1. Steely Dan, “Aja”
It’s rumored that Steely Dan co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were so unhappy with the end product of “Katy Lied” that for years they refused to listen to their recording. But this song, and in fact this entire album of the same name, are a testament to unbelievably-precise recording sessions and the high standard of quality to which Becker and Fagen hold themselves. Becker chugs away with his limited yet careful guitar skills, while Fagen serenades us with his, er, “interesting” voice. Say what you will about Fagen’s singing — “Aja” is superb technically. And I love the underlying piano part.
2. Steely Dan, “Godwhacker”
This is one of their darkest songs, from off one of their 2003 album “Everything Must Go.” It’s not every day you listen to a song about the death of God. The rhythm throws you into the chase the lyrics describe. I’d be lying if I said the synth wasn’t the best part. The dark and edgy sounds and words epitomize the Dan’s style.
3. Steely Dan, “Cousin Dupree”
Who hasn’t had a cousin crush on an extremely attractive relative? After all, if it’s a second cousin, it’s perfectly legal. Then again, there’s always the chance of rejection: “She said, ‘maybe it’s the skeevy look in your eyes / Or that your mind is turned to applesauce; / The dreary architecture of your soul—‘ / I said, ‘but what is it exactly turns you off?” Upbeat chords paired with awkward lyrics are the best, especially when documenting incest.
4. Steely Dan, “Deacon Blues”
“Deacon Blues,” with no contest, is the best song on my Ultimate and Awesome Steely Dan Playlist. Sometimes I just sit and listen to the sax solo over and over again. This song showcases the jazz side of the Dan — and may I plug the famed mu-major major chord for a moment? Listen to the intro, I swear it’s there. This is the reason they’ve gone platinum.