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.”
10. The Beatles – “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road
“Why Don’t We Do it in the Road” is the White Album’s shortest cut, but it’s repetitive lyrics, and a strong vocal performance from McCartney make it instantly memorable. Although, it might take us a little longer than two minutes to explain why we shouldn’t do that.
9. Elvis Costello – “Welcome to the Working Week”
If most work weeks went by ask quickly as this song does, the world would be a much happier place. Costello manages to fit smart harmonies, hopeful lyrics and some great chord progressions in the minute-and-a-half track that appears on My Aim is True.
8. The Clash – “Career Opportunities”
Originally appearing on the band’s self-titled debut, “Career Opportunities” showed that the most meaningful gestures toward no-good employers are short and sweet.
7. Nirvana – “Tourette’s”
Nirvana was at their most aggressive with “Tourette’s,” the second-to-last track on 1993’s In Utero. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics are sung with such abandon that you can hardly make them out — but that’s how they’re meant to be.
6. Minor Threat – “Straight Edge”
A buzzing, angsty punk track that would set off a lifestyle movement with the Ian MacKaye-shouted lines “I’m a person just like you/But I’ve got better things to do/Than sit around and fuck my head/Hang out with the living dead.”
5. The Smiths – “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”
Although the track is just as dramatic as its title implies, the song is nowhere near as long as its title. Clocking in at a lean 1:50, Johnny Marr’s beautiful guitar arrangements set up Morrissey’s plea for things to get better.
4. Pixies – “There Goes My Gun”
The Pixies had plenty of sub two-minute songs, but Doolittle’s brooding cut “There Goes My Gun” is a demonstration in making a short song feel complete. By exploring a wide dynamic range and jarring, unexpected changes, Pixies knew how to get the most out of a brief period of time.
3. Weezer – “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly”
Time: 1: 59
Weezer’s absolute fan-favorite song in the ‘90s didn’t appear on The Blue Album or Pinkerton. Instead, it was on the soundtrack to Angus (we forgive you if you forgot about that one). “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” has everything fans loved about the group in a compact recording: Cuomo’s shy melodies, those amazing downstroked guitars and a dual synth/guitar solo.
2. Ramones – “Judy is a Punk”
If we were including live albums in this list, almost any Ramones song would be a contender. But the finest of the band’s recorded material under two minutes appears on their self-titled Ramones, with “Havana Affair” and “Cretin Hop” not trailing far behind.
1. White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl”
The White Stripes’ Lego-constructed video for “Fell in Love With a Girl” was a speedy, perfect introduction to Jack and Meg White’s Detroit-branded guitar rock. It’s everything you could want in a short song – catchy, quick, hard hitting and unforgettable.