The other weekend I was in Fort Worth and stopped by Doc’s Records & Vintage, a great little record store in the area about an hour’s drive from where I live. I stumbled across At Mount Zoomer which is Wolf Parade’s sophomore LP from 2008 on Sub Pop Records.
The closing track on this album is the whopping near-11 minute track “Kissing the Beehive.” After returning home and giving the record a spin, I went down the rabbit hole.
What are some truly amazing long indie rock tracks in my collection that exceed 10 minutes? Let’s take a look at my picks:
What makes a long song good?
When I compiled this list of ten songs, I wanted to figure out why these ones resonated with me. In doing so, I’ve been able to pinpoint 4 key components. Each song on this list has at least one of these; many have more than one.
1. Story & Narrative
First is a story. The band takes us on a journey, crafting a story along the way. This story may be heavily shrouded in metaphor, or they may lay it all out on the table. Either way, the story conveys meaning and message.
2. Movements & Compartmentalization
Next is movements. Some of the songs have distinct movements that cary the song and break it apart into distinct sections, each of which re-engages the listener. Movements allow for thematic cohesiveness while essentially breaking one long song into multiple shorter ones.
3. Emotional Depth
Third is emotion. I have always been one drawn to a song that hits you in the feels. Emotion is often what draws me to a song, but it’s a critical part of the best long songs — especially those with lengthly emotional narratives.
4. Instrumental Breakdowns, Experimentation, & Solos
Finally, there are excellent instrumental breakdowns. From driving beats to droning guitars to solos from a variety of instruments, a good lengthy track sometimes leans on the other members in the group to help propel it to greatness.
So, what are my top 10 indie songs over 10 minutes? Let’s find out.
1 | Wolf Parade: “Kissing the Beehive” (10:52)
This is, hands down, my favorite track by Wolf Parade. And they’ve got some pretty solid tracks! Several off their 2005 debut Apologies to the Queen Mary are tracks I revisit regularly, as are “California Dreamer” off At Mount Zoomer. “Kissing the Beehive” is surprisingly emotive, and Wolf Parade incorporates a fair amount of experimentation, guitar solos, and driving instrumental breaks.
At Mount Zoomer went out of print in the past year, and prices of this one have jumped up a bit on Discogs. My recommendation would be to wait for an eventual reissue or re-press, unless you can find it at a great price.
2 | The Decemberists: “The Tain” (18:32)
You can’t talk about long indie rock tracks without name dropping The Decemberists. With clever wordplay, real and fictional historic references woven into the lyrics, and a perchance for storytelling, The Decemberists tend to add at least one 8-minute-plus track to their records.
On vinyl, The Tain is a split of two EPs, The Tain and 5 Songs, with the former being a single, five-part track that extends just over a whopping 18 and a half minutes!
Eager for more? I recommend checking out “California One/Youth And Beauty Brigade” off their debut LP Castaways And Cutouts, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” off Picaresque, and “The Island” off The Crane Wife.
3 | Spiritualized: “Cop Shoot Cop” (17:01)
Spiritualized was born from the ashes of the Neo-psychedelic outfit Spaceman 3 in the early 1990s. Their sound most often can be classified as space rock, and they’ve flirted with Neo-psychedelia, experimental rock, and shoegaze.
In the late 90s, they gave us Ladies And Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space. At a second over 17 minutes, the closing track “Cop Shoot Cop” blends many of the subgenera I just mentioned.
Though among their longest songs, Spiritualized is no stranger to those on the longer side with several over 8 minutes long, including “Hey Jane,” “I’m Coming Home Again,” “Won’t Get to Heaven (The State I’m In),” and “I Think I’m in Love” to name a few.
4 | Explosions in the Sky: “The Only Moment We Were Alone” (10:14)
Aside form prog rock, if any genre of music screams long tracks, it is post rock. These bands lean into experimentation and non-conformity. Weaving in melodic, heartfelt emotion and long instrumental breaks — obviously, given the band is predominantly an instrumental one — is Explosions in the Sky. They are the first of a few truly post rock bands on this list. All five songs on their 2003 LP The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place are over 8 minutes with “The Only Moment We Were Alone” being the longest at just over 10 minutes.
I’ve been a fan of Explosions in the sky for decades now, and was surprised when they lent their music to Friday Night Lights (the 2004 movie, not the TV show). Despite the glaring juxtaposition of driving emotive instrumentals with something as brutish as football, the true surprise was how well it worked.
I love the range post rock bands like this have — going from barely audible lows to soul crushing noise. It drives home the power, the emotion, and their greatness.
5 | Of Montreal: “The Past is a Grotesque Animal”
I don’t often think of emotionally powerful songs when I think of a band like Of Montreal. Blending the makeup and vibrant colors of glam with the quirkier side of indie pop and throwing in hints of psych pop, these things don’t often mesh with crushing souls.
Yet on their 2007 LP Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? they give us precisely that in the near 12-minute-long midpoint “The Past is a Grotesque Animal.”
The song, for the most part, avoids the long instrumental breakdowns. A deep listen, though, will give you plenty of experimentation in the instrumentation while Kevin Barnes also goes on a lyrical tirade that almost seems a poetic, improvisational ramble. It’s so distinctly different from what you’d expect from Of Montreal yet so definitively them.
6 | Microphones in 2020 (44:44)
In 2020, after closing in on a two decades hiatus under the guise of Microphones, Phil Elverum brought his old project back for a lone album containing a single song spanning 44 minutes and 44 seconds. It’s a stripped-down nostalgic piece filled with as much experimentation as you can pack into a minimalistic song that mostly contains just a man and his guitar.
You can find the album on Discogs.
7 | The Stooges: “We Will Fall” (10:19)
“We Will Fall” sees the band dipping into experimental waters, which is so fundamentally different from what you tend to get form The Stooges. Yet, it’s entirely brilliant at the same time.
Filled with guitar drones, Iggy Pop’s wandering vocals, and psychedelic-leaning sounds, it’s hard NOT to include this on the list!
8 | Silver Mt. Zion: “God Bless Our Dead Marines”
Like Explosions in the Sky, Silver Mt. Zion is full-on post rock. Aside from similarities in sub genre and a predilection toward lengthy tracks, the similarities are sparse. A Silver Mt. Zion typically has lyrics and leans heavily on non-traditional instruments when it comes to rock. You’ll find lots of strings here.
The track that really got me into this band was “God Bless our Dead Marines” off Horses in the Sky from 2005. Emotion, instrumental breakdowns and experimentation, movements, and narrative — this song has all four elements that make a great long song.
Brutality of war and the emotional turmoil that follows. Truly listening to the lyrics in this song, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes — in particular when the frontman recounts the ways he lost all his friends. Still, it’s not the only hard pill (no pun intended) to swallow here — make it past the grating vocals in the first movement and you’re sure to be wowed.
9 | Dan Deacon: “Wham City” (11:45)
Often creating quirky, experimental electronic music with songs like “Wooody Wooodpecker” (that’s with extra o’s), “Whammy Daddy,” and “All Wet and No Boner” — well, “Wham City” strays into weirdo pseudo emotional psychedelic electronica.
Not entirely broken into movements, the song does seem to have phases. It’s wildly colorful, unique, and really freaking good.
The music of Dan Deacon is quite unique, and you can hear that in the track below.
10 | Television: Marquee Moon (10:38)
Highly influential post-punk, the 10:38 title track off the 1977 album Marquee Moon by Television is questionable when listing it as “indie” but I’m doing it anyway. It — and the album as a whole — is so, so good.
Marquee Moon is one of those essential albums that remains one of the more influential and inspirational records of the 1970s, and the title track too is an essential for this list.
Sadly, we lost Tom Verlaine, former frontman of Television, back in January.
Remember, all my lists are compiled of tracks from within my collection, so there could be some pretty glaring omissions.
What amazing song topping 10 minutes would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for part 2 that features songs that top 8 but come in shy of double digits.