Derek’s Top 113 Songs

I was on a dating site where they ask you for your favorite music. A girl I was browsing listed her top 15 songs with little descriptions why and even appropriate lyrics. I loved this idea, and thought I’d try it. Of course, after almost three hours, I have been able to whittle it down to 113. The higher up songs have made this list because of a number of reasons: great melodies, harmonies, lyrics, orchestrations, repeat playability, or maybe just a strong memory they conjure up. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I’ll simply list #’s 51-113 alphabetically by artist, list #21-50 with just a brief write-up, and my top 20 with full descriptions. I suggest you should all do this if you HAVE NO LIFE WHATSOEVER. And rest assured that I’ve probably overlooked at least 50 songs that should also have made my Top 113. (Note, this entire process took me exactly 4 hrs and 30 minutes…. *sigh*)


Aerosmith – Kings and Queens
Austin Lounge Lizards – Gingrich the Newt
Austin Lounge Lizards – Momma Don’t Allow
Barenaked Ladies – Call and Answer
Ben Folds Five – Best Imitation of Myself
Bjork – Venus as a Boy
Blind Man’s Sun – Spates
Bowling for Soup – The Bitch Song
Bryan Fenkart – The Tor
Cake – Sheep Go to Heaven
DaVinci’s Notebook – The Gates
Deep Purple – The Aviator
Eddie From Ohio – Oh My Brother
Eddie From Ohio – Atlantic
Faith No More – Surprise! You’re Dead
Flaming Lips – Be My Head
Flaming Lips – Do You Realize?
Great Big Sea – Excursion Around the Bay
Great Big Sea – Ordinary Day
Great Big Sea – When I Am King
Gustav Holst – Mars
Henry Mancini – Baby Elephant Walk
Monopuff – Unsupervised, I Hit My Head
Mountain Goats – Insurance Fraud #2
Mountain Goats – Down Here
Mountain Goats – Against Pollution
Mountain Goats – Going to Lebanon
Mountain Goats – Alpha Incipiens
Moxy Früvous – The Kids Song
Moxy Früvous – Fell in Love
Mr. Bungle – Quote Unquote
Nickel Creek – The Fox
Oingo Boingo – Who Do You Want to Be Today
Oingo Boingo – Water
Peter Gabriel – Darkness
Phish – Sparkle
Phish – Weigh
Pink Floyd – Dogs
Pink Floyd – Mother
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Queen – Fat Bottom Girls
Queensryche – I Am I
R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
Sadies – Oak Ridges
Smash Mouth – I Just Wanna See
Soggy Bottom Boys – Man of Constant Sorrow
Southern Culture on the Skids – Love a Rama
Southern Culture on the Skids – Viva De La Santo
Stephen Sondheim – Unworthy of Your Love
Styx – Come Sail Away
They Might Be Giants – Letterbox
They Might Be Giants – Subliminal
They Might Be Giants – Certain People I Could Name
They Might Be Giants – Man It’s So Loud in Here
They Might Be Giants – Dr. Worm
Type O Negative – Christian Woman
Type O Negative – Green Man
Type O Negative – I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else
Violent Femmes – I Held Her in my Arms
Warren Zevon – Keep Me In Your Heart
Weird Al Yankovic – You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Weird Al Yankovic – Wanna B Ur Lovr
Weird Al Yankovic – Good Enough For Now

50. Jethro Tull – Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day
Some of the best multi-instrument orchestration out there

49. Cake – Stick Shifts and Safety Belts
Impossible not to bop your head to this song

48. They Might Be Giants – We’ve Got a World That Swings
Just a plain cute song

47. Barenaked Ladies – Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel
A disturbing unsettling song with great orchestration

46. Moxy Früvous – I Will Hold On
I’m hard pressed to think of a more endearing love song

45. Candy Butchers – My Monkey Made a Man Out of Me
Songs with “woos” always do well with me

44. Flaming Lips – The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
This song has crept up on me steadily since its release only two months ago

43. Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sittah
One of the few “radio” songs I have listed, this one is just plain infectious

42. Eddie From Ohio – And the Rain Crashed Down
Simple, effective, beautiful and sung by a bass

41. Oingo Boingo – Nasty Habits
The baseline is a triad, and for that alone, Danny Elfman should be knighted

40. Allison Kraus – Maybe
Absolutely impeccable harmonies

39. Sugar Ray – Mean Machine
It might still be the mental image of the terrible dancing in this video that makes this song a perennial favorite of mine

38. They Might Be Giants – Everything Right is Wrong Again
The song that started it all, at least in terms of chronological release

37. Type O Negative – I Don’t Wanna Be Me
A frustration song as intoned as only Pete Steele can do

36. Moxy Früvous – Drinking Song
One of the best songs you can ever see live

35. Lucas – Lucas with the Lid Off
Another case where the video (directed by Michele Gondry) helps this immensely, but I’ll also admit that it can get stuck in your head for months at a time

34. Space Monkeys – Sugar Cane
I found this song on a CD sampler, and it’s hands-down the best song I accidentally found

33. Weird Al Yankovic – One More Minute
Easily Weird Al’s best original song

32. Ugly Duckling – Opening Act
Proof that hip-hop doesn’t have to be angry to be awesome

31. They Might Be Giants – End of the Tour
What TMBG does best – very sad and unpleasant songs set to jaunty, soothing melodies

30. Jim’s Big Ego – Stress
One of the most fun songs in history to sing

29. Fountains of Wayne – Troubled Times
At one time, this song was more personal to me than any had been and probably ever will be, so it holds a special place in my heart

28. John Vanderslice – Time Travel is Lonely
A song I always liked that I rediscovered when I realized it would be the perfect compliment to play I was writing, and JV giving me permission to use it might have made it more special

27. Arrogant Worms – Malcolm
Simply the funniest song that’s less than 90 seconds long

26. Eddie From Ohio – Blue Jeans
Phenominal guitar work, great harmonies, and something every office grunt can relate to

25. Austin Lizards – Grunge Song
A cover of a Radio Free Vestibule song, and while the original is classic, the added solo and, frankly, musical talent, make this version classic-er

24. Bryan Fenkart – Empty Handed
Outright inspirational in its honesty and rawness

23. Loudon Wainwright III – IWIWAL
Short for “I Wish I Was a Lesbian”, it’s one of the catchiest hooks of all time

22. John Vanderslice – Nikki Oh Nikki
Written by The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, this song had (perhaps has) a profound influence on me, as it was VERY closesly associated with happenings in my life

21. Tool – Schism
Pounding bass, drums, and a scary intensity make this song unforgettable

20. Weird Al Yankovic – It’s All About the Pentiums

One of the funniest songs ever recorded in my book, and easily the best parody ever made. It is entirely possible that it made my list simply because of one single set of lyrics. A clever parody song, and a terrific video to boot. Weird Al’s finest work.

Lyrics: “Installed a T1 line in my house / Always at my pc, double-clickin’ on my mizouse.”

19. DaVinci’s Notebook – Title of the Song

After the boy band surge of the late 90’s, everyone and their uncle decided to write a song in this vein. Most of them are drivel, and I was never a huge fan of that series of parodies. But this song came out, sung and arranged with some brilliant a-capella harmonies, and it had something all the rest lacked: intelligence. They don’t make the cheap jokes about teenage girls. They get to the ROOT of these songs and how formulaic they’ve become. Brilliantly written and performed.

Lyrics: “Title of the song / Naïve expression of love / Reluctance to accept that you are gone / Request to turn back time / And rectify my wrongs / Repetition of the title of the song”

18. Rammstein – Te Quiero Puta

I’m sure the list of German industrial bands who do songs in Spanish with an actual mariachi flair isn’t altogether very long, but this one would have to be at the top of it. With driving industrial overtones accentuated by sprightly horns and even an obnoxious Spanish lady, this song transcends genre and even description. It never ceases to make me smile when it comes on.

Lyrics: “Te Quiro Puta!” (translation: I love you, whore!”)

17. Norah Jones – Turn Me On

I have to admit that certain songs come out of nowhere and become favorites of mine. This was one of them. There’s something very romantic and dare I say sexy about this song. From the jazzy piano to the breathy signature tones of Norah Jones’ voice, this song always makes me pretend to be suave, if only for three minutes.

Lyrics: “Like a flower waiting to bloom / Like a lightbulb in a dark room / I’m just sitting here waiting for you / to come on home and turn me on.”

16. Austin Lounge Lizards- Shallow End of the Gene Pool

Another bizarre collaboration of styles, the typically bluegrass band adds some horns and a slow loungy feel to it and writes a song about stupidity. It is almost impossible to find a band who hones their lyrics and harmonies and musical tightness as much as the Lizards, and it’s best showcased here. While countless others have written songs flaunting their own stupidity, they’re always done stupidly. This one is done perfectly.

Lyrics: “My Daddy was a man of letters / My Mama was a head of state / And when they put their chromosomes together / They gave me all of their recessive traits / I’m an embarrassment to evolution / My disposition is unstable and cruel / My blood’s a catastrophic blend ’cause I’m from the shallow end of the gene pool.”

15. They Might Be Giants – She’s an Angel

For years, I considered this my favorite song of all time. For that alone, it holds sentimental attachment to me. John Linnell has always been one of my musical influences, and this song best illustrates how with only 4 chords, he can write a song that is not bland, and rather just manages to always keep you guessing. Clever lyrics don’t hurt this one bit.

Lyrics: “When you’re following an angel / Does it mean you have to throw your body off a building? / Somewhere they’re meeting on a pinhead / Calling you an angel, calling you the nicest things.”

14. Moxy Früvous – Love Set Fire

Moxy Fruvous is known for their harmonies and their ability to switch back and forth seemlessly between tear-inducing sweetness and tear-inducing comedy. And yet this song written by bassist Murray, which doesn’t really flaunt any of this, has always held a special spot in my heart. There’s an innate simplicity to it, and sometimes I think the best songs are the ones you don’t ever realize how simple they really are until years later.

Lyrics: “I know that it’s wrong / to stay here this long / Haunted by all of her things / I found out too late / only fools feel safe / In a house made of jokers and kings.”

13. Evanescence – Haunted

I think this is the song of which Evanescence is most proud, despite their record label making other, less interesting songs, be released as the singles. This is not only my favorite song of theirs, it’s my favorite song in the entire genre of goth metal (and I am a huge fan of other goth metal bands as Lacuna Coil, Epica, and from the little I know of them Nightwish). Creepy, dissonant, and with a driving double-bass beat that is the definition of goth. One of only three songs that I refuse to play unless it’s exceptionally loud.

Lyrics: “Long lost words whisper to me / Still can’t find what keeps me here / When all this time I’ve been so hollow inside.”

12. Bryan Fenkart – Meg

This song could someday be #1 if it’s ever actually released and I get a professional recording. Written by my friend Bryan, this song does not actually appear on any official recording, as it never made it onto his debut album, though he swears it will make the next one. With a constantly-changing but completely sensical jazz-infused chord progression, fantastic accompanying guitarwork, and lyrics that are easily his best, this song best capitilizes what makes Bryan such a musical success. Now if only he’d have listened to me and put this on his first album.

Lyrics: “And ever since that day / I’ve been head over heels / head over feet / head over to my place and bring your guitar / so I can go to Heaven again.”

11. The Mountain Goats – Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod

My infatuation with this band astounds many, as for most of his career, John Darnielle (who, for argument’s sake, comprises the core of The Mountain Goats) composed poorly-played, poorly-recorded, poorly-sung songs on an often out-of-tune guitar. He’s everything I should hate in music. However, in 2003 he finally went into a studio wih a few friends and started recording quality records, and suddenly he was getting heralded. This song, off his most recent release, is one of many songs on the album about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his step-father. Tetrapod, easily the most powerful lyrically, also boasted the “I will survive” mentality of the rest of the album. I fell in love with it after just one listening. It is one of the few times lyrics were the biggest force into me enjoying a song.

Lyrics: “Held under these smothering waves / by your strong and thick veined hand / but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land.”


10. The Flaming Lips – They Punctured My Yolk

I was a Flaming Lips fan long before they had achieved the status of ‘cool’. Before the bunny suits, before the fake blood, before the large plastic bubbles. Unfortunately for most of this time, it was also before they really showed much musical talent or originality (they confess to this themselves in their documentary Fearless Freaks). This song, off the album that immediately preceded their resurgence into the mainstream, first showed glimpses of the new style. To me, Yolk is the second-greatest example of what I’ve come to call the Build-Up song, where each verse adds new instruments and complexities on almost every line. I have come to use this very same technique on many of my songs, and I always harken back to this song for my blueprint. The brilliance of the composition almost makes you forget how sad the root of the song actually is.

Lyrics: “Now i’m left here on the landing / the rockets flame boost / as it’s leaving without me / and you go off in the sky.”

9. R.E.M. – Nightswimming

I don’t have much of a story for this. This is just, bar none, of the most beautiful songs ever written. The piano, lyrics, and supporting instruments are all perfect. And this is coming from someone who was never particularly that enamored with R.E.M.

Lyrics: “Septembers coming soon / I’m pining for the moon / And what if there were two / Side by side in orbit / Around the fairest sun / That bright, tight forever drum / Could not describe nightswimming.”

8. Type O Negative – Anesthesia

In general, I like happy and funny songs. But when I am not in that jovial a mood, I relapse to the opposite extreme – very dark. Type O Negative does it better than anyone else, to the point where their infatuation with pain and death seems almost comical. But this song, like They Punctured My Yolk, is a great build-up song, though that’s not its only strength. It starts with a tension that you don’t realize is there until it is so pervasive it literally explodes by the end of the song in a vocal outburst. I still get chills by the end of that song.

Lyrics: ” Betwixed birth and death / Every breath regret / I pity the living / Envy for the dead / Emotionally stunned / In defense – I’m numb / I’d rather not care then to be aware / Be scared / I don’t need love.”

7. They Might Be Giants – She’s Actual Size

In trying to even determine what They Might Be Giants song is my favorite, I had to overcome the obstacle of memory. Being a fan of theirs for close to fifteen years now, I have many memories linked to many of these songs. But to actually pare down what my favorite song is becomes tricky. I think their creativity and cleverness peaked on the Apollo 18 album, as that was where every song had a lyrical incredulity to it. She’s Actual Size, one of the most clever, is backed by the horns (which would become a precursor to their later sound which I also loved) and it just seemed like one of those songs that not only does it have the entire package, it’s one they really always enjoyed playing. It was never a hit by any means, but I don’t think I’ll ever see the day where I’ll skip it if it comes on my player randomly.

Lyrics: “She’s actual size / but she seems much bigger to me / Squares may look distant in her rear view mirror / but they’re actual size / Actual size to her / Her face / Hangs in portrait / On the post office wall / She’s stuck in my heart now / Where my blood belongs.”

6. Eddie From Ohio – Hey Little Man

The second acapella song to make my top 20, and not the last. Many bands can come up with four-part harmony. Very FEW bands, however, can come up with INTERESTING four-part harmony, especially on quicker, more upbeat songs. This song has not one note that is uninteresting or ‘wrong’. While it does lodge itself strangely between lullaby and dancing ditty, this song has left an indelible mark on my brain. It’s founds its way onto countless compilations of mine, and whenever I’m creating a CD for someone I don’t know, this song will always make it on there. At less than 3 minutes long, it’s just impossibly memorable and warm, which is exactly what the band that created it is.

Lyrics: “Are you gonna dream about the colors of the rainbow / and the pot of gold that’s waiting at the end / may luck be by your side / and the spirit be your guide / and may you know the blessing / and may you know the joy / and may you know the love of a true friend.”

5. Atom & Package I’m Downright Amazed at What I Can Destroy With Just a Hammer

I set out an official challenge for someone to find a song that is catchier than this one. From the first time I ever heard it, I couldn’t help but belt along to the chorus, which is the title of the song (long enough in its own right to be an entire chorus). Atom is not a musical genius, nor is he going to be remembered outside of a select small platoon of die-hard fans. But when this song comes on, I just get a grin on my face and am as excited as the second time I heard it (having remembered how great it was the first time.)

Lyrics: “Mr. Sopha does everything / re-wires fixes cracks / I can only break walls / move stuff and get snacks / and I am downright amazed / at what I can destroy with just a hammer.”

4. Ugly Duckling – A Little Samba

Like the previous song, when Samba comes on my radio, I’m literally overcome by a childish anticipation, because this song just makes me that happy. This is a hip-hop band that is exceptionally proficient at what they do, but thank GOD they don’t take themselves very seriously. If they did, there’s no way this song would ever exist, and that would be a downright shame. They’ve subsequently remixed it several times with different lyrics, and never hit on the magic that they achieved right here. Lyrically superb, musically toe-tapping, and with just enough silliness to make you forget how good they really are at hip-hop.

Lyrics (performed as a dialogue at the end of the song): “Man, I got more property than Monopoly / No you don’t / Man, I drive a flying car! / No, no you don’t / Man, I got two pet sharks / Your mom lets you have sharks in the house? / Man, ge … wha? / C’mon man, the song’s over man.”


3. Moxy Früvous – Gulf War Song

The last of the acapella songs. This is a song Fruvous never used to do live very often, and I think that only adds to its charm. More than any other song, the harmonies on this are so tight (and so well composed) that it took me more than two months of listening to it daily to decipher exactly what all four parts were individually doing. While the nature of the song is inherently serious, Fruvous manages to put a laugh line or two into the song, not once taking away from the gravity of the subject matter. This may be the only song that I will stop a sentence midway through if this song comes on, no matter how important what I was saying is. It’s that beautiful, well-crafted, and important.

Lyrics: “So we read and we watched / all the specially selected news / And we learned so much more ’bout the good guys / Won’t you stand by the flag / Was the question unasked / Won’t you join in and fight with the allies?”


2. The Mountain Goats – No Children

The second song to make it in my top 20, and the eighth song written by John Darnielle on my top 113. He’s a fantastic lyricist, even (and one might argue especially) when it’s not autobiographical. He often writes about this fictitious couple whose relationship is not only unhealthy, it borders on dangerous. It all seems to come to a head here on No Children, where Darnielle’s bluntness with lyrics and poetic way of singing stream of consciousness are shot violently out of his mouth. Coupled with a frenzied guitar strumming and uncharacteristic (at the time) piano, there is not one fault in this song. And it’s strong enough to make the hair on the back of your neck quiver. When I cover it, it gets laughter, but it’s almost always an awkward, apologetic laughter. John writes so brutally that you want to laugh only to keep you from crying.

Lyrics: “And I hope when you think of me years down the line / You can’t find one good thing to say / And I’d hope that if I found the strength to walk out / You’d stay the hell out of my way / I am drowning / There is no sign of land / You are coming down with me / Hand in unlovable hand / And I hope you die / I hope we both die.”


1. Oingo Boingo – Insanity

Any song that I’ve liked for more than three years has gotten “old” to me at some point or another. Whether because too many of my friends kept playing it or because I had simply overextended it – putting it on too many mix CDs and tapes. Most of my Top 20 has become a little cumbersome at some point or another. Except Insanity. I’ve never hid my love of Danny Elfman, and he seems to have put everything together in this song. It combines his younger carefree days with Oingo Boingo with his darker, more revered movie scores in what I will call an 8-minute masterpiece. When you also consider that this song is more or less only one chord (it’s all based on a C#m and 99% of what he sings is monotone), you realize exactly how brilliant Elfman can be. He concentrates on orchestration first and foremost (before the first word is ever sung, there are already over a dozen instruments playing, and by the end, I would imagine there are no less than 50 individual tracks recorded). What makes this astounding is that it isn’t until the final 20 seconds where every instrument is playing. This is the very definition of a build. It hasn’t been matched since in my book, and I doubt it ever will. Couple this with disturbing lyrics and an even more disturbing video, you have a song of which I doubt I will ever tire. Danny Elfman, I salute you.

Lyrics: “And the alcoholic bastard waved his finger at me / His voice was filled with evangelical glee / Sipping down his gin & tonics / While preaching about the evils of narcotics / And the evils of sex, and the wages of sin / While he mentally fondles his next of kin.”

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