Back in 2004, Philadelphia-based public radio station WXPN came up with a novel idea: have the listeners each vote for ten songs that would be compiled and played back in a countdown of the top 885 songs of all-time. The weighting was simple: the song that you voted for as number 1 got ten points, number 2 got nine points, and so on down the line. Whatever song got the most points in the end, was the number 1 of the countdown. (And that year, it was “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen.) And every year since then, they’ve done a different 885 countdown.
Last year, it was the Greatest Rock Songs, and after the countdown finished, I posted my history of the events along with what I voted for and how everything turned out.
This year will be the tenth countdown since they started, and it promises to be very different in content from all of the ones that preceded it. That’s because they’re asking for the greatest songs released since 2001.
The world is a very different place than it was in the year 2000. You could argue that the events of September 11, 2001 had far-ranging impact to us, personally, emotionally, culturually, socially, and politically, and the music of the following years might reflect that somewhat. (You could argue that the last decade has had more motivated art from current events than any decade since the 1960’s. How many of the artists that will get played in this countdown were even alive at any point in that decade?
So I thought about it and decided on the ten songs that I would vote for. They are as follows:
1. Love and Bandaids, by Karen Kosowski
Such a beautiful, haunting melody. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Kosowski since she broke from mp3.com and started her own site to help promote female musicians back in the 90’s. Her 2004 album, Out Here At Sea placed second on my list of favorite albums that year, only missing out on the top spot because I felt it could have been longer. And this is a gem from a great album.
There is no YouTube video for this song, but you can read the lyrics and hear the song in its entirety here.
2. Confessions, by Tim Minchin
Not much here to disagree with…
3. Heaven Must Be Boring, by George Hrab
The drummer for the Philadelphia Funk Authority is an exceptionally talented musician and podcaster, and he hit a grand slam with this track from 2003’s Coelacanth:
4. Hurry Up Sky, by Jen Chapin
A sad, haunting, beautiful song, made all the more beautiful when you know that it was written for a friend of hers who lost her life on September 11, 2001. A great track from her 2004 album Linger.
5. Sing, by the Dresden Dolls
We need more brash, outspoken, and unashamed public figures like the lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer. This song, which caps the band’s 2006 album Yes Virginia speaks so much to the world we live in and has such a beautiful intensity, how could I not include it?
6. When the War Came, by the Decemberists
I knew I wanted a Decemberists’ song on my list, but I wasn’t sure which one I wanted. Strong candidates included this one, from their 2006 album The Crane Wife, “This Is Why We Fight,” from the 2011 album The King Is Dead, and “On the Bus Mall,” from their 2004 album Picaresque (which, for those keeping score, snatched the number 1 spot on my best albums list that year from Karen Kosowski above…). All three are worthy choices, but I decided to go with the song that, a couple of years ago, I put on my list of Songs to Hear Before You Die.
7. Gravity, by Vienna Teng
So many good songs by this artist! Her 2002 debut, Waking Hour was one of those albums that you listen to over and over again. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the songs from this album, but in the end, I could only vote for one, so I chose this one…
8. Hasa Diga Eebowai, from the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon
If there is one cultural change that followed the September 11 attacks, it’s people are much more willing to criticize religion. From bestselling books like “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins or “God Is Not Great,” by Christopher Hitchens, to popular entertainment like this 2011 broadway musical, criticism of religion is both coming to a forefront and long overdue. So how about this catchy little tune?
9. Breathe Me, by Sia
The HBO series Six Feet Under, which ran from 2001 to 2005, changed the way we look at television dramas. Among other things, it proved that you can have compelling drama surrounding professions other than healthcare, law enforcement, and lawyers. And the way they ended the entire series is a monument for how to do it right. This song, which actually came from the 2004 album Colour the Small One closed out the entire series beautifully…
10. Float Away, by Marah
Philly local band Marah should have probably been propelled to national attention with the 2002 release of their album Float Away with the Friday Night Gods and I honestly don’t know why it didn’t. This album is more “poppy” than their earlier and later releases, but it’s a good album all the same. Listen to this song and see for yourself…
Five songs that nearly made my final list include:
“Saved,” by Shelley Segal
“A Rational Response,” by Greydon Square
“Holiday,” by Green Day
“Soul Meets Body,” by Death Cab for Cutie
“Float On,” by Modest Mouse
Now let’s just wait and see how my numbers turn out.