Why are long songs so thrilling? Often times they take us on these massive journeys that are soaring, abstract, and above else, a testament to the depth of the band or artists. Today we’re gonna talk about some of the best long songs of recent years. Hope you enjoy.
Dan Deacon, Wham City, Spiderman of the Rings, 11:45
Dan Deacon has always been an interesting artist, and this track, off his first official release is a epic journey full of blasting electro beats, tales of mots, bridges, and wonderful images. It’s a slow build up of knobs and experimental beats, but it’s all in preparation for the dance party that takes over at around the three minute mark. The lyrics are great and mythological, but if you are familiar with Dan you know it’s all in service to the overall foundation of the song. I’ve seen this song performed a few times, and it’s amazing how much dancing you can get through in twelve fun filled minutes.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, East Hastings, F♯A♯∞, 17:58
We open up on a darkened, battered landscape. A man is yelling for help,but help is not to be found. Picture any dystopian world, and of the ravage it must contain, and you can place yourself in the world of this song. It’s extremely slow winding, and the strums of the guitar early on are a call to prayer by candlelight that’s going ignored. This mysterious band rarely tours, gives even fewer interviews, and prefers to let their astonishing music speak for itself. This is easily my favorite song by the band, and the way they pull every moment out at a snails pace only makes the intricate song more enthralling to experience. It has a depth of somberness in it’s epic scope that you don’t find often. It’s a haunting look into what a real end of days scenario could look like, and it’s the perfect score for the rapture. Only the bad ones get left behind.
Neutral Milk Hotel, Oh Comely, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, 8:18
On this amazing album, there are many stand out songs, but the longest, and most gut wrenching, in my opinion, is “Oh Comely.” The quiet sadness of the acoustic guitar gives way only to the strange voice of band leader Jeff Mangum. While many songs on this list take you on a epic journey, this track is more of a voyage of the soul. It’s a meandering song full of loss, but it speaks to a simpler time. It’s a verbose song which finds back wood types singing joyfully behind the light of a night fire. At slightly over eight minutes, the song has a haunting quality to it, and with help from the rest of the band, Mangum is able to create a captivating sad song that is full of dread. You feel the pain when he talks about missing the chance to save the album’s inspiration, and how 500 families are buried in a whole in the earth, their lives taken away from them.
Sigur Ros, Svefn-G-Englar, Ágætis Byrjun, 10:04
I've been lucky enough to see this band three times now, and most of those times got to share the moment with my wife. When we saw them at Bonnaroo 2008, it was easily the best set of the weekend, and unfortunately, it was overshadowed by that whole Kanye thing. Getting back to the topic at hand though, this was the choice for the opening song of the set, and it couldn't have been better, It was day three of the festival, at 1:30 AM, and this slow burn of a song was how they welcomed us into their little world for the next two hours. The song winds and rolls with ease, going to an unknown destination. Trees on both sides, and the sun slowly going down for a nap, we don't know where this road will be going, but the chances are that it's going to be a place where only the purest, most serene things are possible, and the people we love will be accompanying us on the journey.
Smashing Pumpkins, Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 9:23
I think this song is only possible because with “Soma,” off of “Siamese Dream” the band figured out they could make longs songs that weren’t difficult to get through. The Pumpkins have a few lengthy songs, but this is my favorite, without a doubt. The lush backgrounds of the music give way over time to a bombastic signature sound only they could achieve. And I mean all four of them, not just Corgan. It’s nearly three minutes before vocals come in, and while they’re great, the real story here is the perfection in terms of mixing. Corgan’s vocals are done in such a way that they just peek out during the verses, but come full force during the epic choruses. Jimmy Chamberlain meanwhile, is able to navigate the drums like a sail covering the black waters of the night. Among the amazing songs found on “Mellon Collie,” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is among the most remarkable and triumphant.
Swans, She Loves Us, To Be Kind, 17:01
Before Swans reemerged they were a different entity, but now they’re mostly known as purveyors of insanely long songs, full of aggression and musical precision. “She Loves Us,”
off last years “To Be Kind,” is a prime example of how the band has transformed. It’s a deliberate song, and from the early offset the thr guitars are matched in their strangeness by the tribal sounding tapping of the drums. It’s a song very much in the spirit of an indian temptress, whose cultivating the spirits from the earth to help do her bidding. From their though, the song spirals out in a weird, violent way. It almost reminds me of the bad acid trip from “Natural Born Killers.” Swans are at their best when their left unhinged and to their own devices, and with the help of his various members, Swans has become a thing of avant garde beauty and darkness that they weren’t album to accomplish on their first try. If you love not knowing where a record is going, this is the band for you.
Tool, Third Eye, Salival version, 14:05
“Think for yourself, question authority,” might be the motto of the band. While this song hasn't been played a lot at the shows I've attended, I've heard that phrase quite a few times. The opening, provided by Tim Leary, basically sets the stage for the most epic, mind melting song in their catalog. This song has more loops and turns than an episode of “LOST.” It also happens to have a persistence that doesn’t quit for the entire fourteen minutes of the song. Seeing this song live, and especially as the show opener is just insane. Most bands don't have the nerve to open a two hour show with the longest song they plan to play that night, but Tool do it without missing a beat. Adam Jones' guitars, to me at least, have always reminded me a little bit of something you'd hear in an Egyptian science fiction movie. Speaking on the topic of mixing, and making sure that every part is central is something no one except maybe Radiohead does better than Tool. They understand the lyrics are the not the overwhelming plot point of the song. Everything you hear is meant to induce emotions. Sure the lyric helps, but all parts are equally valuable. With more than five minutes left, the song takes yet another turn. It goes from ominous foreshadowing to the welcoming of a love thought lost perhaps. Then another turn down a spiraling rabbit hole. Imploring us to open our eyes may or may not have something to do with the opening dialogue on the track. Humans aren't meant to be conditioned by rules. We are too great of a people. Life without boundaries is the most ultimate gift anyone can achieve, yet at times it's those very rules of society that help us to stay safe. Then another, even uglier turn, this time with the intense drums of Carey while Keenan proclaims “ Prying open my third eye,” as the song comes to a final, full circle resting place.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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