2006, Part one

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“No Children”
by The Mountain Goats
from Tallahassee

One artist that has sorely been neglected for our “Best Song Ever” feature is The Mountain Goats, also known in most realms as John Darnielle. Darnielle, for the majority of his career, has been a firm advocate of lo-fi recording and has had very few accomplices, but then again, nothing’s wrong with change, and that’s what the LP Tallahassee represents and is for The Mountain Goats, being the first album using more than just Darnielle and occasionally Rachel Ware, and also the most professional recording at that point. The album follows a common motif in Darnielle’s career, the crumbling marriage and life of the Tennessee Williams-esque Alpha couple. The climax of this concept album is the track “No Children.” This track describes the night when the long standing Alphas finally let loose their obvious feelings about each other in a heated argument of self-destruction. The backing piano by collaborator Franklin Bruno perfectly compliments Darnielle’s ever present raw acoustic guitar, with a pace and tempo of pure catharsis. The lyrics aptly illustrate the glaring paradoxes in the Alpha couple’s relationship and the last lines:

I am drowning
There is no sign of land
You are coming down with me
Hand in unlovable hand
And I hope you die
I hope we both die

It is one of the most poignant songs of a long studied topic, and surely the pinnacle of the Alpha. – Paul Bozzo

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The Mountain Goats

“Yer So Bad”
by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
from Full Moon Fever

The old adage goes that the grass is always greener on the other side. We all stare at our neighbors’ lawns from time to time and try to figure out what their secret is. Miracle Gro? Astroturf? Proper lawn hydration? The world may never know. But what’s even better than sulking about our own lawns, is finding a brown patch in somebody else’s. It may sound cold, but it’s an ancient practice that is reflected in art, literature, and song. Schadenfreude without actually being funny. Sometimes, anyway. On “Yer So Bad,” Tom Petty looks over the fence at his sister’s lawn only to realize just how good he’s got it and, in the process, creates the perfect pop song. The plodding rhythm of the verses and the breakout chorus immediately make “Yer So Bad” endearing and Petty’s scratchy cords make even the most awful of singers (read: me) feel like they can keep up. “But not me, baby / I’ve got to you save me / Aw, yer so bad / The best that I ever had,” Petty sings, giving whole new meaning to the negative adjective in the title. Due to the fact that there are only two verses that need memorizing and the chorus has a simple AABBBB rhyme scheme, it has been scientifically proven that this song will get stuck in your head. But if you’re going to have any song in your head, it might as well be the greatest song about lawn care ever written. – Molly B. Eichel

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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Full Moon Fever - Yer So Bad

“Citi Soleil”
by The Afghan Whigs
from 1965

This song is another of those repeaters, the type you play over and over again because it’s impossible to keep it out of your head. You play it in the car, you sing it in the shower, you find yourself humming it at work while tilting and swirling in your swivel chair. You can’t be certain, but you’re pretty sure you sing it in your sleep as well. “Citi Soleil” builds on soft, nylon string strumming, the type you’d hear on a lazy Parisian afternoon as the sun streams down into the communal courtyard. The momentum builds as Greg Dulli’s voice stretches itself through the pre-chorus where the rhythm section kicks in. And then we’re off into the chorus, a shot of soulful adrenaline and endless optimism like that sunshine isn’t ever going to end and if it does, there’ll be streaking city lights illuminating the nighttime streets. And all the while Dulli enthusiastically sings that everything is going to be all right, you join the triumph of the choir, and belt along “Ooh, child, I’ll meet you child.” – Hubert Vigilla

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The Afghan Whigs - 1965 - Citi Soleil

“Town Called Malice”
by The Jam
from The Gift

Ah, the strange mix of Margaret Thatcher, Paul Weller, and Motown. Good music makes some strange bedfellows, doesn’t it? “Town Called Malice” treks through the desperation of Thatcher-era England, but does it with a skip and a hop and a bop-bop-bop thanks to Weller’s songwriting. Weller sings of some stark images over the swinging, hand-clapping music. There are housewives clutching empty milk bottle to their hearts, misbegotten playground swings, lost laughter in the breeze. Yet there’s still some hope in all this mire and murk in the first verse and last lines of the song. Sure, life may be in the pisser and time may be short, but rather than dwell on how bad things are, it’s time to deal with it, make a change, and put some joy back into this wicked state of affairs. I’ll do my best to do just that, Mr. Weller, given our country’s current political climate. But first, lemme just finish dancing in this town called malice. – Hubert Vigilla

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The Jam - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Jam (Remastered) - Town Called Malice

“When the Stars Go Blue”
by Ryan Adams
From Gold

When Ryan Adams feels like it, he can write one truly amazing, even perfect, song. His Gold album contained quite a few of these flawless diamonds (and two or three not-so-flawless ones), “Where The Stars Go Blue” being my personal favorite, and eventually a smash hit, only not for Adams. Almost immediately after its release, The Corrs, with Bono, covered the song to adult-contemporary pop chart success, and more recently, Tim McGraw covered it on a live network special. Still, Adams and Lost Highway Records never actually released the song as a single, despite the proof that it’s certified hit material. And it’s no question why: simple lyrics, a catchy melody, and a vague, yet sweet sentiment. It’s not quite a love song, but it’s not not a love song either. But when Adams sings, “Where do you go when you’re lonely? / I’ll follow you,” just before breaking into the gorgeous, unbearably infectious chorus, you can’t help but get the warm and fuzzies, and a general sense that everything’s going to be alright. – Jeff Terich

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Ryan Adams - Gold - When the Stars Go Blue

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