So @nostalgicsadface tagged me to do a song I like for every letter of the alphabet so let’s go.
A- Actors by Don Broco
B- Betrayed by the Game by Dance Gavin Dance
C- Cardigan by The Cardboard Swords
D- Dark Days by Pup
E- Early Sunsets Over Monroeville by My Chemical Romance
F- February Weather by In Her Own Words
G- Glass Spiders by Hot Milk
H- Hoodie Weather by The Wonder Years
I- I don’t like who I was then by The Wonder Years
J- Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America by The 1975
K- Kill Your Conscience by Boston Manor
L- Laika by Boston Manor
M- Melrose Diner by The Wonder Years
N- Now This is Podracing by Mom Jeans
O- One in a Million by Dance Gavin Dance
P- Pretty Handsome Awkward by The Used
Q- Quarter Life Crisis by Underachiever
R- Rory by Foxing
S- Shameless by We Were Sharks
T- Three Wishes by Dance Gavin Dance
U- Using by Sorority Noise
V- Vape Nation by Mom Jeans
W- Wish You Were Here by Incubus
X- XO by Fall Out Boy
Y- You Look Like Death by Gender Roles
Z- (The) Zealot’s Blindfold by Being as an Ocean
Holy fuck that was hard, mainly cause there’s about 5 different songs I could’ve chosen for each one. I’m going to pass this on to @enthusiasticandsarcastic @jimbogartisdelusionalwithlove and @plasticine-dreams if you guys fancy it.
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Sonic Youth Ranked (Part 4)
2. Daydream Nation (1988)
Main Genres: Alternative Rock, Noise Rock, Post-Punk
A decent sampling of: Experimental Rock, Art Punk, Post-Hardcore
To the shock of pretty much no one who knows anything about the band, Daydream Nation is one of my two favourite Sonic Youth records. The reputation it holds is undeniable. Not only does it seem to make an appearance on almost every list of the greatest rock albums of the 80s, but it was also archived by the American Library of Congress for the album’s cultural significance. Indie rock hipsters also just fucking love this record, and I’m one of those hipsters, so it only makes sense that this is one of my favourite albums of all time.
If Sister pioneered the new formula for Sonic Youth’s sound, then Daydream Nation utterly perfected it. This record is an entire urban landscape unto itself come to life, sprawling with intensity and uncertainty. This would be the most adrenergic sound the band ever achieved, existing in a world far away from the barren wastelands of Confusion Is Sex or Bad Moon Rising while retaining the noise and counter-cultural ethos of those records. There are even moments on Daydream Nation where Sonic Youth sounds quite like the hardcore punk bands that their early records largely subverted.
In many ways, the opener “Teen Age Riot” is Daydream Nation condensed into a seven minute song. Hell, “Teen Age Riot” is probably just Sonic Youth condensed into a seven minute song. This is where the very name ‘Sonic Youth’ becomes its most fitting; a track that is the essence of youthful rebellion and imagination harnessed into the sounds of a jumpy, manic guitar frenzy. I love Kim Gordon’s little bit at the start too, it really makes it feel like the entire album is fading into view from this little conversation happening in a darkened back alley.
The unlikely fanfare of “Teen Age Riot” was inspired by contemplating the idea of an uprising where all the NYC underground scenes would join forces to take over the United States, and I really do feel that whenever I listen to it. This song is a rallying cry of alternative culture, looking to recruit every possible listener through its irresistible composition. It signals something massive is about to happen, which is part of what makes it such a truly genius way to open Daydream Nation. “Teen Age Riot” really is just a perfect song, and a perfect realization of the band’s artistic vision.
The next few tracks are quintessential Sonic Youth. “Silver Rocket” is a tornado of guitars firing off like missiles in all directions, while “The Sprawl” is a smoldering vignette of a bustling downtown metro at night, with lyrics influenced by the words exchanged between a group of sex workers. There’s a wondrous breakdown at the end of this track that makes me feel like I’m falling into a very tired sleep with my head buried into my sleeves on a late night bus ride.
“’Cross The Breeze” is another glorious peak in quality on Daydream Nation and probably the hardest the band has ever sounded. The opening rift is the calm before the storm, like a gentle cool wind before the downpour of icy rain as the tempo kicks in with a strike of lightning to the core of the listener’s very being. Steve Shelley kicks some serious ass on his drum kit here while Kim screams into the void, attempting to seize the very essence of life itself.
Lee Ranaldo takes on a godlike presence on “Eric’s Trip” with stream-of-consciousness lyrics accented by a barrage of sharp, swooping guitars like the talons of a gargoyle. “Total Trash” actually starts off with the poppiest hook on the record, but then slowly begins to lose all of its composure like a zombie collapsing into a festering pool of noise rock, only to regenerate itself and slowly limp its way back up at the end. “Providence” is an experimental piece that sounds like a static noise seance, complete with fleeting piano and a bizarre answering machine recording.
“Candle” is yet another one of the band’s greatest cuts. Not many tricks here, this one is honestly just beautifully written. It really hits a climactic sweet spot between the ear-pleasing melodies of the intro and the verses, the discordant contortions of the bridge, and the generally dark and mysterious vibes it gives off. You could probably get a lot of people turned on to Sonic Youth with just this one track.
Even though Daydream Nation is only #2 on this list, I will say this with utmost certainty: The nine track run from “Teen Age Riot” to “Candle” is the longest and most consistent run of essential Sonic Youth songs in the band’s entire discography. In fact, if this LP had ended at “Candle” then Daydream Nation maybe would’ve been my #1 (hard to say, it’d still be a really close match).
Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy the last few tracks. “Kissability” is yet another clever feminist take from Kim. The trilogy is also a really interesting piece, even if it’s not my most favourite thing here, and I like the idea of having “Elimination Jr.” as a track that finishes off such a complex record with a fun little burst of no-nonsense punk rock. Still, I have to say that there is a persistent and engaging flow of energy that runs through those first nine tracks on Daydream Nation that is on a level that no other band I’ve heard has ever really achieved, at least to my ears.
To be honest, there’s not really much more that I could articulate about this record that others haven’t already done quite thoroughly. Daydream Nation is the sound of Sonic Youth in their element. I could nitpick a detail or two like I just did, but this is still a bloody masterpiece. It becomes pretty clear once you’ve listened to this album why it was the exact moment that the members of Sonic Youth became indie/alternative rock legends.
highlights: “Teen Age Riot”, “’Cross The Breeze”, “Candle”, “The Sprawl”, “Total Trash”, “Eric’s Trip”, “Silver Rocket”, “Providence”, “Z) Elimination Jr.”, “Hey Joni”, “Kissability”
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