Thursday, March 28, 2013

The 10 Best REM Songs, In Order



I'm not a true fan or anything, but in my estimation:

  1. "Find the River"
  2. "Sweetness Follows"
  3. "Fall on Me"
  4. "The One I Love"
  5. "Shiny Happy People"
  6. "Stand"
  7. "Exhuming McCarthy"
  8. "Near Wild Heaven" 
  9. "Man on the Moon"
  10. "Nightswimming"

Nothing after '93 really counts, though I do kind of like "The Great Beyond." I don't want to get into the worst REM songs ... but "Everybody Hurts" is definitely my pick for dead bottom.

UPDATE: My favorites, I notice, are neither very early nor very late in REM's recording career. There seems to be a tendency among fans (of any artist/musician) to prefer or even fetishize "late work" or "early work" but I find I often most appreciate mid-career work, in the sweet spot between underdevelopment and overdevelopment/self-indulgence. For example, I think Under the Pink and Boys for Pele are Tori Amos's best albums. Make mine extra-medium.

35 comments:

  1. OK, I'll bite. What about SWAN SWAN HUMMINGBIRD! Superman! Flowers of Guatemala! Cuyohoga! Gardening at Night! Driver 8!!!!!

    Also for some reason I really like New Test Leper. And in a related vein, I know it's overplayed, but Losing My Religion... it's overplayed for a reason.

    I'd take off Shiny Happy People (except the Sesame Street "shiny happy monsters" version) and "Man on the Moon" and "Stand" (although I really loved SHP and Stand at summer camp in like 3rd grade)

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    1. Like I said, I'm not a super fan. I don't even know some of those songs. "Driver 8" doesn't move me. "Gardening at Night" is good, just not a personal favorite. And yes, "Losing My Religion" is a great song, but my main criteria for this list was, "How sad would I be if I could never hear this song again?" I think I've heard "Losing My Religion" enough for the rest of my life. I also never want to hear "It's the End of the World..." again.

      A lot of people hate "Shiny Happy People," right? I freaking love it. I like how different the chorus and verses are in terms of key/tempo/whatever.

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  2. Look what a tiny baby he was! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_QG6tr9mjo

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  3. OK But tell me you don't love Swan Swan H b/c you love TMBG and probably at least tolerate Tom Waits and it's like a perfect circle of surrealist grumbly marxist awesomeness.

    The real question is, Can You Make A Top 10 Songs List For A Band For Which You're Not A Superfan.

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    1. Never heard Swan Swan -- will YouTube it. I think TMBG and Tom Waits are kinda opposites though. B/c J loves Tom Waits and doesn't care for TMBG and I'm the other way around.

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    2. I love both TMBG and Tom Waits.

      All evidence is at least semi-anecdotal.

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    3. Ms Halston, you gotta lotta love to give.

      JS, I JUST PROVED YOU CAN. I think it's actually extra interesting. The Favorite Beatles Songs of People Who Don't Get That Excited About the Beatles, etc.

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  4. Love, love, love "Sweetness Follows"--might be my #1 depending on the time of day. From the latter day stuff, "Electrolite" is way up there for me (though it seems like I have a soft spot for a few more of the post-Automatic songs than you). I'd also want "Drive" and "Monty Got a Raw Deal" and "Orange Crush" and "Harborcoat" on my list. And "Shiny Happy People" and "Stand" would definitely go. And yes, "Everybody Hurts" is bad even without having been godawfully overplayed.

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    1. It's the whiniest song ever recorded, and I usually hate when people call music "whiny." Even in 8th grade I was smart enough to know that song sucked.

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    2. My biggest issue with it is that it's so ridiculously on the nose. They went from being a group known for oblique lyrics to just stating exactly what the song was about...

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    3. Interesting, I hadn't thought about it that way. So maybe "Man in the Moon" is the much better single not just because the music is more interesting, but because it doesn't make a lot of sense, ha ha. I mean I know it's about Andy Kaufman but still, what?

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  5. Nice list! Glad to see "Exhuming McCarthy" and "Near Wild Heaven " on here - both often overlooked.

    Of course inclusion of "Shiny Happy People" will rattle some cages but good on you - it WOULD be sad if we could never hear it again!

    Judging by comments you've never gotten into "Life's Rich Pageant." Highly recommended - it's the album that got me into REM. Insofar as anyone has time to pursue new old music, it's worth a listen. In the timeline it pretty much fits your middle-stage genius theory anyway.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! Maybe I can find it at the public library.

      My boyfriend in high school was a huge REM fan and he put "Exhuming McCarthy" on a mix tape for me.

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  6. For a long time I thought they sold out after Chronic Town. I got over it eventually, but I think that's still the only one I actually own.

    "It's The End of the World" stopped being a great song once I didn't have to explain who Lester Bangs was any more. Or once people stopped caring. Not sure.

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    1. Lester Bangs? I hardly know her bangs.

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  7. Life's Rich Pageant is my fave album (and swan swan h is on it, as well as flowers of guatemala which are my top 2 hands down). so library it, def.

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    1. Yes, everyone is telling me I gotta get down with this. OK!

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  8. no apostrophe in LIFES RICH PAGEANT /pedant

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    1. Copyeditors welcome.

      By the way, the anal nitpick in me is always slightly bothered by ironic close tags like "/pedant" that have no corresponding open tag? I mean I know that would ruin the joke? And yet.

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  9. I think I appreciate early REM and New Adventures in Hi-Fi the most. I'm not a huge REM fan though. I think the only album I had was Monster. My husband brought the rest of their catalog in our marriage, he's a much bigger fan than I am.

    Tori Amos, though... she's my second-favorite musical artist (ugh, that sounds so lame). There were a couple years there were she was my top favorite. I adore her. So I've got to quibble with "Under the Pink" and "Boys for Pele" being mid-career Tori albums. Those were her second and third albums, out of 13! (Or perhaps third and fourth of 14 if you count Y Kant Tori Read.) I would actually argue that "Boys for Pele" pretty clearly signals the end of the "early Tori" period - especially given that "From the Choir Girl Hotel" was such a radical departure, at least as perceived by many Tori obsessives at the time (I found it less so even then). My favorite Tori album is still "Scarlet's Walk," which I maintain is a masterpiece of staggering scale that she hasn't yet be able to top. Although I really, really do adore Night of Hunters which I saw as something of a return to form. If you want me to get really dorky, I'll rank all her albums top to bottom. :P

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    1. I was thinking that people who are into "early Tori" would be all about Y Kan't Tori Read and Little Earthquakes ... with Boys for Pele already signaling a descent into indulgence, so many tracks and all those weird little interludes (which I like). Part of this is based on someone recently saying I might like "early Tom Waits"; I said I thought the first album (Closing Time) was okay, but they were apparently talking about recordings from BEFORE that (???).

      Personally, I hate Choirgirl Hotel, but I thought To Venus & Back was/is awesome. It went further and more successfully in the electronic direction.

      And I think Night of Hunters is really good too!!

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    2. PS who is your first favorite?

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    3. ha! Billy Corgan/The Smashing Pumpkins. Don't I tweet about them enough?? mergh, the Pumpkins-fan-shame!

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    4. Ah! I thought maybe you had an even more shameful and secret favorite :)

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    5. Should have added: You hate Choirgirl?!?! Unpossible! I agree that To Venus and Back is also great, better than Choirgirl, with many years of time to reflect on it - don't know if I would have said that at the time. But Choirgirl has "ieeee" (I know I'm not putting the right number of i's and e's), which may be my single favorite Tori song.

      Interestingly, my feeling is that critical consensus is/was that Choirgirl is better than Venus, but admittedly I haven't researched that statement recently.

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    6. I like "iieee(etc.)"! There are actually only a few songs that I strongly dislike on that album, mostly it's OK, the problem for me was it felt so clumsy coming after the virtuosic Boys for Pele, it felt like she was making a play for more radio-friendly single-type songs and I didn't like it.

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  10. I used to like "Seven Chinese Brothers" because as a child I'd loved the children's book.

    I had the album that was on--Reckoning--on LP. Michael Stipe had hair and didn't look like Malkovich.

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  11. This list lost all credibility when I saw Shiny Happy People

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    1. Well you like Dave Matthews Band.

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  15. Not really an REM fan but for some reason So. Central Rain always chokes me up a little. One of the best things I've ever heard is from a tape a friend made for me in college - Stipe and the Indigo Girls doing "Midnight Train to Georgia." Stipe is not in tune, but it's beautiful.

    There are a few Tom Waits "Early Years" compilations but, if memory serves, they're mostly early/demo versions of songs that would appear on Closing Time and Heart of Saturday Night.

    The only Tori Amos album that I've ever really liked (and I LOVE it; it's in my top 50 all-time for sure) is Little Earthquakes (and all the b-sides that came with the contemporary CD singles).

    I'm someone who doesn't get excited by The Beatles. Here's my top 10 in no particular order:
    1. Taxman
    2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    3. The Long and Winding Road
    4. Eleanor Rigby
    5. Paperback Writer
    6. Revolution #9
    7. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
    8. Golden Slumbers
    9. A Day in the Life
    10. Something

    I'm curious: assuming you're not a huge Guided by Voices fan, can you name 10 GBV songs that you nevertheless like?

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