Ah, Nickel Creek. The originally-a-bluegrass band, almost-bluegrass band that defined and fostered an entire generation of young roots music fans. Their five album catalog is chock-full of incredible songs, but for our purposes we’re going to rank their greatest hits as released on their 2006 compilation album, Reasons Why (The Very Best). Let’s start at the bottom, just to stir the pot right off the bat.
14. “The Fox”
When your audiences eventually universally devolve into nothing better than a non-Newtonian fluid that aggressively shouts “THE FOOOOOOOOOX” incessantly, it’s time to maybe consider that a “hit” isn’t necessarily a good thing. And if you ever attended a Nickel Creek concert during their heyday and you weren’t one of the ones yelling, you probably came to that conclusion, too. The band certainly has. And that poor goose…
13. “The Lighthouse’s Tale”
Look, you knew it was next. If Chris Thile himself openly mocks the song onstage, perhaps it doesn’t deserve a higher slot. Personification of a lighthouse though. Groundbreaking. Or should we say, sand-breaking. (Too soon?)
12. “Somebody More Like You”
Just because Sean’s early 2000s, punk-esque vocal choices are somewhat… jarring.
This song doesn’t seem to have aged well… A man uses not one, but two women and he’s so goddamn flippant about it. Is that love?? Dang if it’s not a catchy song though. Number eleven feels right.
10. “Can’t Complain”
Another in the “As a teen I shouted along with the words from the bottom of my heart and now I take pause” category. “…Made her wanna die / But she can’t complain she can’t complain.” Can’t she!?
9. “Should’ve Known Better”
See numbers eleven and ten. They should’ve known better. HaHA!
8. “You Don’t Have to Move that Mountain”
A cover that was previously unreleased by the band, this one is neither lackluster nor exactly awe-inspiring. Solid, for sure, but eight feels like the right spot. Especially given its “hit” status being ascribed only by its inclusion on the album alone. Are we all good with this praxis? Great. (Check that Mark Schatz bass solo though, okay?)
7. “Out of the Woods”
So vibey and lush. Spooky and ethereal. Like the woods from a Bronté novel. It’s a good one, perfect for the middle of the pack.
6. “Reasons Why”
Why number six, you may ask? I have my reasons why: mainly the space-age neo-folk vocal arrangements, with those tight tight tight harmonies. Makes me want to shake fists at the sky!
5. “This Side”
“You dream of colors that have never been made” was perhaps the deepest, most profound line on the Grammy-winning album, This Side, by the opinion of this writer, who wore out the CD oh, almost two decades ago.
4. “Smoothie Song”
Not as good as “Scotch & Chocolate” or “Stumptown,” but still. A bop.
3. “When in Rome”
Asking the tough questions, one by one. A manifesto for teenage bluegrass fans exploring music on the fringes of the familiar. Also, stomping in puddles. When in Rome, after all…
2. “Jealous of the Moon”
Devastatingly melancholy, but with a hopeful message. Pure poetry. Just remember, you don’t need to call anyone to save you. The problem is simple: “There’s nothing you can do / If you’re too scared to try.”
1. “When You Come Back Down”
One reason we could count this as the number one song in and among Nickel Creek’s greatest hits is that IT ISN’T AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY. Travesty. The true reason, though, is that this is unimpeachably the best of the trio’s greatest hits. Sure, it can read like a song ripe for overuse at high school graduations, but it’s beautiful, it’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s almost literally uplifting. Take every chance you dare.