Too many musicians have forgotten the old adage, “Leave them wanting more.” There’s no easier way to make a lasting impression than with a track that’s quick and to-the-point. Sure, they’re best associated with punk acts like the Ramones, but super-short tracks know no genre bounds. In honor of our shortest month, we’ve listed 20 of our favorite short tracks below. Tell us yours in the comments sections below.
20. St. Vincent – “The Sequel”
Quick but still filled with complex, layered instrumentation, the track has Annie Clark’s strained melodies competing with strings and woodwinds. And it gives a great resolution to one of Clark’s best albums, 2009’s Actor.
19. Guided By Voices – “A Salty Salute”
We quit counting Robert Pollard’s sub-two-minute tracks at 50 and decided the best of those is “A Salty Salute,” a bass-led, lo-fi rocker that appears on 1995’s Alien Lanes.
18. Tom Waits – “Bend Down the Branches”
Tom Waits’ beautiful tribute to aging takes something important into consideration: We’re not gonna be here forever, so why waste our time with long songs? The singer’s gravelly voice sounds as comforting as it gets with the help of some classy horn and string arrangements.
17. Outkast – “?”
The lyrics for Outkast’s “?” are intense on paper, but with a thumping, bass-heavy backing track and Andre 3000’s rapid-fire vocals, the song might have been too much to stretch across a longer length of time.
16. Queen – “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon”
Classic, campy and a little goofy, Queen’s “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” can’t be discounted because of its playfulness. With great vocal takes, a signature Brian May guitar solo and an out-of-the-blue key change, this song is welcome any day of the week.
15. Radiohead – “I Will”
Just barely scraping under the two-minute cap, Radiohead’s beautiful, paranoid look into an apocalyptic future is scarier for its unresolved ending.
14. Violent Femmes – “Fat”
It’s strange how a closer listen can completely change your perception of a song. And what better example is there than the Violent Femmes’ initially mean “Fat?” Turns out that frontman Gordon Gano doesn’t necessarily want his ex-love to be fat out of spite—he just wants her back.
13. The Shins – “The Celibate Life”
Wiry guitars and James Mercer’s haunting voice make this quick piece from Oh, Inverted World so memorable. The quick-firing vocals explore purity, regret and sadness over some busy, snare-heavy drums.
12. Titus Andronicus – “Titus Andronicus Forever”
One of the rowdiest takes from Titus Andronicus’ Civil War-inspired The Monitor features gang vocals that show the camaraderie that both being in a war and being in a band can bring.
11. Neutral Milk Hotel – “Communist Daughter”
The seventh track on Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterpiece, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, features frontman Jeff Mangum’s hushed melodies and guitar over waves of noise and perfectly sets up the epic “Oh Comely.”