Sounds of Music

Songbook: These Dreams

Today let’s pay attention to one of my older favorites, the dreamy (pun not really intended but I take the responsibility)

“These Dreams” by Jim Croce

Album: Life & Dreams

Year: 1973

Category: All-time favorites

Why it rocks:
It’s such a nostalgic, swaying beauty, showing the personal depth an acoustic song can reach thanks to its simplicity.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“Now we’re just lonely people, / Trying to forget each other’s names” maybe, but this song is not about quotable gems, it’s more about the honesty of a universal experience.

Favorite moment:
The whole way his voice harmonizes with the guitar and the violin.

Best for: Honestly? I love singing along to this song, even though I certainly don’t do it justice. I even do the humming. Just be grateful you don’t need to hear me.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Iowa

I’m not sure I understand every single word of this song – though most of it is straightforward enough – but it speaks to me on this sub-intellectual level which makes me uncomfortable with poetry.

“Iowa” by Dar Williams

Album: Mortal City

Year: 1996

Category: Recent acquisitions

Why it rocks:
It creates its own gentle, hypnotic space that lulls me into wonderment, and teaches me about some emotions I’ve never really wanted to experience too much.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“Her husband had just left her, / She sat down on the chair he left behind, she said, / ‘What is love, where did it get me? / Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine'” for this moment of slice-of-life observation.
And for different reasons: “But way back where I come from, / We never mean to bother, / We don’t like to make our passions other people’s concern.”

Favorite moment:
The ending of the last verse.

Best for: The kind of love affairs that end up in broken hearts.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: No Need to Argue

In wake of the sad news of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, I remembered the Cranberries, a band which is different from my today’s taste but to which I listened a lot in school. And so it re-woke the momeries of the 1990s.

“No Need to Argue” by the Cranberries

Album: No Need to Argue

Year: 1994

Category: Old favorites

Why it rocks:
I know the wave of nostalgia for the 1990s is coming soon but let me tell you the 90s wasn’t that great to be around for, at least as a kid and young teenager in a school you hated. The Cranberries’ songs remind me of many things from that time (not all of them bad, mind you, but most of them melancholy) and this song is a beautiful, little outro for the album. It captures the melancholy of the end of a relationship. It uses O’Riordan’s voice perfectly, with its mix of sweetness and trembling sorrow. It allows her vocals to shine with only a minimum of instruments to back her up. And it keeps it all under three minutes.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
It’s too simple to focus on any particular fragment.

Favorite moment:
The beginning and the way her voice sounds then, as if the time has slowed.

Best for: Feeling sad in an almost-good way.

Sidenote: I think my favorite thing about the Cranberries is that both me and my brother liked them. It wasn’t as bonding as listening to Nirvana together, but still.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Drinkin’

First, out with it: I am a tentative country fan. That is, when I listen to a country playlist, I will probably dislike most of it. But every now and then a song comes along and it’s so country and I love it so much. Like this little gem by Holly Williams, who’s apparently Hank Williams’ granddaughter: it was love at first hearing.

“Drinkin’” by Holly Williams

Album: The Highway

Year: 2014

Category: Recent acquisitions

Why it rocks:
It sways rather than rocks (but it does pick up later on) in a ditty about an unhappy, abusive marriage. But despite the bitter ending, the melody and the delivery leave you with the feeling that this woman will rise strong again. And it’s this quality that differs this song from most maudlin wasted-life tearjerkers.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“Hey, why are you cheatin’ on a woman like this / I raise your babies and I kiss your lips / So why are you cheatin’ on a woman like this.” This is a woman who knows her value despite everything.

Favorite moment:
When after the last verse the music picks up once again and the song doesn’t end on a desperate note.

Best for: The necessary moment of sadness before you get to rise again.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You

Tom Waits. Ah, Tom Waits. I’ve got such mixed responses to his songs but I don’t think any of them are bad: some of them are just so difficult for me to access. This one, though, is one of my favorites.

“I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” by Tom Waits

Album: Closing Time

Year: 1973

Category: Recent-years favorite

Why it rocks:
While this is not the deepest Waits can go, this song has such a good mix between a movie scene and a slice of life, all of it married to pleasantly flowing guitars. While very casual, it describes such a precise moment you are immediately transported to the smoky bar Waits’ voice fits so well. You also have to admire the emotional changes in the story. And I love how his voice sounds in this one.

Favorite lyrics:
Maybe this: “Well, I turn around to look at you, and you look back at me / The guy you’re with, he’s up and split, the chair next to you is free / And I hope that you don’t fall in love with me” for the pivot in the story.

Favorite moment:
The change of pattern on the “It’s closing time” line and the clear enunciation of the word “stout.”

Best for: Observing people in a melancholy bar and feeling on the verge of making a connection with someone.

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Songbook: Man of Constant Sorrow

Let’s get serious guys: we will be talking lots of Bob Dylan here. Lots. Here’s one less conventional song for a good start.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” by Bob Dylan

Album: No Direction Home: Bootleg Vol. 7

Year: 1962

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
Dylan’s bests are rarely covers but this one he completely makes his own (up to and including serious lyrics changes). It’s such a young Dylan, when he was flaunting the bad boy persona like nobody’s business and it’s fun to see him shifting the focus of this story into a more juvenile place where it’s all about a mysterious heartbreak. Also, I’ve always liked Dylan’s early harmonica (I mean since I taught myself to like it but it was so long ago it’s like in a different lifetime).

Favorite lyrics:
“I’ll say goodbye to Colorado / Where I was born and partly raised.” The “partly” is such a fun Dylan-like little shift. And people say he didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Heh. Basically, the best part of this lyrics is all the differences he makes to the classic version.

Favorite moment:
The last verse. But also, points for the long notes.

Best for: Arguments with people who think that version from that movie is better.

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