My Top 1000 Songs #221: Sloop John B

Sure, on the surface it's a silly Bahamian folk song set to pop music, an odd little trifle wedged among the seemingly more noteworthy Pet Sounds classics. But it's the expendability of the surface level song that allows you to focus on the remarkable vocal arrangements. Much like a Cocteau Twins song, the vocals are notable for their sound, not for what the lyrics do or don't convey. It's Brian Wilson earning the genius title, layers upon layers of vocals--and the 10-second a capella break in the middle is one of my favorite passages in all of rock music. Plus you get Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew on bass and drums demonstrating clinical perfection that feels anything but clinical. Jaw-dropping studio mastery from beginning to end posing as absurd Top 40 fodder. Ridiculous that it somehow worked.
Here's the Kingston Trio's folk version from a few years prior, which was used as the blueprint for Wilson's masterful reworking: