January 29, 2010

100 Songs. 100 Words. First 10.

Eisley – Golly Sandra

I know it’s clichéd, yet I say it all the time: “This song breaks my heart.” But this song, Jesus, it shatters that vessel, stopping my pulse and stealing my breath and grabbing and gripping and wringing me dead, shivers and toe taps and sighs and oh God. Something in the way the girls themselves sigh, the slide guitar cries, the drum is a heartbeat. Something in the lyrics, ineffable yet tangible, real and true and… mysterious? Magical? This is the reason I listen to music. This is the meaning I’ve always been seeking. This is it. I simply know.

Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You

The music swirls. The voice is a gale. The lyrics are a broadcast, a storm chaser’s dream – trailer parks, train tracks, motherless souls – told from a lovesick tornado’s perspective. She wants you, she loves you, she’ll show you how much, running and crashing and watching you sleep. A force of nature, a siren, a fury, the perfect storm of form and function – the perfect song, period, perfection itself – personifying love and destruction and storminess, the shelter I’m chasing, the brokenness I’ve found. Lost in its eye, my walls overturned, I haven’t come down since the first time I heard it.

Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye

I’ll never forget the first time I heard it: the starry-eyed sunrise, her scent on my skin, wanting to whistle but not knowing how, so cinematic it might not have happened, but isn’t it pretty to think so? It’s gorgeous. Savor the sweetness of every goodbye, the bitterness of every kiss, the taste and smell of every new hope: hi, hello, how are you, I love you. Another cliché: his angelic voice, winged and haloed and coated in gold. My own voice: earthy, torn and choked, but isn’t it pretty to sing along anyway? I believe it’s what God wants.

Nada Surf – Popular

1) Without this song, I’m not a musician. Senior year. Talent show. My first-ever band. I stood at the microphone, blinded by the spotlights, speaking or yelling the lyrics we’d rewritten, terror giving way to elation. We rocked!

2) Without this song, I’m not a failed novelist. Years out of high school, seeking inspiration, I tried to steal the themes of this wonderful hit – jocks and nerds and their guide to popularity – and almost got away with it, until I started meddling. I’m still in search of my one big hit, the thing I’ll be remembered for, that similar elation.

Nirvana – Come As You Are

I could and probably should write an essay about it: the song, the album, the band, the sound; my ears, my brain, my heart, my life. Everything I’ve ever heard and known and felt and lived. My generation, my cliché. Shredded eardrums, shredded throats. It’s all been said, it’s all been read, I’ll have to sing or scream it: Memoria. Memoria. Memoria. Memoria. This song is mine, it belongs to me, as much as any monster hit can ever belong to anyone. It won’t burn out, or fade away. A hundred times a hundred words would still not be enough.

Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song

“Leaving,” they sing. I hear it too often. Yesterday, Sunday, full steam ahead. Train rides, train wrecks, blazing horizons. Lies, promises, no reply. Left behind, I watch and wave. Exhausted, derailed, departed. Terminal. Seldom my fault, because I’m the hero. (An odyssey through my music collection.) It’s also true I’m seldom the leaver, watching them shrink, then finally disappear. (This narrator is seldom unreliable.) This song helps me lose that map, bound for opportunity, possibly glory. Vicariously, I travel south, wanting, like always, to whistle along. Wherever I am when I hear it, I’ve arrived. Whenever that happens, I’m happy.

Tori Amos – God

“God, sometimes You just don’t come through.” I didn’t write that, but I’ve sung it and believed it. I’ve questioned and doubted and possibly blasphemed, shunning Your mercy and grace and love, seeking my redemption in humanity instead. I’ve idolized artists. In them, I’ve put my faith. In music, blessed music, I’ve found the sublime, by far my favorite gift from You, except for life itself. A song like this, a sound like this – pounding piano, impassioned cries, wisdom, understanding, transcendence, soul – it proves You sometimes answer prayers. Sometimes You do come through, loud and clear. Forgive me for forgetting.

Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

In just eight minutes, a lifetime unfolds: Brenda and Eddie, “the popular steadies,” from dating to divorce, from hope to nostalgia, from everyday acquaintances to old friends forgotten. A story to be told over bottles of wine, a cautionary tale for everyone listening, a requiem for innocence, a singalong concerto… A work of flash fiction posing as a pop tune, there’s even a narrator, a frame tale, a saxophone... Even as a kid, I cared about these characters. Now I want a sequel, or some gossip of my own. Consider these reviews my story so far, a melody I’ve memorized.

Young MC – Bust a Move

Dances, weddings, karaoke. Plus, my cover, acoustically arranged, sung and strummed so sweetly, unironically, often introduced as the best song, like, ever, the dopest in the history of dopeness, or history. Just because it’s laughable doesn’t mean it’s false. Revisionist personal history? True. Apologizing always, ardently, apoplectically: “He raps way faster than anyone remembers. The beat is influential. He taught me ‘libido…’” No one doubts my dumb devotion; everyone knows how deeply it’s felt: “I heard ‘Bust a Move’ and thought of you.” “I made ‘Bust a Move’ your ringtone.” “Your ‘Bust a Move’ cover is the greatest thing ever…”

Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby

Alright stop, collaborate, and listen
I am back with an age-old affection
This song grabs a hold of me tightly
Memorized lyrics daily and nightly
Will I ever stop? Yo, I don’t know
Turn off the song? I say no!
To the extreme I’m rocking out like a vandal
Liking the song in perpetual scandal
Dance, blush, my speakers still boom
Killing my brain like a poisonous pop tune
Deadly? Well, it’s got a dope melody
No, not the best, but my favoritest felony
Love it or leave it, you better not wait
Better hit four-eyes before I press play