60 songs under 60 seconds, because who has the time?



10. “Her Majesty” by The Beatles

Yeah, we all knew this one had to be here. But Her Majesty really does have it all. And so does the song, “Her Majesty,” by The Beatles [laugh track].

Music historians note “Her Majesty” as one of if not the first major example of a hidden track. Clocking in at just 23 seconds, “Her Majesty” features Paul McCartney playing a fingerstyle acoustic, delivering rapid, lullaby-like lyrics addressed to the Queen herself. The jury is out as to whether the song helped brown-nose McCartney’s way to knighthood.

Sponsored link (story continues below)

I love the progression of “Her Majesty” and the way McCartney delivers such a vivid picture with so few words. It’s a true encapsulation of a flash narrative – define Her Majesty (“Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say”), define dramatic need (“I wanna tell her that I love her a lot/but I gotta get a belly full of wine”), conclusion (“Some day I’m gonna make her mine”). The stripped down instrumentals, compensated by the twinkly, full sounding fingerstyle, also emphasize the song’s brevity, its etherealness. As a musical storyteller, McCartney is at the top of his game in “Her Majesty.”

Interestingly, The Beatles originally placed “Her Majesty” in between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam,” and the track does have all of the features that would make it part of the so-called “Abby Road Suite”: brevity, curious characters*, wildly varying styles.

*”Did you just call Her Majesty the Queen a curious character?” Yeah, I did.

9. “Demons Are Real” by Guided by Voices

Lo-fi outfit Guided by Voices released “Demons Are Real” in 1994, and it’s a perfect example of a highly compressed statement, rich with potential meanings.

“Demons Are Real” speaks entirely in metaphor, from a “300 pound ghost” to getting stoned by a jellyfish, our job is to interpret the rich imagery. The instrumentals provide a solid backdrop, textured by their lo-fi nature, increasing in intensity until they abruptly cut out on a decisive “they are standing still.”

8. “Enterlude” by The Killers

It’s common enough to present an album as a show. The vocalist plays the ringleader, each song represents an act. For The Killers, the concept was a perfect fit with their over-the-top songs and charming campiness.

The Killers’ “Enterlude” comes directly after the title track on Sam’s Town, a roaring intro to the band’s sophomore effort. It’s an immediate shift in dynamics – in “Enterlude,” The Killers strip down their instrumentals to a piano and the emotive vocals of Brandon Flowers.

“Enterlude” stands out as a clear yardstick for Flowers’s vocal development. Flowers’s voice has always been one of the strongest in alt rock. Aside from a solid range, his expression sets a high bar for alternative vocals, which can occasionally come across stilted or unrefined – sometimes as an artistic choice (Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Magnum epitomizes) but often just as a tacit feature of the genre.

7. “Over The Turnstiles” by The Avalanches

How did a plunderphonics song make it so far up this list? Well, 1) it’s not an ordered list and 2) The Avalanche’s mastery of using sampled work transcends mundane sampling. Wildflower, their most recent album and first since 2000’s Since I Left You excels at creating a lush audio environment that just feels wonderful. The whole thing inspires endlessly and for the most part rides a high of idyllic optimism, something that’s always refreshing.

“Over The Turnstiles” epitomizes this in just 43 seconds. Each listen of the tune stirs something new to the surface – the song is pure texture, accented by a gleeful laugh, some crowded vocals that come in later and just sound right.

Unlike many songs on this list, “Over The Turnstiles” isn’t impressive for its definite narrative structure, or compression of complex themes into a short-short timeline. “Over The Turnstiles” is impressive because it’s visceral, it’s a feeling. Its realization comes from that heart grabbing, head swimming atmosphere that triggers something different in each listener. For me, its youthful adventure, lively glee, a moment complete in simplicity for expecting little and living in wholeheartedness.

And yeah, those words mean nothing, because they’re a simulacra of a feeling.

6. “Little Room” by The White Stripes

If anything defines the White Stripes, it’s their ability to make so much out of so little. “Little Room” is the apex of this talent, at least in terms of making a decisively White Stripes statement.

Typically, the minimalistic drums of Meg White make ample space for Jack White’s guitar playing to shine. Surprisingly, though, a single four-on-the-floor beat dominates “Little Room” while Jack White raves deliriously on top – to the complete absence of White’s soloing.

5. “Day & Night” by Thundercat

Spaced out vocals from purgatory, dazed bass ambiance, and stellar production – three characteristics that define Thundercat, abbreviated beautifully into this lyric-less, bite size tune.

Thundercat’s “Day & Night” is one of the few tracks on this list I can say I wish had been developed into a complete song. Still, what the man did produce was an atmospheric, condensed showcase of his technical and artistic abilities. It’s well deserving of a discrete slot on the album, and fits perfectly with the oeuvre of the Brainfeeder label.

4. “Mayday” by The Libertines

The time stamp on this YouTube video says 1:03, but with three seconds of incomprehensible yelling, we’re still left with a 60 second song. If this compromises my ethics pls @ me on Twitter and I won’t listen.

The Libertines might be best known now for their, ah, issues. By which we mean Pete Doherty’s issues, including tragic hard drug abuse that catalyzed that band’s manic rises and falls, as well as their eventual break up. (Thankfully, Doherty has since completed rehab.) But The Libertines also paved the way for waves of culturally defining Brit Rock, including The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, among others. Without them the music that defined the mid-2000s would have looked far different.

On “Mayday” The Libertines demonstrate how much straight punk influenced their style, and and the years of Brits that followed them. What delights me about “Mayday” most is just how clearly their boyish, raucous, British charm comes through. Unlike many other bands from the UK, The Libertines make no effort to disguise their accents – whether it be for marketability, accessibility, or whatever.

We hear Barat and Doherty in tandem charging through lyrics that run the gamut from slurred and legato to crisp and rapid. The instrumentals are pure Libertines – somehow sloshy and clean simultaneously. Gary Powell pounds a crisp blastbeat in the background to tie everything together as Barat and Doherty threaten to (instrumentally) fly off the rails.

3. “Wasted” by Black Flag

“Wasted” was one of Black Flags first songs, released on their debut EP Nervous Breakdown. What would later become one of the seminal acts of hardcore was, at the time, simply trying to gather legitimacy in the insular LA hardcore scene.

“Wasted” is a defiant, identity affirming song. Every lyric starts with an “I was” (except for “I had a skateboard,” don’t @ me) and illuminates part of the speakers identity. And that identity is a burnout. A type of rebellion, though I won’t get into the praxis of its effectiveness. It’s that self-satirical thrust that pops up in punk quite often.

In “Wasted,” the punchy 51 seconds lends the song another rebellion, the rebellion against appealing to mainstream sensibilities. 3-4 minutes and your golden, but a burnout nasally proclaiming his unsightly flaws? Aural anathema.

2. Sad Sappy Sucker: various, by Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse released Sad Sappy Sucker in 2001. It’s a bit of an oddball? It’s a lot of an oddball. Sandwiched between The Moon and Antarctica and Good News For People Who Love Bad NewsSad Sappy Sucker flew under the radar. This was likely due to the material being somewhat dated – after The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse rushed to put out new material.

The result was the release of Sad Sappy Sucker, an album consisting of material that had been shelved from previous recording sessions. The thing is packed with tracks clocking in at under one minute. They all carry a similar vibe, follow a similar aesthetic.

The Path of Least Resistance” represents the least experimental of the bunch. It hones in on a celebration of giving up, expressed in deeply melancholic spurts of guitar and dual vocals from Issac Brock – one line ecstatic, and one line mellow. “Gone/Fishing,” he sings, “I’m taking/the path of least resistance.” There’s something sublimely penetrating about the words; they hit like a bullet, sharp and efficient, but the impact feels like a tranquilizer.

Many of the other songs on Sad Sappy Sucker follow a much more experimental route, toying with lo-fi aesthetics (as in “Australopithecus”) or relying on bizarre sound-effects and samples (as in “5-4-3-2-1 Lispoff”).

“Call To Dial A Song (Left By Spencer Moody)” is a message left for Brock by fellow Washingtonian Spencer Moody.

Sad Sappy Sucker runs the gamut in terms of what it’s trying to accomplish (or not) with its flash tracks. Some are clear textural experiments, some are piercing stories. All are definitively Modest Mouse.

1. “Out From The Desk” by G.L.O.S.S.

This isn’t an ordered list, except for this spot.

I cannot overstate the impact that G.L.O.S.S. has had on my perception of music and the greater hardcore community. From a listeners standpoint, from a critics standpoint, from a storyteller’s standpoint, G.L.O.S.S. epitomize what it’s possible to do with drive, a few shitty instruments, and not much time. And by drive I mean anger. Righteous, bombastic anger.

With their two short releases, G.L.O.S.S. caused a divide in the DIY community. It’s easy to find YouTube comments accusing the band of being “pansies” or otherwise inauthentic punks, a claim to cred that’s instantly a second-hand embarrassing self-drag of the highest order.

From Olympia, Washington, G.L.O.S.S. plays a distinctive brand of self-described “badgirlcore.” Their Bandcamp also carries the genre tag “transbitcheswithproblems” which may, at first glance, seem less like a genre tag and more like a self-effacing quip.

But trauma permeates their music at all levels, and it’s part of what makes G.L.O.S.S. so powerful. In stark contrast to most hardcore music, which relies on decidedly masculine expressions of power, G.L.O.S.S. channels trauma into rage and self-actualization. Hopefully, also actualization for their LGBT listeners.

The speaker in “Out From The Desk” illustrate this re-channeling of trauma, in an almost-contradictory furious intimacy. Between “BOOT THE FUCKER” and “I SAW HER FACE/BRUISES AND SCARS/SECONDHAND TRAUMA/TEARS ME APART” we get a clear picture of this trauma. The incidents of abuse and “SECONDHAND TRAUMA,” a heart-rending line in itself, illuminate the trans experience deeply. “Out From The Desk” is a powerful, compressed-as-hell statement.

Related Posts

One comment on “60 songs under 60 seconds, because who has the time?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *