Sounds of Music

Songbook: Seven Curses

Back to Dylan Time! Which should be all the time, basically.

“Seven Curses” by Bob Dylan

Album: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1

Year: 1963

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
It’s such a simple song, a true illustration of Dylan’s folk roots (I’d argue it’s truer than his protest songs even): with no ornamentation and a very simple, very stark story it raises Dylan’s vision of the Wild West to a mythical realm. And my personal favorite thing about Dylan’s songwriting is how he can tell a story: an actual story with characters, a plot and a resolution. Also, thank heavens they published it on the Bootleg Series because it’s such a loss it was never released on an album.

Favorite lyrics:
I like the simplicity as in a real folk ballad and the vengeful numbers game at the end. I’m not sure if I have a favorite line though, it’s such a consistent text.

Favorite moment:
I like the moment when the narrative changes once the judge has lied.

Best for: It’s a decent sing-along and it could make a decent movie.

Listen here.

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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: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Miley Cyrus is such a wasted potential of our times. If you know her regular music and if you heard her “Backyard Sessions,” you know what I mean. She’s incredible with those folk covers and I’m not ashamed to admit I love her (in them). This one is another of those folk songs for charity, her cover of a Dylan.

“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” by Miley Cyrus

Album: Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International

Year: 2012

Category: Recent-years favorite

Why it rocks:
It’s a sweet song and I like the original fine. But Miley’s version is just so much more relaxed and the guitar doesn’t seem to run against the tone of the song. She’s so lyrical and effortless here.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
“I’ve only known careless love / It’s always hit me from below. /This time around it’s more correct, / Right on target, so direct.”

Favorite moment:
The prolonged “realize the time” in “I could stay with you forever and never realize the time.” And the whole part with crickets.

Best for: St. Valentine’s Day.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: The Holiday Song

How about we change the mood for once? While indeed I’m usually most moved by soft, heartfelt acoustic folk songs, I also like to listen to faster songs that invite more head-banging.

“The Holiday Song” by the Pixies

Album: Come On Pilgrim

Year: 1987

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
It’s such a rough song with just the right amount of hysteria. It has the kind of drums and guitar that I like in my rock songs and if you know me at all, you know I like scratchy vocals. The punkish energy makes this song.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
Eh, maybe “Sit right down, my wicked son / And let me tell you a story”? I have no idea what these lyrics mean except that they’re supposed to be irreverential (what with all the incest).

Favorite moment:
When the drums start up after the mild guitar intro.

Best for: Jumping up and down and making faces on a holiday.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Gray or Blue

This is another random Spotify find, a sweet little song by an artist I don’t really know otherwise.

“Gray or Blue” by Jaymay

Album: Autumn Fallin’

Year: 2007

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
Some songs seem to be playing like movies in my head, their stories vivid enough to imagine in visual detail (even if the details in the song itself are rather vague). And yes, this is one of those songs. It feels like a bittersweet indie romance and her singing is very evocative of the kind of mood you’d associate with those. The whole story is built upon the simple idea of two people avoiding each other’s eyes – I like simple ideas.

Favorite lyrics:
“And I know the shape of your hands because I watch ’em when you talk / And I know the shape of your body cause I watch it when you walk.”

Favorite moment:
The break before “time” in “but it’s taking time” and the immediate move into the next verse.

Best for: Coming up with love stories.

Listen here.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme)

Some songs have a deep, personal meaning to you and you can talk and talk about them. Others, they’re catchy.

“Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme)” by Lord Huron

Album: Strange Trails

Year: 2005

Category: Recent acquisitions

Why it rocks:
I’m hooked the moment in starts with the rhythm and the happy energy of this song. Everything: the staccato of the clipped syllables and the simple, oh-so-catchy guitar melody combines to make an irresistible foot-tapper.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
With the “theme” in the title I expected the song to be instrumental and it could as well be because the words are forgettable at best and juvenile at worst but maybe that’s how I feel because it doesn’t really reflect any of my philosophy.

Favorite moment:
That guitar theme, from the moment it starts.

Best for: Driving through woods and whistling happily. (I imagine, as I can’t do either.)

Listen here.

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