Finally! After a week of me trying to explain why I have been listening to certain songs more than other, I have arrived at the Top 5, the ones that I can actually explain at length as to why they are up there. One thing that characterizes the most played songs in my library is the fact that I can tie them each to a specific emotional state or memory, probably because I listened to them over and over while in this particular emotional or reminiscing state. Warning: the following may be excessively long, rambling, and mawkish. But you probably guessed that from the introduction.
5. The Perfect Con – Nathan Johnson & The Cinematic Underground
Frequent readers of my blog (yes, all four of you) will know that I have only encountered this song recently, so it’s probably very surprising that I’ve listened to it so many times already. Well, you have to listen to it for yourselves. This song is the culminating point in an already heartbreakingly beautiful soundtrack for one of the best movies of the year so far. I haven’t felt a soundtrack build up to a single song so perfectly since Peter Gabriel’s Down To Earth at the end of Wall-E. But this song, unlike Down To Earth, carries its weight through multiple listening sessions. It is the Brothers Bloom soundtrack distilled to a single song, embodying the bittersweet brotherly love of two con men, the ethereal beauty of the eccentric heiress, the Old World insanity that persists throughout the movie, starting off sad and slow and concluding in a cheery hopeful manner.
I really like this song, I haven’t liked a specific song from a movie score since Gabriel’s Oboe from Ennio Morricone’s score of The Mission. And that was before I was born, so you know, this is the first time I’ve felt so strongly about a modern film score. I’m not saying that you’ll find it to be as amazing as I hype it up to be, but if you’ve seen The Brothers Bloom, you’ll understand how perfect this song is for the movie. And that’s what counts. I really think that this would be a perfect song to listen to while sitting outside a cafe sipping coffee in some European town, looking majestically melancholy and pensive. And then you can leave the cafe to take a nice walk down the cobblestone streets of the old town, or perhaps have a picnic in the European countryside. Oh what a song.
4. I Don’t Know – Lisa Hannigan
For those of you who don’t know who Lisa Hannigan is, she was the female vocalist for Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice until they ended their musical collaboration last year because they wanted to pursue different musical styles. Damien hasn’t released an album since, but Lisa Hannigan’s Sea Sew has been quite the indie success, with Lisa performing this very song on the Colbert Report. This is how I came to hear this song, just a few months back. It was quite a performance. As soon as I finished watching, I went immediately on iTunes to see if I possibly had her songs and had overlooked her in a colossal mistake. Of course, I had. Apparently this very song had been on iTunes’ Free Song of the Week or whatever, and of course I had downloaded it without giving a second thought. Lucky me! I have been listening to this song ever since.
This song will make you feel happy in almost any circumstance. If you’ve had a bad day at work, listen to this song and you’ll be happy. If you’ve been mauled by a wild animal, listen to this song and you’ll be happy. If you’ve just watched He’s Just Not Into You, well, I said almost any circumstance, didn’t I? There’s something infectiously happy about the way she sings the song (look on Youtube for performances. If you don’t start dancing along and smiling, you have no soul), and the lyrics are absolutely adorable. It’s quite obvious that this sort of contagiously happy songwriting would not go well with Damien Rice’s melancholy style. But I love them both so very much. Seriously, this is the best pick-me-up song that I can possibly recommend.
3. Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
I am guessing that no one knows who the Temper Trap is. Mark my words, in about a week or so, very many people will know them. Not everyone, but you know, a lot of people will start to hear about them. And this song in particular. Why? Four words: 500 Days of Summer. Well, four words if you consider 500 to be one word. Whatever. Anyway, those of you who are as dedicated to the movie as I am will know this song to be the music for the one trailers of the movie. Now, I first saw the trailer late one lonely night earlier this year, and the song burned itself into my memory. I had to have it. Unfortunately, the Temper Trap is an Australian band that hasn’t released any album in the US, so I couldn’t find the music on iTunes, but after a couple days of exhaustive searching on other online music stores, I was able to find it.
This song is hope. I could gush about how the song gives me hope about love, despite the common perception that life isn’t a love story, and how when I listen to this song, I feel like I can fall head-over-heels in love with someone and not give a damn about anything else in the world, how the vocals seem to charge me with the sort of passion that fell out of vogue with the demise of one Lord Byron, but that would only be partially true. The song is incredible. It’s one of those songs that comes out of nowhere and knocks your breath out completely from the bouncing guitar intro. In particular, the soaring vocals will give you goosebumps in the right way. Even the most jaded person won’t help but feel a flutter in their heart. It’s absolutely magical and searing with emotion. See? Even I’ve lost my snark.
2. Cannonball – Damien Rice
I’m a big fan of Damien Rice. He was the artist who got me into the whole obsession with singer-songwriters, and I had the rare chance to attend one of his performances when he was scheduled to perform at a rock festival in Korea, where I also saw Muse and was supposed to see Hellogoodbye but was unable to since their bassist got poisoned by the Japanese at the Fuji Rock Festival. Unfortunately, Damien Rice was sick too, and for the first time in his career, he had to cancel a gig. Needless to say, I was heartbroken and have yet to forgive him for what I perceive as a personal snub. But I still love his music. After all, it was this song in particular that started my love affair with the genre of singer-songwriters. That’s a genre, right?
This song is tender and utterly beautiful. It reminds me of the softness of an Austrian winter. Strange imagery, I know, but I’ll explain in a bit. The guitar work is stunning, and it inspired me to play the acoustic guitar after I had managed to figure out chords on the finger-easy electric guitar. Just recently I’ve been able to play this song on the guitar, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of myself. I can actually play a whole song on the guitar now, not just bits and pieces of some rock music. Yay.
The first time I heard this song was surprisingly in a Korean drama titled Spring Waltz, part of the internationally acclaimed Seasons series or something (which includes the mega-hit Winter Sonata). It was in one of the early episodes, before the players were all set into motion. The scene involved the elegantly handsome/classically beautiful Daniel Henney (from Wolverine fame) taking the female lead to Salzburg via Vienna, with Henney playing the beautiful stranger who can’t understand a word she’s saying. But that scene, with the snowy winter scene of Vienna, became synonymous with this song for me. This song reminds me of a thawing winter, with the ice melting into streams in a quiet Austrian town nestled in the Alps, and it’s become sort of a fantasy of mine to visit a snowy Vienna in the winter with someone. Or Hallstatt. Hallstatt would be better. But yes, I’ve had dreams that I hadn’t ever considered as plausible possibilities (Vienna in the winter?), all because of this song.
1. Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley was possibly one of the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation, despite having released only one album before his untimely death in 1997. Apparently he was so amazing in concert, that after Thom Yorke saw him live, he went back to the studio that night and recorded Fake Plastic Trees and cried for a while afterwards. I’m not surprised, he has a way of singing that’s pure emotion. It’s overwhelming. His most widely known song is his cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, but his greatest achievement as a musician was probably this song, Last Goodbye. My god, how this song hurts.
I’m not sure what Jeff Buckley intended this song to be (it’s original title was Unforgiven), but to me, it’s the ultimate break-up song. At first I didn’t think it was anything like that. I just started listening to it because John Mayer said it was one of his favorite songs, and until that point I was only very familiar with Hallelujah, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s a very beautiful song. The instrumentals are brilliant, the structure of the song is unique, and Jeff Buckley shows that he can express emotion like no other. It was a great song. But then I started to listen to the lyrics. Now, I have so much to say about the lyrics, that I think I’ll do a line-by-line analysis of the song next week. I’ll just say, there aren’t many songs that are so direct and painfully honest about the subject of breaking-up. There are so many good lines, that I can’t really do the song service by choosing one. This song truly shows why Jeff Buckley is so missed today. Once you start hearing the words, it’s hard to stop. You just have to keep listening to every single heartbreaking line, and Jeff Buckley’s vocals don’t help at all. The pain, whether real or imaginary, seems to burst from his voice like a searing flamethrower. Or a lightsaber. It’s incredible.
This song is like a drug; it’s utterly destructive to your soul, but you can’t stop listening to it because it’s so painfully beautiful. And if you have reason to empathize with the emotions in the song, well, the effect is catastrophic. I remember I listened to this song again and again for about an hour after watching He’s Just Not That Into You for some masochistic reason, and it hurt a lot. I felt like ground zero. Ironically, Scarlett Johansson covered this song for the movie’s soundtrack, tying the two destructive forces even closer together. But unlike that movie, I have to strongly recommend this song. It is one of the most heart-shatteringly beautiful songs I have ever heard, and it won’t hurt you to give it a listen. Unless you want it to. God, that sounded wrong. But that’s what I feel about this song.