My 300 favorite songs: The top 10

10. Smashing Pumpkins -- "1979" -- This song reminds me of driving around with my friends in Fargo, N.D., during my high school years. The "1979" of the title is a stand-in for anytime, I assume, since Billy Corgan's teenage years were actually the 1980s.

9. Camera Obscura -- "Before You Cry" -- Even though it starts off with a dude singing it, this is actually an early Camera Obscura entry. Tracyanne enters the picture after a long piano solo with "You're feeling a little sad tonight, but you'll be alright," at which point the song reaches another level.

8. Colin Hay -- "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" -- More "Garden State"-y goodness in the form of the saddest damn song about lost love you'll ever hear. Colin's tune actually makes me feel better about being hopelessly in love, though, because I realize at least one other guy shares my pain.

7. Jewel -- "You Were Meant for Me" -- Jewel's got maple syrup, but not the guy she loves. This song is such a beautifully melancholy snapshot about how you have to go through the everyday things like making breakfast even when your heart isn't in it.

6. Journey -- "Don't Stop Believin'" -- It was on "The Sopranos," it was on "Glee," it's played regularly by cover bands. I heard it at a baseball game earlier this year -- twice in a row. Like the rest of the world, I'm still not tired of it.

5. Arcade Fire -- "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" -- With a decipherable phrase here and there ("Then we think of our parents/ Whatever happened to them?"), the pride of Montreal takes listeners back to their respective childhoods and all the emotions connected with it.

4. Traveling Wilburys -- "The Devil's Been Busy" -- In a broadly political piece that's as relevant as ever, the Wilburys -- one vocalist at a time -- take on polluting corporations and corrupt governments. "Sometimes you're better off not knowing how much you've been had." True, but when the message is this relentlessly catchy, I'll listen.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- "Downbound Train" -- "She just said Joe/ I gotta go/ We had it once/ We ain't got it anymore." Joe can't catch a break in this song, which gets sadder verse by verse to the point where you're on your knees crying at the point where Joe is doing the same thing. And that, of course, is why I love it.

2. Belle and Sebastian -- "Another Sunny Day" -- For a while I thought this was the best pop song I'd ever heard, so I showed it off to a friend. He wasn't as enamored as I was, but he said, "Yeah, that song fits your personality." I took it as a compliment.

1. Camera Obscura -- "Honey in the Sun" -- How long have we had pop music? For the sake of argument, let's say 50 years, since the Beatles delivered songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in the early '60s. So for a half-century, bands all over the world in garages, on stages and in studios have tried to make the perfect pop song. Many came close, including 299 entries on this list, but it wasn't until April 2009 that a band finally achieved it, and it was Camera Obscura on the last track of its last album of its first decade of recording. The secret ingredient: Trumpets (Who knew?). The song makes me think of honeys, a sunny day at the beach, the pangs of newly discovered love and how you shouldn't be ashamed of being sentimental. The lyric is "saxophones and honey in the sun for you," not -- as some have suggested -- "sex on the phone and honey" of "sacks of frozen honey" (although that last one is giggle-worthy). But like all great pop songs, it doesn't matter if you understand every word, it just matters that you get swept away by the mood. I do, for five minutes and 42 seconds that I wish would go on forever.

OK, I'm done. That was fun. Share your own top 300 (or top 10, for the sake of simplicity) in the comment threads below if you like. Or list the songs I snubbed from my top 300.

My 300 favorite songs: 20-11

20. Traveling Wilburys -- "Handle with Care" -- George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne singing about heartache around the same microphone. 'Nuff said.

19. Dire Straits -- "Walk of Life" -- I remember this song, with its wonderful Hammond organ intro, was in heavy rotation in the family room of my childhood home. In the '80s, my dad was more of a song guy than an album guy, and the songs he picked probably influenced my own tastes. Lucky for me, he had good taste.

18. The Wallflowers -- "Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette)" -- An intoxicatingly sad story song with great lines like "Who will ignore me when you're gone?"

17. Electric Light Orchestra -- "Hold on Tight" -- Generally I wouldn't put songs from car commercials on my list. But when this song popped up in a Honda ad a couple years ago, I just wished the commercial went on for the whole length of the tune.

16. Drive By Truckers -- "Goddamn Lonely Love" -- The title says it all in this brilliantly written downer about a guy who bellies up to the bar and disappears. (But he's not really drowning in his sorrows, because he can see the beach from here.)

15. "Glee" cast -- cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" -- The original is great but a little too downbeat. The "Glee" cast's multi-part harmonies add energy while the lyrics keep the song rooted in the dark place it came from.

14. Heartless Bastards -- "Sway" -- This entry from the second "Friday Night Lights" soundtrack is one of those gritty, bluesy numbers you could listen to for about an hour straight.

13. Third Eye Blind -- "The Background" -- If a heart breaks, does it make a sound? The answer to that riddle is yes, and this San Francisco-set song about a lost loved one is what it sounds like.

12. Joe Ely -- cover of Tom Russell's "Gallo Del Cielo" -- One of the best story songs ever written gains new levels of brilliance on each listen, especially if it's Ely's passionate version. The song is about cockfighting -- not a topic that usually interests me -- yet it almost brings me to tears with it's beautiful Spanish phrases and twists of fate.

11. Camera Obscura -- "Swans" -- My favorite band of Glaswegians delivers a delicious ode to America ("I really think you'd like it there," Tracyanne intones, before singing the virtues of deer).

My 300 favorite songs: 30-21

30. Sarah McLachlan -- "Full of Grace" -- This song was not written for the sequence in "Becoming Part 2" that follows Buffy's painful choice to send Angel to hell to save the world. But it seems like it was. When music and images work together like that, it's the highest form of artistic achievement.

29. Stone Temple Pilots -- "Interstate Love Song" -- One of the definitive songs of the '90s has a relentless energy such that it could propel you down the road even without wheels.

28. Tom Russell -- "It Goes Away" -- For a guy who looks kinda like a gruff ol' cowboy on stage, Russell can churn out great sentimental tunes. This one chronicles universal painful moments, then reassures the listener that "it goes away."

27. The Concretes -- "You Can't Hurry Love" -- A great soundscape, a great voice, a great message. Some accused the Concretes of trying to mimic Camera Obscura, but that sounds more like a compliment than a criticism to me.

26. Bruce Springsteen -- "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" -- If the girls in their summer clothes even pass Bruce Springsteen by, maybe I shouldn't feel too bad.

25. Marvelous 3 -- "Indie Queen" -- My song of the summer of '99, even if it was no one else's. Rocking/sentimental Butch Walker tries to get inside the heads of young women who are defined by their looks: "How do you like it when they/ Touch your face/ And turn the page/ And make you feel like a waste of space ... Tell me now just how you feel 'bout that."

24. Bob Seger -- "Against the Wind" -- In the best song ever to be in heavy rotation at Walgreens, Seger sums up life, and how it often seems like we're walking into a stiff wind as we travel through it.

23. The Jayhawks -- "Blue" -- The Jayhawks -- and this song in particular -- are part of the reason I say I'm from Minnesota (even though it would be more accurate to say I'm from North Dakota). Like many of the band's songs, "Blue" sounds like it should be sad, but it's so beautiful that it's actually kind of uplifting.

22. Belle and Sebastian -- "I'm a Cuckoo" -- B&S don't so much write songs as they create worlds using the art of the song. This is a case in point, and it gets bonus points for using the phrase "Thin Lizzie-o" for the sake of rhyming in the chorus.

21. She & Him -- cover of NRBQ's "Ridin' in My Car" -- This is such a good road trip song that I would actually plan a road trip solely so I could play this song on the road trip. As I've mentioned before, I could listen to Zooey Deschanel sing just about anything, but this is She & Him's best song because M. Ward's vocal contribution is such a nice contrast. "She" needs to share the mic with "Him" more often.

My 300 favorite songs: 40-31

40. Camera Obscura -- "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" -- I was a few albums late to the party, but I loved Camera Obscura the moment I heard the church-organ-turned-pop-instrument intro on this entry. And I loved Tracyanne the first time I heard her voice a few seconds later.

39. Neko Case -- "I Wish I Was the Moon" -- Wise-beyond-her-years lyrics combined with a voice that we should declare a national treasure (contrary to a common misconception, Neko is American, not Canadian).

38. The Killers -- "Human" -- A song so good that it only has to sort of make sense ("Are we human/ Or are we dancer"). Almost certainly the best song ever to be in heavy rotation at American Eagle Outfitters.

37. Iron and Wine -- cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" -- Sometimes recordings featuring one guy in a soundproof booth with a simple tape recorder is all that's needed to achieve greatness.

36. Cat Power -- "Where is My Love" -- Sometimes I decide to get my act together and be happy. But I just can't give up Cat Power tracks such as this one, which suggests that you'll never be more alive than when you are extremely depressed.

35. Bruce Springsteen -- "Land of Hope and Dreams" -- "Big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams ..." This is the most romantic song ever about farming.

34. Nicole Atkins -- "Maybe Tonight" -- With a great voice and fast-paced, catchy instrumentation behind her, Nicole and her band make romanticism rock.

33. Belle and Sebastian -- "Funny Little Frog" -- B&S makes incredibly cool songs about being incredibly uncool. Case in point.

32. The Wallflowers -- "Sixth Avenue Heartache" -- A catchy tune, sure. But I heard a slowed-down cover by a female vocalist on a TV show recently and it showcased how great the lyrics are, too (although I still don't understand that part where it sounds like the line is "just like green beans").

31. Smashing Pumpkins -- "Today" -- The Pumpkins deliver a great message about living in the moment but also being excited about the future ("Today is the greatest ... Can't wait for tomorrow"). Paradoxically, it's one of the most nostalgic-sounding songs I can think of.

My 300 favorite songs: 50-41

50. The Bee Gees -- "Alone" -- I never cared for most the Bee Gees catalogue, but on this tune, the voices and instruments blend beautifully to create one of the most epic sad songs ever recorded.

49. Bruce Springsteen -- "No Surrender" -- "Maybe we could cut someplace of our own/ With these drums and these guitars." This is the anthem of every garage band musician that dreams of being a superstar.

48. Doug Spartz -- cover of Glen Campbell's "Galveston" -- I knew Doug from my time on the Brainerd lakes area music beat. He was one of those old guys who seemed to have a heart attack every year and had all kinds of problems in life --except when he got in front of a microphone. Then all those years of hard living served him well on every lyric. Doug's version of "Galveston" supplies a wistful depth that the too-polished original never had.

47. James Blunt -- "You're Beautiful" -- This was my (and many other people's) song of the summer of '05. Wow, that summer must've been depressing as hell.

46. Hootie and the Blowfish -- "Sad Caper" -- In 1996, sad songs made me happy. So basically I listened to this downbeat masterpiece ("It's like sometimes you wanna see the rain/ But the sun gets in your eyes ...") every night before I went to bed. I have since started taking pills for my condition.

45. Collective Soul -- "The World I Know" -- This song finds the sometimes-hidden beauty of everyday life ... after a struggle through some sad violin chords. I like Collective Soul, but this song transcends the band that's playing it. CS just did it a favor by bringing it to life.

44. Belle and Sebastian -- "Asleep on a Sunbeam" -- If I hadn't already heard this song and I just stumbled upon something called "Asleep on a Sunbeam" and saw it was by Belle and Sebastian, I'd assume it would be amazing. And I'd be right.

43. Camera Obscura -- "Country Mile" -- An unapologetic song about missing someone terribly that starts off good and ends up great. "I won't be seeing you for a long while/ Though I hope it's not as long as these country miles/ I feel lost/ I feel lost." Listening to this song in my car, I don't want to reach my destination anymore. I just want to pull over and cry.

42. Michael Jackson -- "Man in the Mirror" -- MJ bottles up all the pain and misery in the world and lets it out in this song, and then adds a dash of hope. The message resonates because Michael isn't blaming anyone specific -- if he wants things to change, he's going to start with himself.

41. The Flys -- "Got You Where I Want You" -- The soundtrack to lusting after Katie Holmes circa 1998. It works because the Flys aren't pretending to be cool rock stars who are surrounded by girls; they pour their average-Joe frustrations into the lyrics and vocals ("Tell me your name/ I'm dying here ...").

My 300 favorite songs: 60-51

60. Keane -- "Everybody's Changing" -- Listening to this song, you feel like you could climb those piano notes straight up to heaven.

59. Buffalo Tom -- "Scottish Windows" -- A beautiful and (appropriately) reflective piece from the deeper-voiced of the two Buffalo Tom singers.

58. The Verve -- "Bittersweet Symphony" -- No false advertising here: This '90s classic is exactly what the title says it is.

57. Bruce Springsteen -- "Out in the Street" -- The ultimate song about getting off work and cutting loose. It makes me want to load crates on a dock just to feel closer to this song.

56. Simon and Garfunkel -- "Only Living Boy in New York" -- Anytime "Ahhhhhhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhhhh" is the best part, it means the song is either terrible or, in this case, amazing.

55. Butch Walker -- "Pretty Melody" -- The first song in awhile to make such epic use of a bass drum beat. The first great tune of the '10s.

54. Hootie and the Blowfish -- "I Will Wait" -- Hootie was at its most polished on record No. 3. This was also around the time that the public stopped caring and Darius started thinking country. Too bad.

53. Clem Snide -- "All Green" -- A girl put this on a mix disc for me. Even if the other tracks were terrible, which they weren't, I would've given her credit for great taste based on this little gem alone.

52. Bruce Springsteen -- "Lucky Town" -- I hate gambling, but I love this song about the false promises and hopes of gambling.

51. John Lennon -- "Imagine" -- It's clear that I'll have to go through my whole life imagining a world without countries or religion, but that doesn't make the dream -- or this song -- any less beautiful. Indeed, you're not the only one, John.

My 300 favorite songs: 70-61

70. Hall & Oates -- "You Make My Dreams Come True" -- I admit it: It's on my list totally because of how it was used in "(500) Days of Summer." Not that it was a bad song before that.

69. Bruce Springsteen -- "Better Days" -- Bruce argues that it doesn't have to be all downhill after your "glory days." He's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell, and he feels like he's comin' home.

68. Butch Walker -- "Ponce De Leon Ave." -- This is one of the prettiest songs from a guy who struggles with sweet ballads although rocking out comes naturally to him. Also, the instrumentation is outstanding.

67. Neko Case -- cover of Aretha Franklin's "Running Out of Fools" -- This is an example I cite whenever someone argues that classics should never be covered. Neko can make anything sound nice, but when it's a good song to begin with, the results are amazing.

66. Jewel -- "2 Become 1" -- I first caught this romantic song on "Joan of Arcadia," and I remember thinking how much better the song was than the show.

65. Tom Russell -- "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall" -- One of the best songwriters of all time gives a compelling perspective on illegal immigration. Great lyric: "We got fundamentalist Muslims/ We got fundamentalist Jews/ We got fundamentalist Christians/ They'll blow the whole thing up for you."

64. Michael Jackson -- "Smooth Criminal" -- "Annie are you OK/ So Annie are you OK/ Are you OK Annie." Doesn't look like much on paper, but dang is it catchy.

63. The Jayhawks -- "Save It For a Rainy Day" -- Gary and the boys have a sound that would be perfect for sad songs, but they use their powers for good on this uplifting tune.

62. Gwen Stefani -- "Cool" -- Look up "wistful" in an online dictionary and it links you to this contemporary classic about a relationship that created fond memories but didn't quite work out.

61. Collective Soul -- "Run" -- The most beautiful song ever written about being a bored teenager looking toward the future. Better than "Varsity Blues" deserved, and I kinda liked "Varsity Blues."

My 300 favorite songs: 80-71

80. The Beach Boys -- "Kokomo" -- This was such a ubiquitous hit in 1988 that fourth-grade classmates of mine knew all the words. Overplayed or not, based on a real place or not, it remains a transporting song.

79. davis? -- "Back in June" -- davis? is the only band where I knew every member personally and yet I awaited their next single as if they were an MTV band. It was awesome when they unveiled this beautiful guitar showcase at an early Aughts Playmakers show in Fargo, N.D.

78. The Hollies -- cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Sandy (4th of July Asbury Park)" -- In my head, I think of carnival nightscapes as being gorgeous and wistful, and it's almost entirely because of this cover.

77. The New Pornographers -- "Sing Me Spanish Techno" -- Just a really catchy, organic beat with nonsensical but kinda brilliant lyrics. It's not techno, yet I could indeed find myself listening too long to this song.

76. Bruce Springsteen -- "Bobby Jean" -- The song's spirit can be summed up in this lyric: "I'm just callin' one last time/ Not to change your mind/ But just to say I miss you baby/ Good luck, goodbye, Bobby Jean."

75. Outkast -- "Hey Ya!" -- The song that taught the world to "shake it like a Polaroid picture" in the midst of the digital age.

74. Badly Drawn Boy -- "Silent Sigh" -- Song Title and Song Feeling are completely in sync on this delicate piece where neither the piano nor vocal takes over yet both get under your skin somehow.

73. James Blunt -- "1973" -- It evokes nostalgia for 1973 (or some vague time in the past) even though it's probably better than most of the songs that came out in 1973 (or some vague time in the past).

72. The Killers -- "When You Were Young" -- I once liked a religious girl who started dating a religious guy who acted like a gentleman in a completely obvious way that made me disgusted with both of them. Also, he didn't look a thing like Jesus. So obviously, this song -- which came out when I knew them -- makes me think Brandon Flowers is a prescient genius.

71. Semisonic -- "Singing in My Sleep" -- In the recesses of my mind, I imagine that pleasant, transporting beats like the opening riff of this tune is what fills dance clubs. In reality, that's not the case, but it doesn't matter because I don't go clubbing too often anyway.

My 300 favorite songs: 90-81

90. Sheryl Crow -- "I Shall Believe" -- I think this song was played during romantic moments on every WB show in the late-'90s. But to me, it's Max and Liz's song. I turn off other shows if this song pops up in reference to a different couple.

89. Bruce Springsteen -- "Hungry Heart" -- Certainly the most beautiful song ever about a family man going out for a gallon of milk and never coming back.

88. Butch Walker -- "Hot Girls in Good Moods" -- Again, Butch sings about the things that matter in life. It goes from good to great because of how he says "B-b-b-b-baby" and "G-g-g-g-give" and "C-c-c-c-can."

87. Buffalo Tom -- "Under Milkwood" -- The ideal song to listen to on a rainy, lonely night.

86. Oasis -- "Don't Look Back in Anger" -- It's hard to believe this song came out in the late-'90s. It seems like it should've been written at the very beginning of pop music.

85. The Shins -- "Know Your Onion!" -- I can't understand a word of this song (except "Locked out of my favorite records/ Lying in wait at the Birmingham mall"), but I still think it's pretty.

84. Jewel -- "Hands" -- Miss Kilcher boils it all down to six beautiful words: "In the end, only kindness matters."

83. Darius Rucker -- "History in the Making" -- I'd rather listen to Hootie songs, but I can't deny that catchy country licks come naturally to Darius.

82. Bruce Springsteen -- "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" -- Aren't we all, Bruce. Aren't we all.

81. Baltimora -- "Tarzan Boy" -- The only good part of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" is that they randomly included this great '80s dance-pop cut from the Italian one-hit wonders on the soundtrack.

My 300 favorite songs: 100-91

100. The Corrs -- "Breathless" -- A hook you can't get out of your head + Three-part Irish sister harmonies = Pure pop bliss.

99. Rehab -- "Bartender Song" -- A parody of a country song that became a real hit. Ironically. But really.

98. Adele -- "Chasing Pavements" -- This is one of those songs that sounds so perfect that you rush out to buy the album, thinking you'll get a whole album that sounds like that. You won't. But the song's still good.

97. Rilo Kiley -- "It's a Hit" -- Political ranting has rarely sounded so pretty.

96. Smashing Pumpkins -- "Cherub Rock" -- The guitars layer on top of each other in such irresistible fashion that when the vocals kick in, you barely care. You just want to listen to the band all day.

95. Snow Patrol -- "Chocolate" -- This hopeful, mini-epic of a pop tune reminds me of the 2000s. And it reminds me that it wasn't a bad decade for music after all.

94. Butch Walker -- "Suburbia" -- Modern suburban life proves to be fertile ground for a power-pop song when Butch is holding the pen.

93. Maroon 5 -- "Won't Go Home Without You" -- When I listen to this tune, I actively root for the singer as if he's the protagonist in a movie. I hope he indeed gets the girl.

92. Bruce Springsteen -- "I'm on Fire" -- A minimalist, atmospheric classic with memorable lines like "a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul."

91. The Temper Trap -- "Sweet Disposition" -- Another song that creates such a beautiful soundscape that you rush out and buy the album, only to be let down by the rest of the tracks. But this song's still good.

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