Arch Stanton Guest Post: Perfect Songs, Part 1

When I was in eighth grade or so, burning CDs was the coolest shit on the planet. I burned SO MANY CDs, many of which I still had until I tossed them in the garbage as this form of music is roughly four iterations of music outdated by now. It was about this time I first made a CD of “perfect songs” – this particular CD is long gone, but the concept remains. I made a “perfect songs” playlist on my first computer, transferred it from laptop to laptop, across multiple iPods, to its current (but certainly not final) form as a Spotify playlist.

The idea is this is a collection of perfect songs – not necessarily my favorite songs, but ones that hit a nerve in such a way they evade a more apt description beyond “it’s perfect”. Alas, I’m going to now attempt to describe them in more eloquent ways than “I like this song”. Some of these songs are highly nostalgic, some are evocative of specific moods or periods in time, many are personal favorites, but some are just unassailably perfect compositions of various elements. There’s pop, rock, new wave, acoustic stuff, metal, and hip hop, all from a wide range of periods. At this point in time, there are 95 songs, but the playlist is constantly growing and contracting, so consider this a running feature in order to offset Disillusioned Dilettante’s terrible Song of the Day choices (DD interjection: You forget that Reagan has blessed this blog and all music that comes before it.  THE POWER OF REAGAN COMPELS YOU!!!). This is the first of what will (maybe) be a recurring feature. These are in order of the way they came up on shuffle:

  1. “Forgot About Dre” by Dr Dre and Eminem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFcv5Ma8u8k)

I have a theory that every male born between 1986 and 1989 can recite this song word-for-word without missing a beat, regardless of the last time they heard it. People born prior to this window think of this as Dr Dre’s less illustrious post-NWA solo period, and people born later recall this as Eminem before “My Name Is…” blew up. The beat is wonderfully ominous and building when Dr Dre drops in and sets the tone for what middle-school-me thought was the pinnacle of pissed-off rapping. Eminem’s verse is emblematic of his irreverent verses that dabble in humor and violence, but the chorus will always be the part nearest to my heart as the first thing that caught my ear in this track.

  1. “Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PXOHpBneEU)

I’m sure someone is outraged I picked this Stones’ song over some of their more popular or iconic songs, but this is my list dammit, and this is my second favorite Rolling Stones and you’ll just have to deal with it (don’t worry, number one is on here too). It’s a bit different than most of Stones’ song, as it maintains a level of sincerity and earnestness missing from their more popular songs with the lyrics meditating on what it’s like to be alone and wishing for someone else. On top of this, there’s a large string arrangement which moves it from a soft acoustic track everyone would skip on “Sticky Fingers” into a monster ballad that stands out on what is essentially a best-of album already. It makes me warm on the inside, and optimistic, which is weird considering the song is most likely about using heroin. It is a Rolling Stones’ song after all.

  1. “Fuel” by Metallica (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1cjHbXdU0s)

Remember how I said some of these were more nostalgic than actual perfect songs? This is the former. Saying “Metallica has better songs” is a huge understatement. I know this. I still have never listened to “Load” or “Reload” beyond this one song, because I know a shitty album when I see one . With that said – this song came out when I was twelve. A twelve-year old does not appreciate the complexity of the riffs in “Master of Puppets”, or the bleak lyrics of “One”, but nothing connects with a seventh grader faster than a song that starts with “GIMMEFUE GIMMAFAHYA GIMMEDATWISADESIYA OOOOH” and launches into the greatest chode-rock riff ever assembled. This song will never not kick ass and get me fired up to flip a car or light a couch on fire, and I don’t care if people think this song sucks.

  1. “The Stroke” by Billy Squier (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_OGARBe6W0)

This is the short list of songs I am confident I could sing at karaoke despite not being able to sing at all. There’s a good Twitter joke about “guys who like classic rock – we get it, you have a good relationship with your dad”, and my appreciation from this song almost certainly stems from hearing this with my dad. The gated reverb of the power chord that carries the song definitely doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact it was the song Billy Madison was listing to in his t-top as he got to high school before the O’Doyles made fun of him. Fuck the O’Doyles, “the Stroke” fucking bangs regardless of what year it is.

  1. “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4306i99LMXo)

One summer when I was in grad school, I went home to help my brother, still in undergrad, take care of my parents’ house and dogs while they were out of town while he was working in the summer. Of course this meant we were going to have a party, because my life is a high school movie based on the 80s apparently. The problem with being more than a few years out of high school was most of my friends had long since departed our home town, so I invited one or two available friends while my brother handled the bulk of invites. The party starts like any summer in college party, late after everyone ends whatever pointless job they’re working to pick up just enough money to buy beer. It went as most parties tend to go – beer pong is played, people come and go, beers are chugged, music is blasted, and my parent’s neighbors (????) showed up for a few hours to play flip cup. At around 4:30am, the party was down to its last embers with people passed out on couches and floors, but one girl my brother had invited turned this song on despite the party being all but over. We ended up dancing around the basement as the song played, stepping around bodies scattered about like a dreary Renaissance painting. Despite the otherwise great party, my only last recollection of the entire night was roughly four minutes of spontaneous sincerity with a casual acquaintance to this song.

  1. “Children of the Grave” by Black Sabbath (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7UZeHvMYZA)

Enough of the earnest sincerity. I don’t know when I first realized I love Black Sabbath, but I have a hunch it was heavily in part because of this song. The propulsive riff is immaculate, and from the first time you hear it, you know you are on board for a song that was made with attention to detail and tenderness and a larger vision jk it was made with boat loads of cocaine, and this is really the only type of song I am interested in hearing. Thank you Black Sabbath for being a pioneer in the “drugs make for great music” field.

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