1. Madness by Muse - muh, muh, muh, muh, muh, muh, muh, muh, mad, madness... I fell in love with this song as soon as I heard the low pulses of the keyboard. This song is wonderfully crafted with the way that it builds. Starting with just the keyboards and the drum machine. Throw some muted guitar in there during the second verse and you get a nice build up to a really clean and precise guitar solo. The vocal ah's that are added after the solo create a nice ambiance that lead into the climactic change in the chorus.
2. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson - I get ridiculed when I tell people that this is my favorite song, but I just love how this song is produced. The different instruments are mixed so well together that none of them distract from the song. I noticed this when we had a music appreciation moment in one of the classes that I was teaching a couple of years ago. There is a light guitar riff mixed in there. I haven't figured out how to play it on the guitar yet. For me, the best part of the song is the perfect amount of distorted guitar during the chorus. It is a perfect compliment to the keyboards that really drive the chorus. I could listen to this song one hundred times in a row and not get sick of it.
3. I Am Mountain by Gungor- Gungor is going to have a couple of songs on this list. I don't think that they are very well known. I really wouldn't know because I haven't listened to music on the radio to know what is popular since I learned about Spotify. I will admit that they are a little to folky for me in most of their tunes. But this one is stellar. The highlight for me is during the chorus, which is really just them singing, "oh" over and over. The music behind the chorus changes ever so slightly from the first to the second chorus. Basically, during the first chorus they play a D chord through the entire first chorus, which leaves you a little uneasy as they start the second verse. The chorus just ends with no resolution. But then in the second chorus they play the D again, but then move to an A, and it is powerful. I love, love, love it.
4. The Flight of the Apollo by Angels and Airwaves - Simply because of these lyrics
Do you feel light shine in the darkest of nights,
Or does the pain stack up from the skin to the core
Do you find every time that you cover your eyes
To keep the tears held up, dripping down even more
Let the words come down, every line in a sight
You put the young flames out it make you cower and cower
If the sun breaks in to start a spark and a sign
I promise you'll be here to let the light in
5. My, Oh My by Mackelmore - I like this song because of the baseball reference. I really love how he begins the song with memories of his about listening to baseball with his dad and playing little league. There is a little instumental interlude and then the intensity picks up as Mackelmore raps about his determination to live life fully until 'God decides to wave him home." I always feel a little more inspired to live each moment and to work on things of value when I hear this song. The only thing that I don't like is listening to the play by play call of the Mariners beating my Yankees in the playoffs.
6. Bad by U2 - The live version of this song is in my top 5 songs of all time. I used to rent the movie Rattle and Hum every weekend. It was this song that made me want to learn to play the guitar. I basically wanted to be the edge. So much that when a group of friends made a heavy metal music video, I chose to where a blazer and hat instead of going shirtless, like the rest of the group. I'm glad that video hasn't made it's way to digital.
The live version of Bad is the model of how to build intensity in a song with emotion. It is very simple, but with the bass guitar and drums underneath picking up their tempo, the guitar solo is powerful.
7. It's A Plague by Progress In Color- This is the saddest song ever written. Can you imagine how sad it would be if the person that you loved thought that your love was a plague? Tragic.
8. Beautiful Things by Gungor- Love the lyrics of this song. Full of hope. The message is that God makes beautiful things out of us. When I hear those lyrics I am reminded to be grateful for my life. Even for the challenges that have shaped me.
9. Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars - There is some great guitar work toward the end of this song.
10. Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode- I didn't put this on the list because I teach a kid that looks just like Andy Fletcher. I do, but I also love this song. There is a guitar riff that is played throughout the song, and then in the middle there is a change in how they play it. And the change is magical.
Bonus. Green and Blue by Neil Davidge- This song is from the soundtrack of the Halo video game. I don't play the game, but somehow I found this song and I listen to it when I write. There are big sweeping string arrangements that make this song engaging and moving.
What song do you wish you had written