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Sputnikmusic Staff Rankings: Top 10 Thrice Songs


Preface:

Thrice is one of the most versatile bands of our generation, evolving from a post-hardcore outfit to atmospheric rockers and even political statesmen.  Their rise in the early 2000’s peaked with The Artist In The Ambulance  and Vheissu, but they’ve aged even better – with The Alchemy Index proving their experimental worth and Beggars offering some of their most important lyrical content to date.  With Palms a mere week away from release, our staff felt that there would be no better time to reflect upon the top ten songs of this influential, generational band.  With so much superb content to choose from, it just might have been our toughest ranking so far.


(10) Open Water

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from the album The Alchemy Index Vol. II: Water

Thrice’s Water EP once provided me with one of the most transportative listening experiences of my life, which is strange because to this day I’ll reach for Fire or Air in a pinch every time. But in my childhood home, surrounded by mist like it frequently was and weirdly elevated from ground level at the back window like it always was, I sat listening to “Open Water” and staring out into a back garden I couldn’t see past a couple of metres. Some combination of Kensrue’s bone-weary mariner’s narration, the muffled dirge of the music and the weather outside made my teenage self feel in another place and time entirely, the first instance I can remember of music becoming more than just some sounds playing in my ears. “Open Water” is a grim counterpart to “The Messenger” and “Daedalus” insofar as they feature characters utterly exhausted with/disgusted by their respective elements. Water‘s variation on this is my favourite because of the simple, brutal economy with which the lyrics suggest a lifetime’s worth of terrifying narrative, one which my teenage self was free to imagine and create on that misty day.  –Rowan

(9) Artist In The Ambulance

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from the album The Artist In The Ambulance

When I was initially creating my submission list for this feature, I was surprised to see that a significant chunk of my tentative list featured songs from The Artist in the Ambulance. There’s no disputing that this record played a critical role during my so-called ‘formative years’, and having recently celebrated its 15th birthday, I’m pleased that the album is represented here. 2003 is home to several stellar Sputnik-core releases – Brand New, Hot Cross, Streetlight Manifesto, Off Minor, Trophy Scars, Coheed & Cambria, Bear vs. Shark – so to have what’s arguably the most homogeneous of Thrice albums have such staying power through the years is testament to the band’s songwriting chops, hindsight bias notwithstanding. On the title track, the juxtaposition of two artists – one is seemingly a musician, the other a paramedic – highlights Kensrue’s knack for crafting metaphor in his lyrics, and the former’s introspection en route to the hospital (“I’m left here with the question of just / What have I to show except the promises I never kept? / I lie here shaking on this bed under the weight of my regrets”) is something we wrestle with as well — even if we’re not the ones strapped in the gurney. Similar to how a first responder can heal a victim physically, it’s not unheard of for musicians to heal listeners emotionally during troubling times. “The Artist in the Ambulance” is a perfect time capsule of where Thrice were at this point in their discography, with splendid drumming, melodic guitar leads, and a soaring vocal in the song’s anthemic bridge. Fifteen years and counting, there’s a reason why “Artist” is still frequently seen during the band’s Encore portion of their setlists.  –Jom

(8) Firebreather

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from the album The Alchemy Index Vol. I: Fire

In the liner notes for Vheissu, Thrice’s former manager Nick Bogardus likened the band to the biblical figure Samson, ready to bring the temple down around themselves. As the opener to their ambitious Alchemy Indexseries, “Firebreather” documents the moment that the pillars actually fell. The band leaves blood on the floor in one of their finest collective performances, but Dustin Kensrue deserves special mention for his vocals, especially in the powerful outro. When the song ends, the band moves into more experimental territory with the rest of Fire and Water, but “Firebreather” remains special for starting things off on such a strong note. In a career full of strong opening tracks, it is their strongest mission statement, a song that poses a question – “Are you free?” – and then answers it with a resounding yes. After the dust settles, Thrice starts laying the foundation for a new temple.   –Channing Freeman

(7) The Earth Will Shake

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from the album Vheissu

I have been listening to “The Earth Will Shake” for so many years that it took a lot of effort to hear it with fresh ears for this list. But it paid off with a moment that brought me back to the first few times that I heard it, when the song in particular and Vheissu in general seemed powerful enough to move mountains. This effect may have dulled over time, but what remains apparent is that “The Earth Will Shake” is one of the most unique rock songs ever created. For the song’s skeleton, the band took inspiration from field recordings of prison gangs and then bolstered it with guitar leads, organ accents, and some great Ed Breckenridge bass lines, especially in the hypnotic musical break halfway through. Then the music drops away completely as the band’s gang vocals imitate those field recordings, complete with the sound of pickaxes striking rocks. How they kept this from sounding gimmicky, I’ll never know. It all leads to Thrice’s most thrilling climax, the breathlessly repeated stanza that would become legendary as a set closer at their live shows: “Look to the day. The earth will shake. These weathered walls will fall away.” I have lost my voice screaming along to these lines at a show, and I’m sure many others have as well.  –Channing Freeman

(6) Circles

from the album Beggars

Following the ambitious, genre-bending Alchemy Index albums, Beggars finds Thrice simplifying their sound while continuing to experiment rewardingly. A fine balance is struck between more mellow offerings alongside their bombastic brand of modern rock. “Circles” follows the first two more rocking songs, being a stunning ballad and the finest track on the album. It might not have been able to exist on a previous Thrice album, possessing a gentle, sorrowful atmosphere and lyrics lamenting the lack of humanity’s real progress; “We’re building towers with no foundations, just stacking stone on stone. Whatever it takes – mix our mortar with bones.” Thrice had been exploring increasingly ambitious, even biblical and mythological themes in their recent records. From the poignant lyrics to the beautiful guitars, “Circles” shows how mature and adventurous the band had become since their inception. –TalonsOfFire

(5) Music Box

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from the album Vheissu

“Music Box” is my favorite Thrice song, and let me just take a moment to assure you that this is most decidedly not due to any perceived similarities to the theme of the universally-beloved and not at all polarizing 2009 American science fiction drama Dollhouse. Like I literally don’t even know why you would bring that up, dude. Why would we even be talking about Dollhouse in 2018? Fucking c’mon academy–move on. You literally ALWAYS do this. Oh, look, a couple of normal, well-adjusted partygoers are talking Westworld and all the sudden, there you are, quoting Episode 204 (“Belonging”), or telling them that 204 was actually directed by Jonathan Frakes, or explaining that the reason 204 thru the end of the series was so good was actually because the show’s imminent cancellation forced the writers to squeeze three seasons of planned plotlines into ten episodes. This is why you are going to die alone (you freakin loser!!). Anyway, so yea, “Music Box” has a soaring Thrice chorus and a strong, clear message about the intangible pull of love–true, genuine love– that can override even the most meticulous programming or that can (and will) re-appear on a slate no matter how many times it has been cleaned… (You ever try and clean an actual slate?)  –theacademy

(4) Daedalus

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from the album The Alchemy Index Vol. III: Air

In my eyes. Thrice’s “Daedalus” is the pinnacle of their ambitious Alchemy era–a singular tale full of poetic drama, tied to one of the four classic elements. In any other setting the song would buckle under its own hokiness, but within the “Air” collection, it works. Dustin Kensrue’s typical cocksure songwriting gives gravitas to the tragic tale (Sowing only gave us 5-8 sentences so you can Google it yourself) which is told from the perspective of the father and his doomed attempt to give his son a better life . Again, with tongue planted firmly out of cheek, the melodrama shouldn’t work. But Thrice deliver “Daedalus” with such poise that you can’t help but feel every moment.  –Xenophanes

(3) Anthology

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from the album Major/Minor

Major/Minor is one of Thrice’s bleakest albums. Whereas records such as The Alchemy Index or Beggars offered up silver-lined warnings, this was the first instance – as far as my retrospective memory of Thrice is concerned, anyway – that the band looked at the world around them and just couldn’t find a way to make it into something potentially positive. Kensrue at various points laments the grim state of our society: “Our hearts are – they’re so deceitful, sick and filled with lies that lead to death”/ “We are cowards and thieves, will we never turn to grieve the damage done?” / “Never see, never quake with rage at what we have become.” The overwhelming bleakness made for a dense, uncomfortable listen.

There is really but one ray of light, and it comes in the form of ‘Anthology.’ The song sounds towering from the get-go, with massive guitar riffs that continue throughout the entire song, bolstered by some deceptively complex fills and solos – driving its momentum, and setting up immensely hopeful lines like “I know that we can see this through” and “We can weather the storm” to sound all the more confident. In fact, that’s what ‘Anthology’ boils down to: this knowing comfort that no matter how hopeless things may appear, we control the outcome of this world together. Kensrue’s gritty, passionate delivery during the chorus reminds us it won’t be easy – but like this song, it’ll be a labor of love. ‘Anthology’ marks Thrice’s most triumphant and self-assured statement; one that can be extrapolated and applied to our lives now more than ever.  –Sowing

(2) In Exile

from the album Beggars

“I am in exile, a sojourner” is how Dustin Kensrue begins. He’s trying to get to “a city that endures when all is made new […] where there’ll be no pain or tears anymore”, a place with some undeniable Biblical overtones, but that’s almost less important than the simple fact that he’s trying to get there. Being apart from religion I should have no real stake in a song this faith-based, but Kensrue’s talent has always been taking a declaration of faith like “In Exile” and making it universal. “There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on / not settling for this unsettling town” is about as good a line as the man’s ever written, and it has that sting of bitter, melancholic optimism that united a community of believers, atheists, agnostics – hell, probably Satanists – under the Thrice banner. Of course the place he’s looking for is an ideal and not a location, which casts Kensrue’s entire life from birth to death as the transitory phase of the journey. I can relate to feeling like a pilgrim for the duration of my life, and even though Kensrue is searching for the capital-H Christian vision of Heaven, you know when Riley Breckenridge’s rolling drum figure cues in that last coda of rapturous wordless vocals? That’s pretty damn close to heaven for me.  –Rowan

(1) The Whaler

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from the album The Alchemy Index Vol. II: Water

The first time I heard the seamless transition from the instrumental “Night Diving” to “The Whaler”, I teared up. Songs don’t really affect me that way anymore, but I think it speaks to the power of Thrice’s music – especially their fruitful period between Vheissu and Beggars – that I can remember that reaction like it was yesterday. Sometimes when I hear this song, I can almost feel it again. It houses some of Dustin Kensrue’s finest writing, especially the slight lyrical difference in the chorus between the wife and child: the wife asks, “Will you be coming home to me?”, while the child asks, “When are you coming home to me?” because to her, it is a foregone conclusion that he will come back. His wife, however, knows the reality. Whalers were sometimes gone for years at a time, and survival was not guaranteed.

While I think Major/Minor and especially To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere are both great albums, it is clear that Thrice lost some of their willingness to experiment once they stopped producing their own records. And it’s a real shame, because Water in particular is one of the best-produced albums I’ve ever heard (so much so that the live version of “The Whaler” can’t really match the power of the recording), and it’s even more amazing when you consider that this was their first time producing. They threw everything at the wall and most of it stuck. “The Whaler” is the ultimate example of what Thrice was, and I believe still is, capable of achieving.  –Channing Freeman





SowingSeason
09.08.18
I'm sure this will be met with 100% agreement.

Source
09.08.18
needs more To Awake and Avenge the Dead

letsgofishing
09.08.18
I would have put Beggars in there as well but mostly this list ain't bad.

Masochist
09.08.18
This is a very surprising list, if you ask me. I didn't think 'The Alchemy Index' would get as much representation as it did, especially considering that 'The Artist in the Ambulance' only got one song (but it was the right song, at least).

Also...was fully expecting either "Red Sky" or "For Miles" on the list. And on a serious note, kind of shocked by the lack of "The Weight," "Flags of Dawn," or anything from 'The Illusion of Safety' (though I'm not too sad by any of these exclusions).

Finally, that "Daedalus" works as well as it does is also helped by the fact that this particular parable was already explored in a different song on an earlier album.

Whatever, though. A Thrice list is a Thrice list, so I'm down with it.

AlexTM510
09.08.18
Solid list is solid, good read, would have totally liked a cut from TBEITBN to make the list but perfectly acceptable. The heavy amount of TAI is a bit surprising, but considering their pinnacle of experimentation was then i shouldn't be surprised.

theacademy
09.08.18
a bunch of TBEITN songs were on our lists actually, just no consensus #1 so they split votes...

BroFro
09.08.18
I love every one of these, but Music Box and Circles do not belong on any sort of top 10 Thrice list

Keyblade
09.08.18
had to double check this wasn't from 2007, ngl the chan blurbs threw me off too

Rowan5215
09.08.18
we def needed The Weight agreed

luci
09.08.18
no Illusion of Safety songs? dafuq

theacademy
09.08.18
yo

to all the the weight stans ive loved before...


i tried

Jom
09.08.18
The 'just missed' cut, for those curious: "Beggars", "The Weight", "Words in the Water", "Red Sky", and "Broken Lungs".

We had 8 participants, so that explains why some albums might not be represented (some 'Illusion' songs would make individual lists, but not as high up on those lists). "Beggars" and "Open Water" were very close to being interchangeable, but there were pretty sizable gaps in between the other songs (although "Firebreather" and "The Earth Will Shake" were very close).

It was fun revisiting their discography, though, as we get ready for the new album this week.

Sinternet
09.08.18
no ios tracks or stare at the sun this is possibly the worst thing you guys have ever done

VheissuCrisis
09.09.18
I'm devastated I wasn't brought in as a special consultant.

luci
09.09.18
redskyformiles should have been an honorary guest

Tunaboy45
09.09.18
Great list, I think Silhouette is still my favourite. So hyped for Palms.

TheSupernatural
09.10.18
Not a bad list, but I don't think 2 or 3 belong on it at all. In Exile is one of the weakest songs on Beggars. Maybe I care too much about the drums but it's too damn repetitive.

Glad to see The Whaler getting the love it deserves though.

Lucman
09.10.18
Superb list, but guys, you missed Beggars, their best song. Period.

Jom
09.10.18
It was #11 by just a smidge. There was some internal debate over moving it up, but people decided to keep the results as they were.

SowingSeason
09.10.18
Beggars is probably tied with Anthology for my personal favorite #1 but yeah unfortunately it just barely missed the cut. I didn't even have The Whaler on my list. Just goes to show it's a cumulative representation!

Chambered79
09.10.18
Great list. Firebreather and in circles I think are the two best thrice songs but water is my fav thing they've ever done as a whole

Chambered79
09.10.18
Whaler is amazing tho too ahhh

5am
09.10.18
Obviously not one of their best songs but i still remember the first time i heard the opening guitar in 'see you in the shallows' during an after-school skateboard/bmx show on ESPN and I had to go look up more songs from them. Thats always been one of my favorites. Glad Daedalus made the list though.

Calc
09.10.18
damn music box? that's might be my least favorite from that album. then again that album is a hard 4.7 and that song is still great.

jmh886
09.10.18
Good list though I don't agree with all. To Awake and Avenge the Dead absolutely deserves to be on here. That's my only gripe.

thecheatisnotdead
09.10.18
Needs more "Of Dust & Nations." Actually, swap that for "Music Box" and "The Weight" for "Circles," and this'd be almost identical to my thoughts, with "Death from Above," "Paper Tigers," and "Flags of Dawn" nipping at the heels.

bloc
09.10.18
Not really into this band save for a few songs here and there, but 8 does indeed slap

TalonsOfFire
09.10.18
Of Dust and Nations is one of their best and most underrated tracks . Daedalus is my #1 favorite of theirs, glad it made the top 5. So fun to play on drums.

SandorClegane
09.11.18
Music Box is dumb and needs to be replaced with a real song

Green Baron
09.12.18
needs Red Sky!

Artuma
09.12.18
kill me quickly anyone??

FreddieDelaney31
09.12.18
3 is 1 and it's a crime that Stand And Feel Your Worth isn't here and Music Box is?? Yikes
Anyways Beyond The Pines is my new favorite Thrice song. Not at all their best but my favorite nonetheless.

SandorClegane
09.12.18
Beggars is the best modern iteration of this band

SowingSeason
09.13.18
ehhh I'd go with Alchemy Index

FreddieDelaney31
09.13.18
So wait you're telling me it wasn't just acad but ALL of you staff dorks that voted for Music Box??

theacademy
09.13.18
i actually get to vote 3x in these things (its in my contract)

FreddieDelaney31
09.13.18
*angrily waves fist at the sky*

LelandAB
09.13.18
Love this list, the vocal harmonies that conclude Whaler might be the most beautiful thing Thrice has ever written.

Needs some Words in the Water though!

OpenUpandLetMeIn
09.14.18
My top 10, in no particular order:

Hurricane
Stand and Feel Your Worth
Anthology
Digital Sea
Firebreather
In Exile
Doublespeak
Like Moths To Flame
Flags Of Dawn
All That's Left

onionbubs
09.14.18
mines no order prob like

awake and avenge the dead
paper tigers
holds on peregrine
for miles
hold fast hope
the arsonist
lost continent (except this is totally 1)
the whaler
the weight
wood and wire

FreddieDelaney31
09.14.18
Stand and Feel Your Worth
Anthology
Beyond The Pines
Night Diving
Beggars
Artist In The Ambulance
Firestarter
The Earth Will Shake
The Whaler
The Flame Deluge

LelandAB
09.14.18
let's see

The Earth Will Shake
Silhouette
Disarmed
Hurricane
Red Sky
Firebreather
Whaler
Treading Paper
Daedalus
Circles



SowingSeason
09.15.18
Any songs from the new album that you think would make this list? I'm not sure about Top 10 but there's certainly a handful of them that would fall between #11-#25.

Minushuman24
09.20.18
As long as Daedalus is in the top ten, I am fine with it

johnnydeking29
09.21.18
Can someone please explain why The Whaler is #1? Not even a highlight from the EP for me. Some good good picks here (Circles yay!!) but sad not to see anything from Illusion

LelandAB
09.21.18
Whaler is so high because the vocal harmonies are chill inducing, and it's a lush song full of experimentation.

butcherboy
09.21.18
unlike that moron lionel richie, these guys understand that you're once twice THRICE a lady..

Masochist
09.26.18
"Any songs from the new album that you think would make this list? I'm not sure about Top 10 but there's certainly a handful of them that would fall between #11-#25."

Probably "Beyond the Pines," but I also really like "The Grey."

SowingSeason
09.26.18
For me probably Blood on Blood, The Dark, or Just Breathe could fit comfortably in my top 25, Blood on Blood in my top 10

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