Well, if I’m looking for somebody to feature on Blogosphere Monday, and I see a fun-sounding Blogfest scheduled for the right day… I’m gonna do the blogfest. That’s just kind of an obvious one by now. Even if it keeps me up until past my bedtime, sigh.
So, from Captain Ninja Alex – the Top Ten Songs Blogfest!
Now, trying to pick my top ten favorite songs at the moment, or of all time, is one of those impossible tasks, so I’m going to instead go for picking ten great songs where I can actually tell a little story about why I like them so much. Be warned, my taste in music does does skew a little to the right – as in the Country music, but I’m trying to not load the list too badly in that direction.
10. I never really knew what music to connect with the name ‘Billy Joel’ (aside from “Uptown Girl,” which seemed catchy but shallow,) until I caught myself humming “The Longest Time” after it had been playing at a Hamilton write-in and made a memo to look it up. From the Billy Joel Essential collection on Itunes, I found “The Downeaster Alexa.”
Again, the celtic melody and harmonies draw me into this number, but it’s the lyrics, and the story that they tell, that really make me love the song – the vivid way in which it portrays a fisherman’s life, and the stoic resolve with which the protagonist clings to what might be a vanishing trade.
“Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis / And I still have my hands on the wheel.”
“I was a bayman, like my father was before / Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore.”
9. I’ve been a fan of Amanda Marshall’s songs ever since my York University days I guess, and had a bit of a hard time picking one song for this list – until I thought of ‘Out of Bounds.’
It was probably the first lyric that made me think of Doctor Who – “I’m standing on the edge of time”, and all the other references to being swept away in a huge and unrequited love pointed irresistably to Martha Jones. The result is probably the closest thing to a perfect video that I’ve ever made.
8. I heard “Signor Farini,” by Ian Bell and the Dawnbreakers, on the Vinyl Cafe radio show, after Stuart had told a little spiel about Farini and his memorable misadventures. I’m not going to spoil the story for you. You can look him up on Wikipedia if you’re interested.
But I love the story, and the song, so much that I shamelessly ripped off both of them for my 2010 Nanowrimo story, ‘The Angel’s Charlie.’
“Oh for an ounce of the courage I lack,
Oh for the feel of the wind at my back,
Oh for a tongue to cry passion and fire…”
7. Wild and free
This is a piece that I ran across when taping music off the air in my York University days. Unfortunately, I never ran across it again. I have no idea who sings it, or even if ‘Wild and Free’ is the proper title. (The other likely possibility is ‘Come on Annie’ or some variant thereof.)
It’s an upbeat little number, sung about a girl working at a convenience store, a boy in a cool car who sweeps her off her feet, and their resulting trip south of the border. There’s something that’s always charmed me about it, but recently the allure has grown because of the mystery. It’s sung with a country-pop feel by a pleasant soprano, and I haven’t got a promising lead on who the singer is, either. None of the usual suspects who were doing country-pop in the mid-nineties seem to fit. I wonder if it was some local one-hit wonder who disappeared shortly after. The lyrics have never googled to anything useful.
So, in the hopes of possibly attracting someone who knows something, (maybe a lawyer with a cease and desist letter, dare I hope?) I’ll post the entire chorus here. And because I love it.
Come on Annie, jump in and hold on tight.
You’ve got that fire in your eyes.
Oh, come on Annie, and run away with me.
We’ll live on love, wild and free.
6. It’s pretty much a given that Megan Metcalfe has to be in this list. I don’t really know much about her – she’s Canadian and got some airplay on the local Toronto country music station when I was at York University and spent hours on end listening to the radio. (Including the first four months that I lived in two rooms of an off-campus house and didn’t have a television of my own yet.) I had a few of Megan’s songs on the off-air tapes I made myself, and a few years ago I finally found Megan’s CD on ebay and snapped it up.
Several of the songs on that album are in my ‘very favorite ever’ bucket, and a few of them have specifically informed my writing. “The Marrow and the Bone”, (which I didn’t like when I was in university, mostly because I caught part of the video on CMT and thought it was creepy, but I love the song now,) got written in as a music montage in my Roswell Script Frenzy movie ‘Antarran Summer’, and “Truehearts” is going to feature at the end of ‘Alien in Metropolis,’ in which I’m going to give it to Maria DeLuca to sing. But the one I’m going to have to pick for this list was, I think, the first song of Megan’s that I heard: “Starbird Road.”
It’s a song with a pretty melody, and amazing lyrics about leaving love behind and getting it back, including three different twists on the old saw about loving people and letting them go, which kick off both verses and the bridge:
“If you love something, you should let it go.
This is wise advice, I know…”
“If you love something, don’t hold on too tight.
‘Cause the man who said you can’t go home again, he was right…”
“If you love something, you should set it free.
That’s what I did, and you came back to me…”
5. No list of my favorite songs would be complete without a number from ‘Doctor Horrible.’ It’s a tough runoff here too, but the edge, as usual, tilts towards the Act Two opening song, which I always considered to be “On the Rise,” but I will here actually refer to by its much inferior rhyming alternate name from the official soundtrack, “My Eyes.”
What else do I need to say about this song? It’s the only duet out of Doctor Horrible – Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day do an awesome job with the vocals, and with the performances. (Billy taking the place of the soup server and pouring ladles of empty air in the homeless people’s bowls? Priceless comedy!) And the Whedon’s lyrics, especially in all of the places where Billy and Penny’s words have to sound just the same but mean things as different as night and day, are just astounding:
Billy: “Listen close to everybody’s heart and hear that breaking sound
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart And crashing to the ground.”
Penny: “I believe there’s good in everybody’s heart, keep it safe and sound.
With hope, you can do your part to turn a life around.”
4. I was, and still am, a Roswell fan.
Every Roswell fan knows Dido.
I’m not sure when I went looking on Puretracks for more Dido music – probably somewhere in the early 2000s. And among others, I found “White Flag.”
The string opening still gives me chills, and then there’s the part with the rhythm parts coming in. The lyrics of the verses are heartbreakingly melancholy, describing a relationship that is broken, in ruins. But the chorus portrays something that is either tragically fatalist or inspiringly optimistic:
“I won’t put my hands up and surrender.
There will be no white flag upon my door.
I’m in love, and always will be.”
I keep meaning to go back and rewrite the climax of ‘Not Written Yet’ to have Liz quote these words to Future Max, because they perfectly fit the spirit of that scene to me – no matter how hopeless things might be, no matter how much he might want her to, she is absolutely not ever going to give up.
3. Mary Chapin Carpenter has written some incredible lyrics throughout her career. “Grand Central Station” almost made this list too. But I picked “House of Cards” to represent MCC because the words are more haunting in a personal way – a confession, as I interpret it, of the ordeal of growing up in a shattered family that never quite breaks, with the woman who has lived through that past wanting to fight for her own marriage, but now knowing how.
“And now I feel the wind about to blow, and baby I’m so scared.”
“I want to prop up this fragile place. I can’t do it all by myself.”
2. I’ve heard several different versions of “Lying to the moon,” though probably Trisha Yearwood’s is my favorite so far. I believe that Matraca Berg originally wrote the song, and recorded it on an album with the same name, but I’ve never found a copy. Hmm… wait a second.
(Chris thinks about how he finally got the Megan Metcalfe CD, and rushes off to search on ebay.)
Whoo-hoo! Okay, if all goes well, I will soon finally have that Matraca Berg album. None of you outbid me, okay? Anyway, the reason that I really love “Lying to the moon” is, big surprise, because of the story it tells – a tragic story of a girl waiting for a romantic rendezvous with a lover, and starting to clue in that she’s waiting in vain. And the personifications in the chorus are somehow exquisite:
“I even told the night that you were true, and you would be here soon.
And now I’m lying to the moon.”
1. Sometimes you happen upon great music when you aren’t expecting it. I was just browsing through the country section of napster, (the commercial version, not the file-sharing one,) and didn’t recognize the name Jason Michael Carrol, but I went to take a listen anyway, and hit upon this amazing duet he sang with Jewel – “No good in goodbye.” Both of them nail the vocals, (including actually switching parts in the chorus, which I didn’t realize until I’d listened to it for maybe the sixtieth time,) and like all my favorite songs, the lyrics tell such a vivid story, of a couple who are fighting but gradually realize that they’re not ready to give up on each other:
“Hang on please don’t hang up, let me talk to our machine.”
“I’ve played that moment over time and time again,
When giving up seemed easier than just giving in.”
Sending honorable mentions out to:
South side of lonesome, Chely Wright
Levi Blues, Dala
Tryin’, Little Big Town
Big bow-wow, The Fables
Godspeed, Ron Hynes
Coyote Way, Leahy
My mom my god, Nancy White (and her daughters on the vocals)
Borrowed home, She-Daisy