1 - “Green Thoughts” – The Smithereens, Green Thoughts (1988)
This track is one of my favorite album-closers of all time, and I was thrilled when they played it at the Wells Street Festival in Chicago last summer. Clever chord changes, often on syncopated beats, and poppy melodies make this song memorable.
2 – “Tomorrow” – Stone Temple Pilots, High Rise EP (2013)
My favorite song off their new EP with Chester Bennington, STP sounds remarkably close to how they did in their mid-1990s prime. Bennington provides a killer melody that gives hope for more great STP music in the future. Hopefully the wait won’t be too long.
3 – “No Matter What” – Badfinger, No Dice (1970)
When Badfinger came out, they were often associated with the Beatles. They were signed by the Beatles’ Apple label, used the same engineer to record, and even had Paul McCartney write and produce their first big hit, “Come and Get It.” This original song sounds as if Lennon and McCartney could have written it in 1964, and the vocal’ harmonies make it irresistibly Beatlesque.
4 – “Thirteen” – Big Star, #1 Record (1972)
Some people might recognize this song from That 70’s Show. Big Star is another band that I think did not have the best luck and should have been much, much bigger than they were. “Thirteen” features two beautifully woven acoustic guitars, unforgettable melodies, and lyrics that perfectly capture the innocence of being a teenager with a crush. It’s a perfect song to put on when you’re driving home after a night out.
5 – “Fall at Your Feet” – Crowded House, Woodface (1991)
It pains me that Australian band Crowded House has never truly made it in America. Neil Finn (vocals, guitar) has always had a song-writing style that distinguished him from everyone else. “Fall at Your Feet” is one of many standout tracks on Woodface, which was listed at Number 3 in the book 100 Best Australian Albums. It gives some insight into why Paul McCartney once labeled Finn as the best songwriter in the world.
6 – “Everybody Have a Good Time” – The Darkness, Hot Cakes (2012)
Taken from 2012’s Hot Cakes, which reunited all of the band’s original members, this track gives some insight into why I think they are one of the most enjoyable hard rock bands in the world right now. The falsetto vocals and funny lyrics that set them apart from other rock bands are still very prevalent. It’s a shame they aren’t more popular in the States; they certainly put on a great live show.
7 – “Leave” – Glen Hansard, Once (2007)
On this song from the soundtrack to the must-see film Once, Glen Hansard delivers one of the most strikingly emotional performances in a folk song I have ever heard. It starts off soft, but the intensity builds with the writer’s agitation as the story progresses. This whole soundtrack is worth buying, and “Leave” just might give you goose bumps the first couple times you hear it.
8 – “Political Scientist” – Ryan Adams, Love is Hell (2004)
Though he is generally labeled alt-country, Ryan Adams is one of those guys who can fit into a lot of genres. “Political Scientist” is a very nice piano-driven piece complemented perfectly by Adams’ “haven’t slept in days” vocal style. It’s worth listening to it for the electrified bridge in the middle, which comes at the perfect time out of a satisfying buildup.
9 – “The Hand That Feeds” – Nine Inch Nails, With Teeth (2005)
“The Hand That Feeds” is the first Nine Inch Nails song I ever remember hearing. I’ve always really liked the industrial type of sound it has to it, like a steel mill in operation or something. For me, it’s a pretty cool song to listen to right when you wake up.
10 – “Breathe” – U2, No Line on the Horizon (2009)
The second to last song on U2’s latest album strikes me as a musical dichotomy. The band delivers an intense performance and the lyrics call upon some pretty nerve-racking ideas, yet I still feel relaxed every time I listen to it. It might be the repetitive piano line that floats nicely across the mix. I have always taken pleasure in listening to “Breathe” ever since I saw U2 open with it at Soldier Field in 2009.