100best: Pixies

There are endless debates about whether the band is called The Pixies or simply Pixies. Well, just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so does this band by any name rock the freakin’ casbah. Some bands are destined to work their magic from behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz or that dude who was the vocal talent behind Milli Vanilli. Their success never touched the mainstream, but those big names who put Grunge and so-called Alternative Rock in the spotlight in the nineties called themselves fans and admitted they were heavily influenced by Black Francis and cohorts. Their sound was unique when they first started in 1986 and still is as provocative, puzzling and wild as it was then.


Before their 1993 implosion, The Pixies created five incredible albums in the five years between 1987-1991. As a result, whittling them down one outstanding and defining track has been the most difficult 100best yet due to the overall quality of their catalogue and my initially shallow knowledge and appreciation of their work. I now understand why they inspired and continue to inspire incredible loyalty among their fans of all ages. After much gnashing of teeth and roaring of terrible roars, I finally forced myself to settle on the one track I think packs the biggest punch by The Pixies.

The Pixies – Levitate Me


It seems weird to pick “Gigantic”, since it doesn’t have any of those characteristics usually associated with Pixies songs – there’s no screaming incoherently in Spanish, no mysterious caribou, no slicing of eyeballs. It could almost be a pop hit, making magnificent use of the Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud trademark to create a chorus you can’t help but joyously sing along with. And, although we’re more accustomed to Pixies songs with Frank Black vocals (Kim Deal’s voice more often used to create a vaguely creepy undertone), here Deal is both hypnotic and explosive. It’s exactly what it says it will be: Gigantic.

Pixies – Gigantic


Four years after they broke up I heard “Where Is My Mind?” on the radio and remember thinking it was so different, so amazing, this HAD to be a new band. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was recorded in 1988! I still don’t really understand where their sound came from. They’re chaos and frenzy, melodic and enchanting. I’m still enthralled by the insanity and still don’t get most of the lyrics. Picking a favorite was grueling and I’ll probably change my mind by tomorrow, but from the first time I heard it I was under their spell.

Pixies – Where Is My Mind?

100best: The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes

Since 2002, The Raveonettes have been knocking our socks off with their unique blend of 50s motorcycle cool, 60s girl group pop, and smutty guitar fuzz. It’s hard to believe that their debut EP, “Whip It On”, is already seven years old, but the Raveonettes have never been the kind of band that shoves their successes in our faces. They seem to just quietly go about their business and – a rarity in the music world – keep getting better and better. With last month’s release of their fourth full-length album (not to mention a goodly handful of EPs and one-off singles), In And Out Of Control, it seemed a good time to look back at their career and pick out their single best song so far. (As always, we encourage you to make your own choice in the comments, in 100 words or less.)


What happens when modern alternative music is made to live in Phil Spector’s basement like one of those feral children we read about in the National Enquirer? The Raveonettes. And that is a good thing for the music world. The Raveonettes manage to stand at the singularity where the past, present, and future of music are compressed into something utterly unique and potentially threatening to the universe, like a black hole. “Boys Who Rape” is their finest effort yet in the way it is both sickeningly sweet and intensely menacing. Just like that feral child you have in your basement.

The Raveonettes – Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)


In an unprecedented move, I’ve picked a song that’s only been around a month over favorites that have been spinning in my stereo for years. Although I normally prefer the darker side of The Raveonettes (“Aly, Walk With Me” and “Somewhere In Texas” were my runners-up), “Bang!” had my full attention from the first few seconds. Sounding like an after-school visit to the malt shop combined with a touch of cheeky sluttiness and the most danceable and sing-a-long-able chorus since Spector’s gals were the biggest thing on the radio, “Bang!” is where The Raveonettes truly perfected their signature sound.

The Raveonettes – Bang!


The Raveonettes are often described to have that famous Phil Spector wall of sound. I think they sound more like the wall is being pounded into a bloody pulp by zombies and mole people. In a post-apocalyptic world where our worst nightmares walk among us and our safe haven is a fifties diner, The Raveonettes are all the jukebox will play to underscore our misery and stolen moments of cautious joy. This disturbing yet sensual song about sin and doom will be playing when the ghouls finally fight their way through our barricaded doors and drag us to hell.

The Raveonettes – Lust

100best: Interpol


You might be thinking to yourself, “What? Interpol? But, they’ve had only, like, three albums, dude.” And you’d be right. But, use this as a gauge to their importance since Turn On The Bright Lights was released in 2002: Some bands generate buzz when they might be releasing a new album or just thinking about releasing a new album. Interpol is arguably one those bands. They may not be White Strips huge or Cold Play huge. But, huge huge or not, they loom large among the musirati. These three tracks demonstrate why.


I’m an Antics man. Interpol’s second album is incredible, especially played LOUD. So, how can I be expected to pick one song? If this album were a baseball lineup it’d be a pennant-winner. “Next Exit” singles to left and steals second. “Evil” doubles to right; “Next Exit” scores. “Narc” walks on five pitches. “Take You On A Cruise”, fussy with contained power, draws another walk. Bases loaded. Finally, “Slow Hands” comes to bat, hunkers down, and launches an astonishing grand slam into deep center. The best song in one of the most impressive first-half-of-an-albums ever.

Interpol – Slow Hands


This was harder than expected but I have to go with my first love. I’ve gushed about “NYC” before and, no, I still don’t know what it means. I don’t even know what it means to me, but it gives me goosebumps every time. Those guitars have a magical quality that makes them seem to float in mid-air and stick around long after the song is over. It’s what Paul Banks’ very odd but captivating voice was made for. And those layers near the end make me want to just sit perfectly still and soak it all in. It’s stunning.

Interpol – NYC


It’s rare that a band with such a distinctive sound holds my attention this long. Antics is my favorite, but I still listen to all three albums regularly. They’re dark but danceable, immediately recognizable but never same-y, lyrically puzzling but catchy … I think. Are these songs truly catchy? Or have I merely listened to them so much that I can now sing along like they’re ABBA’s greatest hits? My list came down to: “Untitled”, “Next Exit” & “Evil”. It was close, but I can’t deny that little extra jolt of excitement I feel whenever the “Evil” bass kicks in:

Interpol – Evil

100best: Otis Redding

Otis Redding

Otis Redding’s raw voice seems to come from the tips of his toes, the depths of his soul. He may not have the polished, velvety voice of other soul greats like Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye, but whatever feeling a song conjures up in the pit up of his stomach is felt by everyone within listening-distance. He is THE Soul Man, and his voice will never stop influencing generations to come.


Otis Redding was known for a masterful ability to capture the depth of emotion simply with his voice. The full spectrum is captured in his catalogue and, with such superbitude to choose from, defining only one as quintessential is on the edge of impossible. However, thankfully, “Mr. Pitiful” perfectly illustrates the ability Redding had to communicate the soulful despair a man suffers in love and loss while riding the rails of an upbeat brass-punctuated tempo. In “Mr. Pitiful”, Redding, voice trembling with emotion, wants to us, his congregation, to feel him. And, oh, yes, feel him we definitely do.

Otis Redding – Mr. Pitiful


The Tamboosh might stop being my friend after this, but I couldn’t quite get into Otis Redding. Not as much as I’d expected, anyway – I found him a little too smooth. Except on “Shout Bamalama”, a tiny explosion of a song that sounds like it busted right through the studio walls. From the opening shouts, to the crazy lyrics that sound like Redding was making them up right then – even that it just fades away, as if he could’ve kept singing as long as someone would listen – “Shout Bamalama” packs a serious punch in just under two little minutes.

Otis Redding (& the Pinetoppers) – Shout Bamalama


Otis Redding has been my favorite singer since I was about ten. It’s no coincidence my favorite living vocalist, Dan Auerbach, is often compared to him. I’m drawn to powerful voices with grit and full of soul. Otis is at his best when his guttural cries convey the anguish that comes with loving as deeply as he did. This song is still one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t need roses and candlelight; he builds such a passionate and intimate world with the simple act of drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette with his love.

Otis Redding – Cigarettes & Coffee

100best: The Decemberists

The Decemberists

100b has not, in the past, been shy about our love of The Decemberists. With last month’s release of The Hazards Of Love, The Decemberists have five studio albums, plus numerous EPs, covers, and b-sides to their name. They’ve got a little of everything: humor, tragedy, history, odd characters, ballads, songs to shout along to, hard rock, traditional melodies – and so much more. That’s a lot of goodness to try and narrow down to one single song. So here we go: what’s the very best Decemberists song – in 100 words or less? (Play along in the comments if you think we got it wrong!)


The Decemberists recall a bygone era. Their songs spin yarns, so the key to enjoying them is listening with your brain and not being guided by your gut. “Yankee Bayonet” is the story of rebel love lost during the American Civil War. A woman from South Carolina pines over the love she and her unborn child lost at the Battle of Bull Run, while the soldier recalls how she captured his heart and tells her to remember him in the land they both cherish. From the instruments they use to the lyrics they sing, The Decemberists are true modern troubadours.

The Decemberists – Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)


This was incredibly difficult – eliminating a song felt like dismissing a friend. In a way, these songs are friends. The characters are so detailed and vivid, you sort of know them – Eli and his lost love, the Shankill Butchers prowling the streets, poor Miranda and her sinister suitor. But, although I love those songs, none are as rich as the Mariner and his relentless pursuit of revenge. It’s a damn complicated story, with extra tension provided by the varying tempos and increasingly frantic instrumentation. It perfectly demonstrates what makes The Decemberists one of my favorite bands of all time.

The Decemberists – The Mariner’s Revenge Song


The Decemberists give me glimpses at the peaks of joy and the depths of sadness, but also often make me feel illiterate and uncultured. No other band makes me want to pick up a book as much. In this time of disposable songs that lose their shine and novelty after two listens, it’s a thing to cherish. “Engine Driver” has my heart, but seeing “I Was Meant For The Stage” live made clear they weren’t just another fleeting fancy. I still don’t know what I’m meant for, so the passion and determination this song conveys is beautiful and painfully enviable.

The Decemberists – I Was Meant For The Stage

100best: Jay-Z


From the projects to the stage to the boardroom, hip hop performer and entreprenuer extraordinaire Shawn Carter – alias Jay-Z – has established himself through 10 (soon to be 11) albums as perhaps the greatest hip hop artist of all time. He is now almost a charicature of himself so it is easy to forget just how good this guy actually is. It’s our job here at 100b to remind you.

100best: Jay-Z.



Eight years on, The Blueprint is a classic for good reason. Released at a dramatic time in U.S. history (9/11/01), the double platinum album broke in two uber-producers (Kanye West, Just Blaze), cracked the stranglehold Timbaland had on the genre, and helped return sampling as a cornerstone of hip hop production. Even the notoriously negative Bitchfork lauded it as the #2 album of 2001. “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” is a testament to the ability of Jay-Z to remain commercially successful without losing relevance and credibility in a genre that shakes off fakes with ease.

Jay-Z – Izzo (H.O.V.A.)


My choice was based purely on gut – no Jay-Z song packs a punch as hard as “99 Problems”. The opening line and beat busting out of the speakers hit you right in the guts. And although his singles are usually damn catchy, I’ve never really been taken by Jay-Z’s lyrical style. “99 Problems” is different – it’s the first time I’ve really wanted to listen to him. Plus, that beat is incredible: part fuzzy guitars, part raw industrial drums. It doesn’t so much pop as explode, and gives Jay-Z a raw power I’ve never heard in him before.

Jay-Z – 99 Problems


I’ve had a crush on the man since I don’t know when, so picking a favorite had to be easy as pie, right? No pie. Jay-Z’s songs can be rated by impact, entertainment value, and pure lyrical wizardry. Every category has multiple contenders; which surpasses all of them? The instant impact “99 problems”, “Jockin’ Jay-Z” or “Roc Boyz” have? The incredible lyrics on “Dead Presidents”, “What More Can I Say” and “d’Evils”? Or the boombastic fun that’s “Big Pimpin’” and “Dust Your Shoulders Off”? The one that checks all the boxes for me is the unstoppable “Heart Of The City”.

Jay-Z – Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love)

100best: Nirvana


Those of you with a freakishly good memory may remember that our last 100best post before our little hiatus, honored Pearl Jam. To continue our celebration of Grunge giants, we could not leave out the reigning kings of the genre. The tragic death of their frontman, ill-adviced merchandising, and the courtroom drama still surrounding the band may distract you from the music. But the music could never distract you from the fact that they were an amazing band, who more than deserve all the praise and popularity.


When a song is the propellant for nearly instantaneous musical success, it serves as blessing and curse. The public is captured and, in turn, binds you to the source of your success. The first and most successful single from an all-time great album, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” climbed the charts in late-1991, sat in the Hot 100 rafters like an anthemic gargoyle and, in hindsight, proved the beginning of the end for Kurt Cobain. It’s power is present in the shackles it placed on Cobain and the band and the hold it still retains on the musical imagination.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit


I’ve always thought that Nirvana’s greatest achievement was “Polly”. Perfect in every way, “Polly” shows an understated power in its soothing melody, bored yet melancholy vocals, and surprising – shocking almost, if it wasn’t so pretty – lyrics. By taking the captor’s point-of-view, Cobain made something both beautiful and disturbing: a song we can’t help but sing along to, about a situation we can’t bear to think about. “Teen Spirit” proved that Cobain could write an anthem, whether he meant to or not. But, for me, “Polly” gave his band the depth that more than justified their legendary status.

Nirvana – Polly


My teenage hormones and Nirvana were a match made in rebellious heaven. Their disdain for polished, soulless music was so attractive and so wonderfully loud and angry. The further away that first exciting listen gets, the more I appreciate their beautiful, understated side. Though my taste changes my love for the band doesn’t, but my favorite song does. Supposedly inspired by The Beatles, “About A Girl” doesn’t have that famous punky Nirvana spirit, but like my Pearl Jam favorite, this song transcends Grunge. It doesn’t have shock value, it doesn’t validate their underground credit, it’s just well-written, melodic and beautiful.

Nirvana – About A Girl