Last week, we counted down the best songs over thirty minutes long, essentially a list of weirdos. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it is rare for an artist to call a song complete before it enters triple digits on the time counter. But great works have been made under the sixty second mark, be it by relatively normal groups (see: entries 6 and 2), total crazies (see: entries 5 and 3) or mad scientists (see: entries 4 and 1). Here's the list of the best songs under one minute. Feel free to add your favorites to our comments, but take your time. No rush.
6. Green Day - The Ballad Of Wilhelm Fink
In 1999, punk label Fat Wreck Chords released Short Music For Short People, a compilation of 101 bands performing thirty second songs. The absurdity of this platform led to some humorous contributions, like Nerf Herder's masturbation anthem "Doin' Laundry" and Blink 182's profanity-laced "Family Reunion." Green Day trumped the youngins with "The Ballad Of Wilhelm Fink," in which Billie Joe Armstrong squeezes late night trespassing, littering, jail, sex, disappointment and Boone's Farm wine into an economical half minute. It's the most developed track on Short Music, and possibly the best thing the band released between Nimrod and American Idiot.
5. The Locust - "Live From The Russian Compound" For a band like San Diego grinders the Locust, it doesn't take two verses and choruses and a bridge to get the point across. The group originally came out of the short-song-shock-rock school, not too many stylistics steps away from (note: I hate typing these two words) Anal Cunt. By the time the Locust signed to Epitaph's Anti label in 2003 and recorded Plague Soundscapes, the band had become something completely alien. Album standout "Live From The Russian Compound" covers so much ground - blast beat intro, synth gurgle breakdown, that part that sounds like Arab On Radar, the part after it that sounds like Arab On Radar covering Devo - it feels much longer than its fifty nine seconds.
4. Madvillian - "Supervillian"
Madvilliany, the now-legendary collaboration between rapper MF Doom and beat maestro Madlib is interspersed with interludes, brief sound collages, and other various styles of non-song. "Supervillian" is the closest thing to a full track in the album's under-a-minute category, centered around a mischievous spy movie loop and Madlib's signature AM Radio funk drum samples. It cuts off too soon perhaps, but so do genius Madvillian tracks like "Accordian" and "Figaro." An extra thirty seconds on the backend would yield a more conventional song, but the replay value would be greatly diminished. 3. John Zorn - "Igneous Ejaculation"
Let's get it out of the way - that's a gross title. With that said, it's sort of stunning how similar the extreme noise bursts from John Zorn's 1990 album Naked City are to those made by The Locust, Daughters, and the like a decade later. Zorn arrived at this specific sound not through hardcore or metal, but through avant-garde jazz and experimental art rock. The distorted punk riffs on "Igneous" come from generally subdued guitarist Bill Frisell, the vocals from The Boredoms' Yamatsuka Eye. Drummer Joey Baron has played with Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie. The backstory is interesting, the track is punishing. Zorn's alto saxophone squeal at thirteen seconds and the subsequent smash hit harder than any mosh breakdown or dubstep bass drop. It's an acid fueled nightmare set in a Dick Tracy comic. Worry not, for it will all be over soon.
2. The White Stripes - "Little Room"
Jack White is a modern day guitar hero, but his fuzzed-up phrases are absent from "Little Room." The egg of a song from White Blood Cells (still the band's best record, sorry Elephant fans) is all about Meg White's searing cavewoman beat and Jack's oddball vocal technique. Most impressively, Jack uses a thematic blues device that depends on repetition, moves the unnamed character from a cramped little room to a too-big room and back, with time to spare for two verses of onomatopoeias. Even for a band this minimal, "Little Room" is a skeleton of a song. Perhaps that's all that's left after the intensive fat-cutting that made the White Stripes so effective.
1. Animal Collective - "College"
The first half of "College" is gorgeous, all summer harmonies and forest ambience. The song's only lyric: the parentally unapproved "You don't have to go to college" is sublime when it sounds like it's being sung by a barbershop quartet of four Brian Wilsons. Sung Tongs is Animal Collective's first great record, but "College" is the only track that is completely friendly. 'Tis odd how comforting it feels when Animal Collective gives you permission to drop out of school; it sounds like a hand on your twenty-year-old conflicted shoulder. "College" is the best song under a minute because it has a defined arc, an overture and a climax. But most importantly, it uses its brief existence to bring joy in a way that transcends intellectual analysis. For lack of better jargon, it just feels right.
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