Ang K (@superflange) – #essential20
My essential 20 songs hey? Almost the impossible task. After many tears, stomping of feet and much gnashing of teeth I finally got there. All of these songs are the songs I can listen to on repeat and still want to hear again after 20 consecutive listens. You know the ones. Unfortunately this means that some of my favourite artists aren’t on this list, but the task was favourite songs so I had to go with my gut. The first half of the list comprises of what I like call “angsty, shouty sing-alongs”. Is there anything better than cranking the music and bass as high as it will go and singing along with as much gusto as you can muster as you drive down the freeway? All my best dancing is done in the driver’s seat of my car. The rest of the playlist are what I like to call my “word nerd” songs. I’m a sucker for a good lyric and a pretty melody. I hope you find something here you like that you otherwise may never have heard before.
Interloper – Mark of Cain (Ill At Ease)
My younger brother and older sister played a lot of this kind of music when I was in my teens. It was never really my kind of music but there was something special about the album ‘Ill at Ease’. The first two minutes of this song is like 3 songs in one… and that’s before there are any lyrics. It’s insane how these boys get such a big sound with just guitar, bass and drums. They really never got the acclaim they deserved. One of my favourite songs to air drum too. Listen and let your inner bogan loose.
Favourite lyric: “I let you know everything about me / So how the fuck didn’t you know?”
Berlin Chair – You Am I (Sound As Ever)
This may very well be the quintessential 90s Australian song. Also the greatest 90s Australian film clip. Don’t pretend you haven’t put this track on and danced around your lounge room like mirrorball guy. Such a great rocking melody and so many potential misheard lyrics. Hands up if you sing “If you wait, I’ll give all my ‘eggs’ to you” instead of ‘aches’. Timmy Rogers was never one to write straightforward lyrics, but I think that’s why I love him so much. My favourite band of the 90s.
Favourite lyric: “I’ll ignore each golden, dragging kiss you can give / On the blankest face that you ever had to forgive”
Web in Front – Archers of Loaf (Icky Mettle)
I first heard this on Triple J back in 1994 where Michael Tunn used to play it all the time. I was 15. This song sums up everything I love about slacker rock. Pavement are a favourite but this always wins out. The perfect two minute pop song.
Favourite lyric: “You’re not the one who let me down, but thanks for offering”
Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young (Everybody Knows This is Nowhere)
I was a bit late to the Neil Young bandwagon, only hearing this album once I turned 30. When I listen to this I can hear how so many bands I love must’ve listened to it on repeat. The lead guitar sounds like it’s stright from the mid 90s. The little ‘woo’ at 2:10 and the last 20 seconds make me so so happy.
Favourite Lyric: “Ten silver saxes, a bass with a bow / The drummer relaxes and waits between shows / For his cinnamon girl”
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run)
I couldn’t have an Essential 20 without Springsteen in there somewhere. I’m a big fan of his more folky/troubadour stuff. I’m not usually a fan of over-produced songs but every bit of this is perfect. Springsteen is a brilliant storyteller and his vocal delivery here is so damn earnest and bang on. When he sings those ‘wooooaaahhs’, you’d better believe it.
Favourite Lyric: “Because tramps like us, baby we were born to run”
The Ocean – Tegan and Sara (Sainthood)
I’ve always been a Tegan and Sara fan. I’ve loved watching their progression from folk, to rock, to pop. The one thing that has always been constant in their music is their ability to write hooky melodies, which just happen to be my favourite kind of melody. I also love how they wear every ounce of their angsty self on their sleeves unapologetically. C’mon, admit it. You’ve sung along to ‘Nineteen’ at the top of your lungs. “Caaaallllll meeeeee”. This song is one of the most perfect pop-rock songs I’ve heard. As much as I love Sara’s quirky stuff I do love Tegan’s straight forward pop-rock the best.
Favourite lyric: “When your bed is empty, do you really sleep alone?”
Weighty Ghost – Wintersleep (Welcome to the Nightsky)
I actually discovered Wintersleep and the album ‘Welcome to the Night Sky’ through an interview with Sara Quin where she mentioned it as one of the albums she was listening to. I checked out a few songs on YouTube and instantly fell in love. This whole album is super strong, start to finish. The lyrics can be a bit high school poetry at times but musically it’s really solid. It fast became one my top ten albums. This song gets the nod here because who doesn’t love jangly guitars, sing-a-long choruses and a rat-a-tat beat?
Favourite lyric: “A ghost just needs a home”
Roscoe – Midlake (The Trials of Vanoccupanther)
I had almost forgotten how brilliant this song was until my old mate Clayton Bolger recommended that I check out ‘The Trials of Vanoccupanther’ when I was asking for album recommendations on twitter. I had always loved this song but never caught the title or who sung it. I love songs that tell a story and the driving bass and beat in this just takes it to another level. I do like a sexy bass line.
Favourite line: “Whenever I was a child I wondered what if my name had changed into something more productive like Roscoe”
Everything’s in its Right Place – Radiohead (Kid A)
It’s a big call picking your favourite Radiohead song. ‘The Bends’ will always be my favourite album but there was something really captivating about ‘Kid A’ when it was released. There was nothing else like it at the time and after ‘OK Computer’ we were all waiting to see what they would do next. I loved the fact that ‘Kid A’ had minimal guitar. The mantra like lyrics. The choppy vocals. The driving synths. It was perfect. The lyric “everything in its right place” is definitely a mantra of sorts for me. When things start feeling unstuck or heading in the wrong direction this is the song I find myself repeating over and over in my head.
Favourite lyric: “Everything in its right place”….. Obvs
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac (Rumours)
My dad must have played ‘Rumours’ a lot when I was a kid because it’s one of those albums I’ve never intentionally listened to but know so very well. This is such a dreamy pop song, with a brilliant bass line to boot. And Stevie Nicks is a total babe.
Favourite lyric: “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know”
Blind Love – Tom Waits (Rain Dogs)
I’d be hard pressed to do an Essential 20 Tom Waits songs, so it was agony having to pick one. I chose Blind Love because there’s something about this song musically that always makes me happy. The lead guitar and fiddle are so so good. Lyrically it has all the things I love about Waits. He is the king of one liners, which makes it’s hard to pick one favourite line… so instead you get the first verse
Favourite lyric: “Now you’re gone, and it’s hotels and whiskey and sad-luck dames / And I don’t care if they miss me, I never remember their names / They say if you get far enough away, you’ll be on your way back home / Well, I’m at the station, and I can’t get on the train”
Tangled up in Blue – Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks)
Dylan is another artist that has such a great catalogue of songs. Tangled up in Blue makes the list because of the imagery it conveys. Another song with so many great lyrics. I love how it’s really only a few chords repeated over and over. Simple songs are often to best. Despite being nearly 6 minutes in length I never get sick of it.
Favourite lyrics: “I must admit I felt a little uneasy / When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe” and
“We always did feel the same / We just saw it from a different point of view”
The Ship Song (live) – Nick Cave (Live Seeds)
I was turned onto Nick Cave by my year 9 English teacher. Best teacher ever! This is the perfect love song. One of my all-time favourite songs by one of my all-time favourite songwriters. Nick Cave wouldn’t be the same without the Bad Seeds backing him. I miss you Mick Harvey.
Favourite lyric: “Your face has fallen sad now / For you know that the time is nigh / When I must remove your wings / And you, you must try to fly”
Eternal Life (live)– Jeff Buckley (Live at the Sin’e)
This version of Eternal Life was recorded live before Jeff released ‘Grace’. ‘Grace’ is an amazing album but there is something about this version of Eternal Life that is so pure and unaffected. He was also insanely good on the guitar which is often overlooked. It’s sad we never got to see him reach his full potential.
Favourite lyric: “Oh crown my fear your king at the point of a gun”
When I First Met Your Ma – Paul Kelly (Songs from the South)
It’s hard to listen to this song and not fall in love with love. Paul Kelly is one of Australia’s best songwriters. This is just Kelly’s voice and acoustic guitar. It makes me want to pack up and go live in Melbourne.
Favourite lyric: “Love like a bird flies away”
Accordingly – Chris Whitley (Dirt Floor)
The imagery brought about by the lyrics and music of this song hit me right in the feels. There are three verses in this song and they may very well be the three most perfect verses ever written.
Favourite lyric: “Businessmen like babes lay sleeping on the lawn / Cops are standing naked, breaking into song / If I took her now as the one for me / Could effect a change accordingly”
Things Between People – Holly Throsby (On Night)
“On Night” is my go to late night album. Throsby has a way with words and a vocal delivery you’ll either love or hate. I happen to love it. This is a song for anyone that has ever been 29 years old.
Favourite lyric: “And all of these old mistakes they, they catch us up / And the same old patterns form again”
Blue (live) – Joni Mitchell (Miles of Aisles) …. the original from ‘Blue’ is better though
This song. This is my all-time favourite song. Unfortunately this is a bit of a naff live version (damn you and your song restrictions spotify). Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant, it’s just that the studio version of this song is absolutely perfect. My left upper arm will soon be adorned with a tattoo of a crown and anchor in homage to Blue. Joni never fails me.
Favourite Lyric: “You know I’ve been to sea before / Crown and anchor me”
Sweetest Decline – Beth Orton (Central Reservation)
I really really love Beth Orton’s voice. There’s a certain fragility to it that is very endearing. The combination of strings and lilting piano here lends to a really dreamlike quality and a sense of innocence. Some of her best lyrics.
Favourite lyrics: “She weaves secrets in her hair / Her whispers are not hers to share”
“What are regrets? / They’re just lessons we haven’t learnt yet”
The Big Ship – Brian Eno (Another Green World)
No lyrics in this one. The way it slowly builds and builds before breaking into a joyous crescendo is just gorgeous. This song once came up unexpectedly on iPod shuffle whilst I was on the train. It totally blindsided me and made me cry. Awkward.