What a tremendous weekend - full to the brim it featured a wedding, a christening and barbecue. An undoubted highlight was the discussion in Leeds on Saturday night centred on choosing three songs that could be considered the best of the decade 2000-2010. Now being the type who enjoys such things I made a two CD selection reflecting the best of the decade at the turn of the year so I felt well equipped yet there is no denying that such a decision is tough. It was interesting that almost immediately two friends agreed on one inclusion. B.O.B. by Outkast is a choice that is hard to disagree with - it stills sounds as fresh and important today as on its release. It is sometimes easy to forget that Outkast have not always existed in the mainstream and this magnificent track shared an album with their major cross-over success Ms Jackson. Bob has a relentless urgency which in many ways was an apt dawn to a new age.
Of course it would be entirely remiss of me not to share my own thoughts on such a 'hot topic.' The chat took place two days ago now and I've had time to reflect but I confess to in no way having my choices set in stone. I fully expect to return to this blog in the future filled with rage at my decision - in some ways the perfect circle.
Anyway here goes:
Sigur Ros - Hoppipola
'Jumping into Puddles' as it is known in Iceland is perhaps the most offensively over-exposed piece of music in the last ten years. Only Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene can compete. Lazy television directors the world over have taken great pleasure in using it as the backing to many a tedious montage. Most disgracefully I remember it being used to commemorate Scottish Gargoyle Andy Murray edging past some poor Slovak in an early round of Wimbledon. If ever a piece of music did not reflect the context of its use it was there. The reason? This piece of music is stunningly beautiful. I will make my peace with those employed in the visual arts by applauding the use for the BBC Planet Earth series as in that case it really did tie in superbly with the subject matter it was used to promote. I've said on here before of my belief that music is about emotion and Hoppipola is a stunningly upliting work of art that is genuinely life affirming. I probably should be ashamed to say I purposefully chose to have it on my ipod when I watched the sun rise over Colca Canyon in Peru but I'm not. It is music for the soul. An area of music I gain a lot of pleasure from without having any level of knowledge about is Classical Music and Sigur Ros appear to have managed to create a moving, theatrical piece which had it been composed by Verdi or Puccini would be considered up there amongst their finest work. An honourable mention while I'm at it to Arcade Fire who I feel tread a simiar path and are very unfortunate not to make this list.
Ryan Adams - Elizabeth, You were born to play this part.
Yes I know, I'm predictable. The inclusion of a Ryan track was a given but the choice might be a little more surprising. The album 29 it comes from was not the receipient of heavy critical acclaim - in fact in some quarters it was given something of a slating. Quite incredible when you consider that it contains for my money, the finest love song of the last ten years. Elizabeth certainly isn't a conventional tale of love; the narrator does not live happy ever after, in fact he appears to live a tortured existent frozen in a state of utter love that cannot be reciprocated. The feeling of losing someone is hard enough when you still feel so deeply for them, but to know in your heart that it is irreversible is simply interminable. The song to me is about heartbreak and lost love but this doesn't necessarily mean love between two adults. Adams himself has suggested the song was inspired by close friends losing their baby. A dark, painful experience articulated described by Ben Folds in the astonishingly personal Brick . Adams communicates this hugely complex emotion so effectively I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a bit tearful during more than one listen. Blue Sky blues from the same album and Shadowlands have a similar impact but it is the simplicity of Elizabeth which sets it apart. The verse is emotion laid bare, the words are not particularly clever but are searingly honest. The chorus is pure heartbreak:
Wherever you are, I hope you're happy now
I'm caught in a dream and I can't get out
I'm caught in an endless dream
And I'm not strong enough to let you go
It takes you to the brink and then offers an enchanting lilting outro. My words simply don't do it justice. Genius.
Now for a third and final choice. There are several magnificent songs that spring to mind that; Transatlanticism by DCFC takes some beating, Landlocked Blues is Conor Oberst's finest moment and Rise up with Fists by Jenny Lewis is a glorious impassioned rail against hypocrisy. However I can't help feel I'm in danger of representing a whole decade as a melancholic struggle of self-doubt when in fact it was the most fun I've ever had! So with that in mind I'll leave this blog with a song that is pure pleasure. The reaction of a good friend's normally restrained brother was testament to the power of music to turn a composed, grown man back into a 4 year old boy on a bouncy castle.
Here's the performance in question. Enjoy.
If you don't disagree in some way you are downright strange so please leave a comment and let me know your views.