Jeff Malone’s Best of the “Magic Mix Era” (2006-2009)

April 14th, 2010 by Jeff Malone


I have been doing best-of shows on Jeff Malone’s Magic Mix for the past four years, with a top 5 countdown for each year.  Now, with the Magic Mix’s four-year run coming to an end, I have compiled a list of the top 25 songs of the “Magic Mix Era,” i.e., the four years that I have previously done best-of shows for (2006-2009).

My expertise in music is most strong when it comes to rock, and that is where my taste tends to migrate towards as well.  The Best of the “Magic Mix Era” is thus a rock-based list.  There are some exceptions, but it is best to consider this list as the top 25 songs of 2006-2009 that are either rock songs or friendly to the rock genre.

Criteria:

-All songs must have been released as a single in the U.S. between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2009.
-Songs must meet standards of quality according to overall aural characteristics and must be influential within the music world.

1. Justin Timberlake ft. Timbaland – SexyBack (2006)

“You ready?!”
Back in 2006 when “SexyBack” emerged as a hit, a bunch of jokers said, “I didn’t know sexy was ever gone!” Look, folks, that was completely beside the point. Why were you looking for sense in an obviously nonsensical song? Let’s take a gander beyond its content (what little of it there is). We got the reinvention of a pop star, the introduction of a new phrase into the lexicon, and one of the most absurd, yet most important moments in music history.

2. Muse – Knights of Cydonia (2006)

“You and I must fight to survive”
Muse is the goofiest of all arena rock bands. Arena rock is inherently goofy, but Muse would be goofy no matter what genre they resided in. “Knights of Cydonia” is the epitome of their absurdly bombastic arrangements and unbelievably highfalutin lyrics. It sounds political, but just what is it that we have to fight to survive? No matter. This world where “God falls asleep on the job” can apply to any type of troubling social situation, especially when belted out by Matthew Bellamy, who throws in a few as-high-as-he-can-go ah-ahh’s for good measure.

3. MGMT – Electric Feel (2008)

“All along the western front”
When I first heard “Electric Feel,” I thought, “Is that the Bee Gees?” I worry that MGMT might be somewhat insulted by that misidentification. But matching the iconic falsettos of the Gibb brothers is quite an accomplishment for a vocalist. The falsetto is rarely employed by MGMT; it is just one part of their arsenal of tricks. These boys from Brooklyn reside in their own idiosyncratic space in the music landscape, but they also draw from and move forward the collision of pop, rock, dance, and electro.

4. Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye (2007)

“Everyone’s so focused clearly with SUCH SHINE!”
“Lazy Eye” is one of those songs that needs to be consumed in conjunction with its music video to be fully appreciated. In a little more than four minutes, we know that there is a love here that ought to bloom, almost doesn’t, and then just barely does. It is such a sweet song, but it is also a pressure-cooker, which the fast-paced riff and relentless drumbeat lets us feel. Then of course there is Brian Aubert’s wildly unrestrained burst of everything he has in himself. The one and a half minute solo in the full version is take-it-or-leave-it, droning on and on as it does, but at least it gives you a chance to recover.

5. Rihanna ft. Jay-Z – Umbrella (2007)

“Took an oath, I’m-a stick it out till the end”
The hybrid nature of “Umbrella” may not be terribly obvious on a first listen, but it includes a fair number of disparate elements. It is a dance song set to a rock backbeat with Caribbean-accented R&B vocals and a rap intro. The arrangement is tight. The lyrics are straightforward, and why shouldn’t they be, when there are so few great songs about fidelity?

6. Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch (2009)

“Do your fingers itch, are you pistol-whipped?”
In the world of Silversun Pickups, you know you are somewhere, somewhere out there, but you don’t know much more than that. You definitely would be well-advised to have a distress signaling device handy. Props on “Panic Switch” especially go to drummer Chris Guanlao, who demonstrates the influence he has surely derived from Animal the Muppet.

7. Paramore – Misery Business (2007)

“Once a whore, you’re nothing more”
High school-centric entertainment will always be around, because everyone was, is, or will be a teenager. Songs that are so decidedly about high school usually do not have significant lasting appeal, unless they are really good. The bite of Paramore’s “Misery Business” implicitly makes it clear that some people never grow out of high school, and the stinging vocals of Hayley Williams are what those people need to hear. To get the full effect of “Misery Business,” check out the album version and its violin intro.

8. Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire (2008)

“Lay where you’re laying”
A song entitled “Sex on Fire” pretty much automatically makes it on this list. The phrase has entered the lexicon (something most people prefer over the former ubiquity of “SexyBack”). It helps that the song is pretty good besides the title as well. The main riff is blindingly hypnotic, and the lyrics promise unbridled, sincere passion.

9. TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me (2006)

“My body’s strained but God I like it”
The guitar playing of “Wolf Like Me” is thus: one note over and over, then another note over and over, then another over and over, then the same notes take turns again over and over but this time faster, and then the same turn-taking as fast as possible, and then slow it back down, but still the same over and over deal, and somehow TV on the Radio get away with it. It is just an experimental riff on lycanthropy, with a rawness that the makers of the recent Wolfman remake would have been wise to follow.

10. Foo Fighters – The Pretender (2007)

“What if I say I’m not like the others?!”
This is the blueprint for slow build giving way to relentlessness. Then there are the politically minded lyrics, which slyly, and wisely, avoid specifics. Anyone who has been screwed over by a higher “authority” can shout along with Dave Grohl.

11. Wolfmother – Woman (2006)

“She’s a woman you know what I mean”
Yeah, she’s a woman. So let’s sing about her. This “woman” obviously represents all women. And how are you gonna sing about women? Belt it out, of course. Make her out to be a goddess. Epitomize her. You know what I mean.

12. Bat for Lashes – Daniel (2009)

“Into our mouth the tears crept”
Indie princess Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat for Lashes, pulls off her masterpiece with “Daniel,” a landscape of transcendent love. Everything on this track – the synth beats, the natural beats, Khan’s vocals – is restrained, yet powerful. This all-surrounding world of passion sounds beautiful, but also a little frightening.

13. Major Lazer ft. Mr. Lexx and Santigold – Hold the Line (2009)

“I’ll make your jeans vibrate like a Nokia”
Discovering Major Lazer was a sort of discovery in which I knew what I had come across was an underground sensation, but I had no idea where that underground resided. This mystery deepened when I could not find the lyrics of Mr. Lexx’s reggae-riddim verses posted anywhere online. So I bought Major Lazer’s debut album, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do, partially in hopes to find lyrics included in the liner notes. Alas, no dice. What I got instead was a further deepening of the mystery. “Hold the Line” was nowhere on the track list. Instead, the track that featured Mr. Lexx and Santigold was entitled “I’ll Make Ya.” What the heck was going on? Was Major Lazer even real, or had I imagined everything? All was set aright eventually. It turned out, unsurprisingly, that there was just a good deal of mischief to go along with the most memorable reggae-rock-dancehall fusion project in … ever.

14. The White Stripes – Icky Thump (2007)

“Icky thump with a lump in my thump”
Before “Icky Thump,” we knew the White Stripes were absolutely crazy and that they produced music unlike anything else on the airwaves. Still, “Icky Thump” did not sound like something they would ever come up with. We were caught off guard by the political bite, but in retrospect, it only made sense coming from such an artist. And what is up with those gleefully distorted solos? Seriously, how is that sort of music even possible?

15. Animal Collective – My Girls (2009)

“But WITH a little girl, and by my spouse”
Such an intricate electronic soundscape for such a simple, eternal message. But it is that intricacy that makes those sorts of messages meaningful.

16. The Sword – Freya (2006)

“When is all done it must begin again”
Part of the opening guitar bit to “Freya” is known as a “chunk riff.” I am not entirely sure what that means, but I prefer everything together in a chunk as opposed to a screeching mess that is all over the place like most metal music today. Thank you, the Sword, for proving that you can still pull off old-school, Sabbath-style metal, with its tightly arranged solos, mythological references, and CLEARLY ENUNCIATED VOCALS.

17. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (2006)

“Who do you, who do you who do you think you are? Ha ha ha!”
There is no screwing around when it comes to Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Five opening beats, and then let’s get right into the singing. Cee-Lo Green has a falsetto-capable voice, but he is not going to do anything more than he has to with it. Steady during the verses, let it out during the chorus. Pick it up over the course of the song. And get it all packaged into three solid minutes. A song about a mental breakdown does not need to have a breakdown of its own.

18. Priestess – Lay Down (2006)

“I’ll leave you in the dirt”
A cult of death has been a major part of metal music since as long as the metal has been around. Death has been portrayed as something that is not so bad, and it has even been worshipped. But rarely has death sounded as fun as it does on Priestess’s “Lay Down.” With its looping guitar riff (perfect for bopping your head along to) and earnest vocals, “Lay Down” takes its cue for how to remember loved ones from the Mexican El Día de Los Muertos festival. The lyrics convey an odd, intriguing mix of religious feeling and possible sympathy to euthanasia: a sort of “I am happy to leave you with God, now that your suffering in this life is over.”

19. Calvin Harris – The Girls (2007)

“I like them carrying a little-bitty weight girls”
Calvin loves all the girls. Let me emphasize that – loves. His dilemma is not that of the misogynistic playboy. It is of the overwhelmed, and respectful, heterosexual male (well, he does play around a little). Thank God I am not the only one of that kind out there. And thank God one of the other ones is the best Scottish DJ around. With “The Girls,” Calvin Harris has created the mating call for the 21st century.

20. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart (2008)

“When we’ll be lovers, lovers at last”
One of the great things about “I Will Possess Your Heart” is that you can take in most of it without even realizing that you have been listening. Once it kicks it in completely at the halfway point, you have been moved such that your heart is ready to be possessed and you can’t put up any protest. The choice of possession as the main descriptor lends a creepy air to an earnest feeling that sounds like true love smothered by insecurity.

21. Justice – D.A.N.C.E. (2007)

“You’re always there for music and me”
With its anthemic “D.A.N.C.E.,” Justice announced to the world that Daft Punk is not the only French electronic duo worth paying attention to. Culling inspiration from the titles of Michael Jackson, “D.A.N.C.E.” is certain to bring a smile to your face and some electricity throughout your body. Do the dance, folks, come on, do the dance. How can you live life and not dance? Do the dance.

22. Kings of Leon – Use Somebody (2008)

“Oh oh oh, oh oh oh”
The first time I heard Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” was back in September 2008 when they performed it on Saturday Night Live. It was on right before the last sketch, so as I was walking about right after watching it, I found myself harmonizing some ohhhhhohhhoh’s with my roommate. Rarely has a monosyllable been stretched out for all it is worth so memorably. Oh, and the content of the actual words is rather heartfelt, too.

23. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (2008)

“Roman cavalry choirs are singing”
“Viva La Vida” is not as deep as Coldplay would like it to be. But it is a lot of fun. Unusually for Coldplay, the guitar moves things along, and we are thankful for the change. Chris Martin really gets into it, belting out some oh’s and whoa’s that every animated vocalist has to get to at least once in his career. Some of the lyrics are faux-profound, while others are delightfully obscure. And Will Champion is having a hell of a time banging away on the timpani.

24. Queens of the Stone Age – 3’s & 7’s (2007)

“Turn into sweet no things, kiss you good-bye”
The guitar goes, “chicka-chicka-bow-bow, chicka-bow-bow-bow-bow.” Then it goes, “Wah wah wah, wah wah wah wah wah wah!” Then, “Nah nah, nah, nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah.” Of course there’s the “doodoodoo doodoodoo doodoodoo doodoodoo.” The solo goes crazy to top it all off. And that’s all you need to know.

25. The Ting-Tings – Great DJ (2008)

“Imagine all the girls, ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
And the boys, ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
And the strings, ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee
And the drums, and the drums, and the drums, and the…”

When the chorus to “Great DJ” kicks in, there is an utter sense of urgency that is saying, the Ting-Tings are throwing a party, and you are missing out. This party will apparently cure your indigestion. And there are a lot of drums. Also, a very effective use of hand claps. Certainly, this is the sort of party that would be thrown by a great, undiscovered or long-forgotten DJ.




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