The decade has almost come to an end. And of course, you know what that means-lists, `best ofs’ and all kinds of general retrospective features and columns. Treble is no exception, hard at work on figuring out the best albums and singles of the past nine years. Yet, before we get into albums and singles, we’re taking a look at the best non-single tracks to emerge since the Y2K scare proved to be a non-event. Every week we’ll be highlighting a handful of our favorite tracks of the decade, so keep checking back to hear about what songs remained on repeat on our iPods, CD players, tape decks and turntables since Jan. 1, 2000.
TV on the Radio – “Ambulance”
from Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes (Touch & Go)
Listeners were treated to a surprise a cappella version of The Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves” on TV on the Radio’s debut EP, Young Liars, an unexpected treat that not only served as a brilliant re-working of the original, but as an aspect of TVOTR’s musical persona that was only hinted at on the four preceding tracks. A few months later, however, and Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s vocal harmonization would ultimately come to form the best song on the group’s full-length debut.
“Ambulance,” musically, is a gorgeous and haunting tune, built solely around voices and free from the fuzzy, enormous production characteristic of most of the band’s other songs. It’s a slow build, kicking off with Adebimpe’s bassline of “dum-dum-dums” and gradually adding layers upon layers of beautiful harmonization. These bare, reverb-laden voices could be singing about anything, really, and it would still be a beautiful song. And yet the lyrics duel with the arrangement for the song’s most intriguing aspect, as Adebimpe likens love and companionship to a grisly auto wreck (“I will be your screech and crash/ if you will be my crutch and cast“). It’s a touching if completely bizarre sentiment. And there’s no other song like it.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.