1999 “So Much Love”, Home–In one song they simply, effortlessly trumped every card Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips had in their hands. Just a wonderful artifact of brilliantly damaged artpop.
2000 “Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”, New Pornographers–So easy to overlook a song like this now, but back then? Holy crap, remember the first time you heard that goofy-ass keyboard? Barely beats out Neko’s vocal on “Letter From An Occupant”. Barely.
2001 “Sublimation Hour”, Destroyer–Maybe one of the most perfect rock and roll songs ever, Dan Bejar has never come close to living up to the potential promised by this track (or the album it came on, for that matter.) When the song roars into the final verse and he sings “There’s a rumor goin’ round even Destroyers have a price!” and just tries to windmill the strings right off his guitar…well, words fail.
2002 “Poor Places” Wilco The climactic moment on one of the best albums of the last decade, with Jay Bennett’s haunting piano serving as the focal point of every that makes this record so great. Wilco has a lot going for it with a guy like Nels Cline on guitar…but they will never ever have this again.
2003 “Amphetamine”, Steve Wynn It’d be one thing to have a band this completely shit hot playing out a 6-minute eargasming jam. It’d be one thing to have a song written by a 43-year-old guy spitting right in the face of Father Time and daring him to come take his fucking guitar off him. When this gets to the final verse “Yeah you gotta be cool/You gotta behave/but there’ll be time for that when I’m quiet in my grave” and then the final coda of “Oh yeah! Well I’m gonna fly/Yeah I’m gonna live until the day I die”…well, fuckyeah. Best guitar song in, like forever (why isn’t this song in Guitar Hero?) too–Jason Victor and Steve Wynn just blow the roof off your head here while tiny Linda Pitmon proves that she’s maybe one of the best drummers of any gender playing rock and roll.
2004 “Feel So Good” Eric Ambel I was in my biggest Rolling Stones phase ever when this nugget hit back in 2004. Ambel–who was the lead guitarist in The Del Lords and Steve Earle’s band The Dukes just lays out an awesome “Tumbling Dice”-sounding slab of brilliance here.
2005, “Our Time Is Coming Soon”, The High Dials It bums me out that this Montreal band can’t seem to put it all together in one album, but there are no bands on the planet that hit the high points as high as these guys do. Epic in every sense of the word (yes, Troy Goodfellow, I’m using it correctly!), the whole thing is just breathtaking, from the two-chord melody to the sitar break on the bridge to the amazing snare fill that closes the song with the ascending guitar figure…still gives me goosebumps and I can guarantee I’ve listened to this song at least 20,000 times in my life.
2006, “Old School vs. Liberty Girls”, The Weather Machines
2007 “Two Times”, The Blakes In a music world filled with heavily-eyelinered mopes sporting $200 haircuts professing pain and “emo”, The Blakes tear down that whole ridiculous house of cards within about 30 seconds of this song. Hear those vocals? That’s what anger, sadness, rage, and pain sounds like.
2008, “Killer Of Dragons”, The High Dials Because I still think this song helped me land my girlfriend who is totally out of my league otherwise, that’s why. John Cusack totally could’ve had this blasting out of his boombox in “Say Anything” instead of Peter Gabriel.