This Is Why We Fight by the Decemberists

Come the war
Come the avarice
Come the war
Come hell

Come attrition
Come the reek of bones
Come attrition
Come hell

This is why
Why we fight
Why we lie awake
And this is why
Why we fight
When we die
We will die
With our arms unbound
And this is why
Why we fight
Come hell

Bride of quiet
Bride of all unquiet things
Bride of quiet
Bride of hell

Come the archers
Come the infantry
Come the archers
Come hell

This is why
Why we fight
Why we lie awake
This is why
This is why we fight
And when we die
We will die
With our arms unbound
And this is why
This is why we fight
Come hell
Come hell

This is why
Why we fight
Why we lie awake
This is why
This is why we fight
When we die
We will die
With our arms unbound
And this is why
This is why we fight



So come to me
Come to me now
Lay your arms around me
And this is why
This is why
Why we fight
Come hell
Come hell
Come hell
Come hell

(C) 2011 BMG Rights Management

Watch the video

I guess I really am a hippie at heart

After the rally a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia, I wrote that there have been two Harry Chapin songs bouncing around in my head. They’re both calls to action in their own way: we have more in common than not and that working together — even when that work will be difficult — is the best way to truly improve things.

When I mentioned this to my 12-year-old son, he suggested that I put together a playlist of protest songs, songs that call people to action or raise awareness of issues worth addressing. I thought that was a good idea.

It didn’t take me long to assemble this playlist from my music library. I had to break one of my rules for making a playlist for one like this. Normally, I don’t do any more than one song per artist, but that wasn’t going to fly this time. There’s a fair mixture of covers and original versions of the songs, although only one song is actually repeated in the playlist: Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” appears right alongside of Eddie Vedder’s amazing cover of that same song.

There are — as can be expected with songs that are angry at the status quo — multiple tracks on this playlist with objectionable language, including one that uses a word I never actually use in its title.

There’s also an interesting history lesson to be had here. Direct references to certain wars and political figures are peppered throughout the list. It gives me the opportunity to talk about things my kids probably haven’t really learned about in school yet. That includes four straight songs about The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Speaking of objectionable language, one thing I neglected to mention when I wrote of being bullied in high school, is that the song “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon was one of the things that helped me cope during my suspension from school that year.

The emotions of this playlist are laid bare to anyone who will listen. Even though I’m quite familiar with all of these songs, I didn’t quite expect the sheer level of emotion I felt when I actually sat down to listen to it. Whether it’s Harry Chapin singing about “how together, yes we can create a country better than the one we have made of this land” or Phil Ochs’s spoken word tale of how he felt after the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968: “Something truly extraordinary died there which was America.” There’s some fear, some hope, some empowerment, some calls to action. In defense of the weak, the poor, the downtrodden, the needy. War, poverty, injustice, and hatred are among the themes covered in this list.

I probably will add songs to this playlist over time but at least for now, it’s a good one. Here’s what I put on this list. What other songs belong here?

Song Title Performed By
Revolution The Beatles
Bulls on Parade Rage against the Machine
I Ain’t Marching Anymore Phil Ochs
The Parade’s Still Passing By Harry Chapin
We Shall Overcome Bruce Springsteen
This is Why We Fight The Decemberists
Give Peace a Chance John Lennon
Another Age Phil Ochs
Zombie The Cranberries
The Luck of the Irish John Lennon
Sunday Bloody Sunday U2
Sunday Bloody Sunday John Lennon
I Don’t Like Mondays The Boomtown Rats
Days of Decision Phil Ochs
It’s Good News Week Hedgehoppers Anonymous
The Times They Are A-Changin’ Bob Dylan
Holiday Green Day
The Hands that Built America U2
What Made America Famous? Harry Chapin
Bound for Glory Phil Ochs
This Land is Your Land Woody Guthrie
Little Boxes Pete Seeger
In the Ghetto Elvis Presley
Southern Man Neil Young
Ball of Confusion The Temptations
What’s Going On Marvin Gaye
Blowin’ in the Wind Bob Dylan
The Rising Bruce Springsteen
Dover John Flynn
Goodnight Saigon Billy Joel
I Kill Therefore I Am Phil Ochs
Masters of War Eddie Vedder
Masters of War Bob Dylan
When the War Came The Decemberists
Two Tribes Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Hitler’s Brothers Paula Cole
Mussolini’s Head Greg Greenway
Universal Soldier Donovan
Where Have All The Flowers Gone The Kingston Trio
That’s What I Want to Hear Phil Ochs
I Wonder What Would Happen to this World Harry Chapin
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Buffy Sainte-Marie
Old Man Trump Woody Guthrie
Power and the Glory Phil Ochs
Exhuming McCarthy R.E.M.
Woman is the Nigger of the World John Lennon
Only a Pawn in their Game Bob Dylan
Chimes of Freedom Bob Dylan
Remember When the Music Bruce Springsteen
Song for Myself Harry Chapin
Abraham, Martin, and John Dion
Pride (In the Name of Love) U2
Love Me I’m a Liberal Phil Ochs
I Ain’t Afraid Holly Near
Imagine John Lennon
One Man, One Woman, One Vote Greg Greenway
Working Class Hero John Lennon
William Butler Yeats Visits
Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed
Phil Ochs
It’s the End of the World As
We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
R.E.M.

If you want to be a hero, well just follow me………

Greatest Year in Music

I’ve written before about how my favorite radio station, WXPN, has been taking novel approaches to their programming for watch of the past eleven Octobers by conducting specialized countdowns based upon listener votes.   

This year, they’re doing something different.   While I don’t know exactly how they’re going to do it this year, the topic of discussion is the greatest year in music.

I have a problem with this idea at its most basic level.   In any given year, there’s bound to be good music and bad music, but there’s something more important than that.   If you look back to the ten albums that I voted for in the countdown for the greatest albums in 2005, for example, two albums on my list were all released in the same year: Tori Amos’s Under the Pink and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral came out in 1994 (and Portishead’s Dummy nearly made my final list, also from the same year).  

So that’s at least an argument for that year, isn’t it?

The problem is that the big event in music from that year, is the suicide of Kurt Cobain, the frontman for Nirvava.  And the sadness from the death of a highly regarded musician can be a stain on just about any year for which we might otherwise vote.   A lot of great music came out in 1970, the year Jimi Hendrix died.  You can say the same thing about 1977, tempered by the death of Elvis Presley.  Ditto for 1980 with the tragedy that was John Lennon.  1981?  Harry Chapin.   1984?  Marvin Gaye.   2009?  Michael Jackson.   2011?  Amy Winehouse.  

The loss of a talented musician is a tragedy, and it happens every year.  (This year alone, we’ve already lost Lesley Gore, Percy Sledge, Ben E King, and B.B. King).   

So I can’t do it.   At least in the era of rock music.  

It’s not really subject to a vote like in past years, but in order to ease myself of the sorrow of the death of important musicians, I’m going to say that the greatest year in music was 1786.  Mozart first performed The Marriage of Figaro, Beethoven was starting to make a name for himself, and baroque music was on the rise.  

But there really was no “greatest year in music”.   You can find good and bad music in any year.   And if you look at the people who created it, there are real triumphs and tragedies each year, too.  

Still, if you want my guess as to which year is going to end up being declared the greatest year, it’s not very hard to predict.  Just look to the year in which the album that placed at number 1 back in ’05 for the greatest album countdown, and the year of the number one most memorable musical moments from the ’07 countdown: 1969.  

Just look away from the deaths of Brian Jones, Judy Garland, Frank Loesser, and Pee Wee Russell that year. 

Greatest Songs, Again

I just noticed that I never wrote a follow-up to my blog post last August about last October’s fan-voted musical countdown on WXPN.

To summarize last October’s countdown, the theme was a revisiting of the 885 greatest songs of all time (same as ten years previous).

To nobody’s surprise, “Thunder Road” came in at number one. Again. Of the ten songs I voted for in the countdown, I kept three from a decade before. None of those three made the final countdown. Of the other seven, one of my votes did get played (“This Woman’s Work”, by Kate Bush).

We also voted for five songs to rank among the worst, played back in an 88-song countdown. None of the songs I voted for made the 88-song countdown, but “Roxanne” did make the best-of list. Unfortunately. Not that I’m disagreeing about “We Built This City” by Starship being the worst song of all time.

(And, now that it’s known, another song that I voted for as among the worst, “Everything Is Awesome” from the Lego Movie, got nominated for best song at the Oscars. Thankfully it lost. In fact, I’m also thankful that I started watching the Oscars late enough that I was able to fast forward through the performance of that song…)

So here’s the grid of all of the countdowns to this point. I’m not counting the worst songs countdown.

Year Topic What I voted For How many of my items made the list?
2004 Greatest Songs
  1. “Fallen Icons,” by Delerium
  2. “Idol,” by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Wicked Little Town,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  4. “Chimes of Freedom,” by Bob Dylan
  5. “Sniper,” by Harry Chapin
  6. “My Mistake,” by Marvin Gaye
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “I Don’t Like Mondays,” by the Boomtown Rats
  9. “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” by Tori Amos
  10. “Hard to Handle,” by Otis Redding
None of them
2005 Greatest Albums
  1. Emmet Swimming — Wake
  2. Poe — Haunted
  3. Harry Chapin — Danceband on the Titanic
  4. Phil Ochs — In Concert
  5. Delerium — Poem
  6. Beth Orton — Trailer Park
  7. Tori Amos — Under the Pink
  8. Nine Inch Nails — The Downward Spiral
  9. John Lennon — Plastic Ono Band
  10. R.E.M. — Lifes rich pageanT
Five (Poe, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, John Lennon, and R.E.M.)
2006 Greatest Artists
  1. Harry Chapin
  2. Tori Amos
  3. Delerium
  4. Phil Ochs
  5. Nine Inch Nails
  6. Portishead
  7. Idina Menzel
  8. Emmet Swimming
  9. Jen Chapin
  10. R.E.M.
  11. Marvin Gaye
  12. Def Leppard
  13. Alice in Chains
  14. The Who
  15. John Lennon
  16. Lennon Murphy
  17. Sarah McLachlan
  18. Hungry Lucy
  19. Hole
  20. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Thirteen

(Harry Chapin, Tori Amos, Phil Ochs,
Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, R.E.M.,
Marvin Gaye, Def Leppard, Alice in Chains,
The Who, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan,
and “Weird Al” Yankovic)
2007 Most Memorable Musical Moments I didn’t vote N/A
2008 Essential XPN songs I didn’t vote N/A
2009 Desert Island Songs
  1. “The Blue Tree,” by Silverman
  2. “There Only Was One Choice,” by Harry Chapin
  3. “Don’t Follow,” by Alice in Chains
  4. “Wolves,” by Josh Ritter
  5. “Bus Mall,” by the Decemberists
  6. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “Crucifixion,” by Phil Ochs
  9. “Crushing,” by Tapping the Vein
  10. “I Am the Walrus,” by the Beatles
1 (“I Am the Walrus”)
2010 Road Trip Songs
  1. “Daylight,” by Delerium
  2. “Out Here at Sea”, by Karen Kosowski (this includes the untitled hidden track after this song on the album
  3. “Glory Girl,” by Amanda Ghost
  4. “Danceband on the Titanic,” by Harry Chapin
  5. “Gimme Shelter,” by the Rolling Stones
  6. “River,” by Jen Chapin
  7. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  8. “Float Away,” by Marah
  9. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” by Sufjan Stevens
  10. “Idiot Wind,” by Bob Dylan
1 (“Gimme Shelter”)
2011 World Cafe Artists I didn’t vote, although I vaguely remember doing something about Fisher’s performance N/A
2012 Greatest Rock Songs
  1. “Love, Reign O’er Me,” by The Who
  2. “Filthy Mind”, by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Holiday,” by Green Day
  4. “Coma White,” by Marilyn Manson
  5. “Change (In the House of Flies),” by the Deftones
  6. “Breathing,” by Kate Bush
  7. “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company
  8. “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon
  9. “Crazy on You,” by Heart
  10. “No One Like You,” by the Scorpions
4 (“Instant Karma!”,
“Crazy On You”, “Piece of My Heart”,
and “Love Reign O’er Me”)
2013 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium
  1. “Love & Bandaids”, by Karen Kosowski
  2. “Confessions”, by Tim Minchin
  3. “Heaven Must Be Boring”, by George Hrab
  4. “Hurry Up Sky”, by Jen Chapin
  5. “Sing”, by the Dresden Dolls
  6. “When the War Came”, by the Decemberists
  7. “Gravity”, by Vienna Teng
  8. “Hasa Diga Eebowai”, from The Book of Mormon
  9. “Breathe Me”, by Sia
  10. “Float Away”, by Marah
1 (“Breathe Me”)
2014 Greatest Songs (again)
  1. ”When I’m Gone”, by Phil Ochs
  2. ”Swan Swan H”, by R.E.M.
  3. ”River”, by Jen Chapin
  4. ”hurt”, by Nine Inch Nails
  5. ”This Woman’s Work”, by Kate Bush
  6. ”Caught a Lite Sneeze”, by Tori Amos
  7. ”Serpents”, by Sharon Van Etten
  8. ”Sniper”, by Harry Chapin
  9. ”Haunted”, by Charlotte Martin
  10. ”Everything Alive Will Die Someday”, by George Hrab
1 (“This Woman’s Work”)

Back to the Basics

I’ve blogged before about WXPN the radio station in Philadelphia that, every year since 2004, has polled its listeners for a countdown that takes place in October.

Last year, I voted for the ten songs I felt were the best of the new millennium, and a few months later, I Summarized the countdown..

This year, they’re going back to their roots: what are the greatest songs of all time? But at the same time, they’ve added a new twist to it: what are the worst songs of all time? The day after the countdown is over, they’ll suspend their annual programming to play the top “worst songs” vote getters.

Let’s start with the five songs I voted for as the worst:

5. “Fun Fun Fun”, by the Beach Boys. I admit it up front: I’ve never been a fan of surfing music and I really can’t tolerate most of the music by the Beach Boys. (I know a lot of people love the album Pet Sounds, but the best thing I can say about it is it’s thankfully short.) “Fun Fun Fun” is just one of their most annoying songs.

4. “Everything Is Awesome”, by Tegan and Sara. This song was written for The Lego Movie, and I suspect that it was written to be as cloying and uninspired as possible. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. I know that a lot of adults saw — and loved — this movie, but I just have to ask: did they see the same movie I did? Currently, it’s got a 7.9 rating, which I consider overly generous.

3. “Come to Jesus,” by Mindy Smith. Of the five songs I voted for as being among the worst, this is the only one where the music itself isn’t horrible. But when you factor in the message conveyed by this song, the embrace of a myth of pain and suffering intended to make someone feel better, that’s just plain irresponsible and it’s a song I’d just as soon not inflict on anyone, especially the child to whom the singer wrote this song.

2. “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles. I have long maintained that, once the members of the Fab Four went their separate ways, the least inspired of them, was Paul McCartney. While I can respect where this song comes from — an attempt to ease the mind of Julian Lennon as he watched his parents split up — the final product is probably one that’s best left between the songwriter and the person to whom it was written; leave the rest of the world out of it. (Not unlike a song that almost made this list, “Fix You,” by Coldplay).

1. “Roxanne,” by the Police. I admit it. I can count on one finger the total number of songs by The Police (or Sting solo) that I like. I’ve heard some covers of his music that I can tolerate, but Sting himself just brings down almost any song he sings. Still, there’s a special degree of torment inflicted upon anyone listening to this song. Could someone explain to me again, why he managed to achieve any fame in the music industry?

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the ten songs I voted for as being the best songs of all time. Unlike the worst songs, I will embed YouTube videos of the songs themselves where possible:

1. When I’m Gone, by Phil Ochs

2. Swan Swan H, by R.E.M. (I voted for this song ten years ago, too…)

3. River, by Jen Chapin

I couldn’t find a video for it, but here are the lyrics.

4. Hurt, by Nine Inch Nails

5. This Woman’s Work, by Kate Bush

6. Caught a Lite Sneeze, by Tori Amos (I voted for this song ten years ago, too…)

7. Serpents, by Sharon Van Etten

8. Sniper, by Harry Chapin (I voted for this song ten years ago, too…)

9. Haunted, by Charlotte Martin

10. Everything Alive Will Die Someday, by George Hrab

Let’s see what makes the final cut.

The Greatest Musical Letdown

A few months ago, I blogged that WXPN‘s top 885 countdown this year — which has become somewhat of a tradition over the course of the past decade — would be the greatest songs of the new millennium. The only requirement for voting for a song this year is that it must have been released on or after January 1, 2001. Apart from that, it was an anything-goes list, not unlike the first one back in 2004 when they had the greatest songs countdown.

For a quick overview of how the voting works in these countdowns, each participant would vote for ten songs, ranking those songs from 1 to 10. The song that a person voted for as number 1, would get 10 “points”, 2 would get 9 points, and so on down the line. (Or, to use the formula that the computer software behind the scenes undoubtedly uses, if R is the rank on a particular voter’s list, then that song will get a score of 11 – R for the final tallying that, once it’s scrubbed for typos and other variations between different voters’ choices for what is undoubtedly the same song…)

In the end, the highest ranking song turned out to be “Rolling in the Deep”, from Adele’s second album, 21.

Don’t get me wrong. I like “Rolling in the Deep”. It’s a fun song. But somewhere long before the they revealed the number one song, I predicted that it would come out on top. By the time they entered into the top ten and this song hadn’t yet been played, I was certain that it would be number one.

But the countdown as a whole was more than a little bit underwhelming. I had one song I voted for make the final list: “Breathe Me,” by Sia came in at number 259, but the final placement of the songs that I personally voted for doesn’t really factor into how I feel about the countdown. After all, I’m not complaining about the fact that quite literally none of the songs I voted for in ’04 made the final list (a fact that I consider surprising considering that I voted for songs like “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats, “Hard to Handle” by Otis Redding and “Swan Swan H” by R.E.M. that year.)

No. It’s underwhelming more because of how monolithic the entire countdown felt. John Mayer was the artist most predominantly represented in the list, with 20 songs. If you want an artist whose music is virtually by definition unchallenging and poppy to the point of being boring, it’s Mayer. Yes, I respect that there’s a place and time for that kind of music, but more than 2% of a “greatest of” countdown really isn’t it.

Some really horrible music placed really high up on the list. Back in 2005, I blogged that the worst album of the year, I thought, was Coldplay’s X + Y. In that blog entry, I mentioned that the only good song from that album, was “Speed of Sound”. What I didn’t mention was that I felt the worst song from that album, was “Fix You”, an overproduced work that I’d be embarrassed to put my name on if I were Chris Martin or any other member of that band. (I did, however, mention that a couple of years ago when I listed my opinion of the songs you need to hear before you die. It placed at number 18.

There were way too many songs that got excessive airplay. These are songs that I don’t inherently dislike, but, by virtue of having been played excessively, I can’t really listen to them any more. The highest ranking of the songs that fall into this category was “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley, which came in at number 6. (It’s also worth noting that I considered the album from which it came, St. Elsewhere, to be the worst album of the year, primarily because of how poorly produced it was. The volume level on consecutive songs was horrible. One song was far too quiet and the next excessively loud. At the time, I had two young children, ages 2 and a newborn, and I couldn’t listen to the album in the car with them, the transition between tracks was just so jarring… And yes, that, too, brought down the song in my opinion…) Also in this boat was “Hurt,” as performed by Johnny Cash, and “Hey Ya” by OutKast.

Then there were the artists that were completely shut out of the countdown. Where were the Dresden Dolls? Cousteau? Tim Minchin?

And finally, there’s the really bizarre ranking of songs by artists that did make the final list. I happen to be a pretty big fan of the Decemberists, but I don’t quite get how “O Valencia” could actually place higher on the list than both “The Crane Wife 3” and “The Engine Driver”.

In the end, I fear that people who listen to the songs on this list will think that music over the course of the past twelve years was by and large uninspired, boring, and, well, not as stylish or artistic has previous eras in terms of musical accomplishment. The reality, despite the list itself, is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. You just need to look elsewhere.

My list of all ten countdowns, with my votes and how I fared, is below:

Year Topic What I voted For How many of my items made the list?
2004 Greatest Songs
  1. “Fallen Icons,” by Delerium
  2. “Idol,” by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Wicked Little Town,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  4. “Chimes of Freedom,” by Bob Dylan
  5. “Sniper,” by Harry Chapin
  6. “My Mistake,” by Marvin Gaye
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “I Don’t Like Mondays,” by the Boomtown Rats
  9. “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” by Tori Amos
  10. “Hard to Handle,” by Otis Redding
None of them
2005 Greatest Albums
  1. Emmet Swimming — Wake
  2. Poe — Haunted
  3. Harry Chapin — Danceband on the Titanic
  4. Phil Ochs — In Concert
  5. Delerium — Poem
  6. Beth Orton — Trailer Park
  7. Tori Amos — Under the Pink
  8. Nine Inch Nails — The Downward Spiral
  9. John Lennon — Plastic Ono Band
  10. R.E.M. — Lifes rich pageanT
Five (Poe, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, John Lennon, and R.E.M.)
2006 Greatest Artists
  1. Harry Chapin
  2. Tori Amos
  3. Delerium
  4. Phil Ochs
  5. Nine Inch Nails
  6. Portishead
  7. Idina Menzel
  8. Emmet Swimming
  9. Jen Chapin
  10. R.E.M.
  11. Marvin Gaye
  12. Def Leppard
  13. Alice in Chains
  14. The Who
  15. John Lennon
  16. Lennon Murphy
  17. Sarah McLachlan
  18. Hungry Lucy
  19. Hole
  20. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Thirteen

(Harry Chapin, Tori Amos, Phil Ochs,
Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, R.E.M.,
Marvin Gaye, Def Leppard, Alice in Chains,
The Who, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan,
and “Weird Al” Yankovic)
2007 Most Memorable Musical Moments I didn’t vote N/A
2008 Essential XPN songs I didn’t vote N/A
2009 Desert Island Songs
  1. “The Blue Tree,” by Silverman
  2. “There Only Was One Choice,” by Harry Chapin
  3. “Don’t Follow,” by Alice in Chains
  4. “Wolves,” by Josh Ritter
  5. “Bus Mall,” by the Decemberists
  6. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “Crucifixion,” by Phil Ochs
  9. “Crushing,” by Tapping the Vein
  10. “I Am the Walrus,” by the Beatles
1 (“I Am the Walrus”)
2010 Road Trip Songs
  1. “Daylight,” by Delerium
  2. “Out Here at Sea”, by Karen Kosowski (this includes the untitled hidden track after this song on the album
  3. “Glory Girl,” by Amanda Ghost
  4. “Danceband on the Titanic,” by Harry Chapin
  5. “Gimme Shelter,” by the Rolling Stones
  6. “River,” by Jen Chapin
  7. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  8. “Float Away,” by Marah
  9. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” by Sufjan Stevens
  10. “Idiot Wind,” by Bob Dylan
1 (“Gimme Shelter”)
2011 World Cafe Artists I didn’t vote, although I vaguely remember doing something about Fisher’s performance N/A
2012 Greatest Rock Songs
  1. “Love, Reign O’er Me,” by The Who
  2. “Filthy Mind”, by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Holiday,” by Green Day
  4. “Coma White,” by Marilyn Manson
  5. “Change (In the House of Flies),” by the Deftones
  6. “Breathing,” by Kate Bush
  7. “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company
  8. “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon
  9. “Crazy on You,” by Heart
  10. “No One Like You,” by the Scorpions
4 (“Instant Karma!”,
“Crazy On You”, “Piece of My Heart”,
and “Love Reign O’er Me”)
2013 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium
  1. “Love & Bandaids”, by Karen Kosowski
  2. “Confessions”, by Tim Minchin
  3. “Heaven Must Be Boring”, by George Hrab
  4. “Hurry Up Sky”, by Jen Chapin
  5. “Sing”, by the Dresden Dolls
  6. “When the War Came”, by the Decemberists
  7. “Gravity”, by Vienna Teng
  8. “Hasa Diga Eebowai”, from The Book of Mormon
  9. “Breathe Me”, by Sia
  10. “Float Away”, by Marah
1 (“Breathe Me”)

Songs of the New Millennium

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.