The 10 Best Songs With Sequels
With summer on the horizon, talk abounds of blockbuster movies and the many sequels that invariably come out this time of year. With that in mind, we thought we'd look at some of our favorite songs with second installments, as well as some with third and even fourth parts. While R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ series holds a special place in our hearts, it doesn’t make this particular list. But our picks for the 10 Best Songs With Sequels are just as good -- if only half as crazy.
Omaha-based the Good Life often use their songs as vehicles to create detailed stories with fully realized characters. This two-part tale off of the band’s 2002 album ‘Black Out’ is a prime example of one of their forlorn tales. As you might guess, the pair of ‘O’Rourke’s’ tunes detail the sometimes lonely and desperate experience of a bar patron after closing time. ‘1:20 a.m.’ follows the protagonist as he tries to avoid leaving the bar alone, while ‘2:10 a.m.’ recounts the regret that can often follow.
This two-part track off Phoenix’s 2009 record ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ is an expansive reverie and welcome reprieve from the rest of the album. The first part of ‘Love Like a Sunset’ acts as a five-and-a-half minute instrumental build-up to the second segment of the song, at which point frontman Thomas Mars lends appropriately dreamy vocals into the mix. It ends almost as quickly as it begins with a simple musing on the song’s title.
Although Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Come On! Feel the Illinoise!’ takes up only one track on his 2005 concept album ‘Illinois,’ the nearly seven-minute song is actually broken in two parts, both in its title and musical progression. The album focuses on the history and culture of Illinois, as well as Stevens’ signature Christian themes. The first part of the track, ‘The World’s Columbian Exposition,’ references the World Fair held in Chicago in 1893 and is separated from the second part with an instrumental interlude complete with an orchestra. In the second part, ‘Carl Sandburg Visits Me in A Dream,’ the singer-songwriter battles writer’s anxiety, singing, “Are you writing from the heart?”
The two parts of the late Elliott Smith’s song ‘Waltz’ couldn’t be more different in sound. ‘Waltz #2 (XO),’ which actually comes first on 1998’s ‘XO,’ is downright peppy (at least by Elliott standards), while ‘Waltz #1’ quickly moves from its piano intro into Smith’s vocals, this time offering a more spacey and faraway effect. No matter how much they differ in sound, the two are brought together with Smith’s melancholic lyrics.
My Morning Jacket’s two-part song ‘Touch Me I’m Going to Scream’ pairs the band’s progressive and psychedelic rock sensibilities with lead singer and songwriter Jim James’ soulful vocals. The second and thirteenth tracks off the 2008 record ‘Evil Urges’ turn the song’s title on its head. “Touch me, I’m going to scream if you don’t,” James sings in the first part. “If you touch me, well, I just think I’ll scream,” he claims in the second. Together, the songs speak to the complexities and contradictions in human desire, whether James meant physical desire or something more metaphorical.
‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,’ off The Flaming Lips’ 2002 album of the same name, carries what might be the thematic concept behind the entire record in its two parts. Frontman Wayne Coyne sets the scene: Faced with imminent death at the (artificial) hands of pink robots, the speaker is counting on Yoshimi, a black-belt-wearing, vitamin-taking Japanese girl, to rescue him. The first part swells to a ballad-like effect, while the second part of ‘Yoshimi’ bubbles with the band’s signature effects before quickly exploding with overlapping chatter and relentless drums, which eventually give way to screeches provided by the Boredoms’ Yoshimi Yokota. ‘Yoshimi’ sets the tone for the rest of the album, which uses Coyne’s sci-fi devices to reflect on mortality.
Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut album, ‘Funeral,’ contains overarching themes of family, community and the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. The Canadian band’s four-part series ‘Neighborhood’ constructs a landscape so universal that any listener can picture their own upbringing. All four tracks explore community and how it repeats itself through generations of families, love and loss. In the album’s opening track, ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),’ the speaker escapes his parents’ crying only to start the process over again, as his past continually informs the future. Despite the profoundness and, at times, tragedy found in husband-and-wife duo Win Butler and Régine Chassagne’s lyrics, there is still a persevering hope in ‘Funeral.’
The Decemberists’ folklore-infused indie rock tells epic tales of star-crossed lovers and seafarer adventures. The title tracks off the band’s 2006 record ‘The Crane Wife’ are prime examples of frontman Colin Meloy’s signature storytelling. This time, he draws from a Japanese tale of a man whose wife weaves fabric with the help of a crane who plucks the feathers from her skin as she slowly diminishes. By the time the husband discovers how the fabric is made and the role his greed has played in his wife’s decline, it’s too late. ‘The Crane Wife 3’ begins at the story’s end, when the husband finds his dying wife weaving fabric for their livelihood. Only Meloy’s vocals could carry the stinging regret heard in the line, “And I will hang my head low.” The narrative picks up toward the end of the album with ‘The Crane Wife 1 & 2,’ this time telling the couple’s story leading up to the wife’s death in the opening track. The sound builds from delicate to staggering proportions in both tracks, allowing the Decemberists’ story and characters to stick with you well after the first listen.
Two sets of two-part songs can be found on ‘In an Aeroplane Over the Sea,’ Neutral Milk Hotel’s highly acclaimed final -- at least for now -- album. (You can't blame us for dreaming of a follow-up, especially with the promise of a 2013 reunion tour.) According to an interview, lead singer and songwriter Jeff Mangum drew influence for 1998 record from the first time he read Anne Frank’s diary. We can speculate as to how ‘Two Headed-Boy’ fits or doesn’t fit into that framework, but whether or not the listener can “figure out” what Mangum means has little impact on the final product. The inscrutability only adds to Mangum’s gasping-for-breath vocals, the stripped-down guitar and lyrics like, “God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life.”
Australian indie-poppers Architecture in Helsinki manage to squeeze the four parts of the title track from their 2005 album ‘In Case We Die’ into a mere three minutes and 34 seconds. As you might expect, the outcome is pretty chaotic, as is most of the band’s discography. The song opens with haphazard effects and drums but, since time is of the essence, it changes gears quickly. With the addition of a string section accompanied by multiple harmonized vocals, the tune transforms completely, making us think the eight-member band wanted to try just about every musical style imaginable in case they died before they got the chance.