This song might not be at the top of “catchiest songs in the world” lists, but it really should be a contender. It’s been stuck in my head off and on pretty much ever since I first heard it. Part of it is because the song is 90% repetition: “’cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do/Nothing to lose” (or “nothing to prove” in other verses) and then it jumps into the rest of the chorus. The chord progression is slow and meditative before it bursts into the chorus, which makes it easy fodder for an ear worm.
This song also instantly takes me back to high school. (Hence why it’s on the Throwback Thursday list.) Now that I’m older and a writer myself, I pay more attention to the lyrics from a structural standpoint than an angsty, am I that girl perspective. “This clock never seemed so alive” is a great line, as is the pair “I can’t keep up and I can’t back down/I’ve been losing so much time.” It’s that pair in particular that’s been stuck in my head of late, and the reason why I sat down to write this post.
Did you ever listen to this song? If so, do you grab onto the lyrics or the melody? Are there any memories you associate with it?
I first heard The Flying Pickets’ cover of this song when it was used to creepy effect on The Americans. (I get a lot of song recommendations from TV, now that I think about it.)
What’s fascinating to me about these two versions is the tone they take. Even though it’s the same song, the arrangement makes the perspective completely flip. The Yazoo original is spare and electronic, with a tight beat that’s ’80s to the core. Its tone is more hopeful, more of a love song. The lyrics seem to be describing a current relationship with a pensive sort of joy.
Meanwhile, The Flying Pickets took a mournful route. Because theirs is a choral/acapella version, the song echoes. This makes it sound like they’re reminiscing about the past. “Only You” isn’t somber in their hands, exactly; it’s just melancholy.
For this reason, I like the original better. To be sure, I can get in my feels when I listen to music, and there’s a time and a place for that. But here, with lyrics reaching out, talking about no one else, only you – I’d like to hear about someone in love.
The one constant song this month was “She Is Beautiful” by Andrew WK. This was actually a friend’s recommendation that I didn’t get into at first. Funny how that works. Now whenever I play it, I have to resist the urge to get up and pump my fist. “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric has similar lyrical themes and is a vocal precursor to Andrew WK.
I watched an interview with Lil’ Wayne earlier in the month, which inspired me to revisit his back catalogue. I have very clear memories of watching the music video for “A Milli” back when MTV still played music. “How to Love,” though, is my favorite of his. It’s slow, smooth, and almost casual. The beat is unassuming and of course the lyrics are wonderful.
“Wake Up” by Arcade Fire is a banger if there ever was one. Those crunchy guitars at the beginning! The droning, heavy drums! The angsty classic lines, “Something filled up/My heart with nothing/Someone told me not to cry/Now that/I’m older/My heart’s/Colder/And I can/See that it’s a lie.”
I fell back into The 1975, as one does. “A Change of Heart” is just so damn catchy. It’s one of my favorite of their songs, up there with “Medicine.”
Speaking of catchy: “Lola” by The Kinks rounds out this month. “Well, I’m not the world’s most physical guy/but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine, oh my Lo-la.” I always jumble up the lyrics when I try and sing it from memory, though.
Ever since I went to that Lou Reed show last September, I’ve been listening to his early group The Jades. There are three songs in particular that I wanted to cover today, which are: “Your Love,” “So Blue,” and “Leave Her for Me.”
“Your Love” is classic doo-wop: simplistic lyrics, backup acapella, and earnest descriptions of teen runaround relationships. I didn’t recognize his voice at first. It’s much more energetic, and besides, these are songs about love rather than drugs and New York.
His voice comes out much more clearly on “So Blue.” It’s my favorite of the album’s songs, perhaps because of that. I also love the guitar and the little, subtle drum line in the back. “So Blue” just makes me picture a sock hop and teenagers dancing together.
“Leave Her for Me” made me confused at first. I thought it meant that the guy Lou Reed was addressing should leave the girl and have a relationship with Lou Reed instead. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the lyrics meant don’t date the girl and let Lou Reed date her instead. Although the bridge is kind of weird, with its echoing declarations about nature, the lyrics provide a glimpse of Lou Reed’s poetry. I particularly love the way he talks about roses blooming.
These songs are fun for me, not just because I enjoy ’50s garage rock, but because they provide an early look at Lou Reed as a musician. On Spotify, at least, the album cover is his senior portrait. He’s looking off to the side and has the slightest smile. In the photo, he’s boyish; innocent, even; nowhere near the rock icon he would soon become. And in the songs I’ve described here today, his voice is boyish and innocent, too. His voice is remarkably well-suited to both doo-wop and disaffected art house rock.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of the year. I thought about doing a “best of 2022” post, but then I realized that many of the songs on these playlists aren’t from ’22. So there’s that.
This month’s playlist is a weird little one. I listened to “Wake Up” a lot at the beginning because it’s kind of the perfect angst anthem. It’s really too bad that the lead singer of Arcade Fire is a trash bag. Meanwhile, “10,000 Miles” by Cam’ron and “Live & Direct” by Sugar Ray were both Tumblr finds. (How old am I?)
As for “AA” by Walker Hayes, I never thought a bro-style country song would appear on one of these playlists. Never. It’s not a genre that I gravitate towards. Yet one of my Uber drivers this month had excellent taste in music, and this song is so incredibly catchy.
We round out the playlist with “Co-Op” by the cast of “Co-Op.” It’s a fake Broadway musical that appears in the satirical TV series Documentary Now! All of the songs on the album are hilarious, but I felt like the opening number sums up the idea best.
This month started out ’80s and ended up ’10s. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is so, so catchy. I had to keep stopping myself from belting the lyrics at work. It’s also weirdly euphoric for the subject matter. Maybe it’s the stadium-sized production.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Alex Melton before; he’s appeared on at least one other Monthly Obsession playlist. His cover of “Iris” is beautiful. It retains the emo of the original (“yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive”) while creating something nearly profound.
Speaking of “oof” songs, I don’t know why, but “Back In The High Life Again” just gets me. It’s both hopeful and wistful. Also, Steve Winwood’s voice was tailor-made for easy listening.
I listened to a lot of frat rock relatively recently, so this post has been on my mind. The genre always makes me think of Animal House, which perhaps isn’t surprising, given that “Shout” plays a prominent role in the plot. It might surprise you that “Shout” counts as a frat rock song in the first place, but it does. The loose criteria seems to be simplistic lyrics that are easy to memorize, along with chords that are equally simple and easy to memorize. I did a history lesson on surf rock not too long ago, and this post could be considered a pair to it: surf rock’s twangy, vibrant guitar (think “Miserlou”) appears in frat rock as well.
The ur-example of frat rock is “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. It’s been the target of many urban legends about just what was in those lyrics. Regardless of the actual content, they were investigated by the FBI and banned from many radio stations as a result of those rumors. I like “Louie Louie” a lot. There are similarities between it and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles, not least in the ragged, ill vocals of John Lennon.
The 1960s came and went, and frat rock eventually evolved, as genres do. It became punk: the guitar turned more raw, the lyrics even more abbreviated. As a genre, frat rock doesn’t really exist today, except in echoes within garage rock.
The Replacements were the big thing this month. I mainly listened to Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was, which is their remastered “greatest hits” album. Two songs off of that appear below. “Stumblin’ Home” was a recommendation from a friend, and boy is it catchy. I refuse to be shamed for my love of One Direction; “Hey Angel” is probably one of my favorite songs of theirs. The Outfield was a surprising addition. One of my best friends loves them, especially their classic “Your Love”: “you know I like my girls a little bit older” and the melancholy of that song. I guess it’s one of those things where you’re inspired to look up an artist and just fall down the rabbit hole of their other songs. (Happens to me all the time.) If you haven’t heard the Beck remix of “Get Some” by Lykke Li, do yourself a favor and put it on repeat. It makes me feel cool. Rounding out the month was frat rock, which I should do a history lesson-style post about at some point.
Once again, it’s a grab bag of genres and decades. What were your favorite songs this month?
So I’ve had “Rolling Waves” on repeat around here lately. (I mean, always, but moreso recently.) It got me thinking that I haven’t really “dived” into what I love about the band itself, as it were. I’ve talked about other favorite bands in the past, such as The Replacements and Brakes and, always, The Mary Chain, but never this one.
I first heard The Naked and Famous back in college. Their debut, Passive Me, Aggressive You, was actually new territory for me at the time. I was still exploring my music tastes; I’d come out of my indie summer listening to Cults and Treats and Touchdown. Passive was indietronica that offered up distorted vocals and guitar. Shattered in the most thrilling of ways. And it felt like college: I mean, one of the songs is even called “Young Blood.”
I don’t have memories of when I first heard In Rolling Waves. I like it better than Passive, although “Girls Like You” is amazing. I think In Rolling Waves is just so epic; it’s TNAF bursting out of the mold they set for themselves with their debut. There’s no 8-bit distortion to be found on the album; instead there’s acoustics and the Wall of Sound tinge that’s become TNAF signature. I mean, “Rolling Waves” literally sounds like waves crashing when the chorus hits. “A Small Reunion” and “I Kill Giants” get in on that action as well.
TNAF proved themselves able to slow things down, though, with “A Still Heart,” which is acoustic covers of their most well-known songs. You really get to appreciate the lyrics. It’s interesting to hear the slow buzzing that’s another TNAF trademark become translated into guitar lines.
As for their lyrics themselves, I find them moving. They’re self-reflective and discuss a weird mix of letting go, throwing yourself into the new, and celebrating the past. In “A Small Reunion,” it’s “here’s to me/and here’s to you.” It’s in that spirit of self-reflection that I’m writing this post, I suppose.
Have you heard any of TNAF’s work? What are your favorite songs or albums?
Today’s retrospective is interesting because the playlists are usually half this length. I attribute the longer playlist to a writing project I’ve been tinkering with. I find background noise both helpful and inspiring.
I’m not able to pick out any themes this go-round, other than the presence of The 1975. I hadn’t listened to them in ages. It’s just one of those things where I’m reminded of an artist’s song and then go down a rabbit hole to listen to the others. (Also, remember when I featured “The Sound” as a new music recommendation? Hard to believe I’ve had this blog for this long!)
“So Blue” by The Jades is on here because of the Lou Reed exhibit I went to a few days ago. It was his first band. Naturally I had to go look it up after I came home from the show. “So Blue” is probably my favorite of his early releases. His voice is actually very well suited to doo-wop. He’s singing more than the softer talking style he adopted later in his career.
I have to laugh at “The Joker” because while it’s a great song, I have to file it under “lyrics I didn’t understand when I was younger.” I loved the chorus – “I play my music in the su-u-u-un” – but I didn’t know what a “toke” was. So I’d just be singing “I’m a midnight toker” as innocently as can be. Ah, memories.