5 Theory of Machines by Ben Frost
My first listen of this song was during an experimental dance performance at a French theatre somewhere in midtown Manhattan. I was definitely digging the music more than the performance, and this particular track caught my attention immediately. The build-up is monumental, the static transmits shivers down your spine. I was sure that I had heard this song before in a film during the credit roll or some sort of climatic sequence since this is what the song evokes. Based in Reykjavík, Iceland, Australian composer Ben Frost composes extremely minimalist instrumentals that mixes experimental and industrial, and this colossal track epitomizes this well.
4 Tannhäuser / Derivè by Refused
Refused’s storied career closed with the release of the now classic and influential album The Shape of Punk to Come. The second to last track is Tannhäuser / Derivè, an intense song full of ups and downs, yet adrenaline-filled throughout. The song mounts up with a soft, sorrowful violin, as pounding drums are introduced and then guitars step onto the scene, until everything is silent except for a guitar, almost counting down to blast off. Soft drums build up alongside the guitars, until the 2:26 mark, where the song has officially begun. Dennis Lyxzén bursts out with his signature, rebellious scream, asking “where do we go from here?” before answering himself “just about anywhere”. The song is littered with momentum-filled breaks, chants of “boredom won’t get me tonight”, and although chaotic, it works. The entire album is noted for being extremely cutting-edge, pushing the boundaries of traditional punk, which is why it is such a remarkable record. The Shape of Punk to Come belongs in every music lover’s collection, as it is a diamond hidden in the nineties’ heap of understated music.
3 Last Call by Kanye West
The final track off of Kanye West’s universally acclaimed debut album The College Dropout serves as an appropriate outro to a truly outstanding album. Starting at the 3:55 mark is the nearly nine-minute autobiographical account of Kanye’s rise to fame with Roc-A-Fella records, but it is spoken rather than rapped. The track is inspiring as it shows a relentless and determined Kanye trying to make a name for himself in the always competitive hip hop and rap music scene.
2 I Think I Lost My Headache by Queens of the Stone Age
Frontman Josh Homme claims that this song is his favorite off the 2000 record, calling it a song about paranoia. It elicits that looming, obscure feeling pretty well with its winding riffs and unsettling melodies. The outro for the song starts at 3:36, making the following five minutes a dark windy melodic-yet-twisted carnival that Homme describes as a “New Orleans jazz funeral type of ending”. Homme goes on to sum up the tone of the song as “something strange is going on, and everyone around you is so adamant about telling you it’s fine… but then you start thinking ‘wouldn’t that be exactly what you’d say if you didn’t want me to know, and there is something going on?’”
1 Short Stories with Tragic Endings by From Autumn to Ashes
Long Island-based post-hardcore band From Autumn to Ashes released their debut album Too Bad You’re Beautiful in 2001 and quickly became Ferret Records’ highest grossing act. Short Stories with Tragic Endings serves as the album’s incredibly heart-breaking curtain call that can be cut into two acts. Up until the 5:40 mark in the song, the song is harsh, guttural, and destructive. The final words of this first act are repeatedly screamed – “Cry for you. Shed tears. Mourn. Wish the end.” After this first act, Melanie Wills of One True Thing lends her voice for the closing act, an acoustic final farewell accompanied by pianos and violins. While the post-hardcore elements of the song’s first half may not appeal to many listeners, the second half of the song is well-orchestrated and will please all sorts of music fans.