2009's Top Ten Songs From Mediocre Albums
Published Dec 28, 2009We live in the age of the playlist, where most listeners can't be bothered to listen to an entire album. Instead, music fans download music in order to pick and choose their favourite songs, keeping the best and deleting the rest.
Although there are still some among us who believe in the album (minus Sufjan), there have been a number of releases over the past year that don't merit front-to-back listening, leading us to now assemble our 2009 list of Top Ten Songs From Mediocre Albums.
These albums featured one of two outstanding songs, padded with a bunch of inessential filler. These are the songs that you continue to put on your playlists, even after you've deleted the rest of the album and forgotten about it.
Ranked by the proportional awesomeness of the track compared the the mediocrity of the rest of the album, here's our Top Ten Songs From Mediocre Albums:
10. David Bazan - "Please, Baby, Please" (from Curse Your Branches)
Since retiring his Pedro the Lion moniker, David Bazan has abandoned the Christian faith. His new God, apparently, is ProTools, as his solo debut Curse Your Branches is all production, with very little delivery. "Please, Baby, Please" stands out because it does something different. Instead of an adult-contempo PTL, we get Bazan's alcoholic confessions over a Graceland-esque groove.
9. Weezer - "If You're Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)" (from Raditude)
This isn't so much a case of the song being awesome as it is of the rest of the album being absolutely awful. This choppy, acoustic tale of high school romance is pleasant enough, but unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of Raditude. After a decade of diminishing returns, Weezer have finally completed the transformation into mall-pop trash, coming off like the Jonas Brothers except twice as old and not as good looking.
8. Ghostface Killah - "Guest House" (from Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City)
For Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry, Wu-Tang top dog Ghostface Killah ditched coke raps to focus on R&B. The result is an unbalanced record with enough filthy sex rhymes to make R. Kelly blush. Tellingly, "Guest House" is the stand-out track because it sounds more like classic Ghostface than the rest of the record's gimmicky R&B.
7. God Help the Girl - "God Help the Girl" (from God Help the Girl)
Belle and Sebastian front-man Stuart Murdoch's side-project lacked the fragile intimacy of his usual work. Simply put, handing his songs over to more accomplished singers and embellishing them with orchestral flourishes was an unsuccessful formula for the Scottish icon. That's not the case for this folk pop gem, however, as this story of a heartbroken recluse is vintage Murdoch in the best way.
6. Julian Casablancas - "11th Dimension" (from Phrazes for the Young)
Music bloggers wet their collective pants when the Strokes' front-man previewed his first solo single in September. When the album followed in November, however, there were few that weren't disappointed. And while the rest of the album isn't a total loss, its meandering electro rock forays can't hold up to the '80s dance pop bliss of "11th Dimension."
5. Crystal Antlers - "Andrew" (from Tentacles)
After a stunning EP in 2008, garage rockers Crystal Antlers weren't able to sustain the same raucous energy over the course of a full-length album. Nevertheless, the slow-burning blues waltz "Andrew" recaptures the fire of the band's early recordings with hollering vocals and haunting guitar/organ interplay.
4. Jay Reatard - "It Ain't Gonna Save Me" (from Watch Me Fall)
Watch Me Fall wasn't a bad album, but the trouble with Reatard is that he peaked on 2006's Blood Visions. "It Ain't Gonna Save Me," the album's opener, looked to Reatard's past with its anthemic chorus and frantic vocal delivery before the album devolved into middling pop rock.
3. The Tragically Hip - "Morning Moon" (from We Are the Same)
An understated acoustic rocker, it's the only song off We Are the Same that producer Bob Rock didn't taint with his bombastic orchestral arrangements and inexplicable production touches. (Phil Spector on Let It Be, anyone?)
2. Beyoncé - "Single Ladies" (from I Am... Sasha Fierce)
Sure, Beyoncé belongs to a marketing powerhouse that can turn a wet belch into a number one hit, but "Single Ladies" was genuinely amazing. The instrumental is bouncy, fun and addictive, and the chorus had the burliest of dudes singing "if you like it then you should've put a ring on it." Too bad the rest of Sasha Fierce was such a let-down.
1. Peter Bjorn & John - "Living Thing" (from Living Thing) Like much of Living Thing, the title track begins with a sparse drum-and-bass groove and bleak, directionless vocals. Unlike the albums' other 11 tracks, though, it eventually comes together in a joyous Afropop groove with rich harmonies and "You Can Call Me Al"-aping bass slides. It's the payoff the rest of the collection is sorely missing.