8. The National – Graceless

For a long time I had their song ‘I Need My Girl’ on a Suggested Songs playlist I’d hear quite often. It was only after many months I got hooked on it and had to pick up the guitar and vocal chords to learn it.

Then I heard this song. I guess I have a soft spot for 9ths, and the time-altered repetition of the melody (which stays within a perfect 5th including the lower (minor) tonic note. The 2/4 drum beat gives it a constant feel of progression, contrasted with the haunting synth undertones which place the song in a minor key.

What really grabbed me was the chorus and the added instrumentation. Another ‘soundtrack’ song – because we’re all ultra-stars. By the way, favourite lyric: There’s a science to walking through windows without you.


7. Lykke Li – I Know Places

I first heard this song on an ad for Fox8 several years ago and fell in love with it, went on to the internet and had to find out what it was called. It’s incredibly mellow and works well as a background piece for film.

Its simplicity is perfect in the sense that it carries the idea of what the song is about, before trailing off into an ethereal guitar and synth mix.

6. Amanda Palmer – Ampersand

The song tells a story – that’s the feel of its entirety; its four chords (and the epitome of explaining how to use the relative minor chord, in the bridge), its development of lyrical content and repetition of their reassurance.

The rich piano sound of the intro provides an interesting re-occurrence throughout the breaks in the song, and its percussive expression works well with the counter-melody of the strings.

Every song is better with a well put together film clip, too.

5. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula

I guess there are moments in the day where it’s only appropriate to have a soundtrack playing while you’re doing that awesome thing you do. This song really got me with that.

It emphasises how careful production technique can really carry a song which uses minimalist instrumentation and the standard four-chord progression. What grabbed me first was the delay with the drums, but the overlaying repetition of the synth strings combined with all other underlying elements makes it memorable. Kind of like a modern day Bittersweet Symphony (thanks @spetznatz)

4. Mumford & Sons – The Cave

The dynamics of this song are equally matched to the incredible production value of which Mumford & Sons relentlessly adhere to. As much as I love how you can hear every individual note as clear as the others in this twangy mix, what gets me is how the song builds just so gradually… into that hope-filled chorus of endings, leaving you feeling like you’ve just gone somewhere. Pretty good use of brass instruments, too.

3. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

This song is one you might find on a typical “songs you should listen to” playlist. Jeff Mangum’s lyrics are nothing short of genius. With what I initially thought was absurd word choice, I was left in awe of the vivid circling imagery the song conveys. What I love about this is what it lacks in recording quality, it more than makes up for in arrangement and content, insisting that production isn’t the most important part of a simply decent song, particularly in this genre.

2. Regina Spektor – Eet

Regina Spektor is one of those quirky, ultra-talented artists that you just fall in love with without being able to comprehend what just happened in the song. While this one isn’t my all-time favourite, it’s one I’m listening to at the moment on repeat.

The chord progression is pretty standard, but her voice is so unique, as is your interpretation of the song lyrics, which seems to be the general consensus on many of her songs.