They coulda been contenders

In advance of crowning a winner, these already eliminated Song Search entries deserve a second listen.

Published December 8, 2006 8:45PM (EST)

As this final -- and most hotly contested -- week of Song Search winds down, we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and feature some of the songs that didn't make the finals, but deserve another listen anyway. Consider this playlist a kind of shadow Song Search, an alternate version of what the finalists could have been. Or just consider it 10 really cool songs.

The charming "Green and White Stripes" by Colorforms was a favorite of both the Song Search team and of celebrity judge Rob Thomas, who fell for the song's "dreamy production and the singer's oh-so-engaging voice."

The Salon staff also showed the love for Eli Reed and the True Love's "I'll Roll With You." Aside from the mind-blowing fact that Eli is a 23-year-old kid from the suburbs of Boston, it's amazing how closely the song nails the vibe of a classic soul record. The slightly fuzzy analog sound makes it hard to believe "I'll Roll With You" wasn't originally recorded in 1965. This would-be lost classic definitely holds up to repeated listens.

The next four songs were ruled ineligible after running afoul of the Song Search rules. Had they been allowed to compete, it's very likely they might be vying for the grand prize. The first of the four, the Stairs' "Welcome to Confusion," is a rousing pocket epic that we featured for you a while back. Dig the way the song builds layer by layer, from simple acoustic strum to full-on indie-rock grandeur.

Something about slide guitars and indie rock is an almost unbeatable combo. The repeated slide hook of Twenty Minute Loop's "Cora May" carries the song's catchy twin vocals from the realm of a simple pop song to some other, more epic place.

Check out the percolating Afro-pop vibe of "No Sleep till Nairobi" by S'. The gentle, rolling guitar lines and soulful sax evoke the dreamy feeling of jet lag after a long plane trip.

"It's Not the Wind Chime That's Broken, It's the Wind" by Tartufi is that rare thing -- a winding guitar jam that's not boring. The singer's nasal voice and the fractured guitar lines are reminiscent of Built to Spill.

We're not going to try to convince you that Steve Stein's "Wikipedia" is great song, or even a good one. But this rinky-dink ode to the Web's most popular open-source encyclopedia has an incredible knack for lodging itself deep inside the listener's head.

Polished? No. Radio-ready? No. Delightful? Yes! Phil and the Osophers' "Pretend Psalm" is a jaunty acoustic track that would sound right at home on the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson movie. Something about the quirkiness of Phil's voice and the bouncing unpredictability of the song's melody captures the feeling of having a great time doing geeky things.

There's something to be said for a song that knows when to quit. "Delancey" by the Jumping Bomb Girls certainly does. In 90 seconds, the song moves from unaccompanied blues-rock regret to full-band bashing.

Mammoth's "Tenochitlan" was perhaps the most intimidating and challenging of all the songs posted during Song Search. The murky, mysterious song makes few concessions, but hardier types will find something to hold on to. As guest judge John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats said, "It's brave to make music like this -- stuff that doesn't try to grab the listener by the lapels but sort of sits in the corner playing with its toys in the shadow."

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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