Top 5s

If you follow Joe Posnaski on either Twitter or his personal blog, you no doubt saw his recent piece that was based on Xavier basketball coach Chris Mack’s list of favorite Bruce Springsteen songs.

A Bruce Top Five

There is so much for me to love here. A) It’s Poz, so it’s almost automatically great. B) It’s about music lists, something I’m also a little obsessive about. C) I enjoy the thought process Poz went through from first being floored by Mack’s list, to coming to an understanding of how we all come to different conclusions about music, to the natural end: sharing his own list of favorite Springsteen songs.

Well, I loved it so much that it sent me down a predictable path. So here are some top five lists of my own.

First, my five favorite songs by my current favorite band, Frightened Rabbit. This list is probably the hardest for me because FR is still putting out new, great music. And I’ve been deep, deep into their catalog over the past couple months.
1) “The Modern Leper” I first heard this song the morning of June 20, 2008. It kind of changed my life. It’s probably their most popular song, and with good reason. It sums up pretty much everything the band is about. And this was track one on their first proper album. Talk about setting the bar high!
2) “FootShooter” I do struggle with whether this song is better than “Leper,” though. It’s not as bombastic or cathartic as many of their songs. But it’s pretty close to perfect. And, as I’ve always thought, it’s where Coldplay could have taken their music if they hadn’t decided to become the next U2.[1]
3) “Head Rolls Off” I was listening to this a lot in the weeks before L was born. The line about making “tiny changes to earth” resonated with me a lot then.
4) “Holy” The holy/holes angle has been explored many times in pop music. FR does it wonderfully here.
5) “Keep Yourself Warm” Many of FR’s songs border on the obscene and crass. But Scott Hutchison is so good at writing deeply personal lyrics and then delivering them in a manner that keeps them honest rather than cheesy. This song, about the perils of hoping a one-night-stand will erase your romantic woes, is a perfect example. The closing, instrumental segment, which sounds like the realization that all his problems are still there the morning after, is just brilliant.

Now, my favorite band of my generation, Pearl Jam. They still put out the occasional album, and sometimes there is a good song or two on them. But, as much as I love them, the old songs will never be matched.
1) “Corduroy” PJ almost always had lofty goals behind their music. The songs don’t always measure up to those ideals. Here, though, is everything great about the band.
2) “Release” I think even people that don’t like PJ like this song.
3) “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town” And this one, too.
4) “Leash” The best song where PJ brought together their hard, classic rock roots and their punk scene championing of “the youth.”
5) “Hail, Hail” They’ve done some pretty good songs in the second half of their career, but this might be the last truly great song they ever did.

Finally, my favorite band of all time, The Clash. I have a different relationship with the Clash than I do with Pearl Jam or Frightened Rabbit. Their final studio album, Combat Rock, was the only one that I heard in its time. Most of the rest of my experience with their music came much later. So my memories and feelings about their songs are almost always separated from the era in which they were released.
1) “Clampdown” Everything the Clash stood for perfectly distilled into one song.[2]
2) “London Calling” The Clash really have three songs that I think everyone knows, whether they like the band or not. This is the best of that group.
3) “Complete Control” When the record company pisses you off and gives you a chance to complain about “artistic freedom,” take that chance and run with it.
4) “Safe European Home” The Clash was obsessed with Jamaica and the West Indian music scene. They were in for a rather rude awakening when they first visited the island. The Only Band That Matters wasn’t afraid to make fun of themselves and their naivety.
5) “Capital Radio One” A song that is more and more relevant as terrestrial radio is increasingly run by a few companies that have homogenized playlists across the country.

Oh, what the hell. Since this all started with Springsteen, I should probably share my favorite songs by the Boss. I have a rather spotty grasp of his music. I’ve probably only listened, in full, to five of his albums. I know the other big songs from the early part of his career. But the rest is a mystery. That said, hopefully this list wouldn’t annoy Posnanski.
1) “Born To Run” This song is everything that Springsteen… Sorry. Greatest American rock song ever?
2) “Brilliant Disguise” Man, do I love Tunnel of Love. You can draw a straight line from this ultra-confessional song to Frightened Rabbit.
3) “Thunder Road” This HAS to be on any list of greatest side one, track ones ever.
4)”My City of Ruins” Written about a decaying hometown, it took on new meaning when released a year after 9/11. On an album full of powerful songs about that day and its aftermath, this song, and it’s “Come on, rise up!” coda was the perfect final track.
5) “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” I’m 45 now, and I feel everything about me changing. This is the perfect song for the middle-aged man.

  1. And suck.  ↩
  2. Hmm, I sense a theme.  ↩