To paraphrase Prince, ever is a mighty long time. My selections are all very much from a relatively recent time, to be sure, but aren't we all? It's possible the best Nashville rock song will be written a hundred years after we've all died. Maybe it was written by a nobody in 1955, performed once in grandma's living room, and instantly forgotten. All is ephemeral, y'all!
But on to the important thing: my opinions! Of the five selections in this, the 10th installment in our ongoing Best Local Rock Songs Ever series, two are (hopefully) representative of the bands’ rock catalogs as a whole, and the other three are instances of very specific songs I enjoy that could be further drilled down into ever tinier genre niches. Here we go.
The Features, "Circus”
I couldn't not pick something from The Features, and "Circus" is one of the best, most lasting songs they've ever written. TO MAKE IT PERSONAL: I first saw The Features at The Boro in autumn 2002, my freshman year at MTSU. I still didn’t really know anyone there outside of the handful of people from the graduating class of my rural high school two-and-a-half hours away who also decided to attend MTSU (an ambitious bunch, to be sure). That show, and subsequent shows, introduced me to new people in Murfreesboro and Nashville (and later even London), and I met more friends through them, and so on. If I really decided to “butterfly effect” the course of my life, I may very well have an entirely different social circle today if I hadn’t gone to see The Features that night. Weird.
The Privates, “If I Should Call Your Name”
The Privates were one of the best bands to ever come out of Nashville, full stop. They further proved the theorem posited by The Features that Rollum Hass on Drums + Lots of Keyboards = Good Music, and the shows they played during their brief tenure were some of the best I’ve ever been to. Full disclosure: Privates frontman Dave Paulson is a friend of mine (though truly the man is a friend to all). I like to think I would have selected a Privates song anyway, but the nature of Nashville and showgoing and music writing almost inevitability leads to being friends with a bunch of people in bands, most of them good. I probably met him at a Features show.
As for this song? I pretty much drew it out of a hat. They were all fucking great.
Jensen Sportag, "Jackie (Justin Kase Remix)"
Just like how there’s more to Nashville than country, there’s also more than rock. Jensen Sportag is super-polished in the way only deceptively minimalist 21st century dance pop is capable of, but much like the way “Ignition (Remix)” is superior to “Ignition,” I must say I prefer Justin Kase’s take on their “Jackie.” But that’s OK! Dance music is made to be reinterpreted by fans and friends and like-minded peers. (I listen to a lot of Jensen Sportag when I get ready to go out at night. They're perfect for makeup application and pre-gaming.)
Turbo Fruits, "Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain"
It's hooky as fuuuuck, and explicitly, aggressively youthful in a way I typically don't go for. The ultimate summer sing-along. The ultimate windows-down classic. It could work in a commercial and make a million dollars. It could stay just between you and your friends. I find that this song is always applicable, to nearly any situation. Don't over-think this one.
The Protomen, “Breaking Out”
The Protomen, right? Whether or not their thing is your thing, it’s hard to deny that this positively gargantuan Jim Steinman-meets-Bruce Springteen chapter of their video game rock opera is one of the best rock songs Nashville has ever seen. “Epic” is thrown around as a descriptor far, far too often, but if ever it applies, it’s here. It’s arena rock forged in nightclubs. It’s musical theater. It even works as the classical definition of “epic,” since it’s a long narrative and all. And, most importantly for me, it’s fun.