Last week, One Direction released their new single “Perfect” and it is, for all of the cliches in the world, absolutely perfect. I am not sorry in the slightest for the fact that you’re on an alt-rock website reading about one college student’s never-wavering obsession with One Direction (a wise Tumblr. post once reminded me “life is too short to pretend you don’t love One Direction”), but I’ll offer a compromise and use their single as a jumping off point to reminisce on some other songs I think are “perfect.”
1. Paul Simon – “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”
I’ve loved this song ever since I was a kid simply because it tells a compelling story that mentions a schoolyard, which any child can empathize with. The layered guitars, mellowed patters and crisp whistling provide a perfect backdrop for a bouncy Paul Simon favorite.
2. Deerhunter – “Living My Life”
This song makes me think of a different artist with every line. LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead, Phoenix…the complexities and varying sounds in this song are amazingly tendered to, with nothing feeling random. It’s a meticulously designed progression of instrumentation and lyricism that sounds different every second.
3. The Cure – “Friday I’m in Love”
I love Disintegration as much as the next guy, but there’s just something about the utter iconic joy coming from this song that’s inherently exciting whenever it comes on. Even after listening to this song my whole life, I’m still nowhere close to being sick of it.
4. Wilco – “Kamera”
Wilco is nearly perfect, and by extension, some of their songs have to be, too. However, my dad once dubbed this Wilco’s best song – and while “Poor Places” is a close second for me, “Kamera” just does it for me. Nothing can compare to the calm strumming and Jeff Tweedy’s lackadaisical vocals, both of which vary in speed, giving the song an almost manic feel.
5. Coldplay – “Strawberry Swing”
Hate on Coldplay all you want, but they are without a doubt one of my favorite bands with a killer stage presence to match their insanely catchy songs. This song, as well as the album it comes from, is unlike most of their other songs, especially in the instrumentation. It is constantly echoing, wrestling between alternative rock and soft acoustic, with the percussion-esque strings serving as punctuation.
6. Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”
I am going to make a definitive statement here and say that Sufjan Stevens is by far the most underrated musician of our time. Not enough people know his name or are aware of his pure talent that is experimental in nature and manages to try something new in every single song that is produced. This song is arguably one of his most popular, and for good reason: it displays all of the complexities of a Sufjan-song: intricate instrumentation, developed, story-like lyrics and his pure vocals. It’s simply amazing.
7. Lord Huron – “Cursed”
I loved this song when I first heard it and I love this song even more now. I saw Lord Huron this summer for my birthday, and no present could’ve been better than witnessing their perfect performance. They performed “Cursed” and my heart swelled at the woodsy talent.
8. Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer – “Once There Was a Hushpuppy”
Coming from the brilliant movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, this instrumental tune provides a strong feeling of empowerment and inspiration. I’m always impressed whenever I experience a song that manages to move me that is also absent of vocals, relying instead on the swell of heavy brass instruments and the wavy strings. It’s a perfectly composed piece that never fails to surprise me.
9. One Direction – “Perfect”
Okay, it should be fairly obvious that this would be on here. Please just give this a try. Please, please, please.