When it comes down to it, there are only two kinds of bands in this world: those who like to rush their songs, and those who like the songs of Rush. Today we are highlighting the latter. Bands who aren’t afraid to stretch things out a bit and let their music breathe, artists who smile in the face of 6-minute drum solos, endlessly repeating verses, and songs about Viking conquests. These are 10 killer tracks over 8 minutes long.
Weezer – “Only In Dreams” (8:00): While Weezer’s newer material has mixed reviews, back in ’94 folks couldn’t get enough and it’s easy to see why. Complete with a massive 3-minute instrumental crescendo punctuated by one of Rivers Cuomo’s most rip-roaring solos, it may be the Blue Album’s most underrated song.
Wintersleep – “Miasmal Smoke & the Yellow Bellied Freaks” (8:09): Sometimes it’s nice to see really great musicians untethered from genre restrictions. On “Miasmal Smoke & the Yellow Bellied Freaks”—the closing track from Winterlseep’s Juno-award winning album Welcome to the Night Sky—the Halifax 5-piece are allowed plenty of room to operate. The result is a triple dose of breezy, wah-pedal-heavy canrock.
Death Cab for Cutie – “I Will Possess Your Heart” (8:25): It isn’t Death Cab’s only odyssey (at 7:55, “Transatlanticism” is the bigger sounding, most emotionally affecting cut), but it is their longest. Clocking in at 8 and a half minutes, “I Will Possess Your Heart” pulsates with a creeping menace not seen in other Death Cab work. After a groovy 4 and a minute instrumental, the percussion drops out and Ben Gibbard launches into a series of desperate pleas. By the time Nick Harmer’s memorable bass line returns, the listener is transfixed by Gibbard’s unsettling picture of unrequited love.
Destroyer – “Suicide Note for Kara Walker” (8:26): With its slinking bass lines, woozy sax solos and quavering harmonies, “Suicide Note for Kara Walker” is a lot more fun than the title might suggest—at least compositionally. Pieced together from various text messages sent to Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar by the NY-based fine artist Kara Walker, the track uses appropriation in an intriguing way. As Bejar mentioned in a 2012 interview with the A.V. Club, when you use somebody else’s words as a springboard to create new art, it’s impossible to predict where the work will take you. In Bejar’s case, it led him to pondering the question: “[what has it] been like to be a black woman in America over the last 400 years?”
Tokyo Police Club – “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” (8:54): At nearly 9 minutes long, this three part epic is more than twice the length of anything else Tokyo Police Club has recorded to date. In fact, the track is more than half as long as their entire 8-song debut EP A Lesson in Crime. More surprising than the length however, is just how natural it feels coming from the New Market quartet. Angular, compact, and full of great hooks, it’s a song that could’ve only been written by TPC.
LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean” (8:59): Don’t adjust your headphones. That’s just James Murphy lulling you to sleep with the track’s muffled first-half audio. When the track finally bursts to life however, it’s among the purest, most joyous moments of synth pop Murphy’s ever produced.
Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” (9:57): Like many of the musical voyages on this list, “Pyramids” is really just multiple songs packed in one. Running the gamut from Sleazy club music, to ol’ fashioned rhythm and blues within its almost 10-minute runtime, “Pyramids” may be the finest R&B epic since “Purple Rain”. A look at the lyrics and you will find the same level of ambition, with a story that spans from Cleopatra in ancient Africa to strippers in Vegas hotel rooms.
Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar” (10:04): If some infallible, omniscient being ever makes a definitive list of the top 10 most beautiful songs ever written (Pitchfork?), Sigur Rós will probably hold at least 7 of the spots. And way up there on the top will be “Svefn-G-Englar”, the lead single from the Icelandic group’s breakthrough second album Ágætis byrjun. Svefn-G-Englar (translated to “sleepwalking angels” in English) is a paragon of post-rock dramatics: gorgeous, cinematic, and gut wrenchingly sad.
Scott Walker – “Epizootics” (10:15): According to Webster’s dictionary, “Epizootics” is an outbreak of disease affecting many animals of one kind at the same time. “Epizootics” is also the name the bizzaro 10-minute centerpiece from Scott Walker’s 14th studio album Bish Bosch. At the ripe age of 71, the American avant-gardist is still weirder and more compelling than 99% of the so-called genre-pushers out there.
Wilco – “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” (12:04): Wilco have definitely been around the block. As Jeff Tweedy sings early in the song, “Outside I look lived in / like the bones in a shrine.” Still, they’re far from washed-up. Capping off the band’s 2011 return to form The Whole Love, “One Sunday Morning” is a gently-moving, 12-minute heartbreaker of a track, its mournful beauty compounding with every passing verse.
Honourable Mentions: Drake – “Marvin’s Room” (8:15), Built To Spill – “Goin’ Against Your Mind” (8:42), Junior Boys – “Banana Ripple” (9:07), Lou Reed – “Street Hassle” (10:55), The Microphones – “The Glow” (11:07), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Babe, I’m On Fire” (14:45), everything by Joanna Newsome.
Author’s Note: Before all you Weezer fanatics start correcting me, yes I realize that “Only In Dreams” is actually only 7:59 long. So, if you want to debate my inclusion of Weezer on this list, share your favorite long songs, or simply compliment me on my fantastic opening line about Rush, feel free to comment below.
First though, you have about 97 minutes of music to get through. Good luck folks.