Ever hear of a man named Matt Barrick? Well after listening to “The Rat” by The Walkmen, you should never forget him. As the drummer, he leads the rage filled track with insane speed and precision through powerful drum rolls that somehow develop into one of the most addictive beats of the decade. Singer Hamilton Leithauser’s voice rips at every line, producing some of their finest lyrics and undoubtedly an excellent vocal track that captures a pure snapshot of anger. He accuses a friend that takes him for granted; neglected when in need but first to be called when something is needed. It’s rather clear that Leithauser is seeking vengeance after longing for recognition throughout the song’s progression. “The Rat” is purely relentless and aggressive. The Walkmen demand attention with this track, and they surely deserve it.
– Mike Mulvenna
“International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (feat. OutKast)
[Zomba Music Group; 2007]
It’s a pity that a group as influential and innovative as UGK will always be best remembered for two tracks on which they were completely overshadowed by other rappers, but then when you’re competing for space with Jay-Z or either of the OutKast boys, you kinda expect to be upstaged. Unusually sunny and chilled for a southern hip-hop track, thanks to the liberal use of the Willie Hutch “I Choose You” sample, OutKast bookend this remix with two of the finest lyrical displays in recent musical history (rap or otherwise); Andre 3000’s opening verse giddily extolling the virtues of love and commitment, and Big Boi’s closing warning against bad times and gold-diggers. Pimp C manages to shine in between with a few memorable couplets (“yo’ bitch chose me/ you ain’t a pimp, you a fairy”); sadly, this verse would be among his last, but “Int’l Playas’ Anthem” is a fine tribute and a true modern classic.
– Michael Dix
TV on the Radio
“Staring at the Sun”
[Touch and Go / 4AD; 2004]
Have you ever stared at the sun? It swallows you whole. You know you shouldn’t do it – it hurts, but you are stuck in a trance. It becomes an obsession with the wonder of the sun, the sheer beauty of the sight, but also the pain it inflicts upon your eyes (DISCLAIMER: The staff of onethirtybpm does not recommend staring directly into the sun, unless proper safety precautions have been taken). “Staring at the Sun” is similarly a painful song, one that induces a trance-like state in which you are swept into the droning nature of the song. Your body wants to move, but your mind is paralyzed and wants to yearn in the pain and angst. “Staring at the Sun” has all of the characteristics of a good TV on the Radio song: intellectual, witty, angst-filled and abstract. The storyline isn’t straightforward and the background guitar sometimes borders on atonality as the dance music beats meander in and out, swept away by the pulsing but lethargic bass.
– Chris Woodall
Death Cab For Cutie
“Transatlanticism” opens outside a tunnel, the distant rumbling echoes of a train heard deep inside, methodically, mechanically churning along. This is the backdrop Ben Gibbard chooses for one of the most emotionally poignant and musically ambitious tracks he’s made. It’s haunting at first, lonely and unsettling, unsure of the direction it wants to take. But when it begins to build, methodical but powerful like the distant train, it becomes heartbreakingly clear: “I need you so much closer,” Gibbard earnestly pleads, and as the music climaxes, seemingly carrying Gibbard’s pleas up on their waves, it’s all one can do to keep from reaching out to try and grab hold.
– Ian Barker
“So Here We Are”
Bloc Party emerged in 2005 to much critical acclaim with their album “Silent Alarm.” The album is often classified as having a post-punk sound, but this single is what sets them apart from other bands of said genre. The band’s ability to branch out and make haunting ballads has always given them more weight as a band. While you will get no argument from me that songs like “Helicopter” are great, their albums would get stale if it were only songs in that vein. The effects layered on Okerekes vocals as he screams “I can see again” and the Edge-sounding guitar are used to great effect. Simply put, the song is beautiful.
– Brent Koepp
It was a bleak November day back in 2008, when suddenly blogs around the world (wide web) exploded with news of a leaked track from Merriweather Post Pavilion. Last.fm’s Animal Collective chart was inundated with thousands of plays within a few hours of “Brother Sport” being leaked by a French podcast.
This song typefies everything that makes Animal Collective so special at the end of the decade: the “swirling” effect they utilize in building up the song, Avey’s trademark (though subdued) yelps, Panda’s uplifting and ever-optimistic lyricism, a chorus of tribal drums. These elements all work in unison to create one of the most memorable (and just plain fun) Animal Collective songs to date.
And now, a year after the song’s official release, we no longer have to worry about French DJ’s interrupting the song’s second half, or any internet policeman threatening us with legal action. WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
– Larry Weaver
Perhaps ABBA and Eurovision are to blame. Perhaps it’s the incessantly cold climate that coerces its people into dancing. Perhaps there’s something in the water. Whatever it is, the Scandinavians are doing something right when it comes to pop music. In the noughties, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian artists were suddenly blossoming all over the place releasing pop banger after pop banger, infiltrating the headspace not only of discerning indie music geeks, but of the English-speaking charts as well. Bergen’s Annie boasts an electropop output of considerable quality, yet one single towered above them all; “Heartbeat” is three minutes of thrilling elation, a mundane tale of nightclubbing somehow made exhilarating by driving drums, a gut-punching chorus, and Annie’s understated vocal. Bereft of the grating gymnastics that continue to plague much of modern pop, her hushed tones are endearing, passionate, and utterly magical.
– Will Monotti
The Hold Steady
“Most People Are DJs”
“Most People Are DJs,” from The Hold Steady’s debut Almost Killed Me, may be the quintessential Hold Steady song, since it contains most of the elements that have come to define the group since its creation in 2004. It was certainly a statement of purpose. Tad Kubler’s firey outro guitar solo declared the band’s classic rock direction that was a departure from the artier sounds of Lifter Puller. Craig Finn retained his trademark sprechgesang vocal style from that earlier band, including Ybor City and a number of other future Hold Steady in the lyrics. And, of course, it was a snarky and well-deserved comment on the New York City hipsters the displaced Midwesterners had encountered since their move to Brooklyn.
– Andrew Steadman
“Good Life (feat. T-Pain)”
How good was life for Kanye in 2007? Let’s just say he didn’t have any problem coming up with the money for an honest-to-goodness Michael Jackson sample. On “Good Life,” he flips “P.Y.T.” into an appropriately gleeful victory lap. T-Pain, in probably his finest pre-“I’m On a Boat” guest turn, blends with the machinized Jacko, making probably the most effective use of the then-not-entirely-played-out AutoTune in recent memory.
– Sean Highkin
“All These Things That I’ve Done”
The magnificently sweeping pop of “All These Things That I’ve Done” is a slight departure from the Vegas synth-rock of the preceding tracks on Hot Fuss. Sitting at fifth in the track listing, the song is the first glimpse listeners get of a break in The Killers’ glammy gloom. Brandon Flowers is joined by a full choir on the uplifting bridge, repeating the near-nonsensical mantra of “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” that has appeared in so many commercials and pop culture references. British comedian Bill Bailey suggested that the band could have replaced the line with “I got ham but I’m not a hamster” and made about as much sense. It hardly matters. The history of pop is littered with meaningless phrases that sound good in song, and sounding good is what it’s all about.