All this month we are celebrating the art of the opening track here on TMSDOTORG. Some of our favorite people will be sharing some of their favorite opening tracks and we hope they become some of your favorite too. You can listen along on Spotify! Have any suggestions - hit up our Facebook page (please?!?!)
1. Midway Park - Whiskeytown on Faithless Street
I've always had a great love for this song. As soon as that fingerpicked opening begins and the drums and violin kicks in I'm right where I want to be; in the back of a truck, my head tilted just off the side, staring out at a small North Carolina town, where the soil is red and the sunsets are too. It's a beautiful opening, and it opens the world to the Paul Westerberg of my generation; a troubled, pissed, drunk troubadour, obsessed with small town life, girls, and eventually as we'd later find out, Star Wars. It perfectly begins an album about youthful anger and acceptance in a bottle and a broken heart. It's my kind of album, really.
2. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) - Arcade Fire on Funeral
Okay, so maybe it's a bit cliche for my generation, but really this feels to me like the great opening my generation has been missing. The piano descends into a wall of guitar, and violin, and drums, and bass and Win's hushed whisper to finally build into Win's shaky shouts, dancing over a wave of cymbals. But what's even more brilliant about this opening is that it suddenly opens a world to a music we had never heard before, and after hearing would honestly, never forget. This track also effectively ushered in arguably the most original and brilliant band of the last ten years.
3. Baba O'Riley - The Who on Who's Next
As cliched and as overplayed and as blah blah blah as this song has become, I still must admit that to me it will always define 'Rock Music'. If an alien came to me and asked me "What is Rock N'Roll?" I would simply put on side one of Who's Next and walk away. Not my favorite Who album, but certainly one of their best. Sadly, for me, this song towers over everything else. And since its release it has been played so many times in so many movies and on so many radio stations that I am pretty sure most of the world can't take listening to it again. But, seriously, this song is utterly brilliant and the epitome to how you start an album. You know that theory, so eloquently hypothesized by Cusack's Rob Gordon - or I guess Nick Hornby, "You gotta kick it off with a killer, to grab attention."
4. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen on Born to Run
I blame my latest obsession with "the boss" on Malick's "Badlands", which I finally got around to seeing last month despite my obsession with Malick and everything he's done...well, nearly everything. Nobody's perfect. Born to Run is a big album. It's Bruce at his biggest and boldest, but what makes him so brilliant compared to say, Billy Joel, is the fact that he's a genuinely great writer. I mean listen to "Nebraska" if you don't believe me. The way he can beautifully piece together the details of two young lovers in a small town destined to stay losers, reminds me of the way Updike describes the plight of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom in the opening paragraphs of "Rabbit Redux". And the song serves as the opening to a 40 minute drive through the promiseland, as big and as bombastic as he's ever been. At his worst he's a fantastic pop songwriter, at his best he's a documentarian for the hopeless. And no song proves both sides of that as wonderfully as this.
5. The King of Carrot Flowers Parts 1, 2 & 3 - Neutral Milk Hotel on In the Aeroplane Over The Sea
I know it's technically two songs, or three songs...or whatever. But, I don't think you can have the 1st part without the other two. They're all one song with various movements in my book. I was about twelve when the album came out, and most likely I didn't listen to anything like this at the time. In fact I didn't even discover the album until I was maybe twenty, twenty one. But the first time I heard it, everything I knew about music pretty much changed. A forty minute long, depressingly beautiful, wonderfully and excruciatingly personal love letter to Anne Frank (kinda) and to loneliness (sorta). An album dedicated to just finding beauty in depression and loneliness and everything I felt at the time as a lonely early twenty something. It changed how I saw music. Fuck, it changed more than that. It changed how I saw the whole world around me. The lyrics describing, what appear to be about family problems and about love and about sex, sing straight to the isolated virginal twenty something in all of us. Still young, and somewhat unfamiliar with sex, angry, and worried. With a few brilliant lines it vividly paints the way I saw the world around me, and the way most of the kids like me did as well. Starting slow, stating the details, then screaming out a plea, then exploding into crunchy guitar like an assault on our problems. Followed ultimately by one of the most beautiful and puzzling albums of the past twenty years. You know, the amount of time I've existed.