Sounds of Music

Songbook: Like Janis

Once upon a time I was talking to a person about Searching for Sugarman, which everybody seemed to be watching then (I haven’t so far) and she said that Rodriguez was so great, “better than some Bob Dylan.” Hah. Say to me someone is better than Bob Dylan and see what happens. (Nothing will happen because I’m a polite and restrained person but I will think things about you.) But when some time later Spotify played to me a Rodriguez song I was quite curious and while Dylan he ain’t I still like some of his songs, particularly this one.

“Like Janis” by Rodriguez

Album: Cold Fact

Year: 1970

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
We all try to be positive and enlightened (I hope) but sometimes there is pleasure to be found in listening to such well-put disdain, especially accompanied by such pleasant melody. Some people inspire one to think of this song more than others, I guess.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“And you try to conceal your ordinary ways / With a smile or a shrug or some stolen cliché” and “And don’t try to enchant me with your manner of dress / ‘Cause a monkey in silk is a monkey no less” (so really the meanest of them).

Favorite moment:
When he lacks a syllable in “and your selfishness.” I like when a rhythm is broken but still works.

Best for: Feeling mean.

Sidenote: I always think instinctively that any “Janis” must be Janis Joplin but this doesn’t really sound like her, does it.

Listen here. (I just realized I can do this.)

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: New Lover

This is another light song with somewhat heavy lyrics. And despite its theme it always makes me smile.

“New Lover” by Josh Ritter

Album: The Beast in Its Tracks

Year: 2013

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
Supposedly it’s a song about Ritter’s divorce, which I don’t know if it’s true. But it is an extremely observant, self-aware song about heartbreak, which manages to still be funny in a dark way. I like the constant tug-of-war between the insincere good wishes towards the ex and the much truer bitterness of someone who got hurt. If you ever tried to be a bigger person and didn’t exactly succeed (not necessarily only in romantic situations), so many things will ring true here. This is a song that relies heavily on the words but the music is there to back them up and build the emotional tension between breezy and serious.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
This song has so many smart moments. Take “I feel low and mean / For accusing you of stealing / What I offered you for free” and the mischievous “Praise the fonder that still grows / On the absent heart in fields.” But I like the simple irony of this bit the most: “I got a new lover now / I know that she’s not mine […] / And she only looks like you / When she’s in a certain light.”

Favorite moment:
Possibly the fragment with “As you go from room to room / Dropping handkerchiefs and daggers / Smoking guns and other clues” (which is another great couple of lines, too).

Best for: Thinking of old, failed relationships that you no longer care about.

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