1. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Phantasthma
Usually bonus tracks are of the throwaway/filler variety, songs that didn’t quite make the cut but are too good to languish away as B-sides (who buys singles anymore anyway?). Ariel Pink’s first album for 4AD, Before Today, is flawless in its own right but it’s this bonus track that really got me hooked. A rerecording of his song Fantasm off of Oddities Sodomies Vol. 1, it’s got this ethereal, Gothic feel to it. In my mind Ariel Pink is one of the most original and melodic songwriters of our generation. And this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
2. Peter Gabriel | I Have The Touch
I think Peter Gabriel is probably one the most underrated artists of all time. Sure, the So album still gets some praise, but his earlier work is nearly forgotten. While his fourth album, Security, may not be up to par with his 1st, 3rd & 5th, this song is definitely the highlight for me. Taking his gated-drum technique to new heights, it blends all of Gabriel’s musical elements together into an almost New Wave, Industrial sound - and not to mention that voice. For the Love of God, everyone start listening to Peter Gabriel!
3. Talk Talk | The Rainbow
Speaking of underrated artists, add Talk Talk to that list. Their album Spirit Of Eden is easily in my top 5 of all time. The whole album is a slow-burner that gets better with each subsequent listen and each track glides seamlessly into the next. The problem is once you mention that the album consists of 6 tracks (approximately 6 to 9 minutes each in length) and that you could call the most important instrument on the album Silence, people aren’t exactly eager to give it a spin. I like to listen to this album at least once every couple weeks as a kind of Musical Cleanse to clear my head. If Music is a religion, this album is its church.
4. David Bowie | Teenage Wildlife
While I find it tough to pick only 1 song by David Bowie (I made a rule for myself: 1 song per artist) I finally decided on this track off of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Musically this song can be seen as a sequel to Heroes, but lyrically it’s his most personal track to date. Bowie pulls back the curtain of his various personas and finally gives the listener a glimpse into what the man behind all the masks is really thinking. And what we find is someone uncertain of his place in a changing musical landscape at the start of the ‘80s, threatened by the New Wave boys. But the song is less a retreat and more of a rallying cry. It’s Bowie telling the kids coming up I’m still here and I’m still better than you. And he’s dead right.
5. MGMT | Siberian Breaks
I’m one of the few people who feel that MGMT’s second album Congratulations is even better than their first. In fact, I might be the only person. Regardless, this song is the centerpiece of that album. While the track is just over 12 minutes long, don’t let that discourage you from listening. The song’s broken up into 8 different sections and each one is a mini-masterpiece. It’s one of the few songs that while listening you’re also looking forward to the next part, wondering where they’re going to take it. For a 12-minute song the time flies by.
6. Blur | Beetlebum
The first track off of their self-titled fifth album marks the bands distinct musical transition from early ‘90s Britpop to Lo-Fi Alternative Rock that would guide the second half of their career. I clearly remember buying this album in 1997 while on a family vacation to San Francisco. We rented a car and for the entire trip all I did was listen to this album over and over again in the back seat. Soon after we got back I bought all of their albums and thus began my obsession with Blur. They’re still probably one of the most influential bands for me, along with Nirvana.
7. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson | The Debtor
I don’t know why listening to depressing songs when you’re depressed somehow makes you feel better, but it does. This is one of those songs. At one point I listened only to this song on repeat for two weeks straight. There’s just something about the melancholic, jangling piano and vibe of the song that hooked me in and wouldn’t let me listen to anything else. Miles Benjamin might never be mistaken for a world-class singer, but his anguished yelp combined with the distorted bass is what gives the song it’s uniqueness and makes it so memorable.
8. WU LYF | Cave Song
I actually just found out about these guys recently. The Music is driving and repetitive, the singer is completely unintelligible, and I love it. This song especially. The middle section that they ride out until the end is insanely intense and I get chills every time I listen to it. Between drummer Joe Manning frantically alternating between the hi-hat and ride, and Ellery Roberts screaming his brains out, that last section is about as epic as it gets.
9. The Beach Boys | I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
Taken from the Pet Sounds album, I feel this is Brian Wilson’s magnum opus. While I could have easily chosen Wouldn’t It Be Nice or God Only Knows, rather than being about some girl this song focuses inward on Brian Wilson the Musician/Artist. It’s a universal feeling in all Art that its creator feels misunderstood and alone. This is Wilson’s goodbye to the surfboards, cars and California shores. This is the sound of him moving forward into his creative peak. I actually was fortunate enough to meet Brian Wilson a couple years ago at a charity benefit. After working up the courage I walked up to him, shook his hand and told him what a huge influence he’s been on me. He asked me if my name was Don. It was a magical moment.
10. Talking Heads | This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
My favorite Talking Heads song of all time and MY favorite song of all time. This track has all of my favorite elements of Music: a repetitive, building melody; ambiguous yet heartfelt lyrics; and a vocal performance that could melt a statue. I’m not sure when I first heard it but I do remember immediately thinking, Yep. This is my favorite song of all time. Just like that. It’s weird how some songs can do that to you. It’s like you don’t even have a choice.