Ten incredibly beautiful vocal moments in indie rock history
The most beautiful sad song of all time? I dare you to find one better. And even if you do, could it possibly get so much agonizing mileage out of one line as Will Oldham does here?
1) "I said: 'kiss me, you're beautiful—/ these are truly the last days'/ you grabbed my hand and we fell into it/ like a daydream or a fever"
from "Dead Flag Blues" by Godspeed, You Black Emperor!
Lee Marvin's opening monologue is terrifying and tragic, perfectly cueing the terrifying and tragic music to follow. Every line is a ticking bomb but the simplest lines are the most striking, excavating the poetry from the post-apocalyptic wreckage.
2) "There is no righteousness in your darkest moment/ We're all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of/ And I'm so sorry/ For those who didn't make it/ And for the mommies who are left with their heart breaking."
from "Sympathy" by Sleater-Kinney
Motherhood does a band good as Sleater-Kinney proved. Corin Tucker has never sounded as impassioned or soul-baring as she does on One Beat's heartbreaking closer, when she has to beg a God she barely knows for mercy. You will be missed, Sleater-Kinney.
3) "And you are always on my mind/ And you are you always on my mind/ And you are always on my mind/ And you are always on my mind"
from "New Partner" by Palace Music
4) "Oohh young liars/ I said thank you for taking my hands/ And burying them deep in the world's wet womb/ Where no one can heed their commands."
from "Young Liars" by TV On The Radio
The first time I heard the Young Liars EP, it sounded unprecedented. What was this soulful hybrid of styles and how did the vocals just seem to float above the music? Three years later, the same questions linger.
5) "Eg Flýt Um I Neðarsjávar HýðiA/ Hóteli Beintengdur Við Rafmagnstöfluna Og Nærist/ Tjú Tjú"
from "Svefn-g-englar" by Sigur Ros
I have little to no definitive evidence, but my best educated guess suggests that this is, in fact, the soundtrack on the escalator to heaven.
6) "Pouring my fingers across the keys/ Will someone review my salary please?/ I’m selling my time to the man who sells style/ That time should be mine to waste on you."
from "Theory of the Crows" by The National
Matt Berninger can sound like a hoarse Leonard Cohen or an unleashed maniac, but he never sounds as vanquished as he does here. In one listen, he will convince you that a tie is just a noose made of silk.
7) "Debaser! (Debaser) Debaser! (Debaser) Debaser!"
from "Debaser" by the Pixies
This is the sound of real rock: Frank Black losing his shit over Buñuel and Kim Deal making it pretty. But what makes it especially beautiful is that it still feels so fresh and exciting as it celebrates its seventeenth year of influencing everyone.
from "I Luv The Valley Oh!" by Xiu Xiu
It may be a ridiculous claim, but 1:47 of this song, when Jamie Stewart finally lets out all the torment and psychic trauma and violence that’s been building up in him for years, may be my favorite second in music.
9) "Chaææ/ Enginn fylgist alveg/ Chaææ/ Sólin sekkur/ Chaææ/ Enginn sér við mér"
from "The Modern Things" by Bjork
Armed with that singular voice, Bjork could've made this list with pretty much any song. What separates "The Modern Things," besides that Icelandic refrain, is that she somehow manages to sound childlike, prophetic and otherworldly all at once.
10) "Maybe I’m too young to keep good love from going wrong/ but tonight you’re on my mind so you never know"
from "Lover, You Should Have Come Over" by Jeff Buckley
Even in a song so racked with regret and loss, Buckley still inflects a real hope into this elegy for love. It doesn't make it any easier to hear though or any less staggering.