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These are James's Top Ten Porcupine Tree Songs ranked for Ed Bellis's What Would You Do.

Top 10 Porcupine Tree Songs[]

Porcupine Tree are a prog-rock band, formed around 1990 as a solo effort by (now) lead-singer, songwriter and guitarist Steven Wilson. Originally 'they' had a very psychadelic feel, but as Wilson realised what a ***** it was to single-handedly perform these tracks, he brought in a band and started making more ordinary music whilst still very much keeping a prog edge. What resulted is my favourite band of all time, and the following ten songs are an example of why Porcupine Tree hold that lofty status.

(note: where possible, there are links to videos. however, not all of the songs are actually available on youtube :/)

10) Russia On Ice WARNING - some violent scenes are in the video, as well as a couple of banned words appearing in the background at one point.

This comes from a late-90s album, Lightbulb Sun, and very much has a feeling of almost a will, a dying testament of 'psychadelic'-era Porcupine Tree. Over ten minutes long, the second half of it almost entirely spacey guitar, it is the first half where this song earns its spot on this list. Sounding almost like it belongs on a Pink Floyd album, building slowly with ambient vocals provided by Wilson. The true shining element of the song, however, is the dark bass that almost gives the song the feeling of it being a soundtrack for an epic movie. This is helped very much by the spacey guitars surrounding it, and just creates an incredible atmosphere, the brilliance of which is difficult to express in words. Why isn't it higher on the list? The final 3 or 4 minutes. Were it not or that, it could well be number one.

9) Normal

From Porcupine Tree's latest release, the Nil Recurring EP that accompanies their most recent studio album, Normal is the newest song on this list. Another one with a very dark mood, Normal is a rather unusual song - to someone who is reading this list (surely someone is!), hasn't heard Porcupine Tree before, and watches the video I posted for this song (yeh, like anyone's doing it, but still), the chorus will seem utterly mundane and dreary. However, it is important to note that on the album that this song accompanies, there's a song called Sentimental (that I cut from this list, partly to free up space for Russia on Ice and partly because having that AND Normal might be overkill). The choruses are the same, only in Sentimental the chorus has a beautiful piano accompaniment that just makes the song sound incredibly mournful; in Normal, the chorus has deliberately had that element taken out and the vocals made darker so as to give a feeling that this is a sequel, and that the situation is bleaker still at this point.

With that cheery note out of the way, on to discussing the song! I love how emotional Wilson's bleeding vocals are in the verses of this song. I also adore the guitar, pretty much throughout. However, the reason it makes this list above Sentimental is the final two and a bit minutes, which is one of the most beautiful sections of any song I've heard, period. Shame that, not being on a Studio Album, a lot of PT fans may never hear it :/.

8) Idiot Prayer

(No Video ;_;)

Idiot Prayer has the distinction of being the oldest song on this list (sorry, Linton Samuel Dawson fans) and has a special place in my heart for two reasons. One, the first PT album I bought was the one this is from, Signify, and Idiot Prayer is the reason I went out to search for more. Secondly, through slipping it onto a compilation cd that got put in the car, I've used this track to get friends and family into the band as well. Ironically it's not a particularly accurate representation of the band, either <_<. Focusing on awesome bass even more than Russia On Ice, Idiot Prayer almost seems like a precursor to the "bipolar disorder" feel of their latest album, going from quiet, ambient sections into hard, bass-driven ones at the tip of a hat. With the bass accompanied by fantastic guitar, I could not recommend this track highly enough. ...Well I could recommend it 7 places higher, but you know what I mean <_<.

7) Way Out Of Here (Note: this is the official video, but since most people don't like slow two minute starts, it's cut down a lot and isn't the full song. Also, for some reason they decided to make the video incredibly emo <__<) (live version)

Way Out Of Here is track five off PT's newest album, Fear of a Blank Planet. It reminds me of another song, higher up this list, in that it has the formula of quiet verse -> epic chorus -> slightly louder verse -> epic chorus -> impressive and emphatic solo leading to -> final chorus to close out the song. Whilst it doesn't do it as well as said song, especially not in the official video where the song is cut quite mercilessly, it's still very effecive. I love the guitar solo in this song particularly. Incidentally, the 'bi-polar' disorder thing I referred to in the write-up before, this song is one of the main culprits in that regard. Sorry, this write-up isn't particularly good, I just wish I could find a better video 'cause neither one I've posted really does the song justice :/.

6) .3 (No video ;_;)

First song on the list off what is generally regarded as the band's best album, In Absentia, .3 is in my opinion a hugely underrated song. Another built heavily around the bassline, it just builds and builds and builds and...unlike, say, Fear of a Blank Planet (a song that JUST missed the cut for this list by a whisker, incidentally) it just mellows out. It's quite possibly the most wonderfully ambient song Porcupine Tree have ever done, only about two lines of lyrics in the entire song, the guitars spacey and drawn out, and just...well, good. But that's a given considering the spot on the list.

5) Heartattack in a Layby

Another In Absentia contribution, this is just a beautiful, tragic song. About a man dying, his final thoughts, his last words, the vocals blurring together at the end, the emotional guitar...sorry, I know I'm gushing. I'm not really in position to do much else, it's just such a wonderful piece of music. Seriously, just check the link and listen. Practically has me in tears by the time it's finished. Whenever I listen, I find myself repeating "she waits for me, home waits for me" over and over in my head for about a day.

4) The Start of Something Beautiful (live version)

The first (but not the last) song on this list from Deadwing, TSoSB is the song I was eluding to earlier in Way Out of Here. The difference is, here, the extended solo between the second and third choruses is just out-of-this-world good, possibly the best thing they've ever done. The verses are "meh", the chorus is definitely far above average but not GREAT; that solo just takes the entire song up about ten levels. The piano is beautiful, the guitar over the top builds wonderfully, and by the time of the final chorus you're just completely hooked on the song. You've forgotten that the first couple of minutes aren't anything special, because by that point who cares. I love it, absolutely love it.

3) Arriving Somewhere But Not Here

(No Video ;_;)

This would be the other Deadwing song on the list. That it's not first speaks volumes, in my opinion, about the quality of the songs above it. From the very opening bit of keyboard to the fadeout at the end, it's just a wonderful song. There's one part, and only one part, that I dislike - the heavy section. I know they had a guy from Opeth or something I don't give a toss about, but that's no excuse. You do not stick a heavy section in a song as utterly wonderful and ambient as this one.

And despite that, it's still number three on the list, because the rest of the song is just that impressive. The first two minutes are this wonderfully, wonderfully ambient keyboard. It's both touching and relaxing, and just as it finishes it gives way into the most gorgeous guitar I've heard in my life. The guitar repeats over and over, creating almost a wall of noise, and a feel as though Wilson's vocals are riding on it. He says simple statements such as "never stop your car on a drive in the dark", and it just feels incredibly epic and emphatic because the guitar is built up so well. By the second verse, it gets more sinister and become less about ambience, more about power - in feel alone, as the style of music doesn't change one iota. "Did you ever imagine the final sound as a gun? Or the smashing windscreen or a car?" The vocals echoing beautifully, the song continues to develop, until it gets to my most hated of sections, the heavy one. Yet still it retains momentum, retains focus, and eventually it mellows out before coming back. It doesn't quite feel the same as the incredible first 6 minutes or so, but little does. I really wish there was a youtube video of it...just, trust me. Epic stuff.

2) Anesthetize (Part One) (Part Two)

Oh boy, where to begin. Another Fear of a Blank Planet song, at 17 minutes Anesthetize is not only the centre-piece of the entire album, but also the second-longest song the band have ever written. And whilst, admittedly, it would probably be an even better song if it lost the final 5 minutes, I don't begrudge it the amount of time it demands because the song is good enough to justify it. As the placement on the list should demonstrate.

The first section is beyond brilliance. From the opening guitar it just feels epic, and Wilson's vocals help that. However, what undoubtedly steals the show throughout not just this section but the entire song is Gavin Harrison's incredible drumming. It's atmospheric, powerful, keeps a song with soaring ambitions grounded firmly in reality and's great :p. The guitar is both sinister and mournful, and the guitar solo itself is...actually only average. But hey, it was provided by a guy from Rush, so, y'know, STAR POWER.

The second section, dubbed 'Pills', is quite possibly my favourite bit. The transition to it from section one at 6:19 is actually quite terrible, but I really don't care because this is just so epicly brilliant. The chorus outshines that of any pop or rock song I've ever encountered, the guitar is at its absolute best, the drumming actually gets even better if that's even possible...really, I could wax lyrical about this for ages. I'll stop now, but seriously. Awesome. Very.

Section three pales in comparison to the first two sections. It's actually pretty good, very ambient and relaxing after the 12 minutes or so that preceeded it, but I have absolutely no idea why they thought it would be a good idea to include it in this song and not make it a seperate track. But oh well, it doesn't harm what preceeds it or make the song any less special!

In conclusion, I'd LOVE for this song above all others to be a kind of 'final boss' on Rock Band. I swear I'd buy not only the game but a console to play it on if it happened. I'm a pretty quiet and calm individual, but this song has me air-drumming, air-guitaring, singing along's just wonderful, truly wonderful.

1) Trains (Note: I have no idea what the video is, it's some random anime I've never heard of. But you're listening to the music!)

Considering what's preceeded it on this list, I need to wax pretty lyrical about this song to justify it's placement, right? Well, no. Please, just listen to the youtube vid. The song speaks for itself, and unlike the last three songs it's under 6 minutes. Just beautiful guitar, just beautiful singing, just...beautiful. Not just my favourite Porcupine Tree song, but my favourite song, period, and by quite a long distance. And their slightly modified live version is even better.


Porcupine Tree are a fantastic band. There were many, many great songs I cut from that list - started out with a shortlist of over fifty songs! I heartily recommend listening to not just the stuff on the list, but a large array of PT stuff as this is by far all they have to offer - I ommitted a lot of the heavier stuff, a lot of the softer, piano based stuff, and also a lot of the more psychadelic stuff. There's just so much to love and so little spaces on a top ten list :(.