Background: I am truly flabbergasted these guys have not a single song in Rock Band, be it on disc, as an official Harmonix DLC release, or as a custom here… it is disgusting. You should all be ashamed and embarrassed, Harmonix especially! Operation Ivy are punk rock legends, and if you don’t know them, you should feel awful about your ignorance. ...Ahem. Sorry. Fear not, simple plebeian. I am here to lift you out of the shadows and into the glow of nuclear winter. And to make up for my frequent violations of the Rule of Three, I will only post two songs by these godfathers of punk. After all, the songs should speak for themselves. And since there are only two choices, I shall declare them both Obvious Choices… runner-ups not needed!
The Obvious Choice:
Album: Operation Ivy (1989)
You should have heard this song at some point in your life. If not, you’re welcome. I really don’t have much to say about it, as it really should speak for itself. If I have to talk you into enjoying and appreciating a song by a legendary band, they must not be legendary. Their first (and only!) album had twenty-seven (27!) tracks, but this song and the selection below are the absolute stand-outs from a record on which half the tracks would be great (and deserving of a place) in your library.
Vocals: Not exactly refined vocals... a custom should probably utilize a fair amount of talkies if you don't want to drive vocalists insane. A good camaraderie should exist between the band during the harmonious refrain.
The first time I heard this song it was by Green Day on their 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation album. It wasn’t until later I discovered it was originally by Operation Ivy and that’s how this all began. Thank goodness for covers! Completely different styles, though! Green Day’s version is good, no doubt, but I appreciate the raw anger of the original. Both would be good fits for Rock Band, actually...
Vocals:Yelling. Lots of yelling. Kind of melodic yelling during the chorus, fit for two! Either way, it should be pitched so you can fail spectacularly while singing.
Guitar: Rockin' guitar chords. A solo! Maybe two if you're liberal with the definition.
Bass: A standard punk rock bass line.
Drums: You hit things hard and fast during this song. Emphasis on hard.
Background: One day long ago, I was driving home from college listening to the local NPR affiliate during their underground hip-hop hour when I heard it. I was instantly drawn in, even before Boba Fett was mentioned. My experience with hip-hop up to that point was with rap, and yes, I’ll be that pretentious snob that says there’s a significant difference. I instantly copped the album featuring that Roots track and the rest is history; I’ve been a huge fan of them ever since. I’m so glad they’ve found mainstream success since becoming Jimmy Fallon’s house band; they put in the work and they deserve it. While I’d proffer that their music these says isn’t as good as their earlier output, that doesn’t have a deleterious effect on the gems they’ve given the scene in the past decades. And yes, I said band. Give the drummer some!
The Obvious Choice:
What They Do
Album: Illadelph Halflife (1996)
The Roots make me almost appreciate the Grammy Awards, because they’re one of the few acts who deserve their nominations and wins. This song came slightly before that era for them, but it blew up and led them to their eventually success. It’s a jam that has it all. Observe:
Vocals: Black Thought raps the verses while the chorus is sung with both melody and harmony.
Guitar: Wacky guitar intro (combined with keys) and consistently sexy guitar throughout.
Bass: Nothing fancy, but it sounds enjoyable.
Drums: Also nothing fancy. Still, you’re Questlove.
Keys: Wacky keyboard intro (combined with guitar) and consistent background keys throughout.
Miscellaneous: Definitely a keys-and-guitar-centric song. Bass and drums just form the foundation. Oh, and it fades out. Bummer.
The Seed (2.0)
Album: Phrenology (2002)
This song, critical of the music industry, is sonic sex. Actually, that doesn't do it justice. How about the description Pitchfork gave it? An "orgiastic garage funk number." Intrigued yet? Read on...
Vocals: Rapping and pretty singing! Crazy metaphorical lyrics that will have your audience aroused and/or confused and/or disgusted. Pick at least two.
Guitar: Consistent playing, which is a big plus for a hip-hop song. As I said, they're a band.
Bass: Super fun, but not complex. Do want.
Drums: You get to be Questloveagain.
Keys: Not this time.
Miscellaneous: Solid, crisp ending.
Mellow My Man
Album: Do You Want More?!!!?! (1995)
Clever and cool lyrics, which is par for the roots. Nice instrumentals. Back-and-forth rapping with much hype. Break out your upright bass peripheral at the two-minute mark.
Vocals: Two MCs to choose from: Black Thought or the now-departed Malik B. Both are bad-butt emmer-effers.
Guitar: None… but so many things that aren’t guitar are happening that it’s possible something could be charted here.
Bass: Super fun and smooth and sexy.
Drums: Drums. As Questlove. Drool.
Keys: Lots of instruments to put in this slot. But you definitely want to pretend you’re Scott Storch here. Shove the other secondary sounds in the guitar slot.
Miscellaneous: It doesn’t really fade out, so that’s a positive.
Background: If I recall correctly, I discovered these guys because NoiseTrade sent me an email with a link to a promotional compilation to encourage listeners to purchase their then-upcoming 2014 album. Well, it worked, because that free sampler made me a dedicated listener with a ticket stub and a t-shirt. Thanks, NoiseTrade! Now let me pay it forward. You know how I usually say I don't care about drums and know nothing about drums? Well, I still know nothing about drums or drumming or drummers, but I do know that I love the drums in every Delta Spirit song. Something about them... I'm not even sure if it's the style. Maybe it's just the sound of it. Either way, man!, the energy. Unfortunately, my measly three selections do not do the band justice in this respect, but I had to choose the first two of these three, no questions asked. My concert experience demanded it. The final selection was just a good tune with lots of keys. Sorry, drummers. If you want-- actually, screw it. Rule breaking commencing. Posting a fourth song just for the drummers.
The Obvious Choice:
Album: I Think I’ve Found It (2006)
Do you appreciate or even enjoy dark lyrics with twisted imagery that actually sound happy and hopeful? I sure do. This song is pretty &@%’d up if you really listen. And that’s why I love it… because if you heard it on the radio and weren’t paying attention, you’d be cheerful and smiling. Thanks, chorus!
Vocals: A pleading refrain with haunting verses. You best sing this with anguish (and optimism?) in your voice. Backing vocals!
Guitar: Multiple guitar parts from which to choose. Because of that, there are lots of styles with which authors can play around.
Bass: This bass part sounds like my bread ‘n’ butter. Nothing overly difficult, but enough variety to keep a player busy and interested while bouncing around the living room.
Drums: Doesn’t sound like anything special to my untrained ear, but I like it lots and it's definitely important to the vibe.
Keys: Nope… but ambitious authors might be tempted to chart the other guitar part here. Heh.
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending. There is a later version of this on their full-length 2007 album Ode To Sunshine, but I much prefer the version from this EP. The embedded video and Spotify playlist use my preferred version, but you can still find the inferior version on your own. I don't want to taint your ears.
People, Turn Around!
Album: Ode To Sunshine (2007)
Bear with me while I introduce this unconventional selection. At Delta Spirit’s live shows, this is typically the last song of the encore and therefore the final song of the evening. I really wanted them to play this live, so I was ecstatic when they did, but I was very surprised at the when… I adore this song, but I didn’t think it would be a good note to end the night on! Well, I was quite wrong. This song electrifies the crowd and unites them in a drunken sing-along… hopefully an experience that is coming to a living room near you soon.
Vocals: Beautifully somber lyrics with a great refrain for parties, especially once everybody is relatively intoxicated. Sad lyrics + alcohol + this song = camaraderie. Make some new friends with this one.
Guitar: Beyond guitar, there is a lot of what sounds like a mandolin in this song, I think. I could be wrong. Either way, it’s a strumfest, and this would be a great opportunity to use the polarizing “super fast strumming” mechanic provided by the Rock Band 3 engine.
Bass: It doesn’t play a big role in this song, but when it’s there, it’s a cute part.
Drums: Give the drummer a microphone with a stand for backup vocals during this, because he or she won't be very busy. Lots of hand percussion with a shaker, but I’m unsure how you’d want to handle that.
Keys: Piano plays a pretty important role in this song. When it doesn’t, the harmonica could be charted here.
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending. There is an earlier version of this on their 2006 EP I Think I’ve Found It, but I much prefer the version from this full-length album. The embedded video and Spotify playlist use my preferred version, but you can still find the inferior version on your own. I don't want to taint your ears.
Language of the Dead
Album: Into The Wide (2014)
This is a very strong album, so choosing one track wasn’t easy, but I did it. For you, dear reader. I deserve the discomfort of questioning if I made the right decision for all of my previous rule violations. So, why this track? An intriguing title, strange lyrics, historical references, and political/social platitudes make me feel very uneducated and unintelligent when I listen to this song and try to decipher the true meaning. Nonetheless, food for thought and sound for ears.
Vocals: There are very subtle harmonies here that I can barely make out at the moment… make sure to use a cotton swab before trying to hammer them out.
Guitar: To my ear, the guitar is pretty buried in this song. It’s there, it just isn’t fancy or prominent or memorable, really. This is very much a drums and synthesizer song.
Bass: Standard stuff. The bass takes a backseat to the drums on this one.
Drums: I like ‘em. Definitely the driving force of the song. I feel like they might actually be interesting for drummers, but if not, that's why I threw in the fourth bonus song.
Keys: Beyond drums, keys are the most prominent sound you’ll hear during this song. Fancy!
Miscellaneous: Abrupt, crisp ending.
Give The Drummer Some!:
For My Enemy
Album: Into The Wide (2014)
Look, I never drum, but these drums excite me. I can't tell you how many times I've ignorantly and unskillfully air-drummed while listening to this song. I hope I don't disappoint you...
Vocals: Vocals should be fun for this one, and nice harmonies, too.
Guitar: It's there... taking a backseat to drums. A sort of solo near the end, when the drummer is breaking his arms and leg.
Bass: Yawn. Who cares? This is for drummers!
Drums: I'm really trying for you drummers with this one! It sounds complex and varied and intense to me! Am I wrong? Ugh. I know nothing.
Keys: Low, rumbling piano. Some synth as well, I think.
Miscellaneous: Abrupt ending. Conveniently, this is one of my favorite songs on the album, so if it gets made, both the drummers and I benefit.
Background: Something about Ike Reilly is so… subversive. And that’s precisely why I love him. He seems to give no &#%@s and will write about whatever he desires, specifically those dark desires, morals be damned. Deviance is his specialty, and it really fills a niche in my library for that reason. He’s so raw and genuine and unfiltered. He says what we’re all thinking. And since he’s such a rule-breaker, I’m breaking the rules here: all three selections below are from the same album. That doesn’t mean his other albums aren’t as good… but these tracks really display his different styles and would work well in Rock Band. Plus, he makes me want to be a rebel. As a further act of defiance, since there is no real Obvious Choice here… I'll just use lyrics. These three songs are all vastly different and I'd be pleased with any of them as a custom.
Flow Into Your Lungs:
Ballad of Jack and Haley
Album: Hard Luck Stories (2009)
A genuinely sweet tale of a single father who grows and sells marijuana to make ends meet. A great fit for Rock Band, parents, and potheads alike. Hopefully someone gives this song the green light.
Vocals: Great lyrics, a great story, a great melody, and great harmonies. Just… great. It’s all great.
Guitar: A pretty standard part here, but instrumental to the song. Lots of fingering.
Bass: Nothing special, but it ain’t awful.
Drums: Standard drums.
Keys: Synthesizer in the background, but nothing prominent.
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending. Bonus points if you don’t get all emotional like me.
Dump All Your Dreams Down Into My Throat:
The War On The Terror And Drugs
Album: Hard Luck Stories (2009)
Ike shares the microphone with Shooter Jennings for this duet. Very memorable lyrics. Ike paints pictures. Greasy, oily pictures. A great song for parties with alcohol. And it brings some desperately needed quality country vibes to Rock Band.
Vocals: Ike and Shooter trade bars back and forth, with shared refrains and verses of their own.
Guitar: The beautiful guitar playing featured here is the star of the show beyond the dual vocals. Every other instrument takes a seat at the very back of the venue.
Bass: It’s there.
Drums: They exist.
Keys: There’s some piano here, prominent at times.
Miscellaneous: Do you feel corrupted yet?
Keeping Coaches Off the Cheerleaders:
Good Work (If You Can Get It)
Album: Hard Luck Stories (2009)
I really waffled back and forth between the third and final selection for Ike, but I think this tune does a good job of displaying his grimy side. It's a sort of anthem for the bored, rural youth. School's out and it's time to party, rich or poor. Plus, instrumentally, it’s enjoyable for the entire band with a slight country slant.
Vocals: Authors can utilize talkies for parts, and there are group harmonies during the refrain.
Guitar: The star of the show, of course.
Bass: Not bad.
Drums: Not bad either.
Keys: Synthesizer or pipe organ at times. And there’s a harmonica!
Miscellaneous: Fades out, sort of. That's just Ike being a rebel and making it difficult for authors to decide what to do.
Background: I've seen the Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band at least three or four times over the years, and it's always a barn-burner. The band consists of the Reverend on guitar, his friend Max on drums, and the Rev's wife Breezy on washboard. There is no bass guitar player. "But Atruejedi! I clearly hear the plucking of a bass string!" That's right, dear reader, you do.The Reverend is playing it with his thumb as he simultaneously plays the most insane guitar parts. I have no gosh darn idea how you'd tackle this band when making a custom of one of their songs, but I felt compelled to offer up some tunes by them just to see who among you authors suffers from oppositional defiance disorder and wants to do the impossible. I will spare you and break my Rule of Three by only offering two suggestions.
The Obvious Choice:
Something For Nothing
Album: Between The Ditches (2012)
The Reverend Peyton is an incredibly talented guitar player, so that instrument is always going to be the focus of any song he and his band are performing. Don't expect much from the other instruments, especially since the washboard doesn't really translate into Rock Band (...unless you charted it to pro keys, lolol). I won't take it personally if nobody likes this band and nobody expresses interest in charting them... but do yourself a favor and see him live if you ever get the chance!
Vocals: The Rev has a particular way of singing. And Breezy's back there thumbing away at her washboard and singing harmonies. Guitar: Bad-ass. A real treat for expert guitar players, I'd assume. But the question is... Bass: ...do you put the simple bass part here, or on the guitar part where it actually belongs? Ha! Drums: Just hit 'em hard. Keys: Washboard, anyone? Miscellaneous: Good luck. At least there's a crisp ending.
The (Other) Obvious Choice:
Let's Jump A Train
Album: So Delicious (2015)
Can't say much more than this is a bad-ass tune.
Vocals: At least he's singing notes high enough to comfortably hit this time. And Breezy's still back there. Did I mention she sets her washboard on fire at the end of every live show? Guitar: More bad-ass guitar playing from the Rev. Bass: More... thumb-strumming-while-playing-the-guitar-simultaneously by the Rev. Drums: Cowbell. Or woodblock. Something. Keys: Still waiting for that washboard... Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: Seen 'em twice, and good shows, both. Their third album wasn't that hot, so I kind of forgot about them for a long time, but they have a fourth on the way and the first single is solid. I won't include it on the list, though, because only time will tell if it's actually good. The front man is an animal and will be a terror for vocalists everywhere. For once, I actually picked only three songs from three different albums. Good for me! Back to basics...
The Obvious Choice:
Don't Break The Needle
Album: J. Roddy Walston & The Business (2010)
Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be about sex and drugs. This has the latter in spades.
Vocals: For J. Roddy, this is actually fairly singable, minus the refrain. I'm used to losing my voice in my car singing along. Please use talkies during maniacal laughter.
Guitar: Guitar shares the stage with piano for this one, but guitar is definitely important and has a nice solo.
Bass: It's there, doing its thing in the background.
Drums: Hit things!
Keys: Solid piano part. Tickle those ivories!
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending. This was their big hit.
Rock & Roll The Second
Album: Hail Mega Boys (2007)
This song is a romp, hearkening back to the good ol' days when rock wasn't about drugs... only chocolate malts. And sex.
Vocals: My throat hurts already. Please use abundant talkies.
Guitar: Nice guitar solo.
Bass: Solid bass line.
Drums: I have no opinion. Hit it hard and fast.
Keys: Woo! Fun! Pretend you're Jerry Lee Lewis!
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Take It As It Comes
Album: Essential Tremors (2013)
A slower affair for this typically hard-rocking-'n'-rolling band. That change and others are part of the reason this album was a dud, but this track stands out. Almost has a reggae feel to it... I guess he switched from needles to rolling papers.
Vocals: He doesn't scream during this one . Although there is a squeal... And, hey, nice backing vocals for a group effort.
Guitar: Guitar shares the stage with the pipe organ for this ditty.
Background: This is perhaps the most obscure band on this list, but I'll always go to bat for the Clarks. They're an act that had, and still has, a very successful career in and around Western Pennsylvania in particular, but they only had a couple of nationally broadcast singles. The high point of their career, commercially speaking, was an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on which they played a completely forgettable song in 2004. But I won't make the same mistake as the Clarks... they have so many fantastic compositions, so I decided to go big or go home. I'm swinging for the fences with my Obvious Choice... and hoping for a grand slam!
The Obvious Choice:
Album: The Clarks Live (1998)
"Atruejedi! For the Obvious Choice, you're requesting a LIVE version of a song by an incredibly obscure band?" Yeah, and with good reason. Just listen to this damn thing. The crowd is eating this up, and they always do! Listen to that guitar! Listen to that crowd participation! You don't even want to hear the studio version of this... it cannot compare! If you ever get a chance to see this band, and I pray you do, take it! They still perform live non-stop, except rarely out of their Western Pennsylvania wheelhouse. Ah, what could have been...
Vocals: Scott Blasey sounds great live, and this is a testament to that fact.
Guitar: This guitar playing is so awesome. Ugh, solos for me to happily fail! So many solos!
Bass: Just because it isn't overly difficult doesn't mean it isn't awesome! It is! It is awesome!
Drums: Do work, son!
Miscellaneous: You must chart the crowd's vocals! And use talkies during FAYETTE COUNTY FAIR!, at the least! AND IT HAS A BIG ROCK ENDING!
Album: Let It Go (2000)
A beautiful song... about drug abuse. Except it sounds like it's about Frosty the Snowman. It's genius, really. One of my favorite compositions... ever.
Vocals: Great vocals, great harmonies, and brilliant lyrics. Goodness...
Guitar: Standard awesome guitar work from the Clarks.
Bass: Standard awesome bass line from the Clarks.
Drums: Standard awesome drums from the Clarks.
Keys: Who needs 'em?
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Born Too Late
Album: Let It Go (2000)
Yeah, same album as above, but I don't care, because I'll make any sacrifice and violate any rule for the Clarks. So what do we have here? A song referring to historical figures only by first name from every discipline, lamenting the missed opportunities of learning from so many incredible minds throughout the ages simply by being born too late on the timeline. This one was their biggest commercial hit, actually getting some national airplay, so it deserves to be here, even if there are so many tracks I love so much more.... I'm selfless!
Vocals: Gorgeous lead vocals from Scott with lovely harmonies in tow.
Guitar: Awesome fun. Gimme!
Miscellaneous: Fades out... just like all the bright lights referenced in this song. Poetic...
Background: First, there is no actual Larry in this band (just like there's no Hootie!). I saw these guys open for Frank Turner without having ever heard of them. I didn't go in expecting much (most openers are usual crap, in my experience), but... I was blown away. They put on an incredibly energetic live show. In all honesty, it was almost dangerous. I was caught in the mosh in the center of the venue and it was like bumper cars on steroids. So armor up, break out your upright bass peripherals, kick away your drum stools, and tune your mandolins! Oh, and refill the flask. My initial short-list for these guys was seven tracks, so narrowing it down to three was quite difficult. To assuage some of my guilt, I buried links within this post to the songs that were very deserving of inclusion but simply couldn't make the cut.
Important note: please, take pity on us who are not the absolutely most amazing guitar players by charting the mandolin to the keyboard slot. Leave the guitar as guitar for the sake of my sanity and ego!
Another important note: Every time I say mandolin, I might actually mean banjo. It's hard for me to tell!
The Obvious Choice: Beggars Will Ride
Album: All That We Know (2011)
I realize this isn't the perfect song for inclusion in Rock Band, and perhaps not the best song by the band for the Obvious Choice, or even the best candidate from the album on which this track appears, but it's just such a feel-good jam. Their most popular song on Spotify, Ebb and Flow, was a pretty obvious pick, and while I do love the song, I wasn't sure anybody else would. Plus, it's a bit long and there are s a lot of layered instruments playing all over each other, none of which are particularly prominent or memorable. It feels primarily like a vocals song, but all songs by this band are, so, next! The dark horse candidate prevails. Ride on, beggars.
Vocals: A singable melody, backing harmonies, and lots of group parts. The chorus is magical. And I hope I don't die in no hopsital bed, neither. Guitar: A rollicking guitar part that will make you swagger across the stage. Bass: It's there and it's fun. Drums: For maximum authenticity, stand while drumming. Yes, seriously. Keys: There's a mandolin (typical for the band), but since the other selections have mandolin as well, perhaps chart the accordion here, at least for that big solo. Yes, there is an accordion. Miscellaneous: KEY CHANGE! Woo! And a crisp ending.
Runner-up: Home of the Slave
Album: By The Lamplight (2013)
This slot could easily have been occupied by two other thematically similar songs: Call It What You Will (you should watch the amazing music video) and Pandemonium (here's a cool lyric video). So why did Home of the Slave make the cut? Well, while Call It What You Will is easily equal to Home of the Slave in terms of quality and "cool," the former has way too many instrumental parts that just aren't fun for the entire band: all that brass just doesn't translate well into Rock Band. And Pandemonium is great, but I didn't like the idea of a song opening with a capella vocals. Yes, that's unique and neat-o, but it's also tricky and awkward. Both are still absolute gems of songs, but Home of the Slave is probably the most Rock Band-friendly. So them's the breaks. Another dark horse crosses the finish line.
Vocals: Fun vocals with accompanying harmonies and backing parts. Guitar: If the actual guitar part is charted here, where it belongs, I might be able to survive... until that solo. Goodness, me. Bass: Play it like an upright and throw it across the room for an accurate concert experience. Drums: This band helps me make up for all the disappointments I've given drummers in this thread. Keys: Don't worry, mandolin! Just like guitar, you get an insane solo, too, in addition to your incredibly difficult "normal" parts. Please chart this insane mandolin here. Please. Miscellaneous: There is a lot going on in this song, and for that, I apologize to potentials. Get out your devil-star stamper. Crisp ending.
I considered many, many songs for this last slot, but Blood Drunk in particular came to mind so I could appease the drummers I've neglected. Eventually I settled on Hobo's Lament from their EP of the same name. This song was another dark horse candidate but I'm satisfied with the pick; it allowed me to follow my rules by selecting songs from different albums while also highlighting a slower style from the band. Triple crown.
Vocals: I love those "Please, please, please!" harmonies, so gather up three friends and three microphones, lads. Guitar: Guitar tends to take a back seat to mandolin here, but a wicked lil' solo at the end to close the number. Bass: You don't have to throw the bass around the room this time. Doesn't mean you can't. Drums: Standing still required, and perhaps actually possible due to the slower pace. Keys: Mandolin? Mandonlin. Miscellaneous: Crisp, cute ending.
Important note: If you're a long-time fan of the Arkells, this list is going to look bizarre to you, and you're right. The Arkells are an extremely Rock Band-friendly group, but this list tries to cover their entire discography thus far and really sacrifices a lot of songs that would be a blast to play in-game. I'm probably doing them a disservice here, in a lot of ways. Keeping that in mind, I'm going to drop links to some of their best songs (No Champagne Socialist, for example) and my favorites (Tragic Flaw, for example) along the way.
Background: I went to see Lights just to watch these Canadian chaps open for her, and while they only played six songs, this was in the era of their first two albums, before mediocrity began to infect the band. So all six of those songs were top-notch compositions and/or performances, thank goodness. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a big fan of those two albums, but albums three and four are merrr and ugh, respectively (more on merrr below!). "Atruejedi! You sure are crapping on this band a lot while claiming they deserve representation in Rock Band and giving them four suggested tracks!" Yes, there are four suggestions below, breaking the Rule of Three, but only because I gave this list to MrPrez months ago for his Canada 150 project. Everybody needs a vice; mine is enjoying songs by the Arkells when I probably shouldn't. Nothing about this band is great by any measure. They write good songs (half of the time). They're good live. But it's some weird combination of simply being good enoughthat makes me root for them. While I could easily have cut one of these songs, I liked giving each album (even the crappy ones) one track a piece. Hopefully one of these tracks is good enough for your ears. The saddest part is that this list leaves off their best songs and my favorites, all in the name of treating each album fairly and fun-for-the-entire-band considerations. I'm an idiot.
The Obvious Choice:
Oh, The Boss is Coming!
Album: Jackson Square (2008)
This is a no-brainer. It was a big hit single and it's just bad-ass. Not sure if there's some deep meaning behind it (probably not), but it just feels right for Rock Band. Plus, he says ass every chorus . This album is really, really good, and I was torn between this song and The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, which is awesome in its own way.
Vocals: No harmonies. If you sing this authentically, it could be difficult at times. Some stressful, intense notes. Guitar: Strum quickly. Shred it. Bass: Killer! Drums: I am ignorant, but they sound fun and intense at moments. Keys: None. Miscellaneous: I love the quiet parts when the whole band suddenly stops and there is only a vocal bar for a moment. Crisp ending.
Album: Michigan Left (2011)
The title track from the album. A classic, for the band, at least, but there ain't nothin' deep about it at all. Just a solid pop-rock song. I should feel shame and guilt for having listened to it so many times in my life, but I don't. I almost put On Paper in this slot, but it's a bit sappy for my Rock Band taste...
Vocals: No harmonies, per se, but a great opportunity for some nice "whoa-oh" callbacks. Cool layered vocals during the closing. Guitar: A few guitar parts to choose from. Lots of strummin'. A solo of sorts during the closing. Bass: Could be fun; definitely has some interesting parts. Drums: They sound enjoyable to my untrained ear. Definitely the backbone here. Keys: Nope. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: Cynical Bastards
Album: High Noon (2014)
I am so torn on my opinion of this album, including this song. Like the rest of the album, this track ain't high art, but it's definitely a fun time and an anthem of sorts. And, come on, with a title like that, who wouldn't be interested in trying this out? This record is absolutely jam-packed with dumb yet charmingsongs: 11:11, Never Thought This Would Happen, Hey Kids!, and Leather Jacket all come to mind, and I hate linking to so many songs from this dumb album when there are so many better songs elsewhere... but they're just so damn Rock Band-friendly. I consider myself a music snob (if somehow you haven't figured that out) and I feel like I shouldn't enjoy this album as much as I do. But I do! It's probably my #1 Guilty Pleasure album of all time. I'm really shocked Harmonix didn't mine songs from this for official DLC.
Vocals: Could be tricky to chart because of all the parts where you might want to use a talkie. Great refrain for parties, even if there's only one part. Nice "oooh" backing vocals at times. Guitar: Sounds fun, but definitely shares the stage with and is often eclipsed by the keyboard parts. Sort of a solo at the end? I guess? Bass: I dig! Sounds fun. Drums: Standard rock song drums. Keys: Piano! Finally! And then synth and then lots more piano! A keyboard players dream. Miscellaneous: Crisp and abrupt ending.
Runner-up: Round and Round
Album: Morning Report (2016)
This album sucks, honestly. But this one is a stand-out in a sea of mediocrity; actually, it's probably one of their best-written songs, even considering their entire discography. It's a slow-builder, but by around 90 seconds in it becomes pretty cool. The song grew on me quickly, especially compared to the rest of the tracks on the album (except Hung Up, which is pretty good and you might wanna check out, even if it's just another song on my guilty pleasure list).
Vocals: Pretty easy. Primarily for one vocalist, but there are subtle, quiet backing vocals for the whole band throughout the song. Guitar: The guitar is the star for this number. Get those fingers ready. Repetitive but pretty. Bass: Take a backseat and just enjoy the ride, bass. But this part can be pretty neat at times. Drums: Probably a bore. Keys: Piano is gentle and welcome. Cute synth part is sparse but there. There is brass for parts that could be charted here as well. Get a renaissance man/woman for this slot. Miscellaneous: A bit slower for a pick coming from me, but it's a feel-good tune. Fades out
Background: I think I first heard these guys in the late '90s when using the Yahoo! Radio function built into Yahoo! Messenger. While I'm a bit surprised they never had a single from Harmonix released as DLC, I'm more surprised they have no customs in the database. We need more punk and these guys deliver with clever, lighthearted lyrics about surprisingly serious subject matter... at least for the three suggestions below. But trust me when I say they have a lot of juvenile jams as well... and a Christmas album with a surprisingly great song. Huh? Oh, and I'm pretty sure Vandals fans are going to be irked I chose these tunes as opposed to their harder, faster songs, but please, don't sack me. I'm open to suggestions. When in Rome, after all...
The Obvious Choice: My Girlfriend's Dead
Album: Hitler Bad, Vandals Good (1998)
How does one effectively cope with the loss of a loved one? By writing a ridiculous song about all the absurd causes of the departed's death.
Vocals: Morbid but funlyrics with great harmonies. Guitar: A few layered guitar parts, so pick and choose! Bass: Standard punk rock bass line, for the most part. Drums: Standard punk rock drums. Get a water bottle, or, better yet, a beer. Keys: Punk with piano. Yes, I'm serious! But it don't last long. Miscellaneous: Chart that whistling! Crisp ending.
Runner-up: People That Are Going To Hell
Album: Hitler Bad, Vandals Good (1998)
Dish out some cosmic justice with punk prose. I mean, Karma Chameleon is a fine tune, but this dose of karma ain't new wave; it's a bitch. And, yeah, I violated a rule by double-dipping from this album. But Vandals are barbarians, dude. Rules don't apply
Vocals: Silly lyrics, sure, but it might be nice if they were right. Oh, and harmonies are sublime. Guitar: Pretty standard punk rock guitar. Bass: Intimidating at times. I want. Drums: Punk drums. Keys: You're hilarious. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: It's a Fact
Album: The Quickening (1996)
The above songs might be from an album mentioning Hitler in the title, but this song actually mentions Hitler in the lyrics. Hooray! Quota fulfilled.
Vocals: Delightfully depressing lyrics. And they're right: Hitler is a jerk. Guitar: A fun guitar solo. Please use vocals with this to simulate the talkbox Bass: Sounds absolutely nutso at times. I fear playing this, but I'd be glad to suck it up and suck. Drums: A cardio workout. Yikes. Keys: Hey, you got lucky with that punk piano in the Obvious Choice. Don't get greedy. Miscellaneous: It's in the bible! should totally be a talkie so I can just freaking scream it. Crisp ending.
Background: I'm really not going to bother putting much effort into this entry. Dishwalla was a one-hit-wonder in the '90s that wanted you to tell them all of your thoughts on God. Their debut album is a solid effort, but there's no point in listening to anything that came after it. It's a sturdy time capsule of alt-rock at the end of the millennium, but beyond the smash hit single it offered, there ain't much there that's memorable. Hell, I forgot this album/song/band existed until it popped up on my Discover Weekly from Spotify today. Oh, and apparently their lead singer forgot the band existed, too; he quit a decade ago, but this year the remaining members put out a new album without him... why? Anyway, because they don't really deserve much attention, and to make up for my frequent rule violations, only one runner-up this time.
The Obvious Choice: Counting Blue Cars
Album: Pet Your Friends (1995)
Tell me all your thoughts on God
'Cause I'd really like to meet her
And ask her why we're who we are
Rock Band 4 is the Harmonix game that seems to have embraced the desire of older millennials for '90s radio fare (see: Spin Doctors, Live, Soundgarden, Gin Blossoms, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 4 Non Blondes). So it's a surprise to me that this song didn't pop up on that disc with its brethren or as DLC. I was further surprised no author had tackled this as a custom. Well, here we are. Thanks, you.
Vocals: The star of the show. Your mom knows and loves this song. Backing vocals and harmonies are subtle and interesting. Guitar: It's just suh-weeeeet... and everybody knows it. Including your mom, of course. Bass: It's fun! Gets her goin'. Drums: Pretty standard rock 'n' roll drums, sounds like. Keys: It's the '90s! No! Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: Charlie Brown's Parents
Available now! Download here
Album: Pet Your Friend (1995)
I can't hear what you're saying
What you're doing to me
Can't you see?
It would take the jaws of life to pry open your words
This one starts slower than the Obvious Choice, but it rocks much harder. Okay, but seriously, while it is a really cool tune, just go back up to the Obvious Choice, please. Appreciate this one for what it is and realize Counting Blue Cars is the Obvious Choice for a reason. A very good reason.
Vocals: Edgier than above. Nice backing harmonies. Guitar: More difficult than above. Bass: I would feel bad-ass playing this. And it's more difficult than above. Drums: More difficult than above. Perhaps significantly. Keys: Still the '90s. Dad isn't going to let you drag the piano into the garage. Miscellaneous: Fades out. Just like their careers after this album.
Background: He's one of my favorite singer-songwriters, but I absolutely realize Frank isn't for everybody and much of his discography isn't a good fit for Rock Band. He can be a bit too... affirming for some ears. He's always singing about getting through tough situations and philosophical hullabaloo about how you should live your life. I dig that stuff, but I understand it isn't everybody's cup of tea (he is English, after all). Every song I thought would be on this list... well, isn't. And the Obvious Choice wasn't even on my radar. Oh, and for the keen among you, I can hear the wambulance sirens wailing already: "Atruejedi! Frank Turner has a song in Rock Band! And it was free, you doofus!" You're right... but if you recall, I play Rock Band on the Wii. Therefore, I cannot enjoy this song like you fancy-pants Microsoft and Sony patrons. Luckily, I got to play I Still Believe on a friend's XBOX and sang it intensely and joyfully and terribly. Frank isn't in my range and the alcohol didn't help. Actually, it definitely did. So take pity on me, or at least understand the sour situation. I. Want. Frank. So I'll skirt the "zero representation" rule on a technicality. Frank taught me to be eternally hopeful and optimistic, after all.
The Obvious Choice: Peggy Sang the Blues
Album: England Keep My Bones (2011)
It doesn't matter where you come from
It matters where you go
And no one gets remembered
For the things they didn't do
Selecting this track really wasn't all that obvious, but Frank's right, as usual. It doesn't matter where you come from; it matters where you go. And no one gets remembered for the things they didn't do.
Vocals: A great melody with really beautiful harmonies and backing vocals. I'm stupidly excited for that "We can get wild!" backing part. Guitar: Acoustic folky guitar and electric as well, with chords and picking. Bass: A real treat for bassists. Mmmm... Drums: Nothing to elaborate on beyond the fact that they're here and pretty standard. I'm dumb. Keys: Subtle synthesizer and piano parts are buried underneath the other instruments at times... near the end you'll definitely hear the piano part. Miscellaneous: Lots of tambourine. Crisp ending.
Runner-up: Live Fast Die Old
Album: Poetry of the Deed (2009)
And we can never sell out
Because we never bought in
And if they build it back up
Then we'll swing back through town
And burn the whole thing down again
An logical twist on the old adage "live fast, die young" because, hey, nobody wants to die, friend. So let's get as much as we can out of this life. Some might hear this tune as hippie-dippie nonsense, which is why Frank can turn off a lot of folk. Me? I find the affirmation comforting. You chart the tunes and I'll bring the beers.
Vocals: Just Frank on the ol' melody, but there are some "ba-da-ba-da-bums" to chart as a second and third harmony which should be fun for the rest of the band. Guitar: Acoustic and electric chords. Bass: Sounds really, really fun once the first verse begins. Drums: Rock 'n' roll drums. Keys: Piano! Pipe organ! More piano! Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Album: Love Ire & Song (2008)
And if all you ever do with your life is just photosynthesize
Then you'll deserve every hour of your sleepless nights
That you waste wondering when you're gonna die
This song is an adorable anthem about growing older but not letting that turn you into a sad, piece of @#^& quitter and whiner. Frank is a great lyricist and this is one of my favorite compositions by him. Thank goodness it translates well into Rock Band.
Vocals: A chorus for the whole band! Or the whole party! Guitar: Cute acoustic chords. Bass: A bouncing, simple, cute bass line. Dance! Drums: Cute drums. Keys: Chart the violin here! I think I hear a synthesizer or harmonica as well... Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: What if you could somehow personify the Clash and System of a Down, turning them into individual biological entities representing their entire respective bands, then coax them into falling in love, have them wed, send them on their honeymoon to Jamaica, except the island has been teleported into Eastern Europe, and then the two band-human hybrids have copious amounts of coitus and produce a super baby? Congratulations, now you're ready for Gogol Bordello, the world's premier gypsy punk band, featuring 823 different instruments, 153 band members, and 97 different accents. That statement is only a slight exaggeration. If I'm being upfront, I'm not an expert on this band, because they've been around forever and they aren't... accessible to the average listener. Definitely an acquired taste, but my palette is always hungry for something different, and it don't get much more different than this. That said, if anybody has more knowledge or expertise of this band, please, feel free to weigh in on what you think would make a good addition to Rock Band from these musical nomads.
The Obvious Choice: Trans-Continental Hustle
Album: Trans-Continental Hustle (2010)
Hey hey hey hey, heidi heidi ho, heidi heidi hey! This song will occupy a unique spot in anybody's library... if it's ever charted. Plus, how many other songs mention Joe Strummer, Bob Marley, and Nazis in the same song!? None.
Vocals: I can pretty much guarantee that, if charted, this will be the only song with "panzerfaust" in the lyrics. Neat background vocals during the refrain and lots of random noises to chart here for the rest of the band. Guitar: Acoustic chords to strum, strum, strum. Bass: It's easy, but it's fun! Bounce! Drums: Should be fun. Interesting change shortly after the two minute mark... almost a drum solo. Keys: How about accordion instead? Miscellaneous: Make sure to chart those freaky monkey noises or whatever the hell they are... because why not!? Crisp ending.
Runner-up: The Other Side of Rainbow
Album: Pura Vida Conspiracy (2013)
Yes, that's the title, poor grammar 'n' all. The hilarious part is it's actually incorrect on Spotify, labeled as "It IS The Other Side of Rainbow", as if some dude was yelling at another dude, emphasizing that the poor grammar was accurate. Ha! Compared to the other two selections here, this is pretty relaxing; a simple tune about freedom.
Vocals: Harmonies! A good song for parties. Guitar: Acoustic and electric guitar at different times. Bass: The backbone of the song. Drums: They sound... different to my ignorant ear. Keys: The accordion or violin could be charted here. And is that... a pan pipe? Miscellaneous: Bonus points if you can pull off his Hungarian accent. Crisp ending.
Everybody at your party wasted? Queue up this song immediately. Not wasted yet? Queue up this song immediately to affect that change. Nobody will know what the hell is going on but everybody will be having a blast and dancing and drinking even more. Everything in moderation, friend.
Vocals: Put your drunkest friend on lead vocals. Your other sloshed comrades will appreciate the nonsense lyrics and backing vocals. Guitar: It's easily heard at the beginning, but it's pretty buried to my ear most of the time after all the action starts. But guitarists always get to have all the fun, so let's allow the rest of the band have their moment in the sun. Bass: It isn't difficult. Drums: Doesn't sound too intense. Keys: Accordion or violin could be charted here. Miscellaneous: I don't get it. Crisp ending.
Background: Yes, the band has a bajillion members, but this dirty hippie collective has two members that stand out from the rest: the two lead singers, Alexander and Jade. Seeing them perform together was concert really was... something truly special. But like all great things, it couldn't last forever. Jade was kicked out of the band for drug abuse, which was a damn shame, because their two voices playing off of each other was what made their sound so unique. After her forced departure, the band released a record with only Alexander on vocals and not only was it simply not the same, it was actively bad. Fortunately for him and his fellows, their latest release was a return to form of sorts, even if it still only had one vocalist, but it still lacked that quality that made them such stars when together. Jade was an absolute joy both in the studio and on the stage, but I understand why she was given the boot when I see clips like the band's NPR Tiny Desk Concert, during which she was freaking spaced out, and I fear that was a good day for her. Treat yourself to the performance here, but remember the darkness at the center of that joy. All this being said, my selections are going to focus on the time when Jade was still in the band, and because of that, I've double-dipped from one album featuring her in all of her drug-induced glory. You'll thank me.
The Obvious Choice: Home
Album: Up From Below (2009)
Chocolate cake and Jesus Christ, how Harmonix never released this as a single is mind-blowing. This song was huge and rightfully so. It is adorable. You've probably heard it, so I'll let the song speak for itself.
Vocals: Holy moly! It's a duet! And goodness, the spoken story midway through... so cute. There is a third vocal part buried near the end for manly men. Guitar: Cowboy chords. The backbone of the song. Bass: Pretty neat bass part. Get along, little doggie. Drums: Not much for drummers to do but stomp their foot and enjoy the ride. Keys: Lovely piano. Brass as well. Miscellaneous: Chart that whistling to vocals!
Runner-up: That's What's Up
Album: Here (2012)
A cute love song. If you don't find it adorable, you're a monster.
Vocals: Jade and Alexander harmonize for most of the song. Guitar: Picking! A solo! Bass: A bouncing bass line. Drums: This should be more fun for drummers. Keys: A very subtle synthesizer is nearly always in the background. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: Man on Fire
Album: Here (2012)
It's a slow burn (ha), but it's worth waiting for the blaze to build.
Vocals: More he-and-she vocals. Lots of layers. Guitar: Chords and picking. Bass: It's pretty overshadowed in this tune. Drums: Eventually they kick into gear a bit. Keys: Adorable piano. Miscellaneous: Crisp, abrupt ending.
Background: Certainly you're familiar with the Raconteurs, known famously as one of Jack White's numerous side bands outside of the White Stripes. But did you realize Jack's not the only singer in the band? His other, and, in my opinion, better half is none other than Brendan Benson, the man with the loveliest voice you didn't know you knew. Brendan's been around for a long time, and while it's great to sing as him on a track like Many Shades of Black (one of my favorite songs ever), it would be nice to see him standing on his own in music libraries everywhere. After all, Jack White has his solo stuff in Rock Band 4 and even here in the database. And his White Stripes stuff. And his Dead Weather stuff. Enough Jack! More Brendan! Narrowing it down has been a chore, though, because I love the guy's work so much. But I manned up and chose three songs from three different records, just because all of those albums are so, so good. I couldn't resist dropping breadcrumbs to other lovely tunes, though. Feel free to indulge at your leisure.
The Obvious Choice: The Alternative To Love
Album: The Alternative To Love (2005)
Truly, I think any song from this album could fit here, so I waffled back and forth a lot before finally deciding to simply go with the title track. This gentle number has a little bit of everything, but it's definitely a treat for bands with more than one vocalist.
Vocals: There's so much going on here, vocally, especially at the end. Basically, there's a harmony accompanying the lead singer the entire song. And then there are at least three parts happening during the ending. Awesome. Guitar: Gentle chords with some picking for most of the song. Something that could be considered a solo. Bass: Sounds quite fun to me. Drums: No opinion. Standard stuff. Keys: Subtle synthesizer. A harmonica solo. Sounds like a pipe organ at the end. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending after all the craziness ends.
Runner-up: Eyes on the Horizon
Album: My Old, Familiar Friend (2009)
This is my favorite album by Brendan and hosts my favorite song by him, but because I'm selfless I did not select Garbage Day. Instead, again, I went with the title track. It's another relatively gentle song, this time about paranoia.
Vocals: More lovely layered vocals from Brendan. I love the lyrics. Guitar: Chords. Bass: It's subtle, but it's all over the place! I want it. Drums: I'm ignorant, but probably fun. Keys: Piano. And a creepy-ass ghost noise, but I have no idea what instrument is making that sound. Perhaps a cello...? Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: On The Fence
Album: What Kind of World (2012)
What self-respecting woman would ever have me and not stab me? As I've said before, Rock Band needs more quality country songs, and I think this fits the bill. And yes, that was me hating on contemporary country radio. Hopefully this ditty about indecision over whether to settle down or ramble will please folk. *tips hat*
Vocals: Beyond the lead male vocals, there are guest vocals for a female friend! Gosh, it's so pretty! Guitar: Strum those chords like a country boy. Bass: Solid. Drums: No opinion. Perhaps a bore. Keys: Piano in the spotlight! Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: If you're still on the fence over whether time travel is real, let this band settle the issue: it is real. The Record Company's sound is straight out of the classic rock greats of the early '70s. Since this band only has one album (and a good album it is!) and I often violate my own rules, I'll make some amends by only offering two suggestions. After all, if you don't dig either of these tracks, you aren't going to like this band. Your loss.
The Obvious Choice: Feels So Good
Album: Give It Back To You (2016)
The title of this song is appropriate, because you will feel so good performing it with your friends. I'm confident Harmonix will release this on their own eventually.
Vocals: Hey, hey, heeey! Fun for the lead singer and for the band! Lots of backing vocals and harmonies, too. Guitar: Appropriately rad. You will feel bad-ass. At least two solos. Come on, baby! Bass: Varied and interesting. Drums: They really have a old timey big band sound to me at the beginning. Sounds like a good time. Keys: Not this time. Miscellaneous: IT HAS A BIG ROCK ENDING!
Runner-up: Off The Ground
Album: Give It Back To You (2016)
As soon as I heard the opening bass riff, I knew this song was something special. It might be a bit repetitive for Rock Band, but that's why it's the runner-up. No harm, no foul.
Vocals: Hoo-oo-oo-oo! A nice mixture of manly singing and falsetto, backup singers included. Guitar: The guitar is the star of this song. A very solid solo. Bass: Repetitive, but the back bone of this song and bad-ass. Drums: Repetitive, but probably not bad-ass. Keys: Piano! Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: Shields up. I'm wading into dangerous territory with this entry for a few reasons. "Is it because Stacy's Mom is already in the database, dummy?" Nice try, friend! I play on a Wii and the multitracks from this Guitar Hero conversion cause unplayable stuttering for Wiius Nintendo supporters. Based on that technicality, I shall proceed with Fountains of Wayne suggestions even though their superfans will undoubtedly disagree with my selections and break out the pitchforks, torches, tar, and feathers. And then there's this: Fountains of Wayne's massively overplayed aforementioned hit, Stacy's Mom, is representative of nearly all of their compositions. They write songs which ride the razor's edge of novelty, and that isn't a compliment; sometimes too cute is too much and a tune quickly wears out its welcome. Worse still, maybe it never deserved that welcome in the first place. I really do like and appreciate this band, but if I never heard Stacy's Mom again it might be too soon. Would I tolerate or, dare I say it, enjoy the song had it not graced the airwaves 28,358 times during my formative years? I'll never know. But at least the songs below have the perfect balance of cute and class. Sidenote: the only band in history I think has successfully and consistently straddled rock-novelty without falling off the horse into the embarrassing or annoying is Presidents of the United States of America (one of my absolute favorite bands everrr). Nearly all of their songs are about either insects or animals but I love every single one. So kudos to them. Back on topic!
The Obvious Choice: Radiation Vibe
Album: Fountains of Wayne (1996)
The opening track from their debut full-length album (followed immediately by Sink to the Bottom; I'm sure I'll take flak for not choosing that track instead). I'd gush about this song if I could, but I can't put my finger on exactly why I find it so entrancing. When it comes on the radio I can't turn the dial. Maybe it's that nostalgia that I find so compelling. It's a great representation of alt-rock in the mid '90s.
Vocals: A fun and memorable chorus. Harmonies. Guitar: Surprisingly memorable guitar part. Bass: Forgettable bass line. Drums: Nothing special. Keys: None. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: Traffic and Weather
Album: Traffic and Weather (2007)
The title track and my overall favorite song by the band (although I did seriously consider selecting Strapped For Cash from this album). Just cute enough to grab your attention and sexy enough to keep it. Catchy as the dickins.
Vocals: One of my favorite refrains of all time. Nice harmonies. Guitar: Bad-ass. Bass: Pretty buried and/or inactive. Drums: Standard stuff, I think. Keys: There's at least synthesizer for this slot, but possibly something else... whatever's making that weird bubbly noise. Miscellaneous: Fades out... like the band after their 2011 album...
A gentle love song about the one that got away... and probably isn't ever coming back. I have a feeling he never had her anyway...
Vocals: Probably the only song with Christopher Walken mentioned in the lyrics. Nice harmonies. Guitar: A couple of guitar parts give authors some leeway. Bass: A nice bass line. Drums: Boring drums. Keys: Very subtle synthesizer. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: The music sounds like it's from the American West but these sisters are actually Swedish. That should be enough to capture your attention, but if somehow it isn't, read the description of the Obvious Choice.
The Obvious Choice: My Silver Lining
Album: Stay Gold (2014)
We all know that the soundtrack to a movie can help to enhance a certain scene and make it even more memorable, but rarely does that occur during a video games. I first heard this gorgeous song while playing Tales from the Borderlands and it instantly captured my imagination and was stuck in my head for a week. It makes me want to learn how to ride a horse, build a time machine, travel back to the year 1870 and then ride horseback across the desert into the sunset after saving a town from bandit raids and delivering justice to the outlaws of the Old West. Yippie-ki-yay, emmereffer!
Vocals: Female lead vocals with female harmony throughout most of the song. Fun back-and-forth vocals at the end. Guitar: Sounds like a hand-cramp waiting to happen. Bass: Bass sets the pace. Drums: Standard stuff. Keys: Haunting strings that should definitely be charted here. They are an integral part of this song. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending. The above video features scenes from the excellent adventure game by Telltale Games.
Album: [single] (2012)
This is a first for my many suggestions... a single without an album! There's something compelling about this song... It feels rustic and adventurous, even if you don't pay attention to the lyrics. But you should. Reminds me ofFurrby another band I suggested earlier, Blitzen Trapper.
Vocals: Some challenging falsetto. Dual female vocals with harmony during the chorus. Guitar: I sense another hand-cramp incoming. Bass: It's there. Drums: I don't know if they're interesting or difficult, but I love the sound of these drums. Keys: Some strings or a synthesizer or something. Miscellaneous: Abrupt ending.
Runner-up: Heaven Knows
Album: Stay Gold (2014)
A delightfully cute song about liars. Speaking of liars, I broke a rule. This is the second song from this album, but much of the band's earlier material lacks drums entirely, so choices had to be made. You're welcome for this gem, though.
Vocals: More gorgeous female vocals with gorgeous female harmonies. More fun back-and-forth. And I want to scream "STRAIGHT TO HELL!" as a talkie! Guitar: This chordfest is a welcome change of pace from above! A nice lil' pickin' solo. Bass: A simple but joyous bass line. Drums: Sounds fun to ignorant me. Keys: A subtle organ. Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Background: Considering this entry is about a hip-hop collective of West Coast MCs and DJs, I had a strange mix of ease and difficulty selecting songs by them to include here. These guys had a major impact on me artistically and includes one of your favorite MCs, even if you don't realize it: Del tha Funkee Homosapien. You know him as the rapper featured in Gorillaz mega-hit Clint Eastwood. Finally, someone let the rest of these terrific performers out of their cages and into one of the customs below!
The Obvious Choice: Off The Record
Album: 3rd Eye Vision (1998)
Impressive displays of lyricism from Casual, A-Plus, Del, and Tajai with fun for the whole band! Step into the arena. These verses are off the hook.
Vocals: No chorus, just rappers, rappers, rappers. Guitar: Sexy but subtle guitar. Bass: Seriously, this bass part is DOPE. Drums: The songs needs them, but they're purposely forgettable. Keys: Holy moly. This is a keyboardists dream! I NEEDto see somebody tackle this... Miscellaneous: Fades out.
Runner-up: Make Your Move
Album: Full Circle (2003)
A mellow hip-hop tune about doing what must be done to stack cheddar that, against all odds, translates fantastically into Rock Band.
Vocals: Rapped vocals by Casual and Pep Love with pitched and absolutely gorgeous refrain by Goapele with harmonies. Guitar: Repetitive and simple but beautiful. Bass: Repetitive and simple but sexy. Drums: Repetitive and simple but nothin'. Keys: If you chart the xylophone here, this is the most varied part of this song and would be a treat for keyboardists. Awesome! Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Runner-up: 7 Sixes
Album: Full Circle (2003)
A first for my suggestions: this jam has no guitar part but there are a total of seven rappers here. Each MC in the group is given time to rap six lines and dazzle you with their lyricism, machismo, wit, and wordplay. Plus, nearly every word in Del's verse starts with the letter V. Wunderbar!
Vocals: Pep Love & Tajai & Casual & A-Plus & Del & Phesto & Opio. Geeze. Guitar: None. Bass: Fun. Drums: Dumb. Keys: Yum. Miscellaneous: Fading ending, but not a problem.
Background: The man transcends genres. He raps, he sings, and his music is instrumentally everywhere at once. While his later albums are a bit less Rock Band friendly, they're still excellent, but I skewed to earlier in his career and double-dipped on his compilation remix album because the instrumentals were just so awesome. Let me prove it!
The Obvious Choice: Pack Up
Album: Later That Day... (2003)
Hard-hitting, bad-ass, unpitched rapping lyrics. This song will make members of the same/opposite sex love/fear you (choose your combinations). This is the original version, not one of the 872 remixes.
Vocals: One vocalist needed. Talkies for rapping the verses, pitched vocals for the chorus. Guitar: Lots of cool little things going on with guitar here. Bass: Fairly repetitive but still cool. Drums: A simple but hard-hitting drum part. Keys: None. Miscellaneous: Fades out, but in a good way.
Runner-up: I Changed My Mind (Stereo MCs Rattlesnake Mix)
Album: Same !@#$ Different Day (2005)
Some people might complain this isn't actually hip-hop, but whatever. I mean, come on, this Asian-American rapper has a song explicitly called Rules Were Meant To Be Broken. I'm just following his example. Either way, it's quite catchy and instrumentally interesting.
Vocals: One vocalist needed. This entire song is pitched. Guitar: Awesome guitar part. Bass: Awesomer bass part. Drums: [adjective] drum part. Keys: Synthesizer. Miscellaneous: Like those high on marijuana plants, this ending is faded. This remix is not the original.
Runner-up: Do That There (Young Einstein Hoo-Hoo Mix)
Album: Same !@#$ Different Day (2005)
The lyrics are absurd, it's unpitched rapping with pitched choruses, and the instruments are all at least acceptably fun. Winner!
Vocals: The verses are mostly rapped, but some parts should be pitched. The chorus should be pitched. Guitar: Subtle and repetitive but an adequate challenge. Bass: Funky bass part. Drums: To my untrained ear, it sounds pretty cool. Keys: Keys of some sort on occasion. Miscellaneous: Fades out like a high top hair cut in 1991. This remix is not the original.