It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about music here that isn’t related to a concert I’ve been at. I’ve been meaning to write about “Go Back” by Darlingside for awhile but for whatever reason hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m finally remedying that today. I’m going to say that “Go Back” is the first single off their 2015 album Birds Say because it’s the only song I’ve heard played on radio from it, but I could also be very wrong about that.
Anyway it is a wonderful bluegrassy song with beautiful harmonies. I don’t really have much else to say about it other than I love it. It is wonderful.
Also in things that have nothing to do with why I like the song, I can’t listen to it without thinking of this scene from Lost. So there’s that.
I’ve heard this song a few times recently on one of the NPR music stations I tend to listen to. As far as I can remember these recent times are the first instances I’ve heard the song, so I sort of assumed that it was a new song. After looking it up I found out that it’s not in fact new but is from back in 2012. Much to my surprise and delight I also found out that the singer is a Baltimore based artist. It may have taken me a few years, but I’m really glad I found. It’s a lovely song and I’m happy to have it in my life now.
Apparently it is uncool to like Billy Joel’s music. I however am not afraid to be uncool when it comes to my love of music. I can hipster with the best of them, and I certainly know and love far more bands than most people I know have ever heard of. However I’m not one of those people who insists I don’t like music just because for whatever reason it doesn’t fit the definition of cool. New pop music? Sure why not. Older pop music? Give me some of that too. If I like it. I like it. No need to apologize or do that annoying thing I hate where people claim to like things ironically as if that’s something that can even be done.
I’ve always been a fan of Billy Joel. I grew up in his heyday so his music is practically baked into my blood and the 70s music that wasn’t ingrained in me through it’s ubiquitousness in the 80s I definitely caught up with in the 90s. The first dance at my wedding was even “Just the Way You Are”. I do like that song, but it’s not actually going to wind up on this list nor is “Piano Man” which being the most popular Billy Joel song has just made me tired of hearing it over the years.
Yesterday I was driving home and heard “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” on the radio. That’s actually a rarity. It’s not one of the Billy Joel songs that tends to get a lot of radio play. I immediately thought you know I think this is my favorite Billy Joel song, but within a matter of seconds had come up with a bunch of other ones that I like at least equally to that song. Realistically after thinking about it for a minute I decided I don’t think I could pick a favorite Billy Joel song. So here’s the handful of ones that come to the top of my list. It’s interesting I never really thought about it before, but I apparently seem to gravitate towards one that have some sort of historical meaning or that create a sort of nostalgia for a working class life that doesn’t exist anymore.
- “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”
Obviously I’m going to start with this song because it’s the one that kicked off the whole idea in my head. I love that it’s actually really almost 3 songs in one and how you’re hearing a story within a story within a story. I also have fond memories of it from my sophomore year in college when some friends and I were momentarily obsessed with it. I’m pretty sure I have a picture somehow of me and one of my friends standing on top of chairs in someone’s dorm room singing and dancing to this song.
2. “Goodnight Saigon”
I just really love the opening piano part of this song and how it really evokes the awfulness that awaits the kids that are being sent over to Vietnam to fight. Despite the not so cheery topic of the song, I have good memories of it as well. I remember falling in love with this song my freshman year of high school and having a friend play it for me on one of our other friend’s pianos at a party. I’m pretty sure I actually have a picture of him playing it in a scrapbook somewhere.
I don’t have too much to actually say about this song except that I really love it. Again I feel like the music perfectly works with the lyrics to evoke the feeling of town that’s dying but that is leaving behind a proud people.
4. “Downeaster Alexa”
“Downeaster Alexa” feels like a sort of companion song to “Allentown” just shifting the look at a dying working class job from factory work to fishermen. It’s haunting melodies really evoke the image of being out on the water for me. I love it too.
If you’re paying close attention you may recall that one of the acts that I raved about from last year’s Newport Folk Festival was a Houston based soul band called The Suffers. They were such a powerful presence that it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t been doing this for a long time. In reality though they’ve only been playing together for about 5 years and just last week put out their first full length album.
It is a wonderful album all around, but “Midtown” is probably my favorite song from it. I love its groovy, smooth R&B vibe. This band is fantastic and if they are ever anywhere near you I can’t recommend seeing them live highly enough.
In my last post I was talking about a song I love from the 80s, The Outfield’s “Your Love”. Today I’m talking about 2 recent songs, but ones that evoke the 60s and 70s vibe for me. The first is Liz Vice’s “Empty Me Out”. Although she gets labeled as a gospel artist, something she herself finds a little odd even though she started her singing career in church. Many people also talk about how her music evokes the early days of Motown, which is what it reminds me of. I’ve been in love with it since I first heard it a few months ago. It has a great vibe to it and I really love that era of Motown music, so I’m happy to hear it influencing music today.
I’ve also been digging Lake Street Dive’s “Call Off the Dogs”, which has more of a 70s disco vibe to it. Although I guess they’ve been around for awhile I didn’t become aware of them until their previous album Bad Self Portraits, which I really liked. It felt very different than anything else I was hearing at the time. “Call Off the Dogs” is the first single off their forthcoming album, Side Pony, due out in February. Based on this song I’m very much looking forward to it as well.
Usually when I write about songs I love they tend to be more current, but I’m heading back to the 80s for this one. For no good reason the opening lyrics of this song make me really happy. It’s not the words themselves, it’s just something about the way he sings Josie in that first line that gets me. I can’t explain it.
The harmonies that chime in from time to time also delight me. There’s a lot going on in this song music wise. It’s always a little bit of a surprise, which makes it fun to listen to. Back in the 80s it’s nothing that I ever would have said was my favorite song, but in recent years I’ve really come to appreciate it. I’m always happy to hear it when it pops up on the radio or when it shuffles up in my music. I’m sure it’s not a song that anyone else is writing down in the history books as great music, but it goes down in mine.
EL VY is the new project by Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls. I’ve really been digging the song “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing with Crescendo)” or as most people just call it “Return to the Moon”. I’ve never been a huge fan of The National. The music is just too mellow and downbeat for my taste generally. I admit I don’t really know anything about the band Ramona Falls, so this probably isn’t something I would have sought out to listen to.
I heard it a few times sort of the background on the radio when I was doing other things and thought to myself that I liked it. Eventually one of the times I heard it I stopped to Shazam it and find out what it was. Since then I’ve been enjoying listening to it both on the radio and on Spotify.
I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but I find the tune super catchy. I even decided to check out the rest of the album figuring it would be similar tonally. Unfortunately it was one of those cases where the single off the album seems very different than the rest of it. The rest of the album felt much more like The National to me and very downbeat unlike the upbeat vibe that this song has. So I’ll just stick to listening to this song and leave the whole album to someone else.
In past years I’ve written about my guesses for what the song of the summer will be or talked about whatever I think it was or my personal pick even if I knew the real song was something I hated like “Fancy” or “Blurred Lines”. I didn’t do that this year for whatever reason, but now that summer is over I can talk about how things seem to settle out. In other summers there seemed to be a clear cut winner, but then sometimes like this summer it seems like people can’t agree. Apparently radio play and things like Spotify can also tell very different stories. I remember last year knowing that Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was the song of the summer even though I never liked it. Then at the end of the summer Spotify came out with their summer listening statistics and said it was in fact Calvin Harris’s “Summer”. That was a song I much preferred so I decided I’d rather go with their song of the summer even though I heard it only a fraction of the times I heard “Fancy”.
So what does all this have to do with “Lean On” you may ask. I mean aren’t I supposed to be writing a blog post about a song that I love here not going on about the song of the summer. Well here’s where it all comes together. I literally heard this song once one the radio this summer and never just when I was out and about in the world. Based on all of that the song I couldn’t escape, and the song I thus considered the song of the summer was Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”. Bizarrely to me that didn’t seem to be on anyone else’s lists. Every discussion I heard or read about the song of the summer never included that as a contender. It kind of boggled my mind. Finally at the end of the summer two of the podcasts I listen to threw that song into contention, but this summer I never really did feel like there was an official consensus on what the song of the summer was.
Spotify however again put out their statistics on the song of the summer and told us that this year it was “Lean On” by Major Lazer and DJ Snake. I was telling my husband about how I was intrigued by this and said that Baltimore radio stations must not be with it because they never played this song. Cut to the next week when all of the Baltimore pop radio stations broke this song out in full force. Way to be with the times Baltimore pop radio.
At any rate it’s a song I really like a lot and do think would have been a great song of the summer. Alas, I’ll have to make it the song of my fall I guess. That is until Baltimore pop radio plays it to death and I can’t stand to hear it one more time. For now though I’ll be seat dancing to it in my car.
The thing about Calvin Harris is that his best songs are the ones where he collaborates with female artists. His newest collaboration with HAIM, a band composed of three sisters is no exception. I think one of the things that makes the songs so great is that they really, truly do seem to be collaborations. They are all very obviously songs written by Calvin Harris, but they all also have the sensibilities of the artists he is collaborating with as well. If you listen to his songs with Rihanna, Florence Welch, and Ellie Goulding you also feel as if you could very well be listening to songs they wrote as well. It’s not just him writing a song and then finding a female voice to sing the vocals. The same goes for “Pray to God”. If you are familiar at all with HAIM’s work you can tell around the part of the song that kicks in at the 2:42 mark that this song really is a marriage of what Calvin Harris and HAIM do, which is what makes it wonderful. I finally just heard this song getting some radio play this week. I love it, and hope to hear it a lot more this summer.
I’m pretty sure I’m actually going to be sick of this song in about 2 weeks, but for now I’m totally digging “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. It’s catchy in the way the best pop songs are. The lyrics are repetitive so they’re easy to learn and sing along to almost immediately. The music is upbeat and completely grabs you from the outset. It makes you want to get up out of your chair and dance. At this time of year when our long national nightmare of winter is over and the weather is finally nice enough to drive around with the windows down, this is the kind of song you want playing on your radio.
Also, someone created a supercut of dance scenes from movies and set it to this song. It has taken my delight with the song and doubled it. Who doesn’t love a good movie dance scene, and this person did a fantastic job putting this supercut together. If you need something to make you smile today I promise spending a few minutes of your time watching this video will be well worth your time.