The best (at least in terms of my iPod)

Creating and maintaining an iPod playlist with my favorite songs has been an interesting experience for me. I call the playlist “The Best” not because I really think these are the best songs ever, but because they are the ones that resonate the most with me. As the playlist has grown (it’s now at 46 songs) some items of note have emerged.

The first is that two of my all-time favorite bands, Kiss and Rush, are not represented once on the list. The second is that although I’m a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, I seem to respond the most to songs that are more subdued or melancholy. The third is that if a song has strong vocal harmonies it automatically wins points with me.So with that, here is the current list of The Best, with some commentary. As a side note, at least a few of these can also be found on my last GFS mixtape:

  • North Meadow” by Giles, Giles & Fripp
  • “Had to Cry Today” by Blind Faith – Killer Clapton fretwork, but what does it for me is the dissonance in the chorus.
  • “Out of the Silent Planet” by King’s X – One of the prototypical songs of King’s X’s heyday.
  • “Everything in Its Right Place” by Radiohead – I never really warmed up to Kid A or Amnesiac but I have always loved the skittering, unsettling vibe created here. I also love the electric piano chords.
  • “Highway Star” by Deep Purple – I’m not really a fan of DP but this song kicks ass from start to finish. Brilliant drumming, brilliant guitar work, just…brilliant!
  • “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison – Plagiarized or not, I love it.
  • “Crossing Over” by Van Halen – A song unlike any other in the VH catalog. Dark and brooding.
  • “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles – Yes, Witch-AY Woman. Gorgeous harmonies on this one.
  • “Haunted Heart” by the Bill Evans Trio
  • “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
  • “Hearts and Bones” by Paul Simon
  • “Another Day” by Dream Theater – DT manages to reel in the wanking for at least one song, and the effect is powerful.
  • “The Caves of Altamira” by Steely Dan
  • “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon – There are a lot of great James Bond themes but this is probably my favorite. It’s got that fantastic 1970s melancholy sensibility to it.
  • “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages” by XTC
  • “Fools” by Van Halen – VH does what it does best here. The outro riff is simple but killer.
  • “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s
  • “The Warmth of the Sun” by the Beach Boys – Nobody does haunting vocal melodies like Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Nobody.
  • “Castles in the Sand” by Seals & Crofts – I have always enjoyed the harmonies created by Messrs. Seals and Crofts. This is probably the best example.
  • “All the Things You Are” by Dizzy Gillespie
  • “The Voice Inside” by Queensrÿche – The absolute highlight from the otherwise disappointing Hear in the Now Frontier. The slide guitar solo by Chris DeGarmo is gorgeous.
  • “Tin Pan Valley” by Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation – Plant’s well-worn voice seems to barely hold on, but kicks into high gear when the song does at about the 2-minute mark. Excellent juxtaposition of sedate and fierce moods.

  • “Tremor Christ” by Pearl JamVitalogy came out at a very pivotal time in my life, and this song has always struck a chord with me. Eddie Vedder’s wailing on the chorus is great.
  • “The Over the Hill Gang” by NFL Films – If you grew up watching NFL Films (and Super Bowl highlight films in particular) like I did, you know this one. It’s played during the Super Bowl V highlight film. A lot of the classic NFL Films music is as good as the best film scores.
  • Evidence of Autumn” by Genesis
  • “Blue Bossa” by Tommy Flanagan
  • “Steppin’ Out” by Joe Jackson
  • “NYCNY” by Daryl Hall – Hall teams up with prog legend Robert Fripp and the results are astounding. Frenetic and aggressive, this is unlike anything you’ve heard from him.
  • “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder – One of the few overtly cheery songs on my list.
  • “The Ballad of the Decomposing Man” by Steve Hackett – This is definitely an acquired taste. The calypso-themed coda is damn catchy and memorable.
  • “Something in This City Changes People” by Chicago – By the time Chicago VI arrived the band had started moving away from their rock/fusion roots and into more conventional pop territory. But before they completely lost their soul they turned out this song, which has some of the best vocal melodies and harmonies committed to tape.
  • “Rendition” by Manic Street Preachers
  • “Our Love Was” by the Who
  • “True Companion” by Donald Fagen – I discovered this as part of the Heavy Metal soundtrack. I love the buildup to Fagen’s vocals, which don’t appear until late in the song.
  • “Rumpelstilskin” by Andy Summers
  • “Remind Me” by Röyksopp –
  • “Big Log” by Robert Plant – I still vividly remember the video for this song, which never fails to conjure up the image of traveling alone on a desert road. One of two great atmosphere pieces on Plant’s Principle of Moments album, along with “In the Mood.”
  • “City of Delusion” by Muse – I love the whole Black Holes and Revelations album, but this is my favorite. The flamenco horn interlude is pure genius.
  • “Here Comes the Flood” by Peter Gabriel – The original version is very good, but I’m speaking of the acoustic one from the Shaking the Tree compilation, which really highlights the brilliant songwriting. A powerful and emotional tune.
  • “All We Have Is Now” by the Flaming Lips – My favorite song from the Yoshimi album. Very sad and understated.
  • “American Cheese (Jerry’s Pianto)” by King’s X – One of those quirky tunes like “Sx Broken Soldiers” that they do so well.
  • “Murderer?” by Queensrÿche – The best song by far from Operation: Mindcrime II and one of the most aggressive ones the band has recorded in a long time.
  • “Life Going By” by King’s X
  • “Hiro’s Song” by Ben Folds
  • “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates – H&O is one of those bands people seem to be ashamed to admit they dig. Someone bought millions of their albums though. I’m not ashamed, and I especially dig this song.
  • “Jazz Undercurrents” by NFL Films – This one has ’70s written all over it, and it’s great because of it.

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