This weekend, I watched the new series Love on Netflix, and it was more or less You’re the Worst with some Judd Appatow spin and featuring almost everyone who has been a recurring guest on Comedy Bang Bang. Seeing as how I love You’re the Worst, Judd Apatow and CBB, I really enjoyed it. One episode of the show ended with an Eddie Vedder cover of the John Doe song “Golden State”, and I was immediately reminded how much I generally enjoy guy-girl duet vocals.
Also, while running this weekend, “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” by Matt and Kim came up on shuffle.
This confluence of incredibly mundane events led me to consider my favorite guy-girl music tandems, and as is my wont, I proceeded to rank them, so from worst to first, here are my favorite boy-girl musical teams.
She and Him
Also known as Zooey Deschanel and that guy. The woman who graciously gifted the world the greatest portmanteau of our times–adorkable–has not made a similarly game changing gift to music.
Mates of State
They’re an incredibly cheesy married duo, but sometimes that sort of works. I actually love their album Mountaintops, even if I understand that as indie pop that unabashedly apes show tunes and Motown, I really, really shouldn’t enjoy it.
I actually genuinely enjoy the song “Shoelaces” by this band. Truthfully, I had always assumed they were a Matt and Kim knockoff, but Google assures me they’ve been active since 1999. It makes me slightly less guilty about enjoying the song “Shoelaces”
I almost entirely appreciate Phantogram because of their contributions to Big Boi’s body of work, but I really, really enjoy their collaborations
The Hundred in the Hand
Their self-titled debut is legitimately quite good, and “Dressed in Dresden” still gets played at least once per month in the Bloggenstatt household. Singer Eleanore Everdell also sounds roughly 1,000 times cooler than I’ll ever be.
The Magic Wands
This band looked cool, sounded cool and released a much-hyped EP, then followed it up with an album that mined territory super similar to their EP. For some reason, despite quality songs and respectable reviews, no one cared. Still, songs like the Alan Parson-lite “Kaleidoscope Hearts” are total pop-rock fun.
When their debut, Cape Dory, came out, almost every review mentioned that the album came about because a husband and wife from Colorado sold their possessions in order to buy a sailboat and travel around the Atlantic Coast. I love that album, and I love that story. Their followup, Young and Old, was produced by one of The Black Keys and was pretty good, but Cape Dory becomes a classic on any day with a temperature higher than 70 degrees.
Ted Leo and Aimee Mann got together and made music totally unlike their respective solo works. They made a really solid Americana-rock album. It’s not earth-shattering great, but it is very good and has an infectious, freewheeling energy.
Matt and Kim
OK, so not exactly challenging art-rock, but I’ll defend Grandas a legitimately great collection of pop songs, and a bunch of their singles are fun. Sure it’s been diminishing returns since 2010, but the good stuff is so good, and the new stuff is at least pretty unobjectionable when you inevitably hear it through mall speakers.
I think a lot of people would have these guys higher. While I understand that Bloom and Teen Dream are excellent albums beloved by people who like the type of music I like. Still, Beach House was capable of putting out two good albums in one year, and that’s tough to do.
The Kills might not be the best guy-girl duo in recent memory, but they’re probably the most influential. They were so effective at being utterly badass that quite a few groups consisting of a man and a woman have ripped off their black attire and vaguley dangerous vibe.
Cults are a buzz band that absolutely delivered on the hype with a damn delightful debut album.
This band blew up from the get go thanks to super twee pop songs featuring snippets of mass-murdering cult leaders and a somewhat mysterious BandCamp page. They followed up the singles and EP with an excellent self-titled LP, and then followed that up with a pretty OK sophomore album. “Go Outside” might be my most listened to song ever. More songs need Jim Jones and glockenspiel.
They came in black leather jackets and classic wayfarers to hurt your ears and make you like it.
HearingTreatsfor the first time was probably the first time I realized that music could be incredibly catchy and incredibly abrasive simultaneously. Every track on that album managed to be hummable while also posing a serious threat to your speakers and ear drums. It was awesome. Reign Of Terror was also a lot of fun, but after absolutely nailing it the first time, there wasn’t much room for improvement.
The White Stripes
They were the best band of the ’00s, and possibly responsible for the prevalence of the modern co-ed rock duo. Elephant is their best album, in my opinion, but there’s really not a weak spot in their discography.
After months of buildup that included Twitter beefs, constantly evolving tracklists, Fashion Week previews and last second studio tinkering, The Life of Pablo, Kanye West’s seventh studio album is finally out.
After a couple of listens, it’s clear West was right when he said via Twitter TLOP wasn’t the greatest album of all time. It’s almost certainly not even the best Kanye West album of all time.
However, it is a thoroughly entertaining and interesting album. There’s a handful of songs that can go toe-to-toe with anything in the canon of Kanye, but despite the final version of the album being an 18-song behemoth, it somehow TLOP still feels kind of slight. It’s jumbled, not entirely cohesive and the whole seems to be just a little bit less than the sum of its parts should be.
Of course, this album is still quite good.
In defense of the seemingly lower stakes, it does seem being free of the thematic weight of his last two releases allowed West to be a person instead of a capital-A Artist or hedonistic, industrial God.
“Real Friends” and “Wolves” sound like genuine introspection and thoughts about the human condition, and while “I Love Kanye” is both a total goof off and the logical endpoint for West’s egomania, it’s tongue-in-cheek, actually funny and displays a self-awareness that’s always a little surprising. The First Family of E! is also all over this album. Kim, North and Saint all get plenty of mentions, and it seems like being 38 and having a growing family genuinely occupies a lot of West’s head space in a good way.
It’s not the epic scope of a show businesses orchestral tragedy, an album full of bangers or a meditation on being an English professor’s son in the Southside of Chicago, but it is interesting to get more of a glimpse into the day-to-day and mentality of a larger than life and occasionally cartoonish superstar.
As always with a Kanye release, thinking about the production choices is half the fun of a first listen. TLOP uses familiar Kanye West tools: soul samples, gospel vocals, vocal manipulation, but in a way that still seems alien to his body of work. This sounds fresh and different
Although it’s kind of an odd duck, TLOP definitely sounds like a Kanye West album. It’s tough to imagine any other artist creating what sounds like a combination of Late Registration and Yeezus–exactly as odd of a marriage as it sounds, but more functional than expected. Cold, angry industrial tones and gospel vocals share a lot of space on this album, and it makes for a really interesting moments.
It might not be a statement, but it’s a collection of solid songs with a couple classics thrown in. Nothing sucks, and despite being 18-songs long, the album doesn’t drag. It might not be West’s absolute best, but it’s among his most interesting, and I’m sure sometime in the near future, I’ll improbably be hearing a whole lot of tracks that sound like “Father Stretch My Hands” on the radio, because no one spurs popular hip-hop quite like West.
A couple of American aquarium drinkers, took a break from assassin-ing down the avenue to discuss Wilco’s crowning achievement.
As always, I’m going through Wilco’s body of work with the aid of my friend, Jimi, who actually knows things about Wilco, why certain production decisions were made, whereas I have a passable familiarity with the band and their antics.
It took about three months to complete this edition, and boy, is it not in anyway reflected reflected by the actual content.
Still, without further ado, here’s our Yankee Hotel Foxtrot analysis, enjoy.
Ben: We’re here!
It’s peak Wilco. The band’s non-debatable high water mark, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It’s one of the most critically fawned over albums of the first decade of the 21st century, and it was made by our milquetoast boys from Belleville.
As we’ve noted in previous rambles, Wilco was not a money-maker for their record label. The band had their champions within the label, but when AOL and Time Warner merged, there was a shakeup, and when the dust settled, things were decidedly non-friendly to a certain gently experimental power pop band.
Still, Wilco pressed on with making YHF, and ironically, as the AOL merger would eventually end Wilco’s deal with Warner, the band work-shopped their ideas online, and after a buyout, an online release to thorough adulation would be the first indicator that Wilco had finally created a commercially successful album.
And what an album it is.
To me, this album is The White Album, but shrouded in a gentle, electronic corona. From open to close this album contains some of Wilco’s best melodies and obtuse lyrics that find a surprising emotional resonance.
I adore this album, and I know you do too.
I’m sure my introduction skipped some pertinent information about Jay Bennet and Jeff Tweedy’s Spider-Man v. Venom-like struggle for control of the album, while they collaborated more closely than ever before and popped opiates like Tic Tacs, so feel free to fire away your own opening salvo, and share with me your biggest takeaway from YHF.
Jimi: Holy shit, what an album this is. I know I’m using my characteristic tact with that statement, but when confronted with an album this good, it cannot be overstated. This is the cornerstone on which Wilco’s legend is built, as well as possibly the greatest album to ever come out of Chicago.
I’m not quite sure I would characterize this as their White Album, which was built on the Beatles fracturing their psyche into four distinct parts. Rather, this is the sound of a band pulling together and collectively firing on all cylinders. Special attention should be paid to the friction between Bennett and Tweedy, however. Sam Jones’s excellent documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” had the good fortune of capturing the recording of the album, from inception to tour. In one of the movie’s most potent scenes, Bennett calls a migraine-ridden Tweedy to the recording studio to work on the mastering of “Ashes of American Flags.” Bennett in particular is obsessing over the orchestral squall that closes the song and the amount of split-seconds that should happen between the end of that section and the piano chords that introduce “Heavy Metal Drummer.” Tweedy just wants the problem solved. The tension between the two is key to the magic of the album: Tweedy writes the killer pop songs, while Bennett’s obsessiveness leads to the level of detail and craftsmanship. Without Tweedy, we wouldn’t have the country-power pop mashup of “Kamera,” while we wouldn’t have the perfectly calibrated climaxes of “Poor Places.” The album simply cannot work without either of them, or the stellar production of noise musician Jim O’Rourke.
My first impression of the album is one of an album that paints an impressionistic portrait of Chicago. People enjoy this album practically everywhere, but for us Chicagoans, these songs can’t help but bring up sense memories. “Jesus, Etc.” is a late-night walk downtown with a lover; “Kamera” cruises down Lake Shore Drive on a spring afternoon; and “I’m The Man Who Loves You” is a killer concert at Lincoln Hall.
At least that’s what struck me on first listen. Does the Chicago connection work for you? We both know there are a multitude of great tracks on this album (and I’d like to give every one of them at least a passing mention), but are there any moments that don’t work for you?
Ben: First, I’m going to defend my White Album stance. “Radio Cure” has a sudden feudal setting that reminds me of “Cry Baby Cry”, but it goes deeper.
While, Bennett and Tweedy sequestered themselves and collaborated, the two men fiercely fought for control of the album, and that unwillingness to compromise is what makes me think of The Beatles’ most fractured album.
To be honest, I don’t know if it’s my bizarre matriculation about the South that lasted for five years, or some personal failing, but aside from knowing Wilco is a Chicago band and the occasionally reference to the city in their work, I don’t know if I would have drawn the connection organically.
I love, love, love “Heavy Metal Drummer”, but I sometimes wonder if it would’ve been better as a standalone lark. It’s tremendous on its own, but as a piece of this album, its always seemed odd to me.
Also, worth noting, but I’ve probably listened to “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” at least once a week every week since I was 12.
Any personal connections you’ve made to this album? What works the best? What comes the closest to not working for you, because I suspect there is nothing you find completely without function?
Jimi: I feel this is more like Wilco’s Sgt. Pepper’s, where they use sonic space to conjure up physical space, but that’s my personal opinion.
I understand some of the hate towards “Heavy Metal Drummer,” which has a bifurcated reputation as both one of the band’s most reviled “early” songs and as one of their most underrated. In “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, the band talks about how, with this album, they would take each song and deconstruct it until they ended up at the most “interesting” result. You can see this in “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” which starts as a folk ballad in the movie to become a noise-pop epic (before finding second life as a soul standard, courtesy of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound), and in “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” which seemed destined to transmute into the arena rock stomper that Wilco eventually turned it into. “Heavy Metal Drummer” never seems to have gotten this treatment. However, for me, this is what I like to call the “mask dropping moment,” where we’re reminded that Wilco, for all their formal experimentation, are a band that genuinely likes playing together. It gets the details of local bands in the Chicago suburbs right. Plus, on a sentimental note, it’s the first Wilco song I ever heard, while you and I were driving through Canada as high school freshmen.
For me, the highest moments of this album are among the best in 2000s music. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is shambling, so it takes a few spins to realize how well constructed it is; each seemingly improvised moment is constructed to hit at the right emotional level. The whole thing makes sense when it shouldn’t. “Jesus, Etc.” is a song that by all means shouldn’t work, a country-pop lament with neosoul touches that make it sound like something the Doobie Brothers or ELO would’ve recorded at their most understated. Instead, it’s one of the best songs on the album, philosophical and heartbreaking. “I’m the Man Who Loves You” teases you with a serrated guitar into before turning into a sweet folk jam. “Poor Places” has a slow build to a jaw-dropping moment of realization: “It makes no difference to me.”
As far as things that don’t work, the ballads on the album took me much longer to get into than the other songs. I wasn’t sure when I was first getting into the album at first if this was due to the somewhat alienating nature of the album or if it was what I call “the ballad problem” that most young bands have. That is, unlike faster songs, slower ones can’t pull you in with their energy so they have to pull you in some other way (for illustration, listen to Bruce Springsteen’s “Mary, Queen of Arkansas” from Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and then listen to “Racing in the Street” from Darkness on the Edge of Town). But the more I listened to this album, the more I realized how much the ballads pack into such a small space. “Ashes of American Flags” is a power ballad changed into something far more interesting: a hazy summer lament. “Radio Cure” is only five minutes, but packs enough in there for repeated listens.
What do you think this album improved on from Summerteeth? Why do you think this album resonated in a way their previous albums had not?
Ben: On Summerteeth a lot of the experimental audio flourishes seemed purely cosmetic. The buzzing frequencies on “I’m Always in Love” seem like a weird but enjoyable add-on to a gentle pop song.
On YHF, the sonic weirdness does some serious heavy lifting for songs’ melodies. The chiming and whirring on “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” establish the song’s hook, they aren’t just there for texture. Quick sidebar: I’ve always though Miss Havisham was undoubtedly a huge fan of that track.
And, of course, like all good, great and above average Wilco albums, YHF‘s success is largely determined by its hooks. For all the oddball sounds on the album, almost every song can be hummed absentmindedly.
Wilco simply married some of best songs with some of the band’s most interesting instrumentation and had painstaking production preside over the union. It really is as simple as a good band hitting all their marks, I think.
What’s your theory for the band’s unexpected transcendence?
Also, picking the 20 best Wilco songs seems pretty easy until we come to this album, but hacking away at YHF is daunting. What tracks make your 20?
I’ve always heard this album is what gave major labels more patience with experiment art-rock bands in the mid-aughts. Do you think we really have this album to thank for some of the stronger entries into the Flaming Lips’ oeuvre? Aside from that, does this album have a legacy outside of it being Wilco’s best-loved album? I don’t recall it spamming a wave of breezy, experimental Americana-pop imitators.
Is there any way we can protract discussion of this album for a few more months? In my opinion we’re about to see a pretty steep decline for our next chat.
Jimi: In “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, Rolling Stone critic David Fricke notes that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had to scare Reprise Records when it was delivered because it doesn’t say, upfront, who exactly it is for. Turns out, it appealed to practically everyone. The optimism present in even the darkest songs worked like comfort food at the dawn of an uncertain new millenium. The band really tapped into something elemental about living in America at the dawn of the Bush years. There’s a reason that certain conspiracy-minded listeners claim that the album predicted 9/11 (the album’s intended release date).
In terms of my 20, I could definitely see “Jesus, Etc.” and “Poor Places” having reserved spots on the list. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is certainly up there too. The skewed noise ballad “Ashes of American Flags” only seems to get better with every listen. And if there’s one song I pull out to listen to on its own, it’s “Kamera.”
In terms of this album’s influence, I think it was more important for what it signaled rather than the imitators it spawned. It’s hard to overstate how dire the indie rock situation seemed in the early 2000s. Pavement folded in 1999. Neutral Milk Hotel was just beginning to build up their huge cult, but they had quit years before. Respected alternative groups that had broken big the previous decade (Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) had already started a depressing slide into irrelevance. The White Stripes hadn’t hit it big yet. The Strokes were just gearing up Is This It? for release. Radiohead seemed to be the only 90s holdover that seemed to continue growing with each new release. Then this album came, and it proved that bands could still make money while making mature, difficult albums. And I believe we’re both shortchanging the sonic influence of this album, considering that it led to one of last year’s best albums, Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear. Both are lushly orchestrated folk albums, with 11 structurally similar tracks.
What songs go in your 20? How do you feel this fits into the indie rock scene of the early 2000s? Any final thoughts on this album?
Ben: I think you’re overselling how dire 2001 was for music.
Jay-z’s best album, The Blueprint, came out on Sept. 11, White Blood Cells was released in July of 2001 and both “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Fell in Love with a Girl” would become massive hit, a truly strange but gleeful of Montreal album came out on famed indie label Elephant 6, Daft Punk released their best album, Discovery, as well.
There were also albums by Modest Mouse, The Avalanches, God Speed! You Black Emperor, The Microphones, Drive-By Truckers, New Pornographers and Outkast that all came out in either ’00 or ’01.
Still, you’re point that a lot of radio-friendly alt bands were yielding diminishing returns. After a locust-like dormancy, my beloved Weezer released their self-titled green album. (And yes, there is going to be a ‘ I barely know ‘er feature where I dive into all the Weezer albums).
Two years earlier, Beck released Midnite Vultures, and while it is hands down the best Beck album, oh man, was it ever not received that way, and he wouldn’t rehab his reputation until ’02s Sea Change.
There was definitely a changing of the guard feeling, and Wilco’s warm poptimism was definitely a retreat for a lot of people who considered themselves musically in the know.
As far as songs that would crack my top 20 Wilco tunes, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, “Radio Cure” and “Jesus, Etc” are my no-brainers. “Kamera”, “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You” are all delightful, but probably don’t quite make the list.
I think this album had a profound effect on the immediate music landscape in a couple of ways.
One, albums like Sea Change and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots both got made and received studio support. Bands such as Spoon and Band of Horses were able to find their audience and labels could rest assured that slightly experimental Americana had an audience.
Two, the Internet played a huge role in the genesis of this album. Radiohead promoted Kid A with an internet leak, and in my opinion use of the Internet is a big part of the bands’ indelible link.
Wilco sort of leaked this album online, but they also used the net to workshop their songs and provide sort of progress reports on how the album is coming along. It seems damn prescient in 2016, when teasers, studio photo instagrams, Twitter and surprise album streams are a major part of how music is consumed.
I’m a little upset we’re done talking about YHF, because I’m not as wild about what comes next, but hopefully your enthusiasm will carry the day.
A month or so ago(I’m not sure, I’m not an almanac) it was announced LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting and headlining Coachella, touring and working on a new album.
There was even an upsetting Christmas ballad that captured the profound misery that can strike around the holidays created by disconnect from those you’re ostensibly closest to.
Naturally, I was ecstatic, but I had a realization. This is Happening came out nearly six full years ago. There are people who graduated high school, wrapped up their undergrad career and found jobs without having to reckon with a proper LCD release, and those people are just the right age to descend upon Coachella.
After pissing off Outkast, I don’t want the uninformed masses to ruin another reunion, so here’s some tips for becoming acquainted with one of the best bands of the ’00s.
Start with Sound of Silver
LCD’s second album is the band’s best reviewed album, and it’s probably their most accessible. Bandleader James Murphy has said in interviews as LCD went on, it became less of the Murphy show and more of a band. Personally, I think this is a good thing.
The album is a lean nine songs, and really demonstrates all the band’s facets, so it won’t be a slog even if don’t like a particular song.
“Watch the Tapes” shows the band in full post-punk mode, while “Us v Them” and “Sound of Silver” are the sort of lengthy, sloganeering dance jam that LCD are most associated with.
Sound of Silver also contains a handful of songs that are absolutely essential to know.
“North American Scum” is a really fun, goofy song; “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is a love letter to the gritty New York that meant a lot to James Murphy and has become a song that brings the house down when performed live; and “All My Friends” is probably LCD’s most well-known song and a great representation of the band’s wit, emotional appeal and song craft.
Now, it’s time to skim the self-titled release
LCD Soundsystem is one of the first albums I remember finding inescapable despite none of its songs getting terrestrial radio play.
This was 2005, the same year Arctic Monkeys got big through Myspace. It was just starting to become clear that genuine frenzy could be created by the internet and music media. The blogosphere was a freshly coined term, and Murphy’s aging scenester wit was tailor made for the snark-appreciating denizens of the internet
I’m not sure if being 12 impacted how I took this album in, but it never did much for me, and it’s still probably the LCD Soundsystem album I listen to the least. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it is overstuffed and maybe a little undercooked.
That’s understandable because it was meant to be as a one-off outpouring from longtime DFA Records presence Murphy.
There’s still lots of worthwhile stuff and a lot of interesting germs that blossomed as LCD’s catalog expanded.
You’re going to absolutely listen to “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Loosing My Edge”. Then, Google some of the bands mentioned in the latter song because most of them are fantastic. If you’re trying to appear informed about LCD Soundsystem, you might as well dive into the deep end of the critical darling pool.
Listen tothe beginning, end and longest song on This Is Happening
This is without a doubt my favorite LCD Soundsystem album, but I think most people will pretty much get the point if they just listen to “Dance Yrslf Clean”, “You Wanted a Hit” and “Home”. While this is a tremendous album on its own, I really think it works just thaaat much better if you’ve heard the stuff that came before.
“Dannce Yrslf Clean”, This is Happening‘s opening track pretty much everyone’s favorite LCD Soundsystem song, and that is because what the song lacks in vowels, it makes up for in delayed payoff and crunchy synth.
“Home” is the closing track and bookend’s the album well. Whereas, “Dance Yrslf Clean” hides its pleasures for a couple of minutes, “Home” jumps right to it with a lush dance rock sound. Both examine exorcising negative emotion and the catharsis in nightlife revelry. They also feature Dayman-esque Ahhh’s, but the opener captures the rise, and the closer describes the descent.
“Dance Yrslf Clean” is all about moving past frustration via groove. Maybe transcending your turmoil is as simple as a giant synth sound. Of course, it’s not that simple.
“Home” is about being unable to really put your human insecurities on hold and the letdown of the promise slowly draining from a night out despite everyone’s best efforts to manufacture a wild time. It’s a song that really captures the subtle dismay of realizing a fun night has to end, and the realization the endless possibilities that seemed expansive and vital hours earlier were fleeting, if they ever existed.
“You Wanted A Hit” is sort of a mission statement for modern LCD Soundsystem. Everyone from Janet Jackson to Brittney Spears wanted Murphy to produce their albums around 2008, and he never relented, and LCD never released a half-assed, watered down version of their difficult to categorize music for the sake of sales.
If those three songs whet you’re appetite, I absolutely recommend listening to the full delightful album, but if you’re pressed for time I would rank the reaming songs in this order:”I Can Change”, “Pow Pow”, “All I Want”, “One Touch” and “Somebody’s Calling Me”.
Watch “Shut Up And Play The Hits”
It’s a concert film depicting what was ostensibly LCD Soundsystem’s last concert, and it was in Madison Square Garden. You need a little base knowledge of the band to fully enjoy it, but after your previous prep, if you can make it through the closing rendition of “New York I love You…” and its emotional acknowledgments without getting a little knotted up, you’re a robot.
Congrats! You know have passable LCD Soundsystem knowledge in time for festival season.
I was listening to Queens of the Stone Age’s fantastic, eponymous debut while running the other day, and Josh Homme side project, the Eagles of Death Metal, crossed my mind for probably the first time since 2015’s Paris terror attacks.
I didn’t linger on that tragic train of thought long because soon, their sleaze boogie single”I Gotta Feeling (Just Nineteen)” crossed my mind. Somehow, this led to me racking my brain for songs with similar themes, and ultimately, the realization that musicians really, really like to document their attraction to teenagers.
Because I hadn’t thrown together a listicle in a while, I thought I would throw together a playlist and a breakdown of each song’s ephebophilia related content. Winger and The Police both have super famous on topic songs, but I tried to only pick songs that are both creepy and good, so Winger and The Police were ruled out fast.
The songs are listed from least creepy to most creepy, but man oh man, do they get creepy in a hurry.
“Only Sixteen” by Sam Cooke.
This song is about a perfectly chaste, sweet and truncated relationship between two adolescents. It came out in 1957, and it is probably the most 1957-y song imaginable. Perfect listening for any wistful soda jerk. It is not creepy in anyway.
“Teenage Love” by The Magic Wands
Once again, this is a love song that focuses on a teenaged relationship. It’s spacey, sedate and super fun, but there’s a sort of schoolyard chant, Miss Susie moment where you expect an F-bomb, so that makes it slightly more creepy than the past entry.
“Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles
This song would be just behind Same Cooke, but the whole, “You know what I mean?” part supposedly penned by Lennon is undeniably a little creepy. Even Jerry Seinfeld, who once dated a 17-year-old has a bit about it seeming a bit out of place. Given that the lovable lads from Liverpool were wee mop-topped moppets at this point, I’m chalking it up to being all in good fun.
“Sixteen” by The #1s
These Irish garage rockers remain impossible to Google, also no one else seems to have liked their music as much as me, so verifying the lyrics has been an impossible, but I’m pretty sure the gist of the song is that the speaker has conflicted feelings about his attraction to a 16-year-old. “Just 16,” are the operative words that create a palpable tension for the speaker, so we’re officially into the creepy territory.
“I Got a Feeling (Just Nineteen)” by The Eagles of Death Metal
This song isn’t really about anything particularly alarming. A 19-year-old woman is an adult by just about anyone’s definition, but Jesse Hughes and Co. absolutely will an uncomfortable amount of perversion into the song by making it clear the youth of the woman involved is particularly alluring. Also, “I touch you there because I know the spot,” pretty much guarantees this song separates the sort of problematic songs from the really creepy ones.
“Teenager in Love” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
This song is super bouncy and twee, as was pretty much every single song on The Pains self-titled album. Of course, the full phrasing of the chorus the titular teenager is in love with Christ and heroin, and someone’s overly aggressive touch and intent to try new things are mention. It’s not a song about teenagers and romance the way the others are, but it does fit the theme, and it is unsettling, so yay!
“The New Style” by The Beastie Boys
The bit that qualifies this song off of the massively successful album, License to Ill, is pretty tongue-in cheek, “If I played guitar, I’d be Jimmy Paige/ The girlies I like are underage,” is most definitely a reference to the time Jimmy Paige kidnapped and more or less held a teenager captive, but that incident is so creepy in hindsight that this song gets a solid creep rating just for mentioning it.
“Norgaard” by The Vaccines
This totally transparent ode to a teenage model is a super catchy blast of guitar pop from these posh British rockers. It also explicitly mentions “tits”, “teenage hormones,” and states the object of the speaker’s affection might not be ready to go stead because she’s “only 17”. It basically deals in the exact same subject matter as “Sixteen” uses the wording of “Saw Her Standing There” and then makes sure the lust is crystal clear.
“Barely Legal” by The Strokes
Julian Casablancas states pretty unequivocally he wants to steal innocence, which is a phrase I would expect in a Thomas Harris novel. Dr. Lecter, won’t you witness the great becoming of The Strokes as they steal innocence.
“Across the Sea” by Weezer
I love this song. It does a great job of capturing the way intense longing created by distance can amplify loneliness into frustrated anger. The song also portrays Rivers Cuamo’s super blunt speculation about how schoolgirl fans might touch themselves. The intensity of the song’s emotions makes it so, so much worse. The envelope licking and sniffing mentioned immediately before also does so little to ameliorate concerns.