20. Yo La Tengo, “Tom Courtenay”

The sepia-toned “Tom Courtenay” uses ‘60s British acting royalty for the backdrop of a song about the deceptive glamour of fame (and the irresistible draw of stars’ private follies). Vocalist Ira Kaplan serves as a sympathetic narrator, as trembling, distortion-spackled guitars bend and hum underneath him while the “ba-ba-ba” counterpoint adds levity. —A.Z.

19. Everclear, “Santa Monica”

A pretty good rock band’s one true moment of transcendence, a three-minute-long emotional crescendo of loneliness and anxiety that doesn’t let the little moments — frontman Art Alexakis’ delicious pause in the “I am still living with your…ghost” opener, the perfectly defeated harmonies on the verse-closing “I just wanna find some place to be alone” — get lost in the rising action. Everclear spent way too much of their ensuing career trying to replace the formula of “Santa Monica,” but you probably would too. —A.U.

18. Blur, “The Universal”

When Blur aims for loveliness, they have rarely failed, or even flailed: A nervy bunch of nervous guys, they still sound most at home when they’ve got a sweeping, lovely, orchestra-ready tune to unveil. So don’t let the mock-Clockwork Orange video fool you; Damon Albarn spends “The Universal” crooning his ass off. This fitful band, who’ve always been happy with the money but fidget with their place in the cosmos, actually making something so universal? It really, really, really could happen. —D.W.

17. The Folk Implosion, “Natural One”

Lou Barlow probably never should have had a hit, but thank Larry Clark and Harmony Korine for turning his otherwise minor project Folk Implosion into a momentary household name. “Natural One” was, undoubtedly one of the grimmer and grimier songs he ever wrote, sticky both with infectious melody and the sort of unidentified fluid you might find on a dingy bar’s bathroom doorknob, an appropriately skeevy feeling given the content of the film it famously soundtracked. —C.J.

16. Better Than Ezra, “Good”

Not the biggest alt-rock hit of ’95, but likely the one you’d point to first to sum up what the year sounded like, with a glossy post-grunge guitar sheen, a loping Kim Deal-esque bass line, and lyrics of indeterminate anguish and nostalgic longing (“Well maybe I’ll call or write you a letter / Well maybe we’ll see on the Fourth of July”) split up by a simple chorus full of catchy non-verbal utterances. To those born after 1990 it might understandably mean bupkis; the rest of us may never know how good we truly had it. —A.U.

15. PJ Harvey, “Down by the Water”

PJ Harvey’s modern rock hit “Down by the Water” may have sounded slinky and seductive — credit for that goes to the pizzicato string-plucking and buzzing synth foundation, as well as Harvey’s mournful vocals — but its motivations were anything but romantic: it’s the harrowing story of a mother drowning her own daughter. —A.Z.

14. Rancid, “Ruby Soho”

There are some tender-sounding verses sung-spoke in Tim Armstrong’s street-wearied grumble. But what’s to remember when you’ve got that massively cyclical “Destination unknown” hook to take up vacancy in your ear canal for the rest of your life? 20 years on, we still don’t know where ’til these mohawks get there. But what a ride. —D.W.

13. Guided By Voices, “Game of Pricks”

Robert Pollard has released more great half-songs than most aspiring songwriters have probably even written, but the 90 seconds of “Game of Pricks” may be the best he ever laid down on a rickety tape machine. Pollard’s a lost soul shooting up pure rock and roll and scrawling out scattered riffs and abstract junk poetry in life’s margins. Few can do more with less. —C.J.

12. Matthew Sweet, “Sick of Myself”

Matthew Sweet’s mid-decade guise was that of loose-riffed ‘70s rocker. This era was highlighted by the brilliant “Sick of Myself,” an exuberant, pop-centered shuffle stacked with easygoing electric guitars, mild (but cheerful) self-hatred and a couple of well-earned false endings which exacerbated its playful core. —A.Z.

11. Goo Goo Dolls, “Name”

Apparently about MTV VJ Kennedy — is nothing sacred? — this walking-pace jangler played Look Ma, No Mandolins with “The Battle of Evermore,” bombed the place with double-time drums on the hook, and made a non-Sonic Youth case for alternate tunings that border on random. Like their godhead Paul Westerberg but far more shamefully, they “grew up way too fast” but this delicate piece of rickety alt gold will never sound tired, even on a tired radio. —D.W.

10. Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know”