Playlist on Spotify at the bottom of each page.
40. Mating Ritual ”King Of The Doves”
39. DIIV ”Blankenship”
38. Jamila Woods ”EARTHA”
(from LEGACY! LEGACY!)
”I wanted the song to sound classic and new at the same time, I wanted it to feel nostalgic to people and obviously to play on the idea of a kind of yodeling high falsetto…”
37. Orville Peck ”Dead Of Night”
”I write and produce everything myself and on ‘Dead Of Night’ I actually play all the instruments including drums. That was the first song I wrote for the album and it’s basically about unrequited love, about loving somebody who can’t love you back. Even though you know that and you could leave and protect your feelings, you stay because even though they can’t love you back. It’s better than not being with them at all. So there’s this idea of torturing yourself. I had a friendship that was like that.
I wanted the song to sound classic and new at the same time, I wanted it to feel nostalgic to people and obviously to play on the idea of a kind of yodeling high falsetto as well as very low barytone. Lots of tremolo to make it feel cinematic and expansive but also small and intimate. I like music that can do both of those things at the same time and I wanted it to capture those. The song had a little bit different melody originally but then I changed it in the studio and I’m very happy I did. I wanted the song to sound like a memory, I guess. Familiar but already far away.
– Orville Peck
”…a couple of days before the deadline for the album this song didn’t exist, and 48 hours later it did : fully formed and ready to record. I honestly don’t remember leaving my bedroom…”
36. Ten Fé ”Isn’t Ever A Day”
(from Future Perfect, Present Tense)
”Isn’t Ever A Day is a story about two people who were once in love and together, meeting again by chance. Over the course of the evening, time dissolves and seems to take them back to when they were together, before they separate again at the end of the night. I believe this. I don’t think time is linear, I don’t feel that the past is simply ‘behind’ you , and the future ‘ahead’ – it’s often confused. Some days you wake up feeling incredibly close to someone you loved in the past; you don’t know what it is, but you feel in contact with them – maybe not in person – but in your heart, and around you in your world. That’s what the title refers to: there isn’t ever a day where someone you’ve loved leaves your heart- they are always in there.
I’m always suspicious when songwriters talk about a song ‘coming’ to them out of thin air, as a writer I’m a believer in graft, gestation, and songs evolving into existence. But, a couple of days before the deadline for the album this song didn’t exist, and 48 hours later it did : fully formed and ready to record. I honestly don’t remember leaving my bedroom for those entire 48 hours, I knew I had to finish the song there and then. I recorded all the parts myself: the guitars, bass and backing vocals – and when it came to the sessions in Oslo, we copied them pretty much verbatim in order to preserve that original feel.
Musically, the usual influences are pretty clear : layers of multi-tracked acoustic guitars a la Keef in Jumping Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man, Tango In The Night era Fleetwood Mac too, and there’s something Johnny Marr-y about all the guitars (he being a devotee of Keef, that makes plenty of sense). Lyrically, I just wanted to tell a story as plainly as it could – I was reading a lot of Patrick Kavanagh at the time. I had ‘Raglan Road’, a poem of his, put to music by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners, as a bit of blueprint for meaning and feel of the story (also one of my fave songs everrrrr!).
Despite being a story, this song is really personal to me – much like Turn from the first album. I really wanna write more songs like this in future.”
– Leo Duncan
”…I was a tween when these sweet laid back jams were playing at roller rinks in New Jersey, so that’s kind of what I was going for with writing ‘Turn the Light’…”
35. Karen O & Danger Mouse ”Turn The Light”
”Have you ever heard ‘Hey Mr DJ’ by Zhané? It’s the perfect mid tempo 90’s R&B jam that feels like cruising the city streets on a summer night, nothing but time on your side and the vibe is good. I was a tween when these sweet laid back jams were playing at roller rinks in New Jersey, so that’s kind of what I was going for with writing ‘Turn the Light’. Nostalgia for a simpler time and good chill vibes about turning light into love in dark times.”
– Karen O
”…it was the first time I successfully used a vocal melody I had recorded on my phone without chords or an instrument backing the vocal. It was simply an acapella vocal hook…”
34. Night Moves ”Strands Align”
(from Can You Really Find Me)
”Demo’d this song out pretty extensively at my house in Minneapolis, so the blueprint was there when the time came to go into the studio in Austin, TX. We recorded this with Jim Eno at Public HiFi. The major obstacle was making sure the production value was on point, as we had to walk the line of the astral meets the pastoral. There are so many sonic layers to the song that if one thing is a little too loud you can ruin the whole tapestry. I was very intent on crafting moments in the songs where certain reverbs take hold, particularly on the vocal and lead guitar bits. It’ll go from big to intimate from section to section, but each time a part comes back around it’s slightly different mix so it always feels fresh, yet remains familiar.
This song was unique because it was the first time I successfully used a vocal melody I had recorded on my phone without chords or an instrument backing the vocal. It was simply an acapella vocal hook that came to me while in bed that I found striking enough to document in a voice memo. I told myself I would figure out the chords later. Usually, I never figure out the chords later if they aren’t there in the first place. When I rediscovered the voice memo months later I spent a straight 12 hours figuring out the simple yet just complex enough chord pattern to fit what became the ‘Strands Align’ chorus melody.
This song essentially is five parts strung together. Though the first thing I wrote was the outro, then the post chorus instrumental melody, then the chorus, verse, and finally the intro. All parts were written over a period of months. It did not come together quickly. I loved all the parts so much that I took a long time and a lot of care to make sure the song was completed to my liking. Sometimes this is good, other times no. In this particular instance I knew it would work.”
– John Pelant
33. Buddy & Julie Miller ”Thoughts At 2am”
(from Breakdown On 20th Ave. South)
32. Jessie Ware ”Mirage (Don’t Stop)”
31. DRAMA ”Give No Fucks”
”This song is fun and dark like a black and white silent cartoon. It’s jerky and flailing movements wade upon the smooth water before being saved…”
30. Catch Prichard ”Tangled Grace”
(from Utter Disbelief)
”This song is fun and dark like a black and white silent cartoon. It’s jerky and flailing movements wade upon the smooth water before being saved and lifted into the firmament by the chorus of Mellotron. The ‘straight out of the box’ drum machines do so much with so little – I barely touched them. It is a sweet song. It’s airy yet grounded, like a deflated balloon floating across the living room floor, left from the party nights before, acknowledged yet neglected. It carries with it an indignant ennui of a man in isolation and holds the false savior of relief and freedom that flows through the hearts of us- transforming into the thoughts and actions of lust. And this is all but for the instrumentation.
The words and story of ‘Tangled Grace’ are confused under the daunting shadow of ‘what ifs’ as perplexing and misunderstood as Schoeder’s Cat Paradox. Does indeed, curiosity kill the cat? It craves for one more night. One more night without a tomorrow, and a plea for a little more time before the morning light. People say life is just one thing after another, but maybe its the just the same things over, and over. Is it the hard and crashing stream of life that hardens life itself? Or is it the still pond of patience to understand life’s patterns that will inevitably provide a purpose? Either way, ‘Tangled Grace’ is a song of curiosity, longing, and the bittersweet taste left on our lips that we have grown to admire so well.”
– Sawyer Gebauer
”Like other songs populated by characters such as Bow-Legged Bill and Duckbill Betty, soup kitchen songs generally celebrate the simple pleasures of life like baked beans or Ovaltine…”
29. The Felice Brothers ”Salvation Army Girl”
”The song ‘Salvation Army Girl’ belongs to a little known genre called soup kitchen songs. Like other songs populated by characters such as Bow-Legged Bill and Duckbill Betty, soup kitchen songs generally celebrate the simple pleasures of life like baked beans or Ovaltine. I was inspired to write the song after hearing Woody Guthrie’s beautiful tale ‘Union Maid’ ( which is not a soup kitchen song but rather belongs to the extinct sister genre of Union Hall Songs) and partly by a song called ‘Slum Goddess’, written by The Fugs, those bards of the lower east side.
The song, ‘Salvation Army Girl’ originally had many more verses. There was one verse about stock brokers brawling over the affections of the song’s main character, there was a verse about the Staten Island Ferry, the point of which escapes me now. We recorded the song very late one night, we cut it around 9 or 10 times. I think we chose a take somewhere in the middle. It was getting faster and faster with every take so by the end it was hardly discernible as a song, but rather a passing noise.”
– Ian Felice
”I just love the mental imagery ‘Fish Fry’ would always give me when I’d hear ‘Hosing out the cab of his pickup truck, he’s got his 8-track playing really fucking loud’. It doesn’t really make sense, but…”
28. Warmduscher ”Midnight Dipper”
(from Tainted Lunch)
”Saltfingers came up with the bass line at a soundcheck I believe and we started messing around with it live and improvising here and there. It was the first track we started for Tainted Lunch and were playing in live sets while we were still promoting Whale City so people that came to see us live knew it before it was released. When we released it as a single it all made sense and started off Tainted Lunch properly! It’s just a classic love song for two people at the end of the line and ready for all or nothing.
I got the idea of the start of the lyrics from Big Black’s ‘Fish Fry’, I just love the mental imagery ‘Fish Fry’ would always give me when I’d hear ‘Hosing out the cab of his pickup truck, he’s got his 8-track playing really fucking loud’. It doesn’t really make sense, but it made me think of ‘here he comes in his 4-wheel drive, been up all night and he’s ready to die…’. That’s the honest answer, but I don’t really like telling people what things are about so I could be lying, either way you get to have it mean whatever you want!
The band structured the music and I wrote the story the same as usual and Dan Carey recorded it in one take live to tape for the album. It was the easiest one to do because it was the most rehearsed and always got a great response when we played it live so we knew it was a good one!
– Clams Baker Jr.
”…about remembering to look and not having that idea that you think you can comprehend what these people live through, because we can’t but we can at least care and stand in solidarity…”
27. Cate Le Bon “Home To You”
“It’s a song about visibility and belonging. The word ‘home’ is one of those words that has a very solid meaning. So it’s an exploration of that from a personal point of view. That sense of belonging in contrast of a sense of alienation, I suppose. The video itself was done by Phil Collins who ran with this idea of home and concentrated on a Roma community in Slovakia who are routinely discriminated and don’t have access to basic human needs. In this time of politics of division I guess it’s nice when you are privileged enough to have the *inaudible* to shine a light on people who don’t. So it’s again about visibility and remembering to look and not having that idea that you think you can comprehend what these people live through, because we can’t but we can at least care and stand in solidarity. There’s a lot of joy and dignity in it and a very human piece of work.
This was one of the first songs I’d written for the record. I actually started writing it when I was in France making the DRINKS record with Tim Presley. He went to the village to do some Jack Casinos and stuff and I stayed at home and wrote this song which I knew was definitely not a DRINKS song. So I kept it in the back of my mind. Then when I was in The Lakes I found it again on my phone and started to work it into a proper song. I’d written the synth parts, I wanted it to groove a bit and not shy away from the fact that it’s a slow pop song. It’s pretty instant, one of the most instant songs on the record.
Steve plays bass with flatwound strings and a little bit of Chorus on it. We made him play with his fingers, which sounded much better. Stella Mozgawa who plays drums is one of my best friends and fun to be with in the studio. You feel you can be wholly vulnerable in front of her, which is important to me. Then it just so happens that she’s one of my favourite drummers. Working with her in the studio, we possess almost shorthand vocabulary because she knows what I like and what I’m capable of. Also, she has absolutely zero ego, she just wants to serve the song and me. She plays with such control and yet within it, she’s notoric for this groove that exists in everything she does. She never waivers, she’s like a metronome and yet no feeling is ever lost in what she plays.”
– Cate Le Bon
”To be a Love Child is one the worst cards you can get in life. To be born perfect but one of your creators does not wanna know about your existence because of an off road gone wrong…”
26. Júníus Meyvant ”Love Child”
(from Across The Borders)
”Since I began creating music I have always liked tuning my instrument in different tunings. ‘Love Child’ was formed in one of those tunings. The word ‘Love Child’ came natural to the melody while I was strumming the song. I started thinking about how lucky I was to have good parents and to know my mom and dad. To be a Love Child is one the worst cards you can get in life. To be born perfect but one of your creators does not wanna know about your existence because of an off road gone wrong and by trying to delete all tire tracks he makes surroundings much worse.
Recording process was 90% trying to get the beat and tempo right. It started as a raw track only guitar and voice but turned into a bigger sound in all. We have three drum beats going on. I remember the day we got the Alto saxophone and Flute playing together, it changed the feeling of the song and took it another direction which i liked. ‘Love Child’ is one of those songs that is really hard to let go of because you wanna make them sound really good and in my mind you are never quite satisfied.”
– Júníus Meyvant
25. Hot Chip ”Spell”
(from A Bath Full Of Exstasy)
24. Angel Olsen ”Summer”
(from All Mirrors)
23. KAYTRANADA feat. VanJess ”DYSFUNCTIONAL”
”…to women owning their sexuality and being the aggressor in the relationship. The ability for her to be a boss and take time for her partner while making her bag. It’s about female prowess…”
22. Dawn Richard ”shades”
(from new breed)
”The record speaks to women owning their sexuality and being the aggressor in the relationship. The ability for her to be a boss and take time for her partner while making her bag. It’s about female prowess. All while the shades never leave the face.
The intro is my father and his band for the 70s Chocolate Milk. I wanted to expose vintage New Orleans Culture and the power of funk in my city. The riff and production is also samples from my fathers record ‘Say Wontcha’. I wanted to take New Orleans funk and add progressive electronic and soul elements. Push New Orleans sound to the future by exposing the beauty of the past.”
– Dawn Richard
”…we always had in our heads that we didn’t want the song just to be called ‘My Love’. Maybe we thought that was too simple. Probably there are 150 preexisting songs already called that…”
21. Whitney ”Valleys (My Love)”
(from Forever Turned Around)
Julien: “The basic foundational parts of the song, the melody and the chord progression, is usually what we start with. We started this one after a long, beautiful drive in Bitterroot Valley, Montana. That was the only show we’ve played in Montana too, so it was kind of special. We were staying at this big Airbnb that was super nice and had a basketball court, it was summertime, and everyone was running around. We would take breaks every now and then.”
Max: “I think that riff existed on an earlier demo in a higher octave, actually, that sounded a lot more destroyed, like a tape demo or something. Then we were recording it in Cotati with Jonathan Rado, that’s when I started playing it with a more arpeggiated riff. We were layering it more and there’s two guitars at the same time, on that does the arpeggio and the other does a simpler melody. That was a new thing to me because it’s pretty much all acoustic guitar, the only electric on that song is the guitar solo. Usually my leads are electric.
Julien: “With this record we were constantly in battle between overthinking stuff and trying not to, second-guessing whether we were overthinking it at all. The bottom line was that we always had in our heads that we didn’t want the song just to be called ‘My Love’. Maybe we thought that was too simple. Probably there are 150 preexisting songs already called that. We thought back to when the song first began to reveal itself after that beautiful drive, so ‘Valleys’ just made sense. That title was really last minute. Still happy with it, it’s a single so it’s obviously one of our favourite songs on the record. We also finished the lyrics last because the verses were really important to us, they were tough to write. It’s basically about peaks and valleys, ups and downs, after you make the decision to commit to either a romantic relationship, our band or whatever. We think that it’s some of our better poetry we’ve written.
Max: “Will Miller and Macie Stewart arranged the horns and strings. That was a tough one because the only thing that seemed to work was the one note during the chorus. We were trying to think of if we needed something more complicated. We kept that one string and let the main parts be in the second and third verses where they do the kind of bigger movements.”
– Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek