The word “epic” gets thrown around quite liberally these days. It’s used to describe everything from Internet fails to baked goods; some would argue the word’s gigantic nature has been rendered impotent. Luckily some music still lives up to the term. In terms of sound, scope and length, here are the most epic songs of the 21st century thus far. Because 10 is just not good enough, this list goes to 11.
11. “Sun God” – Cut Copy
Aussie electro-outfit Cut Copy have always excelled at crafting incredibly catchy dance-pop. But the fifteen minutes of synth bliss that is “Sun God” soars so high that it practically converts dance floors to rainbows.
10. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus
Titus might have songs that are louder or longer, but nothing states the band’s urgent mission quite like The Monitor’s epic opener “A More Perfect Union”. Imbued with Civil War imagery, it’s a battle cry for disaffected suburban youth. “Tramps like us, baby we were born to die.” The boss would be proud.
9. “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves” – Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst caterwauls for ten minutes, combining the personal and the political in a highly compelling narrative. Verses are heaped upon verses with such urgency that the excesses of youth sound shockingly wise.
8. “Blueberry Boat” – The Fiery Furnaces
Has any album of the twenty-first century been as simultaneously charming and frustrating as The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat? The title track alone is riddled with mismatched tempos, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation and stream of consciousness lyrics about a pirate ship carrying a precious cargo of fruit. Not even an ADHD riddled child on a sugar high could keep up with this rapid fire musical oddity.
7. “Have One on Me” – Joanna Newsom
It’s hard to pick just one song by the pixie harp songstress, as the entire track list of her sprawling triple album (!), Have One On Me, could comprise this entire list. But we’ll go with the title track as it best represents her penchant for intricate strumming and storytelling.
6. “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” – Of Montreal
Jagged, pulsating synths, along with Kevin Barnes’ unravelling relationship issues propel nearly twelve minutes of electro-pop drama of mythic proportions. If it’s possible to simultaneously wallow in self-doubt and dance along to it, this is the only soundtrack you need.
5. “The Island” – Decemberists
With “Island”, the Decemberists indulge their proggy side, And while it’s far from the folksy melodicism fans initially fell in love with, you can’t help but get wrapped up in the most ambitious tale of mysterious island happenings this side of “Lost”. Plus, bonus points for epic wordplay, as Meloy rhymes “arabesque,” “cormorants,” and “ziggurat.”
4. “Runaway” – Kanye West
“Runaway” provides the rare glimpse of vulnerability for the supposedly invincible Kanye. The rapper comes clean about his flaws and failings, which paradoxically makes for a song bigger than his ego, well almost. We’ll toast to that.
3. “Impossible Soul” – Sufjan Stevens
Majestic marching band orchestrations, electro-beats, human-sized eagle wings, autotune — Sufjan Stevens can get away with it all. And with “Impossible Soul” he does so all at once, combining seemingly disparate elements in unpredictably lovely ways, over the span of 25 glorious minutes. As the lyrics go, “Couldn’t get much better/Want to dance?”
2. “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
From its slow-boil start to its increasing crescendo and shout-along lyrics, “All My Friends” is LCD’s most anthemic song. At once triumphant and bittersweet.
1. “7 Skies H3” – The Flaming Lips
No one beats the Flaming Lips in terms of epic weirdness. And what could be weirder than a 24-hour-long song packaged in an bona fide human skull? While Wayne Coyne has described it as more of a spacey soundscape to be consumed over varying intervals of time, the lone creation of a daylong musical recording is nothing short of epic in highest psychedelic plane.