Wednesday, August 17, 2011

11 (and then some) Best Brass

First, my apologies for missing 11 Best last month. It was a casualty of a very busy stretch for me, and unfortunately in the world of unpaid and deadlineless writing, these things happen. What's worse? This edition of 11 Best will be one of my patented half-assed efforts, where I condense everything into one post.

Anyway, it's sort of ironic that our subject this month is brass, because I arrived at it via the assessment that I generally don't like brass gussying up my music. But if there's one thing I've learned from four years in a creative field, it's that the least logical path is often the most interesting. To wit: surely there are some songs with brass arrangements that I'm capable of enjoying. Going through my iPod, I was actually surprised by the number of contenders for this list. I disqualified acts like Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen who rely heavily on a brass presence, by the way. But even without those, I had a heap of material to work with.

And you know what? Since I skipped last month, we're going to up the ante. Here are 17 songs for ya ass. Like June, these are in no particular order:
  • Neil Young - "After the Gold Rush": A regal trumpet solo toots the vocal melody on one of Young's most famous songs.
  • Silver Jews - "Random Rules": I love the bed of lounge brass that lifts behind the chorus of this classic album opener.
  • Radiohead - "How to Disappear Completely": A lone trumpet dances in the shadowy middle distance of Radiohead's ghostly ode to getting the hell outta dodge.
  • Wilco - "Monday" - I remember reading that Jeff Tweedy was incensed when the Stonesy horns were stripped from the radio edit.
  • Bob Dylan - "Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine)": This is actually a serviceable remix of the original, which is unavailable on youtube apparently.
  • Tom Waits - "Ruby's Arms": Takes the cake for the saddest horn section on the list. Short instrumental horn introduction sets the stage for this all-time bawler.
  • Hold Steady - "Chillout Tent": Every great album has that one polarizing track. This one--featuring choral exchanges by the song's subjects--often proves to be the one on Boys and Girls in America. But I love the bed of trumpet hits that complement the second chorus. They provide an open-air feel that conjures the mid-day sprawl of a rock festival.
  • The National - "Fake Empire": As the coda of this establishing act unfurls, the frantic and overlapping brass section embodies the song's big city setting.
  • Broken Social Scene - "Art House Director": The rich, shimmering swaths of Price Is Right style horn blasts are a large part of why this was my favorite track from Forgiveness Rock Record.
  • Spoon - The Underdog": Rarely a band to reach across stylistic boundaries, they introduced some choppy horn runs to round out what is probably their most digestible track to date.  
  • Bright Eyes - "Landlocked Blues": Maybe a little cliched, but I still get goosebumps every now and then hearing the charged "Taps" blast that unfurls after Conor screeches "'Cause they're comin' for ya!"
  • TV On the Radio - "Crying" - The pool is deep with TVOTR, but I'll place "Crying" slightly ahead of "I Was a Lover".
  • Whiskeytown - "The Ballad of Carol Lynn": The soft horn section here is just the right amount of sweetener for this sleepy-eyed number.
  • The Low Anthem - "Boeing 737":  The newest entry on the list, I love the soaring brass draws that score the violent rush of an airliner passing just overhead.
  • Elliott Smith - "A Question Mark": A baritone sax puffs along beneath the chugging XO tune.  
  • My Morning Jacket - "Dancefloors": It was a treat seeing this one played with a full jazz band in tow, fleshing out the horn-laden outro jam.
  • Beck - "Tropicalia": Fact: it is impossible not to shimmy in some form or fashion when hearing "Tropicalia".
Wild card, you say? Look, I just rolled out 17 of the horniest songs in my collection and you still want a wild card? I'm hardly posting these days as it is--how are you going to bug me for more content? Nah just kidding, I've got a treat for the six of you reading this: how about I throw my own shit under the microscope for once. Check out my self-produced (re: shoddy) track "Thunders of the Morning". Listen close during the chorus and the outro jam, and you'll hear some midi-horns.


Justin said...

Love the clarinet used in many of The Low Anthem's songs. Such a beautiful/eerie instrument.

Here's one of my favorite brass tunes:

Romantica - "The National Side"

George said...

Wow, I really, really enjoyed that. Thanks for posting! Great video as well.

The mariachi-ish horns also reminded me of an egregious omission, Okkervil River's "A Girl In Port".

Justin said...

A Girl in Port is great! I'm not very familiar with Okkervil River, but I'm definitely going to dig into their music after that song! Thanks