If there’s one thing music lovers love to argue over it’s what songs/albums/etc. of their favorite band(s) is/are really the best. Because art is a subjective experience, an album reviled by one can be ecstatically praised by another and both individuals can be right to some degree.
It is with this disclaimer, then, that I submit for the approval of the midnight society my top ten Project 86 songs. These are not IndieVisionMusic (as a site)’s favorite tracks. These are simply my own. I am displaying them publicly not to suggest that my list is the best list… but to spur on loving conversation between people who are passionate about this epic band, as well close out Project 86 Week with a little bonus content.
So, with that disclaimer, let me tell you how I came about this list. First of all, I didn’t limit myself to just one song (for consideration in the final mix) per album. Nor did I try to balance between old stuff and new stuff. Nope, none of that hype-inducing list creation came into play. I simply sat down and looked back over Project’s entire discography, examined each song, replayed a few to jog my memory, and then came up with what I feel are their ten best… and then I kept tinkering with the list until I had to finally hit the “publish” button, regrettably.
What I hope to do with this is not inspire flame wars and negative critiques on any particular album, but honest and loving discussion about a band we’re all passionate about. I intentionally went to the “song” level and not the “album” level with this one. I think it is easier to go down a negative rabbit hole when comparing albums that we liked or didn’t like than it is to take a broad look at all of the songs involved.
According to my iTunes artist folder, which should contain all of their work, but could be missing some (?), my list of ten has been narrowed down from approximately 142 songs. What are your favorite ten, fifteen, or twenty P86 jams? Why those songs? Be sure to give us your definitive list in the comments section, below.
But, enough banter. Here are my picks for top ten Project 86 songs of all time, in honor of Project 86’s newest release Knives to the Future and our exclusive Project 86 Week. In the words of Ken Wantanabe (as stolen from Screen Junkies AND Godzilla), “Let them Fight.”
The Victors: Here are the ten songs that battled their way to the top as I wrestled with the MANY great songs P86 has.
The Song: Stein’s Theme
From: Drawing Black Lines
Why This Song? Stein’s Theme is often last on Project 86’s set list, and with good reason. It was their original barn-burner track off what is still considered by many to be their best album of all time.
“Stein’s Theme” also embodies the “fists in the air, defiance against this world’s systems” feel that many of their later works would build upon. Musically, the track is one of the more infectious songs P86 has ever created and still holds the test of time despite bridging the gap between their rapcore days and what would later develop.
The Song: In Trenches
From: Knives to the Future (Acoustic EP/ Bonus Tracks)
Why This Song? Call this a bit of recency bias, sure. It is entirely possible that “In Trenches” will not shine as brightly when the newness of the song wears off. However, I don’t think it will, and here’s why; this is the most addictive song I’ve heard since Everything in Slow Motion and Blindside got together on last year’s “Speak.”
This song is one of their acoustic tracks, but the depth of the musicianship brings an experience that is embellished, not stripped down. Finally, the subject matter of “touching the realm of peace” spoken in soft tones and set to an almost Alice In Wonderland feel give “In Trenches” my vote for overall best song of 2014, let alone one of P86’s all-time best.
The Song: The Spy Hunter
From: Songs to Burn Your Bridges By
Why This Song? If you asked any casual fan what song they like best of Project’s, nine times out of ten you’ll probably hear “The Spy Hunter.” Not only is the song catchy, it is musically adept and beautifully hard-edged.
Coming in after the band’s very dour Truthless Heroes, which many fans took as a challenge to the band’s previously held beliefs, “Spy Hunter” reestablished that P86 was back on track. With the simple utterance of “We don’t need no truthless heroes,” fans of the band knew that they were in for something special.
The Song: Sincerely, Ichabod
From: … and the rest will follow
Why This Song? If “Spy Hunter” didn’t feel like enough of a reverse-course from Truthless Heroes, “Sincerely, Ichabod” closed that gap shut. The first line of the song says it all, “we once drew some lines in black. And right now it’s about time, we took them back!”
This song, then, became an anthemic track in the vein of “Stein’s Theme” that pinpointed the enemy of our souls and proudly proclaimed through brutally heavy tones, “Off with your head.” This thematic element would later be capitalized on across many tracks from Picket Fence Cartel, Wait For the Siren, and other albums since.
One of P86’s heaviest songs both musically and thematically, “Sincerely, Ichabod” is simply one of the band’s best.
The Song: Misfit Toys
From: This Time of Year EP
Why This Song? When the world first heard that Project 86 was doing Christmas songs, one would have thought a rift in time and space had opened and we were now living in a parallel universe. For a band who only has one cover song under their belt, preferring to capitalize on Andrew’s amazing writing ability, covering Christmas songs was the furthest from anyone’s imagination.
However, P86 produced an album that was everything Christmas should be with everything P86 brings to the table. The height of that album, then is the original track “Misfit Toys,” which brings a Nightmare Before Christmas feel and amazing symbolism that “we’re all broken like misfit toys.” The symbolism of being broken and resting in God, waiting for Him to make us whole is hauntingly done and is very poignant.
The Song: Ghosts of Easter Rising
From: Wait For the Siren
Why This Song? While I think I originally gave more praise to “Under the Desert Sea” when I reviewed WFTS, “Ghosts of Easter Rising” has since overtaken my heart as my favorite track from that album and one of my favorites of all-time.
“Ghosts” has an amazing amount of musical diversity to it, with diverse instrumentation that point to why Wait For the Siren was 2012’s best album across the board. Plus, the song feels like a follow up to “Open Hand,” one of my other favorite tracks. The tune is catchy (and feels lightly Irish-rock in nature), the theology is beautiful, and the symbolism is poignant.
The Song: Your Heroes Are Dead
From: Truthless Heroes
Why This Song? Truthless Heroes is a great album, despite the negative slant it as gotten in this week’s content drop. It represents a very difficult and trying time in the band’s life, which made it take darker turns. However, many fans felt that the “against” attitude displayed were a departure from their previous efforts.
“Your Heroes Are Dead” certainly has this tonal element to it, but the song is likely stronger for it. It is not cookie-cutter, nor is it soft. Though there are many great songs on TH, this one gets my vote. And, though the band has (even in our own Project 86 Week content) spoken about how “industry people” were begging them to go more radio friendly and more “poppy,” this song has a certain catchiness to it that does make it stand out.
The Song: Open Hand
From: Drawing Black Lines
Why This Song? “Open Hand” is not likely to make everyone’s top ten list. I get that. But, I love the song. For many years it was an anthem to me. Even more than “Stein’s Theme” in some ways. In my playlist of “Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise,” songs, “Open Hand” always has a place. During difficult times in my early 20’s I would often remind myself of the “Raised hands surround us, Three nails to protect us” line and find center again.
Plus, it was a blast to sing in a crowd of sweaty people at CreationFest Northwest back in the day. That was in the days of Andrew’s (OG) shaved head look, and as the sun beat down on him and he grew more passionate in his performance, his head eventually turned bright red and he just looked menacing while belting out this song!
The Song: The Butcher
From: Picket Fence Cartel
Why This Song? Picket Fence Cartel is a critically underrated album. While I see how it doesn’t quite live up to P86’s two recent masterpieces, the album more than holds its own. With a thematic thrust on overcoming a defeated enemy, “The Butcher” takes the thrust of “Sincerely, Ichabod” and repackages into an even more forward thrust.
“The Butcher” is anthemic and empowering in the same way that C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is, reminding us that satan and hell are defeated foes in light of Calvary.
The Song: Fall, Goliath, Fall
From: Wait for the Siren
Why This Song? Call me a sucker for these empowering anthemic tracks that call out our defeated enemy, sure, but “Fall, Goliath, Fall” makes its way to my top ten for many of the same reasons that “Sincerely, Ichabod” and “The Butcher” do. With “Fall, Goliath, Fall,” however, there is an added bonus in the diverse instrumentation WFTS encapsulated.
This song is catchy. It contains that “fists in the air” element. It brings an even deeper and more diverse instrumentation. All around, “Fall, Goliath, Fall” is a great track, and a great choice to round out my top ten P86 songs.
The Contenders: There were just so many tracks that should be “top ten,” even if there is no mathematical way to make that happen. So, in fairness to the universe, here are the songs that really deserve a “top ten” spot, but are condemned by the witchcraft that is mathematics.
“Rte. 66” from The Kane Mutiny EP, 2007.
“Six Sirens” (Feat Sonny Sandoval from P.O.D.) from Project 86, 1998.
“Evil (A Chorus Of Resistance)”fFrom Rival Factions, 2007.
“White Capstone” from Knives to the Future, 2014.
“One-Armed Man (Play On)” from Drawing Black Lines, 2000.
“My Will be a Dead Man” from …and the rest will follow, 2005.
“Pipe Dream” from Project 86, 1998.
“Subject to Change” from …and the rest will follow, 2005.
“Last Meal” (Feat Mark Salomon of Stavesacre) from Truthless Heroes, 2002.
“Destroyer” from Picket Fence Cartel, 2009.
“Above the Desert Sea” from Wait for the Siren, 2012.
“Son of Flame” from Knives to the Future, 2014.
“Numb” from Moms Like Us Too (Compilation), 1999.
That’s it for my list. Now, let’s hear yours. What Project 86 jams deserve to be a part of everyone’s top ten list? Make your arguments clear, below. Just remember, keep it in good spirits. We’re all family here. As we close out this awesome Project 86 Week (2014), let’s go out on a note of solidarity as we banter together about what tracks are simply the best.
Did you miss any of this week’s exclusive content? Check out the rest of Project 86 Week, below: