When an artist has an album that's commonly accepted as their best, there's usually one song in there that's cited as their best as well ("God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen...). However, a lot of artists end up putting their best songs on an album that isn't actually their best. Here are seven artists who's best song isn't actually on their best album.
1. The Kinks - "Waterloo Sunset" (1967)
Ray Davies had written a bunch of awesome songs during the Kinks' early days, but the band's 1967 single "Waterloo Sunset" is the pinnacle of Davies' songwriting, and has frequently been described as one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Although the album it appears on, Something Else by the Kinks, is an excellent pop record, the band's true masterpiece came the following year, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.
2. Neil Young - "Harvest" (1972)
Neil Young may have written catchier and more adventurous songs than the title track to Harvest, but few of his songs have the same breezy and wistful quality that make "Harvest" one of his greatest, if not his absolute greatest. The Harvest LP may be Young's most successful, but few of his die-hard fans consider it to be his best, instead citing Tonight's the Night, On the Beach, or my personal favorite, After the Gold Rush, as his masterpiece.
3. Talking Heads - "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" (1983)
I don't know how many people saw the Sean Penn movie This Must Be the Place, but the best thing about that movie by far was David Byrne's performance of the eponymous song, which also happens to be Talking Heads' greatest song, from the band's commercial breakthrough Speaking in Tongues. As exciting as the songs on that album are, however, it's not as consistently brilliant as the band's albums with Brian Eno: Remain in Light, Fear of Music, and More Songs About Buildings and Food.
4. R.E.M. - "Cuyahoga" (1986)
Choosing a favorite R.E.M. song is brutal for me. Sometimes I'll say "Laughing," other times I'll say "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville," but my most common choice is "Cuyahoga" from Lifes Rich Pageant. As excitingly electric and straightforward as that album is though, none of R.E.M.'s LP's can touch the surreal brilliance of the band's debut Murmur.
5. Hüsker Dü - "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely" (1986)
Hüsker Dü's two songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, were constantly butting heads and trying to out-do one another, but Hart basically won Hüsker Dü with his noise-pop jam "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely," though the song's LP, Candy Apple Grey, is one of the band's weakest.
6. The Cure - "Just Like Heaven" (1987)
It might be a little lame and unoriginal to think that a band's most popular song is its best, but the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" is truly a tour de force of pop songwriting. Unfortunately, the rest of the songs on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me don't even come close to reaching the same heights. The albums released before and after it, The Head on the Door and Disintegration, are the band's two best.
7. Pavement - "Grounded" (1995)
Pavement's Wowee Zowee is essentially its "White Album," a sprawling LP stuffed with basically anything the band could think of. This approach resulted in an album full of weird stuff, but also some unusually beautiful tracks like "Grounded," the greatest thing Stephen Malkmus ever wrote and probably will ever write. However, Pavement's previous album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the band's magnum opus (though each Pavement fan seems to have a different favorite).
What did I forget? What did I get wrong? Let us know in the comments section!