Following is a list of some of my personal favorite songs. These are songs which have stood out from the rest in my mind, for some reason or other, most often simply because they're insanely catchy. I list them here for the sole purpose that other people with tastes like mine might discover great songs they haven't heard before.
Before I begin, it should be noted that almost all of these songs are of the hard rock/heavy metal genre. This is simply because of my tastes; I like music with some bite to it. I do not, however, enjoy talentless screaming. The music here is not simply noise; I appreciate melody in music more than anything, and as any student of music can tell you, music is chiefly made of two things: Melody and rhythm. My favorite kind of music is that which effectively mixes these two. Some of the music here is loud. Some of it is discordant. Some of it is ugly. But most of it is beautiful, in some way or another. However, I realize that a great many people will not share my tastes, so nobody can guarantee that you'll like many (or any) of these works. Please don't feel that I'm a metalhead kid who can't appreciate finer music; My second-favorite genre of music after rock/metal is classical. I love Grieg, Vivaldi, Beethoven, etc. It's just that I listen to music for the way it makes me feel, and nothing elicits a feeling quite like hard rock.
In the list below, some songs are commented. However, in many cases, the music speaks for itself, and no other words are necessary.
They're listed in approximate order of how much I like them, from my favorite to my least favorite. Of course, tastes are changeable, and it may well be that one day I might like one song better than another, and the next day, vice-versa. C'est la vie, no?
"Burden In My Hand", Soundgarden Years after I first heard it, I still can't get this tune out of my head. Is it the beautiful, faintly blues-like strains of guitar it begins with? The driving chords of the chorus? Or the beautiful, otherworldly vocals? All of the above.
"Villains", Verve Pipe I'll admit, I'm a sucker for haunting guitar. But when said guitar is joined with a well-organized combination of haunting keyboard and haunting drums, you have a winner. The first 60 seconds of this song are what make it stand out, of course, although the rest is good too.
"Overfloater", Soundgarden Under-hyped song from Down On The Upside which should have been released as a single. One of the best examples of Soundgarden's tendency to rip into blistering choruses from slow, sweet, melodic verses. The final transition into the last chorus is one of the most powerful climaxes I've ever heard.
"Blind Dogs", Soundgarden Only ever released on the soundtrack to The Basketball Diaries, it's at once melancholy and creepy, but beautiful, with a stunning guitar interlude and closing lines. (OK, I'm sorry for putting this many Soundgarden songs this close to the top, but what can I say? They made three of my favorite songs.)
"Greasy Jungle", The Tragically Hip
"Lightning Crashes", Live
"Rooster", Alice In Chains
"Novocaine For The Soul", Eels A short, strange song which was a hit for literally about one week; Beautiful chorus, the song is sad even though it sounds happy.
"I Got Id", Pearl Jam
"Gone Away", Offspring
"Black Hole Sun", Soundgarden Soundgarden's most famous hit has a very simple tune, but it's also powerful.
"Forty-Six And Two", Tool A perfect example of a song which blends melody with crunch, exploding from a haunting opening into a chord-heavy chorus. Instantly appealing, and potent.
"What The Hell Have I", Alice In Chains One of AIC's best songs, despite the fact that it was only available on the soundtrack to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero until AIC's best-of CD, Nothing Safe, years later. Faintly middle-Eastern guitar setup, and a good solid chorus.
"Geek Stink-Breath", Green Day A short, sharp punk ditty. Yes, it's juvenile, but just too catchy to resist. A guilty pleasure.
"Hearts, Love, And Honor", Headstones My personal favorite from this ill-exposed group, it's a medium-paced, wistful blues-rocker with sweet guitar and a refrain with just enough grind in it.
"My Friends", Red Hot Chili Peppers A song quite unlike mainstream RHCP... Pensive, acoustic guitar-heavy and beautiful, in a faintly disturbing way.
"Sunday", Lo-Pro Simply a perfect song. What a shame that the incredibly promising Lo-Pro ended being a one-hit wonder.
"Carnival", Natalie Merchant
"Flagpole Sitta", Harvey Danger
"Nothing Else Matters", Metallica I suppose it says something that this is my favorite Metallica song, eh? Yes, I don't really care much for them when they're bloated and raving, but they strike a high note when they're soft.
"Doesn't Remind Me", Audioslave As one of the world's biggest Soundgarden fans, I guess it figures that my favorite Audioslave song would be the one that most resembles a Soundgarden song.
"Beautiful", Christina Aguilera When Christina Aguilera first burst onto the scene with her big hit "Genie In A Bottle", she was labeled as another ditzy pop princess, which is exactly what that song made her out to be. Now that playing up her sex appeal has made her famous, however, we find that this is actually a woman who has some serious talent, and this song showcases that very well. Not only does her voice take on an almost inhuman perfection worthy of the best divas, but the tune, which is basically soft jazz-pop, is achingly beautiful. Man, is this an awesome song; If more softer songs could be this good, I wouldn't be listening to hard rock all the time.
"Bang And Blame", R.E.M.
"Three Angels", Headstones
"No Excuses", Alice In Chains AIC certainly know how to rock hard, and they did so for much of their early career, gaining fame with the very heavy "Man In The Box" and later the excellent "Rooster" (which is also on this list). But AIC took a different turn on their album Jar Of Flies; When the heavy chords are over and you feel like something a little more soothing, JOF is actually a rather nice CD that's easier to listen to. Although it has numerous notable tracks on it, "No Excuses" is by far the best-known, with a cheerful (if somewhat tuneless) strummy mood. You can't help but feel a little something when you hear this song.
"In Hiding", Pearl Jam Nice vocals, but what really makes this song stand out is the absolutely stellar guitar parts that connect it together.
"Gotta Get Away", Offspring
"The World I Know", Collective Soul
"We Appreciate Power", Grimes
"Greg! The Stop Sign!!", TISM Underrated Australian band TISM were always about blending a dark sense of humor with wry social commentary, but Machiavelli and the Four Seasons was generally considered the band's magnum opus, and this incredibly catchy dance-pop track is literally and figuratively the centerpiece of the album, with its irresistible melody which belies its theme of the futility of life. For anyone confused by the title: The song is not about a stop sign named Greg; the title of the song is being screamed by a car passenger who is about to die because the driver has just accidentally driven through a stop sign. The point of the song is simple: You might die in an accident tomorrow and humanity might die out in the near future, but even if neither of these things happen, what's the point anyway? Like much of TISM's music, the song thus highlights the seemingly-irreconcilable paradox of having to choose to do something meaningful with one's life in order to not be a waste of opportunity despite the fundamental reality that none of it will matter in the end either way.
"Shadow of the Season", Screaming Trees
"Today", Smashing Pumpkins The Pumpkins were an over-hyped band, in my opinion. This was partly because I simply did not like Billy's rasping, almost slimy voice, and also because I hated most of their pretentious music. However, "Siamese Dream" was a good CD, with a few really outstanding songs. This is one.
"Cumbersome", Seven Mary Three
"Just Go", Staind
"My Ruin", Sevendust
"The Fragile", Nine Inch Nails
"6 Underground", Sneaker Pimps
"Why I'm Here", Oleander
"Fine Again", Seether
"Leech", Eve 6
"Comfortably Numb", Pink Floyd
"Afternoons And Coffee Spoons", Crash Test Dummies Still my favorite song from one of my favorite bands. It's cheery, jaunty, and weird.
"Waste", Smash Mouth If you're thinking at this point, "I doubt Smash Mouth could ever produce anything worth listening to," think again. This standout song's guitar is oddly "oldies"-sounding, from the 50s or 60s, yet the mood is both cheerful and wistful (in a way that oldies rock rarely is), with a melodic interlude that's just too delightfully harmonic to resist.
"Winners and Losers", Social Distortion Although Social Distortion have always made great music, most of their songs tend to be a bit too samey to stand out. This one stands out for me because even for a band known for its unflinching look at the dark side of life, this song is particularly hard-hitting in its soul-seeking honesty. Every time the chorus asks "Are you happy now with all the choices you've made?", I have to fight to keep the tears from coming down.
"Leader Of Men", Nickelback It's nice when a really good rock song gets popular. This one did.
"The Bazaar", The Tea Party
"Unknown Rider", Second Coming
"Turn The Page", Metallica Another of those rare cases where a cover of a song is better than the original.
"Knights of Cydonia", Muse In a world that has mostly forgotten about rock music, it's hard to underestimate the importance of a band like Muse, which not only plays good rock music, but consistently innovative and groundbreaking rock music. This track is not just a great song, it's a call back to the 1990s, when music was still creative, and you could turn on the radio and hear something like you'd never heard before.
"Spark", Tori Amos A good song with an absolutely standout break, one of the best examples of somebody rocking out with a piano you'll ever hear.
"So Gently We Go", I Mother Earth Better known for their later, more radio-friendly hits like "One More Astronaut" and "Another Sunday", IME's best song was this relatively-forgotten track from their debut album. The build-up takes a while, but boy, is the payoff worth it.
"Swamped", Lacuna Coil
"Heart-Shaped Box", Nirvana Yes, Nirvana was over-hyped, but they did produce some genuinely great music. If you don't enjoy this song, you're probably just bigoted.
"Keep Away", Godsmack
"Asking For It", Hole
"I Lie In The Bed I Make", Brother Cane
"Angie", The Rolling Stones The saddest song of the 1970s... and thus the most beautiful.
"Danananana", Rainbow Butt Monkeys
"Right Where It Belongs", Nine Inch Nails Quite possibly the best song Nine Inch Nails has ever done, this is a gorgeous "questioning all of existence" piece with great music and lyrics. The irony is that if you listen to it a few times, you'll quickly realize that there really isn't much to it at all; the song is so simple it sounds like it could have been written in about 5 minutes, yet it's worth paying attention to for longer than that. NIN has calmed down a lot since the days of "Closer", and it's definitely for the better; their music has become more listenable and meaningful in almost every way. If this song had come out at a time when music was still good, it would have been just a good song, but considering that it came out in 2005 (the date of release of With Teeth, the album it's on), it's practically a historical event. Truly a testament that even in the 21st century, less is sometimes more.
"Hotel California", Eagles Sure, it's most notable for its epic guitar outro, but the rest of the song is great, too.
"Avant Gardener", Courtney Barnett Courtney Barnett is Generation Z's Alanis Morissette. She stumbles her way through heartfelt, awkward confessionals where the syncopation often just doesn't quite work due to her efforts to cram too many syllables into one line... and yet the results just consistently come out sounding great. Her deadpan delivery and laconic lyrics make for a standout experience if you appreciate a healthy dose of cynical irony with some great guitarwork. This song is Exhibit A.
"Bullet The Blue Sky", U2 I also never liked U2 very much; Sure they had spirit, but what good is that when the music is boring? Still, this is a pretty powerful (if somewhat cacophonous) work which can still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
"Waking Up", Elastica
"Don't Wake Daddy", Tragically Hip
"All Hail Me", Veruca Salt
"Novacane", Beck Blown. Away. That's how I felt the first time I heard this song. It flows several times between different types of sounds, all of them awesome--beginning with a mellow guitar riff, proceeding into a brief burst of Beck-trademark grating harmonica before getting down to business with a serious electric guitar backing and characteristically vocoded lyrics. This isn't a perfect song by any means; it suffers from the usual Beck problems of way too many annoying, random sound effects and relying too heavily on a repetitive rap verse structure, but the way the middle of the song is framed by the beginning and end is a simply stunning study in contrasts. (The last 60 seconds or so of the track, however, are entirely ignorable, essentially some weird burst of noise that follows what should have been the end of the song. And yes, the namesake painkiller of this song is properly spelled Novocaine(tm), but that's not how the song title is spelled.)
"Street Spirit", Radiohead
"Hurt", Nine Inch Nails Another over-hyped band makes a great song that ends up being lost among their better-known horrible tunes. Johnny Cash actually covered this song, and did a great job of it; Check that out too, and if you like it, also check out Johnny's cover of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage".
"#1 Crush", Garbage A love song gone horribly wrong. It agonizingly relates the raw, searing pain of obsession.
"Truth Untold", Odds
"Open Up Your Eyes", Tonic
"Baton Rouge", Nixons
"Love You All", 54-40
"Like Suicide", Soundgarden
"463", Buck 65 Arguably the best song off what is arguably the preeminent Canadian-Maritimer-country-boy-turned-folk-rapper's best album. Of course, I'm biased since I like the rock guitars at the end of this track, but even though Buck 65 doesn't quite have the rhythm down and his lyrics sometimes jumble together without flowing particularly well, that ends up being part of his charm; his simple earnestness comes through in both the music and the lyrics. You can't deny that he puts his heart into this song in a way that few rappers do.
"Ashes to Ashes", Faith No More A band known for its eccentric mashup of rock, funk, and hip-hop produced a number of songs which were notable for their innovation, and better-known singles like "Midlife Crisis" and "Last Cup of Sorrow" produced catchy sing-along choruses that made up for their mumbled verses, but this is the only song the band produced which makes me want to get out of my seat with excitement at how good it sounds. As FNM's bassist Billy Gould once declared: "It was one of those songs that just clicked, one of those songs that we do most naturally. That's our sound." Good thing it is, too. Another band from Mike Patton called Mr. Bungle also had a nice song called "Pink Cigarette" which eventually inspired this wonderful fan-made video.
"Pepper", Butthole Surfers Another of those little ditties that just grabs you with its infectious chorus.
"Planet Caravan", Black Sabbath Like no other Black Sabbath song... and that's a good thing.
"Creatures (For a While)", 311 The perfect song for when you feel energetic but apathetic at the same time.
"Four Big Speakers", Whale And yet another. Whale makes weird electronica-esque music that tends to be good. (Ignore their best-known hit, "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe".) This is a dance track with a groove that just gets more irresistable every time you listen to it.
"Engel", Rammstein Forget "Du Hast," *this* was the real awesome single off Sehnsucht.
"Let Forever Be", The Chemical Brothers
"Scary Monsters", David Bowie Is it just me, or is there a decidedly Gothic quality to the melody here?
"Hey Man, Nice Shot", Filter Filter's big hit, and they earned it, even if they never did quite come out with anything else to match it.
"Times Like These", Foo Fighters The Foos have had quite a run. What started off as a novelty act, interesting only because it was the project of ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, became one of the last bastions of rock music in the 2010s and 2020s as rock music faded from mainstream popularity, replaced by hip-hop and dance pop. Although I've always found the Foo Fighters' songs to have a spotty record when it comes to quality, I can't deny the heart-touching beauty of this little song. Released in America's darkest hour, about a year after the shattering terrorist attacks of September 11 which changed America as we knew it, the mixed uncertainty and hopefulness apparent here were a message the world urgently needed to hear at the time... and today.
"The Ghost Of Tom Joad", Rage Against The Machine The powerful tale of urban woe, rendered in Rage's inimitable style of rap-metal. Almost every line in this song is memorable, beginning with "Man walks along a railroad track..." and ending with "You'll see me!" It's certainly better than the half-hearted, over-politically-charged material that later shot RATM to superstardom, but the lyrics (which are the song's most powerful point) are not Rage's own; this is actually a cover of a song by Bruce Springsteen. The lyrics are the same, but the contrast between the two musical styles is about as stark as could be imaginable: Springsteen's version is rendered in his trademark quiet, soft-spoken style with little musical accompaniment other than some gentle guitar strumming and harmonica, while Rage's cover (as one might expect from RATM) is full of bass riffs and hits like a sledgehammer. Which approach to this subject matter makes for a more powerful, more effective song? Listen to both versions, then decide for yourself. (Of course, Tom Joad is neither Springsteen's nor Rage's creation, but rather a character from The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck's most famous novel.)
"Sabotage", Beastie Boys One of the best tracks the B-Boys ever did, and the video for this track, a homage to cop shows of the 70s (and filled with appropriately 70s-esque car chases and intrigue scenes) is also one of the most-praised music videos ever made. This is a good driving song; a fitting track to crank up as you're heading onto the freeway.
"Still Frame", Trapt
"Spiders", System Of A Down
"The Distance", Cake
"Somebody Someone", Korn
"Enter My Mind", Drain STH
"Loser", Beck OK, stop groaning. Yeah, it's a dumb song, but the famous line "Soy un perdedor..." is sung with a detached apathy that you can feel.
"Role Model", Enimen As you've probably noticed by now, I don't listen to rap much. However, Eminem is funny, and this track is one of his best.
"Swamp Thing", The Grid I don't much listen to mindless electronica with repetitive, meaningless lyrics, but I like this song, possibly because of the strange counterpoint it creates. (Banjos in a dance track? Uh, OK...)
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