New dad and bestselling paperback writer Lev Grossman challenges me to reveal my own real life rock top 10, which, for the purposes of this post, is the 10 songs with the highest playcount on my iTunes list. By contrast with Lev, my top song has only 19 plays. That’s because I almost always play iTunes on shuffle — mostly, in fact, I shuffle through the list of songs with zero plays, which still has 1830 songs on it. So it’s hard to get much altitude in the histogram.
- “Here Comes Your Man,” Pixies, Live in Eugene, OR. (19 plays) This used to be CJ’s favorite song. Mrs. Q and he and I held hands and sang it together before bed every night. Sometimes followed by “New York, New York,” his other favorite song. Why the Live in Eugene, OR version? Because I don’t have Doolittle on CD.
- “Click, Click, Click, Click,” Bishop Allen. (10 plays) I wrote about Bishop Allen here. This song — on the one hand, there’s something indefensibly corny about it. I mean, “the people and the places that I’ve known?” Come on. But I’m a sucker for the dopey little melody. I sing it while I ride my bike.
- “Highschool,” The Flashing Lights. (9 plays) Incredible powerpop from Halifax, NS. I have a friend who used to have a boyfriend who put out records and one of them was a comp with this on it. Thank you, former boyfriend, thank you. My love for this song is purely sonic in that I have no idea what the words are. I just kind of phonetically yelp along with it when it comes on in the car. This sounds, in my opinion, great.
- “Kings,” The Magnetic Fields. (9 plays) I think of this sound-experiment as my favorite Magnetic Fields song, but this might be an affectation. Maybe really I like “100,000 Fireflies” best like everyone else. What’s not an affectation is that I like the old-time surrealist Magnetic Fields better than the later Cole Porter-y Magnetic Fields, though the group charms in all configurations. “Kings” turns out to be something S Merritt wrote years before the Magnetic Fields existed and recorded with previous groups the Zinnias and Buffalo Roam. “Whale embryos filled your enormous room.”
- “Manta Ray,” Pixies. (9 plays) The chorus — which is a single line, “My manta ray is all right” — is almost impossible to sing correctly, the notes being so strangely and perfectly placed. Everything that separates Pixies from not-Pixies is present in those six notes.
- “Heartbeat,” Dalek I Love You. (9 plays) Beautiful, spare new wave. Sounds like it was recorded in an empty room late at night after the departure of a riotous crowd. Obtained as part of 1981, the greatest mixtape ever compiled. Only learned just now that Dalek I Love You was Alan Gill from The Teardrop Explodes.
- “Indian Summer,” Beat Happening (8 plays) Maybe I just like very simple songs that repeat themselves.
- “I’m Hip,” Blossom Dearie (8 plays) Hipster-mocking never got better than this comic Dave Frishberg number. Sung by anyone else the jokes would land heavily, but Blossom can sell anything. RIP.
- “The Ballad of the Shape of Things,” Blossom Dearie (8 plays) I was playing Blossom’s records a lot right after her death, which is how I think this got here. I couldn’t even tell you how it goes. But it’s Blossom, so I’m sure it’s good.
- “Coco on the Corner,” Takka Takka (8 plays) Emily turned me on to this. I think Takka Takka had a big wave of Pitchfork hype that ended in a second and a half? By the time they played in Madison they drew maybe fifteen people. This song is near-perfect indie pop — handclaps and whistling, talky Lou Reed vocals, a kind of homebrewed sound that reminds me of If You’re Feeling Sinister more than any other American band does. “They Built You Up Too Fast” is equally good.
Honorable mentions with 7 plays: more Blossom Dearie. Some Beatles. “Prove My Love.” “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl.)” Great forgotten 80s college rock track “You (Are Loved)” by the Blue Aeroplanes. Housemartins demo “The Day I Called It a Day.” Invisible Cities “Bumper Cars,” which reminds me of 1983 REM and 1995 Magnetic Fields, two of my favorite things.