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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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: 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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