As the name of the article implies, I’ve composed a list of what are my top 100 favorite Ska-Punk songs. Note that I consider the list an ongoing draft. It’s not truly finalized, and it never will be.
I spent about two months preparing this list. First, I assembled a pool of 1300 songs, which I narrowed to 100 and ordered. After weeks of tinkering with the list, I conceded that my list would change all the time, and settled on a list that approximates what I’ve felt recently about these songs.
Note that placement outside of the top 25 or so is a bit arbitrary in my mind. Sure, I like #30 more than #70, but #30 and #31 are pretty much interchangeable in my mind.
1. The selection is based on my opinion and enjoyment of ska and ska-punk
This is fairly self-explanatory. I figure some of the people who read this are going to come away disgusted that there are no Specials or Slackers songs on the list. I promise you, I considered all ska music that I know of, and tried my very best to like the supposed-greatest bands and songs. As I narrowed the list, I ended up leaving out a bunch of acclaimed bands off. Sorry, ska purists, but this probably isn’t the list for you.
2. No more than four songs by any artist
This rule made assembling this list much more fun, but also more difficult. I forced myself to listen to more bands than normal. In total, 52 bands are represented on the list.
I made this rule because I wanted to give the list some variety and make it more likely that readers will find something they’ve never heard before. I’d bet that even most seasoned ska fans will see something new on this list.
I made two exceptions to this rule in the case of bands having distinct phases thanks to significant personnel and style changes: Catch 22 and Suburban Legends. For Catch 22, the phases are before Tomas Kalnoky’s departure (Keasbey Nights), and after. For Suburban Legends, the two phases are the albums up to Rump Shaker, and the albums after.
NOW, ON TO THE LIST.
Honorable Mention: Get Your Riot Gear – Five Iron Frenzy:
This is a solid song. It has a jazzy feel with a great bass line throughout. As any good ska song should, it questions the motives of authority and asks why they’re tear-gassing the people they’re supposed to serve and protect.
It didn’t make the list, but whenever I listen to it, I get a sense of nostalgia: In middle school, my brother, Brad (author of another, albeit incomplete ska list on Earn This), was part of a ska band. and, this was the first song he performed.
This was my first exposure to ska. While this wasn’t the first ska song I heard (we’ll get to that later), it was the first one I recognized as ska, earning it the one and only honorable mention slot for this list. Alright, now, for real, ON TO THE LIST.
100. Superman – Goldfinger
This will be the first time you read two words that will oft be descriptors for the songs on this list: “Upbeat” and “Catchy.”
Superman doesn’t have particularly complex horn parts or musical structure, but it is certainly one of the catchiest songs on this list, and the catchiest that Goldfinger ever recorded. Even now, as I listen to it for the thousandth time, I bob my head, tap my foot, and hum along just as much as I did the first time.
“Superman” has lingered in culture’s consciousness in part because it was featured in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack. I can guess that some of your are outraged to see this song all the way down at number 100.
I think it belongs no higher than here, though, because there isn’t much to it beyond its catchy tune, which can get old. The lyrics aren’t too deep, and the instrumentals are simple. Still, this is a good, short, sweet song, and there are very few high school ska bands that haven’t at least thrown around the idea of covering this song.
99. I Fake Everything – The Waffle Stompers
This song has so many things I like: a blaring horn intro, yelling vocals in the background, tambourine, confusing yet catchy vocal lines (“think about what you thought you saw”)… the list goes on. Seriously though, this song has a bunch of great parts about it, and these parts put it above all the other Waffle Stompers’ songs(by the way, The Waffle Stompers is a killer band name), but It’s not much beyond the sum of great parts.
98. My Heart in Hand – Codename: Rocky
I adore this song’s horn parts.”My Heart in Hand” opens with an awesome riff, and it only builds from there. My major beef with this song, and with Codename: Rocky in general, is the lackluster vocals. At this point I’ve gotten used to the lead singer’s voice, but the first time I listened to Codename: Rocky, the singer’s voice was a bit jarring. For “My Heart in Hand,” though, it was easy to overlook the grating vocals and enjoy the music just enough for it to crack the list.
97. The End – Chase Long Beach
This is really two songs in one. The first two minutes make an upbeat, catchy (there are those words again) instrumental piece that transitions into a heavier, slower part with melodic vocals.
While the first part of this song is good, the real strength of it is in the hidden track, which occupies the last 4 minutes of this track. To close the album, Chase Long Beach sang a heartfelt, comedic tune about how they are our friends. The lyrics are simple enough that I was singing along with the chorus the first time I listened to it.
96. That’s No Moon It’s a Space Station – Chase Long Beach
This song has great rhythm throughout, especially in the fantastic opening guitar riff. My favorite thing about this song, though, is how it switches between a slow, old school ska feel of the chorus and the harder rock feel of the verses. As always with Chase Long Beach, the vocals are solid and and horn parts are clean and complex. I love the trumpet solo that ends this song.
95. Kicking Pigeons – [spunge]
This song’s premise is great. As stress relief, according to [spunge], nothing beats kicking pigeons in the park. This song is repetitive, simple, and addicting. The trumpet part is great, the vocals are good, and there’s not much to say beyond that. It goes on just long enough that you don’t get tired of the melody.
94. Start of it All – Royal City Riot
A heartfelt, nostalgic plea to return to the good ol’ days, Start of it All has a lot going for it: Wonderful harmonies, sparse drums, and a great bridge define this song, but the best part, in my opinion, is the harmonica solo. While simple, it solidifies the song’s nostalgic feel. I love the last line, too: “The records decay, but the songs still sound the same / We remember the words and keep singing along.”
93. Shut Up and Listen – N.Y. Citizens
I have my brother Brad to thank for showing me this song. We often send each other songs we think the other would enjoy (Spotify is a glorious thing), and one time, he sent me this. I love the almost – but not quite – whiny tone of the singers voice. The saxophone part is amazing. The worst part of this song is its boring guitar solo, but it’s over quickly.
The lyrics also have a great theme of engaging in the beauty of the world: “Shut up and listen to what you’ve been missing.” Good advice for anyone who’s too caught up talking to notice everything around them.
92. The Science of Selling Yourself Short – Less than Jake:
An amusing, depressing tale about a guy who is, “the king of catastrophes,” “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” is essentially a list of things the singer doesn’t like about himself.
Lyrical wordplay, catchy horn lines, and and a satisfying chorus give this song its character. I’ve found whenever I’m sad, no matter what I’m sad about, there is at least one relatable line in this song.
91. Padrino – Smash Mouth
Pardon me for acting hipster for a moment, but I love to tell casual music fans about how Smash Mouth was a pretty good ska band before they became mainstream. They really found their niche with mainstream rock, but, while they were a ska band, they recorded some good songs, my personal favorite being Padrino.
A song that seems to be about being part of the Mafia, Padrino is about how silence is sometimes golden: “Leave the singin’ to Sinatra, and always keep your big mouth shut,” Padrino has all of Smash Mouth’s strengths: skillful guitar and catchy tunes with playful overtones.