40. Deftones - Knife Prty
I have to admit that I have a pretty heavy bias when it comes to this album--as the old cliche goes, "this album got me through some tough times." I have a lot of very emotional memories attached to this disc but I promise that didn't influence me in picking this song (too much). This song is just such an emotional ride and features some impressive drum work by Abe Cunningham. The epic, swirling ending featuring the chilling vocal performance of Rodleen Getsick gives me goosebumps every time. Just such a powerful, epic, haunting, borderline disturbing song by one of my favorite bands since high school, I had to give it a spot on the countdown.
39. Dredg – The Canyon Behind Her
To say this is the most epic song in the diverse Dredg catalog is a far bigger compliment than you might even realize. I've always thought Dredg was one of the most underrated bands I had ever heard. Every time I show this band to someone they're always blown away by how beautiful, unique, and moving their music is and yet they never really seem to garner the audience they deserve, never really fitting into a particular niche or scene. The title of this song is very fitting because as soon as it kicks in you can feel the sensation of standing at the edge of a great canyon looking over the scenery. The epic, flowing melodies of the guitars blanket you like a massive waterfall and then drop you into outer space with a characteristically (for this album, anyway) quicker-paced spacey verse before letting you fall back to earth into the waterfall. The towering final moments of the song are accentuated by an ethereal choral arrangement that ends up being the last thing you hear before cutting off abruptly, completing the journey.
38. The Mars Volta - Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)
I often have a hard time deciding whether I prefer At the Drive-In's swan song "Relationship of Command" or The Mars Volta's full-length debut "De-Loused in the Comatorium." Generally it depends on whether I'm in the mood for raw, irrepressible emotion or well-developed melodies and epic prog-rock atmospheres. The Mars Volta also tends to be a band that tries a little too hard sometimes and gets lost in their own sprawling prog sensibilities, especially on the albums that followed their debut full length. This song is The Mars Volta at their best with flowing, dynamic songwriting marked by a towering chorus and some brilliant musicianship in the bridge, especially by drummer Jon Theodore.
37. Baroness - Wailing Wintry Wind
Baroness is a band unlike any other you'll ever hear and, as a result, possibly one of the most accessible and without question one of the most unique metal bands currently in existence. I know some of you might find it hard to believe you would ever like a band that could be referred to as "metal" but Baroness is the furthest thing from your typical metal band. They manage to pack everything from massive stoner rock riffs to beautifully serene melodic guitar harmonies to classic rock noodling and rhythms and more into each song they craft--and I do mean craft. "Wailing Wintry Wind" is compelling for its snowballing progression from the hushed atmospheric tones of the intro to the snare-driven build-up that teases you by dropping into an uneasy sounding plucked guitar line before really going into high gear. Baroness's unique talent for dynamics is especially prevalent throughout this song, which is almost bereft of any scathing metal riffs or guttural growls, opting instead for deep, gravelly, bombastic vocal melodies and atmospheric tones that are as mesmerizing as they are moving.
36. The Hold Steady - Southtown Girls
And so we come to our first repeat offender on the list, The Hold Steady. I saw The Hold Steady live in Orlando in December of 2006 and was kind of blown away by how phenomenal they were live. Full of the energy and exuberance that flows forth from many of the tracks on "Boys and Girls in America"--and it was only fitting that they played almost every song from that album which is so chock full of joyous, anthemic choruses. This was the last song they played before the encore and couldn't have been a more fitting close for their initial set--it also closes out the "Boys and Girls in America album--and when you hear it, you'll understand why. Craig Finn's poignant crooning of "southtown girls won't blow you away...but you know that they'll stay" is impossible to resist singing along to--even if you don't know the words...which you do now. That impeccably catchy line is followed by an equally catchy guitar riff ushering in the verse of the song, however it pales in comparison to the catchy-ness of the chorus which will be stuck in your head for days to come: "southtown girls won't blow you away...but you know that they'll stay"
35. The Bouncing Souls - Gone
The first (and by FAR the best) time I saw The Bouncing Souls live, singer Greg Attonito prefaced this song by saying "this is for anyone who's ever gone through a hard time in life...just remember it gets better and tomorrow the sun will rise...this song is about that, it's called Gone." That's this song in a nutshell; the triumphant closing song of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" is one of the most uplifting, most powerful, and easily one of the best pop punk songs I've ever heard (there are only two pop punk songs ahead of this one on the list. Attonito's ultra powerful pipes carry the soaring melody of "It was a darkness all my own...a song played on the radio...it went straight to my heart...I carried it with me until the darkness was...GOOOOOOOOONE"--that elongated "gone" signifying one of the most powerful, infectious hooks I've ever heard. If you didn't think pop punk could be beautiful, you need to hear this song.
34. Outkast - Ms. Jackson
Repeat artist #2. Another in a long line of infectious Outkast hits with a ridiculously catchy beat, an even more ridiculously catchy chorus (sang in a weirdly endearing out-of-tune wail) complete with Andre and Big Boi's brilliant, passionate lyrics. This song has a unique soulfulness to it that almost reminds me of Bone Thugs's "Tha Crossroads" and gives the track a timeless quality. When all these elements combine they make for an absolutely unforgettable song.
33. Bright Eyes - Something Vague
Lyrically, it would be tough to find a better song in the Bright Eyes catalog than this, which is really saying something. The vividness of Conor Oberst's storytelling is never so brilliantly accentuated as it is here as the song almost plays out like a miniature film in your head. When he wails "and then the bridge disappears and i'm standing on air with nothing holding me" I can really visualize myself standing, in that moment, on an old medieval bridge that has suddenly disappeared--as a matter of fact, I can't not imagine that. And those flutes. Oh, those flutes. Conor Oberst never fails to disappoint when he decides to take you on a journey through his whimsical mind.
32. Radiohead - Knives Out
Sadly nestled in one of Radiohead's most overlooked albums (and although some consider it a collection of b-sides from Kid A, the band has said the two albums should be considered "twins separated at birth"...and honestly it is a phenomenal album that has some brilliant tracks like "You and Whose Army?", "Pyramid Song", "I Might Be Wrong", and others), "Knives Out" is a song about cannibalism. It's not hard to imagine, with lines such as "So knives out...Cook him up...Squash his head...Put him in the pot." Radiohead's unique talent for unsettling atmospheric chord progressions is very apparent in this song, and perhaps fittingly, considering the subject matter. If Amnesiac really were to be consider a b-sides collection from the Kid A sessions then I would think this would be a song that Radiohead would be kicking themselves for not including on Kid A.
31. Eminem - Stan
I had never even heard the Dido song that this beat was sampled from before I heard this song. When I checked out the Dido song after learning of what song it was, I was pretty disappointed that it didn't live up to the dark, sweet melancholy of that clip from the verse and certainly of this entire song. A very compelling and poignant (if a tad egotistical) concept for this song really accentuated that darkness in the melodies of Dido and made for an extremely powerful song. What really put it over the top was a pretty intense music video featuring a pretty decent performance from Devon Sawa as the crazed fan.