For the April edition of the collaborative blog, four of the T&E writers discuss their favorite songs that are under two minutes in length. This blog covers a variety of genres - from grindcore, to hip hop, to indie rock, and more!
Song: “Sailin’ On”
Artist: Bad Brains
Album: Bad Brains
This has to be the most perfect song to listen to when you’re getting over a breakup. There’s no wallowing in misery, no self pity, and not even any animosity towards the person who broke up with you. Just an adamant refusal to dwell on the person that was causing pain in your life. The song gives you a jolt of energy to get you bouncing around to boost your endorphins and is over in 1 minute and 56 seconds. Plain, simple, and true to its message. Life is too short to live with a negative mindset, so I’m sailin’ on and the future is bright. Also, while H.R.’s lyrics here can help with a breakup, I feel like they can apply to bad friendships, unhappiness in your career, or any other situation where you need to move on from someone or something that’s stealing your PMA.
Song: “Vicious Muse”
Album: All We Love We Leave Behind
I had friends in high school who played in tough-guy straight-edge bands and tried so hard to get me into bands like Hatebreed, Terror, and First Blood. While I do sometimes listen to those bands now, back then they mostly made me think of hardcore as an excuse for suburban white boys in fitted hats to start fights with each other while bands engaged in an uphill pissing contest over who could play the most “br00tal” version of the breakdown for “Domination” by Pantera. That mindset changed in 2012. All We Love We Leave Behind was the album that not only introduced me to Converge, but it was also the album that truly got me appreciating hardcore in general. It was violent, chaotic, beautiful, and relentless. It felt like free form jazz at times, and the songs hit you like a punch in the gut. Suddenly, I got it.
“Vicious Muse” starts off with a two step drum beat that pumps you up before the rest of the band joins in and vocalist Jacob Bannon delivers his lyrics with a venom-dripping growl. While it’s enjoyable on its own, “Vicious Muse” is one of those songs that makes more sense when listened to in the context of the album as a whole. It provides a mid-tempo, old school-sounding break from the chaotic first half of the album, and makes way for the climactic second half.
Song: “Last Caress”
Album: Beware EP
I’m grateful for the brief period of 8th grade where I listened to nothing but Metallica because their cover of “Last Caress” made me seek out the original. This is one of the songs that I can think of as a perfect introduction for anyone wanting to get into the Misfits. It has a little bit of everything that made the Danzig Era so great. It’s a punk rock classic with a catchy 1950’s-inspired vocal melody that provides some amazing juxtaposition with the dark and disturbing nature of the lyrics. Really, this song speaks for itself so just hit play!
Song: “You Suffer”
Artist: Napalm Death
“You suffer, but why?” It’s a brief, explosive statement on the question of evil. A simple, yet thought-provoking four-word question. And Napalm Death managed to write a song about it in the most hilarious way possible. If you've ever seen them live, you've seen them play this song. And it always catches the audience off guard. It's almost the same reaction any other band gets when they play a less famous song from their back catalog. It's over as soon as it begins, and the element of surprise makes this 1.316-second song one of the most memorable portions of their live set.
Plus I played that clip of Hans Moleman from The Simpsons over and over for, like, ten minutes straight and nearly died laughing when I first saw it.
Artist: Pig Destroyer
Album: Book Burner
There are large devices used in laboratories that exert a massive amount of pressure on a tiny box containing graphite in order to make synthetic diamonds for research or industry. Pig Destroyer’s “Sis” seems to be the result of the band using one of those devices in order to pack malice and hatred and pure sonic insanity into as tiny a package as possible. Clocking in at 1 minute 15 seconds, “Sis” isn’t even the shortest song on Book Burner, but as the first song of the album, it leads them all in brutality, in this writer’s opinion. The intro riff and scream combo, much like soup and sandwich, go together in an exceedingly delicious manner, sure to send a few shivers down the spine and inspire you to scream along. At least, my soups and sandwiches inspire that.
Song: “Exploding Paranoid Universe”
Artist: Brain Famine
Album: Exploding Paranoid Universe
Brain Famine to me has always evoked a sense of incomprehensibly huge machines wielding massive hammers with unimaginable speed and strength, crushing down in carefully calculated patterns designed to crush the wills of all they encounter and consume body and soul alike. More or less. This title track is one of the few purely instrumental ones on the album, and that otherwise-lyrically-occupied space is filled most horrifically, with bass riffs whipping around like scourges of death, blast beats controlled as if by a devilish clockwork, and guitarwork that slices with the speed and precision of a robot wielding a laser-sharpened cleaver, or perhaps a cleaver-tooled laser. A measly 1:04 in length on the album version, “Exploding Paranoid Universe” leaves you feeling like you’ve heard an entire disc, but perhaps that’s because you’ve inevitably been head banging for the past minute, and your neck is a little sore.
Artist: Throttle Elevator Music
Album: Throttle Elevator Music
Jam band in jazz form, “Ratchet” is as ride-like a song as I could possibly imagine. The party bus of hot jazz, if you will. A wild, whimsical ruckus of a romp, Throttle Elevator Music is not deterred by lack of length, and pack at least 5 minutes of energy into a minute and 57 seconds, and that’s the kind of efficiency I think we can all get behind. The bassline reminds me of this one track I used when I was messing around in Guitarband in middle school, and I changed where all the notes were to make it crazy and all over the place. This is a compliment, because I was then (and now) a musical genius. But to complement that wild underpinning is a somewhat more sensible sax line that confines itself at least to human understanding, but know that it’s still the frantic almost punk-like energy to which TEM have devoted themselves. Clear a six foot radius around yourself, and press play. We’re all about safety here.
Song: “James Joints”
Artist: Gama Bomb
Album: Untouchable Glory
By pure coincidence, I am writing this on April 20th. Fancy that.
Every Gama Bomb album has at least one very short goofball song, fitting entirely with their personalities, and this is that song. Wacky puns and clever phraseology about puffing the ganj, accompanied by their trademark NWOTM speed, this is among the seminal Gama Bomb tracks, perfect for acquainting a fresh listener to the Irish thrashers’ work. Less than a minute long, sweet and to the point, and yet still able to make heads bang and arms flail, and probably make you laugh. Get to it!
Song: “True Love Will Find You In the End”
Artist: Daniel Johnston
Album: Retired Boxer
So long as there’s been music and artistic expression, humans have attempted to convey the emotions of love and heartache. Throughout this entire catalog, I find that “True Love Will Find You In the End” is one of the most true, raw and honest love song of all time. Daniel Johnston’s fragile voice and shaky guitar playing capture the vulnerability one would feel after a break-up, or perhaps that hopeless feeling of never wanting to fall in love again. His sincere tone and unembellished song structure not only sympathizes with listeners, but is able to grab them at their most vulnerable moment in order to convey Johnston’s message at its full potential. In just under 2 minutes, he’s able to revive that desire for love with the most stripped-down, heartfelt lyrics. I was once hopeless and down on love, but when I saw Daniel Johnston expose his soul when playing this song live I was completely resurrected. As I’m sure that entire sold-out, teary-eyed audience would tell you, it was one of the most powerful experiences of our entire lives.
Song: “You Hate Me and I Hate You”
Artist: G.G. Allin
Album: Banned in Boston
Throughout college, I worked at a minimum wage paying call center to pay my tuition and get by. The average dropout rate for the job was every semester, but I worked there for three and a half fucking years answering angry phone calls and being surrounded by frat dudes talking about their weekends in Vegas. One of the only things that got me through that experience was listening to this song before and after every single shift. Aside from being a great anthem (mantra, really) for anyone who’s worked in customer service, it’s also one of G.G.’s most catchy and memorable tracks. It’s not your emotionally-charged punk song where you feel drained after revisiting all of your anger. Rather, you find yourself feeling more energetic after listening to the simple, matter-of-factly stated lyrics (“You know that you don’t like me, so I don’t like you”) accompanied with the upbeat and melodious riff. It’s just a fun reminder that hey, sometimes people suck and you gotta say fuck you and move on. Great life lessons from a real piece of shit human. R.I.P. you beautiful bastard.
Song: the whole lot of ‘em
Artist: Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Album: Altered States of America
Instead of just talking about one song, I figure this whole album fits the description and should be discussed as a whole. This 20 minute album is made up of 99 songs, an average of about 12.5 seconds per song. Each of these concise songs are filled with sinister samples, distorted and torturous vocals, and programmed drum beats that go up to 1,000 BPMs. The overall work is one of the most abrasive, disgusting and sonically abusive albums to sit through, making it a grindcore classic and an absolute masterpiece. Side note: I recently spoke with Richard Johnston of Agoraphobic Nosebleed on the new direction of the band and evolving dynamics between bandmates, which you can read here.
Song: “Be a Hobo”
Album: Moondog and His Friends
Simplicity in music is powerful. And there’s something about short songs that specifically demands simplicity. After all, there’s only so much time for the listener to understand what the song is about let alone to care. Pop music takes extreme advantage of this by not only repeating choruses ad nauseam within songs, but from song to song never straying from the accepted time signatures or even melodies. But musicians incorporating simplicity don’t have to write simple songs. Take Moondog, “the Viking of 6th Avenue,” who not only devised his own time signature called “snaketime” but also invented completely new instruments. On “Be a Hobo,” one my favorites of his pieces, the man croons a simple lullaby in duet with himself over the mysterious, clip-clop trotting of minimal wood block rhythms.
Song: “Diamond Day”
Artist: Vashti Bunyan
Album: Just Another Diamond Day
If you don’t already feel this song the moment the acoustic guitar, recorder, and strings come in, then you must feel it when you hear the woman sing. And if you don’t feel it then, then I’m not sure what to say. In the vein of Emily Dickinson, the musical poetry of Vashti Bunyan pours forth simple and golden like the rays of the sun, blows freely and gay as the wind, rolls along as majestic and magical as a fleet of millions of clouds. Again, it’s simple, but it’s also absolutely beautiful. I’m still amazed to know that this track (and the album it opens) received so little interest on its original release, but I guess that gives Vashti another reason to be likened to Emily. She stands so far apart from the crowd by simply putting her ear so close to the earth: when you’re that near to Nature, She sings through you.
Song: “Her Majesty”
Artist: The Beatles
Album: Abbey Road
“Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say /
Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she changes from day to day /
I wanna tell her that I love her a lot, but I got a got a bellyful of wine /
Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl, someday I’m gonna make her mine—oh yeah—someday I’m gonna make her mine.”
Artist: The Vaselines
Known in the collective consciousness as that cute Scottish band that Nirvana loved enough to cover on MTV Unplugged, the Vaselines, in fact, stand apart. Many of their songs last less than three minutes—raucous, lo-fi, and simple-structured indie rock ditties telling mom to leave us alone because we’re gonna grow our hair long and have sex and don’t give half a care in the world whether Jesus wants us for a sunbeam or not. Then there’s “Monsterpussy,” just under the two-minute mark, somehow making things even sillier with the girl singing “meow my monsterpuss” and the guy talking about how he’s “gonna skin it and wear it as a hat on his head.” It’s ridiculous, catchy as hell, and just plain joyous; in other words, it easily makes me understand why one could agree with Kurt Cobain when he called the Vaselines his “favorite songwriters in the whole world.”
Song: “Time: The Donut of the Heart”
Artist: J Dilla
This was a tough one. If you’ve listened to our podcast discussing “perfect” albums, then you could have guessed I’d pick something from this album. The problem: when you’re looking at a perfect album with 30 tracks under two minutes, how do you pick just one? While “Lightworks” and “Walkinonit” both called out to me, it’s ultimately this groovy, sensual, downright gorgeous “Donut” that wins my heart. No offense to the rest of the samples on the album, but it’s hard to compete with a piece sprung from that deliciously rich Motown sound. Dilla lifted from “All I Do Is Think of You,” the b-side of a 1975 Jackson 5 single. Both sides of the 45” are fairly low-key, but the b-side is a ballad from beginning to end, meaning Dilla had to up the tempo to make his revision as head-boppingly scrumptious as it is. But it’s not just speed; the master producer laid all sorts of glaze on this donut, making it one of my favorite pieces of all time.
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