You know the songs, the ones that just seem a little different from your standard Top 40. It could be the vocals, the rhythm, something about the tone of the guitar, but whatever it is you don’t really care because you can’t stop listening to it. Every song is unique in its own way, but then there are some that are undeniably and utterly different and that’s why we love them. I’ve made a list that hopefully has at least one song that tickles the fancy of fans from every genre, with the only potential exceptions being country or polyrhythmic synth jazz. Sorry in advance to any Boots and Hearts goers.
#1. Primus – Jerry Was a Racecar Driver
Coming from Primus’ second album, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, the album title alone should give you an indication that this band is a little different. This song gives slapping the bass a whole new meaning, as the groovy and fast paced lead that carries the whole song is finger tapped out on the fretboard of the frontman’s bass. The verses throughout the song chronicle the life of Jerry and his rise and fall as a prolific race car driver, delivered in a quirky spoken word style. The verse gives way to a screaming, high pitched hook before, in true 90’s fashion, the distortion is cranked up and there is a punk infused breakdown that leads to an inevitable banging of the head. This song is the audio equivalent of an identity crisis, but it just works so well.
#2. Enter Shikari – Arguing With Thermometers
Genre is not in the vocabulary of the members of Enter Shikari, the four piece electronic/punk/rock/ whatever they feel like in the moment band from the UK. Their lyrics are sometimes reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine, charged with political messages and an anti-establishment attitude, but they’re relatively more polite considering they’re British. They’re clearly angry about something, though, as they blend punk screams over dubstep beats, layered with heavy guitar riffs. Their songs seamlessly flow from pop, to metal, to rap, leaving any traces of a discernable genre back in England from whence they came.
#3. U.S.S. – Drop Around the Clock
This song comes from the often forgotten EP of U.S.S. entitled Welding The C:/. Scatting seems like a thing of the past, or maybe it’s only used satirically now, but the lead singer doesn’t care as he scooby-do-do-ops his way through the chorus of this song. It, of course, has that signature U.S.S. vibe, utilizing the turntables to provide a beat and unique samples that are layered with an almost reggae-style guitar over top. It’s probably the least strange compared to the other songs on this list but anyone who’s confident enough to scat in an alt-rock song deserves to be recognized.
#4. TV on the Radio – I Was a Lover
This band has a tendency to just mash anything they want together which is what they did with this song. Using all sorts of pads, horns, poppy drum beats, piano and even a little sitar they composed this hauntingly powerful opening track for their album Return to Cookie Mountain. A steady drum beat carries the song while all the other parts are layered on top with intricate, sometimes mismatched rhythms. The bands use of high pitched vocal harmonies adds another element of depth to song, and makes it seem all the more strange on your first couple listens.
#5. Aesop Rock – The Harbour is Yours
“No, not A$AP Rocky”, is what I say whenever I tell someone about Aesop Rock. This guy is infinitely older, and ultimately better in my opinion. All his beats have an unmistakeable and unique groove to them, so really I could have put anything of his on this list. But combine those groovy beats with carefully crafted lyrics about pirates (I’ll say that again, a RAP ABOUT PIRATES!!!) and you inevitably land on auditory gold. A deep baseline and ethereal sounding synths carry lyrics full of puns and pirate wordplay, that remind us of a simpler time where swashbuckling and plundering were all we had to worry about. Listen to this song unless, in the words of Aesop Rock, “you’d like a vacation with Davy J-J-J-Jones”.