Ours are a New Jersey-rooted alternative rock band practiced at bending emotionally electrifying tunes from their instruments. No newcomers by any means, but twenty years at the grindstone has done nothing to dilute the brew of the Jimmy Gnecco-led outfit, with songs from 2013 standing proudly beside tracks ten- and twenty-years their seniors.
Picking the best songs from an already astounding discography is no easy task, but there are several songs that manage to punch deeper and tug harder on the heart (not to mention worm irresistible grooves from your hips and head-bobs).
Here are the top 10 songs by Ours (so far!)…
10. ‘Dracula’s Bride’ (Sour, 1994)
This song has all the brooding of vintage ‘basement goth’, as I’ve been known to call it. An ode to infatuation, moody-voiced and veined by the sirenic wail of guitar, the song is a perfect throwback to the mohawked or velvet-clad banshees whose melodramatic New Wave paved the way for so many, Ours included.
9. ‘Chapter 2 (Money)’ (Precious, 2002)
Another gloom-wreathed song, but here Jimmy sings more with lament than with vampiric lethargy, building his social commentary from melancholy to frustration to rage, the music following every step of the way. Where the verses are dreary with drum and fuzzy bass, and the chorus is a melodic plea, the song’s ending is a cradle of shrieks and justifiably discordant guitar.
8. ‘Willing’ (Mercy… Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy, 2008)
Mercy… is Ours’ most explosive album, and ‘Willing’ is a perfect example. Drums surge the song forward with a barrage that matches the guitar’s shrill urgency powerfully, underpinned by emotionally-pinpoint piano and wrapped around vocals as steady with power as with need.
7. ‘If Flowers Turn’ (Precious, 2002)
There’s such an affecting contrast between the verses’ gentle hum and the soaring melody of the chorus and bridge. The flower child-nostalgia in its strumming is infectious, complementing the florid lyrics well and calling feet back to the shoeless, Maypole romps in their ancestry (…or is that just me?).
6. ‘Stand’ (Ballet the Boxer 1, 2013)
A wailing foot-stomping, anthem of a track from Ours’ most recent release, ‘Stand’ is as emotionally potent as it is instrumentally. From the onset, there is a sonic force in the drum and guitar, a building strength crucial to this song about resilience and the refusal to let others hurt you. The way the keyed undertone breaks through in the bridge is chilling, but the way its following chorus layers Jimmy’s vocals into a wall of resistance and affirmation is tear-inducing.
5. ‘The Worst Things Beautiful’ (Mercy… Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy, 2008)
A song that at last earns the incessant comparisons to U2 Ours garners. Comparisons aside, ‘The Worst Things Beautiful’ is an entrancing track as appropriate in headphones as on the dance floor, with mesmerizing vocals and guitar flying atop a beat so fist-pumping even the most Jersey Shore-loathing listener would have a hard time not aping the show’s sweat-bronzed dance move when hearing it.
4. ‘Been Down’ (Ballet the Boxer 1, 2013)
Not the first time this song has appeared on a song list, but the vinyl-warm funk is too irresistible to overlook. Everything in the song comes from under a layer of 60s-tributing fuzz, with groovy bass and soft chimes melding into something that’s soulful in a way Ours has never been before. Also, note the vocal range: breathy lows to highs that fade out into the music and leave you ready for another listen.
For more about the album, see my full Ballet the Boxer 1 review.
3. ‘Fallen Souls’ (Distorted Lullabies, 2001)
If I actually thought to make this list without Distorted Lullabies, I’d need fitted for a straitjacket. The breakout album is a favorite of many, and this opening song is all the explanation needed. Its dreamily gothic combo of guitar and voice is hypnotic (well-representative of the whole album here), but the way everything fades out and returns in an explosion of shrill melody and unbelievably high singing is unforgettable.
2. ‘Fall into My Hands’ (Ballet the Boxer 1, 2013)
A return to that dreaminess of Distorted Lullabies. Ploddingly played piano paves the way for guitar screeching into the ominous mosaic of a song about the need for persistence and the ever-present consequence of giving up. The double-tongued song is yet strangely hopeful, ending its transcendent melancholy with a choice: go on, or give up?
1. ‘Here Is the Light’ (Distorted Lullabies, 2001)
The absolute best song in Ours’ discography (so far, anyway), ‘Here Is the Light’ rings with the proverbial hope in darkness, Jimmy’s voice wafting spectrally while guitar exudes the album’s iconic dreaminess underneath. The song’s prayer of a chorus sums up the entire Ours ethos, and is the reason this song earns its place at number one (as well as being incorporated into more than a few tattoos):
“Here is the light…let it shine through me.
Here is the light…let it burn and burn.”