Ever since John Lennon decided to add a few minutes of “Na Na Na’s” to the end of what would become the timeless hit “Hey Jude” purely to piss off the radio stations with strict three or four minute run-time limitations, artists everywhere have experimented with song length, often to brilliant results. While many “Best of” lists of this nature have been compiled before, they contain almost exclusively classic rock tracks such as “Free Bird” and Pink Floyd; looking amidst our own generation I give you the seven best songs over seven minutes long from the last seven years in chronological order. Compound songs (hidden tracks and such) were not considered.
Peter Bjorn and John / Up Against The Wall
Writer’s Block (2006)
Delightful Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John claim to be Abba’s illegitimate sons. While that may be ridiculous, they do have a legitimate claim to something else: The title of most underrated indie pop rock band. While you may have heard their whistling hit “Young Folks,” overlooking the rest of the masterpiece album,Writer’s Block, is a terrible mistake, especially “Up Against The Wall.” The rolling drums, meandering guitar, and subtle vocalization techniques combine to make such a biting reflection of a relationship deceptively upbeat and toe-tapping: “Maybe we could make this work / But now you start to leave before it's getting worse / I don't know what you came here for / It's almost that I wish we hadn't met at all.” I could not say the same to Peter, Bjorn, and John; I am incredibly thankful to have found them.
of Montreal / The Past is a Grotesque Animal
Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (2007)
This tense 12 minute adventure in angst and confession is the turning point in Hissing Fauna, arguably the best album in of Montreal’s extensive discography. It is within this song that front man Kevin Barnes claims to have transformed into his alter-ego, Georgie Fruit, a "dark mutation” that takes the form of a “black she-male,” as he deals with antidepressants and their effect on his marriage. Themes of existentialism and hopelessness intertwine as he struggles to come to terms with how someone could have “red-rovered the gestapo circling [his] heart” and love him despite his crippling flaws. The chilling ooh’s that begin around 4:20 will continue to haunt you long after the song has ended, and the synth undulations that appear later on sound straight out of Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” The line “It's like we weren't made for this world / Though I wouldn't really want to meet someone who was” epitomizes Barnes’s entire artistic career: bizarre alien creations that somehow feel more comfortable and better exemplify our most basic and secret human emotions than we ever imagined possible. He goes on to wonder if his lover “mythologizes” him as he does her and admits he’s so “touched by [her] goodness” he feels “criminal,” beautifully articulating the insecurity and altered perceptions that accompany the most vulnerably irrevocable love.
MGMT / Siberian Breaks
Following the success of their anthemic debut, Oracular Spectacular, psychedelic duo MGMT were given almost absolute artistic freedom by their record label while making their immensely underrated follow-up, Congratulations. That freedom allowed them to stray from the pop single structure of “Kids” and “Time To Pretend” and create this sprawling 12 minute conglomeration of acid-tinged streams of consciousness which vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden claims is his favorite of the album, saying, "It's kind of like eight different songs strung together into one, and the general theme is about surfing in the Arctic Circle by Russia." With crushing retorts such as “There's no reason / There's no secret to decode / If you can't save it / Leave it dying on the road” and the suicide note-worthy “If you’re conscious you must be depressed / Or at least cynical” amidst heavy reverb, this song undoubtedly has a depressing air about it, and yet the glittering synth and fitting realization of “Being here's always changing tunes” leaves you with an almost indifferent taste of acceptance in your mouth as you fade away, gently reminded nothing is truly ever “created or destroyed.”
LCD Soundsystem / Dance Yrself Clean
This Is Happening (2010)
It was difficult to pick only one song by the unfortunately now-disbanded indie dance pop masters and synth gods of the long song that are LCD Soundsystem, but I decided on “Dance Yrself Clean” based on the fact that it is quite simply perfect. Although a bitch to play on air during my radio show due to its immensely dynamic volume range (either it’s too quiet or peaking, always!) it is infectiously catchy and well worth the struggle. The initial soft patter of percussion and whispered vocals give way to a barrage of delicious, dance-inducing noise and hair-raising howls around the three minute mark, creating a drop that ended dubstep before it even began. Frontman James Murphy later admitted to needing steroids to help carry his voice through the recording process and protect it from injury, and while this may feel like cheating to some, it is a testament to his dedication as a musician and drive to create the best that he can, and the thought of this work of art having never been completed instead is far more discomforting, especially when considering it ended up being the very last song LCD Soundsystem ever made. “Break me into bigger pieces / So some of me is home with you,” he cries; careful when giving in to this song around your expensive music playing equipment, or he may not be the only thing left in pieces.
Cold War Kids / Fashionable (Bonus Track)
Mine Is Yours (Deluxe Version) (2011)
I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the overproduced and polished third album by the soulful and, until this point, brilliantly raw Cold War Kids. And although it was still enjoyable, Mine Is Yours even left out the best song of all: “Fashionable” is only listed as a bonus track on the deluxe version, or a rare 7” that used to be available exclusively at shows before they quickly sold out (I had to hide mine under a couch in Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre back in 2011, but that’s another story). It begins with vocalist Nathan Willett gently cooing over bouncy acoustic guitar before transitioning to a church organ, in turn introducing the percussion, and eventually building up to a delightful return to his wonderfully powerful and emotional wails of old (sadly, the only song post-Loyalty to Loyalty to really do so), as it builds in excitement towards the end, sending chills down your spine. “I am your style / Oh and you are my style” he belts out before asking, “Who will sweep you off your feet?” You do, Nathan. You do.
Young Man / 21
Vol. 1 (2012)
Colin Caulfield’s big break happened when his YouTube cover of a Deerhunter song caught the ear of the band’s frontman. An album and record deal later he has put together a full band under the name Young Man, and the resulting fuller sound is perfectly showcased in “21.” The almost eerie piano opening is reminiscent of Musique pour Supermarché as it blooms into soothing guitar melodies driven by pulsating snares and Caulfield’s gently probing cries of “crying shame.” The also lyricized “indeterminate feelings” swirl throughout the seven-plus minute runtime, presenting indie dream-pop at its best since Beach House’s Bloom.
Grizzly Bear / Sun in Your Eyes
Daniel Rossen’s flawless vocals lift this song along with its listeners above the clouds in fits of beauty. “It overflows / It overflows / It overflows” within you, receding momentarily as the piano seems to contemplate it’s very existence, before it resumes, “Silver inside / Rushing on.” After erupting with pulses of distortion, the last track on the band’s latest album, and the final song they played when I was lucky enough to see them live, signs off with a blunt, “I’m never coming back.” We can only hope this isn’t true, and that Grizzly Bear merely hibernates before returning with the sun to shine on us once more.
Bright Eyes / Firewall
The People’s Key (2011)
I’ll admit, I’m still not quite sure what to make of the prophetic mumbling that makes up the first two and a half minutes (Hitler being name-dropped here and throughout the album reeks of stabs at sensationalism), yet I can’t help but be intrigued. The commanding, military ritual drums, rolling guitar befitting of a sedated Jack White, and the typical Conor Oberst misery spouting of lines like “On all fours she's just so insistent / Fills my mind with jump ropes and slit wrists” seem to lack some genuineness, but even at their most calculated, Bright Eyes are still worth a mention.
Death Cab for Cutie / I Will Possess Your Heart
Narrow Stairs (2008)
Although it may be one of my favorite songs from Ben Gibbard’s extensive repertoire, it doesn’t quite make the list on merit of length, as it is essentially a 4 minute song with an enjoyable yet unnecessarily drawn out intro. I might prefer it half as long but played twice as much.
Real Estate / All The Same
The sweet jangly melodies of New Jersey band, Real Estate, are impossible not to hum or whistle or sing along to (although not all at once, that would be impossible). This is the perfect song for lazy warm afternoons, or, I imagine, painting.