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.
The Walkmen “Wake Up”
from Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone
The first track on The Walkmen’s debut EP, “Wake Up” served as one jaw-dropping introduction to the New York band. Having earned a tidy bit of hype from having three ex-members of Jonathan Fire*Eater, The Walkmen may not have emerged from nowhere, but their wintry, frosted, anachronistic garage rock sound certainly could have. Blending post-punk style guitars with a twinkly, old-timey sounding piano, “Wake Up” is one truly strange song, even now, seven years after the group first introduced it.
That strangeness is partly what makes “Wake Up” such a compelling track. While the elements may seem disparate, they come together as something harmonious and enchanting, but with a fierce kick that stuns on impact. Hamilton Leithauser describes a vague, dystopian scenario (“out of a station through my radio/ nothing’s on it/ like a joke that’s told without its final line/ where’s it going?“) over a choppy, abrasive guitar, only to drift into a dramatically restrained chorus. Leithauser gently croons “I’m trying…” just before the big climactic crash, and he belts out the titular wake up call. “Wake Up” is most captivating during its spare, metronomic piano breakdown, sounding eerie, gorgeous and catchy at the same time, laying a haunting bed for Leithauser’s cynicism in lines like “we’re choking to live.” The group’s icy garage rock began to thaw eventually, but they still sound strongest within arm’s reach of a blizzard. – Jeff Terich
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.