6. M. Ward - "Neptune's Net"
M. Ward might be the most prolific instrumental composer of any musician I know. You can expect at least three guitar arrangements per album. Neptune's Net, however, is his most ambitious, or at least fleshed-out, instrumental to date. Appearing on Post-War (Ward's best album), it's a straight beach-rock track textured by breezy acoustic, wobbly electric arpeggios, and even a whistling theramin to round out the equation.
5. The Silver Jews - "Night Society"
Sometimes, all you need is three chords. Such is "Night Society", a driving rocker with a great riff. Best played with car windows down while wearing aviators. It's a stylistic anomaly on the album though--nothing else really comes close to its overdriven attack. Makes you wonder if it was just a studio goof-off that turned out so well they kept it.
4. Phoenix - "North"
Much ado was made about Phoenix's 2009 album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix--and rightfully so. But I prefer its predecessor, It's Never Been Like That. Track eight on said album is a five minute instrumental with an anxious pace, featuring a subtle, almost untraceable build. Similar in feel to Radiohead's "Weird Fishes", it has a wintery rush about it, underscored by a bevy of synthetic wolf howls that rise out of the songs climactic final minute.
3. Uncle Tupelo - "Sandusky"
(Click to listen)
Since March 16-20, 1992 marked a stripped-down approach for the band, it isn't a stretch o imagine that they'd roll out an instrumental. The tempo of "Sandusky" is almost identical to that of "North", but the feel is more reflective. Mandolin plucks dance around an infectious guitar line, and, yes, those are drums--"Sandusky" is one of only two tracks on the album to feature any drumming.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel - "Untitled"
A musical fireworks show, "Untitled" is the culmination of an albumsworth of raw emotions. A circus organ and bagpipe take center stage on the track, bolstered by the fuzzed guitars and explosive drumming that have been present throughout the album. If you listen closely, the chord structure reprises "King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. 2-3". It's a brilliant call-back, and the song itself is a perfect penultimate chapter to such a wild ride.
Stay tuned for #1...