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Sowing's Top 100 Songs

Feel free to follow along as I update this list. Almost exactly one year after I ranked my top 100 albums of all time, I'm now chasing the much more ambitious goal of corralling my approximate top 100 songs. As with before, please keep the following in mind: (1) I am very much a product of 2000s music, so don't be surprised when the list skews that way quite heavily, and (2) This merely reflects my own personal favorite 100 songs - I've made no attempt at objectivity here. Also, (3) In order to instill at least some sense of diversity, I'm limiting inclusions to 1 song per artist. In other news, attempting to select and order these songs has put me on the brink of committing myself to an institution, so if you want to see me finally break, be sure to grill me on why #73 is higher than #77, or why y is ranked higher than z when y doesn't even represent the best song by band x. Feel free to guess what songs will show up on this list; winner gets nothing! UPDATE: FOLLOW ALONG BY LISTENING TO THE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST HERE: (disclaimer: some artists on this list are not on spotify, so it may not match up 1-1, but just find your way over to YouTube or something).
100Alien Ant Farm

"S.S. Recognize" [1999] - This is the first and likely only all-time top songs list to begin with an Alien Ant Farm track, and actually, that should tell you everything you need to know about how this list is probably going to go (so here's your chance to sneak out the back door as I pretend not to notice). "S.S. Recognize" is an absolute barn burner of an alt-rock tune. The riff that drives the song is as cocky as it is menacing; an in-your-face strut that is greeted by one of Alien Ant Farm's catchiest and most unique choruses. But that's not all! Just when you think you know what the song is going to do, it shifts into this intense Limp Bizkit styled breakdown with fiery riffing and Dryden Mitchell's aggressive screams/shouts. This is the kind of song you listen to once and you instantly feel your adrenaline shoot through the roof. With how much artsy indie fluff will be on this list, there needed to be at least one song that just lets it all hang out like "S.S. Recognize" does.
99Let's Eat Grandma
I'm All Ears

"Donnie Darko" [2018] - It's an 11 minute pop song, what could go wrong? Plenty, obviously, which is part of the reason why "Donnie Darko" is so amazing. The song navigates atmospheric indie-pop with ease, seamlessly transitioning from ethereal acoustics to a danceable beat, and all of that atop lyrics that detail an abusive upbringing and viscious self-destructive tendencies. Almost as if to purposely contrast the song's lyrical themes, the music glistens with dreamy synths/keyboards and vibrant guitar plucks. It's the happiest song you'll ever hear about enduring beatings and struggling with psychosis, and as the song winds and turns across its vast runtime, it eventually grows into every inch of the epic posturing that it presupposes. It's hard to think of many other songs that are simultaneously this grandiose, dark, and wholly accessible.
98Lord Huron
Long Lost

"Long Lost" [2021] - Some songs glow with an everlasting warmth. "Long Lost" is one such track, and it's among the most aesthetically gorgeous pieces of music that I've encountered in my whole life. The acoustic guitars are salivatingly lush, the strings flourish triumphantly, and the piano licks are crisp and jubilant all while the chorus is tailor-made to be sung from the top of a mountain. "Long Lost" could score your next summer romance or provide the backdrop to a road trip through remote woodlands - either way, it would feel equally at home. It's the kind of song that is so unequivocally beautiful and so knowingly in-the-moment that it simply covers everything in a hazy nostalgic sheen, taking your present excursion - whatever it may be - and instantly transforming it into a lifelong memory. I'm keenly aware of the potential pitfalls associated with recency bias on an all-time list, but this belongs here.
97The Airborne Toxic Event
The Airborne Toxic Event

"Sometime Around Midnight" [2008] - While most 00's alt-rock that received a lot of airtime was bad, there were notable exceptions; I present to you Exhibit A. "Sometime Around Midnight" is a devastating song about losing the woman you love, sung to depict the anguish one might feel when encountering said love in a bar post-breakup only to watch her leave with someone else. "You feel hopeless and homeless, and lost in the haze of the wine" sets the scene perfectly..."The room's suddenly spinning, she walks up and asks how you are / so you can smell her perfume, you can see her lying naked in your arms"..."Then she leaves with someone you don't know / but she makes sure you saw her, she looks right at you and bolts"..."Oh, and your friends say 'What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost.'" I'm not crying, you're crying, okay!? Yeah, this song is a gut punch for anyone who's endured a one-sided breakup and then been forced to watch their soul mate move on without them.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" [1991] - I'm admittedly not the biggest Nirvana fan (in relative terms anyway - I think they were a very good band but not an all-time great act). Still, that doesn't prevent me from recognizing some of their most well-written tunes as individually all-time great tracks. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a case-in-point; the song is more than famous - it resides in the lore of iconic songs that defined an entire generation. I was four years old when the song came out, so I wasn't exactly part of the movement, but I could still feel its reverberations years later. This is a textbook definition anthem - a rallying cry for an entire era of music listeners that quite simply rocks. It's a little ironic that Kurt Cobain openly admitted that he was trying to rip off The Pixies while shoehorning a single into a mostly completed record, but that just goes to show that sometimes legends are accidentally born.
95Joanna Newsom

"Anecdotes" [2015] - Joanna Newsom seems to be one of those artists that you either love or "don't get", but keeping that in mind, I think that "Anecdotes" - the first track from her breathtaking 2015 LP Divers - is a piece that everyone should be able to agree upon. It's the quintessential Newsom track, combining Y's epic feel with Have One On Me's more concise songcraft. "Anecdotes" is breathtaking and serene as Newsom plucks her harp and warbles in her signature high-pitched tone, but there's also a slowly surging climax that gradually overtakes you before parachuting to a string-swept, piano-laden pillowy landing. There are many songs in Newsom's catalog worth this slot, but "Anecdotes" has always struck me as the most representative of her craft at its absolute peak.
94Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell!

"Venice Bitch" [2019] - Among the many year-defining gems that Lana Del Rey's magnum opus, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, boasted, it was "Venice Bitch" that took me the most by surprise. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, the song feels sort of like her "Stairway to Heaven". It's clearly meant to be a career-defining statement, and she achieves such a benchmark here by blending her trademark west coast American nostalgia with a winding, synth-infused song structure that seems appropriately lost and forlorn. Lana's obvious talent always teased for her to join the ranks of the iconic voices of our time, but "Venice Bitch" proves that she's so much more to her than a beautiful voice - she's also an ambitious artist, and easily one of the best to navigate through the pop sphere in recent years.
93My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade

"Welcome to the Black Parade" [2006] - It's easy to slight My Chemical Romance as a cheesy emo-punk band that ripped off of Queen to craft their 2006 concept album, The Black Parade - however, it's also important to note their vast influence upon an entire generation of listeners while doing so: it was truly an "event" release. At the forefront of the hype was this very song - the grand, epic "Welcome to the Black Parade". The song's opening piano notes are unmistakable, the music video and overall themes/imagery are iconic, and the rock n' roll apex is one of the most sheerly enjoyable moments of the band's entire lifespan. While a case could be made for "Famous Last Words" or "Helena" in this spot, I simply cannot think of MCR without my mind immediately going to this song. "Welcome to the Black Parade" is MCR's calling card, and for a band that was so entrenched in their image, perception, and overall theatrics, that might as well make it their best song.
Oracular Spectacular

"Time to Pretend" [2007] - "Live fast and die young" is MGMT's motto, and "Time to Pretend" encapsulates that mindset perfectly. The song is a bubbly, blissed out anthem to doing drugs, dating models, and being rock stars. The synth line is out-of-this-world catchy, and the whole thing has a very 60s-hippie-lifestyle vibe, only infused with electronics and updated for the 2000s. It's nearly impossible to listen to this song and not start cheesin', even if you're stone cold sober coming off a long day at work. The song just has this effervescently bright aura, and it's stood the test of time thus far as one of the most fun and memorable songs to drop during my lifetime.
91Meat Loaf
Bat Out of Hell

"You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)" [1977] - Speaking of cheese, I present to you some of the biggest-sounding arena rock in the genre's entire canon. This song is really just a love song bloated to epic proportions, sang out with a passion and fervor that only Michael Lee Aday (RIP) could possibly deliver. This was a song that I blasted while driving too many times to count, especially during the magical romance-infused summers of high school and college. This is an all-time classic and for good reason; it's a powerful, soulful, ardent rocker that doubles as one of the catchiest things you'll ever hear in your lifetime.
Black Holes & Revelations

"Knights of Cydonia" [2006] - Muse are at their best when they're paranoid and shooting for the stars. So, with that in mind: may I interest you in an epic track about the four horsemen of the apocalypse? This song is a guitar aficionado's dream, featuring some of the most enjoyable riffs in the band's catalog and a deceptively complex solo near the end. The lyrics are very anti-authority, sort of a traditional us vs. them theme, but it works exceedingly well when sang in Bellamy's over-the-top falsetto. It makes for an irresistable combination of technical mastery and infectious sing-along, and all in the sort of grandiose fashion that - outside of Queen and a select few other bands in modern rock history - have been able to get exactly right. Fortunately for us, the Muse of this particular era was in that enviable company.
When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes

"Be The Young" [2011] - Pop-punk and youth go together like bread and butter, but what happens when you begin to cross the threshold from adolescence to adulthood; from final exams to annual evaluations; from summer vacation to a full-time job? There's something to be said for staying young at heart while also welcoming your new lot in life, and that's the central motif of "Be The Young", where frontman Ryan Key so passionately sings that "growing up has just begun." It's a sentiment that stays with us our entire lives, really - especially if we want it to. Growing up isn't real - we're constantly in between phases of life until the moment we die. All we can control is our outlook on things. Through blazing melodic riffs, Key sings more fervently than perhaps at any other point in his career: "this is endless, and I know." "Be The Young" is like a graduation speech for life - there to guide us, knowing that the answer lies in not having one.
Pieces of Eight

"Renegade" [1978] - When talking about the best pure rock songs of all time, I'm not sure there are very many better than "Renegade", one of the flagship songs from everyone's favorite 70s-80s cheese connoisseurs, Styx. While the band's reputation for being too epic for their own good sort of precedes them, "Renegade" is really just a straight-up banger of a rock n' roll song. In between Tommy Shaw's opening refrain and Dennis DeYoung's contrasting high notes in the final rendition of the chorus, this is a riff-laden, high-octane affair that makes it damn near impossible to stay in your chair. Fun fact: I spent roughly an entire summer in middle school trying to figure out who sings this. I could never quite catch the lyrics well enough to google them, and I sort of always assumed it was a Queen song. One might say that this song alone helped to spark my passion for music.

"Hard Feelings/Loveless" [2017] - I fell hard for Melodrama in 2017, because it was the kind of album I wish I had when I was in my teens and early twenties: when every feeling you had for someone was magnified; when every fleeting glance meant something; when finding true love felt like a matter of life and death. "Hard Feelings/Loveless" is a gorgeous, haunting, and heartbreaking ode to a breakup that walks us through the stages of the relationship's decline and projects it onto the big screen like a Hollywood moment - it's pure melodrama, down to the very end when Ella Yelich-O'Connor finally breaks free from depression's iron-grip to emerge with a confident swagger of a fuck-you ditty. Pop songs frequently cover these topics, but rarely in such depth across an all-encompassing scope and through a completely self-aware lens. This is the kind of song that elevates our perception of what pop music can be.
86The Republic of Wolves

"Birdless Cage" [2018] - I tend to like my indie-rock on the dark and abrasive side, so it seems strange to choose one of the softest songs by a band that specializes in a brooding, menacing alternative style for a list like this. "Birdless Cage" didn't start as one of my all-time favorite songs, but it wound and meandered its way to that point, not unlike the carefree sway with which the track itself progresses. Where this transforms from a great song to an absolute classic one is right around the 3:30 mark, when the tempo shifts and the entire band takes up their voices in unison to partake in one of the most entrancing and cathartic moments that I can recall in all of modern indie-rock.
85Andrew Bird
Break It Yourself

"Hole in the Ocean Floor" [2012] - One of the most rewarding experiences I ever had with music was when I was in the mountains with my dad. It was just us for the first time in what felt like forever. My dad and I have always shared an affinity for the same kind of folk music, and I had a playlist put together (of course) that started with this song. It was early morning in November, so there was a chill in the mountain air and the grass was white with frost. We had just thrown a few more logs on the fire as we sipped out coffee and caught up on life. "Hole In The Ocean Floor", for eight minutes, serenaded us with soothingly gorgeous strings and acoustic plucks. The rustic, antiquated atmosphere defined the moment perfectly, and I remember my dad even remarking on what a nice song it was. To me, now and forever, "Hole In The Ocean Floor" will espouse warmth and family; something that simply can't be written into a song.
84Iron And Wine
The Shepherd's Dog

"Flightless Bird, American Mouth" [2007] - I've always been something of a hopeless romantic. It sounds pathetic, but I spent the better part of my high school and college days pining for women almost exclusively in situations that were unrequited, so all of that earnestness and sincerity ended up getting internalized. I'd search for understanding and companionship in music, and "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" is hands-down one of the most beautiful and achingly romantic folk songs I've ever had the pleasure of encountering. Sam Beam is a magician in the studio, bringing out every subtle sound to make his music twinkle like stars on a cloudless night, and perhaps none of his works embody that better than this one.
83Straylight Run
Straylight Run

"Existentialism on Prom Night" [2004] - As you can see, we've entered the sappy stretch of this list! All kidding aside, "Existentialism on Prom Night" is more poetic than it seems upon initial inspection, beginning with a depiction of a couple sleeping in while lazily avoiding the sunrise. The band then uses prom night as a metaphor for stages of life that must inevitably conclude, and draws a parallel to the narrator's present relationship by saying that the dream must come to an end. The pianos echo with a sense of existential urgency as one can feel the relationship - or whatever phase of life - winding to its inevitable demise while John Nolan and Michelle DaRosa sing in sweet harmony: "Sing like you think no one's listening / you would kill for this, just a little bit." It's hard not to think that we all try just as hard to hold onto fragments of the past that we don't want to let go.
82Kanye West

"Black Skinhead" [2013] - While My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy remains by all measures Kanye's best album, my favorite song of his actually resides on its successor. "Black Skinhead" is an absolute banger with the most engrossing beat this side of "The Beautiful People", while its lyrics are a dark and almost tribal visceral rebellion against racism and neo-nazism. I'm not sure I've ever heard a song this unabashedly confident and in-your-face; it's raw and unfiltered just like Kanye himself - and in my book, there's no better way for rap to be.
81Laura Stevenson

"L-Dopa" [2013] - It still shocks me how little acclaim Laura Stevenson seems to get outside of the confines of Sputnik. She has an entire catalog of worthwhile gems, but "L-Dopa" has always stuck with me as the best encapsulation of her charm as a songwriter. The track oscillates between gentle verses about her mother and string/brass-swept eruptions. There's a cyclical feel to the song as it rocks to-and-fro, which ends up feeling like the thematic embodiment of the record's title. The whole thing is incredibly intimate yet full of splendor; a delicate balance between Laura's folk whims and her heavier rock inclinations. All of it swirls and eventually settles right here: a six minute tug of war between blissful reservation and powerful, cathartic release.
Jane Doe

"Jane Doe" [2001] - This is the holy grail of angry breakup songs. Jacob Bannon has always been one of the very best vocalists for conveying grief in its rawest form, but his lyrical abilities truly shine as well: "I want out / out of every awkward day, out of every tongue tied loss...out of the burdening night sweats, out of the rising seas of blood / lost in you like Saturday nights, searching the streets with bedroom eyes just dying to be saved / Run on on." There honestly might not be a better hardcore/metalcore writer alive, and to me, that's what really elevates Converge - and in particular, this 11 minute monument to pain.
79The Weeknd
House of Balloons

"House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls" [2011] - I got into The Weeknd late in his career, so imagine my surprise when I got bored enough one day to check out Tesfaye's now famed Trilogy. I was caught utterly off-guard by how insanely good the R&B artist actually was at one time, after all these years of mistaking him for a slight cut above your average pop star. To clarify: I've never heard anything quite like House of Balloons (the song or the album). The two-part track, "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls", feels like the musical embodiment of a bustling city night life: alcohol, parties, drugs, and beautiful women. It samples the 1980 song “Happy House” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, making for one of the catchiest choruses I've ever heard, while Tesfaye's incredible verses make the rest of the song entirely his own. When it shifts from pop/R&B to rap/hip-hop for the "Glass Table Girls" portion, the glistening production and incredible beat somehow both become even better.
78Bad Books

"Army" [2019] - When we watch wars unfold on our televisions/phones as if they're a Netflix series, we're far removed from the real psychological toll of that horrid violence. "Army" sees Bad Books (Andy Hull, Kevin Devine) tell the story of a soldier who returned from war as he tries to re-enter society, and it's a terrifying account of post-traumatic stress disorder that ultimately results in the narrator ending his own life. We witness his breakdown in stages across 8 verses, where the soldier sings about losing his arm (literally) being nothing compared to losing his spine (figuratively), how the naked body of his lover no longer looks the same as the two begin to silently grow apart, and how everything seems to lack purpose after what he's seen. Eventually, he puts a gun in his mouth out of shame and an inability to cope or soothe his own haunted conscience. It's harrowing stuff, and it's all too real for many who return from the military and try to re-assimilate into society.
Black Messiah

"The Charade" [2014] - The genius of D'Angelo's "The Charade" is multifaceted, from his mastery of soul/funk to the innovative songwriting techniques on display. What elevates Black Messiah, and especially premium cuts like "The Charade", is its message. Lines like "degradation so loud that you can't hear the sound of our cries" and "all we wanted was a chance to talk / 'stead we only got outlined in chalk" are particularly compelling calls to action, and they came near the beginning of the BLM movement before it really had all that much momentum. Listeners and fellow musicians alike are aware of Black Messiah's reputation as a catalyst for spurring social change, which is why the songs that pushed D'Angelo's message the hardest are the ones that ring out with the most clarity today.
Sailing the Seas of Cheese

"Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" (1991) - Les Claypool's legendary influence as a bassist cannot be understated. "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" always stuck with me as one of his most badass songs; it just rips. His bass - combined with the hugely infectious rhythm, searing electric guitar riffs, and tribal chants - makes for one of the most irresistible tunes in Primus' entire discography. If you've got a job to do, "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" will always motivate you to get from point A to point Z .
75Modest Mouse
The Moon & Antarctica

"The Stars Are Projectors" [2000] - Billed by many fans as Modest Mouse's The Dark Side of the Moon, The Moon & Antarctica largely gathered such a reputation thanks to "The Stars Are Projectors". The almost 9 minute psychedelic binge is one of Modest Mouse's most ambitious efforts, and the resultant atmosphere is mysterious and chillingly insightful: "right wing, left wing, chicken wing...God is a woman and the woman is an animal, that animal's man, and that's you" / "Was there a need for creation? That was hidden in a math equation that asks this: where do circles begin?" The implications range from political wings not being able to fly on their own any more than a chicken wing, to questioning how life itself began - all in a day's work for one of the most ingenious and markedly cryptic indie-rock acts of all-time.
74Electric Light Orchestra
Out of the Blue

"Mr. Blue Sky" (1977) - I challenge anyone to listen to "Mr. Blue Sky" and remain in a bad mood. This has been my go-to pick-me-up song since I was in middle school and I heard it on our local classic rock radio (which was always playing growing up). The song is obviously catchy and fun, with a jaunty beat and memorable chorus - but what really elevates it for me is the rock-driven operatic outro, which falls onto a soft bed of strings and pianos. Without that closing sequence, I think it merely falls into the same category as a Hall & Oates "You Make My Dreams" styled uptempo track, but this song in its glorious entirety is absolutely flawless.
Diamond Eyes

"Sextape" (2010) - Deftones are at their best when they're balancing aggression and melody, and there's plenty of examples to choose that would have been both representative and wholly deserving ("Change", "Cherry Waves", and "The Spell of Mathematics" all came to mind among dozens of other songs I entertained for this slot). However, I can't seem to pull myself away from "Sextape" - one of the least heavy/aggressive songs in their discography, but somehow captivating in illustrious ways that even their other biggest hits can't seem to match. The melody here absolutely soars, and there's this obvious tension-and-release dynamic that makes the song literally feel like sex. There's the slow, sensual build-up, and then the chorus comes in like a wave of euphoria. The lyrics use the ocean to represent this lustful, passion-filled evening, and it works surprisingly well: "Take me for one last ride...the sound of the waves collide." Simply put: "Sextape" earns its name, and it's pure bliss.
72The Jezabels

"Stand and Deliver" [2016] - On what is - as of this typing - still the final Jezabels record, I take solace in knowing that this band accessed their full potential. I say that in large part because Hayley Mary and company finally found the confidence to write a song as long, epic, atmospheric, and multifaceted as "Stand and Deliver". The song floats in on soft keys and airy synths, gradually picking up the pace with more prominent vocals and drums until it shifts its tone halfway through and begins to cascade towards utter madness ranging from operatic choirs to a full-on rock crescendo. Throughout the entire experience, "Stand and Deliver" never loses the hazy sheen that makes it feel like the song is being listened to above the clouds. It's an atmospheric masterpiece, one of the greatest indie-rock songs I've ever heard, and hopefully a compass for any future releases by The Jezabels, should we be so fortunate.
71The War On Drugs
Lost in the Dream

"Eyes to the Wind" (2014) - While The War on Drugs' discography has been defined by its riff and solo driven style of Americana rock, it's the relatively earthy and acoustic "Eyes to the Wind" that qualifies for this list. While the song's soothing sway is dreamy and Dylan-nostalgic, there's also something very vivid about Granduciel's vocals. His words cut through the haze like a knife, especially when he belts out "There’s a cold wind blowin' down my old road" or "I'm all alone here / livin' in darkness". The song feels like the musical equivalent of returning to your childhood home as an adult, only to find that the life you once knew - your family and friends - have moved on and there's no longer anything for you there. It's a bitter reflection, but also one that's universally relatable.
70Benjamin Clementine
I Tell A Fly

"Phantom of Aleppoville" (2017) - Clementine toes the line between genius and madness. "Phantom of Aleppoville" easily qualifies as the former, and might actually be one of the most stunning songs that 99% of music listeners, tragically, haven't heard. "Phantom of Aleppoville" features some of the most stunning classical pianos you'll ever hear, but also wild tribalistic chants. It weaves through several sections before gently collapsing into Clementine's thoughtful laments. The song was inspired by Clementine's world travels, and what he described as America and the west bullying smaller nations into submission - although on the surface it sounds like a song written about a childhood bully of his own named Billy. It could be both, but either way, the song carries monumental importance.
69The Hotelier
Home, Like NoPlace Is There

"Among the Wildflowers" (2014) - It's hard to put into words the emotional impact this song had on me once I dove into its meaning. The song gradually builds to some of the most pained and cathartic screams I've ever heard: "Held underwater, told to scream your self-worth / It wasn’t good enough"..."Entrust the secrets to the backs of your arms / Killing the self as to protect it from harm" - all before transitioning to a reflective acoustic canvas that scores a conversation about getting someone help before they commit suicide. It's one of those moments that pass, and then you have to take a moment and catch your breath before you go back and listen to it again to understand the full context of the piece. It's utterly heartbreaking and bound to resonate with anyone who's lost a dear friend or family member this way.
Hollow Ponds

"Flame Exchange" [2014] - "Flame Exchange" possesses an unparalleled brooding/somber atmosphere that I simply can't find anywhere else. The closest comparison would be an acoustic Brand New track, but I'd go as far as to say that Brand New probably couldn't pull off something this haunting. It's very serene, but in an eerie and depressing way. The man behind Astronauts conceived the ideas for this song while in a drug-induced haze inside of a London hospital hallucinating about Epping Forest. This song deserves a spot on my all-time list because it possesses the perfect ratio of calm/soothing tones and bone-chillingly creepy vibes. This one's unique.
67Fleetwood Mac

"Dreams" [1977] - This band has so many deserving songs, but "Dreams" is the one that has resonated with me the most throughout my life. It was released long before my time (to be perfectly defensively clear), but having grown up listening to a lot of the music from my parents' generation, "Dreams" was one that always caught my ear. It manages to transport me, regardless of setting, to a daydream state. The song also, arguably more than any other Fleetwood Mac piece, showcases exactly why Stevie Nicks was one of the greatest and most inimitable singers in the history of rock music - not because she belts out the highest or most powerful notes, but simply because there is so much confidence and swagger in her delivery. This is basically the perfect "watching a storm roll in from your front porch" song: it's mesmerizing, ominous, and utterly flawless.
66Arcade Fire

"In the Backseat" [2004] - This one took me a while to settle on, because while Arcade Fire were a great band early in their career, I wasn't sure if a particular song grabbed me as their clear, unequivocal best. With that in mind, I went with what I feel is the strongest moment from their strongest album: Funeral's closing track "In the Backseat". A large reason this stands out is because of Regine Chassagne takes the lead vocal role over Win Butler, and not only does she succeed, she knocks it out of the whole damn park. Her high notes are viscerally and palpably emotional, and the whole thing - while sad in tone and lyrical nature - still manages to feel uplifting thanks to the propulsive strings that drive the song. "In the Backseat" is one of many Arcade Fire classics, but it's probably the only one compelling enough for me to truly say that it belongs on my all-time top 100 tracks. There's just no other song that makes me feel as sad yet also as liberated as this one seems to.
65The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis

"Farewell, Mona Lisa" [2010] - I've heard few songs in my life as sweepingly powerful and complex as this one. The song hits you like a freight train immediately before complicated, mathy riffs join in. The harsh vocals are in-your-face but not unintelligible, which makes this accessible in spite of its overt heaviness. The clean vocals are stunning, melodic, and wholly memorable. The lyrics stand out in a sad, desperate way that make you want to sing along in miserable unison every time ("don't you ever try to be more than you were destined for...there's no feeling in this place"). This is essentially my #1 metalcore song ever, and I'm not sure if I'll ever hear another song in this style that measures up to the high bar set by "Farewell, Mona Lisa".

"Colorless" [2019] - Aaron Marsh's lyrical genius has never been put on more obvious display than across the entirety of Blushing, and that's also a big reason why "Colorless" qualifies for this list. The music is tense and brooding, with a sad melody that explodes into an epic crescendo by the song's conclusion. What makes the song an all-time great in my book, however, is how well Marsh is able to paint the heartbreak and anxiety of grasping at a relationship that's slipped through one's fingers: "It was red like wine and bent your mind the same, to the roar of gold that you could never tame"...These days I'm terrified of silence, my thoughts unbearable in the quiet"..."There's no way I can forget about it / If the softest press against my lovers lips could topple towers of un-confidence"..." There's so much pure poetry here that it magnifies every musical decision to grand proportions. That's how great music should be - a heartfelt message, with music serving as a cathartic vessel.

"The Laziest River" [2011] - While admittedly not the hugest fan of Destroyer's full/entire discography, Kaputt has always been a huge exception. Oddly, due to various release formats in different countries, I was not actually aware of this 20 minute gem until many years after the album dropped. "The Laziest River" isn't as catchy as, say, "Chinatown" or "Song for America", but it feels like the most crucial piece to the atmosphere of suave, elegant sophistication that Dan Bejar conjures up on Kaputt. It's obviously not the quickest study as a listener, but immersing yourself in its mesmerizing, Brian Eno-esque ambiance serves to vastly enrich Kaputt's already pristine aura. It's a serious wonder why this wasn't included on all release formats of the LP.
62City and Colour
If I Should Go Before You

"Woman" [2015] - Once upon a time, Dallas Green released his best song and it went largely underappreciated. The year was 2015, and that song was the epic indie-folk track entitled "Woman". This song is a brooding, slow-burning ode to undying love, in which Green proclaims "When the world has emptied / And the planet is covered in dust / I will stand beneath the silver moon rising / Waiting to resurrect our love." The song winds and turns through dark, atmospheric acoustics and gradually builds to a series of powerful electric crescendos. At no point in the song's nine passion-brimming minutes does it ever not demand your full attention. This remains hands-down one of the most mysterious and captivating love songs I've ever heard.
61The Moody Blues
Seventh Sojourn

"I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" [1972] - If you've ever listened to Days of Future Passed (if not, get on that now!), you'll know that The Moody Blues' forte is orchestral prog rock. That is one of my all-time favorite albums because the flow is immaculate and every song contributes something unique, but in terms of a single greatest song I'd instead go in the opposite direction to the upbeat, straightforward rocker "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)". The song is powerful and infectious, with a real lyrical urgency: "Riots by the people for the people who are only destroying themselves". It's a song that showed another side to The Moody Blues, proving that they can rock out just as easily as they can effortlessly weave dreamy alternate universes.
60John Lennon

"Imagine" [1971] - An iconic rallying cry for humanity, "Imagine" was way ahead of its time by calling on all of us to ditch our rigidly defined boundaries and "live as one" - for the sake of each other and the Earth. Many publications would rank this much higher than #60 considering its enormous influence on both music and culture. The piano melody here is one-of-a-kind and instantly recognizable, while Lennon's vocals are as heavenly as the afterlife he claims does not exist. Sometimes the simplest songs are the ones that end up changing the world.
59Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus

"O Children" (2004) - Oh yeah, it's that one song from Harry Potter! Well, yeah, it's that - but it's also a lot of other things. "O Children" is, for one, a song about entrusting our hope with future generations to right our wrongs. It's a mystical and uplifting gospel-styled track that swells with more fervor and passion at each refrain. It also espouses a lot of disturbing Holocaust imagery, like "They've hosed you down, you're good as new / And they're lining up to inspect you". The song is both haunting and uplifting, but it also feels timeless in many ways - some are beautiful, others more sinister.
58Mac Miller

"I Can See" [2020] - It's always a bit chilling to hear the words of an artist posthumously, as they often reveal truths that we didn't know when they were alive. On "I Can See", the breathtaking centerpiece of Circles, we witness his internal struggle before his accidental drug overdose: "I need somebody to save me / Before I drive myself crazy." The music is lush and hypnotic,combining elements of psychedelic music with hip-hop in a way that feels innovative beyond Mac's years. "I Can See" is a constant reminder of Miller's budding genius, and an indication of just how high his creative trajectory was before his life was tragically cut short.
The Seer

"The Seer Returns" [2012] - The Seer is a terrifying landscape of swirling drone, industrial, and post-rock. While most of it requires dedicated immersion into its 2 hour runtime to fully appreciate, it does occasionally allow the listener to the surface for air. "The Seer Returns" is a thumping, sinister rock track that is legitimately horrifying ("I'm down here naked, there's a hole in my chest / Both my arms are broken, pointing east and west") but also to-the-point enough musically that it doesn't require you taking a personal day off from work just to hear it. You'd be hard-pressed to find a song as accessibly unhinged and rotten as this one - which has made it unforgettable in the decade that has passed since I first heard it.
56Ruston Kelly

"Poison" [2016] - Some songs just cut right into your heart. Ruston Kelly's "Poison" is the king of breakup songs for me, telling a harrowing tale of painful separation with very little more than his drowned-in-anguish vocals: "Even now that I'm a stranger in your eyes, that's not what tears me down / It's how you made my worst of days never seem as grey, it's remembering your mouth and the way it tastes / It's rosemary beach on a sunny day, yeah that's my poison now...Can I drain every drop of you out?" The song's genius is definitely in its lyrics and emotional delivery, and it succeeds because it is devoid of cliches and you can actually feel the pain in Kelly's every word. If you're enduring a particularly difficult breakup, this is the song you need to hear.
55Neutral MIlk Hotel
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" [1998] - Jeff Mangum's voice isn't always an immediate hit with all music listeners...but once that screeching, pitchy voice finally wins you over (because, eventually, it always does), the music is lent so much charm and character that almost any other artist sounds like they were churned out in a factory. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is a perfect example of all of Neutral Milk Hotel's most endearing traits - there's the vocals, but there's also the shimmering acoustic guitars, singing saw, and trumpet. The song is ultimately about coming to peace with the idea of passing away, making it one of the more uplifting songs of the band's career despite being about death.
54Nick Drake
Bryter Layter

"One of These Things First" [1971] - Before Elliott Smith, there was Nick Drake. The man epitomized the charm of the "one man and an acoustic guitar" songwriting style, and although Pink Moon might corner the market in terms of Drake's most heralded releases, it's that album's predecessor which contained "One of These Things First" -- Nick's most gliding and effortlessly soulful song. The track is characterized by a sprightly, beautiful classical piano line that drives the entire melody, while Nick Drake's hushed ruminations about all the things he could have done in life define the piece's melancholic/reflective air. It's one of the most beautiful and seemingly carefree songs (with deeper underlying purpose) that you'll ever get to sway along to.
53Fiona Apple
Fetch The Bolt Cutters

"Heavy Balloon" [2020] - I've always admired women who buck the stereotype of the traditional singer-songwriter, and it's hard to think of many artists who do it better than Fiona Apple. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a masterpiece essentially because it gives no fucks, and at the forefront of that charge is the powerfully raw vocal performance that Apple delivers on "Heavy Balloon". The percussion here is also mind-blowingly powerful and eclectic, which will make you wonder how in the hell she recorded it in her living room. The piece is ultimately about depression and suppressed emotions ("I've been sucking it in so long, that I'm busting at the seams"), but also about overcoming it through sheer will ("I spread like strawberries / I climb like peas and beans"), using a comparison between how strawberries and peas/beans grow to indicate how she'll "take over the garden". In that sense, despite its dark content and visceral delivery, it's actually quite the empowering song.
The Mantle

"In The Shadow of Our Pale Companion" [2002] - This is the song that got me into black metal. From its natural imagery to its questioning of life and God, it immediately pulled me in thanks to its weighty existential content. The combination of the song's chilling/unforgiving winter atmosphere and the warmth of looking inward for answers to a hopeless world makes for an incredibly intimate experience, one which reaches its zenith for the clean vocal break when John Haughm sings, "Like every hope I've ever had / Like every dream I've ever known / It washed away in a tide of longing, a longing for a better world." It's rare for a black metal song that's nearly 15 minutes in length to hold my attention the entire time, but this one does every time - and when it's over, it leaves me wanting more.
51Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me

"Real Death" [2017] - There are undoubtedly some who will say this barely qualifies as music, but I'd argue that art is art. In this case, Phil Elverum's heartwrenching account of the moments following his wife's lost battle with cancer qualify as art in its rawest form; an expression of emotion at a time when little thought can be given to craft or melody. It's only a two and a half minute song, but it always has me on the verge of tears. The moment that gets me every time: "A week after you died, a package with your name on it came / And inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret, and collapsed there on the front steps I wailed / A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now / You were thinking ahead to a future you must have known deep down would not include you." If you have a wife - or kids - or any loved one at all - then I can't imagine not being moved by this. "Real Death" might not be for singing about, but it sure does lend perspective.
50Ben Howard
Noonday Dream

"Nica Libres at Dusk" [2018] - "Nica Libres at Dusk" represents Ben Howard at the peak of his craft. Rather than focusing on how to make his songwriting more accessible or his melodies catchier, he sinks inward. It's a dry ambiance; almost like the artwork which depicts a hot summer day in the desert. His verses are largely muted until the chorus breaks through, like a well-deserved sip of water that desert's oasis. The entire thing is very soft, subtle, and warm - a masterclass in songwriting that represents not only one of the best songs I've ever heard, but also a gem from one of the most underrated albums in the entirety of modern folk music as we know it.
49Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d city

"m.A.A.d city" [2012] - Honestly, Kendrick has quite a few songs - specifically from this album which is definitely his best - that deserve high praise, but "m.A.A.d city" was always the track that felt the most exciting to me. The compelling strings, the way he writes with total honesty ("Now this is not a tape recording saying that he did it / But ever since that day, I was lookin' at him different"), and the clear insight into what it's like growing up in a place like Compton is all exceptionally well-done. The tempo shift midway through also helps to elevate this, in essence giving us two amazing songs in one. Again, a case could be made for so many KL tracks, but this is merely the one that has resonated with me the most.
48Honey Harper

"Something Relative" [2020] - Like most people, I spent the early months of the covid-19 pandemic doing one of two things: sitting indoors, or driving to outdoor places where I could safely enjoy time with my family. I was never afforded more time to simply listen to music, and Starmaker's release coincided with the shutdown orders in such a way that it became my "pandemic album". "Something Relative", with its gorgeous pastoral tones and rich, evocative strings, became the perfect song for driving through the countryside on the way to whatever park we'd chosen to spend our time at that day -- or also for sitting in the living room watching my first child learn how to walk. There's so much personal attachment to this album and song, but I don't think that's entirely subjective - there's something about "Something Relative" that lends itself to such warmth and strong ties to personal memories, and it creates that welcoming atmosphere better than just about any other song I can think of.
47Regina Spektor
Soviet Kitsch

"Us" [2003] - Regina Spektor has a voice unlike any other. She can turn on a dime between breathtaking melodies and quirky, inimitable verses. "Us" is perhaps her most recognizable song, but it's for good reason. The way she uses her voice across the entire song is just unbelievable; it's almost the kind of thing that you just need to hear. The perfect pitch, the range, the variation -- it's just a spectacular vocal showcase, set to fluttering pianos that make the song feel nostalgic but rooted in the present at the same time. If you haven't heard Regina's godly voice yet, then this is the song you need to hear immediately.
46Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

"Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane" [2017] - By my own admission, this is another [mostly] lyrical inclusion, but its admission to this list was already bought and paid for when David Le'aupepe wrote "It’s strange, all the things that I’ve run from / Are the things that completeness could come from". While these are the kinds of priceless ruminations that you can expect, the song itself is a seven and a half minute slow burning rock epic that eventually erupts in all its splendor with a magnificent and incredibly emotive guitar solo. This is a track that will truly make you feel it all...aren't those always the best kinds?
45Snow Patrol
A Hundred Million Suns

"The Lightning Strike" [2008] - Your eyes do not deceive you! Yes, at one time in Snow Patrol's history - slightly post-prime - they wrote a 16-minute multi-suite movement to close out an album, and it was called "The Lightning Strike". The song weaves through three sections: "What If This Storm Ends", ""The Sunlight Through The Flags", and "Daybreak", with each offering a slightly different mood and tempo that vaguely compares a relationship that is on the rocks to weathering a storm: "What if this storm ends and I don't see you / As you are now, ever again? / A perfect halo of gold hair and lightning sets you off against the planet's last dance / Just for a minute, the silver forked sky lifts you up like a star that I will follow...I don't want to run, just overwhelm me". By any pop standards Snow Patrol create gorgeous poetry with this one, and the fact that it's borderline progressive from a songwriting perspective makes this a very rare gem.
44Glen Hansard
This Wild Willing

"Don't Settle" [2019] - Glen Hansard typically fits into the same category as a Damien Rice; you know the type - that singer-songwriter acoustic troubadour with huge feelings. That's why "Don't Settle" is so impressive: it takes those beautiful emotions and sees them slowly boil over to a rage, where Hansard ends up screaming in a Roger Waters circa The Wall type of rock crescendo. It feels like we're witnessing the evolution of a genre before our eyes: from folk, to post-folk. Despite the passion with which Hansard delivers this masterpiece, it's actually quite the uplifting message: "Come on, rise off your knees, you're not beaten yet."

"Ashes" [2021] - If you've ever wondered what a perfect amalgamation of Radiohead, Swans, and Sigur Ros would sound like, then look no further than IRA - and particularly its standout gem "Ashes". "Ashes" is a mind-bending experimental masterpiece, with creepy, scrambled vocals in a made up language that cut in and out of the mix, mysterious electronic/ambient effects along with distant snaps/claps, and a thumping, authoritative electric guitar that is capable of pummeling the unsuspecting listener. This is a terrifying yet beautiful creation, and one that deserves to be lauded alongside the very best of those well-respected artists that I already compared this piece to. In short: it's pure genius.
42Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral

"Closer" [1994] - Some songs just emit sheer swagger. "Closer", with its massive beat and hypnotic rhythm, sounds larger-than-life. In what is arguably the best song that Trent Reznor ever wrote, this song could be the perfect backdrop to some kinky and downright dirty sex, or to watching a comet approach from the top of a mountain. It's just epic in all regards; a landmark song for the industrial genre and one of those instances where innovation and infinite replay value intersect in pure harmony.

"The Lotus Eater" [2009] - I'm not typically one for death metal, but when it's as progressive and unpredictable as "The Lotus Eater", it can make a believer even out of me. It's Opeth, so I most likely don't need to tell you that the vocals are incredible while the instrumentation is technically complex and masterful. But where "The Lotus Eater" earns extra points is in the eerie tonal shift just after the 2 minute mark, the expansive and sweeping prog passage smack dab in the middle of the song, and that dissonant, over-the-top vocal melody at the end of the track. Opeth would later venture too far into progressive waters to their own detriment, but Watershed - and in particular, "The Lotus Eater" - is the perfect intersection between Opeth's death metal days and their prog days. In that sense, there's no other song in Opeth's catalog that combines sheer power, progressive experimentation, and melodic beauty quite like "The Lotus Eater" does.
40Coheed and Cambria
From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness

"Welcome Home" [2005] - How does a song get more epic than "Welcome Home"? It doesn't. So if you're a fan of music that sounds big (like I am), then this immediately becomes one of your all-time favorites, because how can it not? The creative picking in the intro and the way it launches into those explosive drums and the sweepingly urgent electric chords is nothing short of breathtaking, If you're a fan of electric guitars, then the winding, complicated solo at the end is just the icing on the cake. Or if you love a timely "woah oh" group vocalization, then there's that too. "Welcome Home" is simply masterful on all fronts: technically, melodically, songwriting, production...Few songs are "perfect", but it's tempting to throw that word around here.
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

"Death and All His Friends" [2008] - Coldplay captured lightning in a bottle on Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, fusing a very elegant, antiquated atmosphere with contemporary pop songwriting. "Death and All His Friends" is the final song on the album, and it has always felt like something of a rolling credits for life. Chris Martin has never sounded so pensive, and the song's dreamlike production makes the pianos ring with extra clarity and Martin's layered refrain of "I don't want to follow death and all of his friends" sound like he's shouting it from the afterlife. Really though, the song isn't even about dying so much as it is the cycles of hate and revenge related to race, faith, and other factors that follow us between generations and cause continual pain and suffering. By saying he no longer wants to follow them, he's referring to breaking that endless chain. For a Coldplay song, this one always struck me as exceedingly well-executed and surprisingly deep.
38Sigur Ros
( )

"Untitled 3" [2002] - Whenever I listen to ( ), I'm transported to this zen-like alternate reality where the universe is at peace with itself and no wrong can occur. "Untitled 3" is the best representation of that mental state: it's comprised of little more than a simple series of classical piano notes being played on a loop as the ambiance and backing synths gradually grow louder to the point of nearly overtaking the song. Right as that occurs, the pianos change their key to a higher pitch and the entire song feels transformed once again. This is the kind of song that can play in the background of any moment and make it feel like an important memory. I'm not sure if I can think of any other song that is this aesthetically gorgeous -- it's so simple, yet so beautiful.
37Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here

"Wish You Were Here" (1975) - As one of the most obvious classics of all time, I am not immune to the charms of "Wish You Were Here". The acoustics on this track are purely stunning, while Gilmour's vocals are effortlessly moving and the lyrics transcendent. This is one of those tracks where it feels silly to try to sell it because almost everyone has heard it (and loved it) at some point or another. For me, this song represents any feeling of longing for another human soul - a departed friend or family member, a long distance relationship...pretty much anyone you miss. It's a simple interpretation, but the song is so good at evoking that particular feeling that it doesn't really matter. Again, sometimes the simplest ideas bring about the strongest responses, and "Wish You Were Here" is evidence of that.
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

"Wait" [2011] - On "Wait", M83 manage to break your heart in very few words. This is one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, and the chorus throughout the entire song never deviates from the same two words: "No time". The verses are more revealing, but only slightly: "Send your dreams where nobody hides / Give your tears to the tide / There's no end, there is no goodbye / Disappear with the night". Although the song washes over you like a fog of depression, there's a dual meaning here -- it's an observation of life's transience for sure, but it's also a compelling message to move on from whatever ails you because our existence is too short to wallow in self-pity...there's "no time". Songs that deal with life and death are always profound in nature, but "Wait" exposes us to twice the depth in less than half the words.
35The Beach Boys
The Smile Sessions

"Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)" (1967) - This is bound to be an uncommon selection among Beach Boys diehards, so perhaps a little bit of context is in order. I grew up listening to this band's greatest hits (via my parents, of course), so I was overly familiar with their fun-in-the-sun approach. It wasn't until I heard The Smile Sessions that I realized just how ingenious this band actually was, and that their skillset went far, far beyond that of a summertime boy band. "Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)" represents the moment that I came to that realization, from the thunderous drums to the eerie harpsichord and tribal chants. The song's title and lyrics are about the European colonization of Native American lands and the subsequent destruction of their tribes and culture, citing how people in the United States avoid the topic and compare it to "opening a can of worms". In just about every way imaginable, this song was decades ahead of its time.
34Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor's Guide To Earth

"Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)" [2016] - I came to appreciate this song much more after having kids. The entire album is essentially Sturgill's "guide to living" for his own newborn son, and "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)" is a moving overture. It combines country with elements of funk and psychedelia, commencing as a piano-laden ballad before abruptly transitioning into more of a groovy uptempo rocker. My favorite line on the song is when Sturgill sings, "Grandfather always said God's a fisherman / And now I know the reason why" -- a reference to the Biblical concept of being "fishers of men", in which we follow God as our father. In this song's context, Sturgill is saying that there is no love like a father’s love for his son, and as a relatively new dad to two sons of my own, I'd have to agree with that sentiment. Listening to this song while watching them grow up during the Covid era has created an unbreakable bond between me and what this song represents.
33Phoebe Bridgers

"I Know The End" [2020] - 2020 will always be one of the most memorable years of my life, which I'm sure is the case for many of us. While some of these memories were good, most of them were not. It was a year of riots, a new plague, nationalism, contested elections, and insurrections. One would have been forgiven for imagining apocalyptic scenarios at the time, because after all, it did seem like society was falling apart right before our eyes. Some would argue that it continues to this day. "I Know The End" is a song that captures all those feelings in a jar. It's a very calm and serene build-up, winding through scattershot depictions of consumerism, racism, and government technological overreach before Phoebe screams at the top of her lungs into the void, as if releasing decades of pent up rage. It's the last thing anyone would have anticipated from the typically soft-spoken Bridgers, but maybe we need more of that -- artists willing to lift up their voice in dire times.

"Beggars" [2009] - I almost awarded Thrice's inevitable spot on this list to "Anthology", but then I remembered that "Beggars" exists. If you want to talk about modern day poets, Dustin Kensrue was certainly one of the very when he wrote, "All you great men of power, you who boast of your feats / Politicians and entrepreneurs / Can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep? Keep your heart beating steady and sure? / As you lie in your bed does the thought haunt your head / That you're really rather small? / If there's one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all." At its crux, "Beggars" is ultimately about helplessness - a reminder to those who strut and swagger, those who look down on their fellow man - that they're ultimately at the mercy of the whims of the universe. The song moves along to a slow and steady drumbeat reminiscent of the march of time, until the moment culminates in a massive crescendo and guitar solo. Sorry "Anthology", maybe next time.
31Damien Rice
My Favourite Faded Fantasy

"It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" [2014] - I've been in love with the way this song is written from the moment I first laid ears on it eight years ago. Damien Rice's voice is one of a kind and is capable of carrying a song on its own, as we've witnessed on pieces like "The Blower's Daughter" and "The Greatest Bastard", but "It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" elevates the music even further with some of the most elaborate and daring arrangements not only of Rice's career, but in the entire realm of modern folk music. The song is a nine and a half minute slow climb, beginning with somber strings before transitioning to more jarring keys and Rice's juxtaposed/conflicting verses. There's a moment of quiet reflection where pianos and subtle, longing strings once again take center stage, but then the song launches into its pivotal moment -- this breathtaking maelstrom of elaborate symphonic arrangements and Rice's increasingly desperate wails. It's the sound of utter despair.
30Ethereal Shroud

"Chasmal Fires" [2021] - Agalloch may be where my black metal journey began, but Ethereal Shroud is my new favorite artist in the genre. "Chasmal Fires" is an absolutely unreal 28 minutes of soul-scorching beauty, from the stunning viola and those distantly rumbling drum beats during the intro to Jospeph Hawkers' ensuing avalanche of shrill screams. Shannon Greaves chimes in with heavenly guest vocals before the song returns to its dominant, recurring melody. Some may question how a song this new by a relatively unknown artist could possibly rank this high on an all-time 100 songs list, but I challenge anyone with that outlook to listen to this song in its entirety, even if only once, and see if they still feel the need to debate it. Ethereal Shroud really is that good, and "Chasmal Fires" is the kind of song where you can immediately tell that the artist poured their entire soul into it. As it stands, this is the best black metal song I've heard in my entire life.
29Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind

"Motorcycle Drive By" [1997] - Third Eye Blind was something of a one-album wonder for me. While they've certainly written some good songs since their self-titled debut, that was the only work of theirs that I would consider essential. It wouldn't be the classic that it is without "Motorcycle Drive By", though -- an emotive acoustic ballad turned full-fledged rocker that describes an on-again off-again relationship in which the narrator has finally had enough and is ready to cut ties ("And this is our last time / We'll be friends again / I'll get over you, you'll wonder who I am"). The iconic line "I've never been so alone / And I've never been so alive" rings out like an anthem of liberation, as he finds himself freed from this unattainable and ultimately unhealthy involvement. It's a song about breaking up for the better, a rather uplifting sentiment to accompany what people typically view through a lens of despair.
28The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles: "A Day in the Life" [1967] - The Beatles are one of those iconic and untouchable bands where no matter what song you select as their greatest, there will be a mob with angry torches waiting to tell you why you're wrong. Regardless, I feel that "A Day in the Life" embodies all of The Beatles' greatest traits. It's from one of their most creative eras, and the fusion of pop and psychedelia is in full swing. For the song's chaotic climax, they hired an orchestra of 40 musicians and told them they had 24 bars to ascend from the lowest note on their instruments to the highest note closest to E major. The song also closes out to an iconic series of studio chatter consisting of John Lennon saying "never been so high" and Paul McCartney saying "Never could be any other way." The song illustrates some of the most interesting pop experimentation of its time, and is now considered an all-time great as well as one of the single most influential pieces of music ever written.
27David Bowie

David Bowie: "Lazarus" [2016] - It's one thing to mourn the loss of an artist and to have those heightened emotions result in a greater appreciation of their craft -- but it's a whole separate thing for an artist to be aware of their impending demise and work it into their music. That's the case on Bowie's final album, 2016's Blackstar, and particularly on "Lazarus" -- a song that depicts Bowie's suffering at the hands of the cancer that would eventually kill him: "Look up here, I'm in heaven / I've got scars that can't be seen" / "Oh I'll be free...Ain't that just like me?" The song's jazzy downtempo progression leaves the spotlight on Bowie and his voice, as he pours his soul into a track for a record that he knew he may not be around long to witness. Bowie -- always the vibrant artist during his life -- exited his existence in true form, and "Lazarus" serves as an everlasting monument to his legend.
26Alice in Chains
Jar of Flies

Alice in Chains: "I Stay Away" [1994] - Layne Staley has one of the most uniquely powerful voices in the history of music, and I've always felt that "I Stay Away" illustrates that like no other song can. First of all, it's a stark departure from Alice in Chain's typical vibe, taking an acoustic approach over their usual electric grunge/metal one and even implementing a series of haunting strings. The song's atmosphere is a strange blend of aesthetics: on the one hand softer and lusher than we're used to hearing from AIC, but on the other hand quite dark and eerie. It's breathtaking by all accounts, from the pristine acoustics/production and Staley's spine-tingling wails to the unique creative wrinkles in the songwriting that you simply can't find elsewhere in the band's storied discography. "I Stay Away" is a classic song from a classic band -- a no-brainer high-ranking inclusion on this Top 100.
25Queens of the Stone Age
...Like Clockwork

Queens of the Stone Age: "I Appear Missing" [2013] - Whenever someone tries to tell me that rock is dead, all I need to do is point them to Like Clockwork, grin a big wide dumb smile, and say "well, the best rock album of all time came out in 2013." Even if it's a dubious statement at best, it gets a rise out of the opposing arguer every single time. "I Appear Missing" is its epicenter; a 6 minute towering rock piece that features a swelling chorus which grows in intensity with every repetition, surrounded by addictive riffs and a mind-blowing drum-fill/piano interchange. The track reaches its undeniable zenith at the 4:20 mark, and continues right on through to the end with a complicated, wiry riff that's joined in by an echoed, ghostly refrain of "I never loved anything until I loved you". It's everything Queens of the Stone Age have ever been contained within one particular moment of rock mastery; one that I'd argue reaches historic levels of greatness.
24The National
Trouble Will Find Me

The National: "Pink Rabbits" [2013] - The National are no strangers to forlorn, swaying melodies with downtrodden messages, but there's something about this tune in particular that resonates with every emotional fiber in me. It's a breakup song; well yeah, sort of. But it's also about the sting of separation -- which the narrator overcomes -- only to be confronted by the same girl right as he was on the mend: "I was coming back from what seemed like a ruin / I couldn't see you coming so far, I just turn around and there you are / I'm so surprised you want to dance with me now, I was just getting used to living life without you around...". If you've ever had an on-again off-again type of relationship, then "Pink Rabbits" will have the depression, longing, and bittersweet feelings come rushing back in waves. It of course helps that the melody and rhythmic sway of the song is impossible to shake; a classic National "somber sway".
23Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon Iver: "Perth" [2011] - Nothing encapsulates the "Bon Iver aura" to me quite like "Perth." The song inhales fresh rivers and pine, and exhales with the rejuvenating rush of an avalanche rolling down the ice-capped Wisconsin mountainside. When I listen to this song I'm transported straight into the wilderness, which of course, is the essence of Bon Iver. I think what really does me in every time is the transformation at 2:30 - where "Perth" goes from beautiful acoustics to stunningly regal, brass-laden post-rock. I can envision rocks tumbling down the side of a mountain with fervor; clouds rolling across the sky in fast-motion; a blackened sky opening up, giving way to veins of golden lightning. The song is pastoral in context but celestial in sound, an aesthetic clash of the tangible and ethereal that is all too mesmerizing. It envelopes all of Vernon's best qualities as an artist, leaving a jaw-dropping atmosphere in its wake.
22Frightened Rabbit
The Midnight Organ Fight

Frightened Rabbit: "Floating in the Forth" [2008] - In the wake of Scott Hutchison's devastating 2018 suicide, no Frightened Rabbit song hits me harder than "Floating in the Forth" - a song written in 2008 that foreshadowed his death almost exactly one decade in advance. After authorities recovered his body washed up on the banks of the Firth of Forth, lines like "And fully clothed, I float away / Down the Forth, into the sea" have since become gut wrenching to endure, just like his then-optimistic tone of "I think I'll save suicide for another day." As crushing as the song remains, I still like to quote Matt Wolfe's empathetic and understanding viewpoint: "He may have saved more people from an early death than the vast majority of people will in a full life, and he did that in the vice-like grip of a mental illness. That is astonishing. Armed with this knowledge, we can replace the old narrative with a new one. We can focus not on how he died, but on how he stayed alive."
21Tigers on Trains

Tigers on Trains: "A Year in the Garden Shed" [2009] - I'll argue to the end of my time on this site about how Tigers and Trains are one of the best and most criminally overlooked indie-folk acts of all-time. While they've crafted at least one classic in Grandfather, the single song I'd point any non-believers to is "A Year in the Garden Shed", a heartbreaking tale of losing one's father to cancer while watching your family collapse around you in real time: "And you thought love was a bullshit lie / 'Til you saw the tears in your mother's eyes"..."And you drank yourself right down into hell / It was you and God in a cheap motel". The acoustic guitars ring out and echo across this flawlessly produced canvas, holding each word aloft. When both vocalists join in harmony to sing the outro, "Death is not a curse / It's the only thing that's keeping us alive", it feels like a new mantra for living born out of witnessing death firsthand, and coming out of that pain and suffering stronger.
20Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues

"The Shrine/An Argument" [2011] - When it comes to prog-folk, I'm not sure anyone does it better than Fleet Foxes. "The Shrine/An Argument" is a gorgeous example of the heights to which the band can ascend to when they opt for sheer ambition, featuring breathtaking imagery ("Carry me to Innisfree like pollen on the breeze") and even more beautiful vocal harmonies that feel windswept by the song's creative progression. The opening verse/pre-chorus/refrain is as effortlessly stunning as any of Fleet Foxes' greatest individual tracks, and then the song transforms into a propulsive indie-rock piece during the bridge that takes this beyond what anyone might expect. This song laid the groundwork for Crack-Up (Fleet Foxes' best album), but "The Shrine/An Argument" is the best of both worlds: it explores the outer edges of the band's songwriting capabilities, but retains the warm glow of Helplessness Blues. In doing so, it resides in the category of "best indie-folk songs ever written."
Kid A

"The National Anthem" [2000] - Radiohead is one of the greatest experimental bands of all-time. The reason I can say that with such confidence is the curveball they threw their fans with Kid A, when they easily could have satisfied their customers with OK Computer reduxs for the remainder of their career. "The National Anthem", to me, has always been a shining example of Kid A's genius -- a jazz-rock monster exploding with tension and paranoia ("everyone has got the fear"). There have been references to Kid A's prophetic and uncanny parallels to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and "The National Anthem" seems like a soundtrack to the burgeoning, often blind nationalism that followed that horrid day. It's the sound of confusion and panic, and a desperation to cling to structure and order.
18Titus Andronicus
The Monitor

"A More Perfect U nion" [2010] - There's a sense of both urgency and irony here. Whereas in 1838 Abraham Lincoln could wax poetic about a country filled with promise (“As a nation of free men, we will live forever or die by suicide”), Titus Andronicus find themselves singing an entirely different tune 172 years later (“None of us shall be saved, every man will be a slave"). It feels like a commentary on the downfall of the United States, replete with satirical chants of “rally around the flag” and “glory, glory, hallelujah” where each repetition is drained of more emotion than the one prior to it. Atop pounding drum lines and rollicking, rebellious-sounding electric riffs, it is an adrenaline-pumping anthem that defines what punk is supposed to be all about – raw emotion, directed at anything and everything in its path.

"Fin" [2007] - Any fan of indie-rock is probably at least vaguely aware of this song, but those who've heard it know that it is a landmark achievement for the 00s. "Fin" is a harrowing account of alcoholism, abandonment, and struggling with one's faith. It delves into the greed of those who use religion to exploit the less fortunate, condemning mankind as unworthy to carry on God's message: "We’re not questioning God / Just those he chose to carry on His cross.". The production on this track is as flawless as the songwriting, as every acoustic strum shimmers while the piece's unworldly apex and haunting choir section sound utterly massive. "Fin" means "end", which is appropriate because this sounds so huge and important that it feels like a song to end all songs.
16The World Is a Beautiful Place...
Illusory Walls

"Fewer Afraid" [2021] - As the closer to The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die's towering magnum opus Illusory Walls, 'Fewer Afraid' lives up - and possibly even exceeds - the magnitude of its role. As the song ebbs and flows between genre bending prog-emo, lush pockets of indie-rock, and riff-driven post-rock pinnacles, it eventually concludes like a spiritual guide to living in the 2020s: "You cry at the news, I just turn it off, they say there's nothing we can do and it never stops / You believe in a god watching over, I think the world's fucked up and brutal / Senseless violence with no guiding light, I can't live like this, but I'm not ready to die." As the song's winding and adventurous 20 minutes draw to a close, we get the self-referential verse: "The world is a beautiful place, but we have to make it that way." What better advice is there to live by?
15Godspeed You! Black Emperor
F♯ A♯ ∞

"Dead Flag Blues" [1997] - I've always struggled to repeatedly enjoy and listen to post-rock because they often are bloated and forego lyrics (which to me, are always a focal point of the listening experience). "Dead Flag Blues" evades these pitfalls by featuring that now-iconic spoken word passage ("The car's on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel...") which sets the scene brilliantly and engulfs your senses in this wretched, burning post-apocalyptic world. From there, the music can pretty much do no wrong, progressing through barren, hopeless soundscapes that bring the words to life. It's 16 minutes long but only feels half that, as the masterful progression and instrumental variation keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire duration. If the end of the world happens and I somehow survive, this is the only song (or album, for that matter) that would sound appropriate to score the utter carnage.
14Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World: "23" [2004] - Jimmy Eat World has this penchant for just "getting" me, which can't be chalked up to a coincidence when everyone who listens to them feels the same way. When that happens, it's called being an emotionally gifted musician. "23" is a prime example of why fans of this band feel such a strong attachment to them, existing as a towering seven minute emo-rock track that captures what it feels like to be a young adult enduring unbearable heartbreak: "No one else will know these lonely dreams, no one else will know that part of me". It's the fervent earnestness that makes "23" such a heartwrenching song, as frontman Jim Adkins sings of seizing the moment with every ounce of passion in his heart, "You'll sit alone forever if you wait for the right time" while pleading for this person not to leave: "Don't give away the end / The one thing that stays mine". It's soul-shattering and unequivocally moving, but as a companion through pain, is ultimately healing.
A Night at the Opera

Bohemian Rhapsody" [1975] - Here it is! This one's on everyone's Top 100, right? As cliched of a selection as this might seem, it's a stereotype for a reason: it's a really fucking good song. I shouldn't have to explain the merits of Freddie Mercury's voice, which is not even of this world, so I won't. The song unfolds like the grand rock-opera that it is, gradually building to an eccentric piano/choral section that erupts in all its splendor with a rock n' roll breakdown for the ages. I'm sure the song's radio exposure and overall popularity has ruined this unquestionable masterpiece for some, but I simply can't allow factors outside of the band's control to taint it for me. This is one of the greatest rock songs of all-time, full stop.
12The Who
Who's Next

"Behind Blue Eyes" [1971] - This may be something of a personal pick, although I'm well aware that the song was and still is a massive hit. To me, this felt like my introduction to sadboi emo music before it was actually a thing. I related to the song on many levels as an outsider in middle school and high school who never quite fit in, and the boiling-beneath-the-surface rage struck a chord with me because I never felt like I had an outlet for my own anger. "Behind Blue Eyes" almost became my own personal theme song (hey, maybe you can guess my eye color now!), and the fact that The Who could do no wrong at this phase of their career just means that I attached all of these feelings of alienation and self-doubt to one of the best classic rock songs ever made. When the electric guitars kick in and this goes into full rock mode, I still get a chill up my spine. This is just one of those songs that happens to be relatable and perfectly written, all in a tidy sub-4 minute package.

"Supper's Ready" [1972]" - Genesis has always been one of my favorite bands, but I never really appreciated "Supper's Ready" until I was a bit older and had refined my musical tastes a bit (if I can say so) to the point of being able to appreciate a 23 minute prog expedition. "Supper's Ready" is a complex and winding journey, but it's more than just a prog flex -- you can really feel the heart in lines like "Hey my baby, don't you know our love is true?" and the urgency in verses like "666 is no longer below / He's getting out the marrow in your backbone / And the seven trumpets blowing." When Genesis reaches the finale of this epic tune, they sound absolutely heavenly. If you're a casual fan of the band and have only heard the radio hits, be sure to check out their actual best work -- "Supper's Ready" is a towering example of Genesis, and the entire progressive genre, at it's peak.
Sing the Sorrow

AFI: "...but home is nowhere / This Time Imperfect" [2003] - It's debatable if "...but home is nowhere" and "This Time Imperfect" should count as the same song considering that the latter is a hidden track on the former, but I'm willing to state this thing's case either way. "...but home is nowhere" feels like a dramatic curtain-call to a tragic play, and Davey Havok proves how tremendously underrated he is as a lyricist: "Discarnate, preternatural / My prayers to disappear / Absent of grace, marked as infernal / Ungranted in dead time and left me disowned / To this nature, so unnatural / I remain alone." It's "The Spoken Word" that makes this a top 10 song in my book however, featuring a poem about a couple affected by an unnamed impending doom. In the poem, the male narrator ages a little more with each new verse, from a little boy to an elderly man. "This Time Imperfect" then closes things out with Havok's terrifyingly morbid slow-burner. This entire sequence is bone-chilling.
9Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan: "Desolation Row" [1965] - This 11 minute folk epic is arguably Dylan's best song. At the time of release, it was easily his most ambitious piece, and the mysterious characters in this made-up location have made for endless philosophical debating. Why are these particular people in Desolation Row? What do they have in common? There's a good chance that all of this was intentionally ambiguous as to invite such speculation, but Dylan's poetic lyricism and impassioned delivery make it the perfect story to tell. With gorgeous acoustic picking and rustic harmonica providing the perfect "quaint/rural" backdrop, you'd almost be forgiven for wondering if you've ever been to Desolation Row yourself. This is an absolute masterclass in songwriting, from arguably the best to ever do it.
8Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV

Led Zeppelin: "Stairway to Heaven" [1971] - Ah, the "greatest song of all-time" according to all of our dads. Well, even if I don't have it ranked as my own #1, I still say honor thy father, because this song is pure gold. "Stairway to Heaven" is a beautiful, mysterious, ominous, and powerful rock n roll epic - one which feels torn between the Earthly world we inhabit, and some ethereal spiritual realm akin to Tolkien's Middle Earth. Robert Plant delivers the vocal performance of his career, and Jimmy Page's guitar solos are equally moving. Of course, everyone is familiar with the masterful breakdown that this piece culminates in ("And as we wind on down the road / Our shadows taller than our soul..."). There's something magical about the aura that this one carries, and even if I didn't grow up in the 70s, I can still appreciate this as an unquestionable rock masterpiece. Some may call this song flawless, and honestly, I'm not one to disagree.
7King Crimson
In the Court of the Crimson King

"In the Court of the Crimson King" [1969] - This is one of the birthplaces of "prog" music as we know it, and it also just might be the best. "In the Court of the Crimson King" is utterly brilliant in every conceivable way, reinventing music as people knew it at the time across a sprawling and varied musical landscape. The atmosphere possesses this stately, regal air that's befitting of the song title, and it's thanks in large part to the epic-sounding drum sequences, the choral "aah" hums, and the gorgeous synths. There's also a lush, fluttering, mystical aura thanks to the pan flutes and the playful way in which the song progresses from one sequence to the next. We have this song (and album) to thank for the future of prog, and while many superb artists would go on to carry King Crimson's legacy, nothing - for me - has ever been able to match this song's 10 minutes of stunning, entrancing beauty.
6Simon and Garfunkel
Sounds of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel: "The Sound of Silence" [1966] - "The Sound of Silence" is one of the most beautifully dark folk songs ever recorded. The track lends itself to a broad range of interpretations, but my favorite is that it is a premonition about the emergence of technology and how it diminishes human interaction: "People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening"..."And the people bowed and prayed / To the neon god they made." Others interpret it more simply, as merely a sad song about isolation and breakdown in communications within a relationship -- and then there's some who literally heed it as an apocalyptic warning ("And the sign said, 'The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls"). That's the thing about great art; it can be perceived so many ways, and all of them are legitimate to the listener. "The Sound of Silence" is pure art; a beautiful melody set to deep poetry.
Ride the Lightning

Metallica: "Fade to Black" [1984] - "Fade to Black" has never had much competition as my all-time favorite song from metal or any of its subgenres. It's both a terribly depressing and utterly gorgeous song, with suicidal thoughts ("Emptiness is filling me, to the point of agony...Need the end to set me free") residing alongside breathtakingly eloquent guitar picking. The cascading electric guitars during the bridge and the subsequent complex, winding solo is the reason I fell in love with Metallica - and to some extent, any form of metal. I also have a highly personal attachment to this track, as it was the absolute favorite song of a best friend of mine who passed away at a very young age in a car accident. Musically and personally, I'm forever tied to "Fade to Black".
4Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz

"Impossible Soul" [2010] - I've always seen "Impossible Soul" as a mini-album in and of itself. After all, it's more of a collection of movements than it is one drawn-out song idea. It begins as this somber/electronic/dehumanized ballad, and gradually adds layers of warmth. By the second "movement", you can hear more audacious synthesizers zipping through the background, while Sufjan self-harmonizes to make it sound like he's no longer in isolation. Eventually, it erupts into this celebratory dance ("we can do much more together" / "it's not so impossible") that quakes with unbridled optimism. There are numerous interpretations of what the song could mean, ranging from Stevens' sexuality to Biblical allusions, but to me it's just about the general trials and triumphs encountered in life. Everyone's path contains unique challenges, and "Impossible Soul" is about realizing yours, empowering your mind, and overcoming them. After all, nothing is impossible.
Pale Horses

"Rainbow Signs" [2015] - "Rainbow Signs" is one of the most intense and terrifying moments in mewithoutYou's catalog. It foreshadows a nuclear apocalypse brought forth by the four horsemen and a "scarecrow lord": the sky disappears, mountains/islands are uprooted and moved, and the sun goes completely dark. There may not really be a Scarecrow Lord - or four horsemen ready to lead the charge against Earth - but that doesn't make the threat of such overt destruction any less ominous. Such power in the wrong hands could make any world leader a horseman in the modern era, when technological/militaristic capabilities could eliminate an entire country in a matter of days. mewithoutYou understood that way back in 2015, and "Rainbow Signs" was a particularly stern warning that the end could be rapidly approaching unless society changes course. Looking around in 2022, a "Rainbow Signs" scenario now seems more likely than ever. It's a chilling song about the undoing of humanity, by humanity.
2Brand New
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

Brand New: "Jesus" [2006] - For most of my adult life, I cited this as my all-time favorite song. I spent most of my teens and 20's grappling with my own faith, and "Jesus" was the only song that really captured that struggle. The ambiguity between blasphemy and direct communication when Lacey sings "Jesus Christ" is intriguing on its own, but I like to think of this as something of an open letter to God. Lacey admits that he's not the kind of person that Jesus would save ("I know you're coming for the people like me") but also seems to acknowledge God's unquestioned power with lines like "I swear I’ll try to nail you back up / So do you think that we could work out a sign / So I’ll know it's you and that it's over so I won't even try." This is one of the most powerful confessional tracks I've heard, with existential, religious, and moral implications unparalleled in most modern music. There are few songs that I can claim have legitimately changed my life, but this is one.
1Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface

Manchester Orchestra: "The Silence" [2017] - "The Silence" is a monumental track, covering the implications of life and death, but specifically through the scope of being a father. Andy Hull sings to his daughter, "Little girl, you are cursed by my ancestry", and manages to perfectly capture how one's life changes when - suddenly - another life becomes more important than your own: "I can not only see, but you stopped me from blinking / Let me watch you as close as a memory / Let me hold you above all the misery". On ABMTTS' opener "The Maze", Hull sings "There is nothing I've got when I die that I keep". On this closer, "The Silence", he comes full circle: "There is nothing you keep, there is only your reflection." This song was released in 2017, and as a new father in 2019 and 2021, there is no longer anything that even comes close to registering with me on the level of "The Silence" -- no, not even "Jesus" ;-)
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