This will be my 25th anniversary of putting together a compilation (first on cassette, then on CD, it’s just a matter of time before it’s digital) of my favorite songs of the year. To mark the occasion I put together another compilation, of songs I failed to include the first time around and should have: my missed songs.
Some of these I missed because I never heard them the first time around, and some because I heard them too much. In the second category I’d put some songs I considered too slick and radio-omnipresent: why would I put something on my faves CD I already felt like I’d heard too much? (I call this the “Graceland” effect because there was a year-long period when that Paul Simon album was playing at every party and restaurant I went to…I knew it was great but I never got around to buying it because I heard it so much.) But now I turn up the radio whenever I hear these songs, like “Do You Realize?” by Flaming Lips, “Yellow” by Coldplay, “How to Save a Life” by The Fray, and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.
Similar omissions were the result of pure snobbiness: “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, “Wonderwall” by Oasis. I justified not including these by saying they would stick out from the indie rock and Americana that dominates my faves, but this was a bad justification since they are great songs that again I turn up whenever they come on.
In the first category, of stuff I just didn’t hear, I’d put: “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead, “Waltz #2” by Elliot Smith, “7 Nation Army” by the White Stripes, “Book of Love” by Magnetic Fields. I probably read about these bands at the time and for one reason or another decided they weren’t for me.(Remember this was before you could hear every song ever recorded with a few taps on a screen…you actually had to go to a record store and lay down your money.) Radiohead I came to through folk music cover versions I mostly heard on the Emerson College radio station, WERS. The Magnetic Fields song I also first heard in a cover version, Peter Gabriel’s, which they played on a “Scrubs” episode. The White Stripes I finally caught up with on a plane trip where the “Elephant” album was a in-flight entertainment selection.
Other songs I didn’t hear at the time I included because when I did hear them, randomly years later, they hit me emotionally, choked me up: “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, “Jesus Etc.” by Wilco, “The Story” by Brandi Carlisle, “Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon. I’m almost glad I didn’t hear them until the moment when they would land so hard.
Some songs I can thank my son for, and offer gratitude for his musical journey from gangster rap enthusiast to musical omnivore. Among the songs I first heard blasting from his bedroom or the bathroom while he showered: “Common People” by Pulp, “Glad Girls” by Guided by Voices, “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. I don’t think he first played me “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens and “This Year” by the Mountain Goats, but I don’t think I appreciated them as much until after he did. I liked that these were songs he liked.
And then there are the songs that I did hear and inexplicably failed to appreciate, the “what the hell was I thinking?” songs: “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, “Orphan Girl” by Gillian Welch, “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes.
There are a few more. Here’s the full list of 28; see you in 25 years for the next edition!
Anthem, Leonard Cohen (1992)
Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley (1994)
Wonderwall, Oasis (1995)
Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead (1995)
Common People, Pulp (1995)
Orphan Girl, Gillian Welch (1996)
Waltz #2, Elliott Smith (1998)
I Want It That Way, Backstreet Boys (1998)
Book of Love, Magnetic Fields (1999)
Yellow, Coldplay (2000)
New Slang, Shins (2001)
Glad Girls, Guided by Voices (2001)
Do You Realize, Flaming Lips (2002)
Jesus, Etc., Wilco (2002)
7 Nation Army, White Stripes (2003)
Keep Me in Your Heart, Warren Zevon (2003)
Chicago, Sufjan Stevens (2005)
How To Save a Life, The Fray (2005)
This Year, The Mountain Goats (2005)
You Give Me Something, James Morrison (2006)
Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol (2006)
The Story, Brandi Carlisle (2007)
Love Story, Taylor Swift (2008)
White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes (2008)
Sequestered in Memphis, Hold Steady (2008)
Dog Days Are Over, Florence + the Machine (2009)
Bad Romance, Lady Gaga (2009)
Redbone, Childish Gambino (2016)