Monthly Archives: February 2011

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 6 – A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere

Day 6

Theme: A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere

Artist: Guster

Song: “Parachute”

Where: Exploration Summer Program, 1995 and 1996 (or Explo ’95/’96)

Already wrote about this song here.



30 Day Song Challenge: Day 5 – A Song That Reminds You Of Someone

Day 5

Theme: A Song That Reminds You Of Someone

Artist: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

Song: “Home”

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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in 30 day song challenge, music


30 Day Song Challenge: Day 4 – A Song That Makes You Feel Sad

Day 4

Theme: A Song That Makes You Feel Sad

Band: Bright Eyes

Song: “Lua”

My friend Adam likes to joke that my entire music collection is full of “sad British songs by sad British singers,” and he’s kind of right.  So, when it came to A Song That Makes You Feel Sad, I very specifically excluded the United Kingdom altogether from my selection.    So that means no “A New England” by Billy Bragg, or “Man Out Of Time” by Elvis Costello… no “Atmosphere” (Joy Division)  or “Without You I’m Nothing” (Placebo)  or “To Wish Impossible Things” (The Cure) or “Fake Plastic Trees” (Radiohead).  Sorry, Snow Patrol, we’ll light up, light up and “Run” for our lives some other time.  No “Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets, nor “Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time” by The Smiths.   And no Belle and Sebastian, no matter how much “It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career.”

Anyway, Adam, those are my Top 10 sad British songs by sad British singers.  I’m sure you really wanted to know.

My top 5 non-British songs that make me all teary-eyed are, in no particular order…

“Cancer” – My Chemical Romance (written from the perspective of someone dying from cancer)

“Climbing Up To The Moon” – The Eels (written from the perspective of someone dying from cancer)

“Taxi Ride” – Tori Amos (written about someone dying from AIDS)

“Famous Blue Raincoat” – Leonard Cohen (about a love triangle, but Leonard sings it so well and so sadly, you feel like someone must dying of something)

… and then there’s “Lua.”  No one dies in “Lua.”   Not yet, that is.  It’s not clear that anyone’s life is in immediate danger.   It’s about a couple heading out for the evening, but it sounds as though they’re nearing the end of their relationship.   From the beginning, everything seems like a struggle – it’s freezing, the taxis aren’t stopping to pick us up, but we’re supposed to go to this stupid party, so let’s soldier on.  This is not a fun couple anymore.  You start to get the feeling that the narrator is just freaking done with all this, and the feeling has to be mutual, so why haven’t they just called it off?

And then there’s this part:

You’re looking skinny like a model
With your eyes all painted black
Keep going to the bathroom
Always say you’ll be right back
Well, it takes one to know one, kid
I think you’ve got it bad
But what’s so easy in the evening
By the morning’s such a drag

They’re together because they’re both addicts – that’s all.   Somehow, that kind of thing – that symbiotic, mutually-agreed upon, downward spiral – is infinitely more depressing than disease or deceit or living on a cold island where it rains all the time and you’re constantly dealing with race memories of a lost empire.  There’s a sense of inevitability about this song that makes the misery all the more real.

It sounds as if they’re nearing the end of their relationship – except they’re really not.

And, like all addictions – and, for that matter, all relationships – this one started because it seemed like a great idea at the time (“what’s so normal in the evening, by the morning seems insane.”) The way Conor Oberst plays the song on this track, too, on a simple ukelele, his voice barely above a whisper… even sounds like a hangover, as if raising his voice would just hurt too much.

And we don’t know what the addiction is, either.  It could be drugs or bulimia.  Both involve going to the bathroom a lot and being skinny.  Whatever it is, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Dying can be a relief.  Break-ups can be beneficial for both parties.   Rain is beautiful.  Sometimes, war is justified.  Acts of injustice can make people realize what justice means.  Even hearing about someone who died before their time can make us understand how important and fragile life really is.

But real sadness is when you think – no, know – that nothing is ever, ever going to get any better.  You’re stuck, and you’re pretty sure it’s all your fault.   Because what was simple in the moonlight, by the morning never is.

That’s why “Lua” makes me sad.

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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in 30 day song challenge, music


30 Day Song Challenge – Song #3: A Song That Makes You Happy

Day 3

Theme: A Song That Makes You Happy.

Artist: Chumbawumba

Song: “Tubthumping”

Shut up.  It does.

Looking at the official rules for the 30 Day Song Challenge, there are a couple of other places I could have put this tune.  “Your Favorite Guilty Pleasure” for one.  Or “A Song That You Want Played At Your Funeral.”   Or “A Song That Describes You.”

It’s a guilty pleasure because, on first listen, it’s a gloriously mindless one-hit wonder from the tail end of the ’90s version of the “alternative era.”  I want it played at my funeral because I think that would be hilarious.  And it describes me because, you know, I get knocked down, but I get up again.  Or something.   More to the point, I talk too much and I think I’m really interesting, especially when I’ve had a pint.  An’ all that.

But, no: this song by everyone’s favorite musical UK anarchist collective just makes me happy whenever I hear it.  It’s the only song I’ve ever heard that manages to be equally cynical and optimistic.  And if you’re cynical like me, then optimism can be a hard sell.

Chumbawumba’s always been more clever than you think they are, anyway.  If this song is about a guy holding court at a pub (which it is) then it makes perfect sense that first, he sings the songs that remind him of the good times, and then… as the night progresses… no, mate, I was f**king wrong.  Them were the BEST times, they was!  Which is why he keeps misquoting pop songs.  Don’t cry for me, next door neighbor indeed.

I can write all the  music-geek stuff you could ever want to hear, but the fact of the matter is “Tubthumping” just makes me jump around and sing whenever I hear it.  And that I can’t properly put into words.



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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in 30 day song challenge, music


30 Day Song Challenge: Day 2 – My Least Favorite Song

Day 2

Theme: Your Least Favorite Song

Artist: Aaron Neville and Linda Rondstadt

Song: “I Don’t Know Much (But I Know I Love You)”

“I don’t know much, but I know I love yooooou…”

After writing a dissertation about my favorite song, I was going to keep my comments on my least favorite song down to just one word.  And I really, really tried, but the only word that came to mind wasn’t a word at all – it was more of a low, guttural noise that sounds like I’m barfing up my own vocal chords.  Coincidentally, that’s the exact noise I make whenever I hear this treacle-stuffed ode to stupid people in love.
Also, Aaron Neville’s voice has always bothered me.
“I may sing like I have suffered a chronic head injury, but I know I love yoooou…”

Ugh.  This song is bloody awful.  “Look at these dreams/so beaten and so battered.”  Dreams aren’t physical objects.  If you’re referring to them as such, you’d better have a pretty solid metaphor to hang it on.  Shattered dreams works.  Beaten and battered just doesn’t.   Oh, and they just repeat the damn chorus over and over and over and over and ARGH!

“I may be a low-functioning adult, but I know I love yooou…”
I never liked this song.  Ever.  This song always made me want to punch things.  I’m sorry.

This song came out in 1989 – the absolute worst year for pop music in history, ever.   You people think it’s bad now?  1989 was infinitely worse.   You know what the #1 song of 1989 was?  “Look Away” by Chicago.   The top 40 songs of the year featured four – count ’em, FOUR – songs by Milli Vanilli.

However, the fact that a black guy and a white girl are singing a love duet to each other here says a lot about how far we’d come as a society, even then.  Just ten years before this song came out, you couldn’t have shown this performance in certain parts of the south.  It says a lot about us as a people that, today, the only thing that bothers us about this song is that it fucking sucks.


30 Day Song Challenge #1: Your Favorite Song

This is a Facebook meme, but I’m posting commentary here (for as long as I remember to do so or feel like it).  Every day, you post a song based on a pre-determined theme.  The rules are over here.  My notes, and the song, are right here.

Day #1

Theme: Your Favorite Song

Band: The Cure

Song: “Doing The Unstuck” (live)

I used to hate The Cure.  That just looks wrong, doesn’t it?  Andy used to hate The Cure.  It’s like saying Coke once wanted to taste more like Pepsi, and Ricky Gervais used to sing in a bad pop band.  And yet, these things are all true.

My first exposure to The Cure was when I was nine, and I saw the “Lullaby” video.  It freaked me out.  The video features Robert Smith, lying in bed, while a big furry thing eats him and the rest of the band play olde tyme instruments dressed like Civil War soldier ghosts, bedecked in cobwebs.  Meanwhile, Robert sings about how the spider man is having you for dinner tonight, and how his tongue is in your eyes and oh god it was weird.  This was not your friendly neighborhood spider man he was talking about.  I hated the Cure.

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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in 30 day song challenge, music, nostalgia, youtube