds
Who would have thought at the beginning of the 00's that the curly hair kid from a boy band would be this cool. Be it this track or "Rock Your Body" or his amazing turns on SNL (thanks for "Dick in a Box"), JT proved he could do no wrong. Try being at a club and not dancing to this tune.

- Heaven - The Swimmers - 2008 - Fighting Trees
One of my favorite Philly bands from the 00s. When I saw the Swimmers live downtown this year they almost didn't play this tune because they became sick of it. Not me. To me Heaven is a perfect ELO/Jellyfish throw-back track and one that always transports me to the burbs of Philly.

- Several Thousand - Jim Boggia - 2001- Fidelity is the Enemy
And now on to my favorite Philly artist of the past decade. I first heard this track at a church basement in Westfield, NJ. Since then I have caught Jim live at least five more times, solo or with Mike Viola or with Bleu, and each time has been a treasure for me. This guy truly is an amazing artist, and he should be getting more airtime here in South Eastern PA (come on XPN). And thanks to YouTube here is the first time I heard the song:

- Beautiful Day - U2 - 2000 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
Another song I can remember hearing for the first time. I was on RT 78 W in New Jersey, passing lovely Newark heading to work and I distinctly remember saying to myself, "they are back!" It might be hard to remember but there was a time at the end of the 90s when Bono and the boys lost their way a bit. This LP and the way they performed after 9/11, changed all of that. They went back to writing some great rock songs and being the "best rock band in the world" again.

- Tulip (Your Eyes) - Ty Tabor - 2002 - Saftey
This song came to me via a music swap group I participated in during the middle of the decade. It was a group of about 12 people that had similar musical interest and taste and put tunes on a CD or website for all to find. This was one of my favs from the Swap Project. A straight forward rock track from the old lead singer of the underrated King's X.

- Something To Talk About - Badly Drawn Boy - 2002 - Something to Talk About (Soundtrack)
I will also be posting my favorite list of films from the OO's after the music list. This one might make it, not 100% sure yet. The music from the movie was a perfect fit though. I hear a bit of Harry Nilsson, a bit of Elliott Smith and some great chord progressions.

- Are You Gonna Be My Girl - JET - 2003 - Get Born
The best Stones record since Tattoo You.

- Don't Know Why - Norah Jones - 2002 - Come Away With Me
I mean who didn't like this song? Really. And to that point, who didn't buy this CD? It was everywhere the summer of 2002, in every Starbucks, at every beach party, at your Aunts house, everywhere. But you know what, Jessie Harris really wrote a wonderful tune here, hats off.

- Jesus Walks - Kanye West - 2004 - The College Dropout
So the best rap song of the past ten years was about Jesus. Love Kanye or hate him, you have to respect his ability and the power of his craft. Plus, was there a better line in Rap the past 10 years then: "the way Kathy Lee needs Regis."

- Honey Come Home - John Alagia - 2007 - The Heartbreak Kid (Soundtrack)
I love this little track. I found this nugget during the credits of a godawful Ben Stiller movie. As my father so astutely suggested the first time I played it for him: "you could put this song on the Beatles Rubber Soul." So true Pops, it's that catchy. It's a hard one to find so I thought I would post a YouTube clip of it:

- Strawberry Swing - Coldplay - 2008 - Viva La Vida
I know, everybody loves to pick on these guys. They are a poor mans Radiohead or now that they are working with Eno, they are a poor mans U2, but come on, try all you want to avoid them, they write some great hooks and layer on some amazing sounds. Viva La Vida is a GREAT record. I mean they had a song with strings that made the US Pop charts and dominated the summer of 2008. Respect needs to be given. This is the one track from Viva that I keep coming back to. It has all those hooks and sounds and layers.

- World Spins Madly On - The Weepies - 2006 - Say I Am You
For anyone who has every lost someone or whoever said one thing and did another. And for anyone that ever sits back and meditates thinking about how truly small we are on this big rock in the sky, this song is for you. It's a big and beautiful two minutes and forty five second hug of sorry.

- Happiness - Elliott Smith - 2000 - Figure 8
Thanks to the film Good Will Hunting, people found Elliott Smith. And for a bright five year span, Elliott gave back some incredible sounds to those people. In 2003 Smith either was killed or killed himself, the investigation is still ongoing. Regardless, this Jon Brion produced track from his haunting Figure 8, in the key of E, made me love his sounds even more. A very, very missed talent.

- The Way You Wear Your Head - Nada Surf - 2002 - Let Go
Any songs that shouts-out Cheap Tricks "I Want You To Want Me" has a place on my list. Nada Surf might be best known for a mid-90s grunge wannabe MTV hit, but I have found that this band keeps on evolving for the better. They are a great Power Pop band. Something I for one think we need more of in Rock now a days. Anyone like to have fun anymore?

- Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae - 2006 - Corinne Bailey Rae
A little Lauryn Hill, a little Norah and a nice big swig of Motown makes this a lazy summer day soundtrack delight.

- Something Is Not Right With Me - Cold War Kids - 2008 - Loyalty to Loyalty
One of those indie blog bands that connected with me over the second half of the decade. A South by Southwest staple that has a ton of rock bite. Raw, a little harsh and perfect rock.

- Cannonball - Damien Rice - 2003 - O
Oh those Irish singer songwriters, how you grab me and my melancholy DNA when I hear you. I first heard Damien during one of my 5 trips back home to the motherland this decade. It happens every time I go, I come back with songs and sounds and smiles that will be with me till the day I die. I hear a little of the late great Jeff Buckley in some of the echos in the background of this track.

- Falling Slowly - The Frames - 2007 - The Cost
Back to Ireland again. If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to pick a favorite track from the 00s, it would be this Oscar winner. The movie Once is one of my favorite films of the past decade. It has music and the Irish and features a romance that brews around the two. This version of Falling Slowly is the one that lead singer/songwriter Glen Hansard recorded with his band, The Frames. I like how it sweeps you in even more then the one they preformed in the movie. Gorgeous track. Here is the YouTube of the Frames version: Up Dublin!

- Make You Feel My Love - Adele - 2008 - 19
This is one of a handful of covers I have put on the list. The UK's best-new-voice took one of Bob Dylan's most covered songs and made it her own. It's so good, it almost makes you forget the Garth Brooks version, almost.

- I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters - 2006 - Ta-Dah
This Ohio based band had to go all the way to the UK to get airplay here in the States, typical. This is by far the most Disco sounding song on my chart. Insomuch it evokes some classic Bee Gees in certain sections of the song. Most importantly, it just forces you to move.

- The Fixer - Pearl Jam - 2009 - Backspacer
When Pearl Jam first hit the scene with Nirvana, I was in University. They both will forever be part of the soundtrack of that time for me. Since the early 90s though, PJ never really moved me again. Maybe it was Kurt's passing, or the fact that they were not the center of the music universe anymore, or maybe my taste changed. Either way, we didn't reconnect until this past year. Backspacer is their best album since Ten. This track, along with Speed of Sound, resorted my faith in Seattle.

- All At Sea - Jamie Cullum - 2004 - Twentysomething
I've always like the mood of this song; laid back, easy like a Sunday morning. Most of all, and the reason it is on the list, is cause no matter what I am doing, my "air drum-sticks" come out during the bridge.

- Grace Kelly - Mika - 2007 - Life in Cartoon Motion
Over the top and all falsetto, this ode to Philly's own Princess and England's own Queen was a track I brought back with me from a trip to Ireland I took with my Uncle in 2007. I still remember driving on the wrong side of the road belting this one out. Ka-ching

- I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor - Arctic Monkeys - 2005 - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Best "in-your-face" rock band out of Brittan since early Oasis.

- Girl In The War - Josh Ritter - 2006 - The Animal Years
A WXPN favorite, and a powerful singer/songwriter Ritter's 2006 release was his strongest to date. With America in the middle of two wars and at its most bitter, Ritter channeled his inner Robert Zimmerman to serve as a mid-decade time capsule. Here is a Youtube of the song:

- Light & Day - The Polyphonic Spree - 2002 - Beginning Stages of...
If this song does not make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, then I do not know which one will. I saw this band live at the TLA in Philly and it was, for lack of a better term, an explosion. 30 people on stage with at least 20 different instruments, all in white gowns, all smiling. You don't see that everyday.

- The Rising - Bruce Springsteen - 2002 - The Rising
Another hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck type of a song, but obviously for different reasons. If anyone was going to write about what happened to the New York area in the fall of 2001, well, it just had to be Bruce. Thank the gods he heard the call. Seeing this done live at Giants Stadium, with the NYC skyline in the background, on a warm summer night, was a reminder that music has some special powers. It was like the sky was saying we could all sing along with the Boss again, it was time.

- Use Somebody - Kings of Leon - 2008 - Only by the Night
Sure, I liked the first couple of albums. I respected the work ethic and how they kept churning them out, but it wasn't until Only by the Night that I grabbed the iPod and hit replay and then replay again. For the past two years the Kings of Leon have been the saviors of rock in the mainstream, and a band that all (from rappers to indie bloggers) still admire. They didn't sell-out, the audience came to them, count me as one of them.

- Hair of the Dog - Mike Viola - 2005 - Just Before Dark
Mike Viola is the artist that I have seen the most live on this list. Be it Joe's Pub in NYC or in Hoboken or some two-bit longe in Morristown, NJ, this is the artist I travel to see and the one that speaks to me the most. Just Before Dark was a record that Viola recorded live at the legendary Largo in LA. He wanted to make a laid back homage to Macca, and in the end, he made my perfect sunny Sunday morning with coffee record. Here is a Youtube of the track:

- Somewhere Down The Barrel - The Dissociatives - 2004 - The Dissociatives
Here is a one-off experiment band from Down Under that I found via the Swap Project. Daniel Johns (VERY underrated here in the States) from Silverchair plays the lead with an Aussie DJ Dance Producer to create something different, crunchy and catchy.

- Stars - Switchfoot - 2005 - Nothing Is Sound
Switchfoot is a "faith-based" alternative rock outfit that my ear caught thanks to their involvement with Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish (Sturmer added vocals to the track). It's a good rock track that one needs to play loud, in the car, and at night of course.

- Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2 - 2004 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
I read when this album came out that Bono wrote and sang these words for his fathers funeral mass. When I wrote my Father's eulogy, I had this song playing on a constant loop in the background searching for inspiration. This song will be with me forever.

- Us - Regina Spektor - 2004 - Soviet Kitsch
Here is one of those songs that takes you back to the first time you fall in love with someone. All wide-eyed and hopeful and without a care; "They'll made a statue of us....", so brazen and naive and perfect.

- The Long Way Around - Dixie Chicks - 2006 - Taking the Long Way
The best Fleetwood Mac songs since Rumors.

- New York, New York - Ryan Adams - 2001 - Gold
Every bar that I went to in the NY Metro Area after 9/11 played this song. "I'll always love you old New York..." became something of a lullaby for the last call crowd. Here is a YouTube of Adams on Letterman:

Okay, that's it for now. Come back later for the next 35 plus tracks of The 00s. I am seeing three installments here.

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