Sunday, August 3, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest - ranking my favorite songs by Modest Mouse

When I was a child, I used to rank my favorite things. As I got older, that tendency stayed with me. Music has always been something that I have been interested in, and at some point in my late teens, it became an obsession. If you read my Music That Matters series, you'll know that I'm mainly into alternative rock. Since I made that list, I've been playing Modest Mouse albums every day, hoping that a deeper appreciation of the band's music would enhance my enjoyment of their Echo Beach concert.

I'm happy to say that it did.

As a result of listening to up to 10 hours per day of Modest Mouse for almost two months, I've decided to attempt a rather futile exercise. I find that some part of me needs to know which songs I love the most. With a lot of my favorite bands, that kind of task is easy. I know that my favorite Television song is Marquee Moon, and that Dirty tops my list of favorite Sonic Youth albums. I could put together a convincing Top 10 list of films in about 30 seconds flat. However, for some unknown reason, I'm finding it difficult to rank Modest Mouse songs.

The reason is that there are so many top quality candidates. It's not as simple as picking up each CD and writing down the obvious choices from each. Two of the CDs demand that virtually every track make the list.

Here are a few of the questions I have been asking myself:

How many songs should I attempt to rank?
How should I start?
How should I narrow down the initial selections?
Does it matter if one or two albums dominate the list?
Do the songs work well on their own, or only in the context of the whole album?
What's the point?
Will anyone on the planet care?
By the time I finish the ranking, will it already be out of date?
Should I explain my choices; if so, for the Top 10, Top 20, a larger number, or every song I consider?
Why isn't there a machine that plugs into my brain to do this kind of crap for me?

Since I began the quest to broaden my appreciation of Modest Mouse, I've learned that there is a lot more to the band than The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon & Antarctica. While those two will almost certainly be number one and two in any Modest Mouse album list I create, there are dozens of other noteworthy tracks that could potentially break into my Top 10 list of individual songs.

So, as I began this exercise in utter futility, I opened my MP3 folder and started to compile an initial list. This would include every song that I would seriously consider. The final number would decide itself for this first draft. Even as I studied each CD, I found myself leaving off good songs. Not many bands can boast the depth of quality found in Modest Mouse's discography. I bet that some fans will be outraged that certain songs did not even make the first cut. However, this is my list, and I am trying to be honest to myself. There's no point in doing this if I just list what everyone else likes.

Let's face it, there's no point in doing this at all.

How do we even decide that songs are among our favorites? Is it the music? The presentation? The lyrics? How a song makes us feel? Because we attach songs to people or events in our lives? For me, it's a combination of all those things.

I'm aware that some of you may be dead by the time I finish the list, so I'll tell you which 59 songs made the first cut. I'm going to list them in alphabetical order to avoid any bias, and to make it easy for you to see if your favorites are included. I won't bother mentioning which album or EP they are from, because if you are still reading, you probably know.

Here they are:

3rd Planet
A Different City
Alone Down There
Black Cadillacs
Bury Me with It
Convenient Parking
Cowboy Dan
Custom Concern
Dark Center of the Universe
Doin' the Cockroach
Edit the Sad Parts
Exit Does Not Exist
Float On
Fly Trapped in a Jar
Gravity Rides Everything
Head South
Heart Cooks Brain
I Came as a Rat
Interstate 8
Life Like Weeds
Lounge (Closing Time)
March Into the Sea
Missed the Boat
Never Ending Math Equation
Novocain Stain
Ocean Breathes Salty
Paper Thin Walls
Parting of the Sensory
Perfect Disguise
Polar Opposites
Satellite Skin
Satin in a Coffin
Shit Luck
Space Travel is Boring
Spitting Venom
Steam Engenius
Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
Teeth Like God's Shoeshine
The Cold Part
The Stars are Projectors
The View
The Whale Song
The World at Large
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Trailer Trash
Truckers Atlas
What People Are Made Of

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 2
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 3
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 4
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 5
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 6 
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 7
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8 

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