Mixtape: Favorite Non-Singles

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In the fourth entry of our ongoing Mixtape series — in which one or more writers picks about twenty songs from under a single umbrella — we’re digging deep into some of our favorite non-singles from well-known artists. As always, we’ve included a Spotify playlist to listen to as you read.

Someday’s Gone – All-American Rejects
To be fair, I’ve loved many of AAR’s singles, especially those Move Along ones that represent their peak popularity. No one really pays attention to them anymore, but this 2012 song is a contender for their all-time best. It maintains their sunny-day appeal, but adds an ominous undercurrent that’s new for them. From the opening “What makes you so damn sure that you’re worth it?” to the claustrophobic ending, it takes you in a different, yet still thrilling AAR direction. – Grant

Boxing – Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds was lumped in with punk rockers and alternative freakazoids like Beck early in his career. But — like many great artists considered “alternative” — Folds defies easy categorization. His “eff you” streak sometimes gives way to a classical aesthetic, particularly in some of his ballads. “Boxing” is definitely in that category, a contemplative waltz-like slow-burner that works even before you realize it’s written from the perspective of Muhammad Ali to Howard Cossell. – Dan

No Surrender – Bruce Springsteen
My favorite Springsteen song was almost excluded from Born in the U.S.A. and has been overshadowed by the title track and “Dancing in the Dark.” But it’s a perfect blast of idealistic yet tough energy, low on ponderousness and high on melody. – Grant

Gone – Kanye West (feat. Consequence, Cam’Ron)
One of Kanye’s enduring treats from the incredible Late Registration. Not only does it have some of Kanye’s funniest rhymes (“Says she wants diamonds / I took her to Ruby Tuesdays”), but it features two of the best guest verses he ever recruited. I’ve always been fond of Consequence’s appearance, in particular, which uses the word “gone” in every line of the verse. The production is also one of Kanye’s best, an unexpected blend of a syncopated bass line on top of wacky strings on top of an Otis Redding sample. – Dan

Rabbit Run – Eminem
A slight cheat, because apparently this was a single. But you trying people that your favorite song off the 8 Mile soundtrack is something besides “Lose Yourself.” Nothing against LY, but “Rabbit Run” is exceptional—shorter and punchier, and Em’s great flow is enhanced by a host of terrific lines like “You need peace of mind? Here’s a piece of mine.” – Grant

Finding Something to Do – Hellogoodbye
If you know Hellogoodbye, it’s probably from their 2006 trying-too-hard debut, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! (It hurt just typing that…) They had a hit single with “Here (In Your Arms)” featuring bandleader Forrest Kline’s robotized voice. After shedding their label and one of their bandmembers, they released their second album Would It Kill You? which is about fifty times more lovable and sweet-hearted than Z!A!V!D!. It’s romantic in a classic, earnest sort of way. No glibness, no emo. Just simple, upbeat love songs from someone who has obviously listened to Odessey and Oracle one or a hundred times. Standout “When We First Met” — a love story chronicled through changing hairstyles — is my favorite, but technically ineligible as an unsuccessful single. So I’ll honor the album’s debut track, a song about growing (or maybe grown) old together. – Dan

Viva La Gloria! – Green Day
Green Day—and their questionable singles choices—were a lock for this list; I can only hear so many radio plays of flaccid tracks like “When I Come Around” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” before I need to throw something. “Gloria” essentially serves as a stand-in for their entire 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown, which I consider every bit as good as American Idiot. ‘Gloria’ finds the band sounding more full and mature than before, but just as exuberant—a concoction now topped off with an extra gloss of anthemic epic-ness. Oh, yes. – Grant

I Thought She Knew – ‘N Sync
Songs like this topped the charts back in the early ’90s. But aching a capella ballads don’t have the flash of Swedish-produced R&B dance tracks from five years later. It’s too bad; this capstone to No Strings Attached colors the group’s sound not with computer-generated grooves, but the boys’ vocal chords. It was the first song the band ever wrote, and it remains one of their most heartfelt and moving songs. – Dan

23 – Jimmy Eat World
So, where did this come from? The group who made a living off summertime pop-emo ditties suddenly pulls back for a 7-minute opus that’s something of a cross between Doves’ “The Cedar Room” and The Cure’s Disintegration album—and just as dramatic and captivating as both? I’m still baffled.- Grant

Skin and Bones – Jet
These Australian Oasis knock-offs faded quickly after their hit debut Get Born and its lead single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” When they released their follow up, Shine On, everyone north of Port Douglas either ignored them or panned them (including Pitchfork, whose “review” of the album is one of their most infamous). Well, make that everyone except me and my brothers. We listened to this on loop for weeks back in 2006. The lyrics are nothing to pay attention to, but the pleasant ballads and mid-tempo jams that fill out the back half of the album? Go down like honey. – Dan

Twenty Four Hours – Joy Division
I’m sorry, everyone. Leave it to me to rain on our happy parade with this chilling, party’s-over goth landmark, which got overshadowed by JD singles like “Atmosphere” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” With Ian Curtis’s peerlessly haunting voice, the most foreboding bass line I’ve ever heard, and flawless production, 24HR channels an utter breakdown as only Joy Division can. Play this one in good headphones—and only at night. – Grant

Tomorrow is Today – Billy Joel
Nice try, Grant, but I think I’ve got the biggest downer on this list. Near the end of his first album, Billy Joel put to music the suicide note he wrote when he attempted to kill himself by drinking a bottle of furniture polish in 1970. It’s one of Joel’s starkest and most frigid tracks, depicting a world where every day is as numb and isolated as the last. In the chilling, baritone interlude, he imagines death as taking a ride on a river and being tucked into a bed by God for an eternal sleep. “Tomorrow is Today” is a heartbreaking, melodious peek at depression. – Dan

Brick Sh*thouse – Placebo
Placebo’s moderate level of recognition stems largely from the radio play of their middling, sluggish track “Pure Morning.” For something infinitely more fun, try this gem, a sensory-overload blast of unencumbered Placebo that you can just see the wannabe-glam girls dancing to at a concert. Finished before you even know it, BS pairs Brian Molko’s love-it-or-hate-it voice with the sort of dense yet lively goth vibe that bands like Muse have been so successful with. I don’t really know what he’s trying to say, but sometimes with them, it’s best not to worry too much about that. – Grant

Gold Trans Am – Ke$ha
One of my favorite pop songs of the past couple years is a bonus track off of Ke$ha’s Warrior. Ms. Sebert appropriates the best of Joan Jett’s sexual aggression with a soaring chorus. When I needed a playlist of brainless, upbeat music for my long working hours last summer, I made this the lead-off track. “Radio pop” and “hidden gems” don’t often cross paths, but here’s a great example. – Dan

Let Down – Radiohead
My favorite song off widely-adored album OK Computer—and my favorite Radiohead song, period. They’ve never sounded quite like this, so desperate and haunting and pretty at once. Pairing euphonious music with depressing lyrics is one of music’s most effective dichotomies, and ‘Let Down’ is that recipe’s apotheosis. A perfect song. – Grant

The Girl in the Dirty Shirt – Oasis
Oasis’ third album, Be Here Now, is awesome, moreso in the sense of “huge” and “bewildering” than “super neat.” It’s a cracked out diatribe that rumbles on for more than an hour before sputtering out on a needless two-minute reprise of the already interminable “All Around the World.” The Gallagher bros were given a blank check after Morning Glory, and the result left everyone scratching their heads. None of these songs sound like singles. Legend has it that so many people tried to return the CD in England that shops had to make signs saying “No Oasis refunds.” I should mention right now that I fucking love Be Here Now. I think it’s a great album, and I will fight you if you try to argue with me about this. It’s full of so many ridiculous, over-the-top, runaway trains jammed to bursting with pop-rock hooks and swirling guitars, that it almost defies criticism. Complaining about it is kind of like complaining about a mountain. “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” is one of its catchiest, most restrained compositions… clocking in at 5:50. – Dan

I Know It’s Over – The Smiths
The Queen is Dead always shows up on those “Best Of” album lists—#216 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums—but the landmark song is typically considered to be “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Nothing against that one, but “I Know It’s Over” is my favorite Smiths song. Just be careful playing it if you’re already sad; after all those lines asking “If you’re so funny/clever/good-looking, then why are you on your own tonight?” it all might become too much for you. – Grant

Castaway – Green Day
Ever since I listened to their discography, I’ve thought that Warning is Green Day’s best album. Most people veer earlier (Dookie) or later (Idiot) when citing their favorite from the band, but I love the insanely catchy and varied pop-punk numbers the fill up their sixth entry. “Castaway” features one of the band’s most kinetic background guitar riffs and a melody I never tire of. – Dan

Acrobat – U2
Unless you’ve seen U2 more than twice in concert—or, bless your heart, dated someone who has—you won’t know this one. “Acrobat,” part of Achtung Baby’s headlong sprint towards greatness, is precisely the kind of unpredictable, dense, and edgy track they probably don’t have in them anymore. As the band whips up an apocalyptic instrumental frenzy that’s begging to burst free from its tight claustrophobia, Bono wonders, “What are we gonna do now that it’s all been said / No new ideas in the house, and every book has been read.” – Grant

For You – Bruce Springsteen
“To her Cheshire smile, I’ll stand on file / She was all I ever wanted.” Young Bruce was a little bit of a smartass, effortlessly whipping out complex allusions and wordplay while his contemporaries still had their noses in their thesauruses. Sometimes it wrought cheesy Bob Dylan knockoffs like “Mary Queen of Arkansas,” and sometimes it resulted in heart-melting, unsurpassed love songs like “For You.” The upbeat studio version is a gem, but the stripped-down live version (from Hammersmith-Odeon London ’75) is one of my fifteen or so favorite songs ever. – Dan

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