These are the songs that I’m shocked have stayed on my iPhone playlist, through purge session after purge session. Sometimes even I’m shocked as my finger hangs over the “delete” button. These are songs that define a moment in time or space for me, even though, when I was in that time and space, I had no idea I’d be able to look back at these songs and remember them, much less still love and listen to them on a regular basis. What kicked this off for me was realizing I still listen to The Offspring with relative frequency– and not just the early records and “Self Esteem”. I’m not sure when these songs became a permanent part of my personality, but they have– and I love them all. I’m sure some of them are embarrassing (and some of them aren’t representative of the type of music I usually listen to), but it’s fun to revisit songs I’ve loved for years– some for over a decade.
“Legs and Scars” — Tent Revival
I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again. This is the best song you don’t know. This song makes me grieve– HARD– for bands that only record a couple of songs and then dissolve. I will most likely never hear many, many amazing songs that would have moved me and made an impact on my life. Thank God I caught this one. Some of the best writing I know occurs in the last stanza of this song, and I feel like I almost do it an injustice to talk about it instead of transcribe it–
You must have been alone
You must have thought I was asleep
There must have been one tear rolling down your cheek
You’re tying up your hair, you’re putting on your shoes in the dark
I bet you never thought leaving me would be so hard
You must have said it to yourself
“How could anybody be so cruel?”
To do all the things, honey, that I done to you
I hope he leaves you in the night, hands down on the bathroom floor
You’re the reason I don’t wear my seatbelt anymore
You’re counting up your scars, honey, I’ve got more
“Fix You”– The Offspring
This is a song that, in the last couple of years, I’ve convinced myself that only I know. I’ve found many, many Offspring songs I really like (including their new single, “Days Go By”, which I find to be both positive and energizing– something I can’t say about 99% of singles out there right now), but “Fix You” is the one I listen to most frequently. I think the moment that sells this song for me is, after the ballad builds and builds, the bridge breaks in this weird, firecracker way, where it sizzles with intensity before burning back into the chorus–
She sees a million stars like holes in the sky
All God’s tears for her, they cry
And I am in her rain…
I wish I could fix you
It’s sometimes hard to believe that these lyrics– which, admittedly, I’ve leaned on before– are written by the same guy who wrote the line, “He’s not quite cool and/ He’s not quite hip/ But in his own mind, he’s/ He’s the dopest trip!”
“Momentary Thing”– Something Happens
I’ve loved this song since it was used in a pivotal moment on the series Veronica Mars (what of it?!), but as much as it was originally tied to story and character, it’s become a part of my life in a pretty seamless way. I love the dreaminess of it, and I love the atmosphere it evokes. There’s something Romantic about it (big “R”); something lush and something powerful. I think Something Happens gets compared to U2 a lot (probably something to do with tone) but to me, this song is something that stands on its own. I love this song partially because the lyrics are vague– and partially because the pictures that the music paints are not. This is a case of the art of writing and the art of music coming together and creating something more important than its individual parts.
“Tear You Apart” — She Wants Revenge
Honestly, I have no justification for my love of She Wants Revenge. This song is dark, heavy, electronic, and a little bit filthy. There’s really nothing else to say about it– except that the driving beat is addictive, and so is the rest of the album. This is a record I bought and played mainly during my time in Cincinnati, and it helped me create a character– one who wasn’t afraid to strike out on their own, and one who felt very much at home in any world. This whole record is a persona piece for me, and I love the way the music can create another person. By the way, the video– STRANGE. But I can’t help but enjoy it every time. Something about the whole “silent movie” thing that’s really intriguing.
“Please Be With Me” — Cowboy
Had my wedding gone differently– had there been music and dancing, had we followed the original plan– I don’t know if this song would have been for my first dance with my husband, or for my dance with my father. I remember coming home from college and listening to this record with him (and, of course, the Clapton cover, because it’s kind of ridiculous to listen to one without the other), and being brought to tears. Allman’s voice is so pure and clear; the lyrics are so stark and beautiful. I think his own bewilderment at his love is what makes this song special:
So won’t you please read my signs
Be a gypsy
Tell me what I hope to find
Deep within me
And because you can find my mind
Please be with me….
“Tired” — Tabitha’s Secret
I’ve always spoken at length about my belief that Rob Thomas is a better songwriter than most people give him credit for (especially in songs like “Argue,” where he says, “She takes/ What she gets/ Oh, she never did flinch you know”– the word “flinch” is such a difficult word to work in, but wields so much power). However, I’ve loved this song for years– even though it’s pre-Matchbox 20. It’s kind of shocking that I keep coming back to it over and over again. Though this is Matchbox 20 playing the song in 1998, I first fell in love with the demo version off their Tabitha’s Secret record: there’s just not a bad version of it out there. (That whole record is worth listening to, by the way.)
“At Your Funeral” — Saves the Day
Remember MTV2? I do. Because of this video, and because of Pete Yorn’s “Life on a Chain.” (I will forever be grateful to MTV2.) I know that shortly after this song was released, it became very cool to make fun of ‘emo’, and though I would have never classified this song/band as ‘emo’, I pretty quickly became aware that I was supposed to pretend I didn’t like it. I was never good at that. I love this song– there’s something really awesome about being willing to, loudly, pontificate about what you would do at the funeral of someone you love.
I’d offer you my hand
It would hurt too much to watch you die
“Somewhere Along the Line” — Billy Joel
It’s not a secret that I’m a huge Billy Joel fan. In fact, I almost always have a Billy Joel song for the occasion. I love his love songs (*like the line, “I’m warm from the memory of days to come” in “These Are the Times”)– I love the way he describes heartbreak. But for whatever reason, “Somewhere Along the Line” is the song that stays with me always. I think part of the reason is it’s helped to shape my adult identity; it’s a picture of what I always thought adult life would be, and once I got there, I found out I was right. Though it’s got plenty of poignant moments– for example, the last stanza–
It’s good to be a young man
And to live the way you please
Yes, a young man is the king
Of every kingdom that he sees
There’s an old and feeble man not far behind
Oh, but it surely will catch up to him
Somewhere along the line
But it surely will catch up to him
Somewhere along the line
Well you know it’s gonna catch up to him
Somewhere along the line
– it slowly builds to that with lines like, “Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine/ In the morning there’ll be hell to pay/ Somewhere along the line.” Not to mention, it’s hard to knock young Billy Joel’s vocals, and as this track is off Piano Man, it’s really stellar. I love the way the music builds and feels triumphant, and I love the way he says this stuff like he has any idea what he’s talking about– like any of us do, really. It’s a surprising deep cut, and I listen to it at least twice as often as I do the title track.
“Sleep”– The Dandy Warhols
Still my “go-to” pensive “when I’m down” song, “Sleep” never fails to make my heart rate slow a little and take the edge off of whatever emotion I may be feeling. The lyrics are literally trancelike for me: I cannot listen to this song casually, like I can many Dandy Warhols songs. This song requires meditation, which, to me, is a huge compliment. I can sometimes focus on the words, sung exactly like Taylor-Taylor sings them, and actually strip them completely of meaning except “sleep”. It is the most soothing song I know.
If I could sleep forever
But it’s of her I’d dream
If I could sleep forever
I could forget about everything
“Hellbent” — Kenna
Does anyone else remember this song? It has some of my favorite opening lines ever:
Am I the key?
Of fiction and heartache
And the pain
Is of no consequence
When I am hellbent
My walls are closing in…
There’s something floaty and sparse about the beginning, but it pretty quickly becomes regimented and mechanical; this is a song written by someone who understands the way vocal tone can influence the direction of a song. There is a lot of pain in this song, but there are moments where the pain breaks, and numbs, and creates something new in its wake. I really dig the direction this one takes.
“Sewn” — The Feeling
This is a weird song for me. When I was in England, I bought a few records by bands I didn’t recognize– this one, and one by (amazing) rap group The Streets. For me, this song always reminds me of adventure and travel; it’s a very peaceful song to me, but it’s also catchy. I love the way the music is almost flirty– how it plays with and against the lyrics.
These are some songs that, though I have grown and changed and moved on, seem to stick in my playlist, even after I should have worn them out. What songs have you beaten near-death only to continue claiming them? What songs stay important even when you didn’t initially think they would? And do you have any songs that do the opposite– you thought they’d stay meaningful, but they lost it somewhere along the line?