“Army Ants” by Stone Temple Pilots – This song is one the first CD I ever owned. I got it for my birthday between seventh and eighth grade. I can see why it never got radio play, but it is very catchy, very rocking, and has a savage drum solo in the middle. The whole album builds toward this song. The final track (and bonus song) only serves to bring the listener back down from crescendo of “Army Ants.”
“The Day I Tried to Live” by Soundgarden – This comes from the second CD I ever owned. “Superunknown” is 15 tracks long and I really feel like this one is the best one. Great intro guitar riff that leads into a bassy drum beat (lots of deep tom drums) and odd timing (is it 7/8- I’m not quite sure.) Chris Cornell shows off his vocal range and destroys this song. Most of the songs on the list succeed because they rock hard, but still keep an accessible sensibility about them- this song is no exception.
“Would?” by Alice In Chains – The drop D bass intro is still one of the best bass riffs I’ve ever heard. Creepy vibe through the verse, catchy chorus, and extremely underrated vocal harmonies between Lane Staley and Jerry Cantrell.
“Last Exit” by Pearl Jam – I just love the way this song kicks off the “Vitalogy” record. My band in high school was eventually named “Last Exit” and it was after this song. Truly, Pearl Jam could have a lot of songs on this list because they absolutely know what they’re doing as a band (I’m not as into their more recent stuff, but they still get it whereas many bands lose their way after two albums.)
“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” by Nirvana – Ah, what might’ve been. Kurt Cobain is the Len Bias of rock and roll (though I suppose the comparison is more fair if Bias had had a few stellar NBA season before passing away.) This song shows the direction that Nirvana was headed before Kurt committed suicide (or murdered depending on what report you believe.) It is amazing to me how non-pop Cobain tried to be, but still couldn’t help but write songs that the majority of people liked. True, they were not the best musicians (though Dave Grohl is clearly a savage) but they made ridiculously awesome music that many people have tried to copy, but no one can get it quite right.
“Mr. Self Destruct” by Nine Inch Nails – This song is beefed up with synthesizers and a dirty guitar riff. Trent Reznor is still one of the best arrangers in rock and that may go down as his biggest strength – layering and arranging.
“The Bends” by Radiohead – Still one of my favorite bands, the entire “The Bends” record is a masterpiece. Each song is perfect. It’s really hard to pick just one song so I went with the title track. It encompasses the direction that Radiohead was going with the record, and where their career was headed. You can’t just accidentally write and record an album that great- and they’ve proved to be the class of the business to this day.
“Only In Dreams” by Weezer – I didn’t like Weezer when they first came out, but their goofy geek rock grew on me over the years. Rivers is actually a pretty underrated songwriter and this song shows off softer sides, but rocks near the end. The eight minute ballad closes out Weezer’s blue album in solid fashion.
“Hello” by Oasis – I dig Oasis. They ripped off the Beatles a ton (who hasn’t?) and the Gallagher brothers tried to start more fights in the 90’s than Wilt Chamberlain slept with women in the 60’s. Remember when he said he hoped Damon Albarn of Blur (now of the Gorillaz) would get AIDS and die? You can’t get that good of smack talk on the best nights of WWE! Anyway, “Hello” rocks and kicks off the “Morning Glory” album with a bang.
I’m sure a missed a few, but these songs stand out as ones I still enjoy listening to today.