In which Honey White’s genius grad student guitarist takes his turn on the rock & roll soap box:

Excellent choices, Bryn! I was reading through your list and thought many time, “oh, that song’s awesome”. And thanks for the complement on “Dead Man”… I listen to that song and all the things I did wrong jump out at me, so it’s nice to know it isn’t like that for everyone. Plus, that was a hell of a lot of fun to record.

So in spite of the lack of popular demand, here’s my list:

1. Race for the Prize: The Flaming Lips
Neat synth line, bouncy drums, lyrics about scientists, and the opening number for several of the best shows I’ve ever been to. I’ll always associate this song with the live Lips experience, with balloons and streamers and aliens and Santas and Wayne Coyne in a big plastic bubble. Seriously, it’s is an experience I’d recommend to anyone even slightly interested in their music.

2. Bridges and Balloons: Joanna Newsom
The first time I listened to this song, all I really noticed was her weird-ass vocals. I thought, “I’m going to have to try this again later”, and put the album away for a month or so. Then, once mentally prepared for it, I put this album on again and was absolutely blown away. Her harp playing is amazing; the rhythms are always very interesting and fit so well with the vocal melodies. She is incredibly unique as an artist, and I think this song exemplifies all her best qualities (exept perhaps the singing, but I particularly like the lyrics to this one).

3. Y Control: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This song rocks: Karen O’s voice is amazing, the drumming is fantastic, and the guitar sounds are coated with beautiful distortion. The song has such a cool, dark vibe, I love it. I also never thought I’d be so enthralled by over 30 seconds of distorted guitar and amplifier feedback, which you hear at the end of this song, but in this case it sounds crazy awesome. Spike Jonze’s creepy video is pretty cool too.

4. Do the Evolution: Pearl Jam
Another rocker. And you really can’t rock much harder than this one. Eddie Vedder has the best voice in the business and can scream like nobody’s business The lyrics are great (“I’m the first mammal to wear pants, yeah”), and so is the guitar playing. It’s also got a neat video to go along with it.

5. The Flying Club Cup: Beirut
I don’t know what it is about this song, but the first time I saw the video on their website, I was damn near in tears. Something about the melody, the horns, the marching drums, and the image of a chorus of people looking upwards in a church singing in unison. Absolutely beautiful.

6. Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor – Going to Your Funeral pt. 1 – Cancer for the Cure: The Eels.
Okay, so this is cheating, but none of these songs are long, and all three fit together so perfectly. It’s got to be the most heart-wrenching opening to an album ever, with E’s subdued singing about his sister’s suicide and her funeral in the first two songs, then a big loud rocker about his mother dying of cancer. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

7. Paranoid Android: Radiohead
It’s really difficult to choose a representative track from this band, because holy crap they have a lot of good songs. This was the one that got me really into the band; I knew it was something extraordinary the first time I heard it. That moment when the big loud distorted guitars come in and play the main riff completely blew my mind. All parts of this multipart song are done really well, and the transitions are fantastic.

8. Half Day Closing: Portishead
Another difficult band to choose a favorite song from, but I’d go with this one because the ending is so powerful. I love the way her voice slowly morphs from a passionate cry into this synthetic wall of distortion and chorus and reverb and echo. Plus, the drums sound awesome, and I’ve always loved those meandering basslines.

9. The Funny Bird: Mercury Rev
Not a huge fan of this band, but this song is amazing. I think this is my example of the perfectly recorded and produced song. The rhythm section is up high in the mix, with the drums sounding perfect, and the simple but perfect bassline always driving the song. The chorus effect (or whatever it is) makes Jonny Donahue’s voice sound a hell of a lot better than it actually is, and the background atmospheric keyboards sound so cool I can’t even attempt to describe it.

10. Shine on You Crazy Diamond: Pink Floyd
Okay, so this one’s way too long to fit with the others onto a single CD… so if I had to pick only a part of it, I guess I’d go with part 6. But this song is the best guitar playing of all time, in my opinion. In my wildest dreams, I play guitar like Dave Gilmour played guitar on this song. It runs the gamut of emotions, from soft and mellow to crazy intense, and every note feels perfect. I can’t remember who said it, but some Jazz musician said something about soloing being about the notes you don’t play. This song proved the truth of that stament in my mind, as quite a lot of tension builds in the moments betweem phrases. And from my experience, that’s a hard thing to do.

11. The final untitled track on Sigur Ros’ untitled album (aka Parentheses)
This song is beautiful, and just builds and builds and builds, until the tension is so great you can barely stand it; then, it releases all that tension in a climax that Owen Salisbury perfectly described as: “in the coolest possible way, like a choirboy being hurled into a stack of cymbals.”

Bonus Track: Wayfaring Stranger
I guess I’d choose the Honey White version for the sentimental values, and because I love the way Bryn sings it and the way the whole band came together. But this is such a great and profound song about the most profound of all subjects, with a really somber tone but without too dark a view. Picking up my guitar and playing this song always feels comforting to me.