Monday, March 7, 2016

Top 100 Songs Of All-Time, 10-1

Music has rapidly become the most important thing in my life, and only partly because of the rise of this blog. It provides me with inspiration, sources of understanding, contemptment, etc., you name it there's a track, an artist, an album that gives me that feeling. Along with the rise of my musical interests came an increasing habit of creating lists, rankings, ratings, and everything that makes the creative force that is music mundane. Regardless, doing said analysis leads me to developing further understanding of each aspect of music as I typically provide write-ups to each piece. In comes my top 100 tracks of all-time. Updated yearly, this list gives my fellow readers a perfect sense of how my musical scope has formed, the sporadic nature of its evolution, and the diversity it further engulfs itself in. Each Monday I'll post one part of this ten part series, leading up to my overall top 10. 

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Cut Chemist | The Garden | The Audience's Listening | 2006

He may be DJ Shadow's lesser known contemporary, working with him on the tables in some facets, while also being the backbone of the now-defunct Jurassic 5, but Cut Chemist is entirely capable of making striking works of musical fidelity on his own. Case in point, off his only LP The Audience's Listening, 'The Garden,' a track pushing so many genres past their threshold, effectively making something truly label-less. At its heart it's Turntablism, his roots, but nestled underneath is Hip-Hop, Plunderphonics, Big Beat, and soft Samba-Jazz. The rustic vocal sample of Astrud Giberto is given fresh life, sparked by rabidly strumming acoustic guitars and hard-hitting drums and bass, that drives this track into a cacophony of bliss that never lets up. The rest of The Audience's Listening aims to branch out even more, dipping its toes in everything McFadden can get his hands on, but 'The Garden' stands strong at its epicenter. The way the strings fiddle between sputtering drums, endless vocals, foreign bells and whistles, and woozy scratching provides the listener with a getaway to a foreign land where, upon revisiting, you'll find something new every time. And as the crackling children's choir hollering "Here we go!" towards the tracks finale, bringing about one final send-off, it's clear 'The Garden's' presence as Cut Chemist's best work is honest, exemplary, and hard felt. 

Viktor Vaughn | Saliva | Vaudeville Villain | 2003

It may have been only one song but the formidable pairing of MF DOOM and RJD2 was too good to be true, and yet, despite how good it looked on paper, how it came out was even better. 'Saliva's' my favorite MF DOOM track largely because it fails to do anything beneath exemplary, but I can see why others may rate other, more provocative tracks higher. But for a quick two and a half minutes 'Saliva' throttles the already grand Vaudeville Villain into interplanetary status, a confirming track to the greatness that is DOOM. No gimmicks, no matter how whacked out they are, and no flashy production, just DOOM's primal talents spitting over RJD2's legendary horns and drums. His atmospheric edge, with spacious samples, fits Viktor Vaughn, not DOOM, perfectly, which, more than anything else, shows off just how versatile DOOM is despite his narrow tonality. 'Saliva' also works to showcase DOOM as a top tier street lyricist, able to thwart emcees with braggadocios rhymes whilst also introducing originality and flavor to bars that'll typically be one-dimensional. Case in point, "quit your bitchin, or get *BLAUW* in your babble-box, punishment for drysnitchin', so now eat this Travel Fox." A truly ravaging song from an artist not afraid to excel in boundaries neatly set while pushing his own. 

Blue Sky Black Death | Sky With Hand | NOIR | 2011

By all accounts, at least according to the stats on this list, this track is officially my favorite closer of all-time. Damn if it doesn't hold up to that lofty assessment too, because 'Sky With Hand' is honestly one of the most ambitious instrumental tracks ever and a capper to the criminally ignored NOIR that takes every part of what made each piece great and threw it into one seven minute masterpiece. NOIR, as is the case with a lot of collective Downtempo works, has a way of encapsulating the sounds into images, the cover a precise measurement of the ambient textures residing beneath. While not as innovative an album this and Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children work splendidly as antithetical, both in sound and visionary style. But where that album's best track fits masterfully into two and a half minutes, NOIR's gargantuan send-off takes place over seven breathtaking minutes. 'Sky With Hand' has an affinity with moving through movements, as one piece signals the next, seamlessly bouncing through each. It starts off with chimes, hardened drums, and echoing vocals. Over the course of its seven minutes though it includes a litany of synths, flutes, keyboards, strings, field recordings of seagulls, children choirs, samples, and complex IDM processing. So, in other words, it's a song you have to hear and one that puts Blue Sky Black Death's 'elevator music' labelling to shame, conjoining so many vibrant works into one rousing journey that never settles for anything less than greatness. 

Kendrick Lamar | Cartoon & Cereal | N/A | 2012

It's a travesty 'Cartoon & Cereal' will never have a home, lost amongst Kendrick's lauded albums due to sample clearance issues likely brought upon by the Elmer Fudd sample lingering underneath the surface. Because, at the end of the day, while other works of Lamar's will likely get more shine nothing is as bombastic as 'Cartoon & Cereal,' an atmospherical gem that borrows influences from so many corners of Hip-Hop. On one hand it's Trap, on the other it's Conscious, burgeoning within the seams, it's Experimental. There's so much occurring, from the radio static interspersing childhood cartoons, to a tale of growing up in a vicious sandbox, to gunshots over a tectonic bass, the freely released track takes all the risks, organizing chaos in a grotesquely contained seven minutes. It's a brutal, deep, riveting, lyrical banger, a rare sight to behold in Hip-Hop now-a-days when all the stars align. And while Kendrick's two verses by no means fail to live up to his standards, and are rightfully some of his best, Gunplay, coming seemingly out of nowhere with an emotional attachment that's unfathomable persistent, steals the show towards its finale, still to date the only time someone equaled Lamar on a lyrically-focused track. 

Blue Scholars | Joe Metro | Bayani | 2007

One of the greatest in-the-moment storytelling songs ever crafted. 'Joe Metro' dives listeners into a vivid representation of the Seattle bus life and all the walking caricatures you'll see. Thanks to Geo's flawless four minutes of rapping normal passer-byer's turn into life-altering examinations on the self. It's one of Hip-Hop's rawest, most poetic tracks, filled with dense imagery, fluid rhyme schemes, and a flow that breathlessly weaves in and out of the drums and haunting chants. Just scanning the lyric sheet one would be fooled into thinking its the scribblings of a poet bored on the rain-drenched streets of Seattle, observing what's around them, bearing witness to the diversity of humanity. 'Joe Metro' also acts as a rallying call to social injustice, commenting on the disparity a simple bus ride offers, residing somewhere where it's the "only place left where majority is brown-faced." And while the track acts as a beautiful acknowledgment of the inner-workings of Seattle, sparking reaction of the listeners who were bred there, 'Joe Metro' gives to those who remain disconnected, weaving a tale so real, so complex, so awe-inspiring, that one, no matter where they're raised, can appreciate its insight. Often it's the case that the best works of art to commentate on large walks of life come from one's obsessed with minute details, 'Joe Metro' is no different. 

Outkast | B.O.B | Stankonia | 2000

It's arguably the most bombastic five minutes in all of Hip-Hop. In 'B.O.B' Andre and Big Boi whizz through Southern Hip-Hop, Political Rap, Soul, Gospel, Funk, and ElectroPop, the latter a complete unknown to Hip-Hop at that time. With vicious guitars, tribal drums, and wirey synthesizers setting the foundation for the early portion, 'B.O.B' starts with a panic-induced fervor. From then it only escalates, weaving through political strife, social dilemmas, and cultural commentaries through Outkast's near-trademarked Southern slang and flow. Released in the year 2000 'B.O.B.' did more than its fair share of predictions, stretching past the aptly named title. Big Boi recounts an age of social media outpour, Andre recalls the ongoing problems in Atlanta, while the finale foresees the revival of Electronic music in Hip-Hop during the 21st century. It was a perfect song to witness the turn of the century and everything that came with it, with deep messages matched by truly revolutionary music, Outkast's grandest statement cemented themselves as legends in the musical realm.

People Under The Stairs | Acid Raindrops | O.S.T. | 2002

"Out on the porch." It's the greatest Mister Rogers sample, that's for sure. The way he opens the track, with the crackling of the vinyl behind him, the shuffling of feet, and the cool summer breeze of that LA weather comes rushing in you know you're in for one hell of a treat. I can picture it all in my head now and it's beautiful, climaxing the second the hushed, hollow drums pitter patter their way in. To many in the know, what's soon to follow is some of underground Hip-Hop's best work, a bonafide classic from the get go. And apart from the reggae-influenced 'O.S.T.' featuring Odell there is no other rapping feature on the album, making Camel MC's first verse that much more impactful. Long story short, it's one of the greatest I've ever heard, a picturesque landscape of what it takes to make 16 bars. The flow and beat are two peas in a pod, his lyrical fluidity is dense yet filled with one-liners, and the overall vibe is one that just doesn't up and leave you after the track ends. It's only fitting he carries over his verse into the chorus, joining Thes One and Double K for a hook that stoners still recite to this day.

RJD2 | Ghostwriter | Deadringer | 2002

A timeless classic in the world of instrumentals, 'Ghostwriter,' for what it sets out to do, is perfection. It's simple, elegant, driven, clean, and undeniably memorable. On the surface it isn't even that exceptional, just a few strumming acoustics, layered vocals, and blaring horns encompass the bulk of the song. But the beauty held within the beast that is RJD2's grand opus is found in its finer details. It's still being debated but there's a large chance the entire track, like a portion of D.J Shadow's music or The Avalanches' Since I Left You, is entirely sampled, making its flawless cohesion even more remarkable. The soft ahh's cooing over the guitars sound like someone strumming along trying to find a rhythm. The drum work midway through envisions a drummer attempting to mix things up whilst still trailing alongside the guitarist. And the horns, oh those beautiful horns, signaling the chorus play out like a second hand touring member blowing up for his one spot in the limelight. And yet, each portion was hand selected from different artists in different years in different studios creating different genres. And just as the track begins to wind down that voice slipping in and out finally breaks free, soulfully hollering "I feel...all I know" before joining the horns in one last hooray.

Mint Royale | Show Me | Dancehall Places | 2001

I haven't heard anything that's bested it, so as of right now Mint Royale's stroke of genius 'Show Me' is the happiest, most positive, glee-filled song I've ever heard. Leave it to an aging member of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age, Posdnuos of De La Soul, to join the UK duo on the ride, surrounded by thumping bass from the Big Beat era, ritualistic chants from Southern Africa, and a dash of nostalgic dust. For the longest time the sample that dominates the chorus, and the song, was lost to the Internet masses until the 1976 'Sesiya Hamba' was unearthed, the warmth radiating from its origins not lost on Mint Royale's remaking. In fact, while it loses the wholesomeness it gathers storm in joyful procession, easily conjuring sonic ecstasy with three minutes of absolute fidelity. And by Mint Royale's purposes there was no better choice to play role of rap facilitator than Pos, leading the passages with his forever-indelible brand of positive-breathing verses that toy with listeners' butterfly's and ease tension. 'Show Me' is a brilliant expose of music for the sake of making music, and doing it with love, passion, and feeling.

Röyksopp | Röyksopp Forever | Junior | 2009

Well, we made it. It took me months but I've finally written up descriptions of every one of my top 100 tracks of all-time. And we land where I knew we always would, my bonafide #1, Röyksopp's manifesto. It is the closest thing I've heard to perfection, an opus, collected in a five minute time slot, on how to master pacing, progression, construction, deconstruction, etc, you name it, 'Röyksopp Forever' has it in spades. And yet, as should be the case with everyone's #1, it lands itself here because of a personal emotional tug. Without getting mealymouthed, the year was 2010 and my life was expected to turn upside down. At that time Röyksopp's masterpiece had a firm grasp on the #1 but it was still shaky in parts. Well, whilst driving to my life-altering event, with the looming fear beginning to subside in my head before I begun to jinx myself, this song, out of roughly 3,000 put to shuffle, came on. It was a catastrophically gorgeous moment as I swelled with tears of joy, driving down the highway, knowing everything was going to be alright since my #1 sped on the second I began to think the best was coming. It goes without saying the track itself is brilliant too, but with the emotional attachment I fostered looming over its concentrated strings, keyboard shifts, and climatic drums, 'Röyksopp Forever' becomes ever more beautiful. It's a track that takes musicianship over human history, merging the synthetic with the organic, and attempts to condense it into five minutes, causing a rift and a sonic breakdown that's breathtaking for all the right reasons.

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1


  1. I enjoyed your list. Very obscure choices, but I commend you for it... to a certain extent. In fact, it forced my hand, as I actually had to look into some of these songs. The fact that I've worked in the music industry for 30 years should demonstrate how obscure some of these choices were, and that obscurity from the mainstream of conscious musical discoveries was therefore missed. What I mean is: these songs might not have had a strong enough impact on the world to be classified as 'best of all time'.
    I won't dive into semantics by arguing that these aren't the 'Top 100 songs of all time' but your 'Favorite 100 songs of all time' -- it doesn't matter at all, as it's a subjective list either way. That being said, good work.

    - p. s.

    1. You are absolutely right and it was pretty naive of me to label the list as such. The whole time it really was my top 100, just from personal opinion and experiences, so I should've been clear. Apologies.

      But on the other hand I'm glad you enjoyed it! Happy to let you experience some new tunes after being in the industry for so long.