I’m typically one of those guys you see on the train who always has their headphones on. I know some folks feel you gotta take the headphones off and experience the world, but personally there’s no better moment to my day than when I flip on the noise reduction button on my headphones as the train pulls out of the station. The sound of the engines gets sucked out of my earholes and is replaced with music from my favorite new album and I know that I have nothing to worry about for the next 25 minutes.
If someone were to ask me to list my all-time favorite songs, I can usually spit out a top ten with no hesitation. The thing I never realized is how much harder it is to make a top ten list when you actually have time to think about it.
I sat down and typed out 10 songs right off the top of my head. Done, right? I thought so, and still with time to catch an early train. So I put on my headphones and briskly walked down Mission Street. By the time I reached the BART station I had 3 more songs to add to the list. By the end of the day I had an additional 12. Everywhere I went I was reminded of something that “just had to be included”. I’d hear a terrible Stevie Wonder song and think “I should include something from Talking Book” and so forth.
A few days later I enforced a “no more songs” policy and began whittling my list back down to 10. I’ll be honest; some songs didn’t make the list because they just didn’t sound right… I mean, I have a huge personal affinity for Why?’s “Broken Crow”, but could I play that song for you and expect you to have the same emotional connection that I did when I first heard it ten years ago? Probably not… so here’s my list of ten songs that I love and you should too.
Why my Sound Souvenirs
Life Death – Mikah
Seriously one of my favorite hip hop tracks of all time. I first heard Prefuse 73′s remix of this track and kind of ignored it… but my mind was blown when I finally heard the original. While the remix had a classic glitchy Prefuse sound, it didn’t leave any space for the vocals to breathe. That’s why I love Daddy Kev’s original “click track” version. The minimal remains barebones, with Mikah’s melodic versus keep the song moving. The lyrics alternate between normal and double time, then the song ends with a few unexpected bars of beat juggling, which might actually be my favorite part.
Desks Pencils Bottles – Prefuse 73
This song so perfectly defines the Prefuse 73 sound. Acoustic sounds, chopped up and glitched out with that MPC swing that defined an era of hip hop. Rather than digging through crates, Prefuse chops up everyday objects, and creates this infectious beat. To further elaborate on some of the sounds use, the song could be called “Desks Pencils Bottles Beatboxers and a Cat”.
Reformat the Planet – Bit Shifter
I should possibly take a moment to define what chiptune music is, right? Chiptune is music made using vintage computing or video gaming systems. It’s the nostalgic sounds off of Gameboys or Commodore64′s, but with modern sensibilities. Many artists are defined simply as chiptune artist, in that they make music following these guidelines, but Bit Shifter is not just a chip musician. Bit Shifter is an insanely talented musician that happens to make music with Gameboys. This song is his anthem.
Bucephalus Bouncing Ball – Aphex Twin
This was the first Aphex Twin track I ever heard. It was also the exact moment when I realized everything I believed I knew about sampling was wrong. I was young and dumb and thought sampling literally meant “taking someone else’s chorus and looping it”. To hear what a musician could pull off with just one short sound and a sampler was hugely inspirational. I went from a guitar head to a wannabe electronic artist in the span of just 4 minutes.
Bad As They Seem – Hayden
This song opens with the best chord ever. The guitar string is tuned so low you can hear it slapping against the fretboard. It sounds so heavy, like a secret waiting to be told. Hayden’s gravelly voice and straight forward lyrics are pitch perfect on this track.
Natural One – Folk Implosion
In retrospect, the best part of the Kids movie was the soundtrack. The album featured tracks by Slint and the (still) relatively obscure Lo Down Click, but it was Folk Implosion’s sound that pulled the soundtrack together. Lou Barlow’s vocals sound so perfect on top of this sloppy drum loop and bass line, it’s ridiculous.
The Girl From Ipanema – Stan Getz
It’s weird how this song can simultaneously be the definition of “laid back cool” and “cheesy elevator muzac” at the same time. It’s one of those tracks where it’s hard to imagine how unique it was at the time. Though Getz’s sax playing is so expressive on this track, my heart always melts when I hear Astrud’s first verse. This is always my go-to karaoke track.
Daylight – Aesop Rock
Aesop Rock and Blockhead are a winning team. This song is some of their best work together. It’s just a classic track. I remember hating Aesop’s delivery when I first heard it, but it kept getting shaped into something really unique and listenable as the years went by. This track just pulls everything so nicely together, a great beat and a truly unique voice coming together and creating a unique new sound.
Sabotage – Beastie Boys
Like most folks, my favorite Beastie Boys album is the first one I heard. I missed Paul’s Boutique when it came out, but I remember seeing that insane Spike Lee video for Sabotage and being blown away. The whole album is great, but this is really the perfect Beastie Boys track. Considering the success of this song, I was always surprised the Beastie Boys didn’t just try to mimic its sound on subsequent albums. They could have lead the rock/rap wave, but l’m glad they didn’t. The Beastie Boys are one of those few bands that continued to make new and interesting music even a decade later.
Very Busy People – Limousines
A loveably earnest and catchy dance song. I can totally imagine these guys hanging out, practicing their Photoshop skills and sarcastically talking about how busy they are.
Doctor Popular is a musician and video game designer who lives in San Francisco. He spends too much time making art and things on his phone and he even runs an iPhone photography blog called www.ObjectiveScenes.com.