In music, the most encountered time signature is 4/4, boring old Common Time.There's also 2/4 and 2/2, "cut time," which aren't too much different - all the bars still divide evenly into two, which makes these useful meters for marches; two beats per measure equals one measure per pair of steps. 3/4, sometimes called "three-quarter time" and the canonical meter for waltzes, is also fairly intuitive - if you've ever been taught to waltz by counting "step, two, three, step, two, three" then you know how it works. You can start mixing the twos up with threes and get 6/4, 3/2, 9/8 and such, which don't have the same rhythms as Common Time, but can still be counted out fairly easily.
Music in Uncommon Time, however, does away with regular meters, and instead opts for totally unconventional rhythms that mix twos and threes with abandon. This can be done by choosing an oddball time signature such as 5/4 or 7/8 that can't be divided regularly into twos and threes, and/or by switching time signatures rapidly and seemingly at random.
See also The Other Wiki's list of musical works in unusual time signatures.
The "top" number of a time signature indicates how many beats are in a measure, and the bottom number indicates the length of the beat, as determined by how many multiples of the beat make up a semibreve (whole note). For example, a 4/4 time signature means "four beats per measure, counted in quarter notes." As such, the top number is usually what makes a difference: a song that's in 4/4 will sound more-or-less the same as a song that's in 4/2 because both of them go "one two three four", even though it'll look longer on paper. Likewise, a song in 4/4 is not the same as a song in 2/2, because while each measure has the same "duration" (4 x 0.25 versus 2 x 0.5), a 2/2 song only has two beats ("One, Two, One, Two..."). (And "duration" is a relative term anyhow since a song in 4/4 can be played super-slow and a song in 2/2 super-fast, or vice-versa.)
Time signatures are conventionally divided into simple, compound, and irregular. In a simple time signature, each beat is subdivided into two — thus, a simple duple meter might be 2/4 (1 and 2 and) and a simple triple meter might be 3/4 (1 and 2 and 3 and). In a compound time signature, each beat is subdivided into three — compound duple meter being 1 and a 2 and a, complex triple being 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a, etc. These time signatures are often written as 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, etc, which may seem somewhat counterintuitive; a 6/8 bar is the same length as a 3/4 bar and may look visually similar, but they sound nothing alike (6/8 is broken up into 3+3, while 3/4 is broken up into 1+1+1). For audialization purposes it might help to divide top and bottom of a compound time signature by 3 — 6/8 is more properly understood as 2/2.666..., but fractional notation never caught on.
Irregular time signatures are those that are not evenly divided, and as such fall within the purview of this trope. For example, 5/8 can be divided into 2 + 3 or 3 + 2. As a rule, any time signature where the top number is not a multiple of 2 or 3 will be irregular* with the sole exception of 9/8, which could be either. There are, however, a number of regular-looking time signatures that are often irregularly divided: 8/8, for example, is commonly divided in folk music into 3 + 2 + 3 or 3 + 3 + 2. Sometimes these will be notated in the score, e.g. as 3+3+2/8, to avoid confusion.
Finally, there are irrational time signatures. These are time signatures in which the beat is a tuplet — i.e. an equal subdivision of the semibreve that is not divisible by two. For example, a piece may call for 4/5 — four quintuplet crochets (where five quintuplets equal four regular crochets) per bar. Since this in practice means simply a brief increase in tempo by 120%, irrational time signatures are only useful as occasional, brief "metric modulations" and rarely show up outside the most esoteric works of experimental music. There would be no point to writing a whole song in 4/5; you could as easily notate it in 4/4 at a hundred and twenty percent of the speed and without giving musicians huge headaches.
And there is music in no time signature at all (in "free time"), mostly written before 1600 (in the days of mensural notation).
Also realize that a pattern of several different time signatures (such as 3 bars of 4/4 and one of 2/4) are not usually combined and called by the combined time (14/4 in the example given). This is mostly because musicians rely on bar lines as a visual navigation aid; very large measures are easy to get lost in (and hard to fit on a single piece of paper!). So although unique combinations of time signatures are Uncommon Time, your musicians will hate you if you combine them into something like 27/4 - unless you're trying to become gods in the prog-geek world, in which case, hey, go ahead and write your verses out in 32/4 (4+4+4+4+4+4+4+4).
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Many ancient hymns and chants don't even use time signatures. As a result, some have really weird settings where each line might have, say, 4 1/2 beats.
Overall, it's become almost ridiculously common for modern hymn composers to jump all over the place with time signatures:
"Waterlife", a hymn composed by Handt Hanson, is in 7/4 on the verses.
"Look There! The Christ, Our Brother Stands", by John Bennett, has two melodies in the Episcopalian The Hymnal 1982. The first tune, by William Albright, has the right hand playing an 11/8 ostinato over a verse that starts in 5/4 but switches to 4/4 partway through.
And many more of the newly composed tunes in the same book will lack time signatures entirely, but have bars that are obviously meant to be treated as something like 5/4 or 7/4 when all the other stanzas are 4/4.
One melody for "Christ, Mighty Savior" in the same book is written in what can only be described as 4˝/4 time — it doesn't actually have a time signature.
Likewise with "Of the Father's Love Begotten".
Josh Groban's "In Her Eyes" is 5/4 time.
Igor Stravinsky loved changing time signatures almost every measure. "The Rite Of Spring" is a good example of him playing havoc with time signatures: "The Naming and Honoring of the Chosen One" changes, in consecutive measures, from 9/8 to 5/8 to 7/8 to 3/8 to 4/8 to 7/4 to 3/4.
The "resurrection" sequence that begins the finale to The Firebird has several bars in 7/4 time.
The finale of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 alternates bars of 3/4 and 2/4 in its main theme.
And "Bazaar Of The Caravans" from Kismet, which is merely the finale of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 with an overlaid vocal arrangement.
"Sensemayá" by Silvestre Revueltas is primarily in 7/8, but has a lot of measures in various other time signatures.
In Gustav Holst's The Planets, "Mars" is in 5/4 and 5/2 (except for the coda, which is 3/4) and "Neptune" is entirely in 5/4. (Indeed, the movements are symmetrical (in the order presented, rather than the actual order of the planets) when it comes to time signatures)
In a lesser known work, "Egdon Heath," he uses 7/4, a later section is in 5/4, and instead of actually writing out triplets, in the middle he puts half the orchestra in 7/4 and half in 21/8. At different points in the piece, there are also two bars of 4/4
Bernstein's "waltzes" were sometimes in the usual 3/4 (e.g. the "Paris Waltz" in Candide), and sometimes really different: the waltz in his Divertimento for Orchestra is in 7/8; the waltz in his ballet music for Fancy Free switches freely between 3/4, 3/8 and 4/4.
"Profanation" from Symphony No. 1 shifts meters almost constantly. The first theme mixes 6/8, 8/8 and 7/8 (the latter two are both divided into three beats).
In "Kaddish" (Symphony No. 3), the chorus begins singing "Kaddish 1" in 7/8 alternating with 3/4, with a later section in 8/8 (3 + 2 + 3). "Kaddish 2" begins and ends in 5/8, with a middle section in 5/16. "Kaddish 3" has a middle section in 7/8. The finale is mostly in 7/8 (2/4 + 3/8) and 7/4 (4/4 + 3/4).
Bernstein's music for On the Waterfront includes a very fast, drum-heavy theme whose bars alternate between alla breve and 3/4.
"Turkey Trot" from the Divertimento for Orchestra alternates bars of alla breve and 3/4.
The "Prelude" theme from "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs" switches between 4/4 (=8/8), 3/4 (=6/8), 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8, though its barlines get translated into Common Time when it reappears in the "Fugue."
If you think the quote at the top of the page is a joke, you should talk to Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt. He has a setting of the "Veni Sancte Spiritus" text which, From 2:39 to 3:03, gives the sopranos and altos a pattern represented by one bar of 4/2 and another of 3/2, while the tenors and basses a pattern in two bars of 4/2. And all four parts begin their patterns at totally different times, meaning that each part's bar lines don't necessarily line up. The best a conductor can do at that point is give individual beats and then hope to God his singers can count.
Whoever claimed it might be more intuitive to notate triplet meters as X/6 might care to glance at the score of Thomas Adčs's Piano Quintet sometime. The first and last few bars are in 4/4 (not that they sound like it). In between things get a bit ... complicated. 4/5, 1/12, 3/10, 6/7.... What's more, in many places each of the five players has a completely different "irrational" time signature, synchronising with the others only occasionally. Yeah. It's somewhat surprising that it can be performed at all without coming across as a godawful polymetric mess.
And even that doesn't compare to some of Conlon Nancarrow's music, like a player piano study in which the parts are moving at a ratio of √42 (~6.4807) to 1.
Willson Osbourne's Rhapsody for Solo Clarinet has a measure in 5.5/4 time.
Karl Jenkins' Chorale (sol-fa) + Cantus 'Song of Aeolus' is a mix of 2 songs. The result is a song, part 5/8, part 7/8 and part 4/4.
Jami Sieber's "Long past gone" and "Tell it by heart" have alternating 12/4 and 11/4 bars.
Robert Jager's Third Suite for Band, a perennial favorite, includes a march with a first strain in 7/4 (4 + 3) and second strain and trio in 5/4 (3 + 2) followed by a waltz in 5/4 (3 + 2).
Enya commonly uses uncommon time signatures in her work, often switching them mid-song. "Book Of Days" changes time signature nearly every measure (4/4 to 3/2 to 5/4 to 2/4 to 5/4, etc...) except for the bridge which maintains the opening 4/4 time.
Percy Aldridge Granger put the third movement of Lincolnshire Posy into 2.5/4 and the 4th movement switches between 5/8 and 7/8.
The Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (no, that's not a descriptor. That's his name) alternates between 5/4 and 6/4 for its first few measures.
The finale of Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor has a main theme that mixes 5/8, 7/8 and 8/8.
The finale of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto no. 2 in G minor has significant passages in 7/4 and 5/4.
In Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos, the Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm are respectively in (4+2+3)/8, (2+2+3)/8, (2+3)/8, (3+2+3)/8, (2+2+2+3)/8 and (3+3+2)/8.
Szelenyi has a piece aptly titled "Changing Bars." There are only four places where it stays in the same meter for two measures in a row. The rest of the time it alternates between 2/8, 3/8, and 4/8 with no apparent logic behind it.
The finale of Samuel Barber's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is in a very fast 5/8.
Ralph Vaughan Williams in his youth wrote Heroic Elegy and Triumphal Epilogue in 7/8 time. Not so bad, except that it also starts with a syncopated triplet and another syncopated quaver immediately following, and keeps this up as an ostinato for over ten minutes. Unsurprisingly, it never became a favorite of any conductor.
Most of the later works of Olivier Messiaen change the time signature in every measure. (!) He mostly used extremely uncommon times like (3+2+2)/32, (2+2+3)/16 and mixed them with more common ones like 2/8 or 3/8.
Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" has "Dies irae" in 7/4, "Confutatis" in 5/4, and "Agnus Dei" in 5/16.
Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" symphony has the second movement in 5/4.
A common verse pattern in country music: Two 4/4 bars, a 2/4 bar and another 4/4 bar (or 2/2 and 1/2, respectively, for a 7/2). Examples include "Skip a Rope" by Henson Cargill, and "Just Might Have Her Radio On" by Trent Tomlinson. Randy Travis' "If I Didn't Have You" and "A Different World" by Bucky Covington use the 2/2-2/2-1/2-2/2 variant.
Dennis Linde was fond of slipping 6/4 and 7/4 bars into his usually 4/4 songs, including "Janie Baker's Love Slave" and "Heaven Bound (I'm Ready)" by Shenandoah; "Night Is Fallin' in My Heart" by Diamond Rio; "Down in a Ditch" by Joe Diffie; etc.
"Music on the Wind" by Suzy Bogguss is in 5/4 time.
"Cowboys and Angels" by Dustin Lynch is in 7/4 on the verses, but mostly returns to 4/4 for the chorus.
"Sand Dollar" by the progressive bluegrass band The String Cheese Incident is in 5/4, and "Turn This Around" alternates 8/4 and 7/4 bars at one point.
Electronic music giants Autechre sometimes delve into unusual time signatures - "Drane" from Peel Session and "Cichli" from Chiastic Slide are in 10/4, while "777" from LP5 is 7/8. The melody from "Slip on Amber" also seems to follow an odd signature. They also use a certain polyrhythm, in which the song assumes a straight 4/4 rhythm and expected four measures throughout the track, except for the bass drum pattern which only follows three measures, leading to interesting combinations. Listen to "Rotar" from Tri Repetae and "Cichli" from Chiastic Slide for examples.
Averted by Confield, which is probably one of the weirdest albums in the world but manages to stay in common time. "Gantz Graf" is also confoundingnote After all it's placed at level 11 in the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness... but is also in 4/4 (a lone hi-hat click is your only hint.)
Autechre also like to abuse tempos. With "Teartear" (from Amber), it merely means a simple slowdown at the end of the song, but "Cap.IV" from Gantz Graf, which is in constant acceleration, nearly becomes a huge smear by the end of the track, and the rhythm in "Fold4,Wrap5" from LP5 somehow manages to constantly shift its tempo down only to return to its origin again (all while the melody seemingly keeps a steady rhythm).
iamamiwhoami's "u-2," part of the "To whom it may concern." series, is in 7/4 time.
Lamb has an entire album dedicated to this trope called "Fear of Fours."
Venetian Snares is the all-time king of this, having used it so much he damn near inverts it. How crazy does he get? "Nineteen 1319" alternates 13/4 and 19/4 time.
For him, Common Time is the least common signature—he prefers 7/4.
He appears to have a follower in Scottish musician Acrnym.
"Polyrhythm" by Perfume. The bridge has 5/8 and 6/8 (vocal parts) over 4/4 (the drumbeat), then to 3/2 after the vocal 'hiccups'; the low synth has a 7:6 polyrhythm. It was such a radical song for what is essentially an Idol Group that the company initially requested that the bridge be cut altogether. The song's composer (and Record Producer) Yasutaka Nakata saw that the song was allowed to stand as is (although a radio edit version was made in concession), and it became Perfume's first top ten hit.
The aforementioned Autechre and Venetian Snares have actually collaborated on a track titled "Elephant Gear" under the alias "AEVSVS" as part of a compilation of tracks in memory of Elektron co-founder Daniel Hansson. Naturally, the track was in uncommon time, specifically 5/4.
The song "Good-N-Evil" from Traci Lords' album "1000 Fires" is a 7/8 song given a four-on-the-floor rhythm, which makes the meter sound like 3.5/4.
The title track of Lazerhawk's Visitors has a 5/4 bassline against a 4/4 beat, while "The Voyage" alternates between 3*7/8 and 4/4, basically the "Tubular Bells" rhythm minus a half-beat.
"Punchinello" by Mr. 76ix is in 14/16, which is not the same as 7/8 since it is divided differently: 2/4 + 2*3/16 rather than 2/4 +3/8.
ohGr's "Eyecandy"(11/8) and "Feelin' Chicken"(5/4).
"Robotic Apocalypse" by Cyborganic Zombie has the drum track alternating 3 bars in 5/4 with three in 3/4, and everything else on top in 4/4.
'So Damn Beautiful (Amethyst Mix)' by Polaroid is in 3/4 — not particularly out of the ordinary, except that it exists in a genre where everything is in 4/4 because it's supposed to be crossfaded with other tracks.
Folk and Blues
Greek folk dance style Tzakonikos employs 5/4 key.
Vienna Teng's "Harbor", which is in 5/8 when it's not in 6/8, 3+3+2/8 (which is not the same as 8/8 due to the location of the stresses) or 7/8.
A lesser-known but better example is "Signal Fire", ostensibly a 5/4 piece that changes meter at the drop of a hat.
Bulgarian music is really big on difficult time signatures. Here is an example of traditional folk dancing in 11/16, 7/8, 12/8 and 8/8, roughly in this order.
Same with Bosnian music. The traditional L'jepi li su mostarski ducani, for example, is in various divisions of 9/4 and 9/8, like 2+2+2+3/8 and 3+2+4/4.
Nickel Creek's "In the House of Tom Bombadil" has a recurring bridge that is either played in 9/8 or 9/4 time, made more interesting by the occurrence of a single 4/4 bar at the beginning of every repetition of the motif.
Sufjan Stevens loves this trope. You'll hear it several times per album, sometimes even per song.
Perhaps the ruler of all songs listed here is Sufjan's "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois," which is mostly in 65/16 (18+17+17+13/16) (source).
Subverted in "Happy Family Christmas", which starts by him counting "one-two-and-one-two-three-four," implying 7/8 time, but then continues as a 4/4 song.
Bert Jansch was notorious for fitting the music to his lyrics, rather than the more common lyrics to music. As a result many of his songs veer off wildly into odd time signatures just for that one line, with little logic or reason aside from "it sounds better".
OutKast's "Hey Ya!" is in some fairly strange meter signature. It has three measures of 4/4, one of 2/4, and two more of 4/4; these six measures form a larger super-pattern that is repeated throughout the song.
"Grammy Family" by Consequence featuring DJ Khaled, John Legend, and Kanye West cycles five bars of 4/4 and can thus be tracked out as 10/2 or 20/4. (The first couple of these are pretty disorienting, too.) While questionably uncommon for music as a whole, even this much is rare in rap.
The "time studies" of the Dave Brubeck Quartet use unconventional time signatures.
"Take Five", "Countdown" and "Castilian Blues" are in 5/4;
"Three's A Crowd" and "Unsquare Dance" are in 7/4;
It's actually worse than that — "Kathy's Waltz" features a saxophone solo by Paul Desmond in waltz time with the drummer (Joe Morello) playing 6/8 behind him, then segues into a waltz-time piano solo by Brubeck that suddenly breaks into a 4/4 swing right in the middle, with Eugene Wright playing bass in 3/4 while Morello continues to play 6/8... it has to be heard to be believed.
Jazz musician and arranger Don Ellis was known for his use of unorthodox time signatures. His Electric Bath album featured charts in 5/4 ("Indian Lady"), 7/4 ("Turkish Bath"), and 17/4 ("New Horizons"). A later chart, "Niner Two" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
As is "33 222 1 222", in 19/4.
"The first number we have is one that is based in what we call the 'traditional 19,' nineteen beats to the bar. Let me give you the subdivision here, it is 3-3-2-2-2-1-2-2-2. Of course, that's just the area code."
The Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Birds of Fire" off the album of the same name is in 9/8. Then "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters", on the same album, is in 19/16.
"Let Me Be Your Mirror" (by Hal David & Michel Legrand) is in 5/4.
Outsider jazz/classical composer Louis "Moondog" Hardin frequently experimented with Uncommon Time; he was quoted as saying "I'm not gonna die in 4/4." His chamber piece "Chaconne in G Major" features an unconventional method of stringing fours together — one can make a case that the time signature is actually 8/4 or 16/8.
His preferred method of working was to string together rounds in unconventional times. See "All Is Loneliness", which is performed in 5/4 (and was covered in 4/4, much to his annoyance, by Janis Joplin); or "Bumbo" (first song in this link), which is in 4/4 but arranged in an unconventional three-bar measure.
The band Supersilent loves ... unusual time signatures, for example, the mid-section in 7.4. It's made all the more impressive by the fact that their entire catalogue is made up entirely of free improvisations being written on the spot, from scratch. They've never even played the same riff twice in 15 years together, let alone song, yet they still manage to modulate time signatures and polyrhythms on the fly. They are understandably tense and focused while playing live, though not beyond joking about.
Pat Metheny embraces every time signature known to man. Not only does much of his work modulate through varying common times, but through multiple uncommons. For example, one of his earlier compositions in Pat Metheny Group, "The First Circle", cycles around a 22/8 riff with 12/8, 6/8 and 4/4 utilized. Two consecutive songs on Letter from Home are titled "45/8" after its uncommon time (which, for an exercise in how far they could stretch the concept, is pretty catchy); and '5-5-7", after the 5/4 - 5/4 - 7/4 pattern of the main riff (the song also uses 6/4, 6/8 and 3/4.)
Jeff Coffin likewise loves bizarre time, but is much more focused on making uncommon time groove like no other. All of the weirdness of his music can be attributed to his... unconventional phrasing. A song titled "The MadHatter Rides Again"" features a main melody in 17/8 (referred to by Coffin as "eight and a half-four") and a bridge in alternating 9/4 and 7/4. This is all on about two chords - thanks to the song being funk. Yep.
Mathcore band The Number Twelve Looks Like You loves this. The song "Grandfather" alone includes 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 7/4, 11/8, and 13/4.
Many of Alice in Chains' songs (particularly the ones composed by Jerry) have unusual time signatures. Especially notable is "Them Bones" which shifts between 7/8 and 4/4 at different points in the song.
Tool likes to use weird time signatures with a lot of their songs. The most famous is probably "Schism" which, according to Justin Chancellor, their bassist starts out in * jokingly referred to as6.5/8 time, and then just goes everywhere from that point. Interesting to listen to, not so much when you actually try to play it yourself.
The intro riff is in 6/4. A bar of 5/8 and then a bar of 7/8.
"Schism" apparently holds the record for most time signature changes in a song that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, with 47 changes in its nearly 7 minute running time.
"Lateralus", the title track from the same album, is another example. The chorus is in 9+8+7/8, and the rest of the song combines 5/8 and 12/16 or 12/8(both of which feel like 4/4, but looking at it rhythmically, and tempo-wise, there aren't enough 16th notes in 4/4 for some parts).
There's also the bridge of the song where the drums are playing 5/8 and the rest of the band is using 6/8.
Many other Tool songs make use of 5/4, 7/4, 9/4, and changing or compound meters, including "Intolerance", "Die Eier Von Satan", "Forty Six & Two", "The Patient", "Jambi", and "Vicarious"
The Grudge is in 5/4 and Right in Two is in 11/8.
"Question!" by System of a Down continually shifts between 9/8, 10/8, 6/8 and 3/4, to the point that the band has had trouble playing it live.
Soundgarden was known for their unintentional usage of unusual time signatures, most famously in their song "Spoonman".
The main riff for the song "Ithyphallic" by Nile is in 7/4, but the song has numerous time changes and tempo changes, using 4/4, 5/4, 3/4, 6/4, and 7/4, and tempos ranging from 255 BPM to 60 BPM.
Also, the song "Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is in the Water" has, as it's most odd time signatures, 11/8, 5/8, 9/8, 7/8, and a couple of bars of 17/16.
Meshuggah, much like Tool (who they have toured with) love this trope, and they tend to do a lot with it. In the main riff to "New Millennium Cyanide Christ", for example, their drummer plays a slow 4/4 with his hands and a very brisk 23/16 with his feet, and it only gets more complex from there.
Sludge/drone/noise metal outfit Normpeterson's "Attenuation" is in 7/4 time.
Underoath's "We Are the Involuntary" jumps between 5/4, 4/4, and 3/4.
"The Created Void" is in 5/4 with some 3/4.
Between The Buried And Me lives for this trope, their songs normally jumping among several time signatures. Perhaps most notably, "Selkies - The Endless Obsession" has mostly 13/8 verses, and "Prequel to the Sequel" includes a 5/4 polka section.
"White Walls" really takes the cake, though: the main riff is in 24.5/4 ([3+4+2+2.5+3+4+2+4]/4) and the song rarely, if ever, stays in the same time signature for a full minute.
Dream Theater uses this a lot. "Learning to Live" starts in 15/8 and 7/4, and meanders around from there. Most notably, in "The Dance of Eternity" there is a section that changes almost every measure.
For "The Dance of Eternity", there are 104 time changes in total in a song that is 6:13 long. That equates to a time change every 3.6 SECONDS!
There are a few measures before the finale of "Home" in 19/16.
"Breaking All Illusions" is nearly as ridiculous, with over 170 time changes in 12 minutes. At an average of a change every 4-odd seconds, it's not quite as compacted as Dance of Eternity, but close. There is a breather of a guitar solo in 4/4 in the middle, though.
Hell, a majority of their longer songs have instrumental sections that change time signature every measure.
John Petrucci's 2005 solo album Suspended Animation has this in nearly every song. Special props go to "Glasgow Kiss", which has a section where the band plays in 12/8, but two of the guitars play in 9/8. And the sheet music notates it as such.
OSI sports a song that alternates between lyrical sections in 6/4 and instrumental passages in 25/16.
A lot of Black Metal bands really like this trope. It's probably harder to find a Blut aus Nord song that stays in Common Time the whole way through than it is to find one that uses this trope somewhere, especially on anything they've released in the last five years.
Mayhem's "Slaughter of Dreams" is mostly in 7/4, which isn't all that surprising since it's from their days as a progressive black metal band, but what is susprising is that "Deathcrush" and "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", both from the incredibly primitive Deathcrush EP, both have segments in 5/4.
Emperor's "An Elegy of Icaros" has one section where it's pretty much impossible to find two consecutive measures in the same meter signature. Most of them are truly bizarre combinations of 10, 11, and other numbers. This segment can be heard starting at 1:04 and at the end of the song. "Sworn", from the same album, does something similar. One of the Uncommon Time segment begins at 1:51.
Slayer does this occasionally. "Metal Storm/Face the Slayer" starts in 4/4, transitions to 9/8, and then goes back to 4/4. "At Dawn They Sleep" starts in 5/4, then transitions to 4/4. Their usage of this trope has dropped off over time.
Many, many progressive rock bands do uncommon time signatures; two great examples are "Siberian Khatru" by Yes (13/8, for most of it) and "Tarkus" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (10/8 for at least two of the segments).
Yes manage to slip this into their pop rock albums - "Changes" from 90125 is part 7/4 and part 4/4.
Yes' "Awaken" off of Going for the One goes through ten time changes during it's opening twenty-four measures - including briefly passing through 9/32, which is just silly, really.
Yes' "Roundabout" has choruses in 14/4 (6/4 + 2/4 + 6/4) and an ending vocal section in 7/4.
Less known (for their prog rock side, anyhow) example: Ambrosia had a habit of shifting signatures. See "Time Waits for No One," "Life Beyond L.A." and "Apothecary," just to start. Even their better-known ballads aren't immune: "How Much I Feel" shifts to 7/8 briefly about three-fifths of the way through.
It was a song from their more pop days, but Genesis' song "Turn It On Again" is in 13/8 time.
One of the more iconic moments of an awkward time signature is definitely the aptly named " Apocalypse in 9/8" part of "Suppers Ready" by Genesis. Mind you 9/8 in classical music is mostly a compound waltz meter consisting of 3+3+3, in this piece however the time signature is an additive one consisting of 3+2+4 with the organ solo often venturing to other time signatures creating a polymeter.
Pink Floyd's "Money" is mostly in 7/4 time. It then goes to straight 4/4 for the guitar solo, due to David Gilmour having difficulty soloing in 7/4. The change to 4/4 became iconic in its own right, and is generally regarded as the song's Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Pink Floyd also has ""Mother", "Two Suns in the Sunset" (both 5/4) and "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives" (15/8).
Much of "Bike" is in 4/4 time, but due to extra syllables thrown irregularly into its lyrics, the song is peppered with an unpredictable pattern of 5/4, 6/4 and 7/4 bars.
One section of Sound of Contact's "Mobius Slip" repeats 10/4 + 8/4 + 10/4 + 7/4.
Rush makes use of several unusual time signatures. Moving Pictures alone has examples of 7/4, 5/4, and 3/4 time.
Really, Rush is the poster child for this trope - it's all too easy to buy the folk myth that Neil Peart CAN'T play in 4/4.
Part of Neil Peart's drum solo for many years was a section called "The Waltz", where he would play a 3/4 pattern with his feet and throw as many time signatures as he could over it with his hands. Including 4/4.
"YYZ" has an intro in 10/8 time, but this could just be incidental, as the Morse code for YYZ (dah-dit-dah-dah, dah-dit-dah-dah, dah-dah-dit-dit) happens to fit into said time signature.
"Subdivisions" seems to alternate between 7/8, 4/4, and 6/4 time signatures. Some time signatures only last a few bars before switching.
The "See there! A son is born" part of "Thick as a Brick" is in 5/8. A similar part in the second section of the song is 6/8, but the difference is barely noticeable. Seriously - to notice it, you'd have to be counting it.
"Boris Dancing", is, as Ian Anderson says during the Orchestral Jethro Tull recording, "written in alternating bars of 7/8 and 9/8, making it pretty difficult to dance to... unless you're Boris Yeltsin."
The Mars Volta really like their time signature changes too. The 'robot talk' solo in "Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt" changes time signature every bar, with most of the time signatures being subdivisions of 16.
"Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" from Frances the Mute features a 6/8 intro, a 4/4 main setcion, a guitar solo and buildup in 29/16, followed by an explosive outro in 10/4.
"Tetragrammaton" from Amputechture rotates through 11 different time signatures (including two areas with no time signature), and manages to count some uncommon times in multiple ways (one section in 12/8 is counted [5+ 5+ 2/]/8 every first measure and [4+ 4+ 4]/8 every second measure.) A full breakdown can be found here.
A few examples from The Bedlam in Goliath: "Metatron" (5/4), "Wax Simulacra" (11/8 or [6+ 5]/8), and "Cavalettas" (11/8 or [5+ 6]/8).
"Red", by King Crimson, has three bars of 5/8 followed by a 4/4 bar during its main riff, which uses a whole-tone scale for bonus points. And then it starts to get complicated.
Starless on the same album has sections played in 13/8.
However, these time shenanigans pale in comparison to the work done by King Crimson in their '80s reincarnation. In particular, the song "Discipline" involves the band's two guitarists playing patterns in slightly different time signatures, changing every few seconds, for 5 minutes. It must be heard to be believed.
If anyone wants to try keeping track of all the time changes on Citizen Cain's Skies Darken album, best of luck.
Mew is good at pulling off odd time while you aren't looking with its dreamy, spacey compounds of two, three, and four. For example, "Hawaii" has 11/4 choruses and "Repeaterbeater" 22/4 ones, "Vaccine" ends with 11/4 and "Am I Wry? No" with 15/2, "156" has a refrain in 13/4, and "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy" is all over the place.
Joan Osborne's song "Right Hand Man" is in 7/8 time.
Common in Zeuhl, which probably isn't surprising as the music is deliberately intended to feel alien. It is not uncommon for songs to change meter and tempo every four measures or more frequently. Magma naturally use it a lot, as the genre's progenitors, but perhaps the most ridiculous examples are found in Japanese band Koenji Hyakkei's discography, in which apparently some segments of songs are intended to be counted with beats of varying lengths. One example of this is in the song "Ozone Fall" (which is coincidentally one of the band's few songs to have a comprehensible title, though the lyrics are in the band's usual Con Lang). "Fettim Paillu" is apparently another.
Journey had "I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Nickel and Dime" back before they shifted to pop.
Andrew Huang did a challenge: "write and compose a radio-worthy pop song in 5/4 time". The result was "Alone" and ended up on the album The Coldest Darkness.
"Seven Days" from Sting's album Ten Summoner's Tales is one of the few oddities in 5/4 time.
In fact, quite a lot of Ten Summoner's Tales is in uncommon time. "St Augustine in Hell" is in 7/8 (with a spoken interlude in 3/4), and the verses of "Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)" has verses in 7/4 and choruses in straight 4/4.
"I Hung My Head" from the album "Mercury Falling" is in 9/8 time that sounds like alternating 4/4 and 5/4.
"Fill Her Up" from "Brand New Day" starts in 4/4 time and then shifts into 7/4 halfway through.
In the ending of "Walking on the Moon" by The Police, the guitar and bass maintain their 4/4 riff while the drums go into a triplet-based time signature. It fits smoothly from a listening standpoint, but would be hell to play.
The Fleet Foxes' "Battery Kinzie" jumps around between 4/4, 6/4, and a bit of 2/4, 3/4, and 5/4.
Chicago's song "The Road" has continually shifting time signatures: 5/4 time, 6/4, 3/4, 4/4, etc. Actually, Chicago tended to play with time signatures a lot back in the old days, before Terry Kath's untimely death and before David Foster derailed the band into an '80s sugar-pop machine. Oh, and one of the band's most famous singles, "Colour My World", is in 12/8 time, as is the lesser-known "Goodbye" from Chicago V (aside from a brief excursion into 4/4 about two thirds of the way through the song).
"Colour My World" is part of a longer suite called "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon", which has a few time-signature shifts. It's a very good example of the experimental tendency that gave their early material some backbone that their later work missed.
From Chicago VII, "Aire" is 7/8 time, and "Devil's Sweet" is...mostly 12/8 with shifting signatures? It isn't 4/4, that's for sure.
The intro to the full version of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?" is in 5/4. And if memory serves correctly, "South California Purples" includes some 7/4.
The standard blues verse is 12 bars of either 4/4, 6/8, or 12/8, unchanging. Each verse in "South California Purples" (vocal and instrumental) is 11 bars of 4/4, then three bars in 3/4, and back to four bars of 4/4 afterward. Its chord progression is typical for blues but rhythmically, it is slightly "off" from blues, hence "Purples" in the title.
Then there's the hook in "It Better End Soon"—a measure of 13/8 followed by a measure of 11/8!
The Stranglers' "Golden Brown" has alternating bars of 6/8 and 7/8. A.k.a. waltzing three times per doing foxtrot once for that song. (so 3 x 3/4 then 4/4)
Weezer closes their song "The Good Life" with a few measures of 5/16, and each section of each verse ends with a measure of 5/4.
Also, the choruses of the rare song "Jamie" can be plotted out as 14/4: they pair two measures of 3/4 with two of 4/4, and then it repeats.
While perhaps not strictly uncommon, Coheed and Cambria's "Everything Evil" has sections in 4/4, 6/4, and 9+6+6+9/4 and transitions between them pretty fluidly.
Tokyo Police Club's "Favourite Food" has choruses in 14/4, and "Gone" is entirely in 12/4 (3/4 + 4/4 + 3/4 + 2/4). Uncommon time seems, well, uncommon among recent bands.
A few songs late in The Beatles' catalogue have some rhythmical shenanigans. The bridge of "Here Comes The Sun" rotates between 11/8, 4/4, and 7/8, and "Good Morning Good Morning" has completely screwed up verses. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (White Album) has alternating measures of 9/4 and 10/4 in one section.
Also from the Beatles is "Strawberry Fields Forever", played mostly in 4/4 except for "Nothing to get hung about" in 6/4 and "Strawberry fields for-" in 3/8, with "ever" back in 4/4.
"All You Need Is Love" alternates between 7/4 during the verses and 4/4 in the chorus.
We Can Work It Out has 4/4 verses, 2/2 (alla breve) chorus and 3/4 bridges. None of these is particularly weird on its own but they shift between them pretty rapidly.
If that counts, "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas is worth mentioning: the verses are in 6/4 and the rest is in 2/4 and 4/4, with pretty seamless transitions, I might add.
"Within You Without You" perhaps takes the cake; it's based on Indian ragas with cycles of 10 and 16 beats. There's a more upbeat epic (sitar) rocking section that works out to be about in 5/4, but not always.
Frank Zappa would train his musicians to shift time signatures at a second's notice - something he'd occasionally use to mess with guest artists who thought they were going to play a straight 4/4.
The intro to The Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" is in 11/4 (or 3+3+3+2/4) time. Interestingly, Gregg Allman didn't realize what he was penning was unusual, but simply tried to make a 3/4 section sound natural by chopping off one beat. Duane had to show him what 11/4 was.
Toto's song "Hold the Line" is in 6/8, but alternates every measure between a double waltz (ONE, two three, ONE, two, three) and a triple march (ONE, two, ONE, two, ONE, two).
A number of songs on Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded Streets, the most prog of their albums, use odd or shifting time signatures. "Rapunzel", for example, switches between 4/4, 5/4, and 6/8, while "The Dreaming Tree" is in 7/8 until the last section, which alternates 8/4 and 6/4 bars before switching again to 3/8.
"Modern Man" from Arcade Fire's The Suburbs throws in a few cheeky bars of 5/4 every now and again - with the accent on the drums coming half a beat before the first beat of the next bar, just to confuse you even more.
The choruses of that band's "Intervention" use two measures of 7/4 and one of 6/4 before switching to common.
The standard pattern of the Nine Inch Nails song "March of the Pigs" is three bars of 7/8 followed by bar of 4/4 time. Similarly, most of "The Becoming" takes the form of a bar of 7/4 followed by a bar of 6/4, and "Just Like You Imagined" is in 10/4.
Radiohead have written quite a few songs in 5/4, including "15 Step". "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Go to Sleep" are in 10/4, and the second section of "Paranoid Android" is in 7/8.
The twinkly guitar riff in "Let Down" is played in 5/4, while the rest is played in 4/4. Due to an additional error while mixing the band joins in at a really awkward and unexpected time, but it sounded cool so they left it in. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bugger to recreate live and they've very rarely played it during tours as a result.
Although not strictly uncommon time, the drums and guitar in "How To Disappear Completely" are in straight waltz time, while the bass plays in 4/4.
Also by Radiohead is "Pyramid Song", written in... well, nobody's quite sure yet. (Quite deviously, once the drums come in, it turns out to be a perversion of 4/4 accomplished by the piano and drums putting the emphasis in strange places.)
Similarly, though the riff in "Myxomatosis" technically works out to 4/4 - more accurately 16/8 - the rhythm is cut up into awkward jerky phrases that can be quite off putting. I believe it's counted as 3+3+6+4.
The Kid A song "In Limbo" uses... several time signatures... simultaneously.
The song "You" has three bars of 6/8 followed by one bar of 5/8, a phrase which repeats throughout the song. Ironically, this song is on their least experimental album which is highly unpopular amongst fans, Pablo Honey.
And then there's "Morning Bell", which seems to be two bars of 3/4 followed by one of 4/4. (It could also be counted as simply being in 5/4).
The eponymous song from Incubus' album Make Yourself alternates between one measure of 7/4 and two measures of 4/4.
Coldplay's song "Glass of Water" is written in 7/4 time.
Cream's "White Room" has an intro and bridge in 5/4. The verses are in Common Time.
Saves The Day's "Rise" is mostly in 7/4, and "Tomorrow Too Late" mostly 10/4.
"Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies switches every measure between 7/4 and 8/4.
Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" from Houses of the Holy started off in 9/8 (4/8+ 5/8) and mixed it up from there.
"Black Dog" has guitar and bass in 4/4, while the drums play in 5/4.
"Kashmir" has the drums in 4/4 and the strings, guitar and bass all play in 3/4
Talking Heads came up with "Animals" from their album Fear of Music, which boasts verses in 5/4 and choruses with three measures of 7/4, followed by one measure of 6/4 just to screw with you. Don't worry, though, the intro and strange ritualistic chant outro are in 4/4.
Say Anything goes odd for a few measures in "I Will Never Write an Obligatory Song About Being on the Road and Missing Someone." After the first time Max Bemis sings "and I've got you back" in a 4/4 phrase ending with a measure of 2/4, the band lurches into 6/4; then 9/4 the second time and 14/4 the third.
"The Futile" opens with a few measures of 7/4.
"About Falling" has a couple measures of 9/4 in the bridge.
Pearl Jam uses odd time signatures on occasion. These include "Low Light" (mostly 13/4), "Push Me, Pull Me" (13/4), "Cropduster" (7/4 verses; 10/4 choruses); "Get Right" (14/4 verses; 6+6+4+4/4 choruses), "Alone" (9/4 choruses ending with a measure of 7/4), "Yellow Moon" (switches between 11/4 and 12/4) and "You Are" (mostly 10/4 verses). These have generally gone unnoticed; one of their only hits with uncommon time is "The Fixer," whose intro is in 5/4.
Stone Gossard briefly went solo in 2001, and "Unhand Me," his only single from that time, is mostly 10/4.
The bridges of Live's "Shit Towne," while perhaps not strictly Uncommon, are in 9+9+12/4, all triple-compounds. The rest of the song is in 3/4 and 4/4.
Kaizers Orchestra's signature style uses uncommon time a lot; it was outright pointed out in "Femtakt filosofi" from Violeta Violeta Volume I. The title translates to "Philosophy in 5/4".
PJ Harvey's "Water" is effectively a march in 5/4.
Umphrey's Mcgee uses this a lot. Of particular note is their song "Eat", which alternates bars of 13/8 and 7/4 in the main riff and goes into all kinds of other times elsewhere. Also, the main riff of "Andy's Last Beer" alternates 4/4 and 7/8, the intro to "40's Theme" is in 7/4, and the refrain of "Ringo" is in 7/8.
People in Planes' "Barracuda" has 5/4 verses with occasional measures of 3/4 to close off a phrase; the choruses are in 4/4. Also, the choruses of "For Miles Around (Scratch to Void)" are mostly in 4/4 but include measures of 7/8, and "My Black Widow" starts with a few pairings of 7/4 + 3/6.
Here's a relatively simple example in comparison to some of this chaos: During the verses of "That's What You Get" by Paramore, the drummer plays in 4/4 under instruments and vocalist running 3/4.
Stone Temple Pilots do something similar with "Vasoline" (drummer in 4/4, guitar and bass in 3/4), and, to return us to the chaos, Battles' does this in "Ddiamondd" to ludicrous levels, with the guitar, bass, and vocalist in 7/4 time for two measures, before shifting to 4/4 time for four measures...while the drummer is playing 15/8 under them the entire time.
The distorted section in Of Montreal's "Famine Affair" goes 6/4 + 9/4 + 8/4 + 7/4 + 8/4.
The mid-section of "You Do Mutilate?" is in 9/4.
The Pixies' "Blue Eyed Hexe" is 7/4 in the verses and 4/4 everywhere else.
Five Iron Frenzy's Car is in 5/4 with an occasional 6/4 bar at the end of a phrase.
Some of the more brutal tracks like "Up the Neck" on the first Pretenders album use key signatures such as 13/4 and 27/4.
Juliana Hatfield's "Spin The Bottle" is in 5/4 time.
Canadian indie rock band Women are rather fond of odd time signatures. They have songs in 13/8 and 7/4, and "Shaking Hand" has an opening riff that cycles through one bar in 13/8 and two bars of 4/4, and a closing section that cycles through one bar each of 3/4, 5/8, 3/4, 3/4, and 3/8.
"Math rock" is an entire subgenre named after its fondness for this trope.
Minus the Bear notably averts this; most of their songs are in straight 4/4 all the way through. They do, however, fulfill other landmarks of math rock: fast, cyclical, hammered-on, and clean guitar riffs with emo singing on top.
UK band TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns) experiments frequently with odd time signatures. Their song "Crocodile," in 10/4 and 4/4, is quite normal by their standard; for example, "Baboon" is mostly in 23/8, "Panda" is largely in 17/8, and "26 Is Dancier than 4" lives well up to its title.
"Get On" by Covenant seems to be in 4/4 at first, but skips a beat every other measure, making it 7/4.
The same goes for the choruses of Powderfinger's "Love Your Way."
The bridge of "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X." by The Fall Of Troy alternates bars of 6/4 and 9/8.
"Hook in Her Head" by Throwing Muses is in 5/4.
Pete Townshend's "Face Dances Part 2" is in 5/4.
Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin from 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields is written in 21/8. That is, until the final measure when the meter breaks for the line, "a bottle of gin is not like love."
Juice Leskinen's Rampojen valssi (Waltz of the Cripples) is in 5/4.
Paul Simon is an odd inversion of this. His songs are usually in a regular meter, but his lyrics are insanely syncopated.
My Bloody Valentine's "Feed Me with Your Kiss" has a main riff with one bar in 5/4, then another bar in 3/4, then one bar in a varying meter signature. It's almost impossible to keep track of unless you memorise the patterns. (The usual pattern is 4/4, then 5/4, then 6/4, then 8/4, but other patterns are used, such as 4/4 then 8/4, or, at the end of the song, one each of each meter signature from 4/4 up to 10/4).
The Strokes' "Two Kinds of Happiness" has verses in 14/4.
Bloc Party's "This Modern Love" is in 14/4, and the ending to "Little Thoughts" 7/4.
Primus has a song titled "Eleven" that is, unsurprisingly, in 11/8.
In Death Note, the first section of L's theme alternates time signatures for each measure in patterns of 4: the first measure is 7/8, the second is 3/4, the third is 7/8, and the fourth is 4/4. This rather unique pattern is repeated in Near's theme, further cementing the connection between the two.
A couple of character songs from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni have sections written in Uncommon Time, namely, Takano Miyo's "Bon ~Karma~" and Fuurude Rika's "Mugen Kairou". "Mugen Kairou" is in 5/4 except for its bridge and chorus, which is in 3/4; while the verse of "Bon ~Karma~" alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 measures -significant in that Miyo's name is written with the kanji for 3 and 4.
In the English dub of the Digimon Adventure episode "The Dancing Digimon", Joe's chant, "Bakemon, lose your power," repeats every three-and-a-half strikes of Sora's hat, and thus resembles 7/8 time.
The "Mexican Dance" in Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid music is in 5/8, alternating with the occasional bar of 4/8.
The Uruk-Hai theme from Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings score, found within the track "Amon Hen" on the Fellowship OST, has 5/4 time. Shore explained that he was aiming to give Saruman's army a mechanical-sounding accompaniment.
The chorus of "Now You're A Man" from Orgazmo is in 7/4. It was almost like an inside joke to jack up the irony of so needlessly using anything but 4/4 in such a cheesy song.
The DVD insert for one pressing of This Is Spinal Tap state that one of the band's drummers quit, saying he "couldn't take this 4/4 shit".
The Eleventh Doctor's theme is almost entirely in 7/4. 7 + 4= 11.
The reimagined Battlestar Galactica score by Bear McCreary uses some unusual time signatures for leitmotifs. The most prominent is Six's theme, which is in 9/8 time (although it's worth noting that Richard Gibbs actually wrote this leitmotif). An example of a McCreary piece that uses Uncommon Time is "Black Market", which is (if memory serves) in 7/4.
The theme song to Xena is in 7/8 time with a break around the bridge of 9/8.
Candide has "The Ballad of Eldorado" in 5/8, and "Words, Words, Words" in 7/8, as well as "Oh Happy We" in 7/4 (although the measures are counted as alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4).
MOD Tracker formats don't really have time signatures for the composer to be concerned about. Composing in such programs is more about getting things to sound good when played by the computer. Some files even change the speed of the song every couple of lines, making it at the very least, very difficult for a time signature to be deduced.
"Danger Zone" by HMW uses a 5/4 against 3/4 melody on top of a 4/4 backbeat.
Vocaloid Megurine Luka's song "7/8" is written in... guess.
The same producer also wrote Luka's song "Significance of Existence" in 5/4.
Another Vocaloid example appears in "Looking For You In the Sky", the first part of the Synchronicity series, this song has a soft intro that lasts about half of the song, but goes into 5/8 time for the rest of the song.
The part of the song "Heaven on their Minds" that goes Nazareth, your famous son, should have been a great unknown... / Table, chair and oaken chest ... and the instrumental repetition a few seconds later is in 7/8 time.
Similarly, the intro of "U.N. OwenWas Her?" is in 5/4, with the rest of the song played in common time.
"Rural Makai City Esoterica" is in 11/4, constantly switching between (5+6)/4 and (6+5)/4.
The iconic part of the theme of Touhou itself, "Theme of Eastern Story, is in 11/4- three bars of 3/4 and a bar of 2/4.
The part in question has been used at least once in every Touhou game, with varying time signatures!
In Touhou 11, "Hellfire Mantle" alternates between 10/4 and 3/4. ZUN seems to be a fan of oddball time signatures.
Like "Makai City", the ending theme to Imperishable Night is in 17/8, switching between signatures of 9 and 8.
"The Kappa Way as Said ~ One Way Accellerator," the fanmade theme for Mitori (though it's written to sound like a ZUN song), is all over the place: 5/8, 6/8, and 3/4, including 5/8 and 7/8 polyrhythms.
Given Tim Follin's progressive rock influences, it's no surprise that his video game music sometimes uses unusual time signatures. For just one example, the beach theme from Plok starts out in 7/8, shifts to 4/4, and then shifts back to 7/8.
Nobuo Uematsu used several unconventional rhythms in Final Fantasy VI's music; the main boss theme is 16-beat patterns (four Threes followed by two Twos - or two bars of 6/8 plus a bar of 4/8) for much of the music, and the AtmaWeapon/Goddess Statue fight music is in eight-beat patterns (two Threes followed by a Two). Both are great tension-building rhythms, and make for good listening even when you hear the things many times and often for multiple iterations in a single fight.
If that 16/8 one counts as uncommon, Muse's "Supremacy" is mostly in that (but the bridge is in 6/8 with scattered measures of 5/8).
While most of "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII is in 4/4, the transition between the intro and the main body of the song has a few measures in 7/8. It's especially notable in the Advent Children version because the time signature shift is punctuated by the sudden entry of electric guitars and percussion, making the section the musical equivalent of a boot to the head.
Additionally, the Chocobo theme from Final Fantasy VII was in 5/4, swung. Its title "Cinco de Chocobo" alludes to this. (It's a pretty clear homage to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" - the rhythms are exactly the same).
Final Fantasy VIII used 5/4 time for, "Don't Be Afraid", its normal combat music. The boss music "Force Your Way", by contrast, is mostly in 4/4 but has a bar in 5/4 and one in 6/4.
Final Fantasy IX has "Run!" which plays whenever the party must escape a place within a time limit. It has three bars of 5/4 + two of 6/8 for the main melody, and uses 4/4 + 7/8 in the mid parts. The frequency of the time changes combined with the overall speed of the song is positively frantic - the player knows he's got to get out now.
Final Fantasy X had its share as well. For instance, in the tune "Decisive Battle," the time signature shifts around like crazy. There are long sections in common time signatures like 3/4 and 4/4, but when they start changing every couple bars and throwing in 2/4 and 6/4, things get a little complicated.
In Mother 3, you can do combos by tapping the attack button in time with the battle music's rhythm after your attack lands. This grows difficult later in the game; for instance, "Strong One" is in 15/8 time, while "Masked Man" variation skips a beat and becomes 29/16 time.
In Iji's soundtrack, "Tor" uses 7/4 and 5/4 time, while "Seven Four" is named after the time signature.
Chrono Trigger: The "Sealed Door" (the music that plays when you use a MacGuffin on certain areas) starts in 5/4 time before going to 6/8. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was one of the songs in the game written by Nobuo Uematsu (see above), who really likes this trope.
"Battle with Magus", written by Yasunori Mitsuda, has a segment which alternates between bars of 5/8 and 6/8.
The Chrono Cross soundtrack frequently experiments in polyrhythm and unusual meter - "Snakebone Manor" is in 5/8 and 7/8 time, for instance. The most cited example is the game's love-it-or-hate-it main battle theme, "Hurricane" - a polyrhythm of 9/8, 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 times.
Kingdom Hearts 1, "Night of Fate." Takes the cake by seeming to be in a duple meter (10/4), but actually being in compound: "1&a 2&a 3& 4&." This is also a good example of why numerically large timesigs are hard to read and understand; this song would be easier to play if it was rendered as two measures, one of 6/8 and one of 4/8.
This isn't that unusual, complex, or massive a distribution of beats. A lot of songs notated as 5/4 are really in this, like the Mission Impossible theme.
The Unown radio broadcast in Pokémon Gold and Silver consists of a quiet and regular hum with sporadic and abstract sound effects over it. Depending on your interpretation, either it's in 1/4 or it doesn't have a time signature.
In Final Fantasy Tactics, Trisection starts in 12/8, moves to 5/8, alternates between 7/8 and 5/8 a couple of times, goes back to 12/8 for a bar of percussion only, returns to 5/8, does another bar of 12/8 percussion, then loops.
In Hiroki Kikuta's soundtrack to Secret of Mana, the main boss battle theme, "Danger", bounces all over the place, while the game's third flight theme, "Premonition", is mostly in 5/4.
From the original The Legend of Zelda I the final dungeon music could be considered to be made up of patterns of seven bars, or could be counted as 14/4 or something like that depending on how the rhythms are divided.
Only if you believe in reducing fractions, which - to the consternation of mathematicians everywhere - ain't the right thing for a musician to do. 7.5/8 looks impossible (and is), but 15/16 is just 5/4 with triplets (1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a 5&a).
Just to clarify: the song is not in triple meter. Having said that, it's also not in a single coherent time signature: it's a repeating pattern of 4/4 and 2+2+3/8.
The Broken Clock, a piece in Homestuck's discography, is written in 13/8 (it'd be 13/4, except the composer "didn't really plan for it" and—taking a little jab at the below—"sometimes I like to put possible playability/sheet music over numerical references for the sake of references"). Given that the album it's in boasts "time shenanigans", this is just a more literal interpretation of the theme.
Then there's "Judgment Day", 13/4 at 413 bpm (only the drums sound as fast as this would imply, but catching the beat is still not so easy).
Pomplamoose's cover of "My Favorite Things" starts in 5/4 as a tribute to Brubeck and mostly keeps that time signature in the verses before switching to 3/4.
Dethklok occasionally uses odd time signatures. "I Tamper With the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin" is primarily in 7/8, with the bridge in 4/4; and "Dethsupport" constantly switches between 6/8 and 7/8. "Go Forth and Die" features parts in 5/8. Dethalbum III continues this trend, where "I Ejaculate Fire" has a mid-section that switches between 7/4 and 8/4, and "Starved" is pretty much all over the place.
The main theme for Pixar's The Incredibles is in 5/4 (the one you hear when the credits begins).