arts   |   music

Do you have an hour to spare? Here’s a medium list of long songs.


Frank Ocean poses May 5, 2014, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Tribune News Service

There’s something special about a song that can capture my attention for longer than four minutes.

My attention span is smaller than a squirrel’s pre-workout. I listen to podcasts while doing homework or playing video games.

My brain is consistently oversaturated. It begs for tranquility but I refuse, force-feeding it more and more content until my brainstem wilts like a dying flower. My brain eventually topples over, and I need to read a book to reboot.

Anyway, I feel much of culture now is bite-sized. A lot of songs like to hang out in that space between two and four minutes. That’s a comforting place. There are massive recliners that you can sink into.

But long songs are important too. There’s something special about being able to lose yourself in the music and know that you can occupy that headspace for a while. The songs don’t fade away, leaving you desperate for more. They’re risky and satisfying in the best way.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite long songs. There’s twangy guitars, cowbell and distorted vocals. So something for everyone.

Black Oak” by Slaughter Beach, Dog

There’s no vocal melody in “Black Oak,” the sixth track from Slaughter Beach, Dog’s newest record “Safe and Also No Fear.” Frontman Jake Ewald deadpans a dark folk story over looping guitars and sparse percussion.

The standout of the song is the nearly four-minute guitar coda. The guitars seem to stretch on forever like an interstate highway. The cymbals ebb and flow, hanging out in the background before rushing forward as the guitars build. It’s the perfect song for a night drive.

“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” by Wilco

“I am an American aquarium drinker,” Jeff Tweedy begins singing after a minute of twinkling ambiance and acoustic guitars. “I assassin down the avenue.”

The song meanders, moving at a drunken pace, just like its protagonist.

The lead track off Wilco’s 2002 masterpiece “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is packed to the brim with different instruments. There’s piano, guitar, synths and even bells. There are so many layers to the nearly seven-minute track. You can listen to it over and over again and keep finding something new.

“USA” by Jeff Rosenstock

“USA” is an angry, in-your-face look at what it feels like to live in modern America.

“I saw the sign, but it was misleading,” Rosenstock sings over pounding drums and burning guitars. “I fought the law, but the law was cheating.”

Around three and a half minutes in, the song switches up. The guitars and drums drop out, making way for buoyant synths.

“We’re tired and bored,” Rosenstock sings over and over. He even sounds tired and bored, weighed down by news cycles and American politics.

The drums build beneath the synth until everyone’s screaming. “We’re tired, we’re bored” becomes a rallying cry instead of a defeated cry for help. It’s cathartic and necessary.

“Futura Free” by Frank Ocean

This one is kind of a cop out. There’s only about four and a half minutes of actual music before a quick interlude and then audio from a Boys Don’t Cry magazine interview.

But I love this song. It’s beautiful. The keys and distorted vocals in the beginning set the mood for a sprawling epic about his humble beginnings and the pressure of fame.

“You could change this track now,” Ocean raps. “Could’ve changed this bitch a long time ago.”

These lines come near the end of the song with Ocean rambling, touching on multiple different topics. But you should never change the track when it’s Frank Ocean. You should hang onto every word.

“You” by the 1975

This is another cop out. It’s actually two tracks. “You” with its bright guitars and lustful lyrics and hidden track “Milk” with its breezy melody and summery aesthetics.

“Milk” is probably my favorite 1975 track. The instrumentals, vocals and melody are practically ripped straight from M83’s “Graveyard Girl,” but “Milk” is better, so I don’t care at all.

They’re both sugary sweet pop songs that could make any 10-minute chunk of time worth living.

“Gulf” by Young Jesus

This song is a whopping 20 minutes long. Twenty. That’s like a whole episode of “The Office” or whatever other sitcom people base their entire personalities around.

The Los Angeles-based art-rock band crafts a noisy, fuzzy piece of music that leaves no second wasted. There’s a purpose to everything. Even the parts where the song itself sounds like it's dying.

It’s more than a song, really. It, like all the other lengthy songs on this list, is an experience.

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