Ultimate Mixtape: 20 – 1

The Top 20. The best of the best from the last fifteen years. No matter what you think of the picks, or project as a whole (I can’t believe they picked that song by that band and not..! Where’s this band? That artist? We get it. Believe me, we’ve already argued and complained enough for all of you.) …these favorite twenty tunes make for an unbelievably good mix. This countdown also showcases the power of live roulette. The presumptive number one pick, based on the preliminary ballots, succumbed to in-person enthusiasm and in-the-moment championing, finishing with the bronze medal. And the favorite tune? Hit play, and enjoy the ultimate Ultimate Mixtape.

20. “The Rat” – The Walkmen
I usually get a little frustrated when I try to talk to people about The Walkmen. “Oh wait, I know that one song, ‘The Rat,’ right?” It’s a statement I’ve heard countless times, but every time I hear it, I appreciate “The Rat” as a song more and more. A good song will make you shut up and pay attention, and “The Rat” is one of the greats.  – hltchk

19. “Someday” – The Strokes
California has never been understood so clearly through music than through this song. I know The Strokes are New Yorkers, but that doesn’t matter. This is beach music for city folk, how much more California can a thing be? It’s sunny but grimy, there’s bird shit on the rocks but the way the sunlight makes them glow is something to behold. It’s Corona cans reflecting in the ocean in just the right way. It’s a man in a T. Rex costume chasing a giant red ball while a bunch of guys look at a table ignoring him. – IP

18. “Tears Dry On Their Own” – Amy Winehouse
I debated with my old roommate over the best song off of Back To Black, which she always insisted was TDOTO. Time has proven her right, and while I think about my friend whenever I hear it, I also think about Amy, and how this song may have been her sincerest dream. This is the conclusion I think she really wanted for herself, but could only realize in song. – tyrannofloresrex

17. “Empire Ants” – Gorillaz
The ever changing lineup within the Gorillaz’s production is one of the most exciting things about the group. They have a Tarantino-like talent of picking artists from obscurity and putting their talents on display in a way that reintroduces them to the world. Little Dragon was a pretty hot commodity in 2010, but having the two groups together became like having two superbands form a mind-blowing ultraband. Yukimi Nagano’s dreamy voice is the perfect response to Damon Albarn’s sullen crooning, and the transition between the two is a perfect musical moment. – tyrannofloresrex

16. “Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)” – Arcade Fire
From the opening seconds Arcade Fire announce this song as “not our typical song.” Deep bass riffing, heavily distorted guitars chugging, Win Butler wailing like David Byrne, crying out in pain as his voice cracks, and yet there is something almost whimsical happening underneath all that noise. This is a train of a song, building momentum, huge and heavy and beautiful. – IP

15 tvotr better15. “Wolf Like Me” – TV On The Radio
My favorite get-pumped-for-the-night song in the late 00s and one of my favorite songs altogether. I was really excited to listen to the whole Cookie album while driving around and blasting this. Turned out to be a real snoozer, but their next album was really good. – lebronald

14. “Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand
I remember hearing 0:55 of this song for the first time and realizing that I had found something special. Not just because of how great a twist in the song it was, but because I had found it on my own. FF was my first true love. Yeah, this song got overplayed a lot, but when this track comes on, it’s always getting turned up. – hltchk

13. “The Way We Get By” – Spoon
Spoon has long been the most consistent band in the game.  This is a flawless exercise in minimalism that is both full of retro swagger and effortless cool.  Never gets old. – djlazybear

12. “Lovers’ Carvings” – Bibio
I listened to the hell out of this record with an old girlfriend. I love the sound of Bibio, his style of taking analog guitar riffs and synths, cutting them and looping them, and mending them together with samples adds a vibrant, human element to a genre that can be lifelessly repetitive.  Bibio gets more lyrical on his later albums, but this song is still a wonderful work of romance. It is an audible representation of all lovers whose names are scrawled under school desks, tagged on concrete, and, the favored cliché, carved on a tree. – tyrannofloresrex

11. “Round and Round” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Ariel Pink has been making music for a long time, with a largely hit or miss attitude, but this track is a stroke of perfection. The song’s architecture has the grandeur and mood of a Victorian cathedral. Ariel’s  ghostlike vocals haunt the pews in a groovy malaise of bass and drums before triumphantly shifting into an exalted chorus.  There’s a relatable tone of longing in the song, though I don’t know exactly what his lyrics refer to, but it’s sounds so inviting that most Idlers at the bonfire felt compelled to sing along. – tyrannofloresrex

10. “My Girls” – Animal Collective
Maybe the best achievement of Animal Collective to date, this track starts with tense synths and layered vocals. It quickly builds to a body shaking bumper with the addition of minimal but booming percussion and memorable choruses. – Vico Vault

9. “Losing My Edge” – LCD Soundsystem
In highschool, I had only just begun to test the waters of electronic dance music. Luckily, DH was there and fitted me with Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem as floaties as I waded out into the deep end. There I would find both peers and imitators, as well as new pioneers in the genre, but without a band like LCD Soundsystem to help usher me into a new a whole new world, I’m not sure where I’d be. – hltchk

8. “Hearts on Fire” – Cut Copy
Cut Copy pushed themselves far outside their comfort zone for their second album, as this song proves. Space Jam era sampling, synthy arpeggiation, triumphant horns. These were things Cut Copy had never attempted, but would prove to be stellar at (most recent album notwithstanding). The crescendo, when the trumpet hits, is one of the finest moments in music history. – IP

7. “I’ll Believe in Anything” – Wolf Parade
One of the greatest us-against-the-world songs ever written is the centerpiece of Wolf Parade’s glorious debut LP, Apologies to the Queen Mary. Right around that two-minute mark, when the guitars open up and the march is pounding in my veins, I can’t help but sing along, “where nobody knows you, and nooobody gives a damn either way!” So wonderfully liberating. – MMDG

6. “Fell in Love with a Girl” – The White Stripes
Jack White achieved a balance of ferocious tempo and evocative lyrics that would become increasingly rare as his career progressed. The White Stripes were at their peak, performing their “old-style” in its finest form. – IP

5. “Heartbeats” – The Knife
This was – and still is – a mixtape mainstay throughout the last decade. The enigmatic Swedish duo might be more well known for crazy costumes and crazier performances, but it’s this single, with its instant accessibility and razor-sharp melody, that might be the most enduring. The Swedepop obsession is real. Proud to see these guys crack the Top 5. – MMDG

4. “The Blues Are Still Blue” – Belle & Sebastian
Former overly-precious Scottish twee-rockers discover the power of a bitchin’ bassline and Young Americans-era Bowie. Their world is forever altered, and the beneficiaries are us. – holybeeofephesus

3. “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
I’ve spent very little time in New York City, but I like to think that my intermittent mothlike flitting through the foggy nights of the San Francisco music scene has been akin to an “NYC Light” experience. James Murphy describes a resignation that is all too familiar, lining up for one club or another amongst all the bloggers, hipsters, and neverending handstamp wearers. But he also describes the greatest truism of them all, and the reason the fondest memories of countless gigs revolve around who we’re with more so than who we’re seeing. And in an epic punctuation of those nights, those memories, and this song, I always look to that one fall night in 2009 at House of Shields, celebrating the Decades and singing along with tyrannoflores, lebronald, djlazybear, and all of my friends. (The holybee would have been there too, but he was still looking for parking.) – MMDG

2. “Hearts of Oak” – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
This song is kind of my anthem. I have a lyric from it tattooed on my chest. What “hearts of oak” really refers to, be it the South African football team, the sea shanty of the Royal Navy, or (what I suspect to be true) a reference to an intramural sports league, doesn’t matter to me because it’s taken on a personal meaning. I heard this song before the rest of the album, and I became instantly attached to it, like it was something tailor made for me. Two friends are walking together, talking about rotten luck, but when one refuses to give up (“no weak heart shall prosper”) the other is inspired to do the same. I used to focus on how the girl was solitary, her strength coming from herself, but after the bonfire, I think differently. The narrator is there for his friend, and she is there for him, and at the song’s end, whatever troubles they face, they do it together. This song is about taking care of your friends, and it makes me happy to share something that means so much to me with people I care about. – tyrannofloresrex

1. “Digital Love” – Daft Punk
The moment I drafted this song, 4 other Idle Timers immediately told me they were going to draft this as well and I knew this song was unstoppable. In 2001, Daft Punk made their magnum opus with Discovery. A perfect merger of their electronic sensibilities with their love of rock opera. The first half is a disco romp through your perfect dream of love followed by the the heaviest Daft Punk guitar solo. Despite all the bells and whistles, the song has a simple core of dream-following that people relate to. All in all, this song really brings people together and brought all of us to the beach until 9 o’clock at night to declare it the winner. – MeanOldPig

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