1. “Motion Picture Soundtrack” – Radiohead
Honestly, almost anything from Kid A could have filled this place. So, when you read this know that this was a tough choice. This particular song is heart wrenching and not corny like many ‘sad’ songs. It does however, use the corniest thing imaginable, Disney-esqe harps and flutters, to evoke feelings of grief, joy, and tranquility all at once. Yorke sings with so much passion that you actually believe he is leaving this world along with you. It also has one of the most beautiful reprises in all of music. The lyrics ring true to me on a very deep level. All pretension aside, this is one of my favorite songs ever and yet, surprisingly, one of my least listened to. It is something to savor and hold on to because songs like this don’t come about often.
2. “Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes
You’ll find that most of the other songs on my list are very introspective. For ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’, this is not the case. Rather, it lets your mind soar and run through the untamed wooded regions these bearded folk types seem to occupy. I’m a sucker for a good folk song and Fleet Foxes put an unparalleled amount of energy and optimism in this song. It is hard to resist. Starting off slow and minimal, the song explodes with detail. I am often disappointed when I realize that the song is over when I thought for sure there was more. You can literally smell the pine trees. Aw! I think I just stepped in some deer shit!
3. “Life in a Glasshouse” – Radiohead
Once again, like my #1, I could have picked almost anything off of Amnesiac. Most hardcore fans of Radiohead will understand the difficultly in picking. Not picking ‘Pyramid Song’ is something of a sacrilege for us ‘creeps’ (don’t call someone that, no one actually says that). This song has always been a favorite of mine though. The combination New Orleans-styled jazz and trademark Radiohead sound is too awesome for me to ignore. It creates a great soundscape that I don’t want to leave. It also has great lyrics to boot.
4. “Avril 14th” –Aphex Twin
Simplicity is key for this song. The song will be instantly familiar to anyone who has heard ‘Blame Game’ by Kanye West, which is based heavily on a sample from this. It is endlessly listenable and stunning. All of this is accomplished in a brief 2 minutes and 6 seconds. It comes as no surprise this is by Aphex Twin but it is a change of pace for the expert knob twiddler. It has to be one of my favorite piano songs ever. I love every second of it and wish it wouldn’t end but everything great has to end.
5. “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
One of the best LCD Soundsystem songs and my personal favorite. Based around a simple piano loop, this song is danceable and emotional. Murphy recollects hazy nights with friends. It’s something that we can all relate to. It takes a very unique and honest look on being in your 20s, getting older, and the aimless feelings we all experience.
6. “Flashing Lights” – Kanye West
This is popular for the reason. It has one of my favorite hooks ever and features Kanye in top form. It recalls the neon-lit synth-pop of the 80s in the best way possible. I can’t help but picture myself driving around in Vice City presumably running over people. Its another song I never get tired of and a top contender for my favorite Kanye/hip-hop song ever.
7. “A Paw In My Face” – The Field
This is a song I recently discovered after endless recommendations for its parent album. This song is repetitive as hell. That’s not an insult. The Field manages to make songs that don’t get old. He adds and takes away elements to make a song that sounds like nothing else you’ve ever heard. The guitar in this song is borderline orgasmic.
8. “Forgive” – Burial
Burial is one of those singular artists that can do no wrong. This track stands out to me for its ambiguous atmosphere. It sounds like eternity stuck in a loop (I know that doesn’t make sense and I don’t care). I hope I never understand the vocal sample on this track. If I did it would probably ruin the song for me. ‘Forgive’ is far too short for how great it and like ‘Avril 14th‘ it could go on for much longer.
9. “Fog (again) [Live]” – Radiohead
More like Radiohead (again). Originally done as a studio track, ‘Fog’ is more pure and effective in its live incarnation. This is just Thom Yorke and a piano. The song is amazingly touching. It resonates in all the right frequencies. I am pretty sure this song can turn dogs back into puppies.
10. “Teach Me How To Fight” – Junior Boys
Another band I had been missing out on until recently. The first time I heard this song I was in love. There are great synth sweeps and an icy beat. Junior boys know how to make pop sound sophisticated with out it sounding too thought out. This song is catchy and smooth. Who knew synth-pop didn’t have to be lame and outdated sounding?
11. “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” – Kanye West
12. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” – Radiohead
13. “Fireworks” – Animal Collective
14. “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth” – Four Tet
15. “Phone Home” – Lil Wayne
16. “Music If Math” – Boards of Canada
17. “Cloudy, Since You Went Away” – The Caretaker
18. “The Rip” – Portishead
19. “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” – Sufjan Stevens
20. “Hidden Place” – Björk
21. “Xplosion” – Outkast
22. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” – Wilco
23. “Easy Iee” – Ricardo Villalobos
24. “Figaro” – Madvillian
25. “With Every Heartbeat” – Robyn
26. “Mr. November” – The National
27. “Frontier Psychiatrist” – The Avalanches
28. “Weak Become Heroes” – The Streets
29. “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)” – Flight of Conchords
30. “Crying Lightning” – Arctic Monkeys
1. “Pyramid Song” – Radiohead
Perhaps my favorite song of all time. Beautiful and powerful even after triple digit listens. Thom Yorke’s pained falsetto dances above stunning piano, and when the drums and strings come in, it transports you.
2. “Aerodynamic” – Daft Punk
My favorite track from one of my favorite albums. The guitar (or synth?) solo is endlessly catchy and never fails to get me revved up.
3. “Idioteque” – Radiohead
An obvious choice, maybe, but a great song nonetheless. A wonderful sort of starter’s pistol for the beginning of a new century of music.
4. “Cause = Time” – Broken Social Scene
A hard as nails indie rock track that features a veritable fuckton of instruments and one of the sickest bass lines in the history of music, this song never gets old. It climaxes beautifully at the end, and all you want to do is listen to it again and again.
5. “Great Day” – Madvillain
With the oil-slick production by Madlib and the we’ve-come-to-expect-it incredible rap stylings of MF Doom, this song is a classic. “He just came from over there, the grass is greener.”
6. “Silver Trembling Hands” – The Flaming Lips
2009’s Embryonic was the first Lips album I ever really enjoyed. The album is a schizoid return to form for the now ancient band. This song, for me, echoes the subtler moments of The Soft Bulletin while still retaining the expansive, psychedelic craziness of their most recent offering.
7. “Gonna Leave You” – Queens of the Stone Age
Just pure rock and roll fun, like every track from Songs for the Deaf.
8. “Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs out of the Sky)” – Radiohead
Another Radiohead piano ballad, this one a bit less dark than “Pyramid Song”. The beautiful guitar accompaniment and Thom Yorke’s echoing vocals combine for a one-two punch that will leave you heartbroken.
9. “We Major (Featuring Nas & Really Doe)” – Kanye West
One of the more lavishly produced tracks on Late Registration, this seven plus minute hip-hop epic is a carnival of everything that makes the genre (and Kanye) so fucking great. Also, Nas!
10. “Battlesong” – Deltron 3030
This song details an interstellar rap battle with the sci-fi trappings that make this concept album so damn original and at times, hilarious. Del delivers fantastic verses with over the top sci-fi terminology and a deadly serious tone that make it endlessly enjoyable.
11. “On a Neck, On a Spit” – Grizzly Bear
12. “Beach Comber” – Real Estate
13. “Two Can Win” – J Dilla
14. “Murmaider” – Dethklok
15. “Stuck Between Stations” – The Hold Steady
16. “It Fit When I Was a Kid” – Liars
17. “Rapp Snitch Knishes (Feat. Mr. Fantastik)” – MF Doom
18. “Losing My Edge” – LCD Soundsystem
19. “Mykonos” – Fleet Foxes
20. “Skip Divided” – Thom Yorke
21. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” – Radiohead
22. “The Czar” – Mastodon
23. “So Fresh, So Clean” – OutKast
24. “For Reverend Green” – Animal Collective
25. “The Empty Nest” – Wild Beasts
26. “Music if Math” – Boards of Canada
27. “Dr. Carter” – Lil Wayne
28. “Bangers and Mash” – Radiohead
29. “Blastit” – Shabazz Palaces
30. “Money Money” – Dizzee Rascal
1. “Intervention” – Arcade Fire
Considered a surprising pick by some, but there really wasn’t much of a debate for me. The song essentially lives off of a piano playing the same three or four chords over and over again. Sound simple? Well, not when you have those piano chords being played on an organ that seems big enough for Saint Petere’s Basilica. It’s that little hum and archaic magnitude that makes the song as engrossing as it is. Butler nails his tortured performance with some of Arcade Fire’s finest lyrics ever “Working for the church while your family dies!”
“You’re still a soldier in your mind/ Though nothing’s on the line!”
“And when you finally disappear/ We’ll just say you were never here! The ferocity with which the song builds and builds gives you a sense that something is at stake just by the sheer fact that you are listening to it. I nearly shed a tear every time I hear it. From the out of place optimistic guitar after the refrain to the “la la la la” t=hroughout it is Arcade Fire at their absolute finest.
2. “B.O.B.” – Outkast
Is it cliche to put this song in my top 3? Sure. Pitchfork had it number one, so I certainly think that I am justified to have it up here. The song is a masterpiece. What music fan could ever hear this song and not love it? It rocks like a rock sound, grooves like an electronic dance song, gets in your face like a rap song but all comes together for something so much more. I’m sure it is not new information that the acronym stands for Bombs Over Baghdad… talk about a fitting song, considering it was released nearly three years before we invaded. It transcends itself.
3. “Back to Black” – Amy Winehouse
Forget for a moment, if you will, that “Rehab” ever hit the airwaves. If this was the first song that you ever heard from Amy Winehouse, I think your opinion would have drastically changed. This is a truly powerful, soulful, brutal, painful, etcetera etcetera song that Winehouse is right on the money with. “You go back to her and I’ll go back to black.”
4. “Dosed” – the Red Hot Chili Peppers
The reason I get upset with Anthony Kiedis and his horny funkadelic lyrics is because I know that this is what he is capable of. Flea finally takes a backseat to some of the most callow guitar playing of his career for a melancholy and truly well sung tune about love, loss and memory.
5. “Jesus of Suburbia” – Green Day
I have to hold this one back just a little because it is technically five songs packaged as one. If that sounds like a weakness, trust me, it’s not. All five songs are good enough to stand on their own; the power laden “Jesus of Suburbia,” sentimental hand waver “City of the Damned,” hardcore political finger pointer “I Don’t Care,” chillingly pleasant “Dearly Beloved,” and self reflective “Tales From Another Broken Home.” Nine minutes never went by so fast in your life.
6. “No One Knows” – Queens of the Stone Age
I get this terrible feeling that hard rock is slowly dying all around us (good hard rock, at least). So hold on to songs like “No One Knows” for as long as you can. Four of the most powerful power chords you will ever hear kick off this eerie aria that never seems to come down. The tortured groans in the background on the second verse should give you the creeps in as good a way as possible.
7. “Crown of Love” – Arcade Fire
It pains me to put this one as far back as eight because it is basically poetry. Never before has Win Butler’s “I may or may not burst into tears by the end of this song” singing sounded so good. The lyrics are fun just to read let alone have sung to you. I challenge not to feel the hairs on your neck when Regine comes in with harmonizing towards the end of the second verse.
8. “The End./Dead!” – My Chemical Romance
I know that this is technically cheating since these are two songs, but since they flow into each other as part of the concept album, I’m going with it. Dying has never sounded as cool or as hardcore as it does on “The End.” But the song really goes over the top with a fast paced rock n’ roll anthem on “Dead!” The “la la la la” portion with the moaning bass in the background still gives me goosebumps.
9. “Paper Planes” – M.I.A.
You knew it was coming. Do I even need to defend this song? Seriously, who has heard this song and not enjoyed it? What’s not to enjoy? The gun shots inserted into the refrain? The utterly gratifying tone of it all? The sheer fact that it has the lines “I fly like paper/ Get high like planes?” Enough said.
10. “Pursuit of Happiness” – Kid Cudi
I know that a lot of people harbor some animosity towards Kid Cudi and have labeled him as ‘overrated,’ but all of those ‘next Kanye’ rumors started because of this song. With MGMT contributing on the musical front, this is as enjoyable an anthem as you can find. Sure it’s simple, but it’s just so damn fun.
11. “Sixteen” – The Heavy
I can honestly say that I have never heard a band quite like The Heavy. They get a good chunk of their beats from pre-existing songs and turn them into some pretty heavy shit. Case in point; taking Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and transforming it into a whaler about getting all worked up over a sixteen year old. Interested?
12. “Nude” – Radiohead
I don’t care if it’s actually from the late 90s, this is when Radiohead is at their best to me. The song is actually pretty simple when you strip it down (just the same three notes played repeatedly), but totally brought to life with Thom Yorke’s touching vocals and a sense of something tragic happening in the background. Please go back to making more music like this.
13. “Macy’s Day Parade” – Green Day
These are the moments where I genuinely get sad that people consider Billie Joe Armstrong to be some crowd pleasing money grabber. In this song, the crescendo of Green Day’s forgotten Warning, Armstrong sings a painfully honest song about growing up in a consumerist world as a person with no money.
14. “One Big Holiday” – My Morning Jacket
If we are in fact moving into an era where the majority of instruments will be electronically produced then I will sorrowfully mourn the loss of songs like this. It is a bona fide guitar anthem from start to finish with Jim James laying down his typical Americana lyrics. In the top 1% of live songs I have ever had the privilege of hearing (and I’ve seen fucking Clapton play “Layla”). “Was a bad man from…. CA LI FORN IA!”
15. “Traffic Light” – The Ting Tings
Probably one of the bigger head scratchers on the list. Shit, it’s about the third most popular Ting Tings song. I just couldn’t hold it back any further because I seriously can’t find a single flaw with this song. The song is representative of the band; some unconventionally funky kraut beat in the background with moving English vocals over them.
16. “Ball & Biscuit” – The White Stripes
When I hear this song it sounds to like what George Thurogood spent his entire musical career trying to make. The fact that Jack White can do it so effortlessly is really remarkable. He pays old blues the perfect homage with this little talky about kicking a drug addiction that rocks out with one of the coolest scale climbers I’ve ever heard.
17. “Song for No One” – Miike Snow
I’m still trying to decide if Miike Snow was actually a band or if they were just a one time experimental project for Swedes. Either way, I find this song to be absolutely beautiful. It takes one of the easiest little high pitched riffs to whistle along to and lays it down with breathy singing and subtly gorgeous lyrics.
18. “Stillness is the Move” – The Dirty Projectors
It was on that one in a million outing by the Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca, but what a chill out song. The mesmerizing guitar sets the tone from the very beginning for you to just slowly nod along and then puts it over the top with some seriously impressive dueling vocals. Pretty awesome for a song whose chorus is “Oh oh oh oh ohhhhhh”
19. “We Don’t Care” – Kanye West
What a way to kick off your debut album. It will probably go down as the most gleefully catchy Kanye West song that most people have probably never heard. Not only does it incorporate a choir of pre-teens singing about dealing drugs but it features some of the more darkly humorous Kanye lyrics ever (“they try to put me on the school bus in the place for the wheelchair”)
20. “Map of the Problematique” – Muse
I wasn’t as put off by Muse’s politically charged 2009 release, Resistance, but I can certainly understand the nostalgia for their earlier work. Case in point, this kick ass blend of modern rock and space age chanting/pounding drums. Put this one on your iPod and you’ll suddenly feel like you are running for your life!
21. “Chicago” – Sufjan Stevens
I think Sufjan Stevens has music tender enough to soften up even the most hardened heavy metal thrasher. Seriously, what an enjoyable listen this guy (and this song) is. By the end of it, we’ll all be closing our eyes and happily singing along, “All things go! All things go!”
22. “On to the Next One” – Jay-Z
I know what you’re thinking; of all the Jay-Z songs, this is the one I pick? Seriously, though, what a bad ass song. Jay-Z finds a way to take one of the oldest adages in rap (a song about how good a rapper you are) and manages to make it personal (“Obama on the text message”), funny (“No I’m not a Jonas, brotha I’m a grown up and no I’m not a virgin, I use my cajones”) and really kind of it intimidating (“I got a million ways to get it.”)
23. “Many Shades of Black” – The Raconteurs
If you go to Jack White’s Wikipedia, I think his associated acts section will eventually need to have its own page (the Insane Clown Posse is now in there). But his time with The Raconteurs goes largely unappreciated. This absolute wailer of an otherwise softer rock song just kicks ass every time I hear it.
24. “Crazy in Love” – Beyonce
Wow cool choice, right? Well, Pitchfork put it in their Top 50 too so back off. Whether you buy into the whole diva persona of Beyonce’s music or not, you can’t deny the energy of this song. I remember hearing it a junior high dance and feeling what I took to be a rush of adrenaline when that huge brass line started up. I’m actually gonna stop talking now…
25. “The Underdog” – Spoon
I was determined to put a Spoon song on here and this was the best that I could come up with. This is really more of a salute to all of the Spoon songs because its hard to pick just one. It’s indicative of their adventurous acoustic style and the truly unique burdened singing of Britt Daniel.
26. “Favorite Son” – Green Day
You have to really go looking for Green Day material to find this one (it appears on the highly controversial Rock Against Bush Vol. 2) and has largely been pushed to the underground. Still, through all of the anti-Bush songs that surfaced during the 2000s, this has to be favorite. It revels in all of its punk attitude glory.
27. “Speechless” – Lady Gaga
Probably one of the only Lady Gaga songs that you haven’t heard, am I right? This is the side of Stefani Germanotta that I wish we got to see more. Underneath the meet dresses, the Madonna costumes, and the endless publicity stunt is a brutal jazz club/stadium rock anthem that m-m-m-makes you say, “Damn, she’s got a set of pipes.”
28. “Hey Ya” – Outkast
Okay so I’m really veering towards cliche at this point but who didn’t like this song? This is the epitome of Outkast’s crossover appeal with them providing their usual antics but in such a way that it sounds like the new generation’s “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-da.” Also, what a great music video.
29. “Rise” – Eddie Vedder
Pearl Jam and I have never really gotten along. I didn’t like the way he sang with what I refer to as “lockjaw,” but for some reason, this toned down and subtly emotional ballad really got me to me. I welcome this softer side.
30. “All These Things That I’ve Done” – The Killers
Was it a little overdone? Is Brandon Flowers kind of a pious dick? Is “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” a little cliche? Yes, all of these things are true with a bullet, but it still doesn’t hold this epic ballad from sneaking in to my number thirty spot.